Obedience and Revolt: The Mysterious Roots of Half a Life
 

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Publisher’s Statement

By Dr Jim Byrne

25th April 2015

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Coming soon!

Watch this space…

Obedience and Revolt: Mysterious roots of half a life

By Daniel O’Beeve

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Edited and published by Dr Jim Byrne

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This book contains the most detailed and intricate psychoanalytic case study of the twenty-first century.

It’s the story of one man’s life, from birth to the age of about 39 years.

It explores his dysfunctional relationship with his mother;

- his schooling (which is alternately vicious and hilarious!);

- his cultural transmigrations, which are painful, brave and dramatic;

- his attempts to figure out how to relate to girls; to find love; to understand and master his sexuality;

- his relationships in general; his political ambitions; his career;

- and ultimately – the mysterious secret which has been the driving force of his family history from the beginning: The Big Secret; the Tap Root of his life; and how it is resolved!

All of this is backed up with some background pre-history of his family and tribe.

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Also illustrated are:

# the impact of family history on the attachment style, and the relationship possibilities, of individual children;

# the way physical and psychological cruelty runs down the generations, within families and communities and schools;

# and the way the potential of an individual is somehow miraculously conserved, through cruel years of environmental distortion, waiting for the day when it can find a suitable environment in which to flower and flourish.

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This book is a mystery story, with an unpredictable ending.  It blends memoir, science fiction, history, psychology, philosophy and a selection of classical literary allusions and references, all rolled into one big, heroic journey which is destined to become a classic in its own right.

It should appeal to readers who are interested in mystery dramas; clever detective work; psychological thrillers; family therapy and family history; heroic journeys; cross-cultural travel; love relationships; adult sex-love difficulties and resolutions; great and small political struggles; Irish mythology; cultural history of 1950s Ireland; cultural history of  the UK in the 1960s-‘80s; an expose of basic military training in the UK; sanity and insanity; forgiveness and love; as well as the tension between obedience and revolt.

Apart from the general readers who will be drawn to many of these topics, this book should also appeal to counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, childhood development experts, moral philosophers and political theorists.

~~~ 

Nothing so intricate and detailed could ever be culled from the diaries or journals of a single individual.  Indeed, it did involve Daniel in four major writing challenges.  He began by writing two stories: 

Firstly: The memoir of the first eighteen years of his life;Nothing so intricate and detailed could ever be culled from the diaries or journals of a single individual.  Indeed, it did involve Daniel in four major writing challenges.  He began by writing two stories:

And secondly: A biography of his life from the age of eighteen years to thirty-nine years.

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He then wove those two strands of stories together, based upon clues and hints and insights from some helpful elements of the best of British, American, French, Russian and general European literature, from Cervantes to Donna Tartt, via Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut and Ursula Le Guin.

He then identified the gaps in his jig-saw story, and filled those holes with mainstream and cutting-edge psychological theories and insights; plus fictionalized elements that are compatible with the overall shape and depth and truth of the basic stories.

What emerges is a story – an autobiographical novel – a psychological thriller - which entertains and instructs, informs and inspires, and illustrates the power of narrative therapy: both written and read.  It also charts the ‘learning by doing’ adventures of a young man who has a defective map of the social world; and illustrates his indomitable spirit!  His unwillingness to give up.  His determination to life more than half a life.

The emotional punch of some sections of this book were so powerful they bowled me over; they brought tears to my eyes; while other elements caused me moments of such intense elevation that I felt I was living at ten times my normal intensity.

This is a very enjoyable, instructive, social document of immense importance for our futures – for all of us on this planet!

~~~

The manuscript as a whole is still in the editing process; but we expect it to appear on Amazon in the summer of 2015.

Meanwhile, you can read the ForewordPreface Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 below, for free.  We are also adding some brief extracts from later chapters, in the Extras section here.

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This book will be available for sale from this web page in just a few weeks.

Chapter 14 (of 29) has already been edited.  The remainder of the book in not only written, but recently rewritten; and only awaits a final edit before it is made available to the public.

Watch this space.

Dr Jim Byrne – 25th April 2015

Editor and publisher of Daniel’s work.

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All of the material displayed on this page is subject to Copyright Law.  No part of this material may be used in any way without the explicit written permission of the copyright holders: Dr Jim Byrne and the Institute for CENT. 

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Foreword - by Dr Jim Byrne - Copyright (c) The Institute for CENT and Dr Jim Byrne

“Is life really just ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’, as suggested by Shakespeare, in one of his darker moments?  Or is it a glorious opportunity to walk the bloody way of progress; to haul your burden towards the borders of sanity; and then to emerge in a golden dawn of personal triumph, when you have finally faced down your last adversity?”

Willi-Sean Maguire.  Irish Magus…

~~~ 

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Daniel O’Beeve arrived in the small town of Alton Cross, in the High Peaks, during the heavy snowstorms of January 1979.  He was just thirty-three years old; but he was totally burned out.  Exhausted from fifteen years of stumbling from one emotional crisis to another.  His six-year marriage was over; his two-year affair was over; his overseas-career was over; he had lost the chance to be a father to twin girls.  He had spent the past two years using drugs to get him through his daily difficulties.  And then there was the earlier seven years of isolated loneliness and confusion to factor in.

Alton Cross was the remote town where he would finally encounter his devils.  This would be his final chance to face them down, before despair overwhelmed him.

He hated Alton Cross from the moment he arrived.  He wrote a song about it, and played it on his guitar:

“The valley is empty now.  Nothing moves on the streets…”.

~~~

This is one of the strangest, most intimate, most moving and delightful autobiographical stories I have ever read.  It is somewhat fictionalized, so it counts as a semi-autobiographical novel – but it feels as if the person who wrote it lived every pain and joy on these pages.

I am proud to introduce the writing of Daniel O’Beeve to the world, and convinced that this will become one of the great stories of post-post-modern literature.  Each time I read it, I see and hear it on the Hollywood screen that I carry in my head for that purpose!

I was delighted, some four years ago, to be chosen by Daniel O’Beeve to edit and publish the story of his fascinating, difficult, challenging life.  In particular, I was very happy that Daniel had been influenced by some of my writings about my own childhood.  This, he writes, encouraged him to take the bull by the horns, and to face up to the highly dysfunctional family history which had distorted most of his life. 

Daniel was a product of inadequate parenting, in a culture which was deeply wounded by colonial exploitation. By writing the story of his life, he hoped to dispel some of his demons; and also to help others to come to terms with some quite common human problems and difficulties – especially problems to do with relationships and love; and especially sex-love.  In the process, he also reveals some highly comical and ludicrous elements of his family life, his school experiences, and his wider experiences of the world.

The main reason I admire Daniel so much is this: What he has written has such a raw honesty that it touches me deeply.  And I know how much courage it must have taken for him to admit some of these stories; to accept them as part of himself; even to acknowledge them, in the privacy of his own mind.  But because of his openness and honesty, he has also recorded a good number of lighter moments, which are touching.

With every chapter that I have read, I felt I had become a little wiser than before; a little more compassionate; a little more human.

~~~

Initially, we published the first eighteen years of his life, which was sub-edited by BM, a mutual friend in Brighton.  (I am very grateful to BM for that favour!)

However, Daniel has become unhappy with that cut-off point, and he has now extended the story to a more satisfying end point: about twenty years later.  In the process, he tells us, he also had to shift from pure memoir, with a few fictional pieces, to a more fictionalized autobiographical format.  The whole story now has more of the feel of an autobiographical novel.

Because this expanded story has more geographical locations and institutions which could potentially help curious minds to guess Daniel’s identity, we agreed that I would rewrite some of this expanded autobiographical novel, especially replacing the locations in which Daniel lived, and substituting some in which I lived.  I have also changed some of the ages and genders of some of his siblings to correspond to the pattern in my own family.  And some of his peer relationships have also been modified.  This should ensure that Daniel’s siblings and former colleagues will never be able to guess that they are reading the life of someone they know or knew very well.  And my own peers and relatives will know that none of this applies to them, because the overall shape of the story is so different from what they know of their own lives.

~~~

“The impact of inadequate parenting, in every society, is disproportionately borne by the roughly forty percent of the population who have parents with insecure attachment styles of relating to their children.  Those children are born into a barren landscape of loveless isolation and aloneness.  And in the part of their brain where the capacity to relate to others should be slowly built up, there grows a huge, cavernous hole which robs those children of the capacity to love and play with others.  It dooms them to live half a life, at most!”

Willi-Sean Maguire.  Irish Magus…

The fundamental wiring up of the human brain-mind occurs in the first three or four years of life, in private homes, away from the eyes of the world.  The ways in which that mental wiring responds to later social and cultural contexts can then seem quite inexplicable and mysterious.  The only really effective and comprehensive way we can learn about those formative years, and how they impact the feeling states of later life, is if somebody has the courage to go back, dig it all up, and lay it out in the form of the story of a life – or half a life.  And that is what Daniel has so bravely and helpfully done.

I hope this book proves to be interesting and helpful for any individual who wonders about how their own childhood experiences might have affected the shape of their adult personality and life circumstances; as well as professionals who work with childhood trauma and psychological development.  I also hope it serves as a model for others who want to follow in Daniel’s brave footsteps in writing their own life story.

I hope it teaches something about love; the trials and tribulations of learning how to love; and finding a compatible sex-love mate.

My final hope is that this book will help the world to understand the power of cognitive emotive narrative therapy – the newest therapy which pioneers the digging up of childhood memories; acknowledging them as our interpretive attempts to reconstruct what may or may not have happened to us in our journey towards autonomy and the capacity to love; and then to let them go - like the returning of wild birds to the woods from which they were lovingly coaxed.  To let everything go back into the silent void from which we all, originally emerged.

To wrestle for a time with the war of words which is human culture, and then to let it go, totally!

To step into the eternal present like a flaming torch!  Cleansed by fire; and love.

~~~

Dr Jim Byrne, Hebden Bridge, April 2015

 

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Preface

By Daniel O’Beeve

Copyright (c) 2015, The Institute for CENT and Dr Jim Byrne 

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 “If we do not teach our children about love and why it’s so much healthier than hatred, what will become of them?  If we do not teach them about their journey towards healthy sex-love relationships, in maturity, who will teach them?  And if we do not know enough about love and sex, and relationships, and how to manage our hatred and rage, what hope is there for any of us?”

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy…

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There are two ways for me to answer the question: What is this book about?

Firstly, let me present the quick answer. This story is many things: A fictionalized autobiographical novel; a psychological case study; a mystery story; a thriller; an extensive piece of writing-therapy; and, perhaps for you, dramatic reading-therapy.

As I sit here at my desk, writing, I have become aware of a piece of information that I’ve cleverly hidden from myself for a long time: I am much closer to my death than I am to my birth.  I am getting undeniably closer to the EXIT!

And as I approach the exit from this life, I feel a powerful urge to ensure that I leave something behind.  Something of value to you – to help you with the remainder of your own journey.

The most potent gift I can offer, as I prepare (slowly) to depart, is to reflect upon my own journey through life – or, rather, through the first half of my life – so I can draw some lessons; and to present those lessons to you for your consideration.

I hope in this way to help you to revise your emotional map of your world, and to rethink your potential journey onwards, towards your own exit – so you can quickly recover from your own disappointments, losses, tragedies and other difficulties, and to have a happier life.

~~~

Secondly, here is a more detailed answer.  To understand what this story is about, you need to know a little more about me; so here goes:

It must be more than thirty years since I sat in a dusty bedsit in Alton Cross, soon after arriving in this strange part of the High Peaks.

I was sitting in a big, embracing armchair, and holding a new copy of a novel by Graham Green.  I was really into Green’s novels at that time.  I think the book title was The End of The Affair.  In a preface to the book, Green had written that this was not the book he had intended to write; and that the main character, Scobie, was not at all like the Scobie he had intended to create.

Stories and characters may have lives of their own.  I say that because this is not the book I intended to write; and the characters have transmogrified and grown beyond my plans for them. 

My subtitle refers to ‘mysterious roots’, and I thought I knew what I meant when I originally wrote those words.  However, the mystery slowly crept up on me, and grasped me by the unsuspecting heart.  Truth is stranger than fiction; and this journey is as strange and startling and mysterious as any of the dramatic mystery stories of Dorothy L. Sayers; Raymond Chandler; Agatha Christie; Arthur Conan Doyle; P.D. James; John Grisham; Patricia Cornwell; Donald Westlake or Donna Tartt.

I would say that this is a semi-autobiographical novel because more than sixty percent of the material is straightforward auto-biographical memoir.  But about twenty percent is based upon extrapolation from, or interpolation within, the known facts.  The remainder, perhaps fifteen percent, is pure fiction, spun and woven by me to fill the gaps between my well-established jigsaw pieces.  But spun and woven with integrity and a commitment to stick to a kind of veracity that transcends the weaving process.

~~~

Most people seem to me to be in denial about the fact that ‘childhood is a nightmare’.  One of the reasons it’s a nightmare is that there is so much routine cruelty in the history of our tribes, families and broader cultures.  And lots of psychological damage, caused by cruel treatment in childhood, is passed down the generations.  It’s a sickness locked into our largely unwritten cultural narratives.

And often sexual abuse is mixed in with physical and psychological abuse – or there is a neurotic denial of a history of sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

Most people that I’ve encountered think that ‘sex is sorted’; ‘sex is no problem’; we live in an era of ‘sexual liberation’.  But many of the traditions that make up the cultures and sub-cultures of the British Isles, and North America, and Western Europe, were anti-sexual or asexual in nature.  (And look at the sexual scandals in India today; and the trafficking of sex-slaves into our ‘civilized societies’ from the poorer parts of the world).  And also today, we are finding that, at the highest levels in society, sexual abuse of children and minors has been perpetrated under our very noses; and covered up; and denied, by politicians, police officers, social workers and others in positions of authority. How can we hope to step outside of that history of sexual repression, sexual abuse, and the failure to link sex and love, if we do not examine where we have been?

How can we create a safe world in which to raise our children if we are asleep to these problems?

In this book, I do not propose to offer an analysis of human sexuality.  I will only show, as one of the several strands of my own distorted development, that sex can be very confused and confusing; and sexuality can be stunted, but also reclaimed.  However, it can only be reclaimed if it is integrated with the quest to love and to be loved; to forgive and to trust.

I will also shine a light upon the problem of emotional and physical abuse of children; and the problems of psychological development in the case of cultural and intellectual deprivation.  And, since Nelson Mandela claimed that "There can be no keener examination of a society's soul than the way it chooses to treat its children”, this will tell us a lot about the soul of the culture from which I came, as well as related cultures.

