corruption in the contemporary .

Information sourced from Transparency International, a world-leading NGO.

Known as the abuse of power for private gain, corruption amplifies inequality in society while juxtaposing democracy. Social conflict is consequently exacerbated within a global superstructure, obscuring humanity’s ability to reduce it. Whether monetary or otherwise, actions by civil servants, politicians and corporate tycoons swiftly undermine the wellbeing of all, especially when occurrent at all levels. Which, when citizens become directly involved, makes the shadowy underworld opaquer to those attempting to glean insight, whether with the utilisation of shell companies or client-attorney privilege.

Corruption, then, takes various forms dependent on extraneous variables, but fundamentally ends with similar costs, whether political, economic, social or environmental. Globally, this is comparable with the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), formed from expert assessments and public opinion to rank 180 countries on a scale of 0-100, with those closer to 100 considered ‘clean’ and just. This mirrors the global West – South disparity to an extent. No wonder given the intensity of turmoil suffered from colonialism. Impacts of which continue to be felt today, several centuries on, as archaic, externally-imposed regulations continue to live on. 

Somewhat understandably, imperialism and its effects reflect significantly on scoring. Of the nine nations that scored 80 or above in 2020, only two (New Zealand and Singapore) lie outside Europe. A large contrast to the rest of the globe, then, as the average score internationally is 43. Within Western Europe, Scandinavia dominated the scale with Denmark, Finland and Sweden in the top four. The UK, similarly, sits comfortably in position eleven where it steadily rose to since 2012, Belgium fifteenth and Iceland seventeenth. 

Drifting in the opposite direction, America has slipped to position twenty-five, though given the current political climate, it is expected. In the middle of the pack are the new economic powerhouses of India and China (86 and 78 respectively), and in the bottom third of countries globally, Russia, featuring dictator Vladimir Putin (129).

Further down though are Iran (149), Chad (160), North Korea (170) and Somalia (179), countries faced with dictatorship, the effects of colonialism and/or civil wars. Which, following COVID-19, has only amplified issues as access to healthcare is persistently scarce for those outside of the elite. Issues that protests and campaigns have done little to change over the past decade, albeit, public optimism to ‘making a difference’ still remains high.

Transparency International continue to recommend oversight institutions, transparent contracting and free access to information, but a lack of practical action makes it just words as countries stay stagnant despite a few notable exceptions (Greece and Myanmar being the most-improved nations since 2012). Therefore, there is a long way to go in instigating steadfast change.

the abandonment of mainstream political parties .

Stephen Yip & the Liverpool Mayoral Election

The 2021 local and mayoral elections marked a definitive shift in the UK political landscape. I, an otherwise-staunch Labour voter, supported an independent mayoral candidate for the first time ever while simultaneously prioritising Green candidates running for council. This was a widespread phenomenon as unheard-of candidates rose from the dust to rival stronghold party vote shares. Following the bribery controversy in Liverpool, placing scrutiny on former Mayor Joe Anderson, Joanne Anderson, the first woman of colour to hold mayoral office in the area (and not to be confused with the former Mayor), took over as the Labour candidate for this city. 

Though resolutely left-wing in terms of voting patterns, results nonetheless marked independent Stephen Yip as a close second to Anderson (with nearly 41% of the vote share), an unprecedented result in a county where 93% of MP’s are of Labour, almost all of which with five-figure majorities. For comparison, Yip gained more first-preference votes than the Lib Dems and Tories combined, emphasising the failure of minority parties in the area to capitalise on the Labour council controversy.

Why was this the result in Liverpool?

In early 2021, support for mainstream political parties hit an all-time low. While Starmer, the centrist replacement to Corbyn in leading the Labour party lacks charisma and ability to unite a party devoid of a clear audience, the general public have become disillusioned. As a result, many Labour loyalists lent support to smaller parties, independents or even Boris Johnson (Bojo) in making a political point, while outside the central Labour heartlands, Tory support thrived, expanding majorities and consolidating the blue sea of rural English constituencies. 

