Monday, 12 December 2011

You have 1 new voice mail. But Murdoch's already read it.

I think it's absolutely horrendous. It's going to take a very long time before journalism every receives that same standard of respect and that trust factor between the readers and writers is going to take a lot of effort to rebuild. I mean, my Dad read my texts once and I saw red well and truly, but if it was the News of the World I think it would be a whole different level. It really makes you wonder where it all went wrong; this has clearly been going on for years, I mean, it managed to turn into something which was standard, I mean it's not like Sarah Payne didn't cooperate with The News of the World...

It's been suggested many times now that I say something (or more accurately people have been demanding I do) about the phone hacking scandals. Don't worry guys, I know I'm not big-time (yet...!) but to be perfectly honest I really couldn't think of anything to say about it that hadn't already been said. Then repeated about three times! Seriously, it's morphing into the expenses scandal now, as in it's everywhere. All the time. I mean, I was interested and outraged and downright disgusted for the first week, the first month too I was bit like 'ugh' then as the trial's gone on every now and again I here something which'll make me feel annoyed but it's starting to feel like nothing is ever going to happen apart from hacked voice mails and maybe the odd economy may collapse...

I mean, I never read The News Of The World, I don't think I've ever read a tabloid paper for that matter... Call me a snob, but I'm more of a fan of real news, and that means something with a higher reading age than 10 and no naked women. Maybe that's where it all went wrong? We stopped asking for real news. We got preoccupied with Z-list celebrities, 'ladies' without bras and the only foreign affairs we cared about involved Big Brother Contestants. But think about it this way: if we stopped asking then they wouldn't worry about major snooping, if we told them we didn't really care about every single personal detail and all we really cared about was news then there would be less demand for Charlotte Church's Dad having an affair being sprawled all over the front pages.

Broadsheet's are bigger than tabloids; in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Because we love God we're going to buy lots of shiny things. Obviously.

In my(very humble, I'm no critic) opinion, the roof of the Cistene Chapel is one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever created. It's attention to detail and just general beauty, not to mention (although I clearly am about to) Michelangelo's incredible eye for detail on such a large scale make it simply breathtaking. Seriously, I think it's absolutely gorgeous, and I'm not just saying that out of sympathy for its creator's permanently crooked neck as a result of his efforts! Then we have the works of Da Vinci; his phenomenal statues and depictions of important Christian events which million from around the world have flocked to see.

What's brought on this random outburst of artistic appreciation I hear you cry. Well, I know next to nothing about the technical side of art and when it comes to attacking the paper myself, I think 'attack' is really the only word for it-so many ruined paintbrushes! Despite this, I do like a good art gallery and don't mind a gander at the odd statue. When it comes to art of the religious nature, most people know that a good Catholic church is usually guaranteed to be practically over-flowing with it and, I grew up with strolling around these being the main event of family holidays...

I've already shown I'm a Renaissance fan, but, they often the same awkward problem as the gawdy, completely over the top churches. Not familiar with such visual horror? Just think of a statue of Jesus. Then make it gold. Then add some silver. Then put him on an alter piled high with gold and silver, maybe a few, slightly smaller depiction of a pierced heart and shove in a couple of Mary's and a few baskets of obscenely bright flowers. Voila, you have the small alter, or maybe just a side display. If you're lucky you might have a relic too, also shrouded in gold and normally a bit of ear, or toe or something. Now, this isn't applicable for all Catholic cathedrals and churches by any means, you'll get a couple maximum in most notable European cities, well, the Catholic ones anyway. But there's still a lot of them, with a lot of gold (and silver, and jewels and craftsmanship).  

I can see why you'd do that. It's no year nine art project for sure, a heck of a lot of effort has gone into that. So that's a lot of thinking about God whilst you're drawing about how fantastic He is, you're dedicating your wealth and time to honoring him. But I could pretty confidently bet that outside such an impressive Cathedral you will usually find at least three homeless people begging, and if you can't, they've usually been shooed away and will be sleeping on those steps later on. Uhm, guys, what about love your neighbour?

So maybe, let's go easy on the silver and the gold and the general shininess (not just for the sake of my eyes) and maybe, turn it into actual money and actually help people?

Monday, 5 December 2011

Are we forgetting something?

During my time as a Girl Guide, I have discovered that an almost foolproof way of raising money involves standing at the end of a local supermarket checkout on a busy Saturday morning and pouncing on unsuspecting customers. This is done whilst brandishing a bucket and informing them that not only can I pack their bags, but they can give me some money from the privilege. Normally, this works an absolute trip and the lovely people who trusted me with their boxes of eggs have not just helped me go to Germany but have also pretty much funded my trip to India next year. My local Tesco Metro has been particularly keen in letting us hijack their customer's packing (for this I am eternally grateful) with one perfectly reasonable condition: that we give half of the money we raise to their charity of the year. As it happens, their charity of the year is the 'Alzheimer's Society' which provides support for the 100,000 new victims of this horrible disease every year. It provides information, support and care for those suffering and their families, as well as being closely involved with leading scientists trying to develop cures, prevent the disease and care better for those who have it and Tesco aim to raise 5 million for this excellent cause by the end of this year.

Now, incredible as my bag packing skills are (I knew all that Tetris would be useful one day...) tragically my 'real' Saturday job takes priority, so the Tesco customers of Chippenham lost out to my talents. But my Mother was there, now she really is a dab hand at packing, and when I get home she told me about something that happened on Saturday: she was offered to pack an elderly gentleman's bags for him, and explained that whilst half of the money would be going towards a Girl Guiding trip to India, half would be going to the 'Alzheimer's Society'. Straightaway the man had his wallet open, and not only did he put his change in, but the notes were going in too, he was trying to put all of his money in the bucket, to the point that he was going to have absolutely nothing left. Straightaway Mum snapped into what can only be described as 'Mother mode' and tactfully began putting his notes all back in, whilst expressing her gratitude for the change and insisted the man kept his money.

Now, he could just be THE most generous, kind-hearted man in the world ever. But personally I think there were two, much bigger possibilities, I suspect that either he had just lost/was losing someone close to him with the disease or that he had Alzheimer's himself and recognized the word. Whatever the reason was, it broke my heart a bit to hear that story. 

Alzheimer's is a cruel, debilitating disease, it takes away memories, personality and character; in short, it takes away the person. It's horrible and terrifying to watch and is of course, incurable. Alzheimer's doesn't just make you a bit forgetful, it takes away literally everything, until they become a confused shell of the person they once where, no matter how incredible they once were. Unfortunately, I have seen the devastating effects of Alzheimer's, because my Grandad had the disease (he passed away in August), not only did it take away my Grandad (the cleverest man ever!) but it made my family really - for want of a better word - sad. The idea of maybe there being a cure, whilst it's too late for my family, could stop another family having it's heart broken, and that idea is enough to put a smile on my face.

So, if Tesco's where you do your local shop, I would definitely recommend you drop your coppers in the pot for this year's charity, you could be helping a family far more than you ever know, don't let those who can't remember be forgotten this Christmas. Oh, and if you see me with a bucket, Guide shirt and all, feel free to drop some money in there too!





