Penguins On The March

Penguin Education Specials:
THE PAINT HOUSE: Words from an East End Gang. The Collinwood Gang and Susie Daniel and Pete McGuire. 30p.

A Penguin Special:
THALIDOMIDE AND THE POWER OF THE DRUG COMPANIES. Henning Sjostrom and Robert Nilsson 40p.

Three books, each important, each original, each an attack on common assumptions, and all written well without propagandising.

The first two, A Last Resort and The Paint House, are about two different aspects of violence. And instead of laying the blame where it is usually put (on the children in schools or the toughs’ in the skinhead gangs), they place it squarely where it belongs; on the shoulders of the people who made them that way, and on the society which sanctions and uses violence as the quick and easy way of getting what it wants.

A Last Resort was compiled from material collected by the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP), and is the first shot in their campaign to abolish corporal punishment in schools. They are doing this along with the National Council for Civil Liberties. The book demonstrates how educationally and socially destructive the threat and actual use of physical punishment in schools is, and how a school can work better, both for the teachers and the pupils, when it is removed. Unfortunately, abolishing it also means that the traditional teaching methods and attitudes have to be questioned and modified or scrapped, and the book includes examples of schools where this has been done

One example will show how destructive caning and the threat of it is. Caning is often used as a punishment for truancy. This makes the school an even more unpleasant place to be, so the child is more likely to play truant again, and less likely to want to go back – after all, the first thing he will face is a caning. Eventually he will lose interest in being at school and want to be away from it as soon as possible. It may take longer to talk to and understand a child, but isn’t that better for him and everyone else (since it avoids building violence into him as a means of getting his own way), than the easy way out with a cane?

The Paint House is about East End boys whose background (including their schools) leaves them no means of self-expression except violence, and no importance except in the eyes of one another — hence the gang, and the violence they can get away with as a gang, become the most important things for them.

Who can blame them for using violence for getting their own way? After all, police, parents, government, teachers, even doctors use violence in one form or another to get their way. Some of us have a recourse against this in our social status – they have no such comfortable bolster.

The words are the words of the gang members themselves, with a thread supplied by the two ‘outsiders’, and occasional comments (highlighting the misunderstanding and ignorance) from people in authority, whether in school, work, pub or whatever.

It is a committed book, about change and about class differences, but it restrains its preaching and puts a cogent case. That we are all people, but you wouldn’t think so from the way we treat one another. Most of us are subtle about it. Skinheads are not.

The third book I want to talk about is about one of the worst cases of disregarding people in order to profit — the thalidomide story. Thalidomide and the Power of the Drug Companies. Time after time, so calmly you almost don’t notice, the book details how Chemie Grunenthal ignored mounting evidence about the various permanent side effects of thalidomide, until the sudden incidence of ‘thalidomide babies’ gave them no option. Even years later, when on trial, the contended that there was no proof that thalidomide caused the damage. Profit, in other words, was a higher consideration than people. The amazing thing is that, with the exception of the USA, most countries have done little to tighten their regulations regarding the introduction of new drugs. And that the majority of the population in some countries where thalidomide was sold still do not know about what happened!

Three books then, that attack basic assumptions and structures in our world. If you don’t believe things need changing, read them and see.

Queers – ‘I’ve Done What I’ve Wanted With Them’

Brutalising, Punching, Kicking and Stabbing

An ex-queer basher, Paul, talks to Angus Suttie, David Seligman, Jeffrey Weeks and Micky Burbage.

Paul is in his late teens and has lately come to live in North London because there is no work in the large Scottish town where he comes from.

DAVID. At some time in your life, Paul, you were what is known as a queer basher. What did you used to do?

PAUL. I think in Scotland as compared to London there is a great difference in gay people, because in England they can bring themselves out a bit, more than they can in Scotland where they hide and are afraid to use any ways in life. Whereas a girl and a guy can kiss in the street, a homosexual can’t even make love in back yards or … If a cop caught you he’d love it, do you automatically or beat you up. When I was about fifteen I was what you call a queer basher. This is all made up of a bad person really, so what we used to do was use every form of violence, and the reason I’m telling you this is because now I’m living in London I believe that you have the right, as lesbians have, and because I want to help Gay News. The way I’m telling this may shock, but I think it’s my right, my prerogative to use this and let them know how I felt, how I hated them. There are a lot of different gay people in Scotland, and the reason Scotland is so bad for queer bashing is that they have no idea who’s gay (ie homosexual as opposed to pederast – ed.) so they have to confront somebody.

