Yesterday a kid of about 14 mocked me to an extent I've not seen so far. I first noticed him as I was approaching the stone steps that lead up to the next level of my apartment complex. He maneuvered his bike around so he was facing in my direction, from about 20' away. He dismounted his bike in perfect simultaneity with me, which I was able to see in the periphery. I was moving slowly, so as I began up the steps, he was able to get only a few steps behind me. He then said something which sounded like "bello" but I'm sure he meant "hello," as I turned slightly to see if he was behind me. This was said as you might expect from a 14 year old--quick and somewhat defensive.
He followed me up the steps, then copied me again, getting back on his bike in perfect simultaneity with me. The timing was incredible--there were perhaps only milliseconds of difference in the coordination.
Of course, in reading this, it may be hard to detect what is amiss. I only make note of it because it's a more blatant form of the often subtle harassment and mind games which I've recognized for about the last eight months. By even bothering to write about it, I'm giving in to the cumulative effects that this has had on me.
The episode reminded me of the fundamentalist parents who send their kids running onto the grounds of abortion clinics as a form of protest (they still do that, don't they?)
It reminded me even more of an article I read in the November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine. It was about a group called Machsom Watch, an Israeli group of mostly retired women who decided to start monitoring the abuses of the Israeli soldiers at checkpoints in the Occupied territories. They have been allowed to do this, within a certain framework, but their activities have spawned a counter-group of Jewish settlers who monitor and harass the Machsom Watch volunteers. The settlers engage in posturing, name calling and note taking, among other things. In the article, a scene is described in which a young girl, one of the settlers, hands one of the Machsom Watch volunteers a note which reads, "Thank you for selling our blood to the Arabs."
What happened yesterday was not a result of religious zealotry however. I imagine the deeper causes of this may involve idolatry of Leader (Bush or token patriarchal figure) which certainly has religious implications.
These types of activities are the fruit of "intelligence" gathering. Knowing when I leave, where I'm going, how I'm feeling, and what would bother me most at that moment--this isn't a result of religious divination, but rather the result of technical and behavioral skills. In fact, this little episode may have been meant to mimic, in part, that article I read many months ago. The article was the first thing I related the episode to.
I make note of the incident only because of the similarity to religious zealotry, and since it marks a more blatant attempt at using the fruits of surveillance for harassment purposes.
The allusion in the title is to the Jews of Austria who were publicly humiliated after the Nazi takeover, by being forced to scrub sidewalks. It may be hyperbole to use this reference, but it helps to illustrate the point.