Kids These Days

May I be permitted to say, at just twenty-five years of age: “Kids these days”? I can think of no better three words to sum up three years of university.

Allow me to explain. Do you recall the children who forever complained of boredom? You might have a group of colleagues (or it may be all of them) who are incapable of conversing without complaining. And we all know a person for whom life is one big, protracted complaint. You may find yourself cajoled subconsciously into complaining along with them, especially if it’s a group of complainers.

The ‘kids these days’ at university studying humanities courses (philosophy, politics, literature, art, etcetera) I have generally found to be stupendous and unrelenting complainers. When I still suffered myself to study alongside them, my ears would ring with students bleating and repeating complaints about the readings, the essays, the lecturers, their supposed friends, their political enemies, Trump, Brexit, blah, blah, blah. It’s like trying to revise whilst blasting the Teletubbies full belt; an almighty avalanche of meaningless debris derails your train of thought, and you come to resent the Teletubbies, who seem not to know any better, the poor sods.

I didn’t complain about it—well, until now, I guess—and I erected a complaint-barrier in space and time: by the end of the first-year, I rarely entered complaint spaces, like the library and common area, and I avoided student times, like the afternoons. Arriving at a common area before 7am in the morning was fantastic, and I learned a few things. Not only was it depopulated of students; and not only did the reeking cloud of complaint dissipate (bar the stickers declaring, “ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS”, “UKIP MEMBERS ARE OFTEN VILE, HOMOPHOBIC AND RACIST”, “ALL BORDERS ARE RACIST!” etcetera¹).

It was repopulated. I’m going to talk a little about one of the people who repopulated the common area—caretaker Clive. A man with a wealth of knowledge that ‘kids these days’ clearly lack, who can compute conversations without complaint, who cleans up after students without ever complaining, in fact, who throughout two years of morning conversations I have never heard utter so much as a word of complaint.

Thinking about it, all of the people I respect and look up to are doggedly opposed to cultures of complaint. Thinking about these people, they have virtues in common, some of which I will now talk a bit about in respect of caretaker Clive.

Admittedly, once upon a time, I would complain if my commute in Guernsey took anything over fifteen minutes. More than a decade past retirement age, this proud caretaker takes an hour-long commute into Brighton every morning, Monday to Friday, to start at 6am. Many in Guernsey wouldn’t bother to get out of bed for some of the weather this man commuted through last winter.

But Clive isn’t looking for an excuse to stay in bed. After a near-fatal traffic accident some years ago, he’s grateful just for being able to get out of bed at all. Despite being old, achy and ill throughout last winter, he never misses a shift, he never complains, and he never fails to make me smile. He’s just so darn grateful for being alive, for being capable of working at all.

Students complain that they cannot get a job. Sure as hell they complain about their jobs when they do get them. What I respect about Clive is his attitude toward his job. He knows that he doesn’t need this job, nor the employer need him in particular for the job, yet he takes enormous pride in his work. He’s attentive and never complains about having to go the extra mile. And he could complain. He could complain about the wrappers and crumbs students leave littered on the floor and strewn upon the desktops, like ill-educated children would. He could complain about being obliged, in his mid-seventies, to learn how to use a computer so that he can take the online health and safety course required of him by his employer. He could complain that I distract him by chatting.

When Clive asks me how my work’s going, I tell him, and ask how his work is going. He’s always got something to say, about what he’s done today, what he’s got to do, what he would like to do. He’s proactive and he’s positive with regard to his role, whereas for many students, they are passive and negative about what they have to do. Clive looks to do his work to the best of his ability, taking pride in the work he has done, and looks for something else to do. Students procrastinate with their work, often doing the bare minimum required for a good or passing grade and only at the last minute, complaining whilst they do it, and often opting out by pulling sickies or requesting extensions.

What I like about Clive, too, is that he’s humble. From the few stories he’s imparted to me I think, Christ, surely you should be setting the world to rights with me, telling this young whippersnapper what’s what. But he’d never tell me how it is or what I should think, still less would he give me his opinion unless I asked for it. That kind of humility you can expect from a man who was born during World War II, one who voluntarily subjects himself to modern health and safety examinations.

Students? They have nought but regurgitated opinions, without substantive experience or unique insight to back them up; yet regurgitate them they will, until that reeking cloud of complaint forms above it. Trump (ad infinitum)! We have way too much work, patriarchy, Brexit, homophobia, institutional sexism, structural racism, so-and-so sets too much reading, cultural appropriation, blah de blah de trans de phobia de blah. Ungrateful, overbearing, uninspiring, Teletubby bullshit.

