698 members, 165 topics. April 18, 2019, 3:15 pm
(1) (Go Down)
Michael Jackson was a paedophile. Patience; and I will prove it to you. See, I realized this disturbing truth while I was hanging on for dear life on the precipice of hell, and Manfred – the German atheist – leaned in to whisper to me, “I told you. It’s the Jews.” His face swam before me in swirls of dissolved form and colour, and I was edging closer and closer to the black-out I could not prevent. My mind tried in vain to latch on to what I knew was fact: I did not rape that woman.
I was innocent.
It seemed like only moments ago that my tired legs carried me across the stretch of wilderness as fast as they could. The sound of my own breathing was heavy in my ears; and terror, the shape of cold sweat, wet my skin, fuelling my escape. My bare feet bled from the repeated collision with resolute boulders. I did not see the blood in the pitch blackness of the night but my toes felt sticky, and the lubricant between them was much thicker than water. The pain would come to me after, I knew, but in that moment, I was running to stay alive. I could concern myself with nothing else.
The wild chanting had become only a murmur in the distance – quiet and small – and the raging torches were diminished to flickers that seemed now inconsequential like fireflies. The people determined to kill me had fallen some ways behind; but their malice loomed ever large and deathly close, and it breathed down my neck like a rabid dog. Therefore, I could not relent. I had to keep going. If I got caught, I would burn like Monday did – poisoning the air with the stench of my unripe scorching flesh – waking the hills with strident agony. The deafening screaming from earlier that night haunted me still. They had put a tire around his neck and doused him in petrol because Monday was an abomination, they said, just like I was; just like I would continue to be if luck would let me outrun the mob’s eager judgment. If not, I was doomed for sure. My desperate hope was to find The Others. Finding them was my only realistic chance to survive.
It was common knowledge that the infamous colony of The Others lay on the periphery of our country, but I had never before set eyes on it. And now, in the midst of such urgency, it seemed half a world away……………………….
I buckled like a house of cards when I finally arrived at the gates to the facility. But before I gave in to the swivelling darkness and my head hit the floor, I saw two men rush towards me, their faces twisted in echoing concern. They crouched at my side and one of them cradled my head, “Don’t worry, brother” he said without knowing me or my worries – the specific ones that brought me to his door, “You are safe. You’re home now.” It was all I needed to hear before I wholeheartedly embraced my desolation and passed out.
When I eventually came to, the atmosphere appeared a lot more benign. I was recovering in a bed with extremely comfortable sheets. The numerous pillows felt like tufty clouds beneath my bones. “Is this heaven?” I mumbled to no one in particular, enticed by the delicious feel of hospitality. The room was quiet and the lights were doused to an intimate glow. It seemed like I was all alone; therefore, my heart nearly jumped into my mouth when the furniture stirred beside me. “This is much better than heaven” it said. Naturally, it wasn’t the furniture that had spoken. It was a gigantic woman with a tremendous amount of flab. She had a flabby face, a flabby torso and flabby limbs; she was quite easily five-hundred pounds heavy. Her skin was pale and she wore a yellow jumpsuit the size of a parachute that needed to be plucked out of her many crevices quite frequently as she moved. She smiled at me full of genuine kindness, “How are you feeling?” When she spoke, a ripple travelled through her skin from her jaw to her bosom. It was an activity that was very arresting and, therefore, a distraction from her actual words. I pulled my eyes away from the dramatic scene to make contact with hers, “I feel fine.”
“Good” she beamed. Then she turned around (it was like watching a house rotate) and she exited the room with astonishing dexterity.
Left to my own devices, I inspected my feet. My toes had been taped up. I could now feel the consistent throbbing and the aching fatigue buried in the arch of my blistered heel, but this was nothing compared to the alternative; I was lucky to be here. If anything, the pain was a comfort to me because I was lucky to be alive. Monday was dead; and his only crime had been to love me for one terribly reckless night. I had met him on the day that would be his final day on earth, and I felt guilty that I could not honour him with a broken heart. He deserved at least that, surely. But I just didn’t know him that well.
I suddenly became aware of a lone voice droning on from the large television screen on the end wall. A woman was reading the weather, “Warm, clear and sunny” was the forecast, which was in stark contrast to the palpable gloom outside my window. It looked like the heavens would open any moment and it would come pelting down. Maybe sometime in the course of the day it was expected to change, I imagined.
