askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Today I spent a day at The National College in Nottingham. I am beginning a course I don't feel particularly strongly about but which will give me the illusion of career progression in my current role and enable me to walk into a well paid job in locations other than my current one on account of ticking that all important 'qualifications' box.

This building is HUGE. It has no fewer than three, three storey atriums and a lot of empty classrooms/conference rooms. Here is a picture of a bit of the building;



Massive.

So, our course tutor, a man who was offered such good money to become a NCSL tutor that he quit his job as a Primary School Headteacher (a well paid job, if you were wondering), tells us, proudly, that the building was built by Tony Blair.  It was Labour's initiative, he tells us, which established the National College and created these qualifications (not unlike an NVQ, but for 'leadership').  

I am, therefore, sitting inside a New Labour folly; a monument of wood and glass to wasted money. A monument to creating excessively, disproportionately, well paid jobs for people 'training' people to receive qualifications in the job they are already doing, or would previously simply have learnt by doing, not by writing down how they would do it.

More specifically, I am sitting in a building which - in a roundabout way - is the reason there is no money left in the country.  And no money left in the country means cuts to Arts funding.  Cuts to Arts funding means fewer scholarships and bursaries.  Fewer bursaries and scholarships mean stiffer competition. Stiffer - insane - competition means I los[e/t] out at Hull and I am not currently beginning my PhD research.

In short, the man standing in front of me, droning on about 'evidence types' and 'professional standard written English' and the need to understand your 'learning style' is earning per annum enough money to put me through university as a Postgrad for 3 years.  The window I am gazing out of could have bought me, what - all my textbooks? Sent me to a conference? paid my electric bill for the first month?

All around me is waste.  Waste which has such a profound impact I am forced to engage with it, am swept along in its pervasive ooze; just so I can remain in employment and, most distasteful of all, perpetuate it by falling down this rabbit hole of a career path.

Labour left this country, specifically education and the arts, with the most appalling debt.  The insidious self-perpetuating nature of their callous waste will keep me awake tonight, as it has done many nights before.  And what can I do about it? Can't vote Liberal, won't vote Tory, can't vote Labour.  Can't send an invoice for my lost future/ambition.  Can't win.  Can't beat them.  Got to join them.  

Joining them, filled with self loathing, disgust and fury.  Pure, undirected, righteous fury.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
With things like this, I rarely write in the heat of the moment, I prefer to check my sources and reference thoroughly. But today? You don't need references. Turn on the tv, have a look at news sites. It's happening.


The Lib Dems have betrayed us. The promise they made - the reason so many of us voted for them - is that they said they would not introduce higher top up fees, they promised us they would protect the right of every young person in this country to be able to go to University no matter what their income.

The current fees are expensive, difficult but not impossible. I campaigned, along with my fellow students back in 2004/2005, against the introduction of top up fees - they should not have happened but here we are. However, they are manageable; whether that be through grants or savings or loans. The new fees will literally make it impossible for everyone who wants to go to University to go.

Yes, the rich will still go. Yes, the poor may well get full assistance; but that pot of money is not unlimited so there will be stiff competition and firm cut off points - cut off points which will leave a gulf between the have lots and have not-so-muchs/have-littles. I got full financial assistance from my Local Education Authority to go to university but I still had to have a student loan in order to pay rent and bills. As such, I came out of university with a £12,000 debt.

Contrary to the government's claims that student loans are interest free, I am charged a phenomenal amount of interest every year on a loan I have yet to start paying back (I have, 4 years after graduating, still not attracted a large enough salary to meet the minimum threshold for repayments). The idea that these debts do not worry graduates, the idea that this is not a burden IS A NONSENSE. The question of whether I would have gone to Lancaster with a £9,000 charge for learning seems an easy one; without a full scholarship? definitely not. How could I? The resources my parents had to help me through university would have been laughable in the face of fees of that size.

Police Commisioner just said "any right minded person will condemn the violence, if they saw it, they will condemn it". I saw the violence, I don't condemn it - not with a broad sweep I don't. I feel that anger; and I wasn't standing amongst a group of protesters, contained by police and charged by police horses - provoked and scared - I wasn't there and I still completely understand the anger that led to this violence.

