May 2011


The presentation last Thursday went very well… I’ve attached a copy of the slide show that went with the presentation, if anyone wants to view. Below that (behind the “more” link) is roughly what I said with each slide, although as I did it on the fly (rather than reading from the sheet) the actual presentation would have been different.

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After my B.A.D.D. post on researching disability in Ancient Greece, several people commented that they would very much like to read the finished article. After getting clearance from my teacher, and after doing the appropriate presentation, I can now post the essay itself, and the accompanying presentation slides. Enjoy!

Death or neglect, ridicule and pity? Analysis of disabled people in Ancient Greece.

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Finished an exam this morning (Collapse of the Roman Republic – I covered the Gracchi Brothers), and received an essay back: Hammurabi, where I (apparently successfully) argued that Hammurabi actually wasn’t all that, that he just had good PR. 3 more distinctions, plus the following: “Good. An excellent piece of work, well written and well constructed. I found it very easy to read and very informative. All the evidence here is a very firm grasp of the course material. Excellent referencing and bibliography. A Fine piece of work. Well done!”

So.. I’m pleased with that. Got that before the exam, too, so it was a nice little lift, cos I was a little worried that Kevin wouldn’t like the way I took the essay. Only one little “oops” comment: at the 1,991 words. It should have been between 1200 and 1500. But he did say he’d accept essays up to 2,000. *sighs*. oh well.

On the plus side, I’ve had feedback from Cambridge. As I suspected, there were doubts about my ability to cope with the pressure of study there. Ah well. I am still seriously impressed by Lucy Cavendish, however, and I asked the admissions tutor if the pressure was slightly less relentless at Master’s level (The relentless pressure is partly caused by Cambridge having very short terms, in comparison to other universities), if the terms were longer. She confirmed that it is less pressured, and that its also less fiercely competitive than at undergraduate level, so she thinks my idea of reapplying for my Masters at Cambridge in 3 years is a good one. So that’s that sorted then. All I have to do (heh, “all”) is get at least a 2:1….. yeah.. all. *brain explodes*

At this point I’ve lots more exams to come. One on Thursday, on the New Kingdom of Egypt – I’ll probably be covering what one of my classmates referred to as “the Hippy Pharoah” (Akhenaten and the Amarna Period). On 26th I’ve got the presentation for my Independent Research Project. I think Kevin really wants to hear this presentation. He keeps asking me “Are you doing your presentation today” every class for the last couple of classes. he’s put it in his diary now so that should help. Got a lot of work to do on that this weekend, not least on the pronounciation of some of the names. Still can’t pronounce Hephaestus right, for example.

After the presentation, we break up for a week and a bit for half term. Already? feels like only last week we had Easter. I’m heading down to Mum’s for a long weekend, coming home on 31st, then knuckling down to tackle more exams. The Age of Augustus. The Bronze Age Collapse. The Early Roman Empire. The Neo Assyrian Empire. And there’s the Anglo-Saxon module from Archaeology, although I have no clue at this point whether that’s going to be Essay or Exam based… I kinda hope its essay based. I prefer essays.

The exam this morning.. gah. We’re allowed to take a plan in with us, and we see the questions ahead of time, so there’s a fair bit of preparation still. I overdid my plan. had to leave some stuff out in order to get the essay finished. The essay still makes sense, which tells me the bit I left out wasn’t really necessary in the first place. still, would have added some extra stuff. I just hope I don’t get penalised for that. But really. there’s only so much you can write in an hour and 15 minutes.

Right: onwards and upwards: the HippyDippy Pharoah and the golden city of Amarna…

we is off to Leicester in the summer. *nods furiously* – I got three sets of results back from my teachers this morning and its tipped me over what Leicester Uni wanted in terms of marks, so unless the moderator queries some of the grades… I’m in. And while this takes some of the pressure off, it doesn’t mean I’m letting up on the slack!

With regard to the certificate that is issued from this course (and this is where it gets complicated) – each assignment gets given three grades, for different things, e.g. quality, knowledge, etc. The assessors take the average, so if you get 2 distinctions and a merit then the assignment grade would be a distinction, but if you got 1 distinction and 2 merits, the grade would be a merit. They then take the highest 5 from 7 of each of the 3 different threads that make up the course, so the highest 5 in ancient history, the highest five in archaeology and so on. Although all the module titles are recorded on the certificate, only the marks for the top 15 are actually listed.

For this reason, although my first assignment in archaeology had 1 distinction and 2 merits (thus an overall grade of a merit for that assignment), if I can get another 3 distinctions in archaeology then it puts me on track to get a full sweep.. which is what I really want! (yes, I’m ambitious.)

