Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

29 October 1998 Edition

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Television: Portadown-'Mark 2'

Rush (Channel 4)
Heart of Darkness (BBC1)
Teen Spirits
In the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, Bernadette Devlin set off to the US on a fundraising/speaking tour, whereupon she highlighted the many similarities between the treatment of American blacks with Catholics in the Six Counties.

She was castigated and largely ignored by much of Irish America as a result, and found herself allying with such groups as the Black Panthers.

Bernadette's comparisions have been borne out recently with the similar events of Portadown and Jasper, Texas, featured in Channel 4's ``Heart of darkness'' which casts a long shadow over the supposed racial harmony of the USA.

Nobody hates blacks in America, but the white flight continues - whereby white neighbourhoods disappear at the first signs of Black families (aka Belfast) one in four Black men serve time (aka Long Kesh) unemployment among black males is high (see Strabane, Derry etc etc) and there are continuing accusations by the Black minority of discrimination by the state, particularly the police (RUC).

Forty-nine-year-old father of two, James Byrd was recently abducted by Ku Klux Klan affiliates in Jasper, Texas, where he was bound by the ankles to a pick-up truck and dragged for two miles until he was decapitated and his body dismembered, suffering a similar fate to Portadown's Robert Hamill. In an uncanny resemblance to the tactics of Portadown Orangemen, his body was dumped in a black neighbourhood as a ``warning'' to all Black fenians to stay at the back of the bus.

The murder was''condemned'' by all ``decent'' Klansmen who merely wanted to protect their race and traditions - see Orange Order.

This didn't prevent them however in attempting to march through the centre of Jasper (presumably a traditional route) as they put on their own Drumcree, but were opposed by Black residents, with the police ``intervening'' RUC style. Their skinhead haircuts and hoods are mirrored in the Lambeg drumming at Drumcree sending out a similar God-fearing message to all ``second-class citizens''.

Although the number of anti-Catholic groups doesn't match the 474 racist groupings of the states their origins and ideologies are similar, both mushrooming during the early part of the century and both engaging in periodic pogroms against their ``lesser kind''

We were introduced to various wizards (that word again) who espoused ``patriotism'' and similar ideas on their ``enemies'' be it ``Papacy'' or in this case Africa ``which has only created destruction''. Scary stuff.

Sherlock Holmes was the original junkie - any avid Holmes reader will testify that nothing pleased Holmes more after a good case than a good oul' fix of cocaine.

Channel 4's intriguing new documentary ``Rush'' on the history of ``recreational'' drugs started a little later with the unwitting housewives and middleaged victims of ``black bombers'' (amphetimines) prescribed by the bucketload by ignorant doctors in 1950's Britain, in order to cure depression or to combat weight gain. Phyllis quickly became an addict, cleaning the house a thousand times over and getting her ``children out of bed at 3am to wash the sheets''. They soon dribbled out onto the streets and into the mouths of teenagers and Cambridge scholars, who availed of them to stay up for twenty four hours at a time on study binges, despite suffering the after effects including paranoid schizophrenia.

Drugs became a media issue by 1964, then following a police clampdown and a reduction in prescriptions, naive pill-heads turned to heroin, which was available on prescription up to the end of the sixties in tablet form.

The programme gives a detailed description of the then relatively low number of addicts, who congregated around Picadilly Circus, gathering their supply from liberal doctors, including Dr Franco, an aristocratic old lady who doled out 600,000 prescriptions in one year alone.

Nevertheless numbers were as low as 300 in the mid-sixties, but following the historical ill-judgement of outlawing prescriptions, heroin was driven underground and into the hands of the pushers, where it has remained since, with a resultant explosion. Will we ever learn?

Modern day junkie Donny was busy trying to detox on ``Teen Spirits'' and despite his tender years, seemed to have been through similar horrors as that of his heroin ancestors. His stomach was being churned ``inside out'' as he began ``turkey'' at a friends house, supported by fifteen-year-old girlfriend Collette, who was carrying their first child.

This was in stark contrast to Mark, a thirteen-year-old spotty git, complete with shirt and tie and the solutions to the worlds ills, from a public schoolboy view. This programme however caters for the tabloid in us and the horrors and trials of children, are best left in private.

By Sean O Donaile

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1