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“ – How can you even say that? How can you? Fuck’s sake! Obviously it was a terrorist attack!”

I should have known they would react like that. Policemen are like soldiers, that way. The job sometimes attract the worst sadists and arseholes but, surprisingly often, they are sadists and arseholes who have in them a wide streak of romantism, and they like to cover themselves with the Teflon-coated cloak of self-righteousness.

And also, I apparently had forgotten what Orwell had to say about the language: we live once again in a time when some words have lost their precise earlier meaning. ‘Terrorism’ is one of these words, now. Its definition has become fuzzy. Or do I mean ‘hazy’? Ironically, my vocabulary is not that strong.

In any case, ‘terrorism’ now means ‘bad’ and ‘murderous’. It is in short anything we fight.

But I was young, then, and I suppose I was a bit of an idealist. Words still mattered to me. If you want to know how young I was, listen to what I did: I took out my dictionary.

“ – Here is the definition of ‘terrorism’,” I started and, I must admit, standing there, speaking like that, with this big book in my hands, I must have looked like I was preaching. And, while they are often religious, policemen are like soldiers and don’t like much being preached at. They like to believe they know what they are fighting for already.

But, as I said already, I was young, and I carried along, seemingly oblivious of the simple idea that I could sometimes be wrong, or even, Heaven forbid! lacking in tact…

“ – Terrorism, I said: the systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve some goal.” I suppose we must be grateful for the fact that I didn’t pronounce the little ‘n.’ between the word and its definition. Although I do remember pondering whether I should explain the word ‘systematic’ to my colleagues. God, I was a prick when I was young…

Not that much has changed, really.

They were looking at me with that faintly disgusted look people who pride themselves on doing things reserve for those who clearly think too much. I know that look. I know it too well.

“ – Listen, guys, the key word here is ‘goal’.” Yeah, I actually said that. “Terrorism is not a political philosophy in itself, it is a mean to an end. It tries to achieve something, most of the time publicity for its cause. But last year’s attacks, nobody knows what they were for. I know there are plenty of theories but there was no revendication, no credible one anyway, no attempt to cash in, no promise of more atrocities to come if, you know, whatever. It was not terrorism.”

By that time, even I could tell I had lost them all for good. They were not listening, they were not even staying in the room: they couldn’t get away from the mess hall fast enough. Only Leia stayed in the doorway for a moment to look at me. She was a nice girl, in spite of her stupid name, and at some point I even had thought that… Well, it doesn’t matter anyway.

She was giving me that look, when somebody has really gone past the limit, you know? Like a kid that’s obviously a big disappointment to you, but you can’t yet bring yourself to forget about him and sell him to a laboratory for experimenting on. You have to try one last time.

“ – So, if it wasn’t terrorism; what was it, then?”

“ – My guess is, I answered like a buffoon, it was art.”

She didn’t even slam the door behind her.

 

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