Gun Madness

I know I’ve posted something similar about gun crime/control before but this appeared on facebook the other day and I thought I’d share it.

USA madness

I really think that says it all.

Why do Americans protect their right to own guns so forcibly? I mean keeping an old pistol or rifle for sentimental reasons or perhaps historical is fine. Just like farmers might want to own some sort of fire arm for practical reasons. But why would anyone want a machine gun? They’re weapons of war, not simple keepsakes or even useful in the life of  an ordinary person.

What surprised me was Wayne LaPierre’s (vice president of the NRA) response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”

Armed guards outside schools is NOT the answer. If kids see people with guns on a regular basis they will start to consider it normal and a world with such a casual attitude to killing machines is not one I want to experience. Even ignoring the obsession with guns you  have to ask, who is going to pay for it? In a recession with police budgets being cut (no idea if this is happening America as well as the UK) where is the extra cash going to come from.

Wayne LaPierre lives in a war-torn fantasy land. Where innocent kids fear going to school and money grows on trees.

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On Gay Marriage

Currently in the UK the big debate is over gay couples getting married in religious institutions. Earlier this winter the proposal for women bishops was defeated by a measly six votes so it would be nice for the church and other religions to catch up with the modern world and support equality and tolerance.

One argument against gay marriage is that historically marriage was between heterosexual couples. This argument is invalid.

  • Historically women couldn’t vote
  • Historically men under 30 couldn’t vote
  • Historically British people had to pay for healthcare
  • Historically you had to come from a wealthy, respectable, well-bred family to get anywhere in life (although it could be said this still holds true)

It doesn’t mean it’s right or should remain the same.

Gay marriage will not undermine the traditional institution, in fact it might strengthen it. The divorce rate is steadily increasing, single parent families are becoming more common so why shouldn’t two men or two women marry and raise a family? Surely that is both more stable and beneficial for the children than a heterosexual married couple who argue all the time.

Why can’t someone choose to be both gay and Christian? Or lesbian and Hindi? and be faithful to their religion by marrying in the eyes of the church/temple etc? I don’t claim to be an expert on the Bible but surely they advocate tolerance and equality? That seems to be the moral thing to do. It’s time to enter the modern world and start creating   harmony instead rifts.

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)

Exam Issues – A Never Ending Tale

For the past 20 or so years politicians, journalists and the general public have been saying “exams are too easy”, complaining because the GCSE and A-level results have continuously improved. Now everyone’s worried because they didn’t improve – hypocrites! Maybe the exams have been made harder?

My brother was in year 10 (age 15, first year of the GCSE course) and he pointed out his science course was the first year it was taught, making him and his fellow classmates guinea pigs. This ultimately means they are at a disadvantage since teachers need time to build up course-specific resources, learn what the examiners want from students and thus refine their lesson plans. Hence, next years students will probably do better in this particular test.

This always makes me laugh 🙂

The complaints about exams getting easier has always peeved me – why can’t people be happy for the country’s’ youth? If results improve it’s obviously nothing to do with hard work but the exams are too easy (note the sarcasm) and when results don’t improve politicians jump down the throats of teachers and students, yakking on at them for not trying hard enough or failing to be prepared.

Maybe they should take the exams themselves? If they really looked they’d see that not only do they have little relevance to the real world but it’s more about how you answer a question, not the quality or quantity of actual knowledge. You could know everything under the sun about World War 2 but unless you can write an essay in the correct manner you’re stuffed.

Just looking at this picture gives me the creeps *shudders*

If I’m honest, I used this system to my advantage. Writing essays is (almost) natural for me and over the years I learnt how to play the system. Picking information to memorize and which to not bother with. For instance, English A-level requires studying certain books, and the trick is to learn parts of the book which can be applied to basically every possible question. Also, as long as you babble on about each point for long enough you don’t have to include so many little points. Does this make sense? Probably not but fellow students might know what I mean when I say most essays you write (whether for coursework or exams) are a lot of pointless typing when you don’t have any idea what you’re chatting on about.

It’s quite sad how the exam/school system works but as it’s considered the best option out a bad list I guess we’re stuck with it until some genius creates a magical, fair and equal system.

