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The Right To Rule

Transcript of Radio Essay originally appearing on The Final Straw.

Where does the “right to rule” come from?

I look at this vast, complex system created by poor deluded hierarchs and I see that we have those who rule-the ones Occupy called the 1%; and then there are the rest of us, the stone draggers, the ones who are ruled.
It makes me wonder where the “right to rule” comes from? Certainly such a thing has to exist. Right? What I mean is, those who rule us; kings and presidents and the corporate executives who write all their policies, lawmakers judges and cops. They give the orders, and we obey.
Where does it come from? Are they born with it? Are their two kinds of babies that come into the world, one kind that has the right, not only to rule themselves, but to rule others; and another kind far more numerous, thats born without even the right to rule themselves?
I wonder how we tell it apart, this special specie oh human who has the right to rule. Perhaps its shoe size or eye color or maybe we have to analyze the shapes of our craniums. Could be astrology. It’s certainly not brains and ability. Look at George Dubya, Sara Palin, ODRC Director Gary Mohr who sent me to the supermax facility to silence me.
These aren’t exactly exceptional specimens.But they assume ‘the right to rule.’
This right to rule has to come from somewhere , or it doesn’t exist,and if it doesn’t exist, then no human being has any right to be obeyed, has any right to order and compel the obedience of any other human being.If the right to rule doesn’t come from somewhere, if it doesn’t exist, then there is only one specie of human, not true, and that means we are all created equal-just like that hypocrite slave owner Thomas Jefferson said.
And if this right to rule at the very foundation of hierarchy is only a myth, only as real as magical beans and faerie dust, then poor deluded hierarchs are imposing a 6,000 year old fraud. Their whole system is a lie. No one has the right to rule.
That means we have a vast system designed to keep all of us under control while a small group of privileged elite exploit all of us, making us do the sweating and bleeding and dying, while they laugh at us behind our backs.They sell us on the myth of the right to rule….we’re enslaved to something no more real than magical beans and faerie dust.
Poor deluded hierarchs might say that the right to rule comes from the consent of the governed, that we vote and give permission to our rulers to rule us. Those who assume the right to rule certainly tell us that. They create billion dollar systems called schools where we are mandated to go,where we are told over and over that we give permission to our rulers to rule us, and that we are the source of the right to rule.
It takes twelve years of telling us that lie over and over again before we’re incapable of questioning it.
But this “consent of the governed ”argument that voters are the source of a rulers right to rule doesn’t really explain anything. It just transfers the problem. Now instead of asking what gives the ruler the right to rule,we have to ask what gives that voter the right to rule by proxy.What gives those voters the right to impose their ruler on others, while others lack even the right to rule themselves?
What gives anyone the right to rule, even by proxy, through a choice of ruler designee,and take from you and me even our rights to rule ourselves.Where does it come from, this right to rule, that voters imagine they have?
If it doesn’t originate from anywhere,when we are back to the right to rule being a myth.Magical beans and faerie dust. A 6,000 year old swindle that robs us of our freedom, our right to rule ourselves, while a select few benefit from our collective enslavement…to a provable lie at the very heart of hierarchy.
I say it’s a provable fact the right to rule does not exist. That means noone has the right to give orders to anyone else.That means there is no such thing as legitimate authority-not presidents, not law makers, not judges or cops. We’re all captives of a mass delusion, programmed to accept it, forcibly indoctrinated to internalize a pathology built on a lie–suffering a mass mental illness called hierarchy. And once you see the right to rule is a myth, you can never go back to your assigned seats.

This is anarchist prisoner Sean Swain from Ohio’s supermax facility, if your listening,you are the resistance!

Pacifists Suck: How Arresting Revolution Maintains a Violent World

Pacifists Suck: How Arresting Revolution Maintains a Violent World
by Sean Swain

When a guy kicked in my door in 1991, I panicked and stabbed him to death. I didn’t own a gun. I didn’t believe in guns. I always ascribed to the wisdom that if somebody wanted to come to my home and shoot me, he would have to bring his own gun. So, in the years that followed, perhaps in part motivated by a need to make sense out of this tragedy, I encountered Gandhi. I read everything I could find and became a veritable Gandhi expert, even consuming everything by and about his students–Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Gene Sharp (who wrote the exhaustive Politics of Nonviolent Action), and other fellow travelers like Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador.

I became convinced that only nonviolent direct action–and exclusively-nonviolent direct action–held the solution for changing the world in any constructive way. As a member of CURE-Ohio’s prisoner advisory board, I successfully advocated for that organization to develop a policy for supporting prisoner nonviolent direct action. In 2002, I was recognized by no less than Rosa Parks herself for my public advocacy of nonviolent action, and the co-chair of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s National Campaign for Tolerance added my name to the Wall of Tolerance.

