Posts Tagged ‘society’


we’ve paid our money

watched the show

listened to the performers

enjoyed ourselves

we drink free wine

eat too much free pizza

talked about situations

we’ve never faced

and as i leave he lays there

partially hidden in the opening in the wall

he raises his arm

is he trying to catch my attention?

is it a last act of defiance to a

world that has been cruel o him?

his home a concrete bunker

is this the last place he will

breathe the fresh crisp air of a summers evening?

all i can do is turn away from him

walk past this bundle of flesh and bones

and immediately reflect on

what i could have done

what i should have done

to give him a glimmer of hope

that in this unforgiving world he inhibits

there is still some humanity

 

as i drive home away from him

i depress the accelerator pedal

to get away from him

to get away from the situation

get away from my feelings of guilt

of what i could have done

of what i should have done


Today I’m sat at home feeling sorry for myself as I battle a cold and a cat that insists on biting me just when I’m least expecting it.

In addition I can’t remember f you feed a cold and starve the flu or if it’s the other way round. I really need to google it but will this just confuse me even more?

Yesterday I was back in uni and made good progress with my research reading about coding and doing some too.

I like to get in early so around 1am I went for a walk round Bradford city centre, a place I have grown up with and have many fond memories of.
I always remember Bradford as a vibrant, bustling city, full of life and difference reflected in the people, the shops, the conversations, pretty much everything you can think of.

Back when I was a child and a teenager Bradford was somewhere to go where you could lose yourself for a couple of hours in the shops, pubs, cafes and markets and come away wanting to go back.

It had a dip in the 90s as the author Bill Bryson described in his book Notes from a Small Island, a very good book if you get the chance to read it. I remember reading about Bill’s description of Bradford and how distraught I felt at some American coming to my home town and write about it in such a derogatory way.

Now I understand what he meant and why he wrote about Bradford in such a way.

Instead of heading for the Broadway Centre which is still relatively new and as such is modern, clean and busy, I headed for Kirkgate Market a leftover of the brutalist architecture of the 60s and 70s. This building evokes many memories of the wrong kind for people from the older generations because of the way Kirkgate Market came about.

My own personal recollection of events is that the Bradford Council at the time decided to pull down the old Victorian market that had stood on the space for many, many years and replace it with a concrete monolith.

As with many Victorian buildings the old market was full of charm, grandeur, splendour and was a truly great asset to the people of Bradford.

But it was costly to maintain so the decision was made to knock it down and replace it with something more modern and efficient but with no redeeming features.

The people of Bradford were not happy. The council did not care.

And so yesterday I walked in Kirkgate Market again past all the pound shops that now seem to have taken over Bradford and through the other side without feeling any emotional connection to it as I have done with many other buildings. It’s just a relic from the 70s that should never have been built in the first place for me and other towns and cities have kept their Victorian buildings that now serve as a jewel in the crown for their city centres.

And so I left Kirkgate and headed up towards Joh St Market and past endless rows of mobile phone shops, betting shops and pound shops frequented by cheap tracksuits…

And then round and down the other side and more of the same expect that To Let signs appeared far to frequently interrupting the mobile phone shops and pound shops.

One image did stand out in my mind though as I walked down Darley St past the old Marks & Spencer’s premises. Two old down and outs sat on the steps sharing a can of lager but still smiling and happy with their arms round each other despite the cards that life had dealt them they still had each other and could still find happiness amidst desolation and despair. I found it a very heart warming scene and wish I had taken a photo of them…

I went into the Broadway centre for my shopping and things did change, modern buildings, contemporary shops but still no less busy and still tracksuits going around popping in and out of shops, eating chips and doughnuts and making the best of life.

And that seems to sum up Bradford or me. It has never been a city with its own identity but one trying to compete with Leeds or Manchester or any other big city rather than looking to its roots and making the best of what it has to offer and its historically important heritage.

And because of this trying to be something it isn’t mentality Bradford has become something it shouldn’t be, run down and like the ghost town in parts that Bill Bryson went through.