There was a cursory rap on the door and then a little oriental woman entered the room. She seemed to be about eighteen years of age when she stood by the door, but then she came closer and I saw the wrinkles. She was at least forty, but her shy demeanour made her look so much younger. “How you feeling?” she said with a sharp nod and a tight smile. Her hands were clasped together demurely in front of her body.
“I feel fine” I said. Even though it was only the second time I had heard the question, something about the manner in which my answer was anticipated – with keen interest and hopefulness – made me slightly suspicious. Still, I repeated myself, “I feel fine.”
She nodded again; twice this time. “Has person been here to see?”
I guessed that she must be asking if anyone had been in to see me, so I nodded. “Yes.”
“I don’t know.”
“Marjorie, yes?” her face lit up, hopeful.
“I don’t know her name………the fat lady.” I knew instantly that I had said something wrong because the oriental woman (whom I would later come to know as Gina) bristled. “You say what?” her expression was pained. I would not dare to repeat myself for fear of increasing her discomfort. “You say fat lady” she insisted on reminding me with a stab of an accusatory finger in my direction. Then she reached for the object dangling from a rope around her neck and shoved it into her mouth – it was a whistle. The shrill sound rattled my eardrums without mercy.
Everything happened very quickly from there. I was plucked off my sick bed and whisked into a large court room. The room was packed with observers – all in identical yellow jumpsuits – who held their position in the back, behind me. The judge was a bespectacled man in a purple robe, sitting astride a large horse on a podium. The horse seemed slightly fidgety, but the judge, in spite of this, maintained an expression of calm disinterest.
“You are new here” the Judge remarked with a whiff of condescension, “Therefore we will not punish but rather educate you.” There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd in the back as he made that decision, “Words are extremely powerful, as you know.
Here, we recognize the potential of words to hurt or to heal; to tear a person down or to build a person up. We do not use words without careful forethought. We use words very deliberately for the good of humankind. We call it language positivity, or political correctness, if you will. It is a new way of speaking that is more liberating and enriching in its application – less hateful. There are good words and bad words. Good words make us feel safe, while bad words increase our feelings of insecurity and diminish our overall potential as human beings. You, for instance, are a black man. We would never use the N-word to qualify you here because it is not a positive thing to do. We understand its power to cause you pain and discomfort. We don’t even have to call you black if it disturbs your peace in the least way, because how you feel is important. And language should evolve to reflect our internal harmony and contentment. Give us the words that make you feel good and safe, and we will give them back to you like a parasol of love and kindness. It’s a new democracy of language: words of the people, by the people, for the people.
The word you used in describing our dear Marjorie is without a shred of doubt demeaning, and therefore, a bad word. It is a word with which she does not identify. For years she has been harassed and cut down with that wicked word, and it has caused her nothing but deep and utter distress. Here amongst us, she has found peace. She has taken the courage to divorce herself from that word and we all respect her decision to do so. It is her unquestionable right to define herself as she chooses. You have clearly violated that right, and you owe her an apology.”
I breathed an inadvertent sigh of relief. An apology; was that all? I had expected my head to roll along the polished marble floors of the court room spewing blood. Marjorie stepped forward from the crowd, making herself available for the expression of my contrition. I shot the Judge a quizzical look and he waved me on. “I am truly sorry” I said to Marjorie. My sobriety was genuine.
“But what are you sorry for?” the Judge prodded. I thought that it might be a trick question. I did not dare use the ‘bad word’ again in a sentence, so I waited for a little help from the Judge. He came through for me eventually, “You should be sorry for negating Marjorie’s truth.”
Even though I had no full understanding, at the time, of the things that I was saying, I blurted out, “I am truly sorry for negating your truth.”
Everyone stared at Marjorie with great expectation. She seemed to be processing my apology slowly – like it was an antidote swimming through her corrupted blood, and turning it from filthy brown back to healthy red. When the transformation seemed complete, the Judge finally spoke, “How do you feel about that, Marjorie?”
“I feel forgiving” Marjorie declared, “I feel like I can finally move on with my life.”
