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)
So, as the interwebz is well aware, Janet Street Porter is a class A prick. Her article in the Daily Mail (aka the Daily Hate, Nazi Daily and Toilet Paper) today is entitled 'Depression? It's Just the New Trendy Illness!'. Personally, I prefer to call it I'm Janet Street Porter and I'm a massive knob

It's hard to know where to begin when responding to an article so utterly motivated by ignorance, intolerance and downright stupidity, but I'm going to try.*

My family isn't so much 'touched' by mental illness as saturated in it. I try and count up the number of grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and cousins afflicted with anxiety, stress, depression or any of the myriad of other mental health issues and I very quickly run out of fingers. It's pretty much
all of us.

Janet Street Porter may be interested to hear, however, that my family are working class. They *are* shelf stackers, cleaners, care workers, caretakers, administration staff or simply terminally unemployable. Is their experience of depression, anxiety or stress any different to that of the middle class Street-Porter so doggedly condemns? No. Or, in the longer answer, yes. They don't have the ear of the media inclined towards them. They do not have the education of the people who write books (what's that, Janet Street Porter, you've written two books? Goodness, aren't you clever!) that sell thousands, they do not have the high flying careers that afford them the opportunity to talk about their depression/anxiety/stress on tv, radio and in the paper, but they do have the shared experience of insurmountable despair, blackest depressions, unmanageable stress and ultimately, the horrific isolation that is being diagnosed with one or all of these conditions and having to work through it; speaking to as few people as possible in order to minimise the outpouring of intolerance those words provoke.

I was delighted to read that depression didn't exist until just a few years ago. Presumably what I, and my relatives had been suffering until then was some sort of general malaise, perhaps a touch of ennui. Indeed I found it remarkable to discover, from Janet Street Porter's article, that depression didn't exist
at all in the sixties. I'm sure my Mother, whose first husband killed himself at the end of the sixties, will be most relieved to learn he wasn't suffering from depression as it didn't exist, no doubt he was just testing the strength of the tree branch with the rope he tied around it.

It's also been a delight to learn that 15 years ago that when my Father was forced to retire from the Police force - a job he had aspired to throughout his teens and was passionate about during it's execution, due to stress which he simply couldn't recover from whilst continuing to do the same job - it wasn't in fact stress that forced him to leave. No, as that particular condition is only an invention of the last 5 years he was in fact suffering from hypochondria! The wife and child under 10 who he placed in financial straights by his 'illness' were in fact callously endangered! If only he'd decided not to be friends with the people who were upsetting him, that would have fixed
everything.

Finally, it has been reassuring to see that had my eldest older brother been successful in his suicide attempt Janet Street Porter would have attended his funeral encouraging us, his mourning family to laugh! Because the world being rid of yet another misogynist bastard, another 'man [who has been] in charge of everything'. After all, the miserable mental state he was in, the continued non-existent self esteem that frequently prevents him leaving the house for days on end? All of that is, in her words, "
karmic revenge" on mankind.

But of course, my brother is gentle, and kind, and loving and, unfortunately, deeply unhappy. He is not a misogynist, he has never been in charge of anything, on account of being working class. He deserves none of the things the world has thrown at him. He does not deserve the chemical imbalance in his brain that foils his every endeavour. He does not deserve to die by his own hand.

And yet Janet Street Porter believes he does. And she believes I should be happy about it, she believes I should laugh.

The thing that perplexes me is why stop with a critique of depression, anxiety and stress? What about the incidence of OCD? Are all those sufferers just being pathologised for being a good housewife! What about schizophrenia? It's nothing if not an attention seeking wilful neglect of reality! Indeed, if we're going to argue that every disease that doesn't have the same rate of occurrence as a Brazilian slum isn't real then we better add anorexia to the list. Those skeletal boys and girls are just a bit too keen on exercise and attention seeking in their rejection of food aren't they!

It's perhaps rather reflective of my intrinsic belief in human compassion that I thought ‘articles’ like this were a thing of the past. I’m so, so unhappy to learn that they aren’t. Indeed the only positive I can seem to find is that I wish I was as lucky as Street Porter that neither I, nor my family or friends had been touched by depression, anxiety or stress and I could be so ignorant of it all that I could simply write it off as the new yuppie malaise.

