Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Trust and loyalty

I have been cogitating over the last several days on the subject of trust and loyalty. There isn't a lot of it about around this place - or any other prison for that matter. Rumours spread like an anti-social disease when the fleet is in town. The majority of it isn't malicious, the rumour-mongering - it's boredom as much as anything else. Cons, or at least some of them, gossip worse than old women at the Darby and Joan weekly meeting. The lives of prisoners are so empty, all they have is gossip in many cases. That's all very well - we all need a hobby in this world - but gossip can be malicious and dangerous.

Personally, I avoid gossip and the purveyors of it, but every now and then somebody comes to tell me something. Why do people feel the insatiatable urge to confess? It must be some sort of latent residue from their childhood when they actually believed all that rubbish about their noses growing like Pinocchio's if they lied, or some such cobblers. Fellows come to me and start to tell me their secrets - but I stop them. I don't want to know them. We all have our secrets and reasons for keeping them, but once we tell someone else then they are no longer secrets.

Not all secrets are harmful, and reasons for keeping secrets are not always sinister, but whatever the secrets may be I don't want to be the keeper for anyone else - but I am. I am not exactly sure how it came about, but I am full of the secrets of others. Oh it is all very gratifying to know that I am seen as trustworthy, and I would never disclose the secrets of another, no matter what that secret may be.

The way I see things is that I have every right to tell anyone about what I may or may not have done, but I have no right whatever to tell anyone else's secrets or confidences. That's why I get a bit irritated when I read these books by retired, so-called gangsters who seem to think that just because they are retired they have the right to tell all. They don't. Even though we might be free to tell all about ourselves, we have no right to tell about others - we are compelled to keep their secrets and take them to the grave with us. Just because we give up the life does not mean that we can give up the ethics. We cannot abrogate responsibility - even the guilty must be cared about and protected, rightly or wrongly.

This train of thought all came about a few days ago when someone came to tell me that he had told someone something in confidence and that a third party had been told about it. In effect the fellow felt that he had been betrayed!

"Why did you tell him in the first place?" I asked.

"I trust him!" was the response.

"Well," said I, "that was a mistake, wasn't it?"

He replied, "If you can't trust your mates, who can you trust?"

"Nobody, my son, nobody," said I.

"I trust you."

I grinned. "Then you are a bigger fucking mug than I thought."

The point is, in the life I have lead as a career criminal - a term it took me a long time to accept in fact - I have always been of the opinion that villains are intrinsically unpredictable and will commit all manner of stupidities. However, we can forgive just about anything and invariably do, sooner or later. The only thing that is unforgiving and unforgivable is treachery.

Which brings me neatly to the words of E.M. Forster who died in 1970:

I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.
The Voice In The Wilderness

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