Sunday, 7 July 2013

President Morsi's eviction from power: yay or nay? An outsider's perspective.

The headlines of the hour: President Morsi, freshly elected leader of the new Democratic Egypt, has been ousted from power by the Egyptian military after only a year in office.

Not anymore, he isn't!
The crowds in Tahir square have been  delighted at the news, but - to the credit of Morsi's supporters - its hard to deny that this is a military coup; after all, it fits the definition pretty damn snuggly. However, rather than question whether or not it is a coup or not (it is), the questions people should really be asking is: can this be a good thing? Sure, a democratic government has been usurped, but it was done so with substantial support of the general populace, with anti-Morsi protests generally being insanely HUGE and reportedly outnumbering pro-Morsi supporters by a significant amount. At the same time however, the international community has had mixed reactions to the situation, with some - primarily nearby Arab nations - congratulating the protesters and praising the move, while others - mostly Western civilisations like the US and Europe - have advised caution and a rapid return to Democracy. (It should be noted here, by the way, that President Bashar al-Assad is amongst those praising this usurpation… while simultaneously crushing another, causing nearly 100,000 deaths while he's at it. Hypocrisy, anyone?)

So, are these turn of events a good thing or not, and for whom? Allow me, the clueless all knowing unimportant little idiot master of international politics, to irritate anyone who actually knows what they're talking about enlighten the ignorant masses of the world with my pointless gibbering wealth of knowledge.

I have all the solutions!
First, it should be noted that at the time of writing this is a constantly evolving situation; since actually beginning this post, its come to light that the army have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, raising questions about the Democratic process and free speech, but have also claimed that they would allow peaceful protests to take place amid anger amongst pro-Morsi activists and the Muslim Brotherhood announcing it would refuse to co-operate with the new regime. So, this is likely to be one of those things that is out-of-date from the moment it comes out.

That said, as it stands right at this moment, here is how things stand: President Morsi has been evicted from office, he and most of his presidential team have been placed under house arrest, the constitution has been suspended, and protests are ongoing from both camps; and things have become violent between the opposing groups.

So, now that we've got all of that out of the way, lets look at some of the factors that can be considered both good and bad about the current situation in Egypt, and finally answer the question: President Morsi's eviction, yay nor nay?

YAY: President Morsi was vastly unpopular.

The whole shenanigans that started these protests in the first place was in fact a petition calling for protests against the President. According to those opposed to the president, this petition ended up gathering 22 million signatures, or over a quarter of the total population of Egypt, the total being 82 million people. Even if you consider this to be an over-exaggerated number (as these numbers usually are over-estimated by supporters and underestimated by opponents), that is still a huge number of signatures; especially if you consider the fact that President Morsi was elected with half of that number.

Furthermore, while there certainly are pro-Morsi protesters, these are generally counted to be in the tens of thousands, compared to millions of anti-Morsi protesters. The numbers, it seems, certainly support the coup.

NAY: Egypt's first democratically elected president was usurped; and sets an uncomfortable precedence.

While yes, the petition got basically double the number of signatures than votes, the fact remains that President Morsi was elected in a free and democratic election, one that was recognised by the international community. The fact that this president was forced from office after only a single year - by the military no less - is substantial.

The fear that I have is: what if evicting presidents because they're unpopular becomes the norm in Egypt? While the protests certainly were huge, big protests happen all over the world; governments, in this economically fragile time, are bound to be unpopular. In France, for example, 73% of people are dissatisfied with President Hollande according to polls, but there is not even a whisper of people saying that he should be forcibly evicted from office. Similar figures of unpopularity can be shown for the British government.

The precedence this might set is what is known as the tyranny of the majority; a situation in which people can simply call upon the army to kick out whomever they wish from the government certainly wouldn't be a good thing.

YAY: President Morsi showed dictatorial tendencies.
Considering Morsi's current lack of employment, maybe
he should have read this.

Of course, before arguing that the masses might become a tyranny themselves, it should be noted that President Morsi's actions were… 'questionable'. Many of the concerns that people had about him were certainly legitimate; much of which we don't actually hear about these days.

The economy, for example, was doing terribly under Morsi. Worse in fact than under Mubarak, the former president before the Arab Spring, with unemployment rates souring and the national dept ever rising as Egypt increasingly relied on the likes of Qatar to lend them money. Morsi's ousting has caused increased optimism about Egypt's prospects for its future, certainly important for the largest Arabic nation on the planet.

There were also early signs that he wished to give himself more powers than one might consider to be rather dictatorial in nature: for example, when the military attempted to apply constitutional amendments to restrict the powers of presidency, Morsi cancelled these and ordered several senior military figures to retire.

The first true nail in the coffin for Morsi, however, appears to have been struck specifically on the 22 of November, 2012, when the president announced that he was giving himself sweeping powers, essentially making him immune to judicial review. This had an immediate and vast backlash; protests - obviously - erupted, major international organisations such as Amnesty International condemned the move, and the Supreme Judicial Council called it an "unprecedented assault on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings."  

Suffice to say, it was a pretty damned big deal.

Considering these factors, it may not only be considered a good thing that he was evicted, but perhaps even an inevitability; and it could possibly serve to teach future presidents of Egypts to take a less authoritarian approach to politics.

NAY: the military has shown dictatorial tendencies.

Well, ok, not technically 'dictatorial' tendencies, but it made for a nice irony considering the previous argument, ok?

In all seriousness though, there have been signs that free speech and democracy have been, to an extent, usurped with the recent actions of the Egyptian military; specifically towards Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters. Firstly, Morsi and his presidential staff, after being expelled from power have furthermore been placed under "preventive custody"; basically they've been put under political house arrest.

This is important. Technically speaking Morsi has not in fact been arrested under any charges; they are essentially arresting him under the presumption of guilt. Why is this important? Because that would mean the military is assuming that President Morsi is guilty until proven innocent, which could be considered is a violation of both Article 9 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and while not technically a legal document, its violation isn't something that should be taken lightly.

