London 2012 Olympics: Oscar Pistorius

As a Londoner I almost feel obliged to write something about the London 2012 Olympics. My topic? Oscar Pistorius.

There was an article on him in the telegraph that gives you a fair amount of background on him if you are interested beyond what I am going to outline.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/athletics/9452280/London-2012-Olympics-Oscar-Pistorius-finally-runs-in-Games-after-five-year-battle.html

Oscar Pistorius is a South African athlete who uses blade prosthetic legs to run. There was much debate over these biometric legs as some claimed that they gave him an advantage against other runners, leading to Oscar being disqualified from competing 5 years ago. However, it has since been proved that this is not the case and he is now able to compete again.

So this blog was inspired by a conversation a group of us had at a bbq when we were watching the race. There were several people who thought that he should not be competing in the Olympics as he was not ‘able bodied.’ They also thought that he should most definitely not be competing in both the Olympics and the Paralympics, claiming that you are either ‘able bodied’ or ‘not able bodied’ – you can’t be both. However, there was another side to the argument, several argued that it was good that he could compete and that he has proved that he is able bodied through his ability to run, furthermore, the blades give him no advantage so why shouldn’t he compete?

My opinion falls definitely in the latter. I think that it is a fantastic achievement that he fought to compete and has managed to do so, and not only that but make it to the final of the 400 metres as well. Personally, I think that his competing pushes the boundaries as to what we view as ‘normal’ and makes us think beyond the confines of the box that tradition draws out for us. Why shouldn’t we, with the plethora of technology we have available to us, take full advantage of it and let people compete in the way they wish. After all, Oscar has had to work extremely hard, if not harder than the other athletes to reach the stage that he is at now. I don’t know much about the physiological side of running but I would imagine that it puts more pressure on his other muscles as he has no calf muscles to take on the strain.

Therefore, I argue that Oscar should be able to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics. It is narrow minded, I would say, to argue that we are defined by only one thing. Surely, we have progressed more as a society to be able to see round corners rather than just in a straight line.

Oscar has also brought the plight of the disabled and has shown that you can lead a fantastic and fulfilled sporting life despite a disability to the world wide stage, raising awareness across the globe. This is a priceless feat, one that should be commended rather than criticised.

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Is It Healthy To Be A Perfectionist?

Many people consider themselves perfectionists, but I question, is this a healthy mentality to life? Of course it is good to strive to better yourself, but surely life is also about knowing your limits?

Constant perfection is not a realistic goal, you are bound to fail at one point or another, quite often really. I’m sure that no one is flawless…

Not achieving a goal can be disheartening and demotivating, so striving for perfection may not actually be the best way to live. It might be better to set goals that are specified to your abilities that allow gradual improvement, rather than just expecting to be able to accomplish everything all the time.

Setting goals to achieve is an extremely difficult process, that has to be balanced between endeavouring to do better and setting achievable goals. However, if setting and actualizing goals can be done, then confidence and self esteem can be built and a better quality of life can ensue. I aim to do this.. another challenge…

Children Grow Up Too Fast

 

In the 21st century children are growing up too quickly, and they are becoming sexualised too early in their lives. Music videos, music, films and TV prompt children to begin to think about matters that they shouldn’t be at such a young age. Artists such as Katy Perry, Rihanna and  Lady Gaga have fans as young as 7 and with their music often being provocative, they are evoking early development.

However, the main difference between young children now than children 10-15 years ago, when I grew up for instance, is the augmented access children have to factors that can advance their years too early. The internet has become an innate part of our lives and thus youngsters have learnt how to use the internet and can access things that previous generations could only access later in their lives. The internet gives children access to a wealth of information, often without parents’ knowledge, unless filters have been placed on their internet searching. This increase in information given to children can have negative emotional consequences to children.

Music videos is a significant example of this, Rihanna’s music videos often have strong sexual connotations and children pick up on this very quickly. Films seem to have more lackadaisical ratings, resulting in stronger content, that is not only sexual but also violent, infiltrating into our children’s minds. Indeed, video games are notorious for being extremely violent, young children play these games and this, I think, has an affect on their well being that has not yet been fully explored.

The danger of chat rooms seems to have been covered by news outlets describing kidnapping and other awful scenarios, but the danger of information being accessed by children at such a young age is still something that has yet to be covered, and the danger realised, by society.

