Despite what they say, the Internet is an inexhaustible source of intensity. If there are decoys, they are no different from what is happening in real life. The Internet is real life too. How many people live in their bubble, even if it is not connected to the network? The Internet is just a magnifying glass. If we agree to watch, we can feed on it for a long time.
I will name him M. He is 24 years old, lives confined to Algeria. He contacted me about six months ago on Facebook. No faces on his profile. I still wonder how I could accept his friendship in this way. I am usually suspicious of these anonymous requests, which are sources of indecent solicitation. Maybe I just pushed the wrong button. Anyway, after being confirmed this friendship, M. sent me a message saying he was happy to meet me, that I seemed to be a beautiful person.
As a medical student, his French was almost impeccable, his words surprisingly mature. He made a good impression on me.
We exchanged for a few days. He explained his situation to me. Homosexual, living with his parents, surrounded by his brothers and sisters, he worked hard, already young intern, having brilliantly passed the academic stages. He also told me very quickly that he was a believer, very religious, that homosexuality was wrong, that it was, therefore, in the eyes of God, a horror.
I was not surprised by this statement. I have heard it many times. Take for example the 27-year-old Palestinian boy living in Saudi Arabia. Let’s call it O. He lived in a big city, described to me the suffocating life in Jeddah, where people live as Muslim in the world outside their homes and, when they return home in the evening, they watch, via satellite dishes, films, tits and the delicacies promised by the West.
O. and M. are the same speech, the same fear, the fear of being discovered, the fear of being judged, of being ostracized. They both were ending abruptly the conversation because they had to go to pray, and then used to return as quickly as if nothing had happened.
I, the shopping centre psychologist, made it a point to make them understand that they had to stop judging themselves, that homosexuality was not evil and that, above all, the religion that came out of men’s mouths was certainly not the word of God.
With O., things were going pretty well. Year in and year out, he understood that he too was a human being. He finally opened up to the idea that he could live out his desires, even secretly. He told me about his meeting with a foreign worker, obviously much older than him, a Dutchman. It’s amazing how young Arabs like to fall in love with older men. We immediately see there an unspecified complex, a desire to meet and to free ourselves from the father. This could appear clichés, but reality likes to wallow in them more often than we would like.
As I predicted, our conversations eventually faded. O. had reached his thirties, he had become a man. By the few photos I see appearing on Facebook, I could see that he was able and quietly asserting himself, even if it always seems to be done in the greatest of silences. At least, I know, he managed his situation better, deals with it and, he had the chance to travel a little bit, escape prison, meet guys like his first Dutchman (I could tell a lot about this man who was taking advantage of the boy while, at home, he had been living a “happy” relationship for twenty years with his “husband”. A man is a man…), etc.
O. doesn’t really talk to me anymore, even though, at the time, he said he was madly in love with me. I knew it. These were only the words of a lying youth who wanted to achieve only his liberating ends. A young person’s seed is both fertile and dangerous.
As an old veteran of those Internet meeting places, I have dialogued many times with these young people who were looking for a father, never a mother. At the very beginning, I admit it, I fell for some of these hot hearts a few times, but it didn’t last long. I have the intelligence of my sufferings and I probably have the suffering of my thoughts. It doesn’t matter. It no longer affects me.
Back to M. With him, the speech was always more tragic. If O. turned to the mosque out of habit and to please his father, this was not the case for M. who quickly adopted with me a violent discourse towards gay marriage, towards Algerian homosexuals whom he found stupid as he wished, even odious. I tried, and sometimes successfully, to convince him that people’s behavior should not be judged without putting it into context. I had him read an article in Le Monde diplomatique, on sexuality in Algeria. M. corroborated everything. There, the moral grip is so great that a young female professional buying a house can never live there until she is married. M. also confirmed to me that it was still customary to repudiate (or even kill) own’s daughter if she lost her virginity before the marriage. Of course, we are talking about a certain Algeria, the Muslim woman, perhaps not quite the urban woman. I will not venture any further, because I do not know anymore.
So what about homosexuals? First, according to M., they are used as expedients by heterosexuals. Unable to have sex before marriage, the “straights” let off steam, as if they were in prison, on the gays. There are many rapes and then the raped also let themselves be abused because that is the only way to get some sex. It is the second-best thing to enjoy.
It reminds me of what a Russian doctor, living in Novosibirsk, said. The gays there mate violently, without heat, in dark places. It takes a maximum of ten minutes to evacuate. The tenderness is not there, but the release is, at least, for a while. The merry-go-round starts again. So is violence.
M. was throwing up these people. I often managed to make him cry, during these exchanges confined to a limited Internet connection and subscribed to a single Facebook account. M. didn’t want to masturbate, he told me, he didn’t want to, and that was wrong. He hated the idea of sodomy. I pointed out to him that he had never tried… That doesn’t matter. I had this strange speech with him where I made him promise to put a lubricated finger in his (clean) butt, just to feel something. When you think about it, it’s grotesque, and yet!
