Category Archives: Rant

No, Fair Systems are Not Fair

Another week in the world of education, and another teenager, Ms Suzy Lee Weiss, has gone through the epiphany after several university rejections that university admissions systems are not fair. Well, no crap Sherlock.

Yes, yes, her writing is satire. Yes, it’s tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating; she’s got so much wit and cleverness that she’ll go far…yada yada yada yawn. That she’s smart enough to write a piece of social commentary and not appear stupid on television isn’t really that amazing. There are many teenagers, all across the world, at many different ages, who are capable of the same things. It’s not a magic Midas touch, it’s simply a matter of temperament. Yes, she’s clever, but she really shouldn’t be afforded some special attention just because she’s pointed out what most people have known for ages:

Fair systems are not really fair.

Actually, I can’t think of a system that is fair. Can you? They may work, certainly, but they may not be completely fair in that they may not work to the convenience of everybody. Usually the majority, but not everybody. There’s an often fundamental flaw in everything, from job application systems to traffic.

So, if I agree the system isn’t fair, what’s the problem with Ms Weiss’ article?

It exposes the deeper modern problem, I think, that generations of youth are raised to expect certain things. We are taught that when we do A, we will get B, when we do B, we get C…and so on. We are trained in nursery to get into junior school, at junior school we are trained to get into high school, and from high school we are trained to get into university and so on. When we complain that this rigid route doesn’t make us happy, we are promptly told that the only way we can be happy, truly happy, is to acquire the money that will enable us to be happy. No matter what we want to be, it is only money that will make it possible. And thus we return to the route.

Yes, it is a question of money.

Look, if people weren’t concerned about money and how they’d be able to feed themselves in the future, there would be less people going to university. There’d be less people working 9-5 hours in office jobs to make enough money to get into the job they actually want to do. We do these things only because the established route tells us that money is necessary to enable us to live adequately enough that we can find happiness. If money (and the prestige associated with it) was no object, the only people going on to higher education and caring about ‘Ivy League’ quality would be the people who found it truly delightful to learn. Which, unfortunately, is not that many teenagers.

Ms Weiss, like many other teenagers across the globe, appears stuck on this route. Her real complaint, although she may not realise it, is not the flawed admissions system but this flawed happiness system. Rejection by universities she felt entitled to attend opened her eyes to the flaws of the system. I think for a moment she realised that she had been lied to by her entire society, in that this search for money doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. This route is not as rigid as it appears; few people who follow it ever actually attain the comfortable monetary status they seek. The instability of college admissions opened Ms Weiss’ eyes to the variables which conflict with this goal. Yes, certainly money gives you time, resources and the opportunity to pursue happiness, more so than poverty or living on the bread line. But the mistake that is too often made is that many people are taught that money and happiness are interchangeable. And when they realise that this route is not so straightforward as one has been told, it leaves people shaken. You begin to question your life so far and you ask: what is the point of all of this? Why do I bother if I’ll never actually reach my goal?

In Weiss’ case, immediately after asking that question, she looked to find a source of blame so that she could move back onto the route. It’s the unfair admissions system stopping me, not anything I’ve done/not done.

What we need to do to stop this from happening is that we need to tell teenagers new things.

  1. Yes, trying is the way to success. But. Sometimes, no matter how much you try, you will not succeed in your goal.
  2. Often, this is because you have the wrong goal. You’re looking for success at the end of the road. Sometimes, ‘success’ is the happiness, the experience, the friends and the life you make as you travel down that road.
  3. Life isn’t fair, and it never will be.
  4. Happiness is a form of wealth. Wealth is not a form of happiness.
  5. Actually, do be yourself. It’s not what universities or employers are looking for, but it’s the way to be happy. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t get where they did faking it, they got where they did trying to do what made them happy.

Focusing on the unfairness of one particular stage of life never got anybody anywhere. Ms Weiss’ case will die down soon, and as she is already apparently from a good middle-class background, with a sister working for the Wall Street Journal, she’ll likely graduate and find her desired job soon enough. At some point she’ll likely realise that it makes not so much difference where you went to school but rather, what you got out of it.

