creative writing, Identity, opinion, Suicide

Here’s to creativity… and other evils


Happy New Year 2018! Let’s raise a glass of champagne to our favourite friend, a writer’s indisputable nemesis: that heathen God of War, Creativity.

This article has been composed in honour of Kim Jonghyun – a creative genius, and an irreplaceable member of the musical world – and to mark my return to the folios of cyberspace. Certainly, it’s the only place a writer can occupy a rightful, permanent residence, unencumbered by paper and blotches of ink, nothing but the silken, seductive touch of the keypad present beneath one’s fingertips.

Creative composition, in all its forms, from the written magnum opus to the operatic masterpiece, is dominated by emotion. The hippocampus is the central point, seething regret, desire, determination, fervour – a veritable miasma of condensed emotions, each striving for control. It can be a battle to squeeze a single phrase, an iota of sound from such a pool of turbulence.  Creativity: an eternal cycle of intense joy, and crippling despair – polarised sensations, deeply intertwined. Both are essential. Both are deadly.

Creativity: it’s a brutal war against the mediocre. A spectre is present at the heart of each creation, a kernel of self-doubt which can rapidly expand, reaching gargantuan proportions if not swiftly curtailed. Call it an infection, an epidemic, an unalterable affliction. With every publication, an instantaneous flood of uncertainty oozes behind, trailing upon the throes of each exalted release. When you scrutinise each, the taint is evident – a misplaced phrase, the incorrect intonation, an unnoticed tautology. Submerged in self-disdain, almost crippled by anxiety, panting for release – yet the brain will not relinquish its hold, will not cease its urge to dissemble every painstakingly produced creation.

As artists, we are all expected to sublimate our own desires for the good of our craft. And we freely comply with these severe regulations: a silken yoke is fastened uncomplainingly around our willing wrists. Every second of every day must be accounted for, spent productively – skills must be honed, articles composed – another golden star to notch onto the wooden wall. If not, you’re condemned to spend the remainder of the evening – and most of the night – locked within a self-imposed torture, unable to escape from the venomous, repetitive internal chorus.

Leave me alone, you cry out, and the voice will respond. Leave? How can I leave? Without me, you are nothing.

The inner voice – your own, at its very ugliest – is never wrong. How can it be wrong? It’s you. Only you know the truth. Only you are privy to your innermost thoughts. Your lifelong partner, your companion until death – it’s you. Stalwart companions or violent enemies, you’re mortally bound, shackled tightly together until the last trump sounds, when you haul your complaining flesh from the throes of a concrete coffin. Bones have crumbled, resembling a glutinous dust – the jellies of your eyes are shrivelled, all plump, juicy remnants of flesh evaporated. But the brain is still present, oozing turgid clumps of neuronic transmissions, palpitating in a frenzy, picking up the last traces of thought still etched upon its coils. Ready, once again, to fasten its teeth into the meat of the soul.

The personality, as Freud observed, is tripartite. We are burdened with not only the ego, which is a vile monster in itself, but the superego, and the “id”. The id: a repulsive creature of base instincts, drunken upon the fruits of excess, and nursing within its craven bosom two entirely separate components: Eros and Thanatos. The inherited, biological components of the id battle for dominance: the hapless libido, encased beside its far more malign, sinister brother – the Reaper, stretching out its welcoming hand, oozing the promise of release.

All creative outlets demand an investment of one’s essence. This sort of relationship cannot be maintained upon an unhealthy foundation; at the first push, the slightest external impression, the structure will fall. Creativity: it cannot be forced. It must be softly coaxed from its shell, in the guise of a prone animal, offered the occasional titbit as a form of temptation. The creative part of the brain, after working itself into an orgy of anticipation, leaps forth, flinging itself headfirst into the nearest ravine at the promise of release. It has to be carefully monitored, otherwise it’ll drown itself in excess. Once unleashed, it cannot be subdued, exuding obedience, to the depths of its cage.

Neurological findings have pinpointed the true biological accelerators, aiding and abetting the creative process. Firstly, the prefrontal cortex must be thoroughly suppressed – at least, for the duration of spontaneous invention. We must lose the ability to look forward, to predict the consequences of our actions – we must be firmly anchored within the present, confined to the four walls of the left hemisphere. Woe betide you if those walls are painted black.

Another trait which must be expelled with haste: the long-term memory. Surprising, I know, but essential. We must forget what we know, and wipe away the viscous coating of past experiences, in order to form fresh realisations upon an untarnished landscape. The last is perhaps the most predictable: an absence of critical thinking. We must scrape away the last vestiges of constraint, and abandon all self-awareness, in order to achieve true creative independence.

Of course,  we cannot escape our constant companion, riding upon the coat-tails of creativity – emotionalism. As is evident – particularly within the performance world – heightened emotional activity is an arbiter of creative function. Without it, all publications lose a semblance of zest; in the area of performance, it is mandatory. Above it all, the super ego presides, conducting its behemoth orchestra without pause, whilst the rest of the soul writhes upon searing coals.

I’m not afraid of Death. I’m terrified of the Living Death – the death of the soul, the demise of ingenuity, the bright shades of invention: extinguished. And that’s my  “resolution” of 2018 – to eradicate all semblance of this from my own internal amphitheatre.

