News

Lawsuit Confronts Extortion of Prisoners by Electronic Monitoring Firm

Truth Out - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 13:32

Robert Jackson was four days into a 120-day sentence in an Alameda County, California, jail when his wife passed away unexpectedly, leaving their three young children without a parent in the home. He was compassionately released with the caveat that he submit to electronic monitoring by the for-profit Leaders in Community Alternatives (LCA) company.

Though his weekly paycheck was $400-$500, his weekly monitoring fees to LCA came to $250 per week — 50-65 percent of his total income. He ultimately paid around $4,500 for 113 days of monitoring, while being repeatedly threatened with violation and jail if he didn’t pay — something that would have left his children without a parent and at the mercy of the state. Jackson was forced to sell his car and eventually had to give up his apartment — leaving him homeless — just so he could pay off LCA.

As a father reeling from the sudden loss of his wife, Jackson seemingly did everything within his power to protect and care for his children who had just had their mother unexpectedly ripped from their lives. All the while, he was pleading for mercy and relief from a multimillion-dollar electronic monitoring company wielding the power of the state without any interest in his or his family’s welfare. While this may sound like the plot of some dystopian novel, for Jackson and his children, this horror story was all too real.

Class Action Lawsuit Accuses Monitoring Company of Extortion

Jackson is one of four plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit brought by Equal Justice Under Law, a civil rights nonprofit, against the California-based LCA on July 31. While many reformers of the criminal legal system are touting electronic monitoring as a humane alternative to incarceration, this lawsuit raises some serious alarm bells about the punitive nature of this technology, especially when left unregulated in the hands of private providers. The case continues a trend of litigation concerning abuse by private companies handling probation and parole services.

According to Equal Justice Under Law’s director of legal strategy and partnerships and the plaintiff’s attorney, Catherine Sevcenko, the suit accuses the for-profit company of using electronic monitoring “services” to extort money from impoverished people who find themselves legally entangled. This alleged extortion comes in the form of exorbitant monitoring and enrollment fees and the state-backed threat of incarceration.

LCA, whose home page proudly proclaims the firm has been “Changing lives since 1991,” began its monitoring contracts with Alameda County more than two decades ago. Its current agreement with the county, signed in 2013, captures electronic monitoring clients from both the Superior Court and the Probation Department. LCA’s business model is simple: providing electronic monitoring service and supervision of the monitored for the county at no cost to the state. In fact, all of the costs as well as the profits for this multimillion-dollar company are covered by payments from the people with shackles strapped to their ankles — individuals who are often already struggling to make ends meet.

Here’s how it works: Alameda County determines that someone is required to be electronically monitored. Often this is before trial, when the person has yet to be convicted of any crime. The case is then turned over to LCA, a privately owned electronic monitoring company and subsidiary of SuperCom, a digital tracking company with interests in 20 countries that is also a plaintiff in the ongoing litigation. At this point, Alameda County essentially washes its hands of the person, unless called upon later to enforce compliance with LCA rules, including payment of monitoring fees. LCA charges the “client” an initial $150 “enrollment fee” as well as a base monitoring fee of $25.50 per day, with the first two weeks payment due up front.

The suit accuses the for-profit company of using electronic monitoring “services” to extort money from impoverished people who find themselves legally entangled.

Following this, clients are told that they must pay these fees every week or be “violated,” or dropped from the program, and sent back to jail. In actuality, violations don’t result in automatic incarceration, but rather send the person before a judge who then determines whether or not they will be jailed. Though not everyone who is violated is sent to lock up, the threat of incarceration, particularly for people in circumstances similar to Jackson’s is very real and potentially devastating.

Attorney Sevcenko summed up the situation in a phone interview with Truthout, saying, “If you’re the person with cancer or the person with three children who just lost their mother, you’re not going to be taking that risk. Just because violations don’t automatically mean returning to jail doesn’t excuse LCA. You’re basically forcing someone to play Russian roulette simply because they don’t have enough money.”

The lawsuit accuses LCA of extortion under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, something typically reserved for mob bosses.

Taking Advantage of Most Vulnerable Prisoners

LCA seems to have a penchant for finding people in dire circumstances and using those situations to extort money from them. As is the case with Jackson, for whom a violation and subsequent return to jail would have meant losing his children to foster homes even as they were grieving the loss of their mother, all the plaintiffs — who are all African American men — have had traumatic experiences at the hands of LCA.

According to the suit, William Edwards was battling cancer when he found himself in jail awaiting trial. The life-saving chemotherapy pills he had been taking were soon denied and his health rapidly deteriorated. After a lengthy battle, the county finally agreed to let him out so that he could access the medication that was keeping him alive. The only catch was that he would be placed on an electronic monitor, have every move controlled by LCA and be a prisoner in his own home. LCA demanded that Edwards surrender 20 percent of his weekly income for this “privilege”; repeatedly threatening to have him sent back to jail if he didn’t come up with the money. As a jail sentence for Edwards meant again being denied the medication he requires to survive, these threats of incarceration were essentially threats to his life. The charges against Edwards were eventually dropped, but the cost of monitoring, financially and emotionally, remains.

Likewise, the suit argues that Kyser Wilson was charged upwards of 30 percent of his weekly income and forced to choose between fulfilling his financial obligations to the court and paying off LCA. Alameda County couldn’t jail him for being too poor to pay court fees, though as Sevcenko points out, “The County can just keep adding late fees and interest, and push a person further into that financial hole.” LCA, however, could use the state to have him jailed for being too poor to pay monitoring fees. Fear of incarceration forced his decision to pay LCA rather than pay the court that placed him in LCA’s clutches. This caused his court debt to increase by another $1,000.

James Brooks, a longshoreman by trade, had given up his job to be caregiver to his paralyzed mother who required around-the-clock care. Though unemployed, the suit contends that he was forced to pay more than $1,600 over a 58-day period, all the while living with the fear that if he were to be violated for lack of payment, his mother would not survive his incarceration.

In each of these cases, the suit alleges that according to California statute the plaintiffs’ financial situations should have been assessed and the monitoring fees adjusted based on their ability to pay. Sevcenko told Truthout that “people who are being monitored cannot be charged more than they are able to pay. They are supposed to work that out with the contracting agency. If there is a dispute, they’re supposed to go back into court and the judge is supposed to analyze the person’s financial situation.”

“That’s what’s supposed to happen,” Sevcenko added, “but it doesn’t, because LCA is never going to make any money if it’s only charging $3 per day.”

For “clients” of LCA, this assessment constitutes an onerous and complicated process requiring a calculus of paperwork and, the lawsuit contends, rarely results in relief. Among other things, individuals are required to provide their own financial information plus that of anyone in the household, though there is no California law requiring such disclosure.

LCA demanded that Edwards surrender 20 percent of his weekly income … repeatedly threatening to have him sent back to jail if he didn’t come up with the money.

While each of Sevcenko’s clients jumped the hurdles LCA placed before them, none of the plaintiffs’ fees were reduced, and each ended up paying thousands of dollars they didn’t have and taking desperate measures to do so. For its part, LCA has no incentive to reduce monitoring fees, as all of its profits come directly from the monitored. Additionally, there seems to be virtually no oversight from Alameda County, which has also been named in the litigation. Essentially, the suit maintains that LCA is a private company that is able to charge its captive “clientele” any amount it wishes, threatening and making good on its threat to use the power of the state against anyone who refuses or is unable to pay. The state meanwhile looks the other way unless it is called upon to play enforcer.

“The contract says ‘LCA, you go do your thing. Just don’t look to us for money,” Sevcenko says. “So, the county in some ways is writing this blank check to LCA.”

This blank check was a promise of money that the plaintiffs of the July 31 lawsuit were then forced to pay. They aren’t alone. Sevcenko acknowledges there are many others in similar situations who have been extorted by LCA, including one person she spoke with who declined to be named in the suit due to still being under the thumb of the company and fearing retaliation through incarceration. Between January 2015 and October of 2016, the suit claims, LCA was monitoring an average of 112 people a day. The $25.50 daily charges alone for this period would have come to more than $1 million, (excluding enrollment fees).

Truthout contacted LCA for this story but the company declined to comment.

Increasing Scrutiny of Electronic Monitoring

Equal Justice Under Law specializes in lawsuits targeting corporate abuse of the poor in trying to fulfill the organization’s mission of seeking “radical reform of systemic inequalities in our justice system.” The civil rights nonprofit has already won victories in a number of court cases, including several that attack cash bail.

In this instance, Equal Justice’s petition alleges LCA took advantage of impoverished people in desperate, sometimes life-and-death situations, then exploited these circumstances with state-sanctioned impunity to line LCA’s own deep pockets, all the while claiming to do so for the betterment of the community and even for the people it is accused of extorting. Perhaps that is what LCA means by “changing lives.”

“That’s what made me so furious here,” said Sevcenko. “It really is taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable.”

While this case against LCA highlights some of the challenges posed by electronic monitoring, a range of complaints about this technology has emerged in recent years, especially as the devices are increasingly applied to immigrants, youth and in the pre-trial context. Grievances focus not only on exorbitant fees but also on the excessively punitive nature of the house arrest regimes that typically come with monitors.

In a recent convening of activists, lawyers and directly impacted individuals in Chicago, participants raised the issues of how monitors curtailed their ability to carry out parenting duties, look for work and attend medical appointments. Emmanuel Andre, director of the city’s Northside Transformative Law Center, a restorative justice hub focusing on youth, noted the problems of people without a home often being given house arrest with electronic monitoring. Irene Romulo, director of advocacy for the Chicago Community Bond Fund, which campaigns for an end to cash bond, labeled electronic monitoring an “unacceptable alternative” that often “mimics the harms of incarceration.”

As the debate over decarceration continues, the role of technological solutions and private companies will doubtless come under increasing scrutiny. The litigation against LCA likely represents a harbinger of many legal and extra-legal struggles still to come over contentious alternatives to incarceration like electronic monitoring and abusive actions by private companies in the criminal legal sphere.

