Village Life – glam or isolating?

From the cellar of my house, in a village population of just over 10,000, I am sitting in front of a blank word document and wondering what to write about. For a magazine based in a city 95 miles away, I decided the most interesting contribution I could make would not be on current issues in politics or our generation, but simply an insight into living in the village of Knowle.

Democracy in a village (or not)

Important for people of my age is the looming 18th Birthday, and whilst many are just excited for the age at which they can drink without a fake license, I am most looking forward to being able to vote. Finally, I will be considered responsible enough to have an opinion on who should run our country, despite already having been able to drive for one year, and having had the option to get married for the past 2 years. The problem for me, however, is that in the recent local elections, Knowle accumulated 2144 Tory Votes, compared to 382 Green, 371 Labour and 218 Lib Dem. The official results table states this as a Conservative Hold, which it has been for a long time. Adding up all non-Tory votes gives a meagre 971; i.e. there were less than half non-Tory votes as there were Tory. As someone who will not be voting Conservative until she is old and cynical and no longer bothered about others*, this does little to inspire confidence. Of course, I will still vote and will always vote, because people died for my right and it frightens me when so many my age say they won’t bother, and I suppose I can feel some pride in fighting for the overwhelming minority. Having said that, just knowing that my vote will not do anything does make me frustrated.

Breaking news!

The latest village scandal involved my school and the flying of a German flag on the anniversary of D-Day. It was later discovered that we would be welcoming German exchange students that Monday and the timing of a flag was unintentional, but nevertheless local residents filed their complaints and our school ended up in the Daily Mail. It worries me that there are people who will immediately associate the German flag with the Nazis, and perhaps indicates an underlying prejudice towards Germany that should have been forgotten years ago. Maybe it was bad timing to fly a German flag on that particular day, and perhaps it is me who is over reacting, but it definitely shows the extent to which the Mail can take half stories and blow them up into shocking events. I would be interested to know other peoples views on this, because most of the reactions were just that it was quite funny but we must not talk about it until the news story had been archived and the exchange students returned. Either way, I suppose this is not the sort of thing that would happen in quite the same way in London – living in a village can be very interesting too!

*author’s own views!

@martha_rowe, 17, Knowle


A Grinning Fool… and Nigel Farage

On a wet Saturday in June I found myself standing face to face with arguably one of the most reviled men in British Politics; Nigel Farage. For months I had been heavily criticising Mr. Farage and his controversial party, UKIP. At last my chance had come to tell him what I thought of both him and of UKIP.

Until May of this year UKIP had been a struggling party trying to break into the mainstream political scene. Now they are the United Kingdom’s largest party in the European Parliament and in line to becoming Britain’s third largest party in the House of Commons at the General Election next year. Scary, right? Wait until you hear their manifesto.

Obviously, UKIP’s main policy is to leave the European Union which in turn would mean that millions of jobs would be lost as global manufacturers would move to lower-cost EU countries, international travel would become harder and over £400bn a year in trade would be threatened. However, UKIP has a number of other startling aims and policies. For example, detailed plans were proposed to privatize the NHS, scrap paid maternity leave and reintroduce corporal punishment in schools. To me these plans do not sound like those of a “democratic, libertarian party” as the party describes itself, but those of an extreme right wing party. UKIP also have questionable views on same sex marriage, immigration and even the number of foreign players allowed to play for football teams!

So, when I was standing in Dulwich College next to Mr. Farage in his stripy blazer I was ready to explain to him why I thought UKIP is a xenophobic, homophobic, racist party. Unfortunately, nerves kicked in and I didn’t tell him what I thought about him and his horrendous party. (Although I feel this article is slightly doing my nerves justice!) “What did you say?”- I hear you ask? Well, like a typical 21st century teenager I found myself saying,

“Can I take a selfie?” 

@euan_rowe, 15, Knowle

Ironically published online.

NGL I love the internet, it is a procastination heaven AWA obv exposing loads of stuff that would O/W be KITD and there have been so many internet success stories through dating sites, business pledges and political/social petitions, but srsly, have we considered the Internet/social media as an addiction?

I often find myself longing to have been a part of youth from another era – instead I am part of a guinea-pig generation. The growth of computers and the Internet is a blur to me, my most distinctive memory being the introduction of an IT suite halfway through primary school. Now, at 17, I am a pedigree Ebabe. I own an iPhone, installed with many forms of communication. Do I need this? Of course not, nobody needs so many ways to contact others. I’ve steered clear of BBM, Instagram, Keek and Vine. But use Twitter and Fb lots. I also use the obvious phone functions of calling and texting contacts. Convenient, (arguably).

