Shamefully we can all hang our heads at some point when it comes to based much of our opinions of other countries or cultures. Whether it be images of what we except landscapes to be, how groups of people act when they are around us-or even down to how we perceive the fabric make-up of another countries society itself.
The American Dream was always something I’d assume was deeply in-bedded into the DNA of the USA. It was something school boys and girls dreamed of achieving throughout their schools lives-the age of story of work hard, put in the sweat, make your money: You will succeed. With the growth of corporations in the 60’s and 70’s, the rise of modern day capitalism, the boost in the financial and industrial sectors, it was a dream that propelled a nation into the 21st century with hope.
In my travels across the US, something has been a recurring theme when speaking to the teenagers and recent graduates of college around whether the idea and the reality of the American Dream does really exist-and if it does-to whom does it belong?
I met a 22 year old Maths Graduate Alex from Washington DC. According to him the conversations matched those similar to many of those graduating in the UK. What the hell am I doing with my life, where am I going to end up and am I even going to a job? Again meeting graduates in New York, it was all the same story-finding more part time work in bars, shops, restaurants and warehouses to pay the time before something else came up.
I noticed something interesting in their discussion. It was all around how to make money. And make money fast. About what markets needed tapping and who knew what and where about things that have worked in the past. And here lies the problem. Money. Which a middle class reducing in size all over the world, and the USA is no exception, there just in the money flying around for these young people to start their own business or create their own dreams.
And this is the reason I started on shame. I assumed that the American Dream was alive and that somehow Europe and the rest of the world was somehow lacking in the drive and desire of the US. I often felt in a way that the US Dream was soaked in arrogance, that somehow those who could would succeed and those whom couldn’t would fail; even if the fault wasn’t theirs.
So what do many of the US young and recently graduated think about what is left of the American Dream? Much of the response to my question was ‘Oh the American Dream exists. For those whom can afford it’. It was a bitter sentiment. Maybe jealous even. But quietly very sad. It was almost that many felt their destiny was out of their control. And well if you add up the factors it’s easy to see why. up front College fee’s sometimes average $50,000…a term, high interest on loans, a job market that has no protection for minority groups or in fact working rights at all, and a sentiment around a economy that continues to stutter. You need money to make money. Which is great. If you have some to begin with.
But something interesting came up in conversation. Alex made a point about the way much of the cultural beginnings start with that of socialism. “That the fear of the an equal distribution of wealth and still drives this survival of the fittest. If you can win you will succeed. If you can’t you will fail. This feeling of failure is starting to creep up the class ladder; absorbing now what is left of the lower middle classes.
And what struck me finally was the point Alex made about the future for the young people of USA. The wave of hope around Obama and the prospect of a better future hasn’t really washed up in many shores of the country. ‘Something has got to change’ Alex said in a slightly foreboding manner, ‘because for the first time a generation is aware of how bad it is…’
What that will look like however, no-one seems sure.
I don’t really like the idea of a ‘parting-shot’. Truth be told by the time you are leaving really your opinion isn’t really worth much-otherwise you wouldn’t be leaving. It maybe a slightly old and bitter ramble. But it makes me feel better anyway.
My time for me to exit the world of student politics is soon. I’ll leave behind a world of meetings, of starring at policy documents, arranging democratic meetings and long journey’s up and down the M6. However, there are a few itches that need to scratched. The three ‘itches’ that need to be scratched being 1.) Students, 2.) Arguments 3.) Student Movement.
1.) Students. Where do I begin. From the most brilliant, to the worse examples of humanity, we have them all. Never do I spot being amazed at the great things that our students do against the never ending wave of stupidity from those deemed ‘educated’. And honestly it don’t really blame the latter. We’re bombarded with so many competing distractions, from Netflickts to Lovefilm, to facebook, twitter and WKD’s it doesn’t surprise me people don’t care.
For the record I’m going to skim of the 10-15% of our students whom I love. Never stop being brilliant, please, you give me faith in life.
