While you were watching TV and being treated to Donald Trump’s latest attack of verbal diarrhea, climate change advances. Last week a downpour with an estimated likelihood of just once every 500 years, and roughly three months’ worth of rainfall during a typical hurricane season literally submerged southern Louisiana under water. It’s exactly the sort of rainstorm that’s occurring more frequently as the planet warms.
But you haven’t heard much about this as the news cycle is too busy demanding you vote for Hillary Clinton, who supports environmental degradation or else. Fuck Hillary.
For those seeking assistance, click here for a site that be a resource. Update: More links below!
I escaped prison the day I broke free of the shackles of my mind.
I laugh when people who know me ask, “How did, you know, how did you survive being in prison?” I laugh because most of the time what they are really asking is if I was able to avoid being raped while I was incarcerated. I don’t possess an imposing physique and my looks are not what people typically consider “jail material.” In fact, I could easily pass for the good guy next door. I’m also “articulate.”
My answer — that I survived by using my most powerful tool, my intelligence — doesn’t seem to satisfy most people. I believe that’s because most people aren’t aware of what life in prison is actually like. Sure, the way the system is set up promotes violence. It’s a subtle form of control that I’ll write about at some later date. As a result of this dehumanization process, there’s always that palpable potential for danger just underneath the surface, but the most damning part of being incarcerated is that nothing happens. The same shit that happened yesterday will happen today, and the day after, and you feel your life wasting away. That dreaded monotony and the feeling of squandered life energy combined with the daily act of humiliation that is the core experience of being incarcerated, is what makes prison a hell.
What’s worse is that adaptation demands that you become conditioned to that existence — at least to varying degrees. It’s a form of psychological conditioning that acts like an erosive factor to your sense of humanity. Many lose that part of ourselves. That’s the hardest part of incarceration.
Yeah, I k now you watched the HBO series, Oz, and you’ve seen the films that depict prison rape and scenes of unspeakable violence, but that’s not the reality of being locked up. Most of the time, the horror of incarceration resembles a steady drip from a leaking faucet rather than a torrent. And that drip is your life oozing away from you as if you were slowly bleeding out.
That’s not to say prison life isn’t violent — it can be and often is. I’ve seen shit I can’t begin to tell you. One of the things I am most proud of is that I had only three violent encounters throughout my prison experience. All three occurred before I began to practice Buddhism. Two of those experiences I felt were unavoidable, one I committed from stark fear.
The following is true…
I had just arrived at Sing Sing to begin my prison sentence and I was wondering why the fuck they had sent me to a maximum security prison, when my security clearance was clearly marked “minimum.” That meant, according to my prison comrades, that I should have been sent to some camp with no walls, cable TV, and microwaves to serve out a relatively short prison sentence. But nooooo, these muthafuckas had sent me to a max. I was, like, what the fuck?!
Being processed into the prison system psychologically resembles initiation into a cult. Your hair is shaved, your body sprayed with some lice removal solution, your clothes and name are taken away and you’re given a uniform and a number to replace them. In addition, the first fool who says something smart-assed to a corrections officer (“CO”) is beat down as an example of what happens to wise guys. The COs are almost all white, all burly, and mostly mean in a sadistic kinda sorta way. One even had a tattoo depicting a black infant with the universal symbol for “No” superimposed over it. Like the “no smoking” signs you see in designated areas: the picture of a cigarette X’ed out. Which really shouldn’t come as a surprise since almost all of upstate New York, where the majority of prisons are located (prisons are a warped jobs program for poor rural whites) resembles the south. I shit you not, with all its hate groups, upstate New York is a white supremacist’s wet dream. I think most of them work as correctional officers.
Anyway, you go through an orientation period wherein you’re locked up for 23 hours a day. You’re given one-hour recreation time, and three times a week, they would take a bunch of us to some dark subterranean showers. I never went to the showers. At least not during the orientation phase. I was too damn pretty, shit! LOL I would bathe in my cell.
Sensory deprivation is a bitch. Being locked up in a small cell for 23 hours does things to your mind. For one, you crave conversation, or at least some kind of human interaction. Secondly, it does things to your perception of reality. For some guys, it was downright hell. We spent a weekend like this while waiting to be sent to our permanent prisons. Once we arrived at Sing Sing they housed us in the “D” ward: a tier specifically for new people. Again, we were locked up for 23 hours a day until our permanent cells were determined. So, a group of us had been in 23-hour lock-up for almost a week by the time we were sent to our permanent cells/ locations and by then most of us were going a little stir crazy.
Noise was what really challenged me while in prison. “D block” was also very disorienting in that it was noisy. There was this guy in the cell across from me and I was having a conversation with him until the guy next to my cell informed me that he was crazy and wasn’t really talking to me. Slowly, I realized my neighbor was right: the man wasn’t talking to me, he was talking to himself. The prison number is composed of a letter followed by two numbers another dash and four more numbers. The first two numbers come from the date you were admitted to the prison system. The individual’s middle two numbers were “68.” That meant he had been in prison since 1968 (this was the 1990s). I would never forget that.
Meanwhile, my next-door neighbor wouldn’t stop chatting. For the most part, I would ignore him. He kept asking if I had a cigarette and I kept telling him I didn’t have any. He said something that was funny, something along the lines of needing a cigarette more than poor people in hell need ice water. That made me laugh. I told him all I wanted was my freedom. There was something off about him, however, he was to forthcoming, too chatty and that made my street sense go on red alert. I noticed one day he was smoking pot. He had gotten pot from an incarcerated person who worked as a janitor that would pass by our cells every day. There were lots of drugs at Sing Sing. There was even a prostitution ring! Over time, my chatty neighbor had offered me pot, candy, cigarettes — all kinds of things, but I wasn’t interested. His behavior definitely had me on full alert. No one gives anything for free in prison.
When we were finally released into the general population, we all sat down in the tier happy to be able to move around and watch the TV. My next-door neighbor, Manuel, sat next to me along with the others who had come along with me. I moved away from my neighbor because my gut told me he was bad news. He got the message and left me alone. After some time, I was so into reading a borrowed copy of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, I hadn’t noticed, and before I was fully aware of it, a group of three incarcerated persons approached my neighbor’s table. I noticed that everyone had scattered, so I followed suit. I almost shit my pants literally, as the group produced knives and proceeded to stab Manuel repeatedly. We all watched horrified as the gang of slashed Manuel’s face and arms. I learned after that he had copped drugs and other items and didn’t pay for them.
I still remember Manuel’s shrieks and pleas for mercy to this day.
All I wanted was my freedom…
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…
Update: More links for disaster relief/ assistance:
Click here to support Baton Rouge flood victims
Click here to join Rouses in supporting flooding disaster response efforts