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.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Merchant of Venice: Munby’s Modern Spin On An Ageing Concept

by Philippa Noble

A day out of school led 50 Year 11s enthusiastically to a short tour of the Globe Theatre and a drama workshop on a passage of The Merchant of Venice. 

After lunch and a quick glance over a bustling London (within walking distance, of course), we flooded into the Globe, hurriedly finding our seats before a performance we weren’t expecting began playing before us.

For a brief synopsis, please see here.

Those who know the text of Merchant of Venice well found there were many differences between this production and the original. It’s within every director’s right to use poetic licence and take another spin on an old play, yet I have seen multiple reviews voicing concern to how far director Jonathan Munby's production drifted from the “truth”.

The Globe is known, however, for keeping its surroundings as authentic as possible. The minimalist set and the few-to-no props involved in each scene certainly continued this tradition. The costumes, also, were kept looking very period and the colour scheme allowed for a lot of symbolism through clothing. For instance, while all the Venetians (Christian and Jew alike) wore black and red (occasionally brown), Portia doused herself in gold swathes of material. Munby sets aside more characters as “other” than he connects through costuming. Even subtle differences between the majority of red in Christian costumes and the red hats of the Jews enhances the audience's views of isolation and segregation that are firm themes in both this version and the original. I would even go as far as to suggest that the scarcity of red in the Jews’ costumes reinforces thoughts of Christian frivolity and self-centredness compared to the oppressed Jews (albeit subtle, it does link in with themes resonating through other aspects of the play). In the final scene, the Christian attendance at Shylock’s baptism – all in pristine white and perfect dress – contrast Shylock who appears ill fitted to his new costume.

Altered or improvised comedy found in the characters of Gratiano and Nerissa continue the comedic relief usually only seen from Lancelot Gobbo. This allowed for audience participation and engagement from more than one section in the play. Nevertheless, the director’s choice to remove Old Gobbo from an early scene seems to undermine the sympathy for Shylock that is encouraged throughout the play. Lancelot’s dilemma plays out more as a humourous break from the plot than a realisation of how badly he is choosing to treat Shylock. While in these areas the comedy is enhanced, the true nature of the Merchant of Venice in its category of comedy comes under scrutiny. The eventual loss of faith for Shylock is portrayed as a death of hope and spirit compared to the original redemption from Judaism. It could be argued that in this production, the play resounds more with tragedy than comedy.

The Crisis of Forced Marriage

by Lily Godkin

Rajani was only five when she, with her two older aunts Radha and Gora, aged 15 and 13, were handed by their father and grandfather to the families of their future husbands, traded as livestock, because a group of adult men saw fit to arrange their futures before they even hit puberty, wedding illegally without their consent. They were handed over to men over ten years their elders to whom they were strangers. 

These young children were thrown into a void of the unknown, for what gain? Respect towards your family from other families? The protection resulting from being associated with another family perhaps marginally more wealthy or powerful? Because the way I see it there is nothing more dishonourable - and the two men committing these actions are the kind of people our world needs protection from.

This took place in the state of Rajasthan. However it is not just in distant lands that almost seem intangible that these horrifying events occur. In England and Wales alone, approximately 1,200 potential cases of forced marriage are being discovered each year; young teenage girls are being shipped to South Asia in order to marry someone of their family’s choice without their consent. This often cuts their education short and leaves them uneducated, trapped in a relationship that often leads to isolation and both physical and sexual abuse.

Services in the UK are ill prepared to deal with these examples of misconduct and, sometimes frightened of causing cultural offence, of being seen as in some way racist, are slow to act. However, I think such authorities need to stop treading on eggshells and deal with this as a safeguarding issue, showing awareness of the significant difference between arranged marriage and forced marriage, 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Review: La Novia