The crowd applauded. Several faces were streaked with tears; it was such an emotional moment in the court room. The Judge himself flicked at his eyes to discard the incriminating evidence of his mush. “Such a brave woman!” he sniffed. I nodded my agreement if only to move the process along more quickly. Marjorie walked into the arms of sympathizers in the crowd who were determined to give her reaffirming hugs. I could feel that the unfortunate Marjorie-incident had thankfully come to a conclusion. But before I could question if I was free to leave the scene, I was presented with a copy of a dictionary.
“Go on, take it” the Judge urged.
I accepted the book from the boy who respectfully held it out to me. Next, he handed me a torch. I was nonplussed.
“Those are the words which society gives you and that’s how it expects you to define them” the Judge explained, “Set the book on fire to free yourself of those words right now.” I hesitated for only a sliver of a moment before working my limbs into doing the Judge’s bidding. The book dropped to the floor; the pages cringed in the fire, and the words disappeared forever. The Judge nodded his approval, “You are free to define yourself with words of your own choosing now.”
The crowd applauded me.
I did not understand how I would not defer to the standard code of communication that had taken humankind centuries to develop. How would we even understand each other if we took personal liberties and, essentially, no longer spoke the same language? If I chose to call myself a monkey, could I get upset if someone tossed me a banana? Would it make sense that my definition of monkey was entirely different from everyone else’s? I was eager to see where this whole thing was headed.
“It is time for you to speak your truth” the Judge said. “You are here because you have a story. You have been persecuted or oppressed or you have fallen or you have been bruised; you are here because you do not fit into the tedium of convention and traditional privilege. You are different – special – a survivor of injustice – a sufferer of pain. We give you room to breathe. Here, the victim is the victor; and your weakness is ultimately your strength. Don’t be afraid to share your pain with us. It behoves us all to come bleeding to the altar of humanity and our empathy will exalt us equally.
Speak your truth. Objective truth is unimportant. Maybe it is non-existent; because we all have our own specific truths. And we – humankind – are the essence of the universe. We are much more important than some arbitrary abstract entity that has been our understanding of God for so long. We are god. There is not one objective truth. There are many truths – many gods – many faces.
Take your pedestal and speak your truth.”
I scanned my immediate surrounding and realized that the Judge had been referring to a metaphorical pedestal. Standing up straight was quite sufficient. I was still unsure of what truth it was that needed to be spoken; everyone stared at me expectantly and the pressure made me uneasy. I was required to reveal my pain – my otherness. Why did I need this room to breathe? Why had I run away?
“I am a homosexual man.” It felt good to say it – without fear of condemnation – without shame. The resounding ovation from the crowd was a warm shower of approval.
“How do you feel?” the Judge asked.
I struggled to find the words, but when I spoke them they felt right as rain, “I feel accepted.”
The Judge nodded sagely from his high horse with a genuine smile playing on his lips, “That is because you have finally accepted yourself.”
The people crowded me, fussing like they would over a new-born in the delivery room. This was where I belonged. This was where we all belonged – Utopia.
I made a friend in court; his name was Elvis, and he promised to show me how to live in the midst of the others. I followed him around all morning and sat beside him at lunch time in the cafeteria. Each table was long and sat at least twenty people enthusiastically chewing on their greens. There were television screens on every blind wall in the dining room, and again, I heard the weather forecast, “Warm, clear and sunny.” However, a peek out the window confirmed that the prediction was still way off the mark.
“What do you do for a living?” I asked Elvis
“Oh….well…..actually, I don’t do for a living; I am for a living” he said to my utter bemusement. Some of The Others who overheard him make the remark began to clap in appreciation of his wit. Elvis chuckled when he was convinced that he had me confused. “I just…..like….live my best life, and I inspire people just by living out loud and proud and just by like being my authentic self.” It was clear to see how satisfied he was with himself. He could barely keep himself from grinning like a lunatic.
“And what is that……..your authentic self?” I wondered.
“Oh! I identify as non-binary……as in gender-wise.” He said it like he would say….Oh, I’m the drummer for this world famous rock band.....no big deal though. “I know people, like, mis-gender me all the time. They say ‘he’ and ‘him’, and it’s like so frustrating! That’s just ignorant, you know? Hello, non-binary person here, people! Am I right? I actually go by ‘ze’ and ‘zir’. Those are my chosen pronouns.”
