Strangely… oddly… weirdly… despite being the most insignificant of people… by virtue of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time… I have been blessed in this life of mine to have known many a person of influence before they were influential… Thus have I never felt moved to respond to whatever they call to.
One of them, a celebrated intellectual, whom I was dispatched to collect from the airport ahead of his presentation to supporters of a charity. In the car on the way to the event, he quizzed me and my wife on our opinion on all manner of topics. I thought we were engaged in friendly chit-chat to break the ice. You can imagine my surprise when an hour later, seated in the audience, we listened as he simply regurgitated back to us everything we had said in the car. Afterwards, I quipped to my wife that I should have collected the honorarium instead of him.
One an ex-radical, whom we are constantly told was once extremely hostile to non-Muslims, calling for jihad and conquest. Only, I used to regularly socialise with him as a non-Muslim… I don’t just mean the casual pool playing he was regularly engaged in… Together, we would traipse across Fitzrovia and Holborn on foot, and spend hours sitting in the cafés of Edgware Road, engaged in conversation… mostly politics, with only the slightest sprinkling of religion. However he likes to present himself today, he was never a jihadi; he was a political bore, convinced that his mission in life was to win every argument.
Another of them a failed politician, who tried to get elected to parliament by attempting to conspire with a well-known far-right demagogue, to whip up community tensions so that he could assume the role of peacemaker diffusing tensions all around. Only, it turned out the far-right demagogue was the more principled of the pair, recording the whole exchange on camera which he then leaked to the national press. Yes, my paths crossed with that individual too, a quarter of a century ago. We never saw eye-to-eye… Well, we did once… literally… that afternoon at university when he pinned me to the wall of the student common room by my neck to remind me of my place.
There are numerous other characters like this whom I have known through the years… which is why I can’t take any of them seriously. It’s sad that so many do. By God’s mercy, the scales fell from my eyes, years ago. I guess I was blessed to see what I saw and experience what I experienced. It allowed me to go my own way, without being bamboozled by the apparitions made real to everyone else. People are just people. Don’t get taken in by the legends they sow. Most of us are all ego, responding to inner passions, untamed. It’s sad that so many get taken for a ride.