by Jemima Haydon

A classically Spanish play ‘Bodas de Sangre’ presents and poses questions of female struggles. Written in 1932 and first performed in 1933, the theatrical production by Federico García Lorca would have been logistically relevant at the time of reception, however from a modern day perspective we disagree with the patriarchal assumptions and traditions. La Novia, the protagonist of the work had the major struggle of choosing a husband with the pressure of the expectations of the 1930’s in Spain upon her. It was a Catholic country and there was a huge divide between the roles of women and men; men having the upper hand at the time. Even before the reign of Franco in Spain, women were seriously oppressed, which only continued to increase with his time in power. They weren’t allowed to have their own bank accounts, they couldn’t work unless they had the husband’s permission and they were expected to remain faithful to their spouse even though it was known that men weren’t the most faithful - in the play is says “Grandfather left a child on every corner” which implies that it even happened in this story, reflecting machista Spain. Does that seem fair to you?
La Novia has the classic struggle of true love - the ‘obvious’ husband for her is El Novio, however she has a secret lust for the character of Leonardo who is the only named character in the play. This has significance especially in the film adaptation of the play called ‘La Novia’ which was written in 2015 because it’s a production only through the eyes of La Novia herself. She is destined to be with El Novio but on her wedding night to him, Leonardo visits her on horseback at 3am which kick starts the inevitable tragedy.

La Madre, who is a widow and the mother of El Novio, also has to live out a lifetime struggle as her husband and other son were murdered by La Familia Felix. Her inner turmoil is that she continuously tries to keep the remains of her family together whilst bearing the sadness of her trauma and by doing this she suffers to keep the honour code and her family name alive. However, there is an underlying longing for revenge against La Familia Felix. Also, La Mujer (de Leonardo) has to stand by her husband regardless of the fact that he has committed murder as it was her wifely duty to always be faithful which causes her to suffer in silence in a very stoical manner. 

Photography: The Moon Tonight

by Tony Hicks

The Moon today is in a Waxing Gibbous phase. This phase is when the moon is more than 50% illuminated but not yet a Full Moon. The phase lasts round 7 days with the moon becoming more illuminated each day until the Full Moon. During a Waxing Gibbous the moon will rise in the east in mid-afternoon and will be high in the eastern sky at sunset. The moon is then visible though most of the night sky setting a few hour before sunrise. The word Gibbous first appeared in the 14th century and has it’s roots in the Latin word "gibbosus" meaning humpbacked.

Has Donald Trump Lost All Hope of Becoming President?

by William Hall

Over the weekend, a video was released on the internet showing Donald Trump making a statement about women that was vulgar to say the least. In the aftermath of this video, almost 40 Republican representatives have withdrawn their support for Trump, and there have been calls for him to withdraw from the Presidential race. 

But, Trump will do no such thing. His response has been, as usual, waving two fingers at the political establishment, though it’s surprising that such an electoral disaster has not entirely destroyed his campaign.

Just a few months ago in the Conservative Party leadership contest in the UK, Andrea Leadsom was effectively forced to withdraw from the race after suggesting she was a stronger candidate than Theresa May because she had children. Trump has enough controversial quotes against him to fill a book, yet his campaign is still arguably going strong. It almost seems that, due to his political outsider status, his campaign can get away with outrageous comments and scandal that would destroy any normal politician’s campaign. I think the fact that he can escape relatively unscathed in the polls from publicly announcing that he was ‘clever’ for tax avoiding speaks for itself.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Poem for Monday: The Angels Go Away

by Fenella Johnson

They come in the restlessness of dawn
before the birds
when the world is a sleepy iris-
the sky chiselled with clouds,
borne through the sultry hips of the hills,
the Angels,
on a sweet souled Sunday,
diaphanous wings founded politely away in hand luggage.

Along the feline curves of the road,
they walk,
past the fields where flies in a haze of small fruits
bury themselves in the work of systematic consumption
of the bloodied blackberries,
to the cities that lay
like great open cellos by the gasping shore:
to glut themselves on wild berries and Mozart,
mushrooms that taste like sponges,
red velvet cake,porous lemon,
luminous baubles of grapes
-they spit out the seeds in pious circles,
red arid cocktails,
slyly the archaic dance of love.

Belly buttons
distant circular foreign
fascinate them:
up in their motel rooms
they wrap themselves around shower curtains
patterned with slender scales
as if they were the shredded skin of a mythical snake,
listen to the listless sighs of the seagulls outside

before they fall asleep.

Has Barack Obama’s Presidency Been a Failure?

by Gemma Webb

In the twilight years of his presidency, one is now in a position to make some preliminary judgements on the much hyped presidency of Barack Hussein Obama II. He promised America change, hope and progress, and though these are hardly novel declarations on the modern campaign trail, the efficacy of his slogans, the colour of his skin, and the very public failures of a Republican administration encouraged high hopes for the Democratic candidate. No modern president has ever truly fulfilled his campaign promises, as a result not only of a restrictive political system designed by those who feared great men, but also of the overly ambitious nature of these promises as a result of the competitive atmosphere of the presidential race. It is particularly unfair to judge Obama based on the unreasonably high expectations for the first black president of the United States. The intention of this essay is to evaluate Obama’s time in office, taking into account his successes and failures in the different aspects of race relations, gun control, partisanship, foreign policy, health care, economic policy and LGBT rights, with a particular focus on the deep and lasting changes he has made to the fabric of American society. Has ‘Yes We Can’ become ‘Yes We Did’?

Obama’s presidency was shackled to the issue of race relations from the moment he announced his candidacy. In terms of race, Obama’s election was in itself a success, raising hopes of a new post-racial style of politics, but the rise in racial tensions over the past eight years is viewed by many as one of the greatest failures of his administration. Despite all efforts to centre his campaign rhetoric around unity and race neutrality, a large proportion of American society appeared to be far more interested in the colour of his skin than the nature of his policies, interpreting ‘change’, ‘progress’ and a Martin Luther King bust as assurances of black prosperity. Whilst this assumption may have won him the election, it also panicked the conservative right.

Ignoring his cries that the colour of his skin did not define him, Republican media outlets have consistently hounded Obama regarding his ‘aggrieved black activist’ stance, sparking a bizarre wave of ‘anti-anti-racism’ based on the concept that Obama’s public acknowledgement of racial discrimination has ‘set back American race relations by 50 years’, in the words of City Journal’s Myron Magnet. Returning to the other side of the political spectrum, this acknowledgement was considered by liberals to be a crucial first step, but was criticised for being superficial and not having inspired any real government action. Thus Obama has found himself in a political straitjacket, which manifested itself in the racially neutral policies of his administration.

However, these supposedly ‘neutral’ policies, for example the Race To the Top education program, have been criticised for not taking into account the economic handicaps of racial minorities. From 2010 to 2013, as white household wealth increased by 2.4%, the median Hispanic household was 14% worse off financially, whilst their black counterparts were 34% worse off. Defenders of Obama have argued that these discrepancies are due to the employment structure of the US and the fact that a larger proportion of non-whites are employed by industries which are more susceptible to changes in the national and global economy. But if such statistics are so conscious of race then why could the Obama administration not follow suit and enact policies that acknowledge and subsidise the obvious disadvantages of a non-white upbringing?

Obama deserves credit for his public acknowledgement of racial discrimination and for his attempts to combat it, most notably with the Fair Sentencing Act. He cannot be blamed for the rise in tensions between the police and the black community, which remains a state or county based matter despite having been brought to the national stage by the rise of social media. But ultimately he has failed to live up to the public expectations formed during his campaign and, particularly in light of the proactive attempts at race reconciliation made by his white Democratic predecessor, his presidency may be considered a failure in this respect.

Saturday Sunset from the Hot Walls

by Tony Hicks

The Middle East: violent, volatile and medieval - but why?

by Luke Farmer

The covered faces of brutal and barbaric Islamic State fighters are regularly invading our TV screens. This culture of cruelty and the increasing calls of Islam being a ‘violent’ religion, eloquently refuted by Mehdi Hasan at the Oxford Union, create conceptions of the Middle East (at least in peaceful and tolerant countries like ours) of being both backward and bloody. But, unknown to most, the central area of the Middle East, Mesopotamia, used to be anything but anarchic. It was home, according to a consensus of classical historians, to the first civilisation of mankind where the population enjoyed similar securities to those we enjoy today: food, housing and rule of law to name just a few. And so, as a result of such a paradox between the region’s past and present, it is important to ask why the Middle East has experienced such trauma.

