Monday, November 7, 2011

Hold Everything Dear

"There are 8000 political prisoners in Israeli jails, 350 of them under eighteen years old. A period in prison has become a normal phase to be undergone, once or several times, in a man's life. Throwing stones can lead to a sentence or two and a half years or more.

Prison for us is a sort of education, a strange sort of university. The man speaking has glasses, is about fifty and is wearing a business-lunch suit. You learn how to learn there. He's the youngest of five brothers and imports coffee-machines. You learn how to struggle together and become inseparable. Certain conditions have improved over the last forty years - improved thanks to our hunger strikes. The most I did was twenty days. We won a quarter of an hour more exercise time each day. In the long-sentence prisons they used to mask the windows so there was no sunshine in the cells. We won back some sunshine. We got one body-search removed from the daily routine. Otherwise we read and discuss what we read, teach each other different languages. And come to know certain soldiers and some of the guards.

In the streets it's the language of bullets and stones between us. Inside it's different. They're in prison just as we are. The difference is we believe in what's got us there, and they mostly don't, because they are just there to earn a living. I know of some friendships that began like that.

The stance of undefeated despair works like this."

Page 16, 'Undefeated Despair', from 'Hold Everything Dear, Dispatches on Survival and Resistance' by John Berger, 2007

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