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December 08, 1972 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1972-12-08

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Friday, December 8, 1972

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Five

Friday, December 8, 1972 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five

Let the crime fit the punishment

Reefer madness: A day in the life

OUR CHILDREN'S KEEPERS,
by Larry Cole. Grossman Pub-
lishers, 150 pp., illustrated, $6.95.
By MICHAEL CASTLEMAN
OUR SOCIETY has always been
both perplexed and terrified
when faced with its more rebel-
lious children. The Puritans had
a uniquely straight forward way
of handling their problem off-
spring. A Connecticut law of
1650 aimed at curbing juvenile
delinquency put it plainly:
If any man have a stubborne
and rebellious sonne of suffic-
ient years and understanding
which will not obey the voice
of his father or the voice of his
mother . . . and that will not
harken. unto them . .' then
may his father and mother lay
hold on him and bring him to
the Magistrates assembled in
Courte, and testifie unto them
that theire sonne is stubborne
and rebellious . . . Such a
sonne shall be put to death.
Forward-thinking citizens 200
years later decided that child-
ren did not deserve death for dis-
obedience, nor was it productive
to imprison them with adult of-
fenders. In 1823 the Society for
the Reformation of Juvenile De-
linquents opened the House of
Refuge in New York as - ' e of
safety and rehabilitatin the
city's youthful offend Yet
it soon became merely a sep-
arate place of punishment. Leg
irons, hand cuffs, and the cat-o-
nine tails were the typical instru-
ments of character-building. In
1848 the assistant superintendant
of the House of Refuge, Elijah
Devoe, wrote: "nothing short of
excessive ignorance can enter-
tain for a moment the idea that
the inmates of Refuge are con-
tented. Life in th6 Refuge is dark
and stormy."
BUT, LIKE adult prisons,
which many observers criti-
cized from their inception, youth
prisons proliferated until, by the
begining of this century, every
state had them. Devoe's descrip-
tion of the conditions that pre-
vailed one hundred years ago
would be applicable today to the
overwhelming majority of them.
Our Children's Keepers discus-
ses the conditions that the au-
thor found in various youth de-
tention facilities around the U.S.:
Youth House in New York, Mount
View School for Girls in Col-
orado, and Scotlandville State In-
dustrial School for Boys in Louis-
iana. What he describes, very
simply, is a catalogue of horrors.
His contention is that not only
are youth prisons punishment-
oriented like adult prisons, but
he develops a case to show that
the conditions inside many youth
prisons are worse than those
found in adult facilities.
How could they possibly be
worse? First of all, children can
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be imprisoned for many "crimes"
for which adults are not liable,
such as truancy from school,
running away from home, or fail-
ure to obey the lawful orders of
their parents. It is not uncom-
mon for such "criminals" to be
sent away to a youth prison for
six months to a year for hav-
ing the good sense to leave a
broken and destructive h o m e .
Children need not be convicted
in many states to be imprisoned.
Even after the Supreme Court's
Gault decision, which extended a
defendant's constitutionalguar-
:antees to minors, many are still
imprisoned on "complaints."
Furthermore, children are less
aware of their rights than most
adult offenders, and rarely con-
sider an appeal if their rights
have been violated. Most don't
even know what their rights are,
even rights as obvious as t h e
right to defense counsel. Cole
relates the following from -an in-
terview with a former inmate of
Scotlandville:
Q: How did you get there?
A: Glue.
Q: How long did you spend
there?
A: Eight months, a week, and
four days.
Q: What kind of trial did you
have?
A: It lasted a few. minutes.
Judge took a look at me, plunk
his cigar, and told me to get out
of there. Man took me . .. to
Scotlandville.
Q: How many times had you
been in fro 't of this same judge
before?
A: That was my first time ever
in court.
This type of thing is by no
means rare. Ozone House h a s
sprung a number of kids from
Maxey Boys Training School in
Whitmore Lake by appealing
illegal incarcerations.
ONE OF the aspects of youth
detention that Elijah Devoe.
criticized in 1848 was the practice
of indeterminate sentences. "In
a conversation with a boy who
made one of the most desperate
attempts to escape that occurred
while I was at the institution, he
told me that if he knew how long
he had to remain, he could re-
concile himself to his punish-
ment; but that he could not en-
dure to have his mind constant-
ly racked by uncertainty and su-
spense." This practice is still the
rule in most states, including
Michigan. The social workers at
Maxey support this for the good
of the boys. It enables them to
work out their problems at their
own pace, so they can be re-
leased when they are fully re-
habilitated and able to cope with
the outside world. A case can be
made for this argument,sbut none
of the boys out there would en-
dorse it.
It would be impossible to at-
tempt to summarize the condi-
tions Cole discovered while re-
searching his book, but a few
short and by no means excep-
tional examples should suffice to
communicate a feeling for what