~~~

There are books that inform and books that dismay; and books that do nothing at all.  This book is intended to heal.  To heal me, and perhaps you, and perhaps a subset of the people who eventually read it.  Or even a sizeable seam of our sickly world.  (Of course, our world is ‘officially’ not sick.  It is officially ‘technologically advanced’.  Advanced its machines may be – but our world is psychologically and spiritually bankrupt, in the main!)

~~~

I want you to know how this book came into existence.  I have spent hundreds of hours digging up my past, my childhood, my family history; shaping it into digestible stories; processing those stories; and moving on. In addition, I have also spent hundreds of hours studying psychological models of the person, the mind, the family, and human relations.  Furthermore, I have woven my personal stories and those theories and models of human development into a tapestry of rich understanding.  In the process I have produced this memoir/ autobiographical-novel/ thriller/ case-study of the mysterious roots of half a life.

As indicated in my brief answer above, for me this has been a journey of writing therapy.  My hope is that, for you, the reading of this book could be a journey of reading therapy; and/or personal and professional development, as you begin to re-digest and reinterpret the story of your own journey through your own life’s challenges.

~~~

I have, perhaps, made a mistake in calling this section a ‘preface’, because we live in strange times.  We live in times in which it is highly likely that many people, who see the label ‘preface’ on this section, will want to hurry on to Chapter 1.  They want to get to the meat, the marrow, the ‘bottom line’ as quickly as possible. 

We or bombarded by an ideology that induces ‘hurry sickness’ in most human minds.  A famous business consultant, who should have known better, even suggested that the first principle of time management should be: “Do it now!  Do it now!  Do it now!”  He, not surprisingly, was recently hospitalized for a serious degenerative disease!

Most of the advocates of the ‘hurry up’ commandment will soon reach the last day of their lives, and sadly realize that they have accelerated that terminal moment into existence.  Why – they will wonder then - could they not have spent more time leaning on a gate or fence, staring into the far distant horizon, at the green beauty of nature naturing?

~~~

I would like to think that this book is fundamentally about love; or sometimes its lack; or the journey from lovelessness to true love.  Of course, by love I mean that meeting of the minds and hearts of two or more human beings who have already achieved a state of self-love, which alone can give them the capacity to create love with others.  In this sense, as described by Ursula Le Guin, love is not like a stone, but rather like bread.  It has to be made, over and over again, from a recipe you have to know intimately, in your heart.

But in the beginning of my life, there was no bread of love; no joy in life; no cherishing of others.  Nobody in my life knew how to bake; and so I could not learn to be a baker of love.  There was only the commandment to obey.  Obey or die!

Love had been crushed out of my parents, and their parents, by the cruel lessons of a barbaric history; and by their religious training.  As Osho (an imperfect theorist, who distinguished love from biology) writes:

“The religions and the so-called saints who have escaped from the world, cowards who cannot face and encounter life, have poisoned the whole idea of love as the only spirituality.  They have condemned sex, and with their condemnation of sex they have also condemned love, because people think sex and love are synonymous.  They are not.  Sex is a very small part of your biological energy.  Love is your whole being, love is your soul[1].  You have to learn that sex is simply a need of the society, of the race, to continue itself – you can participate if you want.  But you cannot avoid love.  The moment you avoid love all your creativity dies and all your senses become insensitive; great dust gathers around you.  You become the living dead”. (Page 27)[2].

Of course, in defence of the religions, it could be said that they mainly condemned sex, and over-regulated it, because it so often proves to be a destructive force in the world.  (Though it could then be counter-argued that it was actually condemned and regulated to suit the interests of the Patriarchs who dominated [dominate?] the world).

But Osho seems to be right about the importance of love, and the withering disease to which we fall prey the moment love slips out of our lives, or fails to find fertile soil in our hearts.

And that was how I was for most of my screwed up life.  Loveless.  Living Dead!  A craven conformist; an obedience machine.  A dried out husk that had no conception of what the word ‘love’ could possibly mean.

~~~

In this book, I undertake a journey that is designed to bring me back to life; to find the source of love within myself; and to heal the wounds of my difficult childhood.

In the process I hope I can help you to heal and/or grow.

I hope I can find the mysterious roots of the first half of my distorted life, and to make emotional sense of them.

And I hope you enjoy the journey.

~~~

Daniel O’Beeve

Berlin – April 2015

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[1] This is the only statement in that quote by Osho’s with which I have to disagree: that ‘love is your whole soul’.  If love is your whole soul, then how do you account for the existence of hatred?  Hatred is the core of the dark side of your soul; while love is the core of the light side, the good side, of your soul.  This is the theory of the Good and Bad Wolf, which has been re-discovered and promoted by Dr Jim Byrne’s cognitive emotive narrative therapy.

[2] Osho: Love, Freedom, Aloneness: The koan of relationships.  St Martin’s Griffin, New York, 2001.

 

Chapter 1 - by Daniel O'Beeve...

Copyright (c) 2015, The Institute for CENT and Dr Jim Byrne 

"The children of Ballavita suffer most in the early morning dew; for that is when they hungrily long for the cool evening breeze.  The only time they suffer more is late in the evening, when they long for the early morning dew.  The hornets that sting them, of course, add to the pain".

Paddy-Brennan-ji; The Roots of all Suffering…

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1. Recalling and crafting a story…

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Teenage memories are easy.  I have no difficulty remembering that I escaped from the most oppressive school imaginable at the age of fourteen years; that it was less than two weeks before I began my apprenticeship in metal jewellery manufacturing; and two weeks later I joined an amazing judo club in the city centre.

The memories of the trainers who came from Japan to teach us are still as clear as an old movie.  Slow-moving, graceful men, with sallow skin, and jet-black hair. Lithe men who acted like peaceful but lethal panthers, smiled like reclusive monks, and taught us their strange culture.  Not just judo and karate; but also aikido (fighting with hands and wrists); kendo (fighting with sticks and/or swords); meditation; tea ceremony; and their philosophy of life.

Their philosophy was simple:

“No fight”.  Translated by an assistant as: Do not be aggressive.  Do not attack your opponent.  Use his or her strength and aggression against them.

“No anger”.  Do not allow your emotions to intrude into your judo play.  This is a game of skill; of consciousness; of alertness.

“No pride”.  Do not be pride-ful.  Do not inflate you ego.  Be modest. The world is for everybody.  All are equal.  Do not assume more than your fair share of the space; the air; the action.

“No look for trouble”.  Do not fight outside of your club, in your daily life.  Do not seek trouble or conflict.  If confronted by an attacker in the street, choose to run away, as fast as you can, if you can.  If you cannot run away; or they pursue you and attack you; then, without any emotion, disable them; render them powerless to harm you – swiftly and without ceremony.  Then walk away, with no more agitation than if you have just brushed some autumn leaves from your garden path.

~~~

On special occasions we all sat in silence – twenty or so young men aged fourteen to forty - while they whisked hot, green tea for us, until it was frothy on top.  Then we all sat, crossed legged, with tiny little cups, sipping the tea in silence, and meditated on ‘Big Mind’.  It was stranger than being observed leaving my mother’s uterus by two blue aliens and a green one, who peered at me through a steerable wormhole in the fabric of intergalactic space-time, and looked so sad about at the way I arrived!

~~~

Stories of infancy are much more difficult to recall; to reconstruct; to validate.

~~~

But it is not just a problem of memory.

Many great stories remain untold, because the potential author has no voice; no words for the things they have seen and felt.  Some potential stories are stillborn because the potential storyteller gives up on life and quits completely: dying into drugs, alcohol, gambling, ‘business success’, sex addiction, or warmongering.

Some stories emerge later in the day because a tired and weary wanderer accidentally stumbles across the secret vault in which the truth has been dumped, and locked away, in the ordinary course of a timid, half-lived life.  Such is the source of this story: my story.

~~~

We remember so little of our infancy.  Sometimes nothing.  Sometimes little snatches of sound or feeling, or snippets of imagery.

I don’t know how often my mother sang songs when I was a babe in arms, but one such song did stick in my mind.  This is how it begins:

“It was early, early in the spring

The small birds whistled and sweet did sing,

And changing their notes

From tree to tree

The song they sang was Old Ireland Free”.

It was a sad song.  I did not know what the words meant – did not know what “Ireland” was; or what “Free” could be.  I may have had some vague idea what a bird was; and a tree; perhaps.

But it was a sound of deep, mournful grief, the way she sang it. Even despair.  It bored its way into my heart, like a sick worm, looking for somewhere comfortable to die!

~~~

What else did I absorb from my mother’s culture?  Perhaps everything!

So if you are to understand my personal story you need to know something of the culture from which my mother emerged – for I almost certainly inherited whatever she had inherited.

2. A legend of old Ireland…

Before I can tell you anything about me and my little life, then, I need to give you a broader context.  So, to begin, let me tell you a legend of old Ireland:

Long, long ago, about 64 generations back – in the season of the Crow – about two full moons before the Festival of Aine (the Moon Goddess), Doneal McFlynn was walking on the hillside outside the village of Crumble-Baan.  Evening was closing in, and darkness was descending fast.

Looking down on the village, he could just see the outline of the three concentric circles of round houses in which the entire population lived their communal life. 

Though the light was poor, he could still make out the modest campfire of the two boys who were keeping the Night Watch on the opposite hillside.  Suddenly, without warning, a great flare of flame arose in his field of vision, right next to the boys’ campfire.  In his entire lifetime he had never seen this vision, though he had spent decades expecting to see it one day.  The alarm signal.  Invaders have been spotted approaching us.

As quickly as he could, he made his way down to the village, where the men and boys had congregated in the open space at the centre of the inner circle of roundhouses.  They had a huge assortment of wooden clubs, wooden shields, whips, big stones and slingshots, a few axes, and bronze bars with which to beat their opponents.  The boys had arrived sweating and shouting.  They had seen the signal from the next village, at the top of the valley.  So the enemy must be coming from the sea, as they had always expected they would.

~~~

Tor Sorgas was the leader of the raiding party.  He stood at the front of the bigger of the two wooden ships, in metal helmet with nose shield; wearing woollen shirt and trousers, covered by a leather jerkin.  He has ordered the crew on the oars to head for the bay.  They had left their home in the frozen north of Europa three weeks earlier, intent upon plundering a few communities in Scotia and Britannia, but they had been rebuffed at ever attempt.  They also failed two landings on the Welsh coast, and now were bound for Hibernia. 

Tor could not imagine any kind of life other than plundering the wealth of others, especially the mineral wealth of the Britons.  But the livestock and crops of Hibernia would have to do this time.

They had run out of dried fish earlier today, and so they had to succeed with this landing.  To ensure that there was no turning back, they burned their boats on the beach where they landed, and began the trek inland to find some undefended community to plunder.

~~~

Doneal McFlynn, as the village elder, took charge of the massed men and boys, and told them that the gods were on their side.  Nobody had the right to invade their community and disrupt the peace.  Right is mighty, he told them, and then commanded them to follow him into battle. 

It was not known in advance how long it would take to locate the enemy, but in the event it involved a two hour march eastwards.

The warriors of Crumble-Baan met the invading army on the fields of Larkow, halfway between the village and the coast.  The men and boys of Crumble-Baan did their war dance, screaming and roaring their anger at the invaders.  This was the tradition of Lenster-Beag, to demonstrate superior moral right by every means available to larynx and arms and body movements. 

Tor Sorgas had trained his warriors to ignore the behaviour of the enemy, and to look within for the superior claim of the people of Scantavia to the wealth of the world.  The god of war was on their side, and they would prove to be invincible.

The men and boys of Crumble-Baan ran down the hillside towards the invaders, stamping their feet, shouting curses, screaming for them to withdraw and go away.  They were convinced that, at any moment, the invaders would understand that the people of Crumble-Baan had the superior moral stand, and then they would simply run away.

However, the warriors of Tor Sorgas did not flinch until the Hibernians were in close, and then they ripped them apart with their swords, knives, spiked flails and spears.

Only two of the younger boys lived to run away, and report back to the village.

~~~

The women of Crumble-Baan were heartbroken at the news of the death of their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.  They were beside themselves with grief. 

All through the night they cried, beating their chests with their fists; and wailing to Aine for relief from their pain.  And then, about two hours before dawn, Banba Ni Flynn, the physically strongest of the women, appointed some young girls to take the children and babies into the woods to hide.  She then took the group of forty women and older girls out into the fields where they undressed and covered themselves with mud, from forehead to ankles.  Throughout this process they chanted a mesmerizing prayer to Aine.

They then slaughtered a goat and smeared its blood and guts over their hair and chests.  This was accompanied with screams of ‘vengeance’.

Then they each broke two tree branches for themselves; one to serve as a club, and the other to strap to their left forearms, with reeds, as a shielding beam, to protect themselves from direct blows by their enemy’s weapons. 

Then they knelt on the cold, damp ground, and prayed to Aine, the Moon Goddess, to help them settle the score with their enemies.

And finally, they set off at a brisk pace on the long walk to the battleground, which they expected would take at least two hours.

