Searching for blog posts tagged with 'change'

brighton the corners

Oct

10

I've been meaning to write about coming to Brighton, but I don't really know what to say. The initial hassles are out of the way, I'm settled in, and now it's the little things that preoccupy me. I haven't even taken any photos of the city because it seems... well, weird. I don't feel like a tourist here. I'm getting to know the side streets and little shops, the bus schedules and weather patterns. Brighton is home now. My life in the States has taken on a weird, unreal quality, a half-remembered dream that I'm not entirely convinced ever happened. It seems so far removed from here and now.

Maybe it's because I have a sort of quasi-nomadic habit. My relationship with cities is one of serial monogamy; I live somewhere for a few years, and by the time I move somewhere else, I can't wait to get away. I wonder if I'll be as eager to get out of Brighton as I was to get out of Ohio. Moving here represents a sea-change for me, a considerable step forward in the process of Getting My Shit Together. I knew I wanted to move to the UK; what I didn't know was what I'd do after I got here. For the first time, I'm not really that worried about it. One thing I've learned from the process is that things really can work out. It sounds cheesy, but it's true. My whole perspective on life has changed in the space of a few weeks.

I keep waking up early in the morning. At 7 or 8, the sun hasn't quite come up, and the little valley I live in is still damp with dew and bustling with snails (inasmuch as snails can bustle). If I'm lucky, I get to watch the sun peek over the hills and flood the garden and my bedroom with warm yellow light. It's brilliant. I've never been a morning person, but if I were lucky enough to spend all my mornings lounging around with a cup of coffee and watching the sun come up, I think I could become one.

communication, technology, and DIY

Oct

12

One of the things I love most about studying early modern literature is how relevant it seems to modern life. My readings lately have been about the print revolution and how it completely changed the face of human existence. That's not an exaggeration, either. Can you imagine a world without printed media? I certainly can't. It's one of the things that Elizabeth Eisenstein says makes it difficult for us to really understand just how much the advent of the printing press changed the world.

I think there are quite a lot of parallels between Gutenberg's invention and the rise of the internet. It's not a perfect comparison by any means, but the similarities are there. Opening up communication to a whole new group of people, the loosening of one particular authority's grip on information, and the addition, for good or ill, of a whole new range of human experience. People slag off the internet-- hell, I slag off the internet-- but I really feel that it has a lot in common with the printing press in that it's a new form of communication that has quickly become ubiquitous. How many young people now can remember life before the internet? I was around then, and I can barely remember it. I definitely recall doing research the hard way, with actual books and paper library catalogues, instead of with the internet. A world of information is at my fingertips. I wonder if this is how some early modern scholar felt, walking around the churchyard of St. Paul's.

The problem we encounter in a culture where everyone gets to speak up is determining which voices are worth listening to. If Authority no longer dictates who gets a say, it falls to us to be our own Authority. And sometimes we're pretty crap at that. Critical thinking skills don't really come naturally to human beings, much as we like to preen about being The Rational Mammal or some such nonsense. When it comes to it, we're pretty much just jumped-up monkeys with bigger, sharper sticks.

I'm going to have to look into this idea and investigate whether anyone else has drawn these parallels between the growth of printing and the growth of the internet. I think there might be a dissertation there. Or at least a term paper.

time to get back to the grind-- also, stop the cuts

Jan

25

I haven't written here in more than a month. I spent most of December being a lazy bastard and consequently a good portion of January flailing about and panicking about my term papers. They turned out pretty well I think-- at least, I thought so until it came time to turn them in. But I can't worry about them now. They're out of the way, out of my hands, and I can commence shitting myself once again when evaluations come in. Now I've got to focus on my current seminars.

Which brings me to my next point. One of my tutors this term is going to be made redundant. If the cuts that management is proposing go through, this woman will lose her job. I've already slagged off uni management and their plans that are clearly based on information from an imaginary Sussex full of business students, but it bears repeating: this is ridiculous. Higher education funding is being cut across the board-- because apparently the UK government want their population to be as uneducated as possible. I find it ironic that a country with such a long history of xenophobia seems obsessed now with bringing in international students (like me!). Why the hell would you deny your own people the right to an education? It just doesn't make sense. Not that that's ever stopped any corporate toad before.

So there's another demonstration. This Thursday morning at 11.30. Be there or watch your education be pillaged by people who can't answer a simple question and instead of listening, just wait for their turn to speak.

Speaking of questions. I will be at Postgraduate Open Day. And I will have many questions. I'm not just showing up to start trouble either; I genuinely want to know how Sussex thinks it will bring in the best and brightest if it sacks so many of its staff and cuts courses. Michael Farthing claims that Sussex needs to have courses students "really want." So is that why Chinese was cancelled? You know, the language that over a BILLION people speak? One of the languages that's going to be hugely important in the coming years? As usual, management's rhetoric proves to be at odds with their behaviour.

