Here in the UK we have a tendency to look down on America. As we sip our tea and nibble our crumpets, we shake our heads in disbelief that millions of its citizens voted for the orange idiot who dominates our TV screens. When news stories crop up about shootings and police violence, we haughtily scorn their undying patriotism and criticise the inequality that seems to infiltrate their justice system. Though our critiques are valid in many respects, our sense of superiority and self-acquittal in the UK is misplaced and misjudged; it is time we take a look at our own accounts of injustice.
A recent study from the University of Manchester has highlighted the negative environmental impact of Europe’s microwave infatuation, reporting that our companions of convenience emit the same amount of CO2 emissions as 7 million cars each year. In the UK alone, 93% of households possess a microwave, a 20% increase over the past 20 years. Increased environmental awareness has attacked the sanctity of our most beloved electrical appliances, triggering some of us make an effort to cut down on our energy consumption and leaving the rest feeling guilty but complicit. As more studies illuminate the impact of our modern lifestyles, attacking our excessive food waste, plastic profligacy and now our counter-top cookers, it’s easy to feel that there’s no point even trying. But it remains up to us, not large corporations or policy makers, to make the small changes which can make the biggest difference.
We are living in the age of the Digital Revolution. The past 30 years has seen the birth of the internet, closely followed by the smartphone and our beloved social networking sites, search engines and online streaming. Our dependence on technology is ever increasing as more areas of our lives are being digitally enhanced. Whereas before our world consisted solely of the physical and, depending on your beliefs, the spiritual, we now also inhabit the network of connectivity referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). Soon anything and everything could be wirelessly connected and more daily tasks and professional roles will be taken over by our digital counterparts. Should we fear our a digital society and the potential for a ‘Black Mirror’-esque near future? Or does our world of increasing automation open us up to a lifestyle of leisure and an approved state of being?
In the wake of Catherine Deneuve’s open letter, the debate surrounding the worth of the #MeToo online movement has been at the forefront of media coverage in the past day. #MeToo first hit our Twitter timelines in October 2017, after actor Alyssa Milano publicly accused producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, sparking dozens of women to come forward with their own stories. The phenomenon soon spread and thousands took to their keyboards to share their experiences of harassment in the workplace, though like any form of patriarchal dissent this soon triggered backlash. Critics of the campaign, including Deneuve, have deemed #MeToo supporters hypersensitive, arguing they confuse normal sexual advances with abuse and foster a “hatred of men and sexuality”. Though this seems obtuse, softer critics have also come at the campaign for presenting women as victims and conflating flirtation with harassment. Others see the hashtag as an empowering movement; an easily distributed means of raising difficult questions about an institutional approach to women and consent.
As if British teenagers didn’t have enough pent up frustration, the UK government is set to implement age-verification blocks on all pornographic websites. Under 18s will no longer be able to wile away their Saturdays with a box of Kleenex and will instead have to go outside and seek out real life sexual partners.
All of us are bombarded with images and sounds on a daily basis. Wherever we are, what we see and hear trains our brain to digest the world around us. For the majority of the global population this means we are constantly accosted by advertising, whether it’s the in your face advertising of the urban landscape or the more sporadic public presence of brands, images and corporate ideologies that is found even in the most rural settings. Without our conscious realisation, our brains become attuned to the information in the peripheries of our awareness and implement it in the way we think. So if we are constantly surrounded by advertising, it is fair to say that it has a large part to play in forming who we are and how we view reality.
Every time my friends have period cramps, I get a pang of jealousy. When I overhear someone complain about their PMS, I think about how comforting those cramps would be. If my friends bring up having kids, we laugh at the thought of ourselves with the responsibility of keeping something alive. But then I see a tiny baby hand or a little squishy baby face and I wonder if I’ll ever get to have one of my own.