Parts of Bradford are bouncing back and regenerating and showing that there is still some life left in Bradford but I fear it may be some years before I see the Bradford I remember so well from my childhood, bustling with people all enjoying themselves and living life to the full. But I hope I do see it in my lifetime.


The frame of the window is set high

She is forced to look up

At men in uniform with swords and medals

Other men wear smart suits and bowler hats

Names are inscribed on plaques

Letter after letter after letter

Statue’s stand high on plinths of marble

Men who have done great deeds in

Wars, government, arts, society

Names never to be forgotten

A reminder of who I am and what I can be

I look up to them all and

They aloofly stare down at me

Because they know my place in life

And I know mine because

Everywhere I go there is

Something to remind me that my

Status in life is low, my

Position is at the bottom

I Have no power


Losing your mind in a

Society of overwhelment

Slowly turning into a

Sheep of society

Obeying the shepherd

Following the herd

Up hill n down dale

Into town and out of town

Under bridges, over bridges

Wherever you are told to go

By those who will sell you an

Unachievable dream

Wrapped up in wool

Just for ewe

 

© Andrew Smith 2014


It’s been a while since I did a blog but I do have what people will see as a good reason. As part of my dissertation at university I have to do a literature review of any relevant literature and it’s not as easy as it sounds! Reading through pages and pages of academic literature takes its toll on your brain and your sanity. Making endless notes and re-reading to make sure you haven’t missed the all-important word that could make a difference strains not only your brain but your eyes too. But having said all that it is very interesting and rewarding on many levels.

For many students the word dissertation strikes fear into them. It is the same for many employees who are asked to compile a report on their competitor’s latest product or last week’s sales figures. Where do I start! At the beginning. Sounds easy enough and for some reports it is. You will have a start point already made for you. For other reports and for a dissertation it is not so easy. My advice is to find a significant point in time to focus on and to remember that you can go back before this point as well as forwards after it too. The point provides a reference for you to focus on and to start your dissertation or report from.

As part of my dissertation I have to apply a sociological theory to my work. This is because I am studying sociology and my dissertation needs to reflect that. The theory I have chosen is that of habitus and capital from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. I have chosen Bourdieu’s work because I am interested in how power is controlled and maintained within society and within certain groups. Some groups appear to have a lot of power, others none at all. But who decides who has the power and how it is distributed amongst society? How do the powerful maintain their power? What are the subtle signs within society that many of us are exposed to from an early age that influence our perceptions of power? There are many signs that influence our decision on who are powerful and why. Bourdieu classed them as Social Capital, Cultural Capital, Economic Capital and Symbolic Capital. We are exposed to these forms of Capital from the day we are born and continue to be exposed to them till the day we die.

Many of them are so familiar to us that we don’t even notice them anymore. Statues looking down at us from on high signifying power in one form or another. If you do as well as me you may too get a statue made of you they seem to tell us as we walk by. This signifies power and who has it. If you read the plinth it may tell you why they earnt this power, in battle, in politics or maybe for writing or painting. Either way it signifies what constitutes power in society and why. Are we meant to bow down to this form of power, aspire to it or both? Either way it tells us who are the powerful and why on a daily basis.

Every day we are exposed to Economic Capital with endless news reports of sporting superstars earning vast amounts of money, companies making billions of billions of pounds of profit while still increasing prices but telling us that we should be grateful to them for providing us with energy, housing, food and other commodities at vastly inflated prices. We get told that these sporting superstars are worth every penny but is that for their talent or for the immense revenue and profits they generate from companies around the world?

Speaking of brands they enter into our Symbolic and Cultural capital unnoticed. Just think of McDonalds, Adidas, Ford and Apple to name a few. They and many others have entered into our Symbolic and Cultural society naturally and now all we have to do is see a product of theirs and we immediately know who made it, how much it cost, where it was made and based on this information we make assumptions about people. If we take the example of Ford we may assume that this person is at the lower end of the economic scale and so doesn’t have much spare cash. Compared to someone who is driving a Porsche or a Ferrari we would assume that they are at the other end of the economic scale and are very wealthy. Both examples could be wrong. The Ford driver could be rich but likes to save his pennies whilst the Porsche driver could have hired it for the day just to experience what it is like to own one.

But the point still stands that we give these products such Symbolic and Cultural capital and this is so ingrained within our natural psyche that we don’t even register the assumptions we are making about the people who use these products. We have subconsciously given these products and by association the people who use them Symbolic and Cultural capital and therefore power. With regards to this power we may position ourselves above them if we feel we have more power than them or below them if we feel we have less power than them.

This power is then transferred into where we stand within society. Someone viewed with low power will have a low social standing within society and viewed as not making much of a contribution to the running of society. On the other hand someone viewed as having high power will have a high social standing within society and viewed as having made a greater contribution to the running of that society. High power also brings more opportunities to maintain and exploit this power to the full. Once people have this power they do not want to give it up and will keep it for themselves only transferring it to their next of kin. This then maintains the status quo of the elite and any new members must have sufficient Social, Cultural, Symbolic and Economic capital of their own in order for them to join the club.

I will stress now that these are my thoughts and I am probably repeating the thoughts and ideas of many who have gone before me. This is also a very complex branch of sociology to get to grips with and a blog such as this does not have the space or scope needed to explore Bourdieu in sufficient depth and breadth. I just hope I’ve given you something to think about next time you look around at all the cultural symbols that surround you in your life.

Thanks for reading and take care 🙂


My journey to a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome begins sometime in 2007. I had always felt there was something different about me and I also felt that I was missing out on something in life but I could not put my finger on it. People would say I was weird, strange and displayed inappropriate behaviour at times but nothing concrete I could actually tie down and say this is me and why I am the way I am. I had looked at various mental health conditions and whilst I felt I displayed some of the traits it did not cover the whole spectrum of emotions and behaviour I felt I had.

It was a friend of mine who suggested I might have Asperger’s Syndrome. She had read the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night’ and felt that I displayed many of the characteristics that the main character showed. I researched Asperger’s Syndrome on the internet and immediately felt that this was me, this was who I am and these were the answers I had been looking for all my life. I booked an appointment with my doctor mistakenly thinking he would show compassion and understanding and organise an appointment for me to see a suitably qualified psychologist. How wrong I was!

My first appointment with my doctor consisted entirely of me explaining to him what Asperger’s Syndrome was and why I felt I had the condition. I will not use the term ‘suffer’ as I feel that this gives the wrong impression. People with Asperger’s Syndrome do not suffer from it. They suffer from the ignorance of others who believe mistakenly they have little or no value to society. Unfortunately this view is shared by some members of the medical profession and immediately creates the first obstacle a patient needs to overcome, that is, the very person you go to for help and guidance sees you as a burden on the medical system rather than someone who needs compassion and understanding.

My doctor flatly refused to believe I had Asperger’s Syndrome and made it clear that he didn’t believe me and thought I was making the condition fit me rather than me fitting the condition. Reluctantly he agreed for me to see a psychologist for depression and a request for an appointment was sent off. What was most distressing for me about the behaviour of my doctor towards me was his outright refusal to believe anything I said about myself! He showed a complete disregard for me and my feelings and instead wanted to impose his own beliefs about my personality and behaviour on me.

 

This left me feeling extremely confused. Was I right in believing what I was feeling about myself or was I imagining everything! Because of this I decided to write down how I felt and why I felt that way and leave it to the psychologist to decide. Consequently on the day of my appointment I was prepared mentally and went in feeling confident which is crucial in a situation such as this. On many occasions it is very easy to forget important details about something, such as a medical condition, and very often these details can make all the difference. As a consequence I was able to leave the psychologist I saw with a valuable document for him to read in-depth at his leisure and make a considered opinion based on this rather than based on memory and a brief discussion.

