Society

Looking Back on The Corner

Earlier this year, I started on a journey of reading one of the most heart-wrenching, raw and powerful books I’ve ever picked up.  David Simon & Ed Burns’ The Corner had been on my reading list for a long while, but it was only this year that I finally lifted the cover and began turning the pages, taking me to the gritty corners of Baltimore.

This was a world that I was already familiar with after watching The Wire, which coincidentally was created by Simon and Burns.  The Wire is a show that has a special place in my heart and tugged at my heart-strings a number of times, so much so I’m surprised they didn’t come apart.  However, The Corner did so much more than that, because these were the lives of real people unfolding and unraveling in front of my eyes.

Reading this book was a process that took a whole lot of reflection, which was necessary after the completion of each part, because this book is seriously heavy.  I needed time to think over all of the situations that had been brought to my attention, consider the utter brokenness of the system and sometimes cry a little in despair or anger.

Anger was a common feeling while reading The Corner.  My anger was not only directed at the system, but also the members of society who look down on those who are caught up in this drug culture, without actually wanting to help or even accept that they are part of the problem.  This is a dangerous, heartbreaking culture that no one should have to be part of, but unfortunately many are and it is a cycle that is beyond difficult to break.

One of my stand out passages for The Corner reads:

“…We’re furious at the drugging and terrified by the shooting and unnerved at the notion that unless something is done, it won’t be contained, that this horror show will creep beyond the rotting cores of cities.  We have lost patience with the idea of our own culpability, with the corruptive message that accompanies the bribe.  For three decades, we bought them off with the small coinage of charity at the beginning of every month, telling them they were not necessary, that their nation could do without them.  Now, with that lesson of helplessness learned and learned well, we feel entitled to say that we can no longer avoid the coins.”

I began to realise that those on the corners are in a country of their own, ostracised from the United States and living by their own rules.  Their life is nothing like the lives of others and trying to get out of that life, off those corners, is like entering into foreign territory.  What I think broke my heart the most was reading about individuals trying to get clean or break free of the corner life, but finding themselves right back where they started, because being back in the “real” world was too difficult and complicated.

That isn’t helped by a government and the other powers that be who simply do not understand or have the best interests of these individuals stuck in the corner world at heart.  As I read the final parts today, this segment caused fierce anger to burn up inside of me:

“Just before Christmas, a few months after Fran had celebrated a full year of being clean, she was laid off — the result of a federal audit of the detox center.  It seemed that the grant money funding BRC required all counselors to be fully trained and qualified; to preserve its budget, the center was forced to let go of some of its best and most reliable staffers, men and women who had survived the corner and were now using that experience to great effect.  Fran, Antoinette, and about a dozen others were corner veterans on a hero’s journey, trying to salvage something of themselves, trying to give a little back.  The government, being the government, could not see it.”

You see, this paragraph – like the whole book – remains incredibly relevant today not only in the US, but also in the UK and many other countries in the world.  Problems surrounding the lower class continue to persist while those in power continue to thrive off it and act as if they are coming up with solutions, when it is blatant that their solutions do not work.  More and more of the same was a major issue in The Corner, and I’m sure that it is an issue that continues to persist today.  It genuinely makes me sick.

These are human beings and members of society who deserve to be treated as such – it was evident that many of them did not want to be in that corner life, but what other alternative did they have?  As I mentioned earlier, breaking away from the corner is no easy feat.  Getting an insight into their lives was honestly a privilege and it broke my heart to see the tragic endings for many of them, particularly for one individual who I was especially rooting for – I was tearing up by the end.

The Corner is honestly one of the most devastatingly, beautiful pieces of work I have had the opportunity to read.  It has vastly opened my mind and made me more adamant that we should not put labels on others, or judge others by the labels put on them.  We have no idea what life can be like for other individuals and we don’t know how we would act if we were in the same situation.

If you have not read this book already, I seriously suggest that you do, because it is something that we can all learn from.  I challenge you to be the same person you were before reading by the time you get to the end.

Crying Out for Acceptance, Approval & Appreciation

In this world, we find ourselves striving for material things, things that can be bought, things that can be studied or achieved. We want the nice house, the pretty clothes, the flash car, the good grades, the top job to fill our bank accounts with money, and the list goes on.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting these things, as most of them are basic needs and wanting our things to be nice or attractive to look at isn’t a crime. However, it becomes a problem when this becomes our main want in life and our desire for these things overtakes our need for happiness, love, inner peace or our own well-being.

We have a tendency to neglect our mental and emotional health, in favour of meeting the standards society has set for us, striving to make the most money we can, or get the best grades we can, or have as many things as we can. I’m guilty of this myself and I’ve been paying the price for it over the years.

I put myself under pressure and unnecessary stress to achieve the best grades possible at GCSE and A-level. I worked myself ragged as I did all I could to get into my dream university. I found myself emotionally drained and mentally tired, giving my all on a university course I hated, in an institution where I never felt comfortable.

Although my grades at GCSE and A-level were good, I got into my dream university and I persevered for two years at that university, it wasn’t worth the emotional and mental turmoil I put myself through. By putting myself on a pedestal and piling on the pressure, I ended up losing myself and a sense of happiness in the process.

My energy dropped, my mood could quickly worsen and I let little things upset me. I found myself easily getting into depressive states, I cried bucket loads of tears and I was self-harming over the years. I was emotionally dying, walking around in a daze and struggling to fall asleep.

Yet through it all, my desire to make others proud wouldn’t allow me to give up. I wanted to make my parents proud, I wanted to make my family proud, I wanted to make my Textiles teacher proud, I wanted to make my tutors proud etc, etc. However, I can’t say that I was making myself proud – all I saw was disappointment after disappointment.

My GCSE grades weren’t good enough for me. I wanted to get all As at A-level, just like my teachers had predicted, not just one A*. I was regressing rather than progressing at university, which depressed me more and more, because I was trying my absolute hardest and spending practically every waking moment on my assignments.

None of this was helping me and my desire to be the best (or perhaps the world’s idea of the best) was covering up the issues within myself. In trying to be the best, I was crying out for acceptance, approval and appreciation.

I wanted my parents to say how proud they were of me and tell me they loved me. I wanted to make something of myself so that people would no longer look down on me or look through me. I wanted to ensure that I wouldn’t be second best anymore.

Looking back on it all, I can see that all I want and all I’ve ever wanted is love, affection, support, care and appreciation from the people around me. I don’t want to feel lonely (despite not being alone) and I don’t want to feel like I’m second best all the time. Yet what I really need is to learn to truly love myself.

A Major Talking Point

The issue regarding Ray Rice, domestic violence and the NFL has been a major talking point of the past few weeks.  However, all this has done is highlight a deeper problem in not only the NFL, but also wider society.

I have recently become a contributor for the amazing youth magazine, LIVE Mag, and I was very happy to write my first piece around this powerful subject.  It means even more to me being a sports fan and also a fan of the NFL.

This is a another article that I would like to share with you and I hope you enjoy reading it:

http://www.livemaguk.com/terry-crews-views-on-domestic-violence/