Digital revolution, opinion, Politics, Technology

Fires, fears, fake news: Just another day in the UK (beware: app teaser also included)

Today, my friends, we’ll have to welcome back the termagants of youth. We thought they were pacified by Labour’s dramatically increased majority – the lowering of tuition fees assured, they shall retreat once again into the amicable embrace of millennial apathy. Nope – c’est pas vrai! They surge once again, emerging from floods of unbottled hatred, brandishing the scythes of social media, Twitter-storms abounding in their wake. Each digital onslaught is echoed upon the planes of reality, raging rallies beside ruthless retweets: our beloved Spectator caricatures, rendered in alarming Technicolour, circulate within the propagate realms of Twitterfeed. Naturally, this week has issued a multitude of conquests. Not only have we isolated the latest bacterial strain of “fake news” – we’ve managed to tie the knot between two differing branches of activism. Digital campaigning has managed to obtain new levels of recognition, with co-founder of the YouTube centric “Novara Media”, Aaron Bastani, emerging triumphant from behind the glossy, impenetrable surface of the smartphone, making his debut before a protesting crowd championing the slogan “#MayMustGo”. In our current climate, “political affiliations” are almost akin to marriages: unwanted, costly, and frankly, rather pointless.  It is no longer necessary to be forsworn, shackled within the yoke of party policy: as of now, such urbane activities as “letter-boxing” and “street-campaigning” are considered almost futile; erstwhile neighbourhood representatives of the Labour, Green and Tory parties are few and far between. Those desperately clutching the title of “party executive/financial coordinator” to their shrivelled bosoms, whilst they rattle collection tins and batter letterboxes in an increasing bid for attention, now need to wake up and sniff the neoteric aroma of a WiFi transmission, taste the wondrous swipe of a Samsung S8 as it glides across their tongues. Let us jump from the sinking ship of the last several centuries, and instead embrace the strengthening impact of the digital revolution: online campaigning, Facebook livestreams of hustings and electoral events – all tangible, happening, now.

Almost every day, every hour of the televised run-up to the recent General Election has been speckled with prevarication.  Each article concerning our esteemed Rameses II and Nefertari (you choose) has been coated with a sticky encrustation of falsity – blatant, exorbitant sensationalism is an ever-increasing facet of the mainstream media, otherwise referred to as “scaremongering”. Most recently, certain falsehoods regarding the Grenfell Tower inferno have been brought into prominence. Two of the most odious specimens of bottom-feeder journalism have again obliged us with a few farcical examples, in honour of the election. We are, indeed, so cordially obliged.. 

It is, quite frankly, hilarious. Let’s sit back, chew on our popcorn and observe the Sun, now begging the public to ignore these “hyperbolic” rumours of their impersonation of a Grenfell Tower victim relative –  those who have unequivocally guilty of blatant sensationalism since their inception! According to these well-informed individuals, Corbyn’s all set to requisition the homes of the rich – in true Bolshevik, vodka-swigging style. Sigh.

Indeed, a stupefying number of news outlets today are scraping the much abused, beaten barrel when it comes to reporting. Those on the left seem determined to encourage recognition of the apparent “demonisation” of the working class, spread throughout the media, akin to the journalistic blitzkreig directed towards Jeremy Corbyn. A human wave attack, masquerading as a peaceful penetration? Allow consumers to put their much-squeezed brains into practice, and judge.

The Press retains power – a monopoly of social and political discourse, a rigid handling of public perception. Only from the Spectator can we obtain “better arguments” – for the “price of a cup of coffee” (that accursed adage) we are chained to a limited multitude, a bleating babble. Must we return to the confines of the intellectual wheelchair, allowing us to navigate this minefield of knowledge? No.

Which do we prefer? The carefully aligned postulations or the universal bleating of twitter? Answer: there’s absolutely no difference. All amount to speculation – may we remain Spectators, or die.

Or stay tuned, for the launch of my new app, designed to eliminate fake news once and for all, spreading enlightenment to all and sundry. OK, I know you don’t believe me yet. But just wait and see, and follow me on Twitter @CatTranfield – you’ll be the first to know.




Digital revolution, opinion, Politics, Technology

Technology is the answer: Oligopoly, ordinance or an ode to advancement?

The word “money” pulls me towards two options: run as fast as possible in the opposite direction, or surrender honourably unto poverty in the hope that it will “inspire me to aim high, and achieve better” (cited: your bomb-dodging, powdered-egg consuming grandmother). As older generations observe, from the comfort of blissful suburbia and secure retirement years ahead: “it’s character-building…one day, you will look back upon such hardships, and be grateful.” I laugh carelessly in response, and continue to watch my hard-earned salary slip between my fingers. Oh, you poor dears, your knees knocked terribly during the Cold War. At least your interest rates were also frozen.

Currency is catastrophic. Wealth is inert. It is a status symbol, a number printed on a bank statement – however, its material value will shortly be placed at naught. Money is a belief system, of little substance within our current climate. It is ephemeral, yet we prize its value. I’m not your typical butt-hurt millennial, kicking my heels and wailing: “Student debt/no home. Poor little me, I can’t get married” (I refer you to Rhiannon Cosslett: A Millennial and a Baby-boomer trade places). Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want to be a homeowner. I’d rather be a tube-hopping, couch-surfing, Spectator-reading smoker for the next ten years. All I want is the freedom to tube-hop without being launched into penury. And to devour more than three articles at a time without committing to £4.00 a month. (Damn you, Spectator. I may defect to the Telegraph. You’ve been warned.)

