amplifying our everyday resistance to the prison industrial complex
The thing about being a prison abolitionist, or working against punishment culture, or against capital punishment, or against abuse culture, or against rape culture, or against the violence that happens due to the legal system and imperialism, or the system that turns those who are actually marginalized enough to be arrested and turned into “monsters” who are then banished from society, or working with monster politics, or being against banishment culture…. is that you have to start from you, from home, from what you know. You can talk about everything else too, but you have to also begin from what you understand of your own existence and the existences of those you know or are close to. You have to face the monster within you and near you; you have to understand that those “monsters” aren’t faraway spectacles who we could never become. (I mean, sure, maybe some of us could never do certain things, but… there are a lot more possibilities than we ever realize, I think.)
It’s a form of othering that happens, actually, and always happens to those who are marginalized enough already to be turned into the spectacle of the “monster.” You “other” the monster so you can feel some sense of false safety, some sense that you are not perpetuating the violence of abuse & punishment culture. You other the monster so you don’t have to face your own demons. Being against this? It’s hard. It is terrifying. Seeing the monster? Facing the monster, here, there, inside, outside? Reclaiming the monster, even? Understanding the monster? Communicating with the monster? These are difficult things to do, and difficult things to learn. I suspect it is a perpetual struggle. (And the monster is not necessarily the one who commits crimes; the monster is the one who is made into the spectacle, the anatomy of fear. And sometimes, yes, the monster is the “criminal,” but part of the complexity of this is that punishment is more about pushing someone out of society rather than holding them accountable; it is about refusing to see rather than facing the truth.)I don’t blame survivors and their close ones for wanting some kind of justice, for resorting to death as that means of justice, for wishing death and revenge, for wishing for punishment and banishment, for acting in self-defense, for acting in other-defense, for trying to stop people from committing violence (or more violence). I don’t blame them, us, but so often those very people are the ones seeking for alternatives, for some sense to make of a culture consumed by violence and punishment.I have more to say about this that I can’t even begin to speak, and it’s hard to really make sense of things, but again: accountability, not punishment. I feel like in some radical social justice circles there is an understanding that in a broader scheme, we can talk about different methods of accountability, but in the interpersonal immediate sense, reactions of revenge and punishment must be respected. And in a way that is true but in other ways it ignores those moments of rupture— the interpersonal immediate and the broader general intersecting, always, the million possible spectra of possibilities, the ones who get away vs. the ones who don’t, the survivors who have complicated relationships with their abusers, the cycle of violence that continues into so-called “rehabilitation,” the death penalty doing nothing but erasure, the constant erasure of memory that perpetuates the cycle… etc. The ignorance of the intersections of other systems of oppression with punishment culture.
-Shana Bulhan Haydock