One Year Later

Opinion

One year ago, I graduated from university.

One year ago, I felt like the world was ending.

I remember the day with great clarity – I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I had a great sense of unease. Whilst everyone else was celebrating a well-earned achievement and laughing with their many close friends and family, I could do neither. Sure, I put on a face and laughed when I should, and smiled when appropriate, but underneath I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, swaying, trying to stop the momentum that would plunge me into the rocks and water below.

The month after was one of the hardest and most fucking miserable of my life. With no direction, a placement in a University masters degree that I had no desire nor energy to do, stuck in a relationship which had died months before, and the inability to follow my passions over my last “summer break,” I sweltered in the heat and fell into the worst depression I’ve ever had.

I still have that depression one year later. It’s not budged at all, and sometimes it’s nearly impossible to keep it down and just remain functioning. Some days I lie in bed doing nothing. But unlike that month after graduation, I am functioning. I am still functioning one year later.

Granted, the year has taken it’s toll. A break-up that destroyed me as much as it hurt the other, a string of very unhealthy and toxic relationships, a deep-set depression, a lack of interest and desire to do any of the work for a degree that I frankly saw as pointless, and the kind of heartbreak that only someone at 21 years of age can feel, when you’re on that blade’s edge between the structured path of childhood and the utter abyss that is adulthood, with no plans and no safety net either to boot.

But I can also say something else about today.

A year ago, I could feel the ground slipping beneath my feet, but today I sit at a desk in the postgraduate research centre at York university. I’m writing a dissertation about a comic-book that means so much to me, and has genuinely changed the direction of my artistic desires. I’m calm. I’m not happy, perhaps not content, but I’m stable. I can look out the window without worrying about the future, because I’ve finally accepted that I don’t have any control over what comes next and whether I will fail or succeed at my dreams of becoming a professional comic-book artist.

This year has been hard. But it’s also been great. I’ve made an international group of friends, with people hailing from Germany, Italy, Bombay, and who would’ve known, fucking Bolton too. And what’s more, I know all these people are gonna stick by me, just like I’m gonna stick by them. And that is something to be cherished.

A year ago, I felt utterly alone and out of control. Today, I feel none of those things. I’m doing something I genuinely enjoy and have a great circle of friends, many of them for life. Little did I know one of them was standing less than three meters away from myself in my graduation photo that very day. I’m no longer trying to fit in, feeling displaced at all turns. Because now that I’ve accepted who I am, warts and all, I’ve accepted that others can, and do, want to know who I am. I’m more content with myself than I ever have been before.

So to those who may feel at the end of their ropes, and ready to give up on everything – don’t. You can’t know what’s coming in just one year’s time. Sure, that’s part of the anxiety. I can’t promise that everything will get better, because it won’t. But a year ago today I felt like I had nothing. Today, I count the things I do have, one day at a time.

Sure there are still bad days. But the good ones outnumber those.

So hang on. You never know what is just around the corner.

On the ethical implications of punching Richard Spencer.

Opinion, Uncategorized

You’ve probably seen the footage by now – circulated around the world. Richard Spencer, creator of the “alt-right” term and a key figure of this movement, is being interviewed on a street. From the left suddenly comes a sucker-punch that hits him right on the side of his head. Both the attacker and Spencer run in opposite directions.

There’s been plenty of debate on social media on the ethics of punching Richard Spencer. Though Spencer claims that he isn’t a Nazi, he has often espoused views closely linked not only with the Nazis but other white supremacist groups. One only need to look at the article, “Is Black Genocide Right?”, written by Colin Liddell and published on a website formerly run by Spencer.

It strikes me that one of the main things about having a good debate is how it is framed. Get that right and the chances are something good will be the outcome. However, for too long now, when we consider questions of race, especially questions concerning the Black race, we have been framing things in completely the wrong way. Instead of asking how we can make reparations for slavery, colonialism, and Apartheid or how we can equalize academic scores and incomes, we should instead be asking questions like, “Does human civilization actually need the Black race?” “Is Black genocide right?” and, if it is, “What would be the best and easiest way to dispose of them?” With starting points like this, wisdom is sure to flourish, enlightenment to dawn.

