Free speech or outright extremism: where to draw the line

Free speech or outright extremism: where to draw the line

Society is not equal. It never has been. Yet, we strive for its possibility. Companies with over 250 employees must now report on the gender pay gap within their organisation. We don’t talk of a mandatory racial or ethnic gap pay report, however.

Pew Research suggested last year that Hispanic women earn 58% as much as a white man does in an hour, with this figure for black men at 73%. Possible causes could be because black and Hispanic individuals are less likely to obtain college education (university), allowing them to progress into a high-paying career. But even with a college degree, the racial pay gap still persists.

A fair society would pay individuals the same amount of money for the same work. Therefore, we are not thriving in equality.

Would the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia have happened if society was equal though?

In U.S. law, freedom of speech and expression is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the former is a human right recognised by the International Declaration of Human Rights. Free speech is strongly protected, as the nation is a democracy.

As my grandfather would call me, a leftie, I am strongly opposed to the alt-right, fascism, white supremacy, and plain authoritarianism. I know for a fact that this works the other way round too, having browsed through the neo-Nazi followers of Daily Stormer’s Twitter account, a website advocating for white supremacy.

When Trump warned of ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’, I did not expect this to materialise in the violent clashes between the civil rights activists and the fascists, resulting in the death of one activist. The aftershock sees Google and GoDaddy expelling Daily Stormer’s domain. As I predicted, banning the website to be viewed legally has now moved underground to the dark web, according to Motherboard.

But does the alt-right movement poses more of a threat now it cannot be surveyed?

Just like the failed war on drugs, closed doors and barriers do not always work. We should not feel the need to protect one’s ears and shut one’s eyes from views and opinions we disagree with or feel disgusted by. I know for a fact that I am against racism and fascism, but the other view should still be talked about and discussed critically in an open space.

Today’s culture seems to impose restrictions on views and freedom to the point that I believe our opinions probably did not matter to begin with. I am not an apologist for white supremacy or neo-Nazism, as I do think it is more objectively incriminating than being subjectively aligned to your moral compass.

The post-WW2 legality of the Nazi swastika extends to the U.S. by yet again, the First Amendment. Legally, we must accept that conflicting views to ours are going to take place. Or we can act with moral hindsight and we can protest, like the activists did in Charlottesville, in wake of the neo-Nazi’s idolisation and adulation of Trump.

Trump had a duty as POTUS to condemn the violence that was carried out by the Nazi sympathisers, whatever his personal opinions (which clearly aren’t all too aligned with mine). As a white, privileged man, he should stand up for all races and allow his citizens to feel protected. It is upsetting to see this is not the case. By his overt racism and denouncing of illegal immigrants, he is effectively giving a platform for people to debate and critique, but there is danger in freedom too.

We cannot eradicate or suppress history. Future generations should learn of the tragedies of the millions of Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust by the name of evil that is Nazism. We cannot tell children how to think either, but trust that they will make up their own mind and make morally unambiguous decisions. Unfortunately, the Internet is a playground for a rainbow of opinions, and children can be easily manipulated by propaganda.

The success of driving Daily Stormer underground is to ensure that children do not become radicalised. Islamic extremist websites are also found in the dark web, so this relieves some equality. Yet, white supremacists who do have children may still bring the whole family to rallies and meet-ups, where children are then submerged with one, overbearing opinion, giving them the means to become just like their KKK-associated parents.

Without sounding defeatist, it merely appears that these abominable views will still live on, particularly under a President who does not see achieving equality as a priority.

I worry as to how this movement will transpire in the U.S., and feel somewhat grateful that the far-right who have advocated for a hard Brexit aren’t all too bad. Well, until they start coming at Parliament with small torches anyway.

 

 

 

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The frauds of humanity: rail fares

The frauds of humanity: rail fares

There are some things we encounter in our lives which we will disagree with. But to be a dissident is not seen as the norm, because such practices are ingrained in our daily lives, societies and cultures. There are a plethora of human frauds which exist and which I will be writing about every so often. The first one which seems entirely relevant this week is the notion of our country’s rail fares.

I am not in the minority for feeling anger at the inflation rate. But it is easy to feel robbed when wages are not rising in the same way.

