The 99% is too big to fail

A handmade sign reads “THE 99% IS TOO BIG TO FAIL.”

Occupy Georgia State was a potent moment. A messy wave of anti-capitalist slogans and student politics standing outside the Atlanta Federal Reserve. It was a moment that promised that Georgia State and other universities would build something better, with young radicals as architects.

However, a decade later, that potent moment only seems to have marked the possibility of new magazines. The more intrepid activists quickly leveraged their sign-making days as credentials. 

The naively earnest merely wondered when the high tide had come and gone. We’re left to idly wonder if it might come again. We failed. Where is student politics?

“Nothing happens, you know,” a Georgia State alum said in a recent interview. He received his master’s some ten years ago. He worked for 40 hours at a program-mandated unpaid internship, and another 20 at Kroger. 

“It’s definitely what the school wants – they want the students to feel like … this is what they have to do.”

These testimonials, combined with the anniversary, prompted me to ask: where is student politics? 

“The school doesn’t really give you the space to reflect on what’s being asked of you. Talking to professors, there’s this sort of tacit understanding … this shared guilt about working inside of this system that depends on indebting students for life,” he explained. “But then you open your books and talk about Arthur Miller or whatever.”

The high tide comes and goes, but the conditions remain. Our idle wondering has yet to bring it back. “I mean, it’s always kind of a ‘what are you going to do about it?’ type thing,” he continued. “You only have anyone’s attention for four years at a time.” 

“… And that’s how they’ll win.” 

Last year’s wildcat strike at the University of California Santa Cruz fought for a cost-of-living adjustment. The strike came after it was revealed that upwards of 80% of their graduate students’ income was taken by rent. 

Similar protests emerged at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Two strikes, both failed. Some 42% of college students are at or below the poverty line, and nothing is changing. That is where modern student politics sit. 

Georgia State has no student politics. Our student body has no organizational coherence or solidarity. We are part of the university’s institutions only so far as we accept their restraints

Students have no institutions that solely support them. We take our lot and wonder about that high tide. We have failed at everything else. 

However, we must fail again. The possibility of something better sits before us every day for eternity. What are we going to do about it?

We need to form that messy wave again. We need to organize, following those radicals before us. We’re going to fail again, but we’re going to build again. We must have solidarity. We must have student politics. Otherwise, we have nothing. 

The future waits forever to be built. I would rather have countless failures than nothing.