Sunday, November 29, 2009


Thought I'd start at the beginning and ruminate on the themes. I started this a week ago...

Access. I think first of an entry way. Availability. A portal. I look it up in the dictionary and find it's also the right to pass. It suggests the future to me. Something will come of it. I like the thought, "I have access". It suggests favor.

Justice. Richard Pryor said it meant, "Just Us".
Two definitions for justice are fairness, and equity. I've been assured the world isn't fair, and I believe it. I feel a wry cockiness, a "valiant ignorance" when I think of how I know the world isn't fair.

And in this thought they find a kind of ease
Bearing their own misfortune on the back
Of such as have before endured the like..

From this perspective justice does seem like "Just Us". It comes down to whoever is in charge, whoever is administering, to give justice it's face, its character. There must be checks and balances. I'm guessing most people think that "justice is served" in our courts. I do. I generally think I know what's fair. I'm conscious of the argument about "the alternatives". How often can equity be imposed, or fairness assured? The world isn't fair. Wondering about this, I feel resigned, fatalistic.

Incarceration. Time to ponder the error of my ways. This word seems the unhappy spawn of the words incineration and carcinogen. Incarcerate: to imprison, to confine. What does confinement accomplish? Or imprisonment? It isolates a dangerous person, removing them from society. Serving a sentence is supposed to result in the paying of a debt. By one account, we have 5% of the worlds population, and 25% of the worlds prison population. I wonder how this fits into our national debt.

Isolation. By chance I ran across an essay in the NY'ker titled "HellHole" by Atul Gawande...some excerpts:

"Human beings are social creatures. exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people".

"Twelve months of isolation almost obliterated the animals (test monkeys) socially. They became permanently withdrawn, and they lived as outcasts--regularly set upon, as if inviting abuse".

"In 1992, fifty-seven prisoners of war, released after an average of six months in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, were examined using EEG-like tests. The recordings revealed brain abnormalities months afterward; the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious, or solitary confinement."

I observed myself becoming neurotically possessive about my little space, at times putting my life in jeopardy by flying into a rage if a guard happened to step on my bed. (memoir of former hostage Terry Anderson)

"First, after months or years of complete isolation, many prisoners "begin to lose the ability to initiate behavior of any kind"...Second, almost ninety per cent of these prisoners had difficulty with "irrational anger" compared with just three per cent of prisoners in the general population." (Craig Haney, UC Santa Cruz from study of randomly selected one hundred inmates at Pelican Bay supermax)

"The simple truth is that public sentiment in America is the reason that solitary confinement has exploded in this country, even as other Western nations have taken steps to reduce it. This is the dark side of American exceptionalism."

Redemption. Having put right. To make up for. There's to society, and then there's personal redemption. I'm acting as my own judge, or I'm ceding to a higher personal authority. I feel my imagination engaging with those thoughts. Then there's a convenience store right next to a church near Great Barrington, MA. Between the church and store, there's a redemption center sign. It's primary meaning is to advertise where you redeem your empty's. I'd always have sneaky thoughts when I drove by there.

No comments:

Post a Comment