Pause for thought
Hard facts are exhausting to write about. Each fact has to be painfully dug out from a repository of memories which are still very raw. Hardly memories, in fact; hardly the past, even. The events since July 2018 continue to be an inescapable now, ever present, ever vivid – including those events the emotions of the moment wrapped in a haze that blurred them even as they unfolded.
Of course I don’t have recall of every minute. I certainly don’t remember every word, but I probably remember every fact; every important one, at least. And I recall the nadir moments when the magnitude of what was happening, the sheer awfulness of it, was too much to take in, too much to be true. Those were my ‘narcoleptic dog’ moments, when a curtain of unreality fell over some of the worst passages of the story. I remember those clumps of haze.
Arguing in your own defence is tiring, too. Particularly if you have been doing it for two years, to the systematic disbelief of the institutional listeners, the ones who have power over the situation. A few private listeners, not central to the story, did seem to believe, until I ceased to be there and other voices came in to fill their ears with intimations the listeners became unwilling to check against my facts. This has been such a pervading feature, Reader. Institutionally and privately, even among the people I had been closest to, the same wall of wilful deafness: we don’t want your facts; we only want our facts. And yes, they have everything to do with you, but we won’t tell you what they are. An impregnable rampart erected to leave me out in the cold.
Was it fear, I have often wondered? Fear of what my facts might do to their newly-gained certainties? Fear that facts might break through the rampart? Certainties help sleep, I am sure. They probably help survival. Perhaps I should not begrudge a little wall-building for the sake of life-preservation. But that is precisely what worries me: all the life that is being lost, all the life that could be regained if some truth were allowed in.
I did made mistakes, both before and after 2018. Some of them, before that dreadful July, affected others and I much regret them. I would do anything for the chance to make amends. Anything useful, that is, anything constructive; pointless immolation would only do more harm, and it would be immoral, given the flawed basis on which it was decreed.
But, ironically, I never stood accused of the mistakes I did make. They are not considered crimes. I believe they are put down to how you handle yourself in everyday life. Let us count ourselves lucky that some space is still allowed for human failings. When under threat, some people run away, others counterattack, others cry, others clam up, others explode in rage, others do any of any number of other things. I won’t tell you which I did, if any – of course I won’t: this blog’s readership is not all sympathetic, and, for all I know, it may include the very people who know how to magic up a charge out of nothing.
Suffice it to say that I witnessed more of this kind of ‘lawful’ harm than I unwittingly inflicted. And yes, I was harmed, too, but right now I am reflecting on my own failings. These are left for another court to try, a more frightening one than any Crown Court: my conscience. In this court my actions are held up to the light and they are found wanting. As there was at the Crown Court, in this court, too, there is a bias against me, but in this case the bias is based on knowledge: I know better than anyone else what I did and what I did not. I am my harshest judge and my harshest jury, the victims were actual victims and the culprit was unmistakably I. My sentence is to live on, facing what I have done, facing what I have lost, until I have made sure that I have done everything in my power to make amends. My mitigation is to know that I also did good and that the good was more frequent, more encompassing; it was the daily fare, I think. Evidently all the good is forgotten now, written over, a caricaturally disparaging palimpsest scribbled over the original story. But some things are indelible; the plants, the fruits and the flowers are there, growing and blossoming without me.
I wish I had been more patient, more available. Work and career are overrated, Reader. Take it from me, who writes, as far as career is concerned, from beyond the grave: don’t let work take priority over life. Don’t let organisations matter more than people, your people, the ones for whom you are responsible.
I also made mistakes after July 2018. The main victim of these was myself, so I regret them less. I followed the wrong advice, I took the wrong decisions, I mishandled some situations. I naïvely helped the gravediggers dig my grave.
I mishandled those dreadful days in July 2018. I was too stunned to think, too wracked by distress. I did not give adequate responses to anyone. I answered monosyllables, or nothing. I was slow to realise that I was letting conjecture run wild, in some minds with horror, in some other minds with calculated bad faith. I do have a lot to blame myself for.
I do not blame those who only struggled for survival, as did I, as we all still do. It would be facile to say that they brought about my downfall; they did not. They don’t have the armament to destroy. Or they didn’t, until those who do have the knowhow and the weaponry gave them the training and then put the weapons in their hands.
Yes, above all I blame the professionals. No lack of control there; they knew what they were doing from the onset. With no real knowledge of the facts, they seized a few lines of law and with alacrity they grafted them onto the twisted version of the story they managed to put together. They spent no time trying to understand the characters involved, their wounds and their fears, the things that drove them to do what they did and to say what they said. Unless they did, but on one side only; they certainly never made the slightest attempt to understand me. They treated me as guilty from the start – untroubled by that particular line of law, the most widely quoted in daily parlance, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which precludes precisely that. But enough of that.
For my actions I do take responsibility. I did board the series of vehicles that took me away last September. I was not kidnapped, or otherwise physically forced. But I do plead duress. On one side, a likely death; I could feel it coming. That would have served no purpose other than to amuse my tormentors and to spare one institution’s blushes. On the other side, the possibility of some kind of life that could potentially be of some kind of benefit to somebody. Free choice? But I have explained that before; no need to go back over it.
What did I gain by going away? A kind of afterlife, as I have just intimated. Immediate release from a mental-health situation which was also wrecking my physical health. Freedom from a danger that seemed more imminent by the day: that the burlies would pounce again on some newly concocted charge. Freedom from a preposterous three-month sentence for a crime which was not a crime. Hope of a more impartial justice elsewhere. The chance to see my mother’s serene face in her coffin for a posthumous farewell. The ability to breathe, to think and to plan. A sense of empowerment, after four months of submitting to other people’s decisions, however extravagantly unjust. An end to the cat-and-mouse game which the cat seemed to be relishing as much as it was killing the mouse. A sense that the mouse was becoming a man again.
What did I lose? The chance to stand in court and tell my story, for one. I would have valued that chance above much else, if I had not already stood in three court hearings, finding the same attitude each time: behind the veneer of adherence to procedure, the thinly-veiled feeling was in the faces, in the verbal slips and, of course, in the decisions: we don’t like you, we don’t believe you, we are going to make sure you go under. The principle of presumption of innocence blown to smithereens; the principle of impartial magistrates and an impartial judge effectively jettisoned.
I lost some valuable friends, two of whom had been a dear part of most of my Northeastern years. That hurt. I do not know exactly how it happened, although I have a fair idea. Other friends, dotted around the country, have stayed loyal, thank heaven – thank them, in fact. I continue to be careful to protect them from any knowledge that might compromise them.
I missed the chance to see some dear faces and hear some dear voices again, however contrived and strained the circumstances would have been at the trial. After nearly two years of isolation I was by now a beggar; any crumb of sight or sound would have been welcome. But I had a fairly clear idea that after two years of drilling by friends and professionals I could only expect hostility. Back in September 2019 I did not yet know the extent to which history was being rewritten. I know now, and I doubt whether a man and his barrister (it had been decided that I should have no live witnesses) would have been able to counter all the concerted hatred that had been skilfully manufactured.
The fact is, I will never know; “what ifs” are a waste of time. I did what I did, and I can live with the consequences of not knowing. The consequences I cannot live with are the consequences of deeds I have not done. That verdict is a mistake; that sentence is an aberration; I cannot accept them. It would be cowardly and immoral to submit to them. I am no drunkard or junkie: I was aware of my actions at all times, and I know that no such crime was committed; not by me, at any rate. I did not lead the life I led for sixty-odd years to have it befouled by a decision taken under pressure by a tendentiously informed handful of people. The arms left to me are precious few, but, for as long as I am standing, I will fight on.