An illegal referendum and police brutality: what’s going on in Barcelona?!

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Credit: news.vice.com

What happened?

Catalan is a wealthy region in North East Spain. It recently had a ‘referendum’ so that people could vote on whether they want to continue to be part of Spain or set up their own nation set apart from Spanish control. They have a very strong culture including their own language.

The Spanish government called this referendum illegal and ‘a mockery of democracy’ (BBC), because they had not agreed to it and do not want Catalan to separate.

Following this, police were brought in to try and stop the referendum happening, which led to 900 people being injured. Police reportedly used unnecessary force.

Protesters think this is a gross violation of freedom of speech. Whether it was legal, the people only wanted to file a piece of paper… so the police response has shocked the world.

Currently, thousands of people are protesting in Barcelona and throughout Catalonia, against both the refusal of Spanish government to legalize their referendum, but more importantly to condemn the response of the police.

Why did it happen?

Part of the reason people want independence comes down to history. Spain had a dictator called Franco who oppressed and murdered many people. He strongly believed in centralism (one big state) so people now wanting to separate from Spain could be a part of a reaction to this, particularly older people who remember having family members killed.

The issue of independence is highly political in Spain and is very decisive. Barcelona and Real Madrid football matches have become more and more political, with people associating the games directly with the struggle between Catalonia and the Spanish State.

How is the British media responding?

In terms of social media, it hasn’t been too hot on UK trends. This could be partly due to other horrific acts of violence happening at the same time. Such as the mass shooting in Las Vegas where 59 people were killed and hundreds injured by a lone shooter. Of course, if he was brown there would be an uproar from Trump and his men, but he was white so it was a ‘tragedy’ and not an act of ‘terrorism’ from an American news perspective.

The BBC provides more detailed information about the reasons behind the protests, highlighting the 900 people injured by police, including women being dragged out of polling stations by their hair and rubber bullets being used to prevent people voting.

How is the Spanish media responding?

The Spanish news is less prepared to mention the reasons behind the protests, or to engage about the issue of police brutality.

People are reported by RTVE to be shouting ‘este edificio será una biblioteca’ (this building will be a library) outside government buildings in the area,  highlighting the passion and intensity of the protesters, and the fact they consider government intervention ‘Spanish interference,’ and see themselves (Catalonia) as a different place.

Highlighting this chant could lead readers to empathize  more with the police, as the passion and intensity behind these words suggests that the protesters were a bit of a mob, rather than normal people expressing their desires through an unapproved vote.

As of yet, an apology for the violence being carried out by the police has not been issued by the Spanish government. According to  RTVE , the huge protests now being experienced in Barcelona are linked to ‘the way the police acted’ but the mainstream news company does not highlight the number of people injured, or condemn police or government actions in any way.

What now?

90% of people who voted in Catalonia wanted independence, but turn out was only 40% because so many polling stations were shut down and roads were closed by the police so it’s hard to say how much this reflects the will of the people.

Protesters continue to occupy the streets in thousands but the Spanish president comes across as uncompromising – blaming the Catalonia decision to hold a ‘false referendum’ rather than police response as the reason for violence.

Mansplaining, womansplaining, or just plain rude?

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credit: Kaye Blegvad

‘When You’re Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression’

I first heard that quote a couple of weeks ago and it really spoke to me. You see, I am a person who thinks a lot about women’s rights and I am occasionally met with quite hostile responses by some men.

I write about why we need feminism, the structural nature of violence against women, and I ask why only 12% of women think they are attractive (irish times) (and why we are made to believe our ‘beauty’ should even matter!)

I recently read Solnit’s ‘Men explain things to me’ in which she spoke about the concept (that she coined herself) – mansplaining.

Solnit was telling a gentleman about a book she had recently written and he smirked at her smugly ‘did you know a very important book was written on that except same subject recently’

Yes. It had. It was her bloody book you patronising moron.

You know what hurts the most? That Solnit hesitated. An educated, experienced woman who had spent years researching for a book and she didn’t immediately realise this trollop would be talking about her book. She thought ‘oh god how did I miss that a similar book has just come out.’

