|You wake up in the city, on the steps of the state library, with an empty bottle of scotch in your hand. It's still night-time. You're feeling nauseous and your breath stinks with alcohol. The stones under your back are hard and cold -- you don't know how you could have been sleeping here. It's a chilly night. You only have a vague recollection of what happened -- it was Anthony, you remember, who decided the group should depart from Revolver and go and get some fast food -- and after that you must have accompanied them as they went to the city to see a band or something.||
This photo is a little over-exposed and so are you.
You can't remember the name of the band or the venue, but you
remember drinking too much and throwing up. What happened during the night?
You can't remember how you ended up here, at the front of the state library,
all alone and with no place to go. You check your pockets and find that you have
only eighty-five cents left -- you must have spent the rest on booze.
What a night. You wipe the sleep from your eyes and stand up. This place has an air about it like something important happened here a few hours ago -- there are ripped posters taped to the pavement, and bits of chalk graffiti which say "VSU NO WAY" and "STOP THE CUTS". My guess is that there was a student protest rally here during the day.
|Where are you going to stay tonight? Actually this whole student-protest thing has given me an idea. Start heading north up Swanston Street -- I have a hunch that you'll find a place to stay when you get to Melbourne University.|
|Student protest rallies can be fun. I've been to a few of them and they're always exhilerating when the speakers give stirring, angry messages, causing the crowd to break out in cheers and chanting. And whenever someone mentions the Education Minister, everyone goes "Booooooooo!" It's pretty shocking what the Government is doing to the education system in Australia, but I don't really care about that stuff. I just go to rallies because I get a buzz out of being part of an angry mob, yelling out protest chants and defying authorities. I always follow the majority opinion -- I'm like a sheep that follows the herd. A sense of belonging makes me happy, as it does for most people.|
|See that building over there? On the fourth floor is the finance department of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. On August the 20th, 1997, a hundred and fifty student protesters stormed the building and seized control of the finance department, and I was one of them. This happened as part of my first student protest rally -- I didn't even know what was going to happen until it did happen. We barricaded ourselves in the buiding and occupied it. I only stayed for a few hours, but the entire occupation lasted for nineteen days. It was a legendary success. The protesters were saying they'd stay there until the University reversed its decision to charge upfront fees for local undergraduate students. They didn't quite get their demands met, but they certainly got lots of good publicity. It all ended peacefully and no one was arrested. So ever since then I've been going to student protest rallies in the hope that I can become involved in another occupation.||
I just realised, you've come
so far with this journey
and I haven't shown you any
photos of myself. Well, here's
a photo of me right now.
|You're walking along the city streets at night, while the shops are shut and the traffic is minimal. At this time of night, most people are at home asleep in a warm bed. The cold is really getting to you. But the lights on the buildings are pretty. You know, this whole scene reminds me of a morbid little play I wrote earlier this year -- the play is called "Descent" -- it's not designed for publication or performance -- I just wrote it for me. It's probably a bit better than my "Call the Locksmith" story, but it's just more raking around in the quagmire of my troubled past. The main character, you see, is me.|
I'm very self-absorbed. But y'know, self absorption isn't always a hindrance to good writing --
I used to be a very good writer, just a few years ago.
Oh here's Melbourne University. Take a left here and enter the campus. That's right. Walk straight up that path. This is a huge University, but I'll show you where to go.
It may be hard to believe now, but I got an A+ for my writing folio in Year 12, what some of you might call my senior year. And they don't give A plusses out to just anybody. Click here to read some of my best work (five poems, mostly rhyming).
|Nowadays I am unable to write poetry at all. The last good poem I wrote was on August the 9th, 1998 -- well, you can decide for yourself whether it's good or not:|
You round a corner and come across a group of students sitting around a campfire
on the lawn. The lawn area is surrounded by buildings on every side. There are
four tents set up on the grass -- it looks like these students are camping here. Why?
You'd better go ask them.
You go up to the group of students and ask them, "What's going on here?"
One of the students, a guy with a big hat, replies: "This is a 'tent city'. We're occupying this lawn. It's a form of protest."
Tent city? Ha! More like tent village. But it looks like this is your chance to get some free accommodation.
You say, "Well, that's very noble of you. I really admire you guys for sticking up for students' rights and I'm in full support of your demands. Can I join your protest?"
The hat guy says, "Yeah, sure, you're welcome to."
You take a seat on a milk-crate next to the fire and ask, "So, what are you protesting against?"
The students don't answer straight away. They exchange glances with eachother. Then one girl says,
"It's the VSU. The Voluntary Student Unionism. We're protesting against that."
One guy says, "Are we? I thought we were protesting against the fees and the cuts."
An overweight guy says, "Yes, but it's also about the common youth allowance and the way it discriminates against gay couples."
The hat guy says, "Well I don't know about you, but I'm protesting against the TAFE amalgamations and the way Melbourne University is starting up a private law-school on this campus."
One of the students
offers you a
Do you take it?
The first girl says, "Well those are all good causes. This occupation has many
purposes. Are you a student?"
Say yes. Say yes. Say yes. Say yes.
You say, "Yes. Definitely, yes. Say, do I need to bring my own tent for this thing, or is there room in one of these tents for me?"
The hat guy says, "Oh, we can probably fit you into that one over there. We can't provide you with a sleeping bag or blankets though."
You nod and stare into the fire. Ask them about the rally.
"How did the rally go", you ask.
The hat guy answers, "Oh, it went pretty well -- a good turn out. We lost a lot of people when we were walking up Swanston Street though. And when we charged into this campus we were really hoping to occupy a room in the law building. But that didn't work out."
You ask, "Why not? What happened?"
He says, "Oh it's a long story."
|The students are fairly quiet at this time of night. They don't want to wake the ones who are already sleeping in the tents. You keep to yourself, not wanting to face any embarrassing questions about your identity. By and by, more students drift away from the campfire and into the tents. By the time the distant clock-tower strikes three a.m., you are the only one left sitting next to the fire. You consider searching for a space in one of the tents, but it's a cold night and you don't like the prospect of sleeping on the hard ground without any blankets. You'd freeze to death before you get to sleep in there.||Even out here it's hard to keep warm -- you have to keep rotating yourself to make the most of the fire's radiant heat. It's just hot coals now and there's no more firewood to throw on there. But that's O.K. -- the important thing is that you'll last through the night without freezing. You sit on the ground and try to rest your head against the milk-crate, but it's too low. So you get a rock from nearby, put it on top of the milk-crate, and rest your head on that.|
|Then something hits your cheek. It's wet. It's a raindrop. More of them come down and soon it's raining heavily. The rain soaks you to the skin and puts out the fire. You are left sitting in the cold with no protection. Once again you feel like there's nothing to do except let the agony of cold creep all over you until it gets beyond pain and becomes the absence of sensation -- you close your eyes and open your mouth as you are forced down into the slumber of the half-alive.|
____________Click here to continue to the next level.