Some of the arguments against the ethics of physical violence against white supremacists such as Spencer is that violence is never an answer; we must engage with debate, we must argue and give counter-point, we must educate those who could fall victim to the vicious and disturbing rhetoric that Spencer and so many of his cronies espouse. Others, on the other side, not only find the video entertaining but approve of the violence; after all, nothing is more American than punching a Nazi, right?

However, I personally find both of these arguments not only false, but startlingly simplistic in the face of increasingly complex times.

We live in an era where the populist far-right is gaining more and more political control than ever before. In Britain, we have the Brexit era looming over us all as the Tories continue to eviscerate not only the NHS but public housing and grants for the disabled, with a divided left that is struggling to pose a realistic alternative. In the United States, we of course have the rise of Donald Trump. And Marine Le Pen is only so far over the horizon in France.

We live in an era where “the truth” means less and less every day. Where a politician can openly mock a disabled reporter who criticises him, who is recording advocating the sexual assault of women, and not only is there no repercussions to his actions but his devotees love him all the more for “saying it as it is.”

We live in an era where someone like Kellyanne Conway can call a lie an “alternative fact.” The implications of such a statement are terrifying. Now that the far-right are in power, and already savaging the media that dare critiques them, they now are starting to change the meaning of the truth. Such a change might seem whimsical or even silly, but it’s arguably one of the most important things that’s come out of Trump’s election. By changing the nature of truth, Trump can dictate who is telling the truth. Once he is able to construct his own narrative, Trump can do whatever he wants. He can erase the LGBT community, demonise ethnic minorities, and claim that climate change is a hoax, all of which seem to be on his radar. Within a couple of hours web-pages referencing these disappeared from the official White House website.

Of course, we’re not so far gone that Trump has authoritarian power. Just two days ago, women led marches around the globe in protest at Trump. Whilst we might be divided, at the same time never have those opposed to people like Trump been so united. Trump’s rhetoric is inspiring action. With this inspiration, violence is going to become an issue.

Whilst I personally can’t condone wide-spread violence, I can’t help but feel amused at the video of Spencer’s attack. It’s a manifestation of what many people are thinking. Spencer was shut-down and his interview was ended. His rhetoric, however briefly, was finished. That’s a good result.

When debate is no longer possible, violence occurs. We’ve seen this before. Anyone who is saying that there should be no violence against people who advocate genocide against any race are frankly being ridiculous. The Nazi analogy, however complicated, is an apt one. And whilst I would be one of the first to disparage anyone equating Trump to Hitler, you can’t fail to see the similarities in modus operandi.

We can’t afford to take the moral high ground if it means that all we do is say that this is wrong and leave it at that. Hope is a fool’s dream. It’s dangerous to hope right now, because hope can lead to inactivity and passivity to the events around us. The new challenge is to actively start calling out and challenging those who speak like this. It’s no longer acceptable to just let it pass you by in a haze of non-confrontation. Call it out. Speak out. When lies are becoming more and more acceptable every day, that’s the only thing to do. We have to start looking at these issues more carefully, and not with such a black-and-white view of morality and the world. We can’t end the conversation on “this isn’t right” or “this isn’t right.” We have to start looking at the consequences of what this judgement means. We have to think, and we have to speak. We can’t afford not to anymore.

Whatever the ethics of physical violence against white supremacists, we can’t afford to continue giving them a platform. I’m disgusted at Simon & Schuster for publishing Milo Yiannopoulos’s new book. Free speech isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for spewing racist and misogynist views. Free speech isn’t about the equal pushing of all ideas. It’s about the freedom to combat any and all ideas. If enough of us start now, Trump’s rhetoric, Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric, none of it will be able to latch. Don’t normalise it. Fight it.

Goodbye, Princess.

Film, Opinion

tumblr_inline_o06kj4px151tt6xsd_1280

This reflection, by virtue of it’s subject, cannot be original or unique in any way. Carrie Fisher was loved and adored by millions, if not billions around the globe, and not just for her legendary performance as Princess Leia in the Star Wars Saga, but for her compassion, wit, and honesty.