The post Lawsuit Confronts Extortion of Prisoners by Electronic Monitoring Firm appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

90% of Wildfires Are Caused by People, Not by “Climate Change” – Here’s Why (and How) You Must Prep Your Home for the Inevitable

The Organic Prepper - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 13:16
by Daisy Luther

Wildfires have been particularly bad the past few years. It’s part of the reason my family and I moved out of California. (Only part – the laws … Read the rest

The post 90% of Wildfires Are Caused by People, Not by “Climate Change” – Here’s Why (and How) You Must Prep Your Home for the Inevitable appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

Categories: News

Phone Zap to Support Fired IWW Workers

It's Goin Down - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 10:23

The post Phone Zap to Support Fired IWW Workers appeared first on It's Going Down.

This week, in support of Fellow Workers from the IWW IU650 shops at Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. (GCI) Nationwide, we are calling on Wobblies and friends to participate in a phone zap of GCI’s field offices.

Hundreds of people have called into GCI’s central office, but the company frequently refuses to hear people out. We need their field offices, many of which are actively engaged in union busting, to pass the message along. Please call between the hours of 9-6pm, 7 days a week, for any given office’s location, as these are typical business hours for a GCI office.

In June Grassroots Campaigns locked out its Seattle workers in retaliation for Labor Activity. In July they did it again. This also came with a wave of firings of Union supporters. On a daily basis these workers are discriminated against by their employer, with Union folks being sent to remote locations with little foot traffic. They are subjected to a constant stream of highly questionable legal theory that the bosses spout, and canvassers have been forced into more difficult assignments, including a switch to fleece uniforms in the middle of the summer.

Yesterday they announced the next lockout by claiming ”permanent closure,” which in labor terminology would make this a “Run-Away office” and leaving the jurisdiction to squash labor activity.

Despite these vicious attacks. The workers at GCI in New Orleans joined the fight and won their own NLRB election for representation by the IWW. They have faced severe and illegal union busting activity since going public.

GCI fears that their shady practices will help fuel the flames and spread the union. Let’s show them they’re right. Call today to show just how much solidarity we have around the country.

Phone Numbers and Emails Seattle, WA – (206) 299-2068 – https://m.facebook.com/gciseattle/ New Orleans, LA – (504) 571-9585 Philadelphia, PA – (215) 564-0361 – https://www.facebook.com/PhillyGCI/ New York, NY – (212) 219-1502 – https://www.facebook.com/GCINYC/ Berkeley, CA – (510) 848-1754 Los Angeles, CA – (310) 441-1712 – https://www.facebook.com/gcilosangeles/ Washington, DC – (202) 797-9655 – https://www.facebook.com/grassrootswdc/ Boston, MA – (617) 338-7882 Amherst, MA – (413) 345-2642 – https://www.facebook.com/amherstgrcampaigns/ Atlanta, GA – (857) 206-4483 Chicago, IL – (312) 574-3794 Denver, CO – (303) 893-1268 – https://www.facebook.com/gcidenver/ Raleigh/Durham, NC – (984) 260-8217 – https://www.facebook.com/gcidurham/ Sacramento, CA – (916) 446-1100 – https://www.facebook.com/GCISACTO/ San Diego, CA – (619) 550-3059 Sample Script

Hello, my name is _____________ (First name is fine)

I am calling in support of the IWW 650 affiliated workers at Grassroots Campaigns facing union busting activity.

I know that GCI has asked its directors to engage in union busting practices that are frequently illegal without actually informing them of that fact. You can and should refuse to engage in such shady and illegal activities.

I am calling to insist that you immediately stand up to the Central Office’s illegal retaliation and union busting operations. You should show solidarity with the hard working canvassers in Seattle by volunteering to join them as a Director. These are people who have dedicated months if not years to fundraising and building strong, supportive communities around a variety of causes. They deserve better than to be terrorized and slandered. Alex Arcaneux is another such worker in the New Orleans office who has been fired. You should stand up for these canvassers and insist on him being rehired.

GCI claims to be a progressive company but it consistently fails to live up to those ideals. Please tell your superiors that people from around the country have the backs of your workers, and that we demand they honor their contracts and end all of their union busting activity.

Thank you for your time.

Categories: News

'Twitter interfering in elections on Dems' side' - Republican candidate banned over Stalin gif

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 04:29

'Twitter interfering in elections on Dems' side' - Republican candidate banned over Stalin gif | 01 Aug 2018 | Austin Petersen, a Republican candidate in the Missouri Senate primaries who was banned from Twitter after posting one of the social network's own images in an online debate, told RT that Twitter is a "threat to democracy." [*Exactly.*] "Twitter is directly interfering with the election in the state of Missouri at the behest of a Democratic Super PAC that is working for my opponent Claire McCaskill," Petersen said ahead of the primary vote, scheduled for August 7. The former Libertarian presidential candidate was suspended from posting on Twitter, his main means of communicating with supporters, for 12 hours on Monday, after he responded to accusations of collusion with Russia with a GIF of Joseph Stalin saying "Off to Gulag now." The ironically-deployed GIF is frequently used in online debates, and is part of Twitter's own stock image database.

Categories: News

BBC accused of 'breaching code' by putting Assange critic in charge of special on WikiLeaks founder

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 01:17

BBC accused of 'breaching code' by putting Assange critic in charge of special on WikiLeaks founder | 01 Aug 2018 | BBC's Newsnight will air a special on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hosted by journalist [sic] John Sweeney, despite what the #FreeAssange campaign say are tweets in "clear breach" of the BBC objectivity standards by the journalist. "John Sweeney put in charge of tomorrow's Julian Assange special despite (because of?) malicious tweets in clear breach of BBC code," the #FreeAssange campaign tweeted. The campaign...published a list of tweets in which the BBC journalist repeatedly mocks and calls the Wikileaks founder a "Russian agent," a “Kremlin asset" and Vladimir Putin's most "useful idiot".

Categories: News

Retired Schoolteacher Arrested After Sunoco Claims She Violated Court Order in Mariner East Pipeline Dispute

deSmog - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 01:15
Read time: 8 minsEllen Gerhart

On Tuesday, July 26, Sunoco Pipeline L.P. filed paperwork with a Pennsylvania court claiming that retired special education teacher Ellen Gerhart, 63, had violated an injunction. Three days later, Gerhart was arrested and jailed. She’s currently held in the Centre County Correctional Facility awaiting a hearing on $25,000 bail. She’s been kept in solitary confinement for much or all of that time, according to her supporters, who add that she is unable to afford bail.

Sunoco Pipeline obtained a right of way through the Gerharts’ land using the controversial legal doctrine of eminent domain, which allows private companies to seize land people refuse to sell that’s in the planned path of a pipeline project. Sunoco now claims Ellen Gerhart interfered with construction and alleges, among other things, that Gerhart tried to lure mountain lions and bears onto her property.

Tags: Mariner East IInatural gas pipelinesSunoco PipelineEnergy Transfer PartnersEllen GerhartpennsylvaniaTigerSwan
Categories: News

Actions Continue Against Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana

Unicorn Riot - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 20:44

St. James Parish, Louisiana – Protests and blockades continue as construction of Energy Transfer Partners’ Bayou Bridge Pipeline nears completion. The pipeline project connects to the tail end of Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline, which saw one of the biggest indigenous gatherings in history to resist its construction near the Standing Rock reservation boundary in North Dakota. In Louisiana, an extensive series of direct actions have slowed the Bayou Bridge Pipeline’s construction as water protectors continue to carry out civil disobedience.

July 3, 2018 saw lockdowns at drill sites where the Bayou Bridge was boring underneath waterways. Water protectors brought attention to the lack of an evacuation plan for St. James Parish.

On July 6, 2018 Mark Tilsen, a Ogala Lakota water protector, celebrated his birthday by locking-down to Bayou Bridge Pipeline construction equipment. He stated that his action was taking place at the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and that he wanted the world to know that the Lakota were still resisting DAPL’s construction.

On July 14, 2018, several lockdowns stopped construction for over six hours, while two water protectors locked themselves to a mini van blocking the only access road to the construction site.

Police and authorities refused to allow support teams to bring the locked-down water protectors water. Denial of food and water has been observed multiple times as a tactic to cause physical distress to coerce locked-down individuals into ending their civil disobedience.

On July 16, aerial blockades were established in trees in the path of pipeline construction. Water protectors in aerial tree sits blocking pipeline construction are refusing to come down.

The aerial blockades’ support camps have been emptied out by police with K-9 units. Contracted arborists have slowly cut away branches from the trees as local Sheriff’s looked on. According to people occupying the tree blockades, the actions to cut away at branches and nearby trees have put their lives at risk.

July 19 saw water protectors intervene in a radio show where Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards was speaking.

Protesters at the radio station asked the Louisiana Governor to acknowledge that people in St. James, a small town in what’s known as ‘cancer alley’, will not be able to get out if a pipeline ruptures or explodes near their area. (If an explosion or other pipeline incident occurs in St. James, area residents’ only exit route will be effectively blocked.) In the livestream of the action water protectors were met by police as they yelled through an open door.

“These are disabled people who don’t have a voice. Who can’t get out, and that’s why we are here. It’s not about oil and gas, or left or right. It’s about right or wrong. Sir, it’s a moral issue.”

Water protectors chanted “We want St. James to have an evacuation route,” as police arrested three before pushing the remaining group towards the parking lot.

Governor Edwards had previously stated, “We’re going to proceed with the Bayou Bridge pipeline.”

On July 26, a lockdown at a Bayou Bridge pipeline construction site stopped construction for the day. The action took place about 2 miles from where several active tree sits also obstruct the pipeline route.

Actions against the pipeline have accelerated as Energy Transfer Partners claim construction is nearing completion. Water protectors and their allies promise to continue actions to stop pipelines and disrupt business at usual at banks financing their construction.

