By rights, I should be typing this post whilst flying across the Atlantic. A trip to Iowa to express my rage and launch a single solitary protest in the small hope that people might come.
Yesterday, I watched a 2014 documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of the film, Field of Dreams. You may recall that it is my favourite film of all time. 25 years on, no other movie has come close to toppling it from the top of my hit parade. When the ghostly Doc Graham asks the question, “Is there magic out there in the moonlight Ray?”, I shout a resounding “Yes”. When I tell the Get Steven Home story, I always mention the night, two days after launching the campaign Facebook group that 2500+ people unexpectedly pitched up in the group, lending their support. If you build it, they will come.
There was a scene in the documentary of Kevin Costner, returning to the farm/baseball field 25 years later. He told the story of how, on the last day of shooting the original film, he said to the farmer who owned the farmhouse and the land – “I wouldn’t be in a hurry to tear up the baseball field and plant the corn again. Something could happen here. I would just wait…..” At that point the camera panned back to reveal that 25 years on, the baseball field was still there. And families were sitting in the bleachers enjoying a picnic. Fathers and sons were in the diamond having a catch. The interviewer spoke to some of the families, who called their trip “a pilgrimage”. Sons talked about how for the first time in years, playing catch in the field made them feel connected to their fathers. In the last 25 years, hundreds of thousands of people had come. And as Shoeless Joe had suddenly been illuminated in the film, as the floodlights were switched on, broken families began to feel the magic in the moonlight and start to repair.
As the credits rolled on the documentary, a voiceover announced that the farmer had sold the farm and the field to a major entertainments company and their plan was to rip it all up and build a huge stadium complex, which would incorporate nine baseball fields. NINE. Bang goes the magic.
I felt furious. It reminded me of all the good ideas in the social care field that get manipulated and abused by people with no idea of magic but plenty of idea that money means everything. Once upon a time, for about 15 minutes, a person centred plan might have been a good idea. Certainly if the concept had been built on the ideas of Carl Rogers, it might have remained a genuine organ of good for people. Chance would be a fine thing and now person centred plans are used to send people away from their families and into ATUs. I regularly discuss with Graham Enderby how the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards have been distorted to a stage where they are now a million miles from their original intent. They arose out of a desire to protect dudes like HL and stop the horrendous imprisonment that many people with autism encounter. They are called safeguards and in Steven’s case, along with the Human Rights Act, were the mechanism by which he was released from an unlawful detention. Nowadays, the DoLs are just as likely to be used as a means to detain people. As Graham said the other week – “They should be about getting people out. Now they’re about keeping people in”.
I have to admit to feeling disappointed in the aftermath to the recent 7 Days of Action campaign. For me, the telling of the stories was about capturing the magic of being a human being. I’m a firm believer that the magic is always found in the minutiae. Little tales from the lives of the dudes that have no consequences but are huge reminders that we all have a soul. When Steven was in the ATU, I told the managers about how we used a Proclaimers joke that Steven used to tell to diffuse a situation where he might be getting aggressive. A few weeks later, I was horrified to see that they had used the joke in Steven’s “Risk behaviour management plan”. They may have meant well but it killed the magic. I can’t even remember what the joke was, 7 years on, because Steven stopped telling it. Life and love being sucked away by a bureaucratic vampire. I’m probably hopelessly naïve but I feel that the only way that the scandal of 3000+ people held in ATUs will ever break into the wider consciousness is by the telling of their stories by the dudes themselves. Watch the campaign film and listen to Eden on the phone to his mother and then try and “other” Eden as a non human. You’ll find it quite hard to do.
I know as I write this that I may piss some people off. How can I be comparing a film with real lives? One of the weird things for me is trying to understand the nature of the reality in my original point. A film, a made up story isn’t reality. But the aftermath of the film created a reality for thousands of people. An unreal film set, set in a real farm, became a real place of pilgrimage. How much of a head fuck is that?
So sorry if I offend but back to my comparison:
Nine fucking fields.
Residential homes for 36 people.
ATUs with 1800 beds.
It’s all the same thing. I don’t know what else to say.
I’ll leave it to Terrence Mann: