Brexit is a vote against the future generation

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Flickr /Tuncay

Today the news broke that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and I’m not ashamed to admit that this news made upset me. Actually, I experienced a range of emotions: anger, devastation, fury, sadness, desolation. Surely it is an odd thing that this would have had such a personal impact on me? I’m not an EU immigrant and my status in this country is not immediately under threat, so why do I feel as if my world is crumbling down around me?

Let me tell you why. For me, this is personal. It is about the future of the United Kingdom, but it is also about me. One person among the multitudes. Brexit hurt me because well, my entire life has been a struggle. I have had the garden variety problems which face young adults: bullying, parental separation, mental health issues and more family problems than one person should ever have to deal with. Despite this fractured upbringing, I went to a Top Ten University (Lancaster) for my undergraduate degree and I achieved a First in History. I have now gone on to study for my Masters at the University of Durham – a decision which has been incredibly hard and, at times, not worth the money and energy I have put into it.

But what does this have to do with the European Union? They could not prevent my family issues, and they sure as hell wouldn’t be able to fix the administration at Durham, so why am I so upset?

It’s quite simple actually. The European Union offered me a future. It offered me a way out. The recent governments of this country have targeted Higher Education and turned it into a scheme to make money. If you can’t make a profit out of it, it’s not worth keeping. I truly believe, rightly or wrongly, that this idea underpins the educational reforms of the Conservative governments. They don’t care that I will never be able to pay back my student loans, and it baffles me that they think education is something which should have to be paid for. Despite what rhetoric they use, it feels as if they are attempting to price-out low income families such as mine to prevent them from gaining an education.

They didn’t. I beat the odds and I am about to gain my MA qualification, which I think most people would agree is quite an achievement. But again, what does this have to do with the EU? Well, that has to do with my career choice. I want to be a lecturer in Modern History. To do this, I need a PhD in either History or a related subject. A PhD costs money. The tuition fees vary from different institutions (roughly starting from around £4,000 per year), and those plus the cost of living would be the biggest drain on my personal finances. It is not a financially viable plan for me in my current situation.

The EU could have helped me out. They have various means of funding PhDs across the UK and the rest of Europe. I could have studied in Germany, Paris, Amsterdam or Vienna. I could have participated in funding projects and schemes that would have allowed me to gain my PhD either at home or abroad.

But, we have left the EU. That funding no longer exists. As hard as it was to start with, as in gaining a funded PhD from a reputable institution with supervisors who could help me attempt my PhD thesis, the Brexit vote has just made it so much harder for me. I am a woman from a low-income family. I already feel as though the deck is stacked against me, as I see wealthy people able to go on to MA or PhD with their parents support. And before someone points out the obvious, I do have a job; part-time to allow me to carry out the research necessary for my MA dissertation. Attempting to take on a full-time PhD and a full-time job would be both unreasonable and impossible. My choices are therefore limited.

If I face facts, leaving the EU could just be another hurdle for me to overcome. And maybe I will. But the main reason that I am so upset about leaving is because I’m tired. I’m tired of living in a country who thinks that anyone under 25 is a second class citizen.

This government has brought in discriminative legislation based on age which boils down to the fact that they think that we are worth less than those over 25. Due to the cuts to housing benefit, and the housing crisis, I have to accept the fact that I will never be able to own my own house because we will either be in a post-Brexit recession or because of cuts to Higher Education, I will never get my dream job to pay for a house.

I have always wanted to be an intellectual. I love to learn. I love progressive values, tolerance and peace. But I wake up today in a country that, I feel, has discarded those values in exchange for xenophobia, islander mentality and an inability to see the consequences of Brexit for my generation.

Recent polling suggests that around 75% of people aged 18-24 wanted to remain in the EU. The older generations didn’t listen, and now my future, our future is uncertain.

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Democracy has had the last word

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Flickr/Fe Ilya

On June 24 the World was awaiting the results of the nail-biting EU Referendum Election. The previous day, 72.2% of the British public voted on whether to leave or remain in the European Union.

