Posts Tagged 'Students'

What kind of person takes part in a riot?


I live in a world filled with bowls of pasta, cups of tea, and Aaron cardigans.  I live a sheltered life in a town where very little happens.  On Sunday night I stayed awake all night, until 5.00 am, glued to Twitter, reading with horror about London being destroyed.  I have a deep love of London, of the places, street names, buildings, and the people.  Seeing the photographs of a very particular type of person setting it alight gave me a lurch in the stomach, and made me feel intensely sick.

Tonight, after following the events solely on Twitter, I turned on the news, and, as much as I hate clichés, my mouth fell open, and I almost cried.  Seeing the destruction and brainless violence, by people who won’t even show their face, brings me to tears.  How inhuman and de-socialised do you have to be, how intensely do you have to feel separate to the country you live in, to want to destroy it?

I’ve grown up in England, and feel it in my bones.  As furious and disenchanted as I am sometimes with the Government and the way the country’s run, I never feel separate to Britain; I feel part of something very special.  As an Englishman I feel part of a nation that once ruled an empire spanning most of the world, in spite of the fact that we’re a very small island.  In Britain we have something very, very noble and special, and only people who have come from outside and don’t feel part of it could ever want to hurt it.

The fact that a man was killed by the police (a man who pulled his gun out first) may have ignited the first fire, but the brainless vigilantes who are sucking everything they can find out of every shop, and burning every building they come across, are not looting in the name of Mark Duggan.

Living in quiet, middle-class England, I understand that the Police have shortcomings, and are often guilty of corruption, but on a basic level they’re there to protect us.  If I’m in trouble; if someone breaks into my house, or I’m attacked on the way home, I ring the Police, and they come.  If I ring them then shortly after, they come and fix my problem.  With a few exceptions, they are good men and women. Policemen do a job passionately, and they are a strong force to stand up for people who follow the law.  I wish desperately that I could make the young people in London who feel so outrageously indignant about Police brutality realise that you only get shot by Police if you shoot them first, or put yourself in a position where they point their guns at you.  People who work hard, follow the law, and lead normal, quiet lives, will never face the barrel of a Police gun, or any gun.  Mark Duggan died because of the life he lead.

Any sympathy that might have been afforded to these people, any respect, or consideration, has been wiped out in fire.  No-one will ever take them seriously again, and they’ve sealed the same fate for everyone else.  When the students protested back in December, I felt so strongly that it would have been far more effective, instead of rioting and causing violence, to sit in the road outside Westminster, and outside the party offices, in complete silence, to stop traffic.  Imagine if the politicians had to step over thousands of silent, staring faces, who wouldn’t move.  How much more dramatic and powerful would that have been?

Violence is one of those things in life which is totally counter-productive, and does the opposite of what you want it to.

The people destroying London are not British, and are not human.  British people would never destroy any city, let alone London, and I hope that doesn’t make me sound racist, but we love London.

The Stigma of Saying ‘I’m Lonely.’

One of the few things, and there aren’t many, that I’m too scared to say on Facebook or Twitter is that I feel lonely, and that’s because I’m worried people will think I’m weird. In truth, they probably would. Saying you’re lonely implies that you don’t have enough people in your life. The word ‘lonely’ paints a picture of a person with no actual friends, and someone who isn’t close to their family. At least, this is how I feel I would be portraying myself if I were to confess publicly to feeling alone, but it isn’t necessarily the case.

In the modern world we tend to be surrounded by hundreds of people, but most of them are acquaintances, rather than real friends. It’s especially the case with students. We add hundreds of people to our list of ‘friends’ on Facebook, but how many of these people could we actually ring up (if we even have their phone number), and ask for help with a problem, or ask for a shoulder to cry on, even ask to come out for a drink? Last Christmas, the one just gone, I sent out a message over Facebook to about forty of my friends, asking for their address. It occurred to me, as someone who is reluctant to yield to modernity, that I see these people every day, sit next to them in lectures, go out with them for evenings of drinking and laughing, share stories and jokes with them, have real friendships, and yet I don’t know where they live. I had phone numbers for a few of them, but no postal addresses. So I sent out this message, and received a fair few answers, and so I compiled an old-fashioned address book (I bought a Filofax. I’m very happy with it), and when December came I sent out Christmas cards to all of them, just like grown-ups did in the olden days.

Our friendships, and most of our day-to-day lives, are conducted entirely over the internet, through social networking sites like Facebook. I for one feel that we’re losing the traditional relationships and friendships that we used to have. I miss the days when you had one phone number, and you would say things like ‘find me in the book’, and would have to make sure you took ten pence with you when you went out so you could ring home. In those days, friends were friends. These days, we get along with people, we see their holiday pictures and know what they had for tea, we offer advice or support when they need it, we share their ups and downs, and all the details of their life, but if I’m being honest, of the people on my Facebook list, there are only a few that I feel able to ring up and ask to come out for a drink. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of people on that list that I’d love to ask for a drink; there are, but I feel that if I did, they’d think I was weird. It’s a new social boundary. These new friendships aren’t based on solid foundations, like the old ones. Being someone’s Facebook friend often means you met them once when out in the pub, or you know them to say ‘hello’ to from some extra-curricular club. These people aren’t prepared for you to suddenly invite them round for pizza… are they? Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe they’d be delighted and flattered, and would love to build a more personal friendship. Maybe it’s me who’s too cautious. Maybe I’m the problem.