As a young adult, the esteemed authorities of our society seem determined to push myself and my contemporaries directly into a budget deficit, which will rage, to varying degrees, for the next several years. Being a denizen of London, one can’t step out of one’s Zone 4 domain more than twice a week without being put perennially out of pocket. Even something as fundamental as travel is not feasible, despite Sadiq Khan’s fare freeze of earlier this year. My earnings, as an entity, no longer exist as material gain: my account is an hourglass, leaking steadily, dripping kernels of self-respect and property-owner ambition to the floor. If you don’t use a contactless card (perhaps because you loathe watching those figures steadily decrease by up to 20% each week) you are forced to top up your Oyster card before each return journey. Half an hour can be squandered, squashed behind people who, amazingly, think that rush hour is a good time to update their monthly Oyster allowance with coins and cash. 

Coins? Why are these small, easily lost, inane pieces of metal not sitting behind dusty glass, in the darkest corner of a back-street London museum? As a result of the latest developments, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Monzo, you will rarely glimpse the sight of someone handing over £3.50 in change for their extortionately priced Starbucks coffee. I tend not to carry a single coin or pound note about my person. (As if I could afford the alleged luxury of the famed Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango Tea Lemonade – try saying that at twice the speed. Valuable pounds and seconds wasted.) Dear all beggars in Soho: I am unable to oblige your requests for “a bit of change”, largely due to practical reasons as opposed to the well-known miserly behaviour of the struggling student populace. Yours truly, little Miss Broke.

When observing the so-called development of British currency over the years, only one point is clear: there is absolutely no direction. The economy is stagnant across the world. Economic “growth” can instead be regarded as consistent regression; “progress” can be achieved by placing a space-age leisure centre beside a downtown slum. Salaries are decreasing, whilst working hours increase; levels of child poverty across the world are sky-rocketing – the highest levels have been found in London itself, supposedly one of the richest cities in the world. How did this happen?

According to Caitlin Moran, our society is entrenched in the past, regressive; we long to be flung, face first, back into the deluge of the twentieth century, from which we shall unearth the dull, oxidised gold snatched from the colonies; we long to don flag-printed robes and toss tea around in pride. Brexit and Trump are well-recognized examples of this: a desire to return to the fabled British Empire, to “make America great again”. Apparently, the only future that propagates change is the one perpetuated by tech firms, who, according to Moran, focus purely on commerce: “your driverless cab, your drone delivery, your wearable health-tech – it’s just about the lucrative stuff.”

Well, maybe. Those such as Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, are dishing out a similar rhetoric. Technology will condemn us to a future of false consumerism and intellectual decay. We shall be left sobbing, tossed amongst the detritus of society, prostate upon an uncultured, bleak, Brechtian landscape whilst robots patrol within our midst. The remains of our welfare state will be yanked from under us, and jobs will disappear overnight. 

No. Unfortunately for those profiting from this scare-mongering rhetoric, you’d better trade your place on the soapbox for a seat at the very back of the atrium. (We can’t have you raining all over our metal-man parade; you’ll rust the future of the human race.)  Technology may eventually become our rust-ridden saviour, our metal messiah, a mechanistic incarnation of the Second Coming. Take this from a non-partisan digital native, who is currently planning her own retirement: our automated future is neither a utopia nor a dystopia. This assertion may not contain the Moranian stamp of validity; it is, however, grounded in solid fact.

Let me throw a couple of bright tech bombs at your head. Deep Mind. Bitcoin. Bio-Bean. Floating farms. Secco.  (No – it’s not toothpaste.) We’re in the middle of a population explosion, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s not going to stop here: by 2050, there will be an estimated two billion more humanoids crawling about on our already pillaged planet. But never fear: safety is at hand, in the form of a technocratic triage. Say goodbye to your insurance premiums and your carbon footprint – coffee-powered, self-driving cars are at hand. Dreading your imminent old age? Welcome to DeepMind Health, and an extra twenty years of life. Fancy a trip into space? Your personal rocket awaits. Thanks to newly-developed asteroid-mining, you might return with a sackful of gold. Forever alone? Say hello to your new robot girlfriend. (She might condescend to touch you in that special place). Loathe your daily commute? Get ready to whizz to work, with the commercial speed of a jet airliner. Constantly forgetting your password? Your brainwaves will pick up the slack.

Here is the paradox, people. Old money: new living. Old living: new ideas. If you launch yourself into the twenty-first century shouldering left-over baggage from the twentieth, you’ll find yourself dragging your feet at every step. Sure, perhaps a fully automated economy won’t work within our current economic system. Maybe now’s the time to kick it into the backseat permanently. It’s a brave new world – if you’re gutsy enough to step into it.