Thursday, 1 December 2011

At the moment it all seems to be a bit depressing!

Lately, it seems to me that loads of bad things are happening all at once. I'm sure nothing worse than usual is really happening, in fact, in the greater scheme of things I'm sure this is probably pretty OK globally. But lately my days have gone a bit like this: I read depressing things in the paper, then I have another stressful day at sixth form, followed by coming home and being swamped by homework, in my breaks I watch the news which is more often than not depressing and when I go on social network sites I get BBC news tweets where often rubbish things have happened and I get countless e-mails from charities telling me about horrible things happening in the world.

Now, I know that this is in part my own fault; I am a self-confessed news junkie. I am also aware that really I'm just complaining about knowing bad things are happening, I mean, it could be so much worse, I could be actually experiencing all of those bad things! I am very lucky, but it's so easy to become over-whelmed by all the horrible things and think that the world is a horrible, depressing mess.

Good news! It's not all bad, I mean, let's not overlook the stuff we don't like, and I'll never stop writing letters because it's easier not to think about things. BUT if you sift through everything, you'll always find something worth smiling about, and I'm not referring to those gimmicky baby born at two months kind of stories (heart-warming as they are). For example: I'm on the mailing list for the Channel 4 news (it's called 'Snowmail' and it's absolutely brilliant! - they get it to your inbox before 6 p.m. everyday and you can sign up for it here) and this evening, I was reading it as part of my pre-Simpsons ritual. Admittedly I had to sift through some pretty grim news, 9 nine days to save the Euro? Scary stuff. Anyway, back to the point! As I scrolled a bit further down I read about the lifting of the ban on surgeons with HIV.

Personally I think this is absolutely brilliant! It's such a breakthrough, it's been thirty years now since the virus itself emerged and what better way of showing the breakthrough we've made in treating what can be such a debilitating illness. I mean, surely there can be nothing more that can shake your world than finding out you're HIV +, but then finding out that your medical career is over too? It must be absolutely soul destroying, so now, at least that worry won't be there for them anymore, something which must be a massive relief.

So, whilst today isn't all good news, I've found something to make me smile and now I think I'm going to try and do that every day!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Three quarters of schools closed and I ain't even mad

So today, along with 76% of England's schools, my teachers were off waving placards so I had no school. Admittedly I got absolutely loads done, it was great to catch up on some extra work, but I would have got through a bit more if I was at school. I do however, totally support them and protesting is the best way to show you disagree and demand change; to the point that I even let a teachers who got very snappy about me missing their lesson for a student fees protest explain to me their injustice and why they must protest.

I could never knock the work that teachers do. Children are horrible half the time and I still remember how moody and disruptive some of my classes were at secondary school (I still can't decide whether year nines or tens are more of a nightmare to control) yet, the majority of my teachers handled such situations brilliantly. I can see the life of a teacher being different in a school where Mummy and Daddy fork out thousands a term for their child to be educated in the best way money can buy, but in your average comprehensive resources are spread around people who want to do the very best they can, and people who really couldn't care less. My school wasn't the worst, far from it; my school taught and continues to teach me lessons both which can get me the grades I need to (fingers crossed) get into a good uni as well as how to be a decent person. I guess school's like anything else really, you only get what you take from it, and call me a nerd, a beaner (never quite understood that) or a geek, you really wouldn't be the first, but I've taken a lot from my time in education.

It's from striving to be top of the class at school that I learnt how the best things come to those who put in the extra hours, who struggle and really try to get to the top. Over the past thirteen years I've come across some of the most inspirational men and women: from Mrs Head who stressed the importance of hanging up your coat in the right place, Miss Cook who encouraged me to learn the recorder (don't think my parents will ever be able to forgive her for that) to later on, where Mr Hall encouraged me to get into politics and Mr Stead helping to develop my interest in philosophy.

So really, if my teachers think the government are letting them down and I have to have a day off every now and then for them to argue it out, well then so be it, they deserve the very best of retirements!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Haters gon' hate, but this is just ridiculous.

So, the British Embassy in Tehran was stormed today by Iranian students leading Anglo-Iranian relations reaching an all-time low. There were around 1,000 people gathered on the streets in front of it, waving photos of assassinated scientists, now I'd like to make myself clear: this isn't some detailed evaluation of diplomatic relations, nor is it some sort of historical analysis of their tense historical relationship. Instead, this is me being a bit freaked out by the hating directed at us at a nation.

Following the national outcry at Emma West's racist rantings in 'My Tram Experience' which has since led to her arrest, I think right now, Britain is showing it's best side. Now, I'm not going to go all 'England is the greatest country in the world' on you, that would be ridiculous. As a nation we have done many silly, stupid or downright bad things in our time, but really, who hasn't? And when for that matter did it justify burning our flag? Or burning the U.S. and Israeli flags too? I'm English and the U.S.A and Israel have done plenty of things to make me angry, but I do something constructive; I go visit Amnesty International's website and I sent letters to the appropriate people, along with thousands of others and you know what? We often get things done. Burning a flag however, symbolism aside, does nothing. It makes people cross, so what? It's going to change nothing, it will resolve nothing, they may as well have done nothing. 


But what really unnerved me was their chanting. I mean, 'death to England', really? So, I have two options here, I can take it literally: they want everyone in England to die. Including me, who's never done anything to offend Iran, neither have my friends, oh and all the children too, the ones who have done absolutely nothing. Yeah, that's really rational, makes loads of sense. Alternatively I can take it symbolically: so everything England stands for should go. So, no more queuing, no more freedom of speech, no more using a good cup of tea as a reasonable way of solving problems, no more attempts to make the world a better place, no more Royal family, one less safe haven for those around the world seeking asylum and no more fish and chips. They really should have thought this through a bit more and been a bit more specific about what they dislike, as now they just look a bit stupid. Also, stop these weird, overly large death threats, not only is it disconcerting, but it's also rather like an other the top, real life version of Formspring, and no one uses that anymore...

Monday, 28 November 2011

The most meaningful of holidays

Out of the 1.3 million visitors to Auschwitz-Birkenau each year, around 821, 000 are young people. Now that's a heck of a turnover! You'd be forgiven for thinking that it had turned into some sort of ginormous tourist attraction, and in a way it has; it's incredibly well preserved, the tour guides know their stuff and there are many  well thought out exhibitions. But it's a lot more than that, you can't walk very far without seeing some flowers, candles or Jewish memorial stones: it's a graveyard.

It's seriously difficult to really explain how I felt that day, I guess the best description of how it felt was haunted. As I walked round the site, they were many unnerving artifacts and the events themselves were, of course, utterly horrendous and it was nothing to do with cold that I was frequently finding myself shaking as I faced certain photos. I'm not going to tell you about everything there, as it would bore you all to tears, although I could easily write a post on each individual artifact or photo! But boring you would take from the harrowing effects of the place, what makes it strange is how certain parts have a massive effect on you and really personalize what happened.

