Deborah Anderson’s ‘The Olive Tree’ tells the heartbreaking story of Sindy Black, a young girl struggling with Bipolar disorder and an unsupportive, and seemingly unloving, family. The Olive Tree immediately grips the reader and plunges them into the disturbing web of mental illness, abuse and despair that form Sindy’s life.
The reader is confronted with the brutal ordeals that Sindy endures in a shockingly casual manner, indicating that she has become desensitised to violence and views it as normal and acceptable behaviour. Anderson is brutally honest in her approach and writes about sensitive and controversial topics in such a way that the reader cannot escape them and must instead face the dark subjects of abuse and mental illness head on.
The reader accompanies Sindy as she learns to live with her disorder and in doing so, they are provided with a bleak insight into the reality of mental illness. Anderson’s use of an informal, first person narrative provides those who will never experience mania with the opportunity to witness the internal thought process of someone who is suffering with the illness. The reader sees firsthand the confusion and disjointed thought processes experienced by those suffering from bipolar disorder and the destructive effects that it can have on their lives.
Anderson uses Sindy’s story to highlight the despair experienced by the sufferer due to their lack of control over their own behaviour as their illness spirals out of control and they must face the consequences of the actions they were powerless to stop. By experiencing the frightening and emotional ordeals of Bipolar disorder from a sufferer’s perspective, Anderson provides the reader with a better understanding of mental illness and reminds us that the individuals suffering from them are ordinary people. ‘The Olive Tree’ provides readers with the opportunity to understand mental illness and address any preconceived fears or assumptions they have regarding them. In this sense, ‘The Olive Tree’ helps to spread awareness and oppose the stigma and discrimination faced by those who are mentally ill.
Anderson’s writing style seems to directly reflect the different stages of Sindy’s mental illness as the tone and sentence structure change in accordance to the tumultuous ups and down of her Bipolar disorder. During the transition into Sindy’s manic episodes, the novel’s pace increases in a similar way the speed of someone’s speech would increase if they were having a manic episode. The sentences in the novel become much shorter and they jump from one thought trail to another as they document Sindy’s frantic thoughts.
Through Sindy’s journey for acceptance and peace we are provided with valuable insight into the mind of someone suffering with Bipolar disorder. Such an honest and authentic account of mental illness is rare to find and Sindy’s story, although at times disturbing and harrowing to say the least, is incredibly enlightening and should not be missed.
Recently the news has been full of stories about refugees fleeing Syria and seeking asylum in nearby countries. British headlines have been full of news about the refugees’ movements with some of them featuring unsavoury views which would imply that, not only are a lot of people in Britain racist, but many of them work for the media.
It seems that, rather than actually researching events in Syria and feeling so overwhelmed with compassion for these poor people, like any normal human being would, there are a few people who are instead choosing to jump to mindless, ignorant conclusions and label these refugees as immigrants with ulterior motives.
Let me break this down for you. In March 2011 a group of peaceful protestors were met with open fire by the government, four of the protesters were killed instantly. The following day, the same gunmen who work for the Syrian president turned up at the funeral of one of the deceased and shot at those who were grieving. This was just the beginning. From that point, the violence escalated and over 1000 different groups of people opposing the Syrian government emerged meaning that, by July 2012, civil war in Syria had been declared and the lives of over 200,000 innocent civilians had been taken.
Then, (yes there is more), an extremist group you may have heard of called Islamic State, (who, by the way, do NOT represent the views of Islam in any way, shape or form!), seize the opportunity to move into Syria and gain land and power due to the confusion and chaos that has ransacked the country. Then, as if shit is not bad enough for the people of Syria, the government supposedly begin to use chemical weapons against the people living there.
Eight million Syrian citizens have been left with no choice but to evacuate their homes and a further four million have fled the country completely in a bid to seek safely elsewhere. I think those poor people probably have a bit more on their mind than deciding on the best way to take your job, don’t you?
As many of you have probably heard, Volkswagen have recently come under fire for fitting certain models with software known as a ‘defeat device,’ which essentially enables their cars to pass strict tests determining whether they are deemed safe for the environment.
The number of cars that Volkswagen admitted to being affected by this has climbed from the original number of 482,000, which they claimed only affected vehicles in America, to a possible 11 million cars distributed worldwide. This means that millions of unsuspecting car owners have been emitting a harmful amount of nitrogen oxide from vehicles they were led to believe were environmentally friendly since as far back as 2008.
The use of these ‘defeat devices’ means that cars such as Beetles, Audi A3s and certain models of the Golf, to name just a few, appear to be a lot cleaner and more environmentally friendly than they actually are. Volkswagen have been knowingly misleading not just regulators, but customers worldwide, by lying about the amount of harmful emissions and pollution being released from their vehicles.
Quite rightly, there are now widespread concerns over whether the installation of this type of device is common practise amongst manufacturers in the car industry. It would be unethical to tar each company with the same brush, however, if it turns out that one large company has been cheating the system in such a devious way, it does call into question whether rival manufacturers have taken similar actions in order to keep up with the competition and increase the performance of their own models.
