5 lessons from the Holocaust…// OhKayDohKay

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This week it’s National Volunteer Week and I wanted to honour the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a charity that organised important memorial events.

I wanted to contemplate the lessons that we should learn from the Holocaust, especially with the far right on the rise across Europe. While sadly we can never say never again (we can hope of course but history does tend to have a cruel way of repeating itself) we can be more wary and more conscious of the warning signs. Perhaps if each and every one of us learns at least one lesson from the Holocaust, then maybe we really do stand a good chance of preventing this happening again.

  1. The power of propaganda. Propaganda was at the heart of everything the Nazi Party did and it successfully used this to whip up the already festering anti-semitism.
  2. We shouldn’t allow racism to fester. Long before the Nazi Party swept its way across Europe, anti-semitism had began to rear its ugly, bigoted head and throughout the early twentieth century the Jews were persecuted with increasing anger. The Nazis did what far right parties always do, they took an existing victim, redesigned the myths and added some extra detail. It’s dangerous to allow any kind of prejudice to fester, a little comment here or a little stereotype there can soon turn in to something far more dangerous.
  3. The danger of turning a blind eye. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” said Edmund Burke and how right he was. Of course not everyone turned a blind eye to the Nazis atrocious actions, 24,356 people have been awarded Righteous Among the Nations for helping to save the lives Jews and there are many more that are other unknown or unrecognised. If every person had helped save one life or had refused to follow the Nazis murderous plan, the Holocaust would never have happened. One person is only one person but if a million individuals had stood up against the Nazis, then perhaps I wouldn’t even be writing in this post.
  4. The danger of state sponsored scapegoating. Extreme outbursts of racism tend to follow a similar pattern, an economic collapse which is followed by hardship and the seeking out of someone to blame for the seemingly unjust conditions. It happens time and time again but instead of blaming the government or the people actually responsible for the problems, we seek out someone more vulnerable and generally that tends to be someone that the media or government has chosen for us.
  5. The importance of education. Knowledge and education are the most powerful tools we have in the fight back against prejudice, we can empower people to fight back by educating them and warning them of the possible consequences. As the late Tony Benn once said “an educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern”.

xoxoxoxox

Myths about losing weight… // OhKay-DohKay

Weight-myths

At some point in our lives most of us have set ourselves a weight-loss goal, some of us will have achieved it, some will have lost weight and then put it back on again and others will have fallen at the first hurdle. Yet despite what the media constantly tells us and let’s be perfectly Bill here (I was sick of using Frank) it bloody well tell us a lot, losing weight is not always what it’s cracked up to be!

So is it any real wonder that the diet industry is worth a whooping $2billion in the UK or that there has been a huge rise in body dysmorphia and eating disorders. A coincidence? I think not.

Of course it has been scientifically proven that being obese comes with potential health consequences and I’m all for people trying to improve their health. I also admire people for going after their goals or ambitions and if being fit is one of yours I envy you in more ways than you can imagine! I’m not someone that naturally enjoys working out, I really really wish that I was.

Health consequences of being obese aside, the media undoubtedly glamourises weight-loss and portrays it to be at the heart of all our worries, giving the impression that is the solution to all our problems and making us feel as if it is the goal we should be going after. I’ve tried to lose weight, I’ve lost weight and I’ve ended up putting it all back on again and during my journey I’ve noticed quite a few issues with the media’s flawed glamorisation of weight-loss.

Sometimes there’s a deeper source to the problem // I share a lot with you on here but some of you might be surprised to learn that I’m not a very confident person. In a lot of ways I’m more confident than the average person but at the same time I can be shy too, especially when it comes to my appearance. I’ve definitely grown in confidence as I’ve grown up and over the years I’ve learnt the hard way that you’re the only person who’s opinion actually matters. And there lies my biggest issue. Sometimes I don’t respect myself as much as I know that I should and this only fuels my unhealthy eating habits. I’ve lost weight and yeah it does make me feel a little bit better but as my weight regain testifies, I’m not addressing those inner issues. Losing weight will only ever go so far but to really really love you, it takes more than just weight-loss.

