11 February 2018

Bernie 2020 - Why Not?

Although Trump is only in his second year as the 45th President of the United States, it is quickly becoming that time when we speculate who will challenge him at the next election. It seems very soon to be talking about the next election already, but it’s one of those topics that never stops getting discussed. Partly due to the excitement that an election entails, but specifically this year, it’s almost definitely the eagerness and will of the people to see the back of Trump. Realistically, we will know who most of the candidates are by the autumn of 2019. 

Back in 2016, Hillary Clinton was fighting tooth and nail to try and stop an old independent Jewish socialist from beating her in the Democratic primaries. At times, she struggled to win big against Bernie Sanders in states that she thought were hers by default, and during the debates, she was battered and bruised by the enigmatic Senator from Vermont. One of Clinton’s biggest mistakes against Sanders was assuming the nomination was hers. Clinton came across as if she believed that she deserved the nomination and was the heir apparent to Obama. Unfortunately, for her, Bernie Sanders stole the hearts and minds of a nation. He stood up against the most establishment candidate to have ever run in the Democratic primaries. Clinton eventually beat Sanders, but news surfaced soon afterwards that the Democratic Party were never going to let Sanders win. In fact, it turns out, they attempted to rig the primaries and unfairly gave Clinton the nomination.

A battered Hillary Clinton went on to fight against the winner of the Republican primaries, and now 45th President of the USA, Donald J. Trump. Although Clinton won by quite some votes (a couple of million to be more specific) she failed to beat Trump in the electoral college, which meant Trump took the presidency. A once joke candidate beat the assumed heir apparent. People were in shock as they watched Trump win. Their cockiness and ignorance assumed that people wouldn't possibly vote for Trump. How wrong they could've been. However, Trump is officially the least popular president of all time and people are wondering who can beat him in 2020. Moreover, that’s not just Democrats. Republicans too long to replace the Alt-right Trump. 

Typically, but probably more so now because of Trump, rumours of celebrities running for the presidency have been discussed. Not least after the Gold Globes and Oprah’s magnificent speech. Along with Oprah, Tom Hanks, Ellen Degeneres, Kanye, Lady Gaga and the Rock have all been spoken about as potential candidates for the Democratic nomination. Of course, they will all probably stay as rumours and the celebrities won’t attempt to take on President Trump. Although, tell Kayne not to do something and he’ll probably end up trying to do it…

Naturally, there will be numerous senators and governors declaring their candidacy in the end. American politicians on both sides who we’ve never heard of before. And, of course, there’ll be the unlucky losers of last year’s primaries who will have a second/third attempt. People such as Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker. Also, other notable politicians such as Joe Biden, Paul Ryan and Elizabeth Warren will all probably throw their hat in the ring. However, there’s only one person I care about for 2020. That person is Bernie Sanders.

The thing is, if it wasn’t for the rigged Democratic Primaries, I think #BernieWouldveWon. Without going into the technicalities of why he would've won, it’s clear that Bernie has started a revolution in American politics. As I mention in my latest book, We the Extremists, Bernie Sanders represents the leftwing populism that is attempting to counter the rightwing populism of Donald Trump. We have two extremes in American politics at the moment. You have the new socialist left and the alt-right. (In the middle, the conservatives and neoliberals sit crying about how it’s not fair) As Trump knew his target voter, so did Bernie Sanders. What’s more, like all populism, the populist right can easily be won-over by the populist left. At the end of the day, populism targets disenfranchised voters. Trump’s populism uses messages of fear. Bernie’s populism uses messages of hope. Both sides say they’re on the side of the worker but they choose different reasonings to explain why the worker is worse off and how they can fix it. 

