Motivation and Inspiration, by Clemmie

Sitting on the sofa with my mother today watching her sew name tapes, I decide to alleviate her boredom with one of those deep and slightly unanswerable questions that you probably do not want to answer while you are trying to thread a needle: ‘Do you think there is a difference between Inspiration and Motivation?’ After considering this for a moment (or perhaps ignoring me while she threaded the previously mentioned needle) she eventually replied ‘yes’.  When pressed for further details she eventually came to the conclusion that ‘inspiration comes from an external factor, whereas motivation comes from within’.  Not willing to let her get away with answering my unanswerable question so easily, I began throwing examples at her to try and disprove this theory: ‘If a man told his son he would give him £100 pounds for passing all his exams, that’s an external factor but you wouldn’t call it inspiration, would you?’ And she simply replied, ‘No, that’s bribery.’  It was at this point I realised my mother was right and (frustratingly) had answered in the space of a minute the question which had played on my mind all day.  The more I applied her theories to examples in my mind, the more I realised that she was right, giving up when I realised ‘I am so internally motivated to disprove her theory that I have wasted a perfectly useful twenty minutes’. Is there any significance to knowing the difference between motivation and inspiration? I think so.  Knowing the difference will make it easier to define the source of a desire, and in my experience, things are always far more achievable when I know why I’m doing them!

A day in the life of a Fish-Packer, by Sara Lund

This holiday I went and worked up in Oban, Scotland for two weeks. I was double checking smoked fish, in a warehouse with no windows, and then passing the products on to people who would pack them in polystyrene boxes and send them to customers. To give an insight into the work here’s my daily routine:

7.00 am Alarm goes off, roll over and try to go back to sleep
7.05 am Alarm goes off again, turn on radio, clamber out of bed and put on clothes, which already smell of fish, surprise surprise!
7.20 am Cook porridge for breakfast and make sandwiches to take to work. Eat breakfast in silence as too tired for conversation
7.50 am Run upstairs, brush teeth, put on another layer of fishy clothes, shove on wellies and trek to the Warehouse
8.00 am Arrive at the warehouse, grab a cup of coffee and get double checking
8.00-10.00 am First shift, usually manage to check around 100 orders in this time. BBC Radio 1 starts to get annoying when it plays the same Bruno Mars song for the fifth time in two hours!
10.00-10.15 am 1st Coffee Break of the day, second cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit. Conversation kept to the minimal as people are already tired; not a good sign!
10.15-12.00 am Second shift spent double checking more vacuum packed fish.
12.00-12.30 pm Lunch Break which usually consisted of a cheese toasty, a cup of coffee and more chocolate; carb loading to the max!
12.30-3.00 pm By far the longest shift of the day and definitely the hardest to get through, another lovely session of double checking; which is making sure that all the products which the customer wants are there, checking the quantities are correct and using the date gun to add a best before date to the products.
3.00-3.15 pm 2nd Coffee Break of the day, fourth cup of coffee and third chocolate biscuit consumed. Another silent break as the fatigue and sun deprivation (didn’t see the sun for 2 weeks when I was working up there) kicks in.
3.15-5.00 pm The fourth shift spent double checking more fish, oh the joys.
5.00-5.30 pm Dinner Break
5.30-8.00 pm Last shift of the day. Highlight is when the boss of the company comes round and hands out sweets at 7.00 pm to all the workers

 

My holiday job was hard work, sometimes I hated it but it was worth it when I got my first ever pay check at the end of the two weeks I was working! The people I was working with were completely different to my usual circle; most of them had started working at 13 and dropped out of school by 16 to work. I feel I’ve learnt a lot about myself this past holiday not only because of the people I’ve met but I also feel I’ve experienced an aspect of the “real world” that many of my friends may never experience. My boss, at the end of the two weeks, asked me whether I would be interested in returning to work next Christmas. My reply= “Asking me now, there is no way that I would even consider it but contact me in the summer, when I need the money, and I have a feeling the answer will be different”.

Newtown, further thoughts…

On the 14th December 2011 a horrendous massacre took place at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown which claimed the lives of 28 people (including the perpetrator and his mother (who he stole the guns from)). In the days that followed Americans, as well as the whole world, were putting forward (some arguing with each other) their own different opinions on how to try and prevent there from being another similar atrocity in the future and also try to fix an already growing problem in a country that has over 300 million guns (which is more than 1 gun per every adult in America) and has the worst gun homicide rates for a developed country.

It is clear that there is a gun problem at the minute in America.  On average, America has around 3.7 gun related homicides per 100000 citizens (14th Highest) which although is not nearly as bad as other developing countries such as Colombia, Honduras, Brazil etc. is greatly higher than any of the other developed countries (higher than even some developing countries such as India, Chile and Poland). Compared to European countries the US has about 7 times more the amount of gun related homicides per 100000 citizens than Switzerland (the highest rate in Europe) and compared to the UK the US has more than 100 times more the rate of homicides.

