I am walking home from Julie’s work, where I have been fixing the solar set up. I have got it mainly done, though my back is aching from lugging around six 31.5kg deep cycle new batteries, and from removing the four old worn out 52kg batteries.
Half way down the street, I see two boys on bicycles target a smaller kid, also on a bike. It is sort of a game of chicken: intimidate the smaller boy by riding fast at him, to drive him into the ditch. The larger of the two boys succeeds and the small kid tumbles from his bike. He picks himself up, turns and shouts something back to the bully, probaby the Dari equivalent of ‘dickhead’.
Then, the larger boy stops and slowly, deliberately, dismounts from his bike. It triggers a flicker of fear I remember clearly from being bullied at school. It is clear he intends to continue his persecution, and a spasm crosses the young boy’s face. By this time, I am right beside the bully, but I have approached him from behind.
‘What are you doing? Are you giving trouble to this kid?’ My voice is measured.
‘Nothing’. Suddenly demure, the boy gets back on his bike as though he had just been testing his legs. ‘I’m not doing anything.’
The kid has already ridden off, and the bullying boy cycles away. It is scarcely brave of me; he is not alot smaller than me, but I am clearly a man, and more usefully, I am wearing a large fleecy jacket which makes me look quite bulky (anyone who knows me would recognise that to be a complete fiction).
I continue walking, then glance behind me. The boy has rejoined his companion and the two of them are gazing at me. A thought flashes across my mind: I just caused him to lose face in front of his friend. What if he knows someone? In these days, it is easy to move hostility into action. What if he tells someone, who tells someone, who tells someone, who does something?
It is a ridiculous thought and far fetched; I dismiss it.
It is a rational consideration and not far fetched at all.
This is what terror campaigns do: they break down trust and hope, they press people into guarded groups, they create a mindset of internal solidarity and external suspicion.