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No Money In My Hand

Breaking The Silence is a book of writing by Asian women put out by Centerprise in 1984. In it various women, identified only by their first name, wrote of their experiences. The work is in English as well as a handwritten in their mother tongue. There’s writing in Bengali, Gujerati, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.

No Money In My Hand

My mother’s heart will break if she come to know or see my life here today. I was very special to my mother among her four children. I was brought up under the Muslim religion. I had to stop school at age of 12 years. I lived in Boroda, my father had a soap shop – we were not poor, compare to the lots of people in India we were not short of food and clothing. At 19, I had to get married to my cousin. My father was very happy about this marriage as he was in England earning lots of money. My mother was against this marriage. Because sometimes he used to come to Boroda and stayed in our house. During those days he shouted at us for every little cause. I did not mind that much though he is 15 years older than me, coming to England excited me more than anything else. When some of our cousins used to come and stay with us, we used to take them to see Hindi coloured film. All those films sing song in London, Paris, New York made a great impression on my mind. Still today very large number of Indian people look at England with high admiration. Those who manage to come here and their occasional gifts back home make quite a sensation. My husband is a religious man – he regrets he could not go for higher education and wants our children to become doctors. He works in a dress factory and always moans about it.

After I came here, all joy and dream disappeared. I felt lost, really completely lost. At airport, looking all around me so many people and so much things happening – still today I can’t explain that confusion. All the way from airport first by tube and then by bus to his Stoke Newington bed-sitter. Worse to come carrying heavy bags. I started to realise my husband is very mean though he impresses family back home with gifts. He helped me first few days how to use gas, shops and laundry etc. He always talked about money how much someone can earn here. Because of my lack of English I started to feel very unhappy – I did not have any friend either. Whole day I cried, on top of it my husband come home and showed his temper and beat me up even. He is very unhappy at his work. He felt better when I started to make dresses at home. All day long making dresses then cooking good Indian meal, again sit down with machine – I really feel like committing suicide – but I am now pregnant. We moved to a council flat near Whitechapel Market. It is one of those old block of flats on the ground floor. Group of 11/12 years boys broke one of our windows. I could hear from inside shouting calling Paki, Black, etc. My husband could not take it anymore. One day he slapped the leader of the gang and took him to his mother next block.

After that incident they quieten down a lot. Salim was born. Still I feel very lonely and no friend – my husband does not want me to mix with other Indian/Pakistani people I meet at Halal meat shop/market. All my relative live at Leicester. My husband came to know about a drop-in centre for women and under 5, from clinic. For my English he took me there with baby. Though I don’t speak and understand English they accepted me very nicely. Everybody try to talk to me and love Salim. I feel very happy when I go there. Now I understand a bit more English and can say one or two sentences. I want to speak English but think always I will be wrong. I have got another girl now Nargis. It is so hard managing on my own shopping, cooking, laundry also whenever my husband can get some work to make dresses he bring it at home. He only thinks of money and food never thinks or treats me as human. I know lots of women like me only get used for earning money and keeping home. I have no money in my hand. Being in England I am able to earn at home and being Indian I have no right on my own earning. I cannot revolt it will cause lot of unpleasantness in the family. He is my Uncle’s son. I can’t talk about it. I don’t want to shatter my father’s dream ‘I am happy and well off here’. Man get money mad after coming here.

Now I think all these unhappiness and pressure showing on Salim – he is more than 3 years – he is not talking and behind for his age. For me now only I can see more unhappiness – I wish I was in India just as I was.

Parveen

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Pressure

The Horace Ové film reviewed in Black Echoes, 18 March, 1978.

Pressure, Horace Ové
Notting Hill Coronet.