If ever there was an outdated system that needed its backside kicked headlong into the future, it’s the educational institution of Britain today. For most of the 21st century, educational developments have reached an all-time low – speaking as an individual who has spent most of her life interred within the pungent, fleshy confines of the educational vulva, without suffocating upon repeated ejaculations of suppurating, futile policy alterations further denigrating the purpose of education – indeed, quite an achievement. I am one of the pulsating wounded – my brain has been truly disembowelled by the last seven years of so-called “secondary” education – luckily, I have maintained a firm grip upon the last vestiges of my sanity (so far, anyway). The education system – indeed, the National Curriculum itself – is inherently flawed. Critical thinking is speckled sparingly amongst each subject, without sufficient focus – furthermore, students today are not being taught how to innovate. They are taught patterns, akin to algorithms – for example, the theory of pie – however, they are not given access to the reasoning behind these theories; they are simply memorised, without true comprehension. Furthermore – 65% of current learning will be irrelevant within a couple of years. Sure, every process which takes a split-second to accomplish will, of course, be automated – however, innovation remains paramount. We must equip the younger generation, allowing them to approach the next singularity – in the words of my new best friend, Simon Very, it’s time to “invest in the long-term”. Now’s the moment – let’s act.






Identity, Identity politics, Politics

Dilemma of the Diaspora Darlings: #BlackisBeautiful, #TransisBeautiful – Minority Mania in its prime

The concept of identity is a vibrant one, but although currently susceptible to increasing regression, at least according to the estimable Brendan O’Neill. Certainly – he’s got a leg to stand on (an Irish, Catholic, lower middle class leg – we mustn’t forget that!).

During the “Identity politics dissected” debate at the most recent Battle of Ideas festival, O’Neill was heard to branded gender fluidity as “the weakness of identity” and named the phrase “I identify as” as both “weak and contingent”. Additionally, the concept of an “aerogender” – a newly coined term fresh from Tumblr’s ample uterus, referring to a gender dependent upon one’s surroundings/situation. According to O’Neill, this proposal is “insane”, reminiscent of a “split-personality”, indicative of the irrevocably “fragile, hollow” nature of identity. (My exaggeration detector just went off like mad.)

O’Neill’s attitude is as unhelpful and puzzling as those he criticises. By feeling the need to justify why the existence of an “aerogender” bothers him, he instead appears threatened by these freshly “ludicrous” developments in transgender politics. One is able to envisage a boa constrictor striking forth, immediately imbibed with the need to defend. Is he the white knight, mounting the brave opposition against our teenaged termagants? No. Instead he’s tilting towards the Conservative, traditionalist angle: “this is ludicrous – because I say so”, revitalising the archaic “hysteria narrative” of a bygone age – PC run amok.

“Identity politics”, as it is commonly known, is appealing to the needs of a “minority” or a “marginalised group”. It needs to exist, because our harried, put-upon society does not possess the wherewithal to address each and every concern of these minorities. In its more useful manifestations, it can be pretty darn effective: during the 1960s and 70s, “positive discrimination” allowed for certain economic gains for people of colour, particularly those unfortunate enough to be interred within the stifling, stagnant confines of that ethological horror: the “Southern state”. Now, however, doubts have been cast upon the relevance of its existence.

Currently, to our deepening sorrow, racism has become the only way to beat racism. If being “racially superior” is what gains rights and power, minorities must also prove themselves superior, in order to gain these rights. Let’s consider a black and white example (no pun intended), in which the tables are gradually being turned. White individuals are increasingly being viewed as “weak”, due to their distinct lack of melanin – that esteemed, now enviable chromosome, guaranteed to banish all quenchable “pastiness” and transform you into the much desired, glowing brown goddess. The term “strong, black woman” is now ubiquitous; “strong” and “black” are almost interchangeable within our 21st-century sociolect. Hatred begets hatred – or rather, disdain begets disdain. And how do the non-marginalised respond? Now they’re bemoaning the onset of “white guilt”, and are now compelled to deliver reparations (peruse at your own risk): Each side clinging onto their identity caps, with the tenacity of a small child embracing a much mangled teddy bear. Never was a small child so dissatisfied.

Certainly, regarding the mandatory need these days to “identify as X”, O’Neill clearly has a point. The need to impress diagnostic labels upon ourselves demonstrates our society’s fundamental need to compartmentalise. According to O’Neill, the assertive “I am” scotches all sense of fragility. However, let’s indulge our inner-grammar Nazi for a brief moment – the terms I “am” and I “identify as” are largely interchangeable; both are conditional, based upon context. What is present, exuding potential, within the core of both, it the implacable need for transformation – the desire for a metamorphosis, a transfiguration, a bid for self-advancement. For now, let’s address O’Neill’s biggest concern – the “aerogenders”. So, people feel like a change in accordance with their environment. How exactly does this entreaty pose a threat?

Transformation is the name of the game. ’Fess up to it. Although transgender and gender-fluid teens may cling desperately onto the shores of their “identity”, in the manner of a Catholic priest threatened with a condom, all of us deal in flexible identity cards, hoarding them on the sly. If it’s not your race/class/sex/religion it is instead your position, your Marxist past, your political affiliations, which are transitive. You are the esteemed “education correspondent”, the “luxury automated communist”, the “tech evangelist” or even worse, the “prime minister”. These names also smack of self-importance – another example of a “desperate need for validation”, this time discernible within a wider demographic. An unsettling number of the parental population also feel the need to include their familial status within Twitter bios, alongside their hard-earned noteworthy positions, as if to celebrate the “achievement” of succumbing to one’s biological urges. Again, this is an example of an inherent, congenital fragility – or, in the words of the venerable O’Neill, the “fragile self” in need of a “therapeutic scaffolding”. (Maybe they need to reassure themselves that two years of nappy-changing and vomit-cleaning was worth it. Either way, we don’t need to hear it.) All of us are slaves to our self-image, known to members of our youth as the “#imagegang” epidemic: the evidence is scattered, yet apparent. We are all guilty.

