Quarter life crisis

You have got your very own kettle, your fancy dress kit and your berocca.  Weeks of anticipation are heading to a climax as university begins and your childhood gets waved away.  Your opportunity to prove yourself as a self sufficient adult has finally arrived.  Or so you think. Fairly quickly you realise the glamour of being grown up does not quite correlate with the reality of your first year experience.  You find yourself sleeping with no bed linen as keeping up with laundry finds itself low on your list of priorities, you feel tired all the time and you may even find yourself getting an ickle bit homesick.

And just as you start to get the hang of things, three years have flown by in what feels like three months and the real world starts to beckon.  You don’t feel quite as wise as you had anticipated you would feel at this point.  What you do feel is the weight of debt, fear and nostalgia.  ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ becomes ‘what are you going to be?’ Your freedom seems to melt away. Your time has run out.  The Quarter Life crisis has begun.  Everyone seems to be settling down with cushty  £40,000 a year jobs in ‘the city’ or are commencing a life of intellectual superiority with the pursuit of a masters. Do we have to leave the student bubble already? Can I really no longer get my student discount?

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The symptoms of a Quarter Life crisis are numerous. Some find their inner Kerouac and decide a life on the road is the way to be. They opt for travel over job applications, and believe a mud hut in Uganda will hold the answer to their problems.  It is common for these gypsy types to latch onto a cause, maybe tree related or the grievances of a remote Indonesian tribe, to establish a greater purpose in life and replenish their souls after three years of hedonistic debauchery.

There are the sufferers of PUD – post university depression.  PUD sufferers return home to the comforts of Ma and Pa and proceed to wallow in the pain of their lost youth.  Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women become your best friends as your indecision concerning what to do next stops you from doing anything, at all.  Your mum’s gentle probing ‘Sent in any job applications recently?’ is met with barks of ‘I’m in a transitional phrase, leave me alone’ or ‘there aren’t any jobs, blame the recession’.

Some fellows refuse to get off the ‘lash train’. Tinged with the tragic, these ‘pardi animals’ rave into their thirties and are held back only by the onslaught of back pain and beer bellies. Your heart never really left student clubland and your ring tone is still Cascada’s ‘Every time We Touch’. Usually found cruising around town blaring out some ‘massive tunes’ or mud wrestling at all the summer’s festivals.

The ‘schemers’ already have a job by the end of first year, for fear of missing the boat. They have a crystal clear career plan (CEO by 30) and nothing is going to stand in their way. While some students wasted their holidays working in bars or exploring the world, the ‘schemers’ spent their time completing  internships and filling out applications to every graduate scheme going.

The ‘Eternal Students’ decide keep their heads buried in their books. The warm womb of a library is more appealing than the brutalities of the jobs market. They complete degree after degree till their name is followed by every letter of the alphabet.

Published in the University of Bristol student newspaper, The Epigram, January 2013

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Does affirmative action foster an anti-white prejudice?

In November 2008 Barack Obama opened his Presidential acceptance speech with the message ‘If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.’  The election of a man of mixed racial heritage to the job regarded to be the most powerful in the country should have been the moment that America broke down the last barriers of racial discrimination.  America should have finally become the country it always wanted to be, in which ‘all things are possible’ for all individuals, regardless of one’s racial heritage.

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A recent study conducted by Harvard Business School and Tufts University suggests that Obama’s victory has not pushed America into an era devoid of racial prejudice.  According to the study, racial discrimination has emerged in another form. The pendulum of discrimination has swung in the other direction, as the study proposes that it is the white majority population that now feels effected by racial bias.  Approximately 200 white and 200 black people were randomly selected from a national census and asked to rate racist attitudes against blacks and whites in every decade from 1950 onwards.  Eleven per cent of white respondents gave the current level of anti-white racism the maximum rating of ten points.  The authors of the study point towards an issue of ‘severe legal and social controversies’ creating a form of ‘reverse racism’.

Affirmative action appears to be playing a crucial role in engendering these feelings amongst the white population.  Affirmative action originated in the 1960s as a way of forcing employers to ensure they did not discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, creed, colour or national origin.