I watched with bated breath as David Dimbleby announced the earth shattering result, 51.9% of our nation had voted to leave the EU. Time stopped. It wasn’t soon after, that the financial markets were torpedoed by the ‘Leave’ victory, consequentially the value of the British pound plummeted, the lowest it has been since 1985.

Inevitably democracy has spoken, but the question on everyone’s lips is ‘what now?’. For those 48.1% of us who voted to remain, we have a lot more to fear from the unknown. It is justifiable to say that the Referendum has marked a watershed moment in our history.

There has been a seismic shift in British politics, with the majority of London voting to remain in, compared to the rest of the country (excluding Scotland and Northern Ireland). It is with despair that I say that we are now a country with ever gaping cracks.

London is now seen with even more suspicion as it voted with a majority, for economic stability. We can no longer disengage from the fact that there is a concerning disconnect between the South, namely London and the rest of the country. There are those who criticise, that those living and working in the Capital, know nothing of the hardships of austerity, especially when compared to their working class counterparts in the North. Yet it is also true to say that London has been a City which has accepted the influx of immigrants and enjoyed all its boons.

Not soon after the results were declared Nigel Farage declared a ‘war’ on immigration, calling for June 23 to be renamed ‘Independence Day’, a victory for real and ordinary people. He said, and I quote, “today honesty, decency and belief in nation…is going to win”. So what about the other 48.1% Nigel? What about all those people who will inevitably lose their jobs because we have an economy that will undoubtedly shrink? What about the younger generation who trusted overwhelmingly that remaining was the best prospect for their future, one which now looks set to be bleak and gloomy.

Our decision to become part of the European Union was in part to heal the rifts and divisions born out of war. The EU was more than a mere organisation, more than a single market, it was symbol of peace. A symbol to show the world that we could move beyond centuries of division and work our differences out together, for the collective interest of all involved. It is sad, that instead of choosing the path of tolerance, we have now decided to turn our backs on our neighbours who once were our enemies.

Democracy may have spoken, but David Cameron still resigned. Yes, it may be three months from now, but given the current turn of events, we now have an even bigger problem on our hands. I shudder to think that we have given men like Boris Johnson a mandate to run our country. I am no lover of the Tories, but it seems like for many, a vote for ‘Leave’ was a vote against the establishment, and it has gone horribly awry.

This is not a moment to make prophecies about the future, though I have indulged myself in a few, however it is a cause for concern that as we head into the next few months and possibly years, we face an existential crisis, what is our place in society? With a nation divided down the middle, and with a likely second Scottish Referendum (possibly Northern Ireland too), on the table, we head into a dark future with disturbing possibilities.

‘Make Your Mark’ Milestone For British Youth Council

This Summer thousands of young people across the United Kingdom have had their say on issues that are important to them, as the largest youth consultation across the country had over 865,000 responses. Make Your Mark is a British Youth Council (BYC) and United Kingdom Youth Parliament lead initiative that aims to get as many young people aged 11-18 involved in influencing decision making on a national scale.

With the youth consultation heading in to its fourth year there were high expectations across the country with a target of 1 million votes across the United Kingdom for 2014. Although there were around 135,000 less votes than targeted, it must not be underestimated what a huge achievement this is for young people across the United Kingdom, who actively engaged in issues that affect them and took their opportunity to influence decision makers on a national scale.

With issues ranging from a curriculum for life, to paying everyone the living wage, there really are a diverse range of topics for the young people to choose from. The format is very simple, this year there were 10 issues on the ballot paper and voter could pick ONE issue. The votes were then counted across the United Kingdom and fed back into BYC. From this the top 5 across the United Kingdom was established and these will now be debated by the Members of Youth Parliament across the country at a live televised House Of Commons debate on Friday 14th November.

