“Don’t look down, look at me, look at my eyes.”
The rain was falling in a light mist that could not be felt properly. He was aware though that his forehead was somehow wet and he could feel the liquid slowly trickling down the worry creases that taken years to form. He also was sure that the rain was merging with the saline rich stream that was currently running down his right cheek in a painful physical tell of fear.
“What the fuck are you doing back here? Why have you come back and what the fuck is in your bag?”
“I just thought I’d come back for a few days, you know? I haven’t been back since I finished the job and I wanted to see if anything had changed, to see who was still around and to..well you know, to see if it was still the same!”
“Don’t bullshit me.”
“I’m not, I’m not!”
“Alright, so tell me, what did you find?”
“I…I think it’s the same… largely, like how I used to remember it, the fear of being somewhere new unknown and being instantly forgettable but then I catch myself, remember the memories attached to each corner street, the laughs that I’ve shared and the good times I’ve had, to know that I am back visiting but not to live, to know that everyone I’ve seen here isn’t just visiting for a day or two that they actually live here, have put down roots here, have work mates that they go for drinks with, old friends around every corner that take the time to meet up and do things with. It made me…I guess it made me think that I’m apart, I don’t, didn’t…. but used to, belong here probably, but that I became fundamentally detached from the people that remain here, that I moved away, into the shadows? whilst they cemented their lives to the concrete and to the green growths of life here.
You know I’m still recognised by staff here? They ask me where I’ve been but they don’t ask me how I am.”
“Why would they even care? You came here, you did the job and you left. As. Simple. As. That.”
“What the hell do you know? You don’t know what I went through!”
“Shut up, just shut the fuck up. You came back to the city that you were never meant to see again, why?”
“I’ve already told you!”
“You haven’t even told me the half of it. Ah I don’t care, put the bag down.”
He gently laid the bag on the floor and kicked it half way to his aggressor.
“You know this is the end don’t you?”
“You shouldn’t have come back.”
“I know… I know.”
After he disposed of the body the man opened the bag. ‘Well I’ll be damned’ he thought, ‘I’ll be damned’.
I am currently reading Anne Norton’s 2013 book entitled ‘On The Muslim Question‘ which explores the West’s own view of Islam and it’s perceived threat through a perceptive breakdown of the West’s own ideals. Touching on subjects as broad as the freedom of speech, terror, violence, human right’s women’s dress and sexuality, Norton delivers a powerful thesis on the meaning of democracy, helping to deconstruct the so called clash of civilization’s between the West and Islam. In particular (and I’m starting to sound like the blurb of the book now) it gets to the meat and the bones of what the meaning behind equality, liberty and fraternity is for the Western world by using the political, philosophical and theological to explore the current Western mentality.
This book is not what I thought it was going to be, but it is something that I am glad I am reading, something that I wish a few of my friends would (but never could) read. In particular this passage struck home:
“An honest reading of Qutb would raise difficult questions for people in the West- especially for Americans and for the French who still claim allegiance to liberty, equality, and fraternity. They would be obliged to recognise their abandonment of the ideal of equality. They would be be obliged to listen to Muslim critics like Qutb- and to Western critics like Alain Badiou, Pete Singer, and Stéphane Hessel. They would be obliged to admit that the man without money is something less than a brother. They would be obliged to recognise that inequality is the enemy of liberty.” (Norton 2013: 116).
By posing the title the author recalls ‘the Jewish question’ of the 19th and 20th centuries, but are the two the same for the Western world in this context? I am not sure and I nearly hesitated in picking up this book, and that would have been a mistake. I hope this body of work reaches a wider audience, especially at this crucial time where war is talked about yet again as a means of employing so called stability. The key question on the completion of this book is ‘does this book offer a solution or a means to address the issues that it raises?’, the sad answer would be that no it does not. It is still worth your time however.