Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%

We are the 99% – London

The Occupy Movement originated in New York as people banded together to protest against the banks, large corporate companies and selfish institutions who command the majority of the worlds’ wealth despite only making up 1% of the population. The Movement claims to represent the 99% of disenchanted, frustrated citizens. The Movement spread worldwide with protests breaking out on the streets with varying effects. The Arab Spring revolutions aimed to over throw tyrants and dictators in order for the people to claim back their country and their rights. Over here in Britain the protests had a very different feel, almost unrecognisable as connected to the violence breaking out in the Arab world.

In November 2010 British students paraded in London, protesting against the tuition fees rise and cuts in Education spending. Although most remained peaceful there were sporadic outbursts of violence and vandalism resulting in the injuries of both protesters and police. At one point the car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla was attacked. Demonstrations also took place in Cardiff, York, Cambridge, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bath, Scunthorpe, Edinburgh and Liverpool. Events also happened in Universities as buildings were occupied in Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham and York. There were more protests a year later but with an increase in policing and the threat of plastic bullets things remained more civilised and controlled.

Police clash with protesters in London

In 2011 the Occupy London Movement realised a statement declaring their intentions to refuse to accept public sector cuts, pay for the banks crisis and protect against pollution. To see the full statement click here.

In 2008 the UK Zeitgeist Movement was founded, which claims the problems of corruption, poverty, war, starvation and homelessness are ‘symptoms’ of an outdated social structure rather than the fault of political policy or institutional corruption or a flaw in human nature. This slightly different view claims to not belong to any particular strand of political thought; it sees the world as a single system and all human beings as a single family. It recognises that all countries must disarm, share resources and ideas and accept one another if we are to survive.

To me the Zeitgeist Movement is very optimistic and not at all realistic. For all countries to essentially become ‘friends’ a miracle in needed. Even after wars end and countries have been rebuilt and new alliances made the thought is always there, niggling at the back of peoples’ minds. For instance, despite WW2 ending in 1945 many of the British population feel the need to shout out to the Germans “two world wars and one world cup”. WW2 was a couple of generations ago; the people who are still holding grudges and sneering at the supposed ‘opposition’ have no right to do so. I’m sure there are similar feelings all over the world in relation to bygone eras. If two countries that get along cannot disperse these racist sentiments how can we expect countries in the midst of war, terrorist attacks and general uncertainty to make peace and drop all weapons?

As for protesting, which the majority of the Occupy Movement is about, do they really work? As we can see with the student demonstrations (an issue close to me), it made no difference. The tuition fees went up and first year students starting this year are going to leave education with higher debts than ever before. Equally, strike action has not seemed to influence government decisions, public sector cuts still happened, large parts of the NHS are being reformed and citizens are more disillusioned than ever.

London protests against budget cuts

The big question asked up and down the country, symbolised by the Occupy Movement, is why are we suffering for something which is not our fault and mostly out of our control? Sure many people got into debt but it was the banks who continued lending money to those they surely knew wouldn’t be able to pay it back. The banks essentially gambled their money, a risk that didn’t pay off, and now the public are paying increased taxes so they can receive huge bonuses and retire knowing someone else will come in and sort out their mess.

You can argue governments don’t have a choice but to bail out banks and resort to taxes in order for the economy to stabilise but shouldn’t they at least hold the bankers and business men accountable? No, they don’t. And why? Because they don’t want to cut off the votes and financial support of the wealthy, powerful 1%. What does the other 99% matter when they only command little influence?

Twenty five years ago the top 12% controlled 33% of wealth, now it is the top 1% controlling 40%. The incomes of the top 1% have increased by 18% over the past decade whereas the middle have seen a fall in income. The more divided a society becomes in relation to wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t rely on the government for medicine, education, security or healthy environments such as parks, they have the means to purchase these for themselves. As riches increase the top 1% become paranoid and will fight against the formation of a strong government who will redistribute their wealth into the majority of the population. A government which is gridlocked will not raise top-rate taxes or decrease bonuses.

Those of a more conservative view will argue the top deserve to be at the top, they worked hard to get there in a meritocratic society. And sure they have examples at the ready, Sir Alan Sugar for one, David Beckham etc. But, by increasing inequality they are also shrinking opportunities and as a result, undermining efficient productivity. With a lack of social mobility society will stagnate and eventually crumble. It really is ‘of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%’.