Firstly, the tensions in the Middle East can fundamentally be traced down to religious differences. Whilst the region is dominated by Islam, with its origins lying in Saudi Arabia, tensions between the dominant denominations of Shia and Sunni cause conflict. One contemporary example is the rise of Islamic State in Iraq, able to exploit grievances of Sunni desert tribes in the North of the country against the Shia government. Recent scenes near the city of Falluja- just 50 miles from the nation’s capital- reinforce this. In footage captured by Vice News, Iraqi soldiers- recapturing the city from the same fighters we see as barbaric- were greeted with little more than disdain and distrust. And these tensions in the Middle East underpin not just tensions among the population, but between sovereign states. Current conflicts in the region act as proxy wars between the powerful countries within the region, based along religious lines. For example, the current Yemen Civil War pits a Sunni Gulf State coalition backing the Sunni government against Shia rebels supported by Shia sympathisers, such as Iran. Aggressive action by powerful players in the region hardly promotes peace and prosperity. Religion in the Middle East isn’t just religion, but a sense of community in a diverse and dangerous region- meaning it is inevitable to consider it an important factor in explaining the instability.
Religion doesn’t provide the only barrier between groups in the Middle East. Ethnic divisions are also problematic to peace, with groups such as the Kurds- whose community spans four countries from Turkey to Iran- seeking an end to suppression. Seemingly forever, this group has suffered and been suppressed, from Saddam Hussein’s massacres of them in the 80s to Turkey’s continued refusal to recognise their desire for independence- or even their ethnicity. Today, Kurdish Iraqi militias alone control territory populated by over 5 million people. This is while the Kurdish militant movement in Turkey further complicates peace processes, with the Turkish government being hostile to the idea of working with their enemies. Similarly, Israel has had rocky relations with other states in the region, epitomised by conflicts such as the Yom Kippur war 1973 against a large Arab coalition. These divisions can largely be explained by ethnicity, alongside religion. Much of the denial by both Hamas, the Palestinian government, and Likud, the Israeli Government, of the ‘two state solution’ centres on who should inhabit Palestine. But the key question is which people, Jews or Arabs, have the right to determine this?

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Review: 'Half A Sixpence'

by Daniel Hill

The summer musical at Chichester Festival Theatre was "Half A Sixpence". Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by H.G.Wells this production came with new music written by duo, Stiles and Drewe. The productions at Chichester never seem to disappoint, and this was no exception.

The actor (Charlie Stemp) in the role of Arthur Kipps was making his stage debut and he was truly exceptional. He was a "triple threat",  showing that he could singing, act and dance, with his best skill by far being dance. The fact that originally Stemp was not in the role is beyond me, and I am sure many other people who have seen this show during the summer.

The classic story of one man who is in love with a women who has just come into his life, and a women who has just return to his life from his childhood is the storyline of this musical. The storyline was executed perfectly with energy oozing from every direction.

Although the only song I knew was the finale, this didn't stop me from enjoying every other song, with even many of the new song also being popular with myself and the audience. The title song "Half a Sixpence" really opened the show with emotion and energy, with the show being closed with as much energy, but the song "Flash, Bang, Wallop".

As many other previous Chichester Theatre Productions have made it to the West End Stage, Half A Sixpence has followed. I would recommend this production, and personally, I wouldn't mind catching it again at the Nöel Coward Theatre.

Half A Sixpence is booking until 11th February 2017.

Is Profit the Purpose of Business?

by Nicholas Lemieux

When an entrepreneur starts a business, one of the major goals is focusing on generating and making a reasonable profit. Indeed, without a profit, the business will soon enough fail. However, there are some people who claim that profit is not the only purpose of business and that businesses should also focus on making a positive contribution to society and put lots of effort into their work. For decades this has been a constant debate amongst people and this essay will discuss whether or not businesses should spend most of their time making money.

There are those who say that making money is a business’s top priority. Producing an income is a major factor of a business’s success and over time there have been several companies whose main goal is to make as much money as possible, even if it means going to certain measures. There have been numerous companies who capitalise on any opportunity they come across just to make some cash. An animation studio, called Video Bringuedo has used this method by producing low-budget, direct-to-video, knock-off mockbuster animated films. Their films notably share similar properties to films made by other animation studios like Disney and Dreamworks. For example, one of their films “Ratatoing” had a plot quite similar to Pixar’s film “Ratatouille” and was clearly intended to cash in on the film’s immense success and thereby capitalise on the opportunity. While some of these films did end up resulting in the studio getting several lawsuits from the other animation studios, mainly under trademark infringement, these films, which are fairly cheap for people to buy, have succedded in generating a profit for Video Bringuedo at the expense of the genuine hard working staff at Disney and Dreamworks for example; to this day they still continue creating animated films. Another example is the British retailing group Sports Direct which has gained millions of pounds from customers around Britain, whilst around 90% of the workers there are employed on zero-hour contracts, meaning that there is no obligation for employers to offer work. Additionally, the company   fines staff heavily for late clocking on, does not award overtime for late clocking off and regularly forces staff wait unpaid for a security check at the end of shifts. Despite all of these unethical practices, Sports Direct continues to make a grand profit, which measures up to £241.4 million. One last example is agencies that offer care for the elderly. More than 700,000 people above the age of 65 rely on home help for certain activities, like washing, dressing and eating. However, while vulnerable old people pay dearly for these services, there is much evidence that confirms that these agencies tend to use rather unethical methods to make profits. Most of the carers for these agencies are employed on a zero-hour contract, which causes some of them to be poorly trained and not have enough time to carry out their duties. In turn, this has devastating consequences for the elderly, whom these agencies are supposed to be looking after, making them suffer from very poor home care. As a personal example, an elderly neighbour of mine, Dory, relies on these agencies to live properly. As a result of the poor care from these agencies, she is in hospital right now. And yet despite all of this, agencies like this continue to rake in huge amounts of money, making their owners rich at the expense of the elderly and infirm, and the staff who care for them.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Inflatable Architecture

