Visiting an asylum for people who, to put it delicately, have intellectual deficits is a salutary experience. I entered a large open space where the inmates were gathering for communal recreation. It was hard to take it in at first, until my mind became more focussed. Let me give you a taste of this delusional world inside the asylum.
A tall, careworn chap was plaintively explaining to anyone who would listen that there was a rationale for the Charlie Hebdo murders. The pen is mightier than the sword, he said with a grimace, as though this cliche were decisive and proved his point beyond all doubt. It’s a setback is all, his buddy euphoniously intoned when told of the latest massacre in Paris. He broke into song and a soft-shoe shuffle. ♫ You say Islam and I say ISAL. You say Muslim and I say peaceful. Islam – ISAL, Muslim – peaceful, let’s call the whole thing off, I needs me a round of golf.♫. It was completely unnerving.
Another extremely bedraggled and dour (as a clue, jeremiad-like) man was saying that the police mustn’t be too ruthless with armed terrorists. “That’s not the way. That’s not the way,” he repeated endlessly, while his immediate companions appeared ready to strangle him. One lady who had seen much better days on the stage was ‘whooping’ (shall we say as a clue) that, after all, Hitler was a Christian. Christians are dangerous, very dangerous, she added pointedly and sombrely while staring vacantly into the air. “You could have fooled me,” replied a man in tall hat who said he was the Archbishop of Canterbury. “Appeasement is my very stock in trade.”
One very demonstrative elderly man (as a clue, Sandinista-like) was standing in front of a woman in a pants suit (no prizes for guessing correctly), who was vainly trying to push him aside. He waved his arms around wildly, imploring all around him to blame the weather for their ills. “If it wasn’t for the weather we’d be in clover! Clover, I tell you!”
I tried to gather my thoughts and breathe in some rationality but, all of a sudden, my arms were grasped by two burly guards, one on either side. “What you doing in ‘ere, mate?” one of them roughly demanded.
“What do you mean?” I protested. “Unhand me or I’ll call the constabulary.”
“You’ve been in the street where the sane people live. Now you’re in ‘ere and I’ve got a mind that this is where you belong!”
Panic gripped me.”Let me go! Let me go!” I shouted. “This is sheer madness!”
“Precisely,” the more erudite of the guards said. “We come across your types all the time. Raving realists we calls you.”
They let me go. I think it was their tea break and they didn’t want to spend time processing me.
I walked outside. A loudspeaker was blaring. A large crowd could be heard booing, and shouting Allahu Akbar, at a Turkish football stadium during a period of what was supposed to be a minute’s silence for those killed and injured in Paris. A voice-over repeatedly and insistently drowned the cries of the crowd. “Islam is the religion of peace. Muslims are moderate. The crowd is showing their displeasure with the terrorists. Black is white. Bad is good.”
I looked at a woman walking past me. We exchanged words.
“It is so confusing, isn’t it?” she said.
Yes, I said, only crazy people can make sense of it.