‘We always drop down leaflets before we bomb a place’ says the chubby Israeli officer, ‘we always tell them when and where we are going to attack.’ I chuckle bitterly. ‘No other army in the world does that’ he says with a smile, looking quite pleased with himself.
‘Well done you’ I mutter sarcastically. Kamyar shakes his head.
I suddenly find myself playing a game that I have not played for many years. It used to be called ‘If you had Saddam Hussein in your hands what would you do to him?’ my cousins and I used to play this game when we were little.
‘I will pull his eyes out and feed them to crows.’
‘I will pull his nails out, ONE by ONE. Very slowly.’
‘I will cut his balls off and feed them to him.’
‘Good one. That’s clever.’
It just went on and on. We were quite imaginative when it came to torture. Kids are cruel. We loved animals but we still used to torture some. We used to feed snails to our favourite type of ants; those big black ones with huge heads. We used to peel off the snail’s shell and drop it on the entrance of the ants’ nest. This would naturally cause a commotion amongst the ants who probably thinking they were being attacked by the homeless, slimy creature, would pile on top of it and start taking it apart.
We would squat down on the ground and watch eagerly.
I never gave much thought to the poor snail. I liked snails but I liked ants a lot more because snails were slow and didn’t do much while ants were fast and extremely entertaining. Plus I quite enjoyed peeling them. It was like peeling a very small and delicate hardboiled egg.
These days I can’t even bring myself to kill a fly or a moth (my most despised insect of all) and when I accidentally step on a snail in the dark, I get very upset and if I’m alone, I might even have a little cry.
All this had led me believe that I had lost all my childhood viciousness as I had stepped into adulthood.
Over twenty years on however, I was again finding myself deriving large amounts of pure pleasure from fantasizing about ways to torture this Israeli officer, who was supposedly in charge of bombing Lebanon. I was playing ‘If you had…in your hands what would you do to him?’
You would think after all these years, I would be a bit rusty but I wasn’t at all. In fact I totally surprised myself by how imaginative I was being and how much I was enjoying myself. I was still as cruel as I had been as a child it seemed.
This new discovery naturally upset me. I had always seen myself as a peace loving human being and for my snail-tormenting, world-leader-torturing past, had always held childhood ignorance responsible.
‘But am I only pretending to be peace loving’ I wondered, ‘because that’s what I think I should be?’ I reluctantly brushed away the image of me ripping the officer’s still-beating heart out with my bare hand, to make room for thinking about my question. I could lie to others maybe but not to myself and the truth was that at that moment, if that man had been in front of me, I probably would have at least tried to bite his nose off clean, like I had imagined I would. Perhaps the “ripping the heart out” thing had been a bit much. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I’m quite small and not very strong, and that would have been physically impossible probably.
‘Sad’ I thought, ‘I haven’t grown up at all it seems.’ And that’s when it hit me. ‘Grow up’ they say, ‘Act your age.’ But that doesn’t mean ‘stop giving people wedgies’ NO. It means find more sophisticated ways of giving people wedgies. Perhaps you could do it with a kind smile and a look of grave concern.
‘Do you think I enjoy doing this?! I was only trying to help you untie your matted bum-fluff.’
‘Oh…thanks…er, that’s very kind of you.’
It doesn’t mean, stop tormenting others altogether. It means if you must, say, bomb people, don’t go and drop a bomb on them like a common criminal. NO. Where are your manners? First drop leaflets, then bomb them as they are fleeing.
It doesn’t mean that you have to try to be good and do the right thing. It doesn’t mean that if your friend is hitting people smaller than him and you don’t want to go to their aid, you must anyway. NO. It means instead of standing up in front of everyone, arms akimbo, saying, ‘I want him to hit them. I like watching it. And I’m even gonna go and help him. Now watchagonna do about it?’ and sticking out your tongue, maybe act a little more mature. How about for example wasting a whole conference, as people are being blown up, arguing over the word “Immediate” in relation to “Ceasefire”?
I wish I had noticed this before I thought. If only I had let my viciousness grow with me, rather than trying to suppress it, I could have been so much more successful now. Who knows, maybe I could have even become a world leader. But as it stood, I had grown up to thirty one while my vicious self who popped up every now and then, throwing childlike tantrums; wanting to claw people’s eyes out, had stayed at the age of seven.
I wondered if there was a mature equivalent for ‘If you had…in your hands what would you do to him?’
Is Hell the answer? Red hot stakes being inserted up Tony Blair’s and George Bush’s backsides for eternity?
Umm, I don’t know. Somehow it’s just not as satisfying, neither to the thirty-one-year-old woman nor to the snail-peeling seven-year-old child. The latter thinks, ‘What if they develop a taste for it after a while?’ while the former worries, ‘What if they get off on a technicality? After all they haven’t actually killed anyone themselves.’