The Washington Post called Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel ‘a classic of war fiction’. The New York Times a ‘tour de force’. Yes and Yes.
The narrator has written a confession. Looked out at the shore of himself. And decided there was nothing to see. What fuelled him wasn’t nihilism, but idealism. But that too was a lie. Something he was adept at. Being the bastard son of a priest. At fourteen, his Vietnamese peasant mother became the French father’s housekeeper and mistress. His father was also his teacher at the school he attends. Here he becomes blood brothers with two other boys, Bon and Man. The Three Musketeers that take on the world.
The Symapthizer tells the reader he is not to be trusted. The first line:
I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces.
Man is also two-faced. Like the narrator and Bon, he is a soldier in the South Vietnamese Army fighting against Ho Chi Minh and the Communists in the North. But he is also a commissar in the People’s Republic and an anti-revolutionary revolutionary. Man is the narrator’s interrogator and torturer, but also father confessor and his handler that he passes information to. He sets out to save him. Bon, in contrast, is a simple killer who does not know of his fellow Musketeer’s identities. He does as he’s told by the General (and people like him) and asks no questions about choosing the right or wrong side of history.
April 1975. American forces are leaving Saigon. It is easy to compare, for example, July 2021. American (and British) forces leaving Kabul.
‘The month in question was April, the cruellest month.’
The narrator, is no T.S.Eliot, but a Captain the South Vietnamese Army. Saigon is The Waste Land. The captain’s superior officer, The General, whose villa he stays in, instructs him to prepare a list of people that are going back to America with the retreating troops. He has been educated in an American College and lived in both worlds. They could not take everybody, but only those that mattered and those that could pay a sufficiently high bribe to get into the compound and board a flight.
‘We could not believe that the pleasant, scenic coffee towns of Ban Me Thout, my Highlands hometown, had been sacked in early March. We could not believe that president Thieu, whose name begged to be spat out of the mouth, had inexplicably ordered our forces defending the Highlands to retreat. We could not believe that Da Nang and Nha Trang had fallen, or that our troops had shot civilians in the back as they fought madly to escape on the barges and boats, the death toll running to thousands.’
They could not believe it, but they did believe it. Their American allies dropped more bombs on Vietnam than all the bombs dropped in the second world war (excluding nuclear weapons) but received the refugees like flotsam, inexplicably washed up on their shore. The Captain went to live in Los Angeles with his commanding officer, the general. He had no army to lead, but acted like a man in charge, plotting to return to his lost homeland.
Bon and the Captain room together. They fall into line with their fellow exiles. It’s a life of sorts. Bon, for example, qualifies for welfare payments with money paid in cash for a job as a janitor in the black economy. Their low status makes the general bristle. Women coped better as refugees. The general’s wife, for example, opens a Vietnamese restaurant. Home cooking her speciality, even though she never cooked at home. The Captain even begins an affair with the general’s daughter.
Their world had turned upside down and the general wants to turn it back. His plans to invade Men who believe the yellow man is inferior, but communism is unforgiveable in any language, backed his plans to re-invade Vietnam.
The Captain reports these developments back to his handler in Paris. Bon has seen enough of America and Americans and their so-called freedom to know it is not for him. He opts of join the revolutionary force that aims to overthrow the revolutionary force, but really, it’s about returning home. The Captain goes with him, even though he’s warned by his handler, Man, not to. To stay in America, where his expertise would be of greater use. But he disobeys his order and goes with Bon to save Bon.
The confession of a confession is an examined life. The Captain has to explain to his superiors why he did what he did. What his faults were. He hand writes 352 pages and rewrites them again and again (for you, the reader). But it’s not enough. Something is missing. He has to find that part of himself and show his sorrow in a way that is appropriate without know why.
He ponders the problem of Spartacus. What do revolutionaries do when they win their revolution? Do they, for example, like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, learn to walk on two legs? And life for those that follow becomes worse rather than better in the planned utopia? His solution is to have no solution, but simply mark the fault line between ideas and idealism. Here be dragons. In losing his tortured mind, becoming two minded, he finds there are no answers. We are closer to nihilism at the end of the book than at the beginning, when idealism was not interrogated, but also closer to hope there may be an answer.
A screenshot from USS Princeton released by US defence department, April 2020. Stare at the tic-tack long enough and the object will move.
“Senior officials briefed on the intelligence conceded that the very ambiguity of the findings meant the government could not definitively rule out theories that the phenomena observed by military pilots might be alien spacecraft”, the New York Times reported.
I’m nearly sixty. Our solar system is almost five billion years old. Like me, it’s a middle-aged star. What I know about the world is approximately five billion earth years’ old divided by sixty. I cheated at maths. So I never got around to solving the Fermi paradox or the relatively simple Drake equation.
R∗ = 1 yr−1 (1 star formed per year, on the average over the life of the galaxy; this was regarded as conservative)
fp = 0.2 to 0.5 (one fifth to one half of all stars formed will have planets)
ne = 1 to 5 (stars with planets will have between 1 and 5 planets capable of developing life)
fl = 1 (100% of these planets will develop life)
fi = 1 (100% of which will develop intelligent life)
fc = 0.1 to 0.2 (10–20% of which will be able to communicate)
L = 1000 to 100,000,000 communicative civilizations (which will last somewhere between 1000 and 100,000,000 years)
Factor in the discovery of almost 20 new planets beyond our solar system. Leave it all to machine intelligence and what we get is the paperclip apocalypse predicted by Nick Bostron. There are worse ways to die than by paperclip.
What we do know is space exploration has never been so buoyant. Every billionaire wants his piece of Mars with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezo’s New Shepherd, and Elon Musk, SpaceX, duelling above where taxes are paid. NASA’s space web telescope was successfully launched on Christmas 2021. China’s building a space station on the moon. Even Brexit Britain is getting in on the act. The UK Space Agency tendering for satellite launch pads. The world above our head will be full of space junk to fill our head with even more junk via our phones, or whatever is the next big thing. Mission Impossible is to switch off, and there’ll be even more photos and videos of UFOs to consider.
The problem with these ventures is they rely on fossil fuels. Ironically, Operation Paperclip took many of the Nazi scientists using slave labour to bomb Europe to America and their basic model powered us to the stars. The tick-tack models caught on radar where able to fly (outfly) the best military hardware (80 to 100 times the speed of Concorde) at gravity-forces that would have scrambled biological entities and able to enter the water without breaking up. Sonar picked them up travelling underwater at speeds that blew modern submarines away. An aberration, perhaps.
