Thursday, 19 October 2017

Poem: Defining Freedom

by Honor Davis

We define freedom by chains and bars,
By locks and latches that keep us away.
We define freedom by the ability to make decisions without a breath down our necks or a tutting at our faults.
We define freedom by the very antonym of the word: barriers The barriers that people all over the world fight against for a million and one reasons, For the good, the bad, The worse, the better They fight.
These are the ones people talk of, marvel at even.
But what about the barriers inside us?
What about the ones we face that are not met with sympathy but disbelief?
What about the constant ones with blurred beginnings and no prospect of an end?

I’m talking about fear.
About crippling depression,
Or the kind of anxiety that stops us from breathing.
I’m talking about the voices,
The ones that tell us to run because there are too many variables and not enough constants I am talking about loss, Fighting to get out of bed because we miss the people we once were.
I’m talking about the horrific things running through our minds and the ear piercing silence that we are met with.
I am talking about damage, cruelty and hurt, But I am screaming for mercy.
The mercy we give ourselves,
The mercy we give others,
Mercy that doesn't come at such a high cost.
I am calling to the depths of humanity for compassion, for love and for kindness.
I am begging that you give the people that sit beside you on the train Or pass you by in the corridors, Hope.
I am pleading that you give us a reason for tomorrow.

I am telling you to redefine freedom. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Ordeal of the Unfinished Adventures: Percy F. Westerman and Angela Brazil Caption Contest

by Russell Olson

Using illustrations from the novels of Percy F. Westerman (OP  1890-94) and his contemporary, Angela Brazil, the library challenges pupils, staff and parents to a caption contest.

Library and common room spaces will be stocked with competition entry forms containing 8 illustrations (which can be viewed below) chosen to challenge your creativity. You may also request a PDF entry form by emailing 

For pupils in Year 7 and 8 please create a caption for one of the eight images.

For pupils in Year 9-13, staff members and parents, you may enter using only one image or increase the level and use two images (see the example on the entry form) to create a sequential narrative.
You may enter the competition by dropping off your entry to the Main Library or by emailing it to

Competition closes on Monday, the 27th of November. To read more about Percy F. Westerman, see PGS Archivist, John Sadden's, article in the Portmuthian

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Escaping The Closet, Overcoming My Shame | PGS Pride Talk

In 2013 Mrs Morgan was approached by the then-Year 12 Will Wallace. He had the idea for a Pride Society at PGS and wanted Mrs Morgan to help him get things off the ground. Since Will sowed those early seeds, hundreds, if not thousands, of PGS pupils have attended Pride talks on a range of subjects from gender and sexuality to race, religion and neuro-diversity.

Last week, Will came back to the school to address the society he helped create. He gave a frank and personal talk about his sometimes difficult relationship with his own sexuality, the impact of casual homophobia and the importance of love. As RuPaul says: “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?”

Review: Total War: Warhammer

by Douglas James

I remember scrolling through my YouTube subscription feed the day after my birthday on the 22nd of April 2015, and seeing what the Total War official YouTube channel had just uploaded, and just thinking, what have you done. ‘Total War: WARHAMMER - Announcement Cinematic Trailer’. Total War: Warhammer? What the hell is this?

Rewind 9-10 years and my Dad is introducing me to the ancient Rome: Total War. I played that for years. And I still do. It’s brilliant, control an ancient roman army on the battlefield, organise complicated and calculated strategies and formations, use your troops to the enemy’s advantage. Worry about your enemy’s army and composition, and if they’re not a mindless AI. Rome: Total War was a brilliant game, and really brought the Total War series to life. I’ll admit, I’ve never played Medieval: Total War or Shogun: Total War, only their sequels. I loved Rome, the custom battles where you could engage in any crazy ideas you want, quick battles where you could just rush into a battle, or a historical battle where you could learn about the past and fight off Hannibal Barca at the same time. And the imperial campaign. It was done brilliantly, play as a roman house, or family and conquer the world. If you defeat a faction, you get to play as them. In the campaign you had to manage your cities, build armies and keep your people happy.

Then Medieval II: Total War came in. I almost felt like a reskin of Rome, but with a few extra features and tweaks. The cavalry felt less powerful and manoeuvrable, but the missile infantry (and cavalry) felt more useful. The campaign was exciting as you felt as if you were an English king making a name for yourself, or by discovering America before the Spanish. The captives system was introduced, which enhanced the deeply weaved diplomacy that the game had to offer, and crusades added a bit of historical fun for those who cared. Then, in 2009 Empire: Total War came out, and shook up the series. It was more appealing to the American market, as there was a story-like campaign which saw the player go through the various stages of American colonization and revolution. Although in the British Campaign, I found it fun just to crush any American rebellion to break out. But then Napoleon: Total War was released, and the series took another turn, and started becoming very good looking. The art style was suddenly darker and emphasis on accuracy and higher graphics quality became apparent. The brilliant campaigns allowed players to relive the incredibly interesting and immersive battles of the Napoleonic era, and economy had some changes as well. You now suddenly had a lot of economic strain on wars, so you had to be careful on who you declared war against.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Photography: Unique Skies Over PGS

by Tony Hicks

BBC weather presenter Simon King said it was due to the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia dragging in tropical air and dust from the Sahara. He added that debris from forest fires in Portugal and Spain was also playing a part. The dust has caused light to be refracted and reflected in longer wavelengths, making it appear red.