However, I seriously don’t have much love for the rest. For the idiots whom think it’s acceptable to bully and harass others for simply being different or not ‘cool’ you don’t deserve Higher Education or our SU. For the idiots whom sit around wasting their life, wasting the opportunity for education and a better life I wish someone you’ll realise how important this experience it was…and you should have tried. For the idiots whom think their actions are beyond criticism and there no consequences in life I hope one day it will be.
I’m sorry if this causes any offence to those 15% I’ve mentioned, but on the whole my experience of students are they are self centred, lazy and whose understanding of other people and the greater world stop at themselves.
2.) Arguments. I’ve had my fair share this year. In previous blog’s I’ve written about what it means to be right and wrong about things. In fact, in the process of these last 24 months, I’ve questioned a lot about my own tact, by own personality and my ability to get my point across. There has been a lot of times that I’ve been wrong on things. But actually there has been a lot of times that I’ve been right about things when I should have put my foot down and battled my point.
This is going to sound selfish and self centred but working in a University has taught be a number of things about arguments. 1.) Considering we at University, students cannot argue their points. Neither can we. We ride on the premise of ‘it’s right because I say so. 2.) I need to stick to my guns. 3.) I hate compromise. Because it’s second best.
3.) The Student Movement. Gosh, where do I begin. There are times when I’m glad the student movement exists. I’m so happy that we’re part of a bigger movement that cares so much about people and the world and each others. Others times, I’m shocked and quite often disgusted at the hypocrisy within it. I’ve been sabbaticals and full time NUS officers speak endless about bullying and tolerance then openly attack each other on twitter; I’ve seen the concept of adult arguments go out the window for cheap shots and un-researched statements, I’ve seen fear and paranoia used to strengthen arguments and cases.
I hate going to NUS events because for an organisation and group of people that always comes across as out-wood looking; I’ve always been to scared of arguing a ‘centre’ politics point of view. I’ve been scared to be label a bigot when for the last how-many years I’ve tried to champion equality. For a movement apparently so caring, we seem to do nothing but shoot down each others ideas and attack from within.
It’s why happily, I’m moving to a world of SU staff; where I’m not made to feel bad or guilty or be told to ‘check my privilege’ when I have a point. It sickens me that now, 2 years in, I care for almost nothing I used to 2 years when I entered the movement. I don’t blame NUS or for what it stands for. It just sucked away my enthusiasm.
What shocks me most is we’ve got the ability to win our own arguments, because the student movement at the heart can convince itself HE/FE is worth it. But not anyone else. We shout down points because we believe ‘saying I’m right doesn’t mean I’m right’ and then we do it ourselves with crap arguments backed up by no evidence. Jesus.
Like all good things they must come to a end. Working for a wonderful SU like Cumbria has taught me so many things; I’ve met so many great people (and useless) through this job and I’m grateful for it. There are things that are un-finished, un-completed and with grudges still barring but it’s time to move to places.
It’s been one hell of a ride.
Someone said something to me once at a festival a few years back and it always stuck with me. I’d been chatting to a few people whom where a number of years older than me whom had been teenagers through the 80’s. A woman said to me, ‘If I’d had twitter, or facebook, or the tools you young people have to rally others, Thatcher would have fallen’. And ever since she said that to me…I’ve always been fascinated….with the online world of the internet.
And the internet ay, it’s a funny old place. It’s full of lots of things. Like idiots falling of their skateboards, a whole website about a book of faces, you can watch cats doing funny things or, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy; get very cross about things.
Every so often, much like our delightful local bus service, something happens which everyone get’s rather angry about and gets on that bus. And it’s funny sort of bus where everyone feels like they should get on it, without realising firstly why they are on the bus, where it’s going and who they are on the bus with.
I’ve always been quite fascinating by the idea of two online states of mind, anger and hate. Anger being the sorts of things you read on youtube comments and hate being the sort of outrage that happens in 140 characters or a bookface status when someone says something on TV. And the reason I’ve been fascinated with these two ideas if because I’ve always been confused to why exactly this sort of behaviour happens.
