It’s a sunny afternoon on Sydney University’s picturesque campus. The quadrangle clock tower casts a shadow over dozens of lifeless, blood-soaked bodies.
These are students who this month took a stand against our university’s ongoing negotiations with far right think-tank the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.
In the tradition of anti-war activists of days gone by, we have doused ourselves in red paint and staged a “die in”. It is a visual homage to the less glamorous aspects of Western “civilisation”: genocide, imperialism and war.
It’s clearly a discomfiting sight for the sons and daughters of the establishment. But it is an effective statement, drawing dozens of students to the spectacle, with many joining in.
We march through the main thoroughfare of the university, hearing from a diverse array of speakers along the way; international students, Muslims, Indigenous people, university staff and anti-racists. All are rightfully angered by the prospect of the Ramsay Centre having a presence on our campus.
Greens MP David Shoebridge speaks on academic integrity, and international student Decheng Sun delivers a searing indictment of the degree as a normalisation of white supremacist rhetoric.
The Keep Ramsay Out of USYD campaign has so far been an encouragingly successful one. The centre has been forced to stumble back over many of its initial chauvinistic statements. Vice-chancellor Michael Spence and his management are subject to a degree of scrutiny they did not anticipate and do not enjoy.
The week before this protest, a forum to discuss the campaign was packed with staff and students. Sociologist Raewyn Connell spoke about the university’s role as a political tool and vehicle for indoctrinating students into the “ideology of empire”.
Student Representative Council Education Officer Lily Campbell also spoke.
The forum was an important opportunity to raise awareness about the right wing’s offensive on our campuses. Importantly, attendees were given the opportunity to act on this knowledge by protesting the next week.
The march finished outside Spence’s chancellery. Banners and placards carried by the red-splattered crowd reveal the ugly truth that the Ramsay Centre hopes to sanitise and celebrate.
One placard displays the image of Australian troops in Afghanistan flying a Nazi flag. Another, the chilling photograph of Vietnamese children fleeing a napalm bomb.
“THIS IS WESTERN CIVILISATION”, the placards declare. It is all that needs to be said.