You see us women are very good at doubting ourselves. In Jess Phillips’ fantastic book called ‘One women’s truth about speaking the truth’ she explained that a woman wouldn’t feel qualified enough to apply for a job even if she met more than 90% of the requirements. Men on the other hand characteristically apply for jobs where they don’t even meet 50% of the criteria.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Confidence is key and there’s no shame in being bold. But there is a reason why women are less likely to put themselves forward, and it comes from the structural ‘shushing’ and underestimation that we receive from a minority of our male peers, which hammers in the ideas that we are ‘frauds’ in the work place and don’t feel we have a right to ask for more, or even want it.

‘Mansplaining’ is a big part of this. Lily Rothman of The Atlantic defines it as “explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman”

Mansplaining isn’t the same as being patronising or rude. It is called ‘mansplaining’ because it is specifically gender-related, ‘rooted in a sexist assumption that a man will normally be more knowledgeable than a woman.’

The patronizing manner of mansplaining crushes any further dialogue.

This phenomenon is something that millions upon millions of women can identify with. It is something that women experience daily. We are constantly faced with the decision of biting our tongues to avoid conflict, or to speak up against the routine silencing of women’s knowledge, which is literally going on all the time.

It doesn’t matter about our age, wealth, career, experiences: women get mansplained to all the time. It is about gender and we have experienced it for thousands of years.

Recently, someone commented on one of my blogs, complaining I was tarring all men with an unfair brush and said he experienced ‘womensplaining’ all the time at work. I’m sorry someone has been rude to him, and it really could be linked to gender, but I would argue that the term ‘womensplaining’ is laughable, and insulting to the millions of women going through mansplaining.

A woman can explain things and she can do it patronisingly. A women can be annoying and rude. A woman can be a pain in the arse.

You know what else? A man can be kind. He can be supportive, uplifting and inspirational. The vast majority of men are wonderful people. But the difference is that the small minority of men who do mansplain and underestimate women, are having a huge impact on so many people through their behaviour.

How many women have avoided using their voice because they knew they’d be laughed at and silenced? It chills me to think.

I believe that ‘womansplaining’ is an inappropriate term that goes to console men who don’t like hearing criticism and shoot back a counter word as a protective shield. Ironically, the men who are less able to accept the idea that women are disadvantaged in society, are the exact people that need to understand the reality.

Us women naturally question ourselves and doubt ourselves more than men, because society has taught us to do exactly that. A little boy will be told he’s showing leadership qualities when a little girl acting the same way will be called bossy.

A woman demanding justice in government is more likely to be called hysterical where a man would be called passionate. There is a systematic ‘shushing’ of women’s voices that needs to be addressed. It’s not just about a person being a bit rude, it’s about illegitimating women’s knowledge and structural disempowerment.

According to the Independent, ‘mansplaining’ can lead to men earning more than women and getting more promotions, and that’s something that all reasonable people want to avoid. (Independent)

The gender pay gap continues to thrive and that isn’t ok. This is largely because society has taught men to ‘overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women” (American Psychological Organization)

I’m not blaming modern men, society has developed to silence women over thousands of years and many men are up to fight this just as much as women and LGBT+ people.

I am saying it’s not ok.

High status politicians and business people continue to be majority men, women continue to take on the majority of caring roles at the expense of their career and free time. We need to acknowledge that there is so much progress still to make, and that mansplaining is one of many means used to disempower and undermine women.

If this article has interested you, why not read:

Modern Slavery; an interview with a diamond dealer and the truth about your tech

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credit: weddingbee.com

I’ve always said if someone proposes to me with a diamond ring then the answer would have to be no. It would show that the person doesn’t know me at all.

2 reasons:

  1. For me, a diamond represents capitalism at its worse. Diamonds are bought relatively cheaply from the mines, and it isn’t until they are cut that they are worth so much. And where do diamonds get cut? Generally, in the West. So, as is classic with capitalist markets, the people working to get the product are paid next to nothing, the West buys it cheap then sells it for huge profit, making a few wealthy people in the West richer and richer whilst people in the mines have a daily struggle to survive.
  2. Then comes the slavery. Many of us have seen ‘Blood Diamond,’ a fiction film which explores the world of the diamond mines in Sierra Leone. It deals with very real and very serious issues. Blood diamond workers, also known as conflict diamonds workers, are slaves who work in diamond mines in areas which are controlled by rebel forces, who are against the legitimate government. The profits made from selling the diamonds goes towards weaponry and furthering their agenda of war, therefore leading to wide spread bloodshed. What’s more the conditions for slaves in mines are horrific. Many are kidnapped and tortured, beaten, raped, drugged and murdered. Many children are enslaved to dig for diamonds, particularly in African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and the Republic of Congo. According to the World Bank and the United Nations approximately 3 million people have died in relation to conflict diamond mining. To me it seems gross that a man, woman or child has bled, sweat and despaired over the sparkly gem that so many of treasure on our finger. Seems weird that it’s a symbol for love and commitment as the classic engagement ring.

So. I was surprised on a recent flight from Brussels to Madrid when I got chatting to the man next to me. We spoke about society, environment and politics and we had had similar views on a lot of things. He was educated and seemed kind and concerned about equality. After a while, he mentioned that he is a gemmologist, and sources diamonds for European companies..

‘Oh.’ I said. ‘How do you find a place for your social and political beliefs in an industry that’s so heavily linked to slavery and the abuse of the developing world by the west?’

Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but I do like to jump straight in…

Juan took it in his stride and smiled thoughtfully. ‘I guess they never made a Hollywood film about your iPhone?’

He had a point.

You see iPhones (all smartphones and laptops in fact) contain a mineral called coltan. Meanwhile, in the last 20 years, 7 million people have died in a civil war in the democratic republic of Congo. Today, members of rebel forces as well as corrupt government soldiers enslave children in the Congo to mine minerals essential to smartphones and other technology. (Huffington Post)

With Apple, it doesn’t end there. Once the raw materials reach Asia to be processed in factories the workers’ rights are just as disgusting. Apple uses a Foxconn plant, a factory which has been described as a ‘labour camp’ by local media. Here, so many workers were trying to commit suicide by jumping out of windows, that the factory responded by putting up suicide nets to catch them as they fell. Instead of reducing working hours that are 3 times the working limit or raising pitiful wages. Workers often sleep on factory floors and never get to see the sky. But we very rarely criticise Apple for that disgusting treatment of workers, even though the CEO Tim Cook has received $570 million worth of stocks in a single year alone. (Huffington Post)(Telegraph)

Then there’s your clothes. How many were made in sweat shops? I for one don’t know where all my clothes have come from. The convenience of cheap clothes off the high street is hugely integrated into my lifestyle.

Next? Food. King prawns are hugely linked to slavery. A recent guardian investigation found that supermarkets such as Tesco, Walmart, Carrefour and Costco has sourced Cheap Thai ‘king’ prawns which have been supplied by the work of violent slave labour. (Guardian)

Juan pointed out that though he condemned any slavery within the diamond industry, and elsewhere, that I was unable to criticise his choice to work in the diamond industry whilst I owned an iPhone and ate many common types of food, and shopped in many high street stores. Sadly, slavery is as integrated into human lifestyle now than it has ever been.

In fact, slaves are cheaper now than they have ever been. We can work this out by comparing the price of a slave to the price of land, grain and livestock throughout human history. Slavery is illegal in every country in the world but there are currently more slaves right now than there were in the entire history of the transatlantic slavery. (BBC) This can be through human trafficking and sex slavery, domestic labour, and people who are tricked into ‘jobs’ in farms or factories and then are not paid or permitted to leave.

Do you ever get your car cleaned at a hand car wash? Did you wonder why it costs only 4 pounds when you have up to 5 people simultaneously working on your car? And they’re mostly foreign, right? Passports stolen, without papers or with family threatened back home, they may not have another option.

Juan explained to me that in his professional opinion the diamond industry has evolved positively in recent years. With the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia all the biggest companies agreed to monitor and create policy for the rough diamond buying process. They now evaluate possible human rights violations to try and ensure companies aren’t involved in illegal activity such as money laundering. He told me that around 95% of diamond dealers and companies now completely refuse to work with blood diamonds. If they do, they are subject to strict international policy. This process is called the Kimberley process and you can read more about it here.