~~~

Tor Sorgas celebrated his victory in his brief battle with the Hibernians by roasting several of the bigger, more muscular, fallen men over open fires, and eating them.  Then he and his warriors sang lots of victory songs, and slept well in a large mound of tree branches which they cut down and assembled for protection and warmth. 

At dawn, Sorgas awoke and noticed how quiet it was.  It was a kind of sub-zero quietness which roared in his ears, like the distant sound of the sea in a seashell.  Pushing the tree branches back, he stepped out into the morning light.

Looking up at the hillside ahead of him, he saw forty strange animals, like apes, standing perfectly still.  Each one carried a big tree branch like a club.

It was a truly chilling sight, but Tor began to laugh, and called to his men to get up and come look at this strange sight.

The other fifty-five Norsemen emerged from their sleeping shelter and joined in the laughter.

Then the women of Crumble-Baan began to slowly walk down the hillside.  The laughter from the Norsemen continued, with some moments of silence, some giggles; some attempts to intensify the laughter; some faltering; some increasing disquiet.

The women of Crumble-Baan walked slower and slower, now slightly crouching down, with a chilling intensity: clubs at the ready.  The Norsemen took up their positions.  Tor gave the order to prepare their weapons. 

As the strange creatures came closer, they began to keen; to express their grief at their great loss, as they picked their way between the fallen bodies of their kinsmen on the open field.

Closer still and the Norsemen began to smell the great stench of stomach bile and the iron and flint of the goat’s blood.

Then the women stopped, and Banba, in a strange tongue, told her sisters that you cannot hope to win your battles by relying upon your moral message affecting your enemies.  You had to be as remorseless as they were.  You had to harden your heart; to forget everything you had learned from the Moon Goddess. 

Then Banba uttered a great shriek of ‘Revenge!’ and the women and girls of Crumble-Baan set about the Norsemen and did not rest their clubs until there was no longer an intact skull to be seen.

Six women lay dead on the field, alongside fifty-six Norsemen.

~~~

The women and girls stayed on the battle field for two days and two nights.  At first they bathed themselves in the blood of the killers of their menfolk.  Then, with their bare hands and some sticks, they dug holes to bury their dead men and boys.  They lay on the graves, keening and crying.

At the end of this period, Banba called them together and spoke to them:

“From this day forward, let there be no more charity”, she ordered.  “No more compassion; no more kindness; and no more forgiveness.  Let you heart be like flint, and your face like a locked door”.

Finally, they collected up the weapons and shields of the fallen Norsemen, and then they walked slowly homewards to their man-less households.

~~~

Over time, the women of Crumble-Baan found new men to join their community, from the surrounding district; but they retained control.  They raised their children to be merciless fighters. The people of Crumble-Baan became an indomitable people, because of their harshness, until – 9 generations later - the Normans came and broke their spirits. In a matter of days they went from being a matriarchal communist community to the flogged serfs of the Norman warlord, the self-styled nobleman, Ralf, The Earl of Swafford – a murderous psychopath with a king’s warrant.

He kidnapped one out of every ten men, women and children in the village, and kept them in the woods above the river, guarded by his most murderous men; and threatened to gouge out the eyes, and roast alive, one man, woman and child for every act of rebellion or insurrection that was undertaken by any member of the village community.

Now, in total defeat, the people of Crumble-Baan were harsh and broken.  Bitter and unforgiving.  And they passed that down to their offspring.

~~~

3. Subsequent history…

In 1798, inspired by the American and French revolutions, the people of Crumble-Baan, now renamed Crumble village, joined the United Irishmen’s revolt, only to be crushed once more by the English army of occupation.

~~~

In 1845, half the population of Crumble either died of famine, or left for America: many dying at sea.

~~~

In 1848, following the wave of revolutions across Europe, the Pope of Rome, who had been the titular head of feudal Europe for centuries, identified this year as the crucial point in history to attempt to roll back the march of Protestant capitalism, and to restore Catholic feudalism.  His plan was to unite the Italian, Spanish and Irish peoples against the English, Dutch and French.  For this purpose, a large body of well-educated priests was sent to Ireland, to take control of the mind of the Irish people and to fashion it into a weapon to use in the attack on England.

These priests were guilt-ridden about sex.  Some of them were innocent, repressed homosexuals, who were denied any kind of social life, because they did not wish to marry and reproduce. 

Some were evil paedophiles who wanted to locate themselves in roles where they could prey upon children. 

No doubt there were many other kinds of socially-unaccepted - and I really mean unaccepted, as opposed to unacceptable! - sexual deviants. 

These priests, each with their own (guilt-driven) reason to deny human sexuality, spread their (official, public) dread of sex among the people of Crumble, along with the crazy story of Redemption by Christ’s Crucifixion!

And in denying the legitimacy of sex between men and women, they inevitably denied the value or importance of love between men and women.  Men and women were to be kept far apart from each other.

~~~

The people of Crumble-Baan were my ancestors! Forged in the fires of insecurity, feudal conflict, and intense grief; the violence of colonial warfare, oppression, lawless victimization, degradation, starvation, and casual death.  And finally, used in a cynical political war of the worlds, in which primitive fear of sex would be one of the main building blocks! In the process, love was crushed out of them.  ‘Love’ became the dirtiest of dirty words!  It was so dirty, it was never spoken.

~~~ 

 

Chapter 2 - by Daniel O'Beeve

"In most of the families we followed, for more than two decades, there was a constant mystery related to these three central questions: Why did their heroes not come from their own social class, or their own clan or region?  How were they persuaded to worship such alien ghosts from amongst their oppressors and exploiters? And why were they so insensitive to the emotional needs of their own children?"

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy… 

~~~

1. More modern stories…

Thailand.map2.jpg

I want to tell you a story which begins in a small rural village in the Irish Free State at the end of the Second World War, and stretches over land and sea for several decades.  It cannot end until I have completed a full 360 degree journey back to the point of my own birth, and forward through a number of failed relationships to a completion which makes emotional sense of a life that was almost lost in a neurotic spiral of involuted distortions of itself.

~~~

I want to tell you this story, because I have been changed by the stories I’ve read over the years – and I believe the tradition of writing and telling stories is one of the most profoundly therapeutic traditions we have.  One of the reasons story-telling is so helpfully therapeutic is the one given by Maya Angelou, where she writes that: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”.

And no greater relief, I believe, than getting your story out in the open, where you can understand how the elements fit together; you can feel the denied pain from the past; and then you can let it go.

It is also profoundly therapeutic, according to Fritz Perls, to have your stories of personal suffering witnessed by others who care about your struggles and your suffering – if only because you, like them, are human and frail. 

~~~

2. Regarding the storytellers…

Thank god for the storytellers, for they give us the plotlines of our lives. Without them, where would we live our precarious existences?

Even god owes a debt of gratitude to the yarn-spinners for giving him (or her) such a large and powerful role in creating the often miserable, and sometimes joyous, life in which we live.

In the beginning was the trackless void, and a storyteller said, ‘Let’s create a script’.  And the actors came forth in droves.  And the drama began.

~~~

The drama was dominated by the best storytellers and the people they promoted, and between them they inherited the earth.  And the voiceless people without stories were left to rot in dark corners of deprivation that went unreported.

And, even worse: the voiceless people bowed down before the hollow effigies erected by the victors.

~~~

The great storytellers from the deprived classes sold their souls to the highest bidder.  And the meek inherited some bread-crusts and an undeserved, negative reputation.

~~~

And the sons and daughters of the poor wandered the highways and byways of the world, in which there were few if any books. Perhaps, if they were lucky, they would stumble over an occasional classic.

~~~

3. The impact of stories…

After reading Catch 22, by Joseph Heller – over which I accidentally stumbled, in the 1970s - I was left with two images and a strong feeling.  The feeling was one of horror at the brutality and stupidity of war.  The first image was of Snowden, laid out on the floor of his plane, as Yossarian and others opened his flying suit to inspect his wounds - as they flew above Germany, taking flak from the enemy below – and Snowden’s guts spilled out in front of them, and his young life drained away before them.  A graphic reminder of the horrors of war.

Whenever I think about Snowden, tears fill my eyes, and I feel such pain in my chest.  Such a sad waste of life.

The second image is of the surviving crew members being back at the air base, in Italy, from which the bombing raids were flown, for the burial of Snowden; and Yossarian is up in a tree, naked, looking down at the burial.  He is naked to make sure that no stupid ‘brass’ tries to pin a medal of bravery, or any other kind of war medal, to his chest!

Well that’s how I remember it – even if that’s not how it was written.

I feel much the same sadness and pain about the crude business of childrearing as Heller did about the horrors of war.  It appals me how much suffering children go through, because childrearing, even today, after centuries of cockups, is still a wholly amateur activity – an opportunity to practice any old cobbled together ‘black art’ on a new piece of human putty!

~~~

4. Planning my approach to writing my memoir…

I want to write about my life in a way that will leave you with (at least) two images and a feeling.  I want you to see the guts of the story, without fainting, or being so depressed that you fail to do anything with it. 

I want you to be present at the burial of my story’s ending; so there is a sense of completion: a destination where you can get off in one piece, and feel that the journey was not wasted; and you are more whole than you were before – if a little emotionally bruised here and there. 

I want to stand on the side-lines, naked, when the story is (hopefully) eventually widely read, in case some idiot tries to pin a completely meaningless medal to my naked chest.

I have already presented you with the ‘prequel’ to my life – the context contained in the battle of Crumble-Baan.  I then thought of ‘starting at the beginning’ - like the King advised the White Rabbit, in Alice in Wonderland – but instead I followed the lead of Karen Joy Fowler, in her book about the loss of her ‘chimp sister’, titled We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.  The approach of her main character, Rosemary, which she achieved during her second year at the University of California, Davis, was this: “By then I’d figured out the way to talk about my family.  Nothing simpler really.  Start in the middle”.

The middle of my life, roughly, was the year in which I turned thirty-two years of age.

So let me begin with the trappings of my life at that time (back in the summer of 1978): My UN consultancy work; and my work for the Royal Thai government, at Thammasat University; my apartment in Soi Pradiphat 14, round the back of Praddipat Road, near Saphan Kwhai, Bangkok.  And the screaming roar in my head that could only be quieted by tranquillizers and Thai grass.

This starting point helps a lot, because, by this stage, it looked as if I not only did not have any family, but that I had never had one! That I had fallen from the skies fully formed.  A perfect ‘organizational man’, with a fabricated CV that any robot would be proud of.

In the process of ‘amputating’ my ‘unacceptable family’, I had somehow chained my heart to a frozen vacuum of fabricated identity.

I was a self-constructed-self with no core.

And the ‘international development role’, which I had at that time, is a perfect illustration of how lost I was by then.  I was trying to fix the world – but I didn’t even know I was broken into tiny fragments.

What a fake, unreal ‘person’ I’d become.  What a failed life I was leading – despite the visual illusion of my ‘professional success’.

~~~

5. A waking nightmare…

"The Brothers of Christ produced ten generations of boys and men who could neither think nor feel.  They were crippled leftovers from the failed feudal revolt against British capitalism".

