UNWRAPPING SOMETHING RADICAL THIS CHRISTMAS

by Liv Barnett

Christmas is rightfully criticised as an event of extreme consumerism and financially the most challenging time of the year for many, especially as satisfying the desires of children come with an increasingly steep price tag. But it is also a time where everyone celebrating it demonstrates the capacity for generosity, self-sacrifice and thought for others. No doubt, the 20th and 21st century history of Christmas is one where people consume as much as possible, with little care for waste or the environment. Articles circulate annually telling us of ‘Christmas towns’ in China where the whole town is populated by families painting little plastic trinkets red, only to be sent to Europe and America for temporary use during this festive season. It is also the time when people accumulate most of their debt, the time when drunk and disorderly behaviour in the UK sky rockets and domestic violence increases dramatically.

However, let’s not feel too glum, even for the those who resent the un-unionised Amazon workers standing in for “Santa’s Little Helpers”, or the fact that Father Christmas is supposedly an old white dude with a beard who delivers gifts, meanwhile a less old white dude with a less impressive beard is remembered for his anthem aiming ‘to save Africa’. There’s still something positive we can focus on.  

Christmas is a time where people in the western world also mark a moment in time and space with togetherness

It is one of the only times of year where everyone is encouraged to spend time and feast with loved ones. Feasts traditionally bring people together, for better or worse, and contribute to how people make and maintain different forms of social relationships. Rather than thinking of Christmas as a time where we are forced to be with family, we can think of it as a time where family is made. The sharing of particular ritual foods, meats and special vegetables puts Christmas in a similar category to feasts that take place throughout the world during significant moments in life, and just like in societies idealised for their collective way of life, Christmas is a time where people in the western world also mark a moment in time and space with togetherness.

Alongside feasting and sharing of particular foods, there is also gifting. Within the academic discipline of anthropology, gifting is not understood merely as a one way transaction of an object for the sake of demonstrating love or kindness, but rather a social practice that establishes ongoing social relationships. These may not always be benign. Gifts can draw people into obligations to others, or begin the process of competitive gifting where people out-gift each other in value or substance and establish their own prestige. Nonetheless, gifting is the antithesis to alienation – it is a moment we give something of ourselves to another person – it might be time taken to find the gift, money spent purchasing it, or thought gone in to choosing it. The gift is far more than the object that is exchanged, it is a material representation of both the social relationship that exists between the participants of the exchange, and also a symbol of the amount of effort and sacrifice someone is willing to make for another without any direct or immediate material gain. Such sacrifice and thought for others is increasingly more rare and is not a virtue promoted in the current neoliberal climate – where we are expected to exercise individual choice and freedom without regard of our impact on others or the environment.. Thinking of others before ourselves is one aspect of Christmas that exists alongside the otherwise alienating aspects of it, where those producing the objects later purchased and exchanged are never to use the object or meet the people who do so (an aspect of what Marx termed as estrangement).

Therefore, this Christmas (and in the lead up to the New Year) try to remember and remind your loved ones, that what has made this period significant to our communities

Christmas, for those fortunate enough to have the resources to celebrate it, and loved ones to celebrate it with can be a time of closeness. It can also be a time of intense stress with an increase in domestic violence and family conflicts. It puts a huge strain on women in particular, who often carry a large proportion of the invisible material and affective labour of Christmas on their shoulders (cooking, choosing presents, decorating, organising guests, placing presents in stockings and cleaning in preparation for hosting). Therefore, it is certainly not a time of ease. But we should nonetheless remember that it is a time where we reforge and maintain our most significant social relationships. This, paradoxically done through immense consumption –  is nonetheless a moment where many of us make time and effort to reconnect with family and friends. Christmas is one of the few rituals left that brings people together in time and space through feasting, gifting and even singing the odd carol. Therefore, this Christmas (and in the lead up to the New Year) try to remember and remind your loved ones, that what has made this period significant to our communities is not just the birth of a religious figure, the reincarnation of earlier pagan rituals, the royal’s taste for German trees or Coca Cola’s branding skills but our relationships of care that are made and maintained. Through the acts of gifting and sharing at Christmas we emphasise the ways we are all connected and affected by one another, as opposed to prioritising the individual that is otherwise pervasive in contemporary political and economic ideologies.  

Featured image :  Christian C  (no changes made, under CC 2.0)


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BEYOND TUITION FEES #11 – MUCH TO LEARN, MORE TO DO

By Bradley Allsop and Rowan Gavin

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green have brought together perspectives from across the sector to explore the possibilities of post-fees HE. In the final instalment, the series editors summarise the visions for the next chapter of UK HE that the series has laid out.

