Picking on People Isn’t Fighting Our Fat Problem

Britain has a fat problem; there is no denying that. Aptly nicknamed “The Fat Man of Europe” we are only getting larger; nearly a quarter of British adults are obese, and that is set to exceed 50% by 2050. Clearly we need to change our ways. However that far from condones the abusive actions of the crassly named “Overweight Haters Ltd.”

 

Since the now infamous “fat” cards were handed out, the mainstream media has treated those who received the cards as victims of a moral crime against our social code, rather than people full of “selfish greed”; and quite rightly so.

 

It was an ignorant act of bullying. To use a cliché, it was ‘fat shaming’. The only point worth discussing was their accusation of “wasting NHS money”. In response: while obesity may account for a significant chunk of unavoidable NHS expenditure, so do many other lifestyle factors. Oh boy I hope those who handed out the obscene cards were smokers. What a sweet sweet example of hypocrisy that would be.

 

The thing is, abusive messages and judgemental assumptions aside, our battle of the bulge does not end with a salad and a treadmill. This is because obesity is not simply about food meeting face, and rear meeting sofa. People do not reach a BMI of over 30 because they over indulge their “selfish greed”.

 

There are underlying personal reasons, like depression. Everyone who experiences times of hardship or grief seek comfort, and for many that comfort is food. Think of Pavlov’s Dog. Food acts as a reward, making us feel good, or at least better. We’ve all had stereotypical Bridget Jones’ style, meltdown provoked food comas, but generally these are one offs. For some with chronic mental-health problems these binges are more of a continual spiral of addiction.

 

As with anorexia or illegal drug addiction, abuse and discrimination are not going to ‘knock people out of it’. A study published by PLOS ONE Journal suggests the contrary. Apparently people with obesity are 3x as likely to remain obese; those who were just overweight are 2.5x more likely to become obese post weight discrimination. So if these “haters” are worried about our NHS or are serious about making people “slimmer [and] happy” their tactics will have utterly misfired.

 

Why are we getting bigger now? Obesity in the UK has trebled in the past 30 years. That correlates with huge social change and the rise of convenience. The Georgian ritual of tea may have had a detrimental affect on our waistlines, but it is since the revolution of ‘the main meal’ in the 70s that our cultural attitudes have really damaged our mental and physical health.

The rise of convenience meals waves goodbye to daily guaranteed interaction with loved ones. Now busy people can be relentlessly busy, and lazy people can be never-endingly lazy. No wonder we are sadder than ever before.

 

Big companies play key role here: once the incessant advertising and cheap prices draw customers in, the instant satisfaction brought by the sugar and salt content keeps us coming back for more. The government knows the dangers of processed food, as do the companies. But the power of the cereal industry is such that the government isn’t able to supress them.

 

And so we must tackle our chronic obsession with food, together. Create a social structure of support. Be bold and form a consensus to disregard the consumerism that the big companies, who have little regard for our well being promote. Tax sugar. Promote vegetables. Most importantly don’t attack individuals.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Picking on People Isn’t Fighting Our Fat Problem

The Public School Stigma

If there’s one thing that shapes our lives, it’s our education. It’s how we learn to communicate, how we learn what is acceptable in society, how we learn skills to make something of ourselves in the future, how we learn, well, stuff that makes our lives more interesting. It’s a pretty important thing if you think about it. Actually, you don’t have to think about it at all.

 

In fact education is a pretty vital component of the fabric that makes up our identity. A lot of that education is unconsciously soaked up through socialisation. However the subsection that is formal education is undeniably also incredibly important. It forms the structure and routine of our lives for up to 14 of our most impressionable years. A good quality schooling can be the difference between a well meaning and an articulate person; an inefficient and efficient worker; an ignorant and enlightened thinker. Anyone can learn manners, but not many can learn to criticise Rousseau’s Theory of Natural Human or prove Cantor’s Theorem without acquiring the skills and knowledge that school gives you access to.

 

Moreover a good education has always been a vehicle for gaining power and wealth in society. Look at Wolsey; an inspiration for any butcher’s son dreaming of more than boning pork shoulders. It is no wonder then that education is pretty high on a parent’s list of priorities. Furthermore with our current system it’s fair enough that many parents store away much of their savings for their child’s education. Of course there are many state schools in the UK which provide an equally, and in many cases better, education than some private schools. However without living in the catchment area or being the right religion you have little choice but to fork out serious cash for quality. Moreover the crème de la crème are, ultimately and indisputably, private schools. I’m not saying that’s ok; I’m just saying it’s how it is. At the end of the day each and every one of us British children must spend most of our formative years in the education system, so it makes sense to invest well in our choice of school.

 

But that doesn’t make those who went to private school aliens, out of touch with real life. It doesn’t make them less worthy of your time or friendship. (And please, if you have been skim reading so far please concentrate on this paragraph.) Just because someone went to private school it doesn’t mean they’re rich. Just because someone went to private school doesn’t mean they think their superior. Just because they went to private school doesn’t mean they didn’t have to work hard to be where they are. Just because their parents decided to invest their money in education doesn’t make them bate for your bad jokes.

 

Agreed, it’s not fair that some people get to experience education at a standard that the majority of the student population don’t have access to. I can understand people’s issue with that, and indeed I have an issue with it too. I agree that it’s a problem, which our society should be addressing more rigorously. But the biggest antipathy doesn’t seem to be academically related. Not among people my age. It’s not the unique, gold standard opportunity for learning and acquiring knowledge that people are riling against. In my experience, acquaintances from state schools aren’t so bothered by the fact my teacher could teach me whatever they found interesting, that I got one on one mentoring in my last year, and that my classes were made up of 10 students not 30. They care about the general lifestyle that the stereotypical private school student lives, and the stereotypical view of a state school contemporary. In other words it’s inverse snobbery.

 

This is totally irrelevant to the issue of education; it is ludicrous to assume that because someone’s family spent money on their education that they are ‘in the money’. And when these assumptions are put into practise they are not only irritating, but also devisive. I blame a lot of it on the media, of course.

 

The media deludes people into thinking private school children are a homogenous set of privileged dumbos who do well because of Daddy’s connections. Last week I watched an episode of Cuffs on BBC iPlayer, which focused its plot on a private boys boarding school. Not only were the students portrayed as weeping willows, with one of them crying he wanted his mum whilst attempting suicide; one of the inspectors outright said that it was “cruel” to send a child to boarding school aged 7. Biased? Never. Then, there are documentaries on schools such as Harrow, revealing the names of schools where Made In Chelsea stars went to…the list never ends. It is obvious to any intelligent human being that not all private schools are like Harrow, and that not everyone who went to schools like Harrow live like Made in Chelsea stars. Not even most of the MIC crew live like the MIC crew. Conflating this microcosmic group within the public school sphere doesn’t serve the majority of the public; it propels unnecessary social tension.

 

It is possible that the media is trying to create a counter proportional depiction of private school lives to readdress the balance in working opportunities. That’s how they portray their motives anyway. But it does no more than cause friction between the two parties and further drive the deepening inequalities it pretends to oppose. However, of course, anger makes money in the media. It’s an easy story; makes for a tantalising read. Why would a money making body change its ways for the sake of morality? It’s understandable from a capitalist point of view, but the consequence of their indifference is that the entrenchment of social separations and hostility begins from an earlier and earlier age. Encouraging these differences only makes for greater inequality of opportunity. No wonder our governing body all went to Eton together, the prime minister would probably be told where to shove it if they asked anyone else to be in the cabinet, being accused of patronising them or something (only joking…chill).

 

I have wasted countless hours of my life explaining how it is possible that I went to boarding school without owning a pony, dining with the queen, living on an estate, having a trust fund. Most of the time I go on to have fascinating discussions about politics, social philosophy and morality with the exact same person who at first pitted me against themselves with these irritating set of petty assumptions. All of the time I end up finding something – often a lot – in common with the exact same individual. How funny it is that: having gone through the same national curriculum, been brought up in the same culture, be of a similar age, have access to the same media, we have cultivated shared views, interests and abilities? Who knew? I’m shocked. Sense sarcasm? Well done.

 

It got boring being teased for my education the first time it happened, probably about 10 years ago. I don’t see what there is to gain for making me feel guilty for having a good education. All you’re doing is vocalising the perception that there is a gaping hole between us, illustrating a version of reality where our differences are exponentially larger than they in fact are. This actually puts private school alumni at a greater advantage. No wonder my friend got angry when people stopped teasing him for going to Eton after they found out he was there on a full scholarship; the falsified detachment is almost a head start in itself. It would be much better for everyone else if we shut up and got on with it.

 

To those that have mock me: I worked hard just like you; to end up at a good university, to write coherently, to get my previous jobs, to get work experience. Funnily enough I am at university to better my future prospects, just like you. I am in a position where being a working adult is necessary, just like you. Not all private school students have the option of sitting on their parents’ money for just long enough before they marry their suitor. In fact, I’m probably equally in the shit as you, seeing as my parents spent most of their dollar on getting me through school.

 

Maybe let’s skip the seemingly compulsory private school, them and us, ‘banter’ and get straight to being friends?

The Public School Stigma

“Hyper Feminism” with be the Death of our Dreams

Let me get this straight: I am a feminist. Well I am of sorts. I believe in a gender-equal society and so I must, I suppose be one. At the least I’m an equalist.

I don’t like the word “feminism”; it’s not because I’m oblivious to the development of my gender’s campaign, but because I fear that the image the word portrays to the general population creates an ignorantly archaic depiction of the whole idea. Nonetheless I believe in the doctrine as a worthy, no necessary, cause. I hate that I have to label myself as one of a cause rather than live my life in peace and harmony, however the progression of global civilisation hasn’t reached Utopia yet, so yes, I am a feminist.

