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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

This is a powerless blog

                               Syrian child runs past bodies in Aleppo

As I sit in my chair in Cardiff and write this blog, in Aleppo, Syria, pro-government army radio is encouraging soldiers to rape a man's wife and daughters in front of him, as standard protocol.

As I sit in my chair in Cardiff and write this blog, captured Syrian men are faced with the choice of being killed or joining Bashar al-Assad's army.
Buses are leaving, some have seen mixed groups on board these buses, some have seen only women and some children.
It is not clear where they are going.

Yet as I sit in my chair and write this blog, in BBC headquarters, and other news headquarters around the World, the official line is that the fighting is over. That the resistance is crushed. 

The resistance is crushed. The military resistance in Aleppo is no more. 
And yet the massacre continues.

It seems that the pro-government forces are slaughtering all they see in their victory, and they can see a lot of innocents. As Abdulkafi al-Hamdo - a Syrian in Aleppo (Find his Twitter here - @Mr_Alhamdo) - states, "They don't want to leave any of us alive".

Many children, reported on the ground numbering over 100, are trapped within a building in East Aleppo, under indiscriminate bombing. 

And yet why is it so hard to access what is going on? 
Why does the BBC headline "Fighting over in besieged Aleppo", making it sound like the crisis is over? There are currently detailed reports in the hands of the UN that show massacres of unarmed civilians by pro-government militias, but that's no story. 
The UN have already recorded 82 field executions of civilians. 

“Aleppo is being destroyed and burned completely,” Mohammad Abu Rajab states “This is a final distress call to the world ... Nobody is left. You might not hear our voice after this. It is the last call, the last call to every free person in this world. Save the city of Aleppo.”

As politicians wring their hands and nod their heads at grandiose expressions of how sympathetic we are to the Syrian plight, civilians dying in Syria as they talk. 

There will be no inquest into the atrocities in the International Criminal Court. Russia and China vetoed it once in 2014, they will veto it again.

What can we do? What can we do? What can we do? 

This is a powerless blog. 

The military resistance in Aleppo is no more.

And yet the massacre continues.





(I thank my sources - I am just blundering around the situation without them, with just a sense of deep wrongness about the situation. They have given me a point.)

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Malaise Marmalade

So last Wednesday I had a birthday. And ever since then, I've been unable to shake this feeling of something not being quite right, something being not quite present.
So far, being 21 has devolved into a heady cocktail of making my own sandwiches, reading books, and gloomy thoughts.

There are a few contributing factors, I believe:

Finishing University -
In about six months, I finish my degree, and leave the comfort blanket of books I have wrapped firmly around me for the last decade of my life behind. No longer will I be in a nice institution which I can 'do politics' in. No longer will I have simple routes to achieving. At uni, if you want to be better at a subject, you put more time into that subject. You talk to your lecturer, you do practice essays. It all operates in this nice, cosy bubble, and I love that bubble. There are rules to the game.
I will suddenly be thrust into a world I don't know, where I don't know the rules so well, And those rules are looking increasingly harsh on new graduates.
In six month's time, I will reach the end of my degree, and of my house contract, and I will be not tied to anything or anywhere; exciting, and bloody terrifying. At University, I can always ask "Am I doing it wrong?" When University is over, there's no such question. There's no support net.

On the flipside..

Being at University -
University is nothing like the popular perceptions of University life. You are not automatically surrounded by a bubble of friends, I have not been inside a club for seven or eight months. I've had a few deep chats on the kitchen floor, granted, but on the whole, my house is deathly quiet; University has been the most lonely experience of my life. I go to lectures, I go home.
Once a week, I go to Lidl.
Mental, I know.

Also, my workload has never been greater. The best and worst bit of adult life is that any day you choose, you can stay in bed, buy a takeaway, and watch TV all day. As a kid, knowing that would have caused me to run in circles around my room with excitement, as an 'adult', knowing that is bittersweet. Because it's not enough to spend three years slogging away at a degree, now we are expected to take unpaid internships, smile, and say "thank you very much"; even then you are more likely to land your dream job, cold calling.

The reason I mentioned being a kid is probably the biggest reason for my mood downer.

Dreams?
I am beginning to reach the age that, when I was younger, I had grand plans for. "By the time you're 21, you'll have a house, Joe, and it will have a really big bath, with a TV at the end of it, and you will be able to drive. You'll have a really cool career job, which helps other people do cool stuff, and you'll make music and record videos on the side. You'll eat sherbet all day, and it won't be bad for you, and you will kick ASS at football."
I also still haven't quite reconciled my inner 12 year old to the sad truth that I will never grow up in New York and eat a bagel on the way to school, that I will never be a quirky Spanish kid, who lives by the sea.
I still haven't reconciled my inner 12 year old to the sad truth that the daydreams I once had and the characters I write about are that, daydreams and fiction.

I'm beginning to feel tired of lonely experiences, and of the myth of freedom coming with age, and of how expensive everything is.