DAVID. Why do they feel they have to confront gay people rather than other groups of people?

PAUL. I chose queer bashing because a lot of them used young people, even kids, and this certain time I was talking to this homosexual person and he followed me, teased me. He tried, you could use the word rape. Well, I had a knife and he had a belt, so I used the knife and he used the belt. This was a violent gay person though, and what I’m trying to say is that there’s different people. There’s either gentle people, as the gay people I’m sitting here talking to at the moment, or there’s perverted homosexuals as well. I don’t know what the word is. They chase after, I don’t know if you could use the word homosexual, they chase after little children.

DAVID. They’re pederasts.

PAUL. It’s complicated you know. People think they are queer. That’s the word they use in Scotland. It’s a horrible word, but that’s the word they use, so I think that there’s different people. Maybe they know that there is a homosexual that is gentle, but they don’t seem to know that there‘s another homosexual, he’s got to hunt for them as a lover. And that’s why there’s queer bashing in Scotland. I’ve had plenty of opportunities with them, brutalising, punching or kicking or stabbing, or doing what I wanted with them.

DAVID. When you were queer bashing, what did you feel?

PAUL. That’s a thing I’m trying to get to know myself. I think it was like a trend, you know.

DAVID. You felt you had to do it because your mates did it?

PAUL. More so that I’d been pissed about by a lot of them. So I sort of hunted them. When I passed by them, they knew I’d beat them up in the streets. They can’t go to the cops. Well, they could, but they’d only charge them with something else.

DAVID. What do you think about the police attitude to gay people?

PAUL. The police are horrible people in Scotland as far as I’m concerned. I mean this is only my view. Some Scotsmen say they’re the salt of the earth or something like that; but they seem to think because they’ve got a uniform on they can knock the fuck out of you at any time.

DAVID. Have you ever been beaten up by police?

PAUL. Hundreds of times. I’ve got scars to prove it.

DAVID. When was it, after they arrested you?

PAUL. I’ll tell you. When I was in Scotland I was drunk and my brother was fighting, gang fighting. I ran to get hold of him to bring him home. Cops came and my brother swam the canal, and I couldn’t swim so I had to face them. Well, I put my hands out, so as to say, ‘Okay, I’m caught’, you know. They got their batons and they went for me. Well I lifted a stick. I thought fair enough, but my sister came running down the hill shouting ‘Leave him alone, leave him alone, leave him alone’, and this cop turned round and said, ‘Do you want it and all, you wee cow’. Well that just set me off and I hit him with the stick over the head and I got 60 days for it – imprisonment in the Young Offenders Street Institution.

DAVID. People in London don’t realise that there’s a completely different set of laws in Scotland. You can go to prison there for quite minor offences can’t you?

PAUL. Oh fuck! Different, they’re a lot

Continued on page 8

An Interview With An Ex-Queer-Basher

Continued from front page

different, David; they’re that stronger. I’ve known guys who have smashed a window by accident, and the cops have gone after them and they’ve gone to Borstal the next day. I’ve seen the way the police in Scotland have treated homosexuals. Life is hell, but there’s a lot of gentleness as well.

DAVID. You were telling me the other night about when you were in Borstal, about the way in which the warders used to tease you with cigarettes.

PAUL. Yeah, they done that as well. Monday morning, nobody’s got cigarettes, you know, and I got fed up with it. I just grabbed a fag and crumpled it. I crumpled his fag and he took us down the stairs and punched us violently. I’ve found if you face up to these people, they’re fuckers, they’re not worth it. If I put it this way, I believe that people like that go into an institution to fuck up young people, batter them every day, because they had a hard time of it when they were young. I think that’s a good explanation. And it’s the same with these cops. They’ve got a uniform. They think they’ve got the authority, ‘I’ve got a badge, it says 456 I can knock the fuck out of you’.

DAVID. Why do you think they need to do that?

