Degeneracy, Inadequacy and the Weight of Living: Failed Expectations and Wasted Potential

It’s May 2015. David Cameron has just been elected as Prime Minister with one of the slimmest majorities in British political history. The Liberal Democrats are vanquished. Ed Milband’s Labour Party is in dire straits, and Scotland looks set for a second independence referendum, with the SNP taking nearly all of Scotland’s Westminster seats in a clean sweep.

In a Government & Politics class at a selective school in Watford, my 17-year-old self was living for it.

I joined the Labour Party straight after that election. Despite my background, from a single-parent household on tax credits, I chose to be a member. I’d always kept my options open politically, but being Labour just made a lot more sense to me and my own personal values. But, at the end of Lower Sixth and in an introduction to my A2 Politics course, my teacher explained the essence of free-market economics – something I had always viewed as a dirty term due to its association with Thatcherism.

“It’s the idea that multiple companies should be providers so that they compete with each other and keep prices down”.

Far from being “dirty”, that idea made a lot of sense to me. But, only being politically educated for a year, I still didn’t know why Labour held hostility towards it. Until I found out that, from 1997 – 2007, they didn’t. That someone had managed to combine the compassion of increased social policies with a free-market economy. And that someone was the much-vilified Tony Blair.

From then onwards, I viewed Blair as a much-misunderstood man. I hated his foreign policy, yet adored his domestic policy, as it made so much sense to me. Blair stood for, and acted according to, everything I had been piecing together in my political education. I viewed the world as the New Labour Machine did. I had the opportunity to undertake a Personal Investigation in my History Pre U course, and I opted to look at the makings of the New Labour experiment. I idolised Alistair Campbell as the man who could sell the story I so desperately believed in. From then onwards, I sought to do as he did. I remember joining a freshers’ group chat before I came to LSE, where everyone was asked what they wanted to do later in life. I simply replied: “I want to be the next Alistair Campbell”.

So I thought that political communications for the Labour Party was my calling. But then 2016 happened.

My naïve, 17-year-old self’s view of the world came crashing down. Suddenly, the failures of New Labour, in all their glory, came to the fore. They let too many EU immigrants in, against the public’s wishes. They failed to adequately modernise “left behind” places in the North. They also failed to “save to mend the roof when the sun shines”; neoliberal economics could not be effectively reconciled with large social-policy spending. Spending in “boom” cycles and failing to save in “bust” ones led to one of the greatest economic disasters of modern times – the impact of the 2008 Global Financial Crash in Britain. Beginning with Thatcher’s closing of the mines and move towards a London-centric service sector economy, New Labour had accentuated a divide between “cosmopolitan” and “left-behind” areas in the country that was only exposed on 23rd June 2016, with the Brexit Referendum.

At the moment I heard that the country had voted to Leave, I knew that the New Labour Experiment was dead. It was a failure for leading to this. Not only that, but the country was exposed as fractured, and the Corbyn-led Labour Party was far from up to the challenge of facing this. Being a fierce adequate of the New Labour machine and seeing the statistics of previous British elections, I believed, and still do, that a largely socialist manifesto is incapable of winning a British General Election. I have a somewhat Hobbesian generalised view of humanity which may contribute to this. Nevertheless, 2016, for me, spelled the end of politics as we knew it.

This was confirmed when I interned this summer at a public affairs’ firm and met Harry Gregson, who was a previous Communications Director for the Labour Party. Harry had the job that I aspired to have when I was 17. But he quit. When I asked why, he just said he simply could not get behind the party. It was flagging. He had worked there since 2008, so saw the Party through one of its biggest challenges in the form of the Crash, and had only just lost faith in the party. He added that he felt sorry for my generation and the lost opportunities we would have in the Party now that it was vast losing credibility and failing to meet the challenges that arose from 2016.

I voted Labour in 2017, but only because, as a Politics degree student, I believed I should always exercise my vote. But, in all honesty, for the first time in my life, none of the parties firmly resonated with me. I could never vote Conservative, out of a mixture of my background, personal values and firm belief that there remains a “cult of individualism” at the heart of the party. The Liberal Democrats were virtually dead and so naïve in their dedication to a second referendum. As if it would have a different outcome to the first; the fracture behind the first referendum had been exposed, you can’t just paper over it. I still dislike Jeremy Corbyn, but I voted Labour on the basis of the one thing that 2016 hadn’t changed: my values. I remained, and still remain, committed to achieving a more equal society, accounting for individualistic attitudes but boosting collectivism to achieve this.

