Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Who Wants To Pay For Healthcare?

By Sarah Kingston

As a person who is a complete and utter klutz, (that’s an uncoordinated person for those of you who need to brush up on your Yiddish), it is a small wonder that I’ve avoided the hospital for most of my life. Up until a week ago I had survived with constant bruises, minor cuts and sprains as a result of my lack of grace but never hurt myself badly enough to sample the delights of the emergency services. This is not counting one incident that involved a car and black ice, not my own lack of coordination.

Last Thursday, however, I had my first run-in with NHS emergency services when I woke up in St. Mary’s  A & E at 2.30 in the morning. The story goes that I was running for a bus, tripped and cracked my head on the pavement. I don’t actually remember any of this but have had a constant reminder throughout the week with the pounding of my brain and a terribly attractive clump of glue holding the back of my skull together.

After finally regaining consciousness I attempted to calm my tear-soaked friend Shell, one of my saviours that night, and proceeded to recite my name, shoe size and address several times. Not at the request of the nurse but for my own peace of mind. Satisfied that I was still the same person, my next overwhelming concern that trumped all others was that I had been cut out of my brand new dress, destroying the thing entirely.

I was feeling quite upset that the NHS had cut me out of a fair amount of money until I spoke to my American aunt the next day and her reaction (following concern and relief) was to point out that it was lucky I received a head injury in the UK instead of the United States. After getting over the fact that she’s used “lucky” and “head injury” in the same sentence, I thought about it and realised it really was quite fortunate.

Whatever anyone says about the inefficiency of the NHS, I was picked up quickly by an ambulance, received rapid and efficient care and even had a very attractive male nurse to look after me! Had I been back in the States I would have woken up with a much more excruciating headache due to an extremely large bill.

This led me to wonder how any of my fellow Americans back home can be fighting so hard against national healthcare. Do they enjoy paying a hefty bill after leaving the hospital? Many argue that the quality of care isn’t as good when health care is nationalised but isn’t it better to start with standard care for everyone and work up from there?

It seems that people are either resigned to paying too much for quality care or receiving sub-standard care for free, but I wonder, why can’t the government of the United States manage to offer free quality care for everyone?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

No Vote = Less Rights?

by Rachel Surtees

Today’s the day my good friends, today is the day. From midnight this eve, that will be it. No more chances. You quite simply will not be able to vote in this year’s general elections. Done.

There’s a high risk that this ponder will err on the judgemental so I’ll keep it brief.

If you don’t vote, should you have less rights throughout the course of that electoral term? I’m not entirely sure what that would look like, but along the lines of not being eligible to vote in referendums perhaps? Generally having less of a stake in the society that you didn’t help to shape?

Harsh? Maybe. But why not?

Fine fine I love politics; I was brought up on the shoulders of marchers. We all know that blah blah but that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about politics, it’s about us, people, society. It’s about caring enough about yourself and where you live (house, town, country, world) to click here, register and then on polling day take a gentle stroll down to the local polling station, put a little cross in a little box and that’s it. That’s literally all you have to do. Done*.

And if you don’t care enough to do that then why shouldn’t you have less of a say?

Some of the most common reasons I hear for why people don’t vote go along the lines of:

1) They’re all as bad as each other.
Perhaps, but someone will be voted in so just vote for the one that you think is least bad.

2) I want to send a message to the top that I’m fed up with all politicians.
Ok, either hold on to your message until the local elections, or go to the polling station and spoil your ballot paper. Not voting doesn’t send a message to anyone.

3) I forgot.
Don’t forget.

Generations upon generation fought for our right to vote. And yet, somehow it seems that we’ve forgotten that it’s not only our right, but also our privilege.

*if 5,000 more people had “done” that in the European elections and had voted for anyone except BNP, they wouldn’t have got in.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Another brick...

By Euclides Montes @gatulino

The tickets were booked, the walking boots broken into, the guide to hiking in the Himalayas already packed and the excitement of flying to the mythical-sounding Kathmandu was starting to permeate everything I did, from watching television to doing the washing up. Even the forerunner to this post, the one that you were supposed to be reading whilst my plane took me to Nepal was already written but then my partner called me to give me the news: “they won’t give you a visa”. Ouch.

The curse of being a dangerous, dodgy Colombian strikes again!

It had been a very long time since I had been in that position. After living in the UK for well over a decade and travelling all around the world relatively problem-free, my nationality has come once again to mess up my plans.

But were they right to deny my visa straight away? Just because my humble passport isn’t red like most British passports are?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the issues are more complex and complicated than the simplistic ‘will-they-won’t-they let me in’ that I describe above. Countries need to control their borders and sometimes it is important to ensure that certain procedures are in place to make immigration [even for tourism] manageable. But, surely, cases need to be looked at individually and all rules must have exceptions?