Money isn’t necessary for a happy life. Definitely, a hand-to-mouth existence isn’t easy at all – I know that myself; my family is far, far from wealthy – but there’s something wrong with living to make money to enable you to live to make money. That is only living to survive. Supporting a family isn’t easy on low funds either, I understand that. Many people think the idea of seeking out only happiness is ridiculous liberalism, and that’s understandable, because after a certain age and set of experiences that is no longer an option. But I’d like to see a generation, just one, which told its children to live their lives seeking happiness, not ephemeral pleasure or money. Just happiness. Somehow, I don’t think they’d have the same problem. Because they wouldn’t go into it believing that things would be easy. But they’d go into life knowing that as hard as things got, they’d be happy at the same time.

At some point in the past you were born, and at some point in the future you’ll die. Living is not obsessing over trivial matters, but meaningfully making up the difference. And if you disagree with me, the comment section is just below.

Advertisements

What’s So Great About This Thing We Call Democracy?

Positivity Link: Disney and occasional cases of decency.

It’s election time in America again and the media will not let us forget it. I live on the other side of the ocean, and yet there’s still talk about Biden and Ryan and a whole sea of Obama supporters (for some reason us Brits don’t like Romney. I think it’s something to do with the Mormonism. Or the unnerving smile.) Even here in English politics, the entire country was able to groan when Nick Plebb “apologised” for his party’s lies and then readjusted his tie in preparation for the 2015 elections.

Politicians on both sides of the world are preparing for their slinging matches and proud voters are buying badges and shirts to publicly affirm their support for X party. And I have to admit that I just don’t understand it at all. Democracy seems to be a popularity game, with an entrée of lies for the voters and a main course of unfulfilled promises. And yet the public buys into it every single time.

Continue reading

Of (Metaphorical) Mice and Men

I’m really growing sick of reading online articles now. First I gave up on the Daily Mail, a tabloid which uses sensationalist headlines and gross exaggerations of Britain’s immigration problem to attract readers. Next I’m almost ready to give up on Yahoo. I still read The Guardian, as it is not as sensationalist, but sometimes its articles are a little too forced, a little too left-wing for me to bother with (also, its commentisfree contributors can sometimes be down right annoying and self-righteous). Yet I suppose you could call my disgust somewhat misdirected, as it is really the comments section on the Daily Mail and Yahoo which boil my blood.

Reading the blatant racism, you’d often think we were stuck in the early 20th century. Or right back in the days when Europeans discovered other continents and their people.

Granted, and thankfully, not all commenters act in such a way, but if an article refers to a minority than the topic always rears its ugly head. Last month, I wrote a post on the freedom of speech. I disagree with the content of many comments sections, but I recognise that it is a person’s right to make them. I also don’t like to indiscriminately throw the word racist around. So what angers me is the cowardice. The sheer cowardice. I don’t understand why people would make such comments on the anonymity of the internet, and then go back out into the world and say nothing. I may sit here blogging about various things, but I express the same views in real life. Online, they complain that they cannot spout their views because the government will throw them in jail, accuse them of racism, etc. But so what? The “immigrants” they refer to fought for their right to live in Britain, even at threat of physical harm. Even the publicly-despised and radical Muslim clerics continue to shout their views despite widespread hatred and in-between getting arrested. So what are those who wish to “defend” Britain waiting for?

*Sigh* I don’t like to get involved in this whole issue. But I was tired after a long school day and a few posts on The Student Room website got me seeing red, and I responded rather critically to a thread. In hindsight, I know I should not have said some of things I did and I do regret that I said them. However, the issue of racism is one that needs to be addressed. In the West it’s handled the exact same way in which gay rights is: with a ten-foot pole. Some members of the White British community are panicked by British immigration, especially when they see places like Bradford, Luton or Peckham. Some members of minority groups, particularly Asians and Blacks, walk around with a chip on their shoulder and blame all their problems in life on racism, and love to play that card. But the answer to this isn’t to put up walls, try to kick each other out of the country, or to shout each other down. That solution has never worked. Once again, the only way through this is sitting all the groups down and undertaking the arduous process of changing minds. People like to say it doesn’t work, but the truth is humanity would be nowhere if minds didn’t change. And we’d still be back in the stone ages if those minds didn’t change together.