The picture is mixed elsewhere, however. Continued support for independence referendum-supporting parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland demonstrates understandable contempt for the mainstream political system, no wonder in a time of COVID, Brexit and economic instability where lower classes are exponentially susceptible to its discriminatory arm.

Who is Stephen Yip?

A charity founder, philanthropist and millionaire, Yip campaigned as an independent to reset the Liverpool political system. Directly challenging mainstream parties by pushing for a new voting system, Yip advocates council transparency, whistle-blower protection and further environmental protections among education and city-wide employment initiatives to rebuild and regain trust. This would require an new level of cross-party collaboration that remains unseen in mainstream politics, however, if the opportunity for change is seized, potential exists for the political system in Liverpool to be transformed for the benefit of its members.

feminism . a herstory

In the global West, various eras of Feminism serve to categorise changes that occurred following the industrial revolution. Whether there are three or four of these is up to debate, but for a more holistic outlook, I will work through events and developments without labelling specific forms as intrinsically tied to timelines. Several waves of Feminism remain active with their goals and history the primary factors distinguishing them from each other.

We start in the pre-war years. The end of the Victorian era where gender equality began to enter the political agenda. As Feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft radically challenged the status quo towards the start of the industrial revolution, drawing attention to injustices faced, women’s groups began to rise in popularity as the voting discourse entered the mainstream. Known broadly as the first wave, suffragettes and lobbyists involved were primarily white, upper- and middle-class women operating under the conception of gender essentialism. Though they had made rapid and unprecedented progress in encouraging women into the workplace, their participation was channelled into domestic, low-paid work that reinforced traditional gender roles, no wonder as the dominant ideology of the time was fiercely traditional. However, this encouraged women’s financial independence in society, meaning that a step had been taken to re-balancing the scales. 

During WWI, women temporarily held blue-collar jobs that were formerly occupied by men (farming and munitions), proving to wider society that they can adopt the role of the economic breadwinner when required. Hence, Feminists during the peace period campaigned for improved working standards and education, while following WWII, second-wave radical Feminism took over as a dominant Feminist ideology. They were primarily white, middle-class women who identified the female sex as a biological class, challenging power structures in society (for instance, patriarchy). In addition, they focused on violence towards women and girls (VAWG) alongside the sexist nature of pornography, though have historically ignored intersectionality, instead, sowing seeds of conflict across the political sphere. For instance, Germaine Greer is a renowned second-wave Radical Feminist, essentialist and exclusionary who was prominent in the 1960s and 70s.

Marxist Feminism, however, offered a different perception. Rooted in classical theory, this attribute the plight of women to structural (macro) factors, namely relating to Western capitalist. Barrett, for instance, discussed how economic dependency serves to place women in subordination to male breadwinners, as the woman was historically unpaid (or underpaid). Hence, the gendered division of labour is seen as toxic to women, who are in turn perceived as the property of men. Though Marxist Feminism, historically, had somewhat the same issue as Radical Feminism in its ignorance of intersectionality, unlike Radical Feminism, Marxist Feminism has developed and modernised to encapsulate the struggles of those facing multiple disadvantages too.

So here we turn to the modern age. The events that took place from the 1980s and 90s emphasised a definitive shift in attitudes and values. As Radical Feminism declined, contemporary forms of Feminism took hold in mainstream society. Black Feminism, for instance, challenged the complicity and essentialism of white women (Truth), identifying multiple oppressions in the lives of Black women while still acknowledging the role of class. Kimberlé Crenshaw, for instance, coined the term intersectionality concerning the compounding effects of various inequalities. Her contributions to academia have proven highly influential in shaping modern Feminism, inspiring millennials and Gen-Z alike to inspire social change. This model is arguably the most holistic, therefore, through its contemporary outlook on ethnicity, class and gender. This has since been applied to fields as broad as disability studies and social policy due to its incredible value. From Audre Lorde’s experiences of being a Black lesbian in 1950s New York, surviving and forming safe spaces with those like-minded, to Davis’ experiences of systemic, mainstream racism and an unsatisfactory criminal justice system (CJS), Black Feminism proves an effective analysis of Western society.

