The political is personal: Rafi Alam

Rafi Alam tells you why you should strike.

At O-Week, the Future Music Festival stall had a longer line than any student club, and someone holding a copy of Cosmo Campus refused a copy of Honi, their student-run, student-funded paper. I can say without exaggeration that without C&S I wouldn’t be where I am now, and the USU does some very good things – but then who do I blame for this apathy?

And who do I blame when people consider the issue of strikebreakers a ‘right or wrong’ issue, not a ‘right or left’ issue? Who do I blame when people refuse to acknowledge that their convictions on the ‘dangers’ of marijuana are based on political prejudices, and not medical science?

It becomes starker, as life at university goes on, that, not only is the personal political, but that the political is personal.

The backlash against ‘politics’ is dangerous, and apolitical sophistry will condemn us to being ignorant of the things that affect our lives. Being political doesn’t mean being a hack, it means engaging with society, recognising power and powerlessness, and building a better future.

Being political means contesting ideas.

Being apolitical means allowing others – ‘politicians’ – to dictate your life. What happens in Canberra is ‘statecraft’, not politics. Statecraft allows others to command our lives from an untouchable distance; politics is personal, and visceral.

This is why Honi is political. Not because we just want to preach to you about what we think is right, or lie to you or distort the facts. The former is dogmatic, and the latter is a tactic used by the right-wing media to sustain the status quo. No, we want to be political because we feel it is liberating. We think it is liberating when we expose corruption or unethical practices; we think it is liberating when students get a voice; we think it is liberating when we can defend your rights and your lives without authorities intervening. This is what being political means.

The story of Romeo & Juliet is political in that their personal lives are controlled by the powers that be. The fatal ending has tragic parallels in the LGBTIQ community in Australia, but unlike fiction, there is no redemption: the Montagues and Capulets tried to wipe the blood off their hands – when will Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott?

We can’t let those in power get away with what they do; we must pay attention to the man behind the curtain, and we must gleefully point out that the emperor’s wearing no clothes. Politicians won’t wash their hands until they’ve been called up on it.

Which brings me to the title – “why you should strike”. We know why you should strike: because the SRC, the NTEU, and the University have all made their cases, and the student and staff seem to have the grander, fairer, and ethical agenda. The issue isn’t “why”, but “you”. Why should you strike?

You should strike because, no matter what we say, nothing is more liberating than being there, than engaging with the process, than change. Honi is political, but nothing is more political than the personal, and nothing is more personal than the political. You should strike because the story of Romeo and Juliet isn’t fiction, because we see tragedy every day in poverty, depression, war, and suicide.

You should be in the strike because you should refuse to remain silent, and you should show it.

That’s why we must fight apathy too: being apolitical is being apathetic, while the political is pathos – we must appeal to emotions to stir people out of comfortable ignorance, and into an agitated, conscious discomfort with the world around them.

Honi may be uncomfortable, but hopefully it’ll wake you up. Is Mardi Gras bad for gays? Ask Evan Gray on (pg). Is hip hop bad for gays? Ask Jeremy Elphick, page 12. Avani and myself look at the relationship between the economy and music on page 13, while Anita Maritz considers how activism changes through time; Justin Pen ponders on the political-technological evolution of teaching on page , while Tom Raue looks at necrophilia – as in, the issue of necrophilia.

You may not agree with every viewpoint in this paper. We certainly don’t. But no disclaimer is needed:

All views are your own.

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