I share all of that to demonstrate that I am fully versed in the theory and practice of nonviolent direct action and that I used to be among those who insisted on exclusive nonviolence as the only solution. But I am no longer under the influence of that powerful delusion and I recognize, reasonably and practically, that political violence is a necessary feature for any successful effort at social transformation.

Exclusive nonviolence doesn’t cut it. It never did, it never will. In fact, those who insist on exclusive nonviolence and thereby hold all social movements hostage, demanding that all tactics employed by all participants meet the nonviolence litmus, are the biggest impediment to social transformation that currently exists. “Pacifists,” the idealist followers of Gandhi and MLK, are the most culpable accomplices to the continuing violence of our current status quo.

Principled pacifists, threatening withdrawal from social movements if violent tactics are considered, doom every social movement to which they are a part. They limit resistance to only those tactics that will inevitably fail. This proves true in the most glaring recent example of the Occupy movement, when police employed brutal and violent repression to push resisters out of the public space. The resistance ultimately dissolved in the face of State terror because pacifists’ limitations prevented Occupy from preparing effectively to meet violence with violence, precluded any plan to deploy violent offensives that would diminish the State’s capacity to confront Occupy with such overwhelming force, and ultimately foreclosed upon even the consideration of tactics that may have altered history.

Reality: Cops are violent.

Reality: Cops are going to employ violence to impose “order.”

Reality: If those who truly desire to challenge the-world-as-it-is want to be successful, they will have to develop strategies for meeting, countering, and overcoming State violence.

Reality: Violent revolutionary action is the solution.

Of course, principled pacifists are unwilling to participate in any social movement that contemplates violence and/or property damage, not even in a nonviolent or noncombatant role, thereby diminishing the potential numbers of the resistance and dooming it stillborn before it ever emerges.

But what is it, exactly, that principled pacifists are opposing? Is their opposition reasonable? Just how “violent” is violent revolution, and does it result in more violence than a continuation of the existing order of things?

Let’s take an analytical look at violent revolution, the solution that principled pacifists oppose and ultimately prevent: We can get an idea of what happens during a revolution by considering the data from previous revolutions. We know, for instance, that in the English, American, French, and Russian revolutions, only a maximum of 5% of those country’s populations–at peak participation–were involved in the resistance. So that means that 95% of any given population does not participate in a revolution.

This is important for us to consider as we weigh the violence that principled pacifists oppose, and the violence that principled pacifists ultimately choose to perpetuate–the State violence of the current order. The violent revolution that pacifists prevent would foreseeably involve 5% of the population at most. That means pacifists prevent 5% of the population from successfully liberating 100% of the population through recourse to bullets and bombs.

This ratio is also borne out by more recent struggles, including the Cuban revolution. In Cuba, rebels never numbered more than 5,000 in a population of roughly 11 million people. This puts max participation at 4.5% against a regime materially-supported by the United States.

In that armed struggle, the rebels killed something like 300 of the regime’s forces.

Using those numbers, an armed struggle in the U.S. that would successfully topple the existing order would involve 13.5 million people, a mere fraction of the number of the currently unemployed. So, by all accounts, principled pacifists aren’t opposing a wild orgy of violence that engulfs 300 million people and plunges the U.S. unto absolute madness, they oppose an armed struggle that, at most, would involve 13.5 million rebels.

But, that’s still not a fair presentation. While 13.5 million would be involved in the rebellion, not all would be involved in direct armed struggle as combatants. We have to consider that many of those people would be medics and cooks and logistical support. You’ve also got large numbers of rebels who would engage exclusively in nonviolent forms of resistance like hacking, intelligence gathering, promotion, and recruitment, not to mention those who specialize in sabotage exclusively against property.

It is important to remember that just because a rebellion incorporates the strategies of violence, not all rebels necessarily participate in the violent components of rebellion. Normally, just a fraction of any given force ever engages in actual combat, fighting, shooting, and dying. So that we cannot be accused of under-estimates, let’s say half of the rebels would be involved in direct violence, although this ratio is likely very high.

In an armed struggle in the U.S., that would put the number of rebels engaged in actual direct fighting at less than 7 million.

I read somewhere that we have 200 million guns in the U.S. We could arm every combatant of a successful revolution by distributing just 3.5% of the guns we own. In so doing, we could end the current order and all the suffering and death it causes globally, year after year. It would take 7 million people, at peak participation, willing to pull a trigger to bring about a future we deserve.

With 7 million armed rebels in a revolutionary engagement involving a maximum of 13.5 million, we could reasonably expect a number of deaths as high as 810,000. And that’s if the government forces continue fighting until the rebels can reach the doorstep of those calling the shots.

That’s if the U.S. military is willing to side with the government, against the people.

More people than that will be killed by drunk drivers.

More people than that will kill themselves, because the current order relegates them to lives that are intolerable.

