We are a business

The interests of the people who simply want to live their lives are put on the back-burner as those who pledge to represent us try to run this country as a business. This goes from the constant belief that the balance sheets have to be evened out, even at the cost of the livelihoods and standard of living of those they are meant to be acting on the behalf of. This is not just judgements made by government bodies but by other public institutions.

British universities, long before the cuts to higher education, have been stretching far and wide for potential international students to profiteer from. There are so many universities these days that public funding is not enough to run all of these costly institutions, and funding has to come from somewhere. And to that extent I understand the need to at least break even. The optimum level of income should be at normal profit for contingency reasons, for instance higher running costs or maintenance in the future. 

But this is not what universities are doing. Sussex alone made £13.8 million in the last academic year, yet tries to justify making cuts in the services sector for money saving purposes. Sussex is a very small university relative to the lights of Nottingham and Manchester. Nottingham University beginning in 2000 began to outsource their education to international branches in Malaysia and China, giving local students a taste of British education without leaving their country. These students are still charged international fees and have the opportunity to go to Nottingham to study as a part of the degree, it is effectively an in-house twinning programme. These programmes are not rare in this part of the world. 

In a way, it gives talented students a means into the British education system, which before hand they would have never been able to afford. But it still attracts an elite, unless one is extremely lucky to receive a scholarship. But it shows that a public institution such as Nottingham University that accepts government funding are trying to run their institution as an expansionist business. Students are now seen as clients instead of a source of intellectual ability. It does not harness the pure purpose of university: To provide an education beyond the textbook and to allow the individual student to research and come up with innovative, new ideas. The only way universities see themselves able to survive is to run as a business, and demand is ever-growing due to lack of alternatives. 

The solution is to simply have less universities and more access into employment for the youth in the UK. Universities are essentially a place of research and innovation, not a assembly line of identically minded young adults to exit with a piece of paper. It should be industry and other public institutions specialising in specific skills that supply vocational skills to those who are not academically inclined or interested. At the moment, for many there is no alternative to university.

With this those who are serious about learning and what to contribute to their field of study can study at a university free of charge, and hopefully will not have to be too concerned of that university’s reputation. Whilst the rest can do what they want to do without being in debt for the rest of their working lives. 

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British Food is dire: What the hell is sambal tempoyak?

Why is food in Britain so bad? It’s not bad I suppose, just heavy, bland and boring. Absolutely everything lacks one thing: chilli! For someone who names their blog after a traditional Malaysian dish, food is important. Even when I go back to KL, I find that searching for actual good food is increasingly difficult to find. Apart from a couple of random but trustworthy stalls in food courts in some dusty vintage mall built in the 80’s and of course the street food in an obscure residential or office block, food is hit and miss. But if it’s good, it’s amazing.
In Britain, good food comes at expense and is never traditional. OK there is the odd roast and pie, and maybe a burger done well. But it is nothing I would get excited about.
So to answer the question, what is that dish that my blog is named after?
It’s basically fermented young durian mixed in with chilli. It can be eaten like other sambals, ie as a condiment to your meal of nasi campur, or mixed rice. Or it could be a dish itself with addition to petai, which is a type of broad bean with an acquired taste (you have been warned), ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and daun kayu, which translated to wood leaf. From what I remember it is a kind of wild green that has to be cooked for a bit to soften it. Then a bit of lemon grass to enhance the flavour a little and coconut milk to thicken the sauce. Minus the anchovies I suppose it’s ideal for vegans.
Now that is how I remember it, and more than likely my mum would tell me that I have got this completely wrong. This is what happens when you watch Anthony Bourdain on the travel channel on an empty stomach: nostalgia and home sickness.
When is Malaysian Airlines going to airlift me from this gastronomic black hole of disaster?

Who should run the country?

Starting a politics orientated course last year popped my abstract bubble of scientific theories, leading me to fall face first into reality. I felt that there was something wrong with the world we lived in, the way our society works, the status quo. I still do and yes, perhaps something should be done but how much does the decisions made by a couple of Eton-educated elitists actually affect our lives?