The five topics that received the most votes in the ballot are:

  • Votes at 16. Give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in elections and referendums.
  • Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage of £7.65 per hour (£8.80 in London). Anyone who works, regardless of age, should have a decent standard of living.
  • Mental health services should be improved with our help. We should all learn about common mental health issues at school and negative stereotypes should be challenged.
  • Work Experience. We should have the chance to do at least a week’s placement, at a place of our choosing. We should have access to professionals who inspire us.
  • Bring back exam resits in Maths and English in English schools, and help us achieve our potential.

As you can see from the range of issues that made the top 5, the record number of young people who got involved are engaging in democracy and citizenship and have a range of opinions that challenging the notion that young people are politically apathetic. It shows young people do wish to engage with issues that are important to them and those which impact their current lives and could go on to prove detrimental to their future.

It was really rewarding and encouraging to go to a number of different youth groups and councils across the North West in the Summer. I witnessed the diversity and range of different young people in terms of age, religion and social background and what was even more impressive was to see how united these groups were across the North West and the United Kingdom. They  were unified in their determination to make sure they got out and about and gave a voice to as many young people as possible.

There are always improvements that can be made and in the future the British Youth Council and other partner organisations will continue to develop their excellent programs. But what must be celebrated and championed is that this year over 865,000  young people made their mark.

The Youth Parliament will use its House of Commons debate to choose its priority campaigns for the year ahead from the five topics listed above. The debate will be chaired by The Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, recorded in Hansard and broadcast live on BBC Democracy Live.

Do your part and engage with the campaign by watching live, I’m certain you’ll be blown away by the articulate, passionate, civilised and well-mannered way in which young people will debate.

By Sam Richardson


 

[Image Credit: Adam Scotti]

Student Experience: Why YOU Should Study Abroad

Fancy a Study Abroad year? Do it. It won’t let you down.

Having recently returned from 8 months of copiously drinking Tim Hortons coffee and Canadian beer at Carleton University, Ottawa, I have come back (forgive the cheese) as a more developed, mature and confident version of myself. Don’t get me wrong, whilst being abroad I have never been more challenged in my life, however my experience away is one I would happily do over and over again.

Studying abroad brings a series of benefits stretching from the more serious advantage of academic enrichment, to the more trivial of a cooler reputation on Instagram (when in doubt use X-Pro II). However, what I intend to convey is that for me my study abroad experience has definitely taught me a series of invaluable life lessons that I never would have discovered had I stayed in our small university town of Lancaster.

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One of the most important benefits of studying in a foreign land is the vast variety of people you meet from all over the world. Not only do you exchange interesting stories and gain insight into each other’s lives, your social calendar explodes from weekend city breaks, to an invite to a house party two hours before. Saying ‘no’ to gatherings is out of the question (though I admit I did cave in a few times!) and so often it feels like your life runs at 100 miles an hour – quite literally if you want to get to that off-licence in time before it shuts ridiculously early on a Friday night. However, the international networks you create whilst being away are incredible and to be honest it feels pretty damn cool having the majority of your Facebook friends coming from all over the world. emily 6

Another perk of studying abroad is just how bloody good you become at time management! If you want to get that bus to Toronto on time, you need to get your studies squared away and often the impossible becomes the possible when it comes to hitting those deadlines. Essay in a day? No problem.

A further side effect of studying abroad is the incessant pining for wanting to travel again upon your return home. The travel bug hits you good and proper after being away and its only antibiotic is to plan and look forward to the next future adventure (as it so happens the dust hadn’t even settled on my passport and I went off interrailing for a month around Eastern Europe with one of my best friends). I have learnt that the world really is out there patiently waiting for us to explore it, and what a better time to do so as young emily 2adults before the real world of careers, families and mortgage payments hit us. I once heard at a gathering a fellow partygoer say ‘the world is our oyster’ and my word I now understand that it really, really is.