It doesn’t always mean a happier you // The media seems to suggest that losing weight is the answer to all your problems and suggests that is at the heart of being happy. I definitely feel happier when I’m eating better but not necessarily because of the weight-loss. It takes a lot more than losing weight to make you feel happier because very often weight-loss is the least of the problem. And you know what, if you’re happy with your size, whatever size that might be, then who bloody well cares what other people think!!

You will attract all of the men // Ah this myth, one that particularly winds me up and goes against all my feminist feelings. Magazines continue to pump this flawed belief that all men are attracted to all skinny women. It’s as bad as the idea that we all inherently have a type. The truth is that different men like different kinds of women in exactly the same way that we like various kinds of men. Never, ever lose-weight for someone else and never to attract a man! If you want to lose weight, do it for you and not for anyone else! If he doesn’t fall for your personality when you’re a size 18, why should he when you’re a size 8?

Nor does it mean you are lazy // Gosh I hate the stereotype that being overweight means that you must be unhealthy because sadly some people have much more complicated underlying conditions. We are dangerously close to persecuting these individuals when we peddle outdated myths about weight and it’s a huge lesson for all of us. Never, ever look at someone and judge them on what size they are or aren’t. Instead of judging simply remember that a. it is none of your business and b. you don’t know anything about them.

What do you think?

xoxoxoxoxox

Launch of the Big Blog Debate… // OhKay-DohKay

About me 3

Tomorrow night I will be hosting the first weekly #bigblogdebate and the subject will the general election. It will an opportunity to discuss the results and to learn from the mistakes made.

The chat will take place between 9-10PM every Monday.

The theme will be announced the day of the chat and the chat will be broadly political, moral or based upon any issue which might evoke a debate.

I am also looking for hosts and subject suggestion! So if you are interested, please pop me an email at kaiesahapage@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Kay xx

What the 2015 General Election has taught us? // OhKay-DohKay

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Image taken from here.

Oh What a night! It was nerve racking, it was disappointing and for me it was incredibly upsetting but the General Election is finally over.

In the unlikely event that you hadn’t noticed, the general election was yesterday and while Labour appeared to lead in the polls, the result was pretty shocking with the Conservatives knocking home a win. That’s right, after months and months of campaigning, of seeing the politicians faces constantly on our TV screens and month’s of them trying to be “normal”, the election is finally over.

But before you breath a sigh of relief that you will no longer be seeing Nigel Farrage’s face every day (he is no longer leader, yay), it’s likely to be  a few days before the actual converge stops. After the resignation of Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, we will now witness three leadership elections not to mention the analysis of this incredibly surprising election.

It is an election that has shocked even the most astute of political commentators (but apparently not Katie Hopkins who knew all along, lol) and there are some really important lessons to learnt.

We need political eduction // One of the main reasons for the Labour defeat was the ever present myth that Labour created the global financial crisis. It’s a myth that Tories and Murdoch media have peddled to crushing effect and one that looks set to stick for a while yet. This continues despite the fact that leading global financial experts have stated the contrary but apparently the Tories know best. Not to mention that they backed Labour spending plans throughout the questioned parliament. I can’t help but feel that political education would have assisted in the defeat of this incorrect belief and would have made the media influence less important.

The public never forgives a liar // The Lib Dems could have never predicted they would do as badly as they did and it’s safe to say that the public are punishing them for the coalition.

The media are as powerful as ever // When the Murdoch media came out in support of the Tories in 2010 it was a game changer and their effective scapegoating of Labour for the global recession set in motion the biggest myth that has ever been told in British politics. The media did exactly the same at this election, demonising Ed Miliband in an unjust and unfair manner. I could write reams and reams about the negative impact this had (I accept it wasn’t the only faster but it did play a role!) but I won’t because it should be easy to see. The media have a huge role to play in politics, they are there to hold the government to account, but at the same time they have to be responsible! It is unfair of them to demonse individuals or launch personal attacks on the leaders of certain parties, it’s about their politics and not their personal lives.

