Versa | I went to the Tommy Robinson protest and nearly got punched by an SWP member

Cometh revolution

Pointing out people’s hypocrisy is a sure fire way to rile them up. That was my main finding from the frontline of the anti-Tommy Robinson protest outside the Union on Wednesday.

It is safe to say this week’s protest was pathetic compared to the demonstration against the Israeli Ambassador earlier this term. It was dominated by the Socialist Workers Party and Unite Against Fascism, a closely linked organisation. Oxford’s resident protestors, the Oxford Activist Network had a small presence but were keen to distance themselves from the SWP, and wisely so.

I approached some of the demonstrators – those who were actually making some noise – as the Activist network were noticeably subdued and all the noise was coming from the middle-aged socialists. One man started talking about the ‘lack of respect shown by Robinson’, a statement I took to be at least mildly ironic given the SWP’s record on women’s liberation (see their cover up of rape allegations for more details.)

He didn’t take to that overly well and became aggressive, shouting in my face that my claim was ‘abusing his wife’ who was present. Where the logic behind that idea came from will be something unknown to all but him forever. Despite asking him to stop being aggressive (to which he replied by accusing me of being aggressive), he kept on being a prick until some friends hauled me away from him back onto Union grounds.

Dignity saved and my nose not broken, I watched the protest from safety of the Union grounds, and it appeared to be rather sparsely attended. Despite various attempts to contact those involved with the Oxford Activist Network, they have flatly refused to comment about the success of the protest (answer: limited) or the potential association with the SWP.

Oxford’s branch of UAF commented that they believed they ‘exposed Robinson as a fascist’ and ‘tarred him with the label of fascist at a local and national level’, whilst accusing the Union of conspiring to aid Tommy Robinson in shedding a fascist label. Unless they somehow made national news of a very small protest, Oxford UAF is being optimistic at best with their views.

What the protest really showed is that not many people really care about Robinson, who has been out of the national spotlight for years. Personally, I learnt a lesson as well – don’t present inconvenient facts to SWP protestors!

Versa | The Guardian is right: it’s a scandal that I have to mix with state school pupils in college

Friends, Romans, Oxford men: let me share with you my struggle. Today I have been surrounded by people of all different types of social background. This is the same as every other day. No matter how many evenings a week I spend at the Grid, or with the Stoics, or at Wine Circle, I cannot escape those who did not go to Harrow, or Eton, or even bloody Charters.  I mean, I have to sit with them, eat with them, talk to them, and even worse (reader, brace yourself) befriend them. And this, it is fair to say, has entirely ruined my experience of Oxford.

I will never forget, nay recover, from the moment I walked into my kitchen to find one of my ‘friends’ grating the Parmigiano-Reggiano that Pater had picked on a recent trip to Bibbiano onto his Pot Noodle. Or the time I watched an acquaintance down a bottle of 2010 Chateau Margaux (a first growth, I hope you know) that I’d brought for pres whilst everyone chanted “LAD LAD LAD” at him. Or the crewdate where a bunch of braying jackals forced me to eat an Arzoo’s bhuna out of my John Lobbs.

What I wish Hall was like every day

These incidents left me despondent. Night after night I would cry into my 1,500 thread count Egyptian sheets, wondering who – if anyone – would save me from having to continue to suffer at the hands of the cruel, cruel mistress that is social diversity. It is seldom that I agree with The Guardian, but on this occasion (like the Iron Duke and brave Copenhagen at the Battle of Waterloo) it has fearlessly ridden to my aid. I of course refer to this sterling article, where it has advocated setting up colleges that purely take state school pupils.

Well, this is probably the best thing I’ve heard since Jonty told me he had found us a new coke dealer. Why should I have to mix with those from state schools, and why on earth should they be permitted to mix with me? I’m ultimately glad that The Guardian has finally come to the conclusion that I and generations of Westerholme-Bullingdon-Rothschild-Smythes before me have reached.

Why would you bother wasting my tuition fees on improving access initiatives, going on outreach trips, and debunking myths about Oxford when you can just corral all of those rowdy state school kids into some shitty new college so that they can stay out of my way?