To make matters worse the globalised marketplace allows for corporations to use cheaper, overseas labour thus denying their countrymen jobs. In July 2011 Government ministers handed over a train building contract to a German company rather than keeping it the UK with Britain’s last train-maker, Bombardier. After years of proud work on British railways and trains many lost their jobs due to the Governments actions. Bombardier, in Derby, had been around for 170 years and at it’s peak produced 200 wagons a week for railways all over the world, but now that legacy has come to an abrupt end to the detriment of many British workers as well as the manufacturing industry.

So the occupy movements have the right idea but can protests really help? Even ignoring the violent clashes that Governments are unwilling to respond to it doesn’t seem like they listen to demonstrations and parades, after all 3 million people didn’t stop Blair from going to war in Iraq what chance do we have this time?

‘Stop the War’ march in February 2003

Links

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2011332/Bombardier-Ministers-hand-Germans-3bn-train-deal-costing-1-400-British-jobs.html

http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

http://occupylondon.org.uk/about/statements/initial-statement

http://www.thezeitgeistmovementuk.com/about

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-15646709

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_UK_student_protests

(Images from google)

Henry VIII – Liz’s Historical Blogging Challenge

For full challenge click here.

Henry VIII

Everyone studies Henry the eighth in school (well I’m sure they do in England at any rate), yet it is surprising how little I actually remember. I know he had six wives and they were:

  1. Divorced
  2. Beheaded
  3. Died
  4. Divorced
  5. Beheaded
  6. Survived

However, I can never remember which wife was which and who met what fate. A couple of years ago a series started on the BBC about Henry the eighth and I started watching, expecting a more or less accurate account of his life – if slightly exaggerated and dramatised for  TV audiences. Unfortunately, despite great acting and an interesting, well-written script, it just seemed to go on forever. I think the series is still running though I have no idea which wife they’re on at the moment. I stayed with it up until wife number 2 was beheaded but it was starting to drag. So for ec.cen.tric’s blogging challenge to write a report on a historical event or person I decided to clear up my hazy knowledge once and for all.

Although many well-known pictures present Henry VIII as a portly figure, he was a well-built athletic young man who enjoyed hunting and jousting. I believe it was only later on in life he succumbed to his wealthy life style and, for lack of a better expression, pigged out. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon had been married to Henry’s older brother for a short while until his death; however, she claimed the marriage had never been consummated. Due to her previous marriage there was a lot of drama and the pope had to be consulted as to whether it was proper for Henry to take on his brothers’ widow. Although this was finally resolved Henry was slow in completing the long-awaited marriage and they were only united after Henry became King in 1509. A couple of years later a son was born, who died only two months later. In order to console himself Henry went to war in France (surely there were easy ways to get over it? Must be a man thing).

Mary Tudor

Catherine miscarried another child and had a son who died soon after birth before giving Henry a daughter, Mary, who lived. For Henry this wasn’t good enough, he needed a male heir. Looking for religious reasons that declared if a man takes his brothers’ wife they shall remain childless (at this point Catherine was too old to conceive). He petitioned the pope for an annulment, however Catherine wouldn’t go without a fight and appealed. The ensuing political and legal debate lasted six years until Anne Boleyn became pregnant in 1532. Henry’s solution to his problem was to reject the pope’s power and have Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, grant his annulment. Catherine thus became the Princess Dowager of Wales and was separated from her daughter as she was forced to leave court.

Evidently the ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ is an old attitude since history tells us Anne Boleyn denied Henry any sexual favours until around 1532, after which her pregnancy caused the King to rush into action. The couple married secretly since Henry’s first marriage had yet to be dissolved, however in his mind it never existed. The Archbishop declared Catherine and Henry’s marriage to be invalid in May of 1533. Anne was pronounced Queen in an elaborate ceremony and preparations were made for the birth of her child, with everyone assuming it to be a boy. In September of 1533 Anne gave birth to Princess Elizabeth. She later lost two more children as either miscarriages or still births and quickly realised her life depended on producing a male heir.

Elizabeth I

Anne’s enemies at court started to plot against her, using the Kings liking for Jane Seymour as a catalyst. Cromwell convinced the King to authorise an investigation which eventually saw the arrest of a Musician friend of the Queens, her own brother and Lord Rochford. There were a few other arrests and at least four men were charged with treason and were hung, drawn and quartered. Queen Anne was placed on trial with her brother on charges of adultery, incest and plotting to kill the King. Both were executed, as were the others whose gory deaths were downgraded to a mere execution. The marriage between Anne and the King was declared invalid and the question of how she could have committed adultery considering they hadn’t technically been married was ignored, as was all other evidence in defence of Anne Boleyn.

