Living Underground

“Living underground requires a seismic psychological shift. One has to plan every action, however small and seemingly insignificant. Nothing is innocent. Everything is questioned. You cannot be yourself; you must fully inhabit whatever role you have assumed… The key to being underground is to be invisible. Just as there is a way to walk in a room in order to make yourself stand out, there is a way of walking and behaving that makes you inconspicuous.

As a leader, one often seeks prominence; as an outlaw, the opposite is true. When underground I did not walk as tall or stand as straight. I spoke more softly, with less clarity and distinction. I was more passive, more unobtrusive; I did not ask for things, but instead let people tell me what to do. I did not shave or cut my hair.”

– Nelson Mandela, in his book A Long Walk to Freedom

** NB: Mandela is (rightfully, in our view) criticized by South African radicals for failing to address the poverty and capitalist crisis at the root of South African colonization, apartheid, and inequality. It is partially because of Mandela’s compromises that South African society today is one of extreme inequality and a myriad of other social problems.

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