The Presentation of Evil in A Clockwork Orange

by Lily Godkin

A Clockwork Orange is a unique novel in the fact that it simultaneously vividly displays extreme violence whilst encouraging the author to empathise with the perpetrator of this violence.  Anthony Burgess wrote this novel shortly after finding out that he had a terminal illness, and it was written in order to support his wife after his inevitable death, to put in place the financial means to support her, this may explain the sinister theme to the novel and the emphasis on time and its limitations, a concept even loosely referred to in the title.

Throughout the novel it is constantly made debatable whether the main character of the book, Alex, is the protagonist or the antagonist. Whilst, his actions are time and time again immoral, and he proves himself a rapist and murderer.  The reader learns to like Alex, despite Burgess graphic descriptions of his violent and remorseless acts, his articulate speech and energetic personality allows him to be a desirable character, he is cultured and intelligent, proved through him being able to speak is own created language, formed from a combination of Cockney and Russian, he has an appreciation of classical music and forms a link between the works of Beethoven and his own violent actions to stimulate himself more powerfully.

Why Choirs Are Good For You

by Eleanor Matthews

As an avid singer I have been part of choirs for as long as I can remember, but I have only recently become aware of all the benefits that provides.

Being part of a choir can be potentially therapeutic as it is proven to help boost self esteem, confidence and release muscle tension which consequently reduces stress levels. It can also be a great way to make friends and bond as recent studies have found that after taking part in just one singing class the participants felt closer to each other than those in other classes such as art.

When a choir performs, a number of chemical changes occur in the body. These changes been proven to boost mental health and well being. Singing also has chemical benefits such as producing antibodies in the blood which enhanced the immune system as proven by research carried out on a Frankfurt choir. Singing is an aerobic activity so when we sing we draw more oxygen into the blood stream. This enables us to hold our breath and also improves circulation.

Singing has many practical benefits such as engaging the creative part of your brain which can impact the subjects you choose and your creativity, highly valued in a growing number of professions. It has also been proven to increase mental alertness.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Short Story: Village Tales: The Barn Dance Bonanza

by Nina Watson

It was a chilly autumn night in Maplebottom, but the heat in the barn was positively tropical. It was a see of worn denim, checked shirts and novelty cowboy hats on the heads of all the regular Maplebottom dancers.  Susan Hornslade was stripping her willow all over the barn and Pam Turner was behind the refreshment table, as usual, handing out plates of questionable cuisine that she’d concocted. Madge Greene was subtly trying to do-si-do her way over to the chairman of the Village Council who, in turn, was quite obviously promenading very quickly away from the busybody. Fiona Port was watching on with an amused little smirk on her face as she waited for her elderberry gin to slowly take effect on the participants. The drink was sinful really, sweet as summer and deadly like no other, Fiona’s gin was known to take a toll on a person for quite a while. With such vigorous moves being thrown on the dance floor, everyone had guzzled the gin down like it was water and Fiona had felt slightly conflicted about keeping mum on the potency of her gin. Oh well, she thought, everyone was old enough to look after themselves….

“Pam. Pam. PAM!” Madge shouted from the hay bale which she was currently trying to stay upright upon. Pam, not much better, was currently gripping her husband Andrews shirt in an iron fist and trying to put one foot in front of the other all the way over to Madge’s bale. “Pam, I love you I really really do. I’m so jealous of you and I don’t know why I’m telling you that but I am. Pam it’s the jam. Ha! That rhymed, anyway I just need to tell you that your jam for the jamboree was amazing, honestly beautiful.” Madge threw her arms around Pam with such force that both women flew off the hay bale into a giggling mess on the floor. Susan, God bless Susan, was twirling gaily by herself in the middle of the barn dancing to the band who had also started to feel the gin, judging by the frequent bum notes from the banjo. Men and women were hunched lazily together slurring and stumbling and trying as hard as they can to keep their eyes open. Fiona sat with a contented smile on her face with her head resting on her palm, knowing that this years barn donate would go down in history. She couldn’t help but wonder how many attendees there would be at church tomorrow morning…

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Poetry: Utopia

by Mozhy H-Ashrafi

So much depends
on the memories of those
long forgotten.

because even in the harshest nights
when the world is crumbling to dust
and the trees tumble to ash
and lay broken
new life will one day remember
their place.

even when the fury of
a thousand army men rain down
on the innocent
and homes fall apart like
raindrops from a cloud
survivors will know to build
their shelters stronger.

even when children go hungry
and drink water others
turn their noses to
and mothers watch on as their
young wither
like a nightmare they can’t wake from
the struggles of yesterday
will fuel their searches tomorrow.

Memories cradle lessons,
and lessons cradle hope.

Photography: Sunny October Day

by Tony Hicks

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Communism: 100 Years On

by Henry Percival

Lenin addresses a crowd in St Petersburg, 1917
Depending on what calendar you follow, this month will mark 100 years since the Provisional Government fell in Russia, and the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin took over (Russia used to use the Julian calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar we use so they were always a month behind. The October revolution took place in November if you follow the Gregorian calendar.) This could perhaps be described as communism’s finest hour. The communist dynasty would last in the USSR until Boxing Day 1991. Throughout these 74 years, it would reach many more countries and start regimes which still exist to this day.

Where does the idea of communism come from? Most ideals and communist beliefs are based on Marxism. This was an ideology conceived by German sociologist Karl Marx in the mid nineteenth century. He believed in collective property and a classless society. These beliefs gained support from many people throughout the European continent, but there were no successful revolutions until the Russian Revolution.