The days leading up to the end of July saw an arrest of a kayaker near pipeline construction, and solidarity actions against banks invested in the pipeline.

On August 1st, water protectors erected their fourth tree sit to stop construction of the pipeline.

To help our volunteer operated, horizontally organized, non-profit media organization, please consider becoming a monthly sustainer with tax-deductible micro-donations:

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The post Actions Continue Against Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana appeared first on UNICORN RIOT.

Categories: News

As #August21 Prison Strike Approaches, Repression Against Organizers Escalates

It's Goin Down - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 20:07

The post As #August21 Prison Strike Approaches, Repression Against Organizers Escalates appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following update is from prisoner Malik, about ongoing repression faced by political inmates in the lead up to the #PrisonStrike.

As organizers across the country step up preparations for the August 21st prison strike, prison officials and administrations will also be making plans for how to respond. Recent weeks have seen what appears to be a co-ordinated campaign of repression against prominent figures associated with the 2016 prison strike.

Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a key figure in the 2016 strike who was thrown into solitary in September 2016 on the basis of clearly false accusations, has just been thrown into solitary confinement again, and Ohio IWOC are organizing to support him.

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, a leader of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP) and member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), whose organizing was discussed in DHS/FBI fusion center “terrorism threat assessment” publications as far back as 2009 (page 50) is being kept in solitary confinement after being given an “inciting a riot” charge for writing an article about the Operation PUSH strikes in Florida, and has faced punitive transfer after transfer. Keith “Malik” Washington, a Texas inmate who is also involved with the NABPP and IWOC, has spent the past two years in ad-seg (solitary confinement) on a bogus riot charge connected to his involvement in the 2016 prison strike. He was due to be released from ad-seg, but then had his clearance abruptly revoked and was sent back to solitary on the grounds that the classifications committee had “received additional information” from the Fusion Center in Texas. He has also had issues with medical information about his health issues mysteriously disappearing, leading to the administration putting him in dangerous situations, and is currently being held in an extremely hot and humid punishment cell that he describes as being like “a living hell” and causing headaches, nosebleeds and dizziness. A full update on Malik’s condition is attached below.

Meanwhile, Jason Renard Walker, another Texas inmate involved with the NABPP and the 2016 strikes, and a contributor to the Fire Inside zine, has managed to get released from solitary, but faces constant threats and harassment from staff, including threats to send him back to solitary on bogus charges for things as simple as asking for water and medical attention, and trying to get back into his own cell so he can use a fan to cool down. Both Malik and Jason have reported having their mail tampered with, and the explicitly political nature of this censorship was made clear in a conversation with a prison official who told Jason that any writing containing the words “black panther” would be treated as gang material.

Supporting the prison strike means monitoring and opposing the repressive methods that the prison system uses to try and break it, and paying attention to the treatment of 2016 strike organizers like Rashid, Malik, Jason and others can indicate the tactics that are likely to be used more widely in the weeks to come.

What we can do:

  1. Flood the system with messages of support

Malik has specifically requested a call-in campaign urging Texas legislators to investigate the conditions at the McConnell Unit. Below are some details of Texas legislators and TDCJ officials, along with a suggested script you can use:

John Whitmire, chair of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee – (512) 463-0115 or (713) 864-8701

john.whitmire@senate.texas.gov

(713) 864-5287 (fax)

Sylvia Garcia, member of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee – (512) 463-0106 or (713) 453-5100

sylvia.garcia@senate.texas.gov

(512) 463-0346 (fax)

José Menéndez, member of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee – (512) 463-0126 or (210) 733-6604

jose.menendez@senate.texas.gov

(512) 463-2424 (fax)

James White, chair of the House Committee on Corrections – (512) 463-0490 or (409) 283-3700

James.White@house.texas.gov

(512) 463-9059 (fax)

Alma Allen, vice-chair of the House Committee on Corrections – (512) 463-0744 or (713) 776-0505

Alma.Allen@house.state.tx.us

(512) 463-0761 (fax)

Abe Martinez, US Attorney – (713) 567-9349

abe.martinez@usdoj.gov

Ryan K Patrick, US Attorney – (713)-567-9000

Bryan Collier, TDCJ Excecutive Director – (936) 437-2101 / (936) 437-2123

exec.director@tdcj.texas.gov

Billy Hirsch, TDCJ Deputy Director – Billy.Hirsch@tdcj.texas.gov

Philip Sifuentes, McConnell Unit Warden – (361) 362-2300

philip.sifuentes@tdcj.texas.gov

Miguel Martinez, Regional Director with responsibility for the McConnell Unit – (361) 362-6328

miguel.martinez@tdcj.texas.gov

Patricia Chapa, Assistant Regional Director – Patricia.Chapa@tdcj.texas.gov

Emil Garza, Assistant Regional Director – Emil.Garza@tdcj.texas.gov

Garth Parker, Telford Unit Warden – (903) 628-3171

garth.parker@tdcj.texas.gov

Billy Howard, Assistant Regional Director with responsibility for the Telford Unit – billy.howard@tdcj.texas.gov

Carl McKellar, Assistant Regional Director with responsibility for the Telford Unit – carl.mckellar@tdcj.texas.gov

SCRIPT:

“Hello, my name is —-, and I am contacting you about conditions in the prisons run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

I demand that the dangerous conditions of extreme heat and humidity that are widespread in units such as the McConnell and Telford Units are fully investigated and rectified immediately. I further request that immediate heat relief measures are put in place, as this is especially urgent for prisoners with health issues.

The prison administration needs to stop the retaliation and harassment of whistleblowers such as Keith Washington (TDCJ 1487958) and Jason Walker (TDCJ 1532092). This retaliation includes, but is not limited to, unjustified use of solitary confinement as a punishment for constitutionally protected speech, denial of parole applications, and direct threats of harm. Please be aware that the State of Texas and the TDCJ may be held legally responsible for any harm suffered by these or any other inmates as a result of the administration’s negligence or punitive actions.

The practice of giving guards quotas of disciplinary reports to meet must also be stopped at once, as this leads to the generation of false or trivial reports as a way of meeting quotas.

In closing, I also wish to state my support for the demands of the ongoing prison strike movement.

Yours sincerely,”

  1. Finding legal representation and fundraising

Malik has stated that he urgently needs professional legal help in challenging the various forms of harassment he has been subjected to, particularly the interference with his mail. If you know of any sympathetic lawyers or other legal-minded folk who might be able to help, please contact them and ask if they could take the case on.

He has also asked for help covering costs – specifically, $100 for medical co-pay, $550 for legal fees related to his ongoing cases, and another $100 for stamps and stationery to help him connected to the outside world. A fundraiser to cover these costs should hopefully be coming soon, but in the meantime you can send him some cash via jpay.com, or contact Austin ABC at atxanarchistblackcross [at] gmail [dot] com to ask about sending donations for Malik if you don’t have a jpay account.

  1. Write to the comrades!

Every letter they receive lifts their spirit and protects them, because it lets prison officials know they have people around them, watching for what happens to them. It should also be possible to contact them via jpay.com if you prefer.

Keith H. Washington, #1487958
McConnell Unit
3100 South Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78103

Jason Renard Walker, #1532092
Telford Unit
3899 Hwy 98
New Boston, TX 75570

Kevin Johnson, #1007485
Sussex 1 State Prison
24414 Musselwhite Dr.
Waverly, VA 23891

Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders)
130-559
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd
Youngstown OH 44505

Update from Malik:

Revolutionary Greetings Comrades!

You have my express permission to reprint or post this health update far and wide, anywhere you choose.

I know that many of you have been very concerned about my health and the conditions inside this gulag at the McConnell Unit. Please allow me to provide you with a very thorough update.

Today, July 18th 2018, I finally saw the medical provider here at the McConnell Ad-Seg Unit.

I saw a physician’s assistant named Ms. Corbett, a very professional and competent humyn being. Ms. Corbett admitted that there was a lapse in communicatiouentn between Darrington Unit, where I had a seizure on June 24th 2018, and McConnell. Without your phone calls and emails, I may never have been seen! Joan, Annabelle, Heinz and I saw these same shenanigans when Jeffrey Thomas was here. Jeffrey, along with his hernia problem, had some psychological issues, so these oppressors exploited those to abuse him! I’m not Jeffrey!

Ms. Corbett increased my dosage of Dilantin to 400mg per day, and added another anti-seizure medication. She also ordered some lab tests. My liver enzymes were high in April 2018. We are making sure I don’t have Hepatitis-C. I don’t think I have Hep-C.

Ms. Corbett restored my heat restrictions! She wondered why they had been discontinued? A lot of weird stuff has been happening lately. Listen comrades, TDCJ and UTMB conspired on all this “mess”. None of this was an “accident”, it was well thought out and planned by Bryan Collier, Lorie Davis and the Department of Homeland Security!

I have exhibited symptoms that I may have had a minor stroke. I’ve been scheduled to see a neurologist soon. I’m experiencing some weakness on the left side of my body. Of course, this is what TDCJ was hoping for, and why I’ve been pleading for legal help. The Senior Warden, Philip Sifuentes, actually has cooler cells to move me into, but he refuses to do so! I may be moved to a 1-Row cell on this section, but I can tell you that the HVAC system is broken on this section.

Warden Sifuentes is a professional liar. In order to expose him, we must demand that the Texas Legislature allow a non-biased independent third party to test the air temperature and humidity inside the cells between 6pm and 9pm. Specifically, we must focus on F-Pod (F Section) cells F-71 through F-74 on 12 building. Even if they move me, I will not abandon this fight. These conditions are the worst I’ve ever experienced as far as extreme heat go!

What is happening here is by design – allow me to explain. Senior Warden Philip Sifuentes is telling the public that the “ambient” temperature here in ad-seg at McConnell is maintained at 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Not so on F-Pod! Hell no! Sifuentes is also saying we have a Tempered Air System – all of this is well rehearsed. He knows he is misinforming the media and the public at large. Not many prisoners can articulate the true conditions we face in these cement slab death traps!

