What is confusion? I can’t exactly put it in words, but I know that confusion is contagious. Very contagious!
When I was a kid, I once asked my dad: “Who is superman? Can I meet him? ”
After a bit of reflection dad said: “Look! You’d probably find it hard to believe but … superman is not for real!”
“Not for real?”
“No! Not for real … Superman is only a fictitious character!”
“What is a fictitious character, dad?” I asked incredulously.
“Well! A fictitious character is something … not real …”
I couldn’t understand what dad mean but that was the first time that I experienced the extraordinary nature of confusion. Dad couldn’t explain what a fictitious character was, without getting himself entangled in verbal perplexity.
Dad wasn’t a very articulate man; but then how do you explain abstract ideas to people who haven’t had a first-hand experience of those ideas? I say that you can’t! Certain ideas can only be truly understood when experienced. Ideas like confusion, violence, betrayal, and anarchy. Words cannot really capture their essence. These are dangerous ideas … contagious ideas.
On 4th August, 2011 when the police shot 29-year-old Mark Duggan, I started understanding the true nature of violence. They say that the police shot Duggan in the chest; little did they know that they’d shot the city in the chest. In minutes, it started to bleed profusely: rioting, arson, and looting were rampant in almost all parts of the city.
I was at Barney’s place, smoking a cigarette when the news reached us. Barney’s cousin called him up and told him that things had reached a violent threshold. I knew that I had to leave for my home, immediately.
Barney is my childhood friend; he is more like a younger brother. We’d been friends for our entire lives. My house is a mere ten minute walk away from his. Barney is perhaps the smartest person I know; but even the smartest of them make terrible mistakes, sometimes.
It wasn’t a mistake that got him fired from his job, almost a year ago: they told him that the company was downsizing. Ever since, Barney had been trying hard to find a good job; I think he deserved a really good one: he is the smartest man I know, and he has a college degree, too. If he is out of job, I’m sure a lot of deserving young men are unemployed; and that can’t be fair!
I trotted back to my house that evening. The streets looked grotesque: certain nooks went terribly quiet while others screamed and gnashed as if at the verge of the Day of Judgment. The city felt like a backdrop of one of Zombie movies: dark, cold, and sullen.
I managed to reach home unscathed, but I was worried about Barney. I knew that he’d run out of food supplies, if the violence continued for another couple of days.
Besides, Barney lived in a troubled neighborhood and he was going through troubled times. Life was not fair with him!
But then who is to as what is fair?
Life is never fair with anymore! Morality is only a matter of consequences!
I called up Barney several times, but he wouldn’t pick up the phone. By 8:00 pm I got really worried but the news was not good; the chaos was spreading all over the city: Violence, looting, and riots.
I had to wait till dawn. The next morning, I packed some food and drinks into a bag and started heading Barney’s place. As soon as I ventured out in the street, I discovered that things were worse than I had imagined. Shops were destroyed, vehicles set on fire, and many houses reduced into ashes by arson.
It was as if all the doom day prophecies were coming true: apparently it was all coming to an end; ironically, not by the wrath of gods but due to the rage of my own country-men: It was a self-fulfilling prophecy!
After walking for about 5 minutes, I saw huge boulders and barricade hurdles blocking the street that led to Barney’s house
That meant that I had to take a longer, alternate route. As I took the alternate path, the words of the great poet, William Blake, echoed in my mind:
“Cruelty has a human heart
And jealousy a human face,
Terror the human form divine,
And secrecy the human dress”
I couldn’t bear the sights and sound of the city; they reeked of insanity, they reeked of betrayal. I kept walking for an hour; till I reached a point I never wished I had reached: It was at the mouth of Barclay’s bank, where I heard a gunshot.
I froze, taking cover behind a wall. After a few minutes, I saw 5 masked men trying to escape the scene. They’d surely done the job on the bank; and now they were trying to escape the scene of crime. There was of course, no resistance.
Given the circumstances, it was a walk in the park for them.
Two of them led the way, brandishing the guns like cowboys. They were making sure that no one was around; I knew that I was at a terrible wrong place at an awfully wrong time.
It didn’t take them long to find me hiding behind the wall.
“Look what we’ve got here, gentlemen!” the first one said.
“What did you see”, the other one barked
“I … didn’t …”
“Don’t lie to me you punk, You saw us!
“Yea, he saw us … that little liar! Shoot him, right away”, the other masked man cried.
I was so petrified that I couldn’t utter a word.
A few second later, another man stepped in. He wasn’t armed. He asked the other two men to calm down:
“Listen! We need not kill no one … The guy didn’t see us. We are wearing masks, remember?”
“Yea we don’t have time for this!” one of the armed men squealed.
“Let’s get the hell outta this place, leave the man alone.”
The entire incidence hardly took a few minutes. The men disappeared in matters of seconds and I was left there scared and raged: scared because it was a close encounter; raged due to a moral dilemma.
I decided to head back home. There was no point worrying about Barney, anymore. He’d made a fortune today. He’d saved my life too: Barney was one of the thugs who looted the bank. He was the one in the purple mask: the one who intervened and reasoned with the two armed thugs.
I could tell by every nuance of his voice. I could tell by his clothes and by the emerald stone that he wore--in his ring--for good luck. Barney had done the inconceivable: he’d robbed a bank.
Barney tried calling me up the next day but I didn’t receive his call. After a few attempts, he gave up. I guess he knew that I recognized him.
After much destruction, the rioting finally ceased, and things started to return to normality.
I’d done my reflection: I knew that morality was only a matter of consequences and friendship was far more important than the state law; but there is always a very clear line between right and wrong; indifference and love; they can’t go side-by-side. I love Barney like a brother so I couldn’t be indifferent to him. We could hate each other but we would never be indifferent.
So I did what I had to do: I went to the police and told them about Barney’s involvement in the bank robbery. They seized the cash and arrested the other members of the gang. They’d perhaps give him a stern sentence.
You can curse me for destroying Barney’s life; you could curse the government policies for ruining Barney’s fate; you can curse the rioters for luring him into a disaster. You may confuse yourself with situations, probabilities, and their interaction; but you’d really never learn the true meaning of confusion, until you experience it!