Some background. Tim Barrus continues to work with boys at risk the same as he always has. His attempt to describe one case, with disguised names and places in order to protect everyone from prying and judging, got him labeled a “pretend” Native American author and demonized as a writer of porn when a young man in San Francisco. The reporter who discovered this must have thrilled at the naughty revelation. (Indians are sacred, gay sex is satanic, the combination has GOT to make a reporter famous!)
Barrus’ current group, Cinematheque, has been Paris-based and is supported by a non-profit that wishes him to bring his boys back to health through the use of art, esp. video. Internet exposure has been part of the deal. One of the techniques is to “screen-scrape” something and “mash” or combine it with something else or tweak it into something else. I suppose this might be like taking a printed poster and overpainting it to learn how it was made and also create a new thing. It began in music, which is the dominant paradigm for kids of this age.
One of the older boys got his essay published on unlikelystories.org. One of the younger boys had done a mash-up called “Tilting at Windmills” that was chosen to accompany the article. (The other videos suggested by the boys were montage, which is their usual mode.) It wasn’t quite mashed enough and a video adept pointed out that it was too close to the original.
This younger boy is a survivor of the Balkan Wars, if you can say he survived. He has obsessive, repetitive trauma in the same way as a soldier, maybe more so because he was entirely defenseless. The anime video he “mashed” showed an innocent child on a floating island in the sky where the child lived in a windmill. It was attacked by warships and destroyed while he huddled in the wreckage. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. They don’t say what total internalization is. I suspect Djordi has taken this video entirely inside him, it IS him. It’s quite similar to actual war footage that has been used with him in therapy.
The whistle-blowing video adept turned out to be a leftover from the Inquisition. He doesn’t believe these boys exist, he doesn’t believe Barrus is anything good, he believes that every tiny transgression in the frontier world of vlogging is punishable to the nth degree, he demands that I myself produce evidence for everything I say. He’s a no-tolerance kinda guy.
Right. Barrus came down hard on his boys. The publication of the story backfired in a big way. Boys packed their suitcases. Boys threw their computers at Barrus. The HIV cell counts soared. Medical intervention was necessary. Barrus moved the crew because they were once again besieged by people who prey on such boys.
When I told Barrus I wanted to blog about this, I offered to include anything Djordi wanted to “say.” (He picks it out on the keyboard -- he doesn’t talk out loud.) Here’s what he said.
My Mash Up by Djordji
I made a mash up. It was on a compuder. I said it was a mash up. It had pictures and music. I did not mean to hurt nobody.
Nobody said it was a mash up. Nobody listens to me. Why?
Why talk when nobody will listening. I told it it was a mash up. My hole life is a mash up. I told tim it was a mash up but he does not listening to me.
I do not like to talk. I do not want to talk. I will not talk. The boy in the mash up did not talk and then the war came. It made it all blow up. I do not want to be in no blowing up.
The war kills peoples. It is loud. It hurted me. I do not like it. A war is a mash up. I did not make it. It is not my falt. The mash up is not my falt. The boys my age make mash ups. I like hip hop.
I will not do a mash up no more. I am vary tired now. I just want to go to sleep and not wake up no more.
Here’s Barrus again:
Since I have experience working with communicatively handicapped children, and a history of working alongside the United Nations during the International Year of the Child with the Children's Rights Group, I am interested in how refugee children form whatever they can of a life. I am interested in what kinds of institutional support does or does not aid in the process of integration. I am interested in the effects of trauma on a life, especially post traumatic syndromes (plural).
I have been around HIV since 1981. That it even could be used as a weapon of war eludes me but I suppose if rape can be used to terrify anything is possible.
Djordji is a Romani name that translates loosely into George. No one really knows the specific kinds of trauma the boy has seen. I have my own suspicions.
I have heard the tail end of his REM nightmares. I suspect that his trauma is sexual, psychological, medical, and chemical in nature.
Djordji doesn't say much. I don't think he KNOWS exactly what has happened to him over the years. He's a little guy who hasn't even confronted puberty yet but everything is delayed for him.
I am seriously into how technology can assist these children.
I have worked with everything from touch talkers to Blackberries to iPhones as ways to facilitate them to communicate.
I am connected at the hip to art as a way to reach them.
My idealism says Djordji can learn and make a life in the world. My experience is showing me that every time he turns around the stuff he typically confronts is hate, incredulity, rage, violence, ignorance, and the line he walks is one where he's always ready to shut down; he has completely shut down several times.
Anyone who wants access to this boy has to go through me and if necessary over my dead body.
Djordji claims he will never do another Mash-Up. This isn't quite the case. He will never do one that makes it into a public context where Americans can spew their hatred and comment. But sometimes we'll create something FOR US that deals with Djordji's past and inch by inch, it's a past he's confronting outside his nightmares and in a world that is as safe as I can make it.
I don't care what Americans have to say about the time of day. It totally escapes them that their reach and authority does not extend itself everywhere in the world but it just doesn't. I am not obligated to them for anything. I don't seek anything from them. I simply want them to leave me alone. I helped him with some of the English. But the story is his. Whether anyone -- especially Americans and I am not in America -- fathom it or not or how difficult it was for Djordji to write it is not my fucking problem.
Now Prairie Mary again:
My belief in Barrus and Cinematheque is not based on court-room proof. What he says is archetypal. I can point out cases right here on the Blackfeet Reservation and I can recall cases where ever I have served a congregation. Such cases cannot be cured by Inquisitions. But maybe one-by-one in quiet corners, some kids can be brought back out of the rubble.
P.S. At this point I've seen Barrus' rather long resume of work he's done with atypical and troubled kids for various agencies. He's had training for dealing with kids no one else even wants to be in the same room with because they'll attack you.
I'm wondering why the same reporters who so quickly and easily located the porn writing Barrus did in the wild San Francisco days of his youth, often published under pseudonyms, were unable to find these public records. One might think they were guided, eh?
By the way, he says porn writing is NOT the little gold mine people think it is. Darn.