F-Pod (F-Section) cells F-71 through F-84 is where McConnell houses the “worst of the worst”! The most violent, assaultive, and dangerous prisoners are housed right here with me! F-Pod is a punitive housing area.

The air-holes in our front doors are covered with plexi-glass, the HVAC system has been shut down down to a barely operable level! What this has done is create an extremely hot and humid environment. I’ve been experiencing headaches, nosebleeds, and dizzyness! And most of us here are black men! Coincidence? Hell no!

My back wall faces the setting sun. Between 5pm and 5am, life is a living hell here! I stand before you today to say that I am a prison abolitionist – I’m also a humyn being, and I need your help!

In solidarity and love,

Malik

Categories: News

Philadelphia, PA: Anti-ICE Action Against Comcast

It's Goin Down - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 19:56

The post Philadelphia, PA: Anti-ICE Action Against Comcast appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following communique was anonymously submitted to It’s Going Down, which we republish here. Protests and demonstrations against Comcast’s work with ICE are also taking place across the US.

The communique reads:

We saw a Comcast truck in a quiet Philly neighborhood, painted it and let the air out of the tires. Comcast provides electronic services that enable ICE officers to kidnap and torture people, separate families, and deport migrants.

We wrote “Comcast works for ICE” and “no borders no prisons” on the windshield and sides of the truck. We let the air out of the tires by putting a ball bearing and a piece of wood in the caps of the tire valves and screwing them back on. We took turns watching each others’ backs, planned our route with cameras in mind, used gloves when touching anything we left behind, and changed clothes to help stay anonymous.

Information technology has historically been used to facilitate state control and genocide. IBM created and maintained the information systems that enabled the Nazis to orchestrate the deportation and genocide of millions of people.

Now Microsoft and Comcast are providing the tools necessary to carry out deportation and torture on a massive scale.

Aspects of the border are all around, and the possibilities for attack on the tools of state terror are endless. Their vehicles, offices, fences, communication and surveillance technologies, and all policing apparatuses are impossible to protect all the time.

Categories: News

All Out To Support The Prison Strike!

It's Goin Down - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 19:27

The post All Out To Support The Prison Strike! appeared first on It's Going Down.

On August 21st, prisoners across the United States will begin a strike against prison slavery. This strike comes hot on the heels of the inspiring actions against ICE and the planned anti-fascist mobilizations in the first weeks of August. Not only are all of these struggles connected, but our best chances of succeeding in any of them are to build momentum across these different moments and beyond.

With this in mind, we’re collecting a list of solidarity actions and events going on to support the prison strike on the outside.

Events:

August 4th: Chicago, IL: Day of Solidarity

August 4th: Los Angeles, CA: Political Prisoner Correspondence Support

August 9th: Minneapolis, MN: Info Night & Banner Making

August 11th: New York, NY: Letter Writing and Prison Strike Outreach

August 16th: Minneapolis, MN: Prisoner Letter Writing Night

August 21st: Los Angeles, CA: Noise Demo

August 21st: New York, NY: Noise Demo

August 23rd: Lansing, MI: March

August 25th: Oakland, CA: March on San Quentin in Solidarity with Prison Strike

Know of an event that we haven’t listed? Submit it! Or email us at info [at] itsgoingdown [dot] org

Nothing organized in your city yet? It’s not too late to do something yourself!

Categories: News

Spokane, WA: Community Groups Plan Rally to Protest Republican Party Opening It’s Doors to ‘Unite the Right’ White Nationalist

It's Goin Down - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 18:38

The post Spokane, WA: Community Groups Plan Rally to Protest Republican Party Opening It’s Doors to ‘Unite the Right’ White Nationalist appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following is a press release sent to It’s Going Down by various community and antiracist groups, who are holding a demonstration against a local Republican Party chapter warming up to white nationalist James Allsup and the neo-Nazi ‘Unite the Right’ rally.

Spokane, Wash. – An online video (archived here) shows key Republican leaders in Spokane County hosting hate group organizer James Allsup at a July event. Allsup is a prominent member of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa and participated in the deadly August 2017 Charlottesville, VA hate rally.

In June, Spokane County Republican Chairwoman Cecily Wright denied any affiliation with Allsup and stated that his “past statements, affiliations and actions are deeply out-of-step with the values of the Republican Party, as well as the values of the Spokane County GOP and our members.” However, the July 11th video shows Wright hosting – and praising – Allsup at a Northwest Grassroots gathering of conservative activists. City of Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins and Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase also participated in the event, as documented in this longer video (archived here).

“We cannot take for granted the integrity of our public officials when they denounce white nationalism in the press, while privately endorsing their leaders and values. We can’t reasonably assume public officials will uphold our rights when they applaud those who would harm us,” said Pastor Walter Kendricks, spokesman and co-founder of Spokane Community Against Racism.

“Our Spokane region has a strong track record of standing up against white nationalism. Together, we’ve defeated the Aryan Nations; we’ve defeated anti-immigrant, anti-gay, and anti-trans policies; and we’re committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with targeted communities to defeat this harmful ideology any time it tries to gain a foothold.” said Liz Moore, director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane.

Local organizations are holding a rally to unite the Spokane community against white nationalism on Thursday at 5:30 pm in front of the Spokane County Courthouse. The rally will call on the Republican Party in Spokane County and Washington State to reject white nationalism and ensure that its supporters do not hold positions within the party.

Organizations uniting to respond include the Spokane Community Against Racism, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, the City of Spokane Human Rights Commission, Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience, Spokane NOW, Families Against Bigotry, Fuse Washington, Western States Center, and others.

Categories: News

Expected star witness may not testify in Trump ex-aide Manafort's trial

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 18:35

Expected star witness may not testify in Trump ex-aide Manafort's trial | 01 Aug 2018 | U.S. prosecutors raised the possibility on Wednesday that an expected star witness may not testify against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, while Trump asked for an end to the Russia probe that led to the charges. On the second day of Manafort's trial, the first stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 14-month investigation of Russia's [alleged] role in the 2016 U.S. election, the judge also tried to rein in prosecutors in their description of Manafort's 'lavish' lifestyle. Manafort's consulting work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine that earned him $60 million also took the spotlight in testimony in federal court in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia.

Categories: News

Who is Cody Wilson, the man behind the 3D printed gun?

Anarchist News - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 18:28

via CNN Tech

In 2013, at a firing range outside of Austin, Texas, Cody Wilson pulled the trigger on the world's first fully 3D printed gun.

Not long after, he posted the blueprint for the weapon to his website, DefCad.com, allowing anyone to download directions to manufacture an untraceable plastic gun at home. The plans were downloaded more than 100,000 times before the government ordered him to take them down.

Wilson sued the government in 2015 and a settlement was reached in June that allowed the blueprints for Wilson's gun -- along with several other weapons -- to legally be posted online. Gun safety groups and dozens of states filed lawsuits to stop the plans from becoming downloadable.

The night before all of Wilson's blueprints were set to go live online, a federal judge blocked the government from allowing the distribution of 3D printable guns.

Wilson's goal is to make his Austin-based nonprofit Defense Distributed a digital hub for do-it-yourself gun-making -- a sort of Wikipedia of weapons manufacturing. Not only can you visit the site to download blueprints to guns, but users will also be able to upload blueprints for guns of their own design -- a feature Wilson hopes will lead to "types of guns that haven't existed before," he says.

"If people have an internet resource of some type of encyclopedic scope," he told CNNMoney's Laurie Segall, "it should allow for more innovation in the space."

His website is down after the judge's ruling Tuesday.


Don't call him a startup founder

Wilson is the founder of a tech company, although he doesn't describe himself that way. Despite the technical feat of creating the first-ever 3D printed plastic gun and then building a digital community around that invention, he classifies Defense Distributed not as a tech company, but as a "nonprofit defense firm." His customers create accounts on DefCad.com, and then they are free download plans and contribute data to the site.

Wilson does not portray himself as a CEO who's trying to build a profitable business and disrupt the way we live. Instead, he identifies as more of a political figure -- an anarchist, fighting against what he views as government censorship.

Related: Divided We Code

"I'm a radical individualist," Wilson told Segall in 2017. "I don't like the imposition of state controls over human flourishing and creativity, freedom, individuality. And so, the way to oppose these things is to undermine the powers of traditional liberal institutions."

According to Wilson, founding Defense Distributed was another way to oppose what he thinks is censorship at the hands of the United States government. By suing the government for violating his First Amendment rights, he shifted the focus of the debate about 3D printed guns away from gun control to a discussion about access to data and information online.

"I want people to know that it's legal to publish this information online," he says. "Do public libraries perform background checks on people before they read books? That's just not how speech and publication works."


Hatreon

Defense Distributed hasn't been Wilson's only foray into defending freedom of speech online. Last year, as prominent figures in the Alt-Right were being kicked off of Patreon, a fundraising site, he formed a rival platform -- Hatreon.

"The site exists with only the promise that you won't be silenced," he told CNN in 2017. "On Hatreon, there's no way your political speech can be deemed unacceptable. There's an unlimited protection of speech."

Currently, the Hatreon site is down. But while it was up and running, those registered on the site had raised more than $20,000, according to Wilson.

In CNN's 2017 special Divided We Code, he said "The Alt-Right is joining it. They get a lot of the money, the lion's share of the money for now, because they know they can go there and not be censored."

Although Wilson acknowledges that allowing all kinds of speech can lead to hateful statements and even violence, he takes no responsibility for the possible outcomes of allowing any kind of speech on his platforms.

"Any book is, in the right hands, like a grenade. This can't be controlled and we shouldn't try to control it," he told CNN. "These personalities that use Hatreon ... are at worst trolls, performance artists, provocateurs, vulgarians. At best, they represent through their hyperbole or through their extreme thinking and presentations elements of a political speech that should not be censored."

