If you’re a student reading this paper, chances are that you’ve grown up with Liberal-National governments. Politics, in our collective memory, is John Howard making our parents yell at the telly as little kids, Abbott showing us how men really feel about women, Turnbull shackling us to the shittest internet in the world, and Morrison smirking while our Grandparents died of loneliness in aged care. The moments of hope in between were precious, and held onto tightly; a sense of hope we could almost taste in Kevin ‘07, and Gillard promising little girls watching Behind the News in school halls that our whole lives wouldn’t be bound to male classmates’ taunts.
Still, the last time a Liberal wasn’t Prime Minister, we were shopping at Supré and waiting for the next episode of Dance Academy.
We spent our teen years in dilapidated classrooms that desperately needed the Gonski funding they were starved of, sweating through summers that just kept getting hotter. We watched people being abused in offshore detention centres in our name, crying out to be heard but never listened to. As we grew up a little bit more, we had our identities debated on the public stage and voted on by people with no stake in them. Some of us didn’t make it out the other side. When we got to uni, the prices of our degrees were doubled, and police bashed us around for being upset about it. Lots of us didn’t get to or through uni, because heartless Governments have expected students to starve on a youth allowance that sits below the poverty line.
In last week’s edition of this paper, we reminded our readers of what the editors of Honi Soit wrote in 1963: “We’re so well protected we never get a chance to prove that we’re grown up.” But maybe the editors of ‘63 were wrong. Our power is in not being grown up, and we shouldn’t try to prove otherwise. What a privilege, to possess a hopefulness which can only come part in parcel with youth.
A better world is always built by young people who are unashamedly idealistic. On every major social issue, students are always a decade ahead. We have a duty to hold great courage in the aspirationalism of our conviction. Last week’s Honi cover showed an image of Anthony Albanese in 1983, sitting atop the USyd Quadrangle with a megaphone in his hand, protesting for Political Economy to be its own academic discipline (paving the way for many a stupol hack’s education). That photo is well known now, shown to naïve first years as proof of the day that activists made it to the top of the clock tower. The photo’s idealistic passion leaves a little bit of the same feeling with everyone who sees it. Young peoples’ duty to idealism is not just to serve their own society. It’s a duty to the generations who will follow their lead – who will find inspiration in digging through the archives and seeing the shameless conviction of a Prime Minister with a megaphone in their hand.
On Saturday we proved our collective power at the ballot box by kicking out the dickheads who have treated people with not a shred of humanity for the last decade. We decided on a new future for the country we want to be. We must use this win to dream of even more.
Since its inception, the pages of Honi have been used to platform the better future that students imagine. In the ‘60s, that meant students writing of a world free of war. In the ‘70s, it was a future where gay people weren’t criminals. In the ‘80s, it was a future where Malcolm “life wasn’t meant to be easy” Fraser wasn’t Prime Minister. In Honi’s 7th edition of 1982, one letter to the editor finished with this:
Thank Goodness that while we struggle to pay for the little luxuries in life such as textbooks, rent and food we can console ourselves in the firm knowledge that “life wasn’t meant to be easy”!
In 30 years time, somebody will stumble across a copy of this paper and read about the future we are collectively imagining. We must show them that we’re bursting at the seams with a hunger for something more.
Together we can build a world free from injustice and oppression, where people aren’t expected to dig themselves out of difficulty – they’re lifted out. A world where collectivism is valued and communities decide their own fates, not out-of-touch governments. Where we celebrate each other’s wins and have each other’s backs. Where life’s a little easier.
What better time to start building it than now.