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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan’

The Long Walk – Chapter 100, Freedom

In Mish-Mash of Books, Uncategorized on July 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Last night I reached Chapter 100 of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom – it is the freedom chapter, February 1990.

11 February 1990 – Nelson Mandela release after more than 27 years in prison.

It is a big book about big events and big issues … but it is has a quiet, calm tone. A tone that is nevertheless resolute and shows the strength of personal belief, principles, and integrity. There is much to discover between its covers – certainly plenty that is of historical significance. More importantly about human-ness.

One attribute that stands out is his [Mandela’s] recognition that even those who have the most despotic and anti-human behaviours nevertheless retain a core of humanity. It may be deep and difficult to see … but it is there.

I get the sense that Mandela sees almost all human failings as being a product of the system within which they have to work and live. He certainly believes it about those who are the workhorses of the system, those in the lower ranks of the system.

One of his jailers, Piet Badenhorst, had behaviours that were cruel and sadistic. Mandela describes him as being the “most callous and barbaric commanding officer we had had on Robben Island”. When it came time for Badenhorst to depart Robben Island, he showed Mandela a level of empathy and understanding that was surprising.

Mandela concludes:

Ultimately … his [Badenhorst’s] inhumanity was foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behaviour.

It is a thought that is not unique or illuminating, but it is one we need to keep in mind.

It does raise a couple of questions for me:

How does a system that diminishes humanity become entrenched? Is it the leader that is responsible? Or the people being led?

And, how do some people, rise above the system?

Thinking about systems and structures and the impact they have on behaviours always brings to mind the youthful but sophisticated poem/song from Bob Dylan – about the shooting of Medgar EversOnly A Pawn In Their Game.

There are plenty who dispute the facts used by Dylan for this song. What cannot be disputed is the potent imagery and poetic analysis of a society’s system and the impact it has on individual action and behaviour.

The deputy sherriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Medgar Evers – being arrested, 11 days later he was shot in front of his home.