Lots of things going on. School of English Society needs setting up. Stop the Cuts campaign continues in all its myriad forms. Full-time officer elections are next month. I've got to do some reading. More rabble-rousing to come.

troll proximity alert! do not engage!

Feb

19

One of the pitfalls of getting involved in anything is that there are always people who will gleefully tell you why you're wasting your time. There exists an entire culture of do-nothings who seemingly have nothing better to do than throw stones at people with the initiative to try to make a difference. Protesting against war? Pah! Why waste your time? Fighting sexism? We've got equality now, shut your gob! Staging a demonstration? Just be quiet and don't make me think too hard!

You would think that cuts to something as vital as education would have everyone up in arms. After all, we just spent how many billions bailing out banks, and the government is now telling us there's no money? The VC and the rest of VCEG make six-figure salaries, and they're telling us that Sussex has a deficit so we have to sack people? Something stinks here. Anyone with half a brain can figure out that the rhetoric being spouted doesn't match up with what's going on beneath it. Despite that, there is an alarmingly large contingent of people who either don't seem to care or actually find it distasteful to try to do something about it.

The argument comes in many forms and uses many different fallacies, but the jist of it is always the same: why can't you just do what you're told? An authority figure (usually male, usually white, inevitably rich) has told us how things have to be, so why can't we just quietly accept it and go about our business? After all, the rich, white, and powerful always know what's best, don't they?

What all this transparent trolling boils down to is one thing: it is much, MUCH easier and less intimidating to slag off your fellow students than it is to stand up to people with money and power. It's much, MUCH easier to just regurgitate what you've been told by your benevolent leaders than it is to question anything, and it's much, MUCH easier to just shout, "Shut up!" at people than it is to listen to what they have to say.

I've got no time or patience for thoughtless authoritarian kowtowing. If you believe everything you're told by Michael Farthing or Gordon Brown or Peter Mandelson, fine. If you can't be arsed to look any deeper than the surface of the issue, fine. But don't pretend you have some kind of intellectual high ground because of it. And if you start picking at every little detail of, say, a press release or a campaign newsletter, you'd bloody well better be picking at every little detail of what Michael Farthing is saying too.

Apathy and laziness are not noble qualities, and neither is ignorance. Picking fights with other students because you're too scared or lazy to pick them with more powerful people does not make you some kind of brilliant counter-revolutionary. It makes you a coward. Citing your housemate or your friend or your mum as your source in any discussion (unless that person is an expert) is pathetically weak. Imagine trying to cite your grandparents in a term paper. Your tutors would never stand for it, and I'm not going to either.

I will not engage with people who lack basic argumentative skills. I will not discuss complex issues with people whose only interest is in derailing a conversation. I will not respect people who patronise and condescend, and I will not waste my valuable time educating someone who doesn't want to learn. If you want to stick your head in the sand, go right ahead. But don't be surprised if I kick you in the ass.

EGM, occupation, strike

Mar

17

Emergency General Meeting of the Students’ Union at Sussex University tomorrow for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group. It’s at 2pm in Mandela Hall. Why vote no confidence in the university management? Three very good reasons:

  • blatant mismanagement and failure to adequately consult with staff
  • fabricating a hostage situation to bring in riot police and then lying to the high court about the circumstances of that situation to obtain an injunction against non-violent protest
  • summary suspensions of six students with no disciplinary procedure whatsoever, abusing a statute that is meant to be used for violent crime

Even if you think the cuts are ‘inevitable’ and actually believe the rationale the management has presented, their behaviour over the last two weeks has been absolutely unacceptable.

You might have received an email from Pro Vice Chancellor Chris Marlin telling you to go to lectures on Thursday, despite the fact that it’s very possible your lecturer is on strike. This is a clear attempt to try to drive a wedge between students and their tutors. Additionally, the ‘only 6 people to a picket line’ statement is false; it is recommended to only have six, but that is not a rule. Do not let management lie to you.

The situation here at Sussex is reaching a critical point. University Senate meets tomorrow to discuss these proposals. Email Senate to encourage them to vote these proposals down. These proposals are poorly researched, and the Equality Impact Assessments the University is required by law to carry out are insufficient and contain no data. This is bad management.

We have no confidence in VCEG, and we want them to resign.

victories

Mar

19

This week has been amazing. We've struck a few key blows against management and against the government's plans to eviscerate education.

  • Leeds University has won against the threat of several hundred compulsory redundancies
  • Students at Aberdeen University stormed the management building and staged a sit-in
  • Sussex University went on strike for a day, with immense support from students and other workers
  • Sussex University also saw, after a week-long occupation and intense pressure, the full reinstatement of the "Sussex Six"
  • The Sussex University Students' Union passed a motion of "no confidence" in the Vice Chancellor's Executive Group (VCEG)

    Continue reading 'victories'...

