Finn and Gillian sat in their local, The Sandy Bar, submerged in silence. They’d been hanging out there for several months now; had been in the same school together for several more and had eaten, slept and drank side by side for the larger part of their existence. They drank a lot.

Friends become inseparable after witnessing a natural disaster.

It had been just another deep blue day – as were all the others – when they found themselves completely alone. As usual they had been meandering not too far from their school mates; Finn especially hated being in school and couldn’t stand the synchronized solidarity of the others, they were all just the same. He despised their childish dependence on each other, just because their parents had taught them from the beginning – safety in numbers kids – “They got no appreciation for individuality!” Finn would cry to Gill as they nibbled on their lunches and Gill would usually reply in earnest, but he just hung there, mouth gaping. “Finn, look.”

Finn looked. As he turned he felt an ominous rumbling that made his insides quiver and his heart stop. The sight itself was worse: a colossal writhing mass, being dragged effortlessly through the sky by an impossibly dark bellied monster that left nothing in its wake. “W-what on earth is that?” he sputtered to Gill, “My da’ used to tell me stories about it when I was small” Gill replied in awe, “They call it The Net”.

Should have EMA just gone away?

After reading columnist, Alison Pearson’s misguided article about her personal opinions on the “New Labour introduced, EMA, to pay up to £30 a week to 16- to 19-year-olds from low-income households to spend on drink, recreational drugs and gym membership.” She depicted our youth population as slanderous, drug induced lay-abouts with nothing better to do on the weekends but be “recreational”, well please tell me, what’s wrong with that?! Everyone has the right to unwind with their earnings after a hard weeks work and drink a beer or smoke something, that’s what our society is about; providing comfort and security from a stress full, usually minimally paid workplace be it school or whatever. Mrs Pearson simply wrote this off as not providing incentive towards education but simply supporting “youthful binge drinking”, I, being rather youthful and the occasional drinker myself resent this representation of younger people’s consumption of alcohol. Who can afford to have a decent binge on less than £30 a week anyway?

Student protestors: young people campaiging against the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Pearson, however has somehow managed to highlight the problem and miraculously, miss the point entirely. She quickly moved on instead to what it was like ‘back in the day’, when she brings up her ‘friends’ Saturday jobs which included “one friend who worked in a sausage factory” and another who “scrubbed pub toilets” (although she surreptitiously managed to avoid expanding on her array of various jobs she “held down from the age of fifteen”). Now I think it’s slightly different these days Alison, sure you can wonder into a pub and honourably scrub their toilets, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get any money for it!

So were experiencing a recession where the job pickings are slim and dwelling in a society where aesthetic incentive is vital to keeping us thinking, ‘yeah, I’m getting somewhere with this’. The simple joys of learning to learn and Saturday jobs which made up Alison’s prosperous past have been swallowed by our children’s warped views on what is important in the world, money, not boring old education. The poor kids in Zimbabwe, used in Pearson’s article as an immediate guilt trip (it even tripped me into donating to my school bake sale for Amnesty International, crazy). These poor guys don’t have EMA or job’s only raw incentive, created by dire surroundings, sweating with poverty which they will go by any means to clamber out of. These kids hear of the mythical ‘First Word’ and its fabled  existence of easy living and human rights, all right next door. The only way to have it is either education, or joining the FRF and getting a brand new AK-47 for your tenth birthday!

Comparing this situation to the situations of working class students in Britain is completely pointless. All working class pupils at my college dropped out of education, these being all of my friends (I’m pretty lonely now), due to a lack of financial and maternal incentive. The middle class University students-to be are content, they have a comfortable home to study in, receive pocket money to spend on free time drinking or whatever and are constantly egged on by their parents, who attend parent teacher meetings religiously, to keep up and try hard. If you asked my middle class mother whether I was going to get the grades to attend Uni or not she wold retort “Why of course! It’s vital to be able to pursue higher education” whereas my working class friend’s mum would reply “If he wants to then sure”. This obligation to better yourself only seems to be passed down to the kids from ‘well off’ families while the rest are only left with the offer of £30 a week or the enlightening advice to “get a Saturday job”, thanks Alison Pearson, would you give my friend a Saturday job? Didn’t think so.

What’s gone wrong is that the shining beacon of hope, EMA has prevented our less culturally provided, but perfectly capable working class students from wanting to gain anything from education but the money. This results in being able to ‘cheat the system’ by going to school, defying teachers and getting paid for it, which I can imagine, when you’re a working class teenager can feel pretty righteous. The attitude, therefore, expressed by whoever designed this ridiculous scheme, is that you can get what you want for doing very little by means of developing your skills. Surely then, rather than being discarded like a mucky hanky, EMA should be adjusted as to turn disadvantaged pupils from non-committing money grabbers to directed students with attainable target grades, fuelled by financial incentive. If they don’t work to get their grade, they don’t get their cash. Simple. The noble perusal of good grades and more opportunities for the lower classes however, doesn’t seem to be on the governments short list of important issues; it’s all about the attendance and the pragmatic policy of EMA was simply to boost numbers in attendance while the improvement on actual teaching was completely neglected.

‘Advancing women’s rights in fragile states’ – Financial but not cultural

Within previously war ruined communities across the not so modern world certain aspects of culture have been submerged rather than developed during the 20th century. This has resulted in painful and pointless exercises such as foot binding and FGC being treated an just another ‘womanly obligation’ much like the ‘vagazzle’ is over here.

Despite being banned in 1912 the age old tradition of foot binding is still going on, under wraps today in some corners of the country where girls are breaking their feet into “three-inch golden lotuses.” It is seen as a sign of beauty and the exercise is performed in private with the help, usually, of the mother, over the woman’s child hood  when the bones are nice an brittle.

In other parts of the world, ‘women’s worries’ much like this are yielding some horrific results. Women in Somalia, as well as aboriginal Australia, feel obligated to go through the dangerous but ‘purifying’ procedure of Female Genital Cutting (or Mutilation as it’s also known). These operations have huge amounts of risk as they are not always carried out in sterile conditions and infection is common. Edna Adan, the proprietor of the University Hospital in Somalia, laments that it is seen as part of their cultural identity and, as the gentiles are sewn up, the husband knows he is marrying a virgin. As globalisation develops more people migrate and they take these aspects of culture with them, instances of FGC have been reported in both America and Australia as well as parts of Europe.

Chinese author Yang Yang is currently writing a book on the story of Wang Lifen who was just 7 when her mother started binding her feet: breaking her toes and binding them underneath the sole of the foot with bandages. Pretty. After her mother died, Wang carried on, breaking the arch of her own foot to force her toes and heel ever closer.

“I regret binding my feet,” Lifen says. “I can’t dance, I can’t move properly. I regret it a lot. But at the time, if you didn’t bind your feet, no one would marry you.”

The originating reason for foot binding, is said to derive from Song dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) Under the reign of Li Yu, who ruled over one region of China between 961-975. It is said his heart was captured by a good looking pair of feet like the ones below, Yao Nian was a talented dancer who bound her feet to suggest the shape of a new moon and performed the beautiful  “lotus dance”.

Image

“Oh, a little foot! You Europeans cannot understand how exquisite, how sweet, how exciting it is!” ~Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty

In these parts of the world marriage is still vital for most women who wish to live in financial security. They cling onto what their parents have taught them on how to bag a husband and due to lacking education this is all they have to rely on.

Woman’s independence has taken a momentous financial step forwards, however, in Bangladesh where researchers Beatriz Armendariz and Nigel Roome are studying the fluctuations in the micro finance investment industry, which had been flourishing gradually since the mid 1970’s. They found that according to 2006 Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, seven out of ten clients are women and millions of these women are married or live with a partner, and many have children. This is brings about an empowering change in women’s attitudes to their social standings in society, which is great, but the transition to shared financial obligation in these families has led to friction between spouses who are now competing for the position of breadwinners. Men feel that they are being excluded from the advantages given by the microfinance scheme, seven out of ten times to women rather than their counterparts. I fear that the reaction to ‘emasculation’ will be a violent one and that women will have to adopt a triple shift role as competing financiers as well as most of the time house wives.

So we have not yet attained universal suffrage and we have found out that simply instating a law to stop a cultural trend will not stop its practice, simply force it under ground. Problems such as these should be dealt using the gradual integration of sense into submerged and war torn parts of the world like we have seen in Bangladesh. In order for the position of the women to make any head way in gaining some equality it is the men who must understand horrific ends girls go to meet their out of date expectations. Please donate to Edna Adan’s non-profit organisation fighting the war against genital mutilation in Somalia every day. – http://www.ednahospital.org/

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G.I.F’s: Simply for fun or for any PolArticlal preference?

The term Graphics Interchange Format is a new one for me, during my time at secondary school we called these ‘web memes’ and they usually consisted of a smutty video being opened on some, poor unsuspecting victim’s computer while they escape the for a well-earned toilet brake (cigarette). These G.I.F’s were usually under quite innocent names such as ‘Lemon Party’ or ‘Meat spin’ (that last ones probably a bit blatant) and usually depicted middle aged men doing some quite disturbing things which are put on an endless loop so your teacher thinks you’re putting wrinkly porn before your education. This usually resulted in detention and a hugely uncomfortable phone call home…

While researching for this article, however, I found that some, probably more matured and sane people have put this technology to better use by looping pretty things like the cycle of a plants life or a hilarious facial expression, expressed over and over by a politician, and its always fun to laugh at politicians. I personally believe that G.I.F’s should be used for documentation on turbulent and excessive events happening in our world today, such as the recent, savage beatings of protesters in Athens and the rest of Europe as well as horrendous use of brute force by the military in god knows where else. These G.I.F’s should then be beamed into the minds of those responsible so they cannot escape from the guilt which should be consuming them.

Sorry to end on a morbid note but to conclude I really think any use of visual communication can be used for fun, art or, most importantly, protest.

FANKS FOR READING

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