Thursday, 20 November 2014

Reflections on Tolerance

In the last few years, since the Tories weaseled their way into governing this country,we, as in anyone with any sense, have seen a strong and steady decline in the tolerance that we, the British, once held at the helm of our cultural pride. Where, once, the majority of the British were generally accepting of other peoples, now it seems that the majority are awash with anger, intolerance, and hatred towards anyone who is different, in any way, whether it be because of their gender, their sexual orientation, their socioeconomic background, their health, or their political beliefs.
And although I know, or actually hope, that many people are still tolerant and accepting, it does not help that our media tends to shed more light on the likes of UKIP cum Tories, and other loud mouths who are shouting out the message of intolerance and hatred rather than those who are holding the placards with the message of love and acceptance. If anything, the ones holding the placards are usually portrayed as troublemakers- people marching for their pensions, you say? Oh, they are breaking the peace- tends to be the usual reply. Rather than turning this post into something political, and having mentioned UKIP/ Tories once already, I would like to say here that it is these very parties and their followers who are rotting the very values and morals of our country. It is these very people who are ruining the very fabric of our way of life and society. These are the very people who are endangering our ways of living.

I can't just blame the Daily Mail et al readers; it's a cheaper option for them to buy them in comparison with how much The Guardian et al cost, therein lies an inequality. So, if you want better informed news articles, you have to spend more. It's ironic that these cheap tabloids apparently stand up for the workers in this country as anyone with any sense will know that they have consistently been on a rampage to condition the minds of its readers since their establishment. In the last 4 years, it is these spin doctors who have successfully managed to take the real blame away from Dave and Gideon's pals from the City, and handed it over to the Immigrants, the Disabled, the Ailed, the Vulnerable, the Young, the Non-Whites, the Multi-lingual, the LGBTs, and even our Human Rights.

The vast amount of people who seem to be swallowing up the misinformation as though it's the truth also seems to have an astounding ability to preach what have read, and in turn get more people to join their bandwagon of intolerance and hate. What's even more terrifying is that on a number of occasions when I have spoken to people, they demonstrate pure belief in the misinformation they have read or been told by peers or parents. On many occasions, they see internet memes or read posts from fascist groups on the social media (who lie about pretty much everything) which in turn makes these people feel bitter, angry, vulnerable and threatened. People who experience all those strong emotions tend to conform, break apart, repress, or lash out towards anyone who is different. For many people, the seeds of hatred and intolerance have already been sown and no amount of talking will help. But what also won't help is well-informed people looking down on the misinformed and treating them unfairly with intolerance and hate.

I remember watching sci-fi films as a child where in the future the human race is controlled by machines, or the humans could no longer think for themselves as they have been brainwashed. Okay, there aren't any humanoid robots everywhere around us just yet but without the Hollywood glitter and sparks, this is pretty much it. We're already there. 

Until next time,

I have now opened a facebook page for this blog. You are more than welcome to go and like it but I don't know how long I'm keeping it as I feel under pressure and a bit scared of what my friends might think of me reading these posts. I will keep it for a while, and see if I can overcome this fear...

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Let's Make Some Mistakes!

It's at this time of the year that I tend to begin reflecting on this past year and what I have learnt and whether I stuck by the resolutions I had hoped to follow. I tend not to make extravagant resolutions that will be hard to do but ones that have a real meaning behind them. It was on New Year's Day that Neil Gaiman, one of my favourite authors, shared beautiful new year's wishes, on his blog, that profoundly affected me. He simply said:
"...I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever."

And so it was, that after reading this, that I decided to follow his advice. I very suddenly felt so very afraid, but also very much so excited. You see, for me, Neil Gaiman is trustworthy for he has been responsible in making my imagination expand beyond the depths I never knew existed. So, I felt that I had to do this. I had to give it a go. 