In 1917, there were two revolutions in Russia: the February Revolution, when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and the Provisional government took over. The second was the October Revolution, when, as previously mentioned, the Bolsheviks seized power from the Provisional government. This brought an end to Russia’s involvement in the First World War (they signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk with Germany and lost land to them). But how did the Bolsheviks manage to gather enough support to overthrow the provisional government? 

One reason is their Leader, Vladimir Lenin. In his April Theses he proclaimed “Peace, Land and Bread” and “All Power to the Soviets!” This former is what the people of Russia wanted most. In the 100 years prior, there had been many reforms from various different Tsars, giving the serfs land and then taking it away from them. The Bolsheviks were superbly organised. The Red Guards, organised by the brilliant Trotsky, were well-trained and ruthless. They took over the government almost bloodlessly and almost without anyone noticing. And, finally, the Provisional government was useless. The Russian people wanted to pull out of the war, and the PG did not do this.

Why Every Classical Singer Should Sing Jazz

by Cordelia Hobbs

A year ago, I was primarily a classical singer. I sang at the Cathedral and in Chamber Choir a few times a week alongside weekly singing lessons. Then one day my singing teacher introduced me to a jazz piece that I absolutely loved and from then on my voice and love for music has improved so dramatically I felt I had to write about it.

Some choral and classical singers will turn their noses up at the scat style improvisation and label it as messy and untraditional. This musical snobbery is not well placed. In fact, this free musical style leaves room for a singer to exercise his or her inbuilt musicality. Exploring the tricks your voice is capable of, such as slides and the ability to throw the pitch around (a care in the world is definitely not obligatory) is a wonderful feeling. Often classical singing can feel like a straitjacket with technique, posture and specific notes to hit. Whilst these are important, when singing jazz these rules can often be relaxed. You can improvise and work with your accompanist much more; there’s nothing better than sitting with your accompanist when they go off on an improvised section and get lost in the music with you. As singers, we can often get very stressed with our voice not doing what we want it to do or if it sounds different to someone else’s version. But singing jazz combined with the support of classical is like falling in love with your voice all over again.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Waitrose Food Festival 2017

by Alex Porter

Back in August, on a warm but cloudy Sunday, we arrived at Leckford Estate in Hampshire to attend the Waitrose Food Festival.

This was the first year that Waitrose had held the festival, so many people came to see what was there and to look at the different types of produce on offer. As we entered the gates, the staff gave us woven bags to put any handouts and other items in. Like other festivals we were given wristbands/bracelets. There was around 40 or so different stalls selling products. My favourites were Belazu, Moorish and Dorset Cereals.

Belazu is a company that supplies oils and vinegars to high quality restaurants and now also supplies to Waitrose. The main reason why I liked this stall was that they had balsamic vinegar which had been added to algae. As soon as you tasted it, it popped in your mouth, it was weird, but still an interesting product. It is best eaten with salad, and bread with cream cheese. We decided to order a hamper with a selection of Belazu products in it.

Another exhibitor was ‘Moorish’, a dip company which smokes humous and other dips to really give them an unusual and interesting taste. I liked the ‘Original smoked humous’ the best, so we decided to buy a selection of the different ones they had on offer.

The final exhibitor that I enjoyed was ‘Dorset Cereals’. They produce a variety of cereals containing unusual oats, grains and dried fruit. I didn't buy any of the products there, although I did later buy some at my local Waitrose.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

How Did 2D Animation Die Out?

by Nicholas Lemieux

In the media community over the last few years, a question commonly brought up is: whatever happened to 2D animated movies? Once a major powerhouse in the film industry in the 90’s, today, outside of countries such as Japan, 2D animation in films and theatres is nowhere to be seen, with CGI having become the more prominent animation software. My article today will examine the downfall of 2D animation, my personal theory as to how exactly it occurred and also the theoretical possibility over whether or not it could possibly return to theatres in the near future.

Throughout the 90’s, hand-drawn films were the norm, with the Disney Renaissance at its highest peak producing hit after hit 2D films. Imitators tried to compete but could not compare. Several non-Disney films at the time, such as Quest for Camelot and Thumbelina, were all simply seen as Disney knock-offs and quickly bombed at the box office. Meanwhile, in the animation industry of TV, Nickelodeon was dominating with its brand new show Rugrats. Similar to The Simpsons or SpongeBob today, Rugrats was a massive phenomenon in the 90’s, complete with tons of publicity and merchandising. 

Capitalising on the show’s immense success, Nickelodeon tried its own hand at the film industry with 1998’s Rugrats: The Movie. This movie became the first animated film not made by Disney to gross over $100 million worldwide. Considering how much cheaper the film’s budget, $28 million, was when compared to Disney’s Mulan that year, $70 million, Rugrats: The Movie was minor financial risk returning a massive profit at the box office. As is so common in Hollywood show business, once an all-original product becomes success, many imitators will soon arise and try to cash in on the trend. After all, why try to beat Disney at their own game, putting tons of time, effort and money into your own original work, when you could just go for a simpler option of using a recognizable brand, such as for example beefing up a TV-quality cartoon for the big screen.

