Radio Saved me During Lockdown

This is an article I wrote a while ago describing how the comfort of radio helped me through a lonely lockdown.

The pandemic has helped loneliness mutate into a pandemic of its own. Isolating has become a normalised part of our lives; especially with the aftermath of the dreaded ping looming around all of us. We have become used to not seeing those we care about. Many have grown used to the loneliness that isolation brings. But is there an opportunity to ease this loneliness? We are surrounded by negativity. It can be overwhelming. Yet, it is so important to cling to any form of positivity we can. Sometimes this positive influence is hiding in places we may not think to look. 

I remember Christmas last year. All of my friends had gone home to their families yet I was unable to. I remember waking to a silence that filled the room and stuck. There was no “good morning” no one asking “how did you sleep?”- just quietness. Within those weeks I understood loneliness in a completely different way. My friends and family were out of reach, all I had was myself and my own thoughts: thoughts that became more and more negative as the time passed and I spent more time on my own. I have always been quite fond of my own company. After all, I have known myself since I was a little baby, so my assumption was that it would be okay. Yet I have found that the unattainable nature of companionship in lockdown turns your own company into something a bit more ominous. I have realised there is only so much of my own company I can handle. Yet, I soon discovered voices in a place where before there was only my own. In fact, I found a whole group of people who would speak to me throughout the day, sharing stories and music. I had discovered just how much I needed the radio.

Keeping active was intensely helpful when I spent most of my days stuck inside. Keeping physically fit helped keep me going through lockdown. Personally, I prefer to run with someone. Running with someone keeps me distracted, it takes away my tiredness. However, my running partner had gone home to her family, therefore, I had to find companionship through other means. I needed ways to make my one allowed outdoor exercise last more than ten minutes. Radio is where I landed, and it was a very smooth landing. Presenters became like friends who spoke to me every day. On my runs Greg James from Radio One talked to me and gave me something to focus on: he provided music that boosted my energy. The radio helped me through an activity that reduced my lockdown blues. His morning shows helped bring a smile to my face when positivity had been so hard to find.
After my runs, I had a day within the confines of my house awaiting me. Yet this seemed far less gloomy when I excitedly awaited the Radio Six presenters Shaun Keaveny at one, then Steve Lamacq at four. I couldn’t go out on the weekends, but I had Craig Charles’ ‘Funk and Soul Show’ to look forward to. I felt like part of a community. To quote one of the many songs I have discovered on the radio, “We’re isolated, but we’re connected because we are one”- this has been the experience of the radio for me. It helped me discover connection and contact when on the surface it seemed impossible.

The Protest of the 30,000 in Argentina

Whilst in Argentina we witnessed the protest for the 30,000 killed during a dictatorship in Argentina. I wanted to learn more of this important period in Argentinian history. These are my findings.

A deserted walk

My girlfriend and I were walking to the gym at around 9:30am. We noticed that no one was around. The streets looked deserted. In the centre of the second-largest city in Argentina, we only saw about 5 people during our 10-minute walk. When we reached the gym I asked the coach what was going on and he explained to me it was a day of remembrance. 

“For what?” I asked. 

“for the 30,000. On this day every year, we remember the people disappeared in, um, 1976 to… 1983, lots of people were disappeared from their houses, it was the same way as the, the, Como se dice en ingles, el Gestapo?”

I then reverted to Spanish saying “es lo Mismo en ingles”. This was a mistake, as he then spoke solely in Spanish, and my comprehension of Argentinian Spanish being as bad as it is, I learnt nothing more. 

I decided to do some more research into these protests. And make up for the block of missing information. Here is what I found out; 

Jorge Rafael Videla

What sparked this protest was a military dictatorship named the ‘national reorganisation process’ that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. Led by lieutenant general Jorge Rafael Videla (and secretly backed by the US, as a tool to combat the left)  Argentinian armed forces seized power against Isabel Peron (the president at the time) in 1976, during a time of growing political instability. After this coup d’etat, all congress and democracy were suspended and the president and his ministers were elected by and from military personnel. This led to what the junta self-proclaimed as the ‘dirty war’ – named so as it was deemed necessary to use “different methods” (some of which we will view) to maintain social order and eradicate enemies of the state. 

