notgettingenough 's Reviews > Romulus, My Father

Romulus, My Father by Raimond Gaita
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Update: 26 March 2011 walking around London. The Westminster city council has decided that homeless people should find somewhere else to be. So, as well as declaring that the homeless will no longer make the city their home, the Council has told charities that they aren't allowed to feed the homeless any more. My friend S-L who told me this said that the Council did that to get rid of pigeons, now they are doing it with human beings. Attention Londoners, no feeding the homeless.

Lady Di is quickly forgotten. I don't they they would have dared do this if she were alive.

------------------------

Lost on the way to the theatre this evening, a chap stopped to direct us. After we moved on, Henrietta said how nervous she was, the guy was a drug addict. He looked like a perfectly ordinary chap to me, but she insisted. Maybe because I’ve shared my life intimately with drug addicts from time to time, I see them differently. If a drug addict wants to rob you, which was her fear, it is only because society for no good reason cripples these people financially. If drugs were ‘free’ or thereabouts, nobody would be robbed to pay for them. It seems to me a reason to be outraged on their behalf, rather than scared of them.

As we were walking along I talked to her about my experiences on Grey St, St Kilda. It was a street I travelled up and down daily for six months or so while I was living at one end of it, my PO Box at the other. It is a strip full of crazy people, mostly men, and to begin with I felt as nervous as she did. It didn’t take long for me to realise, however, these were human beings. Ordinary human beings. Strange to think that we fear people simply because they are powerless, that we somehow invest power into their powerlessness. Strange to think we are scared of people because they have nothing and live on the street. So, before long, these were people I knew, not in any intimate way, but in that sense you do people you see every day. We’d smile, nod, say hello. I might add that these people were empathetic. They were quite capable of ignoring you if they felt that is what you wanted.

As I’m telling all this to Henrietta, who believes not one word of it, I was regretting not walking along there anymore. I’m now torn between thinking that would be a lovely thing to do, but wishing to stay away from a place that has memories that are sometimes painful to evoke. I seem to be scared of making the trip.

Back from the theatre, I continue something I’ve been doing the last couple of days: reading what I can of Gaita online, having watched the film Romulus, My Father over a couple of nights. I come to this point. The Sacred Heart Mission is in the heart of Grey Street and accounts for the nature of the street’s inhabitants:


In the same week that Romulus, My Father received a literary award, with all the glamour attached to such ceremonies, I read from it at the Sacred Heart Mission, in St. Kilda, reluctantly, for I was aware that people came for lunch, not for literature. At one stage a man, obviously mentally ill, called for me to stop. He raised his head, which he had held in his hands and exclaimed "God is in this book!" Remembering the times I had worked in mental hospitals, I was anxious about what he would say next. "I mean, that it's filled with love", he explained. His words moved me deeply. I remembered the day when my father and Vacek visited me at school. That tribute, by a man destitute of all worldly goods and achievements, quite without status or prestige and also quite mad, moved me, gratified me and convinced me of the worth of what I had done more than all the accolades the book has received.


I hope you all now understand that you must see this movie, read this book. And take a walk down Grey St if you can.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W This line struck me: " Strange to think that we fear people simply because they are powerless, that we somehow invest power into their powerlessness."

As you know, we Americans have jails loaded with people for drug offenses. I have always said about that situation that it's because we jail people we don't like rather than those we are afraid of. We are totally f**cked up.

Outstanding in sentiment and content.


notgettingenough Eric_W wrote: "This line struck me: " Strange to think that we fear people simply because they are powerless, that we somehow invest power into their powerlessness."

As you know, we Americans have jails loaded with people for drug offenses. I have always said about that situation that it's because we jail people we don't like rather than those we are afraid of. We are totally f**cked up....Outstanding in sentiment and content. "


I was so shocked to read a few years ago that the US has more people in gaol per capita than anywhere else in the world. That is some statistic and it gets worse, when you discover not so much that most of them are there for drug offences, but for non-violent drug offences, ie scoring drugs. I gather the 3-strikes policy worked a treat: people higher up the chain of drug usage than mere users escaped charges by dobbing in others and so we have this truly dreadful situation.

Oh, and of course, what about gaols being privatised: is there anything to make a person more ashamed of their role in a democracy than to have agreed to this policy, which we have. Surely if there is anything we should take responsibility for as a society it is our gaols.


notgettingenough Then there is this, not so much off the topic since it is about how we treat poor people in democracies. UN figures a while ago observed that the top 10 percent or so of the population in the US have the highest life expectancy in the world while the bottom x percent - and this figure is appallingly large, maybe 30%?? - have lower life expectancy than is so in many third world countries.

Why on earth democracy as practised in the US is held up as the ideal is beyong my comprehension.

Last night at dinner another stat of this type was raised. Apparently the mortality rate of pregnant women in New York is higher than many third world countries because they have less chance of being able to see a doctor, than, say, a person in a Sudanese refugee camp.

