We all live in modern world, a world that has changed so much since I was a teenager. For parents in my parent’s generation, they saw massive strides in communication, electronic, and digital evolutions not only in technology but also in behaviour. Until the turn of the 2000’s these changes were not really a huge concern, but with the emergence of a stronger reliance on digital or online existence, there have been massive shifts in humans behaviours. Namely and more specifically in this blog post, I’d like to discuss something more specific: cancel culture.

Image courtesy of Bmoi/Flickr

Dare to take a wrong turn in how you communicate or present yourself online or in person these days? Think twice before you act, because someone is always watching. This also permeates the old internet, that is to say tweets from 10 years ago, websites posted 15 years ago, or photos taken in pre-internet days that are otherwise folded away out of active memory.

Cancel culture is a rather interesting and troubling phenomenon. People being cancelled, or effectively attempted to be removed from positions, due to damning evidence (or receipts as they are colloquially referred) has become widespread. The public goes into lynch mode and effectively tries to kill the identity and suppress, and sending these people to the proverbial guillotine results in their careers being tanked.

Kim Davies, cited from NBC News

The first such example that I can retroactively remember is a non-famous person being cancelled. Back in 2015 the United States Supreme Court legalised same-sex-marriage and it became law of the land. The former clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Kim Davies, actively refused to enforce the law and it got a lot of media attention. She hooped and hollered about her civic rights and blah blah blah, but effectively she faced widespread criticism for not respecting the law and doing her job. Back then we called it “discredit” or “condemnation,” but in the 2020s it’s certainly called being cancelled. She was effectively pushed out of her job, and was not reelected due to public backlash. While I don’t necessarily condone being cancelled, I am happy that someone else can be given the chance to fulfil their job duties.

J.K. Rowling, cancllled by Harry Potter. Cited from The Daily Wire

While Kim Davies might not be a household name, J.K. Rowling certainly is. While she has been regarded as a very successful author, most notably for the Harry Potter series, in 2019 she angered followers and the widespread public by making disparaging comments about transgendered women. She was labelled anti-trans and called out by a large amount of actors that participated in the Harry Potter franchise. While she fought back by trying to defend her honour and right of belief and free speech, she ultimately lost a significant amount of klout and ended up returning human rights awards for which she was a recipient due to public pressure. Since 2019 she has published a new book under another pseudonym, and it was received well by readers, but again drew criticism for anti-trans characters which critics only highlight as her own beliefs and tendencies transcending her writing.

Dr. Seuss books taken out of publication, cited from CBC

The next example of recent cancelled culture I’d like to bring up is six titles of Dr. Seuss, a childhood classic spanning back generations. I remember as a child reading some of these books, and really every child had a library on their bookshelf of Dr. Seuss titles. Although no longer alive, the author seems to be receiving a retroactive cancel and the books have been taken out of publication and sale for racist imagery. Race an equality is touchy topic when it comes to the world, particularly in the Americas. Racism has a torrid history and it is regrettably prevalent in daily life even three quarters of a century after the civil rights movement. What strikes me as the most strange thing, is these are historic publications and frankly reflected culture of the time. Do we condemn these authors and desecrate their families and memories?

Personally, I think that historical documents exist as examples as snapshots into their culture of the time. We can not fault them retroactively, or delete them from the record books only because culture has changed and evolved over time. They exist, at least, as relics from an old time and can be excellent examples for use in education against stereotypes or judgements. Does it really benefit all if now the name of a well loved author is tarnished and a dark cloud existing over all of the other publications upon which nobody has (yet) raised issue? All I can say is: overboard.

International Day for Tolerance, cited from Happy Days 365

Critics of cancel culture highlight the widespread emergence of a lack of tolerance for opposing views and beliefs. I agree with this, and it’s rather strange to think that generations raised in the age of internet and knowledge have become so ignorant in so many ways. The proliferation of social media has led to widespread witch-hunts which grow quickly and snowball out of control. People’s lives are ruined, and even if they are rather suspect or not high quality characters, it’s not really right for them to suffer. Everyone does have rights of belief, but what everyone also should have is a tolerance to allow for people to express themselves and engage in conversations to widen the debate to understand each sides.

Whether it be your favourite author, favourite actor or actress, a widespread respected person, head of state, or frankly anyone for that matter, use your brain. Pick up a book, engage in conversation, or better yet do so and keep an open mind and discuss rather than fight or condemn. After all, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” as it is said. Or am I going to get cancelled for using “him” instead of a more neutral pronoun “they.” No matter, but you can see how even the simplest mistake can turn the tides.

As a parting thought, let another famous person express my views. While I don’t consider him to be the greatest of qualities, I echo his words:

Image courtesy of Desert Lightning News

Since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, the world has changed a lot in 2020 and onward into 2021. One of the most common topics of conversation in relation to this is travel and the restrictions or policies that have evolved. It’s a hot topic among nationals and expats alike and often sparks a strong debate between personal liberties and public safety.