Lastly, Eco Feminism rose to prominence alongside Black Feminism, though with different purposes, to explore environmental impacts to women in the modern-day. Hence, Mellor discussed an analogy of women, unacknowledged, cleaning up after men in wider society. This strand has much in common with Green Socialism, promoting similar policies to try and improve society, tying into Crenshaw’s explanation of political intersectionality as women sometimes get involved with the Eco Feminism movement to improve their situation amid climate change and rising far-right popularism. Hence, political agendas of the Right (which directly affect them) influence their response and affiliations.

There are many issues with historical forms of Feminism, one being that some are instruments for the advancement of affluent, white women (Meyers), however each, to some extent, have society positively, despite pitfalls affecting their modern perception. Alas, Feminism in all its strands has nonetheless been critical in constructively shaping society.

traveller communities .

Alienated from the West and rarely mentioned in equality discourse, traveller communities are subject to many forms of discrimination. Cordon and colleagues noted this in the context of global healthcare, workplaces, education and the criminal justice system (CJS) in comparison to other ethnic minorities who were discriminated less in these areas overall. Expanding on this, the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) identified that different groups within the traveller umbrella are not sufficiently differentiated in terms of local authorities and public services addressing individual needs.

While broad and fragmented, traveller communities were identified by Cordon as highly cohesive, self-assured and protective of one another, affecting the limited level of research on them. Additionally, Liégeois studied how strong, internal social structures serve as the bedrock of resistance against eradication and discrimination, forcing the idea of survival as a distinct ethnicity. Historically, traveller groups have been present in England since the 1500s, with their various origins misconceived. In fact, travellers originate from Ireland, parts of Europe and South Asia (among other places) and have been consistently targeted by laws in all EU states at various points of time since. Not to mention that the Porrajmos(mass slaughter of 25% of the Roma population) was instigated by the Nazis during World War II, an event barely discussed in contrast to other marginalised groups targeted during this time. Hence, traveller community trust towards the state remains understandably limited today.

Though the popular societal conception is of traveller groups living exclusively in nomadic, temporary living arrangements, the 2011 census in the UK (the first nationally that collected information about travellers) identified that almost three-quarters live in houses and apartments, rebuking this. However, their quality of life remains considerably lower than other ethnic groups, with a median age of 26 implying systemic issues around their treatment in wider society (House of Commons). Hence, the Department of Education (DoE) identified the importance of secondary education on improving outcomes, as the transfer between primary and secondary is a significant point in a young person’s life where class attendance can gear one of two ways. This compounds with disproportionate levels of special educational needs (SEN) in traveller communities affecting attainment, contributing to a four-fold likelihood of becoming excluded, as opposed to a successful journey in education.

Though sources identify a plethora of issues experienced by traveller communities, there is limited evidence to suggest that proactive steps have been taken to counteract these, or even better, eliminate disadvantages entirely. Which, though explained to an extent by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in terms of a lack of community engagement as attributed to an extensive, global history of genocide, banishment and exclusion from mainstream society, does not identify how the state and its institutions are actually tackling this. So, despite government commitments to reduce inequalities for these groups, Dar argued that these continue to persist, emphasising a significant rift in progress between ethnic groups through government neglect.

huel .

Disclaimer: I am not a medical or nutrition expert, so please bear this in mind and read this post critically. This post is not sponsored by Huel either, but gosh I wish it was!

It is ironic that I am posting about Huel this week because, for the first time in over a year, I am not having any. Between May 24th and the 30th, I am living on the rations of a Syrian refugee to raise money for a charity that supports them (, so will not be consuming any Huel during this time. However, this process reminds me of how easy it is to take Huel (and other foods) for granted when living in the consumerist West. If you would like to share or donate to this cause, please do, but don’t feel obligated to if money is tight!