It's hard to think that an event which resulted in the murder of over six million people could ever have a personal impact. Especially when you consider how this well before my time and I have no family connections to the events, yet when you're faced with rooms full of human hair and piles of glasses,  it's quite frankly over-whelming, it's hard to think of as real. Yet, when I was in a room full of suitcases I saw one which belonged to a one year little old girl with what translates as 'little child' underneath her name, knowing that she had certainly died on arrival was surreal, and we wouldn't even know she ever existed if it wasn't for her little suitcase.

Without a doubt it was the knowledge of what happened to all those children that really got me. I work in the childrenswear department of a local shop and get incredibly over excited whenever we get a new delivery of tiny baby shoes. To me, their tiny size represent everything adorable about babies, so, as you can imagine, seeing  display cases containing tiny baby clothes was absolutely horrendous. Obviously I knew they had killed children, but they become a statistic, squashed together with their parents and everyone else who was slaughtered and that's hard to identify with on a personal level. But when you see tiny baby things, then walk around a gas chamber? Putting two and two together becomes somewhat traumatic.

Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was a death camp, it's a lot more spread out and most of it was blown up by panicked Nazis in a poor attempt at hiding what they'd done. A couple of buildings still remain however, including where they were registered and had to give up their clothes and identity. It also has a room showcasing an exhibition of family photos found in a suitcase where they had been stowed as oppose to destroyed, painstaking research had lead to many of them being identified and traced. Yet many were nameless, that was unnerving as the photos were your average family photo. Imagine picking a photo of you and your family, then everything else (including you) is completely destroyed, leaving just that one photo...

It's hard to explain something which has to be seen to be believed. It's easy to forget what happened. But seeing piles of prosthetic limbs has really highlighted the importance of remembering the victims of some of the most barbaric crimes in history. In the entrance to one of the blocks is a quote from George Snatayana which highlighted to me the importance of school trips to Auschwitz:
"Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it" 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Take your big society and leave. (please)

Some of you may be aware that I'm spending six weeks next summer in a country with the greatest name in the world (India, obviously...). As part of this I have spent near enough every Friday night in Hardenhuish School hall, which for the record is absolutely freezing at night, helping out with climbing sessions, as well as trying out the wall myself if I get a spare minute. On top of this I have spent that last six years helping out at local Rainbow units, read this as getting covered in glitter by girls aged five to seven. Now, I'm no Mother Theresa, but that's two nights a week of voluntary work, and the amount of young people I've had the privilege of meeting through GirlGuiding shows that I'm not the only person doing so. We're coming to the end of our centenary year, of a voluntary movement where helping in the community plays a big role and has been doing so since 1910, independent from politics.

So you know, when I see and hear about this 'big society' I can't help but wish the Tories could have been a bit more imaginative. I'm no expert in politics, but I can't help but agree with the General Secretary of UNISON (Dave Prentis) "The Government is simply washing its hands of providing decent public services and using volunteers as a cut-price alternative". I mean, I love being involved in Guiding, some of the greatest experiences I have had through it to be honest usually involved some degree of community service. It does make me feel like, dare I use the term, part of some sort of 'Big Society', even when I was seven and murdering Christmas carols in the old people's home in town with the rest of my pack I got the same feeling of satisfaction as when I was helping clear a lakeside in Germany. But I think if I was doing this because there was no one else, or because I had to? Then the magic would be lost. I wouldn't enjoy it half as much and I'd be so cross at Cameron for taking that away from me! 


Seriously, I do think everyone should consider voluntary work as something to throw into their lives, and I'm sure anyone who has will agree, it's worth far more emotionally than any amount of UCAS related Brownie points (excuse the pun!).  So everyone, do something unpaid, but do it for yourself, do it for the community, don't do it so that the country doesn't have to pay someone else to do it!

Monday, 21 November 2011

2.6 million unemployed. Anyone fancy a Fabergé egg?

The first time I ever heard of a Fabergé egg I was about eight. As a dedicated Blue Peter fan I was of course interested in the competition they hosted one year to design one, although back then I didn't quite appreciate their hefty price tag. I won't even go into the question of taste, although I would highly recommend you Google the bejeweled 'beauties' and see if they really are worth £10 million... As your average sixth former where my only income comes from spending eight hours a week in a local department store I consider most of New Look's party dresses a bit of a stretch and the eye-watering cost of most of Urban Outfitters could make me sulk for hours on end. Understandably then, Russian jewel encrusted eggs rarely feature on my wish list, let alone on e-mails to relatives asking (very nicely) what I want for Christmas. 


And why should it? I'm seventeen years old, I don't even like normal eggs. Plus, I would probably lose it... I'm not naive enough to think that their new shop, just off Bond Street in London, is in anyway catered for the likes of myself. But when you think about how recently the United Kingdom's unemployment rate reached 2.62 millions it does make you suspect that maybe there really are some people benefiting from the ordinary people's belts. Obviously, I'm not going to go leave school and live in a tent in the middle Bath (you can see my confusion about the Occupy protests here) but is it really unreasonable to be slightly sickened by a shop opening up where the cheapest thing is a pair of earrings for £4,200?


I don't want to seem hard done by, I mean, I know there are many, many people far worse off than me, I'm very lucky to have never had serious money problems (touch wood) and I'm in a position where higher education is both an option but also, I am probably able to live away from home whilst doing so. But I just hate how there are people ready to splash out on some sparkly clutter, maybe they should be left in the Bolshevik era where they belonged?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The world is a dangerous place to live in

 not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

It's sad to think that the post following Ziggy Shipman's story is looking at the violent threats from right-wing groups, in our very own England. It sickens me to think of them so close to my home, and horrified me when I looked a little more into them following their recent press coverage in regard to their threats against Unions.

The English Defence League is a far-right movement create in response to the absolutely tiny minority of extremists who burnt poppies during a homecoming parade in Luton. The title is a quote from Einstein, taken from their website. Ironically, a victim of adversity is used to open a page promoting hate. Whilst I absolutely in no way condone their actions (I have the utmost respect for the forces, their work and their sacrifice) what I dislike is how they have used this as a springboard to attack Islam in its entirety. Of course, they claim that they don't repeatedly in their mission statement, but continue reading it and there are some real 'gems' such as: religiously-inspired intolerance and barbarity that are thriving amongst certain sections of the Muslim population in Britain: including, but not limited to, the denigration and oppression of women, the molestation of young children, the committing of so-called honour killings, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and continued support for those responsible for terrorist atrocities. and  The time for tolerating intolerance has come to an end: it is time for the whole world to unite against a truly Global Jihad. Oh, and we mustn't overlook demand reform of their religion, in order to make it more relevant to the needs of the modern world and more respectful of other groups in society. 


Really though? I'm confidant most of the first point are things unfortunately found in all communities, irregardless of their religion. It's called the dark side of humanity and not only is it found in the absolute minority of the Islamic community, but also sadly in all religions. I wish it didn't, we all wish it didn't, but it does, and therefore absolutely can not be blamed on one group. Plus, when has there ever been support for 'Global Jihad'? I admit, I don't know enough about Islam, but I was taught that Jihad is an internal struggle of faith? Only in extreme circumstances and when severely provoked has it anything to do with violence, and even then the vast majority of Muslims disagree with such an idea. Plus, most religions are old. Islam is no different, surely if they're going to do this properly the ELD should be demanding the reform of Catholisicim, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism? It's ridiculous and irrational, fueled only by hate, not by 'protecting' anything.