But if we travelled to the nearest planet, five-light years away, it would take 70 000 years (give or take a few years). We have picked up planets where light seems to have been harvested. I don’t know what that means either. But I try to sound like I do. That’s the direction of travel with Ufos. Once we thought the Atlantic was uncrossable. We look for fragments of cellular life on Mars. Who knows what we’ll find? Not me. I used to have an open mind, but I closed that book long ago.
‘The Island of Jersey is a self-governing possession of the British Crown separate from the UK with its own laws, financial rules and Parliament.’
Some of its most influential figures are appointed by the Queen.
When secrets from its past surfaced in 2007 they revealed deep distrust and division between those now running the island, proud of Jersey’s reputation.
And those who saw themselves as underdogs campaigning for change.’
Whose side are you on, the have-nots or the have-yachts? That’s the set-up for this documentary. Let’s deal the money issue first. Jersey launders money. It’s an offshore City of London. A New York Times headline, 6th November 2017 for example showed. ‘After a Tax Crackdown, Apple found a new shelter for its profits. Island of Jersey.’ Leaving billions of dollars untouched by the US government.
Baker McKenzie [Apple, the richest company in the world] asked for assurances that the local political climate would remain friendly. Are there any developments suggesting that the law may change in an unfavourable way in the near future?
New York Times headline 6th November 2017 shows how this works. Apple decided that its new offshore tax structure should use Appleby’s office in Jersey. Jersey makes its own laws and is not subject to most European Union legislation, making it a popular tax haven.
John Christensen, Former Economic Advisor to Jersey tells the viewers.
We can only guess the assets hidden here as half a trillion US dollars. The wealth itself is not in Jersey. There’s very little investment in Jersey. Just wealth that is booked there. But invested elsewhere. Very often in real estate in Britain or Europe or…North America.
Establishing Jersey is a tax-dodgers paradise is the easy part of the narrative. Secrecy is part of the package, but it’s called discretion. Most of Jersey’s 88 000 residents have little or no say in the way the island is governed.
John Chirstensen. One of the things I discovered was the government was captive to the finance industry. They were saying, we want this law. And it would go through parliament on the nod because…
The finance industry loved it. You weren’t going to get challenged. You always had the same people at the top. And those people were very amenable to bringing forward pieces of legislation which they themselves commissioned. [the blank cheque]
Wendy Kinnard, (former Home Affairs Minister). Any small island has to find its niche. We are very reliant on the finance industry, and all that goes with that.
Christensen: that ties in with what we call the Jersey wave. Don’t ask inconvenient questions. These places do not like to have publicity unless it’s favourable publicity.
Wendy Kinnard. My experience, anything to do with finance went to the top of the list in terms of priority. If you take the sex offenders, I began doing some work on that in 1973. I saw 27 drafts turned around in order to try and get this legislation. At the time of Operation Triangle we had no significant pieces of legislation in terms of child protection. Contrasted with financial legislation because our economy is based on financial services
Neil McMurry (Citizen Journalist) on a boat. ‘This is my escape. I don’t drink. I don’t drug. (I sail). What about the victims and survivors and some say it’s the lucky ones that died. If I had a choice between knowing what I know now. And not knowing, if I could turn the clock back…I wish I could. I wouldn’t want to know what I know.
Graham Powell, Former Chief of Police on Jersey. Many people said don’t take an island job, they always end in tears. Unless you can afford to walk away from it. Well, I could, but didn’t.
I took advice from an old officer. He told me what the politicians expect you to do is lock up the drunks on a Saturday night. Catch a few burglars. Don’t look for trouble.
Lenny Harper, former Deputy Chief of Police, Jersey. Impeccable references from the Met. My first 6 weeks were spent getting to know people. The head of the law department told me he was convinced there was a paedophile ring operating in the island, but he couldn’t get any persecutions. I examined cold case files. There had already been several trials involving the sexual assault of children and one name kept popping up: Haut de la Garenne children’s home.
Haut de la Garenne. Jersey State Children’s Home 1867-1986. Gurren mean rabbit warren. We had a lot of children living in the home. Not only from Jersey, but Guernsey as well. You had a lot of French immigrants that came to work on the farms. They were poor people as well. They found no accommodation for their children. So they ended up in the Home.
Kevin O’Connell, speaking 2008. Myself and some other lads had broken into a shop and we’d stole some cigarettes and chocolate and some other things. So I was sent to Haut de la Garenne. I was there between 1963-1964.
It was run by a man called Colin Tilbrook. Headmaster, during the 1960s he ran it like an army camp.
He was a very aggressive man. He didn’t speak to you. He shouted at you.
A particular case file in which there were gaps. I was given excuses why that was the case. When we looked into it, those excuses fell apart. That was the real beginning of Operation Rectangle.
The few victims I met totally impressed me with their sincerity.
Marina Cremin. I was born in Jersey to Irish parents. They were from Cork. When I was five I went to Haut de la Garenne.
Cremin: I was terrified that he’d (Tilbrook the headmaster) call me into his little office. Because I knew what he wanted. It wasn’t just myself. He used to call on other children as well. We used to say we’re going to tell somebody. And he used to say, ‘go ahead, nobody is going to believe you’.
Cremin: He would tell me what to do. He would take his belt off and make it do a flicking noise. And he would use that on me if I didn’t do what I was told. He’d always have a pillow under his arm. If you screamed out, he’d put the pillow over your face. And tell you to be quiet.
Chief Constable: Operational officers are saying there is history of abuse. We’re getting snippets of it from other enquiries.
Senator Stuart Syvret (former) Health and Social Services Minster: Jersey is a very small community. He told the chief of police if you don’t do something I’m going to whistle blow. In 2006 word reached me about abuse that was still going on and had been covered up in the past. I began making my own enquires. A failure of the Island’s government and to protect its population. This went back decades and decades. A lot of meetings I was having with survivors was deeply harrowing.
Frank Walker Chief Minister 2005-2008.
I’m a life-long Jersey resident. And I served in Jersey’s government for 18 years. Everybody believes child abuse takes place, but not here, or in a very limited way.
Wendy Kinnard (former Home Affairs Minister). At the time of Operation Rectangle, my role was oversight of the police service. I was in a meeting with the chief and deputy chief of police and when I was briefed about how far they had got in terms of the covert operation, and now they felt other ministers had to be told, in particular, the Chief Minister. And that very soon we would have to make the whole operation public. I did say, they won’t like this one little bit and we could all lose our jobs over this.
