And so he did all he could to imagine a life better. The kind of life where kindness and gentility replaced manipulation and oddity. The kind of life which did not include events and occurrences such as the below:
[And so] last weekend I was approached in Caffè Nero in central Liverpool by a man who later self-identified as an Australian-resident Israeli-born 52-year-old South African. He said he was in property. Later, he showed me his Australian driving-licence/ID card (Queensland), and his cabin crew ID, for some airline I presume.
He also showed me his very primitive non-Internet connected mobile, excusing it by saying he couldn’t afford anything more expensive because he was always losing them. He did, however, carry around very visibly two tablets, one an iPad.
He was very friendly and we had a very interesting 2-hour conversation on many subjects, geo-political to a degree but others less rigorous as well.
He bought me a chocolate and a sparkling water, as the conversation got longer.
He asked me for my phone number which I was happy to give, and as I am happy to publicly do so online on my social networks and blogsites.
That evening he sent me a text saying we needed to meet up next time I was in Liverpool. I remember he was particularly interested in my opinion re Muslims, and I was clear how I felt: if he was referring to suicidal terrorism, there was always only one response. But I also insisted that by talking face-to-face with most people, one avoided the risk of painting huge peace-loving majorities with the brushes of their most extreme elements, whatever the belief system or society.
In fact, and in retrospect:
I think he showed me his ID (both, I mean – the cabin crew ID surely fits curiously with global property developer …) so I would respond by showing him mine. Off which of course in hindsight he was able to check both my name and address. If I was a mark, he now confirmed I was the right person.
When he approached me and asked me if he could sit down, almost the first thing he said was: “Are you American? You sound American.” I clearly don’t, and then he repeatedly said how his girlfriend lives in Fort Lauderdale.
The phone thing was totally random. I assume either: a) because someone might feel it shows poverty, and he didn’t want to give this impression; or b) so those who prefer to be not easily followed might find themselves in the company of fellow souls.
I didn’t offer to buy him a drink, just share the table in a not particularly busy time of the day [ed.: actually, he asked if he could sit down at my table at a moment when the coffee shop wasn’t particularly full; I only concurred]. It was a window seat, and he likes window seats. He didn’t pay for *his* coffee at the time of ordering. He finally paid for everything – if I remember rightly – at 7.03, just after closing time, explaining the staff knew him very well.
And so he just had to conclude:
Is curious, no? Curious details. I don’t think it’s just me and my hyperactive imagination.
And so he became very sad. And it wasn’t the surveillance and it wasn’t the data and it wasn’t the watching and it wasn’t the hawking.
It was the eternal, permanent, iridescent denial of those who controlled everything they could: a) that they weren’t doing it; and b) if they were, it was for our own good; and c) even if it wasn’t for our own good, it wasn’t for their good at all.
Which is bollocks.
And even so, they pushed.