And now they're splinter groups threatening the Unions? Well, it makes sense really. I mean, they've already exhausted the attack on a now deeply integrated aspect of our society, so they may as well move onto another. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has commented :"Trade unionists have fought long and hard for a fairer society, one with respect at its core. Ultra-right-wing groups care about nothing other than stoking hatred, which is why they have no place in our communities.".


And you know what? I totally agree with McCluskey, if these brutes really cared about ridding the world of injustice, they would be following in the footsteps of Amnesty International and join me in sending e-mails and signing petitions. They would promote tolerance on both sides and they would look at the mistakes made in the past by similar prejudices and drastically review their racism

Friday, 18 November 2011

Ziggy Shipper = Ultimate Hero

Ziggy Shipper was the most inspirational man I have ever met, and hearing him speak today was truly an honour. Holocaust survivors are increasingly becoming fewer and farther between, as time goes by their stories of hope and of courage go with them, and of course, millions of stories were never told. Today my history class was told, in no uncertain terms, how prejudice and racism can escalate, the destructive power of hate and the importance of never giving up. Throughout, Mr Shipper's reasons for talking to us were made clear; he explained to us how it was not a case of 'how can you remember it?' and more of a case of 'how can you forget?'.

His story began in a Polish city whose Jewish population before the war was on a par with the UK's in its entirety (around 260,000) and from a relatively prosperous, Orthodox Jewish family, where he was brought up by his grandparents. He was nine and a half years old and still in bed the last time he saw his father, before he escaped the country. It was presumed that fit, healthy men would be the first to suffer in the upcoming Nazi invasion and although he returned in 1941 he was never again heard of. However, his father was wrong. It was the helpless: the young, the elderly, the ill. They were the first to suffer. 

'The day they came to our city, everything changed' and with his ban from school and public transport the changes were massive. Imagine that, children banned from school and pushed out of moving trams, simply due to their religion? New decrees were passed every day, until eventually they had to move to the poorest area of town.  Despite 100,000 running away to try and find safety somewhere else, the area could only comfortably fit around 20,00, not the 150,000 expected to fit. So, it was in one room with no anemities that Mr Shipper and his grandparents watched as the ghetto became completely surrounded barbed wire, and it was when he was ten and a half that he got his first job in a metal factory; working shifts from seven in the morning until seven at night. In the ghetto he faced horrendous things: from stepping over dead bodies to get to work in the morning, to a food ration so measly it would have run out by Wednesday. His Grandfather died soon after entering the ghetto through starvation as he insisted on eating only orthodox friendly food, showing the further evil of the Nazis.

August 1944: the ghetto was liquidated following the closeness of the Russian troops and he was sent to be a worker in Germany. When he reached the platform he couldn't see a train, his Grandmother pointed to the cattle truck in front of them and it was on that he witnessed many deaths due to suffocation and starvation. It was upon his arrival at Auschwitz however that the suffering reached a whole new level and some of the most heartbreaking things were said. He described watching women told to leave their babies and watching them get shot if they didn't. Babies, getting shot. Such brutality was so extreme, so impossible to comprehend. I mean, he's in his eighties and still can't fully comprehend the horrendous acts that took place. 

Labelled as '84303' he lost even his name and volunteering to become a laborer in Germany was his only chance of survival, however slight. Here he defied the odds completely, through surviving Typhus without medication, food or water for seven days. Yet despite the cruelty, he told us the beautiful tale of his friends who turned down the prospect of freedom from Danish POWs during the night to stay with him and ensure that he survived too. He survived a ten mile death march due to their invaluable assistance, considering he was suffering from an often fatal disease at the time this is a truly magnificent feat. Finally, he was liberated by British troops on 3rd May 1945 and was treated in hospital for his illness for three months. After choosing to go to Palestine to start a new life with his friends he received a letter from London from what turned out to be his long estranged mother and after much deliberation he began a new life in London in December 1946.

What makes Ziggy incredible is how ordinary and easy going he is. He's without a doubt a total hero, but his ability to fully engage a group of seventeen year olds for nearly two hours seemed almost effortless. He also has regrets like everybody else, except his are heartbreaking. His grandmother sadly died the day her camp got liberated, and he explained how he wished he could have put his arm around her that day and thank her for bringing him up. And of course, he experienced first hand events which heartlessly slaughtered not just millions of Jews, but also 50 percent of the European gypsy population, a million Poles and 900 German priests. 

What inspired me the most about today was how he encouraged us not to hate. He told us what hatred can lead to in a way that no history book or amount of quotations could.  Someone who can watch his Grandfather starve to death as he refused to give up his Orthodox beliefs and still say that there are 'still good people in this world' is a total hero in my eyes. Someone who can be so humble as to say that it is not his place to forgive the Germans, as that is something for God and the dead to do was totally inspiring. He also said it was our responsibility to pass on what we heard and learnt today,. This is why this is so long, I apologise for that, but I really hope you have taken some inspiration from his story. All I can do is apologise because I know my words can not do his tale justice.

But, what I would like to pass on are two lessons that I took away today, and I truly hope that I can take these with me for the rest of my life. They came from someone who experienced the most extreme hate and hopelessness yet has still upheld them, thus I sincerely hope I can also apply these to my own life: 
"I beg of you, do not hate, it will ruin your life" and
"Whatever you do, never give up"


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Stick and stones may break my bones

But words will never hurt me. Yeah right. Sorry to disappoint you, but this is not about something beautiful (Rihanna) it's about something horrible, really horrible. This week is anti-bullying week and according to a recent study by the National Children's bureau, 9 out of 10 eleven to sixteen year olds have either experienced it or witnessed it first hand. Bullying, as we're all fully aware, can have disastrous results, it's capable of: triggering eating disorders, self-harm, even suicide and teens are particularly vulnerable.

But we all know that bullying doesn't stop on your sixteenth birthday. I mean, earlier this week we all had a certain girl plastered all over our dashboard. What a way of showing the dark side of the internet! From the lewd comments courtesy of creeps to the downright vile comments left by literally thousands of cruel girls, I for one was left cringing. I mean, very few, if any of us are totally happy with our bodies, we all know how hard it can get comments criticizing our appearance out of our heads. And who here feels comfortable in beachwear? If you do, you're in the minority, and I bet you none of those girls who called her fat were happy in theirs.

Whilst we're at it, raise your hand if you remember Formspring? Now, keep it up if you got hate. Thought as much. It's funny what the promise of anonymity can do to otherwise rational people: death threats, weight jibes, threats, they're just a few examples. Most of this doesn't come from 11-16 year olds, it's coming from 17/18 year olds too. At the moment we're all making academic decisions that will effect our whole lives, we're worrying enough about results to have to worry about signing in to social network sites. It's completely unacceptable, name calling was pathetic enough when we were in the playground. Keep it out the common room.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Occupy Wall Street? They barely occupy our minds...