The dirty war 

The dirty war was a period of state terrorism. Within this period people suspected of having association with; left-wing Peronism, socialism and communism, were killed. These killings occurred in a series of horrific ways. One of the coldest was a systematic technique of ‘Disappearing’ people – a technique initially used and justified by Hitler’s Night and Fog Decree, in which people endangering german security were to be arrested or spirited away under cover of “night and fog”. In this Argentinian period, people were kidnapped on the streets, in their homes or in their workplaces and became victims of enforced disappearance. It is believed that between 9,000 to 30,000 people, including babies, children and teens, were ‘killed’ during this period; the number being so vague due to the nature of state terrorism. 

The March of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo 

To keep the memory of this blood period alive many protests have formed, one of which being The March of Mother of Plaza de Mayo. The march takes place every Thursday at 3:30 and was initiated in 1977 when women began to organize protests to demand answers concerning their children, whose whereabouts were unknown. The largest protest is on the 24th – the day the military coup took place and the violent dictatorship began. Today mothers still protest to plea for information about the fates of their children. Another significant protest is the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, who protest to find their children, but also their children’s children too. 

The Protest in Cordoba

On the 24th of May, we experienced the Cordoba protest for the 30,000. A huge stage was erected in the centre of the city, on which a free concert took place. Throughout the night there was a fusion of music and speeches about the ongoing struggle to get justice for the 30,000 and the current political situation. A big, red wreath with the number 30,000 was on the stage. On a huge projector, were images of people protesting and images of those who had not been found. People spent the night dancing and singing in memory of those lost.  

As you may have read in a previous post of mine that Argentina is in a bad political and economic situation. Despite the danger of speaking against the government, the people did so passionately and powerfully. The desire and demand for justice was evident amongst all the people here. It was truly special to see and I feel honoured that I was able to witness it.

To Mask Or Not To Mask?

I initially wrote this for my university’s newspaper when covid rules were about to be scrapped in the UK. It is a study into mask wearing and gender. It is now just under a year since then and I thought it would be interesting to be able to look back and consider – where are we now?

Initially published on 20th of July 2021

After the recent government announcement, the question on everyone’s mind is: to mask or not to mask? We will soon see a palpable divide between those that continue to don the mask, and those who choose to toss it. 

Statistically, gender plays into this divide. A recent poll showed that 73% of women will continue to wear the mask whilst it is recommended by health experts, while only 63% of men said the same. 

Perhaps the issue of mask-wearing opens the curtain to another prevalent issue, which is the construction of masculinity. It is argued that social media has increased the pressure of ‘toxic masculinity’ on men. The 24/7 nature of social media means the mask of ‘toxic masculinity must stay on. There is no escape from seeing others portray themselves as tough and masculine, and subsequently, no escape from portraying yourself in the same way. 

The wearing of a mask is seen by many as submissive. It goes against the masculine connotations of taking risks and presenting yourself in a tough way. The mask has been referred to as “shameful” or as a “sign of weakness”, which I have seen displayed in abundance in my hometown of Colchester. The wearing of the mask for many men is already seen as emasculating, even while it is mandatory, therefore, once masks become optional, the act of wearing one will be politicized. It seems as though for many the label placed upon it will be one of weakness and femininity. These labels have already been seen in countries where the wearing of a mask is optional.

The problem with this macho attitude is not merely going to affect the perpetrator. Currently, Britain still has one of the highest infection rates. A large-scale loss of the mask will increase infections significantly. Perhaps this issue shines a light on the danger of our current construction of masculinity and illustrates the universal dangers it can create. Statistical trends suggest we will see a large wave of men discarding the mask, despite men being more vulnerable to the virus. The paradoxical nature of this drives home the lack of sense behind this side of masculinity. It surveys that change needs to happen. And finally, it should make us consider – what are the true reasons some of us choose not to wear the mask?

The Clash of Cultures in Corozal

Within the Caribbean country of Belize there is a very striking disparity between the Chinese community and the Belizean. What are the reasons for this? And how did it originate?

The Hotel

On a recent getaway, we travelled to Belize. Belize is a Caribbean country just outside of Mexico and is a former English colony (the notes still show the queen’s face). It has the lowest population in Central America and to my great excitement – having spent six months in Mexico where I am still learning the language – the primary language is English. 

We packed our bags and after a long journey, we made it to Belize. 

We checked in and a Chinese man with the name tag Henry was at the desk, watching something in Chinese on his phone. We said hello to him and he greeted us with a big smile. We said we have a reservation and he looked quite confused, saying nothing but “HUH”?. After about 10 minutes of more Huh’s and Molly pointing to our name on his computer screen, Molly managed to sort out our room. Over the next 6 days, it was very evident Henry had next to no English or Spanish. On one occasion I asked for a bowl and after I made an array of bowl gestures he said “AHH” and returned with a plate, and then after some more gestures a metal dog bowl. Knowing I still had to ask for a spoon I settled with the dog bowl, and after Henry brought a fork, then a knife, I finally got in luck with a tiny plastic spoon. I soon discovered that a dog bowl makes for a very strange tasting cereal.

The Community 

I thought it was quite strange that the owner of a hotel in an English and Spanish speaking country (whose tourists are predominantly American, Canadian and European) could only speak Chinese. I decided to research and some interesting information surfaced. The Chinese and Taiwanese community within Belize make-up 0.7% of the population, totalling 1.,716 people, of whom 1,607 speak Chinese as their first language. This community initially arrived due to the British migrating the Chinese into Belize (referred to as British Honduras at the time by the colonials) as indentured servants working in the sugarcane plantations. They were subject to horrific conditions, and of the 474 workers initially sent, within four years only 211 remained accounted for, many committing suicide or fleeing to native groups. The Chinese have been migrating constantly ever since. Whilst in Belize, every corner shop, pharmacy and about three-quarters of the restaurants we saw were owned by the Chinese and Taiwanese. This is due to a number of factors. In the late 20th century there were lots of citizenship by investment programmes in which applicants had to invest a certain amount of money ( $50,000 USD) to attain citizenship. This resulted in lots of people arriving in Belize with the economic agency, as well as a higher level of education, meaning quite soon the businesses shifted towards the Chinese and Taiwanese. There continue to be good relationships between Taiwan and Belize today, therefore, there have been more citizenship programmes bringing Taiwanese business owners and today the Chinese and Taiwanese control most of the economy in Belize. There are some other historic events that caused a big wave of Chinese immigrants, with a couple of examples being the caste war and the Torreon Massacre

The divide

There is a huge social gap within the Chinese and Belizian community, and as tourists, we were in quite an interesting middle ground. We were shocked that we only encountered one Asian shop owner who seemed to be able to speak only some English which led to many occasions where I had to mime products, such as lathering my arms and gesturing towards the sun to ask for sun cream…they did not have it, so my game of charades was for nothing. I saw no interaction between the owners and the community, with quite a big example being the meet up on a Sunday, where the whole community meet by the ocean to swim, barbeque and drink, yet there was not a single Chinese face. We had a very interesting conversation with a group of Belizians who told us that they really want to be able to speak Chinese, but the Chinese community refused to teach them and that they only stock their stores (the only stores available) with Chinese products that the Belizians don’t particularly like. There was a clear animosity within their voices. On the other hand, there did seem to be a lot of racism and discrimination towards the Chinese community. We noticed a lot of spray paint outside all of the stores. We saw no Chinese people on the streets, and on the one occasion where we saw a Chinese woman riding her bike, she looked extremely uncomfortable and was extremely fast, scanning every direction skittishly.

The End 

Though six says is not close to enough time to fully understand these relations, it seems like there is a very complex racial and economic divide between these two groups; one that goes back centuries. It is hard to say how this issue can be resolved when it is so ingrained within the people and the economic structure. 

If you want to hear a more laid back blog about our adventures in Belize then leave a comment!

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