Words by Nathaniel Wells


We’re all pretty familiar with activists, I’m sure. You can’t walk five-hundred metres within the confines of UWA without encountering one under a bridge. They’re not a rare breed and not a quiet one either. They’re not exactly dying out nor growing in population at all. There are rallies and all sorts of shit but you’re not interested at all – you’d rather put both headphones in and keep walking like you didn’t notice. But oh, you notice, and I notice too. We all notice. Which is why, when we take those earphones out to meet up with friends, we have a great old fashioned salty whinge.


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking that neutral position and not protesting anything. But that whinging just feels great, doesn’t it? You sit down with your chums and suddenly you’re Chandler from Friends, full of sarcasm and wit. You just hate those activists. You’re actually protesting the activists, just without uttering the name ‘Christopher Pyne’ over and over to people on the way to their classes. You’re not a rare breed either, though you’re a damn sight less noisy and in-the-way about things. I assume you’re one of them, and I certainly am.


It’s an age-old art of protest. At first, things just get a little on everyone’s nerves, then things just keep happening, and everyone gets a little edgy about the topic. Then the whinging starts. UWA is just a hub of this kind of good whinge. You can look at Confessions, yik yak, your cool friends, eavesdrop – the salty whinge is everywhere. And yet, you don’t see anyone standing outside the Ref handing you a flyer about the damn red P-plate fresher who insists on showing everyone their total inability to park at the pit. What you will see is that guy piling up the chicken at the Make Your Own bar having a good old salty whinge about the depth perception of the fresher in question.


It’s our own special brand of protest. Every so often a whinger might make the leap and evolve into a fully-fledged activist, but the vast majority of us aren’t there yet. We’re like the little baby birds chirping at the mother bird. We whinge and bitch and complain semi-loudly until the mother bird comes along to feed us and our urge to protest… something. But we’re also that guy in the house that complains about those annoying birds chirping in the nest in the roof. Won’t they shut up? You’re on the phone, trying to explain the minutia of your distress over price increases at Chilliz.


Of course, everyone can relate to the activist agenda we see carried out while we’re busy whining. We all hate fee deregulation, and refugees being turned away from Australia. Maybe when you’re done whinging about the activists you might say ‘But yeah, Tony Abbott can get fucked, I don’t like his ears very much’. The thing is, protesting is hard. It requires constant effort, upkeep, and an in your face attitude and willingness to solve problems. Who am I kidding, I’m not that guy. It’s so much easier to just bugger off and not do anything about an issue that you’re pretty sure affects you in some way or another. A good whinge with a hint of salt just fits you better. This is your protest. And mine too.


I applaud the whinging populace of UWA. We’re everywhere, and we’re growing. The more of us there are, the more likely one of us might actually do something about some kind of issue. Besides writing a slightly bad-mannered article in some magazine, but that’s beside the point. We could stand to tone down the salt though – it can’t be good for the collective health of university students to spew out such a large amount of ire, particularly towards individuals. Sure, you can whinge about Swan Draught going up in price, just don’t be salty about the Tav employees. I bet they’re laughing about your poor taste in beer.


So it seems that here at UWA, a good salty whinge is the most prevalent form of protest, and it’s here to stay. Maybe if we all whinge enough, we could protest right next to Red flag.


Just a thought.

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