Friday, 19 February 2010

Winchester City Council Meeting 18/02/2010

At first expectation as I entered the Guildhall was anticipation as to what I were to behold in the coming hours. This wasn't my first council meeting ever, however it had been a while since I stepped into the shoes of a watchful public citizen, surveying how our city was being run.

The entire hall stood at a halt for the entrance of Winchester's very own mayor, which was shortly followed by the announcement of the purpose of this meeting: To agree a budget. This was soon followed up with announcements, in which the City council won an award and the landlord service passed a survey. Next were apologies for any absences which is practically a standard routine for any meeting as previous experiences at cricket AGM's had told me.

The next half hour though was one of major significance. It was perhaps the most enthralling yet most confusing thirty minutes of my entire career as a human. One major topic of this period was housing. One question raised to the main table was whether preparation for banding issues over housing was sufficient, a question to which our Mayor dismissed and quickly replied: "I think we're entering dangerous ground over equality issues".

I thought my house was controversial but after attending this meeting made my household more than respectable. One councillor accused leader Councillor Beckett of having memory loss regarding to a previous meeting around four years ago, an accusation which Beckett himself responded that a change in government will see a change in housing trajectory, such as providing the number of the houses that people actually need.

This topic of housing continued with Councillor Thomson enquired as to the poor quality outside of new properties, a problem which Thomson deemed a matter of urgency. Councillor Coates answered this statement, saying that there is an aim to improve the service of housing officers, along with spending money on current properties rather than new ones, before revealing that there had been the opening of 67-69 social houses last year.

As time went on, my attention and certainly some of my fellow Journalism students' attentions began to wander. Yet it was not us who seemed lost by the topic of conversation after seeing several unnamed Councillors 'playing' on their mobile phones and 'tucking' into sweets. Time told and soon after our exit took haste. Not my greatest experience since joining university to say the least, however such is life!


Thursday, 18 February 2010

HCJ Lecture One Mary Wollstonecraft

Apologies to my readers for the extremely delayed HCJ blog. For some reason my account has constantly refused to log me in the past week or so, but I return, at the turn of the tide to tell you stories of Mary Wollestonecraft and her views on women's rights.

She experienced a difficult early life with a drunken father along with her family's social standing declining. This meant she was forced to work as a governess to a wealthy family in Ireland, however in 1787 she became obsessed with education. Wollstonecraft argued that the education given to women was superficial, promoting an obsession with appearance and superficial accomplishments like sewing did not equip women with independence of thought or judgement.

The philiosophy of empricist John Locke was very attractive to Wollstonecraft. The idea that the mind can be shaped by education and experience, and for Wollstonecraft, she believed that people could then be changed through Reason and that if you could educate people properly, then you can make them rational, responsible citizens. Along with Locke, she was also fascinated with Rousseau, finding him inspirational and aggravating. She liked his anti-elitism and his attack on modern manners as well as his egalitarianism.

Edmund Burke was a critic of the French Revolution because he believed that societies were built on tradition and to attempt to rip all that up and begin again was a recipe for disaster. The French Revolution was known for change, and it's belief that 'ripping' it apart and beginning society again would work. Burke hated this. In response to his criticism, Wollstonecraft wrote a book, "The Vindication on the Rights of Men" and in it she claimed ideas of aristocracy and hereditary power were mistaken.

One of her other pieces of text, and probably her most signifcant was "The Vindication of the Rights of Women". This book does not actually have much to say on the civil rights of women, or other issues such as voting, however it was given a warm response. Her life started drastically moving downhill again as she had a failed affair and then in Paris 1792 was the beginning of the Terror when she was abandoned by Imlay and has several suicide attempts.

However, despite her mixed life, she is still seen today as the champion of Women's Rights and her idea was that men and women should just be human beings, and the woman should not be part of a man but respected as a human being.

Another person we looked at in the lecture and the seminar was John Stuart Mill. He believed strongly in the liberty of people and wrote a book called "On Liberty". Liberty as we understand though, began as an attempt to limit the powers of government through bills of rights and the extension of the franchise. It also located authority to the individual, just like Locke's idea of inalienable rights. Liberals believe in a Laissez Faire attitude to economics-favouring private property and free trade, the same view taken my the founder of economics, Adam Smith. They prize freedom over equality and favour equality of opportunity over egalitrianism. Socialists say equality of opportunity should be entitled to everybody and not the minority of self-righteous people.

John Stuart Mill had a very early education learning Greek and Latin at very early ages. However at 17, he was thrown in jail for distirbuting literature on contraception. Along with this, he was threatened with death over his prosecution of Governer Eyre, and introduced the first bill to give women the vote then, three years later he suffered a nervous breakdown. Mill dismisses the social contract (which was supported by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau) but he does admit individuals must follow societies' rules and if actions affect society then the state can enforce certain behaviour. He argues that the state should not interfere with people's "choices of pleasure", as long as no one else is harmed, but he does feel the state can interfere in certain situations, for example, involving children.

Many Thanks for reading.


Saturday, 13 February 2010

How deep is your love?

