Tuesday, 7 June 2011

At the University

Walking about the humanities campus of the Universidad de Chile I am struck at how little it resembles my own humanities campus back in moderate, apathetic and politically correct Southampton. This place bears a general resemblance to University campuses world over: ripped jeans and 70's-band-Tshirt wearing youths scattered about on the grass chatting and smokingaway , books and backpacks neglected at their sides; the odd guitar player perched on a banister or gate; queues protruding out of buildings suggesting the presence of either an eatery or a bathroom.

The first thing that strikes me are the banners. Draped over every staircase, posted on every wall, doorway, notice-board and the back of every chair. Banners advertising Marches in protests of something or another, inviting Young Chile to join the political group that will eradicate such-and-such by standing up and defeating the beast of insert-capitalist-mechanism-here. Lefties, all over the place.

If one were not in the capacity to read spanish, one would not be at great loss, for the tendencies of these banners and (I assume) the people who put them there is undeniable. On every corner, every building, many notebooks and even on the pavement underfoot are red and black variations of every left-wing symbol you could imagine: red hammer black star; gold hammer and sickle and red star, red star and black sickle, gold star and red hammer and sickle; and all with an assortment of anagrams at the centre. As I begin the 15 minute walk to my classroom I make mental notes some of the symbols I come across to ask some of my more politicized Chilean friends about later. After a minute or so I give up. L.P.D, C.U.T, C.C.C. P.T.C,... There's only so much space in one's head at any one time!

Speaking to the friends I have made here, and some of the students at this University (The best in Chile and one of the best in Latin America), it's fascinating to see how multi-faceted political awareness and activism is here. On the one hand, yes, Latin American and Chilean youth are more politically aware and hands-on when it comes to their education and environment, taking to the streets at the mere hint of reform or policy that is not in their best interest. Yet getting to know these people individually, given that most of the friends I have made here are movers and shakers in their various political groups, there is also a strong element of community at play. Aligning oneself with a particular ideology, and with others who think the same way as you does not only offer a sense of acting in the name of social-justice, but also a sense of belonging, a collective righteousness. This could be why so many of the politically active in the country are under 30. I will not attempt to assess whether this is a good, bad, temporary or unhealthy state of affairs, just that it is the way it is.

The one thing I do know, is I would trade the social awareness and political conciousness of Santiago for the general apathy of the UK in a heartbeat!

1 comment:

  1. Why didn't you tell me you were coming to the Uni!