¿Cómo te llamas?

In Spanish, when you ask someone what their name is, rather than saying ‘¿Cuál es tu nombre?’ (What is your name? – which supposedly, is more formal), you say ‘¿Cómo te llamas?’ The literal translation of this is, ‘How do you call yourself?’

I’ve always thought this an interesting concept, because I think there is quite a difference between asking someone what their name is and asking them what they are called. I could be entirely unnecessarily building this difference up, but let’s see, shall we?

The opening sentence for the story I am currently writing is:

“Many people say that the first gift you are ever given is your name.”

In many ways, a name is a gift. The protagonist goes on to mention how the meaning of your name can shape who you are and give you the ability to do amazing things.

According to Google, ‘name’ is a noun which means a word or set of words by which a person or thing is known, addressed, or referred to. Therefore, asking someone what their name is, is asking them what title they are known as. More often than not, names carry some level of significance, be it culturally, socially or domestically. For example, names convey class and status. Someone named ‘Jane Boggs’ for instance, is perhaps not as highly socially regarded as someone called ‘Penelope Clarington’.

Names also convey meaning.

My name, ‘Rianna’ is a variant of the Welsh name ‘Rhiannon’. According to ‘Behind the Name’ (which, may I add, is a very exciting website to use) this means ‘Great Queen’. Which I completely was. My surname, ‘Davis’ is similarly a popular Welsh surname, and according to some quick googling, it originated from the Davidson clan in Scotland. But is mostly now used in Wales and England.

Names also convey cultural heritage.

Which, it is, at this point, that we shall have to pause for a moment. Because, I mean, I don’t know how obvious it is, but clearly, my ancestors were neither Welsh nor Scottish. I have a very Welsh sounding name, especially in its pre-derivative form (‘Rhiannon David’) and this gives absolutely no clue as to my origins, except pointing back to slavery.

In fact, the only thing I can tell conclusively from my name is that my ancestors were once owned by a ‘Davis’ family. Because that’s effectively what it tells me. I have no other link with my heritage because my name (here it comes again) has been erased and scribbled over with somebody else’s name, effectively denying me the privilege of knowing and understanding my cultural heritage.

So what makes me very sad is when people have their cultural heritage (due to their beautifully, rich-sounding names and/or surnames) and choose to reject them because of society’s Eurocentric standards. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the stigma there is around ‘African-sounding’ names, and I get that obviously many people will be eager to change their names so they don’t ‘sound black’. And that sounds bad, but you have to consider the fact that we do live in a White Supremacist world, so everyone in Western societies feels like they have to conform to a Western societal standard. Which, to some extent you do in order to get by.

In the West, ‘Babatunde’ isn’t a beautiful, meaningful name. In the West, ‘Babatunde’ mostly connotes ‘freshie’, ‘African savage’. It doesn’t hold the same cultural meaning that it does from its’ roots. In the West, anything that sounds remotely ‘ethnic’ is mostly laughed at and scorned (unless it’s at the Kardashians’ or Jenners’ initiation, of course) and because of these culturally-rich names, people are denied the chances to jobs and such because interviewers see their application and immediately recognise the person applying is clearly not white-British. Or alternatively, recognise that this person is African and want to hire them as evidence that their workplace is not racist because of their ‘multi-culturally diverse’ employees.

So we return to my name. As lovely as my name is (gracias a mis padres) and as much as I don’t want to change it (because I don’t even know what I’d change it to!) there is a part of me that wishes my name wasn’t so ‘bland’ and ‘whitewashed’ so that I was able to trace my heritage right back to its roots.

That’s why people denying their cultural names because they get teased for them make me sad, because they have the opportunity to know where they come from, what part of Africa their ancestors live in, or lived in. As much as there is a huge stigma around these names, and lots of racist stereotyping and such, the under-appreciation of these names really upsets me. I mean, society teaches us to really hate ourselves, gosh! Not just the way we appear and the way we look, but also the way we refer to ourselves; which comes right back to the point I was making at the beginning. When you ask someone “What is your name?” (because English is such a great language, we only have one way of asking that) and they tell you their middle name, because they are too ashamed to tell you their first name, they are not lying. They are telling you their name. They are telling you the words which have been attributed to them in order to identify them and the words which they are used to being addressed by.

