Among the Hoods by Harriet Sergeant. Curious non-fiction book by a Daily Mail columnist and right-wing thinktanker who befriended a group of London semi-criminal youths from a deprived background, and over several years tried to assist them.
Sergeant regards herself as having gone through a tremendous change of heart as she came to sympathize with their plight and problems. She is horrified by the complex insanity of the benefits system, and the indifference and casual cruelty of some who administer it. At one point one of the youths is attempting to go straight and get a job: when trying to get into work he discovers he is liable for a bill of thousands of pounds for housing benefits.
However, on another level, Harriet Sergeant never breaks away from her fundamental worldview that everything is about individuals, rather than society and social structures. As she comes to sympathize emotionally with the guys, she is willing to take at face value their complaints that their problems are due to other individuals. These targets for blame include indifferent teachers who allow them to skip school, and the women who become single parents: often rejecting the fathers while the children are babies, only to miss a paternal presence when the children get bigger and start getting into trouble.
It doesn't occur to Sergeant that one reason for the complexity and "benefit traps" of the benefits system is that it's designed to punish the "lazy" in an attempt to keep the tabloids and their readers happy. The system provides incentives to get pregnant because public opinion won't allow babies to starve because of their parents, but wants to make life as unpleasant as possible for unemployed non-parents. One practical solution would be to increase benefits for non-parents: but that's not politically acceptable.
Teachers, carers and social workers are uniformly portrayed here as lazy, uncaring individuals. It doesn't occur to Sergeant that this could be anything to do with the organization or funding of these institutions. I get the feeling that ideologically to her, everything has to be the fault of immoral individuals. Having found that the "hoodies" aren't the immoral monsters she expected, she's transferred the blame to immoral individuals working on the front lines of schools and the state.
Overall, moderately interesting for its perspective. But unless you've been living in a bubble, the revelations here will be pretty familiar.
What I'm Reading 2
To the Heart of the Storm. Semi-autobiographical comic by industry titan Will Eisner. As the younger Eisner travels to basic training after being drafted in WW2, he looks out of the window and reflects on his childhood in New York and the background of his Jewish family.
An excellent comic, with some poignant and funny stories. Superbly drawn in black and white as you'd expect, with Eisner's characteristic strength in drawing emotional postures. There's some great set-pieces here, I particularly loved the Vienna cafe as WWI is declared with angry and excited figures all over.
It's in a fairly familiar vein if you've read much of his work, but I think the art carries it through. Worth reading.
What I'm Watching
Saw the old Woody Allen film "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Too Afraid to Ask" on disk. I like some of his other old films, but this one has dated very badly. Most of it seems kind of sniggering-schoolboyish now.
The Gene Wilder segment where he falls in love with a sheep is the only one that seems to hold up. I think that's partly because he plays it absolutely straight, and partly because sheep-shagging is one of the few sexual mores that is exactly as forbidden now as it was then. The comedy attempted-rape scenes are less funny because that seems more serious by modern standards, while the basic sex and fetish stuff seems pretty tame by modern standards.
Overall, if you liked this movie in the past, don't ruin your nostalgia by watching it again.
Socioeconomics. Sears business structure is a problem. Bank bailouts compared. Political Economy of Central Bank Activism: "In their own minds they probably see neoliberal reforms as self-evidently beneficial".
Random. Famous books with little-known sequels. WW2 doctor faked typhus epidemic to save villages. 5 slave escapes. Knitted wigs (slightly NSFW) Middle aged man things. 1970s McDonalds three-piece suit.
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