In our autistic mind
What does an unemployed man on burglary charges living with his mother in Reading have in common with a brash young Rhyl father or an aspiring middle-class London rapper?
It’s not just that they all wore electronic ankle bracelets after getting in trouble with the law. The real connection that Tagged (BBC3) intended to ignore is that all of these young men were drug users – and it spoiled their lives.
Inexplicably divided into 20-minute episodes that then aired back-to-back, this documentary chronicled the inconveniences and irritations of life with a label.
Welshman John has been ordered to wear an alcohol detector as part of his probation after a night turned violent. At 21 he was a heavy drinker and unable to indulge his craving for double brandies and colas without setting off the alarm on his leg. But it was an altercation with a drug dealer that brought him to court.
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: What does a burglary unemployed man living with his mother in Reading have in common with a brash young Rhyl father or an aspiring middle class London rapper? (file image)
Blue-eyed Harry, 22, was dying for his songs and music videos to catch on. He insisted he could “stay focused” — but he got stoned on codeine and weed in the studio and ended up with the hiccups so bad he missed his recording session. It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.
There was nothing funny in the life of 28-year-old James. He spent his welfare and anything he could get from his mother on heroin and crack. He did drugs on the bus, in the house, even in the magistrates’ court.
They were all easy prey for dealers like 19-year-old Jaion, who sat on a park bench and called passing teenagers, offering them drugs and handing out cards with his cell phone number.
Jaion also wore a tag, one that tracked his movements. ‘They say it’s to keep me from committing another crime,’ he said, ‘but that’s stupid. I’m out of prison, anything can happen.’
The charges against him were serious – he was accused of human trafficking and enslaving a younger boy to sell drugs as part of the County Lines network. All these young men were known to the police. Your tags should be a deterrent against illegal activity. But none of them felt the slightest need to hide their drug use—it was as normal to them as eating or sleeping.
Your generation would not believe that 50 years ago most people in Britain had never seen, let alone tried, illegal drug use. The police would arrest anyone with the smallest piece of blotting paper or cannabis resin wrapped in cling film.
Sometime early in this century, the police forces quietly stopped looking after them. Illegal drugs of all kinds have been effectively decriminalized. The impact on society was rapid and unstoppable. Predators like Jaion have an unlimited supply of drugs and customers. Human waste like James, Harry and John are the result.
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Chris Packham sought ways to explain how the condition affects thought processes and perceptions in Inside Our Autistic Minds (BBC2), the first of two parts
Autism is also far more common than it was 50 years ago, for reasons that are extremely complex and less well understood. Chris Packham sought ways to explain how the condition affects thought processes and perceptions in Inside Our Autistic Minds (BBC2), the first of a two-part series.
He met stand-up comedian Flo, 28, who was adept at hiding her fears and difficulties in social interactions. He also spent time with 20-year-old Murray, who cannot speak but is able to express himself poetically with the help of a computer and an alphabet chart.
I have long felt that stretching the definition of autism to cover such widely differing accounts is unhelpful. This can hardly be blamed on Chris, and it was a moving, original and informative programme.
SAFETY TALK OF THE NIGHT: Ben Fogle, who stayed at a safari lodge in Zambia in New Lives In The Wild (Ch. 5), was given a set of rules by his hosts’ young daughters. “Don’t go near the river – crocodiles!” warned Indiana, five. “And don’t go near the snakes,” added little sister Ivy. Good advice girls.