New Venue

I am now blogging at this new address…

Because insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again and expecting different results.

And I am nothing if not a bit mad.

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Pay Now, Earn Later

David Willets, the newly appointed Universities Minister, has had a remarkably unoriginal idea for a Tory official: raise tuition fees. If their wages depended on the originality of their proposals, they would all be pisspoor. The reason he gave for this move is the old, nasty and very familiar “there is no money”. As if we didn’t know; for the Tories, there is never any money. Despite this, it’s easy to see how Willets will never make a good Tory. When he broke the news to the public, he made the unallowable mistake of telling us exactly what he should be doing instead of what he wants to do. And that is dangerous. His words were,

students should consider university fees “more as an obligation to pay higher income tax” than a debt.

Fortunately for Willets I seem to have been the only one to notice. Also, we live in times of little revolutionary upheaval. You see, a good Tory would have never used the words “pay higher income tax”. And a good Tory would have never, ever, preceded that phrase with the words “an obligation”. Willets is a rubbish Tory.
If Willets’ intention were to make students pay higher income tax, then the surest way to achieve this would be to raise income tax. If he thoroughly believed in making those who earn more pay more, then he would be taxing those who earn more. But that presents a problem, you see, because then the ones being taxed wouldn’t be the fresh, young and hopeful students who may dream of earning enough money to make up for the exorbitant fees, but people like Willets who’s wealth is estimated at two million pounds.

And it’s so easy to tax students, isn’t it? After all, they will go on to earn more money than those who are not students. Or at least, that’s how it’s been up to now. Government officials keep peddling the lie, backed by decades of empirical evidence, and convince everyone and their dog that all is fair in making the would-be-wealthy pay today what they will make tomorrow. But the lie is beginning to wear thin. There are too many graduates in crap jobs and earning a pittance, and every year universities churn out more and more. Good jobs that pay well are dead or dying; there are now less of them than before and more graduates to do them. We can all be fairly certain that people graduating from higher education today are not going to be wealthy any time soon. And with more and more cuts in public sector jobs, that last bastion of employment with almost decent conditions, and little incentive from private companies to pay more for the jobs that a larger group of graduates can do, where exactly is that wealth going to come from? With which money are students going to pay the imaginary “income tax” or, rather, the very real debt?
To settle the matter, there’s going to be a review into fees being led by Browne, the former chief executive of BP. Yes, THAT BP. I’ll wait with baited breath for his startlingly fresh, innovative and original take on the matter.
I predict he’ll provide a similar approach to Willet’s: pay up, there’s no money.

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The Ones “The Lost Generation” Lost

Young people are in trouble. Here in Britain they are called “The Lost Generation”, those under 25 who are not in employment, education or training. My using of the third person plural merits some explanation. It’s due to the fact that the number “25” is pulled out of someone’s arse. Social commentators have been going on about “The Lost Generation” roughly since the economic recession hit; 3 years ago. Some of the people under 25 then are over 25 now. Does anything magical happen once they turn 26? Do they suddenly become “Found”? Or do they carry on having similar difficulties to the ones they had 3 years ago? Everyone is concerned about “The Lost Generation” because it’s well understood that once young people go through hardship when they should be studying or working, the years spent on unemployment are not gained back. They are, in economic terms, “wasted” years. So why do we stop taking young people into account when they cross that esoteric threshold? Those who have already turned 26, 27 or 28 are still part of “The Lost Generation”. That’s how one considers “generations”. Not as the people within a specific age range right now, but as people born between a specific range of years. Because people grow up. Or grow old. There isn’t such a thing as the “under 25s” generation just like there isn’t such a thing as the “those in their 60s” generation. We call them “baby boomers”, just like we did 20 years ago when they were in their 40s.
I pick on this for several reasons. First because this is more than sloppy analysis. The number of people affected by the crisis will obviously be larger if we include those who have already crossed the 25 years of existence. Furthermore, that number will get higher and higher the more people that cross it, or rather, the longer the recession carries on. If we present the problem in this way, that is, getting worse by the day, it suddenly becomes more pressing. And the last thing I want to see is those in power making a big problem appear smaller.
Second, because it acknowledges certain continuity in life that the other perspective doesn’t. Human life is more than statistics and bills made of paper. Politicians are trying to calm everyone’s anxiety by creating schemes addressed to those “under 25” which we know will take a couple of years to be implemented, and even then will only help a small portion of those affected. Even if they take two years to become effective, by then it will be five since the recession kicked in. The just about under 25 are now hovering the 30s. It’s too late for them to take apprenticeships, or volunteer, or do unpaid work. They want to live by themselves, maybe start a family… And they can’t do that without jobs that pay a decent wage. That’s the problem, you see. People’s lives aren’t put on hold when the economy slows down. Focusing on those affected by the crisis, and carrying on caring as they grow older, is more humane. It brings down the issues to actual people’s lives.
A third reason is simply that I don’t like sloppy analysis. For a long time now, social commentators have been trying and failing to find a way to define the baby boomer’s children. The problem is that there has been no major event, no big war that can clearly define them. We are all one big blob of people, everyone born between the mid 60s til today, all without a clear historical referent, an identity. And as if this wasn’t insulting enough, we are referred to as “under 25s” but stop being mentioned altogether once we turn 26? Pinfeathers!
Last, of course, is the very obvious reason why I don’t like the term “under 25s”. Because it alienates me. See, I was under 25 when the recession started, but, unable to put my life on hold until things got better, I was forced to keep on celebrating birthdays. And now I and those around my age don’t matter anymore because we eventually stopped belonging to this magical, mythical age group conceived by Jobcentre Plus? Hang it all!