Following the success of Rugrats, nearly every 2D animated TV show was getting adapted to theatres. Pokémon, SpongeBob, Powerpuff Girls, South Park, Yu-Gi-Oh, two additional Rugrats sequels, the list goes on. From 1998 to 2004, 15 of these kinds of movies were released all in the span of 6 years. The quality of these movies ranged depending upon whatever effort was put into them. Some of these movies had careful input from their respective creators trying to make an enjoyable viewing experience for fans of the shows, such as South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Others were simply cheap direct-to-video TV films hastily dropped off in cinemas, such as the rather ironically named Doug’s 1st Movie. As this trend of TV movies slowly started to run out of steam, so too did the big-time dedicated hand-drawn films such as Disney.  The Disney Renaissance had ended at the dawn of the millennium, and several of their more recent films had heavily bombed. Think of your average movie goer who had been constantly scorned by these cheap TV movies in theatres. How were they to know which of these 2D films were actually made with effort and not to just rob audiences of their money?

Monday, 9 October 2017

Die Verwendung von Komödie in Goodbye Lenin

by Naeve Molho

Goodbye Lenin ist eine Tragikömodie mit vielen lustigen abschnitten und Becker zeigt es durch den Einsatz von Slapstick und Farce Komodie. Der Humor macht sich über die extreme Regel in der DDR lustig und es zeigt die Nöte die die Menschen ertrugen.

Zu beginnen finde ich die gefalschten Nachrichten sehr lustig ist weil, sie die Propaganda und extreme Methoden zeigen, die die Ostmedien benutzten.  Auch zeigt es die verspieltheit des Regisseurs, namens Becker,  und seine Haltung gegenüber dem Osten. Die Tatsache, dass der Osten Opfer der Komödie ist, zeigt uns,dass Regime so hart war, dass man die Witze braucht um die Stimmung zu verbessern. Obwohl  die Nachrichten lustig sind, sind sie genau so wie sie damals waren.  

Zusätzlich, denke ich dass der film sich über Kapitalismus und dem Westen lustig macht.  Es gibt die Szene mit seiner Schwester, die bei Burger King arbeitet.  Es ist lustig weil der Westen den östlichen Leuten Wohlstand und Chance bringen soll aber man kann nur Burger King und Coca cola sehen. Es macht sich lustig über die östlichen Menschen weil seine Schwester ist sehr glücklich und aufgeregt in Burger King zu arbeiten weil es eine neue Firma ist aber die Realität ist, dass es ein sehr schlecht bezahlter und langweiliger Beruf ist.  Becker stellt die östlichen Menschen als unintelligent und unter qualifiziert da. 

Does Strategic Bombing Hit The Spot?

by Philippa Noble

Bombing campaigns have been used in wars frequently, since World War I, and continue to be governments’ first port of call for decisive action. Strategic bombings are often used to wear down the opposition and not-so-gently persuade them to surrender. But how often does this actually work? What happens when you can’t reliably find the target? What happens when fighting styles are so different that modern technology doesn’t affect the enemy? I’m not here to pass judgement on whether or not bombings in wartime are moral or justified (I’m sure you all have strong views on that matter), just to evaluate how effective strategic bombings actually are.

My first example is likely viewed as a matter of national pride. Bombings of this type were prevalent in WWII with instances occurring in Hamburg, Berlin, and London, to name a few. For example, during 1940 and 1941 London suffered under the Blitz, the most severe period involving 76 consecutive nights of German Luftwaffe strikes on the city, resulting in over 20,000 deaths. In Hamburg, the city was bombed beyond recognition in the last week of July 1943. 42,600 people died and 37,000 were injured because of this. Both events appear suitably atrocious that any country suffering at the hand of this would surrender immediately, no? Yet both Britain and Germany persevered through bombings like these and the war continued for another two years. Here, bombings were ineffective as both sides used them against each other, which limited the extreme effects on the other as it became normal and a fact of war. Nevertheless, another example from WWII shows how bombings can be successful at attaining a victory. Campaigns against Japan led by US aircraft eventually led to Japan’s surrender and exit of the war. The most deadly bombings of WWII targeted Tokyo over the span of a year, killing more than 100,000 civilians. Despite this, Japan continued fighting the war. However, the final hits against Japan were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th August 1945. The use of nuclear weapons and the sheer scale of horror and destruction seen in only a span of four days caused a near immediate surrender from Japan on the 15th August 1945 – aiding the allied war effort in winning WWII. So while regular bombings with varying levels of casualties soon became the norm and ineffective, the horror of the nuclear option (that has never been used since) was extremely effective due to the shock and loss of life it caused.

Whilst looking at stationary targets may be easier from the perspective of those who use bombing campaigns, many such campaigns nowadays are focused on mobile, integrated targets. For instance: Syria. US campaigns began in September 2014, with Russia and the UK joining a year later in 2015. Despite the pretence of an allied force, only 10% of Russian airstrikes were against ISIS targets, with the majority falling on anti-Assad groups. This created a confused message that only helped to complicate the web of the Syrian Civil War further. Coalition airstrikes have been described as key in preventing ISIS from taking strategic points (such as the retaking of Kobani in January 2015), yet their success has been limited as their targets are often living amongst civilians. Between July and December in 2015, 692 raids were related to Syria with land only gained in Hasakah and Kobani (not in Deir Ez-Zor or Raqqa). Unfortunately, as targets are often hidden or in civilian areas, effective bombing campaigns rely heavily on good intelligence, which is difficult to get. When this goes wrong, civilian casualties can be high and ultimately pointless with no “greater good” outcome. This may remind you all of 2015, yet, as I type, the civil war that started in 2011 continues, having surpassed an estimate of 321,000 civilian deaths in March this year. Airstrikes carry on from Russia, the US, and the UK with no signs of the war being won by any side. Syria stands to prove that even years of strategic bombings can be deemed useless in complicated situations with multiple sides and no clear targets.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Photography: A Touch of Autumn at PGS

by Tony Hicks

Should the Legal Age of Employment be Lowered?