There is one thing, however, that I dislike more than the word “feminism”, and (yes I’m serious) the idea that we should accept our patriarchal model of society. That one thing is a trend in female attitude I’ve noticed recently, which seeks to exploit any interaction between men and women as some malicious act of misogyny. For example: a male boss telling a female employee that she is dressed inappropriately at work. This is no longer acceptable as (what I call) “hyper feminists” forget professionalism in the work place, and accuse the boss’s motives being the protection of their business by keeping the sexual predators (aka their male colleagues/clients) from being distracted. Little do they notice that their pink bra showing through their white shirt makes them look like they’ve come straight out of a Britney Spears music video, and not exactly ready to make a good impression. They are equally deaf to the idea that a man without a tie on or with tracksuit bottoms replacing his suit trousers would gain an equal reprimand. Firstly it’s ironic that feminists rant against sexualisation of the female body and yet some do just that by looking to sexualise any innocent situation. Of course not every situation is innocent, and men who leer should not get away with it. however the illogical nature of this unnecessarily pugnacious attitude is in my mind as detrimental to the efforts towards a gender-equal society as accepting the current system as the status quo. It’s like getting cross at Russia for eating all the food at peace talks during which we’re trying to stop them from nuking us. Furthermore it is my belief that such brazen campaigning for women’s rights entrenches the views that women are hysterical specimens fuelled by drama; thus this feminism business is none more than an act, and one to be ignored.

This entrenchment of belief also naturally spurs on the idea of “them and us”. While I don’t believe we should all embrace the hermaphrodite lifestyle, anyone who has kept up with the times know that the idea of feminism has reached a point where men are asked to hop on board as much as women. This is: partly a sign of progress; partly a new approach lead by feminist leaders such as Emma Watson; and partly due to a change in perspective as to what is causing this persistent inequality. It is no longer the visible rules or the actual power hungry men that are directly blamed. Instead it is seen that the foundations on which our society rests propels these mindsets and allows for such piggish behaviour. That is another problem I have with the doctrine’s name: it is now about both genders, about the two working together in harmony. We don’t want to go from a patriarchy to a matriarchy, but instead we want an egalitarian set up. The acts of the “hypersensitive feminist” exclude men from the club with their churlish accusations and are starting to break up the vital unity between women.

We have come so far since the burning bra days; we no longer need to be pyromaniacs to get attention. It is indeed my belief that this lack of such hostile and ugly seeking of attention is the reason we have been able to gain so much ground recently. The last time feminism was at the heart of society’s evolution was back when we were seeking the vote. There are countless arguments for both the vehement tactics of the suffragettes and the peaceful attempts by the suffragists. What is easy to agree on however, is that, no matter how big a part it played in the grand scheme of things, the women of the time’s invaluable contribution to the war effort was the straw that broke the camel’s (or ruling patriarchs’) back and sealed the deal. Thus we must work with men to alter the way society works, rather than throwing a tantrum.

I get what these women (I presume they are women, rather than anti feminism propaganda started by men or genuine feminist men who have got it wrong) are saying. And I truly agree with their core beliefs: it is absurd that men usually get the top jobs in the country; that once a woman has made it to the top a man of equal position in the company is often paid more; that even once the first two are overcome a woman is still under a much greater strain to choose between career and children, and when she chooses both she will never be seen as good at either. Even the slightest gross signs of male dominance, for example that the builders around me in London can wolf whistle without guilt or consequence, riles me beyond belief. I am as eager a proponent as any of the abolishment of gender inequality. As a chef I experienced first hand how unfair the working world can be for a woman, after all. I just would prefer we used our intelligence and rationality as our weapon rather than our ability to manipulate and bitch.

To add to my sympathies, the fact that social media can be freely flooded with the female voice is empowering and a fabulous sign of that ground we’ve gained. However it is easily abused and many are doing exactly that. That is what makes me so angry. How can these people be ruining our credibility as a movement with the use of hyperbole, conflation, straw man or any other such flaws to create victims left right and centre? Moreover why do we want to play the victim? In what way does playing the underdog get us anywhere? We’re no longer at the age where pretending to be picked on by Sam at the kiddies’ birthday party gets us extra cake and a cuddle. It is childish manipulation of the truth and those who behave in such a way must be forgetting that what we are dealing with is much more serious than kidsplay. I find it hard to think that they have true comprehension in the doctrine at all, but either way I would appreciate they don’t help to further muddy the name by which we are associated. We cannot have our cake and eat it. Such a hypersensitive approach to our currently flawed society is doing nothing but undermining the progress made thus far and crushing our dreams of pivotal change.

“Hyper Feminism” with be the Death of our Dreams

Is Inequality a Moral Ill, or Simply a Fact of Life? (Written 2012)

There are many forms of equality that must be considered, for example there is equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. These two do not usually result in the other’s occurrence, so one cannot want both to occur; they must be considered as two separate ideals. . Inequality must also be divided into inherent and constructed inequality. They should be assessed separately (although it is impossible to assess constructed inequalities without considering inherent ones) to decide whether they each are moral ills or facts of life. However it is also possible, if not right, to conclude that inequalities can be positive and should be embraced: they create a measure of success; encourage those weaker to strive to do better; and can also be used to tackle moral ills in society.

There are certain qualities of our nature that make us unequal, for example our genetic make up and our innate self-interest. These differences are not inequalities themselves as the process by which we obtain our genes is random and we have an equal chance of having ones that will prove useful to our environment; however inequalities happen as a result of their presence. With this being true while one may try to make the rewards given to people equal (equality of outcome) or their attributes uniform (equality of opportunity) it is impossible to ensure total equality simply because of our nature as human beings; we as individuals will always find a way to break this attempt at uniform. This is further propelled by our natural desire to act in our own interest. The family a child is born into determines the type of upbringing they will receive; another inequality that is out of that person’s (child’s) control. A positive upbringing in a wealthy family that provides them with endless opportunities (for example a premium education and suitable work experience) is a set up that is likely to allow the child to achieve a higher level of success in adult life than a child who is abused and whose parents cannot afford the top education. All these inequalities have the potential to translate to be morally wrong if nothing is done to ensure the people in the worst position aren’t helped. However essentially these are not moral ills as they are based on arbitrary factors that have not been caused by anyone; they are either in our nature or simply out of our control. Thus self-interest, individuality and varied quality of upbringing mean that our very nature and situation cause inherent inequalities. These are a fact of life in the sense that we are not able to remove them, however they have to potential to become morally wrong. Moreover they also have the potential to stop other forms of inequalities that are moral ills, therefore should be acknowledged and used positively to create a more morally just society.

John Rawls put forward a theory of distributive justice called the “veil of ignorance”. This stated what is just should be based on what a person would chose if they were signing a social contract while totally unaware of their situation (race, class, gender, talents, health etc). In addition he put forward the “Difference Principle”. This suggests that financial inequality is only just if those who are in higher salary work use their job to benefit those who are worse off. For example a person becoming a highly paid doctor is only justified if they help those who cannot afford health insurance. This theory takes into account people’s inherent inequalities: using them in an attempt to create a more morally just society. The use the ‘Difference Principle’ would create a more morally just society as not only would the talented be exploiting their talents, but also those who would potentially suffer from this situation are now benefitting from it. Thus this principle links inherent and constructed inequalities. While inherent inequalities are entrenched in human nature, constructed inequalities are often negative results our nature. This theory would also create social capital; a network of relations and support within society. This contributes to the creation of a civil society, which in turn would reduce the number of other immoral acts performed (for example murder). Thus in theory Rawls’ idea of the difference principle recognises that inherent inequalities (our talents) could be used to reduce the degree of constructed inequalities (availability of services); it would allow people to use their inherent inequalities in a positive way. This shows that inequalities are not all simply a fact of life and that they are also not a moral ill. They can have a positive as well as negative effect on society.

While Rawls’ theories would benefit society in a perfect world, there will always be those who are greedy and find a way of making money without helping others. Furthermore his theories do not take into account those who receive a good upbringing and talents that are useful for their environment. If Rawls’ theory was put into practise there would be no aspiration to do better and would make it difficult to measure success or good qualities: in perfect conditions everyone would constantly be in a uniform social position. It would therefore leave society unable to progress or excel. To allow people to excel they must be able to achieve by themselves, and not simply be supported by those better off in society. This is where the State is necessary. People have to have rights and liberties to ensure they are able to succeed, and stop them from being persecuted by the majority or the most advantaged. An example of this is the freedom of movement. A person’s talents may not be needed in their birthplace, however they may have an advantage in another state. It is morally wrong to confine them to their birthplace, where they will not be able to benefit from society’s resources or requirements. Furthermore they will become a burden to society, as they will be in constant need of support, whereas in the other state they will be able to positively contribute to that society. Thus immoral inequalities occur when citizens’ rights and liberties are limited. These are constructed, not inherent, and should be tackled.

A corrupt government will reduce the liberties of a citizen, as well as restrict their rights. This means that Locke’s theory that we abide by rules as we give ‘tacit consent’ due to benefitting from what the state provides cannot be true in the case of corrupt government; a citizen may not benefit from the state, but may in fact suffer under it, yet they are forced to abide by the law of that state.  These inequalities that arise from a corrupt government’s actions are constructed. They are morally wrong as they occur due to something consciously inhibiting the citizen from using their talents or even surviving. Thus it is possible for an inequality to be a moral ill due to them being within man’s control. If they have become out of man’s control it is still possible to say they are a moral ill as they were created by man.

An example of constructed inequalities being a moral ill is Stalin’s use of terror. He organised it and created it, however many argue that by 1941 (when the USSR entered the Second World War) the terror was out of Stalin’s control. However the inequalities his regime caused could not be called a fact of life.  From this is it possible to conclude that a stable, functioning government that upholds its citizens’ liberties is essential to ensure the significance of constructed inequalities are reduced and inherent inequalities can be used to a person’s advantage.

To achieve equality discrimination must occur. For example to achieve equality of opportunity there must be positive discrimination to ensure those less able have an equal chance of succeeding in a particular area. It may in fact create more immorality if the talented are restricted as the quality of work will decrease, leaving everyone with poorer services. Moreover if those who are not of sound mind or do not have good intentions are given an equal chance of having a high level of influence, for example in governing a country, they may cause corruption (and in turn morally wrong constructed inequalities) in their favour. This suggests that it is less morally wrong in reality to use our inherent inequalities to create a more just society than to use discrimination to achieve equality; once again showing that inequalities that we possess due to our nature as human beings are not morally wrong.