But when you ask someone “Como te llamas?” (how do you call yourself? – I mean, I know it’s Spanish, but the point still remains), in my opinion, you aren’t just asking them what words they use to identify themselves. What someone is called is more than just what they are referred to. What someone calls themselves also says a lot about who they are. They could still answer this question with their middle name, because that is what they call themselves, and that is how they view themselves. They don’t necessarily want to associate with their culture or their heritage because of the stigma surrounding it, and it’s effectively them denying who they are.

I understand there is a lot of controversy surrounding this anyway, as in choosing ‘socially-accepted’ names over heritage names, and I probably see in it a more ‘black-and-white’ way than someone else who is actually in this predicament. And yes, I understand that society has a funny way of destroying our lives and culture from the roots up, but if you have those roots, why wouldn’t you reclaim them? Why would you want to let go of them, or feel ashamed, if you’re one of the few lucky ones to know where you come from? Why would you want to exchange thousands of years worth of your geographical history for a few decades of social prosperity but cultural ignorance? Maybe I’m asking a stupid question, but I think it’s a fair question, as someone who would love to get in touch with my own history.

And when I say history, I don’t mean that I want to be told that my ancestors were slaves in Jamaica and then probably slaves in England. I want to know my specific history. I want to know which country they were taken from in Africa. Which tribe they originated from. If that tribe still exists today. There’s so many gaps in my own knowledge of my personal history, because of the gaps in my name.

And society, especially Western society, makes you feel guilty that you name is unpronounceable, and forces you to shorten your name to make it less ‘ethnic’ and more ‘blandly ethnic’. I mean, disregarding the fact that they didn’t shorten slavery because it was ‘unstomachable’, how dare they try to strip people of their culture?

They don’t make us shorten Shakespeare’s name into something less ‘British’.  Everyone can pronounce Truman Capote and Jack Kerouac, despite the fact that their names aren’t phonetic, and we’re taught how to pronounce them, and Scott F. Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway are never referred to as ‘Fitz’ and ‘Hems’.So why should you have to do that for a name that holds just as much significance for you culturally as the Union Jack does for the British?

I think I’m pretty much done with my rant about names, but before I finish up, I just want to drop this YouTube video of Button Poetry (my absolute FAVOURITE) and end on this note:

I don’t hate my name. I don’t feel any particularly strong way towards it, to be honest. My name is what I am referred to by. But my name is not who I am. My name cannot tell you – nor can anybody’s, for that matter – about my hopes and dreams, my aspirations, the person I am, my characteristic or my personality. But names have meanings, and names have significance. My name means something to my parents who chose to name me that. My name means something to people who know me and hear it, and think about me. My name means something to God and my name will one day mean something to even more people when it’s on the spine of a published book. Everyone’s name carries a significance. Appreciate your name and its’ meaning, no matter where you come from, no matter what your name is. Because your name is YOUR name, and if you don’t let them, then nobody can take it (or its’ meaning) away from you.

 

Peace out, (I wrote this all in my first two study periods LOL, I’m being productive!)

The Faerie Squad Mother x

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Not A Problem

This is going to be a very long rant. Just be aware that as you read this and the post seems to go on forever it is all fuelled with emotions. So please prepare yourself. There may be some sensitive issues mentioned, just as a warning. It it going to get pretty personal.

Let’s start. So since I was unable to post during the past week, I had been drafting a post whining about the translation of books into movies (which hopefully, I will post later, if it doesn’t seem so feeble after this rant) but today, during a rather, shall we say, enlightening experience, I decided to perhaps leave that post for later and get everything I thought about today off of my chest.

But first, a bit of context.

At NCS with The Challenge, we are currently on our third week; Social Action. This is the week where we go out to a Social Community Partner (i.e. Charities or organisations in the area we are based in), suss out their problems and try to help solve their issues and/or make the community more aware of the work they are doing. We are required to come up with a campaign in our groups in order to achieve those goals, and today (the first day of Social Action) we went out to actually visit our Community Partner (Charity Partner? Social Community Partner? I’m sorry Rochelle, I really wasn’t listening) and try to get some inspiration for our campaign.

The place we visited was a Care Home for Dementia Patients. It was an 100% Dementia home, which meant that everyone in the home had Dementia, or some form of it, and of course some people were in a more developed stage than others. When we met the co-ordinator for the Home, he explained it to us as three stages of Dementia; the first being calm and helpful, slightly forgetful; the second being often anxious and excited, but with a short attention span; the third being a more developed, anxious, emotional character. He also explained to us how we had to be aware that many Dementia sufferers live in their own alternate reality. As volunteers and young people, we were supposed to talk to them in a way which did not confuse or upset them, but instead encourage them and keep them happy. If we were mistaken for someone’s daughter, son, grandchild or husband or wife even, we were to just remain appropriate all the time, but not say we weren’t that person, because it would upset them.