Consider: If principled pacifists willingly played nonviolent roles in a violent revolution, 300 million people would be liberated with less than 1 million casualties and the foreseeable end result would be a net gain rather than a loss when we consider all of the lives that this current system will inevitably chew up if it isn’t taken down. And that isn’t even factoring in people all over the world who suffer and die as a result of U.S. actions.

Consider: If, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, principled pacifists participated nonviolently in a violent revolution, millions of lives would have been saved at a cost of fewer than 1 million. That means if we act now, and pacifists allow the revolution to take its course, we can save millions of lives in preventing the next U.S. invasion and bombing of some defenseless country before it even happens.

To be a principled pacifist is to foreclose upon a revolution that would save lives. That means, in the final analysis, pacifists are against the preservation of life. They are so enraptured with their delusional, fast construct and their narrow, unrealistic definition of violence, that their “principled” inaction obstructs what would transform the world and preserve countless lives long into the future. Their principles matter more than we do.

Consider the next drone strike.

Consider the unarmed Black men killed by police.

Principled pacifists are the unwitting shovel that the ruling elite uses to dig its mass graves. Their complicity in crimes against humanity is inexcusable. Let’s hope that, for the rest of us who do not share their Kumbayah delusions, they stop obstructing the real solution before it’s too late.

Recommended reading:

Anatomy of Revolution, by Crane Brinton War of the Flea, by Robert Taber Politics of Nonviolent Action, by Gene Sharp The Logic of Political Violence, by Craig Rosebraugh

Introduction to The Colonizer’s Corpse

Introduction to The Colonizer’s Corpse:

Open response to CIIC Director Joanna Saul’s invitation to present advice on maintaining mental health in 23-hour lockdown.

I received a letter from Joanna Saul, Director of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), which oversees the prison complex the the Ohio General Assembly. She wrote, in part, “…CIIC is currently working on a resource for inmates in segregation or maximum security. We would very much appreciate hearing from you and other inmates regarding your segregation experience and, in particular, how you stayed emotionally and mentally strong in segregation? [Bold type in original.] Our hope is to provide suggestions to inmates in segregation for how to cope with being locked down for 23 hours a day. What advice would you give an inmate who is going to segregation?”

Below is my response to this invitation:

The colonizer’s Corpse: A Liberatory Approach to Maintaining Mental Health While Subject to the Fascists’ Torture Machine.

“…For the colonized, liberation springs only from the corpse of the colonizer.” –Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth

Segregation is a traumatic experience. To stay sane, to stay mentally organized, you have to first be sane and mentally organized. That is, a “crazy” person can’t stay sane because a crazy person isn’t sane to begin with. So this is key: You have to think in a way that makes sense; you have to care about yourself and you have to be committed to acting in such a way that serves you best. That’s kind of a working definition of sanity–thinking, and then, as a result, acting, in a way that makes sense.

Thinking is key. You have to use your head for something other than a hat rack. Especially if you are spending a long time in segregation or isolation, since you’ll be spending a lot of time inside your own head. Any place you spend that much time you have to pay attention to the furniture, so to speak, the stuff that fills up your space, what you’re putting in it. What do you put in your head space? This is important because what goes on inside your head is more critical than what’s going on in the world around you.

People caring about themselves have to make sure they see the world clearly. You can’t react in a way that makes sense if you don’t understand what’s really happening to you. So sane people–people who think and act in ways that serve their interests best–have to first face the reality that confronts them. This means not running away from painful truths. This means being honest with yourself. If you want to stay sane you can’t run away from your experience or try to hide from it. You have to face it. But you face it with clear understanding. You use your mind and you look deeply at the experience so you can understand what it is that is happening and why it is happening, and then you can develop for yourself a plan or an approach for acting sane, for acting in your own best interests, and maybe even using this experience to gain some wisdom, an opportunity to grow.

The place to start is by understanding the situation you are facing, how you got there, and why it is happening to you.

“Rehabilitation never offered mental health, just the reverse. It involves communication only with staff who are not worth any contact at all. To listen to their philosophy, or accept their outlook will destroy you…” –Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide

Segregation and isolation are trauma. It hurts. This is the reality of it. What you are experiencing is designed to be painful. The State, the authorities, the ones who keep you locked up, have designed a system, and have perfected that system, for causing you trauma. In fact, the government has written books and manuals on it. These manuals were written in order to teach the people who keep you locked up so they can use, “the principle coercive techniques”* of “arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement…, threats and fear…” What this means is, the ones who keep you locked up will use a combination of these things in order to cause a response from you. The response they want to cause is “debility, dependence, and dread.” “Debility” means the opposite of “ability.” Debility is, in a sense, making someone worse, breaking them in some way. “Dependence” is the opposite of “independence.” Dependence is where you can’t do for yourself any more, and you must count on someone else to do for you. “Dread” is like fear, only it also means to lose hope.

