14 / CHRONICLESnheld in Hanoi were free to go any time, provided thenprisoner (1) cut juicy-enough anti-American tapes and (2)nthat he was then wilhng to violate our prisoners’ undergroundnorganization’s self-imposed creed of comradeship:n”Accept no parole or amnesty; we all go home together.”nThus we came to imprison ourselves, for honor, in accordancenwith our Code of Conduct. I might add that thisnmystified several high officials of our government in Washington.nThey didn’t know their own Code.)nGiven their charge, the breaking of human will, thencharacter of political prisons’ regimes is as immutable asnthat of human nature itself That is to say, neither what isndone nor how the victims grapple with it changes appreciably,ncentury in and century out (Dostoevsky’s, Cervantes’nand my accounts are all the same). At the heart of thenorganization is a master extortionist or commissar (Gletkinnof Darkness at Noon, the Cat of In Love and War). Theynuse the same methods that were used in the Middle Ages.nThey don’t use drugs (they want to impose guilt, they wantnauthenticity—no easy outs or plausible denials). Theyndon’t use brainwashing (there is no such thing). They usenpain, administered by a few selected torture guards. Theynuse isolation, which requires only the cells described above.nThey use a trip-wire system of multitudinous regulations,nsome of which many inmates will inadvertently breaknbecause of their number and ambiguity, and other regulationsnwhich almost all inmates will eventually intentionallynbreak because their requirements defy human nature. (Innparticular, a regulation for us never to communicate in anynway with another American prisoner.) The whole idea is toninduce prisoners to break regulations. Since any violation isnconsidered, prima facie, moral turpitude (“evidence ofningratitude”), it is used as moral justification to recycle theninmate through the torture meat-grinder. From that, thencommissars obtain, on a production line basis, confessions,napologies, and atonements (their big payoff item).nSeasoned veterans of these regimes come to realize thatnpain and isolation, to say nothing of the other commonlyndiscussed deprivations and miseries, are mere acceleratorsnto the major pincers of this will-breaking machine: imposednfear and guilt. “Destabilize with fear, polarize with guilt,”nsays the graffiti on the cave walls of the alchemists of thenMiddle Ages who worked on psychic transformation undernpressure. In fact, the total regime comes to seem to itsnsufferers like an alchemist’s hermetically sealed, pressurized,nand heated retort, in which they are perpetuallynstalked, hounded down, and harpooned with barbs of fearnand guilt.nLike all good squeeze-play systems, this one is built tondestroy the man who chooses the “middle way,” whondecides to be “reasonable,” to “meet them halfway.” Fornhours on end, my commissar would plead with me to follownthat track: “You are an American, you are pragmatic; come,nlet us reason together.” It is only when he can get you tonlevel with him in some small way, to drop your guard andnbetray an emotional dependence on his goodwill, that hencan get his crowbars of fear and guilt behind your armor andnbegin to twist.nPolitical prison extortion is one grand leverage game.nThe inmate is well served to chant the rules he must live bynunder his breath; “Show no fear.” “Never trigger shame.”nnn”The credibility of your defiance must be maintained.”n”The prison onslaught must be contained.” “Never levelnwith a jailer.” The prisoner soon learns that to survive withnself-respect, he has to strip out all that remains of thatnstudent-body-president personality that lurks in all of us—nthat willingness to be open and to respond in interestingnways. With time and care, many in their own way and withnclear knowledge of themselves are well-served to build annew personality from scratch—one that even under torturendoes not betray its falsity, one that is calculated to be hard tonmanipulate. What you need is a personality that does notnbetray a dependence on externals, on others. To havenexternal psychic needs is to be vulnerable, in Stoic terms, tonbe vulgar.nThe condition and characteristic of a vulgar personnis that he never looks for either help or harm fromnhimself, but only from externals. The conditionnand characteristic of a [Stoic] philosopher is that henlooks to himself for all help or harm.nI wouldn’t want to suggest that I understood all this going innor that I had become so familiar with the Enchiridion as tonuse it as a textbook on exactly how to face the challenge. Incan only say that in remembering my experiences in prison,nand in becoming ever-so-more familiar with Stoic literaturensince my return, that the Enchiridion has all the rightnanswers.nOn what I will call the tactical side, the main idea I bringnaway from Epictetus is “stay off the hook.” Every conveniencenone demands, every favor he accepts, every relief henpleads for, every status he admits aspiring to, every attemptnhe makes to prove something about himself to others (ton”show off”) is to deal with “externals,” and to deal withnexternals is to give a manipulator an opening. The smartninmate will make it his business to find his tormentor’s exactnlimits, to know his own, and to demonstrate a commitmentnhis adversary will find it unprofitable to challenge.nA man’s master is he who is able to confer ornremove whatever that man seeks or shuns. Whoevernthen would be free, let him wish nothing, let himndecline nothing which depends on others; else henmust necessarily be a slave.nShun externals, yes. But a man must concern himselfngreatly, in the world of Epictetus, in the world of extortionnand manipulation, with “internals,” matters that are “up tonhim,” and only to him.nOur opinions are up to us, our impulses, desires,naversions—in short whatever is of our own doing.nViktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning speaks of then”freedom” he found, even in the depths of terror in his Nazinprison, in realizing that there was only one thing they couldnnever take from him: his attitude, his opinion of what wasngoing on. As Jean-Paul Sartre said to a priest in anothernNazi prison, “Remember, the important thing in here isnnot what they do to you, but what you do with what they donto you.”nWhat is inside a man is the only true ticket to freedom,nbut dealing with the “insides” can also be agonizing. Innprison, there is one internal decision that is agonizingn