Your Social Work tutor utterly confuted your expectations of age and social responsibility. Her hair was like a grey sea wave crashing around her temples. She smoked rollies, wore jeans and Indian charms, dropped the f-bomb like nothing. She held tutes on the grass when the sun was shining. She told your class that she would give her left tit to be as young as you were.
She shocked the nice young girls who were doing social work because they were charitably minded.
We are here to change the world, not save it. Family dynamics reflect the evils of the capitalist patriarchal system. Incest, rape, exploitation are products of patriarchy, not accidents, arising from the subjection of women and children to the appetites of the male.
She made you squirm. Were you a male? While there was no question you had not, did you want to oppress women?
The revolution is about to begin. Women are escaping from the home. Your role is to facilitate this change. Contraception, abortion, refuges, communes, childcare collectives.
The irrelevance of this to your personal history was not unattractive. Despite the hostile rhetoric, your Social Work tutor seemed content to have you in class.
She made you aware that the world might be threatening on a larger scale than you had hitherto imagined. Bombs were falling in Cambodia, squatters were hanging on to the railings in Victoria Street, the BLF was green banning everything that moved. Cops were bashing, marchers were marching. The forces of reaction were arming. Whitlam had lit a fuse that would blast him out of orbit.
You thought she might be your friend. Again and again you followed her after tutorials so that you could ask more questions. She rolled her eyes and told you to wake up. You thought you were waking up. You imagined yourself reconstructed.
When she found out you were doing Traditional and Modern Philosophy instead of General she nearly spewed. Trad and Mod was for reactionaries: everything good was happening in General. You had to change.
How could you argue? You went behind the jacaranda in the corner of the quad and found chaos. Chattering students roved in and out of the lecture room, where a seemingly endless political meeting was continued by one interrupted speaker after another. The faculty had given itself over to popular democracy, although the university was rumoured to be ready to send in the guards. The faculty was split between the feminists, the leftists, and the radical libertarians. The first battle was for the revolution itself: every splinter group on campus had rallied to the fight: marxists in fifteen flavours from trot to stalin to mao to althusser, feminists radical liberal separatist, hippies, greenies, black activists, anarchists. You were exhorted to join up. You were willing, but all the slogans sounded like good ones. You had trouble picking sides.
You knotted your brow over new theology. If participation in the debates of society promoted an illusory democracy, then what was the right method of engaging the oppressed and challenging authority? Is there, can there be, or should there be a revolutionary vanguard? Were all countercultural activities necessarily rooted in the working class? Could personal liberation be pursued as a political goal, or was it just a bourgeois distraction? Was sex or class the fundamental dialectic? Was sex class?
Where do you stand on the Middle East question? The Prague question? The land rights question?
Do you want a drop of red? You thought you knew the answer to that one. There was nothing finer than to sit on the floor of a crowded lecture theatre and down rough red. Then answers bloomed in your chest like blood fiery blasted blazing truths. A heat bloomed in your chest, a flame of blood red truths. Something fell off you, and there you were, a furry-tongued orator who could hear his thoughts ringing.
What is the point of this stupid country, we are all the prisoners of the prisoners, we are so deep in false consciousness that we cannot know anything —
You were a working class child of oppression, you had internalised the false consciousness of the bourgeoisie, your natural comradeship with the workers had been stolen from you, but they were even worse, heads full of cars and horse racing, poofda bashing and sheila shafting. Degraded human beings, who could only be saved by the REVOLUTION, which — you saw this clearly, a pin centred in the spinning room — was going to have to be a real, Red Army revolution, with blood and shootings and millions suffering. Nothing less would do! Your head was stuffed full of suburbia like a redbrick sea, the banality of churches and RSLs and shopping centres — what was the fucking difference? Up against the wall, you all, up against the wall! After missing three weeks of Social Work, you shuffled guiltily into your tutorial. Your tutor was gone. The young ladies were resting quietly under the new/old tutelage of a Dr Kathyrn Unger, who wore an oyster-grey blouse with a high collar and who spoke, quite frequently, of the spiritual values underpinning the ethical considerations that guided interventions to heal disrupted families. You discovered that you could withdraw from the course. You withdrew.
© 2021-2022 Craig Bingham
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