So the reality of your situation is, the people in charge have figured out the method for turning you into someone less able, broken, and hopeless, all by putting you through conditions that are very painful. As the process continues, “day after day if necessary, the subject begins to try to make sense of the situation, which becomes mentally intolerable.” “Intolerable” means you can’t stand it. Your situation is designed to cause “the maximum amount of discomfort…” In this “mentally intolerable” situation you face, a situation designed to cause “the mximum amount of discomfort,” it deprives your mind of “contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in on itself…” The trauma you experience “after weeks or months of imprisonment in an ordinary cell can be duplicated in hours or days” in isolation. As the CIA manual concludes, describing the conditions of confinement you will experience in segregation and maximum security, “…in the simple torture situation, the contest is one between the individual and his tormentor…”

This is not presented to shock you or to scare you. It is presented so that you can have a clear idea of what you face. Only by seeing reality as it is can you react to it in a way that makes the most sense for you. You have to see what you face and what it is designed to do to you, and when you know that, when you can see it for what it is, you are better equipped to respond to it.

Whatever you did to come to prison (or didn’t do), and whatever you did to go to segregation or level 4 (or didn’t do), you are in the custody of people who want to make your life “mentally intolerable,” and they are putting you through “the simple torture situation.”

They know that what they are doing to you will not make you a better person. They are not doing this to you to help” you or to “reform” you. This is designed to destroy you. This is very important to know, because it can guide your approach to this trauma, this “simple torture situation,” if you recognize that you are not being “corrected,” i.e., made better, but you are being debilitated, i.e., made worse.

It is a necessary and healthy thing to call something what it really is. The words we use have an influence on how we see things. When you use words, even in your head, like “corrections officer,” and “inmate,” you create a picture of “correcting,” a picture of an offender who has offended; but when you use the same words, even if just in your head, that are used by the very same people who wrote the manuals and designed this system, you see a “tormentor” and a “subject,” you see a “simple torture situation” that involves a torturer and a victim.

Why is this important? Because you can’t expect ice cream to come out of a toaster. A toaster is a machine that is designed to do one thing. So if you hold your cone under the toaster and expect ice cream to come out, you are going to be very disappointed. The same is true for the prison’s isolation unit. This is a machine that is designed to do one thing.

Don’t expect this machine to do anything else. You are in the “simple torture situation.” It is a simple fact that you cannot expect those who subject you to this simple torture situation” to offer you any real assistance. People who torture are not nice people.

If you expect them to be kind and caring and good, you are expecting ice cream to fall out of a toaster.

It may be that you have met staff who seem like they are shocked and saddened by the conditions they witness. They may talk about how things are unfair and how the situation needs to change. They may even try to address some conditions that they think are too much. They take no personal joy from the suffering they see and they make it clear that they are “only doing their jobs.”

And that is the point, isn’t it? They do their jobs. They work, they keep it going, and they receive their pay-checks for doing “their jobs.” Their jobs include keeping you in “debility, dependence, and dread.” So “their jobs” are to serve the “tormentor” and they do those jobs, despite the harm it will cause you.

We must also consider that everyone working for this machine knows what it does to you. Hundreds of studies have shown again and again how isolation causes mental illness in humans. But more than that, by the manuals that were written, we know that’s what it’s designed to do. This is no mistake. This is no accidental result that happens again and again and again, any more than a Toyota Camry “accidentally” comes off the end of the assembly line at the factory over and over and over again.

The factory makes cars. It’s designed to. The isolation unit makes broken minds. It’s designed to.

And beyond that, think about it: Why is this “resource” being written? It’s being written because staff at the CIIC recognize that the brutal, harsh conditions of isolation are causing prisoners to become mentally ill so, rather than end the practice of driving prisoners insane, they opt to give you advice from prisoners who have survived a process designed to drive them insane. That speaks loudly. Would “kind,” “caring,” “concerned,” “nice” people work with every ounce of their beings to shut down a torture machine, or would they hand its victims a well-produced brochure?

So, for our purposes of staying sane and seeing the situation as it is, recognizing reality so we can act in our own best interests, we have to set aside false ideas that really do not fit, that do not serve us honestly. We have to use words that paint an accurate picture.

You have an enemy. Your enemy is evil–evil personified, and it takes someone evil to engage in torture. Your evil enemy intends to torture you for a long, long time, until your mind is broken. The best you can hope for is for the most sympathetic people to hand you advice on how to survive their “simple torture situation.” You can only count on you at this point.

“The State has never any object but to limit the individual, to tame him, to subordinate him, to subject him to something general; it lasts only so long as the individual is not all in all, and is only the clearcut limitation of me, my limitedness, my slavery.” –Max Stirner

You may ask, “Why do I want to face this? It feels very hopeless.” What we’ve done so far is simply an inventory of your reality. You have some serious forces stacked against you. But you aren’t better off if you don’t see it or if you ignore it. You aren’t in a better place if you convince yourself of some fairie tale, some myth that your enemy feeds you to keep you asleep and “under control.” If you buy into those lies and let them guide you, the damage you will experience will be the same; the only difference will be that your actions will be more predictable and more of a benefit for the torture machine to keep going and going and going.