*There have been lots of responses already in the blogsphere and in the press, all of them condemning Street-Porter as far as I can see, with this in mind I have decided not to tackle her on the 'facts' she presents, but rather the reasons the article enraged and saddened me, on a personal level
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Edited to add: The verdict has now been announced and Amanda Knox has been found guilty.  Which is, I'm sure, a result of compelling evidence.  The thing that concerned me, and which prompted this post, is the fact the papers found her guilty purely because of her sexual activity - there were little to no reports of the evidence which prompted Italian authorities to prosecute her, which I assume - hope - was more constructive in the beginning than the newspaper reports would suggest, and certainly it was must have been a more comprehensive body of evidence by the end of the trial.

Has anyone else been following the Amanda Knox trial in the papers? And by the papers I mean the gossip rags.

From what I can see, the most important argument of the prosecution is that Knox enjoyed sex, was openly sexually active, perhaps even promiscuous and kept a private diary about her activities and feelings surrounding sex.  Whilst this is relevant in as much as the murder of Meredith Kercher was supposedly sexually motivated it is horrifying to see a woman's character assassinated because she had a vibrator in her bag.

I've got several vibrators.  And a load of condoms.  And some lube.  And a few other sexually weighted items in my bedroom.  Sometimes, if I'm going out dancing I take condoms in my bag.  Does this mean if someone I know or am connected to is killed in a sexually motivated crime I am likely to be implicated because I am sexually self aware?

I know finding the footing I need to be saying what I want to is very difficult on the uncertain ground of there not yet being a verdict on the case, but headline after headline proclaiming 'Foxy Knoxy' was 'always thinking about sex' or selfishly keeping condoms in the bathroom she shared with Kercher even though it made the latter 'uncomfortable' is beginning to concern me.  In what way is it relevant that Kercher was uncomfortable with Knox's sexual activity and openness? That hardly proves Knox is a cold blooded, hard arsed killer, it just means that she, like a thousand other young women, had a flatmate with whom she didn't get on and whose values differed significantly from her own.

There are, undoubtedly, a lot of peculiarities in Knox's behaviour which quite logically led the shadow of suspicion to fall on her, but owning a vibrator? Having a stash of condoms? - a stash of condoms whilst in a relationship with a man, no less. The tabloids dubbing her 'Foxy Knoxy' in the most obvious assignation of femme fatale status? Impossibly anachronistic.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Yesterday I got a text message from my best friend B which simply asked if I could go round to hers today, all day. I said of course and asked why. She said she'd seen a train accident on Saturday night and didn't want to be alone.

So I took chocolate cake and went round this morning. It turns out this is the accident she was talking about:

A 16-year-old girl died after falling under a train while she was running alongside it on the platform

B was on a train going in the opposite direction which arrived into the station just seconds after the accident.  All the power was turned off and B sat in her carriage, which was level with the front of the other train, and watched as police and paramedics went to work.

The girl's best friend started screaming as soon as her friend fell.  B said she didn't stop screaming for over half an hour.  She says the scream is one of the worst things, she just cant get it out of her head.

The whole station was closed down for three hours.  B got talking to a girl in her carriage who was also from Brighton and this girl called her friends who immediately began driving the 45mins to the station to collect her and drive her to Brighton, B was invited to go along with her which she agreed to.  About 15 minutes before the friends arrived their train was cleared to leave so B, not wanting to leave the girl alone, got off the train with her and together they waited on the platform.

They were going to wait outside the station but a station employee told them they could wait on the platform and stay a bit warmer.  They sat and looked across to the opposite platform where the police were looking down at the tracks with torches.  B says that although she could hear their conversation and see clearly what they were doing, it took her a minute for it to actually register.  When she saw what they were doing down the tracks she grabbed the girl who she was with and dragged her out of the station.  A couple of minutes later the same station employee came out to apologise to them, he hadn't realised what the police were doing and the police had not realised there were any passengers left in the station, so they had not kept their voices down.

B is doing ok.  She burst into tears almost as soon as I arrived.  And again when she tried to read the article about it on the front page of The Argus.  But she managed to tell me all of the story above, along with a few details I have omitted, without crying.  And we carried on talking about it all day. She was doing much better by the time I left this evening.  In many ways she did better than me as I started crying when she was telling me her story!  I just hope she sleeps reasonably well tonight and is able to face tomorrow back at work. 

It is just beyond tragic.  What a horrific end to what was obviously a good night out for this girl and her friends.  Just a split second and suddenly everyone's lives changed around that one random event.


