Crabbed age and youth

About five months ago, I finally got around to reading Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’, a novel about a foetus witnessing his mother and her lover’s ploy to murder his father. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I finished it with a slight bitter taste in my mouth: I couldn’t help but notice the complete and utter contempt the author seemed to aim at society; namely the youth. He seemed to blame young people for everything wrong in the western world – which is ironic, considering that every war being fought, every malnourished child, every bigot chanting on the streets is due to decisions made — or not made — by people from his, and previous generations.

Even the issues he seems to have with the young (our supposed intolerance and our apparent lack of intellectual curiosity) are in part because of his generation: the people who raised us. They are also the ones who have created this modern society that is so unequal, it can easily be infiltrated by ill-intentioned demagogues’ who preach hatred in the darkest corners of society, until that hatred rises to the top and is almost impossible to defeat. If the so called ‘grown-up’ and so called ‘rational’ generation had dealt with people’s grievances properly, instead of handing them scapegoats such as immigration, as a distraction from the real, glaring issue of neo-liberalism – my generation wouldn’t have to fight to right their wrongs.

In the book, Mr McEwan takes time out of his otherwise engaging story to call young people ‘social justice warriors’ – as if this is some kind insult, as if we should be ashamed of that. What he, and people like him don’t understand is that this new generation is proud of this association. We are proud to be known as actively fighting to make the world a safer place for everyone who inhabits it; even without the power and influence that our politicians enjoy.

The injustice we witness on a daily basis is so overwhelming, so hard to dismiss, that we have no other choice but to act. Unfortunately, due to our young age, the only weapons we have our physical bodies. So, we will march, we will shout at the top of our lungs and we will protest — until the world sees us and hears our chants — until things finally begin to change.

Image from:”Age+And+Youth”

Written by, Maureen Tuyishime

We deserve better

For many young people, and not so young people — who exist in this country that over 60 million of us self-identifying humans call home, the 21st century has brought with it a variety of shiny new inventions; most of which manage to incorporate screens into their model. Whether it’s small screens, large screens, modern screens or vintage screens, many of us just love seeing the world through a dark window that smarter people construct for us. But lately, as I’ve grown up, not just in hight and width but also in knowledge and awareness of a world larger than my own — and what as a fellow human being, I have the right to demand of it — a single question has been running through my mind: where the hell am I?

Don’t get me wrong, I love – or at the very least like — this country, and I love television and cinema; but every year that goes past, leaving in its wake an abundance of token TV shows and underdeveloped token characters, as a way of appeasing those of us asking for more inclusion — I love them a little less. Because this limited representation on our screens, of people who look like me and my sisters, and all our minority friends, goes much deeper than minority actors being denied the scale of opportunity that their white counterparts are afforded. It also shows a total lack of respect and understanding (on the part of TV and movie executives) of the fact that we too exist, we’ve always existed, and we want our stories and our experiences to be recognised. From what I’ve observed in Britain, this may perhaps be due to the insistence of executives that the only TV shows and movies the British people want to see are period ones. As a lover of history I do want to see period shows and movies, but I also want to see other things as well. For example, currently, one of my favourite TV shows is Humans; which tells the story of a group of ‘synthetic’ robots that have gained consciousness. One thing that stood out to me was the diversity of the main cast, which must have resonated with people as the show was not only well received by critics, but also by viewers: proving that it can be done; people can create well written TV shows, led in part by people who aren’t white. Additionally, a year or so ago, a TV show on the BBC, called Undercover, was bought to my attention. I was plesently surprised to discover that the central characters were a middle class black family, dealing with the unravelling of a father’s secrets and a human rights court case in America — about racism within the prison system and the morals and ethics of death penalty.

However, although I believe the British TV industry is heading (slowly) in the right direction, the film industry is unfortunately, lagging far behind. It seems determination to follow the same tired formula of period movie after period movie, or as has been the case in the last few years; awful comedies based on sitcoms that should have stayed on TV and oh yes! another Guy Ritchie geezer film. Tropes that the British people do not want, or need to see again.

We, as British people can do better, and we deserve better. I am sick and tired of watching a film whilst at the same time, anxiously waiting for that one black/ethnic-minority character to walk onto the screen. Or watching the trailer for the new Christopher Nolan film, Dunkirk; thinking to myself that the British Empire (due to it’s inability not colonise any country it came into contact with, that had a large population of black or brown people) was a place where the sun never set — at least one person of colour must have fought there. And being filled with horror, but not surprise upon discovering that yes, people of colour did fight alongside their white counterparts, but were left to die on the beaches, instead of being rescued by the British and the French. But mostly, I’m just tired of being ignored. I matter too. I hope and pray that things have changed by the time my 11-year-old sister is old enough to notice and care how (or if) we are represented on our screens.

