Category Archives: Society

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.

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I Clap for Orlando Cruz

Writing piece at the very end, if you like. There’s no positivity link this post, because the news it talks about is (in my opinion) positive enough itself. Depending on how into your sports you are, or whether you often trawl news sites, you might have heard in the past week about boxing’s first openly gay competitor: Orlando Cruz.

When it concerns boxers, topless pictures are a necessity.

I hadn’t heard of him before this, but I now have a respect for this man. Not just because he is being honest with himself, but also because of the storm of abuse, misunderstanding and insults he has willingly opened himself up to. Because I’m sure in a week or two or three we’ll have other boxers expressing their disgust, not wanting to fight with him, or his matches drying up. If it’s hard coming out in real life, it’s even harder to come out in the world of sports.

John Amaechi. Justin Fashanu. Ellen DeGeneres. Granted Ellen isn’t a sportsperson, but her career as an actress very nearly ended after she came out. It just wasn’t acceptable at that time to be a gay celebrity, and if she hadn’t been offered a talk show she wouldn’t have been where she is today. Justin Fashanu was an English footballer, and when he came out he was abandoned by his family, rejected by the profession and hounded by the media. Eventually, he killed himself. John Amaechi was British-born but played and lived in America; when he came out a lot of other basketballers reacted in shock and spoke out against him, expressing disgust at the idea of having played or changed with a gay man.

I don’t know what will happen to Cruz. There are now many gay and lesbian sportspeople who are out in the world, but there are thousands more who are not. And in a “manly” sport like boxing, football and basketball, the push for equal treatment for gay people still has a long way to go. I don’t know that change will happen in my generation. But I’d sure like to start it.

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This is from the aforementioned character Creator’s point of view.

Everything? You want to know it all?…Where to begin? Not from the beginning, I don’t think. I do not want to bore you with the details of things I regret, or memories collected whose origins I forget. Let’s skip the courtesy, shall we?

They first called me “Creator.” I do not know what that means; I only shape them, free them. Tear a thousand ideas from the fabric of my mind and shake them into existence. My actions are not so much done out of choice than a compelling necessity; an action which leads to a reaction. And then a chain, each answer a burst seeking to out-compete its predecessor. They are the result, and “Creator” is what they call me.

They also say that I know all (this is not a digression). Every name of every thing, person, animal, scent, sound. Every reaction and the single action that started it all. Why they live and die, and where they go when their lives are done. I do not understand why they believe I know these things. They say they were created in my image, I say in the image of an idea lingering in the recesses of my mind. If they do not have the answers, then why should I?

So they call me Creator. And once, I think I had a name that was my own, self-given. But time rots all those things that are not the strangeness of honey, like oranges and eyes (and memory) and time has taken mine. If I once knew what, who I was, I might have a better answer for my creations than just because. So I take on a name that is not my own, perhaps to feel that I am not alone or perhaps in redemption of that for which I cannot atone.

I am Creator, and this single fact is the starting point of everything.

The Problem With Teachers

Positivity Link: Neighbour Saves Child from Fire

You, the only one at the back not with a hand up.

There is a problem with teachers. No, not that one. The problem with some teachers is one which is rather similar to the problem with students; they become too used to the standard role expected of them and dislike the learning and change that is also part of the job. There is the expectancy by the teachers that in a group of students, at least one will be a “bad apple”, and this always occurs. There is an expectancy in the new student body that somewhere in the maze of corridors and other teenagers, there will be a teacher who is laughably poor at their job. Lo and behold, we are never disappointed.

Most teachers are not like this. I am in college, which is Year 12 – 13 over here in England, and four out of five of my teachers are capable at their jobs. Good at lesson planning, good at getting to the point, even good at evoking interest from tired teenagers at 8:30 in the morning. They make you want to learn, which makes it easier to learn.

But there is the last teacher. The one who never plans a lesson, forgets that we are sixteen and not six, and wants to believe that they are always correct. The one ready to raise hell if they perceive even the slightest doubt as to the validity of their teaching method, not far removed from the pastor ready to lambast his population at the first doubt shown towards his interpretations. The one who, on the rare times they are able to connect to one student, spends the rest of the lesson re-attempting to relight that single spark of interest to the detriment of the rest of the class and the lesson.

You all remember that teacher.

The worst thing about them, though, is that they don’t stay in high school. You find them in your parents, your older siblings or relatives. They pop-up in university, and then in your workplace under the guise of your boss or colleague or that guy constantly standing at the water cooler who you aren’t even sure works there. Sometimes they become a nagging partner or precocious child. Either way it is the eternal teacher problem, where they must be right and you must be wrong, where it’s their way or the high way. The best way to combat it is to smile, nod, listen, and then dash away and learn an opinion unbiased by their or your own inexperience.

My teacher problem won’t solve itself. I’ve simply taken to reading ahead of topics and around the subject to make up for what we’re not being taught. I like the teacher. They try to be nice, and they’re generally harmless in their one-outfit wardrobe. They’re fascinated with the idea of my “exotic” family background and we generally get along well. However, when it comes to their job they’re not the best. We students recognise this. Other teachers have recognised this too, warning us that this particular teacher is an acquired taste. I’m afraid to say that with exams already looming after so short a period of teaching, that this taste is not likely to be acquired any time soon.

