Thursday, 23 February 2012

1.4 Billion Reasons Review

Photo: Howard Lake

Twenty five percent of the world's population are living in extreme poverty. That's 1.4 billion people living on less that $1.25 a day. 

These are the shocking figures brought to the fore by the Global Poverty Project and its multi-media presentation called 1.4 Billion Reasons. The University of Lincoln's Article 25 Society recently brought Richard Blakesley in to explain all about it. Mr Blakesley works with the Global Poverty Project and has had an active involvement in movements for social justice based around education, campaigning and advocacy for the past twenty five years.

Mr Blakesley started the presentation by asking the question:
 “What is extreme poverty?”
He went on to explain that it involves living on less than $1.25 a day. That small sum of money has to cover vital living expenses such as food and water, as well as things like education, travel costs and health care. He then portrayed a scenario a parent living in extreme poverty might have to deal with explaining that if a mother's child falls ill one day, they would have to make the decision to either eat or get health care. 

A potential life or death decision. 

He then touched on the inequalities of the world saying “There's enough food in the world to feed everybody yet every night over one billion go to bed hungry”.

Mr Blakesley also posed a question to the audience. He said: 
“If twenty five percent of the world's population live in extreme poverty then, how do we get it down to zero?” 
The audience came up with some very respectable answers such as “Cancellation of third world debt”, “More support from richer countries” and “More international aid”. The latter solution of more aid sparked a short debate between Mr Blakesley and a member of the audience revolving around the conception that aid is only helpful if its handled in the right way by the right people.

According to Mr Blakesley however, there are certain barriers which are preventing us from ending extreme poverty around the world. He cited corruption in governments as a major barrier and in particular the extraction of resources. 

He gave Teodorin Obiang, the agriculture minister of Equatorial Guinea, as an example who despite earning a salary of £51,000 a year, somehow manages to own a $31 million compound in Malibu amongst many other prized assets. However referring to the US Justice Departments seizure of over $70 million of his assets Mr Blakesley said “Good work is going on to fight corruption and good work is going on regarding resource extraction”.

Moving on to the next section of his presentation, Mr Blakesley posed the question “Why should we care about extreme poverty?” before answering his own question with some very thought provoking words. He said: 
“Each generation gets the chance to do something great and this is our chance. I believe extreme poverty can be beaten. We're the first generation that can do that and it's a responsibility”. 
He then gave some facts and figures which showed that $100 billion had been spent on Millennium development Goals compared to a shocking $5.2 trillion on the US financial bailout. He said:
 “It's about time we held our leaders to account about the crisis of humanity. Twenty five percent of the worlds population live in extreme poverty and it's affordable to end it”.
Mr Blakesley rounded off the presentation with a short question and answer format with the audience before ending with some inspiring words. He said:
 “Somehow, whatever way we do it, we want to see people living out of extreme poverty”.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Wrestlemania build up

As the days get ever slightly longer and the nights get shorter it can only mean one thing; Spring is approaching. Spring is traditionally a time of new hope and new life. Beautiful flowers come to life, there's baby robins hopping about gardens and the air is filled with a renewed sense of freshness.

Is it somewhat coincidental then that across the pond, a huge breath of fresh air often sweeps through the WWE around this time, and for a few superstars in particular, their career can 'spring' to life? (apologies). The build up to WWE's show piece event Wrestlemania is in full flow and in my humble opinion, the wrestling extravaganza and in particular it's main event, are shaping up quite nicely this year.

The main event, featuring John Cena vs The Rock, has all the ingredients needed for it to be the spectacle that an event as big as Wrestlemania deserves. It's got two hugely popular superstars in their own rights, with main event pedigrees that boxing  (and occasionally wrestling) counterpart Mike Tyson would be proud of.

Both superstars are capable of wrestling great matches and regardless of what the critics say about John Cena's wrestling ability, when he's in the ring with a talented superstar, such as the Rock, he's fully capable of putting on a great match. Any doubts about whether the Rock still has what it takes after such a lengthy absence from the sport were fully extinguished after his exploits at Survivor Series, where he brought an other wise dull tag team match to life.

Throw into the mix the fact that it's being held in the Rock's home town Miami, and a rivalry which has spanned over a year, and you've got yourself a main event which shouldn't disappoint.

Who's going to win? Well it would take a very brave man to bet against the Rock in his home town but will the WWE put the Rock, who is more or less a part time superstar, over Cena who is arguably their biggest and most loyal asset?

It remains to be seen but one thing is for certain in my eyes. If Cena wins, it might bring with it that familiar sense of "same old, same old", however if the Rock wins, it might just make that breath of fresh air that Spring brings with it taste that little bit sweeter.

Monday, 6 February 2012

'To be a good journalist you've got to be angry at society'

I was in a seminar the other day and my lecturer gave me, what I believe to be, some very good advice. He said:

'To be a good journalist you've got to be angry at society'.

Well society has definitely angered me today so I'm going to write about it. I was sat browsing Facebook, until I came across a band page. The band was described  as 'thrash metal', so with the distinct lack of thrash metal bands around these days, I decided I'd give them a listen. I clicked on their music page tab only to be greeted by a message reading:

'You must like our band page to listen to our music'.

I beg your pardon? I'll listen to your bands music first before I decide if I'm going to 'like' it or not. So in my rage I closed the page, however this is not the point of the story.

To me, making music is a hobby and therefore something you enjoy. It's something to be proud of so naturally, you want as many people to hear it as possible. So how is blocking people from hearing your music on your Facebook page logical? In short, it's not, but I can give a pretty good guess as to why some bands do it.

