chapter  2
13 Pages

The Context of the South African Narratives

ByVáclav Havel, Jan K. Coetzee, Lynda Gilfillan, Otakar Hulec

What is it that makes ordinary people commit acts that jeopardize their personal freedom and happiness? What inner compulsion makes them risk imprisonment and even death? The question is as old as Socrates and Spartacus. In the case of the six narrators of this book, it was the threat to their personal freedom and the obstacles put in the way of the achievement of personal happiness and fulfilment that caused them to take the risks they did. Resistance is the fruit of awareness and a profound sense of personal and social injustice. It results from the perception of threat, a sense of frustration, as well as anger and outrage. More than anything, perhaps, it was the will to live, the refusal to capitulate, the assertion of the self, that caused these people—and millions like them throughout human history—to tackle, in their small ways, political and social systems that were at once foreign and frightening.