How can a spirit be broken? Well it is such an easy task that does not even require much skill or expertise and hence can be achieved quite easily. People have weaknesses, those weaknesses could be explored and then controlled with intimidation against one’s will to a point where one gives up. Simple ! We live in a world, in an age, where we have many of our weaknesses dancing all around us. We are prisoners to the desires of our spirits that we have trained and fed on vanity, corruption, ignorance, hatred, discrimination, injustice and many other evils that live inside us. Therefore I find it safe to state that we are all prisoners yet we see this illusion where we are living free in a free world. But are we? I personally do not think so.
But today I am not talking about such spirits as these, mine included, for such soles are but hollow and do not need to be broken. And then there would be the question of how to break a shattered spirit? So let us keep it to that. I want to talk about the spirits that are of the men who stand against something, who live for something and who die for something. I want to examine the very nature and composition of their spirits- what is in them that makes them great, gives them a courage so strong and a will so solid that their cause becomes their life, their will to change becomes an immovable mountain and their spirit- Immortal.
I wrote an article a few years back that now rests in my book “A Dance in Melancholy” called ‘The Green Glory’ and although it was about cricket yet I mentioned Madiba’s efforts in it in uniting South Africa in the real sense through rugby. Recalling that article now that I am writing this makes me state that in order to us to understand the great Madiba, we need to see that his struggle and victory was manifold i.e he abolished apartheid not only physically but also psychologically- the latter of which is the most challenging. While a man can change laws and bring about better ones, changing the hearts and minds of the people is a task that can never be brought about unless fought for by someone who devotes his entire self selflessly to the task.
Apartheid was not only a law but it was a social practice and was not considered immoral by the peoples. It was a law made decades ago and hence it was absolutely embedded in the very social and cultural fabric of the communities therein. The blacks were supposed to have different cues than the white, who were given preferential treatment, the blacks would only sit in buses if there was no white standing and if there were it was his right to make a black empty a seat for him. Blacks were given particular areas to live in, which were at times, far away from their workplaces and they had to live away from their families in order to feed them. All this was a regular practice without having anything wrong about it. Madiba saw this and started speaking and standing against it. He soon got attention by many blacks who did not have a man to follow but wanted to get rid of this evil. When the authorities saw that he is gaining momentum they jailed him and kept him in prison for 27 long years of his life. Well I think they did the right thing because imprisoning him for that long, they knew, his spirit would be broken forever. However, Madiba mentions in his memoirs that this made his spirit grow stronger than before and he would not stop. According to him the prison of that time used to be a place where keeping sanity intact for a man is the hardest of all challenges that the jails posed. Looking at the similar wall for hours and days and months and then years and in his case even decades is enough to make you lose your sanity. Over time he gained the respect of the inmates as well as some of the guards and all he could do was to write and he wrote- about freedom and about equality. The harder they tried to break him the stronger he emerged because he had the vision of a beautiful world inside of him, which was much stronger than the chaos outside of him and hence that is what made his spirit become unbreakable.
The way he used rugby to unite the South Africans after the abolition of apartheid is remarkable. he knew that the only thing that makes the blacks and whites of his nation unite in harmony is rugby and when Springbok won that world cup, he was able to bring people closer together- the people who had not yet come out of the effects of apartheid on an emotional and psychological level. His efforts, though not directly involved, yet paved the way for independence of Namibia where the passions of the people were fueled by his will to change.
How did he do all that and why was his spirit unbreakable? The only answer is that he was able to inspire others because he had a strong conviction against apartheid (meaning the state of being apart in African). He was a man who stood for unity, equality, dignity and respect. Above all he showed what his people longed for- GREATNESS ! he gave them that. And that is what enabled him in accomplishing the most difficult task of his times against all odds.
While he has passed away, the essence of the spirit that could not be broken lives on… Rest In Peace great Madiba.