I have a friend who lives in Cardiff, and the other day she was filming to make a documentary about the set up of Occupy Cardiff, the latest branch of the movement started by Occupy Wall Street. This only goes to show that they won’t be quieted any time soon. In fact, at the time of posting, there are 348 protests happening world-wide, with more starting every day (figures found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/oct/17/occupy-protests-world-list-map#data) and people from all walks of life are getting involved. Just the other day I read an article about war veterans getting involved in Occupy London outside St Pauls (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/12/st-pauls-canon-occupy-protest). This is a sign that something greater than we realise is unfolding around the world. Whilst right now many may dismiss the protesters as ineffective and lazy, saying that they aren’t actually doing anything, it’s only a matter of time before it kicks off. Just what will happen is yet to be discovered, it could range from the forming of a new political party ‘of the people’ to another riot.
The protesters have now been served notice by the City of London Corporation. Camps have been cleared out in New York and other cities around America, but this is not stopping the movement. They are just growing stronger with these barriers. Today thousands of protesters stopped workers from entering Wall street and delayed the Stock Exchange bell, and back in the UK the Occupy London movement have vowed to resist legal action, holding a meeting outside St Pauls as we speak. The world is rising up against the 1%. I was tweeted earlier today by @filemot in regards to the protesters needing to work with the church. I agree that they should try to exist in harmony, but also that this is an issue outside of religion. No disrespect to her, or anyone who is religious, but a lot of people aren’t, and we should be looking at this issue from a world, point of view. I fully support peoples’ beliefs, but feel that they shouldn’t be pushed too much into this debate, as it’s an issue that affects EVERYONE, not just those who believe in a god. I am completely in support of the protesters, and believe that what they are doing is an inspiration we should all use. They’re not afraid to stand up to the governments and big corporations who are trying to oppress us, and we should all follow their example and speak out. Long live the occupation,
So I turned 20 last week, and while it was nice to have my birthday and be made a fuss of (my boyfriend took me to Cardiff!) it finally dawned on me that I’m not in my teens any more. However, I don’t particularly feel like an adult either…
21 is supposed to be the age when you get the ‘big key’ to adulthood, so where does that leave me? I feel marooned somewhere between illicit under-age house parties and sipping a single glass of wine with my selection of cheeses at dinner. I don’t quite know what to do with myself. In society, we are constantly told conflicting messages; on the one hand we’re being pushed to grow up and become responsible, to do something with our lives, go out into the world and fend for ourselves. But on the other hand we’re warned against growing up too fast, after all our youth is ‘the best time of our lives’ supposedly. This leaves me in a sort of head spin between reaching for my teddy, or reaching for a skirt-suit and briefcase.
The media is filled with images of young actresses who are put into the spotlight and suddenly develop a taste for designer dresses and launch parties, when I’m sure really they just want to paint their friends nails and tell ghost stories. There’s also the unsettling rise of heels for pre-teens, and tiny little dresses that wouldn’t look out of place in a strip club, but are being sold to 10 and 11 year olds. This pressure to grow up quicker than our years comes from other sources too. Primary school kids now get full on homework, and at the age of 13 or 14 you’re expected to pick your GCSEs, which may well determine what you do for College, University, and maybe even the rest of your life. That’s some pretty big decision making for kids who still play make-believe games and can’t buy lottery tickets yet!
A great example of this occurred last week. I was doing my online supermarket shopping (hip and tech-savvy as I am!) and I came across some ‘Bear yo-yo fruit rolls’. They claimed to provide one of my 5-a-day per roll, and on special offer at 5 for £1, how could I refuse? However on closer inspection I realised they were actually designed for children. Did this stop me from buying them? Well, no. I reasoned that it’s the sensible, grown up choice to buy some fruit based product, on special offer as well, rather than some sweets or chocolate. But those few moments of indecision made me realise that it really is time for me to grown up. I live in a house away from my family, pay my own rent, pick my own bed time, and buy my own groceries. Turns out I am an adult after all! So while I get my zimmer-frame out and pour myself a sherry (is that what old people drink?) remember that you should be proud of your age, whether you’re 15 or 50, but never loose the child inside who wants to keep that teddy bear.
I attended Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model Live on Sunday (http://www.bntmlive.com/) and had a wonderful time. However amidst all the fashion, fake tan and freebies, I found at least 2 stands selling ‘slimming aid’ drinks. Now whilst this is all well and good, I couldn’t help but think of the young girls attending who see all of the models and celebrities, then look at themselves and feel inadequate. Personally I know I’m a decent size. I have a big bum, but am quite thin everywhere else. However I’m not a size 4 or 6, and if I were younger and perhaps a bit more impressionable, this might leave me feeling like I was too fat. Whilst there has been an rise in the campaign for real bodies for real women, there is still a pressure hidden just below the surface for us to all be 6 ft, size 6, big-breasted glamazons.
I remember when I was 15, 16 years old I felt very insecure of myself and my body, wishing I were prettier and had bigger boobs. Luckily I didn’t even think of doing anything drastic, but for a lot of girls the pressure gets too much. Self harm, eating disorders and depression can all arise from low self-esteem and distortion of body image. Figures from beat, the national eating disorder charity (http://www.b-eat.co.uk/) say that an estimated 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders of some sort, and this is just the ones which have been reported. These figures show that as a nation, and indeed on a global scale, we are telling people that they aren’t good enough if they aren’t skinny. This is wrong, and we need to move towards a society where women (and men!) of all shapes and sizes are celebrated and given equal respect and encouragement to succeed.
I myself felt slightly intimidated by all the models and gorgeous people milling about ExCel London, but I’ve got to a stage where I’m fairly confident of myself and I can realise I’m good enough to do whatever I want, as long as I put my mind to it. I wasn’t told this by anyone though, I’ve suffered years of bullying throughout secondary school, and mild social anxiety which still affects me sometimes. This is why we need to improve the personal social education received by young people in schools. Public speaking workshops, lessons to explore your strengths and how you can develop them, and motivational speakers would all help teenagers to gain confidence and also begin to work out what they want to do in life. Until then, spread the love, don’t hate
In the past few weeks, there have been reports of vigilante ‘superheroes’ in Seattle, Boris telling the protesters at St Pauls to go home, and an octopuss making a home out of an old paint-tin lid. I don’t know if it’s me, but I feel like the world has gone a bit mad. We’re all on the edge of trying to change things, and people are getting uneasy. We are not like the French, with their violent riots, the best we can do here in the UK seems to be a mass stealing of plasma TVs. People want change and they don’t really know how to go about it. I see beggars and big issue sellers on the streets, and the weary commuters getting the train home, wedged in like sardines. The students, the tourists, the single mums pushing their prams through the streets of Lewisham. They all have the same hunger and desire behind their eyes, even though their circumstances differ greatly. They all realise that something needs to happen to alter the course of events which are unfolding all over the world.
Things are changing constantly with the Occupy London movement, and really this is a litmus-paper for the rest of us. What at first I dismissed as ‘kind of pointless’ I now see is slowly but surely starting to bring about an open discussion which will (hopefully) lead to changes. The camp has twice daily meetings which are used to voice opinions and work on their manifesto which will be presented to the media after it has been compiled. A statement was leaked to the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/28/occupy-london-city-st-pauls) which has caused some protesters to suggest not using the term ‘demands’ in their ideas for a new world.
I know I can’t be the only one who’s feeling a little confused and overwhelmed by all that’s going on recently, someone needs to take a step back and try to make sense of it all. I’ll look at each of these issues in more depth later on, but for now let me sign off by saying that whilst I am a little bemused by recent events, I fully support these baby steps we seem to be taking towards a better way of life.