Hate is rather more of a simpler one to explain I think. And my theory comes down to a basic human feeling, the feeling of self-preservation. It’s the reason that people would text a difficult message to a love one rather than speak to them; why an email is often better than saying difficult things face to face. We avoid open confrontation because to an extent it’s in our nature. It’s why people write facebook’s status’s about a whole variety of things but never say it in real life. Confidence and the barrier of the internet from spotting person x hitting person y in the face.
The result, depressingly, is pretty obvious to find. Youtube is a wash of angry comments left by people whom feel comfortable behind a key board. Many enjoy the antagonistic arguments as a result, many do it to provoke responses, many take a sadistic pleasure out of doing it. It’s easy to throw the phrase ‘trolling’ around but I think there is something much deeper than that behind why certain people act online in a certain way. And in a way, online hate, though pretty horrific, can be explained in way how the online world has changed the way we interact with other. We’ve become worse at human interaction and face to face conversation. Some may say the online community is a haven for people whom can’t community to interact and be together. Some would argue the internet is a place to hide in and inflict this hate onto those who cannot respond in a way which makes you question your own decisions.
Online anger however, is a rather different thing. Ever watched twitter during Question Time, or Prime Ministers Questions, or the latest Channel 4 circus, or when there is a debate or panel show. It astonishes me on a weekly basis how angry people become about all sorts of things, often condensed into 140 characters. In a strange way, as facebook was once the great hub of these sorts of things, we’ve sort of migrated over to the great campaigning tool of twitter. And in a way that’s sort of a mistake. Because people get so angry in what people say on twitter, without trying to piece together what can and cannot be said in the space of a sentence-and a short one at that. It amazes me that intelligent, clever people are often so offended when someone makes a statement of twitter that is clearly a fragment of the argument. I’ve seen campaigners, politicians, broadcasters from both the left and right side of the political sphere attack, be attacked and be offended by the smallest of statements. I find a sort of irony, if that’s the right thing, in the fact we’ve condensed out arguments down to 140 characters, almost in the same way we’ve condensed our ability to think beyond it.
This isn’t to say however, we should abandon our online activity. People my age are the first generation of young people to have such access to technology at our fingertips. Never before have we had the ability to connect with so many people and them with us. Never before have we had so much access to technology and information at our control. Never have we had to much influence and the potential change. But I would argue are we using it rightly. I personally don’t see the point of a blog to try and solve a problem, or a few tweets, or a facebook status here and there. I see it as a tool to convey your ideas, not the your ideas to be immersed in the tool itself. We should never give up the causes we believe in and social media for all it’s faults gives us so many tools to help promote and bring awareness to things that otherwise would have been left forgotten and hidden away.
Interestingly, I became interested in the world of online hate and anger when the Kony2012 video came into creation. Never before had such a campaign risen and then fallen in such a short time. People where trapped between a force of a ‘on paper’ good idea against a online community whom were primed to pull it apart. I have no idea whether the project really was a good or bad thing. Shamefully I was more interested in the reaction. People almost took pleasure in pulling it apart, as opposed to others whom took it upon themselves to be great social campaigners through clicking share. Which brings me to my final point.
Take hate and anger. Take the online community. Take campaigns and causes and believe. Take people day to day. Why do I have this almost sad feeling that really I wonder if they should be left apart. Kony2012 was a example of the best online viral campaign that failed. A combination of hope and angry wrapped in the concept of something going viral. Real chance comes to slow work, from conversations, from working hard, grinding results and trying to achieve change in a world obsessed with process and digital inter-action. I don’t think the online world should be the focus for change or social interaction. I’ve always feared facebook instead of aiding community is really destroying and twitter in a scary way again almost…reduces the ability to say and articulate meaning into nothing really.
I often don’t understand online outrage. Because it doesn’t really achieve anything. Really. As all of these things there is example occasionally where chance is achieved through pressure and on-mass support. We’ve become desensitised to that of shock because the internet is flooded with it. I wish we wouldn’t get so angry online. I wish we weren’t so hateful. I wish we’d actually thing about the things we’re saying and what we wan’t to achieve. I wish we’d stop thinking a blog or a post, or a tweet, or an article or a video would solve all the problems or annoyances we have. And I wish we’d actually stop typing and actually fucking do something.