_____________________________________


Spoke to HP today, they tried to tell me the warranty didn't cover accidental damage so they wouldn't repair it.  I told them that was fine and dandy, but there was no accident.  It just stopped working: BAM! After arguing for a while they agreed to collect it tomorrow and will ring me when they've established whether it was user error - if they think it is, they will charge me for the repair.  Basically if they decide it was my fault, I dont have a leg to stand on, there is no way I can prove that all I did was turn around to plug it in only to turn back and discover it was broken.

I turned it on this afternoon and the bottom half of the screen has also gone screwy, I think the refresh rate has dropped through the floor for that half of the display, for god knows what reason.

All of which is stressful, when it needn't be, HP could just give providing good customer service a whirl instead of being arseholes on the phone and I'd be feeling a lot happier about sending it off to them tomorrow. Ugh.

Anyway, this is possibly the last NaBloPoMo entry I'll do, depends how inspired I am to painstakingly type html code out on my phone in order to have some sort of formatting.  We'll see.

Good wishes for B, the girl's friends and family, and hopes of a swift resolution of my HP problems dominate my thoughts this evening.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
My attention was caught by a particularly fun headline in today's Metro: Pigeon that's quicker than broadband. The practicalities of this alternative form of file transfer have perhaps been skirted over:

"Did the files arrive?"
"No, there was a problem with the transfer, they were...corrupted en route."
"Oh dear.  Do you have a virus?"
"Not as such, no."
"What do you mean 'not as such'? Either you have a virus or you don't!"
"Well, it's not a virus, so much as a....well, as a hawk."
"A hawk? Is that some sort of super virus? Or a new Apple OS?"
"No....it's sort of....well, it's a hawk."
"A hawk?"
"Yes. It ate the pigeon."
"The pigeon?"
"Yes.  The pigeon that transfers our data."
"You're sure this isn't computer slang for something else?"
"No, it's definitely a pigeon.  He's called Steve.  Or he was *sob*"

Moreover, industrial espionage would never look the same.  It's actually even the playing field as far as successful espionage goes, it wouldn't be about having the money to invest in high-tech gadgets, a nice bowl of grain and some determined cooing - or perhaps some hot lady pigeons wiggling their arses about - would pretty much do the trick.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
So Caster Semenya is making headlines and the internet seems to be abuzz with chatter about whether 'she is a he'.

What a horrific way of phrasing it.  In itself it immediately reveals the bias which most of the news stories seem to have baked right in.  A quick google reveals prolific use of the word 'real' and a near universal tag line beneath Semenya's name of "Man or Woman?".  The sensationalism simply oozes from the screen.

Let's talk about the real issue here: international athletics officials demands an athlete take a 'gender test' (inaccurate in itself, her gender is evidently female, what we're talking about is a test to verify whether her chromosomes are xx, xy or xxy) because she is very good at her sport and, more importantly, does not 'look' female by a heteronormative standard of femininity (A key argument in many of the articles springing up this evening).

One blog rails about the South African Athletics Federation 'failing' in its duty to verify whether Semenya was 'really' a woman.  The SAAF, however, states confidently that they were "'completely sure' that the 18-year-old Semenya is a female."[1]  'Ross' states that as the SAAF did not do a genetic test/examine Semenya's chromosomes it is "laughable" to say they were completely sure of her sex.  This argument can only ever be partially successful on the grounds that 'Ross' is not also accusing the Athletics Federation of every other country with athletes in this competition of being lax in their duty to verify the 'real gender' of their athletes. 

Athletics does not require routine chromosonal screening of all competitors.  Given the high incidence of intersex it is not impossible to imagine that there are currently, and have been in the past, many intersex athletes.  That only some are 'discovered' (and by 'discovered' I mean dragged through the papers with offensive and life changing judgements passed down on them) is not down to a fair and universal ruling of international athletics bodies but oppressively heteronormative, reactionary and deeply flawed value judgements of the 'appropriateness' of the physical appearance of individuals in relation to their gender.

This is not a blog about whether Caster Semenya is 'really' a woman or a man.  It is a blog how this particular story has revealed the broader failure of athletics in failing to include comprehensive and inclusive rules on the verification of biological sex for all competitors and the deeply flawed system (underpining this as a necessary investigation) which effectively denies intersex individuals from competing in sex segregated competitions.


[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/athletics/8210471.stm

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askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
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