If I could, I'd go into the American forests in winter, and hole myself up in a log cabin covered in snow, with a roasting fire, and write a beautiful, haunting, wistful album of music.
But I can't.
I can pour a glass of wine, and continue writing my essay, in an empty house.

PS.
Sorry if this is a bit melancholic, I've been positive and uplifting for too many blogs recently, time to return to normality. Apologies also if it's a bit scattergun, I have a hell of a lot of thoughts going around my head at the moment.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

He-Man

So if you didn't hear, yesterday was International Men's Day.
Now whether it should be a thing when men arguably have the other 364 days as well is beside my point.
I am going to use the day to write a post on the issue it raises, "Stop Male Suicide".

Male suicide is a silent killer.

On a country by country basis, men are two times more likely to commit suicide than women.
In the UK and US, the ratio is four to one.

Domestic abuse of men is not often discussed (Survivors and Mankind initiative are doing great work on changing this) and sexual assault on males? You'd still get laughed out of the room. An anonymous friend who confided in me that he was horrifically sexually assaulted by a woman told me that almost every male friend that he shared with said "at least you had sex", or "was she at least hot?"

There is a poisonous nature to the male image, it is a stoic, 'doesn't need help, doesn't look for help' image. Our childhood toys and idols are chiseled supermen who always win the day, fueled by big muscles and charisma.

There was rightly furore over the anatomically ridiculous barbie dolls, and the equally ridiculous body image they were conveying as right.
But equally, have you ever seen He-Man? Hulk Hogan?

Throughout my upbringing, I never really saw a man cry. I thought tears were weak, I thought they made you vulnerable. It was sub-consciously drilled into me throughout my formative years that you didn't talk about emotion with your friends, you didn't talk about sad things. You talked about football and gaming.
Though they are great topics of discussion, I know for a fact that several of my friends from those teenage years (myself included) were going through losses, and through pretty severe emotional trauma. But we never talked about it.

The only time the lid ever came off was when alcohol was discovered, I remember being propped against a kitchen fridge, with a male friend, both of us crying. At the time, I felt infinitely stupid, now, looking back on it, I haven't cried like that for years.

I remember distinctly one more time, (like it's a competition to get the lowest amount) at my grandfather's funeral. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. I looked up at my older brother, my role-model, and he was silently sobbing. I cried then. He had, so it felt OK for me.

We build walls.
We all do.

A body image that isn't defined by adverts, that's the dream, right? For both genders. A self-image that isn't defined by the media, that's the dream, right? For both genders.

If you are a man/young man, reading this, know that it's quite OK to talk to friends, and professionals about emotion, about feeling.

Don't let yourself be defined by a male image which thrives on stiff upper lips and overt machismo.

It's quite OK to cry.

It's quite OK to cry.


Samaritans 24 hour support service - 116 123
NHS - 111
Mind – call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (9am-6pm on weekdays)


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

A Message of Hope

(Written on the morning of Trump winning the elections in the USA)

It's in the aftermath, isn't it.

Anyone who's ever lost anyone dear to them, anyone who's ever suffered great loss. It's afterwards. When it all goes quiet, when the friends go home and you are sat, in your living room, in your bed, and the enormity of what has happened strikes you right in your stomach and nothing exists but that hurt. A lump the size of a golf ball in your throat.
That sort of grief.

Earlier this year I suffered a horrendous wrong. That wrong left me in bed for weeks, unable and unwilling to move for anything or anyone.

But I eventually got up, and threw myself wholeheartedly into charity work, into youth politics, into making a difference, with the skill set I knew I had.

I had a group of friends more solid than a rock to depend on, and that made all the difference. The late nights they stayed up with me, wordless, over a pint, in a quiet living room, in a pub. That love was what made the difference. and what pulled me through to a brighter happier place.

Love.

It is the most written about word in history. (no stats, but I'm pretty sure)

Love, in its truest form, (in my opinion) is giving to another, for the good of another, and with no thought of recompense.

Now, after a triumph for hate in America, more than ever, we need that love.
I'm not going to go into detail on politics. Far wiser people have said far wiser things. What I will say, however, is that social action can be that Love.

More than ever, it is important to get involved with Charities.
More than ever, it is important to volunteer.
More than ever, it is important to give to another, for the good of another, with no thought of recompense.

This morning was another aftermath. I saw friends crying, I saw friends across the internet grieving. I also saw a lot of love, and a lot of hate. There was an 'us against them' mentality, and it was poisonous.

Don't fill in petitions and self-righteously call everyone who voted for Trump/Brexit ignorant or poorly educated. Don't call people concerned with immigration, racists. Some of them are. Some of the people who voted for Clinton/Remain are. You are buying into the 'us against them' brigade and proudly marching at the front of their platoon with a banner.

The thing that annoyed me the most about Brexit were the friends who I knew didn't vote, but were filling in petitions demanding another referendum and bleating about how they hated old people.