by William Northeast

Children can start full time work when they're 16, and the minimum age for part-time work is 13. However it is becoming exceedingly difficult for the younger generation to become employed. Most jobs are under laws which state that they cannot employ under the age of 16. Furthermore, under the age of 16, children are permitted to 12 hours a week which means employees find it easier to employ above the legal age as workers are not restricted as to how many hours they work. I myself believe that we should be allowed to work and that is unfair that we do not have these opportunities because of modern society.

There are numerous reasons why working would benefit the younger generation. For one, it develops one’s independence. Jobs require you to be responsible and solve decisions and problems under pressure and autonomously.  They also expect a certain matter of maturity. Working also teaches you to build relationships with colleagues and how to work collaboratively. This is why having a day to day job evolves one’s self reliance.

Moreover, children learn to be wise with their earnings. Before, we used to rely on our parents as our source of income possibly with a monthly allowance or pocket money. But as soon as one begins to earn their own wage, it teaches one the true value of money and the cost of living. One learns to appreciate what they earn and to not be brash with their spending. In addition, you build real life skills that will not only help you throughout life, but also increase your chance of employment in the future. While education and experience may make you eligible for applying for a job, an employer will want someone that is different from the hundreds of candidates that walk through the company's doors. Soft, hard, leadership and creativity skills are all attributes an employer will search for. These, along with other skills, can be developed through having a job when you're younger and can enhance your curriculum vitae. Jobs also teach you to be punctual and manage your time efficiently. I believe this is really important for the younger generation as it prepares you well for life as well as teaching one to balance school life with social life.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Photograph: Harvest Moon

by Tony Hicks

This image was included on BBC Autumnwatch's top 10 images of the harvest moon:

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Film: Paving the Path for Peace

by Sienna Bentley

Global ignorance and paving the path for peace

North Korean citizens do not have freedom of speech like the people I interviewed, like everyone you know. They know not of the luxuries of the West, or even anything outside of their country itself. Rice is a luxury in a country still reeling from the famine of the 1990s. To speak openly in North Korea and in other countries dealing with oppressive regimes would likely cost the citizens a great deal. It can be hard for people here to accept their own ignorance. I wanted to emphasise the events that happen elsewhere that others may not be aware of, through the process of showing them how beautiful life can be, subsequently yet soberly reminding us that there are others out there whose lives aren’t as positive, through no fault of their own. I began with the question, ‘what’s the worst thing about the world?’, and finished on some of our favourite aspects to hone in on the fact that there will always be positives and negatives in life, and that it is down to us to try and improve the quality of life for others as well as ourselves. It is intriguing to see different answers from different people, and it reminded me as an artist that if everyone put their heads together and started loving each other, we can achieve anything we want.

Institutional media promoting a specific political agenda infiltrates the lives of millions worldwide whether or not it is noticed, accepted or encouraged. People tend to believe almost everything they hear, read and watch on the news and this propagandising is everywhere with little alternative. Every magazine or newspaper, radio, news channel and commercial will contain some element of propaganda and it could even be argued that the mainstream media is the real purveyor of ‘fake news’, in order to generate more views, more confusion and control our thoughts by creating false narratives; we see and hear both true and false stories which make us fear each other and ourselves. While the media regularly reports on disastrous events around the world that the wider population should be made aware of like terrorism, the Syrian refugee crisis or the Yemen famine, scaremongering and making the majority believe that the world is beyond salvation keeps them under control. In fact, the world is definitely salvageable, with there being enough food in the world for every person to be full; the world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. It begs the question why those with significant platforms do not raise this into question and demand that something be done for those who are living in poverty or starving all across the globe.

Humanity is so preoccupied by and obsessed with the media that has such a huge impact on us and that projects such negativity into the world that we do fear each other, when in reality as stated in the film, “if we treated each other with kindness […] the chain reaction would be huge and the whole world would change.” The media in the US for example is so negativity-dominated that it’s no wonder gun control is such a controversial issue, with around half of the total number of households in the country owning a firearm. Of course, national disarmament is particularly difficult to achieve; it would be an incredibly arduous process, trying to make just under 63 million households dispose of all their firearms. Not only this, but amending the Constitution is also a considerable challenge, needing two thirds of Congress and three quarters of all states to agree to ratify the 2nd Amendment. But arguably it is the media that drives American citizens to believe they need to own a gun to protect themselves in the first place. Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries. In a 1999 ABC News/Washington Post poll, 26% of respondents specified protection as being the primary reason for owning a gun and by 2013 that percentage had increased to 48%. More recently, the 2015 National Firearms Survey (NFS) saw 63% of respondents indicating “protection against people” as a primary reason for owning a firearm. More than two thirds of killings in the United States are firearm homicides and the constant reporting of these in the media is perhaps what prompts more people to own a gun for protection purposes.

