Of Mice and Men and the Great Depression

The great depression is the term used to refer to the stock market crash, and subsequent decade-long economic crisis, lasting from 1929 to 1939. Like many of the greatest economic disasters, the great depression was predicated by a period of great growth within the economy. In the period dubbed “the Roaring Twenties”, Americas wealth had nearly doubled. This period of prosperity lead people from all walks in life to invest unreasonable amounts of money in stocks, money they could not support themselves without.

In October of 1929, up to several million stocks were traded daily, continuing to lower investor confidence. This permeated in the infamous October 29, often referred to as “black Tuesday”, where 16 million stocks were sold.

This failing economy resulted in a peak unemployment rate in the US of 24, 9 percent in 1933. This is the setting for Mice and Men.

Written towards the end of the great depression, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck tells the story of George and Lennie, two homeless men taking on jobs on ranches around California. The story starts with them having to walk about ten miles due to miscommunication with a bus driver. It is quickly established that the duo follows a classic theme in fiction. George is the smaller, more intelligent “leader”, while Lennie is the team’s muscle. After establishing their relationships dynamic, they reach their next workplace, meeting the rest of the cast.

It is reiterated at several occasions that George is somewhat bitter about having to watch over the child-like Lennie, claiming that he would have a house and family. These sentiments are often communicated through outbursts directed at Lennie. This may be a source of conflict later in the novel.

One can easily see why the book managed to reach the success it has, as a wide range of people could probably see themselves in the characters we follow, especially under the Great Depression itself.

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Republicans on Obamacare

Obamacare, the healthcare plan that mandated health insurance may be one of the most controversial topics in recent American politics. That is at least what it would seem like considering how adamant republicans have been when it comes to repealing it. In reality, the plan that currently aids 20 million people with affording coverage is supported by more than 53 percent of the nation, according to business insider.

Obamacare works through a synergy with Medicaid. While Obamacare mandates health insurance, Medicaid gives economic support to those who cannot afford it on their own. This maximises the number of insured citizens while avoiding burdening them with a fee they are unable to pay (in most cases at least). In addition to this, people may be eligible for free contraceptives, while senior citizens pay less for prescription drugs. Considering the country’s severe obesity epidemic, free cholesterol checks doesn’t exactly hurt either. These are just some of the numerous benefits brought by Obamacare.

This does not mean Obamacare is perfect though. Unlike Canada, the US government has little to no say in the prices medicine is sold for by private corporations, they are free to charge whatever they want for simple surgeries. According to a 2013 CNBC study, medical bills were the no. 1 reason for bankruptcy in the US. This was three years after Obamacare was instigated, and while Obama was still in power.

Ever since the proposition of Obamacare was made, most republicans have vehemently opposed it and promised to repeal it if they take office. In October, senate majority leader Mitch McConnel confirmed that is the republicans got a majority in the senate, they’d once more try to repeal the entire affordable care act. What they will do now remains to be seen.

Does Britain regret Brexit?

In 2016 the UK decided that they’re leaving the European Union. A referendum was held and the vote for leaving the EU won by 51,9% to 48,1%. They’re expecting to leave by the end of March 2019. The outcome of this referendum was called Brexit. However, do the Brits still want to leave? Have they changed their mind? And could they make Britain stay?

According to the BBC, the british people’s faith in their politicians has drastically decreased. A study from the ICM shows that the number of people who believe Brexit will have a negative impact on their economy has only slightly increased, from 43 percent a year and a half ago to 44 percent now. Similarly, the number of those who expect a positive outcome vary between 22 and 17 percent. Where the numbers have shifted is when it comes to what side people would take in a second referendum.

A polling analysis suggests that the Brits would vote to stay in the EU if a new referendum were held. Peter Kellner, former president of YouGov, states that up to one million Labour supporters who voted leave in 2016 are now having second thoughts. He also points out that YouGov has launched 14 polls this year asking people if the UK was right or wrong about Brexit. 13 out of 14 polls has shown a slightly higher ‘wrong’ than ‘right’ vote. Kellners beliefs stems from data showing that mainly elderly voted leave whereas the youngest voters wanted to stay. He quite harshly said, “Bluntly, older, mainly Leave, voters are dying – and younger, mainly Remain, voters are joining the electorate.” Since the referendum 1.2 million voters have died, while 1.4 million have entered voting age. According to Kellner demography has reduced the ‘leave’ lead by more than half.

