11 July 2016

Whatever happens, hold on to your heart*

Tough fights, the really tough ones, can cost you.  If you take on the beast, comrades, then you’ve got to run the risk of being bitten or worse.  Take it as a given – when the enemy is desperate, the enemy can get really nasty.  Tear gas and baton charges are on the cards.  Abductions and torture. Count these as probable rather than possible.  There’s a lot that can happen this side of assassination or, as we came to call it in the terrible years towards the end of the eighties, ‘disappearance’.   Incarceration, for example.

Scared?  Don’t be.  Maybe you didn’t think through this rebelling business.  Maybe you thought and still think ‘It will not happen to me’.  Anyway, the most important thing is that you’ve decided to rebel, decided to say ‘no’, decided to say ‘enough’ to something or the other.  It could be a small battle or a big one.  If it’s a small battle, defeat won’t faze you.  If it is big, then you’ve got to think a bit more.  It’s the big battles we are talking about here.

So let’s assume you’ve been arrested. Rest assured there would be laws that allow your enemy to hold you indefinitely in some miserable cell in some remote corner of the country.  Most likely such laws are part of the reason why you decided to rebel in the first place.  Anyway, let’s say you’ve been arrested.  The food would be horrible.  For a bed you might have to make do with a hard, cold, uneven cement floor.  It would probably be stinking.  You might have to share the cell with some despicable people and not ‘comrades’.  Sometimes being alone might seem a better proposition.   

Sometimes being alone is worse.  Either way, the worst thing could be that you don’t get to see daylight and that could be more terrible than not being able to see your loved ones.  You might want that tiny piece of sky that you once saw through a half-open window or that shimmer of moonlight on rain-wetted leaves.  Things like that.  Small things like that.  It’s tough, even for the toughest rebels. 
Now there are no guidebooks written about how to deal with such situations.  We do have notes that people who’ve had to spend dozens of years in prison have written.  Prison notebooks, so to say.  Some of these have been written by highly articulated people who have had to spend time ‘inside’ for ‘rebelling’.  Their words might give you a clue.  Take for example the words of Nazim Hikmet, the Turkish poet who spend more than half his life either in prisons or in exile. 

Nazim says, ‘keep your heart’ (at all costs), whichever prison you happen to inhabit:

‘Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it’s not that you can’t pass
            ten or fifteen years inside
                                    and more –
            you can,
            as long as the jewel
            on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose its luster!’

There’s something there. Sure, you have to keep your wits about you if not for anything to exploit the half chance your detractors give you out of negligence, complacency or simply arrogance and over-confidence.  The proposal here is not to dump mind and keep heart.  It’s about keeping the heart, regardless. 

You have to believe.  You have to continue to love.  You have to keep your faith in people.  You have to believe that there’s something beautiful in all human beings, including the jailor who locked you up, the judge who sentenced you and the comrade who may have betrayed you to the enemy.  It’s all about love.  It’s about the heart.    And sometimes it is all about learning a simple lesson written by a beautiful man who wrote in a language you’ve never heard and fought battles you are unaware of. 

It’s the heart.  It is precious.  Keep it.  


*When I was working at 'The Nation' I wrote a column for the FREE section of the paper which was dedicated to youth.  The title of the column was 'Notes for a Rebel'.  I wrote a total of 52 articles in this series.  I have resumed by 'Notes for a Rebel', this time writing for the website www.nightowls.lk.  Scroll down for the other articles in this series on rebels and rebellion.




Other articles in this series










The sun will never set
When the enemy expands consider inflation
When you are the last one standing
Targets visible and targets unidentified
When you have to vote
So when are you planning to graduate?
The belly of the beast is addictive
When you meet pomposity, flip the script
When did you last speak with an old man?
Dear Rebel, please keep it short
Get ready for those setbacks
The rebel must calculate or perish
Are you ready to deceive?
Dear Rebel, 'P' is also for 'Proportion' 
Dear Rebel, have you got the e-factor out of the way?
Have you carefully considered the f-word?
It is so easy to name the enemy, right?
The p-word cuts both ways
Cards get reflected in eyes, did you know?
It's all about timing 
Heroes and heroism are great, but...
Recruiting for a rebellion
The R, L and H of 'Rebellion'
Pack in 'Humor' when you gather rebellion-essentials
When the enemy is your best friend
The MSM Principle of Engagement
Dear Rebel, get some creature-tips!
Dear Rebel, get through your universities first
Read the enemies' Bibles
Poetry, love and revolution
Are you ready to shut down your petrol shed
The details, the details!
Know your comrades
Good to meditate on impermanence.
Time is long, really long
Learn from the termites 
Be warned: the first victory is also the first defeat
Prediction is asking for trouble
Visualize, strategize and innovate
How important is authority?
Don't forget to say 'Hello!'
It's not over until you clean up!
Have you met 'PB' of Alutwela?
Are you sure about those selfies?
Power and principles
'Few does not mean 'weak'


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