Furthermore, there has been numerous crackdowns upon the Muslim Brotherhood has commenced in Egypt: up to 300 arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood members have been issued, and numerous media channels either owned by or supporting the Morsi regime have been shut down; Al Jazeera, one of the world's most well respected news channels and winner of various awards for its investigative journalism, was raided by Egyptian security forces. Worse still, there have been reports of a possible massacre in Cairo Square, leaving 34 dead according to the Muslim Brotherhood.

These reports, frankly, don't exactly look like the actions of an aspiring democracy; while yes, the Muslim Brotherhood may not represent the majority of Egyptians, cracking down on a minority is still a clear sign of tyranny.


To be honest, I could probably make more arguments for both sides (Morsi was only barely elected with no real representation for left-wing/liberal parties; but at the same time, Morsi was only given a year in office, which isn't really enough time to turn around a nation recently racked by a revolution). However, this blog post would likely never end if I continued to find points, and I've made most of the major points I wished to make.

So, how do I conclude?

Truth be told, I really can't make a conclusion yet. Its far too early to decide whether this is a good thing or not. After all, the original Egyptian Revolution seemed like such a glorious and amazing thing full of hope at the time; the direct result of that revolution is the one we're having right at this moment. We lack the power of hindsight at this current state of time, and thus I'm going to remain on the fence regarding this coup until we can see the full picture later, after we've (hopefully) had another round of elections and another stable(ish) government in Egypt.

What I can say, however, from the latest news coming out from Egypt is that things aren't looking good from my perspective: despite their earlier promise to allow peaceful protests, recent reports about killings of pro-Morsi supporters doesn't lead credence to the military's current position of allowing democratic voices from both sides to be heard (though, it should be noted, currently reports about the killings are unclear; the military claims that they were attacked by terrorists, while the Islamist Al Nour party has called it a "massacre").

The situation continues to unfold; perhaps I shall return with another opinion at a later date.

Until such a time, you have been reading The Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student. Thanks.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Why Wendy Davis' abortion filibuster was wrong. (AKA: How to lose all your friends in a single blog post)

Well, I'm about to become extremely unpopular.

Metaphor for what I'm doing, right now. Why am I writing this again?
Firstly, some context is required. On Monday, a bill known as SB5 was voted on in the Texas Senate; it received an overwhelming majority of support. The bill would have implemented sweeping changes to abortion laws within the State of Texas, meaning that abortion would be outlawed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and also applying vast new restrictions on how abortion clinics can get a licence. The bill, by the proposer's own admission, would have meant the substantial number of abortion clinics in Texas would have to close, meaning that many women would not be able to gain access to a clinic for abortions.

So, all in all, it was a pretty shitty bill.

Enter Democrat Texas Senator Wendy Davis, hero of the hour! Through a process known as filibustering, in which a Senator talks about a bill continuously to delay and prevent a vote from happening, Senator Davis successfully talked for 13 hours straight - without drinking, eating, sitting down or leaning, and staying on the topic of the bill for the entire time - and thus successfully preventing SB5 from passing, by going over the deadline for a vote to occur.

This filibuster has kind of exploded in the news;  numerous mainstream media sites such as the Rolling StoneThe Guardian, and manymany others jumped at the news story, many praising it as a victory for women's right and vaulting Senator Davis from an unknown politician to hero of the Feminist Left in Texas.

So, Hurray, right? Not so fast.

Yes, SB5 was a draconian bill that would have prevented the kind of legal, healthy access to abortion necessary in a modern society from reaching millions of women in Texas. No, I do not support the type of anti-abortion measures being pushed by the American right. Yes, the prevention of this bill is, probably, for the greater good in the long term of things.

However, its not the preventing the bill I have an issue with; its the method through which it was prevented that I have a substantial problem with. The filibustering part of this entire thing. In this case, the end result most certainly does not justify the means.

The argument can go both ways.
Heres the thing: filibustering is an entirely undemocratic, unconstitutional method of preventing laws and bills from being passed. It is a way to allow the opinions of a minority to prevail in face of substantial opposition

Filibusters have, in the past, been used to prevent (or attempt to prevent) extremely important landmark bills. Gun control is the latest example, in which just the threat of filibustering essentially halted the entire process. Worse, its has been used to try and prevent some of the Black Right's Movement's greatest achievements from becoming law: the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation in schools, the workplace and any other public place, was filibustered (by the Democrats no less) for 54 DAYS.

Thats right: here we have a tactic that was once used to try and defend some of the most disgusting and reprehensibly racist elements of American society, and now mainstream media is praising its use to high heavens. I hope people understand why I'm not entirely happy about this.

And the fact of the matter is, in the majority of cases it is in fact the exact same media that is currently lauding high praise to Senator Davis, that are the biggest critics of filibustering in virtually every other circumstance.

"I'm allowed to have this metaphorical gun thanks to a filibuster!"
Take the Rolling Stones, that I linked to above, for example: in their article about the filibuster made by Wendy Davis, they describe her feat as "epic", and heap praise upon her in high mounds. The title itself, "Why Wendy Davis' abortion right filibuster matters" essentially endorses the filibuster tactic as something of a legitimate political force. And yet what did they have to say about the filibuster and gun control? Their tone couldn't be any more different. "The victims of Tuscon and Aurora and Newtown were betrayed today" they say, referring to the minority of Senators who prevented the gun control bill from passing thanks to - you guessed it - a filibuster.

This, suffice to say, is hypocrisy at its greatest. It seems that cheap political tricks are only allowed when it favours bills that we agree on. This is not what we should be standing for. Either the Left is against the filibuster, or for it. If a threatened filibuster marks a betrayal for those who want gun control, then, frankly, a filibuster against anti-abortion laws is a betrayal to those who wanted anti-abortion laws. Remember, a vast majority of the Texas Senate, who were democratically elected representatives of the people of Texas, voted in favour of this - admittedly, in my opinion, reprehensible -  bill. However, my opinion doesn't really matter in this particular case. Why? Because the majority of those in Texas wished for the bill to be passed: the bill was democratic. Filibustering it represents a denial of the wish of the majority, by the minority. YES, I agree that the bill shouldn't have passed. But that is ONLY MY OPINION. My opinion should NOT become law, and neither should the opinion of the minority. 

