It’s not something that was easy to let go, but I felt I had to delete the near-completed book I had been working on for the past four years. What originally I thought would be a fairly straight forward telling of my experience as a street boy in London’s Piccadilly Circus in the early seventies, became a major undertaking when I realized the impact it had on later life. Writing about what happened, as a few have done already, is I feel useless if it doesn’t address the how and why of a teenager going in a relatively short space of time from average schoolboy to something that struggles to live when returned to mainstream society. There are many other aspects I feel are worth discussing including that not all those we called ‘punters’, were bad men. As a boy, you often would see their inner struggle play out on their faces, but to discuss that there would be a need to describe, as far as would be necessary for clarity and understanding, the interaction between young person and adult. This is where problems could arise with Australian ‘child abuse material’ legislation which eager to close all possible loopholes, and signal to the electorate their superior moral virtue, politicians have made such a minefield that any discussion that deviates from an infantile generalized statement of ‘absolute good on one side and absolute evil on the other’ is impossible. Small children are mostly incapable of understanding grey areas such as there are times when stealing food is admissible.
The solution could be to edit out anything possibly problematic but the legislation is such that even a specialist solicitor with whom I discussed the book was unable to categorically say whether some situations as I intended to describe them, and including ones not involving actual sexual activity, would not be in breach. I can’t even be sure that giving a few examples of how ridiculous the legislation is would not result in an early morning visit by agents of the executive branch. Robert Louis Stevenson in his ‘Essays in the Art of Writing’ wrote that worse than a lie is being loose with the truth. Deliberately editing out important information.
There are two things I could do, (1) finish the work and keeping it as best I can withing the boundaries of legislation, and hope for the best should it land me in court, or (2) delete the whole thing and to hell with it. I chose the second option because whereas in 1895 the presiding judge in Oscar Wilde’s trial instructed the jury to disregard what the mob thought about the accused and what was printed in the media, the situation now is reversed. The mob and the rags that feed its outrage and hate, will determine the verdict.
Maybe there will be a time when I’m in place where freedom of thought and speech still exist, and what could be a socially useful work can be published without risking jail.
In the mean time, bring on the peace and beauty of the wild.