If you buy into the false idea that your “tormenters” (the government’s word, remember) are the “good guys,” and you “put yourself here,” and you “deserve” this (whatever “this” is), and this trauma is to “correct” you or make you “better” or “teach you a (pro-social) lesson,” you will experience the same trauma as everyone who has the courage to face the truth. The only differences will be that (1) you won’t know why this is happening, (2) you won’t be able to figure out how to prevent your enemy from succeeding because you won’t see what your enemy is really trying to do to you, and (3) you won’t be able to act in your own best interests because you misunderstand your reality.

So, by facing this reality, you will be establishing a principle that’s absolutely crucial for maintaining your sanity. It’s this: Always seek the truth, no matter how bad it is.

One way to think of this is a scene from the movie, “The Matrix.” The main character, Neo, meets Morpheus, who offers Neo the chance to know the truth. If Neo chooses the red pill, he wakes up to reality. If he chooses the blue pill, he remains asleep.

If you want to get through “the simple torture situation” and survive what your “tormentor” does to you, choose the red pill.

Always choose the red pill.

Once your eyes are open, it gives you things to think about. You can look at every experience, every single element of your situation, and you can ask yourself, “Why is the enemy doing this to me? How is this supposed to make me feel? How is this supposed to impact my mind and my health and my struggle? How can I respond to this in a way that serves my survival and my long-term success?

For instance: Have you ever noticed that most segregation units are freezing cold all year around? Why is that? Why does the enemy keep you intolerably cold? First, there’s the discomfort so, on the most basic level, your enemy simply wants you to suffer. But second, cold people will seek to get warm and the only feasible strategy for that in segregation is to get under your covers; you remain inactive in bed. This serves the enemy in several ways:

1. Inactive people burn fewer calories, so the enemy can cut your food portions and you won’t lose weight. Your enemy saves money on food.

2. If you’re laying in bed, you’re not doing something else. You’re not writing letters or building muscles or sharing ideas or building unity or writing an inspiring poem.

3. People laying in bed will sleep, and sleeping people’s behavior is predictable.

4. Constant cold has a psychological impact, as it wears on your morale and makes you feel hopeless. It contributes to the assault on your mind.

Once you recognize this and see the truth of it, what can you do? Well, for a start, simply knowing what is being done to you (and knowing why) makes the intolerable a bit more tolerable. The cold is a tactic being used on you. And when you know your enemy’s designs, you can use your head to prevent his success.

How? Two ways. There are actions you can take to “adjust to the conditions,” and actions you can take to “change the conditions.”

Actions you can take to adjust to the conditions would be to find alternatives for staying warm. If you have 3 pairs of socks, wear 2 of them and use the third pair as mittens so you can stay up, stay awake, read and write. You can wrap blankets around you while you pace the floor. You can write a poem or a rap and between verses you do push ups–this keeps you in shape and keeps you warm. You can pace and think and get a good understanding of the situation you face, and then share your insight with other prisoners so they too have the tools to effectively struggle and maintain. You can read literature from others who share your perspective and write to them, finding ways to cooperate and build relationships and start projects.

Which leads to actions that “change the conditions.” You may decide that adjusting to conditions isn’t good enough; you want the conditions to change. Rather than wrapping yourself in blankets, you want to make the enemy’s torture machine turn the heat up. This is a very different approach from “adjusting.”

What can you do to make the torture machine turn up the heat? And, at the same time, within that question is another question: What can you do to stand up for your dignity and affirm your human value and combat the forces that work toward your destruction? And still another question: What can you do to take a healthy and affirmative approach to exercise your own personal power in order to change the world for the better and give yourself something to seel a sense of accomplishment?

There exists a prison grievance process, but this is an open joke among prisoners and staff alike. The grievance process serves to misdirect prisoners from engaging in any effective response to wrongs and serves as a kind of gauntlet where prison officials can identify future possible lawsuits and employ a harassment campaign to coerce potential prisoner litigants to give up. At its best, the grievance process represents an effort to get a career prisoncrat to declare that other career prisoncrats wronged a convicted felon no one cares about.

Being able to see the grievance process as a tool of your enemy’s program liberates you to think of other ways to exercise your personal power to change conditions. What else can you do?

Individual actions are very limited. The enemy has a vast machine. So, it is a good idea to build a working group, a collective of prisoners who cooperate in struggle. The larger the number of prisoners willing to struggle, the more collective power you can bring against the enemy.

Mention must be made here that your enemy may appeal to “rules” that the enemy imposes in order to keep you powerless while trapped in the torture machine. In reality, these rules do not exist. The enemy appeals to “rules” as part of his false mythology that he is “the good guy” and you are “the bad guy,” that he is “correcting” you because you are “maladjusted,” that all of this is for “your own good” and you “did this to yourself” and these “rules are necessary.”