The gender politics advocated by our young, transgender-aware populace – e.g. the usage of the recently coined pronoun “ze” – may, at first glance, appear entirely perverse when compared with the plight of homosexual males in Chechnya. I get it. They’re complaining of a first-degree burn, whilst there are others roasting out there on the spit of their humanity. Get off that cross, kids; someone else needs the wood. As the estimable Joanna Williams  observes, dictats upon language:  “reveals the narcissism inherent in much of the current obsession with the idea of gender as a construct […]The truth about gender, […] is located not in objective reality, and definitely not in biology, but in an individual’s head. People are to be referred to as what they say they are, irrespective of all evidence to the contrary.”

Yes, Mrs Williams, perhaps narcissism is at the root. Regardless, don’t besmirch the narcissistic state – it’s not necessarily a bad thing. What’s wrong with a good, honest narcissist? Half of them are ruling the country – scratch that, the world. If transgender teens were indeed narcissistic, they would be demanding recognition each and every second. Your eight year-old daughter’s desire to hurriedly change clothes every hour is not deemed “fragile” – your small son’s penchant for Disney princess dresses is not viewed as repugnant, or as O’Neill so skilfully articulates, “a bit tragic”. Both are infant expressions of transformation, a desire to regenerate. In a similar manner, the introduction of the pronoun “ze” is by no means revolutionary. This level of disparagement is hardly expedient, nor should it be directed solely towards the “gender-fluid” youth of our society.

Journalists such as Brendan O’Neill have a pay check motivation to criticise the young, I understand. All’s fair in love and business: exaggeration is the aim of the game. But consider this: I’ve never been directly bullied. I have no issues with the gender I was assigned with at birth, when I stop to give it a passing thought. Did I incessantly long for the chance to slam The Second Sex into the face of every classmate who pronounced herself bisexual? (There were ten born every minute; you’d need the I-Spotter’s guide.)

Yes. But I abstained; my fingers stilled, albeit reluctantly, on the sword hilt.

To unequivocally deride those who campaign for social justice is to entirely disregard those who are religiously indoctrinated from birth, and consequentially deprived of knowledge: there is another way of life, in which you are not shunned for your sexuality.  They are not simply “reading a blog post and deciding ‘I feel like that too'” (O’Neill, verbatim). This assertion, whilst exuding  an unpleasant odour of paltry concern infused with arrogance, is also an entirely facile judgement. Not all of us have the good fortune to exist within a heretical, atheist-ridden world, blissfully drenched in hedonism, devoid of such nonsensical, exemplary values. Not all protestors are “Tumblrinas”. Some are facing increasing abuse, and imminent death.

I look upon our young, aerogender, “pro-ze” campaigners as the lesser of two evils. Better to raise the issue than to completely disregard it, or deny its existence. I’m not standing up for Tumblerina caterwauling – I am standing up for sexual assignment therapy in the U.S. I’m standing against the rising occurrence of transgender suicide and self-harm – now at a staggering 30% and 42% respectively. And so what if they use social media as their principal forum? Tumblr may be populated with #fandom, squealing teenaged girl diatribes and the immortal “nyan cat”; however, at certain times of need, it can be put to good use.

If I gave you a gun, or pack of hand grenades, you wouldn’t simply fling them out in all directions, and then proceed to shoot yourself in the head. Or maybe you would. However, if you were of an inquiring disposition, you might instead think: hey. What do I have in my hands? The ability to get others to respond; an indomitable Valyrian-steel sword; imbibed with the power to defend. They will listen to me, when I’m holding a gun to their head. No, I’m not comparing a Twitter feed to being shot in the conk. Perhaps a slight peppering of bullets instead. 

The mainstream media is certainly responsible for shoving a brutal spotlight onto transgender rights: articles consist of purely nonsensical assertions, circulated by anxious parents, who, blinded by false media rhetoric, believe that social media is “convincing” their darling little Tommy that he instead harbours a strong desire to become Tilda. Tumblr, circulating useful information regarding gender fluidity (aero-sexual notwithstanding), can be viewed as an alternative source of information – one of paramount importance to those unfortunate youngsters who remain interred within the tomb of fundamentalist prejudice. These aerogender fanatics may be still in their pre-operational, toddler-tantrum stage of development, but they’ll grow up soon. And they’ll come for you, trailing their social media barrage. O’Neill, you’d better start hiding. We’ll discover your tattered remnants during the next archaeological dig through Twitter.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 18.55.03Above: Final tumblr post of Leelah Alcorn, 17 years old transgender teen: 1997-2014). Just remember: unwavering, derisive indifference can culminate in an execrable end.

Older generations may regard the rise of transgender rights and visibility something that have been manifested through Beatniks – simply a lapse into classic counter-culture, easily disregarded as a “phase”. However, these young activists are also precipitating our society into shades of understanding; scrubbing away the cobwebs of self-doubt, the need for a binary gender. Certainly, those who regard themselves “gender-fluid”, transgender, or aero-sexual are coining rigid, almost absurd terms of identification – but they are present, in all their undisguised, angst-ridden, Tumblr-fuelled nonage. These ideas are gradually trickling into our present rhetoric, flitting from cyberspace, across the border to the “real world”, rootling their way into every waking mind across the world. And that makes them tangible. Their oscillation can be viewed as strength – for an idea to gain such traction, it is satisfying a lingering drought with a long-desired drenching of spring rain.