That’s not to say there isn’t a little bit of self interest here as well. Obviously, a person such as myself should have a job befitting such good stock. However, at the moment, both men of Harrow and men of Solihull Heath Comprehensive School can put the same university on their CV. But by separating the state schoolers out from men such as myself, a discerning recruiter at Lincoln’s Inn can instantly see that I am grade A Commercial Bar material.

Ultimately, one should separate the Wahoos of this world from the Cameras of this world. I am not alone. Me and Jonty did a straw-poll at the Grid, and they’re all for it too. And the revolution has spread across the public schools of this Sceptred Isle. From Paul’s to Fettes, what was once a whisper has now become an exclamation. The Guardian is right. The time is now. My bottle of 1988 Le Pin will not rest safe until we finally have colleges exclusively for state school pupils.

Disclaimer: Rupert Westerholme-Bullingdon-Rothschild-Smythe is not a real student at Oxford University, and is entirely fictional. Obviously.

Tags: access — guardian — posh — private school — satire — state school

Versa | I slept with someone who thought he was from the newest country in the world

A greater geographical knowledge, a bruised lip and a marriage proposal: just a few of the things I gained from this bizarre night. I was walking back from a night out. My friends were tired, I was not. I came across a young(ish) – ok, he really wasn’t that young – man. He seemed perfectly nice and, as I said, I was not quite ready for the night to end. So, I invited him back to my room for a “drink”. Nothing wrong with that! At least half of you have tinder, so this is just getting straight to the point, without any of that swipe malarkey and awkward digital chat. Frankly, I think he seemed surprised that he actually was getting invited back, proving perhaps that when you think to yourself “does that ever work for you?” when you are getting chatted up/”flattered”/ harassed by an individual, the answer is almost always “no” – at least if this guy’s reaction was anything to go by.

Not the newest country in the world

Anyway, we went to my room for the “drink”. I should probably mention that his English was far from fluent and I do not even know the name of his native tongue. A subsequent Google search was not any more enlightening, as he could have spoken any of seventeen (!) national languages. I gave him a vodka and ginger beer, which we awkwardly sipped as I wondered how long we would have to forge forced small talk over a substantial language barrier.

It was during this time that I learnt he was from “the newest country in the world”, “near Australia”, which had been independent since ‘1-9-9-9’ with lots of mangoes, ocean and jungle. He’s also apparently studied geography and sociology at the University of Jaipur. I think the country he is from is East Timor, or Timor-Leste (which is Indonesia’s next door neighbour) though this was never explicitly said. Yet according to the internet it’s not from 1999, but 2002, which is awkward. Though what is even more awkward is that it’s not the newest in the world, but the fourth, with South Sudan blazing ahead in nascent sovereignty terms. So I feel very hard done by.

To make sure you don’t feel too hard done by, though, I’ll talk about the sex now. In all honesty it was very vanilla. Though, perhaps it was this distinctly vanilla nature which made it so remarkable – “extreme vanilla”, if you will. Blowjobs were more than expected, as was the missionary position. Anything beyond this seemed too radical. Apparently this guy was only on the vanguard in regard to state formation and certainly not in the bedroom. Attempts to go on top were fraught, ultimately resulting in failure. Clitoral stimulation was as non-existent as patency laws in East Timor (they don’t have any). They’ve only been a country since 2002, so give them a break. I don’t think the clitoris was very accepted either way, as he in fact once pulled my hand away from said area.

Any time that I made any vocal indication of enjoyment, I was quickly hushed. I would like to emphasise the fact that I was not being noisy; I was just not being silent.  Nevertheless what certainly did add an element of excitement was his lack of suitable vocabulary. Thus in his efforts to ensure the missionary position was maintained at all times, he would say “go to sleep, go to sleep,” which I must admit was more than unsettling. To be told to go to sleep by the person who is currently inside you is an odd experience to say the least. Don’t worry, it soon became evident that he was just trying to say “lie down”, which is far more understandable – and less psychopathic.