Now to conclude, there might have been a change of heart in the UK but a second referendum has been rejected by Downing Street. So if the UK now would vote to stay in the EU, we would never know.

 

Sources:

 

 

 

The US midterms

The midterms, the election that only gets half the votes of a typical presidential election. We may not get to see people doing country-spanning tours for a year and a half before the climactic day, but the results surely are important nonetheless. It is in this election the seats for the house and senate are decides. The party with the majority in one or both of these branches can either empower the president by passing whatever law he proposes or slow the progress of the opposing party’s president to a halt.

The question of which party benefitted the most from the 2018 midterms does in a way remain unanswered. With these kinds of results, the answer is vague enough that both democrats and republicans can say with certainty in their voices “my side won”. In a way they are both right. But to explain this extremely unsatisfactory statement one need to look at the power balance before the voters cast their votes.,

The last two years has been quite good for the republicans. With a majority in both the house and senate, Donald Trump has faced little opposition when trying to pass laws. This was expected to change however, as a party-majority in the entire legislative branch rarely survives a midterm election if that party also holds the presidency.

Before the election, the predictions were that the democrats would secure 20-50 seats in the house. The result was 20 new democratic seats, giving them the majority, while the senate remained republican. This outcome has resulted in both sides claiming that the outcome favoured their side. Many districts have for the first time had black women as their democratic nominees. As stated before, the result of the democrats taking the house, is that they are now able to potentially hinder proposed laws. This may also give them a bargaining chip, letting them negotiate more agreeable legislations.

The independence of Northern Ireland

When trying to understand the conflict around Norther Irelands relationship with England and the rest of Ireland, one ought to start with the origin of the main disagreement, what country the region should be a part of.

The source of the issue lays in religious identity. Under the protestant reformation in the 16th century, the majority of England and Northern Ireland switched from Catholicism, to Lutheranism. The rest of Ireland however, stayed catholic.

After a joint attempt by the British and Scottish to expand their influence in Ireland, Brittan placed several sanctions upon the country, which greatly hurt the Irish people. It is for example assumed that these laws increased the severity of the Irish potato famine that occurred in the 1840s.

Today’s conflict doesn’t just come from 170-year-old food shortages however. After the outbreak of world war 1, negotiations between Ireland and England were put on hold. Some more extreme Irish did not accept this though. The Easter Rising protested British rule in 1916. They were however executed by the British government. This highly aggressive reaction is often attributed to paranoia that Germany were attempting to weaken Great Brittan from within. The fallout of the group’s execution is indisputable though. Their deaths made them martyrs, thus spreading the support for a free and independent Ireland.

What the movie Pride can tell us about British society in the 1980s

Pride is a film from 2014 which tells the story of the British miners’ strike that occurred in the 1980s, and the pro-gay group “lesbians and gays support the miners” who aided them. In this text, I will look at what the movie can tell us about British society at the time.

 

The movie starts with Mark Ashton, played by Ben Schnetzer, watching a news report about the British miner’s strike. Realizing this is the reason police have recently stopped harassing gay activists, he decides to start a new group to raise money for the strikers. After all they’re facing the same hate and harassment that gays usually do. However, the small group of activists now called “lesbians and gays support the miners”, or LGTM, struggle with finding anyone willing to accept their donations, as they fear it would hurt the miners cause to be associated with a pro-gay group. Then there are also those who simply refuse out of sheer homophobia.

After some time, Ben decides that they travel to the miners of Onllwyn, Whales, and simply give the money directly to them. Even when they come, offering hundreds of pounds, most are still sceptical, or outright refuse to accept help from them, again, because they are gay. It is not before the miners actually get to interact with them on arrangements, they realize the gays are upstanding people. It is made clear that the miners also had unfounded notions about gays in general. For example, an elderly woman “heard from a friend” that gay people are vegans. In the movie the comment is the setup for a joke, but it says a lot about how little people actually associated themselves with gay people before making up their minds.