Every Hueligan out there consumes it differently, whether in terms of flavour or composition. The range of flavour options are seemingly endless, varying depending on the type of powder used (balanced or protein-based). Salted caramel, banana, strawberry, vanilla, coffee caramel, chocolate classic, coffee classic, berry, mint chocolate, cinnamon, peanut butter, gingerbread, cherry, mocha, pumpkin spice, original or unsweetened. Not to mention their ready meals and protein bars, though I have never tried those. Thankfully all Huel products are vegan, which reflects in my ability to consume all of them.

Personally, my Huel preference is a little unorthodox. I use their protein-based coffee caramel powder one scoop at a time. For a creamier consistency, I add two types of plant milk, chocolate soya and coconut, in a 50-50 ratio to this, shaking well. After a year of experimentation, I have concluded this to be a great combination for both texture and taste. And as I use it as both a breakfast meal replacement and projection from snacking, my diet has improved dramatically. 

However, Huel is pricey on its own, let alone with the addition of Alpro. At somewhere between £1.00 – £1.50 per two scoops (depending on subscription, student discount and multi-buy offers), it tallies beyond a homemade avocado on toast. For people with smaller incomes, myself included, it is a lot. But personally, I justify it for health reasons. As a vegan, it helps me improve my protein, B12, fatty acid and iron intake, four things vegans are liable to be deficient on. This is because, as formed upon natural ingredients (that contain all 26 essential vitamins and minerals), Huel describe their products as nutritionally complete. I have been consuming Huel for over a year and have felt profound health benefits, whether in terms of weight management, skin or mental health.

Results are subjective and susceptible to the placebo effect, though. I acknowledge marked improvements in my health and given the primary three ingredients in the powder I use are pea protein, flaxseed and brown rice, no wonder. However, to my knowledge, there are limited-to-no independent studies on the health benefits of Huel, a fact that they confirmed when I asked their team directly. So, despite Huel having been developed by nutrition experts, these are ultimately salaried by the same company that they are writing reports for, so take that information with a pinch of salt when reading what they tell you. Other than that, though, I cannot recommend Huel enough. I wish they would make their powder bag packaging recyclable, though. I hate contributing to landfill further when the planet is wrecked enough as is.

Referral Link (£10 off first order):

barbies, builders & beyond . gender socialisation

Feature image is of me three years apart!

Gender socialisation is an ongoing process of social norm and value internalisation. In the West, this is typically based on individual assigned gender (determined at or prior to birth) that drives social behaviour, though it is critical to remember how biology affects the outcome, for instance, physiologically. Fundamentally, gender draws upon multiple influences, social and biological, that all play some role in development. And with knowledge around areas such as epigenetics growing each day, nothing can be discounted yet.

There has been a dominance in nurture theories in the contemporary world that cannot be ignored, however, with much sociological research centred around primary and secondary socialisation. For instance, effects on children and adults who fail to conform to stereotypes vary widely, though many still report ostracisation as the West has a wholly-binary mindset that fails to adequately encapsulate those residing beyond. In the modern-day, few countries legally recognise non-binary identities (I use this as an umbrella term as there are numerous forms of gender non-conformity), with the Netherlands and Canada being rare exceptions of countries that do. In the context of passports, anyway.

I talk about the system of gender socialisation as, coined in the mid-1900s, its archaic mindset lies stark. Though somewhat relevant to the realities of child development, its binary mindset lets it down. By reducing experience down to what toys, treatment and clothing colour is presented in early years, it highlights a dangerous implication; one that suggests those with conventional childhoods are fundamentally gender-congruent while the inverse betray the natural order of things. Hence, discourse around gender deviance, transvest*tism and abnormality lingered well into the twenty-first century. Whether it intended to or not, classical Functionalist socialisation theory reproduced the idea that there is a conventional way of doing things, and an abnormal. Which is inherently bigoted.

We know that conformity (and non-conformity) drive mental health as individual experience is shaped across one’s life. No wonder then does black-and-white ideology generate such rifts. Though there’s controversy in the exact age, the life expectancy of trans and non-binary folk is, nonetheless, decades less than those who are cisgender, amplified if also a person of colour. They are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, poverty, rape and suicidal inclination too. Which makes ideologies against the idea of fluidity and holistic gender all the more toxic.

intersectionality .

