The following speech was given by Professor Geoffrey O'Brian on Sproul Plaza, during the walkout on November 8.
It feels good to be with you.
could write that sentence ahead of time because I remember what it
feels like from other moments when we’ve come together to risk saying
what the Regents and the administration would rather we didn’t even
think, let alone shout. Most sharply, I remember this feeling from last
November 9th, when we gathered to protest what we still have before us
to protest. I remember what it’s like to protect strangers like they are
the only people you know; to establish a line and hold that line while
the Alameda Sheriff’s Dept. wades in with batons in obedience to an
absent Chancellor. Our line didn’t last very long that day, but it
lasted longer than a police line would last if it didn’t have guns and
gas, shinguards and faceplates, sound cannons and an afterlife in false
charges and malicious prosecution.
The powers that
would like to take the public out of public education don’t have our
conviction, they have greed plus an arsenal; they don’t have community,
they have closed-door meetings and staging areas. And as their cops hit
us last year they were also striking at what we expressed in the
linkages of our arms. They were jealous of our resolve and unhappy to be
reminded it’s possible. They were unhappy we didn’t have names and
serial numbers on our chests. Which is why we felt good even then and
can feel good now as we gather (despite their having tried to turn on
the rain machine and the cold). This feels like living. This feels like
not being in debt.
The Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz,
in a poem about the necessary bravery and the certain vulnerability of
the protestor, wrote a line that has stayed with me for years: “Come
today in fetters to the marketplace.” That is, bring your problems back
to their source, bring them as part of what you offer and are, bring
your discomfort with leaving privacy behind. Because doing so might make
the marketplace simply a place, a place where a public can dream itself
back into being and out of the prison of only private lives. In our
current struggle here, for “fetters” read debt, for “marketplace”
read the rapidly privatizing university, pricing out the poor, and
turning as ghostly as an online education pilot program. But for “today”
still read today, the only day available to us again and again,
the only day between us and the wrong future, the day wherein we gather
to see the first person break its fetters and go plural. We need to
strengthen and populate that plural until we can do more than protest,
can instead refuse things and have our refusals be more than symbolic.
Until we can claim and keep the Gill Tract. Until we have more than
speech and linked arms at our disposal.
That we are not
that many yet is hard, but it isn’t as hard as not trying would be.
This is what we have -- after Proposition 30 has passed, which I’m glad
of, but which is a bandaid, written by the governor to tax the rich less
than the proposed Millionaire’s Tax would have and which swaps some of
the burden to the working class through a sales tax increase. This is
what we have, with a new Chancellor and UC Police Chief on the horizon
from whom we can expect nothing but more of the same; while intellectual
property is sold to British Petroleum and campus child care is
outsourced to a Bain subsidiary named Bright Horizons, and staff are
laid off and furloughed, this is what we have. We have each other, now,
today, in the rain. But this is living rather than seeking not to. This
feeling, as solidarity becomes purpose and it runs through us, is what
we have, and it has to be enough. Keep coming, and bring your fetters
(Photo from the Daily Cal)