However much you spin, over analyse or over think it-loosing sucks. Whether it be a race, an argument, a debate loosing is without a doubt a unpleasant experience. Even though when the annoyance slips away you lapse into a self-reflection mode of could I, would I, should I, loosing does leave you with that…oh…fuck…feeling which is hard thing to shake.
I’m writing yet another piece of over-self indulgence because in the last 18 months, loosing is something I’ve been quite accustomed to. Whether it be through political decisions, votes, family, friends, arguments and debates I’ve not always had the best of luck. Which makes me think there isn’t much luck involved at all.
I’m right versus I’m right will always be at the heart of well…being human. Everyone in their own little mind and world believes they’re right about sometime and frankly good for them. It’s when the world of ‘I’m right about x’ clashes with ‘No, I’m right about Y’ comes ahead to head you the sexy and un-attractive world of arguments. Which I seem extremely bad at.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that loosing the occasional argument is a sign of you are a terrible person. Business, law, politics does daily battle with those whom essentially win arguments. It when I sit down and start thinking, shit, here we go ahead that I wander something is wrong…I’m getting this sinking feeling again.
Like today. Which is why I’m sitting here. Writing. So to wally in my own indulgence even more thought of writing down some explanations to my own understand of loosing and pondering some more about the feeling behind it.
1.) Is my understanding of other people so tunnel blinded I really can’t see other people’s views are right? Recently I’ve come to the conclusion maybe I’m somewhere in the middle. On one hand well, I work in a political environment where in fact I have an opinion, and to an extent are paid to. On the other I often struggle to understand why people think in such a way where I think the answer is pretty obvious. A recent book a read suggested this lack of almost empathy is chronic under-development of the skill to listen…which I’d argue is probably fair.
2.) Fighting versus acceptance. It was once rather bluntly put to me that if really cared about something that much I should have stopped it happening. Which in a wandering world of self reflection and post pondering if a delightful idea. Recently I’ve developed a really reluctance to fight my corner given the pressure against why own idea. It’s that balance of knowing when to quit versus that nag of digging my heals in when I truly believe in what I say. If I fight my corner to the death is it passion or is ignorance of other people’s views. When I started this job I thought it was the former, now I seem to believe much more the latter. For better or worse I really don’t know.
3.) It doesn’t matter versus it does. I never, ever liked the opinion of ‘well you can’t change it,’ or ‘it doesn’t matter now’. Because, bluntly, it fucking does. From the basic building blocks of our society is shaped to the small decisions we make on a day by basis I think our actions, re-actions and decisions so have been consequences. It doesn’t matter now frankly is a lazy half arsed argument with a pretty blunt conclusion. But then again, maybe we should just accept things a little more. Reminiscing about the past doesn’t do you any good. Neither does shoving away bitterness and angry and resentment that you think you where right. I guess I still haven’t learn when to let things drop and there is a part of my which hopes that I don’t. I never just want to sit back and say, ‘hey it doesn’t fucking matter now, it’s done’ when so much about what you believe to be right slips away from under you.
4.) Actually, though, am I right? For the first time in a long, long old time whilst walking home today I pondered that question. Some would call it maybe the awkward true. Some would even say logical. If I keep pondering why I seem to endlessly walk away without a outcome I wanted, does it suggest the outcome I wanted to be the wrong one. Recently I’ve probably thought that. I’ve become tried and bored of the same old arguments and tired of fighting things which I knew I’d wouldn’t win on.
Which leads my here I suppose. What now? Perched between that rock and the nowhere place of the future. Which sounds fluffy and sunny doesn’t it? Charming almost. Why are you always so fucking miserable and grumpy? springs to mind. I often ask myself the same question.
It’s again why I sort of don’t understand the point of blogs. Am I in search of people to rush to my aid and say, ‘It’s okay, have a cup of tea’ (which would be ace) or reflect and ponder about the pretty grim writings of a 24 year old going on 50.