Are We Still the Good Guys?

Man, I really love-hate this novel.

Four days without a post; that’s quite a feat. 😉 Anyway, I’m back with a little post about goodness. And the lack of it. But also the abundance.

September has almost drawn to a close, and it’s almost the end of a pretty depressing month. There have been riots across the world which have left many dead, in the midst of those riots Syria’s plight has been momentarily ignored, an avalanche killed climbers in Nepal, and in lesser news, the world paid attention to Paris Hilton. I hate opening newspapers sometimes, because some articles can almost leave you with your faith lost in humanity. Murder. Rape. Child abuse. Worst of all, the fact that these things are becoming so common as to be banal.

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Of Islam and Innocence.

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It all looks so…cheerful, doesn’t it?

Sam Bacile…really? Am I the only one who thinks the pseudonym was intended to sound like “Imbecile”?

There’s isn’t a lot that’s new to be said on this topic. Some bigots/freedom fighters/anti-Islamists/truth-spreaders (depending on your view) posted the 13-minute trailer of a film called the “Innocence of Muslims” which (whatever your view) ridiculed the Islamic prophet. In retaliation, some Muslims (and again, whatever your view, a fraction of the world’s population) have stormed embassies around the world, killing some and injuring others.

Some claim this as proof that Islam is a violent, destructive and medieval religion which will never change. That it is growing and seeks to usurp the West.

Some say that this was provocation, and the reaction to the film was one of culture rather one of religion. That most Muslims have ignored the film and gotten on with their lives, and the rioters are just violent idiots.

I like to think most of my readers can guess my opinion on this topic. It can be summed up in these pictures. I live in a town which has a relatively high Muslim population. Last year (or the one before?) a former resident blew himself up in Switzerland. An anti-Islam group which opposes Islamic extremists was set up here in the last couple of years. (I call them anti-Islam and not anti-extremist because, unfortunately, despite their original noble goal of opposing extremism, most members are skinheads who weren’t of the right social class to join the BNP and who only chant racial slurs at their rallies.)

Yet, the town is not a hive of terrorist activity, anti-Western vitriol or pro-Sharia law demonstrators. It is a town. We have a nice mall. Sometimes it’s sunny. Sometimes it rains. We have a street you might call “Asiantown,” or whatever. There is a degree of distrust between races and cultures. It is the same as anywhere else, and it is bred by the fear of strangers and feeds on the fear of the unknown. It is solvable. At school, there isn’t a reason to fear other students, and we get along fine.

There’s been no reaction to the film in this town. Of course it’s been heard of. But no-one cares. A friend made a Facebook comment: “I wish people would stop mistaking culture for religion.” That was it. Up in London, 150 protesters burnt an American flag. They should be arrested, but they won’t be because this is England. Mob mentalities drive the riots in the Middle-East. Many turned to looting straight after breaking into buildings. There isn’t even a reason, it’s just senseless violence. It reminds me almost exactly of last year’s London riots. Something’s been cooked up simply to provoke a reaction. And it’s a sad situation which has led to the unfortunate loss of life of innocent people. I can only hope that whoever is behind the film is caught quickly.

If you disagree with me (or if you’ve guessed the town I live in from all the massive hints) feel free to start a discussion below.

And We Move On

 

Everybody’s got problems. In every life, there’s a little tragedy, a little bump (or a huge hill) in the middle of the road. We can stay there and be left behind, stuck in the past as everyone goes by at their own pace, or we can move on with them. It’s never easy. It’s never going to be. But that’s life.

When I was twelve, my fourth sibling died. By which I mean my mother was pregnant, and due to a large amount of complications she was forced to abort. It traumatised her, it traumatised us. We held prayers in our garden, and I still can’t forget the tombstone from the graveyard that my sibling is buried in. For weeks, we didn’t know what to say about it, or to my mother, and a melancholy attitude settled on our house for a long time.  And yet, my strongest memory of the day I learnt my sibling was dead was going to school that day, and just sitting in the classroom and getting on. Moving on. The pain was still there, for all of us. When my mother was pregnant again, and she had to have special treatment for blood pressure problems, our hearts were in our mouths for nine months. And they’ve been since. We worried, we worry, we always will. But we moved on.

When I was seven, a close family friend died. He was hit by a car, and pronounced brain dead the next day. His mother had to switch off the life support. They’ve struggled to move on: his mother became alcoholic and her husband separated from her and took their young son away, his sister went “wild”. Maybe they’re still stuck in their past. Maybe one day they’ll move on.

Today is 9/11. Except that it isn’t, because that event happened eleven years ago. And maybe the world stopped for America then, but you can only pause for so long before you have to move on again. We had 7/7. We had Iraq, and the way things are going we’re probably going to have Iran. These are the defining events of our generation, but they will eventually fade away like the events before them, like World War Two is doing,  as the first all but has, as all the civil wars and massacres have. It will never be easy. It will never be as easy as I make out, sitting behind my computer screen and personally unaffected and unconnected to these tragedies unlike so many others. But every generation has its wars and its victims, and we drag our feet along for a while after them but, eventually, we have to lift them properly and just keep on, keep on. Move on.