Like many others, my first exposure to her work was George Lucas’s original Star Wars (1977) film. Princess Leia Organa was unlike any other heroine of her time – she was headstrong, fiery, and dominated the room whenever she talked. And underneath this thorny surface, lied a great compassion and love for her friends and family. Leia wasn’t an object that men battled for control over, and whilst the original film might’ve implied early on that the men needed to “rescue the Princess”, as soon as Leia met her cohorts it was clear that was never going to be the case.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the original trilogy now – in the hundreds, for sure. First on VHS, then on DVD, and now on blu-ray. I can’t even remember my life without Star Wars. And those original six heroes of the Rebellion – Ben Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and of course Leia – fought for good and beat evil many times not only on the television screen,  but in my dreams too. And whilst I was happy to see Han and Chewbacca once more in 2016’s The Force Awakens, it was Fisher’s re-introduction in that film that made me weep. Luke may have been the guiding force of the trilogy, Han the wild-card, but Leia was it’s beating, emotive heart.

I recall Yoda’s thoughts on death in Return of the Jedi at this moment.

Yoda: Soon will I rest. Yes. Forever sleep. Earned it I have.

Luke: Master Yoda, you can’t die!

Yoda: Strong am I with the Force, but not that strong. Twilight is upon me, and soon night must fall. That is the way of things. The way of the Force.

However cruel and unjust Carrie Fisher’s passing might be, I think we can derive some comfort from the fact that in some way, Princess Leia has returned to the Force. Even saying that, I am genuinely heartbroken and devastated. I think for the first time, I feel like part of my childhood has died; the band of heroes broken; that the light has indeed gone out. I won’t be able to watch those films in the same way again, for now they truly did happen a long time ago, and in a galaxy far, far away.

Goodbye, Princess. Thanks for everything.

On the EU Referendum

Opinion

When I was a little kid, I loved my country. My family used to move around a lot, and I basically didn’t live in the UK long-term for the space of about 15 years, but every summer (and every other Christmas) we would come back home, see our family, and see our country. I remember the excitement I always had in me when we landed in Heathrow airport; it might be hard to believe, but I felt wonder and love seeing all those horrible concrete exteriors, because on some level it meant that I was now home; and when you have been living as I have, always on the move and the only real constant you have being your family, the feeling of being at home was always elusive. When you finally do get that feeling, it’s a feeling unlike any other.

My sister and I  would race to our rented car, eager to see the rest of our country. My exhausted mother and father would sit in their seats, dad at the wheel, and the car would start rolling. And as the sun sets, in that sunset that you don’t ever really get anywhere else in the world, my sister and I would fall asleep looking out the window at the fields and canals and lakes passing us by. That sunset, for me, was always what I loved. That was my country.

So it was always strange when I would visit my family afterwards, who often voiced opinions against the government of the time. I never understood that as a child. Surely, if you love your country, then you love your government too? If you love Britain, then you love all that dwells within it’s borders? Phrases like “Orwellian” were bandied about, and in a conscious effort to understand what that particular phrase meant, I read Nineteen Eighty-Four at the age of nine or ten. It left a profound impact on me, opening up my eyes to the evils that a government could do, in a way that sometimes half-assed history lessons at school never did. But I still failed to see the juncture between that and the country that I loved. I was too young to understand.

The first real pride, or nationalism, that I ever felt in my life was on the evening of November 4th 2008, when Barack Obama was announced as the winner of the presidential race of 2008. My family and I had just moved to the United States at the time, and we stayed up all night listening to the election coverage. When it was announced, finally, after many hours and lots of tea, that Obama had won, my Mother turned to me and said: “Andrew, remember this night. You’ve just witnessed history unfold before you.” I was becoming much more aware of the different shades of politics, and knew that the Republican Party was associated with racism, bigotry, and the NRA. Whilst I didn’t know if the Republican Party was bad in itself, I knew those things were; and the feeling that someone associated with those things didn’t win, that good triumphed over bad, filled me with pride and nationalism. I might not have been American, but it was the first time in my life I ever felt like that.