A lot of my writing before, when looking back on it, is a lot of my thoughts on growing up. And maybe this is just chapter of growing up; learning to just accept your wrong quite often. I laugh at myself when I say, ‘well yeah it probably is’ and then sulking.
Because I wish it probably wouldn’t be.
I started this blog up about a year ago because I do like tumblr’s photo’s of mountains and occasionally felt the need to write stuff. But I shall be bluntly honest with you: I’m not actually a fan of writing blogs.
And another piece of honesty. I find them a little self indulgent. It’s like during a training course when someone puts on a video and you get a sense the trainer is quite smug because ‘if someone else says exactly the same thing I’m saying…I’m therefore right’. In the same way a blog is kind of making a statement wrapped up in wonderful metaphors and eureka moments. I’m not keen.
And on that peace of wonderful optimism I shall wallow in my own hypocrisy and write some wisdom about why suddenly I’ve fallen out with with growing up.
When I was a teenager, I had an obsession with acting and being older than I was. I spent a lot of time with people older than me, my friends in my neighbourhood were all older. I found immaturity really annoying and endless whinnied for a.) being able to drive b.) being 18 c.) going to University.
And I’ve reached this stage of my life, for the first ever time really with a complete and terrifying sense of the un-known. When you grow up (and I blame most the USA for this) there are endless films about the troubles and woe’s of the teenage years. I’m beginning to think they missed a trick. In fact thinking about it, everything from birth to 22 for me was laid out through our education system. And now I’m sort of…over it. So why aren’t there endless films, E4 TV series, books and glossy on demand media about how shit is being a young twenty something?
I’ve survived school, sixth form, a year out of education, 3 years and a car crash at University, and close to 2 years working as a sabbatical for a Students’ Union. To which that time is very nearly over, and I’ve not really sure what to do…with the rest of my life.
I’m not really sure if hidden underneath my slightly pessimistic writing is a slight digg at our education system. I’m not sure whether actually all this obsession with getting a job has distorted our understanding of what being ‘happy’ is? Or actually does our education system fail us in not really giving us what we really need to work. I’ve no idea.
I’m endlessly being told that we should just walk into something. Which suggests that actually skills and training and self development are pretty irrelevant. Or actually competition within a job market gets the best results through picking of the highest standard. I want the former option; but then again, if I’m a better person to employ then person B give me the job. But a job would be a nice.
Entering the working world is really a change to be excepted. I think we becoming consciously aware of paid work at 5-8 years old. Which is again why it baffles me that I’ve made it through nearly a quarter of my life and still face this terrible fear of change when I’ve known it’s coming.
Change is a natural and often healthy part of the world. I know that. I think deep down everyone does. We’re endlessly told change is key to us existence but never told that actually have to like it especially when so often we have to go through these processes by ourselves.
Which leads me to the final point of my rather (oh-this-is-rather-ironic-because-he-said-he-didn’t-like-blogs) self indulgent writing. Maybe I’m angry because it’s taken me 22 years of my life to think ‘Right: Job’. Maybe I’m angry because we have a education system that after 22 years didn’t answer that question for me. Maybe I’m angry because it feels like everything is about to spin wonderfully out to control. And I spin into the job centre.
When I read blogs there normally is a story or a narrative or something that summarises when you reach the end. A summing up, or final point or stab at someone then finishes it off. Except I’ve no idea what to write. I could write some charming phrase like ‘onwards and upwards’ or ‘best foot forward’. Maybe watch this space?
And finally…for those who have made it this far.
Charlie Brooker once made a point that most journalism is designed to essentially make us read something and go:
1.) Yeah good point, I’m going to do something about that.
2.) Oh dear. How terrible. More tea?
3.) How interesting. More tea?
And using this theory, I’m still not sure what blogs are for. Maybe they are just in fact for social indulgence. Well, I’ve wallowed in my own self pity for a bit.
For today….that’ll do. Back to mountains.