With this in mind, another thing I have greatly understood through my study abroad experiences is how important travelling and experiencing the world actually is. As our globe’s borders become ever more porous and the dividing lines we see on a map become less and less definite, experiencing one, two, or multiple cultures different to our own provides us with a deeper understanding of the world’s populace. The news we read, watch and listen is increasingly of a more globalized content, with stories originating from the four corners of the world brought to our home tabloids and affecting us in a way they never would have years ago. The knowledge gained from travel is indeed not a privilege but a requirement for future generations. emily 4

And so I hope this article has achieved my aim of getting you all to up sticks and study or work abroad for a period of time at some point in your lives. Considering this is coming from a person who owns varying shades of lipstick and who would never walk out the door without layers of mascara on my lashes, since being home I’ve ditched the red lippy for a travel guide, invested in a rucksack and find myself surfing the latest flight deals.

And so I reiterate. Study abroad – it won’t let you down.

By Emily Tarbuck

 

 


 

[Image Credit: Tim Shields]

Karl Marx: Party Animal

“The story is told from the perspective of the hero who gradually makes the horrifying discovery that all the people around him are not human beings but some kind of automatons…”

Let me indulge in philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s words for a moment and become his ‘hero’ of Marxist philosophy within our own University. “University will be the best time of your life” was relayed to me as fact, the imperative, absolute certainty that everyone agrees to these years being full of excitement and £27,000 well spent. But why is this such a commonly held view?

Introducing Karl Marx. In Marx’s time, the ruling class – the Bourgeoisie, repressed the workers -the Proletariat; he questioned why the Proletariat lived in such a system that exploited them immensely. His answer? Ideology.

“The ideas of the ruling class” says Marx “are the ruling ideas.” In other words, in the structure of society, the most powerful ingrain the values of life into the weaker and “those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it.” The very stance of the weak places them firmly in a societal role, causing them to worship the ideology of the work ethic, something they know only as good and have never bothered to rise up against it because the ruling class were dominant. This hierarchy, claims Marx, breeds a false consciousness. And this false consciousness, I believe, is firmly present within the majority of students at Lancaster University.

Students have associated University with drinking and getting laid. It seems almost a religious opinion that is disturbingly close to the religion that Marx claimed distracted the Proletariat from the real issues. “Religion is the opium of the masses” he said, though in the case of students, opium is the opium of the masses, as well as alcohol and sex drive.

The first year students living above me are in line with this habit, drinking and shouting almost every night, keeping the skeptical of us awake. Are these really free human beings, or automatons following in line something that is religiously taken as fact by everyone?

If I told these people that they did not need to party to have a good time, they would ignore me and consequently we see a fault in Marx’s logic. These issues cannot be pointed out to the victims; French Marxist Althusser proposes ideology is in fact ingrained subconsciously via signs and symbols. Here, we start to see why students believe so strongly that keeping people awake every night is crucial to their university experience. They are possessed by what Althusser calls “ideological state apparatuses.” These are topics that promote ideology without directly controlling people, for example family values, church or in this case, ‘College Spirit.’

If we take a JCR member to represent the Bourgeoisie, their incessant promotion of party and good times is the opinion of the ruling class which as Marx said, ultimately rules over the course of the university life. Though this really goes back to what I mentioned earlier, everyone saying, before I even started University, that it would be the best time of our lives.

From a young age we are brainwashed by the ‘more powerful’ and so we subconsciously adapt to these ideas. Going with Althusser’s notion of signs and something he calls ‘interpellation’, promotional posters may say ‘YOU will have a great time’ or ‘The club is waiting for YOU.’ By using that pronoun, we feel part of this routine, like the Proletariats feel part of their own society; we have our place. Ideology ‘recruits subjects and individuals.’ It is, says Althusser, naturally in our subconscious to be aboard this trend train; we are united by ideology and until the ruling ideas and promotions change, the freshers upstairs will continue making noise.

I support having a good time, I like to drink and go out, but the issue here is the danger of assuming we need to take intoxicants and have sex to have a good time. Ideology isn’t always bad, but when you can see outside of it at the ‘automatons’ fooling themselves into a harmful lifestyle, not only for themselves but for what they deprive of others, it becomes an issue.