Well, well, well! Is it not somewhat… hypocritical that I’m complaining about complainers? I apologise sincerely for creating a complaint-cloud of my own. I thought it might be worth it, to give you glance from my vantage point; from which I see kids who think they know everything and the caretakers cleaning up after them, who could teach them a lesson or two. Best to clear off my own complaint-cloud and wrap up this wordy rant.

It’s been four months since I’ve written and posted anything on this website. I was absorbed in my final project for university, guilt-tripping myself whenever I wrote words that weren’t to do with it. I’ve just handed in my dissertation—hurrah, huzzah and hooray. Leaving the building, I bumped into my pal Clive the caretaker. He was surprised the time’s gone so fast, since I first met him in first-year sporting denim dungarees and a turquoise topknot. He was chuffed I’d finished the project, asking whether I’m still staying on to become a teacher.

“Still teaching, still at Brighton, but up at Falmer Campus. I’ll still be able to access this building though, so I’ll see you around in the mornings.”

“Well,” Clive started, “I’ve finally decided to pack it in. August I finish.”

A retirement well deserved, and about time too. I asked him what his wife thought, which was, “‘What on earth am I going to do with you at home all day?!’” He chuckled and I laughed. Clive will still be odd-jobbing for the oldies in his residences as he does presently, and no doubt keeping himself busy otherwise. As we shook hands and parted ways, I thought to myself: the one thing he won’t be doing in retirement is complaining.


¹ I’ve a couple of pictures of these pathetic stickers in another piece, in which I give some tips for hacking university life.

As I’m not on social media, my writing is only read as much as it is circulated by readers like you. So if you liked this piece, or would like to publicly complain about it, please share and share alike, it would be greatly appreciated. Liam.


A Baby Bigger Than A Lion

I assume you know the lion to which I refer –I will not humanise it further by calling it ‘Cecil’ – impaled by an arrow shot by an American big game hunter.

We know the name of this lion, the members of its former pride and their familial habits.

We know the hunter’s name is Walter Palmer, that he’s a practising dentist and many of the private communications sent by him.

The public reaction to the lion’s death has been momentous: the Empire State Building emblazoned with images of the lion; shipments of hunting trophies banned by at least half a dozen airlines; heartfelt appeals from far-flung TV presenters; even a beanie baby has been made ‘to comfort all saddened by the death of Cecil.’

The political reaction has been equally large: statements from a German Ambassador, a British Prime Minister and even a certain UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador who then proceeded to Tweet the address of the hunter (which ended well). The UN is even taking action (!). I can much more safely assume you do not know the name of the Sudanese migrant who was killed last week, mangled under the wheels of a truck en route to the English side of the Eurotunnel from Calais.

If you get your news from Facebook, Twitter or you only dip in to mainstream media, you may not know that dozens of individuals within the “swarm of people… wanting to come to Britain” have been dying grisly deaths trying to cross for quite a while now. Cameron’s choice of the word ‘swarm’ and the refusal to even name the ‘illegal immigrants’ being drowned, crushed, electrocuted and beaten at our border is the antithesis of the humanisation of Cecil the lion: using fear-inducing, dehumanising language to describe groups of people (yes, they’re actually people!) to lessen the humanitarian impulse that people should, and do, instinctively feel. The establishment play on it effectively, distracting you from uninteresting unpersons and enraging you with pictures of a grinning big game hunter and a beautiful animal murdered at his heel.

Your social media feed may be overflowing with blue animal rights activists, you may even be one yourself. I believe your social media feed could, should and would be overflowing with human rights activists if the mainstream media gave ‘illegal immigrants’ equal standing with one big cat.

I’m going to even the keel and tell the story of the death of just one illegal immigrant carried to the UK border by another:

A young Eritrean woman travels around 3,500 miles from Eritrea – a brutal prison state near the horn of Africa that is North Korea-esque in its arbitrary detention, torture and murder – to seek a better life.

She is heavily pregnant and seeking a better life for her unborn child; she would, and very probably did, cross deserts and scale mountains to do so.

Paying unsavoury characters her pittance to spend several days on a dangerously overcrowded and rickety fishing boat – you know, the sort Europe were going to bomb – she crosses the Mediterranean, unlike so many others, and reaches Europe with only another 1,000 miles to go. After sneaking on trains and/or hitchhiking, no doubt being unwillingly exposed to more unsavoury characters, she makes it to the ’Calais jungle,’ a place of relative succour, but one that’s crawling with rapists (though you’d only have heard of the one middleclass white girl assaulted there), disease, with no running water and an unsympathetic police presence. She prepares to make the journey across the channel.

I don’t know her name. I don’t know what her thoughts were before she attempted the crossing by clinging to a moving lorry. (I deliberately distance myself from these thoughts so as to write about this (and politics in general.))

I do know that she defied the odds by surviving a journey that many, many people do not, and cannot, make, for the sake of her unborn baby boy; to give him a better chance at life.