youth detention is like in many
states:
Youth House in the Bronx was
built to accommodate 325 in-
mates. It houses 500 at a cost to
taxpayers of $18,000 per year per
child. "On my second day at
Youth House, I saw a young girl
being beaten over the head with
a chain by a supervisor because
she refused to join with the oth-
er inmates in reciting the Lord's
Prayer. I learned that the girl
followed the religion of Islam."
At Mount View School for Girls
solitary confinement is a typi-
cal punishment: "She remained
in the Rose Room (the hole) for
81 days : . . As a result of this
confinement, Patricia b e c a m e
psychotic and was taken to Col-
orado Psychopathic Hospital in
Pueblo."
At Scotlandville, the law knows
no age limits. "Q: What was the
six year old in there for: A: He
was with his brother when his
brother stole a car. His brother
was fourteen and he was six. So
they convicted both of 'em. Q:
How dong did the six year old
stay there? A: Seven or eight
months."
It should be noted here that
the conditions in Michigan's youth
prisons are not as bad as those
described above. At Maxey there
is no longer a hole, and there is
no physical punishment, but the
doors are locked, and boys are
locked in their tiny rooms f o r
rule infractions. The conditions
in youth prisons in this state may
not be as bad as those C o 1 e
described, but they are far from
good. In 1969, HEW ranked Mich-
igan tied for 43rd place among
the states in the amount of mon-
ey it spent on each resident un-
der the age of 21. In hearings
conducted by the State Senate
this testimony was offered: "For
training schools alone the cost
per child was $4368. For $500
more we could send the child to
Harvard and pay his tuition,
room and board, and personal ex-
penses."
COLE ADVOCATES closing
down all youth prisons. His
contention is that a closed youth
prison is better than any open
one. But there is resistance to
this idea from many quarters.
Cole cites three groups whom he
calls the "status quo conspira-
tors": the civil service, which re-
fuses to fire incompetents and
sadists in the name of job se-
curity; the unions, which repre-
sent institutional workers and
care more about job security than
about the welfare of the kids;
and the professional social work-
ers, who often identify with the
institution rather than with t h e
kids. Although Cole was v e r y
impressed with some of the peo-
ple he met who work inside kids'
prisons, he comes down violent-
ly on those he felt were ignoring
the welfare of the inmates, es-
pecially the professionals:
Good people with good ideas
are challenged by institutional
professionals on the basis of
their lack of credentials, while

professionals persist, with cre-
dentials, in support of destruc-
tive programs. Any citizen who
criticizes institutional practices
is open for attack regardless of
the validity of the criticism
simply because "the profession-
als know what they are doing."
They don't. If they did, the in-
stitutions that imprison child-
ren either wouldn't exist, or at
least wouldn't be in the terrible
conditiin they are in. On one,
hand, professionals know a I1
the answers and everyone else
should bow out. On the other,
they should not be heldrespon-
sible.
While glacial "change" grinds
along in most states, Massachu-
setts has closed all of its youth
prisons except one which now
houses 60 boys. The rest are in
halfway houses where they learn
to deal with the world by living
in it. Michigan recently closed
the Lansing Boys Training School
and Maxey now has its lowest
population in years. There is also
an increasing number of half-
way houses in this state. These
are progressive steps, yet it is
difficult to convince any of the
150 boys still imprisoned in Max-
ey that any progress is being
made while they are locked in.

