Don’t blame the young for feeling politically disillusioned

So, I’m sure I need to tell precisely no one that Brexit happened this weekend; it’s all over the world news, and I’m almost certain it’s the first time in history that the whole world is laughing except the British. But I’m not going to go into the ins and outs (no pun intended) of that result or the aftermath. What I want to address is a far older complaint.

One thing that those within the UK know that perhaps those outside don’t know is that the UK’s young overwhelmingly supported remaining within the EU, but were outvoted by gran and grandad, much to the anger and disappointment of the voting youth. I can see why they’re angry – whilst I’m not suggesting that the older vote is in any way diminished or even unanimous, it’s a bit odd that the young people that voted to remain will be the ones living with the decision for so long and yet can do nothing to affect the change they wanted to see. It’s kinda sad.

But almost as soon as they were published, the voices of the young people who did vote were dismissed entirely because “if they really cared, why did so few young people vote?”.

Untitled
“Sorry guys, we’d take you seriously but you couldn’t even get Kevin down the road to vote. I mean sure, you didn’t even know he existed, but as a part of your demographic you are somehow magically responsible for him and his ilk.”

I would like to point out that the survey was conducted on young people who did actually vote, so it’s unfair to dismiss their opinion for something so totally out of their control. As someone who voted and is under 24, I’d like to say that I don’t appreciate that. I’d also like to point out that I share the frustration of the whole nation that so few young people in this country engage with politics of any kind – not just this referendum but all of the previous general elections in my lifetime in which the youth vote has continually declined.

But, perhaps more importantly, as a young person I TOTALLY understand why they don’t engage with politics. In fact I openly admit that I feel that pull towards not voting at each point that it’s offered to me. My main motivator for voting, if I’m honest, is the knowledge that so many died to give me the chance to do it.

The motivation not to vote is something I picked up on before I was even eligible. When I was 16, still doing my GCSEs and totally unable to have a say in the country, the 2010 General Election was a popular a talking point for me and my friends than that shitty movie Twilight and it’s never ending sequels. We quickly found that when the country goes to the polls, politicians come out in force to tell the young how much their vote matters, and to make sexy promises like the one Nick Clegg made. You remember, don’t you? The one he immediately backtracked on, issued a non-apology for two years later, and effectively ruined his career over. But I guess we at least got a cool song from it… Not much of a silver lining when I look at my £46,500+ of student debt but it’s something I suppose.

But there you go – I’d learned already not to trust the promises that politicians make when we go to the polls. Over the years that followed, as I passed into voting eligibility, I quickly learned other things too. Mainly that politicians only care about the young voters when we’re at the polls – the rest of the time they honestly couldn’t give a shit what we think, even if we are disproportionately affected by their policies. Take for example the proposed policy to cut various benefits for under 25s in order to save money. Sure, they work shit jobs in a shit economy where they aren’t guaranteed any hours at all, but that just means they don’t pay enough in as far as we’re concerned so fuck ’em. They should go back to living with mum and dad, even if there aren’t any jobs with mum and dad and mum and dad both live in a cemetary or something. What about the so-called-but-not-actually-accurate ‘Living Wage’? I personally thought the idea of a Living Wage was fabulous, signing numerous petitions to see it. I don’t recall having ever said “WOW, this is so fab, please keep me out of it!” Sure, I appreciate that maybe they can’t otherwise afford to do it (and I know they certainly can’t now the economy is up shit creek), but voting it in anyway is basically a declaration that MPs are more than willing to sacrifice living standards for under 25s to suit basically everyone else. Cheers, guys.

None of this was stuff I’d voted for, but I believed in democracy and I’d naively hoped that politicians would spare a thought for us before plowing ahead with their various policies. But every policy that was announced since I became eligible to vote seemed to have a small print that excluded us as a demographic. It’s hard not to wonder what the point is in voting when you sort of know that’s going to be the case.