by Zita Edwards

The Ark Nova
When someone first mentions architecture, buildings and structures what do you immediately imagine? Perhaps something concrete, rigid, precise and sharp, but definitely not inflatable. Inflatable architecture is usually perceived as novelty, choosing aesthetic over function, yet these structures are a reality. Moving away from the conventional geometric forms of modernist architecture, there has been an increase in inflatable natural forms in our cities. This freedom in design is expressed mainly through the design of temporary structures, art installations and pavilions. The opportunities these structures present are endless; the range of colours, the unique forms, the mobility, and sheer scale can all be used as an advantage. The bright eccentric colours are an asset to our cities and could completely change our skylines if we reimagine the high rise blocks as natural textile forms. Pavilions and temporary concert halls bring the community together, using structures, art and planning to alter our social interactions; one example being the Ark Nova, a concert hall sent as a gift from the Swiss to the victims from the earthquake at Fukushima. Whilst not your typical bilateral aid, this project was designed to bring the Lucerne music festival to Japan, connecting communities once again through the arts. This 500-seater concert hall was designed to be mobile, travelling between communities and offering concerts and plays. The structure is very durable and light, making it perfect for the job, and its quirky design brought warmth to the barren landscapes. 

SNL: The Trump-Clinton 1st Debate

by Rhiannon Jenkins

On September 26th, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took to the stage together for the first Presidential Debate. With a runtime of over 90 minutes, it’s understandable that a lot of people will not have watched all of it, if any. There have been highlights released and Saturday Night Live, as expected, aired a sketch featuring Alec Baldwin (Prelude to a Kiss, 30 Rock) and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Ted 2) as the two candidates. Reducing 90 minutes to just over 9, the American satire show delivered an accurate representation of both candidates from the debate; Baldwin as Trump focused on how “presidential” Trump perceives himself to be while McKinnon as Clinton couldn’t hide Clinton’s glee at how Trump was almost handing the debate to her on a silver platter thanks to his answers.

For the premier of SNL’s 42nd season, the episode in which the sketch featured, the ratings were the highest they’ve been in 8 years (Variety) and for the premier of the Clinton-Trump debate trail, the viewing figures were the highest for any presidential debate ever, beating out Carter-Reagan in 1980 (CNN). This incredible rise in viewership for the Debate itself signals a nationwide interest in the presidential election which was not even matched in the highly sensationalised and controversial Obama-Romney run in 2012, when only an average of 67 million tuned in to watch the televised opening debate (CNN).

However, it is not hard to figure out why over 84 million tuned in to watch 2016’s first debate.

Since the beginning of the campaign trail, Donald Trump has been a goldmine for satirical media outlets and online memes. His hair has been computer rendered onto cats, birds, celebrities and even the current President. His speeches have been remixed to exhaustion and his pronunciation and accent alone have provided comedians with apparently endless material. Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp are probably the most famous stars who have impersonated Trump but certainly not the only ones. These days it is hard to know what is more difficult… finding Trump’s actual policies in amongst all the jokes or seeing Trump as anything other than a joke.