Despite our initial misgivings, especially seeing as a few of us had had unhappy encounters with Dementia sufferers in the past, we put it behind us when we went to the home and spoke to some of the residents with quite open-minds, trying to be positive about the whole situation.

I’m pretty sure I was very close to breaking down.

I spoke to a lovely lady, (OBVIOUSLY I cannot say her name) but she told me some fantastic stories about her growing up. She told me how she was an only child and her mum loved to garden, and made lots of jams with the berries they grew in their back garden. Her dad was deaf because he was badly mistreated as a POW (Prisoner of War) in the First World War, and her mum was partially deaf, so they all developed a sign language. She told me that she was evacuated twice during the Second World War; the first family wasn’t nice, but the second family was in South Wales. She went to school in a small village there, and they tried to teach them Welsh but (she told me fondly, laughing at the memory) it was not going anywhere for her. She told me about how she used to be a shorthand typist, how she stood in for secretaries, and during the War used to type up Secret Documents, which couldn’t be reread but had to be shredded when they were discarded. There was an airport near where she used to live, and the Spitfire planes used to take off from there, and she would watch them occasionally from her house. She told me that she used to sleep under the table in her kitchen, and that they didn’t have a proper sleep for years because of the air raids.

She told me all that.

And then she told it to me again. And again. And again.

I heard all of those stories at least 10 times each. Every time she finished a sentence, her face would light up, and then she would repeat to me another one in excitement. And each time she did that, my smile grew a little wider on the outside and my chest was crushed a little bit more on the inside. I had to nod enthusiastically, and ask her the same questions I asked before, as if I hadn’t heard the stories. I varied the questions, and asked different ones, and I kept getting the same stories, and I kept asking her questions I had asked her before. She punctuated her speech the same way, with the same hand movements, laughter in the same places, a cheeky smile here and there. She never asked my name, and to be honest, I was too scared to tell her, because I didn’t want to have to say over and over, “Hi, my name is Rianna.” Even though she had been talking to me for about an hour and a half.

And it wasn’t out of selfish reasons. It was purely because I absolutely hate the feeling of helplessness and lack of control that Dementia sufferers have to (or don’t have to, depending on how you look at it) deal with.

We spoke to the co-ordinator again, who told us that the biggest struggle they had at the home was the fact that the community was very separate and not involved with these elderly. He told us that what they really needed was support from the locals, and volunteers, people who were willing to give time. I would have loved to volunteer then and there but I was still kind of reeling from the whole thing. When we left, I was pretty quiet. If you know me, I’m not a particularly quiet person. But I genuinely was lost for words. Because it got me thinking. And hence this rant. (I’m literally just starting now, so don’t be alarmed!)

Often, we forget about people like these who make up our society. Because they aren’t in the spotlight, not authoritative figures of social importance necessarily or in front of us, then we don’t seem to notice them. We forget that these were the people who built the world we live in today. Many of the elderly especially were the ones involved in the World Wars. They were the ones who worked hard when they were younger, they were the ones who got involved in everything. Okay, so the world was different back then. It was more acceptable to be outwardly racist, homophobic and sexist; of course, there were big differences. But seriously, the only difference between then and now was the fact that society did not make them the people who were cast-outs.

We also forget that eventually (one day, if we don’t die soon) that we will be old. We will be relying on the same services that these people are relying on and we will be the ones who may be suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s (either one, God forbid). We have no way of predicting the future or what our health will be like, yet we take it for granted so much. It is expected for us to wake up, to be able to slip out of bed, to go and brush our teeth and use the toilet or whatever. It is a routine we don’t think much of.

What if it took more than an alarm clock to rouse us? If our legs had to physically be moved to get us out of bed, and it took two people to help us brush our teeth and clean ourselves after we used the toilet? How dehumanising must that feel for an entire generation of people who used to be active, young, healthy citizens?

How does it feel not actually realising that you are repeating yourself? That you’re trying to be friendly, ask questions, and all you seem to do is infuriate people and wind them up because (unbeknownst to you) you’ve asked that question eight times now? To be put in a home simply because your family is all dead and there is no-one to look after you? Or even worse; your family are all alive, but none of them can – or want to – look after you in your state? Or even worse; to not even remember any of your family? To look into the faces of people you have spent your entire lives with; yet to you it is as if you are gazing into the face of strangers?