As a result of his wish, I was less hard on myself, which was very difficult to do at first, and I relapsed quite a few times but I kept trying. These days, I am a little easier on myself despite making mistakes. Prior to last year, I put far too much pressure on myself, to the point where I began to suffer from an uncontrollable amount of stress and anxiety. I constantly worried about all aspects of my life, even the parts I had no control over. It got to point where I worried about the future- as in when the sun would eventually die out what would happen to our planet? Or what if my child(ren) marry English people and then my grandchildren do too and then forget I ever existed and become UKIP-esque party supporters and forget their Indian roots completely? Pretty extreme/bizarre stuff. I still get these types of questions popping into my mind now and again, but I tend to mentally shrug at them. Another thing that I used to do was be overly controlling because I constantly thought of the consequences of every action I thought of taking or anyone else would be taking that would affect me in someway. This made me a terrible person for some time, and I was also restraining myself from taking risks. Neil Gaiman would probably say I was also restraining myself from making mistakes.

This year, it's been a pretty different story; I have been easy-going but I have still tried my best to achieve the top grades. And there was a couple of times that I didn't get the top grades in Sweden. I didn't actually cry or beat myself up too much about it. I was sad but told myself how well I had done in the other module so felt a lot less worse. I have also tried not to worry about things not being good enough, especially when it comes to my own art. I started the painting dedicated to the friend who passed away last year, and decided it would be dedicated to others who had passed away in my life too. I spent most of the summer on it as I couldn't get a job and now it's sitting on an easel in the living room, with about 3 hours of work left to it. I also spent the summer writing more of the novel that I have been aspiring to write for some time now. I managed to write an extra 12,000 + words to it, and redrafted the first couple of chapters too. For the first time, I sent to some people and asked for genuine criticism, not fearing my work receiving any kind of constructive of negative criticism. 

Finally, despite having planned my time in Sweden before the post by Neil Gaiman, it came in handy in so many ways whilst I was there. I let go of so many restraints, unbeknownst to myself until that point I had put on myself. Of course it took some time but it began with letting go of the fear of falling over. It was really thanks to the army boots from the local Army/Navy shop that a couple of my friends had recommended. For about a week I was walking like a penguin and after realising that I wouldn't fall- began to enjoy my time there.

The one thing that I was completely unsure of was whether I would make any friends, or more so if I still had it in me to make any friends. I was also worried about the age difference between me and a typical student. I missed my friends from England. I didn't think I would make good friends as the ones I already had but then I realised that I didn't need the same type of friends in Sweden. As soon as I let of this, I made real close friends, we had fun, we did silly things, we had adventures, we laughed and we cried. We walked on an iced over Nydala Lake (I shook with fear) from one end to the other. We saw Aurora borealis, and wished upon shooting starts together. We shared our secrets, fears and loves. We told each other our stories. We jumped over fences; I felt like a badass. We even judged a Yoiking competition. We did things on a whim, for once I really lived a spontaneous life. I opened up and started conversations with strangers. I spent a lot of nights alone at the lake, sitting there, breathing in fresh air and watching the sunset and sunrise at the horizon, or just sitting there staring at the moon and the stars above. They were so clear there, there was no light pollution, every star shimmered individually. There really did look like diamonds in the sky. 

I won't go out of my way to make mistakes but now I take risks and take actions of which the consequences aren't clear cut. I now no longer beat myself a lot for making mistakes and nor am I petrified by the idea of making them. I do my best to learn from them so that I can improve and develop from them in the future. I don't worry about things I have very little or no control over. (Or really, I am writing this article after making myself ill again after stressing myself out over not being able to get a job, and then I waking up yesterday morning and my mind-radio switching on and the first song on in my head was 'Let it Go' from the film Frozen only the words from the song went a little like 'Fuck it All...' you get the idea.) 

I also realised just now, that if we don't make our own mistakes we won't ever really learn anything worth learning. Whenever anyone ever says- 'Don't do this... learn from my mistakes!'- it hardly ever had the same impact as when we make the same mistake ourselves. 

As I haven't really shared any photos for a while, here is one of my new painting, very close of being finished. It is also the biggest in size yet- standing at 40x32 inches...

So until next time,
Have a great week or two,
Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and if you fear mistakes then make 'em! Be spontaneous, do something on a whim, but don't go to a random restaurant on a whim- go to tripadvisor first!

