Friday, 26 November 2010

Student protest in the UK: Where are the brands when people really need them?

In what might become the defining experience of the generation of young Brits, brands, that normally call for ‘breaking the norms’, ‘being rebellious’ and ‘fighting for your rights’ are dramatically silent.

Amazing opportunity for brands to help young people to tell their true story of their protest in the times when Tory -dominated big media are framing demonstrators as violent disruptors of social order. Yes, it would mean political involvement. Yes, it would mean making some enemies. But in the times when brands want to ‘engage in conversations’ and be part of ‘real lives’ of people they cannot simply stay silent. And pretend that nothing happened. Conflict is part of real life of real people. If brands want to get closer to them they need to take sides and support their consumers when they need it.

Britain is facing the largest student demonstrations in decades. Young people, including pupils in their early teens and students from various colleges are protesting against the planned government cuts in education. Proposed changes mean end of large public investment in the higher education and dramatic rise of university fees. Many economic commentators suggest that these cuts have nothing to do with the savings. They are purely driven by conservative ideology. Tory rich mummy boys can pay for education. Working class kids do not have to go to university. Right?

So kids are on the streets. And it is not just about leaving classroom
for few hours. This is serious stuff. The Tory plans mean that for many of them getting a degree will be just too expensive or they will end up in debts for the rest of their lives. So no, contrary to government line of spin and Tory press these are not just ridiculous demonstrations captured by extremists or anarchists. This is about real future or the generation.

And when tens of thou sands people are protesting of course there always will be acts of violence! Yes, someone will scream f*** the police! And some will get really angry. So far they protesters destroyed few shops and 1 police car. This is not terribly bad? In large this is a peaceful manifestation of justified discontent. Led often by female pupils. People march with posters like “I will not have chance to meet my prince at uni” or “Tory farce kiss my arse” or “How will I learn to spel?”. This is not anarchy. This is young people’s legitimate protest about things that matter to them.

I am shocked by the media response. I am shocked as I thought they should be proud of the people that actually bother to do something political. That in the age of meaninglessness they fight for something and do things that mean something! That actually they want to take the future in their own hands instead of counting on parents’ support. Or go to pub presenting themselves as ‘lost generation’.

I am shocked by Labour party response. In theory they support students. But they so much lack the focus of their policy that their voice remains unheard these days.

I am shocked that brands are not using this obvious space. And do something good for their most promising future consumers and trend- setters.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

10 reasons why you should visit Hong Kong if you are extinct European species. A city that lives its future as quickly as it forgets its past

1. Get proper propotions. Arriving at the airport build on the artificial island, pass over 2 km long bridge that links it with Kowloon, get to your room at 30 something floor with the view over Hong Kong .. and see the forest of scyscapers rising in front of your eyes. Have a look at the South China Morning Post at breakfast and even do not try to look at the property price list. Yes, you’ve come from a tiny old village called Europe. The last remaining dinosaur.

2. Resist (or not) the „yellow fever“. If you fancy seeing white- sixty- years- old anglosaxon men attached to sixteen- year – old Chinese beauties - Hong Kong is the place. Apparently white men go crazy about Asian women the moment they come to Hong Kong. What did..Said write about Orientalism? Colonialism is not dead.

3. See the redefined luxury and … feel free to reject it. If you ever felt diminished walking past European most chic shopping streets go to Hong Kong. And see 5- storey Louis Vuitton on every corner. Feels like Mac Donalds. Anti - big brand therapy … oh yeah!

4. Fuel your imagination at Hollywood Road. Walking past little alleys with little antique shops, old Chinese jewellery, beautiful figures and marble animals. Probably the closest existing reincarnation of Bruno Schultz’s Sklepy Cynamonowe.

5. Sense the pulse the city in vertical and horizontal. Embrace Hong Kong‘s‚ unexpected colours, textures, smells and sounds on the ground, below and above. Melt in intense tones and unexpected combinations. Red that is really red and green that strikes with its absurdity. Smell the sea and the fish and the spices. Treat yourself with foot message. This city awakens all your senses. Do not control it. Breath it in.

6. Dine al fresco on the 61 st floor. Nothing wrong in embracing the nouveaux riche sometimes. London roof -terraces – go and hide!

7. Something Cheesy and Romantic: Fall in love with Kowloon – Hong Kong ferry. The most charming and efficient way of everyday commuting ever discovered. Be quick. Land reclaim means the bay is getting smaller everyday.

8. Have Lunch in former Admirality Club at Macao where colonial world meets brutal consumerism. And understand why Portuguese spent there over 500 years. A magical culinary and cultural journey in time surrounded by world’s ugliest casinos. Unforgettable. Only one hour away from HK.

9. Make friends with the Chinese. Hong Kong is probably the most alienating city I’ve ever visited when it comes to contact with indigenous population. Because there is NO contact whatsoever.

10. Come back, as tomorrow will not be same as today. Hong Kong is changing faster than chameleon. Remember present.This city lives the future as quicky as it forgets its own past.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ain't no country for a revolution

The UK government has announced the biggest cuts since Thatcher’s Government. Guardian has exposed that the cuts will be even bigger that those from 30 years ago. Later on Royal Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates, that, contrary to government's claims that 'the cuts are fair', the cuts will affect the poorest the most. People will loose children and housing benefit. Schools will get less money for pupils. Students will have to pay even more for tuition fees. Government is freezing salaries in the public sector for the next 200 years and freezing large amount of stuff. The VAT will rise. Local councils are loosing amazing amounts of money. And what? What happens next? Nothing!

No, people are not on the streets. Trade unions are not announcing strikes. There is no slightest sign of public anger. Brits are still in pubs drinking beer and dressing up for the craziest Halloween parties. France would be on fire! There would be a proper revolution.

Those people here are just mad! Just not sure if good mad or bad mad.

So if they are „good mad“ it is a sign of amazing responsibility. This would mean that British society has an amazing sense of common sense. This would mean they actually realize the simple fact (that no society realizes) that if you live on credit, you have to pay it back. This would also mean that especially British middle classes, people who have been working really hard for years (harder than les Francaises if I may say so) - are actually totally cool with paying and suffering for not their own sins! Amazing. Because this is what British people do. They are polite and responsible. They mind the gap and wait in a queue.

But there is a chance that actually they are ‚bad mad‘ or ‚desperate mad‘. It might mean that they are so disillusioned that they just do not care any longer and ignore whatever the government do. They know that the only way in which they can save themselves is to mind their own business. They know that there is no pint in protesting - that the Tory government will not give up. And they do not believe in their ble ble ble about Big Society. If this is the case, it is rather sad. It would mean that people are loosing confidence that they could do something together. That they stop trusting that collective action makes sense. That they retreat back to their private lives. And celebrate Halloween like never before – a leap to a world of fantasy and illusion, just to get away from real for a second.

Therefore, where I found this poster at SOAS I felt relieved. Somebody still cares. Something still matters.