I needed a haircut so I went to my barber. I had to drive passed a few other good and cheap barbers to get there but there are very few things I don’t like to change in my life and the place where I do my monthly grooming is one of them.
He came from Algeria some 25 years ago and does not think he’ll ever go back. The TV in the waiting room is usually on either a British soap or and old style western. Sometimes a bearded man speaks arabic which means that my man was catching up with the politics in his native land.
“You know”, he says when I answer his question about my country of origin, “if I am in a pub or a canteen and I hear people speaking our language, I start speaking in English with my friends”
“Why’s that?” I ask.
“Well, you know, my people are not exactly the kind of people you can trust if you don’t know them. If they hear me speaking in our language, then I can see how they immediately try to spy on me. They wanna guess where I stand, how rich I am, what I do for living, and so on. And if they realise that I am little better of, they’ll do what they can, not to follow my model but to actually steal my place, my job or my business.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. It is the same with my people” I said, and I didn’t say it just to empathise with him.
In the waiting area a few customers, all of North African appearance have already occupied all the available chairs.
“You know, I watched the news this morning and they showed pictures of people from your country involved in stealing and beating people up very bad” he says, changing the subject.
“I am sure that’s true but you know what? They are just a tiny percent of the population you find in prisons. If a journalist would care to bring up the statistics on the percentage of each nationality represented by people in prisons they wouldn’t find the “news” exactly interesting and worth publishing. It is about finding scapegoats and groups of people who can take the blame for everybody else, government included”.
I realized that I was speaking a bit louder now and, that using clichés can make you feel actually quite good. The self-defence instinct is a powerful tool and can override my reason and my sense of proportions. I did not stop there. I felt like a warrior charging ferociously, defending “my people”, the same people I had just painted in black two minutes ago.
“The people in charge are good at misguiding us, make us fight each other so they can carry on with getting richer and keeping their privileges. We have no chance in changing anything really.” At this point I felt I went too deep in the dizzying world of two-cents politics to go back to actually being true to myself.
He saved me, suddenly changing his mood: “When we go underground we’ll have no more problems”. It took a bit longer to realize he was talking about being buried “under the ground”.
“Excellent job, Sir. Thank you very much” I said looking in the mirror.
“Ok, take care. See you soon”