Pleasure: Tears, jeers, and late-night antics at Natcon 2022
There is a strange place, one which exists between the world and time, unbeknownst to most of those in modern society. A place that props up from obscurity once every year, shedding its invisible boundaries and ushering in those who dare enter. And in this place can be found a congregation of a special kin of university life, student politics: a campus niche whom either remain hidden amongst the classrooms and libraries or whose flaming passion have caused them to be the bane of those committed to study.
If you were to assume that this week-long collective of young activists is a socially engaging carnival of hedonism, then you are sorely mistaken. For this environment is rather one of the most emotionally intense places that any sane twenty-somethings could ever find themselves in.
For four days you will find yourself confined to the chair of a lecture theatre, viewing and hearing individuals, some of whom you can tell are unable to move on from the tertiary education lifestyle, either addressing or screaming about (pertaining to what faction the speaker is affiliated with) the worded content projected onto the capacious whiteboard above; words that have the power to influence the decision-making abilities of an entire organisation, left in the mercy of opposing collectives. While some motions are voted upon unanimously, some of the more controversial ones, usually relating to identity, is where the emotions are roused and the conference floor is shaken with division, even sometimes within factions themselves. And for ten hours, this was the routine. Naturally, conflict was carried out of the room and into the meal breaks, where the emotional highs were still running like a current through some; topical arguments sprouted up, curries were snatched and thrown out, newspapers were turned into hats, and a factional brawl nearly took place.
After being drained of spirit from the day’s session, you can find them rejuvenated through the graces of punch. A sacred practice, complete with its own secret recipe and traditions that have been passed down for generations, which may seem questionable to the unfamiliarised first timers. But the social aspect of the conference blossoms once the sun goes down, and while politics still remains dormant on the tongues of many, interstate mingling was the main attraction of this unofficial nocturnal extension. And on the last night, factions conglomerate together to enjoy such a brew out of nature. Connections were made, and tears flowed the more punch was ingested, serving as a release from the sheer intensity of such an environment.
And then the next morning, just like its arrival, the conference once again faded away into obscurity. And as we all drove away from the place that once was, the rain sounds playing over Bluetooth allowed us to laugh the hardest we ever had in a long time. A much-needed release, and a reminder of the civilisation which we eagerly headed straight towards.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!