His kissing was far from ordinary. It’s probably best described as making out with a moist vacuum cleaner that contains a persistent snake trying to escape. This resulted in a mouth love bite or bruised lip, which was far from ideal. It was clear that he wanted this odd technique to be reciprocated. It was not, as that’s just really weird. What was also unusual was his constant fear of someone coming into the room and other people being aware of us engaging in intercourse, despite the fact we were both near silence throughout the duration of coitus. And when I tried to calm his fear of other people knowing that actual sex was occurring, due to the hefty language barrier I think I made it seem like a lived in some kind of sex commune. Though I don’t think he understood, so it’s ok. Then again, perhaps I just didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Oh hell.

Once the deed was done it got the most bizarre. He held me for a bit, which I always think is kind of uncomfortable, especially when it is interjected with vacuum cleaner kisses. It was during this time of pillow chat that I was again told about the beauties of what I assume was Timor-Leste, when he exclaimed – quite out of the blue – his love for me, admiration for my beauty, and his intention to make me his wife(!!!!). Obviously this was all certified bullshit, as was his apparent desire to get my number. This is undoubtedly more than puzzling behaviour. I have two theories. One: he is a complete fantasist, who has zero understanding of reality. He likes to pretend he is from the newest country in the world, yet is not from South Sudan. He genuinely thought he was in love with me and that we would elope to this new country and make a life for ourselves. I think this is more than unlikely.

Theory number two has a bit more scope. He may or may not be from East Timor, but that’s not really important. He had zero intention of marrying me and certainly no feelings towards me. But he perhaps thought that he had to essentially play this game because of the fucking. For the female, the sex was shit but you got a proposal at the end (even if it was intention-less). With my experience of boys, they generally don’t go for the whole declaration of love/marriage proposal thing, but are generally more aware of the clitoris and the fact that women have sexual appetites with the potential to be fulfilled. They almost never pretend to be romantic in a wholly unromantic situation, possibly because they acknowledge that the female at least has the potential of enjoyment. 

In terms of a one night stand, I’d always opt for the truth and at least the possibility of orgasm, as opposed to fairy-tale lies and zero sexual satisfaction. But if you get the truth you may be missing out on gaining a greater knowledge of the world’s nations. I’d love to tell you that this story has a happy ending, but unfortunately whilst East Timor Man may have received two happy endings that evening; I was left unsatisfied and disappointed, not least because he was not actually from the newest country in the world. Though I must admit my curiosity towards Oceania was heightened. It was much like how I imagine new sovereignty feels: independence is not as great as expected, but you’re still intrigued to see how it will play out.

Tags: international — love — marriage — nightlife — one night stands — sex

Versa | What does it mean to live in a liberal society?

Coming to Oxford is a surreal experience. As a Singaporean student living in arguably one of the oldest colleges at unarguably the oldest university in the Anglosphere, I can’t help but feel a little out of place. My country isn’t even as old as some of the professors here. All that history is exuded in the long Latin graces, the ridiculously green quads and the architecture dating from bygone ages.

Merton. It’s the worst college there is, and it’s still older than America.

It is surreal in another way, too. At no point in my life have I found so many of my substantive views to be shared by so many. I no longer have to marshal long-drawn arguments defending gender equality, LGBTQ, free speech, human rights, secularism and so on. The frontiers of the ongoing culture war back home have largely been settled here. It feels great to be part of the moral majority. I finally live in a tolerant society.

But a few weeks into Michaelmas and I start to notice that things might not be that simple. For clarity, I offer three examples:

A friend wrote a Tab article in an attempt at comedy. He mock-criticised some parts of fresher’s week, and ultimately concluded that Oxford stereotypes are pretty much untrue. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed his brand of humour, but I thought it was ultimately harmless fun. I was struck, however, by the amount of disapproval he got from certain sectors of the college, and wonder if he’ll be as willing to express his opinions as he once was.