“What is that – Ze and Zir?”
“Those are…..like……non-binary pronouns.”
“I never heard of that.”
“Yeah, I know right? There is…..like….so much ignorance in the world today.” Ze shook zir head.
And why wouldn’t there be so much ignorance in the world when people invented language and expression every time it seemed convenient.
“I’m also ace – as in asexual” Elvis said.
“Yes” ze agreed, “I am a beacon. I already have my own reality television show where I just…like….uh…….show people what it’s like to be me every single day. It’s really inspirational stuff too. I get a lot of fan mail and I have like a gazillion followers across social media. I am an important influencer.”
I did not think it that much of a deal in an age where every kid had his own YouTube channel. It was the golden age of narcissism, garbage and celebrity. Elvis told me about zir decision to dye zir hair red and to cover zir puny body in tattoos. “When I finally accepted myself for who I was, I was like….yo! I don’t want to hide anymore, you know? I just thought that I ought to be brave to claim my own space on this planet, and to do it with, like……..flare. Like, look at me! This is me.......you know?”
I nodded. “So what is it like to be asexual?”
“Oh, it’s the best!” Elvis gushed, “Like, where do I even start? I mean I still have s*x with women sometimes…..like, what are you gonna do, right? But…….and this part is key to my identity……..if I don’t have sex, I will still be…like…….okay. it won’t be……like……a big deal or nothing.”
I nodded; a bit more sceptic. “Isn’t asexuality an aversion to sex? A lack of sexual attraction?”
“You see, that’s what society says……but no. There are many different ways in which it….like…manifests. And that’s why it’s so important for us to all have our….like….individual stories, so that we all know what’s out there, you know?”
“Yeah.” In the end, I thought, no two people were exactly alike in any regard. Individuality was the hallmark of humanity.
There was a brief moment of individual introspection before Elvis asked, “What do you do?” and I told (zim?) that I was a writer. “Oh! A story teller! That’s basically what I do too, you know? I tell stories. Granted, they are my stories…..but I think that gives it so much more credibility….like…it’s personal…..and real…….none of that fiction or make-believe that some of us can’t wrap our heads around. What kind of stuff do you write?”
“Tough!” Elvis remarked.
I shrugged. “I like to write things that stimulate the mind and challenge our thinking.”
Elvis dropped zir fork in zir nearly empty plate with a clang, “Oh, no! No, no, no; not around here, you don’t. Thinking; that’s………obsolete, you know? It’s inhumane! We have, like, smart gadgets for that kind of stuff now. It’s unbelievable the kind of intelligence robots have. Human beings could never compete; and why would we want to? We are, like, emotional beings, you know? We feel stuff. Writing stuff for thinking has, like, zero value these days. Our currency is…….is the pathos. If you’re not dealing in pathos, man, you’re a joke. Even the News is sensational; because they want you to feel something.”
We were interrupted by a rustle of static when all the television screens simultaneously sprang to life. There was a close-up shot of a teenage girl. She was singing; and the entire cafeteria fell silent at the spell of her angelic voice. All eyes were glued to the screens. I felt transported, by the sound, to a time I did not remember. Past or future, it was irrelevant; I was moved and my heart broke for something I could not put my finger on. When the singing stopped, I was not the only person in the room with tears in their eyes. The camera panned to a panel of judges, “That was magical” one of them said, “You certainly have the talent. But what’s your story? Tell us why you deserve to be in the spotlight.” The camera focused on a full-body shot of the girl. Wordlessly, she lifted her maxi dress to reveal prosthetic legs that were joined at the hip. The arena in the television and the cafeteria in real-life went deathly quiet. And then the judges got on their feet and began to clap. Everybody joined in the applause which rang out for a prolonged period of time. “You’re a true inspiration to us all” said one of the judges, “You’re through to the next round.” The television screens went instantly dark and the public address system crackled. “That was Brigitte Thomas” was the announcement, “She goes through!” There was a brief spell of excitement in the cafeteria and then everyone returned to doing what they had been doing before the interlude.