Whatever is happening with the exams universities obviously don’t trust their results, many have admitted to preferring the using the results gained from their own entrance exams over A-levels. This shouldn’t really be necessary, they could be used to choose from students who all have very similar grades but they certainly shouldn’t make A-levels practically redundant. This system adds unnecessary stress onto students who are already under so much pressure due to a lack of options post A-level – it’s more or less either uni or step back to age 16 and attend college, take up an apprenticeship or start job searching in a country where the economy means jobs are scarce.

I can’t think of a system which would reduce criticisms right now but perhaps eventually I will and I can make my fortune? Any body have any suggestions on where to start? Or perhaps you have your own pet peeves on the education system (English or otherwise)?

Socialisation: Part One

I split this post on socialisation into two parts to make it easier to read as the second half is rather long.

Socialisation: A lifelong process through which people learn appropriate attitudes, values and behaviours in a particular society or culture. Socialisation helps people learn skills and abilities used to interact with others as well aiding them in understanding what kind of person they are. Individuals acquire their culture and become aware of their individuality i.e. as conscious, reflective entities. They develop a self-identity.

Forms of socialisation

  • Primary socialisation – the foundation for all later learning, beginning in infancy and childhood (typically within a family or household of carers).
  • Secondary socialisation – takes place in later childhood and continues in later life when the individual acquires a broader range of social skills and a more detailed knowledge of roles outside the family.
  • Re-socialisation – a specific form of secondary socialisation. It involves discarding former behaviour patterns and accepting new ones as a part of a life transition. Typically involves considerable stress for the individual, much more so than socialisation in general. E.g. prisons, religious conversion, therapy groups, dramatic changes in people’s lives.

Agents of socialisation
Each agent can be analysed deeply, these are just a quick overviews.

  • Family – the lifelong learning process begins shortly after birth, since newborns can hear, see, smell, taste and feel heat, cold, pleasure and pain; they are constantly orientating themselves to the surrounding world. Human beings, especially family members, constitute an important part of their social environment.
  • School – like family, schools have a responsibility to socialise people in the UK to the norms and values of British culture.
  • Peer group – as children grow older, the family becomes less important in social development and peer groups increasingly assume a more significant role – that of ‘significant others’ (individuals who are most important in the development of self). Within peer groups, young people associate with others who are roughly their own age and who often enjoy a similar social status. Peer groups ease the transition to adult responsibilities, although they can be the source of harassment as well as support.
  • Media and technology – in the last 80 years media innovations – radio, cinema, music, TV and internet – have become important agents of socialisation. TV in particular is critical in western societies. Also, the internet leads to globalised socialisation with the same resources available world-wide.
  • Workplace – learning to behave appropriately within an occupation is a fundamental aspect of human socialisation. Socialisation in the workplace changes when it involves a more permanent shift from an after-school job to full employment. Occupational socialisation is most intense during the transition from school to job, but it continues throughout a persons’ work history. Technological advancements may alter the requirements of the position and instigate a degree of re-socialisation. Today people change occupations, employers and places of work many times during their life so occupational socialisation continues throughout a person’s years in the labour market.
  • The state, institutions, politics – the state has a noteworthy impact on the life course by reinstituting rites of passage that had disappeared from agricultural societies and during periods of early industrialisation. E.g. government regulations stipulate the age at which a person can drive a care, drink alcohol, have sex, vote in elections, marry without parental consent, work overtime and retire. These regulations shape the socialisation process by affecting the life course to some degree and by influencing our views of appropriate behaviours at particular ages.

There are many issues with socialisation, if a child is raised by neglectful or abusive parents this affects their socialisation. However, you cannot stereotype and say a child will grow up repeating their parents’ actions; they could take the complete opposite path. Similarly, just because a child grew up in a well-off background with loving parents does not mean they are unable to go spiralling down a dangerous road due to negative influences beyond the home. So which is more important, primary or secondary socialisation? Can secondary socialisation ever correct problems (or endanger positive events) which occurred in primary socialisation?