Aristotle said that because there is always a form of discrimination equality is not about eliminating discrimination, but deciding which forms are just. He said that to determine this one must identify the ‘telos’ (purpose) of something. An example that Michael Sandel uses in his book: Justice is a person’s acceptance to university. To see whether it is just that one person with higher grades receives an offer, when someone else does not, one must look at the purpose of that university. If it is there simply to give top qualifications to intellectuals then this discrimination is justified. Aristotle also put forward a theory called the “fit model”. This states that everyone should be allocated a job according to his or her talents and nature. This takes into account their telos. Furthermore from it a natural hierarchy occurs; a hierarchy that is necessary to not only allow people to thrive in a specific field, but help others too. For example babysitters are needed to the same degree as politicians because for the politician to be successful (if the politician is female especially), they need help looking after other aspects of their life, in this case their children. Thus with this hierarchy inherent inequalities can be used positively. In a perfect world this would also mean that constructed inequalities were used positively too as placing someone in a particular profession would benefit them and society, not harm them.

While Aristotle’s theory would create a society where inequalities were a positive thing and also used to stop moral ills, like Rawls’ idea of the Difference Principle, it would not work well in reality. This is because people have aspirations to work in areas where their greatest talents are not present. Furthermore pride and self –interest may lead to a person not accepting their given position in society; wanting a higher level of influence or status. Moreover this theory may lead to some justifying slavery, or alternatively if someone felt their telos was to be a suicide bomber it would cause problems. Therefore in reality this is potentially a dangerous theory because of people’s desire to achieve higher, in a particular field, than their talents allow and the lack of good intentions present in some of society.

An inherent inequality discussed previously was self-interest. Expanding on that we have a natural desire to help our own kind. This may be seen as a morally ill inequality due to the unfair distribution of wealth and resources around the world, however it is out of man’s control. In perfect conditions loyalty to one’s own does not create moral ills because if everyone helps their own then no one is abandoned. It is also not morally wrong when a country intervenes in one state to help its citizens, but not others. This is because it is not directly harming other states, simply helping one to a larger extent. However problems occur when a state does not, or cannot (due to lack of resources), help their own. Inequality of resource distribution around the world is largely out of our control; people should act against it, but not before helping one’s own, as it is often hard to help others without a large degree of understanding of how their state and culture work. Moreover if a state were to invest in helping others before its own and failed, it would result in two impoverished states, instead of one.  Lastly a person being strongly compelled to help their own is a much more positive thing than the equal alternative: to be impartial to all. As Michael Sandel said in his book, Justice“a politics emptied of substantive moral engagement makes for an impoverished civic life”. Thus the inequality caused by our inherent desire to be loyal to our own and help them rather than others is not a moral ill unless, in the process of helping our own, others’ rights and liberties are violated.

The idea of a just society being created and maintained by its citizens having an active desire to uphold a concern for everyone within it is undermined when the gap between the rich and poor is extended beyond a certain point. This is because a difference in wealth leads to a difference in lifestyle. When this is enhanced past a certain point, the differences are entrenched so much so that inequalities occur. These inequalities are not a fact of life as they are constructed as a result of financial awards. Michael Sandel put an example of this forward. He said that when a group in society earns enough money to buy cars they stop using public transport. As a result they spend less money on tickets so there is less money going towards public transport. The budget then gets cut and the state is no longer able to uphold a good service. However there is still a group in society that is too poor to afford a car. This leads to two sections of society having completely different lifestyles and they will eventually not relate to one another through lack of integration. Although it could be argued the unequal rewards are ultimately a result of the intrinsic talents a person possesses from their genes being what was needed to achieve their position, this form of inequality is constructed by society and the opportunities that it provides adults; thus is not an inherent inequality, but over time can create the intrinsic inequality of upbringing as the rich and poor’s children will be brought up with different opportunities. The parents’ position in society is a constructed inequality, but the child’s is not. Sandel’s example is a moral ill because its cause is not arbitrary. The state should be used here to ensure inherent inequalities like this example do not cause constructed inequalities of this degree; however a society must not become dependent on the state as this may put them in a vulnerable position is corruption was to occur.  Thus the constructed inequality that can arise from loyalty to one’s own can be a moral ill and is not simply a fact of life. It should therefore be monitored and kept under control.

Although loyalty to our own kind can be used positively, instead of to be or to cause a moral ill, it can also lead to a hyper sense of a person’s rights. This would occur if someone who was not one of their own were to receive something they did not, leading to a false sense of what is morally wrong. It may seem unfair that someone from abroad received a place at the top university, leaving one of its natives without a place, but this is not a moral ill. This example goes back to Aristotle’s theory of determining if something is just by considering its ‘telos’.  When considering the right to life there is a difference between protection against being murdered and being cured of cancer; being cured of cancer is not a right as not everyone has access to it. If a person is not treated for cancer it is not necessarily a moral ill, as that treatment is an additional benefit of living in that particular society. In contrast every state in the world has the ability to endeavour to protect their citizens from murder and it is only a corrupt government that will deny their citizens this. Therefore state intervention is necessary to ensure that people’s liberties true rights are upheld, however too much state intervention may lead to a complacent society that depends on services or law enforcements that are not really ‘rights’; this is an unsustainable style of government that will not be successful, which can be seen now with the realisation of the UK government that the NHS is unsustainable. Thus this shows why some may perceive more inequalities to be a moral ill than is the case.

