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.

11 August 2017

Who and What Are You?

Describe yourself in five words. How many of those words are labels? It’s 2017 and we naturally have more adjectives than at any point in history. I have no evidence to back up that statement, but I reckon it’s true. Since the end of the Second World War and through the eras of sexual liberation, civil rights, drug exploration and the advancement in digital communication, we have explored new horizons and experimented in more ways than our ancestors could ever imagine. With that, we have had to create words to describe these newfound ways of being. These new words can only be described, as ironic as that is, as labels.

We now have words for 60 recognised genders and we have expanded the gay community to LGBTQQAAIP. Go back 70 years (when homosexuality was illegal) and imagine what labels you’d use to describe someone. After the colour of one’s skin, their nationality, their religion and their political leaning, you’d be hard pushed to think of anything else. Now, you can describe someone as a male born non-binary Jewish queer socialist Mexican Latino, and still have numerous labels left that could apply to them. 

As far as the 60-odd genders go, this is something that tends to divide opinion. A lot of people, who are mainly straight (if I may), have decided that there are only two genders - male and female. However, their ignorance is shown with this opinion because there is a difference between gender and sex. One’s sex is how you are defined at birth for having either a penis or a vagina. One’s gender is a personal perception of how one feels. Gender isn’t about physical attributes, and although we are yet to fully understand the human brain, it’s clear that many people do not feel male nor female. I believe the vast array of genders is a good thing. It’s good to be different. The world would be a much more boring place if everyone was the same. I don’t fully understand how someone can’t feel male nor female, but that doesn’t mean they’re lying. Simply because someone can’t comprehend something doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Moreover, it really shouldn’t bug people so much that there are now over 60 genders. That’s something I really don’t understand. Why do the people who are against the existence of the other genders get to annoyed about it?

Could it be that we have too many labels? Could it be that we are so obsessed with labelling each other that we are building divides and splitting into more groups? I think it’s probably a good thing that we are realising that genders aren’t simply male or female and that there are more sexualities than just gay or straight. I do think, however, that we like to assign labels to ourselves to give ourselves a meaning. But, with that, it means we categorise people are shoved them into pigeon holes. Once we define ourselves as one label, it’s hard to shake off and redefine yourself. If you call yourself a gay man and then one day you sleep with a woman on a drunken night out, does that then make you bisexual? He might not find women physically attractive, but he slept with a woman. This is why I believe it’s good to use umbrella terms such as ‘queer’ instead of choosing one of the other letters in LGBTQQAAIP.

Here’s the hippy part: let’s all just stop labelling each other and see everyone as simply ‘human’. No, don’t do that. We are all different. We are all our own person. Define yourself however you want and be proud of who and what you are. But, remember, you don’t have to let your label define you. Maybe the world would just be a better place if we stopped judging each other...

19 June 2017

My Favourite Films of the 90s

As a continuation of my previous post containing my favourite films on the 21st century, here is a list of my favourite films from the 1990s.

American Beauty (1999)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Space Jam (1996)

Se7en (1995)

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Office Space (1999)

Trainspotting (1996)

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Titanic (1997)

Goldeneye (1995)

Fargo (1996)

The English Patient (1996)

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Léon (1994)

Notable Mentions: 
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Forrest Gump (1994) and The Green Mile (1993)