It upset me how disconnected a few members of our group were, and treated the whole thing either as a social experiment, a boring visit or a chore, as if they thought they could better spend their hours elsewhere.

A quote which I very much appreciate and have been pondering on for a while since it was first mentioned last week at NCS, was one taken from a meeting of some of the world leaders discussing the biggest threat in the world. When we first discussed this, we all threw in some cliche answers; poverty, starvation and hunger, child labour, slavery, racism, terrorism etc.

But it looked like we were wrong. Because, although each of these large problems in their own way, the Dalai Lama expressed:

“The biggest threat is that we are raising a generation of passive bystanders.”

And that’s what we are really. Right now, we are all a generation of passive bystanders. That is how these issues are allowed to get worse and more problematic; because the ones who have the power, the means and the intellect to solve these problems, are the ones who are swept up in mass consumerism and materialistic mentalities. We, the ones who are being trained to be world leaders, we who have the world at our fingertips, the ability to make a change, are sitting by idly and watching as the world suffers with problems. We don’t seem to want to get involved in those problems until they start to affect us.

And by then it’s too late.

It’s too late to change the past, because we’re watching all these opportunities, all these chances to make a difference pass us by, and by the time that those problems that we buried in the back garden start to become a problem for us, badda-bing, badda-bang, we’re suddenly old and frail, and in the exact same position as those who we didn’t want to help.

What we don’t realise is that the world around us and society is sustainable. In Geography terms (that GCSE actually came in handy), it means that we are able to use it and its’ resources today without it affecting the use of those in the future. In more simple and relatable terms, it means that the world we are living in now has been set up for us by those before us. Therefore, we have the responsibility to keep it sustainable and set it up for the younger generations, so that when they reach our age, they will be able to do the same thing for the generation that follows them.

It’s a continual cycle.

But because, as a generation of passive bystanders (the phrase of which, I think, so perfectly encapsulates the essence of this generation), we have decided that this doesn’t affect us, and are more interested in the new Apple product being released than the falsely-accused, jailed and tortured being released, we don’t want to take action. Because it ‘doesn’t affect us.’

And to be fair, the fault lies with a combination of both nurture and nature. We are growing up in a society which is teaching us to take what we want, get money, get rich quick, spend all your money on commodities (mostly unaffordable; but that’s what we are being taught loans are for, right?) and KEEP. BUYING. MORE. Which is essentially the message which each one of us is digesting, being fed to us by the things we watch, listen to and (less often) read. However, it also has to do with the way we are brought up.

Children being brought up where nannies are the mothers and parents are only ever seen at weekends because of working schedules, are being taught that money is more important than anything else, even family.

Children who are sat in front of television screens and are given technology to play with before they can even speak or walk, are being taught that entertainment is everything, that excitement is key to life.

Kids and toddlers who play colouring-in games on tablets, on computers and mobile phones, rather than using pencil colours and books, are being taught that accessibility is more convenient than having to work for what you want.

It is the combined fault of the people who are raising these upcoming generations and the mentality and the mental confines which we are unwilling – or unaware of – to break out of. We need to recognise that if we are to move forward, to begin rebuilding the society which we so often complain about, then we need to be the ones to stand up and make a change; because we are the only ones who currently can.

Before I get too carried away, I’m going to drop in my key message here and roll with it.

#FirstWorldProblems are not Real Problems

I’m sorry, but that is not a statement which is up for discussion. Here are two beautiful videos which so effectively encapsulate that message.

The fact that we complain about breaking a nail when there are people having their nails ripped out as methods of torture; that we whine when our parents ask us to do chores to get pocket money, yet some children don’t get ASKED to do chores, they are TOLD to do them, and they don’t get paid or treated well; the fact that when we have no signal for our phones (I must admit, I am at fault for this one) we are dying, but some people are entirely content without mobile phones at all, is entirely upsetting, and actually very ungrateful and the wrong sort of mentality to have.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every other person in Developing countries wants to be like you and me, because I am fully aware that there are people entirely satisfied with the conditions and situations and circumstances they live in, despite having so much less than us. But since we are in a Western Culture where your worth is valued on how much and what you have, this is how we are being taught to think, and this is stopping us from being aware of people with real issues out there.