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy… 

~~~

The beeping alarm dragged me out of a strange black and silver landscape of caves and hills, in which I was haunted by memories of something I’d lost.  I was frantically searching for something precious.  But I could not begin to find it until I knew what it was.  And I could not remember what it had been.

Beep, beep, beep…..

I awoke; slammed the beeping alarm off; and swung my legs out of bed.  It hadn’t rained for weeks, and the temperature, in the run-up to ‘Christmas’ was above eighty-five degrees by lunchtime.  It was already over seventy degrees today, and it was barely seven o’clock in the morning.  Yellow light streamed in through the windows of my three room apartment.

Although it was almost Christmas ‘back home’ (wherever that was: the UK? or Ireland?) there seemed to be endless Chinese celebrations going on all over Bangkok.  We were still in the year of the Horse; and the year of the Goat would not begin until early February 1979. I’d consulted a traditional Chinese healer in Bangkok, and he’d told me that the year of the Goat would be a major turning point in my life.  He said my world would crack and fall asunder; only to be rebuilt in a better form.  And the symbol for the moment of change would be the arrival of the Goat.  I can’t wait!

At the moment it’s Chinese Thanksgiving, which is the Thai’s winter solstice celebration, involving ancestor worship at its core, but lots of eating of spicy foods seemed to be the main evidence that the celebrations were in full flow.

6. Minor health problems…

I looked down at the red hives on my legs and arms.  Fucking bedbugs.  I crossed the bedroom and picked up the big black Bakelite phone, tapped the internal call button repeatedly, and spoke to the apartment block manager, telling him the new mattress was no better than the previous one – ‘I’m still covered in bedbug bites’ – and asked that he get a new mattress in by the end of today.

Then I opened the fridge and looked in.  Nothing appealed to me, so I removed by tee-shirt and put on a pair of swimming trunks and flip-flops; crossed to the entrance hall; and out onto the patio, where I was struck by the glaring sun and the roar of the traffic from Tunun Praddipat. I turned right and walked down to the swimming pool.

There were already two Thai families – two mothers and fathers and four children - and the fat American from apartment number four - in the shallow end of the pool, chatting amiably.  I walked to the deep end, where the blinding yellow sparkles of sunlight bounced off the rippled surface of the pale blue chlorinated water.  I climbed down the steps, and, clinging to the ladder rail, floated out on my back.  This was one way to cool down; one way to wake up; and one way to try to soothe my burning hives.  I could not swim, but I had learned how to float on my back.

My head was thumping, as usual, and my neck and shoulders were cold and stiff.

It was a lot cooler this month than it had been in June when I arrived in this exotic city, with plans to make a reputation and perhaps a small fortune at the same time.  I was trading on my creative ability to suggest timely economic and technological innovations for rural development. The Royal Thai government was urgently investing in anything that would wean the poor peasant farmers of the Northeast Region from the Lao and Cambodian communists who repeatedly infiltrated the militarized Land Settlement Projects. (The paradox, of course, was that I probably hated the American Empire more than did the Cambodians or Vietnamese!  Because I knew the mercenary reasons the American state, on behalf of American corporations, had gone into Vietnam with tons of bombs and burning napalm, and killed thousands of innocent civilians.)

The humidity had dropped to about 60% which, for the Thais is very comfortable; but when it’s combined with such high temperatures, it does not suit the pale, European skin, and is outside of our comfort zone.  My pale and sensitive skin was particularly uncomfortable in such hot and sweaty conditions.

7. The cultural context…

As I lie in the pool, trying to clear my head, and cool my hives, I can smell the riot of odours of Thai cooking from the countless cooking stalls in the streets that surround Blue Lotus Apartments – the gated community where I’ve lived for the past two months.  Overall the aroma of Thai food is pleasant and rich, though at its core is that rotten, fermented fishy smell of Pla ra.  I could also pick out the diluted stink of Pad sa Tor (which I had often tried as a hangover remedy); though it was pretty heavily covered by the whole gamut of sweet and spicy herbs that Thais love so much.  But at least those food odours tended to mask the clouds of car exhaust fumes that drifted in from Praddipat Road, as the early morning traffic roar, which would last all day, began to howl in earnest.

Out of the pool, I walked to the shower at the end, washed the chlorine off with some local soap; walked back to the apartment, bowing to the Thais in the pool, and to the spirit house in the small plot in front of my door.  Back inside, I got dressed.  Today was the big day for feedback on my presentation to the Director of the Department of Public Works, on my Northeast Village Technology and Rural Economy proposal.  For this purpose, I donned my bitter chocolate, linen safari suit with the pale beige stripe: short sleeved, open-necked, waisted, and with flared trousers.  I had had my long hair cut back to collar length, and my beard trimmed.  I wanted to wear sandals, to keep my temperature down, but that was not acceptable attire for a government office; so I had to wear a pair of Barrett’s two-tone shoes, dark tan and beige, that matched the suit.

8. A breakfast of two parts…

Out on the street there were three tuk-tuks (or sam lor - motorized rickshaws – the big brothers of the Indian baby-taxi) waiting for customers to come along.  I caught the eye of one driver who’d driven me before, and beckoned him over.  He turned his sam lor and drove over. Meanwhile, the aroma of the nearest food stall was stimulating my appetite, so I asked my driver to wait while I had a bowl of Kuai-tiao nam soup with noodles and pork-balls, from one of my favourite street-sellers. It took me three minutes to eat it, and then the sam lor drove me up to the Dorchester Hotel, near Saphan Kwai, where I ordered breakfast.

I had lived in the Dorchester for about two months, until I ran out of money.  Although I was an accredited consultant with the UN, I was on a payment by results contract; which meant that, until I brought in some project funding, I could not claim my consultancy fees.  It was very expensive living in Bangkok, and also funding my own field trips and consultancy reports.  Before then I lived in a low-rent apartment that was subsidized by Christian Aid, for use by missionaries and Christian Aid field workers.  I was evicted when some neighbours complained of the sounds coming from my room every time Juliet came to visit, during my first few weeks in Bangkok.  It was unfortunate that the floor was a kind of hard, glossy resinous concrete, which squealed and screeched when the iron-frame bed was forced down hard on its bare metal legs.  I suppose it took the other residents a few weeks to figure out what was going on, and they then decided that making love in the afternoon was sinful.

Now I was back in the basement restaurant of the Dorchester, in search of the second part of my breakfast, and also to meet Juliet to plan and prepare for our visit to the Department of Public Works.  The purpose of this visit, as I said, was to get feedback on our presentation, made last month, to the Director, the Minister, and the senior funding teams from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Dutch government development agency (DDC).

It was always dark in the Yim Huai Heng restaurant, because it was below ground level and therefore had no windows.  The lighting was old French wall lamps; the décor was dark; and the carpet was so dark it was hard to discern the maroon background that would be visible in broad daylight.

I sat at my usual table near the door and looked at the menu.  It contained no concessions to the English language, apart from the Romanization of the Thai words.  I had learned to stick to the Khao phat, for breakfast and lunch: which in most good restaurants contained fried rice topped with nam pla phrik (which is chillies in fish sauce).  The other ingredients tended to vary, but often included lime or lemon, cucumber or coconut, and, more often than not, spring onions.  (Nobody in Bangkok ate or supplied bacon and eggs; or toast and marmalade.  And it was almost impossible to get good quality coffee, since iced tea (‘cha yen’) was the drink of choice in that city.  Such cultural deprivation!)

My Khao phat arrived, with a strong smell of lemon grass and ginger; along with a big jug of freshly brewed, strong iced tea – like masala tea with coconut milk, crushed ice and tons of sugar.  I got stuck into the rice, with a fork in my right hand, while pouring the iced tea with my left.  The tea, when well made, in reputable establishments, was almost as strong as coffee, and I slurped a couple of mouthfuls back, in an effort to wake myself up fully. But the cognitive boost was less than half that of a good American coffee.

9. Juliet arrives…

The cha yen was not all for me, as Juliet was due to arrive soon.  She normally had black coffee in the morning, at home, (and on Mondays, Wednesdays and some Fridays, I joined her there for coffee and toast). But today she was due to meet me at 8.15, so we could prepare for our meeting at 9.00am at the Department of Public Works.  The iced tea was a poor compensation for the lack of her preferred home-percolated American coffee.

I heard her three-inch stilettos hit the marble floor in the entrance hall above, and checked my watch.  Bang on time.

I heard her march steadily down the stairs: click, clack, click.  I was filled with sadness and gladness, in a mixture acidic enough to burn right through my heart.

She was dressed in a tight, black, Thai silk suit of jacket and pencil line skirt, with a long slit up the right thigh.  Her long blond hair was tied back in a big gold hair slide; and she was wearing her big, red-framed specs.  She was dressed to kill for a crucial business meeting.

She looked around the restaurant, saw no expats were present, apart from me, and kissed me on the lips. She whispered “Sugar lips!” as she pulled away.  Sitting down, she pushed her cup towards me for some cha yen, while pulling some documents from her briefcase.

Placing the papers on the table in front of her, she stared at me, examining my eyes.  “Morning, honey?” she said, interrogatively, looking at me questioningly.  She could see that I was still low; hung over; depressed and deflated. 

Fishing in her bag she found the little silver box of speed pills (ephedrine and caffeine), and pulled two out for me.  I washed them down with a mouthful of the tea.  Hopefully, within a few minutes, they would neutralize the tranquillizers that I took last night, and the Thai grass that I smoked at bedtime.

“What’s the running order?” I asked her.

She looked at the documents from the DPW.  “Kun Wicheet will speak for the Department.  The USAID representative will respond.  We will be asked to accept or reject the offer”.

“Is that all?” I asked.

“That’s it!”

“No detail on what the offer is likely to be?”

“No”.

We had made a pitch for half a million US dollars over a two year period, to set up a pilot project in Ubon Ratchatani.  That would then be reviewed, and a decision made about the future years. 

“What do you expect?” I asked her then.

“This is a standard format”, she said.  “It could mean a funding offer; or it could be an offer to review additional proposals; or to submit additional argumentation or supporting evidence, etc.  Impossible to say if they’ve found any funds for us, at this stage”.

~~~

10. Getting down to work…

In the air-conditioned taxi on the way to the DPW directorate, I was able to cool down.  The soreness of my hives was receding slowly. The restaurant had been too warm, and the street outside, as we came out, was so warm and humid, that my armpits were wet by the time we were locked inside the icy-cool interior of the cab.  Of course, some of my sweating could have been due to the tension I felt about another rejection of our project proposal, and another few weeks of brainstorming, researching, writing and making presentations.

We were both quite tense as we marched into the director’s office. 

~~~

Kun Wicheet, the director, a pleasantly fat Chinese-looking Thai, was seated regally behind his eight-foot desk.  In front of him, seated on a semi-circle of comfortable chairs, were Len Hogan, the USAID representative for the Northeast; Sjoerd Leenstra, from UNDP; and Bernhard Hendriks, from the Dutch DDC.

The director stood up and shook our hands, and indicated our seats.

He then made a statement about the excellence of our economic and technological development proposal.  Len Hogan explained how they had evaluated our proposal in the field, back in their office, and also in Washington, and that they were pleased to recommend to Congress the disbursement of 500,000 US dollars per year for the next three years to make this project a success.  Leenstra was also full of praise, and said they would pick up the cost of local support services; and Hendriks said the Dutch government would be pleased to pay all salaries involved.

This was six times what we’d asked for, and then some!

Juliet thanked them for their feedback, and steered the conversation in the direction of when and where the funds would be disbursed.  The short answer was that a decision on start dates would be made in Washington, and it was likely to be early in the New Year; possibly late January or early February.

The room was aglow with a celebratory mood.  Everybody expected this to be a great breakthrough for the people of the Northeast; and to help keep the commies at bay!

We all shook hands and dispersed.

~~~

Juliet and I walked briskly back down the stairs to the sound of her clicking heels, and the squeak of my soft soles; out into the hot street; and into the first air-conditioned cab we could find.

Once inside, she screamed with pleasure at our victory.  I laughed and cheered.  After six months of hard work, we had been vindicated; we had succeeded; we had made it.

We asked the driver to take us to the Dorchester Hotel.  It would be safer to use the hot-sheet floor – the third floor was exclusively bookable by the hour – instead of risking being seen entering Blue Lotus Apartments (or Red Rose Court, where Juliet lived with her husband, Bart) for a celebratory roll in the hay.

Juliet, who was sitting on my left, took my left hand, clamped my index and middle fingers together, stuck them in her mouth and moistened them; then pushed my hand up her skirt, which had a deep, accommodating side split, inside her panties, and into her warm, wet vagina.

This was a strange, new bonobo-like celebration ritual that was unknown to me.  Ten years earlier, I would have been deliriously happy to be so wanted by a woman: so passionately desired.  Two years ago I was ecstatic about being wanted by this woman.  But that was then and this was now. 

In that moment of double victory, I realized my total defeat.

~~~

"She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing."

Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle

Rewind six or eight weeks.  Juliet and I run along the platform with light luggage, and board the overnight train from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Ubon Ratchatani, near the borders with both Laos and Cambodia; leaving at 8.00pm and arriving at 10.00am the next day.

We had a sleeping compartment, which meant we could have our evening meal in our private room, and get to bed by 9.00pm.

By 10.00pm we had made love, and I had left the lower berth, and moved to my place on the top berth.  I could hear her crying softly below.  She wanted me to stay in her berth with her.  I could not do that, which might seem strange given how strongly I was drawn to her, physically and emotionally.  To understand my behaviour, you need to know some background.

~~~

Six weeks earlier, when I was still living in the Dorchester; I awoke early on Monday morning, after a boring weekend.  Juliet spent her weekends with Bart, her husband, in Red Rose Court.  He left for work around 7.00am on Monday mornings.  I usually worked at their home, with Juliet, on Mondays and Wednesdays, (and occasionally on Fridays), arriving around 8.00am, where Juliet and I had coffee and toast, and then reviewed our action plans and worked on our project designs, project proposals, and so on.  We normally managed to avoid too much sexual distraction from this work – but by no means always.

Anyway, on this particular Monday, I went down to the restaurant, had a bowl of Khao phat; and then took a sam lor to Red Rose Court.  I punched the pass code into the keypad at the gate; waved to Kun Ying Yufarit, the glamorous and elegantly dressed Thai manager, who was in the estate manager’s office, inside the gate; walked along the path that led past the first grey, reinforced concrete block, and up the stairs in the centre of the second block, to the first apartment on the first floor. 

A huge blue crested lizard was on the wall by the top of the apartment’s red door.  As I approached the door, it expanded its throat and made an agitated chirping sound, in what seemed to me to be a threatening way, but I screwed up my courage and leaned in to rap my knuckles on the door. I then got a bigger shock. Bart opened the door, with a very serious look on his face.  I thought – Oh, no!  This is it!

He waved me inside, and told me he’d taken Juliet to hospital on Sunday, after he found her rolled up in a ball on the kitchen floor.  He was very concerned about her, and she was kept in for tests.

Bart was very worried about Juliet.

While he was making coffee, and going into too much detail about the procedures they were running at the expat clinic, to try to find out what was wrong with Juliet, I was thinking of the strange coincidence.  Two or three weeks ago, Juliet told me Bart had been whisked into the expat clinic for tests for unexplained abdominal pain.

And about two weeks before that, when Juliet and I had been working on a new report, I had asked her if she had any painkillers for a bad headache.  She said, “Yes, upstairs, in my beside table”,

So I ran up, opened her top drawer, but could not see any pill boxes, because a large, pale blue letter was spread across the top of the drawer contents.  I picked it up to look for the painkillers, and noticed it was Bart’s handwriting.  But that was very strange, because the salutation line said, “Dear Juliet”.

Why would Bart write to his wife, with whom he shared a bed?

That was the mystery that caused me to breach their right to privacy by reading the letter.  The bottom line was this: Bart was very unhappy because Juliet was only supposed to ‘mess around’ with other men, as he ‘messed around’ with other women; but Juliet had broken the rules by ‘falling in love with Daniel!’

Shit!

What a mess.

I was now involved in a marriage in meltdown, because Juliet had fallen in love with me.  Bart must want to kill me!  Hence his stomach aches.  He must be arguing with Juliet, or wanting to row with her, all of the time, hence the resort to writing to each other – total breakdown of spoken communication – and hence her intense stomach aches.