Fact of the matter is, a majority of Americans supported the 20-week abortion ban (although narrowly). We've therefore seen today the defeat of a bill through a filibuster, despite that not being the wish of the majority of people in the United States. While I couldn't find any numbers to support this, I believe the number of Texans - whom the bill would affect - who support the SB5 would be even higher, given it is a majority Republican state.

On a final note: yes, it is true that the Republicans did try to cheat the bill through via unlawful methods at the end. Yes, it is true that Republicans are guilty of using the filibuster more often than Democrats in the Senate, especially in recent years. However, this does not excuse the use of the same tactic by Democrats; regardless of who uses it, the filibuster is an undemocratic tool used to allow the view of a minority to prevail over the majority. 

I condemn the use of the filibuster by either party, or any party, including in my own country, the UK. This, sadly appears to separate me somewhat from other people whom may broadly share my political views.

Either way, you've been reading the Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student. Thanks!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Upon Kony 2012.

Like a really skinny Cthulhu, I hath awoken from my, er, 'eternal slumber', to destroy the world with my ridiculously dull blog posts. Woohoo! Not that anyone cares… Though the fact that the number of views this page has has increased to nearly 1,000 (without me actually doing anything at all on the blog or even attempting to promote it for several months) is a tad weird, I'll be honest.

This = me. With less wings. And less tentacles. And less awesome. …And less Cthulhu in general, actually.
Nearly a thousand views for a blog thats barely alive, however, is nothing compared to the over 100 million views for the various Kony 2012 videos now going around on the internet. And it managed this feat in less than 6 mother fucking days.

But I wanna be famous too :(
What can I say but Christ on a fucking stick? I wish I could get that many views for my blog. (Then again, the moment I realise tens of millions of people were interested in the rubbish that came out of my mouth would probably be the moment that I'd go all Professor Farnsworth on you all.)

Along with this gargantuan amount of fame, however, has come a big dollop of controversy over the entire matter. Probably most prominent of the large number of critics has been Visible Children, a blog (and a rather poorly made website, as it happens) strongly criticising the charity behind the Kony 2012 campaign (the charity being Invisible Children, if you've been living under a rock. In which case, how the hell did you find my blog?). IC have since written an equally biased response to the blog, trying to disprove the claims made by VC, and prominent media giants have been having a feeding frenzy over the whole thing.

I'm not going to go into all of that. The arguments for and against the whole thing is, to me, just a whole big mess of biased opinions against biased opinions; as far as I can tell its just people calling other people 'sheep' for following something popular, while not realising that they themselves are sheep as well. You know, just like with every other popular thing on the planet.

An accurate representation of the Kony 2012 debacle. D'awww, they're so fluffy!
Rather than dive into the controversy itself, I'm pondering the question of whether or not the viral spread of this whole thing will benefit us in a positive way or not. After all, the vast majority of the controversy seems to be concerning the legitimacy of the charity, rather than the validity of the cause itself (although there have been some people pointing out that Joseph Kony is no longer a huge threat, this seems to be a moot point to me since committing a crime doesn't generally become less of a crime if you get away with it for a long period of time).

Why the spread of Kony 2012 benefits us all (except Joseph Kony)

While the reputation of the charity primarily responsible for this is certainly up to debate, this doesn't necessarily mean that the hearts and minds of those whom support the cause is under the same scrutiny. While (depending on your point of view) the vast legions of followers Invisible Children has amassed may or may not be misguided in their cause, the passion that this movement has ignited is in itself stunning.

Why? Just Why?! It's not even funny! Or particularly cute!
Have a think of what video's get the most views on Youtube. Rebecca Black comes to mind. Rick Rolling.  Cat video after cat video after cat video after cat video. (after cat video after cat video after cat video after cat video…). 'Charlie bit my finger - again!' tops the Youtube 'most-watched' list at well over 400 million fucking views. (one of the great mysteries of life as far as I'm concerned). Nothing about any of them are serious, or things that matter.

Videos that go viral, and the vast majority of internet memes in general are simple, amusing clips or images that are in some way shape or form adorable or hilarious (or a combo of the two if you want to overkill it). And while I'd defend the importance of memes to the modern world any day (and probably one day will in a blog post or something), its sad to see that videos promoting things that actually matter to the world get comparatively minuscule amounts of interest. Politically inclined videos such as those regarding the Occupy Movement rarely get more than a million views. (The linked video is rather good by the way, I recommend you give it a watch.)

A lot of the time, it seems like people care far more about the next celebrity controversy or funny animal video. Things that, frankly, are shallow and unimportant; things that don't matter a whole lot.

Yet here we are, a highly politically inclined campaign now sitting comfortably as the most rapidly growing viral subject on the planet. The Kony 2012 video exceeded the likes of Susan Boyle, Justin Beiber (YES! Take THAT you nemesis of Captain Puberty!) and Nyan Cat in its rapidity to fame. Controversy or no, its still refreshing to see people actually interested in something beyond mere celebs and cats.

The good thing about this is that a lot of people who are becoming aware and becoming involved with this whole Kony 2012 thing are going to be 'newbies', as it were; people who were previously uninterested in political matters. I'm willing to bet that, during the 'Cover the Night' event (planned on April 20th, where people are supposedly going to cover cities with Kony posters during the night), we're going to have a lot of people whom have never done anything similar to such a thing before.

