More Bites At The Cherry (Or: There Are The Deserving And Undeserving Poor – William Booth)

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Image source: godandpoliticsuk.org

The Australian royal commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse gave a second day to the Catholic Church to present more propaganda about how wonderful its “Towards Healing” process ( supposedly to help victims) really is.

It was such a disgusting event that it is not worthy of reporting upon. Indeed, even the mainstream media gave it a miss. So, instead, the story of the Salvation Army, in the lead-up to next Tuesday’s hearing on them will be covered instead. With only one working day left before those hearings, the commission has yet to issue a witness list, or the list of submissions, for that hearing. It is going to be a bit like not knowing the team members of a sporting match until the game commences. This is an alarming new development, even for the commission.

The official person for the Salvation Army’s response to the royal commission is Peter Farthing (see previous postings), who is also the producer of a movie on the founders of the Salvation Army’s, William and Catherine Booth. As Peter notes, he likes telling a story. Look for a scripted “story” from the Salvation Army at the commission hearings.

There is an interesting management academic article (Middleton, Stuart: “Reputation Management in the Salvation Army – A narrative study” Journal of Management Inquiry, 2009,18:145) which analyses the recovery of the Australian branch of the Salvation Army following the 2003 Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s investigative program, “Four Corners” entitled the “Homies”.

The article poses the question “how [has] it maintained an exemplary reputation despite allegations of sexual, mental, and physical abuse from children in its care during the period from the 1950s to 1970s?” Essentially, the answer under the process of “narrative deconstruction” is that the Salvation Army are the virtuously “saved” while those they claim to help are the “fallen”, so the only people capable of giving a “credible” account are the Salvation Army officers.

[The Salvation Army’s highly-paid management consultants would be well aware by now that the author is in the process of seriously deconstructing their false “narrative”.]

This academic study was about Salvation Army abuses at its Children’s Homes in Australia. The author appeared in the 2003 “Homies” program, along with some others, including Wally McLeod (see previous posting – Why Wally should be heard), and Barry Maslen – all old “Alkira” boys, who were at the Home at the same time.

It includes quotes from the program by Wally and Barry. “Alkira” is due to be investigated by the royal commission from next Tuesday. While the author will definitely not be given the chance to appear, it is not known if Wally or Barry has been given permission.

The Salvation Army has a good reputation with the general public, which never has had to avail itself of its services. Those who have had to get their “help” know a very different face of the Salvation Army.

One of the narrative myths of the Salvation Army is that it did a lot for the unemployed during the Great Depression. However, anyone who has read John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” or George Orwell’s “Down and out in Paris and London” know what the author means. (Orwell is best known for “Animal Farm”.)

Orwell spent time in Salvation Army shelters during the depression. Here are some quotes from his book: “At 10 p.m. a whistle was blown and the men went to bed. At 7 a.m. another whistle was blown and officers went around shaking those who did not get up at once….. this semi-military discipline is the same in all of them ( the Salvos shelters)….. the numerous restrictions stink of prison and charity… [they]are far drearier than the worst of the common lodging-houses.”

In general, he is “scathing” of the Salvation Army as most academic texts note. Here’s another quote: “The charge for beds was eight pence. Paddy and I had five pence left, and we spent it at the ‘bar’, where food was cheap, though not so cheap as in some common lodging-houses. The tea appeared to be made with tea dust, which I fancy had been given to the Salvation Army in charity, though they sold it at three halfpence a cup. It was foul stuff.

“The dormitory was dark and close, with fifteen beds in it. There was a horrible hot reek of urine, so beastly that at first one tried to breathe in small, shallow puffs, not filling one’s lungs to the bottom.”

Steinbeck, whose novel was also set in the Depression, has characters saying : “Las’ winter; an’ we was a-starvin’ – me an’ Pa an’ the little fellas.  An’ it was a-rainin’.  Fella tol’ us to go to the Salvation Army.  Her eyes grew fierce.  “We was hungry — they made us crawl for our dinner.  They took our dignity.   They — I hate ‘em!  An’ –“

[One of the songs the author liked singing in the early 1960s (soon after getting out of “Alkira”), found in a copy of the old folk-music magazine, “Sing Out”, was Woody Guthrie’s “Ballard of Tom Joad” based on Steinbeck’s novel.]

In Australia, the Salvation Army itself has admitted to the veracity of the following report in a newspaper at the beginning of the Depression.

“One of the main soup kitchens in Melbourne was run by the Salvation Army. The conditions were deplorable. The food was served on dirty and rusted dishware. Men would queue for hours for a bowl of boiled mutton.”

“On 26 July 1930 three hundred unemployed men met in the courtyard at Trades Hall to discuss the lack of adequate support. A decision was made to boycott the Salvo run soup kitchen and demand the government provide meal tickets for single men.”

“The following morning a group of roughly a hundred gathered outside the soup kitchen and set up a picket line, disallowing entry to the kitchen until they got a guarantee that the food would be improved. Towards the end of the day the police arrested two men, one of whom was charged with ’having insufficient means of support’! The numbers using the soup kitchen rapidly dropped, and the Tuesday after the boycott was declared 400 men marched through the streets of Melbourne.”

People who were in Salvation Army Children’s Homes know the difference between the Salvation Army’s public and private face. In the present, its “clients” also know of this. Their “charity” is dispensed with violence, humiliation, bigotry, preaching, discrimination and condescension

As a final example, the Salvation Army lies about its attitude towards the LGBQTI etc. community to the general public. Here is one case which disturbed many people at the time, and is reprinted from a web-site (see references below):

“Two years ago today transwoman Jennifer Gale was found dead sleeping on an Austin sidewalk outside a homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army. The reason she was outside on the sidewalk instead of inside the shelter is because they would not allow her to be housed with the women because of genitalia incongruent with her gender presentation. Austin was in the grip of unseasonable cold in 2008, and the postulation by EMT’s is the near freezing temperatures helped trigger the heart attack that killed her.”

”In honor of the second anniversary of her death, the Austin City Council… dedicated in her memory a seat in the city council auditorium with a plaque bearing her name attached to it. Rest in peace, Jennifer.  You are not forgotten, nor will your trans brothers and sisters and all you loved and cared about you allow people to forget how you died.   We’ll also bust our behinds to ensure that this doesn’t happen to a transperson ever again.”

The Salvation Army can be counted on to yet again try to re-write history at the royal commission next week

[Postscript: The Chief Commissioner of the Australian royal commission, Peter McClellan, continues to refuse permission for the author to give evidence, or present a submission, at the up-coming hearings on abuses at the Salvation Army’s Indooroopilly Boys’ Home (“Alkira”) where the author once lived. The Salvation Army has been given such permission.]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: The commission’s long week-end

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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