Stuart Syvret made an announcement in relation to Child Protection. 16th July 2007: ‘We are failing badly in this area. And I’m probably going to seek to initiate a major independent review of the whole sphere of child welfare and child protection in Jersey.’
Chief Minister found that unacceptable and tabled a motion that they get rid of Syvret.
Syvret: By saying these things I was bullying staff. Pretext of having me sacked.
Chief Constable, Graham Powell: He was thrown out of office and subject to negative briefing in the media. I was horrified and made clear I wasn’t getting involved in this sordid business (of name calling).
Stuart Syvret. There’s a tremendous amount of money here. Wealth. The elite want the status-quo to remain.
Deputy Chief Constable, Lenny Harper. We knew that Stuart had been canvassing public opinion, and we felt we had to go public ourselves. We were completely open with the media and told them we would not tolerate any interference from Jersey politicians.
Syvret: A huge weight lifted from my shoulders.
Graham Powell: I wondered if the phone would ring. Within a week or two we had hundreds of victims coming forward.
Peter Hannaford speaking in 2008. You were subject to constant abuse. It was begun with the rape of older kids. Encouraged by the staff. It was constant, every night. You were scared to go to bed, because you didn’t know if you were going to be the one to get hit or if it’d be someone else.
Carl Denning, speaking in 2008. There was an occasion in the sickbay when I was made to fondle another boy. If you didn’t, you were threatened you wouldn’t come out of there alive.
Jean Neil. Grouville Home for Girls. Speaking in 2017. I was told that anything that happened in the home, you don’t tell anybody else. Because nobody would ever believe you. And if you do let it slip out, the punishment is you will have your tongue cut out. Some of the girls got pregnant. They’d get the baby taken away from them. And my question is, and always has been, where was the authorities and what where they doing?
5th December 2007. Syvret, As senior senator I gave my (Christmas) speech
Voice of Sir Philip Bailhache, Baliff of Jersey1995-2009. Cuts him off.
We have a dysfunctional democracy. The real power sits with Crown appointees.
The Queen appoints: Attorney General (Crown Prosecution), Baliff (Chief Judge and Speaker of Parliament) and Lieutenant Governor.
Speaker controls debates in Parliament. Who can speak. Who can’t speak. What questions can be asked.
Deputy There were also statements from people at the home that children had been dragged from their beds and were never seen again.
Statements saying staff had chased one child along the corridor that had then leapt out the window. And that child was never seen again.
Then we had a solicitor who approached us who had a client that said he saw a dead body.
I heard a story about dead bodies and rapes and beatings. And I made a disclosure to the police as you’d expect somebody in my position to do.
Chief Constable: We felt we had to search. And ridiculous as it may seem now, we felt that we could do it discretely.
19th February 2008.
Deputy Constable: we put Eddie, the cadaver dog into the ground. He reacted very positively in an area of the home. Anthropologists should dig at that spot. The next morning I was at home when I got the phone call, a human bone had been found. Forensic anthropologist described as a human skull.
James Perchard, Former Jersey Senator. My family has farmed here for generations. Perhaps even the 12th Century. I honestly knew nothing of the ill-treatment of children. It didn’t get to me.
Neil McMurray, Citizen Journalist. There’s a presumption that anyone living in Jersey is a millionaire. Well, that’s not true. There’s the haves and the have-yachts. There’s a lot of poverty in Jersey. The governments predominantly conservative run by the rich for the rich. So some noise can be made in our Parliament by the socialists. But they’ve got no power. We thought, brilliant. We’ve got a politician that represents us. Stuart. A lot of survivors came forward because of him.
Voice of Sir Philip Bailhache, Baliff of Jersey, unjustified denigration of Jersey is the real scandal.
Group of survivors met outside the home and challenged his statement. Confirmed abuse took place for years.
Sir Philip Bailhache apologised for what he said nine years later, saying his words were ill-chosen.
Neil McMurray I was being fobbed off. Lied to and it was sickening what Sir Philip Bailhache did. I started blogging. Mainly to ministers the media. Basically, they weren’t replying to me. It was called voice for children.
Sack Walker, reinstate Sylvert.
Brian Flynn former Sun journalist. As an outsider it seemed to me a lot of people didn’t trust the government who were in control and anybody that rocked the boat, anybody that caused problems, wasn’t welcome. If you weren’t among the cabal running the island, you were voiceless. This wasn’t a story that needed to be sensationalised. They were sensational enough and needed to be investigated.
Carrie Modral. Jersey Care Leavers’ Association. Care leavers are adults who lived in children’s homes if not all, or most of their lives. The abuse had been rattling around for years. As individuals they had been shut down. But as a collective group, this was the perfect opportunity to escalate.
Kinnard. There were two camps in how we should deal with Operation Rectangle. Stuart Syvret was very keen that everything should be made public (transparency). And you’d the chief minister and many of the council of ministers who felt it was important to keep the lid on this [important to who and for what reasons?]
The reputation of Jersey should be preserved at all costs. And any negative publicity would likely have a detrimental effect on our economy.
Chief Constable: I was having my ear bent by senior politicians. It wasn’t about who were these people and how can we get their collars felt. That wasn’t the tone of conversation. It was look at all those horrible things newspapers are saying about us. How can we put a stop to all this?
More than 160 people came forward to claim they were abused. Two bodies found.
O’Connell. There was a member of staff that would come for me in the middle of the night, bang my head as we walked along the corridor. He’d take me to the cellar, put me in the bath and sexually abuse me. He’d leave me there after he’d satisfied himself.
Brian Flynn, former Sun journalist. One of the things that came up time after time was Jimmy Saville had visited the Island. Visited the home. Before he was unmasked. What was striking was the vehemence which he denied going to Haut La Garrene.
Cremin: I told the police about Jimmy Saville in 2007. But he denied ever having been at the Home. I said my sister is in a photograph with him.
Christensen (economist) this is the worst kind of public relations disaster. As they say on Jersey, they don’t want to look under that stone. But when the headlines say this is the centre of child abuse, no banks, no accounting firms want to be associated with a place that has a long history of child abuse that has been largely ignored.
It was a byword for cruelty in the 1960s when I was growing up. We were threatened with if you don’t behave we’re sending you to La Garrene.
In 2007 The UK press particularly damning of Jersey and the cover-up.
David Rose, Mail on Sunday. A friend of mine phoned me and said have you heard about these children murdered in a children’s home? Well, there’s a guy in Oxford called Tom Higham who you should talk to, because he’s got some very interesting information. It was later afternoon, and he said come round now, and I did. I went round to his lab. We’ve been trying to tell the police in Jersey this for weeks, but they just won’t listen. They’ve been coming out with all this stuff in the media, and we’ve had enough. It’s time the public learned the truth.
