A number of years ago…
I had a very, very similar experience myself – on a ‘Sanctuary Housing Association,’ estate in Leeds! At the time, I was writing my first book Quirky Claus, which took nearly ‘four years’ to complete, but achieving this on a slump estate “riddled” with alcohol and drug abuse… well to say it went somewhat ‘against the grain’ – is an understatement!
This… on an estate, which disgracefully had its freedom of expression in many respects… thoroughly ignored and repressed, by those in a position of responsibility.
Well, you can imagine a man writing a children’s book, being considered somewhat unconventional in ‘many walks of life,’ but on which, was without doubt myself living on an exceptionally socially dysfunctional estate… well?
I was ‘beaten up’ regularly by neighbours, and the police in ‘Leeds’ used one excuse after another to “not” do anything ‘meaningful’ about the problems, I myself and many others faced on this estate. There was an endemic attitude of denial, which was staggering, and all the while… shameful – to behold!
In fact on one particular occasion… after being beaten up so badly, I had to call an ambulance; the police also arrived, but when I turned down the ambulance, as I did not wish to appear ‘diminished,’ or for that matter ‘beaten’ in both respects of the word – in front of these neighbours; instead I was “arrested” and I spent the night, one of a number – in a police cell! For all intents and purposes… the police in Leeds colluded with – those who resorted to bullying on this estate.
Yet, some ‘two weeks later,’ I was still experiencing symptoms of concussion…
On yet another occasion, I was busy writing my next book ‘The Tallest Dwarf’ at half past ten on a Saturday night… when I similarly had the police call at my door, and I was arrested on a baseless accusation of assault, which was proven to be untrue in court – as much as could be feasibly possible, which under the circumstances… considering there were numerous neighbours – who cowardly involved themselves in this bullying… were prepared to say anything to their shame and disgrace, in an effort to have myself convicted. Once more I had spent the night in a police cell, which you can imagine how aggrieved I felt – when I have spent years working on a weekend – up this point, and since. The police also wished to confiscate my computer, which I protested over vociferously… as this contained ‘all’ my writing, and I did actually win this small battle.. small victories – as they say! However despite the fact, I had been before physically assaulted by an Officer on a false arrest previously, and on this occasion, the police of officer in question – derided my first book… describing this as a ‘pamphlet!’
Some six years later… Quirky Claus as well as entirely selling out in dozens of stores, is in over 300 libraries, has been read by potentially thousands of children, and in the last recorded year – the borrowing figures through libraries… were the highest they had ever been!
“Another aspect of the cynical paradox of this situation was – in part, at the time I was visiting the Ilkley Literary, and people such as Dom Joly… partook of a copy of my book for his kids, and Joanne Harris – actually linked to my website – on seeing the story. ‘Here’ in these people – particularly Joanne… what I was trying to aspire to, was respected, and actively ‘encouraged’ but this should be the case throughout society, where anyone strive to be a better person and improve themselves!’ Nevertheless, to instead return home in fear and apprehension, and conversely not even have your most… very ‘basic’ rights respected, was abhorrently, and absolutely utterly wrong!!!
Can I also say please about those people who may have some prejudices about being ‘sectioned…’ that I actually became friends in there… and I had not realised this – until after my discharge, but the son of the actual Defence Secretary. The difference was – he committed himself, because he was not eating, due to personal issues; ‘I’ however was committed – I feel, for standing up for what I sincerely believed in, and simply because… I was striving for a better life, not just for myself, but for others!
Additionally the ward, actually in the time… I was there, released patients, who I considered were possibly a potentially a danger to themselves… if not others:
For instance, and this was one of the ‘almost’ humorous aspects of my internment – there was a particular patient who would follow me around the ward, and occasionally burst into song; apparently he believed I was “the” Secret Millionaire… from the Channel 4 programme, and was intent on doing X-Factor style auditions – at every available opportunity. When he elaborated to myself – on one occasion – of leaving on the next Saturday, I genuinely thought this was yet another – delusion of his, but sure enough they did discharge this chap, while disgracefully keeping interned some – who I am sure were more sane, than some of those who were actually running the circus, show, sorry… ‘ward!’
To summarize: weird or odd has to be considered in context: ‘odd’ in some places, and circumstances – is anybody who happens to be only a little bit different or even in just reaching for expectations and aspirations, which others may not recognise or be resentful of; even actually – just by the mere fact this person is exhibiting the courage in pursuing their dreams, they wish in truth – they could utilise that strength – themselves! We all in reality can do, all you have to do is believe…
Terry Pratchett expounded repeatedly on this misconception – on numerous occasions, in his Discword novels, that the perception between someone who is considered by society an ‘eccentric or conversely a ‘nut,’ and their social or class background, ie money! For example Lord Tootle Royd the 453rd, and his wife Izabella – can merrily spend their Sundays enjoying the many delights of indulging in their purpose built – funfair they have erected… ‘naked’ on a multi-acre estate; while Joe Bloggs on the local deprived… socially disenfranchised estate, could simply place a vegetarian sticker in his window, and be considered a ‘bit round the bonkers!’ * Since writing this latter remark, I have actually heard of story of a lady… who encountered much the same abuse as I did on a similarly deprived estate, because the locals had simply discovered… she was homeopath.
Disconcertingly from my own experience, something as simple as this, can be the catalyst and forerunner to years – of abuse, because people, in such situations, the perpetrators… usually feel excluded from society – themselves. Worse, that mere act could lead to one person being unduly bullied, and then because the causes of these issues are not recognised, and neither dealt with – other people follow like the proverbial unthinking sheep, because they know too often from experience… it is a case of bully or be bullied; this then can escalates to ‘full’ scale abuse and discrimination, and the person with initially good motives and intentions, instead… ‘conveniently’ in the eyes of the police – who are supposed to of course protect such brave and aspiring individuals, are instead – considered the cause!
However the real source of these problems… are in reality – the discrimination, and bullying, which exist on these estates – in the first place! The mistake the police are making is misdiagnosing, and therefore unfortunately identifying these unfortunate individuals – as the cause; when all they happened to do, was to inadvertently bring it to the fore – just by their mere presence – in just being themselves, and hence becoming the focus of this unwarranted attention. If a person’s personality is based on the positive strengths of being different, then they are left with nowhere else to turn! At times such as this, people consider suicide or actually commit the act, because they feel society is refusing to allow them to exist – for who they really are!
We should all be very, ‘very’ – wary, when society ‘any’ society – uses incarceration to silence dissenting voices, but perhaps considerably “more” so… when this is done under the guise or charade… of someone being mentally ill!