When I was at Sydney University as a callow teen, ooh, 18 years ago, I wasn't really the seditious type. Membership of S.U.S.S (the caving society) was my only indulgence, and well I was rewarded with the fondest memories of that season of my life. I recall I could have joined S.P.A.M (Sydney (Monty) Python Appreciation Movement), S.U.C.R.O.S.E (Sydney Uni Chocolate Revellers Opposed to Sensible Eating), even S.U.C.C.A.S (Sydney Uni Cuban Cigar Appreciation Society), but I seem to have passed on those. Ah, salad days.
Politics though, seemed the province of those with more ego, or bile, and certainly more time, than I. I was a member of the Sydney University Liberal Club, yes, but really I only watched with bemusement at the internecine factionalism that wracked the movement in the 90's. Let's see; There was a Group, I think. And a Team. The Group didn't like the Team and the feeling was mutual. And... Sorry. The memory's gone. It was all rather petty. There were banners and fliers and a ticket for the Student Council election named "I hate Justin Owen" (don't know why the name sticks in my mind; I have no idea if he deserved that kind of disapprobation). This was served with the explanation that Universities are traditionally the place where you can cut your teeth being unpleasant before you become professionally unpleasant in the corporate world or grown-up politics. Sometimes it was clever, but mostly it was blunt. Holding a megaphone or a banner wasn't my shtick. My flaw was wanting to discuss ideas rather than playing the man. Silly me.
When I decided to go back to Uni, I formed a notion I'd perhaps been too pliant before, and maybe should use my life-experience and this second chance to kick up a little more dust this time. Besides, University life nowadays seems so... banal. I don't know if it's the passage of the years or going from a Uni like Sydney to the decentralised and brutalist UWS that marks the difference. There's so little dissent, or intelligent questioning going on that I can see. There's no sign of a Conservative political presence on campus. A smattering of your typical ratbag Greens, of course (which the Trotskyists at Syd.U would have eviscerated and eaten for breakfast as "right wing running dog lackeys").
So when our English Literature lecturer referred cryptically to a "celebrity guest lecturer" coming up, curiosity was piqued. "Who?", we queried our tutor. "Nathan Rees, Premier of NSW." came the answer, "He's got an honours degree in English Lit., you know".
Oh, great. So we lose a week to hear the Premier tell us what's on his bedside table.
We've been studying some impenetrable texts this semester; Shelley's Frankenstein, T.S Eliot's The Waste Land, and Beckett's Endgame among them. Oh, and those last two are utter meaningless rubbish, thank you. Bleak, dystopian tosh. But we have to understand them, not like them, and now we lose a week.
So, I thought I'd make amends for my milquetoast former career as a student and, like I said, kick up a little dust. For those who might not know, Nathan Rees is our State Premier and leads the most tainted, tired, ramshackle, incompetent, faction-ridden, overdrawn government our fair state has ever had the misfortune to fall under.
So I made some banners and put them up just before the Premier came in to speak. I wanted to stay with the theme of our course, but still be a little pointed.
Yes, a little dense, but those in our course would have understood immediately what I was driving at. Better than "F*** off, Nathan", at any rate.
To my utter surprise, no one immediately took them down and frog marched me out. A few students took photos with their iPhones, and one said "Wow, I really admire your balls", which I haven't heard said to me outside the confines of a bucks night for many a year. I'd like to think the Premier had to look at those two banners the whole time he was speaking.
The Premier came in, gave a rambling speech which a friend afterwards described as "not entirely unconvincing all the time" (I think that's called damning with faint praise), took only two questions and answered neither of them. I however, felt a certain sense of triumph. I had done something... well, naughty. I was subversive! Where would this end? Visions of wearing odd socks or parting my hair on the other side swam giddily in my head.
My sense of triumph lasted precisely until I shouted myself an extravagant lunch of fish and chips and put two sachets of sugar over them instead of salt. But beware, the beast is now unleashed.