Another year has passed and I see myself in a familiar position, staring at a blank canvas with the same thought in my head as years have gone by, "What a load of old shit!"

I, of course refer to arguably the worst day of the year to many a man of this self-described beautiful and sacred planet. Why is that we commit this one day to sharing our love, and asking ourselves, "Do I love my other half?". February 14th is, as many know, Valentines Day, and is quite frankly one of the worst days on my personal calendar. Isn't it ironic (thank you Finn) that the next most significant day on the calendar day is pancake day, a day in which I seem to eagerly anticipate more than the most over-rated day in history. The irony here is that I actually despise pancakes, and to an extent the word pancake. Why you ask? Well my answer is simple, to suggest the 'glorified' food based on its preparation is puzzling. Yes you do have a pan but it isn't a cake. It is a combination of milk, yeast and eggs. Why can't it be called "Pan-food" or "Pan-day"?

Besides the point, it is pancake day, and we love it just because it brings joy to the many single humans inhabiting this earthly vessel. It is what I call the recovery process from the depressing demise of two days before, and to "turn that frown upside down". To dedicate just one day of love and affection to your intimate companion is laughable. Surely, if in a loving and caring relationship, love and affection should be present at all times, so why feel the need to celebrate it, and waste 24 hours of my life, and millions of people's lives boasting about how great or poor your lives are with your other half by your side. In deep conversation with my dear friend and flatmate, Mr Finn Nickells, he questionned the relevance of a place such as Tesco in Winchester as to why a gentle and social stroll to the supermarket should be turned into the gloomiest experience of the year? Seeing lovehearts, bears, red or pink cards, along with many other pathetic little features sprawled along the first aisle along entering the shop annoys him. To a huge extent, I can do nothing but agree.

I guess the point is Valentines day is a load of over-grown folly. I know many people who claim to "love and adore" their partners, but they don't. I know they don't, and any of your reading this now know you do not. I know for sure that any girls from my course reading will be thinking, "He's getting a slap on Monday", yet some of the lads will be thinking, "This man is a complete genius!"
To the girls, I respond with "Bring it", and to the lads I reply, "Well it's true though"

My inspiration to summon the power of this blog post didn't really take much convincing. In fact at the point of decision-making, I was consuming an apple and reminiscing over a particular event which lightly humoured me just hours before. Wandering the streets of Winchester like a lost sheep, an elderly man slowly bristled up to a flower stall browsing roses for tomorrow's event. He enquired as to the price of this bunch of roses, and when given the stern response of £25 he quickly turned and exited the 'playing field' along with saying, "£25?! She's not worth that at all!"
What a man! A man who has most probably been married the majority of his lifetime does not see his other half as an expensive item. If there is no hope in that, then what hope is there for the young people of our society believing they are in love after one week, and when the going gets tough, they don't know who to turn to.

When it comes to relationships, I'm hardly one for experience, however I manage to offer the reality check they need. Without sounding too big-headed, quite a lot of people at university and back home have come to me for 'relationship or emotional advice'. To which I reply: "Why me?" or "So the cracks are showing then?"
It's more expectation for me. People know I talk sense which is why they come and talk to me, yet when everything is running smoothly, shall we say I'm not number one priority in their, morelike (in the words of singer Daisy Dares You), I am "Number One Enemy", yes this is a reference to you Mr Nickells.
Despite my negative attitude to the belief of Valentines Day, I am never horrible and I do offer great advice, because regardless of how irrelevant I think Valentines and the whole relationship concept is, I wouldn't want to see the happiness of my friends or family thwarted for anything. I offer what I feel is right for their current situation.

The question. Why should our 'never-ending love' for our soul mate be celebrated on one day? If love is so convincing, then why is celebrated and remembered on just one day of the year, and why not 365 days of the year? The answer. Love is an over-used word. Couples who claim to be in love usually are not, use it for effect and use it to convince themselves that they are happy because they are afraid of changing or making the change themselves.

If I was to ask men now on the street, without the presence of their couples, along with single men, "Would you prefer to be playing Fifa/Call of Duty on Valentines Day, or spending it with your Missus?", the majority would have to resort to the PS3 controllers. What happens then? The girls banish them for their bad attitude to the relationship, or ignore it and declare their love for their boyfriend who quite frankly doesn't give a toss.
Valentines Day is a day for couple, and within all my power I can do nothing to stop it. It's for you to do as you choose, one small favour I ask in return is that you don't rub it in the noses of the single people you know well, because when worst comes to the worst and trouble begins in paradise who is it the taken people resort to for emotional support. My point exactly. If Valentines Day is about giving, taking and sharing affection and care, then give us our time as single creatures, the way we give you your time expressing your affection for the one you 'love'.
Am I bitter? Am I jealous? Certainly not. I question the day's relevance to life, and I am often confused by the attitude of people in relationships to the their 'single' friends who are always there. People change when in relationships, and on Valentines Day, the people who care about you most, become nothing but a bit of dust in an empty turtle shell.

Many Thanks for reading