Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mans Reach Exceeds His Grasp?

All the hard work is done for you

Are the children of today less creative than the children of yesteryear?

In a word yes.

Imagination, the most beautiful thing a child can have, is being stolen away from them at a time when it is needed most. Sir Ken Robinson famously asked at TED Talks the question "do schools kill creativity?" to which the answer must be unequivocally "yes".  During his 20 minutes he told a story of a woman who told him about her childhood, being 8 years old and a "disruptive influence" on fellow class mates, as her head teacher puts it to her parents; a scene I am sure we are all familiar with or can recall such characters.  The head then proceeded to switch on a radio and invite the parents to leave the room with him and watch her.  She began to tap her feet and hands, "she's not disruptive, she just needs to go to a dance school" he explained.  Or so the story goes, and she was enrolled by her parents in to such a school where she found like minded pupils and went onto become a famous, millionaire choreographer on the West End and Broadway.

In today's society Sir Ken Robinson claims that the child in question would be diagnosed with ADHD and given some medication, I agree.

This is not to say every parent should, or has the means, to enrol their children in to all manner of specialist schools to find something that might inspire them. However, it is true to say that the current education system is stagnated and fixed on it's path since its inception from the industrial revolution. If you do not get the grades in Maths, English and Science you are deemed a failure and success is based almost solely on these subjects.

On a much more general scale creativity and imagination is being taken out of our children's hands, gone are the days it seems where children would create entire worlds from nothing but the grey matter that they are gifted with at birth.
Lego is a fine example of something that has been taken and turned into a profit driven cash cow , where the main drive is maximising profits rather than unleashing the creative mind of the next Leonardo Da Vinci or Jacque Fresco.  In the last 20 years since I was a child building monster trucks, tanks and castles I have seen a dramatic shift in Lego and its focus.  Now instead of building a fire engine you can buy one more or less ready made. Instead of building an X-wing fighter from Star Wars, you can buy one more or less ready made, and so on.

There is no need to imagine it and build it. It is done for you.

The same can be said for the basic art of play time. Dressing up as Superman, Batman, Spider-man or Harry Potter (it pains me to mention Potters name in the same breath as such heroes) can now only be done with the official costumes as seen in Toys R Us or some other corporate cash cow company peddling their products to kids.  When I was a child a broom handle made a great lightsabre and it did not cost anywhere near the £10-20 that they are ripping off already financially stressed parents.  The same cannot be said for today's children who now insist on having the official Harry Potter wand to be the mug-blood wizard where a stick would do the same job. That is if their imagination were up to the task. It seems todays children can imagine nothing like the scenes from Nickelodeon's Rugrats, where boxes and living rooms become huge worlds of dinosaurs and grand adventures, with their minds alone.

I could go on about bathrobes doubling up as capes for Superman or Darth Vader but you may be suspecting that I have far too much play time on my hands myself and a strange affinity to the man of steel. 

So in essence it seems as though children are not able to freely entertain themselves as they once were in previous generations.  I am sure you would have heard various golden oldies such as "in my day we had a yo yo" and the various Facebook posts "we played till it got dark, got a clip around the ear, raised on Blue Peter...." etc etc and to some extent it is a Playstation generation problem but it is also a problem of our own making as we now live in a constant state of fear, when all we have to fear is fear itself.

Blue: Expressing the human body in all its glory
A programme called Concrete Circus (now on 4oD) aired on Channel 4 this week, at 2100.  Ridiculous when you consider the direct target audience or the supposedly 'lost generation', would either be asleep or at the mercy of their parents viewing habits.  Part of Channel 4's urban society, about four of the best in urban sports featuring skate boarding, trial riding, free running and bmx flat landing.  It was a truly epic piece.  At 28 I know what will hurt and what is not going to hurt (so the chances of me recreating any of the moves seen in this show are remote) but for the 'lost generation' between say 8 and, well not 28, there was a lot to be gained by watching it.  By seeing how amazing the human body truly is and what it is capable of achieving with even a small amount of application.  In the case of free running, so long as you have a pair of half decent running trainers, or a freshly looted pair from JD Sports, you can be away in no time, with no specialist equipment.  Just the nerve and mettle to carry out some of the actions but then this is the crux of it.