My generation, don't let our generation be defined as the generation that talked a lot but watched while bad things happened. Let us not be the retweet generation. In twenty years, our generation will be the Hilary Clintons, the Donald Trumps, the David Camerons. That's a responsibility that we will bear, and how will we bear it?

Get out there, join in with your local community. Volunteer with causes you care about. That is your legacy, not the petition you fill in. The giving to another, for the good of another, is your legacy.

Not hate.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Giving young people a voice in the 3rd Sector

I recently helped run an event in Cardiff where we invited young people and charities involved with young people to attend, to hear from them about their views. We touched on community, on diversity, and to a lesser extent, on Brexit and the perceived repercussions. We had about thirty people attend the meeting, and of those thirty, we had about seven or eight young people. 

Whenever they spoke, the charities leaned in and furiously scribbled. I am sure if you are involved in the 3rd Sector, you have experienced something similar. 

I attended the Edinburgh Culture Summit this summer (see my blog on this here -http://rantingsandravingsofayoungone.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/get-cultural-and-die-trying-young.html), and the story was different. When the young people spoke, there was a real sense of anticipation in the room. The young people were challenged in their assertions, they were critiqued, they were not blindly listened to, and they were not tokenistic. It was brilliant. Being at the table, not being the young person in the room, but being a person in the room, was so enlivening and refreshing. 

In the past six months, I have begun to interact a lot more with charities and started to notice three major things:

1)  Young people are unaware of the role they can play in the running of a charity. 

The voices of young people, from what I have seen, are always gratefully received. The staggering number of other young people I have talked to who have no idea what a young trustee is, or does, highlights a need. If you are reading this and are curious about what a trustee is and what one does, read Leon Ward's brilliant article here - 
https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2014/aug/13/how-to-become-a-charity-trustee
It is by getting young people into positions where they can vocalise the issues of other young people fairly, without special treatment, in which we learn firstly our importance, and secondly we learn our place. As someone once told me when discussing charity roles, we learn "when to shut up". And that is also crucial. Making young people not 'special voices who are beyond reproach'. 
I think that might be why sometimes there is less appetite from charities for appointing a young person to their board, this idea of young people + soapbox = obnoxiousness.  And I am sure that is a true formula. But if the box is removed from day one, and young people are on equal footing, there is no temptation towards the end result. 

2) Charities can seem at a loss on how to engage young people

In my opinion, it is crucial for charities, especially charities with young people as key stakeholders, to be as accessible to those young people as possible. The figures betray this concept though - only 21% of charity trustees are under the age of 40. 
On top of this, as stated in Ian Joseph's blog here (http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/blogs/content/14950/its_no_wonder_young_trustees_are_hard_to_come_by?topic=&print=1), on how their trustees were recruited, "With almost half of new trustees recruited by friends of board members and existing networks, very few through work schemes and none through social media, it is little wonder that boards today lack diversity". 

Without seeming too cliché in linking young people to social media, they are key users of the platforms. Barnardo's has a brilliant social media presence, as does Oxfam, but I have seen charities relegate social media as a method of communication, in favour of newsletters. For all the effort it takes, is a tweet that difficult?

3) There needs to be a focus on effective Mentoring for Young Trustees

Once young people have found their place on the board of a charity, it is of vital importance to then give them effective support which will allow them to make the best of their talents, and evolve their ideas beyond simply that, thus making their ideas more cohesive and specific. Once in, it is no use simply allowing a young person to struggle in deeper waters than they may be used to working in, and pointing out the ineffectiveness of young trustees if they fail. 

It is important to give constructive feedback from a more experienced trustee a welcome and vocal place in the young trustee's tenure. I have been lucky enough to have several mentors, who have probed and challenged concepts and ideas. Blind nodding and inaction is no help; young people desire a place in which our ideas can be bounced off more experienced minds, that is partly the reason for this blog. 

Most importantly, it allows young people a chance to learn. It allows young people the chance to gain more experience in the often difficult waters of charity management. 

With effective mentoring in place, charities have young people who know the organisation well from having partaken in the meetings of the trustees, they have an understanding of finance and administration, they are invested, and they have a real willingness to help and work for the bettering of that charity.

And that's really the goal with young people in the 3rd Sector, isn't it?  

Joe Stockley


Monday, 19 September 2016

3 Reasons why people don't write blogs (Reason number 7 is hilarious!)

So I don't know if you've noticed, (you probably haven't) but I write blogs on a semi-regular basis, about things I enjoy, about interesting things I've read, and about opinions that I feel don't get enough air-time. I say semi-regular, I wish it was regular. But I am a strong believer in the power of blogs for the individual.

Now you might be saying "Joe, that's a load of rubbish. They're ego driven, they're a waste of time, and they just add another opinion to the maelstrom of already present, better written opinions."

Well it's good that you said that, because I have written my opinions on precisely those three points. So thanks for saying that. I appreciate it.