While he says he'll follow the law and draw the line at allowing barred foreign nationals, governments and terrorists from downloading blueprints to 3D printable guns, Wilson's line of thinking on the consequences of allowing any kind of speech also extend to Defense Distributed, despite the fact that the site democratizes the ability to make deadly weapons -- possibly allowing them to get into the wrong hands. For Wilson, it comes down to that one word: democratization.

"I don't believe that access to information is ever tremendously negative or a bad thing. I know that people can use information for bad things. But this isn't a justification to what, stop a publisher from speaking," he says. "Is democracy dangerous or not? Can people be trusted or not?"

Tags: cody wilsonguns3d printingcrypto-anarchismMSMcategory: Other
Categories: News

Korea remains: US finds one 'dog tag' among war dead returned by North Korea

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:59

Korea remains: US finds one 'dog tag' among war dead returned by North Korea | 01 Aug 2018 | North Korea has returned 55 boxes believed to contain the remains of US troops killed during the Korean War, but included just one military identification tag, US officials say. A forensic expert said initial tests showed the remains were "likely to be American". The boxes are en route from South Korea to Hawaii for extensive examination. On Wednesday, the US military held a repatriation ceremony at Osan air base in South Korea, where the boxes had arrived the previous week.

Categories: News

Rally for the Preservation of the Mattole’s Ancient Forest and in Solidarity with Rainbow Ridge Forest Defenders

It's Goin Down - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:58

The post Rally for the Preservation of the Mattole’s Ancient Forest and in Solidarity with Rainbow Ridge Forest Defenders appeared first on It's Going Down.

Forest defenders in Northern California are holding a rally and a community meeting to build resistance against old-growth logging.

Facebook Event Page HERE

Please come out and plug in! We need all the help we can get! Let’s build a huge show of community opposition to industrial logging plans in the Mattole River Watershed. Make this the last year we have to fight to protect this awesome area!

Rally on Thursday to protect the Mattole river watershed from new logging roads, disastrous landslides, toxic hack-n-squirt herbicide deaths (timber company puts poison inside hardwoods so they die standing, and become exponentially more flammable), the cutting of old growth Douglas firs in un-entered forest, the sedimentation and heating up of the Mattole river, and the ravaging of critical and contiguous habitat.

Also, please rally on Thursday in solidarity with direct action forest defenders. Humboldt/Mendocino Redwood Company now contracts with Lear Asset Management, a paramilitary style security outfit.

Last week, Lear goons went out to the Rainbow Ridge area of the Mattole to threaten with tazers, dogs, and physical force, unarmed, peaceful forest defenders many miles deep in the woods. They stole defenders’ survival gear; did dangerous things to the ropes holding defenders high in the air; employed sleep deprivation tactics with Mattole defenders over 100 feet above the ground; and, for hours, held down activists who were on the ground doing forest defender blockade support, until the Humboldt Sheriff’s Department showed up and took the activists to jail. Lear camo-clad goons failed to even ask the forest defenders who they encountered on the ground to leave the area; they simply pointed tazers at them and took them down. This is unacceptable.

The company needs to know that the opposition to their logging plans is mighty. It won’t go away with arrests and violence against activists in the woods. Protest against Humboldt Redwood Company. Bring instruments, signs, friends, food, water, and family. Enough is enough. HRC out of the Mattole!

WHAT: Rally for the Preservation of the Mattole’s Ancient Forest and in Solidarity with Rainbow Ridge Forest Defenders

WHERE: Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC), Scotia Office, 125 Main St. Scotia, CA 95565

WHEN: Thursday, August 2, 2018 – 10am to 3pm

PUBLIC MEETING Tuesday, August 7th, 5-7pm at Outer Space in Arcata, 11th and M St.

TRANSPORTATION TO THE RALLY If you can offer a ride or need a ride, please be at one of these meet-up points to Carpool: ARCATA (Departs: 8:45AM): Co-Op parking lot (on the edge facing the cider bar) EUREKA (Departs: 9:00AM): Walgreens parking lot (next to Eureka Natural Foods) FORTUNA: LEGGETT (Departs: 9:00AM) Office along East edge of Drive Thru Tree Road (Main Street)

Please text or call Ezra at 707.476.3567 and tell him how many people can fit in your vehicle or how many of you need a ride. Ezra is coordinating the rideshares, making sure everyone who wants to go to the rally has a way there!

The Redwood Transit Bus Schedule is here: https://hta.org/agencies/redwood-transit-system/ There are a couple of buses going south to Scotia on Thursday that get in around 9am and 12 noon.

FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE: Rally at HRC for the #Mattole. Hope to see you at HRC’s Scotia Office on Thursday FOR THE MATTOLE!

Categories: News

WikiLeaks: Australia Has 'Obligation' to Protect Julian Assange, Lawyer Says

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:40

WikiLeaks: Australia Has 'Obligation' to Protect Julian Assange, Lawyer Says | 01 Aug 2018 | Julian Assange is "homesick for Australia" and will need to be protected by the Malcolm Turnbull government if he is expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy, his lawyer has said. Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that Assange's welcome at the London embassy--where he has lived under political asylum since 2012--is coming to an end... Jennifer Robinson, Assange's legal representative in London, told Australian media Wednesday that the situation had become "untenable." She suggested that Australia should offer aid.

Categories: News

Notes from underground: Dostoyevsky’s anarchism

Anarchist News - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:29

via autonomies

“What is hell?” And I am reasoning thus: “The suffering that comes from the consciousness that one is no longer able to love.”

Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

 

“It is life, life that matters, life alone – the continuous and everlasting process of discovering it – and not the discovery itself.”

Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in a letter speaking of his The Brothers Karamazov, declares that his principal aim in writing the novel, a civic duty no less, is the defeat of “anarchism”.

How can we then suggest to speak of Dostoyevsky’s anarchism? And yet we dare to do so, navigating our way through the extremes of the underground and the modern social conformity of the many, of the nihilists and decadent aristocrats, of the social reformers and a Church oblivious to the kingdom of heaven. Our journey’s end is to be found in the many voices of Dostoyevsky’s world, in a polyphony that cannot be silenced without impoverishing that world. Among these many voices, we find the braying of mules, the tortured crying of children, the virtue of women and friends, the dissonance of idiots and the enthusiasm of those who have experienced, however fleetingly, the immensity and self-sufficient beauty and goodness of life. What binds all of these disparate voices together, and only this power or force can do so, is love. And it is Dostoyevsky’s boundless love of life that we will risk to call his anarchism.

Notes from underground

With maladroit artistry, we re-imagine Dostoyevsky’s underground …

We are so unused to living that we no longer know or feel “real life”. Any memory of it has been erased. We have really gone so far as to think of real life as immediate, consumable pleasure, mediated only by money, and we are all agreed, for our part, that it is better simulated through images, something to be experienced in the sleep of representation, in obligatory “spectacles of happiness”. And what is it we sometimes scratch about for, what do we cry for, what do we beg for? More of the same: images to numb ourselves by … or perhaps, in sleep, in passing, we admit that we ourselves don’t know, and that if whims we have, they are so uncertain, or threatening, that they can be either dismissed or treated. And it would be worse for us if our stupid whims were indulged. … After all, we don’t even know where “real life” is lived nowadays, or what it is, what name it goes by. Leave us to ourselves, without our images, without our seductive “entertainment”, and at once we get into a muddle and lose our way – we don’t know whose side to be on or where to give our allegiance, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise, except to what eases our way against what stands against our satisfaction. We even find it difficult to be human beings, men with real flesh and blood, creatures of singular desires; we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace, and are always striving to be some unprecedented kind of individual, while we are evermore the same, an always potentially superfluous someone who exists only through work and consuming. We are born dead, and moreover we have ceased to be the sons of living parents; and we become more and more contented with our condition. We are acquiring a taste for it. We have invented a method of being born from a general mould, a uniform idea to which all submit, willingly. But that’s enough; I shall write no more from the underground …

The underground from which Dostoyevsky writes his notes is not a place of refuge for subversion and rebellion, somehow hardened against the siren songs of rational civilisation. It is instead the mirror image of a society that has reduced women and men to calculable and manageable agents of rational self-interest. The underground is the “space” of resentment against the illusions of civilisation, while also the product of civilisation, the “place” to where human desire is abandoned and where it consumes itself in impotent and feverish self-reflection.

In fact, the underground is no place at all; it is rather the inverted image of policed society.

Modern civilisation is the triumph of instrumental rationality, of a rationality limited to the evaluation of means for the attainment of mensurable ends, of the rational necessity of acting for a “common good” defined scientifically and socially engineered politically.

But “can man’s interests be correctly calculated? Are there not some which not only have not been classified, but are incapable of classification?”

“After all, gentlemen”, writes the man from the underground to the civilised, “as far as I know you deduce the whole range of human satisfactions as averages from statistical figures and scientifico-economic formulas. You recognise things like wealth, freedom, comfort, prosperity, and so on as good, so that a man who deliberately and openly went against that tabulation would in your opinion, and of course in mine also, be an obscurantist or else completely mad, wouldn’t he? But there is one very puzzling thing: how does it come about that all the statisticians and experts and lovers of humanity, when they enumerate the good things of life, always omit one particular one? They don’t even take it into account as they ought, and the whole calculation depends on it. After all, it would not do much harm to accept this as a good and add it to the list. But the snag lies in this; that this strange benefit won’t suit any classification or fit into any list.”

What good is this that resists classification, analysis, control? What good is such that it must be excluded from the horizon of “civilisation”, failing which all that it stands upon crumbles?

There is security in order, a peaceful sleep induced by the daydream that all can be vanquished by the knowledgeable mastery and elimination of its causes. And as all that is or occurs has antecedent and knowable causes, then a scientific intervention in the chains of events can redirect matters in self-interested directions. But either such a vision is sophistry, or it announces the end of humankind.