Now, obviously, a lot of these people are probably going to support this Kony stuff and never be aware of anything else. The vast majority, I'd hazard a guess, are simply those who share the video on FaceBook, say "OMG THS IS SOOOOO EMOTIONAL, LOL" and forget about it. Or worse, those who continue to follow it, but then fail to realise that to be properly politically active, one really should educate themselves regarding a cause thoroughly and understand what they're fighting for, before they actually do so; essentially, many will likely become 'sheep'.

WE! ARE! THE 99%!
 However, there has to be spillover; whenever a group of people find out about something, inevitably there will be a small minority of those who will investigate further. And with tens of millions of people having watched this passionately political video, that spillover, even if its a small percentage of those tens of millions, looks to be rather large.  There are bound to be quite a few people whom look beyond the well-marketed passion of the video that has enraptured so many, and start investigating; people, though they may be few in number, may become more active in other aspects of politics as well. In fact, considering the passionate nature of the video, I reckon quite a few of the people who were not interested before and got involved will remain interested in politics even after the campaign has died down. Even if only 0.1% of those 100 million go down this path, that's still 100,000 people worldwide whom are now politically active where they were not before. Thats quite a lot of people whom care about whats going on in the world, don't you think? And I'm hoping the spillover is a little larger than 0.1%.

What I'm trying to say is, with such a large number of people comes great potential; there may not be a significant change, but hopefully the Kony 2012 movement, regardless of the reputation of IC, will result in quite a few more people becoming more interested in whats going on in the world around them. Kony 2012 essentially represents a beginner's gateway to political activism for those whom may never have been interested in such things otherwise. Its not just viral marketing for Invisible Children; its viral advertising for politics everywhere. And thats a good thing; our leader's are quite blatantly not perfect, and more people who care about things going on in the world will mean more people who will stand up and fight when those in power fuck things up (as they usually do), instead of sitting on their arses thinking "whats the point?". Hopefully I'll hear a little less "UGH I don't care about politics! Politics is stupid!" from now on. (vain hope, I know)

A nice big 'but' (No! no extra "t" in that "but"!)

Now, of course, all of that is a good thing. However, I do also have some rather serious concerns regarding this whole thing as well. As with pretty much everything else, there is always another side to the argument.

Primarily, in this case, the controversy surrounding the movement cannot be ignored; and while I won't go into detail with them here, there are a lot of points about Invisible Children that cannot be accounted for without an unbiased opinion upon the subject (and good luck finding one of those on the internet!).

Thus, we're left with questions that the whole Kony 2012 thing might not be the best of ideas. Theres also been a lot of people pondering whether the movement itself can change anything; after all, when has a bunch of people on the internet ever actually changed anything in the real world, however passionate they are?
Totally beside the point.
Now, I'm leaving it up to you, the reader (haha, good joke! As if anyone will read this… *sniff*), to decide upon all of those questions. However, regardless of all of that, is it really a good thing that this movement, which will be the entrance to political activism for a lot of people, is surrounded by such controversy?

Of course, one could argue that any kind of political activism will get a certain amount of controversy; simply by its nature political activism is something that divides opinions and gets a lot of arguments going. Strong opinions will always spark strong opinions. However, usually the controversy is regarding the topic at hand, rather than the organisation that has, well, organised the activism. Not here; while pretty much everyone agrees with the fact that Joseph Kony does need to be brought to justice, a lot of the debate has been focused around Invisible Children, with questions regarding its legitimacy, and more recently some, er, 'interesting' developments regarding the co-founder of the charity, Jason Russell, whom, during the writing of this particular blog post, has been arrested and taken into medical care for allegedly public 'indecency' (read: "fapfapfap") brought about by massive stress. Which is fair enough, really (not the… act… the stress. Although, as a man, one can understand the necessity of personal relie-I'll stop digging myself a hole now).

…Ok, so maybe I don't want to be famous...
Whether this criticism is valid or not doesn't really matter; its existence on its own can be off-putting for many people who may be looking into Kony 2012, and, through it, political activism as a whole. Do we really want a gateway to political activism to be marred by such cynicism and drama? A lot of this news regarding IC detracts greatly from the movement itself, and all of this can be a huge turnoff from political activism; just as there could be a bleeding effect of people becoming more politically active, so too could events like these increase the scepticism of people towards it.

Looking on the bright side though, this does highlight something that is by in large overlooked by the public; charities are not necessarily always good. Frankly, non-profit organisations as a whole have a sort of 'holier than thou' reputation; one that is not always deserved, as many charities are disorganised, less effective, or, in rare cases, fraudulent. With such a massive and public discrediting of Invisible Children (Jason Russell is strongly tied to the reputation of IC, much like Steve Jobs was with Apple), this illusion that charities being entirely good may have been shattered; hopefully, this'll mean people being a little more cautious about the charities they support before they do so, researching about the charities and not just giving away their money to some charity workers on the street giving them a fast-paced chat up line.
Remember kids, the proper response to "can I have a moment of your time?" is "to the internet!". Do your research first.
(incidentally, if you actually shout "to the internet!" and then run off when a charity worker approaches you, you are awesome.)
So, what to take from this all?
Well, I honestly don't know. I'm frankly split about this one. While the controversy surrounding Kony 2012 does seem to be sliding in favour of the whole thing not being particularly helpful to the problem at hand, the actual long-term effects of the whole thing is still to be seen, including the whole political activism stuff that I talked (er, typed) about.

I guess I'll come back to this topic when I have the benefit of hindsight.

So until then, or until next time I post (lulz), you've been reading The Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student. Thanks!

A quick note: in the blog post, I mentioned that Jason Russell had been arrested for public indecency, making a specific suggestion to masturbation. However, further investigation shows that the majority of the more respectable news outlets are not claiming this as fact; most of the 'masturbation' claims are coming from the likes of The Hollywood Reporter which seems to go for more 'sensationalist' news. Therefore, the masturbation thing should be taken as a rumour rather than fact. He deeeefinitely went completely bonkers in public, mind.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Actual babbling without thought

Considering this blog is called "random babbling of a slightly odd student", I haven't actually done much 'babbling' here as of yet. In fact most of my posts have been pretty well planned out as for what I wanted to write.