It can appear that the only stories reported in the media are the awful events and that the media rarely concentrates on the good news, inevitably having a drastic impact on its audience who consumes many forms of online media daily. According to a new report by ZenithOptimedia, “on average, people spend more than 490 minutes of their day with some sort of media”, so naturally it is going to affect them at least slightly, often leading to thoughts of hopelessness that the world has any chance of thriving on a global level. While a lot of what the media reports on the news is in fact true, informing the western world of disasters on the other side such as the Yemen famine, the six-plus year conflict in Syria or the atrocities of North Korea, people rarely feel as though they can do anything about it, because perhaps they feel their voice is insignificant, or perhaps because surely it is too far away for it to have any real effect on them? But change starts with the individual. If one lives their whole life in fear of change, in fear of the people around them and in fear of what other people think of them, the world will get little to nowhere with improving, and humanity will remain the same. But if there is something you care about, fight for it. America has been at war 92% of its history and in reality, what has that achieved?

It is certainly easy in Western culture to turn a blind eye to things that happen in countries far away from us, but it is imperative that we try not to do so. The issues in North and South Korea resonate strongly with me personally, largely from reading the memoir Escape from Camp 14 and it was this book and further research into the Korean societies that makes me aspire to a career in human rights. It is unfathomable to me that humanity is willing to treat others in the way they do to this day. Korea is a country where no citizen can truly be themselves; whether that is in the North where they are heavily oppressed or in the South where they are living in an almost brutally extreme capitalist society. Today, North Korea run complete control districts within their regime: no-exit prison labour camps (visible on Google Maps) in which three generations of a family are sent if one member steps ‘out of line’. The true story of Escape from Camp 14 describes the life of Shin, the only person to ever escape and survive one of these camps and his struggles as a prisoner, not to mention his continuous struggles adapting to life as a free man in the South. Within only the first couple of chapters a harrowing story of a 6 year old girl is relayed; a 6 year old girl was clubbed to death by her school teacher for pocketing a few grains of corn. Still reeling from the 1990s famine that killed over 3 million North Koreans (around 13% of the total population), children in these camps eat bark they’ve picked off trees. One of Shin’s personal favourite pastimes was catching and roasting rats. Rice is a luxury that is almost unheard of. And despite neighbouring a next-door dictatorship, only 3% of South Korean voters deemed North Korea a primary concern during the 2007 presidential election. The book describes South Korea as a “success-obsessed, status-conscious, education-crazed culture” that “even South Koreans themselves struggle mightily to fit into” (B. Harden, 2012, p201) and it was revealed that their primary interest was in making higher salaries, just one indicator that South Korean citizens are desperate to climb higher and desperate not to fall behind in such a merciless society, with the highest rates of suicides in developed countries (p201). With even South Korea seemingly unbothered by the atrocities committed by their neighbour, it is apparent that the rest of the world is simply willing to let the ‘problem’ of North Korea lie. In order to combat a problem there must be widespread awareness and quite frankly not enough people are aware of the situation in North Korea to the extent that they should be. Even having discussed media-obsession, the oppression of North Korean citizens is not something that is actively talked about and therefore does not resonate with those from the West. For a country that is on the news regularly, North Korea remains a mystery to much of the rest of the world. When you think of North Korea, what do you think of? Kim Jong-un and nuclear warfare? There is so much more going on than that. I suppose it could be argued that it is the threat of a nuclear deterrent that prevents action against the human rights violations in the North, however, instead of scaremongering us into believing that we are going to be nuked in the near distant future because, as it stands it remains pretty unlikely, educating about their civilian life and trying to find solutions should be higher on the media’s agenda since so much of it is consumed on a daily basis. It is difficult to find out so much about the ins and outs of North Korean society unless you talk to a defector yourself, because entry is kept so tight and those who are allowed in are followed by “minders”, who give them ‘tours’ and show them only what the government wants them to see and if one tries to overstep this boundary they will likely be imprisoned or detained.

It can be argued that South Korea acts as a microcosm for the rest of the world, full of people whose survival is based on climbing higher. Are we ignorant to moral principles because we live in a society that accepts excessive greed as a normal condition of human nature? Or do we just not feel educated or informed enough to take action against atrocities happening just out of our reach?
The truth is, the idea that governments can legally involve themselves in the ways in which other countries or states treat their own citizens is a relatively recent novelty when it comes to international relations, only really developing over the course of the 20th century and after the second war. It is stated in the preface to The Lawful Rights of Mankind, “down to the end of the second world war, it was a matter of universally accepted doctrine in international affairs that how a state treated its own citizens was a matter entirely for its own sovereign determination, and not the legitimate concern of anyone outside its own frontiers.” (P. Sieghart, 1985) This then almost justifies the reason for global ignorance (but not quite); it has been indoctrinated into human nature that the affairs of a country different to our own is not our concern, it has never been particularly natural to the individual to worry for someone they have never met. However, this is beginning to change, and people are beginning to take more of an interest in global affairs. People in over 60 countries have protested Trump with the Women’s March, fighting for women’s rights in a country that is not their own. Of course, this is not going to necessarily lead to world peace, but it is a step in the right direction.
But there is still a long way to go.

In the meantime, we are so obsessed with the aforementioned media and our phones that we forget to focus on the good things we do have in our lives, when we are constantly being bombarded with the negative. As stated before, we spend over 8 hours on some form of media in a day, and with a figure like that it’s no wonder we have forgotten how beautiful the world can be. People have stopped noticing the little things that perhaps used to bring them joy. Personally for me, it makes me really happy when I’m on the bus and I see the driver wave to other bus drivers upon passing. There are little bits of goodness everywhere but it is just noticing them that appear to be difficult in recent years, as we are constantly longing to be somewhere else. One must learn to appreciate what they have, because you don’t realise what a good thing you had until it’s gone. Laugh with friends; breathe in the fresh air from the trees. Swim in the freezing sea and watch the sunset. Try and take it in without taking a photograph.