In conclusion inherent inequalities are irremovable and affect every aspect of life. These inequalities are not moral ills in themselves as they are not within the control of man; they are morally arbitrary. Having said this these inequalities may cause morally ills, for example self-interest causing someone to murder others to achieve what they want. In reality events like this occur. Constructed inequalities are usually, especially in reality, moral ills. In the case of murder it would be morally wrong if certain members of society were to receive a more serious sentence than others. The state must be used to allow its citizens to achieve themselves and to guide society to create social capital. When the conditions in a society are correct (i.e. an incorrupt state) the use of inherent inequalities should be encouraged as a way to eliminate moral ills. They should not be accepted as a fact of life as even though there may be nothing we can do to stop their presence, we can use them to create a strong civil society. In a perfect world this would be possible using Aristotle’s theory of the “fit model”, however human nature does not always work like that, therefore people would not always accept their given profession or telos. The fact that there is always a level of corruption within society also means that Rawls’ Difference Principle would not work either. As a result of this corruption it is much more effective to use inherent inequalities as a protection against moral ills that exist than to attempt to make everyone in society equal. Aspiring to perfect equality in society may be more of a moral ill because it stops the most talented from helping those less able. Thus it is not inherent inequalities that are a moral ill (while constructed ones may be), but the effects of attempting to ignore or eradicate them. Inequalities are neither a moral ill nor simply a fact of life; they are an ever-present part of human nature that should be nurtured to create the most civil society possible.

Is Inequality a Moral Ill, or Simply a Fact of Life? (Written 2012)

A Defence of the (Not So Dark) Arts

There is this continual debate over whether arts should be given equal merit as the sciences. Recently in the UK it seems to have arrived at the stage where those in power are questioning whether the arts and “soft subjects” should be scrapped all together within the education system. Lunacy, I hear you yell? I couldn’t agree more. I think that this notion is not just idiotic, but dangerous. My reasoning includes the fact that: there is no fixed definition of an “Arts subject” therefore making it practically impossible for politicians to set an unchanging limit to what is scrapped; the arts are intrinsically linked to culture; and it is not actually beneficial to London’s economy, let alone for the UK as a whole. Those in power should strive to not only keep our country at the top, but our people happy and for that we must look to the 3 main responses to normative ethics – the virtue theory, deontology and consequentialism: what is good, what is right and the consequences of our actions. We admittedly have a lot of room for improvement in our efforts to achieve this prosperous state, but I don’t think these recent propositions seek any attempt to fill that room, nor would they deliver in doing so. The idea is a fad diet they follow because their friends mum’s cousin tried it once and it really helped them lose that extra 5 pounds.

Firstly I think we have to pose the question: what actually is a science or an art? Where is the line and is there a line? I don’t think there is. Furthermore I think that seeing things in black and white to this degree rarely leads to a particularly satisfactory, let alone comprehensive answer. More importantly I think that putting any sort of cap on what subjects are available to study leaves the poll greasy and ready to be slipped down faster than anyone would think now. To me, all this arts vs science (or sometimes termed “vocational”) chat is a slap-dash, confused way of our Cady-esque politicians expressing their concern over keeping up with the Regina Georges of the financial world, like China.

I think subjects are split more into disciplines – for example a physicist and medic are both considered scientists, but during their degree a physicist wouldn’t have a module which tests their people skills. Even within a degree– let’s use medicine again: some may specialise in brain surgery and some may train to be a GP. If the real issue is that a subject is too “soft” or too “arty” – are they planning on eliminating said elements that naturally creep into their blessed science degrees? A doctor has to be able to handle the person, not just their cells.

N.B. For the sake of ease I will from now on refer to these subjects that are apparently the spawn of Satan, as “the arts” as that is the term many journalists and MPs have been using during the debate.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will – on the most basic level of democracy this idea of shunning “the arts” is wrong. Delving into the theoretical world the state choosing which subjects we can study would break the Social Contract and the power balance between state and people would be shifted disproportionately. It certainly defies aspects of Freedom of Expression. Also Locke terms our rights in terms of property, which he defines as “life, liberty, and estate”. Locke says that in life “the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness”, thus individual happiness is a human right. Furthermore this is theoretical backing for the idea that happiness is intrinsic to success. Seeing as most of our politicians did PPE they really should know this stuff.

Wait a minute, that’s right the majority of our leaders did do PPE… how very hypocritical of them.