As much as he makes the nation, even the world, laugh though, is there really room for a joke in the White House? According to the polls that have been churned out during the entirety of the current campaign, a lot of people want to make room for it. Trump undeniably has supporters and these people themselves have been subject to satire almost as much as he. To them, he is not a joke or source of anything but truth. Trump represents hope for a better America, a guiding light to return America to her glory days - just as his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ implies. A problem in its own right because are these glory days the era of the Klu Klux Klan, the racist group Trump’s own parents had affiliations with? Or are these days when only white males had the right to vote? Or when President Johnson hid the truth of the Vietnam War from the public, thanks to a corrupt government system? Or when legal immigrants were deported without trial in the 1920s? He may be considered a joke but the reality of Trump in the White House is not only scary - to some people, it’s life threatening.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Effect of Commercialisation On The Development of Sport.

by Jasmine Nash

Let’s rewind to 1966 when England won the first FIFA world cup. The famous and memorable image taken of the players cheering and smiling with the trophy shows no form of sponsorship other than the England logo on their plain red shirts. There were no advertisements flashing brightly above the players in the background of the arena. No extra logos anywhere, just blank white shorts covered in mud and grass.  
Almost 50 years later, Germany won the FIFA World Cup which was hosted in Rio, Brazil. The photograph taken of the team was completely different, it was planned and the players were standing in a formation and a more proper positioning than the photograph taken in 1966. As the team stand in a formation, a huge banner sprawls above the top of them, and also another across the bottom if one wasn’t enough. On each of the players shirts there are around 4 other brand’s logos and a cluster of different shapes and colours. It isn’t visible in the photograph below but billboards and aminated sidelines flash repeatedly for the viewer’s attention. Another huge difference between now and then was the prices you paid to watch a match. In 1966, the seats in the arena were priced near to nothing, in 2014 standard tickets started from £59 and went up to around £650.

The main component that has caused this dramatic change is commercialisation. FIFA members found and realised a profitable potential in football matches, and so did other sport organisations which soon followed FIFA. People watched football because it was an opportunity to be social, to feel like part of something and because they enjoyed it, whatever the reason for watching it was, didn’t matter because loads of people were watching it. This is when people realised it could make some money. The ticket prices gradually increased, matches were broadcasted on TV and sponsorships became a popular way to raise finance for facilities and coaches. The commercialisation of football particularly, introduced a whole new reason to play sport to the extent of being elite. People are aware that footballers make a lot of money just off one match and this may create issues but also creates a good opportunity for national comfort. The more money spent on improving players and facilities, the more people come together to watch matches and support their favourite team. It creates an ‘us’ and ‘them’, which builds the strong bond of being part of something and being proud of your nation. If we did not have the opportunity to come together, people may feel lonely. Perhaps some people are able to feel safe and comfortable in the majority of countries.

However, there are negative impacts of the extremity of finance among the football/sport industry. Because the players are gaining so much, they are also very vulnerable and can easily lose so much too. This creates huge pressure for the teams and individual players, and something I ask myself is, ‘is this ethical?’. The majority of footballers have to live with fame, which means little or no privacy and this can sometimes prove too much for sportsmen. For example, missing a goal in one match could contribute to the next years worth of positioning in leagues for your team. The pressure is tremendous and if you don’t perform to your best potential then you may suffer consequences as big as being kicked off the team. Commercialisation of football has created the wider audience and in conclusion has given players fame and fortune.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Technology and Narcissism

by Loren Dean

After the newest Apple release of the iPhone 7 and the launch of iOS 10, technology and social media is at the forefront of world news. Arguably it is even easier to get addicted now than ever before. 

There is no denying that the world we live in today exacerbates egotistical ideals to the extreme. The narcissistic nature of the world allows for a common every person to become an internet sensation. Let’s take the Kardashian clan as an example, shameless amounts of self-promotional skills have been dedicated to making the Kardashian sisters famous especially with the release of their new apps, becoming a celebration of the digital manifestation of narcissismTheir entire identity relies on the consumer and their self-image. This would never be possible without the extent of the media, and the control over the image you broadcast to the world.

Narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), is a real mental health problem. Sufferers feel a constant need for admiration, and have trouble empathizing, relating to or caring about other people. People with NPD feel very self-important, that they are special and that their specialness can only be perceived by peers. Although they feel superior to others, they tend to be incredibly sensitive to criticism.

If we were honest with ourselves, Social networks are actually pretty anti-social, projecting your inward thoughts onto an external screen. The ability to competently have face-to-face interactions is becoming less crucial to success within the social media world.  But only social networks enable us to create a me-centred private club. This can be exhibited by your own Facebook account. Do you share every intrinsic detail of your daily life on here? If your answer is no, you have automatically proven how you change and edit your daily life to be presented on social media; by the sheer nature of Facebook your narcissistic tendencies are heightened. Your mundane daily activities are usually excluded from your social media. This is self-obsessive, in the way that you may not have rationalised it before. In this way, Facebook, is a narcissist's dream. One can admit only one's own peer group, and nearly all comments on Facebook are supportive. If not, people can simply be un-friended.