The miners quickly warm up to the members of LGSM. At least most of them do. A rather significant group led by Maureen, the films main antagonist, does everything in their power to avoid receiving donations, and discrediting the LGSM by informing a tabloid newspaper about them of the group’s existence. Meanwhile, Cliff, another resident of the town, confronts Maureen about her irrational thought process. There is a stark contrast between Cliff and Maureen. In Maureen we see a cognitive dissonance that can only arise from a lifetime of being told that gay people are not to be respected or deserving of equal rights as everyone else. Despite a gay group supporting her town when they are essentially fighting the state, she refuses to acknowledge that the members of the LGSM are good people. On the other hand, Cliff is completely open open to meeting them, showing no prejudice. One of his scenes where he confronts Maureen sums up what he stands for. He remarks that he doesn’t trust what the news says about the miners, so why should he trust what they say about the LGSM. Here, he clearly evaluated the situation; gay people support them, the news claims those same people to be bad, then the news are in the wrong.

To quickly sum up the rest of the film, the LGSM organizes a huge festival, embracing the tabloids calling them perverts. When Ben realizes that the best way of connecting to a grater part of the country is to embrace the insults coming from the tabloids, “Pits and Perverts” is organized, managing to raise thousands of pounds for the miners of Onllwyn.

It is not just from the outside of the group our main characters face opposition however. The movie quickly establishes that different members of the LGSM have different priorities when it comes to what issues the group ought to focus on. For example, of the members, Jaqui, decides that they should also have a focus on women’s rights, and quickly demands Ben to weave this into their plan. Ben objects, stating that it would distract from their original goal. In addition to disagreements on what the LGSM should represent, the idea to support the miners itself was completely absurd to some of the gay activists that took part in the parade at the beginning of the movie. One person’s experience with miners in the past as just a gang of homophobes, made him leave as soon as the LGSM was proposed.

In addition to making the film feel more realistic by reminding the audience that the characters have their own morals and priorities even though they’re all members of the LGSM, the wish for a larger focus on women’s rights coincide with Brittan’s general view on the topic. As the British library’s timeline shows, the 80s was the last decade with major reforms when it comes to women’s standing in society.

While the story of the miners and the gays supporting them is the main focus, Pride also touches on the issue of HIV/AIDS, which was a major point concern for many people. In the early 1980s it was thought that AIDS could only spread through gay sex. It wasn’t before January of 1983 that it reportedly spread through heterosexual intercourse. AIDS becomes especially important towards the end of the movie when we find out that Ben has the virus.

 

British library timeline of women’s rights

https://www.bl.uk/sisterhood/timeline

A timeline of HIV/AIDS

https://www.avert.org/professionals/history-hiv-aids/overview

This cartoon by Velicia shows a British soldier presenting a couple (which can be presumed to be Arabs), waving towards smoke on the horizon and an undetonated missile relatively close to where they are standing. From the art style alone, it becomes clear that this a satire cartoon.

The image is full of symbolism and allusions. The part of the image one is likely to notice first is the British soldier. He is also the most jam-packed portion, with over half a dozen different ways to ensure whomever sees his hideous design will get the message of the cartoon.

His face, what emotion is that supposed to represent? Who knows? The thing that is clear though, is that he is supposed to be taken as unnecessarily loud. His wide-open mouth in junction with the changing font of his word-bubble immediately tells the observer how he communicates his “great news” to the couple beside him.

His design is also far more detailed than the rest of the image, including the other two people. On his vest alone, there is a British flag, and two pouches, one of them clearly being a holster. On his shirt and pants are also two more of the same tan pouches as on the west. The colouring of his outfit is another subtle factor that assists in bringing out the uneasy feeling one gets from looking at him. While almost every other part of the trooper’s outfit is tan (including the one of those at the vest), the only one that does not follow this trend is the holster. Adding this in addition to his back-mounted rifle, the man is quite well-equipped. Additionally, the soldier towers over the two civilians, making him seem somewhat intimidating.

What of the (presumably) Arab couple being shown the wonders of a forcefully instigated governmental model? In the picture they are clearly shown as unhappy with their current situation. Whether they’re scared, or just sad can be isn’t as clear. Nevertheless, the point still stands; they are not as happy as a result of the British overthrowing their government. Their designs are also interesting, as they stand in strong contrast to the soldier. Instead of a camo-pattern paired with several pouches, they wear simple outfits, merely consisting of a hijab and a thawb. This design works with their small size compared to the soldier to make them both seem powerless and evokes a feeling of sympathy.

On its own, the background gives a general idea of what’s happening. We see a missile that has failed to detonate, and two clouds of smoke further away. One doesn’t need to be explicitly told what’s producing it. Apart from that though, it doesn’t say much on its own. Paired with the three people however, the comic paints a clear picture of the situation, civilians being brought to harm in the name of democracy.