A group of apparently white, straight, male, upper/middle-class guys decided to form a social group to hang out and drink. From what little I do know, in the midst of drunkenness, someone made a comment to a person who identifies as a woman that could be construed as misogynistic. The association with lad culture is instantaneous and the informal social disapproval which followed meant the group disbanded.  Curiously, everyone agreed that, individually, every person from the group is a real stand-up guy who showed no sign of laddish or misogynistic behaviour. I wonder if we’ve been too quick to judge.

Drinking societies: not what they used to be

Finally, a personal example: at a meal, I expressed scepticism at the living wage campaign. What followed was not a full-blown discussion on the merits of living wage (which was, indeed, too much to ask for), but rather an exchange of preliminary arguments. The ebb and flow of conversation shifted to something else, and I thought nothing of the exchange. But after the meal, someone who was at the table told me disapprovingly: “I thought you were a progressive!” I have been judged without having been given a fair hearing.

All of this is to say that it is not about the particular issues; I don’t think there are matters of principle at stake, whether people are slightly more or less willing to write Tab articles or to form an all-male drinking group or to talk about the living wage during mealtimes.

It is not about rights, either; thankfully at no point did anyone suggest enlisting the coercive power of the college (or, worse, the government) to shut down particular groups or punish particular persons. This is something to celebrate. But, as the examples above show, social pressure can be no less effective in getting people to toe the line.

It is about confronting the faux-paradox of living in a liberal society: How should we treat those who go against the prevailing paradigm? How do we insist on the strength of our convictions and at the same time take seriously the arguments from the other side? Tentatively, I propose an answer.

Whatever the consensus happens to be at any point in time, there will always be controversy at its margins. Disagreement in good faith is not just possible, but ubiquitous. A starting-point is to acknowledge these facts. Going further: we can afford to be charitable before rendering judgment. It is easy to demonise someone you disagree with. It is much harder to listen genuinely, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to construe the words and actions of that person in the best light possible. But that is exactly what we should do; in that way, people on both sides of an issue will become more open to being convinced, and more likely to work hard to convince others. This is an attitude we should manifest in our everyday interactions with each other—in the hall, in the library and in the lab.

At the end of the day, our substantive judgements could very well still diverge. But this divergence is tempered by a respectful process that reminds us of the fact that people with a different sense of humour, who make different life choices or who subscribe to different beliefs, are not necessarily ignorant, misguided or prejudiced. We are all only human.

Tags: free speech — liberal society — Oxford University — permissiveness

Versa | Isis publisher sent 4000 copies of the magazine to Lincolnshire

unfortunate name, unfortunate game

Versa understands that Isis suffered a pretty severe printing cock up today, with the printed magazines taking an unexpected detour to Lincolnshire.

We have since received a statement from OSPL claiming that this is standard procedure for the magazine. The copies “were sent to a media group that we use every term for distribution. From there the copies were delivered by courier, not by the ‘bemused middle aged couple’, to Oxford. This process occurs every term, the copies on our mailing lists are sent from Lincolnshire so we deliver them there for the mailing list copies to be sent, then the rest are delivered to Oxford.”

The editorial states it is ‘unfortunate to bear the name of ISIS.’ Indeed.

An anonymous member of the ISIS committee commented: ‘2014 definitely isn’t the best year since 1892.’

Tags: cockup — isis — media

Versa | Versa Team

Minister for Truth: Nick Toner

Resident Hottie: Max Ramsay

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MI6 Operative: Helen Stevenson

Tribal Elder: Nick Megaw

International Man of Mystery: Fred Shan

Cheer Captain: Ruth Maclean

International Correspondent: Lea Carresse

Coolness Officer: Eloise Mattimoe

Assistant Jokes Editor: Lewis Hedges

Chief Photocopier: Amelia Hamer

Head of External Affairs and Liasons: Eleanor Sharman

Chief Diva: Isobel Johns

Director of Communications: Martin Rey-Gagneux

If you think you have what it takes to write for Versa, please contact us at editor@versanews.co.uk

Versa Data Journalism and Polling Unit

Josh Goldenberg

Mark Gilbert

Tadas Kriščiūnas

Chris Williamson

James Lau

Abortion debate goes national: we round up the arguments on both sides

Here are some of the arguments for and against the debate and who weighed in…

It all started with this:

Not long after, plans for “disrupting” the event began to form…

And Christ Church students made statements for and against the event being held…

Bigger dogs began to weigh-in….