“If, for example, it can one day be worked out and proved to me that I have on some occasion cocked a snook at somebody simply because I could not help it, and that I was obliged to make the gesture in that particular way, then what freedom remains to me, especially if I am learned and have taken a science course somewhere? After all, in that case I can calculate my life for thirty years in advance; in short, if things turn out in this way, there won’t be anything left for us to do; all the same, we shall need to understand. But in general we ought always to be telling ourselves that, inevitably, at certain times and in certain circumstances nature will not consult us; that we must take her as she is and not as we fancy her to be, and if we really are progressing at great speed towards the tables and almanacs and … even the test-tube, there’s no help for it, we must accept even the test-tube!”

And yet if the “underground” teaches anything, it is that reason, though a good thing, “satisfies only man’s intellectual faculties”. And what is thereby ignored is volition. This is a word that means much more than “will” for Dostoyevsky: “it is a manifestation of the whole of life, I mean the whole of human life including both reason and speculation.” It is what we are tempted to call our being-in-the-world, a being that is multiple, changing, driven by desires and marked by contingency. Dostoyevsky’s triumphal reason is the effort to distill our singularities into programmed patterns of domesticated behaviour for a supposed quantifiable, universal good. But the result is two monsters, sick, isolated and yet bound to each other: a hollowed out marionette of “enlightened progress” and a resentful narcissist condemned to waver between powerless moral indignation and cynical moral turpitude.

Both expressions of the modern individual are ill. The first is so because it is stripped of desire and will, submitted to a grand social calculus, governed by technicians and techniques of “well-being”, but thereby only “benefiting” in the development of “a many-sided sensitivity to sensation”. But what kind of “development” is this, when each is at the mercy of every and any seduction? In its most extreme form, we may even come to find vile “pleasure in blood”.

[Gloss: “The lengths to which man – already constricted in all his amusements, in all his faculties – will go to confine the scope of his existence out of unworthy prejudice is quite incredible. One cannot comprehend, for example, what possesses the man who makes a crime out of murder to impose such limits on all his delights; he has deprived himself of a hundred pleasures each more delicious than the last by having the audacity to adopt the odious fantasy of that prejudice; and what the devil does it matter to Nature whether there are one, ten, twenty, five hundred more or fewer men in the world?” – Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom]

Progress culminates in these “last” or “little” women and men, the worker-consumer ants devoured by a political-social machine that in fact no one fully masters; even more so today, when each one of us is called upon to manage her/his own life as capital to be constantly improved upon, so as to render oneself ever more profitable-exploitable.

For Dostoyevsky, the moral hubris that feeds the machine is the concept of progress, the idea that a final, absolute good is attainable.

And for those who wish to desert the vessel of progress, there is the underground, inhabited by those hateful of their own “civilised” sensitivities. They are however incapable of walking away or against them, for they share in the same exacerbated sensitivity and suffer the same atrophy of will and desire that subjects the adepts of progress. If those in the underground “must be kept in check”, it is not because they are active and creative dissidents, eager to ridicule and tear down, at first opportunity, the crystal palace of progress, but because beneath the socially engineered happiness, they stand as testimony to the illusion of that happiness, or of the price that is paid for it: a humanity atomised and deprived of all autonomous singularity, of any capacity to act and to create, and morally indifferent to what is different. “Yes, a man of the nineteenth century ought, indeed is morally bound, to be essentially without character”.

A “man of character, a man who acts, is essentially limited”, Dostoyevsky tells us. The civilised and underground “man” both fail on this count, though for different reasons. Progress uproots all limits, but then only to place them in the hands of a “rational” State. The underground is the depository of the failure of progress, the rubbish heap of pasts reduced to ruins and of futures yet unimagined, a present that can only therefore project itself, the same, forever. The underground man is thus left to wallow in infirm and helpless self-consciousness, in a passive nihilism.

Dostoyevsky is often superficially described as a Christian moralist. He denounces modern civilisation for its secularism, for its refusal to see that human beings are far from good, for its failure to grasp, or its denial of, the fact that we relish destruction as much as creation. Even supposing the realisation of the promise that all our needs shall be met, we are ungrateful, and we will no sooner be seduced by promises of earthly Edens, as we will abandon them.

This picture though is too simple and its language remains imprisoned in a moral vocabulary that Dostoyevsky himself sought to question. Men and women have never acted solely in accordance with their self-interests, and this with knowledge and foresight. And where does our “self-interest” lie? Such advantage is but an “appointed road”, relative to social and political regimes, and against which acts of transgression appear as “perverse and difficult”. And yet, transgress we do and herein lies the good that escapes all classifications of utility and progress, while necessarily underlying them, as well as having the power to undo them. If there is “something that is dearer to almost every man than his own very best interests”, it is not evil as such, but free desire, creativity, the true good “distinguished precisely by [its] upsetting all our classifications and always destroying the systems established by lovers of humanity for the happiness of mankind.” While this good “interferes with everything”, is capable of violating everything, it is also that which builds, constructs. But let no construction stand as if uncreated, for that is the beginning of true evil, the sacrifice of life for an all too human ideal.

“… a man, whoever he is, always and everywhere likes to act as he chooses, and not at all according to the dictates of reason and self-interest; it is indeed possible, and sometimes positively imperative …, to act directly contrary to one’s own best interests. One’s own free and unfettered volition, one’s own caprice, however wild, one’s own fancy, inflamed sometimes to the point of madness – that is the one best and greatest good, which is never taken into consideration because it will not fit into any classification, and the omission of which always sends all systems and theories to the devil. … What a man needs is simply and solely independent volition, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead.”

[Gloss: If we consider the “will”, “volition”, the “individual” – all Dostoyevsky’s terms – as stand-ins for the whole of human life – as Dostoyevsky also says -, then we may better understand what is at stake here through the concept of singularity. The human good defies classification, knowledge, yet it is that upon which all knowledge is based, and all consequent or subsequent orders of power. But then it lies in the good to undo knowledge and power, to suspend, break away, overthrow. The good, freedom, singularity, are all what philosophers once called transcendental; they ground all orders of knowledge and power without being identical to any of them and without themselves being grounded. This an-archy at the heart of existence Hannah Arendt described as the capacity for beginnings which human beings secrete into nature, creating art, history and politics. “If the creation of man coincides with the creation of a beginning in the universe (and what else does this mean but the creation of freedom?), then the birth of individual men, being new beginnings, re-affirms the original character of man in such a way that origin can never become entirely a thing of the past; the very fact of the memorable continuity of these beginnings in the sequence of generations guarantees a history which can never end because it is the history of beings whose essence is beginning.” (Hannah Arendt, Understanding and Politics) It is this that Dostoyevsky calls the good, and it is this that both the “underground man” and the “man of progress” lack. Their imaginations can go no further than the repetition of the violent present, and there is but one word for this: horror.]

“Outside” the underground

Dostoyevsky’s mirroring and self-reflecting reality – civilisation-underground – is no longer ours. Capitalism has abandoned all illusions of being a rationally organised society, aspiring to generalised human well-being. It is neither objectively so, nor does it pretend to be so ideologically, except for the few, and in many instances, through ever more exacerbated forms of nationalism. Spectacle commodity capitalism can only seduce with the promise of money and consumer acquisition. And since the latter has little or nothing to do with the purchase of what is useful, capitalism can only offer up more of the same, useless goods; goods, however, which flatter an increasingly one dimensional narcissistic consciousness. And as the many will always be excluded, to varying degrees, from the possibility of consumer bliss, the proliferation of spectacular commodities is necessarily accompanied by an increased militarisation of social life, both within and across national borders.

Within a state of permanent crises, catastrophes and exceptions, all talk of planned and engineered happiness for all becomes impossible, and anyway, no one believes it any longer. The self-mutilating cynicism of Dostoyevsky’s underground man is now in the foreground; indeed, today, the underground has ceased to exist.

What then remains of Dostoyevsky’s still tortured search for freedom, for a life beyond the civilisation-underground polarity? In his fiction, he imagined at least two, but ill-fated, possibilities: the sincere but deluded, and ultimately violent, social reformer, determined to re-organise society such that all are materially content, as judged by the reformer, and the underground man turned criminal, who in a moment of decisive indecision, acts by murdering those who are perceived to be useless – Raskolnikov’s ironic tragedy -, or who by an overwhelming will to will, chooses without regard for anything and in total indifference to whether s/he lives or dies – Kirilov’s self-annihilating nihilism. Both examples fail because they continue to carry with them the weight of civilisation-the underground; indeed, the burden is such, that they never in fact escape at all.

But why try to escape? Why attempt to live differently? If our world abounds with examples of those who endeavour to escape, only to find themselves in the same place (all of those who move, forcefully or willingly, for a “better life”), and though it may even count a few who are content, the horror stubbornly persists and grows, consequently and inevitably, even if only momentarily for some, piercing through the seamless images of happiness (and the police-military are present precisely to guarantee that these will only be moments). A call reaches us on such occasions, a call that we may ignore, turn a deaf ear to, shout out, insult, or not. In the latter instance, a moral shift occurs, an indignant awakening that loosens the chains fixing our desires and imagination, and that may give birth to resistance, rebellion.