Edward VI

King Henry would have met Jane Seymour in 1535 when he stayed with her family but it wasn’t until 1536 that he began to develop feelings for her. There are debates as to whether Jane realised she was being used by her family or whether she merely formed a mask to hide her fear at being the Kings latest object of desire. It is not evident how she really felt, although she did play her role perfectly and actively sought out the Kings affections even in front of Anne whilst she was alive. Within 24 hours of Anne’s execution Henry and Jane were formally engaged and were married soon after. Jane never received a coronation; it is wondered if Henry wished for her to give him a son first. Jane fell pregnant in 1537 and was doted upon by the King who considered her to be his one and only ‘true’ wife. She gave birth to a baby boy who was christened Edward; Henry’s two daughters played a role in the ceremony. Unfortunately Jane died only two weeks after the birth and was buried in Henry’s tomb as he had been preparing it at the time; she became the only one of Henry’s six wives to be buried with him.

Henry remained single for two years after Jane’s death giving the impression he really did mourn for her, however, it has also be suggested Cromwell began to search for a foreign bride for the King shortly after Jane’s death. Henry sent painters to bring images of the women who were considered great matches for an alliance. In 1539 Hans Holbein, a Tudor painter, was sent to the court of the Duke of Cleves, who had two sisters. The family was seen as an important ally. Henry decided to draw up a contract between him and Anne of Cleves, however, due to political and personal reasons Henry was already looking for a way out before the marriage even took place in January of 1540. It is said Henry did not find her to be attractive and had taken a liking to Kathryn Howard, also Anne was not suited to life in an English court. Her life in Cleves focused on domestic skills and not the music and literature so favoured in Henry’s court. Anne was smart enough to realise nothing good would come of protesting against an annulment so she declared the marriage had never been consummated and that her previous engagement hadn’t been properly broken. She accepted the honorary title of the Kings sister in July 1540 and was given the former home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle.

Kathryn Howard caught the Kings attentions when she came to court at age 19 as Anne of Cleves lady in waiting. She was a lively spirited young girl and it is believed her Uncle encouraged her to respond to the King so he could increase his own influence. Sixteen days after he was separated from Anne, Henry married Kathryn. By this time Henry was 49 and gaining in weight, Kathryn brought back his lust for life. A year after their marriage rumours of her infidelity began; eventually the Archbishop had enough evidence to present to the King. At first he didn’t believe the accusations but allowed for an investigation, evidence came to light that she had probably been promiscuous before and after her wedding. She was executed in 1542 and buried next to Anne Boleyn, her first cousin.

Katherine Parr’s mother was in court at the beginning of Henry’s reign and named her daughter after Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Katherine Parr’s first husband died only a few years after they married. She married again and became a step-mother for the first time, her second husband died when she was 31 in 1543. It was around this time that the King noticed her, along with Thomas Seymour, Jane Seymour’s brother. Although Katherine expressed a desire to marry Thomas she felt it was her duty to accept the Kings hand, they were married in July 1543.

Katherine supported the reformed faith, giving her many enemies from the Conservative side of Henry’s court. In 1546 there was a plot to get rid of her and enough evidence was gathered to issue an arrest warrant. By sheer luck the warrant was dropped and consequently picked up by someone loyal to the Queen. Katherine, having learnt of the warrant, claimed to be very ill. This may have been caused by fear or as a stalling tactic. When Henry approached her and chastised her she played up to his ego and was thus forgiven.

Katherine was close to all three of her step-children and organised the education of the two youngest, Elizabeth and Edward. Henry died in January 1547 and Katherine probably expected to have some role in the nine-year-old King Edwards regency, however this did not happen. Soon after Henry’s death Katherine secretly married Thomas Seymour which subsequently caused a scandal. Katherine fell pregnant at the age of 36 and gave birth to a daughter, Mary in August 1548. Unfortunately Katherine became very ill and died of puerperal fever in September of the same year.

So, there we go. Henry’s six wives in brief. I wonder why any of them married him, especially after the beheading of Anne Boleyn, who really didn’t actually do anything wrong, it was all fabricated. I hope now you can all think of Henry VIII as an athletic, if fickle, young man rather than the fat King he is most commonly portrayed as.

A Metaphorical Message in a Bottle

For the full challenge click here.