So, now that I've just downloaded some blogging app for my shiny new iPad and I want to test out exactly how good this app is, I have the perfect excuse to just write. (golly, that italic-isation was easy! Just tapped a button and it did all for me.)

I actually kind of used to do this kind of stuff, just writing down what went on in my head, not necessarily to do with any kind of coherence or topic before. Kind of just writing stuff here and there on the vast ocean of the interwebs, basically.

So anyways, at this point I've actually kind of come to a writers block - I'm not entirely sure what to say. So let's type about that.

I sometimes find it strange that, while other people have imaginations vast enough to make amazing inventions that either come to great benefit to mankind or obliterate us yet again in some strange way (more often the latter than the former if you believe everything the news tells you...), while others, like myself, couldn't have thought of the wheel if it was placed right in front of me.

Overall though, whatever your opinions of stuff you've got to admit that humans are damnably creative creatures. It's what defines us; while all other life on this planet is generally limited in their skill set, and adaptable only in evolution or very basic tools in the case of fellows, man is the most adaptable species on the planet; and this has allowed us to thrive in almost every environment on the planet.

And the thing is, despite everyone saying that our species is doomed and that we'll come to some gruesome end or another at one point in the near future, we always forget how damnably adaptable we are. Yes, we're a young species. Really, REALLY young. A mere few tens of thousands of years old. Yes, we may be destroying the natural cycle at an alarming rate. Yes, it really really looks like our technology and our arrogance will spell our complete doom.

But the thing is, while there have been many other creatures who have dominated the earths surface for many tens of millions of years longer than us, none of them have been as adaptable as we have; their survival completely relied on the unchanging nature of the environment they were in, and once that natural balance was disturbed, whether it be a comet, lack of comparable food, etc, they would relatively swiftly die out, to be replaced by animals more suited to the new situation.

Humans, on the other hand, are incredibly adaptable, as already mentioned; if need be, we can be made to survive in extremely inhospitable places. And so, even if we do destroy this little ball of green and blue, even if many thousands of species go extinct, and catastrophic climate change happens, I think that, unless something really dramatic such as the sudden and complete removal of oxygen in our atmosphere happens, I think that, as a species, we do have the potential to survive what we predict nature will throw at us in the next few years. Yes, many people will probably die, yes, society as we know it will probably be obliterated, yes, it's not exactly a happy scenario and I really do think it's in our best interest to avoid such a, er, 'hick up' if at all possible, but I think that, when alls said and done, there will still be humans somewhere on this planet, surviving in one form or another for many more years to come.

...I've just realised I've gone from talking about writers block to discussing the survival of our species incredibly rapidly.

So! Er, overall review of this app that I've used to write this thingy then. Really? Not perfect. Sure, it's useful and does a lot of things very well, but there's one thing that irks me about it - I can't add captions to images! (hence the lack of many pictures in this particular blog post.) I think I'll stick to my good old laptop till that particular problem. Other than that, though, it's relatively ok. Any other bloggers watching this who have iPads, I'd recommend this, so long as you don't make regular use of captioned images!

Am I going to tell you what this app actually is?

You've been reading The Random Babbling of a Sightly Odd Student. Thanks!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Patriotism is not only ridiculous, but potentially downright dangerous.

Coincidentally, lions are really fucking dangerous too.
(Good thing they don't actually live in Britain, then.)
Look, I'll get to that education bit at some point, ok? For now something important has come up which I think needs addressing. So I will address it, and there's nothing you can do about it! Muahahahahahhaaa!

Well, unless you hack my account and do something about it yourself, or come to my house and force me to do something about it, or just outright kill me in one of the many imaginative ways humanity has murdered one another for the past few millennia...

Besides I don't really know why I apologise or make an explanation for not staying on track, from what I can tell I've lost what little audience I had anyways... *sniff*

Anyways, this is actually quite a serious topic (again I'm drifting closer and closer to a political-arsed blog... I'll write something about the British Juggling Convention or something after this to make sure that doesn't happen. Yes I did just pretty much confirm the education post will be postponed. Again.), and has come about due to a single event: the upcoming (for now... if your reading this afterwards, its pretty much completely pointless.) royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Now I'm sure many of us in Britain and elsewhere honestly couldn't give a flying shit about this wedding; its only a wedding after all, why does this need to be announced on the news alongside more important stuff like the ongoing Libyan civil war and other such significantly more important things?
I'm also in this "whatever" camp of things - I don't give a shit about the wedding (or the royal family in general for that matter), just like any other stupidly over-reported celebrity marriage.
However, I'm not here to blabber on about the wedding - I'm actually more concerned about the recent rise in patriotic symbolism here in England, as a direct result of the royal wedding. Everywhere I go these days there appears to be plates, cups, and other items stapled with the Union Flag (NOT Jack) in honour of the royal wedding. I'm going to assume at this point that the same flag will soon be draped across streets in cities and towns across Britain, if this hasn't already happened. This worries me in the same way that I felt incredibly uneasy about the massive number of American flags I saw in the USA and how bloody sensitive many American's were about the flapping piece of fabric. One man even threatened to assault me when I said I didn't care about the flag for pete sake!

Memorabilia mousepad - actually cause for serious concern.