1) "They're ego driven"

A blog can be ego driven. When I get any more reads than just my Mum reading it 10 times out of sympathy (thanks Mum), I go out for drinks with friends to celebrate.
But firstly, the best informative blog is a culmination of other people's ideas and concepts, with your own filter and take on what they say.
Secondly, being ego driven isn't an issue. People read your blog for your take on things, not someone else's. If they didn't want your opinion, it's very easy to not pay attention to someones blog, you simply don't read it.
If in your writing you write down your exact take on something, regardless of your take on it, you are (hopefully) opening up yourself to learning about the topic you write about. In fact, writing a blog can be incredibly humbling, as people with vastly more intelligence than you weigh in on your opinion. But if you didn't put your opinion out there in the first place, the discussion would never be had. On all issues, I believe it's crucially important to get everyone's voice out and heard.

2) "They're a waste of time"

Every single time I sit down to write a blog, I finish it satisfied. They allow me to clarify my opinions in a way that just thinking about something doesn't. I can really explore the nuance of a topic, and often I find myself shocked or surprised by where my line of thought takes me.

But it's only in clarifying your opinion that you can shock or surprise yourself.

It's only in clarifying your opinion that you gain the opportunity to shape your own views on things with research. Written pieces will always be subjective, more on that later, but they allow one to add a bit of objectivity to their writing. It's a brilliant learning curve. So many blogs I have written remain in draft phase because I start writing them, and realise I don't know enough about the topic. So I talk to people and research the topic with books, and learn more about the topic than I ever would if I had simply not bothered to write one.

3) "They just add another opinion to the maelstrom of already present, better written opinions"

This one is an interesting one, maybe one people think in their heads to dissuade themselves from starting writing.
In my opinion, (see, subjective, but you're reading my blog, deal with it) no-one would ever say anything ever if they applied this filter to everyday life.
Can you imagine?
"What do you want for tea, love?"
"Well frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."
What you actually wanted was fish and chips, but Rhett Butler just said it so much better that you felt inadequate.
You actually want fish and chips? Don't just quote Rhett Butler. Have fish and chips.

This has become a convoluted metaphor, I apologise.

My point is, if you shape your opinions based on better ones you have read or heard, you do yourself a disservice in stifling your opinion. You end up the sucker. The great thinkers of our time, and of previous times, became great thinkers by bouncing their ideas off similar and better minds, in a receptive environment. It allows ones opinion to take shape.

In the world of the internet where everyone has an opinion, I think it's brilliant that we have the arena to clash opinions with someone. I think it's brilliant that everyone can put their two cents in. Because someone else's opinions might just be different to yours.
And you both might learn something.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Get Cultural and die trying - Young people and Participation.

I am writing this blog on the way from Edinburgh to London, the third Capital city I have visited this week. I have been in Edinburgh to learn, to hear from experts around the World about Culture, and how it engages with Heritage, Economics, and Participation. If that sounds deathly boring, I haven't explained it well enough. It was a week of great enjoyment.
We heard from the man tasked with protecting Syria's heritage from Daesh. We listened to the use of dance to help people with Parkinson's Disease. We saw how Streetwise Opera use performance to get homeless people proud of themselves again, and taking part in internationally acclaimed work. We learned the importance of the 'physical experience' in an increasingly digital universe. And we heard the Artistic Director at the Southbank Centre plead for a renewed focus on women in the creative arts - why we aren't "talking passionately about women as creative makers".

It was crucial. It was intensely stimulating. And Young People had a valued seat at the table.

On the first night it was clear that we had been placed in the summit as tokens of a box ticked. "A group of young people? Done". We were segregated from the delegates we had come to talk to. Delegates and participants we managed to talk to were expressing surprise and disappointment that we were not present during the down-time of the event, when there were no plenaries to listen to. We were present to talk to delegates. We were present to learn from them. Not to be holed up in a side room.

We complained about it. Loudly. To whoever would listen. And the director listened to us, and allowed us to participate in discussions way over our heads, and about topics we didn't know a great deal about. But that was the best bit of the Summit. Being completely out of our depths, and asking the questions that we had no forum to ask normally, I think we were appreciated. When a young person spoke, ears pricked, people sat forward.
I had great conversations, long conversations, over coffee and a biscuit, with the deputy culture minister from China, with the CEO of a huge charity organisation, with senior ministers from around the world, with Googlers, with senior lecturers.

I hope you don't feel like I'm name/position dropping here. I'm doing it for a reason, to highlight the amazing opportunity that was presented to young representatives of the UK, and other creative groups.
The crucial thing young people want is to be involved in the discussion. No matter how much it may be felt that we would be out of our depths. In fact, especially then. Young people are no different to any other mythical category of people, we learn best by being in the deep end.

The passion and forming expertise in the group of young people present at the Culture Summit meant that we weren't sinking, we were swimming, uncomfortably sometimes, and occasionally with a friendly hand, but there were no swimming aids, and there was no-one sinking. (I feel I've used the swimming metaphor to its full extent now)
This is a lesson that I will certainly take forward with regard to youth participation.Young people are bored of being pushed to one side, we want a seat at the table, without any special allowances, but with the same respect afforded to us as any other party.

This summit, and my other experiences as a young professional (God, I hate that term), has hammered home to me the inanity of organisations concerning young people not having young people on the board of decision making. I am applying for the Barnardo's Young Trusteeship and it's so refreshing to see a Charity solely for young people, look for a young person to sit on the board. It almost seems inconceivable that Companies and Charities have such a breadth of experienced and passionate young people that they are not tapping into.

Being part of such a gifted and intelligent group of young people this week has really confirmed and sharpened my ideas; young people are the future. But if we are only allowed to be the future in the future, and until then we have to passively wait in the wings, then we will struggle with the same questions that our predecessors have struggled with. If young people can understand the questions, and work on finding the solutions to those questions, we will be in a much better place.


(Also a brief note of disbelief that our Minister for Digital and Culture in the UK didn't attend the Youth Forum debate. Very disheartening, shows his approach to giving a damn about the views of the youth of the UK)

Friday, 24 June 2016

The Aftermath

So it has happened.

David Cameron's attempts to appease some of his own party and growing elements of the right-wing has resulted in a shock victory for leave, and over the next two years the UK (what will be left of it) will leave the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon (First minister of Scotland) has called for a Second Independence Referendum. Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland have called for a poll on a united Ireland. Both countries overwhelmingly voted Remain, and yet face being unwillingly dragged out of the EU unless they remove themselves from the UK. Scotland is likely to leave the UK, Northern Ireland, less likely.

Most surprisingly, Wales, an overall net beneficiary from the EU, has voted overwhelmingly to reject their ties with Brussels.

There have been a lot of surprises over the last 24 hours.

Even general racist idiot Donald Trump has got in on the action, saying he was pleased for the UK. If that's not death's kiss, what is?

In a survey conducted by YouGov at 10PM on the eve of the results, 75% of 18-24 year olds stated they were going to vote Remain. Compare that to 61% of 65+ year olds, who wanted to leave the EU. There is an age divide. A clear age divide. One that more and more young people are becoming aware of.

Now I'm not going to give you my personal arguments for Remain, I've done that, and I'm blue in the face and bored of doing it. I'm not going to plead the millennial argument; "BABY BOOMERS HAVE SHAFTED US AND NOW THEY'VE VOTED EXIT IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT"- although a lot of my friends would agree with that sentiment.

- I am arguing that allowing 16 year olds the vote would have been the fairest thing to do in this referendum

Think logically about this for a second.

Let's look 20 years ahead.

Post-EU UK does brilliantly, we move from strength to strength as a united collection of countries as the UK, we negotiate good trade deals with major EU trading partners, the money we spend on the EU is put towards the NHS, and suddenly everything is wonderful. The far-right doesn't rise across Europe, spreading hate wherever they go. That sort of thing. I'm optimistic, clearly. Pensioners everywhere will be looking on from wherever we go when we die self-congratulatory, patting their backs over the wise decision they helped the country make on the 23rd of July 2016.

But just for a minute, say it doesn't. Say it does really badly. Worst-case scenario - Scotland and Northern Ireland leave, major EU trading partners won't touch us with a bargepole, the money we spend on the EU is found out to be much more minimal than we thought, the pound becomes hugely devalued, and the far-right do their thing in European countries and say, France and Austria leave the EU too.

Pensioners everywhere who voted on the 23rd of July 2016 won't be around to witness the full extent of a decision they helped push through.

The 18-24 year olds will be. The 56% of quoted 25-49 year olds who also wanted to Remain will be.

And those between 16-18 will be also. They'll bear the brunt of a decision that they had no part in.

The typical argument goes something along the lines of "16 year olds can join the army but not vote on the politicians who decide who they will fight against". That's a pretty solid argument. But there is very little political education among the under 18s, hell, among the under 25s.

Which brings me on to my second point. It's not a long one.

Why isn't there compulsory political education in secondary schools? Why do we view the democratic system that our kids will grow up to be a part of as so dangerous for them to learn about? It's such a short point because it's so blindingly obvious. We as a team at the British Youth Council are battling for it. Campaigns by CitizensUK are also fighting to make it a reality. Carwyn Jones promised in Wales (as it already is in Scotland) that young people would get the vote in his manifesto. But more needs to be done.

Unfortunately it's too late for 16-18 year olds. If the gamble of leaving the EU doesn't come off, they will be, like my age bracket, up the creek without a proverbial leg to stand on. Or something like that.

I'm joking because if I didn't I'd cry.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Terrorist attack in West Yorkshire

So I'm sitting here seething with rage as I read down the various reports of media linked to Jo Cox's tragic death several minutes ago. If you are unaware of the events of the past half an hour, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen. was shot and stabbed several times in a sustained attack by a white man shouting "Britain First" at an advice surgery she was holding.

Why am I so angry? Because I'm young, and young people often seem to get angry about things, right? Because I don't understand the way of the world just yet, I'm sure, and when I get a bit older, I'll accept things just the way they are, I'm sure.

I'm angry because a mother of two was killed in a terrorist attack.

If you're not aware about this either, a terrorist attack is

"the unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims". Thanks Google.

Now onto the thing that makes me even more angry. Nowhere in the media will you hear Jo Cox's death be described as the result of a terrorist attack.
Sure, it will be described as horrific, Sure it will be described as an affront to democracy. But I am certain the word terrorist will not be used in connection to the killer. It has not been mentioned in any of the headlines so far. Ten minutes after the horrific attacks in Orlando last week, there were connections made in the media to ISIS and Islam.

Now people say the connections there to Daesh are understandable; the man who committed the horrors in Orlando made a phonecall committing his life to Daesh's cause before passing in a hail of bullets. Therefore connecting Jo Cox's death to Britain First is surely equally understandable. The killer of Jo Cox committed his crime while shouting the name of the far-right group, didn't he?

See the fallacy of the logic?

Why have we reached the stage where people are shot for their sexuality? Why have we reached the stage where people are shot for their political stances? Why have we reached the stage where the media can manipulate our understanding of both of these atrocities, without us even realising it?

I told a friend what had happened to Jo Cox as "white man committed an act of terrorism, but a white man did it so it's not called terrorism". She replied with "same shit different day". And it is.

My sincerest condolences to the Jo Cox's husband and children. May they grow up in a more accepting and loving World than the one their mother left all too soon.

Yours raging.

Joe.


Saturday, 14 May 2016

UpRising (Part 3 of 3)

This is the final part of my series on UpRising leadership as a program. (If you're new to the blog series, I have just finished a year long course aimed at getting young people involved in politics. It's been amazing and I've loved it.)

First two parts can be found here -
http://rantingsandravingsofayoungone.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/uprising-part-1-of-3.html
http://rantingsandravingsofayoungone.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/uprising-part-2-of-3.html


As promised, here is my third and final blog post on my experiences of UpRising, and this is going to be a "what's next" blog really, interspersed with what I think UpRising did well, and what it could have done better.

What UpRising taught me
Last Thursday, I shot down to Birmingham to apply for a job delivering the National Citizens Service over the summer. On the Friday, I groggily received a phone call from the interviewer - I shook myself awake and accepted the job. I mention this for two reasons. A few years ago, I'd never used a train by myself, I'd regularly use the wrong public transport and end up miles from home. Keeping my woeful use of public transport from my parents was probably the most impressive lie I have ever maintained. Seriously, I was bad. I would have got lost on the way to the fridge if I didn't do that journey so often. I was also very shy. If you casually know me, you might be surprised at that, what with my big mouth, but genuinely, quite shy. Here I am then, a few years later, thinking nothing of a 4 hour return train journey with a 10 minute walk to a job interview in a new city, with no WiFi or any of the normal modern crutches to help. My confidence at asking several total strangers on my way up a road for the directions to a building I now know was only about 200 metres away from me was new. I had the confidence to stupidly ask for directions at every turn. UpRising gave me that confidence.

The second point of notice in the summer job is that it means that I am working in a sector that I love, doing youth work and helping young people make a difference in their local communities. If that is all that is on my tombstone, "Here lieth Joe, he facilitated positive change in communities" - and something about my undoubted world-class ability at the guitar - I would be happy. I don't think youth work is a career I want to go into, but I do think that social action is something I want to weave into every job I take. Helping young people run their own action campaigns, having set up my own, is the perfect progression. At the end of my final long summer as a student, I will have the skill set necessary to progress into bigger youth action projects, and the contacts to facilitate them. Teaching young people about their skills and weaknesses has been something that UpRising has done very well.

What UpRising didn't teach me
UpRising was/is brilliant at teaching young people the theoretical skills to make the changes in communities that they want to see, happen. It puts them in contact with the people who can make a difference. What UpRising doesn't do too well is the application of this knowledge. I attended a HOPE not hate workshop near the end of my time at UpRising and was blown away by the practical application of the skills that we had learned in UpRising. We learnt about effective debating techniques, we learned how to listen, we learned how to approach companies and organisations in a way that would be effective in progressing our ideas. During my time at UpRising, there was no practical application of the skills we were learning. I never once dropped a leaflet through a door about a project I cared about, nor did I feel it was important to. Doing the hard graft to make a grassroots project work was often ignored in pursuit of tying together schemes and ideas. 
Theory is crucial to a program. Don't get me wrong here, I am not advocating for a program that ignores the reasons for doing a project, and simply gets stuck in dropping leaflets and running workshops and focus groups.  However, with the Welsh project not given the additional three months the other branches of the program received, it felt that we had to go elsewhere to receive the practical tools so essential to Social Action. If the allotted time was given to the UpRising Cymru project, I believe we would have been instructed in the practical elements of a campaign, it was not given the allotted time, and so felt rushed.

Leading on from this issue, my other issue is not one with UpRising per se, but with the lack of support the Welsh program received. UpRising Cymru changed my life. I don't mince my words, because it's true. I also know that for the vast majority of the other people on the team, it did also. It gave them opportunities and confidence, it gave them the skills they needed to get passionate about things they cared about. But it was clarified at our final meeting that UpRising Cymru has no funding to progress into 2016/17. We will be the first and last cohort in Wales for the foreseeable future. There was assurances that in the future it would be re-examined and possibly re-opened, but it felt a bit futile, a bit pipedream. I understand that Wales was a big leap for the organisation, I understand that other programs in other cities are working well, but it just feels a bit symptomatic of the Welsh situation - companies try out Wales, don't invest heavily in it, wonder why it doesn't reach the fruition they hoped for, and then jump ship for England again. Wales is a growing country, Cardiff is a growing city. UpRising leaving Cardiff after only one cycle feels like the past year has been a bit pointless. I have said many times that UpRising has changed my life for the better, but the program could have done so well, in a country which really struggles for youth representation at any meaningful level.

Conclusion
Wales is the only European country without an independent youth forum. At national UK young ambassador meetings, the other Welsh Ambassador and I feel a bit lost when other home countries describe their national youth parliament, and the support they receive in making a difference for young people in their country.

The loss of UpRising in Wales is sad. The loss of UpRising in Wales on top of the total lack of means for young people to be heard in Welsh politics is heart breaking. 

I am again ending on a sad note, just like it feels that UpRising Cymru has also, with a whimper, not a bang.  


Friday, 15 April 2016

UpRising (Part 2 of 3)

In part 1 of my UpRising experiences blog series, I talked about UpRising as a whole, and you can find it here - http://rantingsandravingsofayoungone.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/uprising-part-1-of-3.html. This is my second part, focussing on the Social Action aspect of the experience.

So the Social Action campaign is the culmination of the entire experience of UpRising. It's the crux, the cornerstone. It's why we were doing the course. 

We split into groups in about February, and started thinking about little (or huge) things we'd like to change in our world around us. 

For me, I always thought the PSHE (Personal/Social/Health/Economic) lessons were a total waste of time. 
Personal education? What does that even mean? 

Social? Same question. Like, our political system maybe? How to vote, maybe? Never taught it.

Health? Mrs Morgan, our beloved education secretary, doesn't believe it's necessary for sexual education to be compulsory, despite OFSTED describing 40% of PSHE lessons as below standard. 

And economic lessons? Being taught about taxes and paying bills, and skills necessary to looking for a job? Sounds amazing and useful. Shame no PSHE lesson I've ever been in has taught me those skills.  

It was infuriating. Lessons that were specifically designated for learning more about yourself and the world around you were reduced to the biggest time wasting lesson ever, for you and your mates to chat at the back while all of our planners were signed. Dull waste of time. 

I thought about this, and considered that I knew how to vote. I know how to pay taxes and about our political system. There were people in our UpRising group who knew more than I did about all of those topics. Why didn't we plan a workshop to take into schools and attempt to address the issue of, quite frankly, appalling PSHE lessons being taught to teenagers today. 

Two other UpRisers and me got together. We designed an hour long workshop, covering matters such as the Conservative/Labour divide, Welsh politics and the Welsh assembly, and how journalism bleeds into politics. What a broadsheet paper is, and what a tabloid paper is, and what potential agendas they may have. The care we have taken to avoid bias is mindboggling. 

On Tuesday of this week, we attended a 'dragon's den' style event with other UpRisers, run by UpRising, with various important lenders and charity sector heads, to present our ideas. It went brilliantly. Public speaking skills and organisation were crucial to fitting our ideas into the five minutes allotted, and we nailed it. 

But I think the best bit of that Dragon's den was to hear other young people around me, bringing out amazing ideas to tackle some awful realities. And it was  quite surreal, sitting there, listening to people who were incredibly shy six months ago, talk about something that they were passionate about and wanted to change. And that was my favourite bit. 

In the future, we aim to get funding to actually take off, to go into schools around South Wales and talk politics, and talk about things that teenagers are really not taught about, things which are vital for becoming engaged in society. If we can get 50 more young people to register to vote, we'll consider it a success. 

But it's endemic of a bigger problem. There are some amazing companies out there who target teenagers to get them engaged in the wider world, Bite the Ballot and Hope not Hate is just naming two. But unless our government, and by extension, our schools, start taking young people seriously, there will be no compulsory politics lessons in schools. More and more kids will reach University without knowing anything about the world around them and the society they live in. The Grey vote will decide party manifestos for years to come, making decisions that represent their interests, and not the future generations of citizens. 

