Thursday, 2 March 2006

Shopping Bag

A few things to record for the worthy readers:

First of all, the lights on the fine old tree at the top of Mitcham Lane, beside Streatham Green, have finally gone out. I suspect vandalism. They made such a difference to that area in the few weeks they were allowed to sparkle and shine.

Secondly, my back's partially gone again ... by that I mean my slipped disc hasn't exactly slipped but it's making itself known. I don't know how I did it this time - I can usually pin it down to the exact moment and what I did at that moment, but this time it just went when I stood up after a late lunch in Da Pietro on Streatham High Road on Sunday afternoon. All I did was stand up. Well, I didn't quite stand up fully coz me back started playing up so I hobbled home. Ouch and the pills aren't really helping.

The mornings are the worst, taking a long time for my back to 'open up' and let me stand up straight and walk without too much of a limp. Most annoying. It was really 'tight' this morning so I stayed at home and did what work I could via email - I get far more done at home than in the office. My back finally started 'opening' around 3pm by which time it's too late to try going into work.

This evening went to the theatre to see 'The Exonerated' at the Riverside Studios at Hammersmith courtesy of Chris (who will, no doubt, draft a much better review because he's good at those things, y'know, words...). I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but I enjoyed the experience (if 'enjoyed' is the right word). 10 actors, 6 of whom portray ex-prisoners on death row in America, all wrongly convicted, telling their stories, no excessive emotion, all the text lifted from court transcripts, statements or letters. All terribly sad and scary. At one point in the latter half of the play one of the ex-prisoners comments that it could happen to anyone. And if the examples in this play are anything to go by, then yes it could happen to anyone. That's the scary thing about it.

There were a few threads that connected all the stories - consistent police laziness or falsification, the ex-prisoners all trusting 'the system' because they were innocent, deliberate brutality, physical or mental. I was particularly taken by the story of the woman prisoner (played by Stockard Channing), played as a very calm hippy-type, a love-child of the '60s who ended up on death row in the mid '70s for a murder she wasn't involved in, she trusted 'the system' and so did her parents so they didn't get a proper lawyer. The killer confessed in 1979 but she was only released in 1992, and this was sadly after her husband had already been executed for the murder... So sad. After the play we were invited to give donations for the six ex-prisoners who spent years on death row since none of them received any compensation for rotting unjustly in jail. Part of me was angry about what happened, part sad, part thoughtful.

It's not just about six ex-prisoners, of course. It's about all oppression, all corrupt systems, all minorities, the life most of us don't experience (to our relief) but some do. It could happen to anyone in the 'wrong' circumstances. You or me. That's what's scary.

It resonates with where I am in my Simone de Beauvoir biography at the moment, moving from the struggle for Algerian liberation to the student riots in Paris and Simone's increasing politicisation as she grows older, taking the French Army to court in order to justify the actions of one of her former students. She shows the lie to the young radicals growing soft as they age - she discovered her radical side as she aged and she lived it to the full. There's a line in the book when, in the late '50s-'60s, she was being dropped by the Communists and others for her criticism of the USSR and other 'causes' because of their abuses of human rights when she states that her primary responsibility is to her own intellect rather than to any particular cause. Her purity of thought and seering vision wasn't about to kowtow to any trendy cause - if it's right it's right and if it's wrong she'll tell you about it in incredible detail. I like what I'm reading about Simone. Integrity counts after all.

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