It was only yesterday that I read on the Telegraph that a watchdog recommended passengers to split their train tickets for a single fare to save money. A lot of us have probably been doing this for some time through various websites, but it is almost farcical that this is now an official recommendation.

Of course, it has now been revealed today that rail fares are rising by 3.6%, in line with July’s Retail Price Index (RPI). For how incompetent and unreliable this country’s rail system is, we still have the most expensive rail fares in Europe. Further inflation just adds to the pockets of the private owners. Back in 2013, it was revealed on the Guardian that for every £1 invested, £2.47 is received by the “railway barons”. I cannot even imagine what this return may be today.

Personally, a savings account which had the same effect would make me go straight down to the bank to set one up.

Unfortunately, the inflated fares just do not work for the ordinary people – the commuters, the passengers visiting their family, those who cannot obtain the means to their own car, those who must visit a sick relative or friend last minute.

Just this morning too, I saw on the BBC that London Waterloo should be avoided as a South West train had derailed. While an £800m refurbishment project is ongoing, this station makes up one of the busiest for commuters, with an average of 270,000 journeys made daily.

Increased fares may be worth it if passengers are reassured that delays can be reduced to a set target, or engineering works are kept to the minimum necessary without disturbing daily commutes to and from the workplace.

However, it seems that most of the investment into rail engineering is concentrated to London, and the rest of the UK, particularly the North, is disregarded. This is more than opinion, it is a fact. The government already favours London when allocating how much money is to be spent throughout the country. It is the question of spending money where it is most needed (up North) or where it will have the most impact (London) – due to the density of commuters in London and how expensive it will cost to replace the old Pacer trains prevalent in the North. The government are then obviously going to prefer making small engineering works to one of London’s up-to-date trains, saving much more money.

It remains to be seen what effect the rising fares will have on train refurbishment and replacement. Perhaps it is in line with the HS2 developments, aiming to bring the high speed train service across the country, sponsored by the government? Of course, London to the West Midlands gets the priority in Phase 1 of the plan.

As Manuel Cortes, Transport Salaried Staffs Association leader, describes the inflated fares, “Dick Turpin [exploitative highwayman from the 18th century] had the decency to wear a mask when he robbed his passengers. Today train companies, with the Government’s blessing, hide behind the Retail Price Index as a method of legitimately fleecing more money from hard-pressed passengers at the start of each new year.”

In a country like ours, the disparity between the rich and poor grows wider at the expense of those in employment, – already forking out substantial percentages of their salary just on transport, and at the benefit of the greedy, private owners – supported by our very own government. Is this not a human fraud?

An update from me

I apologise I have not been the most active on my blog for some time, the past several months have been pretty busy for me.

In May I had my final law exams, before graduating in July with a First Class Honours and even somehow getting the best result in the year! I have also been working part time for a charity this summer and spending a few days in Warsaw for a very rainy city break.

I’m going to Budapest next week but I will continue to blog for the foreseeable future. I start my Masters in International Relations this September which can only aid my interest into writing about current affairs.

I have a notebook full of ideas to write about, so please keep active by reading my posts, it means a lot.

Thanks!

Thank you, mum

Thank you, mum

My comfort and my biggest fear both at once, you have helped me to win battles, and avoid them at your own peril too.

You have sacrificed the hollow of your womb for me to develop and be nourished by you. And now, you would give it all up for me, from financing my education, rent, practical survival, to ensuring I look and feel my best with the occasional treats and salon appointments.

Meeting me in McDonalds at 8am after I had thrown up on my clothes after a heavy night, buying me orange juice and a bag full of warm clothes, you wouldn’t have thought twice.

Pushing me to be the best. Sometimes, reducing me to tears because I didn’t believe in myself. But you always did. You never lost faith in me.

I hated having overprotective parents. Yet, I have become an independent, intelligent woman thanks to my upbringing. You didn’t want to see your youngest go into town on her own at the age of 14, but you didn’t want to smother me either. You nailed the whole parenting thing.

Giving me the big half of every food we would share, even buying me another ice cream after I would ask for mint chocolate and throw a tantrum after taking the first lick, and learning that I hated it. I did this more than once. And every time you still coped.

