Dodgy Journalism

We tend to believe what we read. At least, we usually believe it until (or if) we get the other sides of the story. Then we draw our own conclusions.

The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, did a lot of work on the belief of information. This is a great article, which discusses his work alongside the work of Descartes, and provides the results of a study: http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/why-you-cant-help-believing-everything-you-read.php (since this is an article about us believing what we read, I feel I should provide comprehensive references to what I say so I’m not accused of b*llsh*tting you all).

With this in mind, we should be very careful about what we believe in the media – especially now that we are closing in on the General Election. There is a lot of good, impartial journalism out there, but you need to be vigilant because we live in a time where wealthy, powerful people use media outlets for their own personal gain. They are willing to leave truths out of their work, emphasise the points that suit them, and straight up lie to get what they want.

Look at the recent Daily Mail headline that coined Nicola Sturgeon (SNP Leader) as “The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain” based on nothing more than conjecture, and a very un-scientific projection of the future if the SNP were successful in the elections. Similarly, the Telegraph released a despicable article about a conversation between Nicola Sturgeon and a French Ambassador without going to either of them for a quote (both deny the content of this conversation that the Telegraph reported on, so the report amounts to fiction projected to us as the truth).

As a species, we are very trusting. As humans developed, information was life and death. When we lived in nomadic tribes, we passed information to one another about things such as the availability of food in an area. We are hardwired to follow this sort of guidance. When we were toddlers, our mothers and fathers told us not to go near the fireplace because it was hot, and it would have burnt us. We believed them automatically because it was essential for us to believe them. Our minds are filled with loopholes when it comes to believing what we’re told, and there are people out there who will take advantage of that.

I’m an advocate of free speech. I like it when people give their opinions and speak their minds, no matter how controversial or outlandish (when things are out in the open, you know what you’re up against). But there is a big difference between this and purposefully deceiving people for personal gain. As I write this, the media is producing something designed to benefit a political party (and to hell with the truth!). And let us not forget that it is the lower class masses that are most influenced by the media – because there are more of us, so we watch more TV and buy more newspapers, etc.

Don’t let the media set the terms of our democracy!

The ITV Debate

When I turned over to ITV for the 7-way debate I thought I’d stumbled across an old episode of the Weakest Link. The set-up was the same, the “contestants” were stabbing each other in the back in an attempt to win, and even the presenter was in on the joke, trying her best to look like Anne Robinson.

It didn’t seem to achieve much. The debate was very tame and watered down. It was exactly what David Cameron wanted – he just hid in the corner and avoided any sort of direct debate with the other political leaders. Damage limitation.

The most exciting thing about the debate was the lady in the audience who heckled the PM. David Cameron was in the middle of thanking the country’s servicemen for their work when the lady spoke out. She pointed out that many of our service men and women end up on the streets after leaving the armed forces, and have very little support. David Cameron said they she brought up a good point, and proceeded to speak over her until she was dragged out of the studio.

This was the most genuine moment in the debate, and it was hardly mentioned in the debate analyses. Maybe it was a bit too real. People don’t like facing up to un-glamorous every day issues. It’s easier to turn the other way and go on and on about the “long-term economic plan” – something a bit more faceless and general that might garner a few more votes.

I’d like to congratulate the heckler, Victoria Prosser, for standing up and speaking her mind. It was the only part of the debate worth viewing.

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Our Unfair Society (and Cavemen)

The current systems in place within our society do not work. They breed inequality, undermine democracy, and completely ignore important topics, such as the many environmental issues we face. We need change in a big way, but there are many obstacles in the way.

The main obstacle is ourselves. People are naturally resistant to change (ask anyone who works in HR). This probably stems back to instincts instilled in us when the world was a much more threatening place. Biologically, there is virtually no difference between us and cavemen. Born in the same environmental conditions, you and a caveman would be equals (the caveman would be a little bit hairier, granted). Cavemen had to live in a very specific way to survive in their world. Changes in their lifestyle could be fatal. Today, we still have that instinct that tells us, “if you are alive, you’re doing something right, so don’t change anything!”.

Just in case anyone’s reading this thinking “I’m using a computer – I’m way more advanced than a caveman!” – that’s due to accumulation of knowledge i.e. the people before us figuring things out and writing things down (which started with cavemen drawing on the cave walls). All I’m saying is, if you were dropped naked onto a desert island, how long would it take you to send an e-mail?

So, we are very cautious about disrupting the status quo, even if we can see, rationally, that we are being cheated. We feel secure when things stay the same.