The internet is a relatively new factor that has been introduced into society and I think with time people will begin to realise the dangers that it can pose to young, unassuming children. Nonetheless, it is worth making advancements towards improving the filter systems available on the internet to prevent children from accessing certain sites and raising awareness about the dangers that the internet can pose.

The Power of Fear

Fear is an instinctive, innate human emotion. We feel it when we feel in danger or pain, and its purpose is to minimise harm to oneself. This works of course, in preventing physical harm, such as entering a situation that is categorically dangerous and instilling trepidation in the mind in journeying into potentially harmful mental activities. In these cases, feeling fear is beneficial.

However, fear is not always advantageous. It can install so much trepidation that we are stopped from undertaking activities that, although not fully comfortable, would greatly improve the quality of our lives. Thus, in this way, fear, as well as protecting our lives, can limit them.

Fear has to be rationalised. We must question whether our fears are rational fears, and whether the situation we are contemplating has a real and harmful danger. Or, if on the other hand, we are just being overcautious and letting our minds get the better of us.

If we don’t rationalise our worries then fear will overtake our lives, leaving narrow horizons and confining perspectives. If we avoided every situation that causes us anxiety or worry, then I know I would achieve little to nothing. Fear is a natural emotion and we should embrace it as well as questioning its validity. If this is possible, I hope that a more exciting and fulfilling life can be led.

Thus, I endeavour to overcome irrational fear and lead my life with as little fear, worry and anxiety as possible. This is definitely a hard task, but I’m always up for a challenge.

Racism – ‘Black Like Me’

I recently read the book ‘Black Like Me’ by John Howard Griffin. It was first published in 1961 and covers the racism that was prevalent in the States in the late 1950s. The journalist, Griffin (a white man), coloured his skin black and travelled around the South, documenting his experiences. If you haven’t read it I would truly recommend it. It is compulsory reading for High School Students in the States and I can definitely see why!

All my life I’ve inherently known that racism is wrong, and I have never questioned it. I have grown up in a society where I see very little racism. In fact, I’ve grown up in London which is the most culturally diverse area in the UK. Therefore, it was beyond me how and why people were racist and undertook racist acts. I couldn’t understand it. Why would you discriminate against someone solely because their skin colour was different? Why does this mean some people think that they are inferior and can be treated like second class citizens?

I did not purposely start reading ‘Black Like Me’ to specifically answer my questions, in fact it was given to me as a present. Yet, along with feeding my passion for historical information, ‘Black Like Me’ gave me an insight and did end up answering a few of my questions, emphatically at that.

The way in which Griffin undertook his tour of areas of Southern USA was this. He kept his name, his accolades and his personality, he simply changed his skin colour. Despite being the same person on the inside he faced discrimination. Thus, at a time when racism was intrinsically incorporated into society in the States, Griffin proved it wrong and demonstrated that it was futile and unjustifiable. He was the same person, so surely he should be treated in the same way no matter what his skin colour?

However, Griffin goes further than pointing out this truth, he begins to unravel why it is that people thought that blacks in the South were an inferior race. Griffin explains that because of the racist society the blacks were forced to have less access to amenities and lesser living standards, essentially living in poverty. This resulted in a self perpetuating cycle of poverty, reinforcing the idea that blacks were actually an inferior race and incapable of living the same way that whites do. For example, blacks in the Deep South had access to poorer education, this led to an ineptitude to gain employment meaning that blacks were effectively forced into low paid and low skilled jobs. This detained them in poverty with no way out. The inability to improve one’s situation inevitably led to the social issues, such as drunkenness, that the whites associated with ‘black areas of town.’ However, Griffin points out that if whites were condemned to the same situation, they too would be in the same poverty-stricken position the blacks were in. Thus he concludes that rather than the blacks being an inferior race, they were actually simply victims to economic and social grievances. Grievances that were in desperate need of being redressed!

As you can see, my questions as to why blacks were thought to be inferior and treated as second class citizens has been answered. Something that was a sort of enlightenment to me and epiphany moment as I had never before thought of it in this context. I guess the stem of racism comes from the use of blacks in the slave trade and the views of race continuing through the generations.

‘Black Like Me’ is the first book that I’ve read in a while that has really ‘got my juices going.’ It serves as a historical documentation of life in the Deep South as well as a philosophical book about race. At the same time, however, it is incredibly easy to read!

The Pressure To Be Thin

I’ve been reading and following more and more people on wordpress as the days continue and I’ve begun to realise that I’m most definitely not the only one who notices the ridiculous pressure on people today to be thin. Myself being a teenager I am more apt to observe this trend amongst young people.

I primarily blame the celebrity culture for imposing this need to be thin on young people. Sites such as www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/index.html  constantly glorifty slim and trim bodies and there are an exorbitant amount of size 0 models on catwalks and photoshoots. Photoshopping in magazines and online articles also only furthers the view ‘the thinner the better.’ Photoshopping can be even more damaging to individuals, and society as a whole, as these portrayals are not even realistic and thus become unachievable.

The indoctrination of young minds of what is the correct body shape is  happening at younger and younger ages. In my opinion, this is mainly due to over prevalence of the internet in our society and the wide access that young people (and when I say young people I mean between 8-16, but mainly the 8-12 bracket) have to articles and pictures that constantly refer to weight and the ‘perfect beach body.’ It is wrong that children as young as 7 or 8 have begun questioning their body shapes when they should simply be enjoying life and being healthy, not worrying about what they are eating.

There is an ongoing trend of anorexia and bulimia in western cultures, these diseases or both demoralising and life threatening to individuals and family and friends affected. Even those who aren’t fully affected by an eating disorder can still have their quality of life reduced, as they constantly worry about what they are eating, their calorie consumption and their figure.

I’m an advocate for healthy living, I hate diets and don’t think they actually work. I’m a believer in everything in moderation. Eat healthily and exercise to maintain fitness and health, nothing compulsively. This, I believe, should be enough for society. After all, no one is perfect.

Sure, thin and attractiveness sell, but are we really placing profit and commercial value above our children’s’ and even our adults’ mental and physical well being?

My thoughts: UK benefit system

So no, I’m not going to obsessively and solely write about the UK’s benefit system, it’s just something that has gotten under my skin in the last few days.

I remember back when I was 15 having a passionate discussion with my dad about how the benefit system should be structured. This basically revolved around who should get which benefits. I was told by my dad that I was extremely right wing, at the time I had absolutely no idea what that meant, and I still don’t think I fully understand the implications. People tell me that students are mainly left wing, and that if you’re right wing when you’re young then you never get out of it. I can’t see how that is a bad thing, it’s my opinion and surely everyone is entitled to their own perspective? I wouldn’t say I’m right wing about everything; I have extremely liberal views about many other matters, particularly abortion and sexuality.

Anyway, moving on from labelling my political views, onto my thoughts on the benefit system. I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of expert on the various benefits that are available and how they work, but I do have some idea and I’m basing my opinion on that.

My main point in this argument with my dad was the benefits that people out of work receive. I believe that those who claim benefits when they are capable of work, yet choose not to, should not be able to do so. After all, why should the hard working members of  our society pay for those who ‘don’t really feel like working’ or feel that they are above working, someone, please, explain to me how that is fair? People in other countries do not have the same luxury. I am aware that we are lucky enough to live in a society that supports the vulnerable but I do not think that this should extend to supporting those who simply do not want to work. This, I think, resonates particularly true in the current economic climate where all kinds of cuts and sacrifices are having to be made by all.

Therefore, I believe this. Those who are capable of work should have to work. They should have one chance at turning down an offered job and then they have to take the second job offered, otherwise their benefits are stopped.

There are of course, several key issues with this theory. Firstly, there has to be the jobs available. In the current economic climate, finding jobs is much much harder and they tend to go to those who actually want them. However, I don’t think it’s wrong to strive for something better in our society and begin to think of ways to improve the welfare system. After all, how else does the community as a whole progress?

Secondly, it would be necessary to have the system and bureaucracy in place for the jobs to be offered and benefits to be cut within the correct time frame. The benefits system is notoriously inefficient and this would need to change for any kind of scheme similar to this to work.

More importantly, however, I stress that this theory only applies to those are actually capable and competent to work. I fully support those who are on benefits because they simply cannot work. I think this is the beauty of our society, that we can protect the vulnerable and those who need help. The disabled and single parent, to name only two general groups of people, are without a doubt exempt from this theory.

There we go. A few more of my thoughts. This is a theory that I believe in at the moment, I’m interested to see how the benefits system will progress in the future and whether it will become something that is actually beneficial to all.