And who is the cause of all this?  Me!

~~~

"That is my principal objection to life, I think: It's too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes."

Kurt Vonnegut Jr – Deadeye Dick

Bart’s lips are moving as he hands me the big cup of strong coffee.  He looks very depressed.  As he speaks, I speak over him:

“I’ll leave!” I said.  I just blurted it out.  I didn’t know I was going to say that.

“I’ll go back to England”, I said, “and leave you and Juliet in peace”.

Bart smiled, and looked at me with genuine bemusement; and perhaps affection.

“You’d do that?” he asked, with a big look of relief on his bearded face.

“Male solidarity”, I said, thinking back to when my wife, Ramira, had an affair, just three to four years ago.  If only her lover had had a sense of male solidarity, he would have gone away and left us to sort our marital problems out for ourselves.  (That was what I thought then, but in time I would come to realize that Ramira’s affair was a symptom of something deeply wrong with our marriage, and not to do with the availability of other men).

But I was totally surprising myself with this male solidarity with Bart.  I did not know I would say anything like this.

Bart immediately offered me his hand, and we shook on it.  It was now a deal!

In some ways, Juliet was the best thing that had ever happened to me, though it was of course stressful for me, being involved in somebody else’s marriage.  And I was so much her captive, emotionally and practically.  Once I arrived in Bangkok, a few days after Juliet and Bart had arrived, all of us transferring from Bangladesh, she had taken my passport “for safe keeping”, and locked it in their safe; and it was clear she would never give it back if she thought she would lose me in the process. 

But now I had a plan.  I thought we had a reasonable chance of getting funding for a project beginning in the New Year; and I felt sure I could persuade her to give me my passport, so I could go back to England for Christmas, thus saving a lot of local expenditure of non-existent funds!

“I’ll go home for Christmas”, I told him then, “but I won’t come back in the New Year!”

“But don’t tell Juliet that!” he said.

“That’s right”, I said.  “It’s our secret”.

“Male solidarity”, he said, offering me his handshake once more.

~~~

Once we got confirmation of our three year funding, subject to approval by Washington, there were only a few days left to Christmas.  I told Juliet I would like to go home for a couple of weeks, until the funding had been disbursed, to save money; and that I would return with our third team member, Jasper, as soon as the funding was released; and then we could get down to work.

She did not suspect a thing, and so she did not resist the need to hand over my passport.  I went to Red Rose Court at about eight o’clock on the morning of Christmas Eve, and Juliet and Bart offered me some red wine, and we smoked a couple of joints of Thai grass.  And Juliet passed me a couple of tranquilizers.

Juliet was upset at my leaving, even for just a couple of weeks, and it showed.  Bart was clearly upset that she was so upset about losing me for a while; though he must have also been reassured that at least he was getting rid of me as a love rival for all time!

Bart drove all three of us to the airport for my ten o’clock flight.

Saying goodbye was very stressful, as Juliet and I tearfully embraced and kissed each other under the semi-watchful eye of her husband.

Somehow I checked in, semi-blinded by tears that stung and hurt my eyes.  I sat in my aeroplane seat, half drunk, high as a kite, relieved to have escaped, and undone by the feelings of grief at the loss of Juliet.

My mind was frozen; my heart was like a big lump of painful rock in my chest; my hands trembled; tears ran involuntarily from my eyes, though I resisted them with all my might.  I felt like screaming.

I was going ‘home’? Or leaving ‘home’?  Or moving in confusing circles?

I was finally, totally lost!

The big, cool, silent plane travelled via Bangladesh, Doha and Frankfurt, for about fourteen hours.  However, because of the time gap between Bangkok and London, I flew into Heathrow at three o’clock on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1978. 

The sun was shining like a June day.  The fields were green and welcoming in a way that rice fields could never touch me.

I took a taxi from Heathrow to Jasper’s parents’ home in Oxford; where I went to bed for three days.  I got up for the main meals, at lunchtime and evening; but mostly I slept.  I was sleeping off the withdrawal from the speed, tranquillizers, booze, hash, opium and grass; and the heartache at losing Juliet, as well as the relief at getting rid of Bart from my list of nightmares.

~~~

I slept and snoozed; sat around eating or watching television; and so the Christmas and New Year celebrations passed me by.

On 2nd January 1979, just after lunchtime, I took the double headed ragdoll from my suitcase and headed into the centre of Oxford.  I was going to see my ex-wife, to say ‘season’s greetings’ and to give her the doll for the twins that she conceived towards the end of our married life together.  We still did not know who the father of the twins might be, since she was having sexual relations with me and Kevin Thompson when she became pregnant.

I rang the doorbell of the duplex flat we had lived in on Eastern Avenue, and Ramira opened the door.  She coolly invited me in. It was nice to see her, in a perverse kind of way; though I had very mixed feelings towards her.  We went up the stairs and into the living room, and there was Kevin, parked on the sofa that I had bought; and his big fat belly was pointing at the ceiling, and he still had that characteristic, silly, manipulative grin on his too-open face.

We exchanged greetings; I told them what I’d been up to in Bangladesh and Thailand, in terms of the nature of my work, the climate, etc.  Nothing too personal.

I then handed over the doll.  It was meant for the twins.  It was a doll made up of two bodies – two torsos with heads and arms - with no legs, and they were stitched together at the waist.  They had a shared skirt.  When one head was exposed to view, the other was concealed under the skirt, and vice versa.  One face was black and the other white.  If it was symbolic of something about our dreadfully confused situation, I could not think what that might be.

We ran out of things to say to each other, and we went downstairs to the exit.  As I was leaving, I glanced in through the downstairs window and saw the twins climbing out of their cots, after their afternoon naps.  I was captivated by their little faces.  These could have been my kids.  Cute little three-year-olds.

“I think you’d better go!” said Kevin, in a gruff voice, suggesting a slight hint of threat.  No ‘male solidarity’ here.

~~~

I walked down the Botley Road to the café where I used to go to kill time, when Ramira and I first split up.  I ordered a coffee and some toast, and went to the juke box on the wall.  I selected the same song I used to choose all that time ago; just over three years now:

“I’m not in love”, sang 10 CC, “So don’t forget it.  It’s just a silly phase I’m going through”.

I sat down and tackled the coffee and toast.  I felt as raw as any piece of meat ever could.  My heart was aching and my guts were knotted.  My eyes were moist and hurting.  But was it for the twins?  For a life that could have been?  For the faithless Ramira, to whom I had been married for six years?  For my loss of Juliet, who had been my lover for two years?  Or was there somebody else hidden behind all these possibilities?  Somebody who had been there from the very beginning? Somebody who had marked me for life!

The juke box fell silent, and I finished eating my toast.

Echoes from the past invaded my mind:

“How I wish

How I wish you were here”.

These words came from a Pink Floyd album that I was into around the time that Ramira and I split.

Oh, how I wish you were here, I told myself.  If only I knew who you were.  And if only I knew how to connect!

I swigged off my coffee and stepped out into the grey afternoon rain. As I turned left to walk up Botley road, I looked up at the rainy sky and saw three aliens staring at me.  (I swear to god!) About thirty feet ahead of me, at an angle of about forty-five degrees, there was a strange circle of fluffy cloud; and in the middle a kind of porthole.  And through that porthole I could see three bizarre aliens, sitting at a desk, staring at me.  (They seemed slightly familiar, like figures from some vague dreams or nightmares that I have suppressed!)

The one in the middle was tiny, about the size of a human child of ten or eleven years of age, with a blue furry face, with a third eye in his forehead, and long white hair like a judge’s wig. To his right was a larger being, about the same size as an adult human.  S/he (?) had a green head like a cross between a lizard and a sheep. And on the left of the blue midget was a giant, about one and a half times the size of a big human male, with a blue head which reminded me of a mixture of fox and dolphin, with slimy blue skin.  I could only see their shoulders and heads.  They seemed to be looking into our world through a hole surrounded by a wispy circle of fluffy cloud.  They were peering directly at me through this strange hole in the sky.

“Mierdaz!” exclaimed the little blue furry one, pointing straight ahead. “He can see us!  Switch the viewer! Switch the viewer!”

The green lady leaned forward and I heard a loud click. They all disappeared.

I looked all around me.  Everything seems normal now. But I know they’re still there!

~~~

I have not smoked any Thai grass since Christmas Eve.  I have not had any speed or tranquillizers since then either.  And I only had one glass of white wine, to wash down the dry turkey, on Christmas day; more than a week ago.  So why am I seeing things now?

Perhaps this is just withdrawal symptoms?  Or a psychotic break?

~~~ 

 

Chapter 3 begins like this:

 

Chapter 3 - by Daniel O'Beeve...

“Life is difficult for all human beings – but it is particularly difficult for children.  Children are born without a roadmap of the world, and they have to construct their own from the clues they pick up from their parents.  Some parents make it almost impossible for their children to reach a reasonable understanding of the nature of the world”.

Mickey J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy. (Page 8).

1. Preamble…

Obedience-and-Revolt4.JPG

In a little while you’ll know everything about me.  My beginning, middle and (interim) end.  My fear and cowardice (of which there was much); my resilience and courage (which was late in arriving).  My stupidities; and life’s absurdities.  You will see where every blow fell on my unthinking and emotionally-frozen existence.  So what’s the rush? 

Stay a while by the noisy entrance to the network of lonely roads, swollen rivers, endless railway tracks, high seas and dark and scary tunnels that carried me down, down, down to this point.

Once we enter upon this journey, there is no turning back.  You will have to stay with me for the whole trip – good and bad – funny and sad.  And ultimately, hopefully, enlightening!

~~~

I will not claim that there were no lighter moments in my childhood.  That would be wrong.  But there were days in my childhood – days that I will relate in due course – without paining or burdening you unnecessarily - on which the snow fell incessantly into my barren world, freezing me inside and out; and even in mid-July, I could feel the stiff column of ice that ran through my soul from head to toe.

There were some good times, of course, and some bad.  But in my early years it was hard to avoid the conclusion that life was badly stacked against me. 

And I often wished that the peculiar silence of the snowfall would expand totally and swallow up the whole of reality; and send me into an eternal tomb of silence, stillness, and numbness to all pain.

~~~ 

2. Cultural determinism…

Imagine if your life chances were determined by the novels your parents had read – and yours had read none, because they were semi-literate at best.  What then?

I don’t have much information about my father’s schooling, but I do recall that my mother only got as far as Blue Book 3c: The Cow Jumped over the Moon.

My father could read the evening newspaper, with some obvious difficulty deciphering big words; and my mother could read Woman’s Weekly, and True Romance.

There is now a lot of research that suggests that the size of a child’s vocabulary is one of the main determinants of their life chances; and that there is a huge gap between the vocabulary of middle class parents and working class parents, and just as big between working class parents and the most deprived welfare-dependant families (sometimes referred to by the demeaning title, ‘under-class’).[1]

But literacy may not be the only important predictor.  What if your emotional intelligence was determined by your parents’ capacity to control their own anger and rage, and yours had none, because of a long history of imperial suppression and political violence?

And what if the happiness of your infancy depended upon your parents’ ability to love each other, and to love you – but they had none, because they were born into loveless, arranged marriages?

~~~

3. Life is difficult…

I know your life has been difficult; and I am not claiming any right to be considered exceptionally abused or oppressed.  According to the Buddha, life is difficult for all human beings, and the difficulty results from our attachment to our desires.  Because we want things to be more pleasant than they are, we are unhappy about our life circumstances.

According to Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, we are actors in a play that ‘the manager’ directs.  And the manager is not a mere emperor of a mere empire, but Providence itself; Nature; the Universal Law of Karma: the unseen hand of fate and Kismet.

The bards of old Ireland sought explanations of our earthly trials and tribulations in the activities of the magical gods who rule us. But the Bard of England put it like this:

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms…”

Shakespeare, As You Like It

So why not continue our story there: at the entrance of our infant actor upon the sorry stage set by an illiterate family in an impoverished village in rural Ireland, near the end of the Second World War?

~~~

 



[1] Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, The Early Catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by the age of 3.  American Educator, Spring 2003, pages 4-9.

...End of extract...

~~~ 

Extract from Chapter 4

Copyright (c) The Institute for CENT and Dr Jim Byrne, 2015

~~~ 

Chapter 4 - by Daniel O'Beeve

“Humans are easily terrorized, frightened and persuaded to stand down – in order to survive.  The people of Crumble Baan and the surrounding areas of Lenster Beag made a huge mistake in thinking it was a good idea to save ten percent of their people by allowing one hundred percent of their community to be enslaved by the Earl of Swafford.  They did not reckon on their enslavement lasting for almost one thousand years!” (Page 16).

~~~

1. “Has the cat got your tongue?”...

Why can’t I just blurt it out?  Tell my story?  Scream it at the top of my voice?

Daniel7.gif

Alas, as a child, I had no voice!  I had no words!  I had no clarity of thought or feeling.  I had no rights.  I had no platform.  I had no space in which to be; to know; to have.

And how can a voiceless child tell his story?  What a double-bind!

This double bind has reduced me to having to use something like the painting strategy adopted by one female German artist.  She (whose name I cannot recall) spreads different coloured oil paints on a board, and then allows her hands to move various tools through the paint, over and over again, with no intention in mind, no conscious intention, hour after hour, day after day after day, for weeks or months, until one day she has the sense that her non-conscious mind has shaped the paints into the staggeringly beautiful message that it wants to send to the world.

So I write and write, re-write and re-shape; struggle with images, and sounds, and dreadful aches in the heart; and burning tears in my eyes, and lumps in my throat; until, at some point, I get the sense that the bruised and battered little boy in the basement of my mind has got his message out there; expressed something which is deep and meaningful for him!  Said his piece!

Sometimes I wake in the night, and I have an image, or a phrase, and I dash to my computer and try to get it out on the page, before it is sucked back into the chamber of denial: the pit of repression.

~~~ 

"A Mutter ist ihr Son Hause Base". ("A mother is her son's home base".)

German proverb.

~~~

It would be decades before I achieved any conscious awareness of how much I longed for my mother; longed for her love; her approval; her interest in me, and affection for me.  All of those things should (in theory) have been obvious to me by virtue of their absence – but we cannot note the absence of something that has never been present.

But now I know I had somehow lost my home base!

~~~

2. The personal history of a two-year-old…

The Ireland about which I write is not the ‘real Ireland’.  Nor is it an ‘unreal Ireland’.  It is the personal-Ireland that I experienced as a feeling being, having been thrown (by fate; by nature) into a particularly dysfunctional family, which happened to live in Ireland. Nowhere do I imply that any of the members of this family were ever anything but non-conscious actors in a play that was shaped by thousands of years of largely unknown history!

This is how the nightmare began:

When I first began to write, I was seeking nobility and elevation – charm and sophistication.  I wanted to ape those social models we are told to ape!  I didn’t know that as a grown man I would sit and write about the dark, pungent, orange piss in the white enamelled piss pot.

The piss had built up overnight from Daddy’s and Mammy’s visits to the pot, which always stood on the bedroom landing. They used this pot to save themselves a journey to the outside toilet, at the end of the back yard. I was just two years old –today! - and as my ‘celebration’, I was totally preoccupied with scooping this interesting liquid up with a discarded Potters Asthma Remedy tin, and drinking it down hungrily, when, out of the blue, Mammy’s big, flat hand struck me across the back of the head, causing me to topple forwards and kick the piss pot down the stairs, splashing its contents everywhere. I followed, toppling after it, down the long, dark staircase. 

I landed hard on the rounded bottom of the upturned pot, knocking the wind out of me. My hand-knitted romper suit was covered in piss. It would not be a happy birthday.

As I lay across the piss pot, I thought I glimpsed the little blue bear in a dark corner of the living room, by the front porch. He had originally been part of me (I think!), but now was totally outside of me, and so distant I could no longer feel him.

He was prostrated on the floor, shrouded in dark shadow. As I focussed in on him, I saw the big pink foot descend upon him, and squeeze him into the lino-covered floor. I hated that foot, which had tormented me for so long. 

I knew how painful it was to be stood upon in that way. Then the big pink foot moved upwards again, about the height of the window sill, and stamped hard on the blue bear’s body. The effect was, strangely, to wind me even more. But I had no further thoughts or feelings about his plight. I had serious problems of my own.

~~~

My mother, Neeve, who at that time I knew only as Mammy, rushed down the stairs after me, screaming something like: ‘Don’t be dead! Don’t be dead!’ She was in a state of panic because, as I learned years later, she lived in dread of coming to the attention of the ‘authorities’ for neglect or abuse, which would have shamed her. She picked me up roughly, examined my limbs and head for signs of injury, decided I was uninjured, then smacked me several times on the legs and the arse, to ‘teach me a lesson’. I was decidedly unclear what the lesson was. Don’t get caught drinking piss? Don’t drink piss? Or perhaps just this: Don’t be curious?

One of the daily lessons drummed into me and my older sister was this: Curiosity killed the cat!

Mammy’s major injunctions were: Wake up! Get up! Shut up! Stand up! Stand still! Behave yourself! Stop that! Stand up straight! Do as you’re told! Eat this! Don’t be so bold! (Meaning: don’t misbehave). Stand up! Sit down! Don’t look at me with the white of your eyes! (Which meant, I think, look downwards to indicate submission). And: Go to sleep!

Her way of enforcing her will, to ensure total obedience to her every command, was the use of her big, flat hand: her slapping machine.

~~~

The little blue bear flinched in the corner by the front porch. He groaned. The big pink foot had him pinned to the ground. There were only two kinds of beings in the gate lodge: the hurters and those they hurt.  The only way to avoid the hurters was to become invisible.

~~~

If you want to imagine me, lying there on the piss-stained lino, you need to take into account that I had a big round head, with wispy brown hair, and a small skinny body; that my face was pretty well blank, because nobody had ever addressed a direct statement to me; nor smiled into my face.  So my social and emotional intelligence were very low – retarded is the technical term.

I must have screamed and roared in pain, as I fell down the stairs, and crashed onto the pot; but nobody came to my rescue.  The lovely priests of god, who dominated our local culture, did not rush in to intercede for me; to wish the Love of Christ upon me.  The nuns, who served in the army of the priests, did not arrive to urge my mother to treat me gently.  In fact, the Catholic Church was very much in favour of beating the fear of god into god’s children.

And there were no ‘social workers’.  This was, after all, 1948, in Dublin.  Even in England and American, at that time, there was still great insensitivity to the plight of children in pain or emotional distress.  It would be two more years before Mary Ainsworth joined John Bowlby to begin their famous studies of childhood attachment maladjustments, out of which came a greater sensitivity to children, at least in official circles in England.

Bowlby’s revolution can be summed up like this: 'Bowlby’s major conclusion, grounded in the available empirical evidence, was that to grow up mentally healthy, “the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment”. (Bowlby, 1951, p. 13).'[1]  

So, understandably, because nobody yet cared a damn about the heart and mind of the child, nobody was coming to my rescue on that terrible day!

~~~

3. Back to the beginning…

My name is Daniel O’Beeve. I was born in the tiny rural village of Crumble, County Wicklow, in the Irish Free State, in the summer of 1946. My Daddy, Owen, had a small farm of about two and a half acres, which he lost to the bank because he couldn’t repay a loan he’d taken out to modernise his cottage. (Modernise meant: put the front door back on new hinges, paint the crumbling woodwork, and repair sixty years of neglect and weather damage to the windows and roof.)

I was twelve months old when Owen lost the farm. He then went to work for a local landlord – or ‘big farmer’ – who accommodated us in a ‘haunted’ cottage, and bullwhipped Owen when he worked too slowly, or when he ‘spoke back’ to him. For this reason, Owen sought work in the city as a gardener, and, when I was fifteen months old, he and Neeve, along with my older sister Caitlin, who was eighteen months older than me, had to move to the city of Dublin.

Neeve was twenty-one years old, and Owen was thirty-eight.

...

End of extract!  From copyright material.

~~~ 



[1] Bretherton I (1992). 'The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth'. Developmental Psychology 28: 759.

~~~ 

Extract from Chapter 19…

Copyright (c) 2015, The Institute for CENT, and Dr Jim Byrne

No part of this material can be used in any way without the express written permission of the copyright holders...

~~~

Chapter 19

“In the darkness and confusion of their injured souls, the adult survivors of childhood abuse know nothing of the healing balm of love.  They totter and stumble from emotional crisis to relationship crash, like drunken boxers, blinded by the blood and sweat of their emotional injuries; with brains frozen and numb.  Before they are ‘cracked open’ by an external source of love, they have no idea what is happening to them.  They do not yet know how to stop the rain of blows, from an unfriendly world, that descends upon them on a daily basis”. (Page 96)

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy…

1. Having a woman in my life…

Ramira-Relationship.JPG

I was just twenty-four years old when I got together with Ramira Butler.  My first two weeks with her (up to the end of June 1970) felt like a honeymoon; a shelter from the storm; and relief from the suffering and confusion of my life.  I felt like I was living in paradise. 

Every morning, apart from the weekends, we got up about six o’clock, had a nice breakfast; went to our respective jobs, normally leaving the bedsit together, walking to West Hampstead tube together, and then travelling to Oxford Circus together.  There we split up: Ramira going to one office or another in the vicinity of Oxford Circus, to do her secretarial temping work; and I went off to the East End to empty gas meters.  In the evenings, we would most often head for home, have a nice evening meal, with a glass of wine; go to bed early; have sex; and sleep soundly.

~~~

On Monday evenings, I meet Ramira from work, at Oxford Circus tube station; we go to Camden Town and have our evening meal in a little Italian café, and then walk up to the ‘Plumbers Arms’ pub for the IWTG branch meeting, where we discuss strategy and tactics, action plans, progress, etc. 

We usually have a pint of beer and a chat with some comrades at the end of the meeting.  This is like a date: very enjoyable.

~~~

On Saturdays and Sundays, we get up late, and go out for lunch.  After lunch, we wander around the markets, which Ramira enjoys.  I just fit in.  It makes no difference to me.

~~~

2. The end of the honeymoon…

On the fourth Saturday that we were together, towards the end of July, she became very angry and aggressive, because, she said, she was having to do all the planning of meals; shopping; and cooking.  She’s not wrong; but I don’t understand why I am being accused of doing something wrong.  I have never learned to shop, or cook, or clean up a kitchen.  Neeve would never allow such a thing, or expect such a thing, from a man, or a boy.  So Ramira’s demand that I should have been doing my fair share of the housework is like expecting a dog to do self-portraits in pastels.  I sulk and go to the pub. 

It feels like the end of the world.  I am ‘out in the cold’ – expelled from paradise.  I sit at a table by the main door of the local bar, and drink.  Eventually a bloke comes and joins me, and he’s talking to me about the joys of fly fishing when Ramira comes in, sees me apparently casually socializing, as opposed to feeling like death, and she goes up the wall some more. 

“What about me?” she wails.  “Don’t you think I might need to talk to you?”

I feel doubly wounded, but I am also too embarrassed to stay in the pub; so she and I leave together and walk back to her bedsit.  We stand outside in the street, and we try to talk.

Eventually, she agrees that it’s not my fault I don’t know how to cook, or what to buy from the shops, and she says she will teach me how to cook; beginning with how to boil and egg.

~~~

Ramira teaches me how to make an omelette.  I make one. She spits it out!  I go out, sulking.

~~~

Week eight or nine (in late August): We go to the IWTG branch meeting on Monday evening.  Then, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, I’m at the British Museum Reading Room, doing research on the Boundary Commission of 1926.  Colm Breedon is very keen for me to do this research, and to do it urgently.  When I get home on Wednesday evening, Ramira starts shouting at me about how I am always out, and how I neglect her.  I sulk and go to the pub around the corner.

~~~

3. Growing discontent…

Every Saturday now, Ramira has do to some extensive research of prices and buying options around the major markets in central London.  She never buys anything without an extensive investigation of the bargains, options, alternatives, and possibilities.  It takes a lot of hours of apparently pointless wandering from market to store; from store to stall; from market to market.  She makes notes in a little notebook, and I wander along behind her like an obedient pet.

~~~

Week ten (beginning of September): Ramira is sick of living in such cramped conditions, in her single bedsit.  She berates me for not taking the initiative in getting a new place to live.  I sulk.  I don’t know what to do.  I’m a drifter.  A passive wanderer.  Things happen to me.  I have never made anything happen in my life.  Or, not much anyway!

~~~

Week twelve (later September 1970): Ramira and I fly to Belfast for an extraordinary meeting of the IWTG, to plan a new strategy.  We seem to be getting along well.  All is quiet.  As we leave the morning session, to go to lunch, one of the members of the Belfast Branch - a big hairy bloke called Mick Pollack – comes alongside us on a big black bicycle, as we walk side by side along the pavement.

“Want a lift on my handlebar?” he asks Ramira, with a wink, and pointing down between his legs. He’s looking straight past me, at her.  I am in between them.

For a moment it looks as if she will say ‘yes’.  I’m shocked.  My guts knot.  I cannot think straight.  Then she wobbles, and says, “No, thanks!” with a too-friendly smile.

Why is this happening?  I don’t understand.  Tectonic plates are crashing and crunching against each other deep in my heart and guts; or in the basement of my mind.  These are life changing experiences; and I feel a sense of dread.

~~~

Ramira shops for shirts and pants and jackets for me.  She has a vision of how I should look.  She dresses me in hipster pants, with bellbottoms, high heeled boots with pointed toes, Ben Sherman shirts with rounded tips and psychedelic print patterns, and cheap imitations of Carnaby Row funky jackets.

I feel like her doll.

~~~

Ramira runs the bath and tells me to get in.  She pours in ‘Badedas’ liquid, and supervises my ablutions.  It’s just like bath night with Neeve, when I was a little boy.

~~~

4. A strange ‘proposal’…

I get home late from work, one Wednesday in September, and Ramira is very angry.  Her face is red with rage, and there are tears in her eyes.  I think I am going to be killed for something; and probably something I failed to do, instead of something I did.

“If you think there’s any difference between living together and being married”, she begins, aggressively, “then I want to be married!”

This is not bad, I think.  In fact, this is goodMarriage will secure my position better.

“Let’s get married, then”, I tell her.

She smiles.  She’s happy!  I can’t believe it.  She’s joyous!  She embraces me and kisses me.

We start making wedding plans.

~~~

The regular quarterly meeting of the IWTG is due to be held on Saturday 19th September, in a rented room in the Friends Meeting House, on Euston Road, opposite Euston station.  The first event – the Executive Committee meeting – was set for 11.00am.

Ramira and I chose that morning, at 9.00am, for our wedding, at the register office in Camden Town Hall.

Our witnesses are my old flatmate, Steven Roberts, and his girlfriend, Una Ahearn.  Steven is also officially my ‘best man’. The registrar reminds us that this is a solemn occasion, not to be entered into lightly.  We make our vows, and go out on to the steps of the town hall for Liam Mac Curtáin to take our photos.

Then we hurtle up the street to a Greek Cypriot café where we order our wedding breakfast: fried eggs on toast.  Halfway through the first egg, I have to leave to grab a taxi to Friend’s Meeting House, because I’m on the Executive Committee, and Ramira is not.  So she stays behind in the café.