Writing and Pop Syndrome

DISCLAIMER: I don’t actually own one of these. But I really want to.

This was meant to be a novel-writing blog. Well. A blog geared around the idea that I write, with dashes of other subjects too. It isn’t quite, but I like it that way. Motivating myself to blog motivates me to write. Just last month, I entered a writing competition, and I await the publishing of its longlist tomorrow with bated breath.

The novel I’m working on almost died an early death. I was 57,000 words in, nearly at my goal of 72K. I had but a vague idea of its ending, and could not muster up the creative energy to finish. I was absolutely stuck. I spent two months trying to figure out what was wrong, and I had my epiphany last week: the chronology of events was badly mixed up. I hadn’t even decided which chapter was the opening one (Yes. You’d think that might be key). The resolution: I’m rewriting it word from word to string events together coherently, while making minor edits along the way. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, because I’ve recaptured that urge to finish and the sense of direction I had at the beginning of the project. And that is a wonderful feeling.

——————————-

Now for the odd part of the title, because I didn’t want to make two posts in one day (and this won’t be long, anyway). This little ramble-rant was inspired by a question I was asked yesterday. I’m not exactly old-fashioned and I’m not one of those hard-line feminists, but am I the only one who is sick and tired of all the scantily-dressed pop stars? Why do you have to be half-naked to be famous? Our society’s obsession with sex and women is so ingrained and overt that Madonna, trying to rake back the fame she had when she was young, is now flashing her breasts at fans to emulate pop “stars” like Rihanna and Katy Perry. God, I feel embarrassed for her. I’m not a great fan, but the only female pop star who seems to have a sense of decency and class is Beyonce. The male stars are guilty of the same thing; they all boast about sex and money to appeal to male fans, and toughness to appeal to the female (along with same old love songs). And thus I’m glad for people like Adele, Emeli Sande and Florence Welch, who can sing well without relying on sex to sell themselves.

The Invisible Games?

“Wheelchair access. Bullshit.”

That was the reaction of my summer camp mentor while, as we hiked through a forest, we discovered that the path we’d been told had wheelchair access for our disabled team-mate did, in fact, not. As a result we spent two hours lost in a forest, with six tired teens taking turns to push a wheelchair through knee-high mud in an attempt to find a good path. When we got back we complained to the hiking organisers, and they didn’t give a damn. They just didn’t care.

And as you probably saw in the title, I believe that the exact same attitude is going on in the London 2012 Paralympics. The BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) has wrapped up their celebration of the London Games with the full-bodied Olympians; the government decided to hand over the rights to airing the Paralympics in the UK to another TV station, Channel 4. Not that 4 isn’t fairly respected, but when the British government passes on giving coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics to the national TV station, their decision seems only to reek of apathy.

The Paralympics had a small relay of the Paralympic torch through London to Stoke Mandeville, in huge contrast to the Olympic torch’s passage through 1019 different locations across Britain. We’ve already had Boyle’s fantastic opening ceremony and the not-so-fabulous closing ceremony held for the Olympics alone, instead of putting a closing ceremony at the end of all the Games to include the Paralympics too. Gold-winning Olympians had individual postage stamps printed in their honour, yet the Paralympians had to fight for the honour. It feels like the disabled are being treated like second-class citizens: everything is smaller and quieter and almost invisible in regards to them.

Granted, I don’t expect the British government to splash out ridiculously like they did for the Olympics, but I do expect them to adequately encourage their tagline for the 2012 London Games: “inspire a generation.” What better way to inspire my generation than by showing the courage and sheer perseverance that athletes have displayed in spite of disability? Instead these Games are toned down, held right at the end when everyone is going back to work and school, and not even recognised with the same national coverage as the full-bodied Games? At the very least, tickets to the Paralympics have been eagerly snatched up this year, restoring my faith in the British public. Because I am rather disappointed in my government.

————————

Feel free to strongly disagree. Got rather ranty in this post.

The Problem With Teen Writers

Image

No, this post will not be a long complaint about how poor teenage writing irrevocably is. Though as a teenager, I can honestly say that a lot of it sucks. I’ve seen it. I’ve edited it. I’ve been there, though I can confidently say that I’ve moved on from that.