The 2017 General Election then largely reflected the Brexit vote, with “Remain” areas backing Labour and “Leave” areas backing the Conservatives. Some heralded a return to normality with the two-party system; yet it was just the fracture at work again. 2017 only affirmed that the divide in British politics was not going anywhere, and, if major politicians could not solve it then I, as a university student wanting to work in politics, would not stand a chance.

So, I attempted to broaden my horizons. In my second year of university, I applied for internships in nearly every sector. Finance, Marketing, PR – you name it, I applied for it. But I still couldn’t shake the idea that I wanted to be part of the Establishment. Yet, in my heart, I knew that the Establishment was failing, and had, effectively, fallen after 2016. I interned in Public Affairs, which I enjoyed to an extent, but I’m not sure if working for clients is for me. I want to work for an agenda that I believe in, and, call me naïve in saying this, make British politics a better place. Right now, Westminster is catty, bitchy and quite frankly toxic, which can all be seen at PMQs. I don’t want to work for the civil service, as I don’t think I could undertake policies that I don’t believe in.

That is linked to my greatest problem, in terms of versatility and a willingness to explore different jobs. I don’t think I can be moulded. I went through an extensive application for a job in PR recently, for the company to basically turn around and say communications wasn’t for me, and I understood the business sector far better. It’s probably true, as I remember being asked in an interview if I would be willing to concoct a lie to cover up a company’s mistake, and I just replied that it was far better to admit to the mistake and sugar-coat its impact than lie, as that would always be found out. She raised her eyebrows, probably her signal that I should not be working in an industry based on manipulating the truth.

Arguably, political communications does this, too. But I believed in the pre-Corbyn Labour Party, and still do. I could so easily sell it, as its core would not be a lie to me. But the opportunity has gone. Or maybe it was never there to begin with, given that the crisis in British politics has likely been brewing since Thatcher changed the landscape of modern Britain.

Now nearly 21, I’ve found myself struggling to find the niche that I thought I had sorted at 17. The landscape of my chosen career was out of my hands, as politics always is. Still, I never anticipated seeing the opportunity disappearing into oblivion entirely.

As a child, I was somewhat a prodigy. My reading ability was high throughout my years in education. I remember being top of my class in my fairly average primary school, and, in my final year, having my teacher grade my Reading level as a 6, despite being told she was not allowed to. From then onwards, expectations were placed firmly on my shoulders. From teachers who saw what I was capable of doing. From my parents, who wanted me to fare better than they did. And, most importantly, for myself, who desperately tried not to be “the kid that peaked in school”.

Going to the top institutions has only cultivated this fear. My school was selective, so the vast majority of its student body were incredibly clever. It was disheartening not to be selected for the best schemes, and, in many ways, friends felt like competition. Then I came to LSE, which was like my school on steroids. Being surrounded by the best and brightest minds was made worse by around 70% of the student body wanting to go into a vocation carved out for them from first year. For both the Finance and Law sectors, most students undertake a Spring Week in first year, internship in second and receive a graduate job for third.

Before I turned 17, I thought I’d do Law. Having a high reading and writing ability, along with an analytical aptitude, this seemed like an appropriate vocation. But family has always been of primary importance to me, and finding out the working hours and job commitments involved in Law wrote it off for me. But now I’m coming to regret that, on the pure basis that it would have been so much easier for myself and figuring out my career, had I just decided to go into Law that much earlier.

So I am now at a crossroads. It’s incredibly difficult not knowing what to do, when you actually do know, but it is not an option. I considered taking next year out to work on the US Democratic Party’s 2020 Presidential Campaign, until I remembered that the US faces a similar divide to what the UK does now. The establishment are failing everywhere so, with my desire to advocate a national cause that I believe in, how could I advocate and become a part of it?

With graduation nearly six months on the horizon, I am feeling the pressure of the weight of living. Nothing would disappoint me more than failing to find my niche and looking like my biggest fear – wasted potential.

Yet, in my current predicament, that sadly looks to be a viable prospect.


Labour is beyond saving – we cannot help them now

Doctors on strike, tuition fees rising, the return of grammar schools. These are only a few of the cruel Conservative policies that are able to be implemented due to the weak opposition caused by Labour’s preoccupation with fighting each other, rather than the Tories. Jeremy Corbyn has single-handedly managed to bring the party of the working people, since 1900, to its near-destruction.