Throughout the world anti-capitalists are making their objections known through the  'Occupy Movement', a leaderless occupation movement directed against the economic and social inequality all over the world. Their presence has sparked controversy wherever they pitch their tents, as their makeshift camps are pitched up across the globe, from Israel to Italy, to Malaysia and Colombia, as well as their presence across the United Kingdom and the USA. Globally, they have covered over 1,500 cities, as astonishing feat when it is considered that it is lead by people and has no one main leader.

Their aims are inspired [according to occupywallstreet.org] "by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy". I can see why they're dissatisfied, why they feel the need to protest. The United Kingdom is a mess; we witnessed unprovoked riots earlier this year, 16-24 unemployment today hit 1,000,000 and statistically, we're one of the unhappiest countries in Europe. At a global level, the world wide economy is unsustainable, the minority possess the majority and the world population reached seven billion, something which we are currently unable to cater for. In short, something's got to give. In order to survive in the long run we need to make drastic changes and fast, yet the world leaders are reluctant to do so, it seems to make sense that we protest about it.

Admittedly, because it is still ongoing it is impossible at this point to determine the full extent of their impact. Although many say that it has prompted a shift in the American dialogue to the everyday problems, faced by ordinary its ordinary citizens.  In the United Kingdom? Not so much. They were controversial to begin with, no question, and they caused uproar in the Church of England. But have we really been talking about their aims?

 Personally, I consider these protests to be our generations equivalent to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Greenham Common even shows us that the idea of camping out to make a point on the perpetrator's doorstep isn't anything new and with Rufus Wainwright visiting Wall Street they even have gigs. They showed that you may not get results straight away, I mean, those ladies camped outside RAF Greenham Common for ten years. But there is a key difference: they had one aim. As I said before, I believe we need change, I believe we need to demand this from the rooftops. But, I also believe their arguments are too complex. It's confusing and complicated, if they focused on just one thing then maybe our attentions would be more fully focused and they would achieve more. At least CND kept it simple, they also had more powerful scare tactics on their side. But there is one other, vitally important thing to remember when thinking about these mass protests and comparing them to what happened before: we still have nuclear weapons.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

No Ifs, No Buts, NO EDUCATION CUTS

As you're all aware, there was outrage throughout the country as tuition fees were raised, The Liberal Democrats backed out of their vow to only raise fees when 'hell freezes over' and there were national days of protest and marches throughout the country. With EMA being slashed as well students from all over have been joining forces against this privatization of education. Sadly, due to prior commitments I was unable to attend the march on Wednesday 9th November and so I interviewed Sheldon Sixth Form student Harry Thompson who assures that this contentious issue is by no means over yet!


How did you first get involved in the protests?
The former President of Sheldon Sixth Form organised a coach up to the first protest. For the second protest, somebody I know got funding for Abbeyfield, and suggested I do the same for Sheldon


So, what exactly was the point of the protests?
The aim of the protests was vaguely to hinder the government’s education reforms. The main issues being protested against were tuition fees and educational maintenance allowance. Many attending described this as the ‘privatisation’ of the education system. The argument for this is that universities now raise their own funds and are no longer reliant on the government in that respect. The service they provide is based on the quality of their lecturers and their reputation, both of which are provided by money. Therefore Universities are no longer reliant on the government, but act more as a private business. 

I can't remember if you went to the London ones about the fees last time, so if you did - What was it like in comparison with the protests beforehand?
I was at the London fees protests last time. The protests this time were on a far smaller scale (the Metropolitan police claimed only 2000 attended, but in a private report for met use only, they stated the number was more like 10,000) than last time, when 50,000 attended. A lot of this is due to the fact that the issue has died down a bit, but a lot of people travelling with us dropped out at the last minute due to the police threatening to use rubber bullets.



Do you think the threatened use of rubber bullets was in anyway justified?
I do think it’s justified if they prevent more harm than they cause. However, I’m completely against the way the introduction of them has been handled. It honestly sends an awful message when rioters escape any riot measures after days of rioting, but protesters are threatened before the thing even starts. In the end, none were used, but it certainly depressed the numbers attending due to worried parents, and I think that’s a real shame.


How did you manage to get the support of the trade unions and what exactly did this mean for you all as a result?
Well, Unison funded Abbeyfield students, and GMB funded us at Sheldon. We simply emailed them asking them for funding to attend the protests, and they both agreed (many trade unions backed the cause of the protests, as did the National Union of Students). It was extremely helpful to have transport costs covered, as train fees to London are extremely expensive (and yes, the Conservatives are putting them up again).

What was the atmosphere like?
The atmosphere was jovial, despite the seriousness of the cause, as many student protests are. It was almost entirely peaceful, and it was nice to see students from many different backgrounds coming together to protest.

What was the route of the march?
The route of the march was far less controversial to last time. Last time the march passed Parliament as MPs prepared to vote on the tuition fees rises (the protest could apparently be heard within Parliament) and ended fairly nearby Conservative Party HQ – and we all know how that ended. This time, the route started at the University of London Student Union, and continued across a few leafy suburbs. I’ll be honest, we stopped for a McDonald’s and lost the march for a while, so a short cut was taken!

Do you think the day's events made any real impact?
Well, yes. I don’t think there was every any chance of MPs looking at the 10,000 protesters and saying ‘right, let’s reverse tuition fees’ when they wouldn’t amid the media furore as they prepared to vote this time last year. But it does have a profound effect on politics if people don’t give up their cause. Politicians very rarely backtrack or admit they’re wrong in public, but they do see what hits their opinion poll ratings and what people take to the streets about. If there had been no student fees protests, it’s possible in that hard times in the future, more cuts could have been made to education. After all, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the hardest hit by these measures are the under 18’s unable to vote. Now that politicians have been made to see just how motivated and angry young people in this country can get, that won’t happen. It’s also no coincidence that political leaders are falling over themselves to get on the side of young people now in a way they weren’t beforehand – with Ed Miliband calling for the 9k fees to be scrapped or lowered, and David Cameron boasting of the apprenticeships scheme hisgovernment has brought in. For some reason, Nick Clegg isn’t talking much to young people at the moment.


Do you think the education cuts have helped encourage more young people to get involved in politics?
Yes, definitely. For me it was the tuition fees decision that made me get actively involved in politics and led to be eventually joining the Labour party. I attended the party’s conference this year and spoke to a lot of young members, and there were a lot of people in similar situations. In fact, the Conservative party has always had the largest party membership of any British political party. It was finally overtaken by Labour in 2010/2011 due to the amount of young people joining.


 Thank-you very much Harry!
You can follow him on Twitter here: Harry Thompson on Twitter 

Monday, 14 November 2011

No more bunga-bunga parties

Berlusconi's attempt to rejuvenate the politics of Italy unarguably made the  it become a mere farce. The tycoon-come-politician's arguably most notable achievements  included lowering his nations growth so that Italy only beat Haiti and Zimbabwe, a debt-to-GDP ratio of 120 percent, a ratio beaten in Europe only by Greece, swaggering a lot, oh and recording a CD of love songs.

