Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Sewers

They were raised in The Sewers amidst rats and cockroaches, surrounded by diseased splendor and crowned with a halo of lice. This was fine when they didn't know any better, when they were absorbed with the business of survival. There was no energy left with which to consider the social injustice of their circumstances. And those few, who were at least somewhat aware that there was something starkly unfair about their suffering, did not have the education to articulate their inner turmoil and wouldn’t know what to do about it anyway. There were no advocates.

It wasn't until they got older that they realized The Sewers was a derogatory name for the ghetto where they lived, but by then what was the difference? They didn’t care. A great many inherited their parents' addictions, and when a person is addicted nothing else matters. It is a way of life, where there is no dignity; where human beings copulate and defecate in the street like stray dogs, and toddlers are prostituted for a hit of heroin.

The neglected offspring of these addicts, it should be understood, were not seen as casualties or victims of their parents’ substance abuse and poverty; rather, they were a dehumanized, negative consequence, like delirium tremens, hepatitis, track marks or eviction notices. As such, the sewer children were treated with the same avoidance and disdain associated with any unwanted side effect of pathology. Besides, even if the addicts and degenerate alcoholics wanted to properly nurture their kids, they couldn’t because crystal meth kills the ability to parent and alcohol is a destructive virus.

The lack of parenting meant the sewer kids had to fend for themselves. But this again was fine – when you are born into a thing you become accustomed to it, in the same way these kids were habituated to the stink of raw sewage, or the ache of hunger in the pit of their emaciated stomachs.

Initially, they grew up vaguely aware of The Uplands where affluent metropolitans led lavish lives, discarding in a moment what for them took months to gather through scheming, begging and stealing. Over time, this vague awareness that there was a better life somewhere else developed into a kind of chronic longing.

There, however, was no sympathy from The Uplands; no charitable handouts. The filthy urchins from The Sewers were treated as harshly as all vermin are treated. No one coaxes rodents from the trash with gifts of love, nourishment and shelter.

Eventually, in this cauldron of contempt, indifference and the constant fight to survive, the chronic longing progressed into acute, drug-fuelled, sociopathic rage, and transformed the innocence of babes into the seething hatred of caged animals, who have suddenly become aware of their unjust confinement, but more importantly that their shackles were not in fact an impossible reality shared by all.

And it was this enraged, snarling animal, bent on taking the freedom and riches denied it, that clawed its way with bloodied paws out of The Sewers and into The Uplands.