Wake Up, America!

It’s a cliché phrase, one which has been tossed around by conspiracy theorists for decades. But today, I mean it very seriously. Wake up, America.

Your children are being murdered en masse. In the first seven weeks of 2018, you have suffered no less than eight school shootings. Furthermore, the perpetrators are often not some kind of 50-year-old illegal immigrants who snuck assault rifles across state borders. They are overwhelmingly committed by young white American men, with legally obtained firearms. Men who were no doubt denied the help they needed, or whose victims’ reports to authorities were ignored. Some people have speculated that had the perpetrator been Black, or Mexican, or Middle-Eastern, the outcome would have been incredibly different. Trump said in a speech regarding the recent Florida shooting that “the difficult issue of mental health” should be tackled, when only last year he “repealed an Obama-era rule allowing the names of certain people on mental health benefits to be entered into a criminal database”. You made it a lot easier for people to access weapons, Trump, you cannot play the sympathy card now.

Moreover, gun-lovers, you cannot demand that school shootings should not be politicised. They must be politicised as soon as they happen, because we cannot dismiss this debate. I am not even an American, so technically none of this should affect me or my country, but it does. Europe is devastated by the preventable tragedies which keep occurring in America. There is a Zeitgeist, and this is evidenced by the students themselves, who are speaking louder than they ever have before against the defendants of the Second Amendment. One key example was the riveting speech of Florida school student Emma Gonzalez, who announced a student walkout and march on Washington, which she named “the march for our lives”. I cannot fathom why some American pro-gun parents are content to send their children to school, knowing that there is a high chance they won’t come home. I read accounts now where schoolchildren are dressing according to a school shooting drill: “if I wear these clothes, I can escape faster”, “I shouldn’t wear sneakers with lights because they could give away my position”. They’re children, not the CIA! They should not have to consider these things over their own grades!

Do you know what the Second Amendment says? “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. The quote which has caused so much bloodshed was originally a reference to militias. Military forces. Not civilians. America, you’re a self-fulfilling prophecy – you wanted guns to begin with, now they’re becoming a necessity. Are you going to send your children to school with little AR15s of their own next? Will you train them to shoot before teaching them to read?

Your government system has turned schooling into a real-life Hunger Games; here, the survivors are the ones who get to sit their exams.

I fully support the upcoming student marches. We know that marches are effective, and I’ve no doubt they will be this time, too. I would send my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims, but we all know by now that this does nothing to ease their pain. Instead, I send my support, and my hope that there will one day be enough pressure on the American Government to push through some effective mental health and gun legislation. Until then, perhaps America should focus on making more coffins.

“Home of the free, land of the brave”? To that, I propose a new, more accurate line: “Home of the ignorant, land of the murdered”. Wake up, America.




A Bit Annoyed, Actually

A Note About The Lecturer Strikes

On average, I am scheduled to have 11 contact hours (lectures) per week, not including extra-curricular modules. There are 11 weeks in each semester. For my poor attempt at maths, if we multiply 11 by 22 (total number of weeks in the academic year), we get 242 hours. Then, 9,000 divided by 242 equals around £37 per lecture, most of which last only 50 minutes.

I have already been informed that so far, I will lose 2 hours of lectures due to upcoming strikes. That’s £74. I may then lose another 2 hours, which brings it to £148. Furthermore, there is a possibility that after my half term, there will be more strike days, including a planned five-day walkout from 12-16 March. If this does affect me, and all of my lecturers happen to be on strike, I and other students would have lost around £407 of lectures and valuable information.

Before I continue, I would like to stress my support for my university lecturers, and lecturers across the country: they are not to blame. They are doing what they are within their rights to do, which is defending their pensions. If the government succeeds in implementing this change, current and future lecturers could be left up to £10,000 worse off regarding pensions. This could mean that by the time they are ready to retire from their careers, they then might not have enough income to live comfortably. I don’t know about you but to me it does not sound like an attractive concept.

The government must understand that if there is no financial security, this will serve as a deterrent for potential lecturers. Why would you do a job if you are inadequately paid, or have no certainty of retiring with a decent pension? That’s right: you wouldn’t.

We have seen this happen already with the NHS – nobody should be surprised that we are suddenly in a “crisis”, because the number of doctors and nurses has fallen significantly. The Guardian has reported that since the referendum in June 2016, “around 10,000 EU nationals have quit the NHS” not only because of the uncertainty, but also because of overworking and underpayment. Similarly, in 2016-17, “just under 33,500 nurses” left the NHS. You can therefore see the correlation between working conditions and number of employees who quit. The same could happen for lecturers nationwide – lecturers who very much want to do their jobs, but who are reluctant to do so if it means making potentially destructive concessions to the government.