I got Lenny to admit there were people that had reservations.
18th May 2008. Then I did the story that Sunday.
I’d already written a few articles questioning these very heavy moral panic type investigations. Especially in children’s homes and schools. And when the Jersey story started I was immediately very sceptical, thinking really?
eg Bryan Ely, 67, in Dartmoor, alleged to have attacked children.
I should tell you, I’m a Jimmy Saville sceptic too. What I do know is that some to those that claimed to be abused were lying to claim compensation. And I say that without any hesitation. They just made it up.
Headline: It’s official. There was no child abuse in Jersey.
Prof. Tom Higham, Oxford University. We were sent this sample in March 2008. It too probably 40 seconds to realise what I had in my hand. Lenny Harper said it’s the piece of a child’s skull. It’s no such thing. It’s a piece of coconut shell.
DC. Lenny Harper. Collagen is only found in mammals. There was no trail of testing. The package wasn’t booked in or logged. No control over it, whatsoever. But what we didn’t realise at that stage was that it would be used as a stick to beat us with.
Frank Walker Chief Minister 2005-2008. I think the biggest turning point was the revelation on the Mail on Sunday by David Rose. It was both welcome news and a shock. Then the trust in the police leadership came into question. (Harper and Graham Powell).
What I saw was a fast-moving investigation that involved leads that Harper wasn’t afraid to follow. In real time. It’s easy to say he got them wrong. But he was trying to disseminate the information in a way that signalled to those abused that this time stones weren’t being left unturned.
DC Harper. Rose had this history of being very anti-child abuse. Cites Lord Jenner’s report, for example, and a witness that admits to lying about a care home boss.
We’ve took over 150 tons of material which is all being itemised. We’ve recovered 65 children’s teeth.
Wendy Kinnard: there was criticism that Harper held up to the media a coin that was a Jersey coin and not an English coin. This again was damaging the reputation of the island. Then I got phone calls from the senior minister saying get rid of Lenny Harper. Take him off the tv screens. He should be removed from even Operation Rectangle. He became the folk demon by those that wanted the child abuse enquiry to go away.
Before I resigned
I’d a difficult time. I did feel very bullied on occasions. Receiving emails from the Chief Minister saying there are calls for your resignation. I felt that I was being put in a position that I was being removed, in the same way Senator Syvret was removed. So I resigned.
I was advised that I should sign over my powers (of oversight to the police and operation Rectangle) to my assistant minister Andrew Lewis. I just felt that I was being absolutely side-lined. Andrew Lewis felt the same way that I did about Chief Constable Powell. That he was doing a good job.
News report. The officer in charge may never know that children here were murdered. Even though they found the partial remains of at least five children. Experts have difficulty dating the teeth and bones aged between four and eleven
The removal of Lenny had to happen. His investigation was out of control.
The detective, who led the enquiry, retires next week (news report). Case unsolved.
31st July 2008. DC Harper. In many ways the community is no different from anywhere else. What has happened doesn’t make Jersey unique or evil. And what has happened, I think the people has responded magnificently.
News report the teeth and bones found here aren’t pieces of evidence. They’re pieces of children. Pieces of vulnerable lives of children whose stories will now never be told.
Chief Constable. Lenny left and David Warcup, his successor and my successor was appointed. Then we had the appointment of Gradwell, who was going to be senior investigating officer. I could see the wolves circling. As long as Wendy Kinnard was there…she fell. I thought you’re on your own now. So as things when they developed didn’t come as a surprise.
David Warcup, Acting Chief of Police. We’ll use every effort to bring this enquiry to a proper conclusion.
Andrew Lewis, Home Affairs Manager (after Kinnard’s resignation).
I was under considerable pressure and from the Chief Minister of the day, Frank Walker. With remarks being thrown around the table from the Council of Minister consistently. ‘You’ve got to get rid of that bloke. You’ve got to sack him’.
Frank Walker Chief Minister 2005-2008. I had no doubt at all Graham Powell had to go. I would have liked him to come out of this with great credit. And he could have done, had he not let Lenny run riot with media briefings.
A legal review found the suspension was flawed and unfair but no part of an attempt to block the investigation.
Graham Powell’s handling of Operation Rectangle was later criticised in a report by another police force.
12th November 2008. David Warcup, Acting Chief of Police The forensic recoveries do not indicate there has been murder of children or other people at La Garrene. Nor do we believe that bodies have been buried, destroyed or hidden.
Mick Gradwell, Senior Investigating Officer. There are no reported people missing. There are no credible allegations of murder. There is no suspect for murder. And there is no specific time period for murder. 170 pieces of bone, which were mainly animal, were found in the area. Three fragments that are possibly human. The biggest piece is 25mm long. 65 teeth found in the floorboards. One elsewhere. These teeth have the appearance of being shed naturally. The officer is about five-foot five tall. It’s not a dungeon and it’s not a cellar.
James Perchard, Former Jersey Senator. There were specialist PR people brought in to help protect Jersey’s image. I suspect that’s what happens when such terrible, terrible news has been made public.
Headlines rebound and reboot. Media: Main witness had a history of psychotic fantasy and alcoholism. 2) Detectives took lavish meals in London restaurant.
Carrie Modral. The media tried to sensationalise what was going on. Then trash what they sensationalised. It wasn’t just one day. It spanned over a couple of weeks. As if this was all premeditated. I was angry with the care leavers, because they thought, right, we’ll never get justice. Everything we were working towards seemed to be sabotaged.
DC Lenny. Graham was suspended. I was side-lined. That was when Neil and Rico came in.
Rico Sorda, Citizen Journalist. It was clear to anyone that Graham Powell was shafted. By the establishment of Jersey, because he had the audacity to let Lenny investigate
The editorials prior to that had praised Lenny and Graham but afterwards Jersey Evening Post headlines ran along the lines of Celebrity Lifestyle of Lenny Harper and his officers. Meals in top-class.
We went up there and filmed them. What difference does it make if you call them cellars or vaults? We measured them –Bob Hill measured them-and they were six-foot deep. There’s certainly enough room down there for a child abuser to do what he wanted.
Neil: Evidence not audited when it left Jersey. How does a piece of skull become a piece of coconut? It came back a different texture, size and colour.
Forensic Anthropologist Report. Since I initially examined the fragment, it had dried out considerably and changed in colour, texture and weight.
Could it have been switched? Nobody answered that question. It was ignored.
Carrie Modral, we called a meeting and invited Mick Gradwell along. He said you better drop your case. None of you are going to get what you want.