I agree wholeheartedly that the protest was hijacked by trouble makers- in particular the later pictures from the protest show people who seem to fit certain profiles associated with violnce for violence's sake - but to say all the violence was the result of that is a sweeping dismissal of the anger and chaos which the government and police caused.

Video of mounted police charging the crowd and clearly trampling some protesters who simply couldn't move out of the way fast enough was available at the top of this article on the BBC website for several hours today, it has since evaporated. [ETA: And been reposted here]

Protesters report, on twitter, that those who were smashing windows and doors at the Treasury were shouting "we want our money back". The police say it was criminal damage and not protest. I think it was both.

I'm disgusted that the majority of news stories are now leading with the fact the Prince of Wales and Camilla had the car they were travelling in were attacked. This is not an indictment of the incorrect expression of the protest, but of the uncontrollable, justifiable and absolutely AVOIDABLE rage of protesters. A friend just said the following of this incident;
"The living embodiment of inherited privilege gets hassled by people who just had their futures taken away. He's just lucky this aint France"

The police stated "protesters have failed to stick to the agreed route", one twitter user quipped "to be fair, so did the Lib Dems". How horribly true.

 


I cannot imagine a country in which I will ever vote Lib Dem again.

I'm sitting here crying over what we have become, what our government is doing to our education system and absolutely sobbing for the anger I feel at the betrayal of the Lib Dems and my empathy for the angry chants and actions of the protesters today.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Mum: "The miner's strike bought your pram, crib, clothes, toys..."
Me: "what?"
Mum: "Dad [a policeman at the time] was doing loads of overtime so we got loads of extra money"
Dad: "Yeah! We even called Arthur Scargill 'Uncle Arthur'"
Me: "These are not the socialist roots I dreamt of!"
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I was discussing with a friend the other night the implications of the sentence "I love my country". The main gist of the conversation was that we could not recollect ever having heard a British person say that and suggested that, were we to hear such an exclamation, we'd become extremely suspicious of that person: meaning second guessing their intentions, motivations, intelligence....the works. A notable inclusion to the group of Brits who regularly assert their love (or wish to love, after certain conditions are fulfilled) for 'their' country is the BNP. We really felt that the only implication of making the assertion "I love my country" in the UK - or even just in England - is that such nationalism implies an absolute rejection of a multicultural society and an implicit expression of xenophobia. In other words, the expression of national pride eclipses the motivation for that pride.

We went on to discuss how hard we found it to understand why Americans in particular were so comfortable with that phrase and what it meant to Americans that it doesn't mean to us. We did not reach a conclusion but did hypothesise it relates to the relatively recent emergence of the USA as a nation and that it happened in such a way that the citizens understood the notion of being a part of a single entity. Contrastingly, the UK evolved for so many hundred years that the point at which it became a nation [state] is not just hard to pinpoint but also largely irrelevant to the island's inhabitants; they did not need to state an allegiance in order to ensure national development occured in a desirable and sustained manner. In short, such expressions were and are an organic part of the evolution of national identity but in Britain they are a contrived and Americanised expression of an emotion which is not universally felt.

But that's just a tentative hypothesis.

Tonight was the Last Night of the Proms. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it's a national institution; the Proms themselves embody the idea of classical music for the masses and in so doing, hit the mark and offers a moment of unity pretty much time. Most distinctive about the music included is that it is largely of a patriotic flavour. Like pretty much everything in Britain, this is a tradition that has been observed for....well I'm going to say a million years, I think that's about accurate....you get the idea. To give you (= non Brits) some sense of the immediacy of such music upon Prom goers I bring you this little tiddbit of trivia from tonight's broadcast:

At the first Prom performance of Land of Hope and Glory (or, to give it it's proper name; "Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1") it is reported that the audience "simply rose, and yelled".*

And those people, the ones who rose and yelled, were Victorians (!)

Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia are probably the most popular regular components of The Last Night of the Proms. Both feature rather rousing lyrics, such as my favourite; Rule Britannia/Britannia rules the waves/Britons never ever ever shall be slaves. Britons are rarely offered a non-politicised opportunity to consider their nationality, but a song which lauds the historical achievements of an empire than no longer exists seems to sit quite comfortably with us/them. The music itself is the definition of grand and, like all the best [classical] music, washes over you and completely saturates the senses; coupled with the choral power in the delivery of the lyrics I think it is hard not to be swept up in the spirit of optimism and pride that piece contains.  Perhaps then, we Brits can only express pride in our nation through traditional [archaic?] routes, easily dismissed as 'just a song' if anyone raises an eyebrow as you frantically wave a flag and shout "God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet".

