Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis
Lightly running my fingertips over the concrete wall, I wonder how many other men have been here, how many other times someone has walked in and heard the metal door heavily slam shut behind them, to be left standing alone in this empty cell. Although I’m alone in the cell, a nonstop cacophony continuously bombards my ears. Other men, in other cells just like this one, strain against the solitude by calling out to each other; some to talk, others to argue, and some simply babble nonsensically to themselves.
As I gaze around at the sparse geometry of the empty chamber, I’m struck by the notion that this vacant cube of steel and concrete will be my abode for the foreseeable future. I might be in this particular cell for a week, a month, a year, but even if I’m transferred out of this cell, the next one will be almost exactly identical. Maybe it will have someone else’s name jaggedly carved into the paint underneath the bunk, maybe my next neighbor will spend all day and all night in a psychotic rage banging on the walls of his cell, maybe I’ll be in a cell with bars on the front as opposed to solid metal, but no matter what trivial differences may await me, the next cell will be just a carbon copy of my current crypt.
Twenty-four hours comprise a day, but time blurs out into timelessness without any environmental cues to differentiate day from night, light from darkness, winter from summer. Days, weeks, months, and seasons pass by while the cell remains the same. Brown leaves gently glide to the ground, the first tiny flakes of snow float past, pile up, then melt away as new green leaves spring forth, all beyond the walls and outside of my reality. Perhaps if I try to peek out of the sliver of a crack next to the cell door I can glimpse a small opaque window and I can tell that it’s morning by seeing the faint light beyond straining to penetrate the diabolic darkness within.
I lie on the bunk, staring up at a blank white ceiling, not wispy cotton-clouds stretched thin floating slowly across the pale blue sky, knowing that I cannot move more than a few feet in any direction. Instead of verdant fields of lush green grass beneath my toes, there will only be rough, gray concrete, well-worn by the soles of countless other men pacing the same few feet back and forth continuously. My skin won’t feel the gentle caress from the lips of a lover, only the jarring cold steel of handcuffs, chains, and shackles biting into the flesh.
Emptiness consumes me – empty cell, empty days, empty nights, empty life… Or is it I who consumes the emptiness? Becoming the Void into which I have been cast, I seek out Knowledge to fill the barrenness. Letters, words, sentences, ideas, and concepts begin to populate the untapped potential locked away and warehoused within this antisocial abyss of the damned. Books, magazines and newspapers sneak in to join me in my little corner of solitude, subverting the plans of the architects of the sensory deprivation regime designed to destroy men’s minds. I refuse to be “corrected” into the mindless, submissive slave that they – and the system they uphold – require me to be.
Resistance can come in many forms – from the clenched fist, the proud defiance of one who refuses to kneel down at the order of an “authority”, the meticulously sharpened blade honed to perfection on the concrete floor over many nights that longs to taste the blood of those that hold you captive, the torrent of water gushing out of a blocked toilet to flood the cellblock, the “dirty protests” popularized by the Irish republican prisoners, and many others. For me, I found that the most effective form of resistance was to read and study as much as I possibly could. Instead of allowing myself to be destroyed intellectually and psychologically, I recognized that the sadistic scientific methods of psychological coercion being used against me could only be effectively resisted with a systematic counter-strategy of trying to learn and understand more about myself, the world, and almost every other conceivable subject.
I entered prison as a seventeen-year-old youth, sentenced to serve twenty years behind the walls that hide from society’s view the millions of men, women and children written off as useless due to the prevailing political agenda of the ruling class in America; policies such as the “war on drugs”, the “war on gangs” (with laws long pre-dating September 11, 2001 declaring that street gangs are “terrorists”), the criminalization of poverty, and the “superpredator” designation of millions of primarily Black and Latino children as uncontrollable animals devoid of humanity that must be locked in a cage forever. After many long years – over six years straight in segregation and eleven years total – I heard my name and cell number called one morning, telling me to pack my stuff and get ready to be released. The handcuffs, chains and shackles were clamped around my body, the door opened, and I walked out of the cell for the final time.Posted in