On Censoring Right Winger’s Freedom of Speech

On Censoring Right Winger’s Freedom of Speech

i is oppressed

Initially I sent this in to my uni newspaper as a letter but I don’t think they published it. Anyway I spent a bit of energy and heart on this and I haven’t written anything on this blog for a very long time. This will be the last post here. Won’t stop writing and ranting and things like that so don’t give up on me just yet. Enjoy!

I have met a lot of people who talk about freedom of speech, or freedom of expression being the most important thing. Feeling overwhelmed by their apparent silencing on the part of radical lefties and a disdain for safe spaces that exclude them. These people tend to identify as white, middle class, heterosexual and male. I try to empathise and give them a space to comfortably vent, however they don’t detect the irony that hits me like a slap in the face. When they talk about defending freedom of speech what they actually mean is the right to use hate speech – say the word nigger, be sexist, transphobic, homophobic – without criticism or fear of being ostracised. Causing offence and being offended is often dismissed as being sensitive in their minds. I have engaged in healthy debates with these men, trying to emphasise the power of language especially when you are powerless, often to the detriment of my own mental health.

I have had to compromise myself to be the nice black girl who doesn’t get offended when offensive speech is thrown down my ear canals. I understand that we are in a heated time when white men’s privileges are being challenged at an unprecedented scale but what exactly are they losing? It certainly isn’t their freedom of speech. I’ll define what I mean by white men as there is a difference between identifying as white (being of European ethnic origin) and whiteness as a supremacist power structure that still dominates and oppresses individuals and communities on a global level. The fact is that white men dominate seminar class discussions, the media and distribution of information, politics, and pretty much any and every institution within the UK and Western world. With the advent of the internet, now there are platforms in which underprivileged groups can vocally challenge them. This is a new experience for white men as the hegemonic culture is being visibly and loudly criticised and questioned. Yes there are flaws with safe spaces, exclusionary liberal politics and shutting down debates but the argument that freedom of expression is the most important thing when you come from a place in which you have never or only recently had to curb your language is ridiculous and hurtful.

I have grown up having to learn how to speak with a middle class accent in order to be taken seriously. In a culture where speaking slang or “black” is seen as unintelligent, where having an emotional response is seen as irrational and inferior as if our emotions are not important. Trauma is a lived experience and to deny its importance is to deny our humanity. I have learned to speak like a white man in order to engage with white men because if you don’t speak like them they don’t listen. I hold no grudges though, I care more about enabling empathy than political correctness. Yet to be “sensitive” means that your opinion is dismissed. It’s as if we’d rather listen to psychopaths, who lack empathy and fear, than those whose opinions have been shaped by lived experience and compassion.

Giving platform to right-wing views on the basis of equality and freedom of speech disregards the fact that we do not live in an equal society regardless of the lip-service politicians have offered recently. Our society is still operating within a framework of neo-colonialism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. To possess freedom of speech you must also possess freedom to act, which those belonging to oppressed groups still struggle for. Therefore, arguing that your right to express yourself is under attack because a bunch of millennials are crying that what you’ve said is homophobic or racist is reductive of the continuing struggle of these same lefties. Moreover if you only believe that speech can be considered harmful if it incites acts of violence is to ignore the fact that speech itself is violence. Our language is unequal and continues to oppress underprivileged groups.

The Spiked survey on censorship bases its accusation of Sussex being intolerant on the SU’s no platform policy and these freedom-of-speechers argue that this is discriminatory and exclusionary. Well as someone who experiences pain from bigoted speech, listen to me for once. If we do give hate a platform then we open the doors to a form of cruelty that dehumanises and disenfranchises those who struggle to have a voice already.

 

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/23/ppe-oxford-university-degree-that-rules-britain

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/old-boys-club-still-dominates-public-life-according-to-major-new-report-9695229.html

http://www.consented.co.uk/read/why-are-all-experts-white-middle-class-men/

 

“I’m just upset”

I have not written a word for this blog for a few months, but here I am tapping away for you. Here’s an opinion that you’ve probably seen somewhere else but written by an undergraduate history student with a cynical world view. Enjoy!

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This year has been a bit of a disappointment. A disappointment as it has been a slap in the face for many who had believed in any sense of democracy. Yet it is not the blame of the politicians who have misguided our individual rights – we are at fault. In both the UK and US, we have been led astray by fear and scapegoating. Pointing fingers at refugees and immigrants for the problems that really are the consequences of self-interested politicians and big business. It’s no wonder that campaigns fuelled by hate and fear have won in societies where politicians and the media can propagate the untruth of the evils of immigration.