We were so angry with his response. We had to ask him to leave. And it wasn’t about a piece of coconut. It was about children being systematically abused. Time after time after time and ignored.
Dannie Jarman (resident) Blanche Pierre Children’s Home. I didn’t want to go through with it in the first place. Then I managed to build up the courage to speak out and come out what had happened. There was evidence there to prove what happened, did happen. A lot of it was never brought up in court.
Houseparents subjected children to physical and sexual abuse.
Neil: I tried asking many questions of our politicians and they ignored me and ignore me. I had to go out and doorstep them.
Wendy Kinnard. I remained concerned for the victims that were obviously hurting. 11 or 12 cases dropped. On the other hand the attorney general was concerned he didn’t want to take forward prosecutions he wasn’t sure he was going to win.
Attorney General of Jersey 2000-2009, Sir William Bailhache, revealed there will be no further action against the couple arrested in June as part of the enquiry (Blanche Pierre Children’s Home).
Sir Philip Bailhache Bailiff of Jersey 1995-2009. My brother became Attorney General after me, one remove. And for some that was evidence of corruption. Two brothers in Crown Office and that was ipso facto corrupt.
The reason for this mistrust rested with the police and children’s services and not with his office.
Some pretty middle of the road people convicted of offences, but no one of any stature was ever taken to court. Colin Tilbrook, the pillow man, his step daughter came out and said he raped her when she was ten. He’s dead now. Jimmy Saville dead. Wilfred Krichefski, died in 1974 was a former senator. Jeff Le Marchand. This wasn’t one bad apple.
Operation Rectangle identified 192 victims and 121 living suspects. 30 suspects were already dead.
Eight people were tried in the Jersey courts, with seven successful prosecutions.
Frank Walker Chief Minister 2005-2008. Sylvert was daily denouncing the service we were providing. That pressure was incredible. To have this constant criticism, at that time.
Sylvet. At a press conference he told me to go and top myself. And at a press conference some months ago he told me to go away and slit my wrists. Now I imagine anyone expressing those views their position as health minister would be untenable.
I said something I shouldn’t have, but under massive provocation. Perhaps I should have punched him. I paid the price politically. I resigned a few months later and didn’t see re-election.
Sylvert. One morning three cars with six policeman drew up outside my house. They arrested me for breaking the data protection law. This was them branding the fist. As they’d made an example of Graham Powell. They wanted to terrify everyone. And make them keep their mouths shut. And their heads down and not rock the boat. My god if these people can do that to a police chief and a senior senator. Then what chance have we got?
Stuart Syvret’s jail terms were as a result of repeatedly failing to comply with court orders to stop publically accusing individuals of serious crimes online.
Two three months periods so far. I fully expect to be jailed again.
Wendy Kinnard. I think the role of the blogs was incredibly significant. Neil’s and Rico Sorda’s blogs. And I don’t think that without them we would have got the care enquiry.
A public enquiry into Jersey care homes was finally scheduled to start in 2014, six years after it was promised.
Carrie Modral, Jersey Care Leavers’Association. It really was a rollercoster. To have this enquiry up and running. A collective effort of keeping it alive. And that was the main thing. After each government, it died. Keep it in the media, to get where we got. At the beginning it was just La Garrene, but we had to get it to include all, including foster homes.
eg Blanche Pierre Children’s Home. La Preference Children’s home. Heathfield Children’s Home.
4 objectives, i) apology to all those that had suffered as children. (ii) to gain a sense of identity, through records so people knew where exactly they came from. Where they went to. (iii) redress some form of compensation (iv) enquiry into how all these things were allowed to happen.
Marina Cremin visits graveyard. Peter Hannaford (dead) he was in Haut de la Garenne, terribly sexually abused. Nearly every night he was abused. He was such a heavy drinker. It’s just so sad.
Many of the children in the home, committed suicide, or died of drugs or alcohol.
Carrie Modral, You’ve got victims and survivors. Victims are those that can’t let go. Whether it was ten or fifty years ago, they’re still living it and it’s a living nightmare for them. They’ve got drink addiction, they’ve got drug addiction. They can’t work. They’ve got emotional problems.
Survivors, like myself, who try and get on with their life. And try and not let what happened to you as a child dictate how you live as an adult. You try and rise above it.
Kevin O’Connell. I was too frightened to tell anybody. I spoke about it to my brother. He experience exactly what I went through. And it was just too much. It ended up he hung himself. I firmly believe that was because of the abuse, the sexual abuse. He was only 40.
Carrie Modral. They are not going to get their day in court. But they are going to get their story hear. I believe that is so important. And it had a right for it to be made public as well.
22nd July 2014, Start of the Public Enquiry.
Neil; One adult told how he was raped as an eight-year-old child and his anus bled for days. The care assistant packed it with toilet roll, but they had to take him to hospital.
Frank Walker Chief Minister 2005-2008, did I have a duty to protect Jersey’s reputation? Of course I did. But my prime duty, motivation, was to get at the truth. To protect the children and prosecute the criminals. We had nothing to hide and we wanted everone in Jersey and further afield to know we had nothing to hide.
3rd July 2017, Public Enquiry: Conclusion. Voice of Frances Oldham QC, Enquiry Panel Chair. We find that there is no doubt that a significant number of children under the care of the state suffered instances of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional neglect. We find it deplorable that the state of Jersey has failed to understand its role as corporate parent. There were no external inspections of children’s homes. Or children’s services. For approxiamately 20 years. No difficult questions asked. This is unacceptable. On the 9th May 2008, Jersey’s Bailiff Philip Ballache made the liberation speech. We cannot accept that he made and I quote, ‘an unformatted juxtaposition of words’. We find the Senator Sylvert highlighted relevant issues about child abuse that needed to be addressed to insure the protection and safety of children in Jersey. We note the suspension of Graham Howe, for alleged past failings. All policing decisions were made conscientiously and properly. We have concluded that there has been no political appetite in Jersey to address social issues regarding the welfare of children.
Children may still be at risk in Jersey. And children in the care system are not receiving he kind or quality of support they need.
Senator Ian Gorst, Chief Minister.
Too often, children were not believed. Unpalatable truths were swept under the carpet. Because it was the easiest thing to do. I am deeply sorry. We did not do, what we should have done. People cared more for the status-quo, for a quiet life, than for children.
The Panel said Frank Walker and the majority of politicians accepted the Attorney General’s advice not to interfere with the investigation.