Not exactly a film about Black Music, and yet it’s that and much more. And essential viewing for those who want to understand the realities of black oppression, which lie behind the inspiration for much Reggae.
Pressure is set in Ladbroke Grove, and is showing appropriately enough just down the road from that very location. It also strikes close to home in its subject matter, which seems to grow disturbingly more topical week to week.
The film is basically the story of a black kid’s search for work and his journey through frustration and despair to final awakening “black consciousness”. Our hero, Tony, has been out of school for over six months when the film opens, and a job seems as far away as ever. Most of his white ex-class mates are already well settled into their new working status. Inevitably the forces of discrimination begin to separate him from white society. And in turn his naïve schoolboy image transforms into the street sharp character of the final scenes.
The opening sequences are rather hammy and awkward – his white friends for instance are just that bit too clean and pleasant. But pretty soon you stop analysing as you become absorbed in simply wanting to know what happens next. The feel of the film strengthens as one bitter experience after another compound themselves in Tony’s mind. Our involvement grows until we too begin to see the pressures of Babylon all around.
There are some nice touches of irony too, like the preacher in the black peoples’ church who tells them to “drive all black thoughts from your mind”. Religion is just another form of oppression because God is a white man.
Events culminate into the scenes of police terrorisation and brutality which have a powerful and moving effect.
The ending itself might seem indecisive but perhaps that’s the only honest conclusion. Certainly there seems no cause for the optimism that “Black Joy” suggested, and in that sense Pressure is a more satisfactory film.
Herbert Norville’s performance as Tony is commendable, and the kids from the ghetto do their stuff with convincing style. Tony’s mum is good too, with her fits of histrionics that had the audience rolling about.
I would have liked to have seen some use of rhythms in the film score. Horace Ové is no stranger to Reggae (viz. his “Reggae”, presently showing with “Smile Orange” at the Brixton Ace), and yet Pressure restricts itself to a couple of pleasant tunes that add class, but don’t generate much heat. Some compelling sounds come out of the Grove itself which would add much appropriate atmosphere. However Horace Ové succeeds in presenting a provoking picture of city oppression. Pressure drop indeed.

Alex Skorecki

Grange Hill

Spare Rib marks Grange Hill’s homework, number 80, March, 1979.

Grange Hill
Tues and Fris – 5.10pm
BBC1

Since most children go to them, it’s a very good idea to have a TV series about comprehensive schools. Perhaps it should be on later though: we can hardly get home in time to see it, and anyway we don’t want to plonk down and see yet more school the minute we get in.
It deals with everyday situations, like cheeking the teachers, to more difficult ones, like rape. Unfortunately it is these more controversial issues which, although it’s amazing they’re in the series at all, are rather glossed over. Just when you thought they’d caught the rapist, it turned out he was someone’s long lost Dad, and the point about the real rapist, and what girls could do about it, was lost.
We’d like to see much more about lessons, and about teachers teaching them. It’s supposed to be about school, and yet nearly all the action takes place outside lessons – which is where we spend nearly all our time. You don’t get any real sense of teachers’ real work and their relationships with the children. Some of the acting by the children is good, especially the strong radical girl who leads the campaign against uniform. Some of the acting , however, is very unconvincing indeed.
Bullying is a big problem in schools. We didn’t like the way all the bullies were represented as working class boys, and their victims as middle class. Nor is there enough attention paid to the bullying between girls which happens a lot in schools. There are not enough black children, either. Questions of racism and class are lightly skated over in the hope you’ll get the general idea, but as far as class is concerned, it’s very stereotyped: it’s the middle class homes that are presented as happiest.
Maybe we’re critical because we know schools inside out. It doesn’t particularly appeal to us – we would have liked something more realistic and controversial. But every time we thought “This is true to life,” it would always be resolved in a happy ending. And that is not realistic.

Lisa and Ruth

Class, Clothes And Youth Cults

Mods, Teds and Rockers all get a mention in this section from D.J. West’s 1967 book The Young Offender, one of those worthy blue Pelican sociology books.

American literature on sub-cultures stresses the stark contrasts between rich and poor, or white and Negro. T. R. Fyvel*, in a colourful description of some features of modern working-class youth in England and in some European countries, has drawn attention to other kinds of class conflict which can equally well give rise to a class of aggressively disillusioned, socially alienated, and delinquent-prone youth. Fyvel points to the peculiarities of the English educational system as one of the worst sources of trouble. As the Crowther Report of 1960 pointed out, enormous numbers of fifteen-year-olds are released on to the labour market with insufficient training or preparation for anything but dead-end jobs. These hordes had been virtually condemned to second-class citizenship ever since the age of eleven when they were excluded from grammar school promotion and relegated to what were then called secondary modern schools. Finding themselves in boring jobs, but with more leisure and ready cash than their better-class peers, who were busily occupied in higher education or apprenticeships, these working-class youths, lacking the self-discipline necessary to organize their time constructively, remained bored and aimless. Having been turned off the middle-class ladder to success, and resenting their status as social failures, they tried to compensate by self-display, by extravagant spending on pop-music and exotic clothes. First the Teddy-boy outfits, then the Italian styles, then the long-haired, leather-jacketed Rockers spread across England in successive waves. The attractiveness of the new fashions to rebellious youth is doubtless much increased by the displeased reactions of teachers and authorities generally. Of course, fashions tend to spread in time throughout the population, and some are taken up by students at grammar schools as well as pop-art entertainers, but the delinquent groups are always way out at the current extreme, as evidenced by the extraordinary wardrobes collected from boys entering remand homes.
Clothes are a harmless form of protest, but of course England’s delinquents share, at least to some extent, many of the inverted ideals described by Cohen, especially the resentment of organization, the belief in living for the pleasure of the moment, and the importance of not letting a chance ‘to get away with something’ go by. One English writer of what might be called the social protest school, Alan Sillitoe, in his well-known short story (also filmed) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, depicted his delinquent hero as being so deeply imbued with the idea that he was being pushed around and bamboozled by middle-class authorities that he deliberately let himself be overtaken in a race that he had worked hard to win rather than give the impression of cooperating. This hero’s disillusionment with conventional morality is completely understandable, especially when he fumes against toleration of the atom bomb, or the combination of puritanical restrictiveness with the exploitation of sex and snobbery in commercial advertisements. Among sub-cultural delinquents in real life, the frustration and disillusionment are felt and acted upon in a confused way without such attempt at intellectualization.
The class conflicts assumed to be responsible for delinquent sub-cultures may take many different forms according to the nature of the dominant culture from which they derive. Fyvel contrasted the state of affairs in Moscow and London. Both cities have experienced growing social protest groups of delinquent-prone youngsters, but the precipitating stresses have been slightly different. In London inadequate guidance and training allows lower-class youngsters to drift into difficulties. In Russia, where the educational system is much more tightly organized and adolescents of all classes are directed and disciplined to a high degree, it is those who do not make the grade, and find themselves threatened with banishment to uninteresting menial jobs in far-distant places, who are liable to take to hooliganism, drunkenness, and social subversion. Thus American-style clothes and music may serve to symbolize the rejection of an over-regimented meritocracy by those frustrated youngsters who suffer its restrictions without achieving the rewards that are supposedly open to all.

*Fyvel, T R (1961). The Insecure Offenders. Chatto & Windus; Penguin Books (1963, revised).

Delinquent Sub-Culture

D.J. West’s 1967 book The Young Offender is one of those worthy blue Pelican sociology books and contains several sections relating to sub-cultures. There is an overlap of youth cult and sub-culture and much of what is related reads very familiar.

Merton’s theories have inspired other writers to examine in more detail the reactions of those groups within society which deviate from or positively reject the morality of the majority. Such groups have come to be known as ‘sub-cultures’. One of the most obvious examples of a criminal sub-culture is that of the delinquent gang. Albert Cohen* studied the social outlook and origins of members of delinquent gangs of juveniles, whih he and others have elaborated into a general theory of deliquency causation. He observed that American juvenile delinquent gangs are recruited from working-class boys frustrated by lack of status. The emphasis among middle-class parents on self-discipline, planned ambition, and constructive use of leisure by their children paves the way to educational and social advancement. Lower-class boys find themselves at a disadvantage because success in business and education is largely reserved for those with middle-class ideas, values, skills and contacts, Being sensitive to their inferior status, and finding the effort to adopt middle-class standards too great, some of these boys react by repudiating middle-class values altogether, and holding up to ridicule conventional respectability and morality. The sub-culture thus formed stands in relation to dominant culture rather like a witches’ coven in relation to orthodox Christianity; so that what was most condemned is now most admired. The boy who has made no headway among his more respectable peers now gains status by acts of aggression, theft and vandalism. By demonstrating his defiance and contempt for the authorities who have rejected him, he relieves his own feelings, and also wins the admiration of others. Wherever this reaction is commonplace, the affected individuals are likely to come together to form a group solution to their status discontent, each member of the group obtaining support and encouragement from others similarly placed and similarly motivated.
Cohen pointed out that his interpretation satisfactorily explained some otherwise puzzling aspects of juvenile delinquent behaviour. A lot of delinquent activity cannot be accounted for in terms of simple material gain, since very often great risks are taken and effort expended to steal articles which are so little valued by the thief that they are soon discarded or given away. Boys who like thieving often also like bullying better-behaved children who are not members of their gang, as well as playing truant, defying teachers and destroying property. The common motive behind all these forms of anti-social behaviour is malicious delight in annoying the representatives of respectability. A resentment against being pushed around and exploited by authorities also accounts for two prominent features of the gang ethos, hostility towards any form of outside control, and ‘short-run hedonism’. Gang members are very resistant to efforts by teachers or social agencies to regulate their lives or supervise their leisure activities. They prefer to hang about idly, without set purpose but out for fun, until some impulse of the moment takes them off to a football game or a delinquent exploit. Gang members especially resent attempts by parents to control them, and in Cohen’s view gang loyalties may contribute as much to the break-down of family life as family conflicts contribute to gang recruitment.
Advocates of the delinquent sub-culture theory argue that the reactions described are essentially normal and inevitable responses to a given set of social circumstances. Cohen himself, however, was willing to admit individual differences in type of reaction. Some boys, like Merton’s ‘retreatists’, instead of transferring their allegiance to a sub-culture, simply gave up trying and lapsed into apathy. Despite the common core of motivation in the sub-culture, different individuals might come to join it for somewhat different reasons.
After Cohen, various writers have put forward variations on the delinquent sub-culture theme, but without much change in the basic concept. W.B. Miller** suggested that working-class sub-culture in America is such as to generate gang delinquency of itself, without the need for a reaction against middle-class ideas. The focal concerns of lower-class youth, toughness and masculinity, cleverness in making easy money and not being duped, excitement in chance and risk-taking, and the wish to be independent and not bossed about, encourage attitudes that are already half-way delinquent. The ideal of the super-manly fighting tough guy, intolerant of personal affronts, contemptuous of sentimentality, regarding women as objects of conquest and ‘queers’ as targets for abuse, has much in common with the traditional gangster hero. Skill in outwitting others in street-corner gambling and in exchanging insulting repartee brings increased status. Weekly ‘binges’, with the prospect of sexual adventures, brawls, and unrestrained excitement relieve an otherwise dreary and unrewarding routine. Resentment of coercion, exemplified by walking out on jobs, breaking away from homes and wives, or running away from penal institutions, may represent a compensation for dependency cravings, obliquely revealed by the compulsive way absconders seek out further ‘trouble’ and bring about inevitable re-commitment to institutional care.