There is more energy, debate and innovation on the left now than there has been for decades. Capitalism’s multiple crises, and the inability of its defenders to respond to them, are beginning to translate into tangible political opportunity. This series sought to capture the essence of some of this historical moment and direct it towards thinking about what we want our university campuses to look like, beyond the staple progressive policy of scrapping tuition fees. A project in unashamedly utopian thinking, it recognised the very real possibility that free tuition might be a reality in the near future, and sought to explore how this requires the left to think practically about what comes after and where our energy should be focused next.

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EXAMS SHOULD BE ABOLISHED – HERE’S WHY

By Dan Davison

Examinations are woven into the fabric of student life. From the ‘Key Stage’ National Curriculum assessments I sat in childhood through to the tests I took as a Master’s student, every stage of my education has known the familiar cycle of revision, testing, marking and grading. It was not until I became a precariously employed university tutor that I realised how dangerously uncritical we are of that cycle. By this point it seems so natural to make people sit exams at various points in their lives that it scarcely occurs to the public consciousness that students and teachers might be better off without such a regimented approach to learning.

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WHAT ARE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITIES MADE OF? – BEYOND TUITION FEES #6

By Ellen Musgrove and Max Savage

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

At any demonstration concerning the anti-marketisation or -commodification of education and the university you will hear the phrase “We are not consumers – we are a community.” The motive behind this message is a good one, bearing positive and uplifting implications for the demonstrators. However, to those outside the demo space, be they apathetic students passing by or workers who may not have the freedom to stop and participate as readily as an academic might, calling ourselves a community means very little in a practical sense.

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FREEING EDUCATION FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #5

By Lotty Clare

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

We face many challenges as students in 2018. Painfully high tuition fees along with eye-watering maintenance loans means that lower income students will leave university with over £50,000 of debt. Bafflingly, Prime Minister Theresa May only recently came to the realisation that poorer students are getting deterred from going into higher education. By contrast, the Labour Party’s promises to scrap tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants are of course a welcome relief for many prospective students – UK national students that is. Labour have seemingly barely considered the possibility of doing the same for international students. At the University of East Anglia, non-EU international students pay about £14,800 annually, on top of having to prove that they have access to thousands of pounds for living costs. If education is a right, why are we privileging wealthier international students in this way? What would Britain look like if we abolished or at least dramatically reduced fees for international students?

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THE FUTURE OF STUDENTS’ UNIONS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #4

By Bradley Allsop and Calum Watt

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Students’ Unions are meant to defend students’ rights, fighting with and for them during their time at university and beyond. However, modern SUs are often dominated by corporate thinking, consumer culture and cosy collusion with university management. Radical, grassroots democracy is often muted or discouraged, channelled instead into more temperate, gradual and piecemeal avenues by Unions centralised in their functioning and timid in their approach.

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THOUGHTS FROM THE FRONTLINE OF MARKETISATION – BEYOND TUITION FEES #3

By Maddie Colledge, UEA SU Postgraduate Education Officer

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

CW: Mentions suicide

It’s common for arguments in favour of free education to be dismissed as abstract or utopian, and for students who promote it to be belittled as naïve. I fear that in our attempts to try to portray the significance of free education, we have fallen into a trap where the concept has become so expansive and broad, and the term so overused, that it has lost all meaning. We need to move away from talking about ‘free’ education, and towards articulating a vision more explicitly centred on ‘state-funded’ education or ‘public’ education. For me, the description ‘free’ makes the concept feel distanced from the viable possibility of education funded through public taxation, and does us no favours in making it reality.

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ON IMMIGRATION 5. BANKING ON THE FUTURE

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by Stu Lucy

 

In my previous piece I outlined a theory that compared the woes of our current modern condition to a biological model of a disease increasing its prevalence across the planet, particularly in the Western world. Although slightly macabre, I feel it was necessary to characterise the systemic issue of unbridled growth in such a dramatic and sensational fashion – after all it is the fate of humankind, and well… the planet, we are talking about here.

I finished with a simple analogy calling for global treatment of this cancer that has befallen us since the mantra of growth has been so fanatically professed by economists, politicians, and industrialists alike. How though may we undertake such a gargantuan task that requires the remodelling of all aspects of our societies, from our education systems to popular culture to our entire global trade system?Continue Reading

HIGHER EDUCATION IN A POST-FEES WORLD – BEYOND TUITION FEES #1

By Bradley Allsop and Calum Watt

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this new series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Politics is in a very different place than a few years ago. Radical change feels possible, tangible, close. The Labour Party’s pledge to scrap tuition fees is one of many signs of this – welcome, and necessary to salvage higher education from the marketised juggernaut it has become. But just abolishing fees is not enough to fix all of higher education’s problems.

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ON IMMIGRATION 4. TIME TO TREAT THE DISEASE

by Stu Lucy

Humans move, we always have done and always will do. Our movement has evolved through the existence of our species from necessity – following the seasonal availability of food – to luxury, such as holidays and recreational travelling. While part  of our species has been afforded the opportunity to travel around the planet in our spare time, absorbing the multitude of cultures and landscapes it has to offer, there continues to exist a drive to move to find something better, not for food, as in pre-modern times, but economic and/or environmental security. Economic, climate and conflict migrant populations are increasing year on year, and are so for one very good reason: a global disease.

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WHY I AM STRIKING

by Alex Powell

As a Graduate Teaching Fellow, I hold a position that straddles the roles of student and staff, giving me a slightly unusual perspective on the UCU strike action that begins today. It is from this conflicted, complex and, at times like these, compromised position that I wish to lay out why I will be standing with colleagues from 61 other institutions around the country in joining the strike action.

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IT’S OUR ‘YOUTHQUAKE’ – WHAT WILL WE MAKE OF IT?

by Bradley Allsop

Young people can’t catch a break. On the one hand, we’re scolded and ridiculed for our apparent lack of engagement with traditional political institutions, which is generally assumed to be a result of our ‘laziness’ or ‘apathy’, with our disillusionment and distrust with politicians that have continually failed us apparently precluding our ‘right to complain’. On the other hand, when we do engage politically, in those rare moments when we do seek to take an active role in our futures, we’re painted as thuggish, fragile or naïve. In short, the message we continually get is: “engage – but not like that!”

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FOOD (NOT SO) GLORIOUS FOOD. PART 3: WIRED TO EXCESS

by Stu Lucy

As I mill around town needlessly purchasing disposable junk to wrap in trees so I may conform to the widespread Western orgy of consumption that is Christmas (sorry), I can’t help but notice that they’re everywhere. Costa, Nero, Starbucks, Coffee #1, it seems you can’t walk more than 100 metres before passing one of the acceptable narcotic dispensaries so many of us rely on to get through the day. It’s time to close this short series of food, and now drink, related pieces with a quick overview of coffee and its long and eventful relationship with Africa.Continue Reading

HIGHER EDUCATION’S EXPANSION PROBLEM

by Alex Powell

The number of students starting at UK universities has increased dramatically in recent years, despite a slight fall recorded this year, and is set to go on increasing as universities increase their intake. The government has heralded this as an example of the increasing availability of higher education to students coming from working class communities. However, we have to ask what impact the increase in student numbers is having on the quality of education provided by universities.

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SELF EDUCATION, NEW SOLUTIONS

by Laura Potts

Schools stand as institutions of education, aiming to enhance and aid growth in various forms. Children growing through the school system will eventually leave as adults. However, in my generation, there is a trend away from exploring a key part of adulthood: continued self education.

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LOOKING BEYOND THE FEMINIST T-SHIRT

by Carmina Masoliver

With the Feminist movement having become more a part of the mainstream, there is a tendency to call it a new wave. But Feminism is something that is always flowing, with plenty of grassroots activists doing work ‘to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression’ (as defined by bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody, 2000). Whilst the movement’s popularity means there are films with stronger female characters, and Feminist comedians can easily be seen on Netflix, it also means that various corporations try to sell us back our politics. Continue Reading

ENOUGH PESSIMISM ABOUT HE – A RESPONSE TO JIM DICKINSON

by Lewis Martin

In a recent article for the Guardian, UEA SU CEO Jim Dickinson wrote about universities’ failure to produce anything satisfactory for its students, as well as the lack of transparency around how tuition fees are spent. Helpful though it is to point out the issues faced by the student movement, Dickinson fails to offer any type of remedy for them at any point, suggesting that cynical resignation is the only possible response.

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TAKING ON THE SPECTRE THAT HAUNTS HIGHER EDUCATION

By Bradley Allsop

We’ve all seen the headlines – tripled tuition fees, retroactive changes to the student loan book, the nefarious uses of the National Student Survey. Often treated as isolated issues, these policies are in reality the foot soldiers in a war being waged to undermine the very foundations of our universities, twisting them from hallowed halls of challenge and transformation into bland centres for corporate training and indoctrination. This spectre haunts academics, senior managers and even Students’ Unions alike, forcing them all to dance to the mantra of the market, to the profit agenda. This spectre’s name is capitalism.