I have been on Facebook since I was twelve, and although six years does not seem like a very long time, it makes up a third of my life so far. My generation is the first to have their development from child to adult widely recorded and published online, and despite clear advantages to our astounding technological advances, I have to ask myself whether this tracking has been healthy for us. Is it really “convenient”? I have come to the conclusion that social media is damaging to relationships, achievement and health. I can see that the over-communicated teen is a new species despite being a self-confessed one. On many occasions I have sat in a room with friends and we’ve all been on our phones: checking Facebook, replying to texts, posting pictures, watching vines, googling celebrities − the list goes on. It’s boring and a waste of time, but it’s often unstoppable. Could it be that social media, eventually, actually hinders communication − real communication, or communication “IRL”.

TBH social media dilutes feeling. I have moved school twice, had friends in different areas of the city, country and world. I can’t, however, honestly say that I have missed a single one of them. This is not because I dislike them, or don’t have time for them, or even because I’m #cold-hearted. It is because I don’t have the space to miss them. It is impossible to miss someone who posts videos on Snapchat in the same day that you’ve seen their breakfast, lunch and dinner on instagram and your twitter feed is crowded with their 140-character thoughts.

It’s not only relationships that I see as at risk here though. It isn’t unknown that the boom of the Internet and social media has fed insecurities and both physical and mental health issues. Anorexia and bulimia are growing problems widely affecting teenagers. Research in from 2013 by Nadia Micali’s team concluded that eating disorders have risen by 15% since 2000. This is not to say the Internet is a sole contributor to these illnesses, but in many cases it can be seen somewhat as a catalyst. I had a Tumblr account when I was fourteen and fifteen, and it was in no way difficult to find what is known as “thinspiration” − images and posts dedicated to encouraging dieting. And that was just the fringe. “Pro-Ana” websites and blogs have been established for a more extreme but similar purpose. There’s a deep and dark irony to these sites, whilst they claim to “inspire”, in reality, they are a form of torture. They inflict pain through creating guilt about ones imperfections and promote direct comparisons between individuals and streams of “perfection”. This comparison is unhealthy and can often transfer into everyday, offline life. Individuals could inevitably see themselves as images lined up in a row, flaws being annotated and overtly discouraged. Whilst these blogs may seem like an utter extremity, they are reinforced and backed up by milder forms of communication. Facebook allows a study of other people’s pictures, faces, and bodies. Instagram often shows a record of what people are eating on a day-to-day basis. Young people can see what their favourite celebrities are eating, what exercise they are doing, they can Google what they look like in underwear, and be highly disappointed when they don’t look the same. There are even websites that have records of the heights, weights and measurements of different celebrities. Why? So that anyone can compare himself or herself to anyone else? This may be an issue for everybody online, but what I feel more strongly about is the way that these problems are affecting those who are supposed to be growing up, those who are being moulded by what they see; the #young #naive #oftenvulnerable.

T/A years are monumental in the development of individuals: the influences and exposures I have had since starting secondary school have shaped me more consciously than anything previously, mostly because the start of my teenage years marked the start of my independence. The Internet is another platform for one to develop, but should we be developing with the help of the Internet? We don’t yet know all the effects the Internet has had and will have on the development of my generations to come; those who have lived with the Internet all of their lives are not into adulthood or close to grown up. The Internet is a growth of a new culture and will inevitably have dramatic implications. It is undeniable that some changes the Internet has bought about have been very positive: online petitions, exposure of worldwide issues, and communication with distant loved-ones. But have we really delved into the scars the Internet might leave future generations with? Scars of low self-esteem and skewed views of “real-life”, scars of cyber bullying, and online harassment − something that is close to impossible to get physically away from.

I would like to say that I could delete my Facebook right now and it’d be fine, but it’s simply not true. So much of my E/D life revolves around the Internet − from group homework to parties. I’d just be out of the loop (OTL in case you were wondering). I detest my dependency on something that in many ways hasn’t really been tested. This dependency isn’t even through any individual fault, it’s an evolution that cannot be ignored; it surrounds me: used in my schooling, relationships and leisure time. It is for this reason that every time someone from an older generation says to me something along the lines of, “you just can’t imagine what it was like for us growing up, we had to bring change for telephone boxes and actually stick to arrangements!” I don’t feel lucky, I feel irritated at my dependency. Yes, my generation can’t live without technology, but then again, we’ve hardly been taught to have we? And maybe, being these guinea pigs/digi-babes acc sucks, IDEK.

#angstyteen – Rosa @Rherxh

Exploring Homophobia in Putin’s Russia

There have been some pretty open criticisms of Russian anti-LGBT laws recently. So far all I’ve done in response is laugh at related (inappropriate) jokes and half heartedly watched Vice’s ‘Young and Gay in Putin’s Russia’ documentary… As it’s been pretty well documented that Russia is homophobic, I’m going to try and uncover the real reasons behind it.

First of all, who even IS Putin? Right, he’s the guy in charge of the Russian Federation (Russia and some of the tiny countries they held onto after the collapse of the USSR). Second, why is he so hostile towards homosexuals? Possible reasons I can think of right now, sitting in a hotel room in St Petersburg, are as follows: the strong influence of the conservative Orthodox Church in Russia? The legacy of censorship left over from Nicholas II, his Romanov predecessors and the Soviet Union? Is it just a distraction from the other problems modern Russia is struggling to overcome at the moment (eg poverty, corruption, alcoholism… to name a few). Having thought about this for a few days while in SPB, I’ve come to the conclusion that (as always in History???), it is ALL of the above reasons, to a certain extent…

BTW: Russian law now prohibits the distribution of homosexual “propaganda” to minors (yup, that’s us). Speaking in defence of gay rights, hosting pro-gay events or equating gay and heterosexual relationships can now result in fines worth thousands of pounds. Gay relationships themselves ARE NOT illegal; though there are zero discrimination protections for same sex couples. According to a survey, SIXTEEN PERCENT of Russians thought homosexuality should be accepted by society (should I be objective? Isn’t that shocking? Especially considering that in Poland <also previously Communist> it’s 42%).

Kay, reason 1 – the church. Religion tells orthodox X-ians that homophobia is wrong (TBF, this is debatable). The Russian Church leader, Patriarch Kirill, has identified homosexuality as a “social ill”. Given that very few Russian Christians will have actually read the Bible in detail (which itself has a range of views on the topic) his views probably have a strong influence on the topic. Anyway, going with that view, and having done some actual research by now, I’ve discovered that my theory is possibly flawed; recent international research has suggested that countries which are more religious tend to be more liberal concerning homosexual tolerance. 80-90 percent of Russians call themselves Christian, and identify their spirituality with ‘national identity’ and ‘moral and ethical codes’. i.e. though not leading strictly religious lifestyles, their judgement on more abstract concepts (as homosexuality may seem to a heterosexual Russian) remains Church. So perhaps it is the light in which Russians view religious influence which has lead to such a radical take on homosexuality?

Currently; Russian society is not very liberal on anything at all. Stalin pushed some VERY anti-Gay propaganda and laws throughout his time which were continued by the USSR into the 1970s (which made homosexuality (illegal from 1933) punishable by a prison sentence or hard labour camp). The legacy of such extreme policies, and the general anti-Liberal atmosphere that has dominated Russia for centuries and centuries, and which REMAINS present today, may very well be a crucial factor in explaining homophobia. The USSR only broke up in 1991 and has had only three political leaders since; Yeltsin the drunkard, and now Putin who alternates the top and second role with his “puppet”, Medvedev (and whose most recent election was partially staged).

With such an unhealthy political climate, many deep rooted social and economic problems which are far from being solved mixed and the suffocating influence of the Orthodox Church, it’s hardly surprising that Russia’s human rights situation is a little dodgy. To put things in perspective, 1980s Britain (under Thatcher, OFC) passed Section 28 which banned homosexual propaganda… We only legalised homosexuality in 1967! This is, to me anyway, illuminating – perhaps Russia is simply thirty years or so behind the West, liberally speaking. Take it from me; Russia’s a beautiful country, judging from the little I’ve seen of it and the masses I’ve only guessed at. Their troubled past has not gone away. Russia’s battle for the future is not over yet; is it about to take a huge step forward (the *revolutionary* punk-rock band Pussy Riot for an E.G.)? – or will its past confuse it? I imagine the dark toxins full of censorship, the Okhrana and betrayal spreading through the historical and extravagant city of St Petersburg (previously Leningrad). Turning it from green/gold/blue into a murky swarm of insults, beatings and intolerance. It’s a dystopian image but with Russia at what seems to be a turning point, the West holds its breath for our <preferred> choice.

Driving past the statue of Lenin on the way to the airport seems a solid, permanent reminder of the past. Shudder. Luckily in just three hours I’m back to the vibrant, tolerant and energetic city of London. We’re fucking lucky to live in a truly Democratic society. It’s this sort of experience that reminds us of it – liberalism is RAD.