A concept that most of society’s woke have come across, intersectionality is the relationship between two or more characteristics whereby, at the points where they meet, the effects of marginalisation are compounded. Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality was first applied to the ethnicity-gender intersection as an academic critique of (white) liberal feminism, though it has since been applied to areas such as sexuality, disability and class, successfully emphasising the historical tendency of treating categories of inequality as one-dimensional entities.

Crenshaw recognised how the ever-growing field of identity politics fell into this same trap, thus, defined two sub-categories of intersectionality:

Firstly, political intersectionality argues that one’s subordinated group status directly influences which political agendas target them, meaning that, with limited energy to fight multiple forces, one group is focused upon at the expense of others. For instance, in a social experiment, Crenshaw discovered that Black women are less recognised than Black men in relation to murders by American police, highlighting the overlap between racism and sexism (injustice²).

Secondly, structural intersectionality relates to the way conditions in society, for instance, popularism encouraging the election of Republican Donald Trump in 2016, can worsen situations for oppressed people, accumulating to generate far-reaching effects. However, as Collins noted, people experience the world differently as liable to have privilege in some areas and not in others.

Meanwhile, Lorde discussed intersectionality as a Black lesbian in 1950s New York. Growing up around other women of colour, she used her (relative) class privilege to support those oppressed by apartheid in South Africa, developed communication with other Black lesbians and shared her strength with others following a mastectomy. Lorde discussed ideas around survival, safe spaces and Blackness in a society that deeply lacked understanding and shunned her existence, offering to many a role model, inspiration and source of representation.

So, information around intersectionality is now pervasive in activism, academia and literature. And so it should be when its significance is greater than ever. We live in a time where police brutality towards people of colour is strong, education is still heavily colonised and gender relations a cesspit of conflict. One that could improve or get worse depending on how we respond to it.

geographic divisions in the US .

Where to start but the wholly intolerant south-east. Home of the Bible Belt, Westboro Baptist Church and most of the country’s Mormon population, this collection of states represents plenty of humanity’s most virulent. Alabama, for instance, is sweet home to those who are white and straight, but not anyone else for fear of hate crime and discrimination. Next door, Texas brags the highest execution count in America, while Mississippi, home of Coca Cola, trails right behind. Not surprising when them and their neighbours, Tennessee and Louisiana, were some of Trump’s staunchest supporters in 2016.

Shifting north-east, we encounter welcomed contrast. From Massachusetts, where even white working-class folk vote for Elizabeth Warren, to Vermont, home of Bernie Sanders, life is different. Though there are many toss-up states, the east coast has always been something of a heaven for liberals at Christmas, since Pennsylvania is the Christmas tree state, and the most easterly point in the US, Maine, sprawls picturesque snowy forests and log cabins. Naturally then, the elderly play it safe by flocking to Florida‘s country clubs instead.

In the north-west we see a similar picture, albeit one that is more competitive. On one side are the Rocky Mountains and great plains of Montana, further west, the eternally-raining, forest-clad lands of Washington and Oregon. Areas great for backpacking and grizzlies but not so good for a suntan, though they are a commutable distance from sunny Colorado, home to South Park and Springfield, Nevada‘s own Las Vegas and its surrounding deserts.

Towards the centre of the US are Kentucky, Republican stronghold and home of KFC, and Wyoming, the least populous state and home of Kanye West. A population contrast to Arizona in the south-west, home to plenty of prisons, Phoenix and cactus graffiti laws, and affluent California, loved by queer folk, vegans and tourists alike as LA’s juice shot bars bring all the (hipster) boys to the yard. Not to mention that the drag city alternative to New York, San Francisco, provides a safe haven to many. Providing a little safety to marginalised folk otherwise discriminated against across the country.

So, though only twenty of the fifty states are directly mentioned in this four-hundred-and-something-word ramble, you get the picture. Some states are friendlier than others. Many have beautiful landscapes but not so beautiful people, not that we in the UK are any better in that sense. Albeit, not many of us own guns or SUV’s.