Little by little, despite his reluctance, I felt that he was somewhat opening. When M. spoke wisely, when he opened his intelligence to the truth, he became luminous. He had shown me, once, a picture of him taken by his father. He was a pretty boy. His beautiful maturity could be immediately felt. He was, so to speak, fascinating. As I grow older, I admire the youth so quick to light up.
At the same time, M. quickly got back into his bad words, became violent with me. He reminded me of a cat playing with the mice he was catching. He could say horrors about gay people and say that he had a heart as cold as a stone. He was both mature and totally infantilized. And because he knew how to use words, his frustrations became hysterical weapons (in the psychoanalytical sense of the word, a behavior that M. was the first to recognize).
He wanted to become a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, his only ambition, he told me, to conclude that he had given up on happiness. I couldn’t accept this situation, I told him often and he told me to go to hell, insulted me, then asked for forgiveness. I dared to get angry and even violently against his interpretation of Islam, against God. He took out the believer’s sword, forbade me to insult anyone while he did not hesitate to judge, to separate what he thought was good from the chaff.
For a while, I thought this chaotic behavior was due to his situation as a prisoner. I still believe that. When we observe the horrors that fall not just on homosexuals, but on entire peoples, and by the sole reason of a divine word diverted from its meaning, when we also see that we in Western countries are not really better, that our good intentions are often the lot of political and financial calculations, when we look at all this, we can only understand the inconsistent words of the people who suffer.
However, the day came when I had had enough. The trigger was that usual conversation, that mixture of obscure and terrifying feelings. However, the event was not insignificant.
— I killed my brother’s bird, he told me.
— What?! You’re kidding.
— No, I was studying next to the cage of that bird my brother had just bought. It was too noisy. I took a big book and hit the cage a few times and then left. My sister discovered the bird later, dead, at the bottom of the cage.
— Maybe it’s not you…
— Yes, I did. I hit hard. The bird must have had a panic attack.
— How do you feel now?” I asked him.
A week later, while I was working, I saw a Facebook alert from M. He accused me of never contacting him, that he was always the one starting the conversation, which was totally wrong. I could see it coming, it was another one of those paranoid times. As I was working, I sent him a quick note to tell him that I couldn’t talk to him.
When I returned home, I had a series of unfair and inflammatory comments from him, mixed with requests for forgiveness.
I only sent him one message: “That’s enough.” I deleted his account from my list of friends. I did what many of his Facebook “friends”, he told me, had already done to him. I had also come into contact with some Quebec “friends” who had left him. “Too heavy,” they told me.
So I abandoned him for the same reasons because I could no longer endure that. It was without shame that I cut the ties, hoping that, like O., the young man would eventually settle down.
I am not a Mother Theresa and, despite my goodwill, I cannot bring misfortune to everyone. I had to take a break from the vinegar volcano that is M. His country is equally immersed in this vinegar and, around him, regions are becoming acidified in almost general indifference, unless, of course, financial or political interests give our politicians the “courage” to raise their voices a little.
However, I now regret my gesture. It is easy to decide when you are happy, it is easy to withdraw your generosity… Maybe M. is crying, or he’s hunting another bird. He’s so young. There is hope if there is so much hope on this Earth.
I know that if I met M., it would be fine. I had the naivety to believe that our friendship could bring him a little sweetness. In any case, I hope that this young boy will be able to escape from this suffocating Algeria. He will be a doctor and could initially pursue his higher education in France. There, it seems to me, he could put his certainties into perspective.
I could ask him again for his friendship, but what will he do with it? Did I kill that screaming bird? I often think of him, hesitate between attachment and indifference. I probably have to let him live and then we’ll see. The best happiness will be the one he succeeds in building himself… He has the intellectual strength to do so, even if that same power could be his loss.
I keep telling myself, I should probably ask him again for his friendship on Facebook. Just to tell him I understand. But is that too condescending? He’d have every reason to tell me to go to hell. Now I’m dithering again…
I know we live in very different worlds. Our humanity is the same, but, let us say it, I still have the feeling that, in my country, we have evolved a little bit. We no longer live in the Middle Ages, nor in the 1950s. The battle is certainly not won and, judging by the rise of garbage radios, by the right-wing governments that are too easily elected. Of these bigoted laws passed in the USA and elsewhere, struggles are to come. But at least we can fight it. What about all the M. in the Arab world? What about our true willingness to impose our ideals? Without being prophets of misfortune, are we foolishly obeying history?
I may be told that nothing has changed. Only the magnifying glass of the Internet is new. Well, that’s fine. We must then roll up our sleeves and become brave, fighting first and foremost against the injustices that surround us for miles around.
Then we must talk about other injustices, pursue the word, make it known, reduce the sound of our useless televisions, take to the streets in the daily life of our thoughts, remain vigilant, continue to love and dream.
It is not only bad priests and bad imams who poison minds. They are only men and women, furious at certainties, ready to do anything to get their genes to take over yours.
Will it always be a fight on this Earth?