There is also a well-established pecking order in our society, which provides another obstacle to reform. The powerful people at the top of the pecking order are constantly telling us that things are okay the way they are, and to change anything would be a big risk. But, of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they, because they’re benefiting from the systems in place.

The people at the top of the pecking order are the mass communicators too, so their voice is the loudest, and it resonates in our ears constantly. They tell us that the people who want reform are crazy, idealists, and troublemakers. The people benefiting from the systems in place are the minority, so they have to turn us against each other to maintain their position. They also have to make us believe that social reform is out of reach, an impossibility. But maybe it’s closer than we think.

The philosophy we live by doesn’t make sense. One person starves to death while another is born the Queen (two people who are both shaved cavemen). Since the philosophy doesn’t make sense, the supporters of the philosophy lose touch with reality or use their influence to suppress real-world issues. All we get are minor changes designed to appease the masses – we are seeing plenty of them in the run-up to the general election!

As it stands, we are not in control of our own lives; we are used by the ruling class. We need to pry our lives from the desperate grasp of the powerful in order to live in a fairer society.

Bridging the Gap

Important decisions are made by the ruling class. Those decisions tend to affect under-class individuals the most. It’s obvious to see that this is a recipe for injustice and inequality. In order for policy and legislation to be fair for all people, there needs to be a fairer representation of different social classes in positions of power. That’s the only way we can bridge the socio-economic divide in the UK.

Are you comfortable with white male, Oxford educated, born-wealthy careerists making all your decisions for you? Because that’s what’s happening right now. Most people in positions of power fit the description above, yet they make up only a tiny cross-section of the society we live in. Even if they mean well, they haven’t got the same perspective as us, and therefore lack empathy with the problems we face. It’s like an accountant performing surgery on you. They’re great with numbers, but if you’re having a triple bypass you’d much prefer a trained surgeon with the scalpel.

In order to change things, we need the people who are most affected by social/economic issues to be heard. This is easier said than done. There are many barriers preventing these people from occupying positions of power, including:

  • Money issues: people are too busy trying to feed and house themselves to get into positions of power
  • Education: a person may know what they’re talking about, but if they don’t have the right piece of paper saying they know what they’re talking about, their voice can go unheard
  • Current Holders of Power: our current “leaders” have a death grip on their positions of power, and will try to keep everyone else down in order to keep the power for themselves
  • Culture: it is commonly believed that a select group of people are entitled to power and we are not (based what we see day in and day out from birth).
  • Personality Type: people hear the person who speaks the loudest. Good ideas won’t be listened to if they’re not put across in a certain way. Unfortunately, loudness and having good ideas are traits that seem to be mutually exclusive.

…And there are many more obstacles. But that doesn’t make it impossible for lower class people to gain positions of power, it just means we’ve got to work that much harder for it.

For working class people to make changes, we first need to change our own mind-sets and tell ourselves that A) we do know best and B) we are able to make changes if we put our minds to it. I’m not saying everyone should become a politician (although fairer representation in this area is DESPERATELY needed), but there are certainly actions that can be taken at grassroots level that can make real change in local communities, as well as lobbying and pressurising existing councils to make changes.

One advantage we have is strength in numbers. However, that doesn’t mean much if we let the ruling class turn us against each other (which they try to do constantly with regards to religion, race, gender, economic status). They tell us immigrants, or people on the dole are the enemy. That’s BS. The ruling class is the enemy.

With determination and unity we can all become leaders and make a difference.

Disadvantages of Being “Lower Class”

The following is a list of the disadvantages you will have to face if you are a member of the “Lower Class”…

You have to breathe polluted air on a daily basis.

You will have to work until you are dead – no retirement!

Mummy and Daddy won’t be able to get you an instant high-paying job.

You can’t champion your class without the well-off saying that you’re looking for a hand-out.

You are demonised by awful TV shows such as Benefits Street and TOWIE.

If you get into legal trouble you can’t afford a decent solicitor.

You are unable to walk around your neighbourhood without the fear of being shanked by a drug-addict.

You have to see a stressed-out, over-worked doctor every time you’re ill, and hope to God they diagnose you correctly.

You will never own a brand new suit (your uncle’s hand-me-down will have to do).

Your teachers are too depressed themselves to care about your education.

University is never presented to you as a viable option (“Have you thought about the Sandwich Factory?”)

Upper classes are surprised when it turns out you’re intelligent.

You will under the constant threat of repossession and homelessness.

You have to rely on privatised public transport to get you from A to B.

