Tajinder Singh Hayer – On the Outsidebloominterviewtaj

I’m not sure whether there is one definite inspiration for this story. I had been playing around with this particular narrative voice for some time; it always seemed to push me towards tales concerning the past and memories, so I decided to write explicitly about the uncertainties of personal and collective recollection. Having made this decision, childhood seemed the logical subject matter, and a childhood fight seemed a suitably dramatic situation.

As I wrote the story, it struck me that children have much more leeway for violence than grown-ups; resorting to fisticuffs is an accepted ritual of the schoolyard that only gets filtered out (or sublimated) with adulthood. I have also always been disturbed by the voyeuristic manner in which violence intrudes our daily lives; most of us never experience it on a physical level, but are exposed and inured to it in various media. This disparity between lived and watched experiences was the reason for the title, On the Outside.

Q: That as children we are much more comfortable with personal violence, what does that tell us about ourselves? And if this violence gets sublimated in adulthood, where does it go?

A: I think that, just as children can be freer with violence, they are also less inhibited than adults when it comes to more positive emotional expression. However, we have a weirdly schizoid attitude to kids in this country: on the one hand, childhood innocence is something to be treasured and protected (protected violently if needs be); on the other hand, children in Britain are dangerous proto-criminals with no respect for anything (as summed up by any sentence that begins ‘Kids nowadays…’ – two words that really annoy me when put together).

It’s tempting to say that adult violence gets channelled into revenge fantasies against oppressive bosses; this is probably a little glib, but there might be an element of truth in it. I suppose the whole point of growing up is learning to place your urges within socially accepted frameworks (Freudian analysts probably have a better explanation for this). I’ve always been interested in the different boundaries of self-expression and self-limitation: those occasions when to follow instinct is morally wrong (for instance, dropping that boss in the meat grinder); and those occasions when rigid probity leads to self-harm (letting the boss drop you in the grinder).

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