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EASTER EGGS AND THE CAMPUS CONVENIENCE CONSUMERISM CONUNDRUM

By Laura Potts

As spring approaches, so do the grasping hands of Easter and the shelves full of egg-shaped chocolate treats, in a hundred sizes and colours. But the main thing I notice as I walk through the supermarket is the quantity of packaging that comes with them. Each egg is sealed in plastic and stored in a cardboard box, and most come with other individually wrapped chocolates. The brightly coloured decorations upon the eggs and boxes are reminiscent of nature and the beautiful colours of spring.

The great irony, of course, is that the packaging boasting this decoration directly contributes to the destruction of that natural beauty. Through this attitude to resources, companies are investing in a ‘throw away society’, and future generations will have to carry the burden.

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OXFORD’S PUBLICITY STUNT WON’T CLOSE THE UNIVERSITY CLASS GAP

By Lewis Martin

This month Oxford University, in conjunction with the Sutton Trust, launched a summer school aimed at attracting more “white, working class boys” to the university. While this has received praise from some sectors of society, it does not address the real reasons why working class people (not just boys or men) are not attending universities like Oxford.

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CAN WE CHANGE THE WORLD BY GROWING VEGETABLES?

by Olivia Hanks

Our grandparents might have been rather nonplussed to hear growing your own food described as a radical act, but in a society that views people chiefly as consumers, any step towards self-sufficiency is pretty subversive.

In France, where citizens generally attach more importance to food and its origins than in the UK, the last few years have seen an explosion in the number of small-scale organic food producers: in 2015, an average of 200 new organic farms sprang up every month.Continue Reading

iMOAN 2.0

by Joe Cook

We’re the generation of bright screens and a dark future
Biological computers
A digital ball and chain
But when things go wrong we can’t turn off and on again
We live in a world where the most important connection is WIFI
And memories are captured in pixels rather than eyesContinue Reading

iMOAN

by Joe Cook

We live in a magpie society
Shiny objects we crave
If you want to live like a king you best work like a slave
When there’s spoilt brats talking about their sweet 16
There’s children whose drinking water ain’t even clean
Daddy didn’t get you the car you wanted?
I hope that old mansion you live in turns out to be hauntedContinue Reading

FIVE REASONS WHY TRAVEL DOESN’T MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON

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by Olivia Hanks

Do you keep thinking you should travel more, but find yourself doing other things instead? If so, the internet would like you to believe you are a bad person. Hyper-motivational Instagram culture has led to a panoply of blogs enumerating the reasons Why Everyone Should Travel and Why Travel Makes You A Better Person. International travel, once the privilege of the very few, has passed straight through the stage of being considered a right: cyberspace now deems it a responsibility.Continue Reading

THE DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE

by Alex Valente

Star Wars. One of the biggest franchises not only in its field, but spanning a multimedia galaxy, has now become even larger after being acquired by Disney. Ranging from books to comics, toys to videogames, music to clothing, costumes, and theme parks. Drawing in accolades, from die-hard fans to casual viewers, from across the world. Star Wars. One of the most impactful, politically muddled, and bizarrely misguided products – and symbols – of Western media.

It was inevitable. As a self-professed nerd, casual toy collector, avid comics-reader, in the presence of one of the biggest releases in cinematographic history about to hit screens worldwide, I could not not dedicate an article to Star Wars. As a Norwich Radical writer, on the other, I also cannot not recognise the immense (infinite?) power and sway the franchise holds, in popular and consumer culture. Just how much of it is really looking forward, and how much is stuck in A Long Time Ago..? Continue Reading

THE PARIS CLIMATE SUMMIT: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR HUMANITY TO SEIZE

by Natasha Senior

For many millennia to come, the climate crisis will be the defining moment of our history. When we first shovelled the crushed, decayed, fossilised remains of prehistoric creatures into engines, we found that we could create plentiful power. It is this power that has allowed us to coexist in huge societal networks, to eliminate disease and travel to outer space. But these tremendous strides in humanity have come at a huge price.

The infrastructure of our society relies on consuming, we no longer share local resources within small communities, but transport them across the world and transform them many times until they take the barely recognisable forms of commodities we use every day. In each step of this process we lavishly spend fuel, a resource that we once treated as ever-lasting, but now we see it’s running out. But our biggest mistake was that we thought we were getting all of this for free when in fact, all this time we’ve been borrowing huge amounts from the environment. And as we see the Earth changing drastically, with the oceans acidifying and the weather becoming increasingly unpredicable, we know that the time has come to settle the debt. These next few weeks, as world leaders gather at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, we will decide as a species how to return what we owe.

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