You are constantly judged by your accent and dialect.

You have no power or influence over the local politics in your area, and it is extra-difficult for you to make a change.

These are all things that you will have to overcome if you’re a member of the “Lower Class”. But when it all seems too much, remember this African proverb: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

Tuition Fees: The Lower The Better

Today Ed Milliband promised that he would cut university tuition fees by a third if elected and, crucially (as we learnt from Mr Clegg last time), this would be non-negotiable in any post-election coalition deals. There has already been a lot of cynicism in the media about this, and I am preparing myself for more of the same, but I think this cut in tuition fees would be a great thing.

A lot of the naysayers are saying that the promise is tokenistic, and that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to students. If a student takes a 4-year university course today, it will cost them £36,000. If they take the same course after the tuition cut it will cost them £24,000. They would save £12,000 (this isn’t taking into account other expenses such as accommodation). That’s simple mathematics. £12,000 is a lot of money. If a person doesn’t think £12,000 is a lot of money then they’re out of touch with the real world.

The universities are also saying that this is a bad idea (surprise, surprise). They seem to be concerned that they might not be able to function properly if the tuition fees are capped at £6000 a year instead of £9000. This is all talk. A few short years ago (as recent as 2010) fees were capped at £3000 a year, and they were coping just fine. Now, suddenly they’re horrified at the prospect of having to cope with 6k.

Lowering tuition fees is good for the country but, personally, I think the cap should be even lower. Ideally, I believe higher education should be free.

Up until the late 90s it was, essentially, free to go to uni. But for much of this time university was something that was only accessible to the more privileged, and it wasn’t generally considered an option for the working class. During this time it was acceptable for the taxpayer to foot the bill for higher education. When university became an option for most young people, even the working class, that’s about the time they decided that people should have to pay for university. If you see something wrong with that, then you and I are on the same page.

Why should the wealthy have more of a right to a good education than the poor?

The Nordic philosophy to higher education is what we should aspire to. They have always been strongly opposed to tuition fees. The same goes for Scotland. The difference with Scotland is that they are actually a part of the UK. I also live in the UK, but I wouldn’t get free tuition fees because I happen not to have been born in the right part of the UK. If Scotland gets free higher education I think we should all get the same privilege.

I feel privileged to have been able to go to university. I’m the first person in my family to have done so (in fact, when I got my first GCSE I became the most qualified member of my family, which comprises of coal miners and steel-workers). University is a great opportunity to develop, meet people, and broaden your horizons while in the pursuit of knowledge. I believe it has made me a better person, and I believe our country would benefit from it greatly…IF people didn’t come out of the other side of it with crippling debt.

Cuts to tuition fees would be a big step in the right direction.

Annoying Words/Terms in the Media

Thanks to the media, there are many over-used words and phrases that the British public are getting sick of hearing. Here are a few:

Austerity

A word used by people who don’t actually feel the effects of it. People who do feel the effects of it tend to say “Mum, Dad, I’m moving back in with you guys!” instead.

ISIS

They were the “biggest threat” to the Western World even before we’d decided what to call them. Also, when you see your sister in the street you can’t shout “Hi, Sis” anymore without getting funny looks.

TV Debate

This discussion is raging on. Basically, David Cameron doesn’t want a TV debate because he thinks opinion of him is as good as it’s going to get already. He was well up for the debates last time round…

Selfie

Narcissistic, but we’ve all done it. I remember when people had friends who would take pictures for them. Now everyone hates each other.

Long Term Economic Plan

The Tories know how to put the slow into slogan. Boring. Drab. Completely un-proactive. The deficit reduction has stalled, our debt has increased, and spending on vital services has been slashed. This plan is going to feel very long-term to the working class.

Fracking

This word sounds rude, and we’re going to be hearing it a lot more. Apparently there’s a “debate” as to whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. In reality there is no debate. The people who want it are the people who will benefit financially from it. Everyone else thinks it’s a silly idea. But, of course, the big corporations usually get their own way in the end.

Can you suggest any more?

Cynicism

When I look at politics and society today it pains me to see so much cynicism.

cynicism

[ ˈsɪnɪsɪz(ə)m ] 

NOUN

  1. an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism

This cynicism didn’t appear out of thin air. Several things contributed to the current cynical zeitgeist in our society. The terrorist attacks on the 11th of September 2001, and the subsequent attacks since, are bound to sap people’s faith in mankind. The recession, caused by wreckless, selfish actions by banks and corporations, has had a negative effect on almost everyone – people are bound to be more suspicious of the world around them. In response to these things, the government has been making irresponsible decisions that hurt the vulnerable members of our society while protecting the wealthy and powerful.