In fact, that last sentence kinda says it all - threatening another man over a flag with some vague symbolism over it? Are you kidding me?
This is my biggest problem with patriotism - in the same way that religion can cause people to kill themselves and many others around them in the name of a deity, patriotism can cause such callous disregard for human life in the name of something that is truly petty and insignificant.
Take for example the common phrase "I will die for my country". As bad as this is, generally speaking it actually means "I will kill for my country".
Why? Why should one feel so attached to the ground they live on? Is it really worth committing that most tragic act, the removal of another person's life?

and thats exactly what makes me scared of you.
Before I go on I should point out that this particular post is more directed to my friends and associates living in the United States, easily the most patriotic of nations on the planet. While the whole royal wedding thing has increased the patriotism in this country slightly, I do not think that it will have any lasting effects over here, and the whole shenanigans will probably boil over after the happy couple are all wedded and whatnot. The USA, however, is possibly one of the only nations, and quite possibly the single major international power with such a strong and prevalent sense of love for one's country. And I, personally, think its a serious issue.
First of all, if you, dear reader, are patriotic, I want you to think hard, very hard, about why you love your country. Why should a patch of what is essentially just earth have sway over your feelings? Yes, that patch of land may be beautiful, and you may have lived on that patch of land for many years, but is it really worth sacrificing your life, and, more crucially, other people's lives over?
Thats the thing, honestly - people dying over tiny bits of land which, in the long run, are inconsequential and, in the short run, causes pain and mourning for the relatives and friends of those who have died fighting over said bits of land.
Is it really worth such sacrifice? Why is it worth such sacrifice? People have even invaded other people's countries in the name of patriotism for their own country (a fact that I find most ironic) - the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan were primarily in order to 'protect' our own nations (and tooootally not to take their oil! Honest). Surely there's a better solution to the problem of terrorists than invading, killing hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of innocent civilians, and in the process causing people to fight against us in the name of patriotism for their country, one of the primary reasons for our invasion in the first place?

Carl Sagan put it rather well, in his fantastic speech 'the pale blue dot': "Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot." Thats all that people are killing and dying for in the end - a fraction of a dot. Is a fraction of a dot really worth being patriotic over?

Instead, I urge you, mr/ms Patriot, to love people rather than nations. Love one another, not just of your own country but those of other nations as well. Cause in the end, whether we're British, American, Japanese or Stupid (some may say that they're all one and the same), we're all human at the end of the day. Fight, if you must, not to protect nations but to protect people. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are certainly not protecting people - they're simply killing lots of people while keeping the West (not so) safe from the very slim possibility of a terrorist attack.

...This post has gotten all too serious.


NYAN CAT TIEM!11!!!111

You've been reading The Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student. Thanks!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Ponies. Yes, ponies. (This only gets worse, by the way.)

Yeah, I know, I said I was going to do a continuation on the whole "what I believe" (melodramatic title FTW!) thingymegig, but then I realised that my blog was totally becoming an uber-serious political blog similar to a certain someone. Now, don't get me wrong - I like politics and stuff as much as your average, er, political person... (can't really say Mr Average Joe likes politics!) but I really don't want to gain the reputation of being a dude who'll always talk about the big world-changing problems. Now, I will be coming back to the whole "ooooh I think this should happen blah blah" thing later, but for now? I'm gona go all 'and now for something completely different' on y'alls arses.

So, ponies. Not just any old ponies, though, I'm going to talk about a certain cartoon involving ponies. Specifically, I'm going to be talking about the TV series 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic'.
I told you this was only going to get worse.

So, why exactly am I talking about this show? Well, basically this apparently girly-kiddy friendly show has steadily accumulated a rather, well, odd cult following. Of fully grown men.
is popular with:

I'm shitting you not.
Yes, thats right, 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' is incredibly popular amongst men. On Youtube at least (where episodes are commonly found), statistics show that the TV series is most popular amongst males aged between 18-24/25-35. Comments for 'My Little Pony' related video's are filled with people saying "I'm 20 and I'm unashamed of watching this", "Oh God, what have I become?!", etc etc.
There's more. 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' has gained a significant enough popularity with this audience that multiple fan sites have popped up, such as PonyChan (in similar context to the popular 4Chan website), and Equestria Daily, on what appears to be this very site, Blogger (although the url lacks the whole .blogspot thingy that everyone else has).

Why has this show gained such an odd cult-following? It's not exactly like other popular cartoon series in which the older fans have at least some semblance of the demographic said show is trying to pull (for example, a lot of guys still say they loved 'Dexter's Laboratory' as a child... understandably, that show was awesooome!). What we're talking about here is a not insignificant number of people being attracted by a show that is completely outside of the target audience. Not only that but we've even got freakin' memes coming around now based on this show. Like, people who hang around on /b/-type memes. Memes! Of a TV show for little girls! Coincidentally I am now using italics to emphasise every key point in my blog! It makes me ranting about some completely inconsequential crap look dramatic! (yeah, thats right, pulling out the bold words, biatch.)
Oh dear God.
So, anyways, back to ponies. (One has to wonder how the hell do you get to the point in your life in which you write a blog about ponies.)

There are a lot of things to contemplate here. I'm not actually the first one to try and analyse the growing popularity of 'My Little Pony: Friendship of Magic'. Previously mentioned Equestria Daily has been keeping a continuous monitor of the show's popularity, and web-culture site Know Your Meme has an entire article on the growing phenomenon. They've pretty much covered everything about its growth, and what kind of influences the show has had and stuff, so what I really want to do is figure out a) just how the fuck did this happen? and b) what kind of atrocities might happen in the future because of this?

Right then, firstly, the ultimate question to everything: why?
Well, having had a bit of a sniff around, the common trend that tends to draw people in appears to happen in 3 different steps:

A typical example of a troll being damned.
- First, a perfectly sane and normal troll of the interwebs stumbles across some kind of reference to 'My Little Ponies', and notices that its strangely popular, not with little girls, but with fellow trolls. He (note: not 'she', in this instance I invoke Rule 30 of the internet) then goes and finds the first episode of the show and starts watching out of curiosity. Immediate reaction is "wtf is this gay crap?"
- Second, troll starts getting insnared about 3-5 minutes in. Initial "wtf" reaction is eventually replaced with "well I guess the animations are pretty well done..."
- Third, the troll has finished watching the show. By this point they have forgotten about any technically-driven praises of the show and are loving what they see because of the characters, setting, etc. Troll by now has a favourite pony, has replaced the words "everyone" and "someone" with "everypony" and "somepony" (respectively), and will commence an all-nighter watching the rest of the currently 20-odd shows on Youtube. Troll is no longer a troll - troll is now what is known as a 'brony'.