By polling day 2020, Bernie Sanders will be a prestigious 79-years-old. I bring that up because some people suggest that he’ll be too old to run; too old to be president. I can understand why people would think that. A president should be of good health - both physically and mentally. A president should be at the top of their game. A president is expected to travel a lot and work long days. It’s natural that people would doubt a 79-year-old man’s capability. However, Bernie Sanders is of great health, he campaigned immensely hard in 2016 and visited far more places than Hillary did. 79 sounds old and by the time he finishes his first term, he’ll be 83. Maybe then people should doubt whether he’d be fit enough for a second term. But late seventies doesn't mean wheelchair bound, in a home and losing your mind. I believe Sanders will be up for the job in 2020 and shouldn't be pushed aside. Let’s face it, William Gladstone was 82 when he was appointed Prime Minister in 1892 for the fourth time and Churchill was 80 when he left office in 1955. 

bernie sanders GIF

23 January 2018

Misguided Abuse

Currently, in England, men who have had sex with men in the last three months (with or without a condom) can’t donate blood. Women who have had sex with a man who has slept with a man in the last three months also can’t give blood. Ten years ago, men who had sex with men were completely banned from donating blood. That changed in 2011 when men who had sex with men could donate blood if they abstained from sex for a year. The law was adjusted to three months back in 2017 and was welcomed by charities and the NHS. 

It was pointed out by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall that although this was an important step, there’s still a long way to go regarding this law. Many gay and bisexual men are still exempt from donating blood. Many other equality charities also suggested that men who are considered low risk (not likely to catch HIV) are still banned from donating blood. 

Although the law on gay and bisexual men giving blood has shifted in trending with liberal views on gay rights, many people still aren't happy with the current laws. Essentially, the current law forbids gay and bisexual men, who are in stable and long-term relationships, from giving blood. The fact that these men are low risk and simply won’t catch HIV from having sex with each other doesn't change the fact that they’d have to abstain from sex for three months before they're able to donate blood. 

I’m writing this article because of tweets that I’ve recently seen sent to @GiveBloodNHS. This Twitter account is the main handle for NHS blood donation. Naturally, as they do on TV, radio and with posters, they campaign and advertise in order to encourage blood donation. My issue isn't with this NHS Twitter account, my issue is with other Twitter users stating why they can’t give blood.

A typical post from @GiveBloodNHS is something like: ‘Do something amazing! Give blood and save up to three lives.’ This seems like quite an inspiring tweet that would potentially encourage people to give blood. However, as seen below, a lot of people direct their anger towards the NHS because of the current law on gay and bisexual men giving blood. One person said: ‘Shame I’m gay and I can’t due to outdated stigma’. Another said: ‘I’d love to but you still needlessly discriminate against me because I think men are hot…’ 

My issue isn’t with what these people have to say. I simply find it strange that these people direct their dissatisfaction with the law towards the NHS. It’s understandable that these people are angry due to being unfairly discriminated against due to their sexuality, however, directing this hate towards the NHS is not simply sad but also incredibly pointless. There is nothing the NHS can do about this law. It’s not like they can open up the donation centre one day and rewrite British legislation. Directing these messages towards the NHS is like telling your local Tesco to sell weed. Perhaps people at Tesco would like to sell weed but it would be against the law to do so, and it wouldn't be up to Tesco to change the law regarding the sale of cannabis. 

Perhaps this law is still outdated and it discriminates against gay and bisexual men, however, these messages should be directed at the government and the health minister if you want to see the law changed. Directing these messages towards the NHS isn't doing anyone any good. 

3 December 2017

Man is Hot

‘And as we reach four o'clock in the morning, I can confidently say that Jeremy Corbyn will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.’ This sentence might not be as far-fetched as we thought. In a recent poll by Survation, who were the most accurate at the 2017 General Election, Labour have an eight-point lead on the Conservatives. (Labour 45, Conservatives 37, Lib Dems 6, UKIP 4, Green 1) This would give Labour 317 seats and the Conservatives 267. Although not a majority, they'd find it simple to form an alliance with the other progressive parties in order to have a working government.

How can it be then that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has taken such a huge lead in the polls since the General Election? Since June, Corbyn has continued campaigning all around Britain in order to bring his message to the people. Corbyn campaigned so well during the election that he closed the polling gap in June to a single point. Even his toughest of critics had to eat their own words as they couldn’t fault his tenacity and excellent campaigning skills. Since June, Corbyn has campaigned as hard as he did during the election and has slowly won over even more of his critics.