After a number of weeks I received a letter from the psychologist stating that he felt I had Asperger’s Syndrome and that it would be beneficial for me to attend an assessment for Asperger’s Syndrome at Sheffield Asperger’s Service Centre. I made an appointment to see my doctor to organise an appointment again assuming it would be a straightforward appointment and the relevant paperwork would be sent off to Sheffield and I would wait for a date for my assessment. Again I was wrong. All my doctor was concerned about was the cost of the assessment and who was going to pay for it. There was no compassion shown whatsoever for my mental state or for my emotions and feelings. The rest of my life would come down to cost and a faceless committee who would decide if I was worth the price of the assessment and if my life would be suitably enhanced enough to justify the cost.

This shows up another flaw in the medical system. Whilst one person may make a recommendation based on their professional opinion it may come down to another, disconnected medical professional to decide if the person gets the treatment they need. This can lead to confusion and delays and merely add to the persons problems rather than help them. Luckily for me the situation was taken out of my doctors hands as the psychologist I had seen had referred my case to his boss a consultant psychologist unbeknown to me and he had the authority to authorise the assessment without the need for it to go before a committee. Again this shows a severe lack of communication and a lack of knowledge of procedures between medical professionals. This is something that needs addressing as it can cause friction and confusion between medical professionals and patients when so many mixed messages are being sent and received.

My assessment for Asperger’s Syndrome went smoothly and it was confirmed that I did indeed have Asperger’s Syndrome and I had the diagnosis I so desperately needed. My only issue after diagnosis was again on the subject of cost when I told my doctor that I was receiving six sessions of counselling and his face dropped at this news. It was only when I told him that it was already included in with the cost of the assessment that his face began to regain some colour!

 

This is obviously a very serious subject and in summary it has to be said that a doctor in practice needs to believe the patient whatever his or her own personal feelings towards them and support them in their journey to diagnosis, not belittle and confuse them which only adds to the considerable stress and anxiety that the patient is already going through. Without this initial support the patient runs the risk of any other conditions they may have such as depression and anxiety becoming much worse and developing into self-harm or suicide because the patient feels that no-one believes them and there is support available for them.

Doctors and other medical professionals also need to communicate situations better and inform each other of the procedures that are available for a pathway to diagnosis in order that the patient isn’t lost and confused by the whole situation. I also believe that doctors and other healthcare professionals need not just more training but better training too. This training needs to replicate the full spectrum of the autistic condition and the differences between children, adolescences and adults. By doing this the whole medical profession will be in a far better position to offer care that is focused on a particular person and the blanket coverage that can occur today. By doing this and looking beyond the short term savings, long term health and wellbeing can be better monitored and maintained and in the long run savings will be made across the board because autistic individual’s health and wellbeing will be at the centre of the plan and over time it is quite possible that less will need to be done to maintain this level of health and wellbeing at the initial level of intervention.

The most important issue though is to remember that patients are human beings with real emotions, feelings and beliefs and if they are reduced to a cost then they are also being reduced to the same status as a broken down car that can be left in a scrapyard to slowly rot and not as a valuable member of society which they all are.


This week I’ve changed the title of my blog slightly to better reflect the content. As some of you will have noticed parts of my blog are about life at uni, whereas other parts are about anything on my mind!

This week has been a largely uneventful week at uni for me. I missed the ‘Film and Cinema’ lecture on Monday morning because I was poorly. Tuesday I didn’t have a lecture so my first trip to uni was Thursday afternoon for ‘Men, Masculinity and Crime’. The lecture this week consisted of watching the film ‘Fightclub’ and analysing the film. For me the film was all about finding your identity and that applies equally to males and females and the rejection of the consumerist society we live in. the film went back to a more basic way of living where it seems it was easier to create an identity for yourself because you had less fingers pointing at you from all directions and corners of society telling you what you had to wear, what to watch, what sport to play and on and on and on, in order to be considered a woman or a man. The film seemed to go back to the caveman era and showed the base emotions of society as the foundation for the building and maintaining of an identity. I feel that many films are like ‘Fightclub’ in that there is often a hidden message underneath the plotline and it is up to the individual to find that message, make sense of it and reflect on how they live their lives in comparison. Quite often I think many people watch a film purely for entertainment without looking deeper and finding the meaning and message in the film. They watch the film for pleasure noticing only the car chases, fights and explosions without seeing the life messages behind them.