A mandate from over 50% of the membership. Over 250,000 more members joined under his leadership. It is true that Jeremy Corbyn has managed to invigorate members of the public and engage them with his “new, honest politics”. Yet what must be remembered is that this surge of support is only from a single group of people, many of whom are under the age of 18 and therefore cannot vote in a general election. Furthermore, these people are likely to be clustered in metropolitan, diverse areas – London, Brighton, Manchester, Newcastle, for example. There may be 500,000 people engaged by Jeremy Corbyn, but it takes over eight million to win a general election, from over 300 areas. One only has to do the maths to see that Jeremy Corbyn will have to win over Conservative voters to win a general election.

In a fair world, there would not be the First-Past-The-Post election system which epitomises the tyranny of the majority. Under this current system, Jeremy would never win an election. Why?

There are a multitude of factors. Firstly, Jeremy’s supporters lie clustered in a few areas. Over 300 seats are needed to win a general election, with most seats in the House of Commons controlled by the vote of Middle England, who provide the simple majority needed to win a seat. It is widespread electoral knowledge that, whoever wins Middle England, wins the general election.

Jeremy does not stand a chance of winning broad enough support for a general election. Labour have fallen to 29% in a recent opinion poll, with only 16% of voters stating that they believe that the Corbyn/McDonnell partnership would be best for them in government. Middle England hate tax; Corbyn wants to raise it. Middle England like neoliberal economics; Corbyn wants a return to Keynes. It is differences like these that show how Jeremy will never be able to curry the support of the standard, middle-class voters who hold the keys to government that Labour have not seen since 2010 – six years ago now.

It is not as if MPs are against Corbyn – they see this issue and want to return Labour to power. Calls that they are defying the membership’s will can be said to be justified. However, in a representative democracy, we elect our MPs to represent us and do what is best for us. The best way they can do this is in government. MPs simply cannot fulfil their party’s mandate from the benches of opposition; so who can blame the 172 who tried to oust the man keeping Labour from power? They want to see a Labour government, even if this means defying their membership.

Labour is a party, made up of members and representatives. A further issue is that Corbyn supporters appear to be drifting from what a generic Labour supporter thinks, having come from: unions, anti-establishment groups, the Socialist Worker’s Party and the Green Party, to name but a few. I know more Green Party voters that favour Corbyn over Labour voters – showing how far he is from traditional Labour views, epitomised by his repeated defiance of Labour whips since 1983. We have a man leading Labour, who was known as Labour’s biggest rebel by continuously voting against Labour. That says it all.

Corbyn supporters are also further left than their representatives, and this is where this clash of opinion strikes the heart of the party the most. Labour is beyond saving, because its membership is further to the left than their representatives. In shifting the party to the left and attracting voters who may previously have either been anti-establishment abstainers or Green Party supporters, Jeremy has created an isolated membership, with priorities far from those of their MPs. In short, Jeremy Corbyn has split the party at its core.

Corbyn supporters may fight back by saying that, as Jeremy has drawn so many to the party, his appeal cannot be subsided. It is true that Jeremy has drawn many people to the party – but the wrong kind of people to get Labour elected. It is good that he has broadened support and won new members – it just isn’t enough to win, as only Middle England can do this. It is human nature to be selfish and vote based on our own interests and what is best for our families. For the majority of voters, who are Middle England, this is neoliberal economics. Corbyn supporters tend to view the world through a Rousseau-tinted lens, where everyone in the country is as caring about equality and fairness as they are. Human nature is selfish, and Middle England only wants one thing: their finances stabilised. Of course they care about public services, but as a lesser priority. This is proven in Conservative domination over the 20th Century – and showcased most through Thatcher’s triple term wins and Blair’s successful combination of neoliberalism and social justice.

What is most interesting is how history has repeated itself. Labour did not learn from the electoral disaster that was 1983. Michael Foot, too, had thousands of supporters at rallies and drew new members to the party. Yet, failing to win Middle England, crashed and burned at a general election, splitting Labour. Labour survived by adapting neoliberal economics under Kinnock, Smith and Blair: so why not continue doing so to skip the electoral oblivion stage?