Part of Corbyn’s campaigning has seen him conduct interviews with popular magazines, appear on Channel Four’s ‘Gogglebox’ and pose for the front cover of Tory-boy magazine ‘GQ’. The latter has caused some to ask why Corbyn has chosen to appear on the front of the magazine that is openly aimed at Conservatives with their glamorous products and flashy adverts. However, some believe it is a stroke of genius. Corbyn has given himself an audience that might not usually give him the time of day. Part of Corbyn’s charm is his openness to popular culture and knowledge of trends. Corbyn’s infamous ‘man's not hot’ quote is one example of this. We have to wonder if this is down to him or his team. We’re all aware of his relationship with Stormzy and support from the grime industry. Many believe Corbyn references youth culture in order to keep the youth vote, but others believe he is genuinely up to date with youth culture.

The question now is, can Corbyn and Labour keep the lead and continue to build on it, or will the Conservatives, who are currently self-destructing, regroup and regain their lead over Labour? With the current state of the Brexit negotiations and controversy surrounding misconduct by cabinet members, the Conservatives are at loggerheads with each other and aren't portraying the ‘Strong and Stable’ image that they were so keen on peddling in June. If things continue to go the way they are, I don’t how the Conservatives can continue to cling on to power. Labour’s lead in the polls will naturally also depend on the Conservative’s actions over the next few years. But for now, Corbyn is doing everything right and the Tories are doing everything wrong. We shall see how the Brexit negotiations pan out and what will happen to certain cabinet members in the next few months. All of this will have an impact on the polls.

5 November 2017

21st Century Political Prisoners

How can it be that we have political prisoners in Western Europe in 2017? Earlier today, former Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont turned himself in to Belgian police after fleeing Spain to seek political asylum. Before Puigdemont fled Spain, he was leading the campaign for Catalonian independence. The Spanish government constantly blocked Catalonia’s calls for independence and called their referendum illegal. Things turned nasty when Spanish police violently quashed the Catalan protests. When Puigdemont left Spain in fear of his freedom, Spain put out an arrest warrant for him. 

How is it possible that we are accepting of political prisoners in 2017? Puigdemont’s arrest warrant was in place because of his political ideology. What happened to political freedom? We have to remember that we’re talking about Spain here and not East Germany. Puigdemont has done nothing wrong and is being treated like a violent fascist revolutionary. The Spanish government stripped Puigdemont of his powers as leader of Catalonia and called their vote for independence illegal. What we have here is a Spanish government that is scared of losing a vital part of Spain’s economy. Catalonia makes up around twenty per cent of Spain’s GDP. It’s natural that they’d be scared in their position, but that doesn't mean you can start governing like the Soviet Union. The should respond by granting people their democratic right.

Whether you believe that Catalonia should be an independent country or not, you should agree that the Catalonian people should get the right to decide for themselves. It is not up to us or the Spanish government to decide Catalonia’s future. I’m a firm believer that people should have the right to determine their own future. Scotland democratically decided their future in 2014 with their independence referendum. It showed the world how democracy should be. What Spain is doing to Catalonia is utterly undemocratic. Imagine if Scotland weren't granted their referendum in 2014. Imagine the uproar there would've been. But the British government gave the Scottish people the right to decide their own future. This is how it should be. It doesn't matter if you believe Catalonia should be an independent country. In 2014, I didn't think Scotland should've been an independent country. However, I supported their wish for a referendum because we should all have this right.

It should now be the role of other nations to speak to Spain and insist that Catalonia is granted a referendum. For Britain, it should be the role of the foreign secretary to speak to the Spanish government. Although I agree that we shouldn't tell other countries how to govern, when foreign governments are disregarding fundamental human rights such as democracy, it should be down to other democratic governments to push them in the right direction. Although I doubt the British government will want to interfere with Spanish affairs, it should be our duty to guide the Spanish government. It simply can’t be right that we have people fleeing because of their political ideology from a democratic country in the 21 century.

