You might find some interest in reading this. This is a response to
CoRe, written in the last two months, by one of us after reading
the material and attending the LARC.
The language used in the CoRe Mission statement as well as in the
minutes makes us nauseous. Our bodies, minds and spirits rebel
against this loaded collection of phrases, concepts and subtexts.
There is confusion there. There is class within. There is already
at the beginning of the attempt to exteriorize struggle, the censor
and the demarcations. There is the compulsive, learnt act of
crafting our passion into the acceptable face of ‘the campaign’ and
there is the attendant pathology of making ourselves reasonable to
the power that while we hate, we are not sure we can live without.
Like the fool, we must try to walk off the cliff, not knowing where
we will land or who else we might find next to us.
We cannot say it is all wrong. We believe the authors to have good
intent and are excited by the possibility of a rupture as regards
the prison-industrial complex and the open prison of social peace.
There is in us though an intuition that there is something not
quite right. From our bellies rises the sap of indignation, of
anger, the feeling of needing to free ourselves from the
strangehold of each correct and careful line. This document is a
knot: of charity, of class, of the system. Passion is asphyxiated,
rebellion is boxed and filed in the mortuary of the rational and
inclusive appeal. But this document does not include us. It
This document is written in the language of the system, dancing to
the rhythm of the machine. It does not speak to us of
transformation or attack: as we read it we are forced to tread on
eggshells, aware of the very brittle, frightened shape of those
used to producing dissent. Why not ‘aim’ to stop prison expansion?
Why prioritise anybody? Why ‘provide’ organisational skills, the
assumption being that those who are not activists will have nothing
to offer and no experience of organisation, and on top of that, the
assumption that the tools-skills-resources the activist can offer
are the best available and must only be delivered without question.
Perhaps there are other ways. Perhaps not everyone likes to be
facilitated within an inch of their lives, perhaps there are other
ways to communicate and perhaps the quiet amongst us would rather
reach a point of internal passion and shout out spontaneously and
hear others do the same than wait the round of ‘valued’ input.
Perhaps none of us know anything, and that is the way it should be,
since it is hard to imagine a world or a social relationship that
is not already contaminated. As the old saying goes, how can you
think clearly in the shadow of a church?
Here, as if to prove the point, is the calculated dance of funding
applications, of corporate minutes, of the articulate classes who
simultaneously challenge, preserve and believe in their own
privilege whilst paying lip service to the screaming cogs. This
document which promises to give aural charity to the
disenfranchised, on whose toes you hang your little cards of
assignation as you roll them into the ticked box, speaks of tweaks
and nips by those pursuing alternative careers in the programmatics
of radical social change.
To concede ‘prioritised involvement’ surely means nothing more than
the creation of hierarchy, of not hearing people as equals on the
merit of their words, experience and passions, but as a golden ass.
To propose such a process automatically spurs the question, then,
of who are the authors since they are offering rather than taking
this ‘prioritised involvement’, and the other question that follows
then is, who are we? Which compartment am I in? There are a
multitude of jails and the guards have many faces: the activists
who would so competently manage the transition from this to that
turn up with their uniforms and their keys of consensus decision-
making, logistics, technology use jangling at their belts. You seem
to us so separate from the subject at hand. Are you scared then to
admit that you also are powerless, despite the tools, skills and
resources you proudly provide.
When we sit in prison, it is not so strange. It is not so
unfamiliar. It is, of course, the extreme condition that keeps us
in check from birth to death, but passing through the gates is not
completely dissimilar to any other experience that you have feared.
When we sit in prison, we realise that we have always been there.
And that society is more and more an open prison, our charge being
the will to life and the will to freedom against the continuous
process of being broken in by the state.
We ask, after reading the mission statement, are you not yourselves
prisoners - surveilled, questioned, curtailed, unfree?; are you not
yourselves suffering from mental health issues?; are you not
yourselves queer? And if you will say yes, to any of these things,
the respect to and excitement of difference and experience which
you attempt to quench and turn into a structure with the cold logic
of all you have been taught, located in your own passion and
struggle, should come out naturally.
There will be some people who will warm to your words, and many
humble communities and individuals who, because they are familiar
with the system and with their place in it, will welcome your
charity and who, even if they feel uncomfortable and alienated,
will nonetheless bow to the specialists of struggle. There will be
others, like us, who refuse it, and who will not be managed.
The important question is who are you fighting for? For yourselves
or for ‘the other’? If, in essence, we have no feeling for the
struggle we are fighting because we see ourselves as being able to
live outside of or safe from a particular experience and threat,
then it will be difficult, if not impossible, not to reproduce the
worst effects of a recuperative regime.
We must proceed as we mean to go on: if we mean to deliver the
gaols, we must also and always throw ourselves to the flames.