“One picture, only one more, because it’s so curious, so characteristic, and I have only just read it in some collection of Russian antiquities. I’ve forgotten the name. I must look it up. It was in the darkest days of serfdom at the beginning of the century, and long live the Liberator of the People! There was in those days a general of aristocratic connections, the owner of great estates, one of those men—somewhat exceptional, I believe, even then—who, retiring from the service into a life of leisure, are convinced that they’ve earned absolute power over the lives of their subjects. There were such men then. So our general, settled on his property of two thousand souls, lives in pomp, and domineers over his poor neighbors as though they were dependents and buffoons. He has kennels of hundreds of hounds and nearly a hundred dog-boys—all mounted, and in uniform. One day a serf-boy, a little child of eight, threw a stone in play and hurt the paw of the general’s favorite hound. ‘Why is my favorite dog lame?’ He is told that the boy threw a stone that hurt the dog’s paw. ‘So you did it.’The general looked the child up and down. ‘Take him.’ He was taken—taken from his mother and kept shut up all night. Early that morning the general comes out on horseback, with the hounds, his dependents, dog-boys, and huntsmen, all mounted around him in full hunting parade. The servants are summoned for their edification, and in front of them all stands the mother of the child. The child is brought from the lock-up. It’s a gloomy, cold, foggy autumn day, a capital day for hunting. The general orders the child to be undressed; the child is stripped naked. He shivers, numb with terror, not daring to cry…. ‘Make him run,’ commands the general. ‘Run! run!’ shout the dog-boys. The boy runs…. ‘At him!’ yells the general, and he sets the whole pack of hounds on the child. The hounds catch him, and tear him to pieces before his mother’s eyes!… I believe the general was afterwards declared incapable of administering his estates. Well—what did he deserve? To be shot? To be shot for the satisfaction of our moral feelings? Speak, Alyosha!”

“To be shot,” murmured Alyosha, lifting his eyes to Ivan with a pale, twisted smile.

“Bravo!” cried Ivan, delighted. “If even you say so…. You’re a pretty monk! So there is a little devil sitting in your heart, Alyosha Karamazov!”

“What I said was absurd, but—”

“That’s just the point, that ‘but’!” cried Ivan. “Let me tell you, novice, that the absurd is only too necessary on earth. The world stands on absurdities, and perhaps nothing would have come to pass in it without them. We know what we know!”

“What do you know?”

“I understand nothing,” Ivan went on, as though in delirium. “I don’t want to understand anything now. I want to stick to the fact. I made up my mind long ago not to understand. If I try to understand anything, I shall be false to the fact, and I have determined to stick to the fact.”

The exchange is between Ivan and Alexei/Alyosha Karamazov. For Ivan, an atheist, the senseless torture of children is the greatest testimony to the absence of a just God and the absurdity of human existence. Alyosha, a novice monk, distraught by the horror of Ivan’s picture, momentarily falls by admitting that vengeance is the only possible response, to then step back in horror from what he has said. For Dostoyevsky, violence, and violent revolution as espoused by political vanguards, against injustice, would only engender the same reality, or worse. If “resistance” is possible, it must be found along a different path.

Prince Myshkin, Dostoyevsky’s “idiot”, quoting someone whom he calls an “old believer”, says, “He who has no firm ground beneath his feet, has no God”. He writes similarly in the The Devils/The Possessed, that “he who has no people, has no God”. It is tempting to interpret these passages as expressions of Dostoyevsky’s russophilia and Russian religious orthodoxy, but to do so shuts out the resonances of something deeper.

Jesus is recorded to have said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Mathew 5:13) This is Dostoyevsky’s question as well, perhaps in part narrowly addressed to his fellow Russians, or to those pained by the loss of “Russian spirituality”. The question however cannot but escape from any parochial national limits and it is ultimately to “modern man” that he addresses it.

Jesus’ own answer is the following: “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.”

If we read this passage as referring to Jesus’ disciples as those who give life to the earth, then to lose “their taste” is to stray from their mission of spreading the teachings of the new covenant; a covenant expressible in a single commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

[Gloss: Raskolnikov had a fearful dream. He dreamt he was back in his childhood in the little town of his birth. He was a child about seven years old, walking into the country with his father on the evening of a holiday. It was a grey and heavy day, the country was exactly as he remembered it; indeed he recalled it far more vividly in his dream than he had done in memory. The little town stood on a level flat as bare as the hand, not even a willow near it; only in the far distance, a copse lay, a dark blur on the very edge of the horizon. A few paces beyond the last market garden stood a tavern, a big tavern, which had always aroused in him a feeling of aversion, even of fear, when he walked by it with his father. There was always a crowd there, always shouting, laughter and abuse, hideous hoarse singing and often fighting. Drunken and horrible-looking figures were hanging about the tavern. He used to cling close to his father, trembling all over when he met them. Near the tavern the road became a dusty track, the dust of which was always black. It was a winding road, and about a hundred paces further on, it turned to the right to the graveyard. In the middle of the graveyard stood a stone church with a green cupola where he used to go to mass two or three times a year with his father and mother, when a service was held in memory of his grandmother, who had long been dead, and whom he had never seen. On these occasions they used to take on a white dish tied up in a table napkin a special sort of rice pudding with raisins stuck in it in the shape of a cross. He loved that church, the old-fashioned, unadorned ikons and the old priest with the shaking head. Near his grandmother’s grave, which was marked by a stone, was the little grave of his younger brother who had died at six months old. He did not remember him at all, but he had been told about his little brother, and whenever he visited the graveyard he used religiously and reverently to cross himself and to bow down and kiss the little grave. And now he dreamt that he was walking with his father past the tavern on the way to the graveyard; he was holding his father’s hand and looking with dread at the tavern. A peculiar circumstance attracted his attention: there seemed to be some kind of festivity going on, there were crowds of gaily dressed townspeople, peasant women, their husbands, and riff-raff of all sorts, all singing and all more or less drunk. Near the entrance of the tavern stood a cart, but a strange cart. It was one of those big carts usually drawn by heavy cart-horses and laden with casks of wine or other heavy goods. He always liked looking at those great cart-horses, with their long manes, thick legs, and slow even pace, drawing along a perfect mountain with no appearance of effort, as though it were easier going with a load than without it. But now, strange to say, in the shafts of such a cart he saw a thin little sorrel beast, one of those peasants’ nags which he had often seen straining their utmost under a heavy load of wood or hay, especially when the wheels were stuck in the mud or in a rut. And the peasants would beat them so cruelly, sometimes even about the nose and eyes, and he felt so sorry, so sorry for them that he almost cried, and his mother always used to take him away from the window. All of a sudden there was a great uproar of shouting, singing and the balalaïka, and from the tavern a number of big and very drunken peasants came out, wearing red and blue shirts and coats thrown over their shoulders.

“Get in, get in!” shouted one of them, a young thick-necked peasant with a fleshy face red as a carrot. “I’ll take you all, get in!”

But at once there was an outbreak of laughter and exclamations in the crowd.

“Take us all with a beast like that!”

“Why, Mikolka, are you crazy to put a nag like that in such a cart?”

“And this mare is twenty if she is a day, mates!”

“Get in, I’ll take you all,” Mikolka shouted again, leaping first into the cart, seizing the reins and standing straight up in front. “The bay has gone with Matvey,” he shouted from the cart—“and this brute, mates, is just breaking my heart, I feel as if I could kill her. She’s just eating her head off. Get in, I tell you! I’ll make her gallop! She’ll gallop!” and he picked up the whip, preparing himself with relish to flog the little mare.

“Get in! Come along!” The crowd laughed. “D’you hear, she’ll gallop!”

“Gallop indeed! She has not had a gallop in her for the last ten years!”

“She’ll jog along!”

“Don’t you mind her, mates, bring a whip each of you, get ready!”

“All right! Give it to her!”

They all clambered into Mikolka’s cart, laughing and making jokes. Six men got in and there was still room for more. They hauled in a fat, rosy-cheeked woman. She was dressed in red cotton, in a pointed, beaded headdress and thick leather shoes; she was cracking nuts and laughing. The crowd round them was laughing too and indeed, how could they help laughing? That wretched nag was to drag all the cartload of them at a gallop! Two young fellows in the cart were just getting whips ready to help Mikolka. With the cry of “now,” the mare tugged with all her might, but far from galloping, could scarcely move forward; she struggled with her legs, gasping and shrinking from the blows of the three whips which were showered upon her like hail. The laughter in the cart and in the crowd was redoubled, but Mikolka flew into a rage and furiously thrashed the mare, as though he supposed she really could gallop.

“Let me get in, too, mates,” shouted a young man in the crowd whose appetite was aroused.

“Get in, all get in,” cried Mikolka, “she will draw you all. I’ll beat her to death!” And he thrashed and thrashed at the mare, beside himself with fury.

“Father, father,” he cried, “father, what are they doing? Father, they are beating the poor horse!”

“Come along, come along!” said his father. “They are drunken and foolish, they are in fun; come away, don’t look!” and he tried to draw him away, but he tore himself away from his hand, and, beside himself with horror, ran to the horse. The poor beast was in a bad way. She was gasping, standing still, then tugging again and almost falling.

“Beat her to death,” cried Mikolka, “it’s come to that. I’ll do for her!”

“What are you about, are you a Christian, you devil?” shouted an old man in the crowd.

“Did anyone ever see the like? A wretched nag like that pulling such a cartload,” said another.

“You’ll kill her,” shouted the third.

“Don’t meddle! It’s my property, I’ll do what I choose. Get in, more of you! Get in, all of you! I will have her go at a gallop!…”

All at once laughter broke into a roar and covered everything: the mare, roused by the shower of blows, began feebly kicking. Even the old man could not help smiling. To think of a wretched little beast like that trying to kick!

Two lads in the crowd snatched up whips and ran to the mare to beat her about the ribs. One ran each side.

“Hit her in the face, in the eyes, in the eyes,” cried Mikolka.

“Give us a song, mates,” shouted someone in the cart and everyone in the cart joined in a riotous song, jingling a tambourine and whistling. The woman went on cracking nuts and laughing.

… He ran beside the mare, ran in front of her, saw her being whipped across the eyes, right in the eyes! He was crying, he felt choking, his tears were streaming. One of the men gave him a cut with the whip across the face, he did not feel it. Wringing his hands and screaming, he rushed up to the grey-headed old man with the grey beard, who was shaking his head in disapproval. One woman seized him by the hand and would have taken him away, but he tore himself from her and ran back to the mare. She was almost at the last gasp, but began kicking once more.

“I’ll teach you to kick,” Mikolka shouted ferociously. He threw down the whip, bent forward and picked up from the bottom of the cart a long, thick shaft, he took hold of one end with both hands and with an effort brandished it over the mare.

