I’m just about to go off on a virtual tour, guest blogging at various wonderful book sites, where I’ll be writing a lot about the people behind the characters in my new book, Kill All Enemies – the real life people I used to spin the novel from. (For a full list of the sites I’ll be visiting, click here.) After the recent riots, the book has taken on a sudden relevance. Everyone has dispossessed young people from deprived communities on their minds, and usually they’re pretty disgusted from what they’ve seen. In fact, I can’t remember the last time a group of young people in our society was so universally despised. Since the kids I talked to were often from very similar communities, I’d like to say a word about them here, before the book comes out.
I’ve always believed that the first and foremost creative act we all engage in is ourselves. We are all, of course, the products of our environment, but we are also acts of the imagination – our own.
Many of the people I spoke it had been through very difficult times as children – painful, hateful, often violent. When those things happen to you, you can’t stop the feelings that come. You have no choice. You will be made to feel useless, weak, cowardly, hateful, angry and vengeful. It’s just human nature. What you do have control over, however, is how you react to those feelings. You can react by becoming violent yourself, or by bullying others. You can hide in a room and be sick, or go out and make music about it, or forgive, or rebel, or just stick your head in a bucket and shout to yourself. That’s up to you. All of those decisions, all of those acts, multiplied over the years, turn us the people we become.
Those of us unlucky enough to have many hateful things happen to use when we’re young, if we’re rejected or hurt, or have to see dreadful things happen to those we love, have so many opportunities to become hateful ourselves. Dreadful things happen to so many people, and many of them take the decision to become dreadful themselves. It’s how pain, violence and hatred are perpetuated.
But despite everything, some people manage to make decisions that lead them away from that path. So many of the young people I spoke to had been through the most astonishingly difficult times as young children, when bad things strike the deepest – and yet they had successfully turned themselves into kind, warm people. In my book, the lads from Kill All Enemeis – the band from whom the book takes it’s name – and the girl I based Billie on in particular, have managed to cope with terribly difficult and painful circumstances, and yet come out of it transformed, as if by magic, into people anyone would be proud to know.
I have the utmost respect for all of them. So many children manage against all the odds to emerge from pain and fear and transform themselves, and the disgraceful behaviour of their elders into the warm and generous people they have become today. They are acts of their own imaginations, works of art equal to anything Shakespeare ever wrote, or Michelangelo ever painted, and I’d like to pay tribute to them today.