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.