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Written by, Maureen Tuyishime

Things will never change

Every so often, as I’m just minding my own business going about my everyday life, it suddenly hits me like an unexpected punch in the face: the world is seriously unfair. But then I realise that of course the world is unfair; it was after all created by the rich for the rich. And so far, in spite of the occasional decade or so of upheaval and short spouts of unrest, their creation has yet to fail them.

The world, as I’ve occasionally glimpsed, is a wonderful and magical place: full of both natural and manmade beauties — from the Eiffel to Niagara Falls, the Egyptian pyramids to the Grand Canyon — that I will never get to see, expect maybe in a book or on the internet: because I am poor, because I was born to two loving parents’ who can’t support my curiosity because they too are poor. If I had been born to wealthy parents’, things would be very different. The world (as so-called grown-ups like to condescendingly say to the unenthused and disenchanted youth) would be my oyster. But it’s not, and it doesn’t seem as if it ever will be. The system I was born into would never allow it. People like me, who have always lived in what can only be described as poverty, have little if any hope of ever affording a house to rent, let alone a life as an intrepid explorer, existing for the sole purpose of learning and discovering new things — whilst there’s still a functioning planet to discover — because things will never change: the world is controlled by the lovers of Capitalism, and Capitalism demands that the minds of the impoverished be still, be silent and unquestioning. Capitalism demands that our poor bodies work, aimlessly and tirelessly to fill the greedy pockets of its champions. Until they have no more use of us.

In this unfair world, the poor are forced to live and die by this: work to survive and survive to work. It’s almost as if the creators of society were so insufferably wealthy, so removed from reality, that to them the poor weren’t really people, the unlucky many didn’t have any hopes or dreams; the word aspiration wasn’t even in the vocabulary of the poor, and people like myself were simply there for their own gains. It’s our great shame as a supposedly compassionate race, that things have yet to improve. Those of us who are already at a disadvantage due to a fate of birth, are still forced into lives we hate and into jobs that suck us dry of anything that could be described as happiness or fulfilment: by governments voted in by the people to help and support, but instead, waste time and money demeaning and maligning, contributing to an environment that sees the most vulnerable members of society dismissed as being: cheats, workshy and lazy. Whereas the future rich are advised by the current rich to bide their time, to invest and collect. To in franker terms, plan to be richer. And governments all over the world don’t just allow this to happen (oh no!) they actively encourage it. In fact, they probably do this themselves — which is probably why we see examples of the greedy rich selfishly hoarding wealth and goods, to little if any consequence.

We’ve seen this many times before: from the mere slap on the wrist bankers received after their callus risk taking caused the financial meltdown of 2007/2008, to the million pound houses that stand empty in our cities because they belong to the global rich, whilst the poor are forced into unthinkably dire circumstances that government do nothing to correct: because apparently, there is a housing crisis, caused in part (might I add) by the greed and indifference of people and governments that existed before I was even born, (Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, I’m talking to you). To the landlords gleefully rubbing their hands together, as they run around buying houses, like overexcited children in a sweet shop; just so they can rent them out at ridiculous prices, whilst at the same time eyeing up a higher bidder. And then there is a type of wealthy individual (you know the sort) who, after squeezing the wealth out of a country, relocates to places like Monaco; a shameless country that doesn’t even try to hide its status as a designated land for wealthy tax dodgers. Or happily take the advice of unscrupulous accountants; divesting wads of cash to places like the Cayman Islands, to avoid paying their fair contribution — because apparently, once you’ve made your millions, society no longer exists.

Then there is the grand manipulation. The super-rich aren’t happy with their endless supply of money (no!) they want everyone else to be happy about it too. And even though we know how they achieve this — dragging their shills and mouth-pieces in the media and in the government on our TV screens 24/7, to vouch for them and for their money — nothing will be done about it, because that’s the way things are. And to rub salt into the wound, the rich have managed to convince certain poor people that eventually, through so called hard work, and through so called determination, they too can be the hoarders of the world’s wealth. For an example of this, look no further than the United States of America and the so called “American dream” an idea that I’m almost certain was created by the rich, to further control the poor. But John Steinbeck put it best: ‘Socialism never took root because in America the poor see themselves as not the exploited, but as temporary embarrassed millionaires’. This can be said for most of the world and almost all of human history.

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Written by, Maureen Tuyishime