And we don’t have to look as far as countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. That was the whole point of my recount about today; there are people who need our help right here. This is not a campaign, this is not a marketing ploy, and I am not promoting any specific charity or organisation, nor am I telling you to go right now and donate in order to feel like you’ve made a difference. That’s another thing about us; we feel like money can solve any problem.

The Dementia home where I went today didn’t want money. Maybe they needed it, but there was a much deeper need for something else; company. Time, volunteers, people who wanted to help and help selflessly. It upsets me how many young people only want to volunteer because “it will look good on their CV” or it will “make them more employable.” Yes, these are definitely bonuses to the whole thing, but look at how many opportunities we have been afforded. Can we not give back to the community on a larger scale, knowing that whatever we do will effectively be done to us?

We set the example. We are the ones who are going to be the world leaders of the next generation, which is what scares me the most, as I mentioned in a post a while ago, but effectively, we are the ones expecting to be treated like royalty when we get to those situations and those ages… yet we are doing nothing for the ones who are there right now.

Where is the fairness?

I’ll give you a hint: THERE IS NONE.

I think it’s probably quite clear how impassioned I am about this whole thing, and as well as that, it is also quite clear how little as a generation we have done – and as a result, how much MORE we need to do to make up for this shortcoming. We cannot complain about the world we will potentially live in (God forbid) if we do not do anything now to change it.

Everyone can change it in their own little way. Donating to charities isn’t always the immediate answer, but it definitely is a sure-fire way of making sure that your money is going further than the Forever21 sales. (As long as they are reliable charities as well). Volunteering, social visits to homes like the one we went to today, just being friendly and making the people in these homes who so rarely get out, feel like young, carefree people again. Petitions, campaigns, doing research in your areas and local communities to find out what needs to be changed, what can be improved and how exactly you can work towards doing it, counts for something.

You don’t have to start a charity. You don’t have to do something immediately. I am hoping to become a Human Rights Lawyer, travel abroad and write about things I see and experience. Obviously, that will not all be done overnight. But in the meantime, there are smaller scale things we can do to change the world we are in.

I don’t think I’ve ever ranted so passionately about non-race related issues, but I’m glad I was able to.

Let’s just keep in mind here, as a generation, we are privileged; so we need to stop acting like we are deprived. That’s my rant for today, amassing a record 3,139 words.

Peace, love, hope, joy (and everything else) to all my readers,

Be aware, and remember, #FirstWorldProblems are not Real Problems. Love you all,

Queen Rianna

cropped-yto5pzlte

How To Become A Minister Of Education

I’m not too sure how I would go about applying for this job but I think that I’d make an excellent candidate. Unfortunately, seeing as everyone’s best friend (who is oh-so-close to our hearts) Michael Gove, a most worthy candidate for such an important role, was unlucky enough to have been replaced by a seemingly-worse reincarnation, all I can really do is give you some tips based on his example of how to become a MoE and overall improve the education system in the UK.

QUEEN RIANNA’S TOP 20 TIPS ON HOW TO BE A USELESS OUTSTANDING MINISTER OF EDUCATION:

  1. Have absolutely NO insight into the life of working class children/people. I mean, to be fair, what is the point? It doesn’t make sense to actually understand the majority of children and their backgrounds when you’re making decisions which will affect them for the rest of their lives. It makes it easier to make ruthless decisions when you can’t see the faces of the suffering, and know that you’re destroying their future looking at their innocent faces.
  2. Have children who are in private education. This way, it means that when you make decisions, you are making them only for the good of your children and nobody else’s. Also, it stops people from being able to call you a bad parent; if you’re looking after you and your own then the media can’t accuse you of bad parenting.
  3. Be ruthless in choosing the curriculum. If you don’t like something, cut it out. If you like something, put it in. Don’t worry about the essentials of what needs to be taught; only worry about what you do or don’t like. That way, you are sure to always be able to smile at what you hear being taught when you walk into a sub-standard school to sit in on a lesson for the purposes of being filmed on BBC News.
  4. Have a cheesy grin. It always helps for the cameras and the people looking on at you thinking “How could this man/woman be so selfish and thoughtless?” If you smile, it’s a sure-fire way to make them suddenly think “Look at that beautiful smile; how could such a beautiful man/woman be horrible? Who couldn’t love a person who smiles like that?” The media will snap up photos and all round you will appear to be a nicer person.
  5. Have friends in high places. Make sure you have lots of friends within Parliament, in the Cabinet and MP’s who will be able to get you your job despite your lack of experience, expertise or much knowledge in general. This way, when you are unable to become Prime Minister, you can destory the country from the foundations: the children. You don’t have to be the Prime Minister to tear down this country and grind it into the dirt; though it seems that Cameron is doing a good job of that already! As the Minister of Education, you can tear down the standard and quality of education and grind children’s dreams and aspirations into the dirt; that way, when they are older, there will be less of their souls left to crush! 🙂
  6. Be absolutely sure about what direction you want your department to go in. If you want to run it into the ground (which is your job, really) make sure that everyone knows this. Making your policies clear are always a definite way to make people admire your steadfastness and decisiveness.
  7. Never stick with things that work. There are always new methods which are untested, unconventional and mostly unadvised, but hey-ho! It doesn’t matter. Try them out anyway, whilst playing with thte future of several million children. Even when there is a system in place that has been working perfectly fine and seems to be going very well, scrap it. If you don’t feel like it is new, modern or contraversial enough, get rid of it.
  8. Leave your mark. When you leave, people should be able to say,”That fantastic Minister of Education [insert name here] has absolutely destroyed/annihilated/obliterated etc. the UK education system! :)” Make sure that people are never at odds as to who you are; don’t just leave your office with a bang. Leave it in a mushroom cloud.
  9. Ensure that you are on the same page with whoever may replace you. One of the most important things about holding a post is ensuring that your potential successor has the same drive and vision that you do. After all, you wouldn’t want them to come in and correct your mistakes. Make your ideas very clear to them so that if they DO replace you, they continue to work on the sectors that you have been working away at. They have to continue the sculpture that you have begun; you must show them how to whittle away at the sculpture that is (metaphorically speaking) the education system in the UK, until there is nothing much left of it.
  10. Be widely disliked. What is popularity, eh? Why be liked and adored by people when you can just do lots of things that irritate people? After all, you wouldn’t want to ACTUALLY speak to the peasants and commoners to understand THEIR plight, when you can just refer to your fantastic and divserse experience of education at Eton, Cambridge and Oxford; where you used to be in clubs where you would beat people up and burn £50 notes in front of homeless men for the banter.
  11. Base everything on you and your personal experience. Be very selfish. Don’t worry about what others think. The only children you should be concerned about are your own children – and maybe a few nephews or nieces. Other than that, even though they are very much the minority in this situation, refer to them for advice on everything. If you want to do something but you’re not sure about the reception you might get, make sure to ask a few children who have been privately educated in middle-class areas for their entire life and have no experience of what it is like to attend a state school at which you are making the changes.
  12. If in doubt, do it anyway. Do you have an idea which you think, hey, this MIGHT work? Even if the ‘might’ is very big, do it anyway! Even if there is a huge question mark on whether it will be effective, do it anyway! Use very unorthodox methods and overall just change everything.
  13. Don’t worry about the opinions of others. When you have a few million children who are being greatly affected by the changes you are making, and their parents and carers are complaining to you, don’t worry about them! They may be the majority, but it’s not their opinions and appoval that you are in place for. You are there to make the most money possible, from salaries anywhere from £100,000 per annum and upwards. Their opinions won’t make you lose any money.
  14. Increase the gap between the rich and poor. Since this is often done in the government anyway, your job is slightly more difficult, as you have to begin the divide in the first place. Education is an essential field when it comes to raising children and teaching them about the world and how to be savvy etc. Beginning the divide from now just means that when they are older, the divide can grow even larger. This is often best achieved by making it more difficult for working class children and children from poorer backgrounds to get into top universities.
  15. Discriminate. You will never get anywhere if you don’t discriminate. Even though you are able to improve the standard of education for more than one group, that is absolutely TOO much work for you, and you are NOT being paid enough for that! Choose a group which you want to further and do everything in your power to do so. Even though ethnic minority groups (Black African and Carribean, Asian, White European) are struggling within the education system and White Middle and Upper Class students are clearly beneffiting the most, don’t even attempt to help those who are at a disadvantage in the system! Just focus on the people who benefit you the most, i.e. the Eton and Oxbridge boys who will one day grow up to be just like you.
  16. Make decisions on a whim. You have to make a speech? Wing it. You have to change the grading system? Do it. Don’t think about logic, reason or sensibility; none of that matters really. Just pick and choose. You may also like to put decisions into a hat or ball machine (like the lottery) and pick out random ones when you’re REALLY struggling to choose. This way, not only does it mean that you cannot take responsibility for the decisions made (seeing as it was all just chance) but also it means that you don’t have to make any actual decisions which could really help these children out.
  17. Waste the budget. Even when you have £56.7 billion annually, don’t let any of it go to good use! Invest it in useless things (who even cares, right?) but not schools or teachers! Don’t use any of it to train teachers to do their jobs adequately. Just choose sub-standard teachers – that way you can pay them less. Also, make schools into academies and free schools; that way, they have to pay for everything themselves, and you can fund them at little as possible.
  18. Don’t listen to advice from anybody but your family. Despite the fact that there are other people in charge of the sub-departments below you, just remember that their ideas don’t matter; you are the boss. You have overall responsibility over everybody and can take charge whenever you need to. Don’t feel afraid to overule some people’s ideas just out of sparing feelings. You don’t care about feelings, remember!? Everything you do is for yourself!
  19. Pretend that nobody has any feelings. That way, when you make decisions, you’ll feel less guilty when you hear all the complaints. When you hear about young people (especially females) in ethnic minorities groups who couldn’t attend Cambridge because they didn’t pass the interview, despite their outstanding and consistent record of A stars, consecutively in GCSE’s and A Levels, don’t try to be nice or kind. Don’t even sympathise with them!
  20. Just don’t have any feelings. Feelings equals guilt for the bad decisions that you have made, and that is NOT something you want on your chest. Having no feelings means you will be able to sleep at night without imagining the hundreds of thousands of rejected University applicants, the failing students at High School, the students who are unable to get jobs because they didn’t pass GCSE English, Maths or Science, and the ones who simply can’t do much because there aren’t any opportunities for them. That way, despite the fact that knowing they are all crying themselves to sleep and some even contemplate suicide as a means of escape from the Education system, you can sleep peacefully! 🙂