“That was a real tear-jerker!” Elvis heaved a sigh. “See what I was saying? Pa-Thos.” Ze picked up a chicken wing and began to nibble on it. “All I’m saying is…….move me. An athlete can move me to tears, like, so easily. A singer can do that too. Heck, Marjorie made me cry today, you know? So all I’m saying is…..what’s your excuse? Speaking your truth like you did in court today…….that was powerful, emotive stuff. You need to do more of that; be more of that. You know? Show people your wounds and how you survive. Like being black, for example…” Elvis looked instantly embarrassed, “Can I say that? Can I say black?”
“Oh, good” Ze sighed in relief, “So yeah, you can…like…..write about being black and how tough it is for you. People can relate to that, you know? Women write about how tough it is to be a woman all the time. Alcoholics write about their…..you know……tough road to recovery. Because it doesn’t matter what it is in the end, a struggle is a struggle; and talking about it unites us as people. We empathize. Thinking cannot bring us close like that; only feeling can. I guess you can say that we are more united in how we feel than in how we think.” Ze got a far-away look in zir eyes as ze smiled, obviously reminiscing on a particular memory, “Feelings are good, man! A good feeling is seductive…or like……addictive, or something. You want more of it every time. it doesn’t matter if it is from music, or a book, or another person, or a pill, or a needle to the vein, you know? It’s the best thing in the world. Does good logic compare? Absolutely not!”
I digested zir point. And there were certainly quite a few to chew on. Elvis was right, of course; it was all about pathos – the ability of a thing to evoke a feeling. Aristotle himself postulated that people were persuaded by rhetoric in three distinct ways: through objective reasoning (or logos); by considering the qualification of the speaker to speak on a subject matter (or ethos); and by appealing to emotion (or pathos). The human race just happened to be at a point where people were most likely to be swayed by feelings; therefore, it was not the most truthful but instead the most sympathetic angle that held the most power to convince. People were obsessed with feeling. A direct consequence of that was that people were naturally more vulnerable to hurt just as they were also more open to positive provocations. To minimize the potential pain, there were now campaigns for political correctness to prevent bullying; alternatively, a less-than-good feeling was simply cured with medication.
People also seemed to be obsessed with being things rather than doing things; like being rich; being happy; being male or female; being androgynous, queer, or anything other. People liked labels. Being required stillness, and when one was still or static, they were in focus to be judged in several different ways. But in reality, human beings were fluid – always in motion – always doing. Labels were constantly in flux; as soon as they were said out loud, a person had moved on to the next moment and experienced change, and therefore, that label was no longer valid. If we were more concerned with doing rather than being; with function rather than structure; with physiology rather than anatomy; we would be less of a target for social judgement. Being was such an empty activity too, and that’s why it is an auxiliary verb. I am moving. Cogito, ergo sum. It was thinking that gave Descartes’ being validity. But being alone was cheap. These days, however, there’s currency in merely being poignant. The girl on the screen had sung a very lovely song, but that in itself was not enough if she was not also a……………..survivor of amputation. She had pathos. Her weakness had become her strength. And her strength lay in her power to connect with people – people who only wanted to feel things.
Elvis was also right about something else – feelings had the power to unite. The range of possible emotions in general was much narrower than the range of thought. And therefore, given a specific provocation, emotions were far sooner predicted than thought. Emotions were an easier target for manipulative propaganda than thought, because thought had to be continuously guided through a corridor of facts to arrive at a desired conclusion.
“I think that we aspire to a higher form of being when we think” I said to Elvis, “It isn’t just coincidental that we are structured in a way that the head is above the chest, and the chest is above the groin. The brain, the heart, and the loins – these correspond to the mind (or logic), emotion and desire. By satisfying our desires, we stay in touch with ourselves – our bodies. Emotions keep us connected with each other. But the mind recognizes that there is an objective truth outside ourselves – it’s a higher connection – maybe a connection with God?”
Elvis grimaced, “There isn’t…like…..one god, you know? We are all god. We all have our respective truths to tell. You have yours and I have mine.”
What ze was saying swam before my eyes like a shapeless entity with no centre instead of a cohesive universe. I ignored Elvis’ comment. “People are often criticised for not being compassionate as if empathy were more valuable than a commitment to truth. When it comes to love, it is God first, then the neighbour as yourself. That is the hierarchy – mind, heart, and loins; even though we begin in time with learning to love ourselves.”
“You know you’re being a little blasphemous right now” Elvis said, “If people didn’t have any compassion, we would not….like….see the humanity in one another. You would have been popped for being homosexual.”
