You Say You Want a Revolution


“You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world.”

A cop wearing riot gear thrusts his billy club into a college student’s liver.

“You tell me that it’s evolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world.”

A cop wearing riot gear thrusts his billy club into a college student’s groin.

“But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.”

A cop wearing riot gear thrusts his billy club into a college student’s throat.

“You say you got a real solution, well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan.”

A cop wearing riot gear cracks his billy club against a college student’s rib cage.

“You ask me for a contribution, well, you know, we’re doing what we can.”

A cop wearing riot gear cracks his billy club upon a college student’s shin.

“But when you want money for people with minds that hate...”

A cop wearing riot gear cracks his billy club upon a college student’s knuckles.

“... All I can tell you is brother you have to wait.”

A cop wearing riot gear cracks his billy club upon a college student’s elbows.

“You say you’ll change the constitution, well, you know, we all want to change your head.”

A cop wearing riot gear digs his billy club into a college student’s chest.

“You tell me it’s the institution, well, you know, you better free your mind instead.”

The Beatles wrote “Revolution” in 1968. Yet, it remains the dialogue of our time. In fact, that dialogue has never been as apposite as it was in recent days as college students at U.C. Berkeley collided with campus police in an iconic-cum-sinister imbroglio between those with billy clubs and those with backpacks.

As reported by the Associated Press some years back, hundreds of students, teachers and Berkeley residents rallied on campus before marching peacefully to a Bank of America branch to protest financial policies they blame for causing deep cuts in higher education spending. They then held a “general assembly” during which they voted to establish “Occupy Cal” and to set up an encampment similar to Occupy Wall Street camps around the country.

Most important is the context in which that occurred. California is long known for its education framework, inclusive of three well-regarded and affordable public systems of higher education that cultivate a culturally rich, diverse student population. However, economic strains and State budget battles have unhinged the affordability building block of this system. Consequently, multiple tuition hikes have forced middle and lower income families to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, just to keep their children’s dreams alive.

In addition to the plight of students, classrooms have become inordinately over-crowded, teacher’s wages remain static if not undervalued, and facilities continue to crack and crumble overhead and underfoot.

Now back to the U.C. Berkeley travesty...

A handful of Occupy tents went up. Campus officers moved in. And a tent or two was busted up. But it did not take long for officers to retreat as a human chain of protesters circled their turf and chanted “Whose university? Our university!”

The respite and rejoicing were only temporary, however, as the police soon reengaged, this time fortified with riot gear, billy clubs and local deputies. There were to be no compromises, no conversations... just consequences of the brutal sort. Protesters were pulled, then prodded then pounded.

And so it began.

Billy clubs to the guts and breasts of young women. Billy clubs to the knuckles and ribs of young men. Billy clubs to the student body guilty of but one thing. Desperately wanting to go to school. To learn. To grow. To participate in a process where enlightenment and fairness were once virtually inscribed on the blackboard.

How could this happen? Who could greenlight such savagery?

According to multiple sources, U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau warned that community members could rally on campus but that encampments and occupations of buildings would not be tolerated. In an open letter he wrote, “As the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, we hold an important place in history and are looked to as a model and beacon for others in this regard. We stand ready to support our campus community in leading the collegiate movement in a way that is productive, dignified and consequential.”

Productive and dignified, like billy clubs to the guts of young women. Billy clubs to the knuckles of young men.

In an email submitted to the entire campus on January 12, 2011, just after the tragic shooting of Congressman Giffords, Birgeneau penned these thoughts...”On our own campus, and throughout all the campuses of the University of California, we must continue to work toward a climate of equity and inclusion for all. We must be vigilant to condemn hate speech and acts of vandalism on our campuses by those wanting to promote enmity. We must work to support dialogue about our differences and eschew expressions of demonization of others.”

Is it to be assumed Birgeneau thought hate speech included these chants by students and faculty... “Stop beating students”... “Put down the guns”... “He’s (meaning an officer) breaking my wrists.” Incidentally, according to the Mercury News (link), the man who cried out about the bashing of his wrists was thereafter subdued by a choke-hold administered by those same “peace officers” Birgeneau greenlighted.

According to Birgeneau’s bio, in 2008, he received the 2008 Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award as a “Champion of Excellence and Equity in Education.” He also received the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s 2009 Pathfinders to Peace Prize for contributions to bringing about a more peaceful world. Regardless of prior mantras and methodologies, were he to be in line for such an award this year, one wonders about his chances.

Student loan debt is $1.5 trillion today.

This is only expected to increase year after year in perpetuity. All of this while incomes stagnate and living expenses soar. Approximately 42 million student loan borrowers are in debt. Once they toss their caps high into the sky, they will likely toss their cookies over the fact that their average debt will be well over $35,000.

The closing line in the Beatles’ “Revolution” goes like this... “Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right.”

Is that before or after the billy club to the liver, to the kneecap, to the groin?

And by the way, according to Forbes, the salary of Birgeneau: $445,716. The salary of a typical full-time professor at Berkeley: $127,300. The average starting salary for the holder of a Berkeley undergraduate degree: $59,900.

Doug ForbesComment