We also have to look at the consequences. Just to start with, it leaves plenty of room for censorship if they can control what we learn from the beginning of our subject specific education. Additionally it would lead to a loss of culture, further sterilising the environment in which we live. We are historically a nation of inventors, storytellers, and war fighters. We have a rich and long history and with this history has come traditions and mannerisms that are knitted into our very being – from drinking tea dating back to our time in India to many of our idioms coming from Tyndale’s first translation of the Bible into English, to wearing a white wedding dress thanks to Queen Victoria etc. These elements of our culture would not be possible in such refined form if study of “the arts” were to be scrapped. Who would have made Kate Middleton’s exquisite dress that was talked about for months (not to mention Pippa’s…)? Creating artistic icons like these is vital. Looking outwardly as a small island we need these as a platform for our scientific merit. Introspectively we need them to ensure a sense of belonging. At a time when so many Brits are so worried that we as a nation are losing any sort of identity, it seems bizarre that we would be in favour of loosening our grip on it further. That in mind I was shocked when I saw Farage has said he would scrap tuition fees for the sciences, but not the arts seeing as he is so concerned with that it is to be British…obviously his focus is skin deep…but let’s not waste words on him.

If you ask a tourist what they think makes a person British, it’s either centuries out of date, rather unpalatable or a bit non-distinct. We have the potential to evolve our culture, as the several different cults of inhabitants on this wee little island have always done. However we don’t and I think our refusal to embrace and express our multitude of characters that make up this nation proudly is a sad effect of viewing success in terms of global financial power.

Focusing in on this idea that politicians are thinking of treating GDP as the great JC of all policy – after all a booming economy get them votes – maybe they should take a second look at their POA. Firstly “the arts” provide the government with a great financial turnout, contrary to popular idea of arty farty faffing about. In 2013 0.1% of state funds went into “the arts” and yet 0.4% of our GDP was as a product of “the arts”. Not so useless now are they? In terms of the City I don’t agree that a more rigorous, scientific approach to education will lead to London’s greater global success. If all accountants did accounting at university, for example, there would be a very narrow array of perceptions. There would be little originality of thought and ultimately innovation and creative thought (granted, alongside precision and intellect) is what brings about progress. Some countries focus solely or mainly on science and technology, Britain does not need to be added to the list. Returning to culture briefly – some cultures are based around the rigid nature of science, like Eindhoven (being the home of Phillips) and some have a stain of communism, but Britain has never been touched by 5 Year Plans and our artists have brought us as much notoriety as our scientists – the Beatles arguably did as much for our country as Isaac Newton. I can see that professional politicians may find this a tricky concept, as they were themselves trained for the job, rather than training their minds and then learning on the job.

Besides, people are being pushed enough at school to do well in core subjects, we no longer have time to breathe or grow into ourselves, and more people are experiencing mental health problems as a result of stress. It’s not good enough to tell them they can take up artistic disciplines as “extra curriculum activities”, they won’t have the time to fit it into their day, let alone the energy to enjoy it. The Dalai Lama was quoted to say “The world doesn’t need more ‘successful people.’ The world desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” This is where the biggest danger lies. Not in the effect it would have on our economy, not even on our culture. If you take away a key element of a well-rounded being from a whole generation you breed ignorance and intolerance. The average Brit accepts so much these days and yet those at the top we are willing to suppress so many. It doesn’t match up.

And it doesn’t fit in with Aristotle’s virtue ethics, which states that to be virtuous you must be act between two opposing vices. Science needs “the arts” in reality, just like the arts needs science. “The arts” has scientific elements like the golden ratio and science must have morality and creative thought. Ethics must be considered in the progression of technology to stop us wiping out our own species, let alone to max out our fulfillment of life.

Finally (you’ll probably be glad to hear) I just bloody love the arts. I love history, politics, literature, debating, going to watch plays… all of it. And I have a lot to thank it for. For example if I hadn’t been forced to do drama at school there is no way I would be able to meet new people confidently now. I’m so opinionated that if I had never been taught to make a balanced argument, through essay writing and critical thinking then Lord help us all, I can’t bare the think of the things I would say to get my point across. I’m lucky because my brain can hack both– I did 2 science AS levels. What about those who simply do not have the mind for science? It would be bad enough to turn them down university style further education, but to turn away their potential at school would be absurd.

Ultimately maybe the intentions behind supressing the arts should be looked at, and if it’s for the success of our country maybe we should rethink what success really is. I agree, there are major issues with our education system and some are choosing less vigorous options out of laziness. Suggestion? Create a more (dare I say it) Scottish or even American system at university where we have to do more than one subject at first.

A Defence of the (Not So Dark) Arts

A Poetic Response To Absolute Incomprehension

Sometimes, when nothing makes sense aurally, I turn to writing to gain some coherence. Poetry is so personal and has such scope for emoting through form, rather than with words alone. Therefore it seems to me to be the most effective way to express what I’m thinking at a time when my brain aches with confusion and as words (ironically) fight for an order.

Epilepsy makes things difficult to comprehend on 2 levels as it strikes so arbitrarily. So here are two I wrote, one for each level of incomprehension. They do not conform to any specific form and are “no great pieces of art”, but to their credit they do vaguely follow a rhyme scheme…

Level 1: invisible conditions are hard to comprehend in general

Believe Me, I Can’t

Why do I have them, did I hear you ask?