The point is, politicians can’t ignore the young and throw them under the bus continually and then turn around and ask them to trust them or even help them when it’s time to make a decision about running the country. If you want young people to get involved, involve them or at least acknowledge they exist more than once every 5 years. And when you want to know why under 25s didn’t vote en masse to stop Brexit, remind yourself that they’d been taught from before they could even vote that their opinion didn’t really matter anyway.

 

Don’t blame the young for feeling politically disillusioned

I Talk Shit (Sometimes)

Once upon a time, there was a man who hated a certain sort of person. They got on his nerves so much that he would scream, and steam would come out of his ears. His doctor thought this most unhealthy. One day, the man came up with a cunning plan. “Aha!” he thought, “I can take to the internet to complain about those people!”. So he took to the internet and wrote huge essays in which he branded all those sorts of people “psychopaths”, complete with his own definition of a psychopath…

You’ve probably noticed that I write a lot of stuff which can be said to be somewhat factual; usually based on my own interest or *cough* “expertise”. But, it’s also full of opinions – like my love of pants or my firm belief that prisons don’t really reduce crime (have I mentioned that?). A lot of blogs are that way – if you skim through a few posts, you’ll find an intricate mix of fact and opinion. That’s great; who wants to read a boring, perfectly-balanced essay outside of erm… a place where that sort of thing is standard? Exactly – only weirdos. Fact.

Weirdo.
Weirdo.

The problem comes when you consider that people like my Auntie, or the users of 4chan, actually use the internet. By which I mean those people that believe everything they read, even if it doesn’t make sense or contradicts other information they have read. Where a non-gullible person might look at an obviously wrong thing (say, an instance where the whole world is branded psychotic) and think “what utter nonsense this blogger is talking!”, other folks will look at it and think it’s some seriously deep shit, kept from us under lock and key by the man.

So what?

To explain why this is such a big problem, we need to return to my Auntie. Sorry, Auntie… I’m not poking fun, you’re just a very good example. You see, she is one of your typical Facebook spammers. She LOVES to share things, and puts no consideration at all into whether or not anyone wants to read it. She especially loves the “shocking” “facts” that do the rounds on there – stuff like secret changes to privacy settings, or about new bugs that will eat your insides out that are everywhere, totes. She genuinely believes this stuff, as I mentioned before; she doesn’t even think to double check any of the information she meets, leading to problems where she has made her Facebook page easily accessible to just about anyone, and half her Facebook friends won’t buy pillows anymore for fear of being eaten alive.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.

It all sounds relatively harmless – but there’s more than just Facebook on the internet. What about scammy emails? For starters, my Auntie is a prime target for the Prince of Nigeria. And what about health misinformation? What if seriously ill people suddenly stopped all their treatments, convinced they were going to die if they carried on?

 I’m not exaggerating. In fact, to get my Auntie to stop sharing every bit of crap she came across, another relative told her they all contained viruses that she unwittingly sent to all her Facebook buddies. She didn’t check this and automatically believed it; we’ve not heard a peep since.

And what?

What I’m trying to say is that the internet is full of crap, and if you flick through a few blog posts, the same is true. But the internet is also being used by people who find it super difficult to work out what is real and what is fake. We have to put some responsibility on people to use their common sense and fact check things, sure, but we also have to accept that people are lazy and gullible and just don’t do that. Some responsibility therefore lands on the people creating the content. So for everyone’s sake, please consider this when writing your blog! It takes two minutes to state where the fuck you are getting this from, and if you can’t find something to back it up, state it is an opinion (not the same as fact), or just don’t write it. Simple pimple.

I Talk Shit (Sometimes)

Teen Killers: Life Without Parole – A continuation

I recently read a fantastic article by Anniseed, and I just wanted to quickly say something about it.

It was about the BBC Three documentary that featured a series of young men in American prisons, each of whom had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole prior to turning 18. Each of the men talked about their crimes – all of them had committed murder – and their experiences of prison and rehabilitation (which not all of them had achieved). Viewers were left to form their own opinions of the men, and whether it was just that they remained in prison forever for a crime committed before they are legally old enough to make independent decisions.