He thinks that the industry has a bad name due to Hollywood blockbusters like Blood Diamond and although it is never acceptable, there are so many industries in the modern world that violate human, animal and environmental rights. Industries such as the pharmaceutical, food, wood, mineral and textile industries have all got a lot to answer for. Juan tries to work within the second-hand market which gives him more peace of mind, and when he buys and sells within this market he feels he is contributing to create new jewels, meaning more jobs and good business for colleagues.

The conversation gave me a lot to think about, as I have always been so very anti-diamond, whilst checking my emails on an iPhone and popping to high street shops to cheaply update my wardrobe. Clearly, slavery is deeply integrated into modern society and we must do more to try and tackle this. Will it come down to governments tightening restrictions for big companies, or consumer choices forcing unethical companies out of business?

I suspect a balance between the two must be found. If you would like to know how many slaves are involved with your life you can do a quiz on slavery footprint, where you fill in some information about things your diet/lifestyle and it calculates how many slaves are working for you. Check it out here.

Currently, I’m feeling overwhelmed by all this information! If you have any ideas on how to reduce the slavery involved in your lifestyle, please write a comment on Facebook or below!

Prisons or sanctuaries? Clearing up the confusion about zoos

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I love animals. That phrase is probably most over used sentence in the history of mankind.  I think the vast majority of people claim to be animal lovers (quite often whilst chomping on a bacon sandwich). At least I don’t eat animals, so my hypocrisy is limited to some extent… but I love going to zoos, aquariums and petting farms.

After watching the incredible, and mind-blowing documentary ‘Blackfish’ about the killer whale Tillikum who killed his trainer at SeaWorld, I vowed never to go to an aquarium again. The documentary tracks how baby killer whales are captured in the wild, and records the screams of their mothers and tears of the fishermen who are now traumatised by what they have done. After all, killer whales are shown to have more complex emotions and interactions than humans, and ripping them from the ocean to keep in tiny swimming pools had led to endless cases of psychosis, depression and even the death of keepers when the whales finally crack.

So, aquariums are off the menu. I hate the idea of sharks and whales who should have the freedom of the oceans being stuck in a tank. Like putting a bird in a cage, it speaks to an inner part of myself and is symbolic of stolen freedom and mistreatment.

But what about zoos?

I’ve always comforted myself with the idea that zoos are for ‘conservation’ and ‘education’, but more recently I’m not so sure. You see, zoos first came about to show animals to the public who normally could never dream of seeing them. Taken from exotic, far-off lands before the time of television, the internet or affordable travel, zoos really were the best way to make people CARE enough to want to help conserve biodiversity throughout the world.

But now? Now we have HD television. The silky voice of the legend David Attenborough narrates awesome displays of animals hunting, migrating and playing. To be honest, I think the desire to conserve biodiversity can be easily met through documentaries, articles and films without the need to capture or breed animals in captivity.

From an animal rights perspective, zoos violate the animal’s right to live in freedom, and put the desires of humans over the welfare of the animal.

Then again, from an animal welfare perspective, one might argue that a zoo is only wrong if the animal has a lesser quality of life inside the zoo than it would in the wild. For example, the enclosures might be smaller, but a zebra will live much longer inside a zoo because it will have access to veterinary care and not run risk of drought, famine or predators.

On the other hand, the animal welfare perspective can also argue that zoos deprive animals from their natural habitat, natural social structure and the animals may become depressed and/or institutionalised. With animals in zoos becoming attached to human beings rather than their own species it can be argued that they are prevented from experiencing their true identity and they may experience a lower quality of life if they have a longer life. After all, many animals in zoos have near perfect health, but severe behavioural abnormalities.

For example, my cousin and I went to visit Twycross zoo, having heard it has an excellent reputation for conservation. However, we were really uncomfortable in its world famous primate section. I wanted to cry. Cage after cage of monkeys, and many of them seemed to have very little space.