This recent scandal is particularly worrying when we take into consideration the fact that pollution is responsible for taking 12,000 lives per year in Britain alone. This number could be significantly reduced if only big names such as Volkswagen started being honest about the amount of harmful chemicals released by their products instead of simply being profit focused. The exposure of Volkswagen’s deceitful ways is also concerning as it makes you wonder how and why they have been getting away with using this software for so long and calls into question whether the regulations put in place regarding harmful chemicals being released into the environment are too lax.
Even if you don’t listen to the sort of radio channels that typically play pop music it can be difficult to get away from the newest mainstream delights from the likes of Katy Perry or Nicki Minaj. Pop music is regularly featured on television adverts and movie soundtracks and I suspect that, even if you lived your life with the mute button turned on you would still encounter the occasional friend or colleague singing or humming pop music to themselves as they went about their daily business. There is no escape.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few mainstream artists who regularly release singles that are pretty catchy and contain lyrics that actually have some meaning, however, they seem to be diminishing rapidly. Over the years, different styles of music have arrived on the scene and gained temporary popularity. Prior to the arrival of childhood favourites such as N’Sync and the Spice Girls, we saw the rise of heavy metal, grunge, punk and hip hop to name just a few. This is proof that society’s musical taste is constantly changing, however, twenty years on and pop music is still dominating the charts. Except that the music we now categorise as ‘pop’ has been heavily influenced by a growing club culture and has transcended boundaries into the land of dance music. This has resulted in a recent stream of ‘dance-pop’ featuring fewer words and more instruments and, unfortunately, when I say instruments what I really mean is DJ decks. The days of guitar solos are long gone.
It is not just the quantity of the lyrics in mainstream songs that are decreasing but the quality of these lyrics, causing me to question whether the songwriters of today are actually any good at their jobs. When we compare Freddie Mercury’s masterpiece ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to Katy Perry’s more recent hit ‘Firework,’ which was written by four people yet still opens with the question, ‘do you ever feel like a plastic bag?’ the degeneration of song lyrics becomes apparent. This is what mainstream song lyrics have been reduced to and, sadly, this is one of the better examples.
The lyrical barrel has definitely been scraped of late and it seems as though two templates have been developed for the use of today’s ‘dance-pop’ songwriters. The first template is the one where the same three lines are simply repeated over and over again throughout the duration of the entire song. These lyrics tend to be heavily accompanied by lots of thumping bass and will have the occasional ‘yeah’ and ‘ooh’ thrown in to shake things up a little. The second template features a lot more words but a lot less sense and usually results in me shouting at the radio. These lyrics contain double negatives and poor grammar, let’s take the lines ‘this is our house, this is our rules’, from Miley Cyrus’ ‘We can’t stop,’ as an example. With songs such as these playing a huge role in mainstream culture I cannot help but worry that the children of future generations who are exposed to them will struggle to pass their English GCSE.
I live near a main road which I walk up and down most days. Since the age of around 14, (let’s just ignore the fact that at this point I was still technically a child), I have regularly endured the catcalls and wolf whistles of the men who drive past me.
Some days I can get one beep, whereas others I can get multiple beeps, whistles and things shouted at me. Things ranging from greetings, (e.g ‘yo,’ ‘hello’ etc), to comments the shouter clearly sees as compliments, (e.g ‘sexy’ or ‘you’re gorgeous’), to comments which are downright offensive and disrespectful, (e.g ‘get your tits out,’ ‘let’s shag’ etc), have all been thrown at me.
You can imagine the amount of shit I have heard over the course of the last 10 years or so and you can also imagine how I laugh in people’s faces when they preach to me about how women are no longer sexually objectified. I call bullshit on that, however, we’ll leave that for another blog post. When I was younger I would sometimes shout things back to the morons who catcalled or I would rebelliously stick my middle finger up at them. However, these days I have grown used to it, (which I’d like to point out that I shouldn’t have to be), and I can literally just blank them out. The beeps don’t even make me jump anymore.
If I’m honest, the entire catcalling thing confuses me a little and, although it does make me angry, I’m actually beginning to find it mildly amusing. I’m not sure what men are actually trying to achieve when they do this, and I say ‘men’ because, unfortunately, although boys in their late teens and early twenties do participate in this annoying act, the majority of the culprits seem to be fully grown men who, quite frankly, should know better. Why do they do it? Are they that stupid that they actually think I like having things shouted at me out of cars? Are they seriously expecting me to lift my top up in the middle of the street when they shout ‘get your tits out’? Do they drive away with hurt feelings because I don’t shout ‘hi’ or ‘thank you’ back to them? Are they whistling at me in encouragement to keep going up the hill or to let me know I’m doing a good job of walking in a straight line? Seriously, stop trying to exert dominance over any woman you see who has the audacity to be out on her own.
It is weird and it is creepy. When did it become acceptable to shout obscenities at complete strangers? You wouldn’t shout ‘get your rat out’ in a woman’s face as you passed her on a crowded street so why do it when you are driving past her on a deserted road? Stop sexually harassing women whilst hiding behind your steering wheels you set of perverts.