No One is Illegal: Slavery in the New American Century
Blog from February 11th, 2007 - www.JoshWolf.net
It’s been purported that not a single prisoner will admit they are guilty. My experience at the FDC (Federal Detention Center) completely contradicts this assertion. In fact, very few of the people I’ve spoken to have professed to be innocent. This does not mean that our justice system is reasonable or effective; almost everyone’s story demonstrates how brutal and disturbing the sentences handed out by the Feds really are. Amongst all of these victims of state oppression, the most appalling stories are of those convicted of illegal re-entry.
Not that long ago undocumented immigrants would simply be deported if their presence was discovered by the authorities. Today a far more treacherous fate awaits those whose only crime may be crossing an imaginary line to return to their families. Within the system they call themselves Paisas and their numbers are astonishing (I’ve heard they make up as much as 60% at many institutions) The sentences being handed out vary, but 30 months seems to be the most prevalent; the maximum penalty is 20 years. Once they have completed their sentences, they are immediately put on a bus and dropped off in Tijuana.
Many of them have no family in Mexico; some of them have lived here since they were young children. Given this, it should be a foregone conclusion that they will return; and almost all the guys I spoke with plan to do exactly that. Many of them have a wife and children here and are not about to abandon their families. If they are caught again in the United States, they will likely spend 60 months in prison, but relocating to Mexico just isn’t an option.
We like to think that slavery in America ended with the passage of the 13th Amendment, but it is alive and well in our prisons – this is especially true for the Paisas. Every convict in prison must work, and, although the federal system does pay its inmate workers, the rates are so abysmally low that it can rightfully be called slave labor. Wages start at 10 cents and hour and peak well below minimum wage.
Furthermore, many convicts are assessed a restitution fee they must pay back. In the case of embezzlers, this is supposed to equate to the money they swindled, but in the case of illegal entry, the restitution fee just adds insult to injury. Denied the pennies they would otherwise receive, these immigrants trule become slaves in every sense of the word.
And so, in this New American Century, what was once referred to as a peculiar institution has reared its ugly head again. Whereas the issue of aging slaves created a considerable dilemma before, today the slaves are on loan from Mexico and returned before they are old and frail and in need of expensive medical care. A new wave of able-bodied immigrants will always be coming across the border in the hopes of building a better life for themselves and their families; likewise, the government will always have a pool to populate its prisons and perpetuate a peculiar institution, which was, is, and always will be nothing more than a euphemism for inhuman slavery.
Perhaps incarceration does serve a legitimate purpose in rehabilitating those who have committed a crime. Perhaps it does not. What is clear is that locking people up for crossing an imaginary line and making them labor on behalf of the state, which will then eject them from the country is a barbaric practice that should be abolished immediately. It’s time that we as a country come to our senses and realize that no one is illegal.
Norman Kingsley Mailer
On Propaganda and the media
In a bad time a leader is responsible to his own services of propaganda. He doesn’t contest them. In a modern state, the forces of propaganda control leaders as well as citizens because the forces of propaganda are more complex than the leader. In a bad time the war to be fought is in the mass media.
If anyone is a leftist or a radical, if a man becomes an anarchist, a hipster, some kind of proto-communist, a rebel, a wild reactionary, I don’t care what – if he’s somebody who’s got a sense that the world is wrong and he’s more-or-less right, that there are certain lives he feels are true and good and worth something, worth more than the oppressive compromises he sees before him every day, then he feels that the world has got to be changed or it is going to sink into one disaster after another. He may even feel as I do, that we are on the edge of being plague-ridden forever.
Well, if he feels all these things, the thing to do if he wants political action is not to look for organizations which he can join, not to look for long walks he can go on with other picketers, although that’s obviously far better than joining passive organizations, but rather it is to devote his life to working subtly, silently, steelfully, against the state.
And there’s one best way he can do that. He can join the mass media. He can bore from within. He shouldn’t look to form a sect or a cell – he should do it all alone. The moment he starts to form sects and cells, he’s beginning to create dissension and counter-espionage agents.
The history of revolutionary movements is that they form cells, then they defeat themselves. The worst and most paranoid kind of secret police – those split personalities who are half secret policemen and half revolutionaries (I’m talking of psychological types rather than of literal police agents – enter these organizations and begin to manufacture them over again from within.
It’s better to work alone, trusting no one – just working, working, working not to sabotage so much as to shift and to turn and to confuse the mass media and hold the mirror to its guilt, keep the light in its eye, never, never, never oneself beginning to believe that the legitimate work one is doing in the mass media has some prior value to it; always knowing that the work, no matter how well intended, is likely to be subtly hideous work. The mass media does diabolically subtle things to the morale and life of the people who do their work; few of us are strong enough to live alone in enemy territory. But it’s work which must be done.
So long as the mass media are controlled completely by ones enemies, the living, tender, sensuous and sensual life of all of us is in danger. And the way to fight back is not to look to start a group or a cell or to write a program, but instead it is to look for a job in the heart of the enemy.
"Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those who have it."
"I want to talk a bit about fearlessness. While leafing through an old journal recently, I came across the line above, which I'd copied from Tobias Wolff's memoir, This Boy's Life, when I read it several years ago. In the book, this statement refers to interpersonal relationships, but I think it even more applicable to political struggle.
Since I have been in prison, I have received an uninterrupted stream of letters, from across the country and around the world, proclaiming me a "hero," applauding my "bravery," praising my "commitment" and my "courage," expressing "admiration," and commending my "sacrifice." I can only assume that my co-defendants have been lauded equally.
Common to nearly all of these compliments seems to be the implication that these qualities are somehow more pronounced, and more plentiful, within me than within the letter writer him/herself as well as the belief -- generally although not always unstated -- that the writer could "never do what [I] have done." The difference so many people see between the SHAC7 and themselves is striking.
I first became involved in activism at the beginning of my freshman year of college, in the Fall of 1997. I did not grow up in a politically active family and the extent of my "activist" experience at that point had been writing letters on behalf of political prisoners as part of my high school chapter of Amnesty International. I don't know that I'd ever even seen a protest in real life at the time I joined NYU's animal rights group. I remember distinctly one of the first protests I ever attended.
It was at Zamir furs on Houston Street in New York. There were about a dozen of us there, and everyone marched in a circle, holding signs and chanting -- everyone, that is, except me. I held a sign and I marched around with the group, but I stayed silent. I was shocked to see these people basically screaming their heads off in the middle of the sidewalk. "I'll hold a sign," I thought, "I'll march with them, but I'm not going to jail with them when the cops arrest them for screaming" -- which I thought for sure was not allowed.
Needless to say, no one was arrested that day, and certainly not for chanting. The pendulum of my understanding of permissions and protections under the law has long since swung the other way and my ignorance at those early protests now makes me chuckle. But, back in the Fall of 1997, it frightened me into silence.
But I came back the next week. And the week after that. And before long I was the familiar voice many of you have heard ringing through the megaphone.
At the same time, in the late 90s, acts of civil disobedience were ubiquitous throughout the grassroots movement and everyone, it seemed, had a dozen or so arrests under their belts. To me, the notion of getting arrested was so incredibly foreign, I thought for sure it was something I would never be willing to risk, much less do voluntarily. Arrest was part of a world so completely separate from my own; in my mind it equalled conviction, spoiled my bright future, and ensured I'd never be hired anywhere. Again, my naivete, in retrospect, is rather quaint and amusing. But even then, in spite of it, I didn't turn away.
Before long, I was invited to participate in civil disobedience myself. It was an intimidating proposition. Everyone around me seemed so willing to lock themselves to things, blockade doors, and sit in at the drop of a hat. I invariably declined, blaming school work or other obligations for my unavailability for arrest. In truth, I declined because I was scared.
You won't find me in old photos of blockades, banner hangs, or sit-ins. But I was there. Though I didn't participate in civil disobedience for a long while, I always attended the accompanying support demonstrations. I spoke to media and liaised between between protesters and police. I followed the arrestees to the police precinct and I attended every one of their subsequent court dates.
The point of this trip down memory lane is to show, in stark contrast to one another, the person I was when I walked into the world of activism and the person so many seem to see now. Most important in this comparison is the process of transformation between the two.
There is no fundamental fearlessness in my nature. There is only the recognition that so much fear is born out of ignorance. I do not walk straight into something of which I am afraid. Rather, I put a toe in to test the waters. I sit and watch for a bit, and explore the surrounding area. By the time I jump in, there are few surprises. Certain I'd be arrested for chanting, I attended protests quietly. That didn't last long. Fearful of arrest itself, I immersed myself in the experience up to the point of actually risking it myself. When I finally did get arrested for civil disobedience, complete with the big, bad, life-altering charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the officer told me, "you know you'll never get a job now." I laughed as he assumed and attempted to prey upon my ignorance, and do so even now. Since that time, I have rarely not been hired for a position for which I applied.
When a lawsuit was dropped on my doorstep, listing my name under "Defendants," my stomach flipped. Shortly after, I decided to represent myself and I've had a ball with it ever since -- enjoying, rather than fearing, each new case or procedure as an opportunity to learn more. I have feared various other things about activism over the years and I can honestly say that, upon engaging them and understanding them, not one has proven scary in the end.
Fearlessness is not born by barrelling forward ignoring fear or carelessly, indiscriminately throwing caution to the wind. So many people have found themselves in over their heads having done this -- caving in the face of arrest, jail, or civil litigation that they don't understand. All of these things are generally scary when you know little of them and barely so when they are familiar. Those who get themselves into such situations without a realistic understanding of them will likely fall prey to unwarranted fear, doing more harm than good by validating the effectiveness of harassment by way of lawsuit, grand jury, or arrest, and perpetuating more of the same.