FOR LEESHA, by A. Rock,
Street Fiction Press, $.75..
By DAVID KOZUBEI
IMAGINE A TOWN of 100,000
humans of whom 2000 are
university faculty and 34,000 stu-
dents; where those who read,
read only textbooks, apart from
those few who, an ecologically
endangered species, carry trade
books (books published as non-
textbooks) hidden under their
clothes for fear a renegade read-
er might inform the sheriff'srde-
partment (the new marshal is
called McLuhan) or the univer-
sity watchdog committee (not
the German shepherd variety
which would have to be trained
for that sort of work); and where
an unknown poet, call him Chet
Jones, writes, like the poet Cree-
ley, with a consciousness of the
individuality of each word he
uses, but more richly and com-
plexly, and superhero of the
imagination, imagines the Egyp-
tian deity Isis in Ypsilanti; and
where a little-known Ph.D. in
music writes science fiction that
has its points, he would be called
Biggle: in short, imagine a town
like Ann A r b o r ' s unidentical

Siamese twin, Ypsilanti; or one
like Detroit, or better yet, worse
still, one where industrial heat,
trapped under a pall of inert
smoke, keeps trees (flora) dull
green, as around Gary, Indiana,
when trees elsewhere are bou-
quets of fall color; or imagine
some other apparently unlikely
place, where perhaps a white,
black, or other minority cat
(fauna) who will be known as
America's greatest writer, and
who has no home at all yet, is
living, or dying, in the polluted
air, with a few scraps of paper
and a chewed-on pencil in his
hand (or is it hers?).
AND WHILE all this is going
on elsewhere, somewhere in
Ann Arbor, under our very noses,
Street Fiction Press puts out a
story of about 20 unnumbered
pages by A. Rock (minerology).
It is called For Leesha (Leesha
is a girl in the story, not a
dog), and is at present obtain-
able at Borders, Centicore, and
University Cellar at 75 cents the
piece.
The presence of For Leesha in
an anthology of the world's best
short stories, of Verga, Bunin;
Marquez's "The Very Old Man

with Enormous Wings," Robert
Walser's "Kleist in Thun," late
C h e k h o v, Daniel's "Moscow
Speaking," Tertz's "Pkhensk"
and so on-would not be a cause
for future shame to anyone con-
nected with it. In other words, an
unknown writer has popped up
in our midst who is great.
But the story, what about the
story? It consists of lots of de-
t; is that add up to a picture of
one day in the life of a young
marijuana dealer and like Sol-
zhenitsyn's book it has its own
perfection (if one ignores mis-
prints). Like all literature, it
transcends its subject. T h a t
means that if I had been told
what it was about before I had
read it, I would have given an
anticipatory groan, imagining all
sorts of cliches and sordidness
such subjects associate with. But
the ability of the author to pre-
sent it all without getting tram-
meled-up in some way with the
subject, in fact, the ability of
the author to function as a hu-
man being, as he had to in order
to write as he did, to be so
aware, and to move around with-
in this awareness to produce his
effects, is the thing that does it.
Nobody writes that well who

can't get away with unpleasant
subjects, witness . the mhystery
genre's Dashiel Hammett, Chan-
dler, R o s s MacDonald, and
Emma Lathen.
THE SENTENCES are all short,
but not so monotonous as
Hemingway can be if one has an,
ear for it; and there is a density
that grows till the end, imaking
a big slice of life out of what
had been a speck on my horizon.
The details do it. They are
like bricks. You can build just
a wall with them (which tends
to be boring) or a space, which
is livable, and his details have
built a big space inhabited by
several people, and inhabitable
by the reader who is willing to
move in.
I prophesy: such blurbs will'
appear on the jacket of his first
sizable book as "A promising
young writer," "the best I've
read this year." But the promise
is already fulfilled, and besides
I always suspect reviewers who'
write "the best I've read this
year" have read nothing else in
that time; so I'll just say I need
to read itdat least once more-
and if I do, it will be for. the
fourth time.

Orwell: Stranger in a strange land.

