Radicals, by definition and persuasion, are those who advocate for a thorough or complete social or political reform through extreme measures. They are oftentimes referred to as revolutionaries, progressives or reformists. They are never known to subscribe to norms or any acceptable social behaviour that preserves the status quo. In other words, they are for immediate, sudden change of the social order even if in the process the recourse may be outside of law or even if the means is considered criminal. The State has nothing to do with these people since they operate outside of the legal system. At best, when apprehended or caught espousing their mission, they are eventually brought to the bar of justice and therefrom impose the rule of law.
What happen next is that they are sent to the calaboose to serve time along with the so called common felons. In prison, unlike in the free community where they came from, they are subsequently mixed. At first glance, their impulse is to regroup and regain their foothold but the numerical strength of those at the other end provides a reckoning set back. They either would perish brandishing their cause or survive just by swimming along with the tide.
And so, acceptance and resignation become their nature in understanding their new environment. Everything around them spells institutional order. They are given designation regardless of offense. They assimilate and receive the usual and traditional reception given to any ordinary prisoner. At times, they are even recruited to be members of gangs, groups that represent the requirements for institutional survival.
After a year, they no longer believe in their cause, at least for the time being. They are preoccupied with the daily grind in the prison community. They are more concerned with domestic woes, food, shelter and basic needs including laundry and personal care. In a way, environment has a way of taming the wild. Imprisonment to an offender creates this condition, in much the same way, a cage does to endangered specie.
The radical is deradicalized even without institutional or organized intervention.
The question of a radical radicalizing his environment is pure myth. Unless of course the basic principle on which an ideological concept will simply be embraced in the pragmatic sense. Unless of course the world view expressed to the vulnerable community is done along spiritual means.
Religion is the most effective and the most fervent of all influence. A prisoner languishing in prison has no other way to reach out and grab sanity unless he surrenders himself to a supernatural concept. If he does not believe in a Supreme Being, he has no alternative but invent one. To preserve his sanity and sense of realism he must personally cling to this self-preserving approach. Note that there is nothing social or sociological in this self sustaining adherence. The radical has so much to confront, most of which were his personal demons before he could project himself as an effective medium.
This explains the fact that most of those branded as radicals and penalized to serve time as such would rather get into the groove of religion. First, to maintain his grasp on reality and secondly, and this is a long shot, to influence those around him. There is too much selfishness in a homogenous grouping before anything gregarious is to take place.
Radicalism in prison is never an issue and it will never even take shape at all. Nelson Mandela, one of the most famous prisoners in history, was deradicalized while serving time. Before him, we have Napoleon Bonaparte, Ninoy Aquino, Nilo Tayag, even Jose Rizal. If at all, radicalism would serve a person in prison, it was only to enhance their world view on honesty, respect for humanity and patience. These are qualities that make a person matured and enough consideration for him to further evolve into a better person learned in the art of understanding. And that is exactly the opposite of what radicalization means.
Former Senator (and Presidential father) Ninoy Aquino when he was imprisoned in a military stockade once remarked, “Eating in gold utensils while incarcerated does not mitigate any pain.” Well, something to that effect. Imprisonment, as it were, is indeed an agonizing episode in a person’s life. And worst, the condition of any custodial facility does not even inspire human rights.
There are incidents however that remarkably dot and create some kind of respite to the drab and monotonous condition of prison life. These are instances when celebrity convicts are admitted into the prison community to serve time. They are a whiff, a breath of fresh air to the prison population. They are the apple in the eyes of gangs, the potential economic saviors among the destitute sector of the incarcerated enclave, the favorite consultants of everyone, whether prisoners or prison officers alike.
They exude a different aura from the standpoint of the prison community; they are a cut above the rest. Their smile seem to be profound; their demeanor exacting and cautious. They are more given to contemplation than exuberance. They are less criminal from the stereotype. They are just simply aloof.
Fellow prisoners flock to them like insects to a fruit. They merit respect and they reciprocate with equal intensity. They have the resources to extend assistance directly to a subservient fellow or indirectly to his family outside. Those inmates around the celebrity would shower their principal with a host of considerations—from massage, to doing laundry, from cooking to securing. The celebrity is treated like nobility and inmates are willing subjects. From the standpoint of the prison community, the celebrity is a hard act to follow but easier to please.
Hence a sector they are, a slim and dim a percentage, imperceptible but quite engrossing. They are the privileged, the silent movers, the thinkers and advisers, magnificently ensconced and highly esteemed. Their friendship is prized. They in turn are accorded with deference by the prison community as a whole, by a fan base of believers. They are treated like very importantly. They are from the ground a recipient of VIP treatment.
