Solitary Confinement

» I hesitate to use the term "solitary" to describe the time I spent in jail .. because I did such a short span. (Four days. Friday to Tuesday.) In other words, I dont want to insult the man who has done decades. (Yes, decades.)

Man sitting alone in a jail cellBut if you go back and read my old Incarceration entry, you will see that I left myself a spot ..

.. to fill in my thoughts and observations under that very heading ..

.. because I could see that it was a topic of much consequence. For many people. Powerless people. Helpless people.

I sense that today would be a good day to discuss this topic in greater detail. And I have a few nice spins that my fingers are itching to twist.

And also because you might consider life aboard a nuclear submarine anything but private. Anything but solitary. With 150 dudes .. up close & personal. So that represents the expanse of my experience. My range. Respectable, no?

I would feel comfortable sitting around a campfire in Yosemite or Big Sur, discussing the topic of solitary with pretty much any intelligent person. (Long as it wasnt too cold out.)

So I feel like I can provide nicely nuanced perspectives. Either way, I am stoked about it.

Go to Jail | Go directly to Jail | Do not pass Go | Do not collect 200 dollarsCuz even if it suks, the illuminating quality of intelligent dialogue will be therapeutic.

[ Oh, this is an interesting development, no? ]

Yes, I was alone during my most recent visit, but I would call that 'isolated,' not alone.

Yet I specifically tried to monitor myself .. to observe how the isolation was affecting me ..

.. to be aware, conscious, whatever term you care to call it when you are checking up to see whether you are freaking out ..

.. especially after what that dude told me about his experience.

"When They Opened the Door » I Exploded Out & Started Crying"

So let me tell you about the dude I met during my first time. To be honest, I forget his name. He had been in before, and he was sorta showing me the ropes, which is nice. Cuz he was good at it.

Tho he snored like a volcano for 20 hours a day. And when my coffee headache came, it was not pretty. Not in that concrete-n-stainless echo chamber. Not hardly.

If a representative from the Guinness Book of Records had been walking by our cell during that time, I am confident that he would have felt compelled to award us some certificate-of-achievement.

He told me how he had previously done six days in solitary and he was so freaked out by the experience that when they finally let him out .. he "exploded" out and started crying. Like it fucked him up.

<ignore this intentional text marker>

••• today's entry continues here below •••

Bukowski (1920-1994)» Bukowski's Gift

But before we get too deep into that, I need to share with you a quote from Bukowski .. which is found » here [ and here ] ..

.. right after the short intro by Jo Jordon. Notice the verse » isolation is the gift.

That's seems to conflict with the notion of inmate isolation, no? I mean, I can't imagine many inmates calling their isolation a gift. Can you?

It's actually difficult to find a full, clean version of this quote, so I created my own .. see here » Bukowski quote alone with the gods.

» Kafka's Yoga Quote & Jesus' Prayer Closet

Then go here and check out Kafka's quote, which contains the term » solitary. We will try to get some compassion going for the solitary man.

There is also a passage here, where Jesus tells his disciples to go into their 'closet and shut the door' to pray. He didnt specifically say to go in there alone, but that is the inference that I get.

Note how that passage contains the word » hypocrit.

Richard Pevear and Wife Larissa Volokhonsky: Translators of Fine Russian LiteratureThe Perpetual 'Dialectic' of » Isolated Consciousness

It is not mandatory, but for extra credit, consider the final sentences of the opening paragraph to the (14-page) introduction to Dostoevsky's slim, 120-page gateway novel » Notes From Underground.

(Gateway to his later masterpieces, beginning with Crime & Punishment and ending with The Brothers Karamazov.)

"I am a sick man ... I am a wicked man." In the space of that pause Dostoevsky introduces the unifying idea of his tale: the instability, the perpetuial "dialectic" of isolated consciousness.

Notice how Richard Pevear puts quotes around the word dialectic .. because the term normally applies to two or more people holding a conversation or a debate, which they use as a vehicle to try to arrive at the truth.

"Go fuck yourself."

"You first. I insist."

I jest, sure. But that's the basic format. "Why do you want me to go fuck myself?" And on we go.

But here with our Underground Man, there is only one (s.o.l.i.t.a.r.y) person .. talking to himself. Like crazy people sometimes do. Hence the quote-marks around the cool word.