THE UNKNOWN ORWELL, by
Peter Stansky and William Ab-
rahams. Alfred A. Knopf, $8.95.
By NIGEL GEARING
TjHERE IS something so reso-
lutely English in George Or-
well that one wonders at times
how his charisma - like those
quintessentially Edwardian nov-
els of E. M. Forster - manages
to survive in other national cli-
mates.
His early years, as considered
in this admirable account by Pet-
er Stansky and William Abra-
hams, run the gamut of some tra-
ditionally British horrors: prep
school, Eton, service in the out-
posts of the Empire. These were
the years of Eric Blair, before he
became a writer and adopted a
"nom de guerre," before (as the
last part of The Unknown Or-
well outlines) he turned his back
on the received orthodoxies of
his social caste and became the
figure by which we know him-
or think we know him: variously
(you pay your money and you
take your choice) conscience of
the democratic left, socialist
revolutionary, radical conserva-
tive, bourgeois revisionist . . . .
The list is endless. A man hailed
for his no-nonsense frankness, he
is also one of the most paradoxi-
cal writers of the century, and
it is to the credit of these au-
thors that in establishing Blair's
changing response to those insti-
tutions which moulded his first
years they manage to explicate
much of the later Orwell's multi-
faceted and confusing personal-
ity.
George Orwell stated in his
will that he did not wish a biog-
raphy to be written - in large
part, perhaps, because he did
it himself in writings of a sup-
posedly more generalized tenor.
Whatever his subject, whether
he was writing about the British
in colonial Burma or the betray-
als of the Republican front in
Spain, his perceptions were al-
ways expressly and openly de-
rived from a personal standpoint,
from this specific man reacting
at this particular time. The Un-
known Orwell is in this sense a
breach of trust, but it has been
pointed out that in the 2000-odd
pages of The Collected Essays,
Journalism and Letters there is
only one personal correspondence
that predates 1930 (this book
ends with 1933, the year of publi-
cation of Down and Out in Paris
and London) and that in any
case those theoretically revela-
tory writings illustrate a social
criticism to which personal his-

tory (often, as in Down and Out,
fictionalized) is subordinate and
rigorously tailored.
This book, then, supplements
and substantiates what previous-
ly we could only infer.
ORN INTO an Anglo-Indian
family which had noticeably
come down in the world, Eric
Blair suffered the ignominies of
the English "lower-upper-middle-
class" - later characterized by
him as "the shock-absorbers of
the bourgeoisie." Its ethic was
above all one of keeping up ap-
pearance despite evident mater-
ial impoverishment. Servants of
a system to which they belonged
only as functionaries, its mem-
bers nevertheless perpetuated
the ideology: Eric Blair's first
appearance in print, at the age
of eleven, is with a jingoistic

a commission with the Indian Im-
perial Police in Burma. Peculiar
as the decision may at first
seem, the authors suggest three
important factors: ennui with
academia; a nostalgia for the
Indian climate he left as a four-
year-old; and the surface ac-
commodation to his father's
wishes and own past background.
Here he encounters the raw ma-
terial which a later and more
polemical Orwell will incorporate
into Burmese Days (his first nov-
el, published 1934) and expose in
the famous essays "A Hanging"
(1931) and "Shooting An Ele-
phant" (1936). By then he will
have come to see his time in the
East as a schooling in the hu-
miliations of imperialism - hu-
miliations effecting both subjects
and rulers. Stansky and Abra-
hams suggest indeed that he did

from a simple hunger for "ma-
terial" (a perennial and per-
haps misleading problem for the
incipient writer). Only later did
these researches connect with
Blair's own sense of social dis-
possession to forge the familiar
Orwellian socialism. In their ac-
count of them, these early years
also hold the key to later ano-
malies: a patriotism unusual for
so virulent a critic 'of 'the hier-
archic structure; a certain prig-
gishness which rests uneasily be-
side his espousal of populist
causes; a continuing sense of dis-
placement which renders even
his beloved England somehow
remote, making of him even here
a perpetual stranger in a strange
land.
IT IS AT JUST this point - Or-
well's apprehension of the re-