You have always accepted my friends  with open arms, treating them as your own and never judging their faults. You treat my boyfriend like a son too, which is something you didn’t have to do, but I appreciate you for it.

Juggling a full time job with caring for two daughters when my dad would be working abroad, cleaning after us, ironing all weekend or with your arms in a bucket of hot soapy water, you don’t relax enough.

Anywhere with you is a sanctuary, because you are home to me, and you are my mum.

Happy Mother’s Day to my glorious, wonderful mum. I hate to get soppy, but as every Mothering Sunday comes along, there also comes the eventual realisation that one could be the last you get to celebrate for your mum’s sake.

I genuinely couldn’t function without my mum, as I seem to text her every day with some form of advice being sought.

I love you, mum, this day’s for you. X

 

What do you meme?

What do you meme?

The year is 2031. You open your news app up on your phone to a short string of emojis, depicting a headline. No, it is not an Orwellian notion of newspeak. It is the regression of humankind back to the use of hieroglyphics to represent words and phrases.

The way we present and transmit information has transformed a great deal over the past decade, particularly over the last few years too with the rise of the emoji and apps like Snapchat. Either my family is a constant in this swirl of change or my mother is just vintage for forever prodding me to send thank you letters to my relatives in 2017, where even my 84 year old granddad is on our WhatsApp family group chat.

Social media, of course, has been the major phenomenon to embrace the amalgamation of conveying news stories with, well, stupidity.

With the Internet fast and furiously reacting to a shocking news story with memes and viral Tweets, humanity is either doomed for eternity or cleverly adapting to our world of constant interconnectivity.

Remarkably, this generation is quite frankly the first to be so immersed in politics and revolutionary ideas. And what better way for media outlets to interact and engage with teenagers and twenty year olds than with funny images? And to think it all started with that viral YouTube video of a guy singing about shoes and lolcats, which is well, pretty self-explanatory.

i-can-has-cheezburger.jpg

Memes can be completely inappropriate, particularly if they are deemed as ‘spicy’ or ‘creamy’. There are enough savage Facebook groups out there dedicated to sharing such monstrosities, even though I do laugh at pretty much of all of them, probably representative of my own debilitating self. Yet, there is more to the meme than dark humour.

Richard Dawkins was the first to coin the word ‘meme’, whose description is an idea which is spread from one person to another within a culture, while they physically reside in the brain. Memes are, therefore, the conveying of information. Of course, it would not be practicable to use memes as the first source of information, as things get lost in translation, particularly when being subjective concepts.

The dangerous twist of real and fake news is fuelled by such concepts, where objectivity is being falsely perceived in one person’s conception.

What with all of this ‘fake news’ debacle which has been completely thrown out of proportion, it is up to an individual to use a range of sources rather than one biased one anyway. Especially if that source of legit-I-promise facts is The Onion. Do we not understand sarcasm anymore?

Images and expressions get lost in translation, whereas the fluidity and eloquence of the English (or alternative) language is timeless. Words may come and go, such as ‘golly’, but you cannot achieve any more certainty than using precise language. I like the engagement between social media, mainly Twitter, and receiving the news, but there are always going to be flaws in how this information is presented. To articulate a complex news story in under 140 characters is pretty impressive, I must admit. Though, if you haven’t jumped on the 2016 bandwagon yet, download Quartz, an app allowing the news to be messaged to you.

However, such simplicity in these snappy, dramatic headlines is what leads far too many into treating the headline alone as the news story, which ends up shared among every other Facebook user’s profile with fearmongering comments abundant.

Clickbait has already been picked up by Facebook to resolve its prominence across its website, thankfully. Although, my issue isn’t with obviously fake articles that start with ‘You will NEVER believe…’ or ‘X did this, but when Y happens, I was SPEECHLESS’. My worry are exactly these farfetched names of genuine articles, especially by accounts like Lad Bible. If you’ve miraculously never heard of this website, good job. But, it initially began its life as a hub for ‘lads’ to read stories about t*ts and borderline rape culture, yet now becoming a really ambiguous means of sharing day-old memes, viral videos and things that are ‘deep’ which don’t really belong on the site.