What have been your experiences with socialisation? Is it a positive or negative phenomenon? Or is it merely a necessary evil since you cannot help but be affected by your surroundings?

To end part one: a word of warning – influences such as the media, politics and institutions should be looked at from a distance since they all have their own agendas and so their truths should not be considered the only answer.

Coalition Marriage Breakdown: House of Lords Debate

The most recent disagreement in the coalition concerns the House of Lords reforms being abandoned as David Cameron states it’s better to discard these plans now than let them die a “slow death.” Creating an elected House of Lords is not a very popular idea amongst the Conservative party, with over 90 Tory MPs defying the Government and voting against it in July.

Nick Clegg, on the other hand, doesn’t agree and sees it as a betrayal of the coalition contract and now refuses to support the Conservative desire to reduce the amount of constituencies for the next general election. This coalition breakdown was likened to a marriage by BBC news, Cameron and Clegg are the parents who get on but the children and in-laws can’t stand the sight of one another.

House of Lords reform has been a long-term goal of the Liberal Democrats, the reform would see 80% of peers elected and reduce the total of peers to 450. At the moment, 10% are hereditary and the rest are officially appointed by the Queen.

Although I’m ashamed to admit it I honestly quite like the romantic tradition behind a hereditary House of Lords. My more ‘Labour’ orientated side rebels against this thought and yells out to me that electing lords is far fairer and democratic.

As I’m conflicted over this issue I thought I’d hash out the arguments here.

Firstly, why do we have a House of Lords?

The second chamber is necessary as the Lords are the final guard against the Government and have the ability to check, change and delay bills. However, they will always approve a bill which is in the Governments’ manifesto (Salisbury convention). Also, generally peers are more in touch with ‘normal’ life than most MPs, so they are able to scrutinise bills that affect daily life more effectively.

Why should it remain unelected?

Counter argument However
Can act as a check on the executive Can only delay bills, Salisbury convention – always pass bills which are in the Governments manifesto The government was elected so shouldn’t be stopped from enacting their manifesto
Peers are more independent of party whips They owe their loyalties to the PM of the day They can’t be thrown out if they go against the government
Traditional Outdated Some people believe in it
Peers normally have a wider experience of public life than MPs The hereditary ones probably don’t. Not all MPs are from privileged backgrounds There is still under- representation of women and ethnic minorities
Final constitutional safeguard against the government The Salisbury convention. Can only delay bills. Salisbury is only a convention so can be ignored, with no implications
Can be an effective agent of scrutiny Some have party allegiances Not affected by the party whip
The public wouldn’t know enough about each nominee The Government can provide information It would expensive to do this
The turn out at general elections is already low, electing the House of Lords would never attract enough voters to be democratic Could hold elections at the same time as general elections Could lead to confusion, and then there wouldn’t be much of a distinction between the two chambers. Also, elections would make it more political and perhaps party-orientated.

Why should it become elected?

Counter argument However Solution
They are currently unelected and unaccountable Being unelected they don’t have public pressures so will be more honest Being unaccountable they can’t be punished for corruption The government could be able to take them out of the Lords
Life peers currently owe their loyalty to the PM of the day, weakening their independence This allows the people that were elected in to pass laws they believe in Independence is important as it allows the Lords to make decisions which will benefit the country
Idea of hereditary peers is out of date This is traditional It’s unfair Get rid of all the hereditary peers
The ‘loans for peerages’ scandal in 2006 This was only a few, most are legitimate Make them elected
Under-representation of women and ethnic minorities They are also under-represented in the House of Commons which is elected This has been improving over recent years Appoint more women and ethnic minorities
Power of the lords is weak They can still delay bills The Salisbury convention Give them more power

Due to the practical implications of reforming the House of Lords I think it’s not a realistic goal. Although there does need to be increased accountability I doubt electing peers is the right way to achieve this. Do you believe it would be beneficial to introduce elected peers? Or should they be appointed by the Government for their expertise rather than risking turning the House of Lords into a political-party battle similar to the House of Commons?

Related Links

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/we-havent-broken-coalition-contract-says-david-cameron-8022158.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19149212