Unsurprisingly, vanity levels have been rising for decades. Such increases pre-date social media but they have clearly exacerbated since its emergence. Needless to say, most social media users are not narcissistic. Yet, social media is to narcissists what crack is to crack addicts: the more narcissistic you are, the heavier your social media use is. Looking at this from a Freudian perspective it can be referred to as the "hedgehog dilemma". That is, humans are like hedgehogs in the winter: they need to get close to each other to cope with the cold, but they cannot get too close without hurting each other with their spines. So inherently the problem is with Social Media itself in heightening the everypersons narcissistic streak. 

So what can be done to combat this rise in online self-absorption?  A reduction in unfeasible goals would be a starting point, particularly surrounding the self-image that is without fail enhanced with Photoshop on celebrities, which leads to unrealistic pressures on society to look, talk and think a specific way. Self-image is an important aspect of co-existing in society, yet when this transfers to the narcissistic side the effects are detrimental both physically and mentally. 

Why Beauty is in The Eye of the Beholder

by Alex Lemieux

It is commonly disputed as to whether beauty has a factual definition and if people are born with a preconception as to what beauty is. Many people would say that we have a unique interpretation of what is defined as beautiful yet there is a strong consensus as to which individuals and objects are said to be beautiful. To what degree is this judgement of beauty concurred by those within the same environment and society? Are there certain qualities of personalities that define beauty or is beauty only defined by looks?

I would agree that certain objects or sights are universally defined as beautiful but this is not due to the fact we have been influenced to be drawn to it but more because of the way in which our brain has evolved and the way in which it responds to the sight. Take a sunset for example; the reason that we, as humans, find it beautiful is because the gentle orange glow we observe makes us have a feeling a safety as it is similar to a fire which was a key part of our evolution into Homo Sapiens. There is also the link with a sunset being the end of a day and the turning of a page, meaning that the troubles of our day can be metaphorically represented by the orange glow of the sky, generated by the sun, slowly becoming darkness as we let them go and start anew the next day with a fresh new sky. 
In the instance of how we view beauty in a person, there is evidence to say that each person defines beauty in their own way despite the environment or society they were brought up in although this could impact some. Researchers asked 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of same-gender fraternal twins to look at 200 faces and rate them on a scale of one to seven with one being the least attractive and seven being the most. If genes were greatly influential in our perception of beauty, the identical twins would have had similar ratings and if the environment we grew up was more influential, fraternal twins would have also answered similarly. However, the majority of twin’s results were quite different from one another, which would suggest that something else drives our perception of beauty. This drive most likely is to be our individual life experiences, exhibiting that beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder.

Despite this, it is very clear that social forces do affect our perception of physical attractiveness. For example, in the media the people that are perceived as being the most attractive tend to be tall and thin if they are female and lean and muscular if they are male. We, as a generation, have grown up with media surrounding us and so, from a young age, we have grown to view these figures as attractive due to the way that they are reported on and admired for the way they look. You also have the fact that those who are on the front covers of magazines and those who model for adverts and clothing brands are those who are socially seen as the most attractive and from a young age children are exposed to this and it is likely they will aspire to look like that, especially girls. Surely this image of what beauty is, is put to us from a young age without us realising? In fact, the modern preference for a woman’s BMI causes men to pursue women that are too thin for optimal fertility and the skinniness of them is actually putting them at a health risk. The reason for their figure is likely to be due to the social pressure to be thin and therefore ‘attractive’. 

Colombia’s Brexit Moment: Why They Said ‘No’

by Layla Link

The pollsters got it wrong again, this time in Colombia. On Oct. 2 Colombian voters rejected a peace pact with the FARC, known as the Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia, in a surprise outcome following a plebiscite that plunged the country into uncertainty. Since 1964, when government troops attacked a hamlet of rebellious communist peasants who went on to form the FARC, more than 220,000 Colombians have been killed and at least 7 million driven from their homes. However, it seems many Colombians didn’t see this deal as being that key, after 62 percent of eligible voters didnt show up, despite the President Juan Manuel Santos’, insistence that Colombians were facing the most important political decision of their lifetimes.