Ideas are created in response to deprivation. Every social media hashtag, each tweet proclaiming oneself as x/y/z – is comparable to peeling off a wet stocking with ease, allowing the skin beneath to breathe at last.


Greening’s Grammars: Irresolute Ideology vs. Rampant Realism

To my twelve year old self, the terms “school”, “education”, and the “Church of England” evoked instinctual obedience, abhorrence and then, finally, through a desperate struggle, a veneer of supreme indifference. Following Justine Greening’s declaration on grammar schools, and Theresa May’s Easter epistle on Anglican archaism, I am again experiencing a similar reaction, ranging from slight exasperation to untempered, fully-fledged repulsion.

Oh Jesus, you think. Here she comes, the latest millennial warrior; an avenging Amazon, emblazoned with righteous anger, determined to knock traditionalism back into the body bag of the twentieth century. The return of the grammar school: a 1960s relic, dragged into a twenty-first century environment. Perfect! Adulation for Anglicanism, dragging us further back into the antiquated realms of the nineteenth century. Why not?

So, grammar schools. What do we know?  How do we win the right to besmirch their gold-paved corridors with our plebeian soles? Apparently, your eleven-year old sprog has to pass the elusive “11-plus”: a scintillating combo of words, numbers and symbols, which supposedly affirm their “IQ” levels. Be prepared to surrender a good chunk of your salary, working-class parents: your darling Tommy, unless he’s a born genius, will have to be grilled through six months’ worth of tuition, costing on average £35 an hour. Is your wallet smarting yet? I’m not done. Then, you’ve got to factor in the cost of workbooks: an average of £8 each. Be prepared to buy up an unlimited number – they’re pumping out new editions every week (marketing. Yes, it always works).

According to Greening, and those backbenchers she hopes to impress, grammar schools will improve “social mobility”. Welcome to the havens of the secondary school system: clean, quiet, strongholds of learning. The “diamonds in the rough” or rather, the “diamonds of the classroom, twinkling IQ points”, cannot be tainted by rubbing shoulders with their inferior, low-IQ classmates – otherwise known as “the Great Unintelligence”. Never mind sticking them at the back of a classroom – let’s just chuck them out on the rubbish heap. You passed an “exam”, consisting largely of circling numbers and symbols, at the age of eleven. Congrats! Welcome aboard – you’re definitely going to succeed in life. My inner oracle confirms it.

But here’s the thing: you’re not judging kids based on their intelligence levels. You’re judging them on their ability to tick boxes and circle letters in a so-called “IQ test”, in which success usually depends upon a sizeable chunk of tutoring. Here, you’re clearly limiting yourselves to a marginalised portion of society: they’ve already got off to a good start. Average “working class” parents, who may already find it difficult to supply their children with necessary revision materials, are obviously unable to meet these terms. Those who score well in the “11 plus” are more likely to come from a privileged background: wealthier parents are clearly able to supply their tuition needs.

“Social mobility.” What’s that when it’s at home? According to “the movement of individuals, families and households from one (lower) social strata to the other”. And grammar schools will achieve this – how? Yes, you may get the odd pupil who isn’t trailing familial wealth and support behind them, but these are four-leafed clovers in a sea of un-plucked, disregarded dock leaves. The rest are discarded, flattened out before they’ve even begun. (You need to pop that bubblewrap, drag these molluscs out of their shells, and throw them in a frying pan full of East Indian, culturally diverse spices. Ding! The oven vomits up freshly-browned class warfare. That’ll soon sort them out. Social mobility: achieved.)

I am in no way discrediting the principle of examinations, at any age. Better to have a few hard whacks at eleven, than to trundle through early puberty, without any true academic axe to grind against. I’m no protective mother-bird, anxious to cushion my little sprog against failure: but as soon as high school is reached, there is no shortage of academic tomahawks, trust me. At my secondary school, the multi-cultural, St Trinian’s-esque prototype, we were stuffed into pidgeon holes as soon as we hit twelve. Streamlined teaching is a facet of secondary education; it is a common practice within our loathed comprehensives – that is, if there are any teachers available to impart this coveted knowledge.

Through the implementation of the grammar school policy, Greening is ostensibly pouring money down a sinkhole. Propping up a few more pearl-encrusted citadels of learning will not rectify a broken education system, smarting beneath a chronic lack of funds. The “academic wasteland” of the local comprehensive will remain, looming in the shadows, chock full of forlorn, lost souls, who will go to their graves with the epitaph: “here lies Fiona, the one who failed her eleven plus”.  Why not divert the splurge into our existing comprehensives? Greening is pouring an avalanche onto already crisp, fresh spring-grass, whilst parched scholastic deserts across the United Kingdom cry out for relief.

Picking grammar schools is akin to choosing a crystallised glass of Cabernet Sauvignon over a bottle of good old Pinot Grigio. It comes down to personal preference – a parent’s irrational, self-indulgent desire to retain some semblance of “choice”. Greening’s latest axiom – “ordinary working families” – is contrived in order to garner the support of the lower middle class. It is an example non-specific, generalised terminology with which the majority of the populace will identify, mistakenly believing that the state is addressing their intimate concerns – a classic vote-winner.

Is it ideologically sound? Yes. Is it realism? No.

