by Bryce Courtenay
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It is curious that in the retelling of a dangerous situation the explanation is often made to include a premonition of the disaster. Whereas, in truth, most accidents strike like a viper of lightening from an apparently clear blue sky. It is as though human beings like to pump up the importance of a near escape or even a catastrophe by placing the hand of destiny at the helm of calamity.
•My camouflage, begun so many years before under the persecution of the Judge, was now threatening to become the complete man. It was time to slough the mottled and cunningly contrived outer skin to emerge as myself, to face the risk of exposure, to regain the power of one. I had reached the point where to find myself was essential.
•The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete; the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further or box better. Hoppie’s dictum to me: ‘ First with the head and then with heart’ was more than simply mixing brains with guts. It meant thinking well beyond the powers of normal concentration and then daring your courage to follow your thoughts.
•Do you know why the English managed to conquer half the globe? Because they were so bloody stupid! Some half-witted lord jumped up in a general’s uniform would simply advance on a position and expend men, he didn’t care, they were only yeomen and slum slush, cannon fodder. He just kept sending them in and so help me they kept on going, until eventually he won. You call that bravery? I call that two things, murder and stupidity. The generals murdered their men and the men were too stupid to resist.
•Doc had taught me the value of being the odd man out. The man assumes the role of the loner, the thinker and the searching spirit who calls the privileged and the powerful to task. The power of one was the courage to remain separate, to think through to the truth and not to be beguiled by convention or the plausible arguments of those who expect to maintain power, whatever the cost.
•I had survived by passing as unnoticed as possible, by anticipating the next move against me, by being prepared when the shit hit the fan to take it in my stride, pretending not to be hurt or humiliated. I had learned early that silence is better than sycophancy, that silence breeds guilt in other people. That it is fun to persecute a pig because it squeals, no fun at all to persecute an animal which does not cry out.
•It wasn’t until I went to boarding school for the second time that I learned that survival is a matter of actively making the system work for you rather than attempting merely to survive it.
•I learned that the greatest camouflage of all is consistency. If you do something often enough and at the same time and in the same way, you become invisible. One of the shadows. Every recidivist knows this. In prison, to be successful, plans have to be laid long term. Habits have to be established little by little, each day or week or month or even year, a minute progression towards the ultimate goal. When a routine is finally set, authorities no longer see it for what it is, a deception; but accept it for what it isn’t: an authorised routine. The prisoner enjoys the advantage over his keeper of continuity.
•Sometimes it’s best just to walk away from your memories, just put one memory in front of the other and walk them right out of your head.
•I didn’t know then that what seemed like the end was only the beginning. All children are flotsam driven by the ebb and flow of adult lives. Unbeknownst to me the tide had turned and I was being swept out to sea.