Colombia’s president moved quickly to try to keep alive a peace bid with Marxist rebels after the vote— throwing into doubt efforts to end half a century of rebel war and leaving both sides scrambling to plot their next moves. Both the President, who had warned there was no Plan B, and the FARC said the ceasefire announced during negotiations will continue as negotiators continue working. President Santos took a significant risk by insisting that the accord — the product of tedious, grinding negotiations with the FARC — would be valid only if Colombian voters gave their blessing. He said he would meet with Colombias opposition, led by former president and senator Álvaro Uribe, a mortal enemy of the FARC who has gained powerful new leverage over any potential attempt to rewrite the peace deal. However, one needs only look at the enormous political fallout of the UKs bombshell Brexit vote in June to appreciate how arduous it will be for Colombia to implement the unpredictable will of the people. The Colombian economy is already faltering on lower commodity prices and declining oil production.

The proposed peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government had taken nearly six years to negotiate, and it won support all over the world, including the United States, the United Nations and Pope Francis. The narrow, unexpected defeat of the deal is the latest example of a popular backlash that has bucked polling data and defied elite opinion. However, for many Colombians, the referendum was about far more than a cease-fire with the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Critics say it was far too lenient on the FARC: they long ago mutated from an agrarian militant Marxist uprising to a narco terrorist network. The deal with the rebels, became a hard sell with voters because of the terms. They included what many called a wrist-slapfor FARC commanders whose guerrilla tactics included bombings, kidnappings, murders, drug trafficking and the forced recruitment of minors. Many suffered personally from the war and were not ready to forgive the FARC — or at least not through an accord like this one.

Former president and senator Álvaro Uribe was one person who led the opposition to the accord: “We insist that corrections need to be made to respect the Constitution, not replace it,he said, calling for a national pactto rework the deal. The transitional justiceelement of the peace accord would have allowed FARC leaders to avoid prison if they fully confessed their crimes and made reparations to victims. Uribe could negotiate further however reopening the negotiations will almost certainly mean harsher terms for FARC leaders and it is hard to see FARC accepting a new deal that jails many of its members for lengthy times behind bars.

Grammar Schools: Can They Make The Cut?

by Philippa Noble

It may seem long ago, but after the pandemonium of the summer, Theresa May has taken to the stage and announced a plan for new grammar schools, provoking much discussion throughout society. A very poetic divide in the genre of arguments shows us both the head and the heart of Britain.

The general demographic of believers in grammar schools covers concerned parents, ex-pupils of grammar schools, and the middle class. Many arguments from this sector are emotional: including things such as loyalty, ambition, and their own pride of being accepted into a grammar school.

It is perfectly natural for parents to want the best for their children and, for some, supporting grammar schools is the best for them. Many have gained from attending a grammar school and the results obtained by the majority of pupils are higher than those from comprehensives.

Nevertheless, other parents believe that creating a two-tiered system (implying a separation from the academics and those that just aren’t good enough) could affect the children’s confidence and ambition in the future. I’m sure that a great deal of people would agree that branding children for life at the age of 11 leads to a sorry work ethic for the children that were marked “others”. Yet, this argument is becoming less and less relevant as, if you continue to research May’s proposal, she pushes for channels into grammar schools at ages 11, 14, and 16 to attempt to remove this labelling.

Economists have spent large amounts of time researching this topic and relaying their findings to the public through the media. Their main message denotes that grammar schools prove to be contrary to their own purpose – to improve social mobility. It has been shown that rather than improving this, the schools exacerbate the already widely split society. The tests appear to enable children from poorer backgrounds to access more academically focussed education, however, by the age of 11, children from well off backgrounds already have the upper hand due to attending private primary schools (with a better quality of education) and tutoring in the subjects they fall behind in. Grammar schools, as they stand today, cause more harm than good to society as a whole. Researchers (Adele Atkinson, Paul Gregg, and Brendon McConnell) have found that children from better-off backgrounds were almost two times as likely to attend a grammar school compared to those from poorer backgrounds with the same underlying ability (measured from Key Stage 2 test scores) – 32% of children eligible for free school meals contrasted by 60% of more well off children.

From these arguments, some could draw the conclusion that grammar schools have out-stayed their welcome – or that with some fine-tuning a better situation could be created. Many alternatives and solutions have been suggested throughout the course of this debate.