The second night, and the first and last time I have felt that pride for my country, was during the Danny Boyle-directed Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Olympics. It was a celebration of all our great English accomplishments and culture. Beautiful and mesmerising, I was utterly captivated. I loved my country as a child, but this was the first time it had ever manifested as nationalism for me. Watching all the athletes from all around the world of all ethnicities run on to the field was beautiful. The Opening Ceremony wasn’t just a celebration of Britain, but I guess also a celebration of multiculturalism and a multiracial society. It emphasised togetherness and love.

Between that night and now I have attended the University of Warwick, a famously left-leaning and liberal institution, and it has helped shape my own political ideas and concerns. Perhaps the best thing I can say about the place is that I understand myself and my beliefs more than I ever did before. I understand politics, and I understand that loving your country and loving the government are most definitely not the same thing.

And there has been much cause for concern of late. Bigotry, racism, and fascism has gained a foothold in Britain that it didn’t perhaps have before; the leader of this contemptuous group is none other than the vile and bloated Nigel Farage (ever notice he looks like a human / toad crossbreed?), who hides his thinly-veiled racism under a carefully composed exterior of “for the people” this and “these bloody Tories” that. He’s really quite clever, and is perhaps the most representative of the EU referendum that’s just happened.

For those that aren’t in the UK, I’ll fill in the details for you – the UK has just voted on whether we should leave the European Union over issues of “forced” immigration and possible financial ruin. It has been a campaign filled with lies, hate, and racism. Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have been the key leaders of the “Brexit”, or “Britain Exit”, movement, whilst virtually every major economist, liberal politician, and cultural authority has advocated remaining in the EU. It’s not often that you’ll find me agreeing with David Cameron (another utterly contemptuous figure), but I have on several occasions throughout this campaign.

The Brexit campaign in particular has been characterised by xenophobia and hatred, as can be seen below.

Not only that, but it has also made promises about recovering the NHS through reclaiming the large sums it has been sending to the EU.

Never mind the enormous investment that the United Kingdom has received from the EU, but both of these statements can characterise the Brexit movement as a movement uninterested in discussion with the EU and a renewal in intense isolationism. And just look at how these lies are already falling apart:

Today has been a victory for fascism, racism, and intolerance. But I guess I can’t complain, since just over half the country have voted to leave the EU. Whatever your thoughts on the EU; surely a campaign with such an emphasis on division and hatred is a signifier of “bad politics”? I guess not.

I am utterly heartbroken at the news today. It’s got me thinking a lot about my childhood and my naive love for my country back then. It gets harder and harder every day to get that love back, when we have a government that hates the poor and disabled, and we have just voted for a bunch of apes that spew racism and hatred on a daily basis. And whilst I may have been happy just a year ago at the news of David Cameron’s resignation, I now am genuinely frightened by him leaving 10 Downing Street; who will replace him?

So I ask now – where is the country that I once loved? I don’t recognise it anymore in the headlines that I read. Where is the country that jeered and clapped and cheered when Usain Bolt sped to victory? Did it ever even exist? I start to wonder about that myself. For a while now a bout of ugly nationalism and fanaticism has been growing in this country, and I have been terrified at the thought that it should ever gain a proper foothold in our society. I guess it has now. Why would anyone want to ally themselves with a campaign that has repurposed the suffering of the LGBTQ+ community to stir racism, fear, and hate? I truly don’t know.

I’m left with the feeling that perhaps I could have done more; I could have been more outspoken about my own beliefs in the run up to this election. People who know me know that I’m not one to make political statements and anti-establishment pleas beyond the nodding and agreeing with what others have said. Perhaps that should change now. Perhaps what is needed is less nodding and more speaking.

All we can do now is refocus our energies onto working toward a better future; and making sure that the likes of Farage, Johnson, and Gove don’t have a chance to screw this country even more come next election. So folks, please think seriously about how the Leave campaign has characterised it’s argument, and how it’s many lies are beginning to split at the seam; do you want these people in power? It could be Orwellian, I tell you.