Furthermore, many Corbyn supporters blame the media and its influence for his failure to win Middle England. Whilst it is true that the media do not favour Corbyn, it is also true that it takes a policy shift towards mass opinion to get the media on side. 13 million people read The Sun – enough to win a general election. Labour won when it had The Sun’s support, and lost as soon as it was dropped. The Sun can be criticised, yes, but it is the paper most read in the country, and, more importantly for Labour, widely known to be the paper of the working class. It backed both a Conservative majority in 2015 and Brexit – unlikely successes that occurred partly due to its endorsement of them. The Telegraph praised Gordon Brown’s economic policy. The media represent public opinion. My mother is a floater from Hertfordshire – a typical Middle England home county. She hated Corbyn as soon as he was elected due to his “loony left” stance prior to becoming leader, and scruffy appearance. The only solution to these issues with Middle England is to remove the problem – in this case, it is Jeremy Corbyn himself. He does not represent mass public opinion in such a way that no adaptations he makes to his vision will ever win their support, and therefore a General Election. Both Consetvative MPs and voters are hoping that Corbyn stays in – with David Cameron laughing and telling him to “just go” at PMQs – which says everything. It is only in the Conservatives’ interests to have someone unelectable leading HM Opposition. It is beyond me how a party so proud of its history in government cannot repeat its previous successes and avoid its previous failures to get there.

The split here would be far worse than 1983. Heartlands could turn to UKIP, losing even more seats. The 172 rebelling MPs would face a membership abandonment, as the membership is now largely in favour of Corbyn and would back his side. The polarisation of traditional Labour opinion between Corbynism and UKIP is reminiscent of that in Weimar Germany in the 1920s. And, when this happens, it is the right that will only benefit.

Labour is beyond saving. If Owen Smith wins, the isolated, Corbyn-dominated membership will cry of bias in campaigning and a conspiracy, opening the divide between members and the wider party, leading to Labour’s Civil War. If Corbyn wins, it is 1983 all over again. Will there be a Tony Blair to save us? A “sellout” to mix Labour’s social policies with a neoliberal economy and win a general election in 10 years’ time?

We’re not in 1997 anymore. The Tories aren’t in disarray now that the Brexit vote has been cast. They are destroying Labour initiatives casually enough to go unnoticed without stronger opposition. Nationalism has taken supporters both in our heartlands and in Scotland – a key base of support that we wiped the Conservatives out in, entirely, in 1997. By ignoring these issues and continuing to coast in a Rousseau-tinted haze, led by a man unrepresentative of his peers, Labour is beyond saving.

The Problems With Grammar Schools

It has been recently brought to public attention that, under Theresa May’s new Conservative government, grammar schools appear to be back on the agenda. Having attended a selective school and been through the application process (successfully), I will now explain why such schools have multiple flaws, and why I think that the expansion of grammar schools is a fundamental mistake.

I attended what is known as a “partially-selective” school, dubbed a “middle-way” between a comprehensive and a grammar school. This is where about 45% of the school’s intake is through the 11+ Exam, with 10% through musical ability, 18% through proximity of home to the school, and the rest of the places went to siblings of students already at the school. With such small numbers of students not selected for ability, and retaining the “Grammar School” in its name, the school was, in all but status, a grammar school.

I had to take the 11+ Exam to get into the school – which I passed. Yet, let’s just, for a minute, examine why I passed this exam. I went to one of the worst-performing junior schools in the area. Admittedly, I was one of the brightest students in said school, but this had little influence on my success as compared to the rigorous training that my mother subjected me to. I had a private tutor, with individual tuition sessions aimed specifically at honing the verbal reasoning and mathematical skills needed to pass the exam and get me into the school. I spent countless hours of the day under my mother’s watch, sitting past paper after past paper that she had bought from the local shop. I ended up finishing the mathematics exam in 20 minutes – half of the 40 minutes required.

Yes, being naturally bright was part of the reason why I passed the exam, but I still believe that, due to my less-than-average everyday schooling, the money and effort that my mother spent on private tuition is what made the difference.

Now, let’s compare this to my best friend. She was also a well-performing, bright student, yet her parents did not invest nearly as much money and effort into her preparation for this exam. Neither did the school that we were in. Despite possessing fairly high intelligence, she failed this exam.

This girl, luckily, managed to get on a waiting list for another selective school, and got a place. She got five university offers this year – two for top-10 UK universities, and three Russell Group.