Some countries have required negative covid-19 tests before departure and after arrival, and some require nothing. Regardless of the specific restrictions in each jurisdictions, the real question is should people be travelling? Is it in the best interest of people to travel, essentially or otherwise? Well it doesn’t take long to see how this shakes down. All you gotta do is check the headlines:

Covid: Dutch king expresses regret over Greek holiday scandal
BBC, 21 October 2020

“It is not the first time the royal couple have been in the spotlight for their conduct. In August, they were pictured breaking social distancing rules with a restaurant owner during another trip to Greece.”

Alberta cabinet minister, premier’s chief of staff resign over holiday travel, other MLAs demoted
CBC News,  04 January 2021

“Millions of Albertans have made real sacrifices over the past 10 months to help keep each other safe. They are right to be angry about people in positions of leadership vacationing outside of the country,” [Premier] Jason Kenney wrote.
[…]
“We can’t see our grown children in this city yet they can fly to Hawaii,” Edmontonian Glen Mullins told CBC News on Monday. “My parents live in Newfoundland. My tradition is to go see them. I couldn’t go.” 

These two examples spark the divide between “privileged” members of society like royalty, and government officials, and the wider public. The common thread is why is it appropriate for one reason to travel, despite restrictions and recommendations, and not for others?

UK expats prevented from returning home to Spain
BBC News, 04 January 2021

“One passenger on board said that seven British citizens were prevented from boarding a British Airways/Iberia flight from Heathrow to Madrid on Saturday evening, despite having their green residency certificates, as well as negative Covid tests.”

Further complicating things is Brexit and the UK’s departure from the EU bloc. While I feel bad for the travellers denied entry, I wondered why they were in the UK when they had Spanish residency and covid-restrtrictions have been tight since March 2020. They obviously travelled despite restrictions, and this is what sparked my reaction. Entitlement.

Image courtesy of TopPNG

Many people feel entitled to travel regardless of circumstances of a country, and the lack of border controls in Europe seem to make it even worse. People baulking in the face of the virus just come off as selfish in my eyes. I get it, being trapped somewhere for extended periods of time sucks and can take terrible tolls on mental health, but I’ve been doing it. I limit my contact and haven’t even travelled around the city for 3 months. I call and video chat and telecommute and limit my shopping to one time a month, and haven’t met my friends for months. So I’d like to say that I’m doing my part and I’ve even tabled the option of travel basically indefinitely.

I get it, we want to be with our families for holidays, we want to continue to maintain traditions, and we want to stay sane. But our individual needs don’t always trump collective needs. It raises a really important philosophical question: am I more important than the whole?

Newsflash, no matter how independent you are, no matter how careful you are or have been, you’re apart of the whole and you’re responsible for the safety of your loved ones and strangers. The moment we override those collective needs is the moment we turn on our fellow man.

This post isn’t meant to demonise people travelling, or people’s individual choices. I really just want to remind people to think beyond their bubble and look at the bigger picture. Don’t even get me started on people dating or hooking up with new people during the pandemic. 🤐

The human complex is incredibly resilient and we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We think we can’t endure, we think we have to give in to our desires and consider wants as a needs, but this is not true. We can make better choices and continue to adhere to the recommendations of science and common sense.

Whilst jovially strolling from my apartment to the nearby commuter train, I happened to notice young people with cash. Initially I was surprised, as in Sweden cash is not king. Rarely does one see cash or coin here, probably because most of the country has transitioned to cashless payments.

Even on the supermarkets, rarely are coin machines used and they stand regally as proof of a past gone time of exchanging paper and coin money for goods. And then it hit me, when was the last time I used or handled cash? Well that was easy, when I was in Dubai two years ago. Shocking.

Sure, I have a hundred kronor spare cash with my phone, hidden away in the pocket, there if I need it in a pinch. I don’t even see or remember it and am taken a little bit back when I see. Is it even legal tender still? Not sure but I do see Astrid Lindgren and Greta Garbo, so it might be okay.

So when I see a 20-something with a wad of cash, and when I mean at least 2-3 fingers thick, I become suspicious. My area is not pristine and void of crime, on the other hand it’s rather rough and overrun with mobsters caught in ridiculous territory war. But I couldn’t help being suspicious when I see a wad of cash exchanging hands, with nervous looks and a coffee bag being exchanged.

“A gun? Drugs? A fabrigé egg filled with juicy chocolate?” I thought. I looked again and the suspicious body language continued. My mind could jump into oblivion of possibilities, and so I digress.

As an upstanding member of society who never used cash for anything in the last years, and has nothing to hide and no connection to illicit worlds, I remain perplexed as to why so much paper currency must be exchanged. Why would someone pay something without need of documentation or receipt. My spider sense was tingling.

It would have been the upteenth time I witnessed some crime in the 200m radius of the castle (my nickname for my apartment building that is markedly more modern and luxurious compared to the surrounding housing), but then again… I should be sending out good karma to the world, it was clearly the September rent paid late… 🤔 Yes, it must be that. The bloodshot eyes of the man receiving the money and bag is just ovetired and suffering from adult pink-eye.

It could also have been the most expensive breakfast ever recorded in the history of humanity. Worthy of a king… or maybe even a kingpin. In the meantime, I’m keeping my wits about me.

