My son’s teacher announced that among the students there is one who – while remaining incognito – is on a list of those who misbehave. What these children are experiencing is the paralysis that is generated by the sense of being watched, the fear of provoking denunciation. For now, the “whiff” of being a bad actor can only result in a scolding or punishment, but the day will come when it could cost someone a job, the ability to travel, the small privileges acquired and freedom.
For those who have lived since childhood with all these suspicions and paranoia, trust is a feeling that only brings problems. We are all suspicious of everyone. If someone keeps to themselves we say, “It’s something in their walk.” If, on the other hand, they are extroverted, we put the stamp of an infiltrating provocateur on them. We doubt the neighbor who smiles, while looking at what we carry in our bag, of the friend who comes to visit us at too strategic times, and the relative who talks nonsense on the telephone. We distrust those who leave because perhaps they are following orders from outside, and we guard our criticisms, here inside, because these views can be bait for the unwary.
I look around me and realize that the repeated fertilization of our paranoia has worked. Agents of the CIA, members of State Security, populate our fears. The feared “mole” who could be anyone, and from whom we protect ourselves, is the most efficient gag and has been the most effective and successful path to disunity.