January 03, 2014

A look back over 2013 and my 12 Achievements

2013 is the year I learnt that conformity and convention are over-rated. That you need to act with agency and activism. From the early 2000s until late 2012 I laboured under and scaled over the message that a degree equals a job, only to find recruiters perfectly indifferent to my achievements and my very person. 2013 is the year I came awake to the cult of university and to Britain and Ireland's hereditocracy. This experience of youth unemployment left indellible scratches on my brain. I felt "the endless misery", as George Orwell put it.

Against George Orwell's stamping boot, I made a resolution: never again would I write a CV, cover letter, application or do a verbal reasoning or psychometric test. If the world didn't want me I would come and get it. I learnt that if you want to achieve greatest you have to stop asking for permission. In 2013 my life became, not a matter of who would let me, but who was going to stop me. I also learnt that it wasn't me who had the problem, it was them. I learnt to say as Robert Downey Jr said:
"Listen, smile, agree. Then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway."
Benazir Bhutto said that democracy is the best revenge. For my nay-sayers, total success is the best vindication. I also made an resolution that I would forever say of myself that I was a former unemployed law graduate. Everything I write, say or speak about is about the absence of opporunities for young people in Northern Ireland and the searing indifference of politicians to that absence.

I saw the madness of building an economy on training lawyers and doctors and the futility of funneling our best and brightest into the old professions. Facing that madness, I could not and will not be a silent spectator. I will make it my job to point out waste, madness and corruption wherever I see it. As I've said many times:
"Do not matriculate me in perfect and abstract isolation from the real world and then expect me to work in that world."
That's my paraphrase of David Foster Wallace who said that "the value of education has nothing to do with education and everything to do with awareness." Ever since I worked this out I have done as Twain did, I now never let my schooling interfere with my education.

In a sentence, 2013 was the year I was "troubled into utterance" as John Hewitt phrased it. As Seamus Heaney said, they is something rotten in the Northern soul and it is up to the writers to let out that filth. I've made that my mission.

Here are my 12 main achievements of 2013:

12. UTV Feature on Social Media Law - Speaking with Sharon O'Neill on UTV about social media law. See here.

11. TCD and UUJ Panel - Being invited to speak on the Trinity College Dublin and University of Ulster panel about politics, social media and the law thanks to Orna Young. See here and here respectively.


10. Live drawing at the Friday Night Mashup here.


9. Guest blog on LAD - 'They're Not British, They're Brutish' here. Also then getting featured on Slugger O'Toole here. I also further explored the matter on The Huffington Post here.

8. Common Grounds exhibition - 'Belfast Faces and Famous Places'. Alan in Belfast reviewed it here. Culture Northern Ireland covered it here. I also covered it on Slugger O'Toole here and on The Ideas Workshop here. I also chatted with Steve from Common Grounds in a video here. Full gallery is here.

7. Live Drawing at DUP Conference - A 6 hour joy ride through the DUP conference and a next day viewing on Sunday Politics NI. See here and here.


6. Media Law Northern Ireland - Starting a new blog Media Law Northern Ireland and finishing the year by welcoming NI media lawyer Olivia O'Kane onto the blog as contributor. See the Media Law Northern Ireland blog here.

5. Live Drawing for Arts Council - Being invited to the Arts Council NI Conference as illustrator of the day's events. See here.

4. Michael Deane wall art - See here, here and here.


3. www.brianjohnspencer.com - Creating my personal website www.brianjohnspencer.com and this blog, The Ideas Workshop.

2. Third Way and civic activism - Starting The Third Way, civic activism in Northern Ireland and speaking on the Stephen Nolan Show:

1. Working with Michael Deane - Deaneo's Wine label, the creation of the Decano Man (the moment from which I move from being a hobbyist to a paid and professional artist) and Deaneo's Prosecco label here.

Oh and of course, becoming a dad. Read about that here.
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