BELK: A Ballad of Reading in Gaol (full version of essay published in Scottish Review of Books)

A Ballad of Reading in Gaol

(Full version of Scottish Review of Books Essay.)

By Martin Belk

A young woman hangs back after my writing seminar at the new City of Glasgow College with a question: “What’s it like, ya’ know, in there?” For a second, I’m thrown, forgetting that in the preceding class I’d alluded several times to my prison writing workshops. Before I could respond, huge, heavy tears welled up and fell from her eyes, falling down to her denim jeans. She didn’t say anything more, she didn’t need to – she has a loved one on the ‘inside’. I didn’t quite know what to tell her: a ‘modern place of rehabilitation’, to reassure her, or, a ‘bona-fide prison’, to confirm and confront her worst fears? Neither is entirely true, there are problems in the narrative.

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ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: THE IRRESPONSIBLE SOCIETY

Even in the Great Depression of the thirties, a time we are having to relive today, a sense of responsibility was generally cultivated in most families and classes. This consisted of not spending on what you did not need, not wanting what you could not honestly have, not letting yourself fall into debt if it could be avoided and in general living regulated and disciplined lives, helping others where necessary and not expecting too much out of life, which could be hard and needed much patience. read more —>

ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: A NEW LEISURE CLASS?

The real causes of the long-expected depression (by a few thinking observers anyway) are seldom mentioned. It is not just the greed of a few – bankers, CEOs etc. – but a historical phenomenon that has been growing ever since the beginnings of modern capitalism in the period that followed the English Civil War. This forced the too large and growing agricultural majority population off the land and into factories and whatever town life could offer in terms of employment. Most of it, other than heavily exploited factory workers, went into domestic service, some went into the arm and navy that created the British Empire, but miserable slum life, involving much crime, as captured in the novels of Disraeli and Dickens, was the destiny of a considerable number of the new urban proletariat. This led to the rise of the middle classes which was able to rival and often join the old landed aristocracy, much of it originally created by the Norman conquest. read more —>