Nicki and I had dinner with Billy and Ohna last weekend. We got talking after dinner about stuff that happened years ago when we were kids growing up in France. There’s been quite a lot of talk about childhood recently what with the baby on the way…
Anyway, don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but this kind of conversation can rapidly turn into “spot the paedophile”
Ohna reminded me of this one guy called “Mickey” (did he have a song? a club? big ears?) who lived a few door down from us. My only memory of him was that he was really friendly and that he used to give us gifts. In some cases, really nifty gifts, like a casting rod that collapsed into a nifty little fibreglass case. I seem to remember him being a “salesman” and that he justified giving away all this loot because it was promotional stuff he didn’t pay for…
Anyway, I had completely forgotten about Mickey, turns out he had ulterior motives for being so friendly. Nothing happened but he disapeared from view after one incident were my mom got involved. It’s crazy how the bad guys manage to exploit one’s natural tendency to assume the best of people…
And as I write this, I’m reminded of the construction worker who use to try and kiss me every morning on my way to school (he managed once and I then had to walk the long way ‘round to the tube station), and the newspaper seller by Michel-Ange Molitor tube who talked to me every morning until one day he tried to shove my hand down his pants.
I can only conclude that a) I must have been one horny-lookin Ten-year-old b) men in France are all paedophiles c) shit happens.
These stories are upsetting because of what they do to your perception of the world. The construction worker was an Algerian immigrant. I’m not sure if anybody reading this has any knowledge of France, but I can assure you North African immigrants do not have an easy time. I won’t go in to France’s colonial history or the other political issues surrounding the matter, but what I get out of this is a challenge to myself to try and stay level-headed.
So instead of thinking “Algerian men are slimy” which is the gut reaction you might get from this type of interaction. I focus instead on “These men are treated as sub-humans and they haven’t seen their wives in five years and they live ten miles out of town in a high-rise shanty-town were they bunk up fifty to a small room and survive off beans in a tin…” at which point, you take all this pain and suffering, add your normal manly hornyness and the guy could just as easily have been an Englishman in Germany.
(edited in March 2020: I think back in 2002 I was focusing on the frame, keen to avoid the jump to generalisation that so quickly ‘others’ groups of disadvantaged people - see ‘Mexican men are rapists’ for example. 18 years and one #metoo movement later, I feel the need to qualify this by adding that the hardships endured by the offender do not excuse the offenses. In this specific case I was the victim of the offenses so feel OK writing this qualification and that both issues coexist and both deserve some thought…)
As I type this, I am reading Mike’s blog and he mentions Jon who is currently linking to the political compass site. I mention this because after doing the where-do-you-stand test on the site, I find that my politics put me left of Tony Benn (grin) a whole two grid squares away from the bottom-left-hand-side of the positional grid.
I suspect I probably knew this already, but even if you’re not the “political” type, I urge you to take it. As it could lead to some eye-opening conversation.