It concluded that the removal of Graham Powell and Stuart Syvret was not motivated by a wish to cover up abuse
Neil: it’s still ongoing, because nothing has really changed. If you look at the two camps, those that lost their homes, lost their livelihood for speaking out. Yet those that tried to protect the reputation of Jersey have all done pretty well for themselves. They’ve been decorated by the Queen. What about the people who risked their lives? What about the survivors? Don’t they deserve some kind of recognition?
Don’t wait for God to put his hand on your shoulder—unless you’re the Virgin Mary—that’s not going to happen any time soon. Start writing now. All you need is you.
Yes, I procrastinate, which sounds like masturbate, or maybe only to my sick mind.
Do something you enjoy with yourself without the need for paper hankies. Having a sick mind is an advantage, because you’re going to have to tell lots of lies. That’s what fiction is, without having to be elected American President. But the nearer the truth your lies are, the greater virtue you create for your characters. Believable characters must roam the land like prehistoric dinosaurs, leaving behind a trail of disruption.
Conflict is where your characters live. If someone else mentions that you must kill your darlings I’m going to hunt them down and treat them to one of my readings. Sincerity is what you find in yourself when you’ve nothing else left. Buried treasure unearthed and you’ve been forced to share again and again until it becomes boring.
Worthless treasure isn’t treasure. Fool’s gold is easy to find. It’s on the page in that first draft. Your eyes glitter. You open the swag bag, ready to pile in the awards.
Forgive and forget yourself. Write like a dog running after sticks. Slabber if you like. Nobody cares. Don’t let your smooth baby brain slowly harden into a border guard. You just need to get that stick to mix metaphors with it and beat back your inner critic. You need to get words on a page pronto.
Don’t interrupt yourself with somebody else. When you’re having an affair of the heart, the worst thing you can do is pick up your phone. Listening to the siren calls. That’s like saying ‘I do’ at your wedding, then sloping off to fuck the entire front row, and some of the back row too. We don’t want to seem too picky. We want to be nice. Yeh, we’ve all done it. Social media owns us, but not completely—yet.
You only live once, but in writing you can live as many lives as you like. You can do what you want, you can be what you want. Being believable is Sir Gawain setting out to find the Holy Grail. It will always be over that next hill. You’ll make mistakes. Go the wrong way. Other knights will challenge you to duels. Chancers will spring up and tell you they know the way, the true path, all you have to do is follow them.
Imagine being like Ted McMinn (the Tin Man), the Rangers’ winger, who wrong-footed himself and wrong-footed defenders by not knowing himself what he was going to do with the ball next. It doesn’t matter. I played football for over forty years and was rotten. But write as if every game matters, because it does at the time—I’ve not got the medals to prove it—and it might be your last. You need to turn up, with your three quid dues in your hand.
My characters aren’t rich or famous. I’m not going to be rich and famous either. And I wouldn’t know what to do with it, but I might feel less guilty about leaving the bathroom light on overnight and wasting electricity. I’d still be guilty of causing global warming and deforestation in the Amazon, before Amazon owned the world.
Take responsibility. You know your work is finished when you can’t bear to look at it one more time. You’d rather spit it in someone’s face and apologise for how terrible it is. Given half a chance you’d be quite willing to sell out to a huckster with a shivering monkey on his shoulder turning the handle for an organ grinder offering peanuts, and then by sleight of hand taking them away.
Humility and humanity don’t rhyme except in the heart. There’s nothing wrong with you when you listen and see. When you don’t listen, you don’t see. Buddha is just a jade statue of a fat guy sitting about doing no work, while you’re banging away on the keyboards ready to produce The International New York Times bestseller that everyone really needs to appreciate now.
Pour yourself into who you are and your writing, not what others think you should be. Writing is meant to be fun, but I played football mainly in the rain and freezing conditions and on gravel parks that took away the skin of my legs and scarred me. I’m not going to say I loved it, but when I think about it now, it makes me smile. I am going to say I loved it, because I can change my mind. I can therefore claim maturity, even wisdom.
Writing gives you a sense of achievement. For a somebody that’s nothing much. We’ve all heard it before, the media figure that lists their achievement then at the end adds, blithely, I just thought I’d write a book.
We all know about Alexander the Great visiting Diogenes with inked parchments of his International New York Times bestseller tucked under his arms. And Diogenes asking him to stand out of his sun.
Yes, us writers own the sun, moon and are but fragments of stars. Get your parchment, pens or keyboard out and make great use of them. Do it now.
The world doesn’t need another post-script—but here it is.
You’ll be a lot better prepared for existential questions like when a neighbour, Frances, was complaining that her grandkids got too much, and that children in Africa haven’t got any toys, or even enough to eat:
Alfie (aged seven) said, ‘Doesn’t Santa go to Africa gran? You said he goes everywhere’.
It’s your job, as a writer, to make sure Santa gets to Africa. Write on.
River of Fire is a book about before and after The Clydebank Blitz. Those who died in the aftermath of Luftwaffe bombing of Clydebank on Thursday 13th March 1941 and the following night. Those who survived the bombing and fled the town. Those who stayed. Others that came through a sense of duty and solidarity to help the victims of the bombing. John MacLeod looks at the aftermath, the thousands, who did not return to Clydebank after March 1941.
The facts are listed, the dead and injured, but juxtaposed with the way they were framed at the time.
When 528 were (with some revision) listed as dead over the two nights of bombing. The first wave of German bombers, largely unchecked, converging over Clydeside around 9pm and following Luftwaffe radio transmission beams. Around 236 Junkers 88 and Heinkel 111s that came from bases in northern France, Holland and Germany, and hugged the coast. Saturation bombing took place in a British city. Explosions could be heard at Bride of Allan in Stirlingshire.
Such was the ferocity of bombing that one worker who had been there and experienced the bombing, when told over 500 died, remarked, ‘What street?’
The town of around 42 000 people was levelled. From one geographically small community 528 people were dead; 617 seriously injured. Hundreds—perhaps thousands—more were superficially hurt and cut. Of some 12000 dwellings—including tenement blocks as well as villas and semi-detached homes—only 7 were left entirely undamaged. Four thousand homes were completely destroyed: 4500 would be uninhabitable for months.
Those that died in the Clydebank Blitz on March 1941 are listed in the back of the book alphabetically, street by street, but in a changing burgh and districts are knocked together. Further complications are that many did not die in their homes. The Rocks’ family are listed as having lived at 78 Jellicoe Street.