Immigrants are why you don’t have a job. Immigrants are why your benefits are being cut. Immigrants are the reason the A&E are in shambles. Immigrants are why times are tough and going to be tougher. Is it mass-ignorance or delusion? We know what caused the 2008 recession and we know why recovery has been somewhat stagnant since. Yet we’ve grown increasingly xenophobic and cruel. Referring to refugees as swarms, dehumanising people because of their personal religious beliefs while allowing entitled and nepotisitc assh*les to take control and f*ck us over.

The right to vote has been abused as we have failed to inform ourselves. Misled by biased media, we have become the perfect public – falling prey to lies and hyperbole – running along chanting their headlines. Nevertheless, our disillusion is real. Feeling out of touch with the EU stems from an exhaustion at centralised governance, a loss in faith in the bureaucratic system and the difficulties of living under austerity. From the 60s, British politics has been heavily reliant on immigration policies to win the hearts of the masses, and as in the 60s it has often come from manipulatory sources. It has become a British tradition to to turn outwards and find fault rather than acknowledging the legalised corruption that has become the norm. This is not unique to the UK though.

Donald Trump was seen as an alternative to establishment politics as was Nigel Farage although both these candidates were heavily aligned with big business. For some reason, we suspended reality to choose the easy solution – it’s the Muslims, it’s the immigrants, it’s the Chinese, it’s everyone but the people responsible. We have failed to hold banks, hedge fund tycoons and property developers accountable and instead the layman tax-payer has had to cover the costs. Throughout Europe we have seen the rise of fascism and hate, falling back to our roots – how essentially great we are, but it’s them undermining what was once a great nation.

The world isn’t over. We’re in a limbo waiting to see the consequence of our actions. Our choice to vote or not. Our choice to inform ourselves or not. Our choice to laugh at the irony with a self-righteous detachment or not. Whether we surrounded ourselves with like-minded views, safely tucked away in our bubble of homogeneous thought or to debate furiously and passionately, lacking empathy and tact. Whatever we did, we are here now. Captain Hindsight never saves the day. The real question is what are you going to do now? Regardless of the sh*t results that have marred this year, are you going to take responsibility? Should we hide in our safe spaces or should we reclaim public places, fight for our right to exist as we get chopped up and stuffed in boxes? Will we lie down as they walk over us, dusting the ashes of our institutions and rights with their pockets stuffed and their safety net set up? Or will we finally hold them accountable?

You feel sad, disappointed, angry and impotent. Don’t ignore it. Do something with it.

Sources:

https://www.rt.com/uk/346342-brexit-voters-ignorance-misinformation/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/brexit-immigration-uk-freedom-movement-myths-eu-referendum-theresa-may-amber-rudd-a7393136.html

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/06/how-brexit-campaign-lied-us-and-got-away-it

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/matthew-ellery/leave-lies-remainers-need_b_12191462.html

Student predicts recession

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/01/the-ruthlessly-effective-rebranding-of-europes-new-far-right

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37640982

Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: Learning Japanese

Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: Learning Japanese

If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been in Japan for nearly a year now. Initially I thought I’d come, get some childhood curiosity out of my system and then return to the UK all fine and dandy. Overall I’ve had a pretty enlightening experience. Not that I’ve found myself through rigorous zen practice or that Eastern culture has put my neurotic Western mind into higher perspective. More that it was an experience that taught me how to be independent, to make friends and connections, to try new things and make an effort to get to know my wider community. In all honesty, I was a lazy f*~#er who did little in my first few years of university, barely studying enough to get good results in my essays and that all changed.

So I reached Japan and was compelled to learn how to communicate. When I was 15 I tried to teach myself Japanese only reaching far enough that I could say これはりんごです[kore wa ringo desu]. Five years later I revised hiragana and recalled only こんにちは [konnichiwa] and ありがとう [arigato], all said with appalling pronunciation. Joining Elementary Japanese 1 I realised that I really enjoyed studying the language, unlocking the keys to communication, learning a new writing form. I found myself studying several hours a day driven by a desperate need to improve, to engage, to communicate with the kind old ladies asking me where I was from.