What’s more, we saw apes banging their heads on the glass and screaming. The zoo keeper told us they weren’t upset, but their similarity to humans made me think that behaviour can’t be normal. Teeth bared, smacking the cage and eyes rolled back in their heads – it seemed like classic signs of extreme boredom and possible psychosis to me. Then again, I am NOT a primate expert, just a compassionate human being who didn’t buy that those animals were truly happy or sane after prolonged enclosure.

Finally, I would like to consider the conservation perspective. Lots of zoos claim that by breeding animals in captivity we can ensure that the species doesn’t go extinct. After all, we are going through the biggest mass extinction since the age of the dinosaurs, and species are going extinct daily. Half of the world’s animals have disappeared since the 1970’s. That is a tragedy. So, perhaps it IS morally acceptable to support zoos because they are ensuring the survival of animals for the coming generations.

However, this argument is also flawed in part. For example, the low numbers of individuals in a zoo means that the gene pool is very limited and it can be difficult to breed without problems. What’s more, removing rare animals from the wild to conserve them in zoos could further impact the natural populations and put them at risk. Some people believe that the benefits that a whole species may receive from conservation cannot excuse the negative impacts on the animals living inside the zoo.

‘For the greater good,’ is a dangerous argument for ANY philosophical problem after all. With the overpopulation of humans in the world leading to limited supplies, killing a few million people would never be an acceptable way to deal with the environmental strain.

Over all, I think that some individual zoos are probably good places, run by good people who want the best for the animals they look after, and those living in the wild. However, I think it’s really important to keep pressure on zoos to put conservation before entertainment and profit. For example, I think it is completely unacceptable to train a killer whale to perform tricks from a crowd, or swim with dolphins in a holiday complex swimming pool. You have to weigh up all the arguments I have put forward and decide in each individual case if the zoo is a place you are prepared to financially support by buying your ticket.

Hope you found this interesting! Let me know if you have any arguments you would like to add 😊

Terrorism in the West; you don’t have to be afraid.

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The threat of terrorism is a terrifying thought. It’s in the name.

An act of terrorism is specifically designed to frighten as many people as possible, and therefore it hurts far more people than those who are killed or injured directly in an attack.

It is a tragic waste of life, and the loss of brothers, sisters, mothers and friends can never be made light of.

With the recent attacks in Manchester and Westminster we are all shocked. Of course it is natural to be afraid when you know there are individuals living in our communities, shopping at the local Tesco’s and sharing our public transport who are poorly or evil enough to hurt people that they don’t know, and who are seemingly unable to protect themselves.

At concerts, on the tube, in the street… it is a sickening thought that you can go from oblivious normality to a nightmare in seconds.

Sometimes I feel truly frightened to know that I live in an age where people will blow themselves up to make a misguided point. I’m here to tell you, we don’t have to be crippled by that fear.

There have always been bad people, and there has always been senseless killing. When my Dad was growing up, the troubles in Northern Ireland were the backdrop to the death of over 3,600 people. My grandmother lived through the second world war where she lost her darling fiancé Lionel. 60 million people lost their lives.

My great grandmother’s lifetime coincides with the 1st world war, 50 million casualties, and 17 million dead.

Obesity, poverty and traffic accidents all pose a greater threat to us than terrorism in the West, but we don’t shake when we enter the car or shudder as we walk past the confectionary aisle.

Death and tragedy is a part of the human landscape, but we are blessed to live in a time of great medical advancement where we can expect to live a longer lifetime than any of our previous generations throughout 6 million year of human history. In Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, Western intervention has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and just 51 days ago our very own Theresa May was in Saudi Arabia negotiating arms trade with the people who supply weaponry to ISIS.

The loss of innocent people in the Manchester and Westminster attacks is heart-breaking and can never be forgotten, but don’t let those few radicalised people keep you locked in a prison of fear.

Look back throughout human history and you’ll see that a 21st century westerner is living in comparative safety and comfort, despite the many social and political problems we face. The aim of a terrorist is to frighten, don’t let them win. We have a better chance of a long and happy life than billions upon billions of people before us, and the billions living in poverty and warzones in the global South to this day.

Condemn terrorism. Hate it. But you don’t have to be afraid.