Ann Rocks, Age 1, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
Annie Rocks, Age 54, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
Elizabeth Rocks, Age 28, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
Francis Rocks, Age 21, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
James Rocks, Age 4, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
James Rocks, Age 32, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
John Rocks, Aged 19, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Joseph Rocks, Age 17, At 72 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Margaret Rocks, Age 2, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Patrick Rocks, Age 6, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Patrick Rocks, Age 28, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Theresa Rocks, Age 25, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Thomas Rocks, Age 13, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Thomas Rocks, Age 5 months, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Many of us are will be familiar with the story of Patrick Rocks, who swapped shifts with his son at Beardmore’s. MacLeod uses fiction to dramatize his homecoming.
‘It was still not dawn when the planes retreated and bombers faded away, he picked his way to Jellicoe Street thorough what was left of Dalmuir. Wedged between the blazes at Singers and Old Kilpatrick, this sturdy community had been pummelled through the night… Rocks meandered through wreckage with mounting alarm. When he rounded the corner, his heart lifted to see the light through the window of his flat. Then, a few steps on, he realised it was but the moon, and the glow of flame, through one tottering gable.’
This would be a thin volume charting the rise and decline of shipbuilding on the Clyde, with some questionable assumptions, you’d expect from the son of the manse, such as Thatcherism being a necessary corrective to the British and Scottish economy. (Here’s a hint, we didn’t vote for Thatcher or Johnson and we didn’t vote Brexit. We didn’t vote Scottish Independence either – not yet).
MacLeod also seems to be conducting a vendetta against a left-wing shop steward in the Daily Mail, a newspaper where he was once a reporter. (Nobody much in Scotland read the Daily Mail, not then, not now, not ever).
MacLeod is also quick to correct what he believes are the failings in Meg Henderson’s book about a fictional family set during the era of the Clydebank Blitz, The Holy City. (I just thought Henderson’s book about a matriarchal and feisty working-class family was pretty crap, whereas Henderson’s Finding Peggy was a Scottish masterpiece. I guess this is a matter of taste and I’ll tackle TheHoly City again.)
MacLeod also seems to have a bugbear against nuclear disarmament.
His chapter, The Bombing of Ethics (which is a convoluted way of saying the ethics of bombing) looks at the German experience of being firebombed. Hamburg and Dresden.
In Hamburg, for example, MacLeod quotes:
‘freak air currents spread a storm of fire across a four-square mile radius. People on the streets flashed into flames, while those huddled in shelters died asleep as the fresh air was replaced by lethal gases and smoke. Others were transformed into fine ash. By the time air raids ceased, 45 000 had been killed and a further 37 000 injured. 900 000 had lost their homes- up to two-thirds of the population of Hamburg fled the city.
Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five, begins with the narrator explaining, ‘all this happened, more or less’.
MacLeod’s account of the bombing of Dresden 13 February 1945 is more of a turkey shoot, Lancaster bombers stacked on top of one another dropping 4000 pound and 8000 pound bombs. In comparison, no bomb bigger than 1000 pounds fell on Clydebank. And they dropped only four of that weight.
Air-Marshall ‘Bomber’ Harris wanted 5000 strategic bombers. 244 Lancasters flew over Dresden. They created a firestorm.
Temperatures rose to 1000 degrees Centigrade, jets of flame fifty-feet high hissed across streets…Dresden burned so bright, night became day.
Reap what you sow is MacLeod’s argument. There was a qualitative difference between what the Allies were trying to achieve by firebombing than the Nazis. What we did was right. What they did was ideologically and morally wrong. Them and us.
A quip (and perhaps apocryphal story) from Bomber Harris sums it up. Stopped in his car one night for speeding, the policeman warns the Air Marshal, he might kill someone with his driving.
‘Young man, I kill thousands of people every night.’
Perhaps it’s more instructive to look at the grandiose behaviour of General MacArthur in the Far East in 1945.
‘No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin’ was a New York Times, front page, report. Most of the world remained ignorant of what radioactivity was.
The diminutive Australian reporter, Wilfred Burchett, armed with a typewriter, travelled by train through Japan after their surrender to witness what had happened after the A-bomb, Enola Gay. He called out President Truman and General MacArthur.
The Atomic Plague was his report.
‘I became very conscious of what would happen in the event of a new world war. From that moment on, I became active on the question of nuclear disarmament…It was not possible to stand by.’
Burchett was on the winning side. He was on the side of right. Them and Us. What he was saying is there is no them and us. Just common humanity. We sometimes lose that in the small print. Mass murder is mass murder. And nuclear weapons will tip the planet into permanent winter. Lest we forget in the scramble to claim the moral high ground. .
I bought this book when it first came out. I’ve picked it up and put it down a few times. It’s got an impressive list of broadsheets such as The Guardian who proclaim it ‘a big, page turning, globe-trotting thriller’ and a leading author of a dystopian future, A Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, calling it ‘Electrifying’. I read most of the 339 pages, missing out chapters, here and there, and scooting to the end, which I knew was going to be some kind of Armageddon.
The idea is a simple one. Rise and fall. The world is turned upside down. We are no longer talking about his-story, but her-story. Women, all over the world, develop the power to discharge electricity from a skein in their body. Men can no longer physically dominate women in the same way that they couldn’t dominate a cobra. This physical inversion of women dominating men becomes much more pronounced and is translated into the social and economic realms. Men no longer run the world. Women do. End of… beginning of. A rewriting of history and religion in which patriarchy become matriarchy and men’s contribution to progress and civilisation is distorted, overwritten and erased. A new world order.
The Power of inversion is a grand idea.
The shape of power is always the shape of a tree…This is the shape of rivers leading to the ocean…It is the shape that lighting forms when it strikes from heaven…The same shape grows within us, our inward trees of nerves and blood vessels…Power travels in the same manner between people…
As it is written, ‘She cuppeth the lightening in her hand. She commandeth it to strike.’
from the book of Eve 13-17
The quasi-religious book is the new bible for the new age. Women can throw lightning- bolts from their hands, inflict pain and death. The roots of the evolutionary tree is not gender neutral. Nine out of ten terminations are male because female children are wanted and male children an unnecessary expense.
But The Power fails for me, in fact, becomes boring, because the characters never get beyond the one dimensional. We begin with Roxy, head soldier of Allie, the prototype Eve. Roxy’s dad is a cardboard gangster and I was about 100 pages in before I realised Roxy was English. She was visiting the new women’s messiah in a convent somewhere in America. Allie’s got the measure of Roxy in a way no one else manages. She morphs into Eve. Cor blimey. Allie hears voices. I found that quite interesting. Then there’s Margot, the second of the triumvirate of female leaders. She’s a politician. She speaks with a forked tongue. Ho-hum.