His mother fell from a truck en route to Dover, triggering a premature and unattended birth.

Her baby boy lived and died in the space of an hour. Buried in a nearby makeshift cemetery.

He was named Samir.

The mainstream media would tell us if this was worth being outraged about and we abide: a lion trumps a baby. The disparity between the reactions and the level of humanity expressed is demonstrative of how much more a cause can matter with media backing.

Language is employed tactically to deaden your response to situations:

– A lion was hunted by a dentist from Minnesota, killed at improper instruction by his Zimbabwean guide.

– An illegal immigrant miscarried trying to illegally cross the Eurotunnel.

It is employed tactically to provoke a response from a situation:

– Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most beloved lion, torturously murdered before being beheaded by twisted trophy hunter.

You’d have seen headlines like the one immediately above, and may even recognise the terms I’ve dragged from some of the UK headlines, but have you ever seen a headline expressing disgust at the migrants living in conditions you wouldn’t (couldn’t!) farm animals in? There’s no outrage! The lion’s even got considerably more Wikipedia inches than the Calais jungle is apparently worth.

On the flipside, it was reassuring to see the UK Prime Minister express some sympathy. David William Donald Cameron, currently sunning himself at an undisclosed location, has “every sympathy with holidaymakers who are finding access to Calais difficult because of the disturbances there.” Wow. Like roadkill; mere ‘disturbances.’

Whilst people fleeing war ravaged former colonies die shitty deaths trying to reach our country to do jobs we don’t want to, politicking is still the order of the day: COBRA meetings and partisan approaches – no fucking humanity. It’s shit that lions are being killed for sport, really shit; it’s awesome that business and politics have finally mobilised to stop it.

It certainly doesn’t keep me up at night. What will keep me up tonight after writing this is the thought of the brave and broken woman who made that outrageous journey. I’m glad her baby boy Samir didn’t die one of the many more protracted, painful and humiliating deaths that his African brethren are destined to die seeking asylum in our ‘great’ country.

I hope his mother is still alive. I sincerely hope she makes that crossing.

Update 7th August 2015

One ballsy German television presenter had the courage to speak out on a live show against the increasing acceptability of social commentary containing dehumanising language and (correctly) linked it to an increase on attacks on refugees.

She has caused a ‘media storm’ in her native Germany and has rightly become a social media hit – she deserves the utmost respect for having the moral fortitude to speak out as so few in her position ever do.

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The first games console I ever sold was a Playstation 3.

Aged 17, in a wanton eleventh-hour bid to fund a maiden-festival ticket purchase I could ill-afford, I panicked and flogged my flagship Christmas present from a year previous.

I was a feckless adolescent entrepreneur: rather than take my dad up on his offer of good money for hard labour or showing up to work my shifts at New Look, where I’d recently been employed and formally disciplined multiple times, I sold an expensive gift that I didn’t want to sell for £150.

I will add, though this may go without saying, that I duly squandered the proceeds on a weekend of underage binge drinking. Accordingly, the plea of a poor and prodigal son to his father went unheeded, which should certainly go without saying.

It’s been five years and the more things change… the more they stay the same.

The fellow to whom I’ve just sold an Xbox One was perplexed by my sale history. Seeking assurance he wasn’t being sold a pig in a poke, he asked me to prove its good condition and give my reason for selling. I duly demonstrated its perfect working order but, despite the informality of a non-sanctioned ‘Guernsey eBuy’ sale, felt confined by the tight schedule to which British people keep with politely awkward small talk, so I fibbed and told him I was selling “to help make ends meet.” And that it was the seventh console I’ve sold for this reason.

It certainly got me thinking. But to justify the man my selling seven games consoles in five years would have turned the transaction in to psychotherapy; I spared him and will enlighten you.

I buy games consoles in a vain attempt to claw back the innocent satisfaction and fulfilment I could once enjoy: slumped on my bed, high as the proverbial kite and barely breaking even on my kill/death ratio playing ‘Call of Duty: World at War.’

My determination to retain and regain my youth doesn’t quite prevent the maturing adult inside of me regretting the purchases and selling them. This most recent sale was a calculated decision to free up my time for more productive recreations I’ve not yet pursued; in fact, it’s the reason you’re reading this article. It’s the same reason I started volunteering, swimming, cooking and yoga, even!

My trade in consoles is a manifestation of the inner conflict that rages between an adult struggling to make something of himself and the vestiges of a teenage soul scrambling to enjoy the last of his ‘freedom;’ the more I look at what’s in place of the controller – the outdoors, a few bob toward another festival ticket, discovering a new hobby – I look back less and less.

I think this will be the last console I sell. Well, at least until Star Wars Battlefront is released anyway.