“Yes. People assume they know the truth and they don’t. And if the truth is constantly misinterpreted to the detriment of a good number of people including yours truly, we might as well pretend that it doesn’t exist. But, you see, it does. And the world might actually be a better place if it could be acknowledged. We kill each other because we don’t know the truth to align ourselves with it.”
Elvis stared at me in silence for a full minute. “You’re a little weird” ze decided. And I nodded because zir assessment was entirely accurate.
On the way out of the cafeteria, I was cornered by a meaty fellow with bad eye-sight and thinning grey hair plastered to his pate. “My name is Manfred” he said to me. His accent was dry and forceful, and it reminded me of desiccated pellets of faeces pushed painfully through the rectum. I imagined his sentences made his larynx bleed due to a serious case of verbal constipation.
“I overheard you talking to that little guy, and I think you might be interested in what I and my friends have to say.” He handed me a small piece of paper and slipped away like a criminal. I stared at the note – it was an address and a time.
I was curious enough to follow Manfred’s directions when the time came. Detaching myself from Elvis in the common-room, I sought to locate the venue for the clandestine meet. Outside, it was finally warm, clear and sunny.
I eventually came to an abandoned basement storage facility. It was a damp room with about a dozen dusty crates scattered across the floor area, employed as makeshift seating by the scant occupants of the room. I immediately noticed that, unlike every other room in the colony, there were no television screens on these walls. There were, maybe, six men and two women (one of them Gina, the shy oriental woman from before), and they all paid attention to Manfred, who stood elevated on a crate in the middle of the gathering.
Manfred acknowledged my presence with a brief nod, and then his stare became firm and unflinching, “Why are you here?” he asked. I was taken slightly aback by that; he had specifically invited me, had he not? “Why are you here?” he repeated, and everyone’s gaze was fixed on me.
Wordlessly, I held up the note he had given me. Manfred shook his head, “Why are you here – with the others?”
“You already know the answer to that” I said. He had witnessed the declaration of my truth in the courtroom after all.
“Yes,” Manfred nodded, “You are a homosexual.
This is how they get you, isn’t it? They offer you solace and solidarity and kumbaya. You run from oppression somewhere to this place that supports you – a place that lets you be what you want by ignoring every convention – a place that hands you a soapbox and encourages you to be loud and limitless. That is the seduction of this place.”
I wondered why Manfred seemed so upset about what was clearly a necessary haven of compassion in a world that urgently needed a little more kindness.
“They pretend to free you – sporting signage like torches and birds on these ridiculous overalls; but it is all a lie, isn’t it? These people only care about one thing – maintaining control. They care about taming minds and shaping thoughts to become predictable and, therefore, controllable. People have been doing this for centuries to keep absolute power for themselves. Even after the monarchies fell out of favour with the public, people could still be relied upon to be subdued by the absolutism of god in religious society. But, with increasing secularism, the media has become the modern instrument of mass manipulation. And, guess who is cashing in?”
It was at this point that I noticed the wild eyes behind the horn-rimmed glasses and the pale complexion of the man, which appeared to be a theme with everyone else in the room. They were basement-dwellers and very likely insane from voluntarily boycotting sunlight. Manfred was another one of those conspiracy theorists decrying a New World Order. The notion had been around for centuries. I didn’t cringe with apprehension the way most people did upon hearing the words freemason or illuminati. I believed that the Illuminati were genuine advocates of enlightenment that ultimately threatened the perpetuation of the church and monarchies in the eighteenth century and, therefore, they became a target for propaganda and persecution. They advocated free-thought, secularism, anti-monarchism, anti-patriarchalism, liberalism, republicanism and gender equality. With the current prevalence of feminism and other left-wing ideals, one could see that we were clearly driven by those same illuminati ideals in the modern world. And that could either be a scary realization, to think that the illuminati had a firm grip on our world; or we could admit that there was nothing remotely sinister about the group of forward thinking individuals who sought to improve the world in a way that inevitably became necessary.
“You think we are being controlled by the illuminati?”
“Of course” Manfred said.
“But we are free-thinkers. By definition, there is no control.”