Otherwise known as “hypnotic language”, this technique has, alas, been used with great success by certain politicians and charismatic leaders (thinking here particularly of that man with the badly-dyed cranial appendage, currently wreaking havoc in the United States). This is the nature of abuse within our misshapen political relationship – falsehoods delivered beneath the guise of love. Perfume sprinkled over garbage.

The idea of the “grammar school” is the manifestation of a desire to propagate a sequestered generation, cushioned within the insular world of “like-minded” individuals. Their success is purely case-study based and therefore, supremely reductionist: it incites instinctual trust, whilst founded upon an entirely anecdotal premise. When leafing through the obituary section of the Telegraph, you will observe the many notable, British-born individuals of the “baby-boomer” generation, many of whom are either: privileged disciples of Eton, or indigent grammar school attendees. Clearly, an entire demographic has been eclipsed: the working classes who were cast off this intermittent social-aspiration ship, now left to drown in obscurity.  5% were allowed to trickle through those hallowed halls, and soar to the heights – leaving 95% stuck on the ground, unmentioned.

Having attended four different schools throughout my childhood, each of varying positions within the hallowed league tables of the Telegraph, I consider myself a wrung-out dishcloth as far as the education system is concerned. I’ve experienced polar opposites: the good, the bad and the beastly. Private, failing, secular, non-secular. One aspect, however, has remained clear: educational attainment is not affected by institutional prestige. Whilst attending what many viewed as the worst institution in my local area, second only to Borstal, I met a variety of individuals, each of varying degrees of intelligence, each possessed with a fierce desire to learn. We were perpetually underfunded, when compared to the numerous non-secular schools in the area. Parents were constantly yanking their kids out of the school throughout Year Seven; the most common response to the frequent “Where have they gone?” apart from the obligatory “Arrested/JDC/deportation” came the oft-repeated adage: “x has gone to the Christian school/the grammar”. Teachers sucked their teeth, remarking to themselves: “She dodged a bullet, that one.”

Nevertheless, we thrived, defying societal expectations. We engaged in scholarly discourse surrounding the prevalence of domestic violence, mitosis, and how to put a condom on a banana (trust me, it’s harder than it looks). We dabbed concealer on our adolescent acne (one of the least-esteemed rites of passage), and engaged in numerous debates whilst stuck in interminable lunch queues. We shed blood, sweat and consecrated tears over Islam v. Christianity (my answer: neither), I befriended individuals who were – oh, shock horror! – different from me; I joined the debating club, the science club, the Young Chamber of Commerce. We were the guinea pigs, injected with every ejaculation sprayed from our famed, reputable teaching profession: each erratic discharge infusing us with heightened academic vigour.

Agonising? Exasperating? Hell, yes. Did I occasionally want to chuck a chair out of the window, and run screaming for the hills? You bet I did. Take the good with the bad; an inexorable firing in the comprehensive kiln can create an individual of iron-clad resilience.

Identity politics, Politics

Fast and Fascist: Our youthful despots

What is the ultimate difference between a Stalinist, totalitarian state, and the average, 21st century university campus, populated by the fluorescent-haired, bespectacled creature known as the “Tumblr feminist” or the “social justice warrior”? (A better-suited term would be social justice pariah.) The answer: one was headed by an overweight, sadistic despot, whereas the other is propagated by your average tax-evading teenaged son or daughter.

Universities possess their very own hierarchy, almost reminiscent of the blatant class warfare of the 1930s-50s, so successfully satirised by Tom Sharpe. However, we are no longer trading in old English surnames, country estates and inheritance funds (although there are, of course, exceptions to this rule) – instead, it’s an endless competition, a continuous swarm, a catwalk of connivance: the battle over who is the most racially, sexually and religiously ostracized. Step aside, Miss Universe, and welcome Miss Diverse to the stage. There is no longer a middle ground. According to O’Neill, university students have effectively transposed the “fascist model” of the 1930s; they are akin to the Brown Shirts of Hitler’s book-burning, intellectual-murdering regime, obliterating all semblance of free speech. You step into a lecture theatre; they’ll take your coat, whilst they check your white privilege. You’re pale: check. Heterosexual: check. Christian? Check. Your coat’s made of tweed? You must be middle class: check. You’ll have to dodge the flying pens and hard-backed copies of Critical Race Theory as you make for the nearest exit.

But how did this police state begin? It didn’t simply spring up overnight; it’s a product of a prolonged roasting inside a scholastic prison, in which we are condemned to boil from childhood to young adulthood. I served my sentence in a multitude of these, where I was introduced to identity politics and “social justice warriors” in all their youthful, untried, 21st century flesh. Yet I survived. I’m torn, scratched, bleeding, doubting my sexuality, ethnicity and indeed, my sanity, but I survived. How’s that for a victory?

Yes, Millennials are annoying. They’re whiny, bratty, selfie-obsessed; they spend inordinate amounts of time watching funny cat videos and tweeting under: #relationshipgoals. But we are all, to a certain extent, moulded by our environment. Repeated exposure to radiation will leave you with cancerous cells – just as constant dipping into the educational bloodbath may eventually leave you infected with AEDs (Avaricious Entitlement Disorder). According to social learning theory, we tend to reproduce behaviour displayed in our immediate environment – which for most millennials, has largely consisted of the warm, stifling, deodorant-peppered air of the high-school classroom. It sends us forth, armoured in Benjamin Zephaniah, clutching our rape kits to our educated bosoms. These are the people trawling university campuses across Britain and the U.S, armed with their fascist fanaticism. You can’t clap or whoop in order to express your appreciation; perhaps it will “trigger” a few delicate females within the audience. One cannot use the word “slave” without having their current livelihood snatched from under them before they can say “Martin Luther King”.

