As a child I read two books about the same time and with a curiously similar theme. One was Jean Genet’s “Our Lady of the Flowers” and the other was Violette Leduc’s “La batarde”. Both were autobiographical and described their lives with great gusto. And both appeared to me to be making the same excuse, namely ” society made me a criminal”. The authors shared great writing talent. These books are enjoyable reads. But even as a child I was not impressed by their arguments. I can remember thinking – who are you trying to kid? You are telling me you are so spineless, so passive, so weak that as a result of circumstances you just fell into criminality as a result of other forces? I mean, criminals may be lazy, but are they passive?
Growing up rural working class I was taught to respect everybody. And also, nobody. This was the Scots/Irish tradition of ” not being a respecter of persons”. Unlike the Irish peasant culture surrounding me where the social norm is to grovel to the higher-ups and happily trample anyone viewed as socially inferior, my family carried the Scots and rural culture of you respect a man or woman on the basis of their merit. Social status is disregarded. But at the same time you are under a requirement of respecting everyone. Only one exception was allowed. Criminals. Criminals deserved no respect on the basis of their immorality, parasitism and being predators on our class.
So, from an early age I entirely rejected the premise “society made me a criminal” and there has only ever been one class of human beings I despise totally, and that is criminals.
However, there were aspects of my early life experiences which tallied with Jean Genet’s and Violette Leduc’s descriptions of their childhood. My parents were poor. My father worked from the age of 14 to past 70. He didn’t smoke, drink, nor gamble. He married late and only had two children. He never got into debt. He was a highly skilled man. But most of his early working life when he was a sparks in the Merchant Navy all his spare income had gone to support his mother and youngest sister. As a result when I was growing up, we were poor, and the community that surrounded us viewed us with suspicion and I experienced being treated like a criminal because of being poor along with social rejection throughout my early life. But I didn’t see anything in that to be an excuse for criminality. I discerned that people were obnoxious, didn’t live to the same standards of my parents which I also subscribed to, and I didn’t need them. I expected to be self-sufficient, like my parents.
However, now in my sixties and looking back over my life I have to admit that Genet and Leduc had an argument – but not in the way they presented it.
If you are a law respecting person, you not only do not commit crimes, but you also make a point of avoiding crime venues. Especially as a working class women which as a category society can’t be bothered protecting. You avoid venues where you might become a target of crime. You don’t dress nor act in a provocative manner. You avoid going to places where men go to pick up women, because you know men with criminal intentions will be there. You guard your reputation because a bad reputation is a bad-man magnet. All this was second nature to me. Logically, following this choice of behaviour I should have been as safe as it is possible for a woman of my social class to be, from crime and criminal elements. I avoided bad company.
If only it had been that simple.
When I went to Ulster University (Coleraine campus) in 1976, to study the non-controversial, rather conservative subject of Philosophy, with a focus on religion and ethics, I became the target of gang stalkers. An English policeman went out of his way to make my acquaintance. He asked me inappropriate questions about my sex life and gave me a large pile of porn magazines which had been confiscated from students. Strange men started hanging around my remotish cottage, frightening the single lady on one side to sell up and go back to England, and frightening the old man on the other side who had lived there all his life without any trouble. I was rejected for further study before taking my final exams even though I was getting high grades. Due to poverty I met few students or staff at University, but somehow the ones I did meet were communists or republican sympathisers. (My politics are middle of the spectrum and strongly opposed to both extremes of communism or fascism. I was a volunteer for the non-sectarian Northern Ireland Alliance Party at a later date). And the whole gang stalking package from then on. Which included putting opportunities to commit crimes in my way. And also, when I moved into accommodation with perfectly normal neighbours, in a short time those neighbours would move out to be replaced with anti-social and criminal tenants – exactly the bad company that I tried to avoid. You can avoid going to venues where bad people hang out, but if you are living at a multiple-occupancy address, how can you prevent criminals from moving in? This happened repeatedly.
One theory of gang stalking, which has traction, is that it is caused by corrupt police and security service personnel. The people who are supposed to be catching criminals and protecting the law-abiding. They are not supposed to be inciting crime, and setting up situations where crime is likely to happen, nor acting in a way which increases the risks from crime for ordinary citizens.
It looks like an alliance of criminals at the top of society combining with criminals at the bottom of society, to use crime to attack lower status people.
So, Genet and Leduc had a point. There are very strong and heavily financed powers in society who have the active objective of promoting crime, both in terms of crimes being carried out and also crimes directed at people. It appears to be for the socio-political purpose to on one hand, persecute lower class groupings in society, such as working class and people of colour by making them targets of criminals – channeling crime in their direction. And also to justify this process by trying to get them involved in crime directly. The objective being to stigmatise lower class law-abiding groups as criminal class. A handy, ever-ready scapegoat class. A large percentage of women (mainly lower class) in prison, I am told, are furious because they maintain they are there because they have been set-up by men, who actually committed crimes but got off scott-free.
On the back of my experience it could well be true.