A word on Theresa May’s muddle

9 Jan

I’m a little worried about the reports of a “muddle” in Theresa May’s message regarding Brexit – specifically about the single market.

I’m not worried or surprised by the situation – I didn’t see the Sofie Ridge interview on Sky News, but by all accounts it was very good. Not am I worried per se by the reporting – as far as I can tell based on what I have seen on Twitter and in write-ups, it’s accurate.

No, I’m concerned that, actually, she doesn’t have a plan (as many have long suspected), but that the government will now opt for a hard Brexit (out of the single market) in an attempt to save face following the interview and subsequent reports.

Of course, nothing outright has been said beyond Brexit means Brexit (means Brexit means Brexit means Brexit means… ad infinitum) and anything that seems to be even vaguely a policy statement by a minister is slapped down. Apparent indecisiveness and complete coyness about what’s actually going to happen allows for flexibility, but for how long and at what cost? Who knows – apparently not Theresa May.

 

Main image credit: DFID on Flickr

Jane McCallion’s shameful secret

7 Jan

I have a shameful secret.

I buy books almost compulsively, but read so infrequently that soon they will outnumber the books I own that I have read. It’s true.

See what I mean?

So, in 2017, Ive decided to try and rectify this situation. First: stop buying books. Seriously. Second: take stock of the books I do have and try to read all of them over the course of the year.

The list below is the list of shame. It’s organised thematically (fiction, essays, classical literature, science, management, general non-fiction, technology/robots and the future of work, feminist literature), but not necessarily in the order I will read them. That, I’m going to leave up to Twitter (after all, this was originally a blog about the use and misuse of social media!) If you want to help me and don’t already follow me, I’m @janemccallion.

I also intend to write brief reviews of the books after I’ve read them, so stay tuned for that. Now, without further ado:

The List

Fiction

  • Maddaddam
  • Origin
  • Space
  • Time
  • The Circle
  • Arrival
  • Dracula
  • Our Friends from Frolix 8
  • Foundation and Empire
  • Second Foundation
  • Dune
  • Ficciones
  • Les Belles Images
  • Master and Margarita
  • Asterix Chez Les Pictes

Essays

  • The Collapse of Complex Societies
  • Art of the Soluble
  • Retour au Meilleur des Mondes (Brave New World Revisited)
  • The Mind’s Eye
  • Seeing Voices
  • Netymology
  • After Babel
  • The Secret Life of Words
  • La Voz Dormida
  • The Tanner’s Figure

Classical Literature

  • Utopia
  • The Republic
  • The Odyssey

Science

  • Question Everything
  • Why are Orangutans orange?
  • Computing with Quantum Cats

Management

  • The Art of War
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People

General Non-Fiction

  • Eyewitness to History
  • Dial M for Murdoch
  • Googled
  • Join Me
  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying

Technology, robots and the future of work

  • Our Work Here is Done
  • The Rise of the Robots
  • The Rise of the Humans
  • Postcapitalism
  • Society’s Genome

Feminist literature

  • Living Dolls
  • Moranthology
  • Men Explain Things to Me

 

And there you have it – the 47-book long list of shame. For reference, the one I’ve had the longest is Dracula – I was meant to read it for AS-Level English Literature and, er, well I didn’t.

As each book is completed, I’ll cross it off the list. Here’s to a more well-read me!

Three Thursdays

29 Jun

Two weeks ago, I was sat in Amsterdam’s Schipol airport working on an article of some description on my way back from a conference on cyber security. Browsing Twitter, reports started coming in that MP Jo Cox had been killed in the street – gunned down and stabbed. The man accused of killing her has since appeared in court, declaring his name to be “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.

I got up and walked, dazed and aimless. I couldn’t quite believe it had happened, not in my country. Politicians just don’t get murdered in cold blood at the side of the road. Not in the UK.

But it did. It did happen.

Then, just one week later, we as a nation decided to “take our country back” and leave the EU. Something else that, until recently, I would have considered unthinkable.

The people who voted to leave – the ones who actually meant it, anyway – thought that they were going to get something in return. They were openly promised investment in the NHS, the overturning of fisheries policies to favour UK fishermen, money brought back into the country that was being wasted elsewhere while we endured hardships. Implicit was also the offer of jobs, housing and stability – that when we put a stop to immigration by cutting ties with Europe, there would be a new prosperity for all.

But they were lied to. A cruel deception that was immediately retracted once the egos this was all really about had got their way – something that even appeared to shock them.

And now the reality sets in. The fisheries will stay the same. Cornish councils pleading for the same protections they had under the EU will almost certainly be disappointed. The NFU has already begun lobbying for protection and funding for farmers, but I feel pessimistic about their chances, too.

The only concrete thing that seems to have happened is an outpouring of hatred and racism. A new feeling that telling people to get out of the country because of the colour of their skin or because of their accent is acceptable. That you can fire bomb people’s shops.

The UK was never some utopia where no violence or racism ever happened, but somehow a new, bigger wave of this behaviour has come. And when people find out just how thoroughly hey have been lied to, I can only see it getting worse.As a friend of mine said to me in the spitting rain this afternoon, “I think this might be the new normal. Permanent autumn and violence in the streets”.

And so to this Thursday. Will the greatest ego of all the Briexiteers, Boris Johnson, who sold lies to the people and helped tear this country apart for his own personal gain, finally make an appearance? Because he is increasingly conspicuous by his absence – perhaps because winning wasn’t part of his great plan. Perhaps because now, as it is becoming apparent, there actually is no plan for the reality we all find ourselves in.

But I would urge him not to be shy.

Come forth, Mr Johnson and take your prize, this poison chalice that you have poured out for yourself. I hope you choke on it.

Why I’m taking the EU Referendum so personally

6 Jun

6755068753_df8fc7a41d_oThe EU Referendum is probably the most significant political event there will ever be in my life. Bigger than any general election I have ever voted in, bigger than the electoral reform referendum a few years ago. It is also the one that will have the greatest impact on my life personally and I say that as a true believer in voting in every election I can.

I think that, for most people, the way they will vote is a gut reaction, not a rational one. In many ways I guess I am not different when I say that this is an emotional vote for me.

But to say it is emotional doesn’t even really cover how I feel – it is a personal vote. In all honesty, I feel like the leave argument is a personal slight against my family and my community. To reject membership of the EU is also to reject many of the things that have benefited my life.

Let me explain.

I was born in England to British parents and have lived most of my life here. Nevertheless, as someone who grew up in the 90s and came of age in the 2000s, I have personally benefited from open borders, educational grants and money given by the EU to projects and communities around me. It goes even beyond that, though. There is a significant amount of EU-originated legislation that also benefits me (and you) imperceptibly – the ECHR, strong consumer protection, strong privacy protection and, for all its alleged neoliberal faults, the tendency to come down in favour of the people, not corporations or wayward elites.

But this is still the rational argument – a good argument, in my opinion, but one that has been discussed thoroughly elsewhere in words better than I can put forward. Like I said, for me this is personal.

In the mid-2000s, I went to Europe to study – visa free and with an Erasmus grant, courtesy of the EU. After the 12 months were up, I returned with a French boyfriend (now husband), who was (is) intelligent and hardworking, but had few qualifications and no job prospects. He came here not just because he loves me, charming as I am, but also better employment opportunities and the chance of career progression with less red tape. He was an economic migrant, if you will.

After a couple of low skilled positions, he got a job in the accountancy department of a UK firm and has moved up to a more skilled IT job. He was employed, though, because he is bilingual – the organisation was unable to find a Brit with the requisite skills. He is a net job creator as, had he not already been here, the job he is now in, which contributes taxes to the treasury and money into the economy as a consumer, would not exist in the UK. It would have gone to a French person in France.

Then there is the community I live and work in.

“Multicultural” has become a dirty word, for reasons I can’t quite fathom. I see no problem in having many cultures living side-by-side and that is how my community is. My neighbours are German, Russian, American and British. In the wider neighbourhood, they are Portuguese, Polish, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Romanian, African (not sure which countries, I’m afraid) and, I’m sure, other nationalities.

At church, when I teach Sunday School, the children are Polish, British, Franco-Irish, Anglo-Japanese, and East Timorese. The last group fled the country seeking refuge and asylum here from the terrors of their home country.

At work, we have a significant number of EU citizens, who all contribute to our economy. And on and on it goes.

When I hear people say that foreigners are taking our jobs, that they are ruining our communities and changing our country, what I hear is that you hate, or at the very least resent, the people who I know and love. My friends, my family, my colleagues.

When I hear people say that people speaking languages other than English in public makes them feel like they are no longer in England, what I hear is that you are suspicious of my neighbours, of the kids at church, of me.

And when I hear them say that we must leave the EU to take back control or our country and stop mass migration, what I hear is that you want to tear my community and my home apart.

For me, these are real people who are a huge part of my life. They are not figments summoned as bogey men who push up house prices, take jobs and steal benefits.

Reassurances that Europeans living here won’t have to get visas or won’t be deported – and that we won’t suddenly be inundated with angry expatriate retirees now forced to return from the costas – do not wash with me, because, frankly, we don’t know. We do not know what will happen to people who have enjoyed the freedom of movement offered under the EU, should we leave it, in the same way that we don’t know whether  we will need visas to travel, whether we will face trade barriers, how we will negotiate with the US, China, India, or whether all the people who work at the Mini factory (which I live just by) will lose their jobs.

I support our membership of the EU, because I have seen the benefits personally in my life and I acknowledged their influence in a wider sense too. But even if I hadn’t and didn’t, I at least know that this leap into the dark is a huge risk. A terrifying risk.

The EU is not perfect, but I do not believe that we will be better off outside it. I will certainly be worse off if we leave, personally, and I think you probably will be too.

 

(main image: MPD01605 on Flickr)

Who cares about female emojis?

11 May

My colleague Caroline Preece has written an op-ed about Google’s “feminist” emojis over on IT Pro today – I thoroughly recommend you check it out but, in short, her argument is that while it is nice for emojis to reflect reality, there’s more important problems for women in traditionally male-dominated workplaces than whether or not there is a gender-appropriate emoji to reflect them in their job.

In many ways, I’m on her side – in fact, there was so much eye-rolling when I first heard about the story this morning I’m surprised they stayed in their sockets.

But reading over her story this afternoon made me think of something that came up when doing my dissertation*, of all things, about gender representation in children’s literature.

While literature does reflect reality, it also offers us a chance to explore potential new realities – new “normals” – in which women can run a business or invent new technologies, where men can be house husbands and boys can dream of being ballet dancers. In short, realities in which gender stereotyping, as least in the context of work, employment and aspirations, no longer exist.

It has quieted my cynicism a bit. I’m still not sure how often these emojis will be used if they are accepted by the Unicode Consortium, and it does still seem like a bit of a women in tech fluffball – all PR, little substance. It also seems a bit of a stretch to describe emojis as literature. But they do reflect our everyday lives and emotions – that is their whole intention – so in the end, I guess, why not have them reflect a potential new normal as well?

(*check out my LinkedIn education profile for details of what I was actually researching and writing about)

2015

1 Jan

2015. It was a strange, mixed year.

I returned to B2B journalism, went back to Austin of the first time in three years and met Michael Dell while there, which was cool (so I’m a nerd, what did you expect #Storage4eva). I also went to China for the first time, which was amazing, and I very much want to return.

For the first time since finishing uni I started learning a new language. I’d forgotten how hard this is.

I cooked Christmas dinner for the first time, for 10 people. I was surprised how well this went.

I also went to two memorials within nine months of each other and sung La Marseilles in sorrow rather than in anticipation (or hope) of sporting triumph. It was so, so sad. It still is.

What, then, for 2016?

It’s hard to anticipate, really other than the obvious (iPhone 7, Apple Watch 2, check IT Pro for more details. Yes, I am shameless). I don’t think the spectre of terrorism will leave us, nor do I think we should succumb to terror. I don’t think the spectre of the far right and terrorism will leave us either, but nor should we succumb to that.

So, here’s to a better year, perhaps a more stable year.

Oh, and remember to follow my professional writing, yeah?

Jane

It’s Friday again

20 Nov

It’s Friday again.

This time last week I was, I think, enjoying a pint with my colleagues and looking forward to two weeks off work during which I would prepare for Christmas.

I met with a friend for dinner that evening and, coming home in a happy mood, informed my husband I was probably going to get an early night. Not long after making that statement, he came down and, silently, handed me his iPad, which was open on the BBC news app. Paris was, once again, under attack.

Nearly five hours later, I turned off the rolling TV coverage and went to bed with over a hundred people who had been enjoying an evening not unlike my own now dead.

I have seen, read and heard expressions of fear and pain, but also great bravery and solidarity, both from people I don’t know and from people I do.

But I have also seen, read and heard some of the most stupid, backward and opportunistic comments, both from people I don’t know and from people I thought I did.

I feel that everything and nothing has changed in the past week. The sun has still risen in the east and set in the west, the sun stars and moon continue to shine, the Daily Mail has continued to be a disgrace, and I have been preparing, little by little, for Christmas. But solidarity has soured into one-upmanship, compassion has turned into suspicion and fear, and the question of “what next?” hangs thick in the air. For my own part, I sit wondering if some of my most important relationships have been irrevocably changed.

What I have puzzled together from this fog is that we stand at a fork in the road. To the left is the wide, straight road built on hatred, mistrust and fear – the road easily travelled but which ultimately leads to ruin. To the right is the long, difficult and rough road of reconciliation and togetherness that is pockmarked with attempts to tear us apart, such as those that took place on Friday and, as I type, are now underway in Mali.

I don’t know which way we, as a society, are going to go. I hope that we reject the easy option, that we refuse to let the hatred shown by these attackers, these mad ideologues, get the better of our most base instincts. In many ways, I’m hopeful for the better outcome, because the alternative is that so many of the most hateful people around win.

%d bloggers like this: