Story type: Essay
Bresci, who murdered the Italian King, is sentenced to solitary confinement for life. While you read this he sits on a narrow plank in a cell not much bigger than a sleeping-car section.
If you talk to any friend about Bresci–and especially if you mention the subject to any young man inclined to be idle–call attention to this point. You can amplify what must be presented briefly here.
Bresci’s imprisonment is torture–why?
Because it sentences him to DO NOTHING.
Every man put on this earth is put here for a purpose. He is put here to work, to struggle, to interest himself in his fellows, to share the pleasures and disappointments of others. The wise laws ruling the universe fill us with a DESIRE to do that which we were meant to do. It is intended that we should be active here, and, therefore, although we often fail to realize it, our happiness lies in activity.
Bresci is to be tortured beyond the power of imagination because he will be forbidden to follow nature’s law. He will be forbidden to fulfill man’s destiny here. His brain, his muscles, his sentiments must lie idle until death or insanity shall come to relieve him. —-
Bresci will live on bread and water–but it is not the bread and water that will make his life worse than death. He could be happy on such simple fare if his mind had work to do. Many a man has done his good work and enjoyed life’s greatest pleasures while suffering mere hunger or poor fare.
Many men would be happier if they could see Bresci, the murderer, forced into that idleness which is sometimes ignorantly desired.
In his prison Bresci is protected from the sun and the rain and the cold. He can sleep as many hours as he likes. No duns can trouble him. He pays no rent. There is absolutely nothing that he MUST do. But there is absolutely nothing that he CAN do.
The saddest slave in Morocco toiling under the heaviest load would win Bresci’s gratitude if only he would let Bresci carry that load.
The most desperate man, harassed by cares of all kinds, would seem blissfully happy in Bresci’s eyes, for he has at least full play for his sentiments, for his activities. —-
To punish Ravaillac’s attack on the life of the French King, long ago, they tried ingenious devices. They broke him on the wheel. They tortured him slowly. Finally they poured melted lead into his stomach through his navel. It was a hard death.
But they did not punish Ravaillac as severely as Bresci is to be punished.
The minutes, the hours, the weeks, months and years will drag along.
Idleness, idleness, idleness. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
No human smile or voice to measure time.
Sleep, bread and water; sleep, bread and water.
Gradually madness will come and bring relief.
Be glad that you are active, you who work willingly.
And you young man who rebel against labor and long for the chance to do nothing, study Bresci’s case and take up your load gladly.
The decree condemning us to earn our bread in the sweat of our brow was merciful, not stern. For that same power which sentences all to work also causes happiness to be found in work alone.