Are you comfortably numb?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Learning...

...is a wonderful thing. I'm just writing an essay on Plato ('Why does Plato argue that rulers should be philosophers?) which is a lot to do with the concept of learning and of loving learning. This is something which has struck me many times since I've been at university. When I go into the library, I often get stuck in a queue of people using the machines to get books out. Despite sometimes having to wait for ages, I get a little shiver of excitement when I see just how many subjects people are studying, how many books have been written on these subjects and just how interesting everything looks. Being at university, a place dedicated entirely to learning, makes me realise just how brilliant the world is. There is an infinite amount to be studied and investigated. There is a limitless number of questions to be asked. We will never tire of learning. And whatever you study, whether it be micro-biology or African studies, it is all just so interesting. Those who say certain subjects are boring are boring themselves, to quote a wise man (my father). I never really understood this until recently. How amazing that our minds are built with the capacity to ask and to reason, to use the power of logic and to seek answers.

P.S. I may force myself to read this post again when I'm in the middle of my finals!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Back in black (and white)

I'm aware it's been a while since I've posted, but here's a short comment to herald my renewed presence on the world that is internet blogging. I have 3 essays due in for next Monday and another for the following Friday, so I won't be that eloquent this week either I'm afraid. Anyway, here you go.



So, another day, yet another messy revelation about Iraq. Whatever you thought about the war, no one can deny that its gruesome aftermath continues to dominate our front pages and that each cringe-worthy headline rips another hole in the case for bombing Iraq. Not only does this enforce my long-held opinion that going to war was utterly wrong, it also bolsters my growing belief that Dubya is suffering from a severe case of Empiricitis.

We may like to think that we are centuries away from a time when colonial powers trampled over continents in a quest for the biggest slice of the world pie, but such thinking is wishful to say the least. George Bush may hide behind a smokescreen of pretence and say that he genuinely wishes to spread the blessing that is democracy (although surely even he can see the irony in forcing democracy on a country through military action?), but the truth is that America is stomping all over the globe in order to fleece it – and she's doing it in the name of justice.

We have come to accept that America can call the shots because she is bigger and stronger than anyone else. Iraq is only one example of the US flexing her military muscles in order to get what she wants (needless to say, that would be oil). Since 1945, America has carried out 26 covert and overt military actions against other countries. One political article states, 'the United States dominates the world through its military power… their government garrisons the globe… a vast network of American military bases on every continent but Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire' ( The American Empire: Pax Americana or Pox Americana? John Foster & Robert McChesney).

Not only is this empire military, America has the rest of the world by the throat economically. Dominating the WTO, causing 3 countries to leave the G20, twisting the frail arm of the Africa group, refusing to comply with pacts such as the 1995 Uruguayan Trade Agreement, swearing blind that global warming is, well, made up – America can throw her toys out of the pram and no one can stop her.

The latest Iraq-related revelations evidence this further. Sir Christopher Meyer's memoirs may have caused a stir, but what did we expect? The news that Blair loves Bush is about as shocking as finding out George Best liked a drink. However, a US spokesman admitting a few days ago that the US knowingly and illegally used white phosphorous against Iraqi insurgents in 2004 is not only shocking but disgusting. Chemical weapons? Now that's ironic.

And then the topic of the moment: George Bush's desire to bomb the headquarters of al-Jazeera, now passed off as 'a joke' by White House officials. Given it's a joke, George, I'm not laughing much. For a man who supposedly believes in free speech you're charging an awful lot for it.

The liberalist in me is trying desperately to find an optimistic note to end this on, some light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, I search in vain and must conclude that Queen America has won, at least until the next Empire steps up… China, anyone?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What rocks and what doesn't

Things that rock:

1) Having my laptop back and being able to post again
2) The fact that I'm in Birmingham and it's actually not raining
3) Contemplating watching England vs Argentina later... although will probably change my mind having watched the game
4) Having a wicked night out with mates without anyone getting absolutely ratted and needing to be subdued or carried home...
5) Not feeling tired despite going to bed at gone 3 and waking up way too early
6) Radiohead
7) Having access to a hot shower and knowing that you won't have to pay the water bill
8) Ditto for electricity
9) American Psycho (the book)
10) The fact that the guy who hit Abby has given himself in and will be done on counts of death by dangerous driving, no insurance or MOT or appropriate licence, failure to stop after an accident and failure to report an accident. GET IN!
11) My new trainers


Things that don't:

