Tag Archives: Sean Swain

Apposing The Cannibal

Sometimes, prisoners’ thinking is backward. We might see prisoners rebel in some way and when the authorities respond with repression against the entire population, we have the tendency to blame the rebellious prisoners. After all, if not for their rebellion, the prison administration would not have responded. We see it as cause and effect, the prisoners “caused” the repressive response.

This is not entirely true. Before those prisoners thought about standing up for themselves, and maybe even standing up for the rest of us, the prison administration already purchased pepper spray and riot gear. Shields and helmets were already stored somewhere. The armory was already filled with guns and ammunition. The budget already set aside funds for hazard pay and overtime.

In other words, those who run prisons already knew and expected that the inhumanity they impose would provoke some of us to resist. They plan for that. They know it’s coming. The same way that a serial rapist expects to get scratched and bitten. He prepares for it.

The point, of course, is that the repression, on one hand, and the rape, on the other, were going to happen even before the victim of either had attempted to fight back.

If we’re going to trace cause and effect back to the resistance causing the repression, then, In fairness, we must trace it one step further back and recognize that it was the pre-existing repression that provoked the resistance. In fact, it matters not whether we resist or not, their oppression is coming.

The situation is like being locked in the room with a cannibal. The cannibal is what the cannibal is. The cannibal does what the cannibal does.

You can reason with him. You can bargain with him. You can choose to trust him if you want to.

Go to sleep, it’s all bad.

The cannibal is a cannibal.

If you truly value yourself, there’s really only one reasonable response. You have to do something, whatever it takes, to make sure that cannibal cannot do you harm. Period.

You have to take out the cannibal before the cannibal eats you. Anything less, you’re doomed.

Same here. We are all, collectively, locked in the room with a cannibal. Sooner or later, that cannibal is going to do to us what it is in his nature to do.

No matter what any of us does to diminish the harm the cannibal can inflict, it cannot be wrong.

The wrong response is to do nothing.

The wrong response is to blame those who resist for the repression that follows.

You’re locked in a room with a cannibal. He’s staring at you. He’s waiting.

You better wake up.

Anarchist prisoner Sean Swain

Buckingham Correctional, Dillwyn, VA

Fences

People who run prisons know they intend to do us harm. The proof? They put fences around these places before we ever get here. The reason they put the fences up is, they know they intend to harm us, and they know that any reasonable person would try to run away. They aren’t “helping” us or making us “better” people. They’re hurting us. They’re making us less likely to succeed. And they know it. So that means people who run prisons know they are making future crime more likely, not less. They know they are creating future crime, future victims, future imprisonment, future losses for society all the way around. If they were helping us, if they believed they were helping us, they wouldn’t put the fences up. They wouldn’t need fences. If they offered us wisdom and skills and empowerment, we’d all stay violently. There would be no need for a fence. You don’t put fences around a pizza party. You put fences around a torture factory.
They know how to help us. They could help us and empower us if they wanted to. People go into basic training in the military and leave there after 8 weeks, instilled with a whole new way of living, a whole new sense of themselves, a whole new vision and set of skills. Our sentences are longer than eight weeks. We leave prison without all that wonderful stuff that only takes eight weeks. They would help us if they really wanted to apply the science of that they know. They don’t want to. They want things the way they are. They profit off of human suffering. If they are protecting the public from us, who protects the public from them? Maybe the responsibility falls to us to take them down. There’s that fence. We’re locked in here with them. We might as well do something to change the world. We outnumber them. ~Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain 

Resist Now

By Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain 

It is easy to fall into the prison trap of imagining who we are going to be and what we are going to do when we get out. This is something of a past-time in prison, creating wonderful futures in our minds.     

It is an effective way to avoid the awful now. And when we avoid the awful now, we engage in a kind of escapism, a self-defeating escapism that contributes to this awful now.     

So, what would happen if, instead of dreaming of some future fantasy, we started to imagine what we can do right now? We are not paralyzed by anything other than our own lack of imagination. We are not held back by anything other than our own fear.    

We can start like this. We can imagine that we ourselves are the warden. What would we hate to see happen? If we were in the warden’s shoes, what kinds of things would make it difficult to keep the prison going?     

Look around. There are all kinds of things you can break without getting caught, or jam, or steal. Little things. But the little things add up. One toilet flushing will cost the prison more money on the water bill. A hundred toilets flushing at the same time will bust the plumbing. Two thousand toilets flushing over and over, will destroy shit.     

We outnumber them. We’re smarter than them. We have more to lose and more to gain. If we can just get our heads out of “when we get out”, and get our heads in the now, we can resist and we can change the conditions right now.     

Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.     

We have now. Right now.     

Imagine. Share. Resist. 

On Chasing Paper

Still we lampin’ still clockin’ dirt for our sweat
A ballot’s dead so a bullet’s what I get
A thousand years you had the tools, we should be takin’ ’em
Fuck the G-ride, I want the machines that are makin’ ’em…
–from “Down Rodeo,”
on the CD ‘Evil Empire’
Rage Against the Machine    

Chasing paper. Many of us who are locked up were chasing paper, and we chased it right through the prison gates and into the cells we now occupy.     We use our time in lock up to scheme and dream and come up with new strategies for chasing paper. We get money tattooed all over us. We listen to songs that will motivate us. We develop our visions. We identify our competition. We build our networks, our empires.

Maybe we don’t think about how we are plotting and sweating and bleeding to get portraits of faces of former slave-owners, plantation masters who got rich by taking hostages and exploiting them for their sweat and blood. We don’t stop to think that those dead slave-owners continue to take us hostage– in a new way –and trick us into chasing them, collecting them, worshiping them.    

If we stopped to think about it, to really think about it, we’d ask ourselves why we value the money that someone else prints. We’d wonder why we let them print it and distribute it and decide who gets more and who gets less. Why aren’t we printing the money? Instead, we get tricked. We spend our lives and blood and sweat chasing paper and serving the system, the scheme of those who put the paper out.    

How many of us catch it? And for how long?    

If we stopped to think about it, we’d see that we really don’t want their paper. What we want is the happiness and freedom that we see others have, others who have paper. We want nice things. A good house, a new car, the best clothes, great food, comfort. We want friends and loved ones who love and respect us. We want lives of purpose and meaning and importance.    

What if I told you that we could all have that, if only we were the ones with power to print the paper… and to get that power, we must take it from the ones who currently have it?    

The ones who turn some of us against the rest, so we kill each other and save them time and bullets…    

The ones who decide where the factories and jobs go…    

The ones with the planes bringing the drugs into the country…    

The ones who hand out the sentences…    

The ones who count the votes.    

They run things. They run us. They are our enemies, with happiness and freedom at our expense… living off of our sweat and blood. They’re not special or smart or more deserving than we are, and we can be just as happy and just as free as they are, if only we spend our sweat and blood chasing revolution like we’ve spent it chasing paper.    

There’s only one thing that they have that you don’t: They know a powerful secret.    

And now you know it too.

–Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain.