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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

omerta

*long long entry, don't bitch*

I don't know whether this word really exists, or whether it was created by Mario Puzo when he wrote Godfather. He later wrote a book bearing it as the title. Omerta, supposedly is a centuries old Sicilian code of conduct which basically asks people to shut up.

No, that does not mean that you can't scold your kid. Basically, it states that you have to keep quiet on matters pertaining to the law. Which means that if you see somebody mugging your mother-in-law, you aren't supposed to go around telling the police (although, why would you?). It doesn't stop there. You aren't even supposed to report to the police if you were walking down the alley and got sodomised by a drunkard. Those buggers must really have hated the police. The only justice you would get is by seeking justice through friends of friends, in other words, the Mafia.

You might be thinking what a fucked up law this is, but I think most people in my generation have willingly abided by this unspoken code of conduct during the later part of their schooling days. I remember kindergarten and the early days of primary school. No, Omerta never existed in the minds of kids. Back then, when you swore to be best friends forever, and unite in the fight against evil, that pledge only lasted as old as the day.

The next day, when somebody said "shit", everybody would surround him, their forefingers pointing at him while singing, "Hor, hor, tak tahu. Hor hor, tak tahu." (there's no literal translation which makes sense, but in adult terms, it would be "You're fucked dude, I don't know what you are going to do.") Or when little Peter pulled little Jane's hair, other little kids would report to their teacher and Peter's mother and Jane's mother when they came to pick the kids up. Sometimes even Mary's mum, Tom's dad and John's sister would also be told when they came to pick up the kids.

It was much later on, in secondary school, only when the kids learned the value of friendship and loyalty did Omerta take effect. It was a value that was not taught in the classrooms, but was learned on school grounds. Loyalty, and sometimes the fear of getting beat up were the main driving force behind the principles of silence. I think this is the main reason gangsterism in schools has always existed (although maybe more widespread today) and will never be totally eradicated.

I remember an occasion in the school science lab. Typically, we sat in our lab groups of 5 or 6 arounds large rectangular tables. There were 6 such tables in the lab. Embedded in each table were sinks and taps to wash stuffs after Biology and Chemistry experiments. The taps were as old as the school, and could be unscrewed by itchy fingers, which really is a stupid idea cause it gives the same effect as a burst fire hydrant.

One day during a Physics lab lesson, the teacher left the lab for a moment, leaving us to do our experiments. It was a physics lab, and there was no need to use the sinks. But this dude, Jordan had other ideas. Jordan was a nice guy, funny too. He was, however, very horny and dim-witted - a disastrous combination. He once remarked to a bunch of guys. "You guys are stupid man. If I had a sister like you guys, I would take advantage of it." I leave you to ponder his words and imagine the reaction he got.

Jordan wondered what it would be like to unscrew the tap, and so he did. A jet of water shot 3 feet in the air. Panicking, he tried to shove the tap back into the pipe orifice, which resulted in the water splashing all over the lab. Some people, the dumbones, rushed to the table to help him screw back the tap. The smarter ones, like me stayed far away so that we won't get wet. When the teacher came into the class finding a jet of water flying through the air and water all over the place, he reacted like how anybody of authority would - scream until his balls grew to the size of his head.

Someone finally fixed the tap in, but that was the beginning of the troubles. Some of the mini-transformers (not the toy) were soaking wet. The teacher ran to get the discipline teacher. He was a short fuck, about 4 and the half feet, but everybody was scared of him. When nobody would own up for the crime, and nobody volunteered information, he made it clear that nobody, including himself would leave the lab until someone owned up. For 2 hours, nobody budged as his eyes stared at us. Jordan obviously had balls the size of his brains (small) and wouldn't own up. Neither would his friends, as loyalty would have it. Neither would the rest of the class in fear of breaking Omerta. The reprecussions of such a cowardly act would be severe.

The 2 hours had passed, and the bell had rung signalling that school was over at 3.30pm (yes, my school ended at 3.30pm). Shorty told us not to leave as he went back to the staff room to clock out. We thought that he wanted to go home, Jordan did not need to admit to the crime and we could go home as well. 5 minutes later, when he came back to the lab, he announced that he called his wife and told her not to wait for him for dinner.

No way were we going to fall for that trick. So we waited.

It was 4pm. Jordan still didn't want to get into shit. His friends didn't want to lose a friend. Everybody else didn't want to make an enemy (or get beaten up). Even the class nerds kept their mouths shut.

By 5pm, everybody knew that Shorty was not joking. He could see it in our eyes that we were restless. He told us that he would leave the class for 5 minutes while we discussed it amongst ourselves. Jordan asked one of his pals to tell Shorty the culprit. His pal refused, saying that Jordan alone should do it. And so, when Shorty returned, Jordan admitted his crime.

Why did anybody have the guts to say anything? Half the class missed their school bus home. The other half kept their parents waiting. Why would the class nerds, with no social reputation to withhold not say a word? Why didn't Vincent, with the mouth of a machine gun not say anything?

I like to think of it as a unique time in our lives when Omerta was the rule of the tongue. After school and in the real world, nobody gives a shit about you. In the corporate would, as I hear it, loyalties do not exist. Who gives a fuck about you, when looking after my own back is more important. Sure, Omerta is a stupid senseless law, but it sure teaches a kid a lesson in life more important than all - loyalty.

Omerta. What a beautiful word.


*1200 words in just half an hour. Wondering why, just 3 days ago it took me 6 hours to write a 2000 word case study*

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