Scary, scary shit – I couldn’t even begin to imagine being judged on my actions as a teenager, or spending the rest of my long, long life in prison. It’s a fantastically chilling documentary and I’d recommend watching it, if you can.

Anniseed in mentioned a particular man in the documentary that struck them:

Sean Taylor was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting dead an innocent bystander caught up in gang violence. In prison, he continued to live the life of a gang member, viewing the world through that narrow prism and getting into constant trouble with the authorities. But Sean was fortunate. An older inmate decided to look out for him, and every day would approach him and ask him a particular question. Here Sean leans forward and shares the question that was to save him:

“What have you read today?”

So Sean started reading. And it opened up his eyes to whole new worlds, made him delve into his own inner self, and make the tremendously brave decision to change his life. Through reading, he discovered Islam, and this showed him another path. He gathered his fellow inmates together and told them he was no longer going to be a gang member – he was going to live a better life, even though he was incarcerated, and he would help anyone else who wished to do the same. His transformation was to change not only his life, but the lives of many others. And the State Governor was moved to commute his sentence to parole.

Now Sean lives back in his home community, working with young people to try and stop them from getting involved with gangs, and to steer them away from lives of violence. It’s impossible to know how many lives his actions have actually saved, but his brave effort to pay back society for his own crimes were admirable. He spoke as an intelligent, committed and articulate man, and his story moved me greatly. I am inspired.

Proof, if any be needed, that reading can change lives.

That last sentence, that really grabbed me. It’s hard not to take away a message about the importance of books, and education in general, in the process of rehabilitation when faced with inspiring stories such as those of Sean Taylor.

Yet in the UK, a blanket ban has been introduced on the sending of books to prisoners. Sure, they still have access to books in the prison library, but the supply is somewhat limited. And sure, there are some prisoners that have used books to smuggle drugs and other items into prison in the past. Does that really mean that we should deny the entire prison population the opportunity of self-improvement, or the important moral lessons books often contain? I doubt it. When you see these case studies of  people who have turned their whole lives around on the basis of important influences in prison, like particular texts, can you really deny prisoners that opportunity?

Most of these people have not had access to the things we take for granted – a quality education, books, a stable home environment – and prison represents an ideal opportunity to introduce them to these things, in an effort toward their rehabilitation and their reintegration into society. We shouldn’t punish people for the sake of punishing them.

Teen Killers: Life Without Parole – A continuation

The (Un)Friend Zone

I apologise for my absence – it was my birthday a few days ago. Let me make it up to you!

I’m going to tell you a story. It goes like so:

Once upon a time, there was a 15 year old girl called Laura, who had a really close male friend. She thought the world of him – even though everyone else found him quite irritating and selfish. She just never saw that side of him. She was really glad to have him as a friend.

One day, Laura and her friend – let’s call him “Ben” – went for a walk in the local area. Ben decided, for some reason, he wanted to go to the grave yard (yeah, creepy, right?) because there was something in there he wanted Laura to see. So she obliged, and off they went. He took her to a patch of grass and sat down… then turned to her and asked her to freakin’ marry him

Laura was shocked – she had no idea he felt that way, and she never wanted to get married, and, well, Ben just wasn’t her type. He was her close friend, and she liked it that way; she didn’t want anything more. So Laura decided to do the right thing, and tell him the truth. He nodded, she gave him a sympathetic hug, and they both went home. As soon as she got through the front door of her house, she received a message from Ben. He called her a total bitch, and said it would be her fault if he went to kill himself that night. Laura was devastated and broke into tears. She told her family, who called him a git. She told her friends.. who sided with Ben, because she’d totally “friend-zoned” him and she was ‘cruel’.