~~~

I had hoped that getting married would make Ramira happy.  But in the days that follow, she seems just as glum and dour as normal.  Just as bossy, and hard to please.

~~~

Interlude:

“Can you believe what just happened?” says Professor Valises, rapping his three little knuckles on the desk, and pointing at the viewing window.

“What just happened?” asked Ober-Kolonel Mitta-Balaga.

“Didn’t you notice?” asks the professor.  “Daniel has managed to get himself into an arranged marriage, just like his parents.”

“How can you say that?” says Dr Kala.  “This is the 1970s.  Nobody in Western Europe has an arranged marriage anymore.”

“So, remind me”, said the professor: “Who proposed to whom?  What did they say?  What professions of love were made?”

“Oh!” said Dr Kala.

“Er!” said the ober-kolonel.

“Daniel and Ramira were brought together by Colm Breedon and Clara Angel”, said the professor.  “Neither of them has ever said ‘I love you’ to the other.  Neither of them ever thought to say, ‘I’d like to go out with you socially’.  Neither of them felt friendly feelings towards the other.  And now they are involved in a relatively loveless, arranged marriage, which mirrors the marriage of Daniel’s father and mother”.

“But why would Ramira agree to enter into such an empty relationship?” asked Dr Kala.

“Because”, said the professor.  “Because, you will recall that her father died when she was eighteen months old.  She missed him.  She has been in love with the wispy memory of her absent father all her life.  Now she has found him again!”

“Really!  That’s what you think?” said the ober-kolonel.

“Really”, said the little blue professor.  “Really! It’s perfect.  Daniel is like a corpse in this relationship; a wraith; a phantom who seems to be present in Ramira’s life, but who feels too distant and dead to be able to satisfy her need for a warm, passionate companion – which is what she thought she would get when she ‘found her father’ again”.

~~~

5. More sources of stress…

A couple of weeks later, Ramira has found a furniture and general household goods company – Blackstone’s – who will find a two bedroomed, unfurnished flat for us, in a nice area of London, if we agree to have it furnished and stocked by them, all on hire purchase. They can supply a bedroom suite, including wardrobes, beds, dressing table, lockers; kitchen units, fridge, freezer; crocks and pots; curtains; carpets; wallpaper; paint; lino; a cooker; three piece suite; dining table and chairs; new bathroom suite; and on and on.

We would have to sign a hire-purchase agreement which would commit us to payments for about twenty years: amounting to about thirty percent of our monthly income.  I feel very stressed by this kind of commitment.  It reminds me (fleetingly) of all Neeve’s jugglings: hire purchase; pawn shops; money lenders.  I am (fleetingly aware that I am) very unhappy (but it’s mainly going on below the level of conscious awareness).  I cannot find the words to dissuade Ramira, so we go to the store and fill in the forms.

~~~

Ramira is now very critical of me because of my personal hygiene.  I don’t take a bath often enough, unless she arranges it.  She thinks I smell sweaty, unless she keeps an eye on me and manages my bathing!  I sulk; go out and walk aimlessly through the streets.  My mind is frozen.  I go to the pub and drink.

~~~

Blackstone’s furniture store turns down our request for credit, because they think my income is inadequate.  Ramira now goes on about my lack of ambition; my lousy job, emptying gas meters.  Why don’t I retrain for a career in engineering?  This is a re-run of Neeve trying to get Owen to work in a factory.  But unlike Owen, I don’t really know myself.  I enjoy my gas-meter-emptying job, because it gets me out and about, wandering from place to place, in relative freedom, and relative fresh air.  But I don’t know how to defend myself like Owen did.  He stood his ground.  I’m weaker than he was. I tend to give in to Ramira’s demands.

~~~

Now, when I leave the bedsit in West Hampstead, in the mornings, in my gasman’s uniform, I feel very unhappy.  Most often now, I leave on my own, saying I need to leave before Ramira, because I have to get all the way to the East End.  I am often singing in my mind: ‘It’s too late baby now; it’s too late.  Though we really did try to make it!  Something inside has died, and I can’t hide and I just can’t make it’. 

I’m crying inside; and feeling miserable.

~~~

The little blue bear is lost in the woods.  He is beside himself with anguish.  He has pulled big tufts of his fur out of his body.  He walks in little circles, mumbling to himself.

~~~

6. I’ve got those love-sick blues…

I wander aimlessly around the estates where I have to empty gas meters.  I never manage to reach my quota.  I cannot move fast enough; and I find it a strain carrying the huge weight of coins on my shoulder.  My energy seems to get lower and lower every day.

~~~

I ring a doorbell, blindly.  A voice calls to me to come in. I turn the knob and step inside.  I’m in a one bedroom flat, in one of the Peabody Buildings; the redbrick one in Muriel Street, Islington.  I say ‘hello’.  The (female) voice says, “Who is it?”

“Gas man!” I reply.

“It’s in the kitchen”, she calls.

I find the meter; read the dials; open the coin box; empty it out; count up the money; work out her rebate; bag up and store the money I’m taking away.

“You’ve got a rebate!” I shout to her.

“Bring it here”, she calls back.

I put the four pounds and six shillings, in two shilling pieces, into a bag for her, and carry it towards the voice, which proves to be in bed.  I hand her the money.  She says she has just got in and gone to bed – at nine o’clock in the morning.  Who is out all night?  Prostitutes; strippers; bar workers?”

Her hair is black; she looks a bit grubby; and her mascara is badly smudged, and I can smell her stale perfume.  But I just want to get into bed with her and to fall asleep, and never wake up again!

But instead, I turn my back, and let myself out; and continue on my weary, wending way.

~~~

7. A new ‘home’…

Ramira finds a ‘crummy flat’ in Clapton Common, which is bigger and cheaper than the bedsit in West Hampstead. 

We go and look at it.  It’s like something out of a play about the 1950s: Look back in Anger; or Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Ramira thinks we should take it; so we take it. 

We get help from Fiachra O’Dowd to move our stuff.  He was able to ‘borrow’ a big Post Office van from Mount Pleasant, because he has some helpful cronies there.  The three of us packed everything up and completed the move in half a day.

~~~

Ramira hates our new flat.  She wants a place like the ones that she saw at the Ideal Homes Exhibition in April, she says.  She wants sleek lines, cool colours, and elegant design.  This is odd for a communist revolutionary!

~~~

8. I’m not in love…

Ramira now complains, over and over again, that I’m not romantic enough.  I believe I’m a good sexual technician.  I always make her come; give her an orgasm by digitally stimulating her clitoris.  But she wants more.  She wants love.  I don’t know what that is!  I don’t know what that means – what it looks like – how it might feel; or how to bring it about!

The new flat is very depressing.  Soon after moving in, I cooked a casserole, to a recipe provided by Ramira.  She hated it!  She describes it as tasting horrible.  I sulk.  I go out and walk on Clapton Common.

~~~

Ramira wants me to take her to see ‘Love Story’, a film that’s showing in the West End.  Everybody’s talking about this film.  But I don’t want to go.  It sounds soppy.  What does it have to do with The Revolution?  I won’t go.  She is very angry at me.

I feel like one of those early Christians, who knew the world was coming to an end, and that life on earth was no longer of any real significance.  So they left everything to follow Jesus.

With me it’s the revolution.  The revolution is coming.  It will change everything.  We have to put all our energies into this life-changing development – to make it happen; and to make it a success.

After the revolution, everybody will be happy.  All our problems will dissolve!  Effortlessly!  This is my religion.

~~~

Because Ramira is critical of my earning power, I hand over most of my money each month.  Still she can’t make ends meet.  It’s just like Owen and Neeve all over again. 

I am now comfort-eating every day.  Sometimes just a cake or two; or some biscuits; and sometimes a slap-up lunch in an East End café. 

Because I hand over all my money, apart from my travel costs and my tobacco money, I have to bring sandwiches to eat for lunch.  But towards the end of each month I tend to run out of money, and I sometimes have to – or feel compelled to - pilfer little sums of money from gas meters, to pay my travel expenses, to comfort-eat, and to buy cigarettes.  I feel very guilty about that.  I keep expecting to be caught.  So now, in the background of my mind, I feel ashamed of myself, and very anxious. 

But I always have a mid-morning snack in a café; then finish my shift; then, when I am feeling particularly down, I have a slap-up lunch in a nice café, and throw my sandwiches away.

~~~

I try to read Marx on the tube while commuting to and from work; and I try to get to the British Museum as often as I can, to do my research on the Boundary Commission.

~~~

Ramira got the forms for me to apply to train to be a semi-skilled engineer.  It takes a year, and they guarantee a well–paid factory job at the end.  I fill in the forms, and she posts them.  I feel like a young bull, volunteering for the bullring. I am filled with apprehension and a sense of being externally regulated.

~~~

I cannot just go to the British Museum Reading Room any more.  I need Ramira’s permission.  But she does not like me asking.  So I ask less and less often.  I feel like a little child with a scolding mother – with Neeve, in fact!  I feel like a powerless prisoner.

(On the very few occasions that I dare to go to the British Museum, I sit in the same seat that Karl Marx used to sit in when he was researching and writing Das Kapital.  There’s a little plaque above the desk!  Sometimes while I’m sitting there, I remember sitting in the chapel as a young boy, with my little white prayer book between my hands, and enjoying how it smells – and I wonder: How did I ever come to be an atheistic communist?)

~~~

Now I find myself looking longingly at the women who open their doors when I call to empty their gas meters.  They don’t seem as harsh as Ramira.  One woman sits down with me and makes me some tea and toast, when I’ve emptied her meter and given her a substantial rebate. She is very friendly and kind. She is chatting nicely with me.  She says something about liking me: that I’m a nice man.  I say, “Perhaps we could go to bed together?”  (I meant, go to bed to sleep; and to never wake up again!)  She throws me out!  I feel terrible.

~~~

9. Unhappiness compounded…

Colm Breedon is putting pressure on me to attend the British Museum Reading Room, and to speed up my research on the Boundary Commission.  Ramira is putting pressure on me to be at home.  She wants to sit and watch Coronation Street with me after tea each evening.  I hate Coronation Street.  I don’t see what it could possibly have to do with advancing The Revolution.  So, one evening, before Ramira gets home, I stick a big screwdriver in the back of the TV, and it blows up in a big, yellow flash.

Now Ramira is very bored and irritable, because she cannot watch her favourite programmes on TV.  What kind of revolutionary cares about TV?

~~~

I’m selling the IWTG journal outside of Hammersmith Town Hall, on a Saturday morning, when an angry Republican attacks me and punches my head against the wall.  We, in the IWTG, are in favour of recognizing the rights of the Ulster Protestants to have a state of their own; and the republicans don’t like that.

~~~

I am becoming increasingly concerned by a strange development in the London Branch of the IWTG.  There’s an American female member, Sharon Nicholson (nee Abramov) – whose father is a professor at the LSE.  She’s married to Robin Nicholson, and they’ve both studied economics and politics at LSE.  But now they are producing strange articles, especially in her case, about the need to oppose re-election of the Labour Party, and the need to favour the emerging neo-liberal wing of the Tory Party – for radical revolutionary motives!  This seems all wrong to me!  And I’m very worried and stressed about it.  I think Sharon is with the CIA, and she’s been planted amongst us to misdirect the work of the IWTG.

But my academic background is too weak; I don’t know enough history; and I don’t know how to out-argue her.  What she is saying seems immoral to me, but I don’t know how to use moral language to defend my feeling about this.

~~~

10. New directions and new developments…

I am working through my one month’s notice of resignation at the gas board, prior to beginning my engineering training.  I am so tired I just want to sit down and doze.  But I can’t.

I go for lunch in a little Italian restaurant in Liverpool Street – ‘The Roma’ – and order their tasty Spaghetti Bolognese.  I also have apple pie and custard afterwards; and as I walk towards the tube station, I buy a Coke and a Mars bar.

After handing in my daily report at the gas board office, I then head for home. 

I begin to feel very bad on the tube to Finsbury Park.  Then, outside, while waiting for the 73 bus outside, to take me to Stamford Hill, I start to feel oppressively warm, even though it was very cold, even for mid-December.

The bus arrives and I climb on board.  I’m sweating profusely and my limbs have begun to ache.  I get off at Stamford Hill and begin the ten minute walk to my flat in Clapton Common.  By the time I get home, I’ve got hives all over my hands.  I feel my face: I’m covered with little bumps.  I can’t see properly.  The soreness in my limbs, and in the soles of my feet, is so intense I could cry.

I arrive home, strip naked and lie on the bed.  When Ramira comes in, at about six o’clock, she feels my forehead and becomes very concerned.  She calls a doctor.  The doctor arrives about seven thirty; gives me an injection of two or three different chemicals; and then prescribes some anti-inflammatory medication, and says I should be coating my skin with calamine lotion, to sooth the soreness.

Ramira takes the prescription to the late night chemist, comes back with the medications, and dabs calamine lotion all over my body.  I lie on the bed, in white underpants, with a veneer of white, chalky stuff all over the rest of my body.  I look like a mummy, apart from my shoulder-length brown hair and my long, red beard.

It feels like I am as close to death as I have ever been.  The soreness and pain are so intense that I lie awake all night.  I cannot sleep.

~~~

Interlude:

The three aliens review my situation:

“So now, what’s happening here?” asks Professor Valises, brushing strands of white hair away from the third eye in his cobalt blue forehead.

“I would say this is stress-related malfunctioning of his liver”, offers Ober-Kolonel Mitta-Balaga, looking more foxy than normal.

“But why now?” asks the professor.  “What’s so special about the current level of stress?”

“I think it’s more to do with his weak genetic heritage”, interjects Dr Kala.  “His father had allergies, including asthma. Remember?”

“So why did it wait to emerge now” asks the Ober-Kolonel, “when he’s nearly twenty-five years old?”

“Emmm… Er... I don’t really know”, said Dr Kala.

“I think it’s most likely cumulative stress”, says the professor, thumbing through his sheaves of notes.  “I think it’s taken all this time to reach a kind of breaking point.  I think he had some relief between the ages of eighteen years and twenty-four years: from the time he left home to getting into bed with Ramira Butler.