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I kind of understand why Colombians like me were flagged and, like most Colombians, I grinned and bear through the extra airport controls, both retaining the moral high ground [‘you distrust me but I’ll be Gandhi-like and bear it’] and knowing that they’d have to let you in in the end [‘because I’ve already jumped through all your hoops and I’m clean’!]. But do blanket restrictions like that really work? Or are they just counterproductive in the end? I mean what exactly led the Nepalese immigration officer on Friday to go into a frenzy of email activity that climaxed in the legendary [ok, legendary in my household] sentence “Dear ******, Foreigners cannot enter in Nepal.”. Since that’s obviously not true in the first place, is it really necessary?

Someone whose opinion means the world to me opines that in the big scheme of our lives, these things are insignificant. And I agree. 100%. This reminds me of the words of John Berger on endurance “Meanwhile, the answers abound in the multitudes’ multiple ingenuities for getting by, their refusal of frontiers, their search for holes in the walls… their recurring acknowledgement that life’s gifts are small and priceless. Trace with a finger tonight her (his) hairline before sleep” (from ‘Ten Dispatches About Endurance’).

And, on that note, I come back to my original ponder: Were they right to deny me entry to their country based simply on the basis of the place I was born? By doing that, we are closing the door on something that could’ve been beneficial to everyone, not only in terms of the experience, but also in terms of how we could grow together perhaps as a global community. Now we will never know. What’s the point of building so many walls around each other?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Goodnight Hollywood

Inside. The frenzied chants are a distance hum. Despair protects the silence.

Alex bursts through the open door of the hospital room. His shirt soaked with sweat. The others are already there. Each individual expression uniformed in misery.

He knows the answer, but is unable to stop his question:

"Is the screenplay dead?"

Roselyn stands and walks towards him. Softly grasping his hands, she speaks:

"My son. The battle has been lost. You must be strong".

He looks down and his heart forgets to beat. Sitting in the palm of his hand, moistened by  his perspiration is a pair of 3D glasses and a ticket to the remake of "Clash of the Titans".

Outside. The streets are choked with the smog of burning cinemas. The atmosphere electrified by a serenade of wild chants. He walks towards his car, which has succumbed to the blaze. The flames illuminate the spray-painted inscription on the passenger door:

"Long live the 3D motion picture"

Defeated. He throws his manuscript into the inferno and heads towards the last remaining cinema.

End scene.

At the risk of being burned at the stake, shunned or spat on, I have to confess that I'm failing to share recent euphoria for the resurgence of 3D cinema. It's partly due to personal space; whilst others can’t contain their ecstasy over the sensation of cinematic images thrusting themselves onto the surface of one's cornea, I feel like my mind is being invaded by Oompa-Loompas with delusions of world domination. It’s not that I’m being contentious, but feeling like a lab rat simply isn’t my preferred cinema experience. All I gained from watching Avatar was a numbingly painful migraine, resulting in temporary psychosis and hallucinations of flesh eating plants.

But mostly, I detest feeling like I'm being sold something. And unless I'm otherwise missing the point, I see 3D cinema as yet another example of the ruthless marketing, along with  trailers; merchandise and pathetic gimmicks designed to fob us off with the homogeneous, sequel inflated, uninspired fuzz that has saturated Hollywood over recent decades.

Of course, it's not always successful. Take the catastrophic flop of Uma Thurman's latest film "Motherhood". Apparently, its marketers thought they'd go down the exclusive path and only permit one cinema in London to show it, but then some idiot forgot to advertise it, or something like that. Alas, it only sold one ticket on its opening night. Note to Uma: next time you might want to enroll the experts at QVC, if there was ever anyone that could sell shit....

So my ponder is rather simple: what will the next decade of Hollywood look like? Are we doomed to an eternity of repetition, relentless sequels and unnecessary 3D technology?

These days movie makers seem locked in a battle for digital superiority. This would be fine if the fight was over how best to digitally enhance creative, or at best, inspired scripts. But it’s not. At least not as its main motivation. It’s more concerned with how technology can harness entertainment, so that it becomes a commodity to be sold, regardless of the product. In film speak: it’s the 3D which is dragging in record box office numbers. Whilst the film itself? Practically irrelevant.

And Avatar was just the beginning; so far this year Tim Burton's "Alice and Wonderland" and Louis Leterrier’s "Clash of the Titans" have also been released in 3D and we're only in April. Let the mental molestation begin.

Contrast this with Cannes, The British Film Festival and the various other independent festivals. This is cinema in all its glorious dimensions. I love being crippled by contemplation after watching movies like La Haine; Goodbye Lenin; City of God; Taxidermia. Even if these movies had been filmed in a tin can, they’d still be excellent. Because they offer something more. Right?

These types of movies should be what dominate the mainstream, not the margins. It’s not that I don’t understand that big budgets buy more technology, better actors and gifted writers.

But can cinema really be reduced to the sum of its parts?

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