Owen Jones, Will You Marry Me?

It’s the Conservative Party conference and what should any leader of the opposition be doing? Absolutely destroying it with zinging one liners and put downs then explaining how their progressive and innovative alternative is what this country needs to transcend the woeful contradictions of capitalism, deal with climate change, end inequality and ensure people can get back to the important task of being happy and watching Bake Off. So, what’s Jeremy Corbyn doing? Tweeting about the Labour film festival. Facepalm.

Fortunately, someone whose a fan of Labour lives in the 21st century and understands how social media works and that’s everyone’s favourite cherubic Guardian (or is it guardian?) journalist, Owen Jones. “Labour need clear, crisp, repeated messages on everything from the Government’s retreat on economic policy to Brexit chaos – and fast” he said yesterday, whilst actually at the conference. He was going around with his cheeky-chappy grin and interviewing Tories, helping the rest of us see that these people are human even if many of their policies are inhumane. “The Tories’ harsh Brexit puts your job at risk – only a Labour Brexit will protect your job. Labour’s line should be something like that.” Say it like you see it Jones and thank god someone is. As for Corybyn, “. is coming to the North West for the 1st time. Find out about the great films they’re showing here → .” Ok, so the current Chancellor is basically backtracking on a load of Tory economic policies and resigning this country to another ‘lost decade’ and you have nothing to say about it? The Tories are practically handing you their own heads on silver platters and you’re too busy tweeting about a film festival!? You can tweet about more than one thing!

If, like me, you find yourself frustrated with some of Corbyn’s behaviour but realise he has just been re-elected as head of the opposition then I reckon now is the time to call on him to step up. Yes, he has many great principles and ideals but that’s not enough. They must be used as beacons to guide a very practical and pragmatic politics for right now. The situation is dire and we aren’t going to get any form of socialist utopia anytime soon. Behavioural and value change across a nation will take at least a generation, this is barely the start. So, Jeremy, get tweeting, get zinging and call out the many failures of the Tories. Please make good on your re-election and prove to us you really can be the next Prime Minister because Britain is scared of change and we need to have confidence in the one who professes to be the harbinger of said change. And, Owen, marry me?

Owen Jones grins at Tories at last year’s conference

MOLI – Missing Out & Loving It

We’ve all heard of FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out – a phenomenon that’s on the rise given the proliferation of social media and all the ways we can discover what we’re not doing. There’s facebook to tell us about all the parties our friends are at but we’re not, twitter to point out all the job opportunities we’re letting slip by, tinder to remind us of all the people who aren’t that into us and instagram to show us all the beaches we are not sunbathing on. The sheer quantity of stuff we’re not doing can get overwhelming, indeed FOMO forms part of many mental health problems including anxiety and depression. Whilst this blog will not deal with these more severe and distressing instances of missing out I do want to offer a simple way of getting over mild cases of FOMO – it’s called MOLI – Missing Out & Loving It.

Suffering from FOMO can be a bit like the five stages of grief – first there’s denial: “I’m not going to Petra’s party but I’m fine with that, totally fine.” Then there’s anger: “Why didn’t Petra invite me to the party? What’s wrong with me, I’m fun aren’t I? Dam Petra and her party to hell!” Then bargaining, “Come on Petra, please invite me, come on Petra” (although this we’re more likely to say in our head rather than out loud). And depression: “I’m super sad that I’m not going to the party, *unhappy emoticon*”. And finally acceptance: “I’m not going to the party…oh…it’s already the next day and the party’s over.”

It’s a difficult process to go through and often very unpleasant. However, I reckon MOLI can be employed as a means of avoiding stages one through to four and getting straight to the final bit, acceptance. Basically, everyday there are literally billions of things we aren’t doing, there are jobs we’re not applying for, new friends we’re not making, partners we’re not falling in love with, parties we’re not going to etc but rather than let these things overwhelm us we can get a little Buddhist on it and just shrug it off – “Sure these things are happening but hey I’ll just enjoy the stuff I am doing (even if it’s just chilling at home watching Bake Off and eating a Mars Bar).”

