Things are getting intense. Late-night work sessions have become group therapy and discussions on the magazine an assessment of each other’s stress levels.
We finally got a name, Industries 2 Invest In 2015 (i2i 2015), and we set up a twitter account for it. I like how its flexibility means we can drop or pick up sectors, should the need arise, but I’m not too sure about the “2” – it works well though in the acronym.
Lauren’s witterview was a nice break from routine, but I swear I wasted about half an hour on my bed listening to music and dossing on my phone as a result. Then again, pausing for a moment, and actually doing what you want to, can be surprisingly therapeutic when it feels like each breath not devoted to biological requirements is spent completing an assignment.
I know most people might find thinking politics relaxing a symptom of mental illness, but my conversation with the Special Branch today reminded me (among other things, naturally) how much activism means to me. And, by extension, journalism. To be able to speak to nearly anyone, instead of catering to a specific niche because of an intentional or indoctrinated linguistic elitism, is a goal meaningful enough to fuel you. To fuel the words you put on the page, or the stream of consciousness that guides them. Successfully expressing powerful ideas (or anything at all), and in the process informing thousands if not millions of people, is a no brainer. The great struggle can only be won with the great narrative, destiny made manifest by belief in the inherent value of knowledge and the ability to convey it.
So we’re nearly two weeks in and I have to say, three thoughts have been in my head most frequently: “This is fascinating”, “wow I’m tired and or stressed”, and “sweet Buddha I could do with a drink”. The last, on top of my several ill-advised trips to the pub, would make me seem like an alcoholic only if you didn’t really get where I was coming from with the second one (trust me). I think since this course has started the number of smokers has gone from 3 to 5 and I can testify that the number of cigarettes I have a day has gone from a sensible average of about 2-4 to double/triple that.
Now that my Johnny Raincloud crap is out the way, and I promise I won’t return to it (honestly just needed to rant at least once about the subject on this blog), I can move back in to the first thought.
Whilst scanning Oxford street and Soho with video equipment slung over my shoulder, looking for potential interviewees, I had one of those moments where I realised I loved where my life was headed. Few people can say that, and even fewer can say it openly for the fear jinxing it or sounding like a smug ass hole in front of their friends. But really those with my passions especially – one of them being far-left politics, something that incessantly refers to the will of the people – seem to place less emphasis than they should on actually going out and hearing what people have to say rather than just dancing sacrilegiously and semi-naked on public property in order to make some obscure revolutionary point. Seriously can’t get that protestor out of my head from last November, most ballsy thing I’d seen in a while (pun unashamedly intentional by the way).
Coming away from my tangent for a minute, hearing people talk about something I love as much as music and them making me rethink how it was going to evolve isn’t something you can really put a price on.
Obama’s pro-legalisation announcement is the one medical marijuana retailers, hemp industrialists, and the recreational pioneers have been waiting for throughout the United States.
Almost every day now, we hear someone ranting about “marijuana legalisation”. Don’t get me wrong, I think it will start to spread significantly throughout the western hemisphere in just 5 to 10 years, and I think this is a good thing (not to brag by the way but I’ve been saying both since 2010, before the position was so fashionable, as friends can testify). Though with all the noise surrounding prohibition, the issue of hemp still has far few voices dedicated to it. The magazine I as a trainee will help the Press Association put together this year, on emerging markets, will hopefully play a small part in rectifying this injustice. Obama’s recent announcement that marijuana is a less dangerous drug than alcohol, while blindingly obvious, provides the perfect excuse to write my first feature-friendly news piece on the demystification and dehorrification of cannabis in the political mainstream. .
Obama reminded the New Yorker on the weekend that his experiences with marijuana as a teenager are “well-documented”, but then continued to say something that is sure to rock a political establishment entrenched in nearly a century of the drug war and who still categorises cannabis schedule 1 drug: “Marijuana is not more dangerous than alcohol”.
An industrial hemp act is currently working its way through congress bureaucracy, but that is about the extent of the federal relaxation on cannabis policy in recent times. The legalisation of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington at the last presidential election however has reignited an issue quite fiery even when its ‘dormant’.
Small farmers in Colorado have already begun industrialised hemp production and estimates currently project a state-wide cannabis tax revenue much higher than expected for just the first year, approximately £1 billion for both Colorado and Washington.
Obama’s speech is the first softening of federal or state policy on cannabis by an acting US president since prohibition began, and is likely to turn out to be one of the catalysts behind a seismic social and economic change.
It seems, to borrow a phrase from the current chancellor, that 2014 is indeed becoming a year of ‘hard truths’. Those of you who know my writing style will be happy I’m sure to agree with me when I say I’m hardly renowned for frugal language. Yet, being an economic author has perhaps been the central lesson of my first two days at the Press Association.
My initial thoughts are a mixture, I wonder if what I learn will bestow on me a brevity I could never exercise before. Or, will what I want to say be lost in an even keener search for balance between more profound argument and density of content.
Often the main things we’re told in favour of this linguistic parsimony is that our readers are lazier than ever, only care about what’s directly relevant to them, and don’t care in the slightest about our personal opinion. Perhaps so, but if one believes in the moral responsibility each of us can’t escape, and the hugely greater responsibility placed on those with the honour of the public ear, then they should also believe that journalists are obligated on a higher level than anybody to use their position for activism.
Activism in writing often means behaviour based on a belief in civic journalism and/or citizen journalism, giving people what they want to know but also striving to find what they need to know. Activist journalism is so powerful when successful because the public will never forget you, when what they didn’t care or know about before is now something they care about unapologetically you know you’ve made a real impact. Greenwald wasn’t answering a chorus of voices when he wrote the NSA articles, neither was Snowden replying to them when he released the original documents, but none would question the sense of these men or the journalists who allied with them.