We had an interesting discussion today in my English class about the situation in Colombia right now. My students who attend UIS explained that they have decided to continue postponing classes in order to support the farmers. I must say it baffles me that an entire college campus shuts down in order to support the farmers. Their belief is that a college campus serves as a place to exchange ideas and knowledge and in order for the students to fully commit themselves to the task of becoming informed about the farmer’s situation and educating others through acts of activism they must take a complete break from classes. You may view this as the students taking advantage of a situation in order to avoid work and you would be in agreement with some of the other members of my conversation class. We also discussed the extreme surveillance at UIS – because of the students’ history of protest there are dozens of cameras around campus monitoring the students. Students seen trying to gather others in any sort of protest or even public forum are immediately stopped. This brought about the question of privacy and whether or not these cameras are a good thing.
We also talked about the media’s role in shaping public opinions of the strike. It’s true that there have been acts of violence at the marches – stones thrown through windows, homemade explosives set off, giant bonfires started. Overall, however, the marches are peaceful and the majority of the group actively tries to stop such acts of violence. The media, however, chooses to focus on the acts of violence in order to give the impression that the marches are entirely violent and dissuade the community from protesting. Along these lines, when the public stops hearing about violent marches in the news they tend to think that the problem is over. This led to a discussion of the fact that large-scale protests are necessary to bring public and government attention to social problems. Until something big happens, like farmers completely blocking off all the main roads that lead to their town, people easily ignore social issues that need to be addressed.
Finally, we talked about the fact that actions speak louder than words. One student brought up the hypothetical situation that someone can march in the protests, but then go to Carrefour (our version of Wal-Mart) to buy their produce which comes from other countries. In this case they have done nothing to actually support the farmers. Today certainly brought to light the age-old idea that the teacher often learns more from their students than the students learn from the teacher.
In other news, I’ve put together another mixtape of some of my favorite songs. This time in the theme of garage/punk/surf/rock songs from Latin America.