Some whites feel they are now at a disadvantage when applying for jobs as employers go out of their way to fulfil a secret quota of employees representing ethnic minorities.  Whites also feel discriminated against when applying for educational institutions, as demonstrated in the case of Fisher vs University of Texas.  Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, both white, applied to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008, and were denied admission. They claim the university discriminated against them because of their race, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment.  The supposed anti-white bias has created an America not compatible with the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’  A society that continues to give advantages to individuals based on race undermines the Founding Fathers commitment to equality.  Many whites feel America’s cherished individualism has lost out to political correctness.

The facts and figures regarding the socio-economic position of black people suggests the supposed anti-white bias has not produced an imminent threat to the white population’s position as the wealthiest ethnic group in the States.  Currently the black unemployment rate is almost double the employment rate of the white population, with 14.1% of blacks unemployed compared with 7.4% of whites.  Things do not look to be improving for the black community, as the racial gap – having narrowed between 2005 and 2009 – has once again widened following the recession’s June 2009 end. Analysis of Census Bureau data by Sentier Research has revealed that in the past three years the median annual income of black households has fallen by 11.1%, which is over double the 5.2% inflation-adjusted decline experienced by white households.

America’s complex history as an ethnic melting pot has left many wounds unhealed.  As the authors of the study suggest, America is still struggling to reach a ‘post-racial’ era.  The media’s rhetoric continues to focus heavily on race, with Obama unable to shake the tag line of America’s first black President.  It will take many more Presidents from ethnic minority groups for the novelty to wear off, and many more years of socio-economic development amongst America’s poorer ethnic minority groups to ensure race disappears as a means for judging the merit of an individual.

Published in the University of Bristol student newspaper, The Epigram, February 2013 

The plight of the independent bookshops

Upon returning home to south London for the Easter holidays, I experienced a mortifying sense of loss.  As an English literature student it will come of no shock to the reader that I like books.  They are my friends.  The ones with the pretty front covers and gold trimmed pages are like an aesthetically attractive peer – you like to look at them and caress them and if you open them and like the contents then well, that is an added bonus.   There are the books with the coffee stained pages and nibbled edges.  Those are the friends with most fascinating personalities.  You know that they have seen a lot.  It will appear inevitable to the reader that, as books are my friends, I see book shops as a kind of social club.

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My most beloved book shop, My Back Pages, is situated in Balham and has seen me through my degree’s reading lists with heavily discounted and brimming with character second hand books.  I like to open a copy of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and read the pencilled scrawls ‘To Maggy, I am so sorry, Love Simon’ and think who was Maggy and why did Simon think that (spoiler alert) a book about the sexual assault and subsequent death of a young woman was an appropriate way of saying sorry. You just don’t get that thrill in Waterstones.

The lovely Irish man who runs my beloved book shop can no longer afford the rent.  Like so many other independent retailers, he has had to pack up and sell up.  Inevitably he will be replaced by a Foxtons or a cafe called Bumble Bees or something equally as nauseating.  My Irish man blames ‘Margaret Thatcher’s free markets catching up with us’.  The strength with which he feels this charge is starkly apparent as he made the statement with little sign of remorse for the fact that Mrs. Thatcher had passed away the day before.

Whatever one feels about Thatcher’s economic policies, there are a few others who need to be held to account for the plight of the independent book retailers.  Amazon does an amazing job of offering cheap books delivered straight to your door.  Kindles mean fewer people are buying books full stop.  Even high street chains are suffering – who remembers Borders?

Without these charming one off establishments, Britain is at risk of turning into one great barrel of homogeneity.  Every high street will consist of an estate agent, a chemist, a supermarket, a Costa/Starbucks/Nero, a Nandos and an arbitrary charity shop.  An area’s ‘artiness’ will be measured by how many of these arbitrary charity shops there are.  Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft are currently trying to fend off such influences, but if parts of London are anything to go by, such as Brixton and some of East London, they won’t last long.  In fact, as I write this, the Foxtons in Brixton is being graffitied by a disgruntled local.  I implore you not necessarily to graffiti, but to support your local shops before the world turns into one gigantic estate agent.

As a wise woman once told me (my mother) ‘If all the world were flat as sand, and all the sea were gravel, how blank and drab our maps would be, how sad would be to travel’.

Published in University of Bristol student newspaper The Epigram, May 2013