Why We All Deserve Two Months Of Advent Festivities

Last night I went to my first carol concert of the year. And I can tell you now, I left feeling the most genuinely joyful that I have in 2016 so far.

It’s safe to say that when my fellow caroller and I arrived at Saint Stevens we were both pretty, ok thoroughly, depressed. Deadlines, cold to the bone from student-flat heating (or lack of…), tired, bored of  the semester, missing family, missing home, missing dogs, missing summer, missing warmth, missing freedom. The list that fed our wallowing self-pity was never ending. Yet when we left the church, we couldn’t stop laughing, we couldn’t care less about our imminent deadlines, and we no longer needed central heating to keep ourselves warm.

On my walk home, such a turn-around of emotion got me thinking: why are we so much more stressed this year than last? We aren’t in an honours’ year, and we’re no longer living in the prison of student halls. Then I remembered: 2016 has been a true car-crash. As if I could forget… Our petty stresses were a reflection of the more general events of attrition that has led to the global population’s general sense-of-humour failure.

Every day we are reminded of the utter insanity that this year has consisted of. Let’s remind ourselves of a few examples, just for fun:

Today BBC breaking informed me that Thomas Mair is indeed guilty of -what I proudly previously thought of as being absurdly un-British- the killing Jo Cox MP. This cruel act occurred just a week before the unprecedentedly revolutionary *cough* outrageous *cough* Brexit vote. On top of these, for the whole year we’ve had running commentary of a head-to-head, evil-meets-evil, lose-lose situation, presidential election campaign. Such narcissistic displays of power play has sapped our limited positivity despite it not even being our own elections. We are now totally, and utterly, exhausted as a body-politic.

Syria meanwhile has been shaking things up more than ever, both through their ongoing, terrible suffering on the front lines, and through the refugee crisis. Not only are we exhausted but we are now knotted in an attempted mixture of genuine empathetic grief and charity.

Then we have the multitude of European terror attacks. France has been the focus of several attacks: Paris and Nice to name the biggest. This brings all the terror so much closer to home; we are now not only exhausted and trying desperately to be empathetic, but (often conflictingly so) we are also truly fearful of our own safety.

There have been fatal earthquakes in places such as Italy, and another massive hurricane in Haiti. And on top of all these political and natural disasters we have lost so many of our national treasures, our idols. We’ve genuinely grieved the loss of many of those figures who usually we rely on to comfort and entertain us when everything goes a bit tits-up, gets a bit serious and stressful (see above 3 paragraphs…). No more inspiration from Prince, no more dry wit from Wogan, the last of the Ronnies gone. We can’t even get angry at Alan Rickman for almost cheating on Emma Thompson anymore, without forgiving him and begging him to come back to us to say “Potter” one more time.

And as it’s the era of a social media orientated, globalised world our reactions are forever scrutinised. We care too much, but if we don’t express our care whole heartedly in public we are ignorant to our surroundings. We are cruel if we don’t “pray for Paris”, but when we do we are accused to not caring about civilians in Libya or Israel or Palestine. We are so tense and stressed and “concerned” that every move we make at this point seems to make everything worse.

Normally I am a true advocate for not starting the Christmas fun until December 1st. It just makes sense right? Starting in October like that one crazy aunt, or in August like the money-grabbing retailers, is simply madness that must be protested against. Why? In case we get *bored* of Christmas before actual Christmas, or as positive action against consumerism. But this year, I say screw convention, I have had enough of protesting. There is no way that singing jingle bells whilst dancing around a Christmas market in my ridiculous chunky knit is going to get boring this year.

We’ve been through enough. My pre-carol woes were a microcosm for social anxieties concerning the global economy, global diplomacy and quite frankly, at this rate, the fate of the human race. Yet forgetting all of my problems, the petty and the slightly more serious, did more good for me than being “concerned”, or “involved” or “trying to make a difference”. I may have spent most of today in bed, watching iPlayer and eating, but I’m happy and I’m calm and I’m ready to face my to-do list whilst retaining some sanity. Turning on radio 4 this morning I laughed at the sound of Trump’s voice, rather than shiver with disgust and fear. Wouldn’t 2016 look so much better if we could laugh at the absurdity of it all and celebrate the fact that it’s going to belong to the history books oh so soon? Wouldn’t we all make better, more rational decisions if May and Corbyn wore santa outfits, and their cabinets dressed as elves for a while? Ok, maybe that’s one fantasy to many, but the idea is still valid, no?

