May 1: family values

We were walking towards the tube at ‘Chalk Farm’.There was a man at a bus stop screaming at a woman one inch from her face. As we crossed the road he hit her heavily and she fell to the ground. There were a couple of people sitting at the bus stop ignoring the scene. At the entrance to the tube there were five or six people watching. As we crossed the road I thought we have to intervene somehow. As I was walking across to the couple – they were still screaming at each other and the man was getting reading to thump her again – I was looking round at the people at the bus stop to see if there were any who might come with me to confront this big bloke. As I got closer to the scene and the abused woman noticed me bearing down, she suddenly rushed across and started hurling abuse and obscenities at us. In a word, our help was not required. We turned round and walked towards the tube. The woman continued to follow us and scream abuse. At any moment I was expecting a blow to the back of my head, from her or the man. Though it wasn’t the man; it was just her. It was a case of the abused protecting the abuser. The clan sticks together, no matter what. I heard the old term ‘family values’ again the other day. Families are often the site of abuse because they will often close ranks to protect their own. The victim will remain a victim rather than betray the inner culture. The suffocating circle produces drama in the shape of classical or neo-classical tragedy; there is no escape from the confines of the unities of time, space and action. You are bound to that place that is the family. You must defend it, its odours and its blood, though it reduces you. Greek tragedy works with this. They are dread family dramas set in the House of Atreus and other noble domesticies. Familial horns are locked in attrition. The great novel of this is Zola’s ‘La Terre’ (‘Earth’), where a man helps his lover escape an abusive and barbaric family. Whereupon, as retribution for wanting out, the family gang rapes her. Whereupon she sides with them against the outsider. If you utter the term ‘family values’ it tells us more about the sheltered life you’ve led. Family values depend on the family.



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