I think that really sums up something quite base about an incredible piece of music and how it can touch people. And I think it also says a lot about how national identity is most easily expressed en masse. I find this particularly interesting because the only time I have been conscious of and indeed pleased to call myself British is when I was out of the country during my 6 month jaunt back in '07. Distance from my country of residence (a passive term if ever there was) was the only point at which I was conscious of all the things which could be considered as making Britain worthy of that modifier 'Great'.  The reasons for this are complex but can be summarised as 1. recognising the stark differences in personal and social liberty available in Britain in comparison to certain countries I visited - a slap in the face to the hysteria of British press who assured us that Britain was a dictatorship/police state/no freedom left etc etc.  2. speaking to citizens of other nations and comparing cultural notes and experiences - or having arguments with them about certain 'inalienable' truths.

I don't think it is a great stretch to suggest that most citizens of the United Kingdom are conscious of** the freedoms they enjoy and the comparatively high standard of living available, in theory, to all.  And I believe it is this...conditional satisfaction (but not adoration) of/with their country which is what Prom goers wish to express in their raucous renditions of the aforementioned songs - rather than the inevitable crushing defeat of their naval enemies, for example.  Perhaps most illustrative of this is that the National Anthem gets nowhere near as raucous a response, nor as much audience participation when the opportunity to sing-along arrives as Land of Hope and Glory or Rule Britannia do. Our national pride is discerning, it is not focused on a figurehead and it is far from absolute.  Which is, this humble blogger wishes to propose, why we are so unwilling to express anything near as unequivocal as 'love' for our nation.


If anyone wishes to answer the question "What does the phrase 'I love my country' mean to you?" I'd be extremely interested to read it.


* One assumes they yelled out their delight, rather than expressions of displeasure.
** although I would not argue they are satisfied with them, nor should we ever be.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Most people have probably heard of/seen the Slow Loris thanks to a rash of YouTube videos. What you may not know is the terribly sad story behind these beautiful creatures.


Their natural habit is being rapidly destroyed and two of the nine species (I have been unable as yet to determine the official number of Slow Loris species, some sources say 3, some 5 and other 9. The IUCN lists only 5 species and only records one of those as being 'endangered') of Slow Loris are classified as endangered. Their natural instinct to stay completely still when threatened means they are ridiculously easy to capture and keep as pets - and, as is apparently fashionable, carry them around in a handbag. As is often the case in these situations, their survival instinct is the thing that is killing them.

They have incredibly sensitive hands and feet, they are transported in wire cages which, as a result of their unique blood vessel network, cut into their hands and feet causing them untold pain and suffering. Before being sold and transported further the traders take pliers to the mouths of the Slow Loris and pull out their sharp teeth as they have a toxic component in their saliva which can cause anaphylactic shock. This is done without any sort of anaesthetic and often, coupled with their being captured from the wild and transported in a tiny cage, causes the Slow Loris to go into shock and die. There is a 30-90% mortality rate in the transport of Slow Loris.

Finally, there is very little known about the Slow Loris - even things as basic as diet are unknown meaning that those Slow Loris who survive often die in capitivity from poor diet. This also means that breeding them in captivity is almost impossible, so those Slow Loris owners who claim their pets came from a captive breeder are either lying, or have been lied to.  In short, there are no positive aspects in the Slow Loris trade.  The small amount of information available about the Slow Loris also means that it doesn't actually have a reliable conservation status (see: Data Deficient) which undoubtedly complicates any conservation drives; the detail of this is included in the content for each of the 5 species listed on the IUCN Red List

Information on the Slow Loris is difficult to come across and often contradictory, and it requires some pretty specific searching to discover the legal status of pet trade and the reasons why so many people on youtube not just own a Slow Loris, but flaunt it on YouTube.  I only found out about CITES (see below) after emailing WSPA, and I only emailed WSPA because I'd been looking around on the internet for a couple of evenings trying to find international organisations who were working for the conservation of Slow Loris without any luck.

In 2007, at the request of Cambodia, CITES changed the Slow Lorises classification from Appendix II to Appendix I meaning that all trade in that animal was banned. The loophole, if you can call it that, is that the Slow Loris is native to South East Asia, and as you will all probably know, animal welfare and local and international laws pertaining to animal trade are roundly ignored in that area.

Organisations such as TRAFFIC seem to be doing a good job with limited resources but it really shocks me that such a cute animal is being widely championed by well known, BIG conservation organisations.

There are a couple of very good articles I have come across in my couple of weeks of digging around.
Too cute for comfort: This BBC article gives a pithy overview of the facts although it is now a little out of date.
YouTube videos may be imperiling cuddly primate: This is a comprehensive article examining various issues threatening the Slow Loris and the complex case of actually managing to make legislation mean something.
The loris: Another primate at risk from traditional Asian medicine: This recent article uses a recently published study to examine what is possibly a bigger issue than the pet trade in Slow Lorises, their use in traditional 'medicine'. People who are going to gut these animals to use in potions are unlikely to care about 90% mortality rate of transporting these creatures.

I'm continuing to research this stuff in the hope of finding some sort of organisation I can support.  In the meantime, awareness is always good, which is why you're seeing this post.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Why oh why do I continue to get embroiled in online debates? In my defence, this time I genuinely thought my opponent was a reasonable political observer. Some backwards research on his twitter stream after the debate reveals him to be an obsessive of the 'Britain is not a democracy, we're all slaves' variety.

His twitter feed is here; Tony Lawrie

This is the tweet which prompted my first reply to him (advising he reread the BBC article as it clearly states the reason Nick Griffin's invitation to Buckingham Palace was revoked was because he politicised it; unlike all the other MEPs invited, including another BNP party member)

I eventually said I believed his 'Britain isn't a democracy' agenda had coloured his assessment of the event, he leaps on this turn of phrase and then keeps saying my opinions on the BNP coloured my opinions - having not expressed any opinions about the BNP of late on twitter, or passing any kind of negative comment on the BNP MEP who did attend the garden party I can only assume he decided the only person who could disagree with the crux of his argument must be anti-BNP. Which admittedly I am, but I never said I believed Nick Griffin should be turned away from the garden party because of his views - I don't believe that.

Some time ago, after repeating my points several times I decided nothing was to be gained by continuing I tweeted this;
Already stated BNP member attended, did not express any feelings about that. Your repeated choice to ignore my previous statements leads me to believe you are not considering, engaging with or even reading my comments so I will conclude this discussion now.

How many replies did I then receive from him? Seven. At which point I again became embroiled when he claimed he had answered my points and my dislike of the BNP did not allow me to recognise democracy was undermined. I responded with the following;
I have made no expression of dislike for the BNP. Their policies are not the crux of the issue. Furthermore, you have not engaged with my hugely valid point that another BNP MEP was admitted to the garden party with no queries. Finally, your choosing to ignore my statement this discussion was at an end is hardly respectful or necessary. We will not agree because you are not willing to abandon your no democracy agenda long enough to judge this event solely on the facts surrounding it.

His further replies again state democracy was undermined, the BNP MEP who attended was weak in agreeing to be gagged (which surely pre-empts content which the Palace wished to deny, absent given it wasn't a political engagement) etc etc.

I tire, no, I have long tired of hearing nonsense of that sort. Travelling the world gave me a glimpse of countries where democracy is either new or non existent. Passing through as a white British tourist obviously did not give me a real understanding of what it is like to *live* there but the fierceness with which Argentinians defend their democracy (PROTEST!) gives an good indication. Meeting fellow travellers from across the globe we often fell to discussing the differences and similarities of our respective countries and cultures. It would be fair to say that I have never so absolutely appreciated the liberties and freedoms so willingly given to me as a British citizen.

No, our democracy is not perfect. Show me a democracy which is. But to claim we are suffering through an authoritarian nightmare is not only wholly erroneous but positively insulting to those persons living under a dictatorship with few or none of the freedoms some would so gladly dismiss.


Update! I think Tony Lawrie's true political allegiances are showing through in his final desperate attempt to embroil me again;
Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how can you ever then season it? Don't agree with Nick Griffin or BNP particularly but at least Griffin still has 'salt'...so many politicians 2day don't anymore!

Hard enough to ignore that bizarre, presumably inaccurately recounted analogy but praising Griffin for being abrasive? (hard to guess what salt represents really) Not going to be the match point winning play.


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askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
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