*Cohen, A.K. (1955). Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang. Glencoe, Ill., Free Press.
**Miller, W.B. (1958). ‘Lower class culture as a generating milieu of gang delinquency’. Journal of Social Issues, 14, 5-19.

Prisoner: Cell Block H

The classic, if not classy, Australian series reviewed in Spare Rib, No. 189, April, 1988.

Prisoner: Cell Block H
ITV
Tuesday 11.35pm

It is a paradox that a programme can be dire in its script, direction and acting and yet be compulsive viewing. I found myself on more than one occasion, embarrassing though it is to admit, watching an entire episode in a state of stupefication.
For those fortunate enough not to have experienced this riveting Australian drama set in the wing of a women’s prison there follows a synopsis of a recent episode:
Claire, a recent inmate, gets permission from the prison governor to organise a ‘cordon bleu’ dinner party to celebrate her birthday. All is happiness and accord – the governor, jolly good sport that she is, forks out her own money to buy the provencal herbs necessary for the feast. The women prisoners, taking a rest from their routine of stabbing, thumping and throwing each other into industrial driers, cook in harmony under Claire’s direction. All that is, except Noleen the ‘hard case’ – the character with the truly winning personality: she scowls a lot, stands and walks with her chin aggressively jutting forward and her hands dug deep in her regulation dungarees.
Dinner conversation: Noleen: ‘Jeez this soups stone cold’
Claire: ‘But it’s Vichyssoise darling’
Noleen: ‘Don’t call me darling’
The second course fares no better – Bouillbaisse. ‘Fish stew to you and me!’
Noleen retires to a cupboard and gets well and truly sloshed on a plastic bin load of home-brew.
Meanwhile, back in a suburbia, Noleen’s incredibly dim brother ‘Col’ is holding a very pregnant woman hostage. Col’s performance incidentally deserves a mention – ‘Benny’ in Crossroads (the nadir in television acting you may have thought) by comparison is a sensitively drawn creation. The police surrounding the house give in to Col’s request that his sister be brought to him. The prison guards discover Noleen ‘paralytic’ but nonetheless bundle her into a car to drive her to the scene of the siege. She arrives with a massive hangover.
Tragedy strikes – the pregnant hostage escapes while Col’s attention is diverted by Noleen’s need to throw up in a vase. Noleen then staggers from the house followed, rifle in hand, by Col. The police shoot Col dead and Noleen sobers up to bring the episode to a dramatic end.
Something this bad is essential viewing if only on one occasion.

Linda Kinnaird