Brexit

Well, it’s official.  The UK has decided by the slimmest of majorities to leave the EU.  Or at least parts of the UK have decided it. And only some of the age groups.  But on the whole, it appears that more people were afraid than not.  So what does this mean for the EU, the UK, and the rest of the world.  Well, for most of the world, not a whole lot to be fair.  Most places won’t be affected by what happens when a tiny island nation decides to leave a group of bully nations that have been kicking the smaller members around.  Most places have their own shit to deal with, most of which has been run-off effect from the actions of previous generations of those same bully countries foreign policies, and of course that little island nation too.  But it will affect some people, a small percentage to be sure.  First, all those holiday-home owning Brits will have to sell and vacate their lovely Spanish villa’s, which will probably cause a fall in house prices in Spain and Portugal, after all the French and Italians aren’t going to move to Spain when they have their own Mediterranean coastline to live in. Tourism will drop as well, which could impact several EU countries unfortunately, no longer will it be as easy as jumping on a flight to France for a weekend of skiing, now you’ll need a visa (though it could be simple, with EU and UK maintaining visa-free status for tourist visas).  The UK will want to revive it’s failing economy, failing even more so now thanks Brexit, imports will be taxed on EU manufactured goods I suspect, though what will replace those goods?  The UK manufacturing industry has struggled since being dismantled in the Thatcher years, it will take an enormous investment to get it back to a standard to provide the UK with goods.  Will the UK seek to reinvent the Commonwealth? Who would join with them, I can see Australia and New Zealand seeking ties with a resurgent UK, more for nostalgia sake than actual economic advantage (JKs new slogan, let’s make NZ great again).  Canada, hard to say, recently it has looked more to the US than the UK for approval.  Economically there would be a market for raw materials in the UK, with Scandinavian lumber being taxed, Canadian lumber could fill the gap, and since the US doesn’t like our lumber, it would prove a boon to the economy.  I see Eastern Canada being more approving of greater UK-Can relations than Western Canada.  But the rest of the former Commonwealth, where would they sit?  I can’t see India, Pakistan, nor Bangladesh being too eager to jump on the glory-days bandwagon, with a growing Asia-Pacific economy, they are at the front to profit from that, a turn back to the Commonwealth would put them in a slow decline.  The African and Caribbean nations could do well from an agreement, providing they are calling the shots, not the UK.  If they could get the UK to wipe debts off the books, and provide infrastructure, then it would be a winning situation for them, however, if the succumb to quick money and no localized control, then it would be a spiralling descent downward.

As for the residents of the UK, well, already Scotland is looking at another referendum on leaving the UK, Ireland is looking at plans to incorporate Northern Ireland (as they too voted to stay in the EU).  Earlier this year the UK implemented sweeping immigration reforms, creating salary floors required to stay within the UK, many public sector jobs fall under those floors, as do jobs in rural regions.  With leaving the EU this puts many more jobs at risk, especially in the public sector.  The NHS is already dangerously short of nursing staff, with all but the highest paid nurses making below the immigration ceiling it will be harder to fill positions vacated by leaving EU nationals.  Same is true in teaching positions.  Cameron was already on pace to dismantle the NHS, is this one more nail in the coffin?  The Brexiters will say ‘well, we want British nurses in British hospitals!’, but the fact remains that there are not enough British nurses to fill those positions as it is, and with University costs trending upwards, less will enter into caring professions that are so valuable to our lives that we pay them as little as possible.

It remains to be seen just how much this vote will affect people, certainly some will be worse off, new migrants to the UK, who speak English, may well have to learn another language in order to move yet again, uprooting family, transporting their networks of family, friends, and colleagues to various destinations in the EU.  It also ruins my own plans of obtaining an EU passport to study in the UK, but then again, many EU universities are cheaper and the quality of education is just as good.

