Is Computer Literacy as Important as Literacy?

Over the past few days I have stumbled around from one side of the internet to the other in search of a way to make money on the internet. 

‘N00b!’. 

Yes, okay, I understand that that first sentence alone shows my lack of understanding of all things computerised. The internet doesn’t have sides. It’s infinite. Or is it round? I… I just don’t know…

It turns out that in order to fully monetise my blog I have to put extra ads onto the site, and, I really don’t want to do that. 

But as I scroll though pages and pages of ‘How to make money blogging’ posts, I start to despair slightly. I would love to be able to make a living blogging. I just want to be able to write all day – surely there is a way to do that! 

Well yes, there is… or no… depending on… Well, put it this way – the blogs making the money are, ironically, the ones teaching you how to make money.

Damn. Got my hopes up there for a second.

But it did also get me thinking. There is money to be made from the internet. Most things are run through the internet. All my recent job applications have been through the internet. Most of the books I read come from the kindle store and and 90% of the news I read is online (since the times raised their paper price from £1 to £1.20, I refuse to buy it on moral grounds). 

Even this blog is absolutely reliant on the internet! 

I am currently writing this from my local library. The internet at my parents house (who I am currently staying with as part of the ‘family holiday’ that is the British Summer). 

My parents have described it as one of the worse things in their life. Let’s just think about that for a second. Just fifteen years ago, my family owned one desktop – they barely used the internet. Now every member of my family has laptops and phones and God knows what else. The extent to which they are reliant on the internet it almost scary…

Almost.

But don’t think that it is necessarily a bad thing.  I do however, think that people, particularly the older generation who have grown up with the internet and social media dominating their lives, need to embrace it. The world has changed forever. Now it is time to change how we educate people in the world. 

I think that there need to be classes in Social Media and computer navigation need to be taught in schools. 

YES. Computer skills are often taught, but in relation to the tools typically considered useful in an office.

In 80 years, there will be nearly nobody who has not grown up in part of a social media world. Things have changed forever.

Let’s embrace it!  

 

Being Hugo – Finding Work and Public Exams.

As my sister stumbled into breakfast this morning with her head held low, my heart sank. I knew what it meant, she knew that I knew what it meant. We both avoided eye contact, sat down and finished our cereal in silence. 

This morning in the UK, hundreds of thousands of eager/nervous/excited/self-assured 18 year-old’s received the results of their A-Level public examinations. One exam had gone terribly wrong for my sister. In fairness, everybody who knows her and her entire school population seems to believe a mistake has been made, so she may well be fine. But others won’t be. 

The way that we are conditioned to believe in examinations, the importance of higher education, leads the opening of an email one morning… one second in time, to change your life forever. From a world full of hope and opportunity to nothing. 

This is a huge shame. 

Yet exams are important – this is the desperate thing. In billions of years of development, exams are the best way that human beings have found to measure themselves against one another.

This, again is a shame. The issue is not in the exams themselves, but in the huge bias that people seem to put on them. 

It leaves many people in the situation of having an infinitely more difficult journey to finding success.

You can decide for yourselves the importance of a university degree, but I would ask that you do this: The next time you speak to somebody and find that they have not been to university, ask yourself, ‘I am judging this person?’. The answer is almost always, yes. Heck, even I do it, and I haven’t been to university myself. 

To my sister and all those others out there. Don’t despair, there are many many ways to succeed, university is just one of them. 

In order to truly find the best in society, we need to look beyond traditional education, beyond financial means beyond color, language, race. Success in a government standardised test isn’t the only measure of success and ability. Don’t trick yourself into thinking it is. 

By the same token, those who have gained great results today, I applaud you. As I am currently finding, when it comes to the job market, it is going to make your life a hell of a lot easier! 

Guy Hugo

 

 

George, Don’t Do That! Episode 1

Royal Correspondents are normal people. I put on my garters, my suspenders and press my velvet cravat each morning just like the next man. For years, I feel as if I have been pigeon-holed a one type of person.

I am not posh. I am not a toff. I am no better than any of you. Maybe the people need to go back to their council estates and claim their free benefits and live their life the decent people they so clearly are.

I’m sorry… I’ve had a bad week.

Before this week I hadn’t yet had the wonderful opportunity to speak to the beautiful Duchess of Cambridge – the beautiful Kate! Such poise and elegance – I have been bursting to meet her!