I have less than ten really good friends. By ‘really good friends’, I mean friends that have been in my life since I was thirteen, eleven, even four in some cases. These are friends I trust, and who really know me. I have 176 friends on Facebook, some of whom I haven’t spoken to in years. They are Facebook friends, but are they actually friends? There are so many of them who I’d love to meet up with, have a drink and a laugh with, who I’d love to know better. There are girls I’d love to go shopping with, but I always feel that if I invite them, they’d wonder why the hell I was asking them to go out, when they barely know me. Maybe that’s the point. The friends I’ve know since I was eleven already know whether or not I’m funny, weird or normal, how I feel about certain things, whether I’m being serious if I take the piss out of them, they know my sense of humour. It’s a frightening thing to suddenly talk to people who don’t know those things. Often, I post a comment on someone’s facebook then panic in case they don’t realise I’m joking. What about those people who have 700, 800, 900 friends on Facebook? How many of those hundreds of people would really classify as friends?

So, where did this all start? This blog wasn’t supposed to be about Facebook, but why it isn’t acceptable in today’s society to admit to feeling lonely. It stands to reason that most of us are. If we’re single, especially if we’ve been single for a long time, and we don’t get out as often as we should, and if our friends live at other ends of the country, as most of them often do, why is it so shameful to utter the word ‘lonely’? Is it because it implies weakness? It is because we think other people will automatically assume that we’re lonely for good reason, that we’re boring, horrendous people, who deserve to be lonely because no-one could bear to be friends with us? I don’t know, actually. I wish I did. What I do know, is that it should be easier to reach out to each other. There shouldn’t be a barrier between us, like there is. We should be able to hold out a hand to anybody, anywhere, and say ‘Hi, do you fancy a drink?’. Maybe that would make us even weirder, and even lonelier, I don’t know.

Mandelson to widen education goalposts

Lord Mandelson has revealed a plan which proposes to make university education more easily accessible, giving applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds a two-grade head start, effectively lowering the minimum entry requirements for low-income families. The sentiment that university should be available to any capable applicant regardless of their situation is itself welcome and admirable. However, surely a more effective method of assistance would be to increase the financial aid available to disadvantaged students, rather than simply widening the goalposts and making it easier to be accepted.

The university system is built on certain foundations and academic achievement is arguably its most central and significant value. That an able and worthy applicant with the potential for academic success should be denied the opportunity for education and subsequent progression and standard of life because of their financial background is inequitable but to remedy this unfairness with a lowering of standards is a great misjudgement.

By giving any student who achieves mediocre grades at A-Level extra points to enable them to meet the requirements and be accepted by a university, this will mean that the level of ability in students and success at universities will be lowered, creating a domino effect through exam results and into the workplace with sub-capable graduates who were given a golden ticket in spite of their lower academic merit.

If there are competent applicants who are capable of achieving success at university but are prevented from doing so because of their family’s financial circumstances and background then the partiality could be balanced by offering disadvantaged students greater financial assistance, increased grants and loans and more pecuniary support from both the Government and the universities, rather than simply making it easier to get in. This would secure the same academic standards and requirements but remove the fiscal barriers which may inhibit many adept students.

If the academic standards are broken down then this will place greater demand on the already insufficient number of places available and would lower all of the education levels for students once at university because the level of capability in the seminar room and lecture theatre would be diminished, which would therefore affect the entire higher education system. While Lord Mandelson’s proposal is commendable, has thought been given to the students who are awarded a place under the new practice? The education system is formed on the basis that students are prepared for each new level they enter and are accepted on the merit of their previous achievement, which serves as an indicator that they are capable of reaching the common standards and keeping up with their peers. If students are let in under rules which warp and essentially override grades and academic attainments then there is no indicator that they will be capable of functioning at the standard level once they are accepted. The strain they will face to keep afloat for three years and the inevitable increased risk of failure are cruelty rather kindness or favour.

Social mobility and greater equality are vital to our progression as a society but sacrificing education standards and the entire education system in order to extend a hand of charity to disadvantaged applicants regardless of merit is both unfair to the students who do deserve a place based on academic capability and detrimental to the system because it effectively negates the need for A-level results which in turns negates the need for exams and inevitably education at all. Lord Mandelson’s planned change is a convenient solution to placate a component in society which is currently unable to meet the set requirements. Why not concentrate more energy on improving standards in schools and thus increase the levels of achievement at A-level, meaning that more students actually earn a place at university and are fully prepared for the demands they will face when they arrive? This would both provide more students with the opportunity to aim for university and sustain the levels of education at university. A more sensible immediate option would be to offer greater financial assistance to those who need it, which would maintain academic standards and provide the desired equality.

The new plan is equivalent to awarding places on a football team regardless of whether or not the applicants can actually play football. The need for entry requirements is not to decrease the number of accepted applicants but is to ensure that those accepted are capable of functioning at the necessary level once on the team or at university. A football team holds trials not to be elitist and discriminatory but to ascertain the level of ability and talent in each player. Similarly, the education system is not designed to inhibit acceptance but to maintain standards. Thus, anybody accepted to university must surely be required to prove they are deserving of a place based on academic achievement and ability. The element of unfairness should not be removed by removing these particular barriers but by removing financial ones, making it easier for students to receive monetary help from as many sources as possible, and to improve education levels in schools so that more students achieve the higher grades they need to be accepted.

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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up ( with your thoughts.

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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Pete Doherty,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day

Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road

Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

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