So there. My 20 top tips on how to follow Michael Gove’s fantastic example and become the best possible Minister of Education. I sincerely hope that the new Minister, Nicky Morgan, reads this post, just so she has an insight on the unattainable level of perfection of which Michael Gove has set. She has a tough example to live up to. Let’s just hope she’s up to it.

And farewell Michael Gove, you will be greatly missed by the millions of children, teenagers and young adults whose lives you have touched in an unforgettable way. The irrevocable changes you have made will stay with us in our hearts – and lives – forever. We will never be able to repay you for all the things you have done for us and for that, we are truly grateful.

Spoken on behalf of every young person in the UK, we thank you immensely.

Queen Rianna

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Normality vs. Abnormality

From the beginning of mankind up until today (probably not, but this is all for dramatic effect) we have all been asking ourselves one big question. And no, it’s nothing like “Does God exist?” or “Why is there evil and suffering?” Nope. The question we are all asking is:

Am I normal?

And I’m not just talking about any old ‘normal’, I’m talking about the normality that people fight for and change themselves in order to achieve.

Now, before I go on, I’m just going to consult the dictionary. Normal (by definition, so please nobody shoot me) means “conforming to a standard, usual, typical or expected”. Some other synonyms, just to give you a better understanding of the word; STOCK, COMMON, ORDINARY, CONVENTIONAL. I don’t know about you, but just going by the definition, I know I don’t really want to be like this.

Anyway. I’m not finished yet.

Would you believe that a Google search for “Am I normal?” pulls up 1.56 billion hits. BILLION. That is a heck of a lot of hits for a seemingly innocent question. Of course, being the inquisitive and curious person that I am, I decided to check out a few of these links, since lots of them were quizzes. (I cannot believe a QUIZ can determine how ‘normal’ I am). So, first of all, what the hell?! Every single test I’ve taken – a grand total of 4 – have told me different things. Now, I know I’m special – but how can I be 50% normal, 84% normal, special AND normal all at the same time?

Lesson learnt: Obviously an online test cannot tell me if I am normal or not.

Secondly, what upset me the most is the comments which were made with the results. Whenever it told me I was normal (3 times, actually) it said “Congratulations!” or some other variation of that, but when it told me I was “special” (and I quote) :

You’re special, in a great way!

You’re unique! You’re not normal, but you’re not weird at all! You’re one of a kind.

Why does it feel like they are rushing to reassure me that being ‘abnormal’ is not a bad thing? Another one of the tests actually had the cheek to tell me that I should mostly keep my weirdness to myself. Another one said that it was a good thing that I was normal because I’d get more friends that way.

