Welcome to Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, racist Tories and overly-aggressive charity muggers- Chuggers to their friends. (I mean “friends” in the loosest sense of the word. It must be hard to maintain a friendship with someone when the simplest offer to get a round in is met with a sour look and a ‘really? That’s just so insensitive. There are three legged donkeys out there who don’t even have fresh water and you want to drink beer? Besides, prawncocktail crisps are offensive to the mollusc community”.)
Once easily avoided with a cheeky sidestep or a cry of “oh look! A posh-boy chasing a fox!” today’s chuggers are a new breed; stealth-ridden ninjas Darwinianly evolved to sniff out a guilty conscious like a spaniel in a Columbian airport. The moment your foot hits Cornmarket Street you are lost and they descend on you like a crowd of angry seagulls gangbanging a stray chip, buckets a-swinging and leaflets a-waving.
Now I don’t want you to think that this Malcontent is an uncharitable specimen- far from it. Charity is great, charity is love, contrary to popular belief it is not gravity but charity that makes the world go round and I thank everyone who does give their money away so unselfishly. Now as it happens I don’t, I spend it on vodka and shoes like any other self-respecting student, but that is not the point. The point is that if I’m going to not give my money to charity then I’m damn well going to not give it to a charity of my choosing, not whichever one some smelly random in a hideous tabard has pressganged me into on the street.
I have tried many techniques during my three years here –wearing headphones even when not attached to anything, the imaginary telephone, even the good old ‘me no habla ingles’- but nothing works. They cling on to you, limpet like, until sheer disgust at your own lack of humanity breaks you and you lob them a fiver and limp away. It is thus in the spirit of charity –nay humanity- that I implore you, good people of Oxford, rise up and reclaim the streets one ‘fuck off, I’m busy’ at a time.
Congratulations Wikipedia, you’ve gone all Che Guevara and stuck it to the fascist Americans and their online policing bills, now what about my fucking essay? As an English student it has been some time since I last read a book, a whole one at least. Three years into my course and I am now facing the horrific reality of actually having to visit a library; this was NOT what I came to university for. What about my human rights Wikipedia? Huh? There’s beer to be drunk and episodes of Hollyoaks going unwatched.
Now according to its apocalyptic black screen Wikipedia is staging a dramatic protest to something called SOPA and PIPA. A quick Google search [old habits die hard] tells me that these are not in fact new Middleton sisters with great arses but proposed bills under consideration in the Senate written in wanky politician speak that no one has bothered to read. The basic argument, backed by the film and music industries, is that too many people are stealing ideas that don’t belong to them. Fair dos, but I doubt Steven Spielburg is crying into his gold-plated cornflakes over it. And what does Wikipedia have to do with it I hear you cry? Nothing. Absolutely bugger all. Its own website answers the question ‘Does this mean that Wikipedia itself is violating copyright laws, or hosting pirated content?’ with a rather deflated ‘No, not at all’; if you listen very carefully you can hear the sound of Julian Assange sobbing quietly in the background. In coming months, expect similar blackouts over Japanese whale-hunting and the local newsagents running out of Nice ‘n’ Spicy Nik Naks.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, it now means that whenever I log on to Facebook – one of the many institutions threatening to follow suit should the Zuckerburg ever pull his head out of the collective arses of the national press long enough to make a decision* – I get berated by overly-worthy left wing daddy’s-boys postulating upon the evils of the right wing American dictatorship. For fuck’s sake! Have a wash, buy some proper shoes and leave me to read irrelevant 5 year old Guardian articles in peace.
“Imagine a world without free knowledge”? Imagine a world where you have to do your own homework more like. And that, my dears, is a world I’d rather not live in.
*a very big if