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Dialectical Materialism » Intelligent Sex

It has nothing to do with today's entry (.. that I am aware of, anyway) .. but every time I search for and find the link to the term » dialectics .. I always see the links nearby for the term » dialectical materialism.

Which is worth a careful read on a rainy day .. expecially in light of the way our society has been going lately.

Oh, look. These smart people are thinking along the same lines. I love shit like this. When people who are qualified to offer ideas based on reliable statistics.

If nothing else, being able to discuss the nuances dialectical materialism at a party is probably enough to get you laid. Yes, I am being funny. But only because of the kernel of truth it contains.

Dr J Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) | Father of the Atomic BombI read that Oppenheimer read all three volumes of Das Kapital .. in the original German, which he learned from having attended school there. He read them on a train .. the story goes.

I have trouble believing this. I want to stand right in front of him, and watch his eyes carefully and say, "Dude, you read all three volumes? What? A thousand pages? On a train? In the original German?"

Karl Marx was a comtemporary of Dostoevsky. By that I mean he was born a few years before Dostoevsky was born, and he died a few years after Dostoevsky died. He's definitely huge. Historically. Socially. Economically. By any number of metrics.

» Pascal Sits Quietly Alone

Penultimately, I have a rather provocative quote for you by the Seventeenth century French mathematician, Pascal, a guy who had a programming language named after him. What higher honor can there be?

See here for the quote. Our subject is » solitary. Severe aloneness. Fuck-your-head-up aloneness. Pascal's quote is germane, no? Tho I am fairly certain that he did not mean for decades.

I am going to make this quote #9, by the way, whenever I get around to it.

Sophy Walks Naked at the Edge of a Lunar Landscape » Wanna Watch?

Lastly we have an entire chapter from her book on writers and writing, which Sophy has titled » Aloneness .. which happens to come just-after the chapter on Audience and just-before the one on Money. I'm sure there's a reason for that particular sequence.

This is one of the shortest chapters in the book, after the one titled The Gift. Only a few pages. She offers five quotes, such as this one by Natalie Goldberg, who says » "Anything we fully do is an alone journey."

Sophy BurnhamHere is a little snippet from Sophy herself, taken from this chapter »

"In writing--in creating any art--you are doing one of two things. Either you are walking naked at the edge of a lunar landscape; small and lonely against the far-off stars, or else you're following pitifully in someone else's tracks. Not exploring. Not hurting. Not creating something never done before."

Does she not kick much ass? Did you notice her use of the word » lonely?

She is basically saying » If you're not blazing new trails .. trails that you and only you can blaze .. then you might as well go home now.

Rather » take no artistic prisoners. Send word back when (if) you ever get to where you're going. Let us know what you find and how well you fared.

I am not yet sure how I will play her chapter. But I can say that most interesting is how the notion of freedom plays off of solitude.

Especially when you consider how the context of this theme (of solitary-ness) is the polar opposite of what anybody would call freedom. (I'm talking about » solitary confinement .. just to be mercilessly obvious.)

Update » 29 April 2014

Oh, look at this. Six weeks after I posted my entry on Solitary Confinement, Frontline kicks much ass. Today is the new moon following the first blood moon of the tetrad.

Locked Up in America | Solitary Nation» Frontline Kicks Much Ass

Oh, we interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast .. to bring you this special announcement.

The gang at Frontline (PBS-sponsored) just released not one » but TWO videos. On the subject of » Locked Up in America.

  1. Solitary Nation (April 22, 2014 | 53 mins)
  2. Prison State (April 29, 2014 | 1 hour, 23 mins )

Subtilted » Two explosive, raw films that explore America's fixation on incarceration. (Big words.) Transcripts.

Very powerful. Strong. (I hear the thunder. So close.) Raw. Real. Honest. Brutal. I would certainly be proud to be able to bring something like that to the public's attention.

The timing seems to vibe very well with my most recent entry .. posted March 15 (.. the Ides entry).

I will probably have much to say in response. I mean, it kinda freaks you out, in a way.

Solitary Nation | Prison State » First Impressions (Freaked Out)

But while I am still freaked out (shocked? I watched the first video two nights ago, and the last I watched just last night) ..

.. uh, perhaps this might be a good time to share my initial impressions. And your heart goes out to these people yes. All of them.