So, from my analysis (remind me why I'm analysing this again?) it appears that 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' is a well-laid trap: the good quality of the animations acts as bait for the unsuspecting troll, and the characters and charm snare him in, by which point he has no escape.
It's a terrifying fate for any troll.

Next question: what is going to happen with this growing army of bronies (brony's?) in the future?
The worst case scenario.
First things first, its really worth getting the good news out of the way - bronies are not dangerous, at least on the level of "they're probably not going to hunt me down, brutally rip out one of my lungs and then block the air passage to my other lung with it." type dangerous. Reason? Bronies are known to wanting to emulate the methodologies of 'My Little Pony', that being a policy of friendship, love and kindness. The worst that they will try to do if you really provoke them to the point of no return is "tolerate and love the SHIT outta you."

A much more dangerous prospect, however, is not the threat of one's annihilation, but rather one's assimilation - it is far more likely that you yourself will become ensnared by this show.
These guys are nothing compared to 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic'.
For you see, thats the real threat of this phenomenon - the internet, this cold, perilous, unforgiving paradise is being attacked by these ridiculous notions of 'love' and 'kindness'. Worse still, for the first time, the trolls are losing. The trolls of the internet are being converted. Lets consider this for a second - many of these trolls will also come under the banner of Anonymous. Anonymous, whom have crippled Scientology, aided the Middle Eastern Revolutions by hacking government sites, taken on the likes of HB Gary, and even stuck its middle finger up at the US government, is now under threat by a little girls show; 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' has been likened to Boxxy, the internet phenomenon that caused all-out civil war within 4chan, the generally-accepted home of Anonymous. While 'My Little Pony' is nowhere near as far-spread as Boxxy was at her prime, MLP is still growing, slowly but surely. Not only that, but MLP also has significantly more videos, and new episodes are released weekly - those ensnared by the show are more likely to remain with the show, instead of drifting away and forgetting about it, as happened to Boxxy.
Basically? I'm totally trollin' on your arsesThis show could potentially bring about the end of Anonymous and the trolling community as we know it.

So I implore you, dear readers (well, possible 'reader' singular but whatevs) - beware! A new threat is upon us and it is in the guise of magical ponies! Don't get ensnared by it like I already have! Though, if your really curious, here's the first episode of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' for your viewing 'pleasure':
So until next time (I swear I might do something more serious next time!), you've been reading The (really) Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student! Thanks!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

What I believe, part 1 - government.


Previously on The Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student: "...although I seriously doubt I shall be getting any comments, considering the number of views on my blog currently amount to about 2 (both probably being myself)."


Ok, so now that I know I have a (small) audience, I guess I'll keep going on with posting instead of giving up on life, knowing that my views shall never ever be heard (read) by anyone, wallowing in the gutter at my own failures and eventually dying forgotten and alone in some dark alleyway with a needle in my arm, only to be found half-rotten about a year later.

As I said, life is such a wonderful thing!

Since the mass media is still garbling on about the stuff I talked about in my previous post, I might as well go on a whim (one of possibly many to come) and talk about something that is very much my own opinion and my opinion alone. Well, mine and the myriad of things that have influenced my views as I've lived out my life. Which of course means that this (and everything else for that matter) isn't really my opinion at all, its just something I've come up with using the experiences I have garnered throughout my existence. Yay!

But anyways, what I wanted to talk about was my own beliefs. No, not anything like god or something rubbish like that (I'm quite the athiest, myself), though I might touch on the subject or religion at one point or another, which is of course when the shit will truly hit the fan (I'll try and make sure that I know I have the maximum number of people reading as possible by then to assure a big a uproar as possible).

Nay, I wish to talk about my beliefs on how things should be. You see, I have had, for a bit of a while now, an idea in my head on how things should be run in on this little island called Great Britain, or perhaps even beyond these borders (though I have even less power over there than what little I can do here). Yes, thats right, not only am I doing another uber duper londuperly serious post, but I'm making it a completely self-centered thing about what I think and using only my experiences! What can I say? It's my blog, I can do whatever the hell I want in it (and now, I just have to wait to get an email from Blogger saying that I can't do whatever I want under the Terms and Conditions or whatever bullshit).

Firstly, I think we need a revolution. The current system is simply too entrenched, and reforms the likes of which I believe this country needs simply will not happen under legal means. That is not to say that I encourage violence - on the contrary, I am a pacifist and wish nothing more than peace. However, I do believe that we must oust the whole idea of 'Parliament' and 'government', rather than simply trying to make reforms to it. The entire way that this country is run needs to change, I believe, and just trying to get elected into the current system won't do squat.

The thing is though, a lot of people already believe in revolution - Socialists, Communists, Anarchists... the list of the people who wish to see things change goes on and on. Problem is, I keep on seeing them say what is wrong with this country, but rarely do they say what they think should be done about it. Yeah, we get it - the world is a pretty damned fucked up place under the current systems. But how do we make a better system? This is the question I've been trying to answer in my little head for a while now, and I thought I might share it with you folk.

Is there any difference?
First of, how we are ruled needs to change. Right now we are stuck in a system which is falsely called a 'Democracy'. We do not live in a Democracy - how is this a Democracy, when it is not the people who rule? Instead we have a system in which every 4-5 years, we are given a extremely limited selection of 'politicians' whom we vote into power. These people can pretty much do whatever they want during these 4-5 years, and honestly theres not much we can do about it. We, the people, are not the ones making the decisions for matters that affect us directly. Instead it is millionaires and the upper class whom have no idea how much of a difference £30 a week can do for those most in need of such help. How is this a Democracy when none of our supposed 'choices' make any difference? We vote Labour  and they follow America into 2 wars which have caused vast amounts of pain and suffering for those living in those countries. We vote Conservative and they immediately start making vast cuts to the public sector, a move which is unnecessary and will not help us (bearing in mind that both other parties have been saying that cuts need to be made too, so we'd be getting it up our backsides whichever party came to power). And of course, we all know what happened to the Liberal Democrats. What kind of choice is that? No other minor party stands a chance, and even if they did, all we'd have are more broken promises. Perhaps these politicians really do have our best interest in heart (which I seriously, seriously doubt). But the current system does not allow for the people's best interests to ever be implemented.