 

The war on drugs has failed. Legalise narcotics for a safer and fairer world.

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Before the 1960’s the UK used to focus on treating drug users. In  an attempt to reduce rising drug use amongst young people. we  now lean towards harsh punishments. This strategy has failed.

Drugs are cheaper and more easily available than ever before, and 67% of the UK population support a review on current drug policy. (BBC)

Humans have been getting high since prehistoric times (Huffington post). Associating drug use with ‘bad’, ‘immoral’ or ‘nasty’  people is a new way of looking at things, which is  neither constructive nor realistic

Even if you believe that drug use is fundamentally wrong, the war on drugs is racist, and it is hurting us. Recoil from the truth as much as you like, the legalisation of drugs is a step towards a safer and fairer world.

‘But drugs are bad for you.’

I don’t know one benefit of smoking tobacco, but weed has been shown to reduce pain, help skin conditions such as psoriasis and make life bearable once again for extreme cases of epilepsy. (Cannabis) However, weed users experience a stigma beyond that of smokers and smoking tobacco remains perfectly legal despite being the leading cause of preventable death world wide. (CDC)

Something doesn’t add up.

In fact, a recent UK study showed weed has radically transformed the life of sick people, 80% of which had more benefits from marijuana consumption than any other drug available. (Guardian) It is not a coincidence that weed has been used medicinally for hundreds of thousands of years, nor that it is rejected by society now. Pharmaceutical companies make billions of pounds a year by convincing you that weed smokers are brainless losers.

In countries where marijuana has been legalised, it’s consumption has actually dropped.

In Colorado (a year after the legalisation of marijuana) the government is making more than 60 million dollars a year from weed related taxes, boosting the economy and even returning money directly back to all its citizens. There has been a decline in use and profits have been invested in health programs. (indepedent)

This isn’t Orwell’s 1984, locking people away for having a different philosophy to you is not ok. Just like with the historic prohibition of alcohol, illegalising something does not reduce its use, it just facilitates the growth of a criminal underworld, where the stakes get higher, drugs can’t be monitored and the profits go to a criminal underbelly instead of to the government where it could be reinvested in society and rehabilitation programs.

Sure I’ve focussed on weed thus far, because the science tells us that it isn’t any more harmful than drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco, but I’m really talking about any drug.

Heroin? Legalise it. Cocaine? Bring it on.

The fact that drugs can be harmful to your health does not help me to understand why we associate drug users with immorality and scandal.

You should have seen my mums book club the day that news sources renounced Nigella Lawson for taking cocaine.

Who cares? The woman can cook. How does drug taking dirty someone? Think about it really, I just don’t understand what someone does in their private life makes people flinch away like that.

Is it because it’s illegal? The holocaust was legal, raping your wife was legal until the 70s, the mere fact that something is legal does not tie in with its innate wrongness.

We hear horror stories of bright young students with their whole lives ahead of them taking contaminated drugs on a night out and dying in front of their distraught house mates.

People don’t want to buy drugs from dark back streets knowing it’s probably mixed with rat poison. By making it available from legitimate sources people will access cleaner drugs, and the money can be used to invest in social programmes, not just fund the pockets of drug mafias and cartels. The people selling illegally will be pushed out of jobs and by undercutting the illegal drug trade a whole world of associated violence will fall apart.

Whilst the drug business is run underground we can’t hold people accountable for dirty drugs that harm people, once it’s legalised we can monitor what going on.

In my mind, drug users are not mindless criminals. They are a mixture of stressed out people chilling out, younger generations exploring what life has to offer and the occasional victim of addiction who is struggling to cope with life. Punishment isn’t the answer.

After all, punishment for drug use is racist and classist.. I mean, come on, it isn’t the white upper class coke users in Canary Wharf that get chucked in prison. According to drug policy, people of color are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated. Shockingly,  black people are 10 x more likely to get arrested for drug use than whites.

Sure, locking people up can be useful to the big cats in the US where prisons receive 50 grand per criminal per year and can use the ‘criminals’ to make further money by hiring out their ‘voluntary’ labour to large corporations. We are taking about slavery people

Through legalisation of drugs we can break down an arrangement which systematically brings black people into jail and the social consequences that this perpetuates.