Sen x

P.S- I also didn't freeze- I took a pair of thermals (bad joke, but go on- humour me :D)
Neil Gaiman's blog post:

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Why I Need Feminism

The plethora of feminist related issues are still as prominent as they were in the 1960s. In those days, for example, women were sick and tired of being housewives. These days we are, for example, fighting to receive equal pay. For me, Feminism is an important perspective, as it not only fighting for the right of women, but also men. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way.
Last month, I watched a video of a lady walking around New York which demonstrated the well documented issue surrounded women's bodies being 'public property'. She was cat-called, stalked, as well as whistled at. After watching the video, I looked at the comments section- a lot of them didn't see a problem with it with comments such as:
Female's Comment
Woman with enormous breasts and skin-tight T-shirt, complains about receiving the attention she deliberately went out to attract.

The majority of women, it seemed, were defending the video, who understood what the woman in the video was highlighting, many commented on having experienced something similar out on the streets. What made me feel sad was comments from other women who made similar comments like above, and many men who also failed to understand why it was an issue. This comment below summed up my feelings, it also happily surprised me that it came from a man, yet there was a clear presence in the comments section from men who were defending the video:
Male's comment:
People should stop saying that saying "Hi","Hey Honey" or "How you doing today" isn't harassment... It is the way these men said it. It is harassment and very creepy for someone to say "hello" or "god bless you" to a stranger walking by. They have their intentions, and they are all clearly hitting on her. In a city so big like NYC, where most people don't know each other, it is very peculiar and scary for a stranger to talk to you. Therefore, this video clearly shows the problems of harassment and the female vulnerabilities.

Video link:

My own feelings pretty much sum up what the comment above is conveying. It is about the way those men said/ made those comments towards her. I have felt the other side of this, in fact only last week I experienced something similar to this twice in one week, I was made to feel uncomfortable due to the actions of two men, once at university, and another time by someone in another car in the queue next to ours.The first time was on last Monday at uni, while walking past the International Office, on my way to a lecture, a young man was waiting outside in the corridor. He looked at me as I walked past and made the most disgusting noise equivalent to- 'oh yeah'. This immediately made me feel naked, I was wearing a coat, which in no way was figure hugging. At that moment, I felt dirty, and the rest of the day, I felt disturbed by the encounter. The second time, I was a passenger in a car, we were waiting in the queue when a car pulled up to my left. I noticed while looking around that the male driver was staring at me. I felt uncomfortable, so looked away immediately. I was relieved when his lane's lights had gone green and now was moving, but realised that he had remained static. He kept staring at me, holding the traffic behind him. He knew what he was doing, I'm sure of it. It made me feel terrified. 

I had hoped that now being in my late 20s would mean this would stop, yet it hasn't. But the thought in itself, that it would have stopped by now sums up what is still wrong with the society we live in. This sort of thing happens to many women. It's not nice and nor is it a compliment. It is the worst kind of attention to be given. It is unwanted, unneeded. It terrifies the victim. It makes the victim uncomfortable. It doesn't matter how someone is dressed. So when I see comments such as below, it saddens me that people are ignoring the very important issues that still need to be overcome. For me, only feminism can fix these issues.

A male's Review of the Guardian on it's Facebook Page:
There are at least two feminist articles a day popping up on my wall. The Guardian has seriously lost its direction and been hijacked by a feminist agenda. Remember when it was good unbias leftwing paper that wrote thought-provoking articles? A pity we have to remember them instead of reading that sort of quality at present. I am unsubscribing from The Guardian on facebook because of this

As I said earlier, Feminism stands up for all of us. It doesn't just benefit women, and most of the feminists do not hate men, just as not all English people love tea. Men can be, and many are, feminists. But this post isn't about why feminism is good for all of us, and nor is it about trying to persuade anyone into becoming one. It is about the very real experiences that half of the population is this country is facing. Of course, women are facing a lot worse situations in other parts of the world, namely the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, or the women raped in Somalia but if we can't even get past our own problems, we cannot even begin to look at others.

Sen x