17 September 2017

Review: Millennials and the Moments that Made Us

A new book, which is to be released in February 2018 and written by Shaun Scott, explains why millennials are the way they are and which events impacted on their lives. Firstly, for those who have heard the word but don’t really know what it means, Shaun Scott describes Millennials as Americans born between 1981 and 1997. Naturally, as the rest of the world usually does, the word has been adopted by every other western nation. This, in turn, means the word is generally anyone born between these years and not simply Americans. As Scott states, he uses ‘popular culture as a lens to explain a generational condition that began in the 1980s’. The book is divided into twelve chapters and four chronological parts. Each part includes the major events and the most prevalent pieces of popular culture that occurred during that period.
Part One begins with the childhood of millennials between 1982 and 1990. Although I label myself as a millennial as I was born in 1993, I wasn’t even born during the period Scott writes about in Part One. Naturally, the dates are the childhood of the writer, which is understandable. The first part discusses what it was like to grow up in 1980s America. Scott explains that this was a period of deindustrialisation, decreased government revenue, underemployment and declining social services. That’s not to mention the introduction of standardised tests and extra homework. The 80s sound great, don’t they?! In contrast, growing up in the 80s was in conjunction with the birth of hip-hop and the music of Prince, Bowie and George Michael. The childhood of millennials in America doesn’t seem to be so different to the childhoods of millennials in the UK. Perhaps then, this is why the word has been transposed by the UK to mean the same thing. 

In Part Two, Scott speaks of the ‘uncontested greatness’ that the USA celebrated after the fall of the Soviet Union. The likes of Michael Jordan epitomised this era of American success with him becoming one of, if not the, greatest sportsman on the planet. This unrivalled success had a dramatic impact on young millennials during the 1990s. But, at the same time, the greats of American sport were countered by glorified losers such as Kurt Cobain and Tupac. Moreover, bad role models such as Bart Simpson gave Americans a mixed bag of idols. Scott explains that non-millennials label us as entitled and spoilt. But Scott counters this argument by explaining that millennials earn the least, many have to work for free as interns and there is an influx of temporary jobs. Moreover, in the UK, millennials have a similar time with zero-hours contracts in warehouses, retail stores and offices. To label millennials as spoilt is very patronising who you consider this.

Scott begins Part Three by discussing the infamous website ‘Napster’. He explains that millennials used the music website to ‘push back against a highly commercialised industry’, and he’s completely right. As he states, millennials were and still are disaffected with capitalism. This trend has continued with online streaming sites for film and television, as well as illegally downloading music. In the mid-2000s, most millennials used the likes of Pirate Bay and LimeWire to illegally download music, which continued the trend that Napster started. This has continued today with millennials choosing illegal convenience over the strings of capitalism by using streaming services such as Kodi.

Millennials are often called the MTV generation as they grew up with the beloved music channel. MTV displayed radical music and programs, which influenced young millennials in the 1990s. With the birth and exhibition of hip-hop came hip-hop fashion. This could be seen most notably with MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, as Scott explains. Scott also explains that with the birth of rap and the internet came a war of censorship against millennial’s past times and interests. 

In the early 2000s came war and major disasters in the US. 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina are two of the most notable events of this period and both have stuck with and influenced the lives on millennials. Scott explains that George Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina was extremely poor. With both disasters happening during Bush’s administration, as well as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s obvious why millennials opt to vote for the Democrats over the Republicans. However, the neo-liberal politics of Obama and the candidacy of Hillary Clinton have disenfranchised millennials. That was, of course, until Bernie Sanders showed his hand. Sanders arrived in the adulthood of millennials. He showed that politics can be done differently. A socialist way. Who would’ve thought an American socialist would win 23 states in the Democratic primaries? The reason was quite simple – millennials. Perhaps, as Scott pointed out, this is because of the number of internships, temp jobs and work experience that millennials have had to take due to the complete lack of full-time and fulfilling jobs.

Although I originally thought Scott had just compiled a book of random events from the 80s, 90s and 00s, I soon realised that these events impacted greatly on the minds of millennials and moulded us into the group that we are now. At times, Scott seemed to jump back to the 80s when discussing a different era. Although I’m sure basketball is massive in the lives of Americans, for a Brit reading this, basketball didn’t impact our lives as much if not at all. Luckily for me, as someone who enjoyed basketball in my childhood, I made a connection with this. However, basketball really wasn’t that big for most Brits. That being said, Scott is an American and has written it for Americans as the subheading is ‘A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1982-Present’. I’m not so sure this book is suitable for Brits due to the focus on American popular culture unless, of course, Brits would like to read about America. All in all, Scott has written a well-rounded, well written and nicely separated book. Although the price tag is slightly hefty and some of the points could do with a tiny bit more analysis, it’s an important book. Moreover, Scott comes across as a competent and intelligent writer. ‘Millennials and the Moments that Made Us’ is out in February 2018 by Zero Books.