After all, ‘Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system.’ (drug policy)

Current drug policy is racist, it causes unnecessary incarcerations, it’s hypocritical considering smoking and drinking are legal. We have seen that prohibition does not lower use and that in fact drugs can have multiple health benefits, but corruption in the pharmaceutical company means these get hush hushed as much as possible. I’m not saying that you have to agree with drug use itself, but surely you can see that legalisation will provide a safer and fairer world.

Onwards and upwards: how to change the world.

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Hate to break it to you, but things don’t get better by themselves. By writing ‘get fit’ as a new years resolution you don’t magically sprout a 6 pack (I wish). Everywhere people are personifying 2016. ‘2016 sucks, it took BOWIE, it gave us Trump, it made us leave the EU.’

What started off as a joke about a tough year has led us to displacing any sense of responsibility for what’s going on in the world. As if the year itself is sentient and cruel and trying to mess with us. 2016 didn’t do anything to anyone.(A combo of the aging process, drug use, politics and human attitudes, with a sprinkling of anthropogenic climate change, maybe.)

So, for anyone who is distressed about the things they see and hear around them, here’s 5 things you can do all by yourself to make the world a better place:

1. Speak up

Don’t just stand by. Following Brexit and Trump an endless stream of racist rants caught on tape have been showing up on Facebook. Disgusting words aimed at minorities whilst a crowd stands by, shocked to silence. Sure, we post furious comments about what we see and videos get shared 100,000 times in an hour, but that’s not when we needed you. We needed you to say, ‘hey, that’s not ok, you are wrong’ and let the person being spoken to know that they are not alone, and all the people watching that the voices of hate may be the loudest but they are not even near a majority.

2. Listen up

We are bad at listening to other people’s views. To be fair, I’m a culprit. When someone has a different political view to me I feel a little button flick inside me that says ‘you don’t know’ and everything they say to me will be wrong in my mind, no matter how much sense they are speaking. We form our beliefs through our friendships and families and then reinforce them by living in a little bubble where we surround ourselves with like minded people and shut down when people try and reason with us. We are living in a post-truth world where we pick and choose the truth we want to know and push the rest aside. Let’s try and listen to people who disagree with us, really hear what they have to say. If nothing else it will make you better at arguing back when you know the other side.

3. Get out there

According to the media theory exam I just probably failed, we live in ‘the society of information.’ We are exposed to more information than ever before about what’s going on in the world, but rather than making us more likely to change things, it actually has the effect of sedating us. We feel good about ourselves for being up to date with the news and feeling sad about atrocities, but the more time we spend reading articles the more apathetic we get. We are actually doing less and less to make a difference. Challenge that. Show those thinkers that had me revising in my pjs for a week without a shower that they are WRONG. Volunteer, go to demonstrations, give up your time to help an elderly neighbour with the shopping. Don’t be a just a keyboard warrior, DO SOMETHING.Vague concern isn’t going to change the world.

4. Be nice. – A simple one, but seriously. Next time you think something petty and shallow, take a moment to pause. Ask yourself, what the hell? Don’t mock peoples’ clothes or appearance, don’t be unnecessarily cruel. Don’t make snide comments. It seems obvious but we all do it sometimes, catch yourself out. Break the kind of thinking patterns that lead you to judgement, question yourself. I think we often are a little mean when we feel insecure, but by breaking that cycle you can feel better about yourself and know that less people are thinking the very things you’re afraid of.

5. Don’t give in to the fear
Fear sells, rise above it. Don’t read the Sun. The best selling newspaper in the UK that institutionalizes racism and sexism, with hello boys posted on front page printed over a naked women’s chest and headlines claiming ‘MUSLIM MAN ROBS BANK’ when you would never see ‘white man robs bank’ in its place. Don’t prostitute out your fear. Check facts, don’t get wrapped up in the mass hysteria that hate and fear can coax out of you. Next time you see an article saying ‘Nigerian rapist arrested’ notice it. Question it.You’re better than that.

now off you go, change the world.