“But what about his dreadful experiences in the CSDU?  Surely that was more stressful than what’s going on in his life now?” says the ober-kolonel.

“In some ways, yes; and in some ways, no”, says the Professor, making some scribbled notes on his electro-scratchpad.

“And what does that mean?” asks Dr Kala.

“It means this”, said the professor. “In the CSDU he was subjected to abuse by people who were reminiscent of the kids in his school playgrounds; plus his father, getting in from work and terrorizing him.  But now he’s back in the ‘loving arms’ of his mother”.

“His mother?!” blurted Dr Kala.

“Yes”, said the professor.  “This relationship with Ramira is a classic repetition-compulsion (or compulsion to repeat past patterns) – as defined by Dr Sigmund Freud, here on Earth – which echoes a similar analysis by Professor Shansee Mira: the Sigmund Freud of the Klimmantz race”.

“This is just speculation”, said Dr Kala, in an exasperated voice.

“Think about it”, said the professor.  “He felt strangely drawn to Ramira when he met her, briefly, on the demonstration against the Vietnam War, in Dublin.  He felt a strange tug as she disappeared down the stairs into Camden Town tube that first evening they met up in London, for an IWTG branch meeting.  Once he got into bed with her, he never wanted to get out.  He responds to her like a scolded child.  He never objects to her abusive tone of voice.  Because why?  Because that is what he’s used to, from his mother!  And Ramira is a substitute, in the here and now, for the mother he could not access when he was two years old. QED!”

Dr Kala dropped her file of notes on the desk, rolled her eyes towards the ceiling, placed her elbows on the desk, and dropped her sheepish-lizard face into her webbed, green hands and sighed deeply.

“He also feels insecure with her, sexually” says the professor; “just like his father did with Neeve. At a very deep level, he expects her to find a Tricky O’Locklin.  He expects to see her kissing somebody on a dark doorstep and to feel dreadful inside.  He expects her to come in one night with a love bite on her neck, like Belinda did, in Blackpool, and for him to sit up all night and then move to Bristol all over again!”

“But how could you know that?” asks Kolonel Balaga, with a hint of exasperation in his voice.

“Because those are experiences – extremely traumatic experiences – that he has never processed.  He pushed them into the non-conscious part of his mind, and they are still active there, running his life! Dictating his feelings and expectations.”

Dr Kala raises her head from her hands and looks at the kolonel.  They each raise both hands, palms upwards, in a shrug of Jewish-inspired despair.

~~~

11. Psychological insights…

Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion is highly plausible, given that humans are creatures of habit.  Creatures of habit repeat the same patterns of behaviour over and over again, in old situations, new situations, and even in imagined or dreamed situations.  Whatever we did before, we tend to do again.  Especially in the way we manage our relationships.

~~~

But why does Ramira behave so badly towards me?

In a conversation with John Cleese, Robin Skynner writes this:

“The situation (we’re discussing) is the opposite of the very healthy families, where all human emotions are acceptable.  Here, in these unhealthy families, they can’t admit to any imperfections in themselves, because no one ever gets the loving support and acceptance from others that would enable them to accept themselves.  As a result, they feel deep down that they’re worthless and hopeless, which means in turn that they create an impossibly demanding world for themselves, a world for which they can never feel good enough.  So in order to feel better they try to turn that situation on its head by projecting all their faults onto others – sometimes onto a scapegoat in the family, sometimes onto some outside person or group[1].

I clearly did not come from one of the healthy families, because almost no emotion was permitted in my family.  Early on I learned that if I showed any anger whatsoever, no matter what the cause, no matter how justified it might seem to me, I would be beaten mercilessly until I dumped my anger, or suppressed it.

My parents clearly needed to create scapegoats within our family, because they did not feel strong enough to take on the outside world – even though they did demonize (in their minds) the ordinary Dubliners as moronic, immoral and untrustworthy.  I therefore assume I did serve some kind of scapegoating need of theirs. 

And I also got from them that I am the hopeless and worthless son of hopeless and worthless parents.  Despite this fact, from time to time, they told me I was the brains of the family, and they expected me to deport myself well in the outside world, and to be a good Catholic – a credit to their family!  And, indeed, my mother insisted that one day I would be a Doctor!  Nothing like a good solid double bind in the root of one’s personality to provide a little leavening of the already sufficiently complicated world!

But also, when we think about Ramira, we know that her father died when she was just eighteen months old.  Perhaps in marrying me she was trying to get him back.  Another repetition compulsion.  She wants her father back, because she feels there must be something wrong with her if her father goes off and dies on her.  So she (non-consciously) looks around for a man who is ‘constantly absent’ – absent minded, passive, non-involving, and, in some very real sense, as good as dead – and she grabs me as the best father-substitute she can find.  She then tries and fails to breathe some life into me; and fails and fails. And then she punishes me for being such a dead duck!

~~~

12. Back in the schoolyard: 1958-‘59…

A shrill whistle blew, and a loud, harsh voice roared. That voice stayed with me for years: Brother Linx’s harsh, cruel voice; roaring out across the school ‘playground’, while pointing at various boys: “That boy there; and you; and you Jago; and you; and Big Seery; and Young Murphy; and those two over there; and you, the boy with the football – go to my office at once!”

He was going to beat those little, twelve-year-old boys senseless because they dared to move after he blew his whistle which calls for total immobility!  Blind obedience to arbitrary signals is absolutely required here.  There is no room for thought or reason, and certainly not for morals as such.

I could sense the disturbing animal pleasure he was getting from this task!  The sadistic rage throbbing in his corpulent torso!

~~~

That was my introduction to Brother Linx. I now looked around to see which line I should be on. I recognized Brother Herbert, with his black hair slicked back tightly to his head, and his blue chin and red face. He was wearing the standard teaching garb, a long red sleeveless coat covering most of his beige cassock.  I ran to the line and joined at the back. Brother Herbert was in a black mood. “Stand still!” he commanded.

Every boy in the line was shaking slightly, as Brother Herbert began to walk from the front of the line to the back, inspecting us individually.

“Who are you?” Brother Herbert asked one boy.

“Sean Kelly, Bro’” he replied.

“You need a haircut, Kelly. Don’t come to class tomorrow without getting that hair cut.”  Saying this, Herbert whacked Kelly on the head with a leather strap he had removed from his cassock pocket.

“And your name?” he said to another boy.

“Patrick Doyle, Bro’”, he said.

“Your neck is black, Doyle. Don’t you have any soap in your home? Hold out your hand.”

Doyle held out his hand. “I can’t bring myself to touch your dirty wrist,” said Herbert, “so keep your hand steady.”

Brother Herbert whacked Doyle on the hand three times with his leather strap.

“Now go to the latrines and wash your neck, and your hands and arms, and come back as quickly as possible.”

Further down the line, Brother Herbert, still inspecting each boy closely, said to one small boy: “Straighten your back. Don’t slouch.”

When he got to the end of the line, he looked me up and down, then said: “Don’t look at me, boy. What’s your name?”

“O’Beeve, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir. Call me Brother.”

“O’Beeve, Brother,” I responded, staring straight at him, to see how well I was doing.

“Stop that intrusive staring, you little monkey,” he said to me, whacking me on the side of the head with his leather strap. I looked down. Seconds went by, and I could still see his shiny black shoes standing next to me, so I looked up.

“I told you not to stare at me,” he repeated, this time hitting me across the head with his open palm, Neeve-like.

I looked down. I could feel his big, dilated, yellow eyes boring into me.  His shoes remained beside me. Seconds went by. A couple of minutes went by, but I kept my eyes on the grey, concrete playground. There was not a sound or flutter from the rest of the line of boys. After perhaps three minutes, Brother Herbert said: “That’s good. Good obedience, and good self-discipline.  Obedience is the highest virtue.”

He walked to the head of the line of frightened boys, turned his back, and then shouted:

“Follow me, in slow steps!”

With that the line of boys set off at a slow pace along the front wall of the school, turned in through the door at the right-hand end of the building, walked up two flights of shiny, marble-effect stairs to the first floor, along a corridor of plain, bright white walls, and into class 5a. As we entered the classroom, I still had my head down. I was afraid to look up in case he got angry and hit me again.

Up on the roof, the little blue bear was struggling to get out from under the big pink foot.  But it was useless.  He was too weak.  He could not hope to win a battle of physical strength.  He collapsed into passive surrender.  He would submit, obey, and survive.

~~~

 

13. Advanced edjumacation…

The first session was taken up with prayers. The second involved hymn singing. The third was about religious art. The fourth was geometry. Then we were all back in the school yard for mid-morning break, which was just fifteen minutes. Most boys went to the toilet, and then ran around playing chasing games. There wasn’t time to get a soccer ball out, so there was no football. Even so, Brother Link slipped into the playground quietly at the end of break, and still managed to catch a few runners out. They could not stop when the whistle blew, so they were sent to his office for a beating.

Next came ancient Irish history and mythology; followed by geography – the five provinces of old Ireland. And then it was time for the lunch break. We were marched to the yard and dismissed.

I got my little bottle of sour milk and a corned beef sandwich and devoured them ravenously. Then I resumed my strategy of trying to look invisible. There are fewer fights here than there were in the Black Abbots School; but there are still some, and they can be quite nasty and brutish. Fewer boys search your pockets, but more boys like to twist your arm up your back, or hit you in the stomach.

I overheard some boys talking about what happened when they went to Brother Linx’s office. He put them across his knee and whacked them on the arse several times with the palm of his hand. One of them said the brother was in a sweat, and seemed to be very angry and ‘like an animal’.  He seemed to enjoy manhandling them.

Near the end of lunch break, Brother Linx slipped into the school yard again, trying not to be seen. He looked around to see what the football action was like, and when the maximum number of boys was mobile, he blew his whistle, and then identified those boys who were unable to freeze their actions.

“That boy there: you moved after I blew the whistle,” shouted Brother Link. “And that one; and you … no you, Kelly; and him; and Murphy – no, little Murphy; and those three; and the boy who was heading the ball. Go to my office.”

As the group of boys shambled off, terrified, to the head’s office, the rest of us remained frozen, like statues. That was the rule.

Brother Linx spoke again: “I can see I have a particularly unruly tribe of monkeys to tame this year, but I am up to the challenge. Not one of you will leave here with the will to oppose me, or to oppose any legitimate authority figure! You will learn to submit and obey. Submit and obey!  Now go to your lines.”

And so it went, break after break. The number of boys who learned to stop moving before the break was due to end increased over the course of that first day. The number who remained engrossed in their own play agendas shrunk to an absolute minimum.

Towards the end of the day, Brother Herbert gave us homework to do: an essay on the suffering of Christ, plus ten arithmetic sums. “If you know what’s good for you,” he said, “you will make sure you do this homework well.”

The school bell rang out as Brother Linx began to walk the downstairs corridor swinging the bell clanger loudly.

“Stand up,” said Brother Herbert, in Irish Gaelic. “Line up in a single row outside the classroom door.”

We followed his instructions, and he led us to the front gates of the school, and said, “Stand still. Now get out of my sight and go home and do your homework. And avoid occasions of sin.”

It was with an incredible sense of relief that I walked out of the school gates and headed for 84 Limavada Road.

~~~

Interlude:

The little white goat has fallen to his knees three times.  He cannot get up.  The curious boy has collapsed under the weight of his sack of stones.  The leader of the Saravey priests has ordered his henchmen - the Sortray de Manga - to bring some water to throw over them, and to give the prisoners a drink.  They are not far from the killing field, and they just need a little reviving to get them back on their feet.

The water is brought and poured over the little white goat and the curious boy.  Then a ladle of water is given to the curious boy and the tall, dark lady.  The goat is given a pail of water.

While the guards are waiting for the water to take effect, the tall dark lady whispers to the curious boy: “This will not do.  When authority is abused, it is time to revolt.  Authority has to be moral to be legitimate! Do you not agree?”

The curious boy rubs the wet dust and blood from his face with the palms of his wet hands.  He is beginning to see the light.  He has been a fool.  He has always believed that if he is good, and obedient, then everything will fall into place.  Now he knows it will not, and that he will die in the process of trying to make his life work.

“I agree”, he whispers.

“And are you willing to make a bid for freedom?” she whispers.

“Yes”, he says, very quietly.

Then the lady in black slips him a small knife and whispers, “When the moment is right, cut your ropes, and set the goat free.  Then head for freedom, as fast as you can”.

“What are they whispering about?” demands the leader of the Saravey. 

The Sortray de Manga guards turn to look, and then drag the tall dark woman, the curious boy, and the little white goat to their feet.  At that moment, the tall, dark lady raises her right foot and places it against her left knee.  Then she rises up on the toes of her left foot, and begins to spin in an anticlockwise direction, like a whirling Dervish.  She spins so fast that the wind blows the Saravey leader, his priests and Sortray de Manga henchmen off balance, and they fall heavily on the ground. 

“Go now!” she orders; and the little white goat and the curious boy take off as fast as they can run through the blinding dust storm that is thrown up by the wildly spinning movement of the tall, dark lady.

~~~

End of extract from Chapter 19…

Copyright (c) 2015, The Institute for CENT, and Dr Jim Byrne

No part of this material can be used in any way without the express written permission of the copyright holders...

~~~


[1] Skynner, R, and Cleese, J. (1997) Life and How to Survive It.  London: Vermillion.

~~~

The next step…

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This is the end of the free extracts from ‘Obedience and Revolt’, by Daniel O'Beeve

There are still ten chapters to be experienced and digested.

How will the curious boy escape?  What will become of the little white goat?  And the little blue bear?  And will Daniel ever get beyond re-living his dysfunctional childhood in his painful adult relationships?

Will Professor Valises’ research project come to a sticky end?

Buy the book to find out.

Coming soon!

Watch this space!

~~~