Now that we are all social distancing with covid-19 and contacting each other via social media, I’ve noticed a few things that have changed in my ads on those apps. Every 6 hours or so I’m inundated with TAIMI-apps for a new social network for LGBTQAI+ community (or at least it includes all those groups if I’m not mistaken).

While I don’t see a problem with advertising in general I’m a bit taken aback by the ads. “Do you wanna talk to hot guys in your area?” “Wanna meet cute guys?” are just some examples, which now extend into transgendered people as well. My immediate reaction: uhh, what? Hear me out.

Do I want to meet hot guys in my area, sure. But if I’m not hot myself, doesn’t that just mean that I have a decreased chance of encountering these people? It’s well known that hot gravitates to hot, simply put. You’re going to get matches if you’re attractive, fit, and market yourself a certain way. Okay sure, if you wanna be a piece of meat, that’s your choice.

It’s the word choice in the add that really struck a chord with me. In many ways it’s counter-intuitive to its’ own purpose: it wants to be inclusive to its’ members in the LGBT community, but at the same time cater to the attractive and thirsty. I get it, they are catering to the majority.

Will I likely try TAIMI app to social network and meet people to date? Probably at some point I might check it out, but I will likely not stay as I’d be contributing to the middle average in terms of desirability. If a frustrated average gay screams, does the community that is ignoring them hear? I’d guess not.

Best of luck with your swipes, frivolous as they may feel.

Though I’m not currently an English teacher, as a past teacher of literature I stumbled upon this video of the Korean SAT English Exam and I noticed a few things about the questions and the teachers reactions.

These English teachers anser question from the Korean SAT exam, raising interesting questions about educational quality and university expectations.

Many of them ask “why” have a test like this for a second language? They don’t understand the purpose or why it’s so hard. The students writing the Korean SAT are trying to be admitted to universities. What will they be reading if they study at a higher level? It doesn’t really matter, because the test isn’t judging whether or not they can necessarily speak or read English, but rather if they are able to process and (quite possibly create) information at an academic level.

Regardless of whether or not they study English, the majority of their thesis work or readings will be in academic English and requires a very high level of vocabulary in order to truly understand academic writing. For the majority of people this might considered “academic dribble” or insanely over-complex, long-winded, and abstract.

Culturally speaking this is a difference between university education in the English speaking world vis-á-vis other areas of the world that follow traditional academic models. Many regions of the world continue to see university studies as elite and a smaller section of society. Why permit barely academics to study at higher levels if their language skills (in their native language or otherwise) are not upp to snuff?

In American, Canadian, and some British universities, the concept of academia really has been transferred to higher levels, i.e. masters or doctorate studies. But wait, why is that? It wasn’t so long ago that university wasn’t a rite of passage, or an exclusive opportunity. Over the last hundred or so years, or maybe even in the last fifty years for some, academia has seen a watered down version of undergraduate degrees. It begs the question, how does my Bachelors degree from 2008 compare to that of 1970 or even now in 2019? Have the requirements or expectations shifted? My gut reaction is, yes… dramatically.

Reactions are “when are they ever going to use this real life?” Well therein lies the cultural misunderstanding; the purpose of university education is specialised, theoretical, and research focused. It’s not supposed to be for everyone, despite it being a populous shift. Upper secondary education has been watered down, which then forces undergraduate studies to be watered down and it trickles down all the way. Where does the puck stop, so to speak? Where does education say “thou shallt not pass”? It’s a tricky question, and as an educator myself, it’s a moral dilemma. It comes down to access of knowledge or access to education.

If many of my former students were to take this Korean exam and expect to study at university, their receipt of a good result would tantamount to them being cleared for study in any area. Without this kind of fluency or at least vocabulary, they would be setting themselves up for either failure at their uni programme, or an immense pressure to increase fluency in a very short period, which all language teachers roll their eyes at, because learning a language takes time.

Going back to what the teachers asked, why would someone need to know this? Well that’s exactly the point! What is the purpose of a university education? Is it to gain knowledge, or to prepare oneself for work? I think I’m opening up a can of worms here, but I think you can surmise the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be elitist, but sorry-not-sorry. I can only reflect on my own education, my own experience, and what I experienced at university (in different countries by the way). I tend to be against standardised tests at a lower level of education, but for university studies I’m all for it. Not only does it create a realistic expectation for what is required to study and be successful (not an economic machine of the university, by the way), but also filters out people that might be better suited to study other areas, at least temporarily or until they change their mind and commit themselves in a different way.

It’s easy for me to pass judgement on these people in retrospect, but would I have passed an exam at age 17 like this? I can only speculate, and despite being more than ten years older, I wrote a past exam for fun, and I received a high score. That makes sense, since I was a good student, have taught English at an upper secondary level (both for natives and ELL students), I already studied at university and at higher levels, but I also think I would have been able to pass back then. It might have been hard, but it would have been a real eye-opener for me to see if university really was for me. A good measure of if my language ability is suited to academic reading and more in depth study potential.

Is university a protected places of thinkers, philosophers, researchers, or a rite of passage for a particular culture. What do you think?