We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Monday, July 14, 2014

Released Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan: "There's No Sense in Prison"

Click here to access the interview with McMillan conducted by Sarah Jaffe from Truthout.
There's no sense in prison. There's no rehabilitation; there's no citizenship; it is completely at odds with everything that we call democracy. It doesn't make any sense. People have called me a political prisoner; that's weird for me. But if I have to really think about that title and really come up with a definition of what a political prisoner is, it's someone who goes against the law or goes against the social rules or norms in order to stand up for the things that they believe in or the people that they care for, to do what is right by their communities. There's not a single woman in Rikers who isn't a political prisoner by that standard.
This privileged, educated, white woman has learned a lot about the realities of racism, ruling class police forces, and US prison systems; but judging from her comments in this interview (I did not think that the interview as reported here was well done), I think she has a lot more to learn. 

Of course, the way the police and "correctional" system works makes perfect sense if you understand--and it seems to me that she should--that all the nonsense about a "democracy" is just that. To see how confused she remains, just look at the contradictions in this paragraph:
...I do think that the NYPD as a force has become the arm of the corporatocracy. The way that they treated Zuccotti Park, the way that they go out and seemingly round up undesirable people, especially at times that gentrification is in full swing, but never happen to be around in times when the same people actually require assistance or help. What are our police doing? Why are they doing it? Who are they responsible to? Why don't we have more community oversight? Why don't we have a democratic hand in selecting the commissioner?
She initially recognizes in an intellectual sense that our society is a "corporatocracy"; but judging by her questions, she still clings to fake ideas from her indoctrination that our society is some sort of democracy. Thus, her experience makes "no sense" to her. The interviewer failed to point out these contradictions to her and encourage her to dig deeper in her understanding. It's as if "corporatocracy" exists in some separate compartment away from the larger "democracy".

Of course, her police and prison experience makes perfect sense in a society ruled by a tiny class of people who literally own our economy under a capitalist system which rewards them with overwhelming wealth and power. They must constantly control the people they exploit, with racial minorities being the most numerous, by first of all, methods of indoctrination, and finally by a racist, classist, police force, kangaroo courts, and an elaborate prison system. Once people who are seen as dissidents, malcontents, or simply cannot function in their "corporatocracy"  get caught up in their police state systems, the kid gloves come off to reveal the hidden fist of fascism. Such people of necessity are subject to dehumanizing, humiliating experiences to break them psychologically into compliant subhumans.

McMillan's views, as reported in this interview, are another illustration of shallow thinking about our society, and as such, is a major problem among many US activists. It is preventing them from moving more seriously to discussions about the necessity for revolution as the solution to a whole range of problems: wars, poverty, police state methods, climate destabilization, resource depletion, etc.