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 8

Dec

08

I always thought that awards ceremonies were cheesy. You watch the Oscars and, when the winner's announced they always look that perfect balance of elated, deer in a headlight, close to tears but just keeping control of yourself combination that, I felt sure they had an entire class dedicated to in drama school. Actors of the world, I take it all back.

   Thursday saw the end of the internal Criminal Advocacy competition, the real one, in real court in front of people with very large legal brains that make me want to apologise for my own existence and feel cheeky when I describe myself as knowing anything about the law. I am accutely aware that, I do not and that I am half way through all the law I will ever learn. I mean seriously, any bar school would be lucky to have me... right? I digress... So, my first hollywood moment occurred right after I made my first submission. In "A Few Good Men" there is that iconic cross examination with Tom Cruise trying to get Jack Nicholson to break, knowing that he was risking everything putting him on the stand in the first place. In the middle of it, he turns away, picks up a glass of water and drinks it. As he does this, he shakes so violently and then he replaces the glass, turns back around and carries on like a pro. I trust you can see where this is going. Only, with me, sadly the illusion was shattered, I had a witness. Aparently the prosecution bench is too close to the dock to hide any violent hand spasms so, I was slightly busted. This however, was educational as, if I ever do get to prosecute anything non fictitious, I don't really want the defendant to be able to see just how bricking it I really am! Lesson one: poker face and poker hands.

   The second hollywood moment was a bit like being live at the Oscars, granted, no one asked me who I was wearing or  to make a ghastly speech requiring me to thank everyone down to a deceased family pet, but they did announce that I'd won the entire contest. Frankly, I think if I wasn't already sat down, I would have fallen. My hope was, get to Lewes, get to real court and that would be one hell of an achievement, I didn't think winning it was really on the horizon, I just wanted to be sure I didn't quote them the wrong legislation and look like a prize idiot. Having achieved that, I thought I'd done myself justice. But this is just so cool. The prize of a mini-pupillage at a set that are just amazing is out of this world, it's definitely re-affirmed my faith in barrister-hood as, while there is nothing more terrifying, there is also nothing more adrenaline inducing and exciting.

   Unfortunately, nothing that I have previously stated is going to help me answer the daunting question of: "Why do you want to train to be a barrister?" (in under 150 words) that currently plagues the page of my bar school application form and haunts the screen like a spectre. If someone ever does come up with the perfect response for that, they should sell it and retire off the profits. It is barrister gold dust! And at the moment I'm struggling to get hold of something so intangible. How do you explain why you love something? Mostly, it's not rational, I mean why do I relish the idea of spending hours of time in crummy courts in towns you've never heard of for close on no money and encountering some of the most socially despised people you'll ever come across? The reality of it sounds hellish and yet, there is nothing I want to do more. This weekend got me to thinking about it from another perspective. Maybe it's not about judging it objectively, maybe you can only achieve explaining how much you want something by detailing all the sacrifices you're willing to make to get there?

   The fact of it is, I do want this, more than anything. I know that sounds melo-dramatic and X Factor-ish but it's as sincere as I can convey via blog. But, it does come at a cost and this week, I think it may have cost me a friendship. I'm not saying that my striving for the bar is the only reason why things have gone wrong, but it's been brought to my attention from comments made by some of my childhood friends that I don't quite fit in in my home town, even less that I used to. If I use certain words in conversation I am accused of thinking myself more intelligent than they are, it's not true, but three years at university and being passionate about things will have an effect on your vocabulary I guess. I am also vilified for having new friends or a hectic schedule, this translates to my "not talking" to them. The fact that they don't contact me is apparently irrelevant. Perhaps they do see me on a different path to them, but I was unaware that that meant there was no room in my life for them. Evidently I was wrong. See, when it comes to life at the bar, and the desperate struggle to get there, everyone warns you about the statistics of employment and the expense of education and the fierce competition. No one tells you about the emotional side, the people who you don't see enough of, or who feel that they can't relate to you any more. No one tells you about what to do with the friends you have that want to settle at home and bear their 2.4 children before they're 25, that think that you've grown above yourself for not wanting that same life, or for using big words in conversation.

   I was given to believe we had a system of innocent until proven guilty, but it looks like with many of the people I know I've been condemned and tried in absence and so may of them are willing to believe the worst of me, I'm beginning to wonder if I ever knew them at all? Or, am I the one that's changed? Are they right? Is it necessarily the bad thing they claim, or just an inevitable fact of life? At the moment I'm not sure. But, I'm hoping I can find my 150 words, secure a place at a bar school and move out, away from this town where the fit is a bit hit and miss. I miss Nottingham today...