Friday, 21 October 2016

Inequality- What's It All About?

by Georgia McKirgan

Since about 2010, everyone has been talking about inequality. President Obama has described it as "the challenge of our times" and the Davos conference this year described it as one of the key threats to the global economy. How did we get here, is it a bad thing and what can we do about it? 

Firstly, the statistics are clear. Around the world, income inequality has grown to levels not seen since the 1920s. If we look at the share of total US income going to the top 1% of the population, the graph below shows that this declined from 23.9% in 1924 to 8.9% in 1974 and has climbed back up to 21.2% in 2014. The increase in income inequality is probably more pronounced in the US but similar statistics can be seen in the UK. 

While this has been going on, average earnings have not really moved. Real average earnings are back to where they were in 2001. If you want to find a reason for the increasing levels of dissatisfaction among the electorate, look no further. Most people feel they have not really progressed economically while they see that the top 1% have taken virtually all the spoils of economic growth. For generations, increases in productivity fed through to growing average wages. People would experience growing living standards through their lives and each generation would be better off than the last. This model has broken down and people are not happy. So we can see that income inequality has increased significantly and many people are not happy with this situation. How did it happen? As you analyse the reasons for this increase in income inequality, the reasons can be roughly split into two groups: market driven and rent seeking.

(1) Market-driven reasons

Globalisation and technology have been responsible for the loss of millions of relatively well-paid, skilled manual jobs. The result of this is that a larger and larger share of company profits are going to the people that design, control and manage this automated process rather than to workers on the factory floor. The wages of college-educated people versus non college-educated people are a good proxy for this. The ratio between average college-educated and non college-educated pay was relatively stable for many years but this ratio started to increase in the 1980s and has now doubled over the last 30 years. Changes in the global economy mean that people with skills are increasingly more valuable than those without. Many people who used to hold relatively well-paid skilled manual jobs are now doing minimum wage jobs in the service sector with little hope that their wages will rise significantly.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

PGS MUN Sec Gen Speech: Gender Equality

This is the text of a speech by PGS Model United Nations Secretary-General, Tanya Thekkekkara, at the PGS MUN Conference on Saturday, 8th October.  

As I was writing this, I thought to myself, who am I to stand up here and preach about peace and equality? I am just a 17 year old girl who just happens to be interested in current affairs.

However, the more I contemplated this, the more I realised that this interest, this spark that we all possess, is significant in needing change for the future. We are, after all, the voices of the future and whatever path we choose to take we will be building and shaping the world for ourselves and other generations to come .Now is the time that we should be discussing about peace and equality in order for it to be harnessed for the future. When reflecting on my own experiences,interests and hopes for the future the issue of women’s rights comes to mind.

Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of Hillary Clinton, no one can dispute the fact that “women’s rights are human rights”. This gender inequality can be seen all around the world; specifically within  India with the case of 1000 reported incidents of honour killings and 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. However, you might think that the issue of gender inequality is only a concern for developing countries, but this issue is still thriving within our society today, only it is just invisible to us. For example, the act of catcalling,sexual harassment and victim blaming for rape in the case of Brock turner where she “asked for it?”. Here, I have only mentioned a few examples and as you can see there is still plenty more we can do.

Photography: Cathedral at Sunset

by Tony Hicks

Why Women Are Taking Charge Because of Margaret Thatcher

by Frances Dellafera

Only recently we have faced a new government change due to leaving the EU. And so therefore the British people have elected a new prime minister, Theresa May, even though she voted to stay. However she has emerged as a 'unity' candidate to step in for David Cameron. And as the American elections are due shortly in November, Hillary Clinton is seen as a keen competitor against Donald Trump.

Ever since Margaret Thatcher became prime minster in 1979 and led the government till 1990, women have been seen taking higher positions in major countries. She became the first women prime minister of Britain, which was an achievement considering the balance of gender equality wasn't the same then as it is now. And women weren't even allowed to vote till 1918 in Britain and even then they had to be over the age of 30. Some could argue that the reason why women are stepping up  is due to Thatcher's courage and political strength.

And so we have seen that Theresa May has worked up the ranks and in June 2016, she became Britain's second female prime minister. Theresa May has been one of only a small amount of women in the upper echelons in the Conservative party for 17 years. However, even before she became prime minister, she had made history by becoming the second longest home secretary in the past 100 years.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Ben Jonson and John Donne

by Hattie Hammans

"Rare Ben"
John Donne has faced Ben Jonson at the intersection of two opposing streams of literary influence ever since they were writing in the late Elizabethan era. Near contemporaries, the two men flaunted poetry of equal skill and influence, despite representing dramatically different aesthetics. One classical, generically conservative, dignified and pellucid; the other pioneering, piquant, and probingly curious.
During their lifetimes, Donne and Jonson lived on close and admiring terms. It seems their literary friendship was founded on the absence of rivalry; they embodied such dissimilar poetical styles that they had a deep appreciation of the other. It could be assumed that they each admired the poetry that they were not seeking to write themselves. Donne contributed a poem on the occasion of the publication of the Volpone quarto in 1607. Two of Jonson's Epigrams, are in praise of Donne.
It cannot be ignored that there are similarities between the writings of the two renaissance men; their epigrams, elegies, and verse letters resemble one another’s to such an extent that there was a long scholarly debate about the authorship of a group of poems. Jonson is considered to be primarily a dramatist and Donne exclusively a non-dramatic poet; however it is fascinating that the word "dramatic" has been regularly applied to Donne's poems, and "undramatic" on occasion to Jonson's plays. The two men fluctuated throughout their careers between this unison, founded on respect, and astoundingly divergent writings. For example, the contrast is shocking between Jonson’s pastoral, sycophantic ‘country house poem’ “To Penshurst”, and Donne’s mischievously erotic “The Flea”, both embodying some of the most acclaimed characteristics of each writers work.
John Donne
Jonson’s non-dramatic poetry is often overlooked. It is in fact exemplary of the English neoclassicism that would influence the work of great English poets such as Milton and Dryden; Jonson was certainly an English Renaissance poet, heralding literary interest in the rediscovered classical sources. John Donne is celebrated as a “metaphysical” poet. Jonson famously used the term when describing Donne’s poetry, intending it to resound as an insult; today the term is used to categorise Donne’s entire output. Donne’s verse notoriously incorporates philosophical perplexity, emotional depth, and astonishing “conceits.” The idiosyncratic and intellectual intensity of his poetry is perceived as a response to his contemporary England, a world of profound social and cultural upheaval. Ultimately Donne was a modernist; his poetry can often be described as defiant and innovative, showcasing his vitality of language.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Review: Threepenny Opera

Poppy Goad reviews Threepenny Opera, following a recent trip by pupils in Years 11 and 12.

Threepenny Opera; a forced paradox between satirical violence amidst the deprivation of poverty and a good musical of epic high notes and emotional monologues. In an effort to portray the inner values of poverty and establish the grey area of right and wrong, the Rufus Norris production draws more likeness to a violently coloured cartoon or a bashed-up Pierrot show. 

Although, with its flaws, Threepenny Opera still manages to create a world of brutality, passion, crime, violence and love all mixed in with a cruel comic irony to drive you insane. A Brechtian production through and through, it not only questioned morals but downright drowned them for an ending that left the audience frozen for more than the curtain fall. 

Warner's Extended DC Universe: Destined for Failure?

by Joe Brennan

In 2013, we got our first instalment of what is now an ever growing film universe full of well known and beloved characters (and Aquaman). The film that started this ball rolling was sadly far from Jon Faverau's Iron Man (2008) and in my opinion wasn't even as good as Kenneth Branagh's Thor (2011)! This film was Zack Snyder's Man of Steel- an offensively mediocre film that introduces us to Henry Cavil's Superman. A character who doesn't deserve any description other than "meh".

Flash (pun intended) forward to 2016 and we get the next instalment of a universe we all kind of forgot about (I mean- Marvel have a Hulk!) Time for the second film in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe).  What would they choose to be the next film? Surely they would take not from Marvel's success and spend a few more films introducing relevant characters and developing ones currently there. A film establishing a new Batman, maybe? Or a Superman sequel to develop Superbland and shows us Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor? Perhaps a film that introduces us to Wonder Woman?
Having weaved threads teasing other members of The Justice League and letting us know they will one day assemble. That'd be cool, right? Taking time to establish this universe with solo films (even if done formulaically like Marvel) would pay off in the long run. As we've seen with Joss Whedon's Avengers (2012). 

So which of the above did they choose as their next move?

All of them.

They chose to shove everything into one film. One "film".

 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was an impossible film to get right. What made it even harder was the fact the competition did exactly the same thing that year and ACTUALLY MADE IT WORK.

If you'd told someone 10 years ago that a film about Captain America (captain what?) fighting Iron Man would receive a better response (both critically and at the box office) than a film WHERE THE BATMAN FIGHTS SUPERMAN, I think most people would have a hard time believing you. I mean, this is The Batman we're talking about!

Should We Tax Sugar?

by Gabriella Watson

In March of this year former chancellor George Osborne took big businesses by surprise after unveiling a tax on sugary drinks. The aim of the £530 million raised by a tax on the sugar in drinks- the equivalent of about 18-24p per litre- is to increase spending on primary school sports in England and Wales. While the announcement of the tax triggered a big fall in the share prices of companies affected by it, key advocates, such as Jamie Oliver, argue that it is a huge step towards improving the overall health of the British population and in particular, children.

With nearly two-thirds of the UK’s population being either obese or overweight, a report predicts that a 20% tax on sugary drinks in the UK would prevent 3.7 million people becoming obese over the next decade. Britons, in general, consume far too much sugar as statistics show that adults eat and drink three times as much of it as health experts recommend. However, given that there is 35g of sugar in a 330ml can of Coca-Cola and the recommended intake per day is a maximum of 30g, it is easy to see why. The government concluded that a tax would lead to people consuming, on average, 15 fewer calories per day. While the difference sounds tiny, a model, created by Cancer Research UK, predicted that there would be a large impact on reducing waistlines. Alison Cox, a representative of the charity, said: "The ripple effect of a small tax on sugary drinks is enormous. These numbers make it clear why we need to act now before obesity becomes an even greater problem.” The charity’s predictions are based on evidence from countries, such as Mexico, which managed to reduce its average sugar intake by 12 per cent after it imposed a significant levy on fizzy drinks in 2014. This was due to a sharp drop in sugary drink purchases as well as an increase in the buying of bottled water.

With this in mind, pressure on the government to impose a sugar tax by organisations, such as Cancer Research UK, was even greater. This was supported by Jamie Oliver after he created an e-petition that saw more than 150,000 people backing the proposed tax. Oliver suggested that the changes were a chance to save the younger generations after he claimed that “we cannot have a long- term plan for the country unless we have a long- term plan for our children’s healthcare”. This was announced after research revealed that 70 per cent of young children do not meet the recommended guidelines of 60 minutes’ physical activity each day and therefore the increase in budget to equip more schools with apparatus for exercise looked particularly encouraging. It would also help, he argued, to put a stop to the expert’s predications that, within a generation, more than half of all boys and 70 per cent of girls could become overweight or obese.