 He was elected three times, according to Gianna Riotta the former editor of Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy's leading buisness paper) this was with the aim "to change Italy and reform the economy". Instead, his voters got sex scandal after sex scandal and a former Miss Italy contestant as their Equal Opportunities minister. Besides fans of AC Milan Football club (he owns the club and collaborated with Tony Renis to write the club's anthem) he also appealed to the anti-Communist majority of Italy, an appeal he appears to be proud of when you consider that he was quoted as describing his country as "Italy is now a great country to invest in...today we have fewer communists. Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries".

In fact, it could be argued that the only aspect of the billionaire's political career was his 'success' in objectifying and demeaning just over fifty percent of his population. His views were both inappropriate, he dealt with minors, for instance his attendance at the 18th birthday party of a wannabe lingerie model, but also just plain sexist, something all the more shocking when you consider how he was a figure with great power and influence.

Perhaps the only thing worse than his constant faux pas regarding gender, was the controversy constantly surrounding him regarding the law. He has faced many allegations of cheating taxes and bribery, some of which he is still staring at today, including his supposed offer of $600,000 dollars to David Mills so that he give a false testimony about his use of offshore companies for two corruption cases. When his immunity from prosecution was lifted in 2009 his explanations of what was happening to him was "I am without doubt the person who's been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world". Never a finer use of a hyperbole.

 Safe to say, I'm glad for the sake of Italy, women and the current dire state of European finance, that Mr Berlusconi has finally left!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

"British and German, fighting for our lives just the same"

Little thought is generally given to the Great War in our everyday lives; it seems strange that in our constant state of busyness we should stop and think about something where all who fought in it are now dead. Whilst Claude Choules only died in May of this year (he served in the Royal Navy) it has actually been three years since Harry Patch - the last survivor of those infamous trenches, died. So, now there are no living memories for the appalling conditions undergone by those who fought. It is perhaps even stranger, once it is considered that there were more than 70 million military personnel mobilized over of it's four year duration and instances such as the opening day of the Battle of the Somme proved to be the bloodiest in the history of the British armed forces even to this day (57, 470 casualties).


Yet, every year on the Sunday closest to Armistice day, as a nation we gather to commemorate their sacrifice, as well as the sacrifices since, including those who continue to sacrifice themselves for the sake of  our freedoms. King George V started this tradition as a response to the national trauma in 1919 as his country struggled to come to terms with its loss, as a way of unifying through grief as a generation of men was prematurely lost.

Despite the annual readings of the work of World War One poets such as McCrae and Brooke I have frequently found myself thinking of more recent wars: ones which have occurred within my lifetime and of which I have a more intimate connection with. Obviously, there is nothing wrong whatsoever with this, their work is incredible and their bravery is something I can not do true justice for by using mere words. However, should it be so easy to overlook the deaths of six million?

Unimaginable numbers of lives were tragically cut short through a war which even today the majority of people struggle to understand. I myself admit that I severely doubt that the ideological and political reasons for World War One justified any sort of war, let alone one on such a mass scale. I suppose what I'm trying to get at is the importance of not letting their numbers become a mere statistic. Something so horrendous can not become merely another date alongside long ago campaigns such as the Crimean War and the Battle of Waterloo. It is something that we can not allow to be just forgotten names on war memorials; it should forever remain a part of our national consciousness.






*The title quote was taken from the autobiography of Harry Patch - The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, the Only Surviving Veteran of the Trenches

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Have we forgotten autumn?

Whilst I can totally relate to the sentiments expressed by Wizzard in the Christmas chart-topper, I can't help but think maybe Christmas does actually lose its appeal if celebrated too far in advance?  With many Christmas decorations up in shops I honestly feel it has actually arrived far too early this year.

Now, I'm no Scrooge by any stretch of the imagination, I thoroughly enjoy both my mug of mulled wine and all the associated cheer but with 41 sleeps until Santa at the time of writing this, perhaps it's not really too extreme a reaction. Whilst I can understand the shops competitiveness being a key factor, if they don't sell it first then a rival will have already catered for your customer's Christmas presents and that's a pretty hefty loss. Plus, in such a horrible economic climate little else holds such a hopeful message like Christmas does, with the messages of peace, hope, love and miracles, it's alludes to a bygone time where things were so much more simple. Shops are making me think about how much closer it is, as if it is something which could be any day now and we must prepare for its attack, as oppose to something of a set date and still over a month away.

I feel as if we are forgetting that November is beautiful too, because nature-wise, unless there's snow, there's little beauty to be found in the stark coldness of December. Yet in mid November there is still an abundance of colour and whilst there are no more pears to b found in my back garden, the lawn and trees are still littered with apples and the weather is still just about nice enough to enjoy. In fact, until I experience my first frost and hear the grass crunch under my boots on the way to school, I won't even say it's late November, no matter how early it gets dark.

So whilst I can't put off Christmas completely until December (as much as I would like to...) I'll settle with the idea of it as something coming soon, something to remember from the depths of the back of my mind and to smile excitedly about. Not coming tomorrow as certain adverts would try and have me believe...

Friday, 11 November 2011

A resolution.

I am going to start posting more on this, like, every day or at least every two. I really enjoy writing on here and thinking about the world around me in a slightly less superficial way than normal. Plus, I hope that by regularly updating this I will be able to re-motivate myself, as this is what I want to do with my life, but first I have to get there, this means doing essays, revision and keeping focused. Lately my standards have been slipping, something I was determined to avoid, so now I'll be posting a lot more.
Enjoy!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Charitable Shopper

When it comes to shopping, I am ashamed to admit that I posses absolutely all of the stereotypical female tendencies, most commonly: a love of shoes, a peculiar habit of trying on insane amounts of dresses (irregardless of having no intention of buying) and picking up anything that sparkles. Therefore my wardrobe is ever-growing, and nearly all of my wages go straight on a couple of t-shirts and maybe a necklace or two.

Goodness knows how much money I've spent in the last year on clothes, it would be no exaggeration however to say it was at least a thousand pounds. Yet do I honestly have a wardrobe to show for it? No I don't. Admittedly, but there are few exceptions to the rule of the highstreet: over-priced and bad quality. Yes, I got a few pieces this year which are simply gorgeous, as well as some everyday staples and a few hairbands, but most of it can only really be described as tat, which a coupe of other people always have anyway.

Then I discovered a wonderful place, where I can find jumpers and shirts almost identical to the ones I lust over in my favorite stores. I found a string of shops where I can get everything from genuine vintage pieces to high street outfits from a couple of seasons ago. I am of course referring to charity shops! - Now the only place where I ever buy clothes from...

Lucky for me, the small town I live in contains six charity shops for me to trawl around almost daily and at least weekly. Uncertain rummaging through rails and baskets of old handbags has put the fun back into shopping for me. Knowing that my clothes now have a history from before me is a weird feeling, as if my jumpers have memories, but it also makes me feel part of something more, like living history. Plus, everything's cheaper, I can buy so much more, and have so many new clothes now to showcase in sixth form!