PAUL. Why? Power! They have no power in their own self in civilian clothes, so they have to have it in this uniform. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde, they’re so fucking coward of their wives at home, they put on a uniform, they go out, Hyde the monster – you know. That’s exactly what it is. The fucking horns grow when they walk out the door with that uniform on. It’s the same here as well, and I think they arrest people just to get promotion, because if they bust gay people it’s a big thing. So they become sergeants at a desk and have a cushy number all their life. I think that if the people had a people’s law and a people’s government it would be a better country to live in. In other words: Fuck Edward Heath, fuck Harold Wilson, fuck all politics. Just have a union, a people. Just get them to understand that you are gay and there’s fuck-all you can do about it. Churchill was the worst swine of the lot. That ‘Young Winston’ is a load of bull, fucking rubbish. In 1926 he just shot people in the streets for having a general strike. If I wrote a book, I’d write a book for the working class to understand. I’d write it word by word in my own meaning. There are too many words they don’t want you to understand, so they put a big fucking word there. They’re trying to bend people s minds so they’ll go straight, no more unions, nothing. If you want to go to the Tories, you’ll go there. If you want to go to Labour you’ll go there. But behind the Tories there’s always the Unions. I’d go straight to the Unions for the people. I mean that Vic Feather is half mad, half brainy sort of thing. He doesn’t know what he is and he’s a Union man, and that GPO man as well, Tom Jackson. He said: Go on strike, GPO, go on strike’ but that cunt’s got a fucking Phantom 5 out there waiting for him, with a crest and a chauffeur, and those people have got to suffer on what they’ve fucking saved up

JEFFREY. Have you ever found other guys attractive?

PAUL. Aye, I’ve told you that, there’s bisexual in everybody definitely, but I’m heterosexual and that’s the way I like it, that’s the way I’ve developed. You’ve developed differently you know, and it’ll probably sound funny to people to think of a guy being in bed with another guy. I believe in God, and I believe he made you all homosexual to make a change in the world, because if everyone was the same it would be a horrible place to live. There’s got to be an individuality in sex and work and play, you know.

JEFFREY. You’ve never made any moves though. You’ve never felt you could go to bed with another guy?

PAUL. I tell you Jeff, it’s a complicated thing to be a heterosexual and have feelings for a guy, you know what I mean? I believe man is here to fuck women, not just as fucking you know. I think Womens Lib talks a lot of rubbish at times, that’s being honest with you. ***** says that I was just a prick, that men were just pricks, and I got upset with her because men have got feelings as well, and she doesn’t want you to help her. She wants independence for herself, but she couldn’t even open a window. I knew she couldn’t and I just put my hand up like that, click, and the window was open, and I was showing my superiority. That’s true. Man is stronger than Woman. Man is superior in all things. They’re the breadwinners for the house.

JEFFREY. Maybe that’s forced on them.

PAUL. Oh aye, it’s forced on me. It’ll be forced on me when I’m married. I can’t just lie there and say: ‘Fuck you hen, you get up and go to work. I’ll stay in today’. I think this should be a mediocre thing like. I stay in bed one morning, doing the housekeeping, because I can cook, and then she stays in and I go to work.

ANGUS. What would your attitude to us be if you were still in Scotland?

PAUL. I’d have put you through a window. No, I don’t know what I’d have done. I never really spoke to a homosexual in Scotland, to be friends with.

DAVID. Why do you think your attitude to homosexuals has suddenly changed?

PAUL. Because you’re all nice guys. The first time I found out you were gay I was really surprised, just surprised and you’ve got to make way for people.

JEFFREY. Do you feel out of place in a room full of gay people, like the night you came round for dinner?

PAUL. Do I fuck! I like you all. Why do you think I come in sometimes, I think you were pleased at my coming and sitting and talking. I was stoned as well. I enjoyed myself. I’d never had a quiet evening like that. Parties in Scotland, it’s a fucking battle in the house. It doesn’t seem to happen down here. They don’t have drugs at parties in Scotland.

JEFFREY. What would you do if you went back to Scotland and met some of your queer bashing friends?

PAUL. Well to tell you the truth Jeff, when I’ve been home I’ve had nothing to do with them, because I was near enough a sadist. I liked to beat people up. But the atmosphere down here has changed me. Scottish people are bad tempered for a start, we’re pushed out, we don’t count and there’s no work in Scotland. There are street gangs because there’s nothing else to do, there are no clubs.

