At the Socialist Society protest recently, a sign read 'You know it's bad when it's protested in St Andrews.' Jo Boon argues that whilst such a joke may get a collective laugh, collective action to change it would be of far more use. St Andrews often gets a bad rep for being politically apathetic, but that's only true as long as we make it true. Imagine if we took time out to stop complaining about the situation, and used that time to start changing it instead.
In my first year at university, I wrote a piece for The Saint entitled 'No Protest. No Propaganda. No Politics?' Whilst the piece has been heavily edited, the gist of my argument is still there: I lamented the lack of political action in St Andrews, called for more and concluded with an appeal to join the Socialist Society I had just founded.
In response to this piece an older student contacted me, to congratulate my aims but remind me not to be dismissive about the work of others on the activist scene. She was right and, in my final year, I have exactly the same advice to give. If you think more should be happening in St Andrews, make it happen and engage with the work that others are doing. The exact same people who complain to me about the lack of left wing activism, are also people who have never been to a socialist society or Labour meeting, nor have they set up an alternative if they find these societies unappealing.
At the recent Socialist Society protest there was a sign which has been much discussed and shared on social media: 'You know it's bad when it's protested in St Andrews.' Everyone laughs. No one does anything. If you think there should be more protesting, activism or general political involvement in St Andrews then why on earth are you not doing something about it? Stop waiting for others, or criticising their attempts, and get out there and do something. Attending protests isn't enough- organise them.
People always tell me it's 'impressive' that I founded the Socialist Society in my first year - trust me, it wasn't. I was frustrated that there wasn't one and wanted to find like minded people. I talked to people about my political leanings, found people who shared my beliefs and invited them to the pub. I hadn't even set up the Socialist Society page then, I made an event on my own timeline, threw on a bright red dress and went to a pub- hoping to god someone would show up so I didn't look like I'd just been stood up. (The unglamourous, behind the scenes truth of being a female activist!) People came, we talked and we organised. We had an AGM later and the society grew from there.
You can do it too.
If you want things to change then change them. If you want to protest then organise. If you want to campaign then support others, get out there and make a difference.
St Andrews is only as politically apathetic as people make it. It's all very well to sit around and laugh at the lack of protest, or at how awful the world is, but we are all responsible for changing that. Each of us has accountability to contribute to the causes we care about. Of course we can't be perfect, god knows I should do a lot more than I do, but we can each of us contribute something.
It amazes me how often people will talk about things they want to see happen, events they think should be put on, or protests they think should be organised with a complete disconnect to the fact that they themselves could do something about it. You have absolutely no right to complain if you have not tried to organise change in your community. The so called 'rise of the right' can only happen for as long as we allow it.
It's unfashionable to say it, but sometimes sacrifice is necessary. Sometimes some sacrifice will need to be made of time, energy and, dare I say it, even mental health. A balance always has to be achieved and of course self care is important, but maybe some things are bigger. I will not change the world, and neither will you - but together, through collective action, of course we can.
Get off social media, stop relying on just sharing articles or petitions to ease your conscience, and get out there. With everything that's happening in the world right now, laziness is absolutely unforgivable. You will mess up, you will get lazy (I do, far more often than I would care to admit) but keep going and stay dedicated to the causes you care about.
'You know it's bad when it's protested in St Andrews'- don't laugh, change it! If you laugh at how true it is, and wish it were otherwise, then make it otherwise. Stop waiting for other people, change it yourself.