Midge walks into the Gym. You get the sense that it’s not the sort of place the old Midge would’ve visited. The old Midge would’ve been scared of the self-defence crowd.
The new Midge is all swagger, in his shades and his shiny jacket.
“Waiting on the Sarge?” he asks the room full of silent, watching, bemused, singlet-and-sweatpants-wearing blokes. “He’s been held up. He asked me to have a little chat with you.”
This is a lie.
“I learned a secret today. The secret of success. Thought I’d share it with you.”
Midge has been learning all sorts of things. He’s been quarry in a quarry, hunted through a rocky wilderness on another world, stalked by carnivorous beasts. He chose to survive at all costs. He killed… not just to survive but for fun, for revenge, for a feeling of power that – one senses – is entirely new to him, a new experience in a stunted and powerless dead-end life. Of course, in the process, he adopted the viewpoint of the beasts. The logic of tooth and claw. The logic of ‘fuck you, I’m all right’. The logic that makes you escape the lions by feeding them your friends.
“It’s common sense, right? It’s just the way of the world, right? Survival of the fittest.”
And he’s right, in a way. It is the way of the world. Everyone in his sleepy little home town, his pokey little corner of Thatcher’s Britain, is obsessed with the survival of the fittest. It has seeped all the way through society, into every nook and cranny. It’s in the shops, where Hale and Pace are scared of being driven out of business. It’s in the suburbs where the net curtains twitch. It’s in the Territorial Army training sessions where the Sarge says young men have to be taught to fight. It’s in the housing estate where Midge comes from.
It doesn’t matter that it’s one logic among many in nature, or that sometimes we see it in nature where it isn’t because we often mistake mirrors for windows, or that it may be fitting for the beasts but applying it to people is vacuous and specious and destructive. Truth is: for the purposes of the people who benefit from it, the more vacuous and specious and destructive it is, the better.
“Get rid of the deadwood, let the wasters go to the wall, and the strong will inherit the earth. You and me.”
Why do I suspect that some of the lads in this room used to bully Midge when they were at school with him?
“Do you hear what I’m saying?” he demands, furiously, enraged by their failure to respond to his glib soundbites, “Do you know what I’m talking about?”
He takes off his shades. Beneath them, his eyes are the yellow, mindless eyes of an animal. But that’s what he chose.
The Master is there. A stalking, diseased old man, seething with resentment and malice. Through Midge, his slavering pet, he casts his hypnotic spell over the young men in the room. They’ll do as they’re told.
When the Sarge gets back, he’ll find plenty of fighters, as ruthless as he always said they should be, none of them unwilling to send the weak to the wall. He should be proud.