THIS morning, most of Scotland’s lecture halls are quiet. There is no hubbub of conversation in university seminar rooms, no bashful students avoiding their tutor’s gaze, no knowing looks, no nods of recognition, no glazed expression of bafflement or boredom, no tick-tick-tick of slides.

Well, almost none. Lecturers at Scotland’s pre-1992 universities are on strike – part of two weeks of action in protest at Universities UK’s scheme to gut pension provision for academic staff. The critical word at stake here is – risk. The changes proposed by Universities UK will shift the risks of bungling hedge fund managers and tanking share markets from universities to their employees.

Instead of guaranteeing pensions based on staff and university contributions, Universities UK argue retiring lecturers should live out their later years according to how much cash the invisible hand of the market is able to accumulate in pension funds.

If Donald Trump says something crackers, if the money-men go through one of their episodic panics, if the invisible hand goes through a bout of delirium tremens, investing badly and generating poor stock market returns – well, it’s cat food for the Emeritus Professor, despite decades of salary deductions towards a comfortable retirement.

The sums involved aren’t to be sniffed at. University College Union analysis suggests the money at stake for a typical member of academic staff runs up to £200,000. But looked at another way, this pension dispute is simply a matter of justice.

What we’re talking about here is dramatically changing the rules of the game once play has started. So the classes are cancelled and coursework and examinations will go unmarked. And some of the student body – understandably – are raging. I have huge sympathy with university colleagues who find themselves on the picket lines over this.

Anyone inclined towards scepticism about it should ask themselves how they would feel about ten grand being scythed out of their pensions every year, their future mortgaged against the capacity of city whizz kids to screw up their lives, and everyone else’s.

But this academic strike – and reactions to it – throws a telling and unsettling sidelight on the ambivalent attitudes of Thatcher’s children towards any industrial action which impinges on their lives. The press have been having fun with the headlines. “Striking dons” weaves the red flag through heavy gauge tweed, improbably. The idea of an academic “walkout” paints a picture of dilettante educators, dossing off.

But it is undeniable the strike action divides the student body. While some student groups have been supportive, far louder have been the individualistic, market-driven demands for refunds and remedies. At its very worst, this perspective envisions higher education is just a highfalutin McDonald’s drive through, where you pay for your 2:1 and feel damned well entitled to receive it, however laggardly your scholarship and patchy your attendance.

My impression, for what it is worth, is that many young folk have quietly internalised many of Thatcher’s doctrines, including a limited instinct towards solidarity, and a suspicion towards trades unions and strikes in particular.

The social data has been telling us for some time that union membership was on the slide – but beyond that, the appeal of trade union politics to younger folk is clearly limited. Even if you find this fact dismaying, especially if you wished life were otherwise, it is important to understand why.

Almost all of my undergraduate students work alongside their studies. At best, this gives them the resources they need to take time away from academic toil, supporting a richer, more deeply lived life. But for too many, their education is squeezed in the edges of days, dominated by the economic imperative of keeping body and soul together.

It is an understandable – but glaring – mistake to assume the experiences of young people, in precarious, zero-houred, service jobs – with every benefit curbed, and holiday pay evaded – makes them the natural allies of striking pensioners on permanent contracts.

The precarious youngster may well experience the working environment as a sometimes resented and exploitative horror show, but one side effect of this environment is that many young folk come to see exploitation and lack of security as standard working operating procedure. Unjust systems produce resistance.

They also produce born galley slaves inclined to accept the world as they find it, and to regard agitators and dissenters of self-serving defenders of their own privileges – rather than as fellow travellers, whose interests I share. The right are really good at this.

Despite my grizzled and careworn appearance, I am one of the millennials middle-aged, centre right agitators have been singing their rage over. For most folk of my generation and younger, a pension is like a woolly rhinoceros. You’re aware of the general idea of them. You’ve maybe seen them in books. You know these majestic creatures once roamed the earth, many moons ago. You see their bones, occasionally, poking out of the ground – but you don’t expect to meet one wandering down the high street in central Stirling.

And youth being what it is – full of the here and now, with what feels like a whole lifetime of days ahead of you – if you are earning enough to tide yourself over, if you can afford a roof over your head, heating for the cold days and food for your table – it is a bit of an effort to turn your mind to what you might do to keep yourself watered, warmed and fed in your crumblier years.

For the millennial, heaped with scorn by inexplicably angry fifty-somethings, accused of every vice under the sun by pension-beneficiaries, house-holders, and affluent early retirers – this provocation is almost as much as you can bear. To be quite frank with you, I’ve felt an unworthy twinge of generational ressentiment myself.

Instead of thinking “good luck” to the new pensioner, retiring from their employer with a lump sum on friendly final salary terms unavailable to me, there’s a foolish temptation to blame the beneficiaries of a more generous time for the advantages we no longer enjoy, rather than those who’ve pauchled these advantages. It is a rotten sentiment. I’m not proud of it. I don’t endorse it. But the fact it lurks in the back of your mind makes you realise: I’m one of that Thatcher’s children too. Resist the siren: you can still hear her voice.

For folk who want to build a better society, who want to support the rights of all workers and to defend those hard-won gains which are erecting pickets around our ancient seats of learning as scholars become protestors – Thatcher’s echo remains a force to be reckoned with.