“Poverty is what I’m writing about.” -G.O. —
When George Orwell voluntarily submitted himself to a life on the low, he discovered two distinct stories in two major cities: Paris and London. In the former, while struggling for day
Boys Behind Bars Breaking Silence
After almost three years as Writer-in-Residence at Polmont Young Offenders Institution, I see the same clashes of cultures — history repeating itself — just as alive and well within the prison walls as they were in the cities of Orwell’s discoveries. Almost 700 young men, many intelligent, talented and articulate, come from some of the worst environments in the Western World. I have mountains of written stories documenting neglect, hunger, sexual abuse, drug abuse, rampant knife gangs and one Scottish culp: alcoholism.
Government sources tell us that men in the West of Scotland have an average life expectancy of 54 years, and that 39% of children in urban Scotland live further below the poverty line than Palestinian children on the West Bank. The statistics are staggering, getting worse and, I suspect, a mirror image of their contemporaries in the USA.
Two other young men followed, underscoring MacAskill’s points, while the message of the need for cultural change resonated throughout the room, and continued in discussion groups. While MacAskill and others clearly identified the distinct connection between alcohol abuse and crime, all stopped short of discussing abstinence in favor of the idea of ‘managed drinking’, or ‘drinking less’.
When I look in the mirror, I see a lonely face. I see a face that looks older than it is.When I look in the mirror I see eyes that don’t like what they see and want to look elsewhere. I see a face that is far too hairy. I see a face that is permanently tired.A face that has spots and ought to be treated better. I see a face of regret, disappointment, hope, emotionlessness, locked away anger, unhappiness, a mask, boredom, ambition and a mind like no other. I see a face I do not want and should not belong to me. I see the face of someone who wants to be friends with everyone and does not want people to dislike him. I see a face that wants to be happy and wants to be able to talk to anyone anywhere anytime but does not know how to. I see the face of someone that wants to be part of something special. The face of a person that has never felt like he has been loved or felt as if he has loved anyone because he does not know what love is. I see ears that stick out too far and should be able to hear things no one else can hear. My eyes look like they need at least a year’s rest. I see a face of a person that wants a reason for living. My face is the face of a person that wants to help people but only if they deserve help. I see the face of a lazy person that likes to learn new things. I see the face of a man that occasionally behaves like a child. I see the face of someone that wants to be remembered but does not think he will be. He believes this because all the people that he thinks care about him are older than him and as a result of this he believes they’ll all die before him and he’ll be the last one alive plus some of the people who say they care about him might turn out not to care about him. I see a face that does not trust anyone, and those he does trust he does not trust them fully.
The end seems near, but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise – from the man above who has watched it all fall apart with war, poverty, and illness — lambs ready for the slaughter. Move pencil move! Write me a new universe.