Sunday, May 20, 2012

Portrait of a Liar

"Let me tell you my friend, you do should I put this?"

The tall, burly man, who was doing the talking had a handsome face, but there was a hardness in his eyes that did not diminish even when he tried to appear friendly and casual. There was a calculated gaze which remained even when he smiled, something that made conversation with him very uncomfortable. He is slightly out of place with his expensive suit as he sits with the young man in a small, dingy cafe. F. was the kind of man who was 'going places' as some people might say. He had played the right cards, said the right things, and displayed just the attitude that had proven him suitable to get on the bottom rung of a ladder that would lead him to even greater wealth, power and fame. The State that employed F. demanded utter obedience, and rewarded it. On the man's computer in his office, even his desktop was set to a picture of the Great Leader, with the state's flag transposed behind him. F had learned to love the State and the Great Leader, and in proving his loyalty, he was utterly devoted to playing the role assigned to him in the fullest. His job was to promote the State, to correct those who had erred unwittingly from what it deemed 'common-sense', and to inform outsiders about what the State is 'really' trying to do. Other people would call him a professional liar, but we won't go into that yet. Today he was sitting with a young man he had met recently. It isn't important to go into too much depth about how or why their paths had somehow crossed, and at such a tense and dangerous time, but they had met. In that strange cosmic coincidence which both means nothing and yet proves quite fateful much later on, their paths were set to be crossed at precisely this time.

There were riots and protests in 'the homeland' and there were some who began questioning whether the State had a right to lead them. For F this was utter blasphemy. He knew that he was always scrutinised whilst working, but he never let that worry. Had he not utterly, in both body and soul, given himself to the Great Leader? He had nothing to fear. When he spoke on 'controversial' (but allowed) subjects, he quoted the Great Leaders comments as if they were dogma, giving himself the necessary cover should somebody question his motives much later. At first it was probably quite difficult, but eventually F (and with some pride) noticed that he now managed it effortlessly. He was like the priest of a strict church, now walking comfortably and confidently through its subtle rituals. Of course he would never let himself question the absurdity of what he was doing. He did know that some had 'fallen from favour' and he realised what might happen to him if he ever expressed, well, we shan't say himself, as there was now not a single part of his personality that had not been utterly subsumed into loyalty for the State. Let us say, if he 'allowed himself to go astray'. That is much better, and it then fits in with his job as the person who would correct the 'misconceptions' that people had about the state.

But that is all about F, for at the present, sitting in that quite common cafe, F had asked to meet this young man, fully intending to 'hint' to the chap that his recent actions had not gone unnoticed. The young man had committed what had until recently been the unforgivable crime of joining a demonstration against the State. Not only that, but present at this demonstration had been the 'ex-communicated', people of whom the state had despaired. These days, the State and the Great Leader had decided to become 'lenient' to those who are led astray by such types, owing to how widespread and resilient the recent unrest has grown. But of course there were limits to such leniency. He looked up at the man from the unfinished sandwich on his plate, 'Ahh...look, I saw you at the protest R, and I was happy. Yes, happy! I thought to myself here is a young man who cares about his country, about the challenges that we are facing. But...uh...well joining that demonstration was not advisable.'

R felt a slight worry, “Do you mean that I am now in trouble?”

“Oh don't be silly”, said F, “I know you're a good guy and that you have nothing to do with the rif-raff who were only there to exploit the..ah...difficulties that our country is going through. But you are OK, didn't the Great Leader himself say that there is corruption? That we have deep rooted problems that we must urgently address? No, you are fine this time. You just need to be careful, because next time somebody might put your name down as an accomplice to those saboteurs, and then nobody can help you.”

R felt slightly worried, joining the demonstrations had been the first time he had said what he thought; that he had thrown fear to the wind and shouted at the top of his lungs without worrying who would listen. The feeling had been so utterly intoxicating, so beautiful, that he had spent the rest of the day walking with a spring in his step, if it could even be called that, for he had almost been striding that day. The next morning, however, his stomach felt tight as he recalled what he did. After the initial rush, the realisation that he might get himself in trouble made him feel nauseous with worry. What would his family think? His old father? After all, he had always been told to stay away from politics. Was his life over? The fear had eventually subsided, and he had even begun regaining some of the fearlessness of the previous day. That was until he had received a telephone call from F.

“I need to meet you urgently”, the voice on the line said.

“Is everything alright?”, asked R.

“Yes, yes, it's just that there is something very important I need to discuss with you.”

“Shall we meet at Jimmy's Cafe then?” asked R. He did not want to go meet F at his workplace and he had a mental picture of himself being set upon by the swarthy men in suits, with the big handlebar moustaches, as they drag him down to a basement in the building never to be seen again. Jimmy's Cafe was a public place, with plenty of people around and where it would not be possible to create a scene. Yet now that F was giving him a warning so starkly, and so clearly, the state of uncertainty was over. Rather than a wailing and gnashing of the teeth, R was surprised to find that he felt quite relaxed about the whole affair. He smiled back at F, “Well, thanks for the warning. I guess...”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember how I would not allow myself to think. How I would stay clear from controversial subjects. (there would have been no one to discuss them anyway). How I even bought a T-shirt of the great leader at election time.
How I withdrew the very mild post on my blog about wishing for a little more freedom and a future for the youth that did not have to mean exile to the Gulf or Canada. Thank you Revolutionary heroes for focusing the sad but real picture of the regime.