I’d forgotten, after the blandly destructive Cameron days and the robotically dysfunctional May days, just how it feels to be viscerally repulsed by one’s Prime Minister.
A suffering nation
Over Christmas, I re-read Alexander Masters’ biography of Stuart Shorter. Shorter taught Masters how to write it. He wanted the story to be “like what Tom Clancy writes.” Meeting a lack of comprehension, he added, “something what people will read.”
A rare alliance
Masters rose to the challenge. After four years of growing friendship, fuelled by the two men’s participation in street activism, they produced the harrowing story of Shorter’s life. As we all know now, it became very famous. By the time the book was doing the rounds, Shorter’s chaotic, tragic and mysterious life had ended as it was lived.
Reading it now cannot help but lead me to re-read, in my mind, the story of our own Brian Charles Harding, a “street character” in Hastings, also now departed. Both men were mavericks. Both were brought low by the drugs or alcohol fuelled chaos of a life thrown into disorder before they’d reached adulthood.
Suffer, little children
We all know, with a grief that runs quietly behind the daily political and social aggravation, behind the endless tales of more easily fathomed injustices, that a considerable proportion of our street drinkers, prison population and ‘criminal underclass’ are victims of early deprivation, alienation and abuse, often kicked off by similarly deprived parents, usually made worse by a cock-eyed response to early offending from cash-strapped or wrong-headed authorities.
Occasionally, one of those fated-from-birth chaos-merchants has the energy, the heart and the imagination to break through clearly enough to make a mark on society. It’s a stupendous achievement against (for most of us) unimaginable odds. That’s why I can’t recommend these two books highly enough.
If you haven’t encountered either of them, please pick one and read it – then come back and read the other one, until the lesson really hits home.
Via poverty, deprivation, abuse and their attendant chaos, we create our outcasts, our “anti-socials”, our “addicts” and our “criminal underclass”.
A truly terrible Prime Minister
And now we have a Prime Minister who, having spent years as part of a government that cut public services to the bone, says spending money sorting out historic child-abuse cases is “spaffing money up the wall”. I was going to say that his revolting choice of words takes us back to that eternal question about wealthy establishment politicians – are they stupid or are they evil – but this joke (if only) Prime Minister with his uncertain number of children and his highly audible dust-ups with partners is a reminder that poverty is a long way from being the *only* source of the chaos and violence that ruins young lives. It makes me want to ask whether we should treat all ex-public school politicians as potential abuse survivors and chaos creators, and steer them away from power, and stop them spreading that chaos and misery down the years.
Please read those books. Please tell everyone. This is not a small part of our problems.