“He’ll crush her,” was shouted round him. “He’ll kill her!”

“It’s my property,” shouted Mikolka and brought the shaft down with a swinging blow. There was a sound of a heavy thud.

“Thrash her, thrash her! Why have you stopped?” shouted voices in the crowd.

And Mikolka swung the shaft a second time and it fell a second time on the spine of the luckless mare. She sank back on her haunches, but lurched forward and tugged forward with all her force, tugged first on one side and then on the other, trying to move the cart. But the six whips were attacking her in all directions, and the shaft was raised again and fell upon her a third time, then a fourth, with heavy measured blows. Mikolka was in a fury that he could not kill her at one blow.

“She’s a tough one,” was shouted in the crowd.

“She’ll fall in a minute, mates, there will soon be an end of her,” said an admiring spectator in the crowd.

“Fetch an axe to her! Finish her off,” shouted a third.

“I’ll show you! Stand off,” Mikolka screamed frantically; he threw down the shaft, stooped down in the cart and picked up an iron crowbar. “Look out,” he shouted, and with all his might he dealt a stunning blow at the poor mare. The blow fell; the mare staggered, sank back, tried to pull, but the bar fell again with a swinging blow on her back and she fell on the ground like a log.

“Finish her off,” shouted Mikolka and he leapt beside himself, out of the cart. Several young men, also flushed with drink, seized anything they could come across—whips, sticks, poles, and ran to the dying mare. Mikolka stood on one side and began dealing random blows with the crowbar. The mare stretched out her head, drew a long breath and died.

“You butchered her,” someone shouted in the crowd.

“Why wouldn’t she gallop then?”

“My property!” shouted Mikolka, with bloodshot eyes, brandishing the bar in his hands. He stood as though regretting that he had nothing more to beat.

“No mistake about it, you are not a Christian,” many voices were shouting in the crowd.

But the poor boy, beside himself, made his way, screaming, through the crowd to the sorrel nag, put his arms round her bleeding dead head and kissed it, kissed the eyes and kissed the lips…. Then he jumped up and flew in a frenzy with his little fists out at Mikolka. At that instant his father, who had been running after him, snatched him up and carried him out of the crowd.

“Come along, come! Let us go home,” he said to him.

“Father! Why did they… kill… the poor horse!” he sobbed, but his voice broke and the words came in shrieks from his panting chest.

“They are drunk…. They are brutal… it’s not our business!” said his father. He put his arms round his father but he felt choked, choked. He tried to draw a breath, to cry out—and woke up.

He waked up, gasping for breath, his hair soaked with perspiration, and stood up in terror.

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment]

[Gloss: “I think… that love encompasses the experience of the possible transition from the pure randomness of chance to a state that has universal value. Starting out from something that is simply an encounter, a trifle, you learn that you can experience the world on the basis of difference and not only in terms of identity. And you can even be tested and suffer in the process. In today’s world, it is generally thought that individuals only pursue their own self-interest. Love is an antidote to that. Provided it isn’t conceived only as an exchange of mutual favours, or isn’t calculated way in advance as a profitable investment, love really is a unique trust placed in chance. It takes us into key areas of the experience of what is difference and, essentially, leads to the idea that you can experience the world from the perspective of difference. In this respect it has universal implications: it is an individual experience of potential universality, and is thus central to philosophy, as Plato was the first to intuit.” – Alain Badiou, In Praise of Love]

All of Dostoyevsky’s characters are lost to love. If he believes that life without suffering is impossible (and the illusion of social reformers lies in the belief that pain and suffering can be legislated away – [Gloss: “I’m trying to say what I think brotherhood really is. It begins — it begins in shared pain.” – Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed]) and that there is redemption in humility and confession of evil, it is not because some institutionalised church authority tells him so; if this were all the moved Dostoyevsky’s, then he would be an obscene fool. No, what sustains Dostoyevsky’s faith, and what makes the horror of injustice bearable and forgiveness meaningful, is love. Without it, then all that would in fact remain to us is cynicism or suicide.

In the figure of the Grand Inquisitor confronted by Jesus, who has returned once more, of the novel The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky opposes to the Church’s government of needs, Jesus’ silent and lawless freedom. For the Grand Inquisitor, Jesus’ silence and anarchy left his disciples and those desirous of following them, with nothing. The example of his life was impossible, and thus the Church was given no choice but to render the impossible, impossible. The Church offered not freedom, but bread and security. Against the fear of the uncertainties of life, the Church promised the fulfillment of needs. And before the possibility of the latter, and if a choice must be made, as it was, freedom will be forgotten, condemned even, for relative comfort. To this, Jesus cannot argue with words (unlike the underground man) – for what common ground exists between them to be able to argue? – but only with deeds, with a freedom testified to in the flesh. And because to act freely (and recall, that for the underground man, to act is to be stupid, or we may add, a child or an idiot) is impossible, the Church, the sovereign of needs, must act against Jesus: the Grand Inquisitor orders him to be burned at the stake.

In what he calls a reservation, Dostoyevsky’s underground man points to what Dostoyevsky may have thought as the only possibility of living freely:

“I agree that man is pre-eminently a creative animal, predestined to strive consciously for an object and to engage in engineering–that is, incessantly and eternally to make new roads, wherever they may lead. But the reason why he wants sometimes to go off at a tangent may just be that he is predestined to make the road, and perhaps, too, that however stupid the “direct” practical man may be, the thought sometimes will occur to him that the road almost always does lead somewhere, and that the destination it leads to is less important than the process of making it, and that the chief thing is to save the well-conducted child from despising engineering, and so giving way to the fatal idleness, which, as we all know, is the mother of all the vices. Man likes to make roads and to create, that is a fact beyond dispute. But why has he such a passionate love for destruction and chaos also? Tell me that! But on that point I want to say a couple of words myself. May it not be that he loves chaos and destruction (there can be no disputing that he does sometimes love it) because he is instinctively afraid of attaining his object and completing the edifice he is constructing? Who knows, perhaps he only loves that edifice from a distance, and is by no means in love with it at close quarters; perhaps he only loves building it and does not want to live in it, but will leave it, when completed, for the use of les animaux domestiques – such as the ants, the sheep, and so on. Now the ants have quite a different taste. They have a marvellous edifice of that pattern which endures for ever – the ant-heap.

With the ant-heap the respectable race of ants began and with the ant-heap they will probably end, which does the greatest credit to their perseverance and good sense. But man is a frivolous and incongruous creature, and perhaps, like a chess player, loves the process of the game, not the end of it. And who knows (there is no saying with certainty), perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, in other words, in life itself, and not in the thing to be attained, which must always be expressed as a formula, as positive as twice two makes four, and such positiveness is not life, gentlemen, but is the beginning of death. Anyway, man has always been afraid of this mathematical certainty, and I am afraid of it now. Granted that man does nothing but seek that mathematical certainty, he traverses oceans, sacrifices his life in the quest, but to succeed, really to find it, dreads, I assure you. He feels that when he has found it there will be nothing for him to look for. When workmen have finished their work they do at least receive their pay, they go to the tavern, then they are taken to the police-station–and there is occupation for a week. But where can man go? Anyway, one can observe a certain awkwardness about him when he has attained such objects. He loves the process of attaining, but does not quite like to have attained, and that, of course, is very absurd. In fact, man is a comical creature; there seems to be a kind of jest in it all. But yet mathematical certainty is after all, something insufferable. Twice two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Twice two makes four is a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting. I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.”

To live not as a means to an end (the logic of instrumentalisation), nor as an end in oneself (the logic of sacralisation), but as a means without end, always in the midst of a becoming without beginning or end. This is what we are desirous to call anarchy.

John Gielgud as the The Grand Inquisitor (a production for the Open University – BBC, 1975)

Tags: dostoyevskyliteraturecategory: Essays
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New by Michael Rectenwald, Springtime for Snowflakes!

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:25

New by Michael Rectenwald, Springtime for Snowflakes! | 01 Aug 2018 | Springtime for Snowflakes: 'Social Justice' and Its Postmodern Parentage is a daring and candid memoir. NYU Professor Michael Rectenwald - the notorious @AntiPCNYUProf - illuminates the obscurity of postmodern theory to track down the ideas and beliefs that spawned the contemporary social justice creed and movement.

Categories: News

Call-in for Sean Swain: Get Him Out of Solitary

It's Goin Down - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:21

The post Call-in for Sean Swain: Get Him Out of Solitary appeared first on It's Going Down.

Call-in campaign for long time anarchist prisoner, Sean Swain. To read more about Sean and his case, go here

Anarchist prisoner Sean Swain has come under fire by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The ODRC has increased Sean’s security level from 3 to 5b, an increase that has sent him to solitary confinement, led to him being handcuffed during visits, and further removed him from any possibility for parole.

Additionally, the ODRC is threatening to put Sean on interstate compact, a system that ships subversive prisoners around the country, places heavy restrictions on communication, and interns them in the black hole of the interstate compact system.

We’re calling for any who feel compelled by Sean’s plight to call ODRC director Gary Mohr and demand that Sean’s appeal to the current disciplinary hearing be granted and that Sean’s security level be lowered. (A script for the call can be found below.)

Thank you all. Your solidarity means so much.

-Some friends of Sean Swain

CALL:

Director Gary Mohr

614-387-0588

drc.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us

melissa.adkins@odrc.state.oh.us (Administrative Assistant for Mohr)

CALL-IN SCRIPT

I am calling on behalf of Sean Swain, inmate #243-205. I am a friend of Sean. I am calling to request the ODRC grant Mr. Swain’s appeal regarding his most recent disciplinary record, drop the charges, and lower his security level from 5b to 2. Mr. Swain is not a physical security risk, and there is no reason to keep him at such a high security rating where he will be unable to get the programming he needs to be eligible for rehabilitation and parole. Thank you for your consideration.

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