Christmas is about uniting. It’s about celebrating. We may no longer all give it the religious focus that it once had. And yes, most of us have a pretty grim 25th with dry turkey and wet relatives. But the festive season is there to lift the spirits. It’s the one time of the year where we can really, truly, take some time to sit back and appreciate the good, have a belly giggle, and have fun without worrying about having summer bods or tickets to the best festivals. All we need is family and some Christmas lights. How refreshingly simple.

So screw the December 1st rule. We’ve tried caring and being serious, it’s quite frankly not working. This year we need a double dose of “festive”, two layers of Christmas jumpers and two rounds of We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Now excuse me while I go to my local German Market and freeze my bum off on a merry-go-round, with some mulled wine in-tow.

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Why We All Deserve Two Months Of Advent Festivities

“If Only Millennials Voted The Result Would Have Been Different”…So What?

 

Dear British and US media,

Please kindly stop isolating demographics and blaming results of democratic elections on certain groups of people. I get it. I too am here to defend the liberal assets of Western society and to celebrate the diversity that it ensues. And yes some people are attacking our increasingly lovely liberal world. And yes a lot of these people are older, stuck in their ol’ racist ways that are kind of ok at Sunday lunch, but not ok on the bus or when it comes to the ballot box. But since when does that give any of us the right to dismiss their opinion? Doesn’t that entirely contradict the liberal mind-set we spend our lives lording over everyone else? And how are we doing anything for our democracy if we think results shouldn’t count unless we agree? I think you can probably answer those questions yourself…

Let’s start with the elderly. Yes, I was indeed one of the thouands of millenials  who took to my facebook wall, to the safety of my opinion echo-chamber, to declare my outcry. If only 18-24 years olds’ votes were counted, it would have been a 74% vote for Remain! How dare the older generation ruin our future! They won’t even live to see the consequences!

Woops…This is why I refrained from further voicing of my opinions at the time.

First of all, 56% of the 45-54y/o category voted to leave actually. Akward. It would be barmy to suggest that a 45 year old would be unlikely to live through the consequences. These days someone of 45 years old has barely left their parent’s home…but that’s a whole other article. The people who had the most idea (who let’s face it had really very little idea)- the fact machines, or economists as some people call them – told us that it was in the short-mid term that we would experience most economic problems. Well then, I’d say that a 45 year old, hey even a 54 year old, was voting for their future then. In economic terms they have as great a vested interest in our country not going tits-up as we do. After all they have their dreaded pensions to save for. At this rate they won’t get one until they’re 80, so I can imagine they want our economy to be in a state that allows for them to receive one before they die. Moreover if we aren’t earning enough to provide for a family, how will we help our ironically pensionless OAPs? You get the gist. It was pure, selfish naivety to suggest that it was only our poor young souls who would be affected for better or for worse by the outcome of the referendum.

Other virile, bitter remarks were spat at our elders saying that they harked back to a ‘rose-tinted’ past; one which was no longer symbolised Britain as we know it today. I agree. But. Democracy. Just because we don’t all long for a Britain with Churchill (the PM, not the dog, kids) sings us rhetoric and butters us up with notions of imperial power and independence. Our different perspective doesn’t mean that their visions are less firm-footed or valid than ours. More importantly it doesn’t make ours more. For example: I wanted to stay so that I didn’t need a visa to see my boyfriend, who lives in the Netherlands. I’m sure I was not the only young person with personal reason that affected my vote at the cost of someone else’s preference. And just like I’m sure ol’ grandpa Joe didn’t just vote based on drunk Churchill circa 1940, I didn’t just vote based on my ability to hop over for a weekend in Amsterdam. Just as Brexiteers were fed lies about NHS funding and the like, I’m sure if Remain had won we wouldn’t have reaped many of the benefits promised, or.lol..World War 3 would still probably on the cards…

Basically, the EU referendum shouldn’t have happened in my opinion. As I’ve made perfectly clear above, none of us really had a clue what was going on, what was best. We still don’t apparently. I’m not sure that the courts, who ruled against the Government last week really have it sussed either… But the American election is a pretty crucial element of the US’s democracy. Preferably not to be missed, one could say. Similar problems have popped up with the American Presidential election this week, and henceforth my silence ends.