Thats right America - your no better off.
This isn't just Britain, by the way, if your an international reader - pretty much every supposed 'Democracy' across the world has a similar system. Poor America, thinking that everything would become better now that Dubya has finally gone, only to have the Republicans and Democrats at each other's throats, thwarting one another's efforts to change things/keep things the same. Japan, changing parties for the first time in over 40 years, only to have the Prime Minister step down almost immediately after gross incompetence. Italy, up in arms over serious allegations over Berlusconi hiring underage prostitutes.
All across the world, we have false 'Democracy's, held proudly up high showing that the people have power, when really all we're doing is voting in people who will do us over again and again.
What we have today is called a 'Representative Democracy' - it means we elect a small number of officials to make the decisions for us, and, as previously mentioned, this system simply doesn't work - the people we elect no longer represent us, the people, but rather they represent whomever has the most influence, such as mega-corporations, banks, and other such things that I will get to at some point or another.

So what to do about it? I believe that we should be looking back rather than forwards for this particular one. About 2,500 years back, specifically, to the founding of Democracy, in Athens circa 508 BC(ish). Athenian Democracy, true Democracy, was a system very different from what we call Democracy today. In this type of Democracy, known as 'Direct Democracy', the people do not elect officials or governors, but rather perform the legislation and decision making themselves via voting for individual proposals rather than leaders or politicians. Decision making was done at the Assembly, which could be as large as 6,000 citizens - anybody who was an Athenian citizen was permitted to attend the Assembly, vote, and, most importantly, speak out their opinion about any proposition.

Now, obviously, times are incredibly different today and we certainly wouldn't be able to adopt the system wholesale without any alterations - Athenian Democracy, after all, was designed as a system to work for a single city state, while today people talk in terms of nations, states and countries rather than singular cities or tribes. Furthermore, the Athenian idea of 'citizens' comprised of a comparatively small percentage of people living in Attica, approximately 1/3rds of the population. Still, 1/3rds of a population (about 30,000 people at that time) is still significantly larger than the 650 MP's who pretty much rule over us as an Oligarchy today.

So, what do we need to change about the Athenian Democracy to make it fit with a nation of the 21st century? I have a few ideas upon this... (one thing to remember about me - I always have an idea. Quality, however, can't be guaranteed. If you take my advice its like browsing the internet at random - you could get something incredible and beautiful, but your a lot more likely to get Rebecca Black):

- Obviously, none of the prejudice seen in Athens. If your an law-abiding adult UK citizen, attendance of the Assembly would be allowed; race, gender, religion, sexual preference or any other features of oneself would not be used against you.
- To prevent laws that would encourage or implement prejudice in society, or to prevent other malicious manipulations of this system via 'loopholes' and such, this governing system should have some form of constitution outlawing any proposals that are seen as discriminatory.
- Localisation. This is a crucial one, and potentially not so obvious. While this method may not be so viable for nation-wide decisions, individual decisions for local areas should be made by the people living in such areas. Therefore, I believe that cities, towns, etc, should have 1 or more (depending on the size of the settlement) assemblies for proposals, speeches, voting, etc, to be held - this could be anything from a massive hall with amplifiers installed for large cities, down to just someone lending out their dining room for such discussion in small hamlets.
Totally worth basing our future government on.
- Take advantage of technology - in 500 BC it would have been incredibly difficult for a Direct Democracy to function properly on a vast scale without confusion upon the law and what decisions have been made in individual provinces. Today, though, we have a vast array of different methods for instant national and international communication. For decisions of a national scale, internet communication, online forums, and debates on TV's, radio and other media should be used to spread a proposition and the arguments for/against a proposition. We live in a wonderful world where free speech for all is easier than it has ever been - lets bloody well use it.
- Multiple methods of debate - Britain (well, the world in general) desperately needs more ways we can speak our mind. While we technically already have the right to free speech, there are very few ways we can actually practice our free speech without social or even legal rejection. How many times do you see people just saying how they feel in the street, to anyone whom would hear them? If your experience is anything like mine, its not often at all. Heck, even to protest we are required by law to consult with police, and protest in the manner that they want us to - in a way that cannot change anything.
See? Its this easy - you don't even need a revolution to put a freakin' sign 

in the ground.
So, as well as Assemblies where formal debate can be held, I believe we need far more speakers' corners. This wonderful little idea, where anyone can say what they believe, should be implemented in every city and town in Britain. It doesn't even require much effort - just take any old pre-existing park and put a sign there saying "speakers' corner", and BAM! You have a convenient and socially acceptable conduit to free speech. (I also hereby promise to never, ever use the atrocity known as "BAM!" ever again)

Now, of course, there are going to be flaws in this system. Every governmental system on the planet does! (which, by the way, isn't an argument for Anarchy, cause its natural for humans to try and make order out of chaos.) But I like to think that this sort of a system could work under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances aren't always met. Giving the people power means that one needs to trust the people to make proper, educated decisions with proper insight into the decision being made. Democracy with the lack of this can lead to disastrous consequences, as people blindly lead themselves into wrongful decisions that can harm the community its striving to govern.
Basically, this means that education is really fucking important in a Democracy. So, thats another thing I really think needs changing.

Bloody hell, this has gotten really long... Right, tell you what, I shall make this a small series! I've got a few more topics I want to cover as with what should change, but I really don't want to put too much information in a single blog (as I've already done here...). So, education will come soon! So please come back. Please...?

How about if I offer you a hug?