Manfred scoffed. “Don’t be naïve! There is no such thing as free-thinking, is there? If anything, their notion of free-thinking is to free yourself of thought altogether. They caution you to think freely and independently just so that you break free from the old conventions, and then they subtly but deliberately condition your mind to deliver a singular output. What is the weather outside?”
It was a curious question but I obliged him, “It’s warm, clear and sunny.”
“Wrong!” Manfred’s eyes twinkled in wicked delight, “but I don’t really blame you for your lack of awareness. They sing it to you all day long and eventually you believe it, don’t you? It is not ‘warm, clear and sunny’ it is actually overcast. And you would know that if you didn’t let your guard down. You have allowed them into your psyche with their mind-control apparatus. Why do you think there are television screens in every room?
You come here of your own volition and you trust the compassion you find, so you don’t see any of it, do you? You don’t see what they are doing. You don’t notice that you are choosing to be shaped by their specific propaganda while you wilfully shut out any dissenting opinion. You don’t notice that you have elected to be part of a new religion – a religion that glorifies victims. Thou shalt not be insensitive to victims; oh, no! You saw Marjorie in the courtroom today; the woman is practically a cow, isn’t she? But god forbid you call her fat. Instead, we are all encouraged to mutilate language to protect people who have elevated their social standings with the victim-complex.
Slowly but surely, their number will grow because it is advantageous and there are oppressed people everywhere. Feminism will steal the oppressed women out from under Islam; Black-lives-matter will reel in the racially oppressed. There are a million ways to be a victim in today’s world, and where do they all go? That’s right, they all identify as ‘other.’ They are other than the epitome of cultural acceptability. We are all victims, and in time we will recognize the ways in which we have been oppressed and we will come to this safe place where we can speak our truth and be accepted. This has all been meticulously orchestrated by the people who know everything about being the victim – the same people who suffered under the man that history remembers as the cruellest man to have lived.”
Of course, he was referring to the holocaust. He wouldn’t be the first to accuse the Jews of being behind the quest for a New World Order, “So why don’t you leave? What are you doing here?”
Manfred did not become defensive; he was rather disappointed. “I am an atheist and unwelcome in conservative culture. But I am not against safe places. After all we all deserve room just by being born into this world. But while one person has outright denied you your natural right to exist as you are, the other person is taking advantage of your vulnerability and your need for an accepting community to enslave you once more. There seem to be nothing but cages in this world. I want you to remain aware and recognize the deliberate deceit. Don’t give up your own power to discern and take everything they say with a pinch of salt. Don’t forget what the weather really is outside.”
Manfred could sense my scepticism and I saw that he was becoming enraged by it. Why did he so desperately want me to be number nine on a dusty crate, listening to him yell, “the sky is falling”? He said it himself, there were nothing but cages; and his invitation to rebellion promised to be one as well.
“What does it matter what the weather really is outside?” I said to Manfred, “If it all makes us feel better to believe that it is actually clear and sunny, what’s the harm in the lie? It’s just a little positive conditioning.” I was unconvinced by my own reasoning, but I was playing the devil’s advocate because I was wary of Manfred.
“A lie is a lie, and it is up to no good” Manfred descended from his crate and closed the gap between us, “It doesn’t matter how good it makes you feel; it is up to no good. If we begin to confuse lies with the truth, we’d have chaos, won’t we? Do you know what could happen if people stopped caring about fact?”
I shrugged. It was a rhetorical question; he was going to tell me anyway. Manfred smiled, “Speculate to break the one you hate; circulate the lie you confiscate; assassinate and mutilate……it’s slander!” Manfred was several bars in before I realized he was dishing out the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s Tabloid Junkie. And he was not done. His eyes were wild as the words rolled off his tongue, “Just because you read it in a magazine; or see it on a TV screen don’t make it factual. We are media junkies. They feed us what they like, and we eat and we eat and we eat it all up: fake news inspired by their evil agenda. Only a commitment to truth can save us. And if you doubt how far the world has spiralled out of control, watch this: you raped Gina” he stated calmly.
What? “No, I did not.”
“Yes, yes. You raped Gina.”
“I am gay” I pointed out, “It would go against my nature in more ways than one.”
Manfred shook his head, resolute, “It doesn’t matter, because you raped Gina.”
