Monday, 2 January 2017

How to be Nice without being a Pushover: A Prison Guide...Matt Hayhow Interviewed by ARTINCARCERATED.COM

This interview was taken from.......
ARTINCARCERATED.COM.. How to be nice without being a pushover A Prison Guide

“When you act nice or altruistically… people will try to take advantage of you”.

Matt Hayhow’s two decades in prison have shaped his framework for navigating this seemingly intractable issue.

I write to people in prison. They write back with stories, lessons and art.
I wrote to Matt to ask him for advice.
This letter is edited minimally

Hey Alex,

I like to say that the only thing I like as much as defying authority is defying expectations.
As far as maintaining the strength to persevere… there’s a lot to that. I have not always been strong. I’ve done plenty of things I regret.

First, I have no choice but to persevere in here. They don’t let you out when you’ve had enough. They might be better off if they did. Instead, the ups and downs, fears and accomplishments, kind of anneal you. The sentence will end when it ends, the important thing becomes how you meet the obstacles, the little victories.

Second, I’ve always regretted terrorizing the bank people. My grandmother had been robbed when I was a kid. Her boss killed right in front of her. Being a wild kid, I thought of the romance of bank robbery. It was only when she reminded me of her experience after I was arrested that I thought of those people.

Conflict is a part of life, as is violence. When I thought of the impact I had on these people for a bullshit reason, it changed me. Violence in self defense, conflict to improve the world, defiance of oppressors, those things might be a good reason. But for money? No matter the purpose of that money, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t smart either. It was just all around the wrong thing. I regret doing that to them.

So I decided I wasn’t going to be that guy again. Now I’m going to be staunch in my principles. Not a convict or a Democrat/Republican, but a man in the ancient way. The Romans used to call him a “vir”, (as in virile).

I’ve had plenty of time to read, and I did. One of the political groups I was involved with promoted a re-evaluation of values. And in my other experiences, whether it was punk rock or reading Nietzsche, I’ve been exposed to differing viewpoints.

So I thought to examine history and myself and my upbringing. I’m positive everyone goes through this in some way.

And I found some values I wanted to adopt and live by: honor, courage, loyalty, self- command, compassion, friendliness, etc. I try to practice what I preach. I try to not do things I’ll regret → neither betray others nor oppress them. And I try to do things I should → whether it’s standing up or letting go.

Amazingly, it pays off! I’ve really had a much better time in prison because of following my principles. There a lot of quality people you meet because of it also. Sure, there are down times. When you act nice or altruistically, even a little bit, people will try to take advantage of you in here every now and again. But when that occurs, you stand up for yourself

It’s the old adage, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man only one.” Yes, it’s hard to face hard men or hard situations every now and then.
But it’s less hard than living fearfully, and alone and hateful, every day.
And, if you’re not constantly taking advantage or acting mean spiritedly, there’s a lot less conflict in here.

Most negativity in here comes from fear; fear of each other or the hacks or the hacks afraid of us or an administrator afraid for their job etc. I got lucky (!) and did some hard time in the beginning. All of that fear and stress kind of burned me out. I don’t like conflict, but I’m not afraid of it in the same way. And to society in general, I’m nothing. I’ve been nothing for 26+ years. The risk of consequences for me standing up for myself just don’t really mean as much. If I’m feeling sorrow, I’m alive; if I’m feeling happiness I’m alive

I know that sounds negative, but I’m not negative, just authentic! Lol!
When I feel like I’m losing the battle to do right by myself, I just rely on my past and my ego! Not everyone can be as cool as I am.

One time myself and 2 young skaters got jumped by 4 Cincinnati Bearcat offensive linemen in Clifton. They didn’t like B’s (his initial) mohawk. When they attacked B ran off, and R went down. I was unsuccessfully trying to fight the other two, and after a while broke away.
As I got free it went through my head that now I could run off. But R was on the ground getting kicked by 2 of them and hollering. So I got back in there. Luckily, sirens rang out soon after. I’ll always remember that.

It wasn’t something I loved to do, or had to let anyone know, it was just what I chose.
So when I had to do something that was unpleasant but right, if I needed a little bucking up, I’d just remember I am a guy who’ll make that choice, even if I’m the only one who will know.
And the world is full of people who don’t give a shit. So that gives those of us who do give a shit a competitive advantage! Lol
Ignore the above :). My mind is very good at pulling ideas together, but it means I sometimes put too much in one idea.

There are many times in life when discussing something or confronting someone or some issue is uncomfortable. But, most of the time, if that difficulty is faced and dealt with, it can save months or years of heartache.

From talking to friends and relatives and even in prison jobs, you see it in the worker who’s screwing up and no one wants to call him/her on it until it’s unable to be ignored. Now it’s hard to discipline him/her because no one was tough enough to write up the earlier stuff. It’s been going on for so long the worker is unsalvageable.
If a boss or friend had just bit the bullet and broke it down to the worker, he/she might have shaped up.

It’s similar here in prison, though the variables may be a little different. In one pen I was at when I was in my mid-20s there’d been a lot of racial incidents. One day 4 black gang bangers robbed a Tennessee white guy who ran a ticket (a bookie) and sold weed. They ran in his cell, beat him up pretty bad (face all swollen etc.) and took a bunch of money and weed.

They underestimated him though and after they left the cell, he got his knife and caught them on the tier. He stabbed 2 of them pretty bad (one had to be life-flighted out the front door) and the other 2 ran to the cop station in the unit for protection.
They locked up all of them and their affiliates that night.

Very early the next morning the fear mongers came for my buddy and I and breathlessly told us how there was about to be a racial thing in our unit, and maybe the whole joint. So we got our gear together → knives, boots on, a weight belt for a little protection.

Our unit was split in half by the cells. On one side was the Sports TV and the black TV. My job at the time was as trash orderly, emptying the trash cans on both sides of the unit.
When we got down to our side, all the white guys were up and together, and to the side were all of the Hispanics. On the other side as we could see when at the front door were all the blacks. They were all awake, and all dressed.

They were looking crazy at us, and us at them. Everyone on edge and armed. The minutes passed but it seemed like forever and you could feel what was in the air. There weren’t many guys on “our side” who were up for a war, and really none who wanted one. And there were about twice as many blacks. It was going to be me and C and a few others in the forefront anyway and no one knew what was going on or why and because of my demeanor I was familiar with some of the blacks, so I decided to go over there.

It was sort of a coin toss, because it was obvious by how I was dressed, etc., that something was going one. But we had to do something or it was just going to happen. So I grabbed some trash bags and went over there to the “dark side” (lol) and emptied the trash. That was a serious adrenalin rush.

Every eye was on me and I was the only white guy. I had to walk down to a dead end about 25 yards from the entrance with everyone wondering if I was over there to start it off or what. I just did it, and when I wasn’t immediately attacked, I made my way back with the trash. As I did I made eye contact with a well-respected black guy I knew (used to be a boxer) and said “Hey” or “what’s up” or something.

When he responded in the same way, I just said “Have you guys heard what’s going on?” And the next thing you know we’re talking like humans. It’s all a big misunderstanding. Some scary lamer started a rumor, it took off like wildfire and they think we’re after them, we think they’re after us. Everyone’s armed and afraid if they don’t act they’ll be acted upon. Unbelievable.

When I think about a problem, that I need to, but don’t want to, discuss with someone, I think of that. Even thinking of it now, I get that feeling because it was so close to being really bad for everyone for no reason.

So I don’t let that happen anymore. If there’s a problem or an uncomfortable situation I go and deal with it. I’m not letting anything fester.

And that’s what I’d tell people. Don’t let a family or work or whatever situation get out of hand. Face the problem. It may hurt or be hard for a moment, but it will save a lot of suffering. Just look at all of the problems we could have nipped in the bud in our government, businesses, environment, etc. If only we faced them when we first saw them.
Life is too short. There’s no need to increase our difficulties because we’re lazy or timid. Take care!


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