Allow me to conclude on Zizek, who says some know we are in ideology, but ‘we do it anyway.’ He calls these the ‘the cynics.’ Here’s where I and everyone else who sees the farce of university life come in. Zizek sees the cynics as the most dangerous type of ideologist, the ones that know it but go along with anyway. So, being the most dangerous and the hero, perhaps upstairs should reconsider the next time they keep me awake until 4am.

By Keiran Rae


[Image credit: Andrew Becraft]

The Rage Against Russia: Why Have We Made Putin into the Big Bad Wolf?

Matthew Page comments on the growing tension between Russia and the West.

I find it troubling that us in the West sit on our moral high horse castigating Putin’s Russia for her attitudes and government policy. Especially in the light of our questionable and perhaps illegal interventions into foreign countries affairs, doesn’t our outrage seem a bit . . . rich? However, before people start throwing egg’s, shoes, bagels, wet plimsolls, penny farthings and who knows what else, I should say that I have many criticisms of Russia in terms of censorship, press freedom and the treatment of minority groups. But as far as the West’s Hitler comparisons and World War Three rhetoric goes, I am somewhat puzzled. There are many serious despots in the world and Vladimir Putin does not hold that company?

As I briskly walked on a bright autumnal day to another lecture, while lightly pondering the question of why are we really so outraged by Russia, I realised what this may be about; national sovereignty.

Russia is a power which is actively opposed to the principle of interventionism and EU expansionism.  In my view the EU is the aggressor in the Ukraine affair, the EU has a distinct ideology which strikes discord with Russia but it ceaselessly wishes to involve itself upon Russia’s sphere of influence. Why does no one think it may have perhaps been an EU funded mob which overthrew the democratically elected president Yanukovich, and if not why did it not condemn such an anti democratic putsch. The guarantee that western powers would not encroach or attempt to influence countries upon Russia’s borders which was given to Gorbachev upon dismantling the Soviet Union, has been broken in utter insouciance and contempt.

The commonly held fallacy that the EU is a benign force is misplaced, admittedly it does not wield its power through military force but rather through Machiavellian coup de ta’s and funding mobs and economic bribery. Ask yourself how many countries has the EU swallowed up in the past ten years and then ask yourself how many countries has Russia usurped?  Then once a country becomes an EU member it loses its sovereignty in an absolute sense, as sovereignty is administered through a countries capacity to decide its laws, legislation and govern its own affair according to the will of its citizens.

The capacity for an EU member state to do these things is greatly depleted, as member states are dictated legislature by a centralised government made up of unelected officials who nobody has heard of, this leads to an erosion of democracy and most importantly, liberty, ala European arrest warrant and human rights piffle which flies in the face of all common sense on these matters.

Russia among other things is set against this, Russia wishes to govern its own affairs and set its own economic policy and is sceptical of globalization, these precepts are also something it wishes for other countries. It wishes to retain a sphere of influence but that is understandable given the EU’s aggression and the fact it is bordered by Germany and China.

We convolute Putin into being a bogeyman and draw correlations between modern Russia and the Soviet Union, the slightest knowledge of 20th Century history shows this view to be misguided. Russia does not have an all encompassing ideology set against western capitalism, and has no interest in ‘going west’. Prince Charles’s deplorable comparison of Putin to Hitler is silly, stupid and portrays  Charles to have a personal disconnect with history, of which he has a duty to be familiar with. Russia was key in defeating Hitler and lost enormous life in the process. This something for which we should be eternally grateful.

I quite simply ask you to consider, how would America react if Russia began meddling in the affairs of Mexican politics? It would be rightly outraged. But we somehow think it acceptable for the EU to involve itself in countries upon Russia’s borders. Countries which were under very shadowy and ambiguous circumstances granted independence even though most of Ukraine (for example) speak Russian and share commonality in with its culture.

If those people who say they are defenders of democracy and liberty really were what they purported themselves to be, they would mistrust the EU and condemn mobs overthrowing democratically elected leaders. Finally, as China grows in might and stature on the world stage may it not be helpful to be allied with Russia instead of driving her east and into ever more closer ties with the Chinese, just a thought.

By Matthew Page


 

[Image credit: DonkeyHotey]