These standards are actually ridiculous. Listen, OK? You be as ‘different’ as you like. If you are also a 15-year old female who would rather watch “Barbie: Life In The Dreamhouse” than “Vampire Diaries” or “Gossip Girl” then you go for it. (True story). If Disney is your favourite music genre, and “Downton Abbey” is your favourite TV series, then cool. (Also true story). It doesn’t even matter anymore, because all these ideas about what is normal and what is not are all coming from the media and society.

Let me just tell you a thing:

1. Being normal doesn’t mean you will have more friends

Friends are not dependent upon you, you are dependent upon friends. There’s a saying that says, “Friends are the family that you choose.” This means that friends are people who are supposed to love you no matter what, and if you can’t show your true side to your friends, then really, you shouldn’t be friends with those people. I’ve lived much too much of my life thinking that I have to hide my personality to gain approval, but the only thing that happens as a result is the stifling of my inner Queen, and it doesn’t work. In the past, I’ve had to cut myself off from some people because I felt like I couldn’t be myself around them, and that’s not what friendship is like. Friends won’t mock you for not listening to [insert popular artist here] or for “reading too much” as I’ve been told often. (How is that a bad thing, you uneducated swine?!)

2. Being normal is very boring (and it’s a choice!)

You can’t switch your “normal-ness” on and off, because there is no such thing. The whole idea is about adapting to certain situations; obviously when I’m at a job interview or at work, I’m not going to be prancing about to my fave OST’s, or walking down the corridors funny. The difference is that I just know where and when it is appropriate to be 100% myself, and when I need to tone it down a bit. I’m just going to define “Abnormal” for you: “deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying.” My advice is, be neither normal or abnormal. (Abnormal is what ignorant boring, normal people label others whom they don’t understand). Be special. Be unique. Be different. Be crazy. You can change from being “normal” so to speak. All you have to do is stop living within the confines of society, and of your friends, and actually develop your own personal styles and opinions and attitudes. It’s hard, I know, but I promise that it’s so much more rewarding than following the crowd.

3. Being normal is also overrated

Like I said, I have spent too long trying to ‘fit in’, and it has taken me almost 13 years to realise that I don’t need to fit in. (Hence why I created my own country, and that, because fitting in is stupid). I shouldn’t have to change myself in order to fit into a stupid gap in society, that I won’t even be able to fill. I refuse to become a mindless, faceless clone of other teenage girls, with no personal opinions or anything unique to myself except my name. Teenagers nowadays, especially girls, need to recognise that being a bog-standard, nothing special, ten-a-penny person isn’t going to get you anywhere. And sure, hey, you might land that standard job, but you’re never going to get out of that cubicle and into that office if you’re just the same as everyone else.

When somebody meets me, I want them to go away thinking either, “She was cool”, or “She was weird.” And I’ll tell you why. I’d like people to think that I am cool because… well, I am. No, I’m joking, seriously, people recognising me as cool (don’t worry, I was as shocked as you are) only comes about when they are as “weird” as me, so to speak. I remember one time, I was on this residential Science course, and we had to introduce ourselves to everybody, like going around the hall. We all had name tags on, but I thought, hey, let’s mix this up a bit. So anytime anyone came and said hello to me, and told me their name, I would say with the most deadpan face, “My name is Shaniqua.” And they’d look at me funny and glance at my name tag, as if to say, don’t you know your own name? So I’d look down confused at my tag and then look up and laugh and say, “Oh, it’s spelt Rianna but it’s pronounced Shaniqua.” From that moment, I instantly knew who I wanted to hang out with/talk to, and who was just not worth my time. The former were the ones who would laugh at my joke, or even deadpan join in – I got one who told me that was her dad’s name. One even asked me how did I spell the pronunciation, and could I write it down because they might forget it.

The latter were the ones who would roll their eyes and scoff, like they thought I was some immature, ridiculous, silly, childish teenager. (Which I was… and still am). Anyway, I’m going off here.

The point is, we should not let ourselves be defined by others. Whenever I see girls in the street who look exactly like each other, I want to scream. I want to scream, “You could be better people if you just thought for yourselves! If only you looked different, if only you looked unique, stood out. People would notice you, and your life might be so much more fulfilled, if you’re just DIFFERENT!”

Don’t be scared to be different. I promise you, it’s so much fun, it’s freeing and it’s SO fulfilling.

I tried to be normal once.

It was the worst minute of my life.

Love to all my ‘super super’ readers,

Queen Rianna

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