Although official stats aren’t out yet, it seems that, like with Brexit, young people wanted Hilary to win. Whilst I, like many others, had a little cry to myself on Wednesday morning, and thanked my lucky stars that my mum’s house in London has a basement, I do not think that Trump voters belonged to one demographic, who’s voice should have been silenced. In a way it’s kind of (not really, but urgh! I suppose it must be) magical to think that despite all attempts to degrade, shame and shut-down those who were rooting for him, their voice was still heard. Yet still on my facebook wall, after everyone went out to vote and play along with the system, I see cries of the election being unfair. Such voices included articles calling for the elderly to not be allowed to vote as young people were supposedly robbed of their futures. All I can think is how hypocritical, less that 24 hours after proudly posted you “I voted” sticker on instagram, you’re now slamming the system and other proud voters because you didn’t get your way? Almost as childish as Trump, really.

Disclaimer alert: I understand the horrific nature of the ‘Whitelash’ associated with the outcome of this US presidential election. I think that some of the opinions and acts that the result seems to have supported and sparked are disgusting. And I think it is truly sad that many minorities sad suffer greatly. As a white Brit I am aware that I am complacently writing about sulking and media coverage that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter all that much. I also understand the ideological stand-point behind the isolating the young’s vote in the media. We are in, general. more liberal; we have grown up in a much more diverse society than most in older generations. However in America, plenty of Trump’s racist, misogynistic, intolerant supporters were young. During the Brexit referendum (regardless of whether it should have happened) it was more than an issue of age which split public opinion.

Ultimately then it comes down to an issue of democracy. We can campaign and we can express express express our own opinions, and we can argue with the other side(s) until the cows come home. But it is in this way that we must change results, rather than refusing to accept the end result and asserting superiority of opinion. As liberals, we have sort of shot ourselves in the foot by being liberals, really. To be liberal, to believe in democracy (and I believe the two do go hand in hand), you’ve got to accept other sides’ opinions. In fact you’ve got to cherish them, absorb them, let them be expressed too. You can think something different, by all means, but you can’t silence them. You can think the opposition is full of abhorrence: passionately believe that the other person could not be more wrong, more vile, or more hateful. But it’s the isolationist, protectionist, conservative has chosen the easy side because they’re the ones who can live in ignorance. They can shut off any opposition, not us liberals.

So, fellow freedom loving, self-expressing millennials and media junkies. Stop excluding other demographics. Stop thinking that your problems, your priorities and your fears for the future are superior, and others are superfluous. Stop sulking. stop being hypocritical. Instead, why don’t we concentrate on moaning about our pathetic turnout. Maybe if we spread our positivepolitical expression more we will see progress that pleases us. We need to encourage the non voters to take an interest, and this cannot be done by sounding vulgar, deafening noises. Campaign is as important as elections, and the nature of a campaign is crucial. If we want less extremism, why don’t we appeal to greater human sensitivities such as compassion, instead of feeding off the poison of political point scoring.  Maybe then we’d make ours the hegemonic voice of the people. Or maybe we wouldn’t. But it’s not just the young, liberal person’s world. And that’s what sucks about democracy…

Thanks for listening. I hope you heard me.

From a loving millennial.

“If Only Millennials Voted The Result Would Have Been Different”…So What?

BANKSY’S WORK IS A LEGITIMATE VOICE OF THE VULNERABLE

If you think Banksy’s work is no more than an act of vandalism you are wrong. It may be that graffiti is illegal, but one thing’s for sure: his work goes far further than him pissing on a street wall to mark his territory. And his newest piece is no exception.

 

Over the weekend Banksy’s latest thought provoking message appeared on a street corner in Knightsbridge. The piece – which depicts Cosette from Les Miserables, emerging from a fog of gas with her eyes streaming – is a clear response to the French Police’s night raid on refugees in Calais. Next to the mural is a barcode that allows passers by to watch the police attack for themselves on their smart phones.

 

No one can deny that it is clever or powerful. Fundamentally it is not so much the message that Banksy is presenting here that is of importance, but the act itself: bringing the conversation, which is so needed, to the realm of popular-culture.

 

Purely through his conscious anonymity and the cult following that entails, he wields a power in conversation unmatched by politicians or identified activists. Said activists are too in-your-face and politicians would rather not have the conversation, unless it will win them votes. The vast majority of people avoid listening to either at all costs.

 

His message, though, is also incredibly important. Banksy has once again provided a voice for the vulnerable: those who cannot legally or visibly be heard. Without a whisper, or pledging allegiance, Banksy has managed to become an advocate and speak for a group of people in dire need of attention. People whose own attempts are being drowned out in the media by football scores, Corbyn drama and the Great British Weather.