DAVID. Do you think the Scottish people are going to do something about their conditions, like they’ve done in Northern Ireland, or do they just accept it?

PAUL. Well it’s going to happen sooner or later, because we’re being exploited. There’s going to be a civil war, because Scotland’s deprived of every means of work. What’s a working man got? He’s got 5 hours of free time perhaps. Up at 6 in the morning, start work at 8 o’ clock, and you get the same fucking bus every night, and the same people are on that bus. At the end of the day I want to kick the fuck out of something kick the bus or rip the seats.

MICKY. What would have happened to a boy at your school who was gay?

PAUL. I’d have thrown him over the wall, leave him for the dogs. That’s honest to God. I think if I was gay I’d learn to defend myself for a start. When I was about 15 I went to live in **** there was a gang there, feuds. I decided to be like the Jones’ you know … I was at this place **** and I got the bus home. There was this guy who was gay, and he was saying, ‘Do you want a sweet?’ Come with me and have a good time sort of thing. I had this pen-knife in my pocket, and if you’ve got fear in you, your hands sweat and holds on to it.

DAVID. Why did he frighten you so much?

PAUL. Because the guy persevered. He wouldn’t fuck off. When I got off the bus he followed me in the dark, and he stood with his penis at me. Well I was old enough to understand, so I pulled my knife at him. He was about 24, 25. Young, well dressed, good looking guy. I just pulled the knife out and fucking used it on him. I ran away. I was terrified. I knew I’d hurt that guy, but I think he would have harmed me a lot … fucked my life up, I might have been frightened to have sex with a woman.

DAVID. You don’t think you could have been happy as a gay person?

PAUL. I couldn’t have faced it – in Scotland especially. There’s a gay scene in Scotland but it’s a very CIA sort of thing. If a cop finds out you re gay and you’ve got a gay community like a pub, he’ll fucking wreck it, and you too. A lot of Scottish people would accept it, but I’m talking about my side, the working class. My brother would do me in, but my other 2 brothers, if they knew I was talking to you they’d tell me to fuck on do it. I think my old man is like me. He accepts things, he never says to me ‘fucking queers’. I get on fucking horrible with my father though. I’m his number one son sort of thing. He’s afraid of me you know. I used to see him beating up my mother and spending the money. We’d be starving. She’d have to get credit in the shops to live, and work for a pittance to pay it off.

JEFFREY. Is it only because we act fairly straight that you can accept us? Would you feel embarrassed with someone who was obviously gay, feminine looking or wearing a GLF badge?

PAUL. I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I’d get used ot it. I’d make myself get used to it.

JEFFREY. You don’t ever think you’ll sleep with a guy and have sex?

PAUL. No, but I suppose I’ve got feelings for guys as well as women. Everyone has times when they’re bisexual. They must have, because I think you can get bored with a woman. I’m only generalising it.

JEFFREY. What would happen if you got married and had kids. What would you say to them about gay people and sex?

PAUL. I’d wait until they were old enough and I’d tell them. I’ve got a friend in London and his kid’s only 2 and he made him stand there and watch his mother having the baby and explained it to him, which I think is fucking amazing, and she was breast-feeding in front of me. I think that’s nice, freedom of the body.

DAVID. What would you do if you had three sons, and one of them was 16 and came to you and said he was gay?

PAUL. I’d say ‘You think about it and tell me again, and if you are gay that’s the way it is’. I think I would accept it because I wouldn’t talk to you if I couldn’t accept one of my sons being gay. When I was younger I had a relation. It was my uncle’s father and he was bi-sexual. He had a beautiful wife, lovely daughters and good looking sons, and maybe he was not bi-sexual when he got married. Young people turn older bi-sexuals on, you know, but as far as he got was opening my zip and pulling my penis. I couldn’t put myself to the point of going to bed with him. I was younger then, thirteen.

MICKY. You enjoyed it as far as it went?

PAUL. As far as it went.

DAVID. Is there something you’d particularly like to say to end the interview?

PAUL. That if you were liberated and the people were liberated from society as it is now, it would be a better world.