As I’m sure you can tell, this actually happened to me when I was 15. It was seriously scary and upsetting. But you’ll be glad to know he didn’t kill himself at all. Still, the subject of the “friend zone” is one that touches a nerve with me, naturally. So you can only imagine how I felt when on my news feed this morning, I found this:

Yeah, seriously. This exists.
Yeah, seriously. This exists.

I’ve had enough of this shit too. I have a personal policy when it comes to people who insist upon the friend-zone being a real thing, something which is increasingly well known. I UNFRIEND YOUR ASS.

You read that right. You talk about how you, or someone you know, has been “friend-zoned” and, context permitting, I will cease to be your friend. Some people think this is rather dramatic, but I totally disagree. Allow me to explain this policy.

You see, bleating about the friend zone actually says a lot about a person and how they view their friendship and relationships, stuff that probably influences the way they act. People that believe in the friend zone are looking at friendships and intimate relationships from a particular angle – the ‘slot machine’ angle. It works like this:

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A. 

Friendship is a slot machine – you put “niceness” chips in, and you expect eventually the “machine” will put out in a particular way. You’ve been nice to it, you’ve given it your time and all your niceness chips. You deserve a reward. So when the machine doesn’t put out, you’re upset. You maybe shake the machine, demand to know why it isn’t working, and walk away from it to find a machine that does work like that.

One error these people make is that friendships just don’t work that way. In fact, they might look a little more like this:

Yeah, those 'niceness chips' really get around, buddy.
Exhibit B. Yeah, those ‘niceness chips’ really get around…

Let’s say each of those people are the female’s friend, and the arrows are the famous ‘niceness’ chips. Some of them might be interested in relationships with one of those ladies… but judging by the diagram, niceness chips alone doesn’t quite cut it. They both have plenty of niceness chips, and they’re giving plenty of them back. Friendships, much like relationships, are reciprocal – you give something, they give something too.

Plus, the other point about friendships is the reason why you are being nice to someone. Most people are nice to their friends because they enjoy their company, and they want to keep these people happy because dang, these people are awesome to hang out with. If you are being nice to someone simply because you expect something particular in return – like some sweet, sweet lovin’ – you might be a manipulative selfish butthole. Your niceness does not entitle you to any special favours – it is the cornerstone of a good friendship, and a good friend is all that it entitles you to. That’s it. Nothing else.

I was nice to her, so that totally means I can steal her stuff, right?
I was nice to her, so that totally means I can steal her stuff, right?

When relationships do form out of friendships, it’s because that person offers something else on top of niceness coins – like they find them physically attractive, or they share the same sense of humour or something. So if they don’t accept your offer for a relationship, it simply means you were missing that magical ingredient at that time. It sucks for you, but deal with it. Life isn’t a fucking fairy tale. Do not reject their choice entirely and tell them you’re a ‘nice person’ who totally just got shoved into a ‘friend-zone’ by someone who totally only wants to date ‘losers’ or ‘assholes’. (Acting like an asshole isn’t going to make them jump into your arms.) Try respecting their choice as an adult of reasonable intelligence who is fully capable of making their own damn life decisions.

So when I say I will not be your buddy if you talk to me about the damn friend-zone, what I mean is just this – I am convinced that you will only see me in terms of what I can do for you, and not as a real person with real feelings, who makes legitimate choices about my own life, or as a person you might like to have around just because we have fun. I don’t want a friendship based on manipulation and bullshit, thanks. Welcome to the unfriend-zone.

The (Un)Friend Zone

Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

TW: This advice is inaccurate and horrible, and might bring back some nasty memories for anyone who has experienced the horrors of bullying. 

You might have heard the story of the school in Nebraska that sent it’s students home with the following advice on bullying:

"advice"

Wow, well done folks. Keep going and you might be shortlisted for the ‘Jerk of the Year’ awards along with US Airlines.