I stared helplessly at the woman in question. Gina got up and strolled to the corner of the room. She put out a hand to test the firmness of the exposed copper pipe by the wall, and then she threw herself against it causing her head to bleed instantly.
“What is that supposed to prove? A bleeding head does not prove rape.”
“It doesn’t matter because she looks like a real victim now” Manfred said. “Who is so callous that they would doubt that face?”
I watched Gina’s thumbs fly across the key-pad of her smart phone. She was presumably lodging her complaint. Not knowing what else to do, I made a run for it. But it was too late. My face was already plastered on every television screen, brandished as a rapist. “You did a very bad thing” Elvis said as I ran past him in a common room, “I’m……like……so disappointed. The poor woman!” There was a live-feed of the weeping woman with the bl**dy face in every room, and she told her story. She gave her account of how I had brutalized her, and people were moved to tears. They hated me. They wanted me dead. And i was right back where I started – in the crosshairs. As I ran through a dark corridor, a hand shot out of the dark, connected with the side of my face, and knocked me out cold.
Everything happened very quickly from there. I was dragged into the courtroom and stripped down to my briefs.
“I did not rape the woman,” I said, even though no one had asked me the question. The judge smirked, “Then why does it say that you did on every television screen?” it was a rhetorical question and he moved right on, “Why would our Gina lie about something like this?”
The judge exuded a wealth of patience from high up his horse, “We do not hound or harass victims of rape with unnecessary questions. It is insensitive to do so. It is hard enough for them to call out their abusers and admit their vulnerability. If we do not give them a safe and accepting atmosphere to tell their stories, we would only force them back into excruciating – life-threatening – silence. We cannot blame or shame victims. However, the worst we can do is to invalidate their experiences by doubting them.”
“But I did not do anything to her.”
“Of course, you would say that. You are biased. You cannot judge the situation fairly, because you are too invested in proving your innocence even at the expense of poor Gina.”
“Of course, I am invested in proving my innocence.”
The judge nodded, “That is exactly my point. But tell me, what has poor Gina got to gain from concocting this story when it subjects her to a situation where you molest her?”
He made it seem like poor Gina had endured the hardship of rape just by making up a story about it. it was confusing. I couldn’t decide whether he was confused himself, or if he only meant to confuse me. “She – “
“She – what? What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I am being set up,” I decided to say. “I am being set up by Manfred.” In that moment, a thump rang out in the courtroom – it was the sound of something heavy connecting with the marble floor. Everyone looked at Manfred – the source of the disturbance. His bionic arm had popped out of his shoulder socket and it lay forlornly on the floor, while the empty sleeve of his jumpsuit dangled in the gentle breeze that wafted through the courtroom.
“Sure,” the judge remarked, “Blame the handicapable man. Are there any other diminished people you would like to stomp on today?”
“I am a diminished person too,” I despaired, “I am black and queer.” But nobody seemed impressed by my scars; it was almost as if I wasn’t special any longer. I was promptly deposited over a cauldron of a boiling sludge, and the scalding steam crawled up my skin. I wiggled like an earthworm in brine.
“Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot!”
I woke up in my bed drenched in sweat. It was the d*mn heat wave that had persisted since early February. The power had gone out at some point in the night and the discomfort started to build up in the absence of air-conditioning. The only light in my bedroom originated from the backlight of my laptop, and I squinted to see how much battery life was left – 47%. I had fallen asleep while watching a Rageaholic video on YouTube – a rebuttal of the Finding Neverland documentary, which was essentially an unconscionable hatchet job on Michael Jackson’s ghost. It was curious that one could only find redemptive evidence and complete narrative in the dark corners of the internet, whereas the mainstream media propagated half-truths for optimal sensational effect. Or maybe there was an agenda that was a lot more sinister and unforgiveable – a lot more demonic. It was a scary notion that left me feeling exposed. As a person with leftist values, I find myself glued to CNN, and it never entered my mind that some of my progressive views could possibly have been a product of the meticulous grooming process of dishonest press with an ulterior motive.
I apologize for lying in the hook – It seems like Michael Jackson was never convicted of paedophilia after all. But sensational statements – true or not – grab attention. Vulgar thumbnails and titles all amount to click bait, and deliberate deceit has fast become the culture. I know; it’s disrespectful and trite. We are all too smart for this. Or…….are we?
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