I came with only the ability to read one of the syllabaries and here I am able to read and write hundreds of kanji, make basic conversation and an even greater ability to listen and understand what is being said. I love studying Japanese, I love speaking it, it’s a beautiful language that I hope I can continue learning and improving in.

So this post will be about how to get into studying Japanese, the trials and tribulations and the endless fun.

THE HISTORY

I’m a history undergraduate so I will indulge. Really though, the history of the language is fundamental in explaining why Japanese has three writing systems, katakana, hiragana and kanji.

Japanese began as a language lacking a writing system with roots either coming from continental Asian or Pacific islander settlers. A writing system was later adopted from Classical Chinese with the spread of Buddhism. Using Chinese characters both for their meaning and phonetic value, they were grammatically altered to be read as if Japanese. Earliest Japanese texts are found to be written in Classical Chinese or Kanbun which is the process of using Chinese characters to transcribe Japanese.

Around the 9th century two syllabaries, hiragana and katakana, were developed (not alphabets as different vowel sounds are attributed a character, for example ha can be written as either は or ハ). Hiragana arose as cursive abbreviation for kanji and was used primarily by women. The epic Genji Monogatari written by Murasaki Shikibu utilises hiragana and kanji. Katakana on the other hand was the product of priests in Buddhist temples, translating Chinese works into Japanese and inserting katakana beside the kanji as a mnemonic device.

The development of the Japanese writing system into a three fold kana (character) system was necessary as Japanese greatly differed from Chinese. Nowadays, Japanese utilises katakana primarily for loanwords and foreign names. Most Japanese words either use kanji or hiragana and particles are usually written in hiragana.

FIRST STEPS

Before learning any grammar I would strongly suggest learning hiragana and katakana. Do not fall back on writing Japanese out in roman characters [romaji]. Get used to writing and reading katakana and hiragana as soon as you can. Before you know it you will be writing and reading both syllabaries naturally.

If memorising is hard I suggest using memrise.com and this nifty little website in which you drag the kana to their corresponding pronunciations. From there grab a grammar book and get as much vocabulary in you as possible. I used Genki with my class and as a supplement I would read through Tae Kim’s guide. Genki is a bit pricey but Tae Kim’s resources are all available free online.

MEMORY PROBLEMS

Vocabulary is incredibly daunting. I studied French for seven years, grammar was frustrating but easy enough to make sense of, yet I could never remember any vocabulary. I found out about an application called Anki which uses SRS, or spaced repetition. It is a learning technique that uses increasing intervals of time between reviews of previously learned material. This method exploits the spacing effect of our brain in which learning is greater when spaced out over time. Memrise uses the same system as Anki but follows a game format whilst Anki functions offline. With Anki on my computer I create my own decks and add to them as I please, on my phone I use a downloadable deck. Personally I prefer Anki to Memrise but to each their own. A lot of Japanese learners, much more linguistically capable than I, actually don’t use SRS and find it difficult to keep up when you’re busy or on holiday. I can agree to that as whenever I have gone travelling I have seriously neglected any Japanese study.  Give it a go if you have a shitty memory and hate learning vocabulary as I do.

Do not be daunted by kanji! It can be frustrating and overwhelming, but try to find the fun in it. I would say that learning it as soon as you can after hiragana and katakana is a good idea. I use the website wanikani which has its first three levels free. It uses SRS and mnemonic methods to help memorise the meanings and readings. First you learn radicals, components that make up a character, then a kanji – its reading and meaning – and finally some vocabulary. In my spare time I practise writing individual kanji in one notebook with the kanji’s meaning and in another notebook I dedicate to writing down vocabulary. I then practise writing them. I still struggle to remember a lot of kanji and the proper stroke order but I enjoy writing them. There are other methods such as Heisig which uses the mnemonic system of stories. Really it is up to each individual to find a method that suits them best. As I’m a learner that benefits from writing I try to do as much hand-writing exercises.

CONSISTENCY

The first term of my year abroad I spent hours each day studying Japanese. As well as doing Genki exercises, I also signed up for Japanese Kumon course. In Kumon I received worksheets teaching me new grammar. That along with Genki helped reinforce new grammar. Whatever new grammar you learn make sure you practise using it either by writing example sentences or speaking. Get someone to proofread it, if you have no Japanese speakers nearby there are applications and websites in which you can make language exchange partners such as HelloTalk or Lang8.