Only security feedback would reach administration. That there is an institutional divide comprising of those not treated equally is beyond the pale of analysis. All of the inmates are in the same space, restricted by walls, lumped in a dormitory and compelled to serve time. All are known by their prison numbers and as a necessary consideration, they are all statistic. Nowhere is there a special number, neither there is a special consideration for computing time serve according to rank. Everything revolves around a standard, a customary law known as prison rule and no one is expected to toe the line. Institutionally, there can never be any VIP treatment at all.
But for all intents and purposes, what is glaring in the daily scheme of things in prison is maltreatment. The dormitories, packed exceeding are in a state of building fatigue. It could collapse after a brief tremor. Ventilation could no longer be obtained because of overcrowding. Medical services could barely be delivered, hampered as it were by lack of equipment notwithstanding competent crew of physicians on the roster. These and more. Result on the physique of the inmate is telling. Signs of torture even if not physically abused are expressed in their state of health. And in some respects if one hears that there is special treatment by inmates on a few of their deferred companions conducted, it is as if the correctional system has committed a grievous fault.
The public, the general population, the free community still adhere to the belief that prison should always be a place where maltreatment must be the order of the day.
My ever dearest daughter,
You expressed an air of relief or some kind of frustration last night when you sent this message to me “…sometimes I hope the world would be less complicated, less pruning. Glad friends and relatives keep me sane.” You may also, I submit for your perusal, include books and notebooks for that matter. Because if all else fail, it boils down to just one—your self. I remember sometime in the distant past when there was this quiz craze in the school campus when a question was circulated with the following inquiry: “If you will be marooned in an island all by yourself, what are the three things that you will bring?” We had fun answering it; we even intentionally answered it foolishly. We were young, unattached and the world was our playground. We never cared about life at all. Caring and well being were within the jurisdiction of our parents. We can safely afford to be care free.
But as one matures and is exposed to the vagaries of life—a short, at times, challenging and pain consuming life—one wonders, more so if he is all alone, by himself, what it is that makes him safe, secured, sane? He begins to think back and try to enumerate, perhaps appreciate where he is or where he should be or where he is headed to. Looking for meaning, defining every instance, wondering whether there is something to be done or probably folding up for doing something worth leaving, contemplating whether there is still something the world can offer or maybe some plans which the world is as yet to expect from one self. That is right. You said it correctly. Life is complicated nowadays. You add technology and presto! Life is a mixture of everything civilization has jumbled and muddled in the course of its evolution.
That is why there was this fad before, a “back to the basics” movement. There was wisdom in said activity although it never achieved quite a following. It was drowned with the latest innovation in the field of technology. The movement was something worth looking into anyway. It boiled down to contemplation, praying if you may, on reflecting in one corner, call it your room or your favorite side of the altar. No, not to perform a rite or ritual or some kind of incantation, but just to sit and focus on one matter, say a lighted candle, or a blank paper. In other words, only one activity (no multitasking). One tries to strip off everything that meant complication: processed foods, television shows, and dependency on Google or face book, malling, chatting, downloading apps, counting friends or savings, even expenses.
In my case, I scribble. I have an endless list to do as a matter of fact which makes me sane all throughout. I try to list down all my friends and describe them. I tell you its fun. Sometimes, I try to list down all those who became my opponents, those who try to pull me down and describe them physically and my fun is doubled. I have a lot of foolish ideas too; a separate notebook is reserved for that. I write a lot and it is not only very rewarding, it makes me stable and my thoughts always fresh. Thinking is what makes us human; reflection restores us back to humanity. A reading chore, even for a while, is a welcome break. But laughter, that capability to laugh at ourselves, at our mistakes, even at others (although you should not poke a rude joke at anyone, but you can write it down in your diary nonetheless) in other words, the capacity to see incongruity, fulfills our equilibrium. I tell you its more fun that way.
And when you begin to appreciate, to have fun, then life becomes meaningful. As your world becomes platonic and at times swirling through insanely, you feel you are alone in the universe enjoying every minute of the time.
And when that happens, no, you will not become a philosopher or a writer of note or a sage. You simply become your good old self, respectful, vibrant and ever youthful. Also, you will be projecting to your environment a capable, strong and a settled ally to those that matters to you. That in essence is what we really wanted to in the first place.
Take care always.
Your Loving Papey