It struck me, every movie I enjoyed celebrated the victors who were most violent, who dominated, who won through slaughter. It was an odd thought to seep into my brain as they led me to The Hate Room. I thought I was ready too. I thought, this is what I knew would happen, so I should not be surprised.
‘It’s silly’ I told myself, ‘It’s ridiculous and manipulation’. But the truth is, when you hear hate raw, when it looks you in the eye, unapologetically, like a sentence laid down, hate cripples you.
The Hate Room was a dark glass bubble. The people, The Hate Jury, they would be organised around the edge, all wearing normal clothes, with normal faces, and yet, there was this anticipation, like a gang was going to assault you, to the core.
It began with stripping. ‘Typical’ I thought. Strip my clothes off me and I am exposed, I am vulnerable. So simple. Then The Hate Ritual was instigated. A wave of a hand, and the insults erupted.
‘You look so stupid! You’re pathetic! Look at your stupid shaped nose! Call yourself a man, look how small you are down there!” Weird to begin. But after the cursory physical insults it was obvious they were given the most personal details of my life, some that I didn’t even know myself.
“Your dad thinks you’re useless, he’s been recorded saying so to your mother. Remember when he slapped you when you were five, that was because you were a disappointment to him, a little loser that couldn’t achieve a thing. And your wife, she dreams of other men, she has a Manhunt account. You must be shit to everyone you love, because they all hate you!”
After just 30 minutes it began to hurt. It was the data they had, it was so personal. They were screaming, they were nasty and you had no way to respond. You were put in a chair, bonded to it and made to listen.
These strangers were given your life like it was a plate of food for consumption. I didn’t know if they were paid or volunteered but my best guess was, they were there because they felt they needed to be.
Their eyes were fire. They had so much to unload. I could not understand how I could become a target so convincingly, so quickly for their rage, when they had never met me.
The Hate Room was rough. I was shaken by the end of the session but I had taken it. It was worth the comment I had made on social media about the Prime Minister. I knew it would inspire someone somewhere to be brave too. That single act of rebellion could be something to trigger change, maybe.
I didn’t expect the next stage, it was something never mentioned in the sentencing. They took me, naked, through a gauntlet of anger, people were allowed to throw fruit and other small objects and something caught me in the eye, in a way that stung so harshly I asked the guard for help, but of course that was futile.
I was placed in another chair in another dark room. I wondered if this time I would be read a judgement. It would be a ritual that would make sense after the onslaught. I was gasping, it was like the wind-down from a fight but of course, the abuse was one way.
A single voice. A man who had no empathy at all, it was obvious.
“Ten punches to the face.”
I blinked in confusion. That was not lawful. What was this? Something I knew, from a life of rebellion and defending people being assaulted, was that ten punches in the face could disfigure or kill me.
From the dark emerged a Justice Giver, as they called them. I had only seen them on the news dealing with protesters, never up close like this. A stone-faced man with a grey T shirt, someone who clearly worked out, muscles bulging, and he looked at me like a worm to squash. I had no way of defending myself.
The first punch knocked out my front teeth. They nearly choked me as they slid into my throat, such was the force. The second, dislodged my left eye. The third gave me an egg-like swelling on my forehead. The fourth broke my jaw. The fifth, well, that punch put me in a coma. I later assumed the remaining five punches were carried out in accordance with the sentencing, as there were additional injuries. My face was a mess.
I awoke in a hospital the next day.
A team of three administrators had been despatched to be by my side as my remaining eye opened slowly. They did not smile, nor displayed any recognition of my injuries.
They told me that my sentence had been carried out and I was banned from having a computer. If I did anything again, they would execute me. I lay in bed. The Hate Room was all I could recall. The comments. So damning. So awful. So sick. It made me realise, I was brittle, like soft twigs under a boot, and in the most fundamental way, the Government were right all along. If you can see everything, you can control everything, it was clear.
It dawned on me, as they walked away, without a computer I would be harder to track. I would need to be more careful next time.