It’s time for the Party’s to differentiate // I have said it time and time again but it is time for the Parties to be more radical, to be more left-wing. The Labour Party needs to look at it’s policies, establish what was so attractive about the SNP revolution and look to create a movement once more. Once upon a time that is exactly what the party was- a movement- and people felt special for being part of it. These days the party has become more professional and some of the original sentiment has sadly fallen away. A radical, slightly more left-wing agenda would bring back that exciting feeling and make the Party feel an important and relevant force again. In that way Labour can draw a lot of inspiration from the trade union movement. We were devastated last night, destroyed in many ways but the leadership contest gives us an exciting opportunity to reinvent the party and change it’s direction for the better. I’ll be blogging about that tomorrow, about who I would be backing and what I am going to be looking for.

Politics is changing in a big way // If you hadn’t thought it before you should have by now because the British political system is changing forever.

Battle busses are now a “thing” // Gone are the minibuses that were once at the heart of the election campaigns and here are the huge, beastly buses that we have seen dominating our TV screens as of late. I am not sure when it became a thing but I really want one for driving to work in. Anyone know where to get one?

What did you think about the election?

xoxoxoxoxo

Politics; My Opinion… // OhKay-DohKay

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Earlier in the month I started my political series with one pretty simple aim, to help people feel prepared for the general election and to help you to use your vote wisely. I tried my best to ensure that the posts remained largely apolitical and while my views definitely came across in certain parts, on the whole I think it was something I accomplished.

By now I’m pretty sure that you all know who I voted for (I had a postal vote) and if you follow my twitter then you definitely will have seen. Yet it’s not often that I express my opinion that clearly (140 characters makes it incredibly difficult) or clearly break down my position on all the key topics. I sometimes still find this to be difficult, I mean after all I’m not an expert, but today I figured that’s what I would do. In the name of political engagement, I have decided to be brave!!

This is by no means a full list of subjects but these are the issues which I feel particularly passionate about.

National Health Service // For me this has to be the first issue because it’s something that I’m incredibly concerned about, something that I deeply care about and something that sits at the heart of everything I believe in. I believe that every branch of the NHS should be free at the point of delivery, there should be no costs and no one deserves to be out of pocket because of ill-heath or ill-fortune. We’ve all heard about the huge battle that the NHS is facing and will continue to face in the coming years and there is no easy answer to the crisis. Yet there are certain changes that we can make to attempt to improve the situation. We need better community care to prevent the need for NHS treatment whenever possible. I believe that education is crucial and while this should contain courses such as health, first aid and wellness, I also believe that people should be taught how to use the services correctly. More than anything I believe in a NHS tax and that those that have more should pay more to keep the service alive.

Free and equal education // In the same way that I believe in the NHS, I also believe in universal education because it’s through education that we allow and encourage society to grow. Education should be above politics and when seeking to adapt reforms teachers and parents should be consulted. I know that this is unrealistic and probably unpopular, but if I was prime minster I would seek the abolition of private schools. I see this as one of the huge bastions of inequality that still remain in the UK and while they exist I believe that wealth and power will continue to remain in the hands of those that graduate from such institutions. Next of all and I understand that some people might question this comment (given that Labour introduced tuition fees) but I believe that university should be free for anyone that wishes to pursue it and instead I believe that we should adapt a graduate tax system. A number of countries already have something similar in place and the populations are generally satisfied to pay and surely it is coincidence that they are also the most equal or the happiest? Lastly I believe that apprenticeships should be given the same prestige as a university degree and schools should offer parity of encouragement towards both options. Apprenticeships are NOT for “stupid” children nor are they only for one sex. They are a viable alternative to university and are necessary for our economic stability.

Trident // When it comes to trident it’s fair to say that I’ve always had pretty passionate views and in all honesty, these largely go against what much of my party believes in. I don’t believe in nuclear weapons, I don’t believe that war is ever the answer and the truth is that our weapons are largely irrelevant these days and are merely a status symbol. In the recent TV debates I was pretty disappointed (and yet not at all surprised) to see that Ed ruled out the scrapping of trident and yet at the same time I was thrilled to see that the SNP, Plaid and Green demonstrated the alternative view.

Welfare State // Another subject about which I am really concerned is the consistent demonisation and victimisation of those that are receiving money from the welfare state and I am keen for us to change the language that we use. “Benefit” is a deeply flawed word because the word “benefit” has wholly positive connotations. The word “benefit” can be substituted for the word “gain” and it largely gives the wrong impression. However if we use the word “welfare” it sounds a whole lot better. The welfare state was created as a safety net for anyone that might need help and while some people do undoubtedly play the system, the vast majority only use it in the way that it was intended to be used. I am seriously concerned with the stripping away of the welfare state, an institution that was continuously fought for. I regularly find myself involved in this such debate and I always ask people to remember that they are only one bad move away from needing such help themselves. One day you might need the states help and what are you going to do if it no longer exists? Let’s remember that the vast majority of the budget is spent on the elderly or on working tax credits and a small percentage goes on out of work benefits and an even smaller amount of money goes on fraudulent claims. So consider that for a second, the majority of the bill goes on “working tax credits” that’s money that we are spending on those that are in work. Many of these are families with young children and they are doing what society considers to be the norm, working hard, raising a family and living a law abiding life and yet they are unable to earn a living from just being in work. Every year we spend millions of pounds topping up these low salaries, spending money that could otherwise be spent on the NHS, while large companies make billions in profit. So instead of questioning the workers, the people that arguably make these rich men rich, why don’t we question the CEO’s of these big ass corporations and force them to pay their workers more. By raising the minimum wage we would not only cut our welfare spending, ensure that people have a standard of living, pull people from poverty but it would also mean more money floating around our economy. To me it seems like a no brainer! So next time you hear the word “scrounger” instead of having a rant at those that are living off the welfare state, why not have a rant at the big business men that run the companies and ask them, who made them their profit?

So why are you voting Labour? // I voted Labour because I believe that the 2015 election is about one simple choice, a question to which the answer is either Labour or Conservative? I also believe in Ed Miliband, while he might not the most charismatic leader in the world, he is the most sincere and his substance is far greater than his style. However that said I do wish that the Labour Party was more left wing, I would love to see the Party adopt some of the policies that are so confidently expressed by the smaller parties. I think that there is a small revolution taking place in British politics and with 4 out of the 7 parties now being of a left-wing type set, I think that this can only be a good thing. I sincerely hope that Labour are in Government this time next week because otherwise I don’t think there’ll be much of our state left.

What are your views on these subjects?

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Thursday’s top tips- Working from home… // OhKay-DohKay

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These days there are many different ways of working and thousands of different workplaces, all with their own policies and ways of doing things. An increasing number of workplaces now offer flexible working hours and often this includes the opportunity to work from home.

In the past I’ve been lucky enough to have had the privilege of working from home, it suited me pretty well but I appreciate that it’s not for everyone. But for those of you that have an opportunity to do so here are my top tips on how to make the most of your time.

Work as you would in an office // When you’re working from home it’s incredibly easy to treat it like an extension of your weekend, to have a lie in and to not even bother getting dressed but in all honesty it’s going to do nothing for your productivity. The solution is pretty simple, just treat your working day as one that is slogged away in the office and get yourself in to that office mindset. Start by getting up at roughly the same time as you usually would, half hour here or there won’t go make a huge difference but set yourself for a decent time and stick to it. Then have breakfast, get dressed and organise your essentials in the same way as if you’re just about to jump in your car. A lot of the time productivity is intrinsically linked to mindset, get in the right frame of mind and you won’t go far wrong.

Plan your time // When I was working from home I had a strict routine that I liked to stick too, a schedule that ensured I managed my time effectively and made the most of my strengths. I tend to be more creative in the morning and last thing in the afternoon, so I purposely schedule any writing tasks for during those time slots. Every minute of my time was accounted for and I even had a hour for communications- social media, emails and the like. For some people this might seem a little bit too rigid but when you are surrounded by a million different potential distractions it’s important that you focus. My routine always included a section for planning my goals and every morning I would sit down, list my goals and create my to do list for the day. I always found that doing this greatly enhanced my productivity and focus, it’s a lot easier to get things done when you know what needs to be done and when.

Snacks // When I first started working from home one of my biggest failings was my snacking and I often found myself reaching for a mid morning biscuit. After a while I started to realise the triggers, I wanted something easy and I wanted something quick. In the office you wouldn’t have the same access to nasty junk food, so I made myself a commitment to tackle this temptation because it wasn’t helping my health or time management. I needed to find a way to counter both of my triggers and after a short time I definitely found the solution. Each morning I prepared a number of snacks for the day, chopped vegetables, a tasty smoothy or a fruit salad and placed them in the fridge ready for when I wanted them. This meant that I was far less likely to opt for a sugary snack because they were ready, instant and damn tasty.

Organise your workplace // A cluttered space makes for a cluttered mind and for me this has always been the case. As someone that suffers from a pinch of OCD and claustrophobia, a cluttered desk always made my mind feel a bit busy and this mindset ensured that my productivity for the day would be a fat zero. Every weekend I would blitz clean my room, putting everything where it belonged and every day I would make sure that I put everything away after me. It kept my desk clutter free, organised and practical and as a result my mind soon followed suit.

Have you ever worked from home and if so what tips would you offer?

xoxoxoxxoxoxo

Politics 1- the basics… // OhKay-DohKay

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Welcome to the first post in my political series. If you want to know more about this or any upcoming posts please take a look at the introduction here.

This is likely to be a fairly long post, so if you want to save yourself some time, I suggest you watch the video. The video to accompany this post can be found here!

DISCLAIMER- I am not a political scientist, nor an expert and as a political activist I am still learning about the science and technicalities of politics. These are also my personal opinions or interpretations of the subject at hand but I have tried to be unbiased and simply offer the facts on the matter.


This post will cover the absolute basics;

  • What being left or right wing means?
  • How the British political system works?
  • A few political myths that need busting!

What is the left and right wing?

When I think back to when I first started to ask this question I found it easier to imagine the political spectrum as a line, a plain and basic line. It’s straight, it has a middle and it has a left and a right. This simple line is the most powerful tool that you will have for understanding politics because by and large most parties can be defined as sitting either on one side or the other.  Understanding this spectrum can help you to determine what a party stands for. Each wing has a set of moral beliefs that are important to it’s worldwide view and these beliefs then govern the parties politics and policies.

Yet within the spectrum itself there are many different layers with different parties having their own opinions on how to achieve their desired results. This means, for example, that while two parties on the left wing might agree about what they want to achieve, they probably disagree about how they are going to go about achieving it. As with all things, both wings have a gulf of different parities and there are moderate parties and there are extreme parties on each side.

I have drafted a rough political spectrum below but please note that this is by no means a concrete spectrum and sometimes the parties wiggle about a little bit. It is also my interpretation of the political spectrum.

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The left believes in…

Their views are generally progressive, they look to the future and believe in taking society forward.

The political left aim to support those who cannot support themselves.

Their overreaching belief is one of equality and the freedom of opportunity.

People on the left of politics believe in society, unity and forms of collectivisation, hence they are more likely to support the work of trade unions.

They believe that everyone has a role to play in society and that those who have more should be able to help those that have less.

Typical left-wing policies

Taxation as a means to redistribute wealth.

The welfare sate including the NHS, disability allowance and jobseekers allowance.

The National Minimum Wage.

Employment and human right laws.

Laws that protect “liberation” groups such as BAME, LGBT, women and the disabled.

The right believes in…

Economic freedom or Laissez Faire approaches and often opt for less regulation of the economy.

They believe in tradition and they are largely conservative in their beliefs. When you see conservative written with a small “c” it means the value and not the political party.

They generally believe that they shouldn’t pay for the misfortunes of other people.

Typical right-wing policies…

They often believe in the privatisation of national services.

They believe that businesses should be left to grow on their own and therefore do not support regulation.

They support stricter controls on immigration.

They rate freedom over equality.

They are less likely to believe in climate change or support measures to curb it.

What logo represents which party?

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What is the “centre ground”?

These days the “centre ground” is a bit like the holy grail of British politics and the mainstream British politics tend to attempt to sit in this political area. The Centre ground is a combination of the right and left of British politics.

Some people have heavily criticised the parties and their leaders for this and is one reason why many accuse the politicians of all being the same. However I hugely disagree with this assumption. While you might argue that the political parties in the UK are not different enough, it does not mean that they are all the same and on some policies there are vast differences in opinion.

How the British political system works, the key words?

Parliament– The British parliament is the supreme law making power in the United Kingdom and currently sits in the Houses of Parliament on the River Thames in London. There are two chambers to the British parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords and both have a unique role to play in our political system. It’s role is to make, challenge and develop the laws that affect the United Kingdom.

House of Commons– This is the chamber where out publicly elected representatives or MP’s (members of parliament) sit. The elections for this chamber are held every five years, at which point the existing House of Commons is dissolved and we once again elect the people that we want to see represent us. In theory we are directly giving our power to the individuals that become the MP for our constituency and hence voting is incredibly important. The House of Commons is where the Government (usually the largest party or in the instance of a collation the largest party and it’s coalition party/parties) sits. The opposition party is then formed over the second largest party and their job is to challenge the government, to ensure accountability. The Commons alone is responsible for making decisions on financial Bills, such as proposed new taxes. The Lords can consider these Bills but cannot block or amend them. There are 650 MP’s but there are not enough seats for all of them!

The Cabinet– The cabinet is formed from the MPs of the governing political party (or parties) and is led by the Prime Minster. This committee of MPS are each tasked with control of a certain government sector, from health, benefits to international affairs and they are appointed by the Prime Minsiter. Once they are in their appointed role, they are regarded as Minister’s.

House of Lords– The House of Lords is often referred to as the “upper” chamber in Parliament and is the second key component of the British political system. The Lords shares the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the government. These are unelected representatives and the house is made up of peers, who have mostly been appointed by successive governments, religious figures and a handful of heredity peers. The House of Lords is often cited as being the last pillar to demolish before the UK has a real democracy and there is much discussion over the reform of the House.

Monarchy– In the United Kingdom the monarchy is still technically the head of state but unlike in the past when the monarch would have had a political role, these days it’s role is largely symbolic. The queen very rarely interferes in political affairs in the UK and only attends traditional ceremonies such as the opening of parliament.

First past the post– First Past the post is the largest voting system in the world and is the electoral system which the United Kingdom uses to elect MP’s. Under First Past The Post (FPTP) voting takes place in single-member constituencies. Voters put a cross in a box next to their favoured candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins. All other votes count for nothing. This is a heavily criticised system and many favour other types such as .

Devolution– Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. It is a form of decentralisation. Devolved territories have the power to make legislation relevant to the area. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have different types of devolution, with each having varying levels of power.

The chat!

On Monday 27th April at 8pm I will be hosting my first political chat on twitter. The debate will be non-party political and will just be an opportunity for everyone to get politically active. The hashtag will be #bigblogdebate.

Did this help in anyway?

xoxox