Oxfam Canada “There is enough food to feed the world” Available here:

Preidt, R. “How U.S. gun deaths compare to other countries” CBS News (February 2016). Available here:

Harden, B. (2012) Escape from Camp 14

Clapham, A. (2015) Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction

Sieghart, P. (1985) the Lawful Rights of Mankind: Introduction to the International Legal Code of Human Rights

When “Something Must Be Done!” Just Isn’t Good Enough

by Georgia McKirgan

The curse of our age is the fact that public debate is driven by what people ‘feel’ rather than rational argument and facts. There are many examples, from Brexit, to Trump where the result has been driven by an emotional ‘feeling’ rather than a rational analysis of the facts on both sides of the arguments. While there are many examples of this, the one I would like to focus on is the contemporary political response to climate change. In this, I am influenced by the work of the political scientist Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus project. Amongst people of my generation, climate change is often cited as one of the most important challenges facing mankind. The work of Lomborg and his colleagues looks at a range of challenges facing the world like poverty, famine, disease and climate change and takes a cost/benefit approach to analyse different policy responses. In terms of return on investment, measures to tackle climate change come at the bottom of the list. One dollar spent on subsidising renewable energy will bring rewards of three cents. Compared to this, one dollar spend tackling communicable deceases in the developing world will will bring eleven dollars of benefit.

People in the developed world, do not face a significant risk from communicable diseases but climate change strikes people like us as a potentially catastrophic threat. Most scientists agree however, that while man-made climate change is real, the net effect of climate change will be positive for at least the next 50 years before the effects become negative overall. Despite this, there is an overwhelming desire in developed countries that “something must be done”. The only short term policy solution offered is to subsidise renewable energy and tax fossil fuels and once these policies are implemented, voters get the psychological income of feeling that they are making a difference. They feel ‘good’ about themselves. They feel like virtuous, responsible people who are doing something for the world and future generations. As the amount spent subsidising renewable energy has gone up, the amount spent on aid to developing countries to address problems like poverty, disease and lack of education have been cut in half in real terms since the 1970s. From a rational perspective, the money spent as a result of political choices in developed countries is spent in a way that makes voters feel good about themselves rather than actually making the biggest difference to the lives of the greatest number of people.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Highwaymen: Chapter One

by Julian Davis

So I said to him, never mind the second date, what are we gonna do tonight?” Joanna laconically replied, chucking a pack of macaroni cheese into the trolley, as she surveyed the supermarket. Her friend, Marisa, hurried along behind, also chucking a macaroni and cheese, as she eagerly absorbed the devilish tale.
“So, what did you do next?”
“Well skip a few hours ahead and I had sent him on his way, gawking to his car, almost caused an accident,” she cheekily winked, “as I always say, darling, always leave them wanting more.” 
Marisa giggled at this exhilarating climax. “Wow, you really are something Joanna, I wish I was single like you; my husband's terribly dull.”

As Joanna began to reply, a loud shot split the air as two masked robbers burst through the door. The store erupted in panic, as one announced himself, “Right, everyone get on the ground, and there'll be no trouble. We are robbing this store, we are taking all your wallets, we are taking all the money, and if everyone stays calm, it will all be all right.” 
The speaker moved into view, appearing as if a warrior from hell. He was clad in darkness, black leather snaking round his obsidian body, black gloves and strong black boots. Of his fearsome face, his eyes were covered by dark shades, resting below an enormous bright crimson bandana. He seemed a modern pirate, come to pillage their humble utopia.

His companion, dressed almost identically, now hurtled towards the people, herding the whimpering, quivering crowd like cattle, lining them up against the wall before demanding their wallets and prized possessions. The speaker strode nonchalantly around the supermarket, twirling his shotgun and whistling a jaunty tune. 

The silent one then moved on to the register, meticulously emptying it before signaling the speaker, who turned to the line of people, soaking in the plethora of different emotions, a poignant mix of fear and hostility. 

Holodomor: Stalin’s Worst Abuse of Power

by Mia Austin

Stalin abused power in many ways through out his rule, from his Red Terror to his disregard for the lives of his soldiers in World War Two.

Arguably, however, his actions in Ukraine were his worst abuse of power; he had the ability to solve an issue but denied the aid needed and manipulated the situation, indeed setting in motion events that led to the famine. Holodomor is now officially recognized as an act of genocide; Stalin caused the famine in Ukraine through his policy of collectivization, dekulakisation, and his assertion of control over the state.

Collectivisation is the Soviet system of land management that Stalin supported. It resulted in the seizure of all privately owned farmlands and livestock. This was significant in Ukraine, where 80 percent of the people were traditional village farmers, and so it caused protests and a loss of incentive for working, because at least when it was your own farm you would be inspired to work for yourself.  