 

When officials aren’t averting our gaze they soothe our angst by patting the heads of those helping from afar, as if that’s sufficient action. They’re perfectly happy to congratulate Germany on their warm welcome to those who made it to Europe. Well up for considering those Greek islanders, who helped so many, for a Nobel Peace Prize. But actively help them themselves? Unlikely. Apparently the government has got 99 problems and helping refugees ain’t one.

 

Banksy’s depiction of un-humanitarian police action, so vulgar that it would hurt the children of a Revolution, may not go down so well with those who think ignorance is bliss. But I don’t think there are many Brits who wish to remain in the dark. That’s why the voices of popular artists like Banksy are so necessary: we need to be aware of all, not just official opinions.

 

That his voice comes in the form of vandalism is part of his point; his protest is against the State, testing the rules of our society that he believes are unjust. It’s illegality and accessibility adds a dimension of authenticity that can only be achieved in public spaces.

 

In true ironic style the council have now, (as they often do with a piece of vandalism as valuable as a Banksy) covered the mural, not in the name of the law, but to save it so that it can be sold for huge amounts of money. I doubt that any of the money raised will go towards helping the real-life tear-stained Cosette’s wipe their eyes dry.

 

No matter: it looks like Banksy’s job here is done. Enough people saw it for it to go viral, make the news and lead many news websites to include the all important video that the barcode links to.

 

Once again it shows that rules are there to be broken. Big up Banksy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BANKSY’S WORK IS A LEGITIMATE VOICE OF THE VULNERABLE

I’M A BARBIE GIRL, IN THE REAL WORLD

Mattel has announced a new range of ‘realistic’ Barbies. Customers will now be able to choose from three body types, seven skin tones, and twenty-four hair shades. While the collection may have limited direct social implications, and is undoubtedly a ploy to regain lost traction in the toy market, the latest additions do sport the badge of realism and diversity. This has to be seen as a step in the right direction.

 

As an icon and the most realistic doll out there, the plastic figure has a heavy responsibility, serving as a role model to millions of young children across the globe. So far she has failed in her duties. Adults criticise and blame her for embedding all sorts of insecurities, while their children play innocently. All the while they are unknowingly yet another generation to be conditioned to think that being anything other than a white, blonde, blue-eyed, tall ‘woman’ with a pinched waist, thigh gap and perfect boobs, is no good.

 

It’s in Barbie’s very nature to evolve: she was after all modeled on a German hooker doll, ‘Lilli’. The creator, Ruth Handler has been known to say that “every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future”. Funnily enough, mothers haven’t tended to be so keen on their children dreaming of their future involving being paid for sex.

 

But so far, by way of social awareness, the company’s modifications of Barbie lie merely in her clothing: astronaut Barbie in the 60s, disco Barbie in the 80s. Never before have they dared such radical progression as to allow her to eat. Never before have they accepted that children of different races might like to play with a toy that lets them dream about their own personal future.

 

What Mattel has done is not revolutionary. Barbie isn’t the first in a line of brands, like Dove, to respond to growing resistance to society’s obsession with the visual utopia that is presented to women. Consumer demand has called for a reality check. Producers have been, albeit slowly, responding. It’s simple economics, not groundbreaking morality.

 

But the change is still significant. Even if it is the smallest of steps towards social equality. Even if it is to keep up with competitors. Even if people only buy the already existing, outdated Barbie. It’s important because toys are important cultural symbols: they reflect what we as a society deem appropriate for our children to identify with. Dolls help to shape our children’s – aka society’s future’s – view of beauty. For the individual, ‘realistic’ Barbie will hopefully go some way to show children that their own looks are iconic. Broadly speaking, children playing with dolls that are of a different colour, or body shape, or are ginger, instills acceptance, even a love of diversity.

 

Beauty ideals are not a fixed, but they are pretty entrenched in our culture. Dove may make already insecure adult women feel better about their ‘flaws’, but to really change our perception of what is beautiful, to really create a society which unanimously celebrates diversity, we must look to the impressionable souls of the future generation.

 

The designers of Barbie’s endeavours most probably boil down entirely to a need to respond to increasing competition. But so what? Their response to consumer demand is a mark of how our culture of prejudice is waning; so much that an item that has been an icon for 57 years requires dramatic revamping to avoid fading out of the market. For that reason I could not be happier with this new line of Barbies.

 

 

 

I’M A BARBIE GIRL, IN THE REAL WORLD

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.

 

 

 

Picking on People Isn’t Fighting Our Fat Problem

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