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verse ("Awake! Young Men of
England!"), and in The Road to
Wigan Pier he is to look back on
his schoolboy ignorance "that
the working class were human
beings," appearing to him then
as "brutal and repulsive."
An established sense, however,
of being in some way the "poor
relation" is augmented when he
is sent to St. Cyprians, an ele-
mentary school for the sons of
gentility which was later casti-
gated in his bitter memoir
Such Such Were The Joys.
Blair is accepted on reduced fees
with the understanding that he
will later reflect glory to the in-
stitution by winning a scholar-
ship to some notable English
public school such as Winchester
or, Eton. Stansky and Abrahams
record that seminal incident to
which Orwell the successful writ-
er would years later return: a
frightened "new boy," away
from home for the first time, he
wets his bed and is subsequently
marked out for public humilia-
tion and flogging; Blair, in ways
he cannot yet understand, is vic-
timized by the authorities, made
to feel guilt.
From here he duly wins his
scholarship to Eton and, despite
later disclaimers, things seem
to look up. He finds classmates
who share his mild iconaclasm.
Academically and physically un-
exceptional, he none-
theless "plays the game," though
the authors note a recurrent mo-
tif: friendly with others as he
may be, he never has intimates
and is conspicuous for a certain
aloofness.
WHEN HE finishes school in
1921 Blair decides not to fol-
low the example of his contem-
poraries (by going to Oxford or
Cambridge) but opts instead for

not despise the system until he
could look back in anger as
George Orwell: again no social
mixer, he seems to have wea-
thered the hardships and respon-
sibilities with some esprit, and
it is contended that his later
"expiation" (he would claim he
went "down and out," became a
writer, in direct compensation)
is largely at having enjoyed
much of his time there.
He finally resigns his commis-
sion in 1927 and to the horror of
his parents declares his decision
is precipitated by an urge to
write. Again, the turn-about is
superficially surprising: Blair
had never displayed much crea-
tive talent and his reading up to
this time eschews contemporary
innovators (Joyce, Huxley, Vir-
ginia Woolf) for the like of Som-
erset Maugham, Thackeray,
Conrad, and Kipling (later the
subject of a famous essay). A to-
tal absorption in his new-found
role is, however, striking and
later Orwell will bear witness
("Why I Write," 1947) to a ten-
dency since childhood to indulge
in a continuous interior mono-
logue.
NOW FOLLO\ S the transi-
tional stage between Eric
Blair and George Orwell. In the
spirit of Jack London, whom he
admired, he explores the big-
city slums. He dresses, in old
clothes, , sleeps in doss houses,
observes at first hand the pov-
erty of England's social rejects.
There is always some self-con-
sciousness here - an element of
imposture - and it is not per-
haps till he leaves London for
Paris that the full weight of
what he is, recording is felt on
his nerve ends. He gets pneu-
monia and is incarcerated in a
hospital for the poor, so horrify-
ing in its conditions and proce-
dures that he will consider it
"a version of hell," a hell, more-
over, so daunting he will not
tackle it in writing till 1946
("How the Poor Die") and in-
stead chooses for Down and Out
the more negotiable aspects of
that destitution he has observed
and in some part shared. After
three rejections (one by T. S.
Eliot) Down and Out is publish-
ed. Eric Blair choose the pseu-
donym George Orwell; authors