Which leads me neatly onto my next ‘the media’ as studied in the lecture ‘Representing the Social’. This module gets you thinking about the world we all inhabit and looking at it differently. This week was about one of my favourite subjects the media. The media affects all of us whether we like it or not. From the traditional forms of media such as books, newspapers, radio and television to the new forms such as Facebook, Twitter and the internet itself we are constantly surrounded by the media and therefore media representations of life, society and the world. The main question for many academics is ‘does the media represent or construct society’?

If you ask anyone who is connected to the media they will tell you that they are merely reflecting on what goes on in society and the audience can pick and choose what it watches or reads and therefore make reasoned choice about what it believes. However another very different school of thought believes the media construct the society we live in by altering the images they show us, telling a story in a particular way or reporting on one story and not another. By doing this the media can have an immense influence on how we perceive the world around us and change the way we see society.

One way of doing this is to buy three different newspapers on the same day and look at them in detail and how they are constructed. Say for instance there had been a march against austerity the day before or a murder or someone’s human right’s had been violated, do the newspaper’s report on these stories in the same way? Do they occur on the same page in-between the same stories? Are the same words used for the stories? Is the same political slant given to the stories? The simple answer is no. Different newspaper’s will report a story in different ways. One story might have the victim’s story first, another, the perpetrator. One story might have a right-wing slant, another a left-wing slant, another newspaper might not give the story much space or not even report it at all. By doing this you can see how the media in its different forms constructs a view of the world from their perspective and because the reader may only read that particular story it will influence the readers view of the world around them.

This is especially important in today’s information saturated world we live in. How do we know what is and is not real? Who do we believe? How do we know if an event happened as it has been reported or if it has been altered in some way to reflect the views of the newspaper? The answer is we don’t but if there is a story that holds your interest, gets you thinking and asking questions it is worth getting three or four different perspectives of the same story and seeing which parts are reported similarly and which are reported differently. Research the background of the story makers. What political affiliations do they have? Which people do they consider important? Who are their friends? All of this information will tell you a lot about the background to the story, why they consider it important and the world they are trying to construct for you to live in and believe in.

There is a lot more I could write about the media but I don’t have the space in this blog. The main thing to think about next time your reading a newspaper or the internet or watching the news is that the main reason the media exists is to sell stories and make money for their owners. It’s not to tell you the truth as it happened but to tell you a story that makes you want to buy that particular newspaper over another newspaper. And never be afraid to question what you read and are told. Question the motives of those behind the story, question why they think it is important and question yourself too. Why is it important to you? Why do you care about this story and not another one? Always question.

Otherwise it’s been a normal week for me. Friday was a very long day with four hours of lectures and then a trip to Hebden Bridge for a special Shindig hosted by the amazing Winston Plowes. If you don’t know a Shindig is a spoken word event which features one or two guest performers and an open mic session. I performed a couple of old favourites and a new poem which went down very well. The highlight for me though was an old lady telling the main guest he was ‘rubbish’ and should ‘get off the stage’. It was one of those moments when you shouldn’t laugh but can’t help it.

Saturday was spent watching my local amateur rugby league team Queensbury play out a tough 18-18 draw with local rivals Illingworth, the game wasn’t the most skilful but was a tough game of rugby played mainly in the forwards by two teams refusing to give an inch, a very tough game emphasised by the sound of flesh slamming into flesh, blood on faces and sweat pouring into the pitch from said players. These young lads play the game for pleasure yet still face the same pitfalls as professional players in the form of aching limbs and injuries. The main difference is that these lads have to get up for work on Monday morning with their legs still aching from chasing the opposition, bruises all over their bodies, black eyes, missing teeth and the odd broken limb. It is a tough, uncompromising sport just as much at the amateur level as it is at the professional level.

Thanks for reading and take care.