This clearly shows that she had the potential for a grammar school. And even if, despite how bright she was, she did not possess such ability at age 11, she flourished later. Grammar schools do not allow for this. A child who may be average at age 11 may improve in ability at, for example, age 13 and 14, but, stuck in a poor-performing comprehensive or technology college, would still acquire poor GCSEs. Grammar schools segregate children at age 11, with no regard for those who, like my best friend, could flourish later in life and benefit from a selective environment. In my Local Education Authority, the schools that are not partially-selective perform badly, due to their intake being significantly affected by the selective system. This means that the bright students at these schools, who would have flourished later than age 11, suffer due to being in a low-performing school as a result of their failure at age 11. The grammar school system creates a two-tier education system and meritocracy that ensures that life potential is based on performance at age 11. Ultimately, such a hierarchy only encourages social tension, and refines the class system – and is the main reason why the Labour Party introduced comprehensive education.

However, my pass and my friend’s failure in the exam is also a clear example of how success in gaining entry to a grammar school is based on the amount of money and effort that pushy, middle-class parents put in. The selection process is, therefore, not even meritocratic. Grammar school selection is not based on ability – it is, fundamentally, based on money.

To back-up this point, upon arrival at the school, I was astounded to find that a significant amount of students came from private primary schools; all former private school students at the school also came from the 11+ intake. There was a marked difference in their level of knowledge to mine, and that remained the case for years; ¾ of my school’s elite, crème de la crème Head Girl team went to a private primary school. As these schools had the resources to train them for this exam, these girls passed with flying colours. These girls also remained at the top of the intake for years – until, around, third form, where girls from average state primary schools, such as me, began to equal and even surpass them. These girls were of no significant high aptitude – at A-Level, where their head-start in life was no longer marked, most of their results were the standard for the school, and not significantly higher. Yet the very fact that so many pupils from the 11+ intake had the training from private primary schools shows that the grammar school selection process is flawed and skewed towards the children of parents with money, who had been prepared for the exam. An intelligent child with real ability could slip through the net of the grammar school intake due to having had no preparation for the exam, leaving the intake to those from private institutions with no significant ability, but just training geared at the exam. Essentially, a grammar school is a bourgeois, middle-class institution, with intake like that of any private school – based on ability to pay.

The effect of a selective environment on mental health appears to be one of the less well-known cases against grammar schools, yet it is, in my opinion, one of the most important. A selective school is a competitive environment. The teachers heavily push the pupils, with countless “Gifted and Talented” schemes, and other incentives. Due to these, pupils are constantly striving to be the best and better their peers. One can argue that this is good, as children can accept losses and constantly remain motivated. Yet this attitude ultimately makes children view their friends as their competition. I remember, in first and second form, crying at home because I had not been selected for particular schemes, despite routine selection for others. I remember developing resentment towards my friends who had. The constant chatter of “what did you get? Oh, I slightly beat you” and “You got an A? Not an A*, though, is it?” was hideously common.

So many people left after fifth form, stating that they hated the competitive, pushy environment of the school. They also felt as if they were gaining nothing out of the school, having been alienated for all of their selective schemes. If you were one of the best-performing students at age 11, the teachers singled you out for special treatment, which lasted all the way until age 18. This is, after all, a partially-selective school, so a full grammar school may be different. But this just highlights how selection creates not only competition between peers, but favouritism – both having a negative impact on the students there.

Having to watch the same, favourite students win prizes every year was like a broken record. If you could not beat the best of the best – the aim of any grammar school, after all, is to produce the best – then you felt like a failure. I started to develop depression in third form upon realising that I would never benefit from the school’s environment. I felt neglected by my failure to surpass the best. I love my friends, but we did – and still do – view each other as our competition. Selective education can destroy friendships as easily as it creates them.

So, Mrs May, before bringing back the flawed schools that divide and dominate, I urge you to remember the flaws of such schools in the meritocratic ideology of your party, and also why comprehensive education was implemented in the first place.

Why Ireland should #VoteYes to same-sex marriage

“Nor what God blessed once, prove occurst”. – Robert Browning

Today is a landmark day in Irish history. Following the referendum on the adoption of same-sex marriage into the Irish Constitution, it has become apparent that a ‘Yes’ vote in favour is overwhelming – a predicted 57% majority, somewhat of a shock to older generations, given the traditional hostility of Catholicism to homosexuality.

There is honestly nothing more pleasurable for me than knowing that anybody can marry, regardless of their gender.

Those who oppose homosexuality use the argument that it is immoral and unheard of. Those who are religious tend to quote Leviticus, which openly states how “a man should not lie with another man”. Such people would argue that gay marriage is a direct violation of the wishes of God, and directly contradicts the facts of nature. After all, one might argue, “it is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”

Here is what we need to remember. These people, these homosexuals denied the basic right to a union with one they love, cannot control how they feel.
Yes, one might brand them an anomaly or a violation of nature. One might even say it is sickening how two people of the same gender can connect in a way the same as two people of the opposing gender. That view is incredibly naïve and far from a sound, factual basis. The truth is that gay people, no matter how much they may decide to convince themselves otherwise, cannot control who they are attracted to. Does the number of suicides amongst the gay community demonstrate of isolated they feel over the view of their nature as opposition?
Homosexuals are born with feelings they cannot control. Do you think that they asked to be born the way they are? Of course not! So why should society punish them for how they live, when it is beyond their control? Forget religion, forget Leviticus. By persecuting gay people for something they cannot control and is a part of their very nature, it is those persecutors who are the real anomalies of nature. Inhuman. An unjust, irrational hate of individuals on a factor beyond their control is not unlike racism. Think about that.
The persecution of people based on their inability to control their sexuality is cruel and inhuman. Marriage is traditionally a commitment of fidelity between two people who are in love. Gay love is no less a real love than a love between two straight people. Therefore, gay people should be allowed to marry. It is no complicated sum. It is love. And love, irrespective of gender, can be showcased through marriage. Why should gay people be denied the right to marry those they love, especially when they cannot control it?
The argument that marriage is a commitment before God against homosexuality can again be contested. Although God may have recorded in religious texts how homosexuality is immoral, religion does argue how God created all human beings, and all humans as equal. God created homosexuals. And God advocated love. As every man is equal in the eyes of God, every man should have the right to commit themselves to another in the same manner. It is a basic right of equality.
So, Ireland and anywhere else in the world that has still to gift this basic human right, I urge you. Say yes to same-sex marriage. And give these minorities the equality that they truly deserve. 

History favours the British

At the height of the British Empire, very few English novels were written that dealt with British power. It’s extraordinary that, at the moment in which England was the global superpower, the subject of British power appeared not to interest most writers. – Salman Rushdie

This is a topic that has sparked my interest ever since I realised the simple truth, two years ago during a history lesson on the Treaty of Versailles, that history appears inclined towards the wishes of the British.
Ever since the current United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland was created in 1801 (after a Scotsman, James I, became king 104 years prior due to his claim as Henry VII’s descendant, and Scotland united with England in 1707), it has wielded tremendous power throughout modern history. The British Empire spanned a quarter of the globe in the early 20th Century, despite the loss of America in the 18th Century. Both world wars were victorious to Britain, as were the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent Crimean War. The navy dominated, being the biggest threat upon the seas in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
But why is this? How could one tiny island rule over so much of the globe, and hold so much influence?
Compare this to Russian history: technologically, economically and socially backwards until the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which, as we know, caused disaster in the form of a totalitarian communist dictatorship of a regime. Before that, there was a Tsar and massive social hierarchy, with serfs liberated years after Britain’s. World War II won, yes, but with massive casualties from fighting the Germans in the winter conditions. Isolated in diplomacy throughout the 20th century due to their government.
So, why does history favour the British?
My “lightbulb” moment realising this question was in a year 10 GCSE history lesson, where we were studying the “Big Three” peacemakers of Versailles, and their aims.
And how were we taught the way in which these aims should be thought of?
Georges Clemenceau, of France? Too harsh.
Woodrow Wilson, of America? Too lenient.
David Lloyd George, of Great Britain? He had it right!
Yes, despite wanting all German colonies and a completely dismantled German navy, along with vowing to serve the British public’s wish to “squeeze the German lemons until the pips squeak”, Lloyd George’s harsh aims to purely serve British interests were taught to us as being just right.
I was taught in a British school, which could explain the obvious bias, but it still was enough to get my brain ticking over why the British were so lucky in history. Thinking about it later on, I came to the conclusion that it was down to three factors:
Factor 1: they were technologically advanced. The Industrial Revolution occurred in the mid-19th Century, much earlier than other major powers’. By having the technology to create goods faster and more efficiently, Britain were able to dominate the trading world and create their empire which made them, disputably, the most powerful 19th Century nation.
Factor 2: the constitutional monarchy. Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, monarchical powers became mostly ceremonial, paving the way for educated officials to collectively make key political decisions. This was crucial in foreign policy, proving an advantage over authoritarian kings in countries such as Russia and France, who could easily overrule their subjects and engage in poor political decisions.
Factor 3: the navy and power over the seas. This allowed Britain to become a major overseas trading power with countries such as America and India, who had the conditions to produce high demand goods, the former known for its cotton plantations. This allowed Britain to dominate both the seas and trade, again assisting their global domination.
So, history does favour the British. In order to be successful, a nation needs a strong defence, a stable government, trade, technology and educated officials. Britain had all of these before any other nation and this, in turn, allowed them to dominate history.
History does not favour Britain by chance; it favours it by circumstance.