Lots of folk like this book. It was a New York Times bestseller. Read on.
The blurb on the cover by Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks reads: ‘A masterpiece. Beautiful, harrowing and deeply human’. You may remember that Rebecca Skloot immersed herself in the story of how a poor black woman, daughter of tobacco farmer, contracted a virulent cancer that killed her, but her cells were taken without her or her family’s knowledge and literally spawned a billion-dollar industry while those left behind, her ancestors, remained in poverty. Rebecca Skloot is therefore qualified to speak about injustice, poverty and how poor black women’s lives, and that of their children, are routinely ripped apart in the US housing debacle, another billion dollar industry. Rebecca Skloot could not, however, step inside the life of Henrietta Lacks and narrate in the first person. Although certain situation are contrived as the author has reconstructed what happened, the prose are Sontag-like and the drama equal to Dominique Lapierre’s (1985) novel City of Joy. But fiction can never shock in the way that factual does. This is Milwaukee, a typical American city, and Matthew Desmond follows the lives of the poor black community trying to make rent and live another day between May 2008 and December 2009. But let’s not kid ourselves things have got better since then.
Two registers in which public discussion of housing poverty take place i) indifference ii) fear it will become contagious. This feeds into anger and the blame game orchestrated by conservative politicians. We see it this side of the Atlantic with every programme that shows how real people supposedly live and have in their title ‘Benefit’. Who benefits is never asked.
Rent payments typically take up 60%-70% of Belinda client’s income. Belinda also take a cut, $37 a month for her services, and she has 230 clients, as she helps manage the poorest of the poor’s money. The majority of the poor spend over 50% of their income on rent. Millions are evicted every year. In Milwaukee, with just over 100 000 rental units, landlords annually evict 16 000 adults and children. Many of Belinda’s clients have little left over for utilities and food. ‘Rent eats first,’ is the way Desmond phrases it and the way those on streets live it. In 2010 The New York Times reported 1 in 50 Americans lived in a household whose income consisted only of Food Stamps. Arleen is not on Belinda’s list. She can manage her own money, but she can’t manage rent. She has three children and her daughter has two children. Arleen is one of the lucky ones, because of her chronic depression she gets government help. $20.65 a day. $7536 a year. The welfare cheque is not enough to live own. The US government’s own statistics show that time and time again. Welfare payments, frozen since 1997. Rent and utilities soar. The problem doesn’t lie with the system, the problem lies with the person. That’s what they’re told. Arleen, her daughter and her grandchildren all choose to be poor, choose to live in poverty. They do stupid things, like buy face cream, instead of putting the money aside and saving for a new and better future. Arleen has given up hope of applying for housing assistance. Landlords, like Shareen, love housing assistance, because it can be paid directly to them, and her clients would only have to pay around 30% of their income to her. And not the 60% -70% that most pay. Or in Arleen’s case she has promised the whole of her next cheque. $675 in the hope that Shareen will not evict her. Shareen is astute. She takes the cheque for back rent and still evicts Arleen. There’s millions of reasons of evicting a family. Toss a coin. Heads, landlords like Shareen or Tobin, who runs a trailer park, win. Tails, tenants lose. That’s the way the system works. Seventy-five percent of families do not live in public housing and do not qualify for housing vouchers. In places like Washington DC the waiting list for public housing is closed and those on the list can expect to wait several decades to get a house.
There’s more money in misery that in affluence. Renters pay for the property. They act as caretakers and when a sink gets blocked or a bath blocked or report bugs running along the walls they can report it to their landlord, to be told it’s their fault and receive an eviction notice, or they can live with it. They might even, for example, get a plumber out and fix it, but that costs money and adds to the landlord’s assets. Even if they do nothing, property prices keep rising and they pay for the landlord’s future. For a price, Shareen, for example, offers to tutor her tenants in money matters and help them buy their rented units off her. The money she makes from the sale means she can afford two more units. It’s win-win for her. Even when she has to leave the casino where she’s gambling with $50 chips because one of her units is burning down, and one of her client’s children dies, the insurance payment allows her to buy more units. Make more money from another’s misery. Shareen and her partner Quentin are black, like their client pool. They know how the world works. When there is money in the house, their units, they are there with hand out, first in line to be paid. No second chances. That’s for mugs. Don’t let anyone screw you. Screw everyone for as much as you can get. That’s only fair. The comparison with drug dealers getting their money makes them smile. That’s the way the booming housing market works. Landlords lord it over everyone. There’s an eviction epidemic. A lucrative business more likely to be passed from father to son than most.
Children don’t protect mothers from eviction. They are far more likely to lead to eviction. And having children makes it far more difficult to rent. And if one of the unwritten rules of rent kingdom is you don’t call your landlord to complain about anything in your unit breaking down –such as a toilet- then the other is don’t call the police. Arleen was asked to leave a unit because her son had an asthma attack and she phoned for an ambulance, which came with the fire brigade. No police presence. That’s a big no-no. Police bring trouble to landlords. They can call in social services. They can and will call for units to be inspected for violations of the housing code.
In Joseph Heller’s novel, Catch 22, Yossarian tried to get himself grounded because only a crazy man would fly any more missions that would kill him, but only those sane enough to know that could not claim they were insane and had to continue flying sorties. Desmond cites a case of Catch 22, when poor black women living in rental units have the option of being murdered by their boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, or phoning the police and being evicted. Policing in Milwaukee also means policing landlords. Those that fail to comply with dealing with nuisance tenants that contact the police are likely to be fined or face criminal prosecution. Again and again Desmond shows the police bureaucracy default position is the tenant should be evicted. That is the only ‘approved’ option. So when the Milwaukee Chief of Police when trying to explain a spike in the number of young black females killed and says he can’t explain it as they’re only a phone call away, he’s playing the part of Doc Daneeka in Catch 22. Only this isn’t fiction. Real life kills you. No one cares. It’s only poor black people that are dying.
Evicted would be familiar to many living in London and the suburbs. To those living in Scotland, with one in four children living in poverty, poverty and profit, is something someone else worries about. Matthew Desmond complicates things too much when he’s looking for solutions. Simplify. Build more houses. Stop taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Take money from the rich and give it to the poor. But we all know how difficult that is. No mainstream political party dares. The American tragedy has a face and it’s that of Donald Trump. And on this side of the Atlantic we have a Trumptian clone, Boris Johnson, and the Prime Minister in waiting, George Osborne. Their solutions are our problems. We have hawked all our public assets and our future to shysters and there seem nothing we can do about it.