Berkeley Protesters Fight For Right To Party

If you squinted and sniffed, it almost seemed like 1969: smoke, fire, broken glass, yelling students, terrified bystanders, police presence; all the elements were there for a good old-fashioned University of California, Berkeley, political protest, except the politics.

Berkeley's most recent Day of Rage wasn't over troop deployments, the war in Afghanistan, sending support to Haiti or Chile or even the healthcare issue. It was over greenbacks: a tuition hike at what still is the biggest bargain in higher education. Like a 10th-generation Xerox, this protest had as much in common with the 1960s Berkeley brand of activism as a glass of water does with a pint of Guinness.

According to press reports, the 2010 Berkeley protest started at an open-air dance party and quickly escalated into violence and a "sit in" at Durant Hall. It is reported that the dancing continued through the action. I went to school at another campus known for its political activism -- the University of Wisconsin, Madison -- and we had a different name for this activity: Friday night. Besides the alcohol, which as everyone knows has a calming effect, the revolt concerned a fee increase that would push Berkeley's tuition over $10,000 a year for California residents. It was a free education until Reagan decided to end the party in the 1980s. So what do you get for $10K and change?



According to U.S. News and World Report, Berkeley ranks 21st in its annual national university ratings, keeping company with places like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Chicago. However, if you want to attend any of the other universities in the top 20, you'll spend an average of $37,851 a year (resident or non, it doesn't matter -- the rest are all private institutions). What else can you get for the price of a Berkeley education? There's always the University of Missouri (rank 102), the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (106), or Illinois State University at Normal (tier three).

These universities double tuition for non-residents, like Californians, who can get one of the best educations in the country at Wal-Mart prices because they live in the Golden State. If anything, the non-residents should have been the ones throwing food, sticks and vinegar-soaked red bandannas (meant to look like blood) during the protest; they're the ones who have been paying an additional $22,670 on top of the $10,000 resident tuition!

Berkeley's tradition of protest was established in the late 1960s, with a series of riots that involved thousands of students and resulted in a police response with fun stuff like tear gas and shotguns. The Berkeley brand of swift, responsive activism was powered by events like the Vietnam War movement (1969 and 1972) and the anti-Gaullist movement (Young Socialists, 1968). It was an action in response to international issues that were measured in blood, not student loan balances. Yesterday's protesters would probably have waged a letter campaign over being charged any tuition (there wasn't one then -- remember) and saved the sticks and vinegar for something a little more important.

Between the Twittering, the news coverage and personal blogging, it's clear that the protesters did indeed walk away from their action with one thing: stories to tell. With a televised protest under their collective belts, the "me" generation has completed their Berkeley experience. They've raised high the Molotov cocktails and pried the torch of anarchy from the not-so-cold and not-so-dead hands of the Boomers.

I just hope Starbucks doesn't decide to raise the price of lattes at its Berkeley Shattuck Avenue store; the cash-strapped campus just can't afford to clean up another yet violent outburst!

2 comments about "Berkeley Protesters Fight For Right To Party".
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  1. David Petersen from Maine Cottage, March 10, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.

    The "me" generation with no sense of personal responsibility.

  2. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, March 11, 2010 at 3:18 a.m.

    I like. Finally, they are protesting over something worth protesting about. $30K for a year at school (or even $10K for state residents) is like the overheated real estate market to me. Smart parents send their kids overseas to the best schools that are also heavily subsidized by the foreign governments so tuition is no more than $2000 per year to Americans (with the added benefit of the kid learning the local language).

    Considering that Mao had promised a Thai and Indonesian War if South Vietnam were to be easily overrun in 1965, the way history actually ran may have been the way it had to be (and less bloody). Mao may even have invaded Taiwan by 1969 if a wimp had been in the White House and let the brazen Chinese-led attack on South Vietnam succeed. I think McGovern even openly campaigned in 1972 to let the Chinese retake Taiwan.

    In real life, Mao and the top North Vietnamese general confirmed that they had learned respect for the USA for the brave US men and women defended South Vietnam at the cost of their own lives (Mao hadn't thought Americans had it in them to save "gooks"). Mao decided, therefore, not to proceed with conquering Asia but to make a deal with Nixon for China to become the factory to build products for the American market. China has been a business partner with the USA as a direct result of the respect Chinese communists developed for Americans during the Vietnam War.

    It was the Soviets who went broke making sure North Vietnam finally "won" years later in 1975, two years after the Americans left and after it was no longer strategically important if North Vietnam captured Hanoi because China and North Vietnam were enemies by then (the entire war was about stopping a unified communist block from growing, not so much stopping a local regime change, and it ironically and sadly became almost an *advantage* to the USA that North Vietnam became a powerful thorn on China's southern flank in the late 1970s).

    Those who say the war was, therefore, "lost" have no concept of what Mao had intended for Southeast Asia in the mid-60s and how the entire dynamic had changed by the mid-70s (thanks to American resolve - what happened with Suharto in Indonesia is another story) and it can be proven that spreading the idea that 58,000 US troops died in vain in Vietnam *directly* caused Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda and the Taliban to decide that they can repeat the same process of slowly killing young American men and women until Americans "give up".

    Marketing 101 says you *never* tell the competition that you will give up if they try hard enough and viciously attack you often enough.

    Probably the most glaring example of 60s left-wing Berkeley students failing to grasp even a shred of logic (between puffs of marijuana) was the way they decided the Tet Offensive was somehow a defeat for Americans (because Walter Cronkite wanted it to be so). In reality, the VC were crushed completely in their desperate Tet Offensive, ending their influence forever (the Phoenix Program finished them off). The North Vietnamese leadership later admitted that, if the American left and US journalists had reported Tet accurately as the "last gasp" of the defeated Viet Cong, North Vietnam would have simply stopped fighting like North Korea had done in the face of similar American steadfastness a generation earlier.

    As a child, I saw the dead VC in TV footage and accurately surmised not only that the American soldiers had won the Tet battle, but that the VC were incompetent and unintelligent young fools who never had a chance (it was the North Vietnamese Army that fought later). I couldn't understand why journalists were determined to say it was still somehow a defeat for the good guys. All historians now agree the VC had been defeated and the North Vietnamese openly admit that they would have stopped fighting that year if US journalists hadn't given them hope of defeating the west by inciting left wing movements to undermine western foreign policy (keep in mind that Australians and Thais fought alongside Americans in that war).

    I remember trying, as a child, to explain the above logic to drug-hazed hippies at places like no avail. One can hardly blame a lot of guys for not wanting to miss the sexual revolution back home. Many of the hippie men openly admitted to mainly being afraid to die in a rice paddy for what they felt was not their business.

    At least a tuition hike is their kids' business.

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