The Rise of Atheism

“Just because I cannot see it, doesn’t mean I can’t believe it.” – Jack Skellington (Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas)

(N.B. This focuses on U.K. Society, where I am from, however the themes could also be used to describe broader social change).

Thinking back to around 100 years before today, the changes one would likely notice would most definitely be material: architecture, technology, costume. Nobody thinks about personal opinion and beliefs when thinking about change. And nobody really realises it, either; it is not until you discover the opinion of the masses and directly compare this to a century before, that change can really be seen.
Living in present-day society, someone openly declaring themselves an atheist wouldn’t be thought unusual. In fact, a recent poll in the United Kingdom revealed that just 49% of people believe in God (yet 54% believe in the supernatural, somewhat unsurprisingly). Compare this to the UK 100 years ago, this figure would stand at around 80%, possibly even 90%. Compare this to the 1500s, and it would be near-on 100%. Religion was all people had in the past, and many clung on to books such as the Bible, Qur’an and Torah to dictate every aspect of their lives.
The freedom brought by decades such as the 1920s, 1950s and 1980s diminished religious power completely, due to lifestyle changes which opposed Bible teachings. People openly talked about sex. Homosexuality became open, which I believe is for the better (I am a strong advocate of gay rights, which you may see later). People began to wear more provocative, revealing clothing and engage in sexual activity at a younger age. All of these were frowned upon in the eyes of religion, so many began to view their civil liberties and own will as superior to it and abandoned it altogether, and their upbringings in turn.
One of my best friends, the one I wrote about in my first post, actually, is an open atheist, however comes from a strict Jewish family. He wears a chain with the Star of David around his neck. He had a Bar Mitzvah and partakes in Shabbat every Friday night. His parents only allow him to see Jewish girls, yet they are also atheists themselves. When he told me this, it puzzled me completely. Are even religious people today masquerading as something they are not, purely because it is what they have always known? In other words, do they only continue to practice religion by convention?
The decline in marriage is also partially due to the rise of open atheism. As marriage is traditionally considered to be a lifetime commitment before God, those who do not believe in God would feel it is pointless in this respect, unless they believe it symbolises a commitment in law, which is what marriage is considered to be today.
Furthermore, secularisation of government and the declining power of the Church and its control over state affairs in Great Britain also emphasises the general public feeling towards religion. Although there are still Church of England bishops and archbishops in the House of Lords, they holds virtually no power now due to the many changes undergone to this Upper House, so religious beliefs are barely considered in law. People just do not feel that religion is relevant in today’s society, namely due to numbers of philosophical authors emerging, and scientific developments, such as space discoveries, Darwinism and the Evolution of Species, which eroded traditional religious beliefs and caused many to question what they had always thought to be right, as it had now been proved wrong. After all, can it be proved that Jesus actually existed, or is it just old folklore that will be placed soon on the back burner, reduced to the mythological status of figures such as King Arthur and his compatriots?
I recall a conversation with a boy I know, the subject of my last post, around two months ago. We were walking to the local supermarket, and the subject of God somehow came up. After which he asked: “so, do you believe in God?”
Now, this is a touchy subject for me. My family traditionally follow an Orthodox form of Islam, however my immediate family not so much. I was a bastard, which pretty much says it all, and I also socially drink, something forbidden, which they tend to turn a blind eye to. But I’d always believed in God. It was just the easiest explanation for creation and why everything existed. I tried to convince myself of the argument for atheism many times, yet always managed to combat it, and therefore declared myself an open theist.
However, it was not until March this year when I really began to question what I had always thought I knew. My maternal grandmother, who I had always been close to and who had virtually brought me up, was diagnosed with dementia in Summer 2011, which completely broke me and became the catalyst for the series of breakdowns I would have over the next few years. I did not think much of it at the time, however began to see the true vicious nature of the illness when she mistook me for my aunt, her daughter, and caught pneumonia twice, succumbing to the second bout on March 15th.
This was the brief religious turning point for my family; they all rallied around her bedside and prayed, saying things such as: “God will prevail” and “have faith in God”. I thought this was bullshit. If there was a God, I so angrily screamed, how could God do this to her in the first place?
So, I briefly lost my faith and became an atheist. Yet, despite what had happened, I was not fully settled in this mindset. I came to realise that I would always be a theist; I believe in God, but I do not follow a specific religion – regardless of what people say, one cannot physically believe in everything a religion entails.
To answer his question, I replied: “yes, I do.” He seemed very shocked at this, raising his eyebrows and staring at me inquisitively, as if I had said I would like children at the age of 17 or something along those lines (we discussed that too, actually, on the way home from the supermarket). He said: “Sarina, you need to realise that God does not exist. There is no God.”
It stunned me to hear directly how surprised people were to my open admission to being a theist. Today’s youths would automatically view each other as atheists, and I would expect that. It is just interesting to see how atheism has risen to the point of popular opinion, from the virtual oblivion it was in the past.