Obviously, this was a mistake. That’s certainly what they’ve told everyone, anyway, and they have since apologized and issued new advice. But let’s face it, anyone who’s been bullied will have heard this lame-ass advice anyway. Despite knowing full well that literally none of the “rules” on that list actually stops bullying, we just carry on with the general ‘sticks and stones’ mantra. WTF, universe?!

bullied-doge

 

This is something that seriously upsets me. Not only was I bullied, but repeatedly I was subjected to this pathetic pseudo-helpful “advice”. In fact once, when I was 13 and pre-self-harm, I went to tell my teacher – my personal tutor, in fact – about being bullied in school for my sexuality (everyone suspected I was gay, that’s a story for another day). He gave me similar advice about not letting them get to me, ignoring them and such. A couple of days later at my parents evening he even had the cheek to tell my father I was “unbulliable”, such was the fuck that man specifically put in charge of my care did not give.

The main problem with this advice is that it represents just that – it reeks of ‘put up and shut up kid, because it’s not our responsibility, and damn it you probably deserve it‘. It’s not dramatic of me to say so – it’s all summed up explicitly in the last three so-called “rules”:

Rule #7: Do not tell on bullies. The number one reason bullies hate their victims, is because the victims tell on them. Telling makes the bully want to retaliate. Tell an adult only when a real injury or crime (theft of something valuable) has occurred. Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?

Rule #8: Don’t be a sore loser.

Rule #9: Learn to laugh at yourself and not get “hooked” by put-downs. Make a joke out of it or agree with the put-down. For example: “If you think I’m ugly, you should see my sister!”

Loving number 9 – bully your sister, kids, on the off-chance that by ruining the reputation of your sibling and destroying your relationship, you might, just might, stop being bullied. Lovely.

Seriously though, this advice assumes automatically that you have done something to offend the bully, so you totally deserve to be bullied. Maybe you “tattled”, or it’s your sense of humour. Maybe it’s the way you dress, or talk, or walk. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s your gender, or your sexuality. Hey, whatever, kid. You must suffer the consequences of being different. Including, but not limited to, the intense and wide-ranging physical and psychological effects of being bullied.  It just isn’t our concern.

It’s so easy to pass the buck if you pin all the blame on the kids being bullied…

Except we all know the responsibility for bullying lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. Blaming the victims is only going to reinforce this as a viable option in response to whatever shit the bully is going through. Is this really the only plan we’ve got in dealing with bullying – messing up a whole bunch of kids lives because we can’t be bothered to get our hands fucking dirty? It seems so obvious to me that we should try to help the damn people involved, including the bullies.

Before you weep for humanity though, guys, there are two things you have to remember. The first is that there’s people like this guy in the world. The second, is that you can still change these things. Get involved campaigning against bullying, teach your kids or your friend’s kids or whoever about it. Call people up on the stupid advice they’re giving if you overhear this rubbish. Do things.

Don’t let bullying win.

 

 

Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

I’m totally not a feminist – except when I am entirely a feminist.

There was this lone tree in the middle of a small patch of grass at school that us ‘freaks’ claimed for ourselves (until the school chopped it down, presumably because we were having too much fun), and this was where we would have lunch every day, provided it wasn’t sopping wet or covered in snow. I distinctly recall one lunch break at school at the tree, sat munching my sandwiches happily, when the subject of feminism came up.

“I think feminism is stupid,” one of my friends began. “It’s full of man-hating women that just want to be superior to men. I want to be equal to men; I don’t hate men at all.”

We all nod. “It should be called equalitism or something,” someone adds, having yet to be introduced to humanism I presume.

“I agree with women’s rights,” I remember saying, “but I’m not a feminist.”

At the time, this statement was entirely correct. I have always been a fierce supporter of equality in all forms, but never did I identify as a feminist. Even as I began to call myself “Ms” instead of miss – following a lesson on the origins of the term that left me feeling unclean – I wouldn’t allow myself to be called a feminist. I knew of no feminists, who were frequently criticized by the adults in my life, so my stereotyped view of them was left unchecked. I didn’t want to be a hairy, unclean, militant, grumpy bra-burner who loathed men.