Unfortunately, not yet having infiltrated the inner circle of elite Royal correspondents – the rest of us call them, ‘trust fund babies’… we are too, of course, but theirs are bigger. Bigger, as my wife sadly keeps reminding me, apparently really does mean better. My opportunities for a meeting have been few and far between.

My chance came this week, as the Duchess attended a Christening for a dear friend’s child, with her son Prince George in a little church in Wiltshire.

As she walked the pathway to the church, she was inundated by members of the public. Not the British Public – they rarely have time for all these petty events, but Americans, Japanese, French – all those who surely dream of having a monarch.

As a friend held baby George, she stepped quietly away from the furore – now mostly focused on the child – and stepped right next to me!

I could barely contain my excitement! We shared a glance and a moment of awkward silence, before I eventually got up the courage to say, ‘Young George seems to be handling things rather well!’ followed by a kind smile.

She turned around and frowned at me. I didn’t understand. She quickly strode over to a push chair outside of the waiting tourists being looked after by two men in black suits. She picked up the bawling baby and started to comfort it.

The baby playing in the middle wasn’t George. I had got the wrong baby.

Was I embarrassed? Mightily. I console myself with the fact that all babies look the same, so this one really isn’t my fault.

Actually, I take that back. The last thing I want to be seen as is a baby racist.

I slunk off quietly to my car. I had half a bottle of Brandy in there. Which…. I of course didn’t drink until I was safely in my bath.

It’s been a tough week.

For more, ‘George Don’t Do That!’ Click here

A Frank Discussion About Mental Health

Robin Williams

Robin Williams, a highly acclaimed, popular, wealthy comedian and actor lost his life today causing widespread sorrow around the world. 

Notice, I said ‘lost’ his life, not ‘took’ his life. 

Mixed in among the various reports into his death, people giving their respects and celebrations of Williams’ life, were several rather less complimentary reports.

Shep Smith on Fox news called Williams a ‘coward’ about the sadly now confirmed reports that Williams committed suicide. Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show said that Williams killed himself due to a ‘political leftist attitude’. Todd Bridges said today that Williams should simply have ‘buckled down and asked God to help’. 

The huge misunderstanding of the extent of mental illness, as shown by some of the comments today, leads many to bottle up their issues rather than seeking professional help. 

People feel as if they cannot express their genuine problems without being judged, without being a ‘coward’. They feel that if they open up to people, they will lose their normal identity. They will go from John next door with the three kids, to John next door who has depression – those poor kids.

The statistics, however, suggest otherwise. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health issue in the course of a year. That is a very significant percentage of the population. That is in fact very normal. Yet it is still undoubtedly stigmatised. Why?

Well the easy answer to this is the general lack of knowledge and understanding of mental health. People reason that, this is not a problem with your body, this is not a bit of bad luck, a broken toe, a fever. This is a problem with your mind. This is insanity. 

That we have reached a point where a person with mental illness can confide in another person who also has mental illness (but is perhaps ‘closeted’) and still be judged poorly, suggests at the extent of this issue in modern society. You may have problems, but you can handle them, you’re strong. That person is weak.

The reality of the situation is that the person who confided will more likely seek help and will more likely recover. The ‘strong’ person will suffer. Such is the strength of the stigma. 

I ask you to imagine yourself at that moment. Perhaps as Robin Williams did. You have money, fame, a wonderful legacy and a family. You stand in a room full of expensive objects. You have it all. You love and care deeply for your family. You stand on a chair and hang yourself. 

Can you imagine that? No. Of course not. Nothing about that process is rational. Nothing about it makes sense. These are not the actions of a well man. These are also not the actions of a selfish man, of a cowardly man. These are the actions of a very ill man.

Suicide, I believe can be best explained like this: You are a young man, your country involved in a war where every single person serving dies. You know you are soon going to get drafted. It is inevitable, the government of your country is far more powerful that you. You try to live your life and you push the upcoming event to the back of your mind. Along the way, you have numerous chances to avoid the draft: you could be an administrator, or a medic, or an engineer and you wouldn’t have to go – you could stay at home. 

You know the implications of ‘chickening out’ and saving yourself. Everybody around you will know what you did, they will know who you are – that you are weak and fragile. So you keep going, you keep blocking the thought from your head. Occasionally it gets the better of you and you get upset, but you are going to live your life normally and that’s that. You can feel it as it looms closer and closer. Then suddenly, it’s draft day. There is nothing you can do to stop it, it is entirely out of your hands. You’re gone. 