And that breaks my heart a little bit. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

UpRising (Part 1 of 3)

(Quick note, this is part 1 of 3 posts I will be doing about UpRising and my experiences with it as an organisation, and as an experience)

So about 6 months ago, fresh-faced and unassuming, I replied to my careers advisor expressing interest in a political and social change group. They looked like their ethos was promising, there was a hint of free food, and it seemed as though it might give me the chance to develop my skills as a young member of society, teach me business skills, and allow me to make a change or two in Cardiff.
I loved all three of those things - and the hint of free food - so I signed up to a group called UpRising.

UpRising started in the aftermath of the 2011 riots in London. There was, and is, real political apathy in the young people of Britain. Ethnic minorities and the lower classes aren't getting near positions of power, and as a result, (vastly simplified) we have a disillusioned youth. They simply don't believe they can make a difference. And the point of UpRising was to change and challenge that. To provide young people with the tools and contacts to make a difference. 

I think I summed it up alright.  

Fast-forward through the interview process, and I was in. I travelled to the first meeting in a part of Cardiff I'd never been to before, in a building I'd never heard of, and thus I begun my exploration of the city of Cardiff. 

We were placed on a 'leadership retreat' in the sunny realms of Stoke. There I met some awesome people, people I'm still in contact with today, and we began to establish contacts and didn't drink a lot at the bar. We didn't. I promise. There was a marked difference in the not-hungover bus journey on the way home. Stony silence was replaced by laughter and noise. The team in Cardiff had begun.

We all met every Tuesday across the next 6 months, for a few hours in the evening, and talked. We talked social media, politics, refugees, politics, and politics. We met councillors, we met the Lord Mayor, we met the head of Cardiff bus, and we loved it (I loved it, other views are available, I'm sure). Oh, and we spent a lot of nights in a lot of pubs, chatting and exchanging ideas.

It's been 6 months since we started that course. In those 6 months I have learned so much about myself as a person, and myself in a professional capacity. I've learned more about empathy, and I've learned how cities run at a political level. I've learnt to be confident in my own abilities. 

Now we move on, now we apply the skills we've learned, and start our social action campaigns. I'm going to be going into secondary schools and teaching the youngest kids politics. One of my friends is making a film, using refugees to act and shoot the entire thing. Another friend is helping charity shops make more money out of their stock. We're making differences in our community.  

UpRising has been one of the best things I have done with my life. Because of it I am working as a youth ambassador for Wales and learning about the career path I want to take. 

The two most important things I've taken from it are an awesome, diverse group of friends,and the knowledge of how easy it is to make a difference in the community you're living in, if you're willing to work for it.

That's all for now, I guess. Next time on this series I'll talk about my Social Action campaign in more detail! 

Peace.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Top three Tips to ensure you're working productively


The more work I take on at University and in the extra-curricular spectrum, the more I realise how important productivity is. The busier you become, the truer the old adage "Time = money" becomes.
These are the top three tips I use when working to maximise productivity in my work schedule, and I hope they are helpful.

1) Don't procrastinate -

Don't allow yourself to procrastinate. I will have 'King Procrastinator' carved into my tombstone when I die, and it's one of the most destructive habits there is, because it becomes very easy to think about work but not do the work. I find the internet to be an awful thing for this; I log onto reddit or Facebook and the next time I look up, 3 hours have gone and I am hungry and cold. I am essentially a Sim.

One of the most helpful websites I have found for ending endless internet procrastination is:

http://tomato-timer.com/#

It works on a process of revision/work in 25 minute chunks, with 5 minute breaks in between work.

2) Turn off mobile devices/Turn off WiFi/Turn off notifications

Another thing the internet generation will always struggle with is notification work. That is, I work until I get an email, or a notification, then I will check that email/notification, then work some more, until the next distraction. If you are wanting to work in a productive manner, replying to an email or text every 5 minutes is of no benefit to anyone. Put your phone on silent and exit your gmail account. Every hour or so, in your short break, flick on to them and check for important messages, reply to them, then sign off again. Other than your Mum, no-one needs an instant reply.

A really useful app for this is:

http://www.forestapp.cc/

The app has an interesting concept; you plant a tree at the start of your revision session, when you use apps on the blacklist (Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat etc) your tree withers. After the time you have set is up, the tree has grown as much as you have not checked your phone. You can eventually grow forests of your revision trees. Very hippy, but strangely useful.

My final tip

3) Organise what you need to do into a grid, similar to the one on the link below. Judge what work you should do immediately, and do it. Place future work in a separate area, and make plans for how to tackle those items. And just as importantly, discern what you do that is unproductive, and cut it out from your work life, or at least minimalise the effect it can have. Prevent the cause of your unproductivity, and your work will improve.

Do your easiest tasks after lunch, or at the end of the day, when your energy is lowest, and put your hardest or most strenuous tasks in times when you know you will have more drive. And reward yourself for achieving these tasks.

This is the link to one of the most personally helpful tables I've used:

http://www.businessballs.com/timemanagement.htm#urgent_important_grid_time_management

So these are my top three tips for a productive work schedule, I hope they are as useful to you as they were to me, when I was told them by various people, or when I worked them out for myself.