I am grateful for my education. Throughout my schooling, I have experienced some pretty low points in terms of government policy shafting people in the education sector, but there have always been a handful of truly dedicated teachers. Now, I find that my lecturers are the same, as some really do go all-out to help their students as best they can. In their position, I would be striking, too. In fact, I would like to take this chance to express my disappointment in the Cardiff University Students’ Union for denouncing these strikes and refusing to support our hardworking lecturers – I believe they cannot see the forest for the trees.

Students, I empathise if these strikes affect your education, I really do, but let’s not lose sight of the ones who are really behind the strikes – Theresa May and her cronies. All they are doing is making unnecessary cuts so they have more money in their own pockets. As you’ve probably now gathered, I’m a bit annoyed, actually.


You Don’t Know What You Have Until It’s Gone

Guten Tag! My name is Angharad and I am a friend of Mason’s. He has kindly offered me the chance to contribute to his insightful blog, so without further ado, here is some insight of my own!

I take many things for granted. Arguably, all of us do, and it stems from that wise old cliche of “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. This is, admittedly, the primary realisation which never fails to stop me mid-tantrum. Why am I screaming that my internet is slow when there are people not three miles from my house who have to sleep on the streets? Selfishness is an addiction, but realising how lucky you are, even on the worst days, can be the cure.

My dog died on 21 August 2017, shortly after his 11th birthday. He was a very springy Springer, who coped incredibly well on just three legs. He was a rescue dog, and one of the kindest spirits I believe I will ever meet. I used to mock him mercilessly because he was such a character; I mistook his joy for life as pure, unbridled stupidity, but he never failed to make me laugh. Whether it be by chattering to me like a dolphin (he never barked), dashing away to bring me his toys, Manky Frankie (a soiled toy fox) or Rooney (an equally rancid stuffed raccoon), or simply by waking himself up with a particularly loud fart, it always ended in myself and my mum laughing – and, in the last scenario, fleeing the room. I didn’t understand how important that dog was to me, and to my family, until he passed away. It made me wish that I had never mocked him, or abandoned him to see other people, or even spent so much time at university instead of spending time with him. I think we all take pets for granted, even though we know they have shorter lifespans. The house seems more silent every time I walk through the door; it made me realise that we typically wish for the thing we cannot have, namely more time.

I take my family for granted. My grandparents have always been there for me, and they have always supported me. My aunt, as well, who was ever taking me out on day trips and spoiling me rotten and taking time off work for a DVD and Chinese night. My mother, who has sacrificed so much to give me great opportunities, whilst dealing with so many different obstacles and tackling every single one of them. In retrospect, I an incredibly fortunate to have been born into such a supportive family. Of course, I wasn’t aware of this when I was younger, choosing instead to ignore most of their advice and kindness. It is only now that I live away from home, that I understand I need to show them how much they mean to me. I need to ensure that I call, and that I visit, and that I appreciate what they do for me.

Maybe we can’t stop taking things for granted, because we’re not always aware of it, but we can take a moment to be thankful for the things/people we recognise we take for granted. I don’t just mean family, either, but anyone who is of significance in your life. Pets, friends, partners, even neighbours. One particular neighbour springs to mind: she has also accompanied me through life, and she’s become a very wise, down-to-earth woman. As well as keeping in touch, I wrote her a heartfelt letter months ago, explaining how much she means to me and that she is basically my third grandmother. She appeared very grateful, and this isn’t an excuse to toot my own horn, it’s simply an example of something that everyone ought to do for those they love. After all, when you’re feeling down, what better way to be cheered up other than with reminders from loved ones that they love you?

We all lose loved ones eventually; no one is immortal. Therefore, I strongly encourage you, reader, to pick up the phone and call someone you love and tell them that (that you love them, not that they’re not immortal – the last thing people need is a reminder of their mortality). It doesn’t have to be an outright “I love you”, it could be something as elegant as “what would I do without you”, “you’ve been such a big help”, or “thanks for a great time”, because we live in a society where things move so fast that it is very easy for people to forget, and for people to be forgotten. Communication is essential if you want to be content, and if you want to help others be content: humans are social creatures, whether we like it or not. Even hermits are bound to miss even the most mild social interaction. Now, to link this with festivities, Christmas is a beloved celebration, for the secular and the religious alike. If you know anyone who might feel left out this Christmas, it never hurts to extend an invitation. We all take so many things for granted, more than we can know; the least we can do is acknowledge this, and thank the people (and pets!) without whom our lives would be utter chaos.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.