Reality is quite the opposite. Your enemy tortures human beings. Your enemy is evil personified. Anyone who tortures has no respect for laws or rules or morals or the basic foundations of human relations, so any appeal to “rules” is really a trick, a manipulation to get you to abandon any strategy that would be effective for forcing real, substantive change. In reality, it is not “moral” or “right” to abide by the enemy’s “rules” and abandon efforts to stop his evil agenda. In fact, it can easily be argued that you have a moral duty, an ethical responsibility to stop torturers by what Malcolm X referred to as “any means necessary.” Your inaction, your following the “rules,” guarantees that others will be tortured and destroyed, perhaps generation after generation, their minds mangled by a machine designed to tear apart human beings from the inside out.

It is both immoral and psychologically unhealthy not to resist evil.

So, from this view, it becomes necessary to engage the enemy in the most effective way to save the most lives. To do that, you must bring pressure, leverage upon your enemy. To borrow from his own playbook, you must make his situation “intolerable,” and creat the situation where torturing you (or continuing those conditions you most wish to change) becomes more costly, more painful, and more troublesome than meeting your demands.

From a lockdown isolation unit there is little that can be done. However, those tactics that can be engaged can be very effective.

For instance, prisoners can simultaneously flush toilets and break pipes. Plumbing is designed to hold only a certain amount of water flow. Repeatedly breaking the pipes becomes costly, time-consuming, and disruptive for the enemy.

Also, prisoners can block cell door windows and barricade cells, requiring the enemy to summon cell-extraction teams. This becomes costly, time-consuming and disruptive.

These kinds of tactics are most effective if sustained by large numbers of prisoners over a duration of time.

From a superficial analysis, this kind of approach could be seen as “self-defeating” or “maladjusted,” particularly if someone sees the torturer’s system as legitimate. Persons under this kind of delusion would be horrified by this advice and would instead urge prisoners to go along with the program, to be the proverbial “good Germans,” little Adolf Eichmanns following orders and keeping the program going. Their position is built upon the false belief that “good behavior,” i.e., conduct that does not disrupt the torture machine’s efficiency, is rewarded, while “bad behavior,” i.e., conduct that disrupts the torture machine’s efficiency is punished appropriately.

This myth is so provably absurd it does not even merit a response.

However it must be pointed out that there is what seems to be a contradiction–since resistance will provoke a state response, is it not fair to say that engaging in struggle is not acting in one’s own best interests? This is a valid question, and the answer depends upo whether you look at your short-term, immediate interests, or whether you look at your long-term, larger interests. Do you care more about your immediate situation, your immediate personal comfort? If so, then you serve those interests better by going along with the enemy’s torture program and helping his evil agenda continue. But if you care about your sanity–which is really the important prioty, the true topic of all of this–then you must act in a way that preserves your dignity, your principles, and your sense of justice by exercising personal power and contributing to a greater good, even at the expense of your immediate well-being.

To give an example of this conflict of interests, consider a hunger-striker who suffers hunger and diminished health in order to force the enemy to meet important demands related to human dignity. One may argue that it is “insane” for the hunger-striker to harm self, that long-term sanity cannot be served if the hunger-striker starves to death. But from another view, the hunger-striker sees the “harm” of hunger and health effects far outweighed by the greater “harm” caused by the conditions that the hunger-striker struggles to change.

This is a far more valid conception from a mental health perspective, though an uneasy and uncomfortable one for apologists of state power since, by this conception, “suicide bombers” can be understood as engaging in a perfectly healthy response, from a psychological perspective, if the so-called “suicide bombers” are acting under a firm belief that their actions will result in changes that will benefit their children or future generations. In that way, a suicide bomber, psychologically speaking, would be no different from a soldier jumping onto a grenade to save his platoon, except one is a bit more assertive and proactive.

Concusion: Psychological Necessity of Revolutionary Violence

As a final note, those who defend the torture machine may object that the approach advocated here “promotes violence.” Again, this analysis proceeds from the delusion that the torturers are “good” and “valid” and “right.”

A more accurate assessment is to say that the stat itself is violence. Its every component is violence, from its means for maintaining itself to every project the state undertakes.

The state maintains itself through taxation: Pay, or else. It compels obedience: Obey the laws, or else. It defends the economic status quo and its ruling elite: Work, or else. It has now intruded into our mental lives, dictating what we can think and believe (or else). So, in this context, even the state’s most “benevolent” “service,” at base, rests upon a billy-club, a shot-gun, or an Apache attack helicopter.

In light of this, there is never an absence of violence so long as the state exists. The state makes violence inevitable. The only question is whether the state will be unilaterally punching the subjects in the frace, as it has for centuries, or whether the subjects will be punching the state back.