The amount of 'likes' a band has on Facebook is often a symbol of how popular they are and bands want to increase their likes, in whatever ways possible, to increase their popularity. Now I know promotion is a very important aspect of being in band but is it really necessary to block people from hearing your music in favour of a few extra 'facebook' likes?

To me it's not.

I think it's greedy and greed is the epitome of what is wrong with the music industry. People aren't making music because primarily they enjoy it and and want to get it out there for the world to hear. They're making it because they want to be famous and want all the riches that come with fame.

I don't think that's what music should be about. Greed is the cancer which eats away at our society and here in music, is a fine example of it.

I'm not stereotyping everybody here. I know there's bands and artists out there who are still making music for the right reasons and really, I take my hat off to you. To the bands and artists I am referring to in this blog though however, please re-evaluate the reasons as to why you're making music in the first place.

I don't like to be angry at society even if you might be making me a good journalist.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A circle of ignorance?

A thought came to me today. Which was the last new band that I've discovered who I genuinely really liked? I thought about it and I came to the conclusion it was the King Blues, way back in... 2008? That's over 3 years ago so it begs the question:

'Is that really the only good new band of the past 3 years or have I just become ignorant to discovering new music?'

My favourite bands were all front runners of the punk revival in America in the early nineties, being Green Day, Nofx, Pennywise and the like. I remember when I was about 14 I said to my Dad:

'Have you ever heard  Rancid? I think you'd like them. The Clash sound a bit like them.'

His reply was:

'I have Paul but I think you'll find it's Rancid who sound a bit like The Clash.'

My thoughts as a 14 year old teenager who clearly knew better than my Dad when it came to music:

'Tut, what are you talking about? Get with the times old man!'

My Dad was right of course, but I think he had fallen into a circle which many others have, myself included. I think with music you can become accustomed to listening to what you already know and can become ignorant to discovering new styles and sounds. You label new bands as just trying to sound like established acts which are already out there.

Our parents did it, we do it and our kids will probably do it.

Not everybody falls into the circle though and I know many people who are introducing me to new bands all the time but I just think, 'yeah they're all right, but they're no Bad Religion are they?'

As an aspiring journalist I need to break this thought process and try to have an unbiased view on music. I'll give these new bands which people recommend me a real good listen and try to give an honest, unbiased opinion.

Who knows? Maybe they just won't appeal to me and I'll carry on listening to what I know best but maybe, just maybe, I'll discover a new band to take over the King Blues dusty mantle of  'the last new band I discovered who I genuinely really liked'.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Some sober thoughts

If everybody in the world could watch this video, I wonder how many lives it would change for the better?

I recently went to a presentation by the Global Poverty Project and was astounded at some of the things I learned. Here are a selection:

  •  1.4 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty
  • That's nearly almost 25% of the world's population living on less than $1.25 a day.
  • By 2015 the world could save 3 million children's lives if it spend 3.8 billion on malaria treatment
  • Currently the world spends 5.2 billion a year on fake tans and hair loss.

What a sad state of affairs it is when society spends more money on cosmetics than they do on medicine which could save people's lives. Or when the top 1% of the population in America own around 40% of the total wealth. An individualist society fuelled by greed.

I recently watched a documentary called 'Zeitgeist' too. It brought up an interesting concept about money. Can we eat money? Can we drink money? Can we burn it and use it as fuel? No we can't.

Money is merely a barrier to all those things we do need. Especially to the people living in extreme poverty. And seeing as water, food and fuel all come from the earth's natural resources, it hardly seems fair to me that we have to pay for them.

It's the start of 2012 and it's that time where I sit down in the early hours of the morning to evaluate life. I don't know what I want from it but I know that one day, I'd like to change the world for the better in some way.

Whether that be something I write, say or do, I don't know yet.

When I grow old I don't want to look back and think I lived a normal everyday life. I want to look back and know, without regrets, that I got everything out of life that I could and I left a positive mark on the world somehow.

Of course it's an unrealistic expectation but who's to tell me I can't try?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Gary Speed/ Depression

I read an article today about a footballer who has came out and told his story of depression following the death of Gary Speed. I was genuinely touched by the article and the majority of supportive comments readers had posted below. The article can be found here:

I think it's good that articles like this are enlightening people to mental illness as there's always been a hoodoo that surrounds it. It's just sad that it's taken the suicides of three footballers in the past 2 years to to get it out there in the media.

I don't think fame is all that it's billed up to be. Sadly there's a long history of people in the media spot light who pass away under suspicious circumstances that often circle around suicide. From Kurt Cobain in the music industry, Heath Ledger in the movie industry and now more recently Gary Speed.

They're all people who come from different backgrounds and who worked in different fields respectively, but they all share one trait: fame.

People come down with depression for various reasons but I can only imagine how difficult it must be to cope with such an illness while constantly being in the public eye.

Depression is an awful illness because there's no visible symptoms. Nobody knows you have it and sometimes you don't even realise yourself. It makes you want to switch off from society and for people constantly in the media limelight, this is where it's argubly worse for them.

They simply can't switch off as easy as a person living an everyday life can.

As sad as it is about the death of Gary Speed, hopefully it can bring to light in the media the terrible nature of the illness and the fact it can affect anybody and everybody. Hopefully institutions and/or helplines can be set up to help famous people who have to cope with mental illnesses such as depression.

I believe depression is not a sign of weakness, but maybe a sign you are more sensitive to things that can affect you than everybody else.