The Truth About Feminism

What is history? History is about women following behind with the bucket.” – Mrs Lintott, The History Boys (Alan Bennett)

One issue that has plagued social media, and has been the source of many a conflict recently, has been feminism. Most of the conflict boils down to the fact that many people do not have the first clue about what feminism really is. So, I’ll tell you now: feminism is not about women wanting to be seen as better than men, it is about women striving for the equality they desire and deserve after a history of being treated as secondary to men.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, to use Austen’s phrase, that men are physically stronger than women, and are therefore sometimes seen as superior due to this. Since the dawn of time, there has been the convention of men going out and fighting and providing for their families, whilst their wives cook and clean and look after the children, patiently waiting for their husbands to return home.

So, the superior strength of men has served them well in the past, in the times of Roman gladiators and defending Medieval monarchies, for example. However the age we live in today is a completely different one. Physical strength no longer gets you further than mental strength. The advancement of technology and a change in customs mean they are worth as much as each other. Men were seen in the past as superior due to the way they could fight. That is no longer as relevant today, yet women are still constantly persecuted against and expected to fulfil this “household role”. Josef Goebbels, a Nazi leader, reportedly said that “the role of women is to look beautiful and bring children into the world”. Clearly, given that he said this in the 1930s, the expectation of a household wife has lived on throughout the centuries, right into modern society and views.

The idea of men being superior has also been shown through the way in which men and women who are sexually involved are treated and viewed. To use another historical example, Jane Shore, the mistress of King Edward IV of England, was publicly acknowledged as his “court whore” and was forced to perform a public penance (act of redemption) by his brother, King Richard III, despite the fact that Richard had mistresses and two bastards himself, yet he performed no such act. It was common practice for a king to have as many mistresses as he desired, however women who had public affairs or multiple lovers were ridiculed and gossiped about. This form of female persecution still exists today, especially with catcalling and slut-shaming becoming all the more prominent in today’s society. A woman who has had multiple lovers, or even one well-known affair, is acceptably labelled a “slut”, by her friends and strangers alike, whilst her male counterpart is labelled as a “lad”. How should the repercussions be any different for a woman when she committed the same act as a man?

This labelling and view still exists in schools today, also. My first make-out was documented on camera by a friend of the boy I made out with, and posted on Instagram sometime last year. The reaction I received was completely different to his. He had widespread acclaim by the boys in his school, praising him for what he had “achieved” whereas I got whispers of: “wow, I did not know she was like that” and “her behaviour was slutty that night”. Why should the boy be the one treated as a hero and the girl be made to feel like she’s done something wrong?

The “meninist” views that have been spread around recently are mostly rubbish, due to the writers not understanding the concept of feminism (that it revolves around equality), but some do raise the fair point of gender stereotypes, such as boys wearing pink and being seen as “gay” if partaking in activities such as dance and gymnastics, and weak if they cry. However gender stereotypes, whilst being linked to equality, are separate issues. Although men are not treated fairly in certain situations, it is ultimately women who are still viewed as their lesser, and this must be tackled first, as it is the first step to achieving the equality needed to suppress gender stereotypes.

Furthermore, it is the misunderstandings of the word “feminism” that scare many people; due to the “fem” part of the word, many, such as a male friend of mine who asked this earlier, wrongly assume that it is about female superiority (Do your research, @TheMeninist). And it is not only women who should be fighting for this movement. Most men will never “grow a pair”, so to speak, and petition for what is right, as they feel it will disadvantage them somehow to endorse the equality of women. This is not about who should be seen as better. This is about what is right, and that is why women and men should join the fight and band together for the equality that they both deserve.