Then again, what a way to direct 16-30 year olds about important issues than on a group perceived to be dedicated to lad culture, on the flipside. One example of one of their clickbait is this article. Now, read the title: Family of Woman Given One Week To Live Asks For Favour In Post. The favour is to simply “live your life to the absolute fullest”. How is this article-worthy? Why am I wasting characters ranting about this? I’m hungry, that’s why. But, my point being, that while compellingly worded stories grabs our attention, particularly of the naïve, they have the potential to be dangerous.

Obviously we don’t all need an in depth reminder of the fake news scandal around the US elections.

Ultimately, we are never again going to solely rely on printed newspapers for our news, what with the concerns about the environment and people not recycling paper, as well as the clear fact that politics and current affairs move incredibly quickly these days. So, it’s much easier to receive on demand notifications of what’s happening around us rather than wait a day for stories whose development hasn’t been fully scripted in a newspaper anyway.

On the contrary, I also hope the news retains some dignity. There is a certain limit to how far silly things like memes can go with the sincerity of the news. Of course, chat shows and panel shows are exempt from this, naturally.

I also hope that clickbait can be fully prevented, most probably from professional journalists who know how to craft a headline without misleading the public but still encapsulating some eagerness to know more.

Maybe all my desires will be rebutted in 2031, and we’ll actually get a daily meme messaged to us which somehow amalgamates all the relevant news stories represented as the 2013-equivalents of Pepe the Frog and doggos. Oh, who am I kidding, Pepe is always going to be around.

 

 

 

 

 

Being happy anywhere 

Being happy anywhere 

You know when you find yourself rambling and waffling on and on… That is the epitome of this post, which I normally don’t embrace, but hey, it feels good to let your mind wander sometimes.

So, I remember being sat by the pool in Bali just last summer, noticing the bright white of my skin under my bikini contrasting with the dark caramel tan I had acquired elsewhere. I was sipping on my daily Coca Cola, convincing myself I was sweating out all of the sugar, eating bruschetta and listening to my Southeast Asia playlist on Spotify; an amalgamation of songs I incessantly played on repeat for those two months abroad.

And in that moment, I felt somewhat content. I was on a beautiful island, somewhere which many even dream of as their honeymoon destination, and I had already travelled through three incredible, unique countries. Bali was my last stop before home.

Yet, there was still that nagging feeling in the back of my mind, reminding me of all the anxieties I would face back in England. Despite bathing under the sun in one of the most beautiful places in the world, I realised that my happiness and mental health do not miraculously change because of the location I was in.

To escape your everyday life because you’re ‘unhappy’ is a façade. I think overcoming this misconception allowed me to feel even happier that I was broadening my knowledge and cultural awareness being abroad, knowing that if my state of mind will still feel anxious about matters like rent and university, I can wait until I get home to deal with it.

After all, mental health is within you, therefore it’s always going to be with you regardless of being in your bedroom or abroad. So why should I let things affect me on holiday when they’d affect me just as much at home?

This acknowledgment enabled me to feel content and happy, borderline ignorantly, and not let the trivialities of life get in the way of my travelling. I’m not a passive person. There are some problems that you just have no control over in life, and for these things you just have to let go and ensure they don’t get in the way of your own enjoyment and happiness.

Feeling empowered that I can make myself happy wherever I am has made such a difference. Occasionally I find myself feeling down and lonely at university when really I have to remember the gratitude I emanate for having a roof over my head, being able to afford food, and having a great support network. That instantly lifts me up. I get strangled by my own pessimism and overthinking that I create problems for myself. When I feel lonely, it’s because I’ve made myself lonely by pushing people away.

Evidently, I do get caught up in my own emotions that I therefore forget how I do have friends who care about me and wouldn’t think less of me for bringing up my feelings. While both women and men may have down days, there’s nothing wrong in confiding in a friend about how you feel. I think what makes things worse, for me anyway, is the acceptance that I’m unhappy. Acquiescing to negativity can set off a whole downward spiral of defeat for me. Though of course, if you identify that you’re not yourself, sometimes it is then easier to gradually work your way back up.

As soothing as it is to wallow in your own sadness, we can all find the influence within ourselves to embrace happiness and a positive mind-set. Of course, when you really are at your lowest, finding inner happiness seems like the impossible. It took me years to be content in myself and exert this inner peace and serenity.