No, this post is about how the world sees teenage writers. In my previous posts, a great number of people reacted with surprise when they learnt that I was a sixteen-year-old girl.  I’m sure some people really think I’m some balding forty-year-old guy somewhere. Because people weren’t only shocked at my approach to the subject matter, they were shocked at the grammar, punctuation, and intelligence with which I wrote. I’m no super-genius, I await my GCSE results on Thursday with bated breath. So why is it so rare to find a teenager who can write well, and write intelligibly? Why is such a thing a shock to the masses? Why is it such a shock to me?

The answer is: I don’t know.

Teenagers aren’t stupid. The times may have changed, but we haven’t actively regressed in our intelligence. Even the advent of chat-speak hasn’t significantly impaired our ability to use the English language, because some of the smartest people in my school spL lyk dis and get A*s without a problem (then again, our grading system is suspect at the best of times). Yet if a ten-year-old starts to write a novel, and you compare their writing to the average nineteen-year-old’s, you would not be able to tell the difference. That isn’t a joke, I see this everyday. You’ve probably noticed it here on WordPress–many teenage bloggers do not have the faintest idea of how to construct a sentence in regards to proper grammar and punctuation. And you’ve probably noticed the same trend amongst some bloggers in their early twenties, who have left school and even gotten through university without learning to correct this problem.

So what do we do? Let me tell you.

The biggest insult you can give a writer is that they write like a teenage girl (or Stephanie Meyer, but then that’s the same thing). Yet good teenage writers do exist, like S.E. Hinton, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Helen Oyeyemi, and some people would add Christopher Paolini, though I personally don’t think that he is. Admittedly, these people seem to be the exception to the rule, and there still exists the stigma that all teenage writers are bad, which I discourages many young people from even trying to be better. But. There are blogs. And there are talented teenager bloggers out there, and websites dedicated to helping aspiring youth writers. There are even a few competitions for us to get involved in if one looks hard enough. So I suppose what I’m really trying to say is: next time you see a good teen blogger, give ’em a pat on the back or a word of encouragement. If you meet a kid who says they’d like to be an author one day, don’t laugh and suggest something more “practical” (God I hate that). Point them to a forum, or a to competition they can enter. And try not to strangle them when they say: “Thx, LOL!”

The Thank You Post

A hug for everyone, courtesy of Pooh and friends. ;)

And I truly mean it. Thank you, all of you who have taken the time to read and comment on my Freshly Pressed post. Both those who agree and those who disagree with me, and especially the latter for commenting with the respect each human is due another. Because of the subject matter, I was worried that a feature would mean many negative or even downright abusive comments, or that the whole comments section would descend into a gay-Christian bashing war. I’m glad to say that the WordPress community has proven me wrong on both accounts.

There are so many comments that my Gmail and WordPress apps have both crashed multiple times with the notifications. 😉 I watched my daily views shoot up from a max of 16 to a whopping 1,583 and counting. Numerous people have liked my post, or shown their support, or at the very least wished me luck in my spiritual journey and life.  Many have resolved to pray for me, and regardless of our disagreements I thank you too, because this is only an extension of love. I never imagined my post or thoughts could attract attention like this, and I’m touched from all the people telling me that I’d made a difference to them with my maturity and refreshing ideas. I’m glad I could make that difference with this little expression of thought.

I am a woman, I am sixteen, and I am a Christian. I might be critical of the flawed idea that is religion, but my faith in Jesus Christ is a conviction for which I do not need to fall back on religion. I have certain ideas about Christianity, and whether or not I or you believe homosexuality is a sin is irrelevant to gays and Christians living together peacefully. My post was made to say that re-conciliation is possible, not to push my views down your throat. I have my own personal relationship with God, He understands me and I try my best to understand Him. Some people say my understanding is wrong, but that understanding is still my own and is no greater or lesser than another’s understanding of God.

A big hug to all my new followers, likers and commenters, thank you for giving time out of your day for me. 😀 I’m sorry I haven’t answered everyone’s comments yet, with the influx of comments if you have any personal queries you want quickly and directly answered it would be best to send me an email. Thank you all and God Bless!