Over the course of time, I began to understand that the people peddling these ideas that feminism is the domain of hairy, man-hating lesbians were the same people desperately trying to suppress the fight for equal rights for… well, just about everyone really. It’s seems pretty obvious to me now, but as a kid you just aren’t aware of these things, especially when no one you know is a feminist. In fact, my first introduction to someone with the same views as me identifying as a feminist was in my media heroes; people typically named Ellen or Jess who talk a lot of intelligent stuff and who’s brains I would literally kiss if it wouldn’t kill them instantly.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? You’d be right – the entire freakin’ point of me telling you all of this is that we should be proud to be supporters of equality. We need to shout from every rooftop how freaking awesome it feels not to be oppressing people. 

Because if we don’t, there are going to remain a whole bunch of very confused people out there who genuinely believe the bullshit that people say about advocates for women’s rights, and are going to fall into the traps set by conservative prudes desperate to keep them in their places. That isn’t extreme – it’s already happened to a lot of the girls who were in that very conversation with me that day. They’ve accepted their ‘lot’ in life, and given up on big dreams, just because those dreams aren’t the done thing for ladies. That’s so sad. Seriously – fuck that shit. No more.

So let’s talk about rights; loudly, publicly, until it drives our neighbours bonkers. Let’s don a uniform of pro-whatever badges, and bumper stickers, and t-shirts, maybe even shoes. Let’s all be feminists.

I’m totally not a feminist – except when I am entirely a feminist.

I love people that don’t have all the answers.

Every time I go to restaurants, it seems to take me forever to decide what I want to eat. Usually that’s because there’s a lot of good stuff on the menu, or because I had something similar recently, or because someone else is paying and my favourite meal costs a small fortune and I’m trying to decide if it’s okay to order it. On a few occasions it’s been because there’s not been as much food on the menu as wine – I like to ask for water in those places because it messes with them, they act like they don’t even remember what water is when you ask.

Anyway, the point is, everyone always laughs at me for this. It’s gotten to the point that instead of taking my time, I copy someone else’s order because it’s easier than trying to decide while everyone is mocking me (which is really distracting). Sometimes that even leads to me eating stuff I’m just not supposed to have, and feeling super ill later. I know, I know – you’re thinking “why on Earth would you even do that it’s so stupid?”. I’m with you, buddy.

Sometimes, the world can be an incredibly demanding place. It wants answers, and it wants them RIGHT NOW. Which I can understand; I’d love to just skip ahead to the bit where we have a cure for cancer, for example. Yet in this demanding world, being in a hectic rush can actually pretty counter-intuitive. We all know that we make mistakes easily when running around like headless chickens trying to meet insane deadlines, yet somehow we still do it anyway, and frequently criticize people that don’t have meet them.

Jeez, you’d be amazed just how many times I’ve heard in my young life thus far that fence-sitting is just not allowed. (I hate that term; it almost seems like accepting parts of both arguments on a subject is not actually a decision, when it is.) Even in situations where there isn’t a clear answer, you’d better have one, buddy…

You know what? I actually love people that don’t have all the answers immediately, and sometimes aren’t totally sure what they want. They’re careful people – they’re probably engaged in a good, long debate about the pros and cons of having that steak, or whatever the debate is to be had. When they do eventually make their decision, it’s a damn good one, having been thoroughly considered. It’s something that they stick to, usually, because it’s the absolute right decision for them.

Not only is it good for individuals to take their time, but the undecided among us are good for the rest of us as well. While ever they’re ‘fence-sitting’, we still have to debate the important issues with them. We have to refine our arguments, keep producing evidence – we have to be sure before they can be sure. So when we are arguing, the same thing happens for us; we become entirely certain that what we’re saying is right, or else we’re forced to switch sides. (That’s the theory, anyway; some people are likely to just continue blindly arguing without thought.)

We need more time-takers. I freaking love those guys!

I love people that don’t have all the answers.