Consumer culture thrives off making us dissatisfied with our lives – always a new top to buy, the latest trendy bar to drink at, a new clique to hang out with – whilst actively discouraging us from finding pleasure and meaning in the stuff we do do. We’re constantly encouraged to look away from what we’ve got towards what we don’t have. But we can reverse this – we can look closer to home at the friends we do hang out with, the events we do go to and the things we do treasure rather than constantly comparing ourselves to others. It’s a gentle habit we can foster by making a point of enjoying the stuff we’ve got. We can certainly acknowledge the stuff we’re not doing but most of the time that’s fine, why not just let it go screw itself and enjoy what’s happening here and now.

If MOLI doesn’t work one back up plan is IPS – It’s Probably Shit – sure they’re all smiling in the photos and it’s sunny but think of all the stuff you can’t see – Paul’s suffering from a terrible stomach bug and has actually spent most of the holiday in bed/on the loo, Jabrill and Maya have just had another relationship row, Archie’s been drinking way too much again and Marie’s wondering why she got in so much debt for this shoddy holiday anyway. They might be putting on some convincing fake smiles but It’s Probably Shit.

So yeah, I’m Missing Out but, guess what, I’m Loving It. Unlike this woman…

Would You Like To Flake With That?

The Urban Dictionary tells us that flaking (v.) means to bail out of something at the last-minute whilst a flake (n.) is an unreliable person; someone who agrees to do something, but never follows through. Now, I wasn’t around in olden days but I’ve got a hunch that flaking as an activity is on the rise and the number of flakes in society is increasing. This is partly due to the arbitrary increase in population size (so the number of flakes may well grow proportionately with that) but also because consumer culture encourages flaking whilst modern technology makes it far easier. So here’s a quick blog on the rise of flaking and why I certainly don’t want a flake with that.A Flake

To be happy in consumer society you’ve always got to buy the next big thing, keep on trend and own more stuff. There’s never any chance just to slow down and enjoy what you’ve got because if everyone slowed down then the economy would stop growing. This attitude of cost-benefit analysis and accumulation easily percolates into our social lives as we weigh up which event will most likely maximise our happiness. There’s so much to do so rather than commit to one thing we hold out on the off-chance something better comes up. This means we flake a lot. And it’s even easier to flake now we’ve got smartphones – all we need is a weak wifi signal to let our friend now that we’ve decided not to see them because something else has come up or, y’know, we just couldn’t be bothered. Back in the days of telephones-we-couldn’t-put-in-our-pockets flaking on an event was probably a bigger deal because more effort had to be put into arranging to meet in a certain place at a certain time, but now it just takes the silent clicks of a few touchscreen buttons.

Now, I get that in this world of shrinking economics, laptops and internet that everyone is very busy. We’re all so busy getting caught up in a flailing capitalist consumer economy but why should friendships have to suffer for that? Why pretend to commit to something that you probably won’t turn up to, why not just be honest? Of course, honesty is difficult and we fear upsetting people by telling them we’re not too fussed about hanging out with them which is why we try to smooth the situation with some half-hearted apology – “Oh I’m so sorry I didn’t make it, I’ve just been so busy and blah blah blah.”

Sometimes the apology is worse than the actual act of flaking itself because what it seems to say is this: hey, so I’m aware I flaked on you and I feel bad about it so can you stop me feeling bad by accepting this quasi-apology. But what about the person who has been flaked on, aren’t they thinking something like this: hey, so I’m actually somewhat upset that you flaked on me, it kinda suggests you didn’t give me much of a second thought, but now you want me to make you feel better by accepting your apology…well, I can’t fricking have coffee with your apology.

I think the simplest way to get around this increasing social problem is to create two different types of social event – the ‘event-event’ and the ‘flake-event’ – the former is one to which both (or all) parties are committed and will make as much of an effort as possible to attend (save ill-health, unforeseen grave circumstances etc) whilst the second is one that neither party will get too excited about because one or both may well decide to do something else or just decide to do nothing. The ‘event-event’ and ‘flake-event’ categories at least acknowledge that flaking is a common activity and helps us to cope with it better, rather than the endless half-apologies. Of course, we could just try to make more of an effort. Here’s comedian Aziz Ansari summing up flaking very nicely…