There are many solutions that various people have offered to sort out this gun problem in the US. Pro-gun activists, such as the NRA, argue that the solution is to have more guns (which seems to be supported by some Americans as the purchase of guns has risen after Newtown) and in particular schools (some such as Larry Pratt argue that teachers should have concealed guns). They argue that if more of the “good” guys have guns they can use them against the “evil” guys to defend themselves. Although this could be true (as it does allow people to defend themselves), it also leaves the possibility of there being a terrible fatal accident (teacher goes insane and starts a massacre, toddler finds the gun and blows his or her own head off or classmates etc.). Others argue that there should be more gun control to try and combat this problem. There have been instances where there has been visible evidence that gun related atrocities/crimes have dropped as a result of there being stricter gun enforcement. For example after the Dunblane massacre in 1996 Britain effectively made private ownership handguns illegal under the firearms amendment act of 1997 and firearms (amendment) act (No.2) of 1997. Despite there being almost no immediate notable change in the big picture gun related crime has fallen in the UK as a result and in particular handgun related crimes fell by 44% from 2003 to 2011. Nevertheless these laws have not completely eradicated massacres from happening in the UK. In 2010, there were the Cumbria shootings where Derrick Bird killed 13 people (including himself) and Raul moat in the same year when he killed three people including himself.  However, even though there were these two tragic instances the records of there only being two major massacres does represent some sort of an achievement from the British law enforcement.  Another example is in Canada after the introduction of licensing of firearms in Canada there has been a drop in 1.15 homicides per 100000 due to guns in 1977 to 0.5 homicides per 100000 due to guns in 2003.

Despite these two examples (and many others e.g. Colombia, (to an extent) New York etc.) immediate laws clamping down on the ownership of guns in America might not be the answer to its gun problems. One problem that stricter gun laws could have in America is that firstly it would be very hard to pass through any anti-gun laws, due to there being more of a gun culture over in America as opposed to Britain. Another problem is that such a drastic immediate step (even just by banning all semi-automatic rifles) does present a danger of there being immediate problems in the future (such as an increase in crime due to a loss of personal protection).This reason for this is because if any institution undertakes a drastic step too quickly there is a danger of there being problems along the way (such as with the introduction of democracy in Germany in 1918 which eventually led to fascism). Stricter gun laws could benefit America but America would have to be careful for not making them too drastic otherwise a bigger problem could be created. One possible solution for America which could help reduce gun crime without much risk is for the government to increase its spending to help mentally ill people and introduce more clinics to help them. This could work because in many of the massacres in America the perpetrators were known to possess some sort of mental illness. If these people, like in many other countries such as the UK, are looked after or helped this could lead to there being a decrease in the number of mentally unstable people allowing them to think more rationally and less likely to commit a massacre immediately. In the end, the correct solution to this gun problem (whether it is more/less guns/gun control) will take a long time to find and be properly implemented for there to be any significant effect to combat this problem. For now, at least, it is good that both sides in the gun debate (pro and anti-gun activists) realize that there is a problem in America and that something needs to be done about it. Hopefully America can find a solution soon so that we will never get a repeat of Newtown where 20 poor 6/7 year olds got their lives taken away from them and were denied the opportunity to experience a long and happy life and also those who survived at Newtown who are unfortunately mentally scarred due to the events.

 

Is it the people or the guns? asks Andrew

The recent events in America have sparked debate all around the world, a common theme that has emerged is the ‘people or the guns’ debate. Many people argue that regardless of the fact that the people have the guns it is due to the nature of the people that causes the terrible events, ‘It’s the people who kill not the guns’. Other people argue that it is the lack of gun control and their integration to the American Society. Personally I think that though it may be true that it is due to the person’s nature that they do these terrible things, having more guns as some US politicians want can do nothing to help the problem. Having guns can make it comparatively easy for someone to kill multiple people compared to if there were stricter rules and people therefore resorted to more rudimentary and therefore less destructive weapons such as knives or even not carried out the crime. Having more guns to me can in no way improve the situation, can you imagine teachers in primary schools across the US carrying firearms? This could create more problems, as due to human error children may be able to get hold of these weapons and it could lead to many more firearms incidents involving children. In conclusion stricter gun control measures would make sense to me in the US, this would limit the amount of firearms that people are allowed to posses and monitor more strictly the people allowed to posses them. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC4JJWUtzkc

The misuse of the word ‘gay’ – a polemic from Lily

The word ‘gay’ is used in a derogatory way, which alienates a group of people.  It is used wrongly as people intend it to be disparaging and offensive but its true meanings-happy and homosexual- get lost in the process.  This then leads to the notion of being homosexual having negative connotations.  Although this seems to be the most common view and a view which makes sense both morally and logically perhaps one can look at the use of the word ‘gay’ as a progression and evolutionary step in language.  The meaning of words, especially adjectives have been prone to change over time, coming full circle in some cases.  Some examples of this are words such as ‘wicked’ or ‘bad’.  In certain classes and parts of society these words are used to convey something in a bad way, whilst they can be used as a positive expression also.  In the same way if one accepts that the word ‘gay’ has been turned into an adjective that no longer has any connection to homosexuality, surely it should not cause homosexuality to be subconsciously considered as a negative attribute.

However the common answer to such a suggestion is that due to the negative feelings towards homosexuality in our recent past and negative feelings that are still present even today and inevitably will be around in the near future, it is impossible to distance the word gay from homosexuality as the two remain synonymous and in addition, any negative use of the word ‘gay’ will result in the prolonged feeling of negativity towards homosexuality as a sexual orientation.  In response to this understandable viewpoint one can refer to the example of the word ‘dark’ or ‘black’ and its use in the modern day.  The word ‘dark’, which inevitably stems from racist views towards people of colour, is now accepted as a term of no relation and can be used freely to describe expressions of malice or evil.  Despite the fact that racism is still an issue today, ‘dark’ is not questioned or frowned upon if used as a negative adjective.  Therefore, by the same logic, as soon as gay loses its meaning of homosexuality just as it previously lost its meaning of happiness, then perhaps it will be accepted as a perfectly reasonable way to express negative feelings.  As a society today we are in the transitional phase of the words meaning and so, slowly but in my view surely, and that is said with no undertones of homophobia simply with the evolution of our language in mind, the word ‘gay’ will become accepted as a word used to express distaste.

Tradition, class and dressing up by Yasmin

Over the Christmas holidays my godmother took me to tea at Browns as a birthday treat and I was duly instructed by my mother to dress up smartly as it is one of the nicest hotels in London…however when I was there I saw a number of people in various outfits from little old ladies in their fur and diamonds to a boy who went in in muddy grey trackies and trainers prompting me to think about class and tradition here.  What once was seen as incredibly ‘posh’ now seems to be far more lenient and a general day out (I didn’t see the boy come out again so I assume he was allowed in!) and dressing up for some functions seems to be the reserve of our grandparents’ generation.  Despite people complaining about private schools and the people who go there everyone seems to live a fairly affluent life and there isn’t much that people in this country go without.  For example, if you are determined enough you are perfectly able to succeed in life and, if you are so inclined, send your children to places and to do things which you never had the chance to.  Even members of our royal family have married people who were not even titled, something which would never have happened a few centuries ago, definitely making it seem that the idea of the class system is antiquated now.

Maybe traditions are changing to reflect this, such as at the theatre where I have been volunteering where, although we have to dress up for performances at The Stahl and must never ever wear jeans, many people turn up in casual clothes, even for the evening shows (though I will admit that it is hardly the West End!)  Perhaps our traditions and our entertainment has changed to be far less formal now that it is accessible to everyone and seems to be less of a ‘big deal’ or maybe somewhere along the way someone decided that they didn’t want to dress up and forewent formal wear…

And yet sometimes I wonder what it would be like to see everyone decked out in their finery for an opera performance, something which still seems to be done mainly by the ‘upper class’.  We’ve technically lost our aristocracy and yet there are still things which are decidedly ‘posh’ such as polo and hunting.  Nothing stops anyone from doing these things so why is it seen this way aside from it being an old tradition?

So, perhaps it is not the most fascinating subject but it probably says something about us as a culture.  We seem to want everything and be able to have it but still refuse to actually go for it, ideas of a class system which seems to have been abolished in everyday life and yet still persists in other areas holding some people back.

In any case the tea was fantastic.

Should people have the right to own guns, by Sam

The big news as we come to the end of 2012 has been gun laws in the USA, which were brought up by the tragic shootings in Connecticut last week.  Twenty children aged 10 and below were gunned down by a seemingly mad man who somehow gained access to the school when the children were in class.  The event was so devastating that the Barack Obama, who has two young children himself, was brought to tears.  That showed how shocking this event was and it brought up a potentially huge debate question: ‘Should normal civilians have the right to own gun’?

Well, in some cases, they should be allowed.  If you live in a pretty bad area of a city or town and the area you live in is prone to burglaries and thefts, then buying a gun seems like a good idea, especially if you have a family and you want to see them achieve their hopes and dreams etc.

However, in most cases they shouldn’t be allowed because most people in the world live in communities where people respect each other and their privacy, which means that they don’t need guns.  Also people can suffer mental illnesses or feel that because they have a gun, they can go round shooting people or waving it about to scare people to show that they are ‘the boss’, which endangers a lot of innocent people, highlighted by the Sandy Hook massacre.

I personally think that in the USA, the government should look a people’s lives and current situations and determine whether they should be allowed possession of a gun or not.  By this method, I think a vast majority of people who currently own guns in the USA will be without them after that and the public will feel a lot safer and without fear.

Matthew’s views on Santa Claus (warning, contains spoilers)

It’s our “favourite” time of the year – Christmas. When we were young, most of us believed in the tooth fairy, Easter bunny… but the most influential character is Santa Claus.  Should parents tell their 5 year old kids that Santa’s not real?

            Before talking about the pros and cons of telling your kid that Santa isn’t real, why is Santa Claus the most popular character out of other made up characters?  Firstly, Santa gives out presents to the children who are good.  Presents can be in forms of money, chocolate, toys and favours etc. Therefore, he beats the tooth fairy as “she” gives money in return of a tooth.  However, children at that age don’t have a strong concept of money and saving, so she’s not as influential.  As for the Easter bunny, food is usually not the top priority on the children’s’ wish list.  Moreover, they could get different types of candy and chocolate through trick-or-treating during Halloween or birthdays.  Secondly, it is the most commercialized character in the world.  You would always see a person dressed up as Santa Claus in shopping malls, toy stores, restaurants during Christmas time.  Moreover, “Santa Clauses” are usually fat and cuddly which make them very “huggable” and lovable.

            There are a few reasons for telling your children the truth is the correct way.  The whole concept of Santa Claus is basically telling children to behave in order to get presents.  Therefore, it makes children believe that they would only need to behave well if they want presents, not knowing the importance of behaving well or the concept of manners.  Second, in the viewpoint of parents, you would need to get extra presents to pretend they are from Santa.  It would be quite costly if you have a few children.  So telling them earlier could save your money.  Third, they will neglect the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Christ.  This is more important to Christian families as they shouldn’t let their children to focus on Santa Claus, otherwise it will become idolatry.  Moreover, you are teaching them how to think critically and logically, by explaining that it is totally impossible for a man to sit on a sleigh pulled by a group of reindeer and to fly to every place of the world to deliver gifts within a night.  Lastly, by telling them that Santa is made up later may break their hearts.  This shows you are indirectly teaching them how to lie, which is not good at all.  Therefore, it’s better to tell them immediately that it’s a myth.

            The other side of the argument is that it will destroy their childhood.  I don’t really think so.  Children love Santa because they can have more gifts not because it is so cool to sit on a sleigh delivering presents.  The level of happiness of giving them a present and another gift but saying it’s from Santa is the same as giving more gifts while denying the existence of Santa when children start to understand words.  Another argument is that they will lose their “innocence”.  We should let them dream or fantasize about Santa or other fictional characters and let them find out the secret later when they grow up.  I quite agree with that point of view.  However, we have to differentiate the difference between creativity and innocence.  Creativity is to think outside the box, thinking something that is original, while innocence means free from sin or wrong.  There is actually no direct relationship between the 2 words.  And innocence? Really?  Does this word still appear in this world, when we are living in a world that 3 year olds and toddlers are already learning or even know how to operate touchscreen tablets or iPhones? 7-8 year old kids who already started to create their own facebook pages?  Are kids who are materialistic and want more gifts from some fictional character called innocent?  No!  This “innocent” argument used to be a strong point but not in the materialistic world of the 21st century.

            However, it would also be quite embarrassing when your child acts mature at school saying that Santa’s fake in front of his/her classmates which will make them all cry and spoil their fantasies.  Then the parents of the crying kids would have to fabricate another story to cover it up.

            The sad fact is that Christmas is a time when shops offer super cheap products to the public in order to clear their year-end stock but saying it’s a Christmas sale.  It is also a time for restaurants to charge customers at unreasonable and exorbitant prices by using “festive season” as an excuse (a HK Christmas eve dinner at a fancy restaurant may cost over HKD 2,000, which is around £200/person).  However, in order to prevent our children from experiencing the sad reality of the over-commercialized season too soon and protect their innocence (which I believe have been already lost), I think we should stick to the principle of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and let them figure it out themselves when they grow up…

Ben Brandler’s ten questions

Ten questions to ask yourself:

1. What makes a dream?
2. If you are always looking forward to something, why is that?
3. Is there such a thing as a random choice?
4. What is your most important emotion?
5. Does everything have a definite purpose?
6. How do you describe touch if not by comparison?
7. Is it possible to imagine all questions having answers?
8. What makes laughter a natural reaction to something funny?
9. Are opposites defined by absences?
10. How does knowledge originate?