Work, or lack thereof

Well, it has been a struggle to find a job in the year and 6 months since I graduated.  Mind, that about 6 months of that time was engaged in either pre-MA work or the start of my MA, which I had to withdraw from for a variety of reasons.  Academia was successful for me, I graduated with my BA, with what would be first class honours (a better than A average, not quite A+), followed that up with a BA(Hons) with first class honours, an honours scholarship, and a recommendation for my thesis to be published (which is a long process, one in which I am still engaged in).  My wife and I moved to the area we are in now because I was given the impression that I would be given a job when we landed, however, it turned out not to be, as due to elections and band politics, the job that I was to be given was withdrawn shortly after my arrival.  My wife was able to secure employment in her field, not too hard given that she is an RN with experience in critical care.  The local area is a mix of extraction-based resource industry (forestry and mining), and tourism.  The few jobs in my area of work (or remotely connected area of work) seem to be going to candidates that are already placed or known to the jobs advertising.  In probably close to 25 applications I have yet to hear back from a single one, not an interview, not a thanks for applying but no thanks, nothing.  I applied for a few long-shot opportunities overseas to gain experience, and wonderfully I received feedback from those companies/organisations.  Is it really that time-consuming to have a form letter thanking for the application, but will not be progressing further?  To me, it shows the lack of respect that companies and organisations now have to their prospective employees, would an employer respect a candidate that just scribbled their name and number (not even the correct one) on a piece of tissue? No, so why do companies not respect the effort that prospects go through to show that they are not only capable candidates, but ones that could prosper and expand a business.  It is the commoditisation of the work force, no longer are we people who are looking to provide for our families and give work our meaningful attention, we are just numbers on an accounting sheet, a database entry that is given little attention beyond whether I tick the boxes that someone has decided meet the requirements.  Yes, I am probably not meeting the requirements on all the jobs that I applied for, but I know I met and exceeded on quite a few, and still not even a preliminary call back.  I’ve since expanded my search across the country, and again, despite putting in another two dozen applications, not a single response back.  This included two jobs in the local area where I met and exceeded the posted requirements, no interview, no call, no email, not a word.  I stressed for a little bit thinking my phone didn’t have a balance on it and wouldn’t be accepting incoming calls, but it did, and I could.  I thought maybe my CV had the wrong number and email on it, but it didn’t.  The job postings themselves are demanding as well, entry level jobs needing 5 years experience, PhD required for a data-entry position (with less than median wage salary).  I saw a cartoon that summed it up quite well, a person looking at a wanted ad “ideal candidate, under 30 with 20 years experience.  At least I’m not alone, one anthropologist I respect and follow on twitter, Sarah Kendzior, is in a similar position and has written quite well on it.

Now onto something different.

Russia.  A lot has been said in the media lately about Russia and Putin.  Most of it negative, most of it wrong (at least from my view).  The Western media likes to portray Putin as an evil leader, who is trying to take over the world, or take the world to war, or take over Europe, or any number of other evil plans.  Now, I’m not saying Putin isn’t evil, he’s done some pretty evil things, persecuting gay and lesbians being among the top.  But, what major world leader isn’t?  And if you’re thinking Obama, you can just walk away now, anyone who orders drone strikes knowing that they will kill innocent people (including children) deserves at least one tick in the evil box (not to mention the destruction of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, helping to destroy Palestine, Syria, the support of the murderous regime in Saudi Arabia…the list could go on for quite some time).  Western analysts have been afraid of Russia for a long time now, it is a massive country with a massive population (which mattered pre-World War 2), has a large economic base, and good natural resources.  The only problem is Russia hasn’t been aggressive or trying to force its way around, did it annexe Crimea? Yes, was it right in doing so? Maybe.  Crimea is historically Russian, the population is majority Russian speaking and identifies as Russian, up until the mid 1950s it was part of the Russian Soviet Republic, then was ceded to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic (in the belief that the Soviet Union would be around forever).  With the dissolution of the USSR, Crimea voted to stay within the Ukraine, but maintain independence but only through a slight majority of 54%, contrasting to the referendum held slightly earlier before the collapse of the USSR, where over 90% voted for a return to an independent Crimean Republic.  In addition to that, following the coup in Ukraine several nationalist bills were passed which restricted the rights of Russian language in the country, Crimea (and Eastern Ukraine) feared this would result in persecution, one more reason for their decision to cede.  One of the main issues in the coup was whether Ukraine would favour ties to Europe or Russia, with the coup relations swung in favour of economic ties with Europe, another issue that Crimea had, as it was a holiday spot for Russians, and had a large Russian Naval base located there.