If peace, the absence of violence, can only be achieved in the absence of the state, which is itself violence, then with any action undertaken to limit or diminish the state, no matter how “violent” the action, the cause of peace is better served. This is not really an opinion, but is an objective observation of fact that really isn’t disputable.

If someone wants peace and not violence, it’s necessary to tear down the state’s torture machine. This is not just a matter of social justice, morality, or political theory, but is an indispensible approach for the maintenance of individual mental health for those trapped in the “simple torture situation.”


*All quotes in text taken from the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Sean Swain is a prisoner in Ohio State penitentiary and a regular contributor to Fubar. He does not have computer access and cannot receive email. Sean’s website http://seanswain.org is maintained by his supporters.

Sean’s address is:

Sean Swain 243205
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd.
Youngstown OH 44505

A Murder of Crows: An Open Letter to the Occupy Movement On One View For Facilitating the Occupation of the Prisons

“It is not necessary for crows to become eagles.”

–Sitting Bull, 1888

      In prior communications, I urged Occupy to consider the inclusion of prisoners into any plan moving forward and made some general arguments regarding the potential for such a plan, and to a lesser degree I argued the moral imperative for including prisoners into a movement that in its slogans professed to represent the 99%. Assuming my arguments were as persuasive to you as they seemed to be to me, I now undertake to present one view as to how such a relationship between Occupy and prisoners could develop, and what that collaboration could look like.

      It must be noted, however, before I begin, that as soon as my writings were posted and at least one subsequent response from an Occupy group quoted my prior communication, my mail to and from the prison became seriously delayed. It would appear that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not only monitoring my mail, but the agents who do so need to improve their reading skills; my mail has been delayed up to 45 days and the words in the letters do not exceed four syllables. This speaks to two things: (1) The enemy is afraid of the ideas I’m espousing, and that’s just another reason to undertake them, and (2) the federal government needs to develop a reading program for their agents.

      Perhaps someone out there can mail “Hooked on Phonics” to me so the F.B.I. can gain its benefits. Perhaps include a note to the F.B.I. letting them know to take their time with that one.

      At any rate, I firmly believe that collaboration between Occupy and prisoners has the same kind of potential as Derrick Jensen’s proposal for collaboration between Occupy and groups supporting ecological defense. Of course, in my thinking, it would be best to select “all of the above,” and have Occupy inextricably integrated with prisoners and the Earth Liberation Front.

      In this communication, I provide my view on how a collaboration between Occupy and prisoners could work. By this view, Occupiers and prisoners begin a dialogue for purposes of developing a prisoner resistance manual or manuals, and then distribute those manuals to prisoners. This, then, gives prisoners the tools for organizing resistance cells, developing strategies and tactics for long-term resistance, preparing for repression, informing the larger prison population, and expanding resistance activities to other prisons.

One View

      Whether relying upon relationships with prisoners that already exist or else consciously developing new relationships, Occupiers could propose to prisoners that they begin the process of formulating a comprehensive resistance manual that would include methods for organizing and for developing strategies and tactics. Occupiers’ contribution would be to ensure that the organizing is both non-hierarchic and consensus-based, but largely the brainstorming would be conducted by the prisoners.

      It may be a good idea to develop two manualsone that is very dense in terms of information, and a second that is more of a comic-book companion that addresses only the larger, general points. This makes it possible to reach a broader audience.

      It then becomes the responsibility of the Occupiers to develop a strategy for delivering this resistance manual to prisoners. I won’t present possible methods here, as that would also alert the authorities. Suffice to say, you have a number of readily available options.

      Once prisoners get a copy of the manual, they can begin small group organizingcells, guerrilla columns, tribes. They decide what strategies and tactics to employ, from sabotage to political violence to all-out takeovers of prisons. They develop a plan for printing up flyers or newsletters or other methods for reaching out to the larger prison population, keeping them informed of events and framing the conflict. The prisoners also prepare for repression and possible even draft in-the-event letters directed to Occupiers, just in case the prisoner resister is captured, so that Occupiers and outside supporters could immediately undertake a defense strategy through phone calls, letters, and protests. Outside supporters can make repression of prisoners very difficult for the prison system, particularly if prisoners who are captured in the course of resistance maintain no communication with their captors and continue complete noncooperation. Their plight could also be made easier by prior planning to deliver messages and necessities to segregated prisoner resisters, re-doubling resistance actions and demanding their release back to population, and possibly even smuggling vitamins and food to prisoner resisters who are hunger-striking.

      In this context, Occupiers could greatly facilitate resistance. Armed with the right information, Occupiers could call as a prisoner-resister’s counsel, another as a newspaper reporter, and a third as a representative from Amnesty International or the American Red Cross concerned for the prisoner’s health and well-being. Occupiers could call the prison, the central office of prisons, senators, representatives, and media, causing a firestorm of activity and distraction for the prison complex.