At this point, I’m working on an essay in archaeology (comparing wet and dry preservation in the Mesolithic period), boning up for an exam on the fall of the Roman Republic, and an exam on the new kingdom, all of which are happening/due in on the week commencing 16th May. I’ve also got a group presentation on 16th May on the Jugarthine Wars. I’ve done the essay for the Independent Research Project, which is a crucial part of the whole thing, and I’ve got to put together a presentation on that too, although that’s not as time critical at this point (which is why I did it over the Easter hols). We’re currently studying Augustus in Ancient History, The AngloSaxons in Archaeology, and The Bronze Age Collapse in Near Eastern Archaeology.  Probably going to have exams for some, if not all, of these as well. So there’s still a ways to go – I’ve only got three assigments each from Ancient History and Near Eastern Archaeology, not including the ones that are coming up, so I can’t rest on my laurels just yet – the work I’ve done so far will be for nothing if i don’t finish the rest of the course.

And quite apart from anything else…. I enjoy doing this. I want to work hard at it, I want to get the good grades. It gives a confidence boost like nothing else – today has made up for the disappointment I felt at not getting into Cambridge (although I’ve a sneaky feeling that I’m going to get told the problem wasn’t the level of academic intelligence, but that they had concerns about how well I would cope with the stress of studying at Cambridge. Which is fair enough, given I burst into tears at the interview. Hell, I’d have doubts at that point.)

but either way… I’m happy. I’ve got good feedback. I’ve got good grades. My work is going well. And I’m in at a good Uni. Now all I have to do is to get the associated stuff done.. like the funding and actual moving stuff.

Now the really hard work begins!

Reading the news this morning.. am I the only one to have a growing sense of unease and disquiet? I refer, of course, to the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Not at his death, per se. In that, I feel rather like one might feel about a mad dog. He had to be put down before he hurt anyone else. His death has also spared the American People a debate about what should be done with him, and should the anti-death-penalty groups have won, the cost of keeping him for the rest of his life.

No… In that sense, I am glad he is dead. He cannot hurt anyone else again, now, ever. But I feel unease about the scenes of jubilation coming from the US, from our own government. I look at scenes of happy people outside the White House and I flash back to the scenes of people in Fundamentalist areas cheering the collapse of the Towers. Yes, its understandable of the American people to be happy – particularly those who lost loved ones in the attacks – but I wonder what the reaction will be across the world when the rest of the world sees those images. Will they, like myself, feel the same sense of unease and disquiet?

Should the death of a human being ever be cause for celebration?

Osama, as I have said, was a mad dog. You put a mad dog down – cleanly, quickly, humanely. Then you bury the poor creature and you get on with your life – not with a sense of celebration, at the most, perhaps, with a sense of pleasure – the knowledge that the mad dog now will not hurt anyone else. So it should be with this.

There is one other reason to feel unease and disquiet. Yes, Bin Laden is dead. But Al Quaeda is not – as the US and UK government well know, having placed people worldwide on guard against reprisal attacks. In that sense, killing Bin Laden has achieved nothing – less than nothing, in fact, because ultimately, how effective was he in the last 10 years? He was so pinned down by 9/11 and the bounty on his head, the fact that he was public enemy number one that he probably lost all operating efficiency. Al Quaeda has almost certainly been operating away from Bin Laden’s aegis for a long time now. So really, apart from the justice aspect.. what has been achieved? the mad dog hasn’t been put down after all.

We’ve seen this with the IRA. Imprisonment, death, didn’t work. Even when the UK government finally opened a dialogue with Sinn Fein, and brought the disparate groups together, even when the IRA at large downed arms – smaller, splinter groups refused to disband, and remain active – we’ve seen this in the last few months in Northern Ireland, sadly enough. That is the nature of the hydra: cut one head off… and two grow back in its place.

I hope that I am wrong. I hope that the West does not live to rue this day. We had an opportunity to open dialogue with the fundamentalist world – to use words instead of guns. One might argue that you do not argue with a mad dog. But in this sense, the analogy fails, because Osama wasn’t a mad dog. He was a human being – a misguided, hate-filled, murderous human being, yes. But still a human being, and an opportunity has, perhaps, been wasted.

Yes, as I read on, this morning, I feel ever more uneasy and disquiet. And a sense, that like after 9/11, the world this morning will never be the same again.

Reading some of the posts for B.A.D.D. today, some of them (including Goldfish’s excellent Vlog), highlighting the recent changes by the UK govt to the welfare system.. and their policy of demonising the disabled and ill in order to get these changes through the system. I got to thinking, too, that so much of the time, something like this is a drip-drip-drip thing, where, when one is trying to pass something unpalatable, they instead do slow movements towards their eventual aim – and at the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, the obvious analogy here is the process by which the Nazi Government acclimatised people to their aims.

