Those who starve the evil wolf are the ones who are at peace with themselves and truly determine the course of history
In a world where material interests seem to dominate the relationships between individuals, groups and countries, one is pleasantly surprised when someone decides to reject those norms and charts the course he thinks is more in keeping with his worldview and the norms that should prevail and dominate. Such a path, though honourable, comes at a price and not all are willing to pay, for sometimes the exacted price is very daunting but then the returns too are spiritually inspiring. Mir Taqi Mir says, “Beparawi dervaishi ki thorri thorri Tab aayi/jab keh faqeeri kay oopar main kharch barri si daulat ki” (Only when I sacrificed all that I possessed, did the Stoicism of a dervish fall to my lot).
It is, in fact, a matter of how one looks at life and its rewards. People generally succumb to temptations that life brings their way while others remain unblemished simply for the lack of opportunities; some however consciously resist these temptations. People of integrity, principles and commitment easily resist temptations. A Cherokee Indian tale will illustrate it. A young boy asked his grandfather how he became such a good man. His grandfather answered by saying, “I have two wolves inside me, and so do you. One wolf is kind, gracious, generous, selfless, and brave, while the other is evil, violent, selfish, destructive, and relentless. They are locked in battle and neither will stop until the other is destroyed.” The boy looked horrified and in a desperate tone begged, “But grandfather, which one will win?” The wise man looked at his grandson intensely and said, “The one I feed.”
It is a struggle all the way. Some resist while some succumb to the evil wolf, and those who do succumb are the ones who, ironically, history always glorifies and puts on a pedestal, while those who resist the evil wolf are generally discarded by people as an aberration because of the lack of the glamour that evil is clad in, although that superficial glitzy glamour is transitory. Those who starve the evil wolf are the ones who are at peace with themselves and truly determine the course of history.
The Cuban amateur boxer Teófilo Stevenson Lawrence (March 29, 1952-June 11, 2012) is one of the three boxers who won gold medals at three Olympic Games. The other two are his protégé, fellow Cuban Félix Savón and the Hungarian László Papp. Stevenson was born into a family of modest means in Las Tunas province in eastern Cuba. It was under the tutelage of former national light heavyweight champion John Herrera that the young Stevenson began his career, fighting boxers far more experienced than him, and he according to Herrera, “had what it took.” He fought in his first match aged 14; two years later, he won his first international title in the Central American and Caribbean championship. His abilities prospered under Cuba’s government-sponsored National Boxing Commission where the Russian coach, Andrei Chervonenko, took him under his wing and polished his natural talent. His talent secured him a place in the national team for the 1970 Central American Championships where even after mixed fortunes he established himself as Cuba’s premier heavyweight. His easy victory over East Germany’s Bernd Andern in Berlin confirmed him as a serious contender for the heavyweight title. At age 20, he participated in the 1972 Munich Olympics and against overwhelming odds beat the favourite, American boxer Duane Bobick in the quarterfinals. After easily defeating the German boxer Peter Hussing in the semi-finals, he got a walkover in the final as the finalist, Romanian Ion Alexe, failed to appear due to injury. Cuba won three gold medals as well as one silver and one bronze medal there.
Stevenson became a national hero in Cuba after his victories in the inaugural 1974 World Championships in Havana, Cuba, and then in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. His fame now was not limited to Cuba alone and it was at this time that promoters sought a bout between him and the legendary Muhammad Ali. Professional sport was banned in Cuba and to make that bout a reality, he would have had to either leave Cuba or become a professional. American fight promoters offered him five million dollars to challenge the world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, but he refused to be lured by the big money on offer in the days when there was not a glut of millionaires or billionaires. He refused the offer and posed the question, “What is one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?” This is essentially the difference between a great man and a man of straw. We have the latter type here in abundance.
Stevenson won nine medals of which eight were gold and one bronze. He won three gold medals at the Olympics, the last being at Moscow in 1980. He won three golds at the World Amateur Championships, the last in 1986 in the super-heavyweight class. He won one bronze, his very first in 1971, and two golds at the Pan American Games. The two essential ingredients of his life were that he was idolised in Cuba and he loved Cuba. Without unconditional love, efforts are never up to the required mark. Stevenson’s choice was guided by the mutual love between him and Cuba. Stevenson retired in 1988, with an impressive record of 302 wins and 22 losses.
The irony is that tyrants, crooks, philanderers, scoundrels and rogues often get prominence in history while heroes like Teófilo Stevenson are relegated to the back pages. Papa Doc Duvalier is better known than Teófilo. The more the distorters of history try to make persons like Che Guevara and Stevenson irrelevant for these times, the more their relevance and projection becomes all-important as essential role models for people.
Dedication to the cause or movement has to be pure and unadulterated; it should never be tainted or polluted by self-interest or personal benefits. Movements usually have the misfortune of being exploited by some persons whose primary aim is feathering their own nest. This is an unpardonable sin and tantamount to profiting from martyrs’ blood, never to be tolerated. The love for the cause has to be pure and gratis. Tainted by motives, it is an abominable crime. Sheikh Saadi says, “Khilaf-e-tariqat bood keh aulia/Tammana kunad az khuda juz khuda” (The pious seeking anything but God pollutes piousness).
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org