How Prison Reality Check Turned Manuel Bauer into a New Man

This is an ordinary human story. In a way. But not so in another.

This is a story that might melt your heart. Because it tells about human victory after a time of struggle.

It gives hope and courage. It looks at the beauty of the humanity. It is what makes people cry at the end of a movie. It is a happy-end story.

I learned this story watching DW TV this morning.

Manuel Bauer lives in Germany. He used to be a neo-Nazi. The sheer word still chimes very unpleasantly in the ears of many people. When he was a boy he learned from the street that he is not like other people, and they are not like him. He grew up full of hate and by the time he was a teenager he was very violent, fought a lot, hurt people and they hurt him.

What would we expect of such behavior? He ended up in prison.

Prison is the worst punishment. But for Manuel, it turned out to be the light of his life. It is there when the light switched and when the turnaround happened.

This story is a kick in the butt for the people who think that re-socialization is not possible. And no, I do not think of the restrictive re-socialization where personalities are molded into socially desirable likeability. Just the opposite.

This is how Manuel explains it:

“When I was about fourteen I used to see a lot of blood on the street. It is there when I first saw one person holding another and blood was dripping from their hand at the place of the grip. It is there where I first saw how a jaw can be put out of place and how the skin is torn apart and hangs loosely from its ends.

I learned to think of everyone that is not close to me as of my enemy. This is what I thought of people who were moving to my country. It is because I did not know them.

Eh, but when I was in prison, I was forced to live close to these people. And it is there where I saw that I do not know anything about them and that they are not at all what I thought they were.

In prison, the conditions are very different. Daily life is different. There is no time for artificially assigned social comparison. Only hard facts. Reality-checks. There you learn who your real friends are and it may just turn out that your imagined enemies are your best friends. And this was the case with me. I started to think very differently about people who visited my country.”

Not many people have Manuel’s luck. Rarely do they succeed to make the switch and see the new side of themselves. But Manuel did.

Today he travels the country and shares his story. He inspires people and brings them closer. He thinks of this like his therapy. He hopes to heal at least a bit of the pain that is caused by violent separation.

And yes, he does it very well. So, yes, it is true. Light can come out of the dark. Manuel was happy and conscious enough to experience this bliss.

Photo credit: x1klima / Foter / CC BY-ND

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