Suicide isn’t a rational choice between living and dying. You may say, ‘well, I have had those thoughts, but when push came to shove, I chose not to. What you experienced wasn’t suicide – it wasn’t even close. Rationalise with yourself and ask, honestly – were you ever going to do it? No. Of course not. 

Suicide is the putting off of a decision. Initially there may be choice in that decision, but by the time you get there, there is only going to be one outcome. 

So what has all this rather depressing discussion really been about? 

Well it is to say this: mental illness is two distinct, and unappreciated things. 

1) It is normal! It doesn’t lessen your standing as human beings. It should be treated the same as any other disease. 

2) Suicide is not a choice, it is not a selfish action, it is not a cowardly action. We should feel sorrow for the victim, and make an effort to inform others. Not bastardise it and criticise those inflicted. 

If you feel may be suffering – go and see a doctor. Then tell your friends that you have! Explain to them why mental illness should be treated like any other disease! Educate people about the realities of the suffering, of the disease. Squash the stigma – save lives!

Thank you very much for reading – please do share this if you think it may be at all relevant to somebody!

All international suicide hotlines are on this page. 

 

Not Quite The News – HONY in Iraq

Since the Gulf War in 1990 and continuing through Operation Desert Storm in 1998 and the Iraq War in 2003, many people in the West have become desensitized to the extent of the suffering – the reality of the humanity – of the people of Iraq. 

Frequently, we saw news stories showing the deaths of Western soldiers and gasped at the terrible infidel insurgents who had inflicted this terrible fate. 

We passed over the fact that, in the mortar strikes and drone bombings which led up to the fatal attacks, hundreds of Iraqi civilians had been killed.

In fact, when the US and the rest of the NATO troops left Iraq in 2011 over 110,000 civilians had been killed in the crossfire of the war.

To us, with frequent media coverage of the terrors of the Iraqi insurgents and their constant alienation, many didn’t think twice about these deaths, many, dare I say, celebrated them as a Western victory over terror.

In recent weeks, Brandon Stanton, creator of the immensely popular blog, Humans of New York, has recently, on behalf of the United Nations, visited Iraq as part of a tour around the world. 

He has continued his traditional photographing style – approach the person, smile and ask to take their picture, He then interviews them, and posts the photo, as long as a selected phrase from the interview on his blog. 

The significance of him going to Iraq is in the lack of change he has made. He interviews people in the same way and talks to them the way he would a fellow American. 

There are bad people in Iraq, bad people who have caused huge problems. There are bad people in the USA, bad people in England, bad people in China and Chile and Sweden. 

There are also good people. Brandon Stanton and Humans of New York has given a rare Western insight into the people of Iraq, people who face the same problems as us. Normal people, good people. 

Thank you, Brandon Stanton and Humans of New York.

For more ‘Not Quite The News’ head here!

 

A New Beginning

Just after 9pm, as the plane rose majestically over the gently twinkling lights of Los Angeles, I was gone. I have many wonderful memories of LA and a few bad ones. It felt rather like the pilot of a TV series – a character gets so close to his ultimate goal, before being ejected – or, in my case, ejetted (actually, no – terrible pun, disregard) and having to start all the way from the beginning. 

Of course, that wasn’t quite how it transpired, but it’s been 3 days, so my rose tinted spectacles are beginning to grow. For me, simply getting to Los Angeles felt like a huge achievement – like I was almost there – but in reality, I was as far away as ever. 

I am forced to accept that a having a large body of work is rather like having a large head of hair. Inherently worthless but, for some, a lucky few, it can take them places. 

So now, I get to start my own personal version of ‘Snakes and Ladders’, although, from what I hear, there is only likely to be one ladder, and apparently, there are many, many snakes.

So this is from where I will re-start this blog. A re-boot, if you will. From a dingy flat in London, I will endeavour to cross back over the pond. 

First I need to get a job. I am currently living on borrowed time (isn’t that the best kind of time? No. Profoundly no), and need to find a job, which is my current quest. 

So the dream is still alive. Somehow. Us Brits aren’t notoriously good dreamers, but hey, breaking the mould is something I… would someday like to be able to do… :P

Thank you again, everybody for reading! I hope I can continue to more than just hold your attention for the length of a post, I hope I can (Insert when relevant – beguile, intrigue, entertain, mesmerise, confound, confuddle, etc!).

Have a wonderful day!