It made me wonder why Doctors Without Borders don't set up in New York.


message 4: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W notgettingenough wrote: "Then there is this, not so much off the topic since it is about how we treat poor people in democracies. UN figures a while ago observed that the top 10 percent or so of the population in the US ha..."

You are right on target with your comments. We have immigration all screwed up too. I ran across a UN study of migration and immigration in the EU. In order to maintain support services for those over 65, you have to maintain a ration of about 4.5 folks between the ages of 15 and 64 (the working years, if you will) to pay the taxes to keep things going. Because of its declining birth and fertility rates, the EU will require 700 million (yes I didn't believe that at first until I checked the course)younger immigrants to achieve and maintain that ratio. The US is in a similar fix but so stupid as to not realize what a boon immigration would provide in the way of tax support.


notgettingenough Eric_W wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "Then there is this, not so much off the topic since it is about how we treat poor people in democracies. UN figures a while ago observed that the top 10 percent or so of th...You are right on target with your comments. We have immigration all screwed up too. I ran across a UN study of migration and immigration in the EU. In order to maintain support services for those over 65, you have to maintain a ration of about 4.5 folks between the ages of 15 and 64 (the working years, if you will) to pay the taxes to keep things going. Because of its declining birth and fertility rates, the EU will require 700 million (yes I didn't believe that at first until I checked the course)younger immigrants to achieve and maintain that ratio. The US is in a similar fix but so stupid as to not realize what a boon immigration would provide in the way of tax support."

Isn't it interesting that science is keeping us alive as long as it can, because it can, while the moralists are trying to bring in euthenasia so we can kill off the very same people we are keeping alive.

Smoking could be really useful. Some poorer countries, I think in Europe, have figured out that it is a nobrainer: keep people smoking. It's better for society economically. Not surprising, when one considers that the average person who dies from smoking related illness/disease dies at a respectable age, while those ones that cling on, just alive, but requiring a vast amount of support, cost a fortune.

I wonder if approbation of smoking as a public policy in the US would help its woes at the moment? Not that one is allowed to make such a suggestion, I imagine.


La pointe de la sauce Nge, this is by far your finest review. I'll be reading this and God help you if I don't find him in this book.


notgettingenough La pointe de la sauce wrote: "Nge, this is by far your finest review. I'll be reading this and God help you if I don't find him in this book."

Talk about putting the fear of God into a person. Look. I'm making lentils and rice Lebanese style for lunch right now. If you DON'T find God in this book, then would sending you the recipe do instead? It will be good, I promise.

I'm glad you like this review. So do I!!


Trevor Oh, lovely review NGE - if I'd read this first I wouldn't have bothered writing mine.

I did the enterprise agreement for Sacred Heart Mission. I knew things would go easily there when I was walking from the old office that is beside the church up to their complex closer to Inkerman Street with a woman from HR and as we walked beneath a statue of Jesus with his hands up in the air she said to me she always felt like hi-fiving him. I told her she would go to hell for such thoughts, but I still smile when I think of it.


message 9: by Alan (new)

Alan Right on sister! I assume you were on the anti-cuts march (26th March 2011 walking round London). Yes drugs should be de-criminalised I feel, too. Would save an awful lot of jail space. Why the govt wants us to adopt the American way of doing things is beyond me.E.g. our NHS is extrememly efficient in fact, in that the money spent goes mainly on patients, and yet the Tories/right keep wanting to adopt the USA health insurance model which is a model of waste. Plus some people don't get seen to, as you point out. Very telling statistic I heard at the weekend, that the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest for a very long time in the UK, and the only country in the Western world with a similar gap is the USA.


message 10: by Manny (new)

Manny the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest for a very long time in the UK, and the only country in the Western world with a similar gap is the USA

People in Switzerland will be mortified when I tell them. They really try hard, you know.


message 11: by Alan (new)

Alan my figures come from that ultra-reliable source Andrew Marr on the BBC programme about the census on Friday night. It was astonishing: he (or the man doing that bit of the programme) started in an affluent part of Glasgow (they do exist) with an 85 plus life expectancy (for a man), walked about quarter of a mile and it dropped to below 70, another quarter below 50, until you reached the homeless area where it was about 45. (If my memory serves me well). All within a mile.

I'll have to check where Switzerland come in the gap league...


message 12: by Alan (new)

Alan just did a quick google and today's Telegraph (not that I read it od course) says:
In its latest Social Trends report, the ONS said: “It appears that the recession has had a mixed impact on income inequality in the EU with increases between 2007 and 2008 for 11 countries, including the UK.”

Only Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria and Portugal had wider gaps in income between the richest and poorest in society. Slovenia was the least unequal country in 2008.'

So the BBC was wrong - Portugal et al seem to have bigger 'gaps' than us, no mention of Switzerland: they'll have to work harder...


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