One very simple way to see past that drip-drip-drip effect is to gather everything together, so this is what I’ve done. I’ve spent a couple of hours doing a search via Google News to find headlines by the newspapers and various other internet sites, highlighting the changes that are happening.

The results, I think, are illuminating. And this is just what I found in a couple of hours, just skimming the surface. I dread to think what I would find if a systematic, exhaustive search was done. Still, it illustrates very neatly the build up in people’s minds and the subliminal effect that such a drip-drip-drip feed can have.

Selection of headlines from newspapers and internet sites found in a 2 hour search

Clicking on the picture twice will take you to a full size version where you should be able to read the smaller text.

[Addendum: codeman38 has, quite rightly, called me out on the fact that I’ve not put a transcript in, so I’m adding one now. And although he’s far too polite to point it out, the irony of this hasn’t passed me by, my unthinking – disablist – attitude has put up a barrier. Well, I’m fixing that one right now! My apologies, codeman38, and thank you for prodding me so nicely to remove a barrier!]

Transcript: these are all newspaper headlines, with just one true picture, a copy of the front page of the Sunday Express. The actual details of the story cannot be seen, or the date, but the headline screams “Mansions for Scroungers”. The rest are all just words, no pictures, copied into one large document, saved as a .jpg.

  • Doctors weed out 1m disability benefit claims as three out of four claimants are found “well enough to work”
  • Crackdown catches out greedy skivers
  • 900,000 caught in “fit to work” check
  • You’re not sick, just plain lazy!
  • Three out of four incapacity claimants are fit enough to work
  • Disabled man found murdered in his flat
  • Benefit Thieves: it’s not if we catch you, it’s when
  • Woman who claimed she was crippled by arthritis exposed as benefits cheat … after popping to the gym
  • £20,000 sickie sponger at Gym 3 times a week
  • Govt Crackdown on Benefit Cheat “muggers”
  • “Disabled” wife loses lifetime alimony payments after she blogs about her life as a belly dancer
  • Caught on camera: the “disabled” welfare cheat who claimed he couldn’t walk filmed dancing as a pub entertainer
  • Benefit cheat caught playing golf
  • An epidemic of benefit Fraud? the Demonisation of Welfare Recipients
  • Don’t let the cheats get away with it
  • Help us to beat cheats
  • Tories declare ware on disability benefit cheats
    and quite right too – I suspect they will find this policy strikes a chord with middle England who resent seeing people rake in benefits they are not entitled to. Labour have become tougher on benefit cheats lately, but they can’t take the Tory approach as benefit cheats are more likely to be Labour voters than Tory.
    We are talking about incapacity benefit claimants – bad backs, “depression”, drug problems – the sort of things that malingerers claim to have to avoid working!
  • The UK’s Top Ten Benefit Scandals:
    1. Falinge, Rochdale – the “Benefits Capital of Britain”
    Known as the “Benefits Capital of Britain”, Falinge, Rochdale is home to 1,141 people of working age – and only 651 of them hold down jobs. The rest of its inhabitants are supported by state benefits, with the majority of them “on the sick”, claiming incapacity benefits. Conditions that qualify for incapacity payments include alcoholism, stress and obesity. There are 2.6 million people in the UK claiming incapacity benefits for being too ill to work or seek employment; this accounts for 4.6% of the population. However, 42.9% of Falinge residents rely on sick benefits – making Falinge the sickest place in Britain.
    Cost to the UK taxpayer each week = £41,405
  • Help us stop £1.5bn benefits scroungers
  • Benefit claimants “Still seen as scroungers”, research shows
  • Sickness benefit changes making people feel like “scroungers”
  • Osborne begins crackdown on incapacity benefit cheats with plan to treble assessments
  • Tuesday’s big issue: Benefit “scroungers”
  • Benefit Scroungers made to work at last!
    Scroungers who play the system to milk incapacity benefit will be put on the dole and made to hunt for work. They recon 23% of these people are scrounging this benefit when they are fit to work. A further 58 per cent would be moved to Employment Allowance but would be prequired to make some preparation for employme
    19% would qualify for a higher payment because they are really ill, or unable to work.
    So at last someone is going to do something about these feckless work-shy scroungers that litter our streets.
  • Benefits scroungers warned: Have fewer kids or lose your dole
  • Govt gets tough on benefit scroungers

[Transcript end]

If you do nothing else today, if you read no other B.A.D.D. posts, please, please, watch this vlog. Its only 12 minutes out of your life, and it just may make you think about what the government and media are doing with regard to scapegoating the disabled. This isn’t me, by the way, but the wonderful Goldfish, who is hosting B.A.D.D., and who has a totally infectious giggle!

You can comment on the original posting here.

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