To sum up. They are either those “under 25s” or they are “The Lost Generation”. But the two are not compatible. An age range refers to a particular portion of the population that changes over time, and a generation refers to the same group of people as they carry on over time.

Coarse language brought to you by The Sword In The Stone.

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Living Vicariously

I’m gonna carry on squeezing all the feminist juice out of the (nearly) feminist documentary “Women” so as to make the most out of this once in a lifetime chance of watching feminism on the Beeb.

In the first part of the series, called “Libbers”, we get an account of the 1970 sit in at the Ladies Home Journal, organized by Susan Brown Miller. At about 24 minutes in, we are shown real footage of the event, with some of the women taking part in the sit in explaining their objections to the magazine’s editorial content. I was so amazed the first time I heard their arguments that I actually had to pause the video. And since I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I went back and wrote a transcript. Here it is.

Susan Brown Miller: “They were feeding women propaganda that was against women’s interests.”
Woman 1: “And in the next month you write an article on Jacqueline Kennedy’s New York apartment. Now we feel that these articles are wish fulfilment articles for your readers who don’t live the way Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Tenney live, who don’t have those jewels, they will never get them, and we think it’s a cruel delusion to put these women up as models for them to try to emulate”.
Woman 2: “They create a gap of frustration”.
Woman 1: “It’s a very inhuman thing to do, to try to make them live vicariously in people like Jacqueline Kennedy”.
Woman 3: “Also to make them think that that’s something to work towards, finding a man who will give them those jewels…”

What amazed me was, one the depth of the insight these women had and two, the fact that most of us feminists today couldn’t come up with something as thorough if we spent years trying. And the reason why is obvious: while these “propaganda” techniques designed for inciting consumption were probably being used for the first time in the 70s, they have long since become de rigour in most of what is aimed at women in today’s media. We don’t notice it because it’s ever present, and it’s all we know. Which is why no one would even dream of using that word “propaganda”. Does anyone even know what it means anymore?

Also, note the emphasis that they put on the fact that the lives of the readers of Ladies Home Journal were nothing like Jacqueline Kennedy’s, so really, what was the point on portraying her extravagant lifestyle in the magazine? What purpose could it possibly serve, except make the women reading that feel inferior and anxious? Nowadays, of course, no one thinks twice about opening the current issue of *insert some fashion magazine’s name* and finding this or that celebrity going on about how wonderful her life is. Today that’s the status quo. Even though the lives of celebrities continue to be nothing like most women’s… Go figure.

The women taking part in the sit in were right then, and they are still right today. Pretty much everything in the media is there to create a “gap of frustration”. Whenever a woman appears on the cover of a magazine is for the sole purpose of putting her up as a model for us to try to emulate. And entertainment might as well be codeword for “wish fulfilment” and “living vicariously in the lives of”. What is “Sex and the City” if not that?

“Living vicariously in the life of” resonates deeply with me. And yes, it is a very inhuman thing to do.

ETA: OMG!!! POST N 100!!! *does happy dance*

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