The federal government’s new anti-radicalisation kit for schools, “Living Safer Together”, has already made waves for featuring the harrowing story of Karen, a young woman who “grew up in a loving family who never participated in activism of any sort”, but at university “became involved in the alternative music scene” – and worse.
Now, in an exclusive interview, Karen has opened up to The (un)Australian about how a girl who “grew up in a safe, mainstream suburban household that only ever played KIISS FM on the radio” ended up seeking to destroy modern civilisation.
“All I had ever listened to was Taylor Swift,” Karen says, “and maybe a little Beyonce, like I just tried it once or twice, not regularly or anything.”
“Then this guy in my Sociology 101 class came up to me and was like ‘you wanna hear this great Mp3 I got?’ And it was like this angry anti-Abbott folk punk song by The Smith Street Band.
“I was curious. I had never heard anything like it before. It was so earnest and angry… and before I knew it I was streaming entire albums by The Levellers on Spotify.”
Karen says a turning point came when one of her new “alternative” friends, one with dreadlocks and piercings, came up one day and said, “So hey, a few of us are going to hang out this weekend, you know just sit round the fire with a guitar and sing a few alternative songs and then maybe go and violently destroy the entire fabric of our society, if you’re up for it.”
Karen said that was when alarm bells should have rung, but “it seemed harmless at first, just a few basic three-chord songs invariably in the key of ‘C’ with some pretty repetitive and cliched lyrics about the people united will save the planet or whatever”.
“But,” Karen continued, choking up a little as the shame washed over her, “I don’t know how it happened, but next thing I knew we were part of a community blockade against a coal seam mining drill site at Bentley in northern New South Wales, defying police attempts to break the blockade to stop some cowboy profit-hungry corporation engaging in unsafe, environmentally destructive mining threatening vital farmland and water supplies just so they could add a few zeros to their greed-driven shareholders portfolios, all facilitated by a state government seemingly in the pocket of the CSG lobby with little concern for the fate of future generations.”
“That was when I realised I’d been radicalised.”
Karen was lucky. She got out in time and was able to get a paying job in one of the few remaining mainstream environmental organisations not de-funded and closed by the Coalition government, but some of her friends were not so fortunate.
“I know some people who wrecked themselves before they checked themselves. They so totally alienated anyone who ever cared about them with their long rants about the dangers of fracking and their refusal to shower, that they’ve been forced to sell their dignity as ‘charity muggers’ for the Wilderness Society. Whenever I see them harassing stressed-out shoppers for cash they don’t have, I just think, that could have been me.”
Karen says her new motto, which she hopes one day to instill in her own children, is: “Listening to music not played on commercial radio? Not even once.”