I would dedicate hours a day to studying. More than just a Japanese class a day. You need to practise vocabulary and grammar everyday in order to improve. Staying motivated is difficult but keep strong! There are plateaus and peaks but keep it going and it will be worth it.

Finally, download a Japanese dictionary on your phone like ‘Japanese’ or ‘Imiwa’, if you only have a computer, websites like Jisho are incredibly useful. All three of these dictionaries have example sentences and kanji stroke order animations.

Good luck Japanese-ing !

Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: Farming, Friends and Farewells

Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: Farming, Friends and Farewells

Finally going to wrap up my winter travellings, it’s been a journey eh?

Having met Mark and asked if I could volunteer at the farmhouse he had acquired I went off to Niino, a tiny village in Hyogo. Spring was dawning yet it was still cold and smatterings of rain came and went. The house itself was gorgeous, needing a lot of work, and freezing at night. Inside was often colder than outside. I slept with two pairs of socks on, leggings, jumpers and my winter coat, sometimes gloves. Staying in a room meant huddling around a space heater, wrapped in blankets. My sleep pattern changed from late nights and 10:30am wake ups to heading to bed once black nights consumed the area and waking up around dawn. It was refreshing to have a regular sleep schedule chasing the sun. Planting seeds and potato spuds with the other volunteer. Cycling around the sparse area. In a bamboo forest behind the property was an abandoned house.  All in all, it was a beautiful place but with little to do especially if your only means of transport was a bicycle. I stayed six days and returned to Kobe to see friends a final time before returning back to university.

Continue reading “Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: Farming, Friends and Farewells”

You there

You there

You there;
Fighting the awkward stares –
I feel you.
ignoring the sugar bag
kilograms –
I feel you.
Hairy armpits
hairy legs
hair all over –
I feel you,
I caress you.
Solidarity
with the afros
the monolids
the curves
the apples, the pears –
I feel you.
The pubic hair
peeking from
the elastic –
I feel you.

I feel you
crying
crying
scared of dying
of not being loves
of not having the chance to love
of being hurt
of hurting.
Hurting yourself
hurting yourself
killing yourself
twice over –
I feel you.

The acne
the scars
the blemish
the faultless faults
the birthmark
the lumps
the fringe you hide behing
the fringe you solace in –
I feel you,

I am there
in the fringe existence
I feel the pain
I love you
I feel the love
I cry the tears
I choke
on the words
not _____
I feel your hand tighten
your clenching hug
desperate to fight
the loneliness
the melancholy
the impotency.
I feel you.
I am you.
You are me.
Alone.

There; We stare into the abyss of eyes.

Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: A Month in Kobe

Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: A Month in Kobe

It’s been an awful long time. This is part 3 of my winter/spring holiday travels and it’s only taken several months for me to find time to write about it. I apologise, but goddam, blogging is hard work.

I arrived in Kobe around midnight and wandered around the main road unable to find the hostel I would be volunteering at. I had to be fetched. I was hungry and tired and just wanted to sleep. I did just that and the following morning I was introduced to the staff, residents and work I would be required to do.

Continue reading “Adventures of Fuku-Mimi: A Month in Kobe”

When they see it, do they feel it?

I didn’t watch it

I never do

I can feel the blood

I can feel the heart

The beat

The fall off

Feet.

 

Cataclysmic shock

Through the system

The bang bang bang bang bang bang bang

Shot.

Pixelated stranger on your laptop screen

Also a stranger to me

Yet by some chance in biology

Hereditary

I am consumed by empathy

By some choice in my biology.

 

Illogical

Cruel

Madness

Outrage

What of the pain?

History hasn’t changed.

They used to gather to watch them lynches.

Now they can watch it from behind a screen.

 

Do you enjoy talking about it?

It is just some provocative fun?

A debate for now and then and then and now

And abandoned like that time you were really into Hip Hop?

 

I wake up and it burdens my heart.

I go to sleep and it darkens my dreams.

 

Somewhere a stranger was shot,

People watched it on their screens.

I could not. It would hurt too much.

Another, another, another. Child, man, woman.

 

It feels like we’ve been killed off

killing ourselves off

and life is unbearably overwhelmingly too much for us.

When we get a grip.

It’s lost.

 

They don’t see the strain in our shoulders

The tears in our eyes

The stabs in the heart

As we explain

Again again again again.

 

When they see it

Do they feel it?

 

When they hear you?

Do they see you?

When you die

Do they mourn you?