Now, counter this to the threats perceived from a Russian point of view.  NATO exists as a defence against Russia, following the collapse of the Soviet Union it was agreed that NATO wouldn’t expand into what was previously viewed as the Soviet sphere of influence, this included the Baltics, and Eastern Europe.  Since then, NATO has expanded, going right to the border of Russia, encircling the enclave of Kaliningrad, and at one point almost admitting Georgia on Russia’s southern border.  Following admittance into NATO is large deployments of US troops to those countries, military drills and exercises, and the expansion of the US missile shield program (also banned under treaty). Then there is the sanctions, following the annexation of Crimea, the US and Europe placed sanctions on Russia to force them to withdraw, however, with the US backed split of Kosovo, no sanctions were placed on the US, following electoral malfeasance with George W Bush, no sanctions were placed on the US, illegal invasion of Iraq, war crimes, regime change, all happen for the US with no sanctions.  The US spends more on defence than the next 5 closest countries and that includes several US allies.  So, why is the West so afraid of Russia?  

 

Edit: Just after publishing this, I came across this wonderful article on CounterPunch that echoes my thoughts.  http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/04/baiting-the-bear-russia-and-nato/

School’s back for summer…or I thought it was

I attempted to go back and get my MA to further my job prospects, but the local college only does undergraduate programs, so I looked for a distance course.  The distance university was a challenge to apply to, first as my qualifications are overseas they needed to be assessed by the provincial body that does so.  So, I sent all my degrees and transcripts off to said body, having them verified by the provincial government as true (I didn’t send my originals, so they needed to be verified by a lawyer, notary public, or justice of the peace, the government agency acts as notary public for verifying documents).  The process takes 3-6 months by the way.  So, a few months in, I get a call from the initial inspector, saying that my documents are not verified by a notary public, I respond, saying yes they are, giving them the details that the provincial agency acts as a notary public for document verifying.  He isn’t sure what to make of this, asks me where I found that information, so I told him, it’s right on the provincial website (mind you, the provinces are side-by-side, and within the same country).  Eventually I get the assessment back, stating that my BA(Hons) is equivalent to a 4 year BA in Canada.  Big sigh……now, I did my BA, that is equivalent to a 4 year BA in Canada, my BA(Hons) is the first year of an MA, it is theory based, so I could jump right into a thesis MA at my University.  I can apply for PhD programs with my BA(Hons) (and in fact did, was told I was qualified, but didn’t get accepted for the scholarship) in multiple countries.  So, that’s fine, the agency doesn’t assess programs properly, fine, I accept that.  I was provisionally accepted into the MA program following completion of the English Language Assessment, which they suggests is used to determine your competency for post-graduate level studies.  Right, so I do the test, it is a timed test, with several ambiguous questions dependent on where you learned your English (American vs Canadian vs English vs Australian can make a difference in how you structure sentences and word choices, but are still correct).  Mind you, at this point I am less than a year from my BA(Hons), had been accepted to an MA at my previous university and started that, with a full scholarship, so I would say by any measures I am up for the challenge of post-graduate studies.  Now, for the record, this university also has as faculty at least one member of staff who graduated from the same university I attended, so it’s not like they are unaware of the quality at the institution. Well, a few months of back and forth with the university and I decided against pursuing it further, the degree wasn’t what I wanted in the first place, but if it was quick to do, would put me in a better position, but having to do it over the course of 4-6 years rather than the 2 planned, put me off of that (for comparison, the PhD I applied for was a 3 year program, so in less time than what this university offered I could have graduated with a doctorate in the field I wanted from a well respected university with a strong research background).