It's also warming thinking about how, in this way I am contributing to the world around me. Every time I improve my wardrobe, I'm helping a charity to improve the life of someone less fortunate. For example, today, when I brought a vintage suitcase for three pounds, and a pair of never-before worn, tartan Dr. Martens, I was helping the elderly beneficiaries of Age Concern.

Good deed for the day? Done!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Is Feminism Dead?

Today I was, as usual, one of the last to leave my philosophy lesson. My teacher, another student and myself were all casually talking about The Da Vinchi Code, nothing too serious, when this happened:


Teacher: Are you a feminist?
Male student: No
Teacher: Well, you should be!


Now before anyone makes any assumptions, my teacher was male and the student is also my friend. He is articulate, thoughtful and caring, I've known him for seven years now, and I can honestly say I've never hear him say anything sexist. Yet why was it, that when he was asked if he advocated the view that women should have political, social and economic equality to men, he disagreed?


It's easy to think that feminism is no longer important whilst in the school environment. The suffragettes are studied in depth, as well as their achievements. There are both male and female teachers, and statistically, girls are far more likely to perform better in exams than their male counterparts. Recent headlines excitedly announcing that Saudi Arabian women have finally been given the vote make it easy to think that equality for women has been achieved worldwide. Once that has been achieved, feminism no longer has a purpose, it will be merely a statement, worth remembering, but not fighting for as it will already have been achieved.


But right now, women aren't on an equal playing field, whilst they can vote in the 2015 elections, Saudi Arabian women still can not drive. In Buthan and Lebanon, women must meet standards that men have no need   to meet, such as proving that they have an elementary level of education and women can not vote at all in Vatican City.


Undeniably we should celebrate the progress Saudi Arabian women have made, but we shouldn't under-estimate the value of supporting rights for women until the 87% of Afghan women currently victims of domestic abuse, one in twenty-four Nepalese women who die in childbirth and the millions of women across the world raped every year as a vile weapon in war stops and women are truly granted equal opportunities and access to basic amenities will it be acceptable for any well-educated person to not be a feminist.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Norway (L)

 Quite frankly I am still in shock from seeing the images and news footage from the bombings in Norway earlier on today. It brought back all the horror from the 7/7 bombings in London for me to be honest, and that really hit me hard. Unlike everyone in the western world, I feel no emotional connection to the 9/11 attacks. I understand their political and cultural significance on not just America, but also the entire western world, I think what happened was completely unjustifiable and inexcusable, it makes me feel sad for the people yes, what happened was a tragedy but at the same time... Well, first of all, I was just a little kid when it happened, my Dad made my sister and I watch it with him, I have vague recollections of him not letting us leave until I started crying because of the 'film', he had to explain this wasn't a film. So yes, it made me sad, but I've never felt scared on a plane or anything.
 On the other hand, I was eleven when the 7/7 bombings took place, it was my final primary school sports day, as a chubby, unfit child this was something I didn't enjoy anyway. Unbeknownst to me, my Dad was running late that morning once he arrived at Paddington station as part of his daily commute, this seems irrelevant, but it's important. Slowly, trickles of news started to filter through from the ladies in reception that something awful had happened in London, everyone else out on the field of course had no clue, but some of the women whose husbands also worked in London started crying. Of course, due to the mobile network's overload and subsequent crashing, no one had any direct news from their loved ones, all we knew was, as the  facts started to appear, was that my father's tube train had been bombed. Thankfully he had missed his train, arriving on his platform literally as it drove away.
 I do think though, my connection to 7/7 is, whilst heightened in intensity by my father, also largely unaffected by it. It took place in both my capital and favorite city, it came the day after I watched processions on television celebrating the world cup. But mostly, there were less people involved. The fewer the people, well, it keeps them as people, not just some horribly sad number (yet a number all the same).
 That's why Norway really affected me, I could consider them as people, not just a statistic, and my heart goes out to each and every person affected by the absolute worst humanity has to offer <3

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

 Last week I was lucky enough to go to London and watch (my personal favorite) the Shakespeare play 'much Ado About Nothing' starring the critically acclaimed David Tennant and Catherine Tate as Benedick and Beatrice.
 I had been looking forward to this as soon as I got the letter home from school about the trip. I had seen various  adaptions of the play through several films but never a comedy and never a live performance.  'Much Ado...' has always been my absolute favorite (although admitting only after Romeo and Juliet...) so understandably I was incredibly excited.
 As far away from the Elizabethan era as you could get, Shakespeare's famous play was set in 1980s Gibraltar, leading to a wonderfully extravagant, tacky, party atmosphere evident throughout the entire play. Seeing the play 'live' brought the many comic aspects of the play brilliantly to life, making it side-splittingly funny and incredibly real. Seeing such talented actors making the emotions felt by such a wide range of characters come to life was riveting and I could honestly barely look away. In all honesty, the whole play had me glued to the very edge of my seat the whole time and, despite having studies the play for quite some time now, I found myself seeing it in a completely different light.
 However, I couldn't help but think there was too much of a focus on the role's of Tate and Tennant. Their captivating wit and charisma, combined with the prominence of characters Benedick and Beatrice gave the whole thing an added lease of life. It made me reconsider how I viewed the characters and certainly made me view Beatrice as less academic; yet at the same time I often felt I was just watching their partnership as Donna and The Doctor from 'Doctor Who' with added cigarettes and an eighties pop backing track. Undeniably, the audience was captivating, but where they really watching Shakespeare? Or were they just watching two iconic television stars?
 Any well covered work will be full of different takes and interpretations, Shakespeare is perhaps the best known example of this. Yet when I watched a film adaption of 'Much Ado...' starring Kenneth Branagh as Benedick I never once mistook him for Professor Lockhart, despite being a fan of his role with the second Harry Potter film. This was of course, inevitable. The cult following of 'Doctor Who' combined with the mind-blowing popularity of both Tennant's and Tate's roles within the series meant it would be difficult to disassociate and the huge amounts of people now taking an interest in Shakespeare following their involvement is a huge blessing for the literary world, I just wish sometimes that people could just separate actor from playwright and just enjoy Shakespeare.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

'Don't get raped'