I even went to New York in January with my university, and upon realisation that I didn’t have enough money on me to revel in the best delicacies and excursions as stated by my travel apps, I did feel as though I was wasting my time being there. Though, what helped me persevere was just the acknowledgment that I’m stood in this crazy city with the snow crashing down on me in -14 degree weather. In other words, I made the most of the little things, my senses, what I’m aware of. There’s no greater, more powerful feeling, than the acknowledgment of being alive.

Too many people believe they are worthless and that nothing would change if they were to drop out of existence. This is a complete irrationality which I wish less people would think about. In New York where the roads are rarely quiet, simply perceiving your aliveness in that other pedestrians move around you as you walk past each other is something in itself.

Being inherently happy within also means you should feel complete as a person without needing another to fuel your everyday existence. The concept of having an ‘other half’ quite literally means you aren’t complete without needing to be in a relationship, which is an awfully outdated notion. As RuPaul quite rightfully says, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else (can I get an amen up in here).

While I accept that whoever I am with, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I can still find happiness within myself, does not at all mean that I still see things negatively. There’s a definite distinction between the perception of bleakness and the generator within your brain that can convert these negative thoughts into happier feelings, in simple terms.

To be honest though, I cannot wait to be back abroad. Travelling makes me happy and that’s not something I can just conjure up like a ready meal. Sometimes the best means to be happy is, simply put, by faking happiness.

Then again, in life do you want to be blissfully ignorant or painfully aware? This is something I ask myself daily, and my answer will always be the latter, despite my best efforts to be inwardly happy when the rest of the world is a drab at times.

 

The perception of menstruation gives me the cramps

The perception of menstruation gives me the cramps

On Tuesday, I felt disheartened to read how many UK schoolgirls are skipping school several days a month because it links to their inability to afford sanitary protection. Some are relying on toilet roll to relieve their clothing of stains, or even using socks. Personally, the only time I have had to resort to toilet roll to soak up menstrual blood has been my irregular cycle striking my uterus at unpredictable times i.e. being in a public place and having no reserved rations of towels on me. Being a woman is hard.

When your family struggle enough to afford food, despite the influx of families receiving help from food banks, access to what should be basic toiletries is going to be restricted. Hopefully as of next April, the tampon tax, which sees sanitary products be taxed a further 5% for being a ‘non-essential’ product, will be axed, thanks to the tenacity and determination of Laura Coryton’s campaign. The sorts of taxes and laws which exist under a heavily male government are almost satirical.

While the abolition of this tax will make a slight different, sanitary products are of course still expensive. By the time periods are no longer stigmatised, the whole population able to menstruate probably would have churned out millions of vats of period blood. At Tesco, you can buy 24 tampons for a £1 which is the cheapest rate. However, women shouldn’t have to resort to what’s cheapest for such a function of the product, but then again, beggars can’t necessarily be choosers.

Not only due to costs but also convenience, I have opted to go on the mini-pill – a form of contraception which means I take the pill back to back, therefore not bleeding at all. Obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone, due to factors like age, necessity, the health risks. As with anything these days, of course.

In the BBC’s article, Tina Leslie who created Freedom4Girls mentioned that “we need to give these girls dignity back”. Having no dignity makes it sound almost shameful that these girls are sat at home bleeding out of their vaginas in fear. There really is no shame in menstruating, and schools should ensure they are establishing this view in pre-teens early on and maintaining it throughout the years.

We really are living in a divided nation where some stay quiet about a bodily function natural to a girl which signals the blossoming of her womanhood, and others ‘free bleed’ and make recipes using their blood. Okay, I don’t know if that last part is true, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Personally, the best means of going forward is to now provide a wider range of what’s available at food banks. My mother donates toiletries to the homeless, and I think more similar initiatives should exist. For example, a monthly box of toiletries you can collect including enough sanitary products for however many in the household require them, unisex shower gel, basic razors etc. This not only solves the problem of affording sanitary products but also gives a range of other basic toiletries which everybody should be entitled to.

Of course, there are charities who you can send sanitary products to as donations so that they can distribute them to the needy, such as Bloody Good Period and The Homeless Period among various others across the nation.