Such is the regurgitated result of our current education system, in all its mangled glory. Perhaps some of the blame can be directed towards those who have, arguably, helped create these mini-monsters? If you repeatedly pacify a bratty, wailing toddler, it will continue to stamp its feet and wail some more – because it knows that this works. Every single stage of our adolescent lives has been managed by an elusive, extraneous source, which is fiercely rooted within our “auspicious” education system. Some have referred to it as the “nanny state”; the oppressive, governmental influence, robbing us of our fundamental rights in a manner which is largely incongruous: “we can have sex, publicly, on Brighton beach – but we’re not allowed to smoke on it”. (Brendan O’Neill, people – talking about the real problems). Kicking these rather inane issues aside, let’s carve down to the bones.

It’s largely a matter of operant conditioning. You felt safe, secure, validated within school classrooms: each time you highlighted a so-called “minority opinion” in all its stinging fluorescence, you were rewarded with a gold star, a house point, a glowing remark on your report. English literature exams: “Jane Eyre is built largely upon colonial wealth”, “Atticus Finch is a segregationist” – tick, tick. Drag out the injustices, the more the better. Mandatory appreciation of a marginalised race every October – bang. We played the diversity card. The human resources department gets another smattering of government funds.

Two more years of gruelling advanced qualifications aren’t enough for some; instead, it is necessary to popped back into the fiery ovens of academia for a second roasting. University modules: “Empire and the Colonial: Race, Genders, Sexualities”. Let’s break out the brush of the marginalised, and flick multi-coloured drops across our whitewashed curriculum. The real squirts of knowledge and logical reasoning can only be drizzled on a university-cooked pie. Young adults must march directly from the cooking pot to the slaughterhouse, where they must pay to be eviscerated. Seated upon an intellectual throne, they are free to survey the masses, whilst aping the behaviour of their esteemed lecturers, who repeatedly cave to their demands.

Millennials are not a monolithic group. Those shaking their heads and declaiming in horror: “Jesus, this lot are our future policymakers!” – have no fear. There are tons of other young whippersnappers roaming free from the cage, already with one leg up the industry ladder; there’s more than one way to get into parliament, and university is no longer the sole option. They’re out there, people. You just need to get better at looking.


Bureaucracy or Sovereignty? Do the two coincide, or are they poles apart within the twisted, pseudo-dictatorship of our current EU?

According to a majority of Brexit campaigners, we are submerged within a system of obscurity, which is “positively Kafka-esque” according to “Brexit: The Movie”; blind and forced into subjugation beneath a faceless entity. By remaining in, we are apparently denying ourselves sovereignty, subject to restrictive quotas. We, the spire of democratic power, rise above European servitude, the sole country to instigate an Industrial Revolution, a fragment of gilded liberation.

Here’s a warning: don’t vote out intending to strike a blow for a subjugated Britain, and pull the plug on continued immigration, because the “Leave” campaign lacks a distinct policy regarding this issue. Which is viable? Deportation, or the tedious negotiation of visas and work permits? Either one would leave a gap within the market, suddenly filled with short-term vacancies – and who would fill these? You guessed right – a wave of immigrants would be triggered from outside of Europe. Work permits would be another economic burden to consider, placing further pressure upon British businesses. And here’s the real stickler: will Britain continue to be viewed as a viable centre for trade, when lacking its connections within the EU? The greater number of non-EU businesses would prefer we remain; and by opting to leave, how can we be regarded as a well-respected nation, which simply opts out once events are no longer desirable? Furthermore, opting to leave will not instigate further “control of our borders”; workers will no longer be able to travel between parts of Ireland; additionally, within the EU currently, Britain is not restricted regarding its ability to trade. We remain under prior arrangements and a prior set of tariffs; however, we are free to trade as desired. By opting out, we are prohibited from the single market, leading to increasing economic blows and a reduction of the GDP; furthermore, we will continue to lack representation, and the ability to negotiate through “Article 50”. By remaining in the EU, the possibility for renegotiation remains open; in 2012, Britain exercised this opt-out, altering certain measures within our favour. The working time directive will also be removed; jobs will vanish within IT and finance services. If the EU declares a “trade war” the economy will be threatened; by leaving, the possible dictatorship will be enhanced – instead of preserving democracy, we will be abandoning it. By exiting, we will relinquish our ability to negotiate.

The real Brexiters – the ones who aren’t Nigel Farage, who are supporters of Labour, not 50-80s closeted within seaside resorts – are experiencing similar anguish; they cannot be labelled as rabid Nationalists, nor regarded as xenophobic migrant-haters. There are “Eurosceptics” in both camps; neither have faith within the increasingly right-wing British system. Bremain supporters are caught between a sinkhole and a sewage-pit; a vote to leave would place us at Cameron’s mercy: further cuts to the NHS, a trade union crackdown; the attack on child poverty abandoned. The EU is arguably the “mediator” within this situation – a preventative measure, limiting the possibility of further Conservative extremism within the near future.