I was strongly reminded of this film whilst writing this (if you haven’t seen it you should) 🙂

It may surprise some to learn that the modern internet based email system was only invented in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson (a bit of trivia for you). Today it is mainly taken for granted, with people surgically attached to their blackberry or I-phone, constantly checking their various email accounts. Even on weekends you cannot escape the world of work as your fingers are itching to log onto messenger despite knowing you might not like what’s there. Customer/client complaints; the boss sending the usual high-handed demanding directions; pushy family member you’d rather avoid; Amazon with their new deals; a reminder that your eye test is overdue because you keep postponing or cancelling appointments etc. To make matters worse, some emails can no longer be ignored as the sender is informed once the recipient has seen it.

Email has forced us into social beings. No longer can we hide away from the world for a few days, wireless internet ensures you are shadowed by your accounts. Of course, you may choose not to use email, but then it seems you don’t exist. Lots of people will invite friends or family out via email, rather than ringing everyone up individually. Quickly type the place, the time and instructions to reply asap, press send and done. It’s the work of a moment.

No, email has become essential to many in the western world, letters are obsolete, phone calls are arduous and prolonged, whereas emails are quick, simple and cheap. No contest, right?

With the age of email, social media and technology no one sends letters anymore. Remember the time when you anticipated letters and got excited whenever one arrived addressed to you? Now all you get through the post are bills and junk mail, advertising or asking for money.

I’m in their somewhere, in the last ‘0’ of the 2010 I think. 🙂

When I was on staff at Peak 2010 my friends and I shared a campsite with some guides/rangers from Hong Kong and although we exchanged email addresses and added each other on Facebook, exchanging one or two letters or postcards a year is more rewarding. Sometimes the old-fashioned methods of communication are the best. The crisp, neatly folded paper tucked into an envelope with your address handwritten on the back. The thrill and as your eyes are immediately drawn to the bottom to see who would send such a precious, caring gift, then the gentle thrum of happiness as you compose a reply in your very best handwriting and finally the satisfaction as the letter drops into the post-box ready to begin it’s journey.

Today I was thinking wouldn’t it be nice if there were more opportunities to create connections like this. Blogging may create connections between nations but there’s nothing better than the sheer joy of receiving an international message in a metaphorical bottle courtesy of the royal mail.

For some great message-in-a-bottle stories check out: http://blogs.static.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/36541.html (where my picture came from)

So here’s a challenge for you, this week send someone a proper letter – on fancy paper and everything. You never know, you may just get one back. Or, if you happen to be by the sea why not actually send a message in a literal bottle? 😀

DP Challenge: Seductive Language

There are many good writers out there; a few of them published and even less become truly successful. However, there will always be those whose writing sticks in your head so persistently that you find it completely impossible to pick up another book for days, perhaps weeks. To me, this is the sign of a remarkable book. As you hungrily read the last page, the last paragraph, the last word you can spend a few treasured moments wallowing in contentment, allowing not only the story to wash over you but the language.

Of course, eventually you will be hit with a wave of loss. You are now spoiled for any other writer; nothing can wipe away the memory of that authors’ exquisite writing. You find yourself smiling to yourself at odd moments as parts of the plot rush back to you, or perhaps you realise people around you resemble the characterisations intimately described in the book.

One such book would be ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. I know you can argue the language is only so seductive as it represents a by-gone era of chivalry, romance and culture but you can’t help but lose yourself. The first chapter starts:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

However sexist it is, I can’t help myself but settle back in my chairs, snuggle down and smile, knowing I am in for a satisfying ride in a society which may seem familiar and yet never fails to surprise and amuse as the lives of Elizabeth, Jane and of course the enigmatic Mr. Darcy unravel in a tale of love, betrayal, snobbery and tradition.

In a way modern authors will struggle to compete which such style as they draw upon modern experiences and modern language, neither of which enchants the reader as effectively. Of course this is different for different people, do any authors have this affect on you?

More modern books which have stayed with me include ‘The Kite Runner’, a fascinating tale of a young man who escapes Afghanistan as a boy only to return later in search of redemption and acceptance. This tale, told by Khaled Hosseini, portrays Afghanistan as it once was – a country of beauty, friendship and community – before it was torn apart by war and conflict.

Sometimes it is the style of writing, sometimes the plot, or the message behind the words that attracts you to a story and causes it to remain with you. Shivers travel down you spine as quotes or the general tone or style returns at odd moments. This is the sign of a truly remarkable achievement all writers aspire to but few ever attain. Sadly for most it will not occur until after their death as new language emerges which eventually renders their style mysterious and unattainable.

Holiday Sounds

I may be a bit late (a couple of weeks in fact) with this one but it was written in time – I just forgot/didn’t have time to type it up and post it 😀 Click here for full challenge.

As I’m writing this I am on my summer holiday in Suffolk, east coast of England. Our cottage is situated right next to the quay in Orford and the sounds that reach us as we sit outside are exquisite. The footpath passes directly outside the cottage and it receives many admiring glances and remarks. Sometimes this makes me feel quite smug; other times it’s annoying, I don’t like feeling as though I’m in a fish tank.

Sitting outside facing the boats the most wonderful sounds are blown across the quay.

The happy laughter of children crabbing makes you smile and feel nostalgic for a time when there was nothing better than throwing a length of string in a river and waiting for the tell-tale tugging of a crab taking the bait.

Crabbing on the Quay

The clicking of sails on boats as the wind whips around tells you you’re by the coast, it wouldn’t be a holiday without the smell of salt on the air or sails slapping against the mainsail.

Nearer to my seat buzzing bees are making the most of the last of the lavender, their gentle melodies backed by seagulls calling out across the mud.

Dogs barking, waves lapping the shore, flags waving and cameras clicking all add to natures’ orchestra.

I don’t know whether it’s just me only seeing the positives as it’s my holiday and nothing should put a downer on it but everyone seems cheerful, enjoying the British weather. For those who don’t know, this means that even in the wind under a cloud carpeted sky British holiday makers are in shorts and t-shirts whereas those from warmer foreign countries wear coats and hats and look at us like we’re mad. 😀

All seaside towns are the same when you’re a tourist. You’re surrounded by fellow tourists all enjoying the cool sun, licking ice-creams even in the rain, walking awkwardly on pebbly beaches, several ‘awww’s’ are uttered as little girl toddles along the beach in a fairy princess dress with her miniature fishing net waving in front of her.

The stresses of real life float away on the sea breeze as you examine your stone collection and hum along with the gentle caress of holiday sounds.

Apparently I used to constantly collect stones as a small child – obviously some things never change 😀

Weekly Writing Challenge: Life as a Laptop

I’d never really heard of, and certainly not thought about Active Voice vs. Passive Voice before, I may have altered sentences before to change the emphasis but never consciously though ‘this should be active’. I suppose some of my older readers will be grumbling ‘what do they teach them in schools nowadays!’ I have to say, I agree. I did English at A level and this distinction was never mentioned, maybe a creative writing element should be added to the course?

Anyway, this weeks challenge was to ‘listen to the voices in you head’. To see the full challenge click here. I would appreciate your opinions as this diverges from my usual writing style, thank you.

Life as a Laptop

I have sat here, on the floor under the sofa, quiet and comfortable all day. It has been peaceful, no disturbances or interruptions from careless two-legged beings. Occasionally one of these inhabitants of the room where I lay folds themselves into a chair and stares dreary-eyed at a fellow screen. I know at some point my services will be called upon and I will be required to reach out into the cloud and drag relevant images and words to my screen.

Sure enough, I am picked up and placed on a denim-clad lap, my cable starts gently vibrating as sparks of electricity forces me out of a thoughtful slumber. Uncaring fingers prod soundly on my keys before my prized ‘Enter’ button is slammed ungraciously. I can feel the tics and twinges of my circuitry being unwound and the laps’ owner sighs and settles back anticipating a couple of hours of stress-free internet browsing.

For some reason, I find this to be irritating. Grumpily I decide not today mate!

I allow the home screen to load, complete with a photo of the four-legged fluffy thing which sniffs and bats at my wires once in a while. I then cunningly lull the stubby, ungrateful fingers into a false sense of security as the Google home page pops up. A few minutes of browsing pointless you-tube videos, I feel a sense of glee and anticipation as the page stutters and declares: “Windows is not responding”.

Ha-ha got you! What you gonna do now punk? Damn those videos.

A swear word is uttered from up above and as the page freezes I am turned off.

And on again.

I sigh, so predictable. A couple more of these instances and I will be allowed to recover back in my place on the floor. Maybe I’ll read a book, Austen or Brontë perhaps. My English needs rejuvenating after being forced to view bad gangster scenes by the inferior object whose lap I warm.