His other policy of De-kulakisation also had a significant impact. ‘Kulaks’ were a class of successful wealthy farmers, owning 24 or more acres, or had employed farm workers. And so would have the biggest issue with the policy of collectivization. By creating the policy of dekulakistaion, which persecuted the Kulaks- using them as scapegoats for economic issues and his demoting of them in society - he could avoid opposition, even sending some to gulags or killing them. By getting rid of the Kulaks, he was getting rid of the most successful farmers who knew the most successful farming methods, therefore making the farming of crops more inefficient and limiting food crop production.  Stalin used dekulakisation as a method of control, labelling anyone, who refused to participate in the compulsory collectivization system as a Kulak and deporting them.

Stalin’s intrusion into Ukranians' farming life led to violent protest, with people burning their own homes rather than surrendering them to the USSR, causing a loss of resources for the people and equipment for farming. Protest through rebellion, for example taking back property from the collectives or even assassinating local soviet authorities, caused the famine as it put them in direct conflict with the power and authority of Joseph Stalin, causing violent militaristic response, killing uncooperative farmers. This caused Holodomor as the Ukrainians' earlier surge for independence with this rebellion shows that it was already an unstable state and therefore Stalin would be more likely to have an extreme reaction as he already felt threatened by rebellion and reaction.

Canine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

by Alex Lemieux

Last week, during my general studies session, I came across an article on how dogs can have obsessive compulsive disorder suggesting that the minds of humans and canines are more closely linked than once thought. I was intrigued to know more about how a disorder we commonly associate with humans can be translated into a disorder in dogs.

Many of the behaviors that suggest a dog has OCD are behaviors that any dog owner would consider ‘normal’ whilst in humans, we would find the behaviors odd and unusual, demonstrating the difficulty in diagnosing a dog in comparison to a human. With dogs, a trait such as chasing its tail would not raise any concerns but in actual fact, if this behaviour was performed regularly in abnormal situations, and most importantly when the dog is alone, it could suggest the presence of a compulsive disorder. The reason for this is that some dogs will pick up on how certain behaviors attract attention and so they will perform these in order to gain your attention. This is similar to how young children will repeatedly kick and scream when they do not get their own way as they know it will get their parents' attention, indicating how a dog's mind is similar to a human's.

Other behaviors that may be exhibited include spinning, light chasing and sucking a body part which each could be considered ordinary but the circumstances are what indicate a possible disorder. An alternative reason for a dog's behavior could simply be the breed of the dog. Certain breeds are predisposed hereditarily to certain compulsive behaviors so in some cases there is no link to a compulsive disorder. An example would be how Labrador Retrievers commonly exhibit oral compulsive behaviors such as pica, whereby they are driven to pick up any object and eat it, or how Doberman Pinschers are well known for flank sucking which can occur for long periods of time. This does not prove that the reason for the behavior is due to the breed but it suggests that it's likely.

One of the main causes of compulsive disorders is stress from being abused or witnessing violence as dogs will then use a normal behavior in order to relieve the stress. This is because each stressful event a dog encounters causes a release of neurotransmitters involved with the stress response which may lead to the dog performing a normal behavior as a response as it may reduce the number of neurotransmitters. If a dog experiences violent acts on a regular basis they will turn to the same behavior each time and for some dogs, this behavior becomes ritualized and repetitive because of the intense reward that is associated —reduction of the physiologic feeling of stress or frustration. This is very similar to how a human will deal with a stressful event as most people have a certain coping strategy they use whenever they start to get anxious. As seen in dogs, not everyone uses the same strategy and techniques do vary showing how the human mind is again similar to a dog’s mind.

The Road Less Travelled

by Isabelle Sambles

45.5 million people use the road each day in the UK. With this statistic in mind and in light of the headmaster's recent choice for his address in the Whole School Assembly, I decided, as the budding civil engineer that I am, to look into the challenges that occur in African countries when they decide to construct roads, and what unconventional concepts can be used.

The first material I researched was tarmac. It is found on almost all of the roads in Britain, and is used because it is long-lasting and doesn’t pick up mud or dust so it is good for the cars. Tarmac is made from tar-grouted macadam, bituminous surface treatments, and modern asphalt concrete and is created at very hot temperatures; due to it containing a substances derived from crude oil, especially bitumen, which is comprised of large molecules, it means that is not very volatile and is very viscous. Thus, once it cools, it will solidify and can withstand the road traffic. However, it is a black material, thus absorbing a lot of thermal radiation. This means that the tarmac will get hot very easily and, once it exceeds 50 degrees, it will start to melt and thus, in the temperatures of the African sun this would not be the best material to use. Furthermore, there is no need for it to have as large of a tensile stress as people do not use the road as frequently.

Before tarmac, concrete was used. Concrete is created in a similar manner; mixing cement, water and crushed rock and sand, the cement binds everything together. Once dry, it can withstand cars and traffic. However, it is more prone to cracking and breaking than tarmac which is why it was replaced.

A more common material used in Africa is laterite, which forms dirt roads. These roads contain a lot of clay which becomes very hard in the dry seasons; however, when wet it can become very slippery and hard to drive on. Therefore, knowing that it rains a lot, especially in the more southern parts of Africa, it is not the best idea to build roads out of this material due to the amount of rainfall they get.

A material which may be better suited might be a bituminous surface. These are used in a lot of developed countries on low-traffic roads, and would be suitable for the roads in Africa. You could use a thin membrane surface: an oil-treated aggregate (coarse particulate material used in construction) which is laid upon a gravel road bed. This will reduce mud and gravel problems. The only issue with this type of surface is that if there is over application of emulsion it can create a slippery surface when wet and the road will “bubble” in the heat.