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  • Alan Dale

Primary Schadenfreude Revival’s Greatest Hits

- some little socioeconomic history cameos

Part 1.


I’d like to share some examples of relative, and I emphasise relative, child poverty. Compared to millions, I have been greatly privileged. Those for whom university grants are history, or for whom breakfast, let alone school lunch is fantasy, I hear you. I’d just like share a few, hopefully topical, childhood experiences.


These derived their power over my childhood psyche from simple, unwavering and hence demoralising repetition, rather than physical cruelty or viciousness.

Let’s revisit a typical early sixties primary school class room, on a Monday morning. Squashed into our twin Victorian wooden desks, complete with inkwells, pencil grooves and unyieldingly painful shared bench seats, I awaited the register’s supplementary humiliation. My companion, a chubby, serious boy, complete, like your scribe, with WWI POW-style NHS specs, had nothing to fear from the forthcoming litany.

“Right, dinner money.” Actually thus referred to, by the staff, but such lofty, if enjoyable pedantry and correction would have incurred unimaginable consequences, in those days.


The more acutely attuned observer might, at this point, have detected the faintest susurration of pleasurable anticipation, amongst my classmates.


Off we’d go, in strict alphabetical order. Might today be different? Might I be spared, by some new, benign variation? Dream on. I later learned that Chinese water torture worked by insidious repetition. I understood that principle from a very early age, long before I’d heard of it. The alternative theory, that the unpredictable, randomly varied frequency of drips induces madness, is, in my opinion, equally valid. Distraction of the teacher produced examples of this. It always seemed worse, when the goading resumed.

“Daylak” (For he I was, prior to my release by deed pole, in my teens, thanks to Mother’s prescient forestalling of future discrimination).

“I don’t bring dinner money, Sir.”

“Ah, no.” The jowled countenance creased into that vicarious smile, the production of which, I would soon realise, was clearly part of current teacher training. A muted, yet audible, madrigal of titters and comments followed, animated by rapid glances at the deviant.

I’ve seen this apparently genuine forgetfulness on which an embarrassing or compromising question may be predicated, reappear, in industry, literature and film. Production meetings, police procedurals, education, relationships – all have their specifically tailored versions.

I’m sure you can all remember examples. Please feel free to share, if you choose; I’d be very interested in your experiences. I entirely understand, however, if you’d rather not relive them for a wider audience.

Look out for parts 2 and 3, which will be interspersed between some totally different posts.


Reference: - Dilvin Yasa Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) How childhood poverty affected me as an adult

16 Nov 2017 - 9:17 AM UPDATED 4 Oct 2019 - 1:21 PM

https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/voices/culture/article/2017/11/14/how-childhood-poverty-affected-me-adult

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