When I first picked this book up, in Seattle on my way to California, I really didn’t expect it to have such a huge impact on me. After I finished it, I felt compelled at least to try and get some of those thoughts down. I guess, this would be a book review then!
I’m not proud to say that I knew absolutely nothing about the book, but now that I’ve read it, I really think it might just have been screaming out to me. Whatever it was that made me wait until now to finish reading it was waiting for me to know the things I know now. Things about Alcatraz, and mental health, and most of all, protecting me and waiting until such a time that I was heading off to somewhere bright and sunny.
It’s odd, even thinking that as I finished it – I’ve been reading the sun. The plane is really dark comparatively, and I guess it really hooked me into the story. Perhaps, already half way through the book – I had already begun to suspect the kind of affect it would have on me, especially after having to stop reading yesterday when I picked it up again.
I couldn’t possibly claim to be the kind of person who understands a book very well after reading them. I know what I feel whilst reading, I live in the moments, see everything, imagine the people and there’s not much else. I can’t recount things that happened in it and reflect on what they mean, but I know that this book has deeply affected me in ways I hope are positive. One thing I can be sure of is that I’m glad that mental health isn’t viewed the same way as it used to be – and I do wonder if there are any other people who felt like they were ‘one of the boys’ during the last part, especially out there in the Day Room drinking and telling stories.
I feel like I know that sensation. Of feeling for a fleeting moment that you belong. Like looking at it from somewhere else, drowning out all the noise until it’s just the sound of your friends talking.
I feel angered by the Big Nurse. I’m distressed by the things that she did to those boys. I felt concerned about the people that work there briefly, unsure how I would deal with the situation. Fighting against people just isn’t worth it. If you truly want to help people, you try to help them let go of their pride. Pride is such a heavy burden though. I can’t begin to imagine how Mack felt standing up to her. Knowing that he was right in doing what he did, and I still stand to that. He didn’t deserve to be operated on.
When you’re in a group of people who are being oppressed, against people who are upholding the ‘law’, laws they make themselves, or take on from other people. Rules they’re paid to uphold, and I know how that feels. How many times have I stood in a classroom listening to a bunch of children complain about the work they’re doing, knowing that there are far better things they could be doing with their time. The work the teacher has set them is a load of crap, photocopied sheets handed out to them all regardless of ability, unable to do anything else, even if they do finish it. They still have ‘colour in all the letters’, ‘no, not all in one colour’, ‘you’ll have to do it all again’. For what? So that the teacher can get through another lesson relatively painlessly. They can tick a box that says that child has learnt which shapes are squares and circles, knows the names of different clothing in another language, can listen to a teacher reel off the answers to questions about History and write words that the teacher put up on the board in the places where there are blank spaces.
The system is so messed up, and I don’t even know where anyone is supposed to begin. Working in the immediate area just isn’t enough. Or maybe it is. If you can lead by example in one place, and others pick up on it. That sort of thing takes years, and there’s always someone who will mess it up. Someone who doesn’t actually care about the children they’re teaching. It’s a job – it pays the bills, pays for holidays, gets me a nice car. That’s just the Education Sector. That’s just England. I know nothing about the things that are going on in other countries and what’s to say that they don’t deserve attention too. Children who are taught lies.
I want to know what I can really do.
Without ending up like Mack, I guess.