lational stress between himself
and his class-bound society -
that one feels the authors might
have profitably intensified their
otherwise thorough account. On-
ly so much can be deduced from
personal case history, and The
Unknown Orwell rightly avoids
some of the more vulgar Freu-
dian reductions. Where they
might have amplified their work,
however, is in a somewhat more
inclusive perspective on that
prickly English background.
Mostly they are content to stay
within their formulation of a
Blair-Orwell dichotomy, and de-
spite the occasional lapse (once
or twice they seem to play off
Eric against. George as if they
were figures in some doppel-
ganger extravaganza), their the-
ory of a changed mode of per-
ception from Down and Out on
seems satisfactory. The possi-
bility that the significant divi-
sion is to be found in English life
at least as much as in Orwell is
less readily considered. Follow-
ing these lines, they might have
concluded that Orwell is, after
all, more consistent (more banal
even) than we took him for: as
a child he identified with a rul-
ing elite, discoveredon his re-
turn from Burma the true ten-
sions and contradictions, and
from there went on to mythicize
England - in a famous phrase -
as a decent "family" but "with
the wrong members in control."
That this last stage might also
strike us as an unhappy solu-
tion is not the immediate point:
Stansky and Abrahams do jus-
tice to the surface complexities
of English life but arguably limit
their view by a neutrality which
stops short of wider value judg-
ment, by setting for a focus
which on occasion can't see the
forest for the trees.
This possible flaw will become
more crucial in their promised
sequel covering those years when
Orwell will directly address him-
self to political lines of force. In
the meantime, we have a sensi-
tive and intelligent account of a
writer inembryo struggling to
formulate his own perceptions,
but as yet conspicuously apoli-
tical. And here perhans, in this
transcribed nexus of institutional
influences, is the springboard to
a truer estimate of Orwell's
stre- ip ngetive a s is of

gest, can now he appraised in the
extent to which he expanded and
revitalized a discredited liber-
al humanism; in this respect he
is comparable to that very dif-
ferent figure of Forster. On the'
one hand Orwell's work, and
that life which is inseparable-
from it, returned the tradition
to a firm moral base, reestab-
lishing the worn connections with.
Hazlitt and William Morris. On
the other hand, he saw and stat-
ed those relations between lan^
guage and ideology, between cul-
tural manifestation and social
arrangement, which have since
been furthered by the like of No-
am Chomsky and Richard Hog-
gart. That we do not underesti-
mate his significance in this is
as vital as our recognizing that
the years of Eric Blair took
their toll. The rejection of St.
Cyprians, of Eton and the Burt
mese Police allowed him some
alertness and freedom from fac
tionalism the converse of whiuh;
is the outsider's continual ten-
dency toward isolation and alen-
ation. It is thus. in the essays on
popular culture (e.g. "The Art f'
Donald McGill") and the graphic
observations of specific social
milieus (The Road to Wigan Pier,
Homage to Catalonia) that he
made his mark and by which in
the long term he is most to be
valued; it is in the more theo-
retical and abstract hypotheses
beyond these that he is at his
weakest and most parochial.
ONE MUST inevitably feel hes-
itant of criticizing a man
who so stubbornly and courage-
o0sly laid his life on the line, ex-
nosing himself to the hard real-
ities of destitution and revolution-
ary warfare. In another light,
however, that remoteness which
Stansky and Abrahams empha-
size as a defense mechanism
from his schooldays onnowmust
appear to us as damaging and? a
necessary limitation: if it gave
him a critical edge, it also pre-
conditioned those subsequent
feelings of betrayal and disillu-
sion, the failre to evolve a con-
sciosness of felt community and
contining socil relations be-
vond the specific crises of his
time. For Orwell (as for his hero
George Bowling in Coming Up
- for Air, and incidentally as for
so many American writers) the
present is a wasteland, the fu-
t ire a bad dream and (despite
his own early and bitter exneri-
ences) only the past a viable
locus for the positivesr he can
sufggest:.. the good' times are in
the past tense, somewhere before
the contaminations of indus-
trialism and the urgencies of
politicl intrusion.
As Richard Nixon plows on,
one realizes the need for a ltter-
day Orwell and paradoxically
'the inadequacies of such a fleure
should he be found. Eric Blair
compromised the humanist lurge
which mkes "George Orwell": so
admirable a man by never en-
gaging with the fundamentals of
class solidarity, of economic
relities, of cogent organizational
counters. Renudiating prevalent
cant, he still balked at those
commitments which, affirming
personal and .political identity,
might one dv oust Big Brother
and with it the hard-won insular-
ity he first evolved in his ,boy-
hood years.
Tough verdict asit seems to
this wider sftr1i g~e Blair-hecore-
Orwell is irrelevant. Tougher
still is our growing perception
tht t"'Is. perhaps, is the--,nly
str-gele.
Today's writers .

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