Squatting: a survival strategy or an alternative lifestyle?

Squatting: a survival strategy or an alternative lifestyle?

By Georgie One of the main issues currently affecting Britain is the housing crisis. Over the last five years cities like London have undergone major gentrification and a large proportion of people are being forced to leave their communities and networks (i.e. where they have spent most of their lives) to live in the outskirts. Times are tough – some people find themselves waiting up to seven years or more to get social housing. To add more salt to the wounds, most private landlords are unwilling to accept people who are on housing benefits. And the government has announced another decision to withhold housing benefit for those aged 18-25 years. But what do young people do to adapt to the housing crisis? Well that is what I wanted to explore as I set out on a mission to find out more about “alternative living”. In the last few months I have been introduced to a few people who have chosen to squat rather than rent. Squatters are often portrayed in the media as troublemakers that don’t want to conform to society because they would rather live for free and not work. Because of this I decided to spend some time in a couple of squats to see what they were really like and to uncover the truth about the squatting community. The squat that I found to be the most unique was an abandoned gym in North London. I had only been there for two minutes and already I felt welcomed. It was a Friday summer evening and a few people were having a BBQ on the roof, overlooking...
Top ten free places to visit in London

Top ten free places to visit in London

Enjoy Yourself on a Budget: Top Five Places to go in London 1. Brixton Splash, Brixton Brixton Splash is a free street festival that has four sound systems playing everything from Reggae to Latin music. As you wander past the main music stage, Windrush square, you can see all the local acts. As well as this, you can grab yourself some authentic street food whilst getting down and dirty in the arts and crafts area in St Matthew’s Peace Garden. Here you will find workshops and bouncy castles which have been set up for children and families to enjoy. So if you are ready to dance your socks off with a chilled Redstripe and a Jamaican patty then this is the festival for you. 2. Café Cairo Film night, StockwellCafé                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ...
Mindful meditation

Mindful meditation

A recent study shows that people would rather be electrically shocked than sit quietly alone for fifteen minutes with their thoughts. In our high-pressure world, it’s hard to find ways to relax; technology keeps us constantly engaged and even stressed out. Our bodies are unaccustomed to peaceful mindfulness and calm. But you don’t need to go out and buy a pilates membership or a ticket to a Mediterranean island retreat to learn to relax. I know many of you might be sceptical, but I hope to give you a factual insight into the free practice of meditation. I was introduced to mindful meditation about four years ago and haven’t looked back since. My initial reaction was thinking it was a cult or new religion, and wondering where my personal faith stood with something I regarded as a Buddhist practice. However, I realised all religions seek to find a closer connection to their truest form and the connection with the yet-to-be-understood ‘God’. Meditation can help you achieve this. Meditation is not an excuse to close your eyes and have a nap, although at times it’s difficult staying awake when you’re in a blissful state of peace and calm. Meditation does not need to be practiced with your eyes shut and can be done whilst sitting, standing or even swimming. The core principle is to silence your mind of the chatter and distractions that belittle our lives on a daily basis. It is simply being in whatever form you are right now–not focusing on your next activity, what you had for breakfast this morning, or what’s stuck in your tooth! It’s...
Pointless politicians: breaking the cycle

Pointless politicians: breaking the cycle

Democratic politics is a foundation of great societies. The relationship between elected politicians and members of a community is critical; we vote for people who we think best represent our views, but are too often disappointed by the outcome. Politicians must be held responsible in order to maintain a responsive government and keep a peaceful, politically-active society. Far too often we find the relationship between parties, politicians and citizens is broken, evidenced by low voter turnout, political apathy and government corruption. Our politics has been shaped by cycles of disillusionment and dependency on politicians. We become disillusioned with one group of politicians, then put our trust in another until we are disappointed by them as well. However, societies are sustained by government. How do we break the cycle of dependency? The solution is politics without politicians. Young people are at the forefront with the biggest role to play in this movement. Politicians are needed to carry out the demands of the voters so a world without them would be a difficult one. Nonetheless, it should be acknowledged that there are user-led organisations, like the 99% Campaign, which incorporate young people’s views in political campaigns to achieve social and economic change outside of party-politics. These organisations work by extensively lobbying all parties equally, so that politicians understand the wishes of the electorate, not just their supporters. They are made up of thousands of members, who democratically agree on an annual manifesto to be presented to the political parties. Parties are keen not to disappoint the electorate, so it’s beneficial when many people’s views are communicated to them. Instead of guessing...
Digital Democracy: Why E-voting could revolutionise politics

Digital Democracy: Why E-voting could revolutionise politics

Voter non-participation amongst the younger generation has been a constantly worrying issue. With the recent European Elections failing to bring young people to the polls, it doesn’t look like it’s going away. The percentage of 16 to 24-year-olds who voted in the last general election was 44% – an increase from the election four years earlier – but still falling well short of the 63% turnout in 1992. Many people blame the low turnout on disillusionment about politics and politicians. Young people, especially those looking for work, feel let down by the political establishment and are increasingly frustrated that their voice isn’t being heard in the chambers of the Houses of Parliament. Yet despite the poor connection between voters and politicians, it has been suggested that most young adults do in fact want to participate in elections. However, many people feel that they don’t have the time, are too lazy to vote, or just don’t know how to. The solution could be e-voting. E-voting is an initiative put forward by the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, which looks to introduce technology to UK democracy. The idea is to use the internet, particularly smartphones and tablets, to empower people to participate in local and general elections. Opponents of this proposal protest that e-voting would damage the integrity of the ballot box, an institution dating back to ancient Greece. However, John Bercow said e-voting in polling stations or at home should not be seen as an “earth-shattering” innovation, and in fact, would be a natural step to improve our democracy. This is true. The use of technology in politics is...