You are only limited by your own imagination on what you can achieve.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/concrete-circus/4od
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHy9W9LpvlQ&ob=av3e
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

Monday, 15 August 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

Following the recent rioting and subsequent looting in London and around the UK there have been unsurprising knee jerk reactions from all sides, from Dr Starkey's claim that "white chavs have become black" to the call for National Service to be reintroduced as we fight to solve the problems of the 'lost generation'.  Whilst Dr Starkey's outburst on Newsnight has caused much outrage throughout the country, the latter has struck a chord with an alarming majority of people in the UK. (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/264874/Bring-back-National-Service)

What people should be wary of however is the underlying cause why this may now be pushed through by the Government.

Army numbers are down to their lowest levels since the Boer War. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/17/army-shake-up-reduce-size)  A brief increase in 2009, attributed to the recession, has not done enough to mitigate the damage done by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and now Libya) through retention due to the sheer frequency of operations our troops face and the casualties sustained.  This is before the ConDem Government conspired to cut back services financing, including that of the armed forces.

To off set this reduction in numbers the UK and US Governments have widened the pool from which they can recruit to the front line.

Back on March 8th I wrote an article on news that had gone by quietly and relatively unnoticed (http://newell-news.blogspot.com/2011/03/britains-betrayal-on-domestic-violence.html) it was about the UK Governments stance on "watering down" the theme of domestic violence particularly in "periods of war time" as it was put by Home Secretary Theresa May (http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/03/human-rights-women-violence).
This article appeared in a paper on the same day as International Women's day, alongside an article highlighting the career progression obstacles women face in our armed forces because they cannot serve on the front line. The cynic in me sees this as a way of paving the way forward to allow women on the front line and a way to increase recruitment.  Similar in essence as to how (and why) cigarette companies started advertising their products to women, so that the corporations could draw larger profit margins by opening the market up to over 50% of the population.
The US Government meanwhile has sought to relax its rules on the recruitment of Homosexuals and suspend its "don't ask, don't tell" discharges (http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/army-suspend-dadt-discharges-accept-gay-recruits-184811496.html)

The conscription of children of the UK to the armed forces, to bolster their numbers, is something the British public should be very wary to vote in or support in any way.  If they do they will sign away their children (or worse someone else's children) to fight illegal wars for billionaires, in foreign lands, over oil and water and any other resource or commodity that these war lords deem a 'necessity' for the people.

Do not be under any illusions that Cameron's children, or Katie and Williams children, will be those sent out to the front line.

The scenes last week around the country may have been unsightly, the coverage of a family business that survived two world wars was a poignant one, but how many of those rioters even know what the Blitz was?
Suzanne Moore in The Mail On Sunday
Before people allow the Government to further sensor our liberties they should stop and ask the question "why?", why were men women and children running through the streets and looting these stores?
The capitalist system we live in must take some measure of responsibility for what happened on our streets.
Since the 1980's there has been a very noticeable shift in advertising and marketing, and it is very much fixated on the children of today.  The saying goes the children of today are the adults of tomorrow.  In marketing terms this means the children of today are the consumers of tomorrow. It is key that they get them young with emotional attachment to 'things' and these things become attachments to the feeling of happiness, which is not the case.

Your children are immersed in 360 degree advertising and marketing.  Sit and watch one of their shows with them and you too will see this to be the case.

The advertising and marketing firms actively push their products on people not old enough to work or buy them and so force the onus on to parents, already under the burden and strain of inflation at the petrol pumps, at the supermarkets and hostage to the energy companies squeezing them for every last penny.  Is it any wonder some people went out to take things they would never otherwise be able to afford?

The documentary 'Consuming Kids' (http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/consuming-kids/) is eye opening in its depiction of the world we live in today.  Take the time to look and see how things are advertised and marketed, not only to children but to yourselves.

It is not the product but the perception of a way of life they are selling to you.

If you think I am wrong then tell me, debate with me.  The evidence for these things are out there if you are prepared to not only look, but see.

Friday, 12 August 2011

London's Burning

Once a childhood song and popular television show, the term could now be adapted to the riots of 2011 and future generations of our children may well be told of a different story to the origin of this song.

On Thursday August 4th 2011 a man named Mark Duggan was shot dead by the police in Ferry Lane, Tottenham.  The circumstances around this are not clear and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) say they will investigate it.  The police of late however have not fared too well when it comes to publicity.
The Jean Charles De Menezes case in July 2005 came shortly after the July 7th bombings, when tensions in the UK were high.  This left the police reputation in tatters as stories leaked, counter stories and contradiction reigned supreme, add this to the more recent hacking enquiry and a lot of the public just do not believe what is said by the authorities, or have much in the way of faith.
The resulting shooting of Mark Duggan led to a protest outside the police station in Tottenham on Saturday, August 6th.  It is not known exactly what sparked the unrest but the BBC News website claims it was provoked by a confrontation between a young protestor and a police officer, though this has not been substantiated.

What happened next was like a trip back in time to the riots of the 1980's.

Map of incidents
Long in to Saturday night the police and protestors battled it out and this unrest soon spread around the country with incidents in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Gloucester.  These disturbances went on into the early hours of Wednesday morning when things seemed to calm down some what.
There was tragedy too with 3 young men being run down in Birmingham, the police investigation is under way but it is understood that the car was involved in looting.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, returned to England and it was all guns blazing.  He made a big booming speech outside Downing Street whereby he laid down the law quite chilling claiming that if you were "old enough to commit the crime, the you were old enough to face the punishment" as he told the world that 16,000 police officers would be deployed in London to quell the rebellion.  This the same guy that is planning to slash police numbers and slash the pension which they work and pay in to for so long and hard to earn.

The man has a nerve to publicly praise the public services (police, fire and ambulance) on the one hand and stab them in the back with the other.

Fire fighters in Croydon battle a blaze
Cameron went on to Parliament where he criticised the initial police response and laid out a list of potential responses to these "acts of criminality" which include looking in to what actions the army could under take to release police on to the front line, monitoring and subsequent closure of social networks where it is deemed there may be criminal activity or intent, authorising the use of water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds, reviewing curfews and dispersal of large numbers of people gathering. Phew.  This was not exhaustive as the Prime Minister has declared this the "fight back".  It was interesting to note that at no point did Cameron try to discus the role he and his predecessors have had in fostering the environment in which these people rioted, burned and looted throughout the country.

The cuts, the banking bail out (where these were deemed to be institutions too big to fail) the lack of education, lack of jobs and the price of living were left firmly alone by virtually all MPs of note.  No one it seemed was prepared to shoulder some of the blame for it is now being described as 'the lost generation'.

This lost generation is a product of an environment, a system, that system has failed them and is failing billions of people around the globe.


The system catapults talentless nobodies in to positions of 'stardom', via the social conditioning box, with such gems as Big Brother, X-factor, Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore, Katie and Peter, I'm a Celebrity etc, then complains when this generation of kids (raised by kids) that have both been immersed in this trash on our screens riot. Take a look at a news stand next time you go shopping.  There are literally hundred of magazines parading 'celebrities' and glamorising their way of life.  Lets face it the majority of the people featured in these magazines are not famous for being talented or skilled, rather famous for being famous.  So an entire generation want the same thing but do not understand the meaning of self discipline and sacrifice to earn and achieve such things.


People like Cameron come out and state that these people want "something for nothing" or that the "world owes them something". Yes the world does owe them something. An apology for creating them in this mould to start off with.