The answer to that question is my constant task…

If I describe my symptoms, I’ll hear you say:

“Is this girl for real? No way, José”

The ambiguity and lack of logic of this thing

Makes it hard to know where to begin

What feelings are relevant and what are not?

Your guess is as good as mine, have a shot.

Are you dizzy? are you ataxic? No you’re fine.

To that I say: mark my words. Give it time.

I may be as Perky as they come today,

But soon enough you’ll see I’m not always this Okay…

And sure enough, eventually – you’ll see

One day I won’t stride in so confidently.

I’ll look tired, my eye will have this glaze

That show I’m seeing life through an incoherent haze

Don’t ignore it, I’m putting on a front.

If I could make sense I’d probably be blunt:

“I wish I could understand your words, or remember his

But I can’t. I feel like sh*t. That’s just how it is.” 

Level 2: ataxia and it’s consequent side-effects leaves me in a general state of confusion. I cannot process what others say, let alone respond coherently.

An Episode:

I feel drugged, or embarrassingly drunk.

I’ve lost my sense of humour & all my spunk.

To retain any energy is not worth the fight,

So of the hopes and aims of the day I have to lose sight.

It is not without will, it is not without trying,

It’s just my mind and body keep not complying

My body goes heavy, my mind as light as air

And with no one in this room these visions do I share.

Panic sets in, here it all goes once more.

These paradoxical feelings again to the fore.

Did I go down or have I survived?

I could not bare having to be revived!

I better leave now before a grand mal hits,

No one gets used to seeing tonic clonic fits…

But nothing or no one in this state makes sense,

So any control I leave to others, hence. 

A Poetic Response To Absolute Incomprehension

It’s Time For Me To Stop Admitting And Start Accepting

I have epilepsy and it’s time I accepted it. I don’t exactly hide it: pretty much everyone who knows me is aware I have it and I’m not ashamed to say it. But as I of all people should know, talking is the easy part.

 

I can say it and I can talk about it as much as you want me to, but I can’t myself accept it. Notice how I’m saying it as if my mind won’t even give it a name like if I name it I may be labelled or it may actually be a real thing that actually affects me. I can accept the word being associated with me, but not the thing itself and even less the idea that I have to make lifestyle changes to accommodate for the consequences of having it. As a result I have gotten pretty used to failing, and thus have lost my confidence and any sense of what I want to achieve.

 

I didn’t even notice I was having difficulty dealing with it until now. During school my focus became survival and any notion of dealing with having epilepsy was put aside into the later pile. And it (just) worked. I did not get what I wanted, but I left school with 4 A levels. So, why couldn’t I always put dealing with epilepsy in the later pile?

 

I can’t seem to anything, that’s why: University, no; full time job, no; partying like the rest of the 20year old population, no. The only thing I can do successfully for a long period of time is nothing, but who wants that? Every time I try something I seem to end up failing and feeling like a whole load of idiot; like I’m the old me being lazy or pathetic and using my epilepsy as an excuse. But it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason.

It’s not that I can’t do things (at this point in my head my primary school teachers congregate and chant “there’s no such thing as can’t”), it’s that I don’t have any sense of my limits due to my inability to swallow my pride and create a realistic framework of short-term possibilities. I therefore I feel I can’t achieve anything, when really the problem is I’m trying to achieve unrealistic goals. In my head I am still that 16 year old who dreamt of going to Cambridge and becoming a political speechwriter. That girl could work day and night just because she wanted to and she had the determination to achieve her goals. This girl has both the will and determination, but she has less of a capacity to work such hours.

 

People only tend to see the tonic-clonic seizures, the ones you associate with Hollywood epilepsy. But there is a lot more that goes on and is less understood. There’s the petit mal (eg déjà vu, absences, auras etc.), possible knock on illnesses such as migraines, or side effects of medication such as fatigue or memory loss. There are also, of course, mental effects such as lowered self-esteem and panic attacks. For the record all of the above I have suffered, or still suffer from.

I am starting to realise that it is my epilepsy, not me, that has been the hurdle tripping me up at each open door. Well actually, no. More precisely it’s a combination because it is also my attitude towards the whole matter. A year ago any suggestion of me becoming t-total I laughed at and I saw it as patronising to suggest I did part time work at first instead of plunging into a fully fledged career. As my doctor says some things we can’t help, but others we can. I wanted to battle epilepsy not work with it towards success; I was prepared for a fight, I just chose the wrong one. This lack of acceptance has fogged my mind more than my medication. It has left me in a helpless rut, dug deeper because time and time again I have had to quit impulsive decisions that were in reality desperate attempts to keep life as it was before.

 

So. I’ve learnt the hard way. I have epilepsy and because of that I am (for now) physically and mentally suited to achieving smaller goals, which will in time amount to no less achievement. I do not regret this past year; in fact I have a lot to thank my stubborn ruddy mindedness for, getting me so lost. But lost I have been and it is clear now that my end goal(s) do not have to, and should not change. It is my plan of action in the meantime that does. I have to be able to crawl before I can walk.

 

But as I said before, the talking is the easy part….

 

 

It’s Time For Me To Stop Admitting And Start Accepting