It is a question that I toyed with when I went back home. The hustle and bustle of South East Asia, the positive economic outlook is blatant: a major contrast to the unemployment gloom we see here. But then a friend points out: it’s the general election next year. And it all falls in place. As a sceptic of everything under the sun it is not hard to come to the conclusion that the sudden wealth is due to the political motivations of the governing party. There is even a smartphone subsidy for youths funded by the Malaysian government. In less fortunate places, government policy and party politics probably  determines if the poorest of the poor have rice on the table. Not being able to question your government and the oppression of negative feedback on their performance is severe.

Here, yes there are cuts, there are job losses but we have a system, that in theory, should safe guard us from extreme poverty. When I’m taxed at work I always ask where the money is going? And I would like to hope that it is going to help those who are vulnerable and need help. In Britain we are free to question, to protest and to be openly sceptical. Using critique affectively and pursuing to be better is never a bad thing. But realistically is what we say being listened to. Even if they are being listened to by our elected leaders? Can they actually implement change?

An elected party, especially in the country like the UK cannot make any long term changes. They have to do what is popular to be re-elected. We see now that the two-horse race consists of teams of career politicians rather than professionals who understand how the government actually works. It is the specifically trained civil servants who spend their careers working in government organisations that run the day to day running of our country. As much as I feel that freedom of speech and choice is important, it is probably more important to give the job of running certain aspects of the country to people who know what they are doing. So we have a bit of a problem.

The Case for the Legalisation of Drugs in the UK

Quote from drugscope.co.uk:

Examples of users needing £15,000 to £30,000 a year to fund drug habits have often been given. To make such amounts of money from stolen goods police often suggest multiplying by three – on the basis that stolen goods will fetch about one third of their normal value. There are estimates of between 130,000 and 200,000 problematic drug users in the UK. That is a lot of theft, burglary, fraud or shoplifting if all are stealing to pay for things. This has led some people to suggest that well over half of all acquisitive crime is drug-related and that the market value of goods stolen involved could be between £2-2.5 billion each year.

In terms of understanding how much the de-legalisation of drugs actually costs the state, we have to think about the total amount of man hours the police and other government bodies spend on tracking the trade and it’s users. It is a tricky policy to impose in a legally conventional country such as a UK when compared to it’s European counterparts. The fact that the legalisation of certain substances takes place in Holland and euthanasia is legal in Switzerland, there is proof of liberalising some of the stances posed my the UK legal system could produce positive externalities for both the consumers and society.

The legalisation of drugs will firstly enable those who are suffering due to misuse or drug dependency to seek treatment without fear of prosecution from the state. It will also make help to vulnerable users more accessible. Giving this aid to users will reduce the amount of drug-related crime in the UK, which can range from petty crime to gang crime. This problem really has been highlighted by the quote above.

Another point would be ability to control the supply of drugs in the UK, legalising it will mean that generic drugs can be produced legally by legitimate pharmaceutical companies hence reducing the tendency of the drug being laced with harmful substances. The strength and standard of there drugs will also be standardised by the legal drugs industry. This will undermine and bankrupt the black market almost immediately. Drugs such as weed really have lesser effects on us as alcohol does, both cigarettes and alcoholic beverages are discouraged and have warning signs on their packaging so why can’t the same be done on some illegal drugs.

This point also aids the fact that most of the drug producing countries are the ones suffering from conflict internally. Mexico and Afghanistan can easily be traced to the western drug trade, supplying both Europe and America. For those delusional to the idea that the Taliban is a religious terrorist government rather than a massive drug cartel. The sheer fact the  Heroin is being sold for 80 cents per gram in neighbouring Pakistan and even cheaper in Afghanistan may pose questions on how that stuff is so cheap.  By legalising drugs and bankrupting the black market, the demand for drugs consumed in the west will decrease and through the free price mechanism stop the incentive for organised gangs to produce.