The New Statesman pointed out that the two men would be discussing a “medical procedure neither of them will ever need, which prevents a life-changing event that will never happen to them”

The event was cancelled:

Wadhamite Niamh Mcintyre argued in support of the cancellation, saying that her “uterus isn’t up for discussion”.

“The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”

“It would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body”

But OSFL hit back…

 

The (inter)national press jumped on board…

The National Review got really wound up, calling the protesters “witless exhibitionists who run semi-literate magazines” and “ghastly little authoritarians”.

Tim Stanley declared free speech “under assault on campus” and Brendan O’Neill’s publication Spiked labelled the opponents of the debate a “censorious mob”.

Uh oh, here comes the Spectator…

Do you think the debate should have been cancelled? Comment below with your views…

Abortion debate goes national: we round up the arguments on both sides

Here are some of the arguments for and against the debate and who weighed in…

It all started with this:

Not long after, plans for “disrupting” the event began to form…

And Christ Church students made statements for and against the event being held…

Bigger dogs began to weigh-in….

The New Statesman pointed out that the two men would be discussing a “medical procedure neither of them will ever need, which prevents a life-changing event that will never happen to them”

The event was cancelled:

Wadhamite Niamh Mcintyre argued in support of the cancellation, saying that her “uterus isn’t up for discussion”.

“The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”

“It would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body”

But OSFL hit back…

 

The (inter)national press jumped on board…

The National Review got really wound up, calling the protesters “witless exhibitionists who run semi-literate magazines” and “ghastly little authoritarians”.

Tim Stanley declared free speech “under assault on campus” and Brendan O’Neill’s publication Spiked labelled the opponents of the debate a “censorious mob”.

Uh oh, here comes the Spectator…

Do you think the debate should have been cancelled? Comment below with your views…

Abortion debate goes national: we round up the arguments on both sides

Here are some of the arguments for and against the debate and who weighed in…

It all started with this:

Not long after, plans for “disrupting” the event began to form…

And Christ Church students made statements for and against the event being held…

Bigger dogs began to weigh-in….

The New Statesman pointed out that the two men would be discussing a “medical procedure neither of them will ever need, which prevents a life-changing event that will never happen to them”

The event was cancelled:

Wadhamite Niamh Mcintyre argued in support of the cancellation, saying that her “uterus isn’t up for discussion”.

“The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”

“It would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body”

But OSFL hit back…

 

The (inter)national press jumped on board…

The National Review got really wound up, calling the protesters “witless exhibitionists who run semi-literate magazines” and “ghastly little authoritarians”.

Tim Stanley declared free speech “under assault on campus” and Brendan O’Neill’s publication Spiked labelled the opponents of the debate a “censorious mob”.

Uh oh, here comes the Spectator…

Do you think the debate should have been cancelled? Comment below with your views…

Abortion debate goes national: we round up the arguments on both sides

Here are some of the arguments for and against the debate and who weighed in…

It all started with this:

Not long after, plans for “disrupting” the event began to form…

And Christ Church students made statements for and against the event being held…

Bigger dogs began to weigh-in….

The New Statesman pointed out that the two men would be discussing a “medical procedure neither of them will ever need, which prevents a life-changing event that will never happen to them”

The event was cancelled:

Wadhamite Niamh Mcintyre argued in support of the cancellation, saying that her “uterus isn’t up for discussion”.

“The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”

“It would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body”

But OSFL hit back…

 

The (inter)national press jumped on board…

The National Review got really wound up, calling the protesters “witless exhibitionists who run semi-literate magazines” and “ghastly little authoritarians”.

Tim Stanley declared free speech “under assault on campus” and Brendan O’Neill’s publication Spiked labelled the opponents of the debate a “censorious mob”.

Uh oh, here comes the Spectator…

Do you think the debate should have been cancelled? Comment below with your views…