The latter of these factors is the most interesting. The government has played a big part in causing this cynicism, and now it uses the cynicism to gain support. Basically, the government gave us a swift kick to the balls and then made us pay them for the ice to stop the swelling.

Here are some of the cynical policies the government wants to enforce:

  • No more benefits for drug addicts and the overweight. It’s all their fault, so why should everyone else have to contribute towards them?
  • Privatise the NHS. People are using it willy-nilly. Maybe they’ll think twice if they have to pay!
  • Stop people coming into the country. They’re going to sponge off of the system.
  • Bring back fox-hunting. Those little furry bastards are trying to take over the world!

The government is happy with the current unsettled, cynical state of our society because it gives them leverage to manipulate people. The government is able to turn hate away from themselves and onto others. Suddenly the government is providing ‘solutions’ to problems that probably don’t even exist, marginalising a few outsider groups in order to please the masses.

But the government won’t provide us with any real solutions, because that would improve the chaotic, cynical, unpleasant atmosphere we’re living in. And as we’ve establish, that’s the government’s leverage – it’s not in their interest to improve it.

Luckily, I think people are getting wise (or desensitised) to this way of thinking. The right wing parties that were enjoying a resurgence are now dying back a little bit. People are tired of hating. Greece have embraced anti-austerity (which is scaring the wits out of the EU). I think a change has begun.

However, the change isn’t in full-swing. The UK elections are only a few short months away: Will the public be ready to vote for change, or will we be stuck with the Conservatives again? Only time will tell. I only hope that the future holds less cynicism and more compassion for our fellow man.

Targeting the Vulnerable – Who is the Enemy?

Who is the enemy?

It comes as no surprise that the Conservative Government are targeting the overweight and people with drug problems as the enemy this week. If you didn’t know, the government has proposed that the overweight and people with drug problems who are on sickness pay should have their benefits cut.

The logic behind this is shaky. Actually, calling it “logic” is a bit of a stretch. The fact is, the government really doesn’t want to pay any type of benefits to anyone. They resent having to give one single penny to anyone who isn’t in their circle of Chosen Ones. So, as a starting point, they have randomly chosen a vulnerable group of people to pick on, and they want to make life even harder than it already is for them.

Wait a minute, this is familiar. I remember seeing another group of people taking money from an overweight person, only this was in a school playground, and they also gave him a wedgie!

The overweight and drug addicts are vulnerable people. They often have mental health issues. The next step for the Tory government could well be to cut benefits to all people with mental health issues, forcing the bi-polar and manic depressive into work (or onto the streets) when they are at their most vulnerable, putting them and the people around them in danger. But who cares? It’s only the lower class factory-working scum.

Let’s not forget why people get hooked onto drugs or become overweight. The poor have numerous stresses and hardships that the wealthy, such as George Osborne and David Cameron, are completely unaware of. The biggest problem in life some people face is whether to buy the Rolls or the Lexus. Others have to worry about staying alive and housing themselves. These stresses force people to turn to escape-ism in order to forget how horrible their lives are. This means recreational drug use, which is fine if you have the personality type to control it. Some aren’t so lucky, and through mistakes, moments of weakness, or mental illness, they may find themselves hooked on harder, more life-degrading drugs.

And the overweight? When you have to work full-time for minimum wage and you come home feeling like crap it’s hard to motivate yourself to do exercise. If you have family to look after that makes it even harder. Unlike the Tory cabinet, these people don’t have gyms, personal trainers and nutritionists either. The poor will often buy the cheapest and most convenient foods and drinks, which is often unhealthy.

Vulnerable people can easily fall into unhealthy lifestyles. The government’s plan? Attack them!

It’s an easy option, because they know that they will get public support. David Cameron says: “It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.” It’s a rallying cry to turn people against the most vulnerable in our society when really we should be turning our attention to the real enemy: TAX AVOIDERS.

Wealthy tax avoiders in business and industry cheat us out of billions. The Conservatives turn a blind eye. Why? Because these same people fund the Conservative Party, and will fund the Tory election campaign later on this year. The Tories aren’t going to bite the hands that feed them. They will allow these educated criminals to go about their business.

David Cameron, our Prime Minister, our moral compass…

The Conservatives want to divide and conquer. Don’t be fooled. Don’t let them turn us against each other. The working class isn’t the problem. You need to look to the very top to find our real enemies.