Rather, fearlessness comes from standing firm in the face of fear, not backing down but meeting it head on -- mastering it by understanding that which you fear. Fearlessness is not a willingness to participate even though you are afraid; it is a true eradication of fear through knowledge.
As I argued in my editorial [link] in the most recent Close HLS Newsletter, the best weapon animal abusers and their hired government guns have in their efforts to stifle advocacy and incapacitate action is the perpetuation of perceived grave consequences of engaging in either. The mere spectre of prosecution or litigation can sweep broadly, crippling whole movements with irrational fear. And the use of fear is exponentially more efficient than actually suing or prosecuting an entire movement. We do so much of the work ourselves by spreading fear without stopping to see whether it is warranted. The resulting impotency affects those who would not otherwise become subjects of civil litigation or criminal prosecution -- multitudes are silenced and those who have committed no crime, perpetrated no tort, and are likely not even on the radar of our opposition cease their activity.
The movement's strongest protection against the weapon of fear is knowledge, and we should spend our energy spreading it rather than industry and government generated fear. What is the likelihood that I will be sued? Arrested? Convicted? What is the realistic worst case scenario of losing a case? Being held in contempt? Being imprisoned? What will happen? What is it like? What are the chances I will lose? And are any one of these things all that bad? The answers for most everyone, I expect, is that they will never see a jail cell, never face a civil trial, and never experience most of the potentialities threatened as though the worst case were the only case. (And for those who do, I can tell you from experience, it ain't all that bad.) Let us frustrate our opponent's fear mongering by learning ourselves out of the fear upon which it preys.
I hope that animal abusers are maddened by the fact that my heart rate did not quicken when I was arrested by the FBI, guns in my face. They may be maddened that the only emotion I felt upon first reading the SHAC7 indictment was relief -- "this is the government's articulation of unprotected speech?!?!" Perhaps it was maddening that I was not fearful enough of conviction to take a deal and plead guilty, or that I haven't regretted my refusal once. They may be maddened that I did not fear prison and that I can now attest that my fearlessness was warranted in this respect. I do not fear that we will lose our appeal nor do I fear what my life will be if we do. Most of all, I hope that animal abusers are maddened that I am not afraid to continue speaking out and that you all won't be afraid to do so either."
28 Mar 2007 @ 18:40 by celestial : On propaganda,
I heard the voice of the Creator state vehemently,
"This is bullshit!"
In all of my life, I have never heard Him speak like that!
Blame the Creatrix. ;) Besides, we have him slated for the dust bin so...
He's just letting off some... gas.
#=$, #=$, #=$,
Blame the Creatrix? ;) Should the vase say that it should have been a wine bottle?
"We" have him slated for the dust bin? sHE (the "s" is silent) is Hem and he says we all are slated for the dust bin when he is done with us.
You crack me up, Vax:) I wish you kNEW Hem as I do.
28 Mar 2007 @ 21:45 by : Him?
Voice of the Creator? Thought that was you, celestial...
Well, me too...
Wow, could it be?
Sure, no problem.
The bull sheise is?
Please illucidate para mio.
29 Mar 2007 @ 16:19 by : Darn!
Should have said RSVP.
29 Mar 2007 @ 16:22 by : The Law of Nations
§ 28. General rule for the application of the necessary and the voluntary law.
"In order from the start to lay down broad lines for the distinction rule between the necessary law and the voluntary law we must note that since the necessary law is at all times obligatory upon the conscience, a Nation must never lose sight of it when deliberating upon the course it must pursue to fulfill its duty; but when there is question of what it can demand from other States, it must consult the voluntary law, whose rules are devoted to the welfare and advancement of the universal society." - The Law of Nations (A Roman Device.)
29 Mar 2007 @ 18:01 by celestial : illucidate...
Yes, a couple of years ago, I was focused on some propaganda the Prez was pumping out when I heard The Word.
Voice of The Creator? The prophets were like transistor radios; they relayed The Word and then an unreceptive audience threw rocks at the radio until it was broken. By doing so, they believed they got rid of The Word. All they did was reveal their violent tendencies but they never was able to stone The Creator and the words came to pass...unlike gas;)
29 Mar 2007 @ 21:59 by : Heh, heh...
By 'Prophets' I presume you mean the Hebrew prophets? There were plenty other prophets and all of them transistorized trance-sponders sent by us to muck around on Earth causing chaos and confusion so we could take over. Nice of us, eh?
Of course in my view there are no Kriya-tors outside of us. Yes I include you in that us, too, celestial! ;)
You see... it's easy to blame everything on someone else, such as a mythical "Kriya-tor" but that fault is all our own. Till each human being wakes up and realizes that they are, individually, "the Kriya-tor/Mover/Prime cause" of everything they behold in their seperate individual lives well...
We'll have prophets and prophetesses and profits galore. Not the same as Pussy Galore, I'm afraid...