      Prisoners with resistance experience who are transferred to other prisons could immediately get in contact with Occupiers and then plant the seeds for new resistance cells.

      By this view, an emphasis has been placed upon prisoners engaged in their own liberatory activity, with Occupiers filling generally a logistical role. This is important, both for resistance to work on the macro scale and for the resistance process to be a transformative one for each resister on the micro scale. Also, this approach does not in any way exclude other actions which could compliment this strategy, including selective extractions, for example. I, for one, have long been puzzled as to why supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal do not take the money they invest in legal counsel and instead purchase automatic weapons and go get him out themselves. The same goes for Leonard Peltier, who should have been liberated long ago.

      It should also be noted that this strategy is designed for small-group organizing. Small group organizing is emphasized for several reasons. First, in a penal environment, there is a general lack of trust and a number of divided factions, and it is unrealistic to believe that these groups will unite for an action that requires large numbers for success. Also, it should be remembered that prison is a hyper-repressive situation with informers everywhere, making it necessary to form small, insulated groups for purposes of resistance. This form of resistance then lends itself to sabotage and other acts designed to impede the operation of the larger system. In one sense, this strategy reflects the one employed by the United States government when it de-stabilized the duly-elected Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s. As someone who edited military training manuals developed from the Nicaraguan experience, my view of a successful de-stabilization of the prisons (and of the government generally) incorporates many of those strategies and tactics.

      A final note should probably be made regarding “illegality.”

      The way forward I propose may well be criticized by those who take issue with the potential illegality of the actions I propose. De-stabilizing the prison system is certainly violative of prison rules for the prisoners who undertake such actions, and may be against the law for non-prisoners to promote. If such a plan gained any widespread traction, the federal government would certainly invoke the nebulous rationale of “national security,” and would enforce laws whether they existed or not. So, for those who object to this potential illegality, some thoughts:

      We all seek freedom. At the base of the Occupy Movement is a struggle for freedom. But “freedom” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, so to be more precise with language, let me attempt to define what freedom is. Freedom is a lack of regulation. A totally free agent is one who is completely unregulated externally. The more regulated you are, the less free.

      I think a cogent argument could be made that we currently live in the most un-free (and therefore most-regulated) society in human history. Nazi Germany nor the Soviet regime had access to technology nor to the immediate means of control that this fascist police state has. You can’t get much more un-free than this. You can’t get much more regulated without the government assigning an agent to every man, woman and child, and then assigning an agent to watch over those agents.

      To be free, you have to take away the regulator’s ability to regulate you. You won’t talk the regulator out of his power position. He won’t quit his low-down ways because you present to him a logical argument for your freedom. He’s not going to give you your freedom, your lack of regulation, so if you really want it, you’ll have to take it from him.

      If you develop an effective plan for taking back your freedom from the regulator, from the oppressor, from the one who writes the laws and rules, chances are he will declare your efforts to be criminal. So, any real effort to get free is a crime.

      To get free, you must commit crimes. Only outlaws can gain their freedom.

      From another angle, freedom is a state of being unregulated and therefore beyond law, and an outlaw is, by definition, one who is outside the law. Therefore, a free person is an outlaw, a criminal.

      Freedom is a crime.

      Each law that is broken is a rejection of regulation, is an expansion of freedom. As both Derrick Jensen and Ward Churchill have pointed out, each violation of the law, whatever it is, becomes a fulcrum that can then be used to make the enemy oppressor/regulator’s system more unmanageable, eating up limited resources and diverting his attention to too many emergent problems at once. It becomes too many proverbial watts for his speakers. The cascade begins, the system falls apart, the tide shifts, the bad guys lose the illusion of power.

      If you want freedom, the absence of regulation, then you don’t want the oppressor to maintain his tyranny anywhere. You don’t want him left in control of his prisons. You don’t want the United States out of Iraq and Afghanistan, you want it out of North America, off the planet, gone. You want the United States out of the United States. If you leave the oppressor anywhere with any power over anything, then you leave him the potential to muster the power to again regulate you. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, in “Masters of War,” it isn’t enough to kill this beast, but we will have to “stand over (its) grave to make sure that (it’s) dead.”

      And for purposes of clarity, I should point out that the true enemy is not just government. Bankers, corporations, top-down institutions that coerce our complicity to their vast crimes are also the enemy and the government is simply the principle management-machine of its affairs, as aptly described by Insurgente Marcos in “The Fourth World War Has Begun.”

      At any rate, however you attack those oppressive institutions, you will be an outlaw. You will be a criminal.

      Freedom is against the law. Freedom is treason.

      To defeat the oppressor, in the words of a Jewish nationalist from a couple millennia ago, we can’t leave one stone stacked on top of another. The whole thing must be torn down, including the prisons.

      That might be illegal.

      So, make the most of it.

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