1) Drunk blokes who think that you walking past them in a club is an excuse to grab hold of you
2) Having my articles edited in Redbrick to make them far worse, grammatically, than they were before. It makes me want to chew my own fingers off (hmm... too much American Psycho, clearly).
3) The general standard of writing in Redbrick.
4) People spelling 'your' and 'you're' the wrong way round (see above)
5) People thinking that they can join two sentences together with a comma. E.g., 'I love cheese, my favourite one is Brie' - NO, PEOPLE! USE EITHER A FULL STOP OR SOME FORM OF COLON (and I'm not talking about intestines)! (also see above)
6) Losing 11 games of pool straight!
7) Knowing that I have to write an essay per week till the end of term otherwise I'm screwed and also knowing that at the moment that is looking very unlikely due to the fact that all the people on my International Relations module have gone to the library and borrowed ALL the books I need until THE END OF TERM and realising that in my rage and disgust at this fact I have not even drawn metaphorical breath and that this sentence is going on forever and now I can't stop it because I'm talking about it and what could possibly bring this to an end
8) Needing, and being able, to have a phone upgrade but not phoning O2 because it's so flipping expensive.
9) DHL
10) DHL
11) DHL
12) Having to now get up and do something useful!

...goodbye.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Return of the Bec

Hello! Sorry for the incredibly long delay in posting, but I did something only a fool can - left my laptop behind in Haywards Heath (accidentally of course, before someone says, 'Why?'). After much ado and hassle, DHL finally delivered the goods... phew. So, although I can't write much now, this is just a short note to say - I'm alive, and well (despite being 95% of the way through American Psycho). Must run now, am greatly anticipating the idea of being allowed to exit the confines of Hunter Court, and more specifically, my flat, which grows kinda boring after hours cooped up here waiting for said DHL man to ring on my doorbell (a la the White Stripes). So, without further rambling and no doubt having confused many of you with strange references already, I shall say adieu and farewell. Fear not, I will bestow a lengthy post upon you soonish. Tchau-tchau, my dears.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Campaign

BBC article on Abby's death

Has anyone got any good ideas of what we can do to raise awareness and get traffic to slow down? Please comment. We really want to get something going to stop this happening again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Forget Blunkett's private life. The real shocker here is Blair's public life

Avert your eyes from the rollercoaster that is David Blunkett’s political career and focus instead on the real scandal. Although Blunkett has dominated headlines for days with tales of unauthorised share-buying and dodgy use of House of Commons stationery, we are missing the point because the scent of sleaze is stronger than anything else.

Amidst all the sensationalism there lurks a far more shocking story. One which reveals, again, Blair’s obsession with power instead of policy.

For years now, Britain has faced rising numbers of incapacity benefit claimants who do not ever return to work. There are now 4 times as many people claiming IB as there were 30 years ago (a problem arising from high unemployment under the Conservatives, as job centres put people on IB to lower figures). After receiving IB for 2 years, a claimant is more likely to retire or die than go back to work. One reason for this is that if they find a job and it falls through they may not be able to claim IB again.

Enter the Pathways scheme which has been piloted in Britain for nearly two years. The scheme encourages rather than bludgeons; claimants are offered £40 extra per week for returning to work, with the opportunity to go straight back on IB if the job falls through. Because of its carrot, rather than stick, nature, and early intervention, the scheme has succeeded, with 8% more claimants coming off IB in the first six months.

Sounds great, right? So let’s introduce Pathways all over Britain. Blunkett, the Work and Pensions Secretary, thought so. Even Margaret Hodge thought so. But, apparently, Blair doesn’t. He fails to accept evidence showing that this is a workable, effective scheme, and instead concentrates on being ‘radical’.

Blair would rather cut IB by £20 a week than implement Pathways to Work.

Why?

Our Prime Minister has come to value radicalism and boldness even when this involves being radically and boldly wrong. Is he pandering to Tory calls for tough measures on benefit? Is he trying to court the vote of the rich? Who knows.

What we do know is that this truly scandalous story has been jostled aside by accusations aimed at Blunkett. The fate of one man with illicit shares may determine the fate of 2.6 million people who are on incapacity benefit.

I myself do not find Blunkett an endearing figure. But I respect a man who has defended a policy which is morally and economically viable in the face of opposition, even if he has tarred his reputation with a very thick brush. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of a man who refuses to cater for the needs of his electorate, choosing instead to back a flawed policy in the interests of power and bravado.

At our best when at our boldest? Show us you are boldly paving the way for a fairer Britain, Mr Blair, and I’ll believe you. Until then, I’d say you’re at your best when at your Blunkettest.

Hit and run

Last night a girl from our halls of residence who lived in the flat below me was killed in a hit-and-run incident.

She was crossing on the pedestrian crossing directly below my window. It is notorious for cars going through it even when the light is showing red, as any student from here will tell you. She was thrown about 30 feet from the crossing and died almost instantly.

As a first year medic student, it is a death that is ironic as well as utterly tragic. Yet one would hope that her death would prove not to be entirely futile. Maybe people will learn something from this and future accidents will be prevented.

After 24 hours of feeling pretty dazed, shocked and sick, a few of us decided to go to our local for a pint this evening, just to take our minds off things.

First thing that happens? We press the button, wait on the crossing, see the flowers on the railings... and a car goes through the red light that's showing.