Three simple words that, at first glance seem an obvious statement. The tone of the command indicates copious negative consequences if disobeyed, and the life-ruining, catastrophic effects of rape, or any other form of sexual assault, are of course undeniable. Yet, in the context of which it is used the most, it is a warning; warning someone to not allow their body to be violated in one of the most degrading of ways.  But if you can prevent it from happening (as is implied in this context) it also indicates some degree of personal blame, that somehow, to some extent, rape is the fault of the victim.
 This is not me talking about the ridiculousness of blaming women for atrocities done to them by others. I hope it goes without saying that I wholly disagree with those who blame women who wore a short skirt, got drunk or smiled at the perpetrator then being blaned for the vile things that were forced upon them. I think to blame someone for something evil done to them by someone else is just horrendous and totally inexcusable. No, what really bothers me is that it is girls told this by their mothers before they go out.
 I highly doubt any boy has ever been told on his way out 'don't rape'. It upsets me that I live in a society where I am told to not let bad things happen to me, but the bad people will never have been told to not do it. I find it distressing that I will potentially be bringing up children one day, surrounded by people who think that a person is capable of stopping themselves being so horrendously assaulted.
 It has no potentially positive outcome either, we're trying so hard to abolish this so-called 'glass ceiling' between the genders, but at the end of the day, society as a whole is preaching for the women to sort themselves out? By placing the blame on the victim we are just going back in time, by dealing with a situation like this we're allowing a criminal to potentially get off without punishment, or at the very least without as severe a punishment. It also appears to me as potentially detrimental for effectively supporting the victims of rape, women who have experienced such a hellish experience are surely not going to get the support absolutely necessary for recovery if society as a whole puts them even partially to blame.
 When did it come to this?  To be perfectly honest I want out of this despicable, immature way of thinking that, when it comes down to it, no one agrees with. It horrifies me. When did society get so wrong?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Cambodia

Arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world, it (along with most of the world to be perfectly honest) has always been somewhere that I wished to visit. With friendly people, vast, exotic jungle landscapes and copious amounts of ancient Buddhist statues and temples it seems to be a tranquil haven and so different from anything dreary Wiltshire has to offer. Yet despite the beauty, Cambodia is haunted by a dark past, by some of the most extreme, yet also bizarre violence the world has ever seen.
 The infamous Khmer Rouge was something I've known about for my many years now, I remember the impressed look on my lower school history teacher's face when I showed not only an awareness of the atrocities but could also almost flawlessly describe what happened. Bits of books and clips of documentaries, as well as numerous radio programmes on the matter had all helped to give me knowledge about such grim happenings which few people really seem to know the extent of. One film I had always meant to watch was the groundbreaking 1984 film 'Killing 's Fields' based on a Cambodian journalist's experiences of the genocide.
 Honestly, I think it was probably the best film I've ever seen. It showed some really vile, nasty things, for example there's a seen when some children suffocate a man with a plastic bag which was one of the most horrible things I've ever seen. I've seen a lot of footage from different events which were very nasty, but never with children as the perpatrators before so that was something horrible. It hit me hard, it showed some horrendous things, yet weirdly it's inspired me even more to pursue a career in journalism. I just feel like it is something that is made for me, I really can not imagine myself doing anything else.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Denying the Obvious

   A2 history at my school takes an in-depth look at the Holocaust, despite my initial unease regarding studying such a distressing subject, it has so far proved to be a fascinating, if intense topic. Today we looked at the different interpretations surrounding the issue of blame for such events, for example: whether it should be placed on Hitler, German citizens, other groups of people or perhaps a combination of all the above.
   As a footnote during the discussion, our teacher mentioned the case of prominent holocaust denier David Irving and went on to describe other, similar theories to an utterly bewildered class.  As a group of forward-thinking, intelligent students, there was no one there who would seriously consider the idea of limiting one's freedom of expression. What instead seemed to be the issue was not the idea itself, but how illegitimate and badly thought through it was. For instance, the concept of the death toll being a mere 30, 000 due to natural causes, as oppose to the eleven million of whom evidence suggests were murdered seems just odd. Admittedly, the majority of bodies were cremated however this by no means eradicates the problem of, if they did not die, then where did all of those people go? There is no way of proving they did not exist, photos and records for each person makes their death undeniable, so if they are not dead then where did such vast numbers of people disappear to? Or attempts by Irving to prove that the technology at Birkinu rendered it incapable of killing such large numbers of people which, of course failed as denying the Holocaust is very similar to denying the second world war itself: there is too much evidence and there are too many testimonies for it to be rationally rendered false.
   Curiosity overtook me soon after the lesson, I thought that such a previously well-respected historian surely could not draw such badly considered conclusions concerning historical events? It seemed irrational and so further research seemed necessary, thus leading me to a garish, dated website whose navigation bar at the top of every page had at the top of the drop-down bar 'Mr Irving, please take me to...' where I was invited to chose from a variety of equally patronising options.
   Instead of a series well thought out and planned arguments designed to convince the many sceptics that actually his ideas have some ground there was a web archive listing links on his case, accompanied by blunt, immature remarks on how Mr Irving was clearly wronged. His information on Hitler, the Nazi Regime and History itself showed little of his presumed skill and knowledge, again just lists of links of other people's research concerning the subject again with the same immature remarks. In reality this man seems to have removed himself so far from his once intelligent image and in effect made a laughing stock out of himself by refraining from using detailed points, evidence, explanation then connecting his ideas, a basic technique given to fourteen year old history students. It really does lead to serious questioning regarding the others sharing his views if such a man is dubbed 'the most skillful preacher of Holocaust denial in the world today' and unofficial publicist of their cause. Not to mention the great deal of skepticism it duly raises regarding what their ultimate goals could be as they continue to enthusiastically yet so unconvincingly try to argue something so obvious had never happened.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Intellectual Stereotyping

Over the past year of working as a sales advisor in the childrenswear department of a well-respected, popular high street chain I have witnessed many interesting things. Working with so many different members of the public and getting a chance to examine their shopping as I scan it has, in my opinion given me an amazing insight into the  different things people value as important and worth spending their hard-earned money on.
 Without a moment's hesitation however, I would say that the most interesting aspect of working there is the assumption from the majority of customers that as I am employed within retail, I must therefore be academically inferior. I have been 'corrected' on my mathematical accuracy, my knowledge and understanding of retail law, my grasp of store policy and even what is being reguarly repeated through the tannoy system. Yet the amount of times this correction has been genuine? At a push I think I could count these times on one hand. The unfounded feelings of superiority that are rarely stifled seem out of place, and on a parr with the regular games played by customers of 'guess the college course' in going against basic manners. As it is I am starting on my year 13 work at my local sixth form, I'm studying: history, religious studies, English literature and psychology and getting reasonably good grades, out of the original team of where I work (so when the store itself first opened) I was actually the least qualified there. Every single person there had either a degree already or where working towards them, yet random people still had the audacity to try and tell us we were stupid?
 My personal favorite was when a man was speaking to me in the same tone as would be used on a toddler whilst they were being potty trained when I noticed the book in his hand was a biography of Mao by the Chinese author Jung Chang. Admittedly I haven't yet read the book, however I adore Wild Swans (by the same author) so started quizzing the gentlemen on the book and compared it to Wild Swans and we discussed Chinese Human Rights. It's only small, but still, any victory is good, and the feeling of satisfaction from knowing I'd changed one person's mind, in part made up for the six others over the following weeks inquiring as to how my health and beauty course was going at college....

My first post!

I have finally created a slightly less frivolous blog, which will hopefully give a slightly more meaningful edge to my internet footprint than my habit of repeatedly re blogging photos of long hair on tumblr and gossiping on facebook. I hope this blog will give me a chance to put my views and observations  across in a constructive way, as well as being a window for me to share things which I consider of utmost importance (namely human rights, education, culture and various opinions regarding society). Enjoy! :)