Demetria Duncan | Locked Up in AmericaBut the black girl (Demetria) .. who was twitching. She moved me the most. Perhaps because she was so young.

Call me crazy but I feel that high schoolers should be given a day-trip to tour a local jail.

Not to freak them out, no. Rather because tomorrow's generation will have more compassion for the less-fortunate ..

.. than this one has shown.

After I saw her story, I thought of what Dostoevsky said in the Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880) .. about young Ivan » [ from chapter 3, titled » Second Marriage, Second Children ]

» Again, for the time being, I will not go into a detailed account of their childhood and adolescence, but will note only the most important circumstances. However, of the elder, Ivan, I will only say that he was growing up somehow gloomy and withdrawn, far from timid, but as if he had already perceived by the age of ten that they [ his brother Alexei and he ] were indeed living in someone else's family and on someone else's charity.

Ivan's mom (Sophia) had some kind of "feminine nervous disorder." She died when Ivan was age 8.

Relevant to » Every Succeeding Generation (Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky)

After I saw the video with this girl .. and recalled the passage from the Brothers Karamazov that I have quoted above .. I thought about something that I had read in the introduction to this novel ..

Peter & his infant son fast asleep.. on the first page of the (16-page) intro, which says »

» "The Brothers Karamazov seems contemporary and relevant to every succeeding generation -- like that famous portrait whose eyes follow you around the room."

.. especially the part that says » "relevant to every succeeding generation." 

The Brothers Karamazov was originally written in installments .. from January 1879 to November 1880. First published in entirety » 1881. About 135 years ago. More than a century.

The man who wrote that introduction (© 1990) is » Malcolm V. Jones .. obviously a wise man.

If you watch the video and read the book, you will notice even more similarities. A remarkable number of them. Talk about being relevant to every succeeding generation.

It is only fitting that I mention Dostoevsky here .. because his prison quote is probably his most famous. Let me go ahead and quote it for you » "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." <end quote>

You reckon he might know?

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)When I think of Dostoevsky, I can hear » the thunder (very close) .. which is why today's entry remains a work-in-progress.

Let me point you to two statements near the beginning [ at t-1:10 ] in the Prison State video:

  1. Incarceration has become the response to every social problem we encounter.
  2. Jail doesnt work.

That's a good place to start. That should also help you understand the word 'fixation' there in the subtitle. Here's my point » you neednt spend decades incarcerated .. to know how badly it suks.

To be continued...

Oh, you are fortunate .. I am going to wax more intimate. From this place where these videos bring you (or just me?) .. from this place I have close access to some gnarly shit. Lots of it. Which tends to be confusing ..

.. so you gotta kinda slow shit down .. and see wtf.

And let me tell you what I see .. at a level I normally dont share. (Sorta beyond my comfort level, but more than that.)

For the artist, this is cool shit. Very cool. I must say.

But let me talk about jails and prisons and incarceration a little. The problem is that » it's hard to say just a little. So I balk at even beginning. Yes, I *do* feel compelled.

These two videos deal with these very subjects, which I just mentioned (jails and prisons and incarceration and solitary). And let's be honest .. not very nice subjects. Subjects that I have written about myself.

Something in me finds it hard to believe that I could possibly be in a fucking jail .. if God Almighty Himself did not want me there. (You could call this ego and I would not be offended.)

And when I think of those two jail-house entries, I think of those two guys I met. Particularly the second man, who I felt more for .. for some reason. (Who made me cry .. in jail, no less .. of all places to cry.)

Jules trying real hard in the final scene of Pulp Fiction» Pulp Fiction Defines American Culture

And when I think of that man (the big, scary-looking dude) .. I can't help but think of the ending scene in Pulp Fiction.

During times of insanity and confusion and overwhelmingly ugly shit .. we look to patterns in and from our culture .. because they can give us strength and help us make sense of the insanity.

Anyway, I find this whole thing curious .. because after I sat back to think about these two videos .. it was another scene from Pulp Fiction that came to mind.

If you know Pulp Fiction, then you know the scene .. the one where Bruce Willis is holding out the samurai sword, saying, "Go ahead. Pick it up. I want you to pick it up. Atta boy."

Bruce Willis wields a samurai sword in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994)And then you hear from the back, at a distance, "Step aside."

"I'm about to get medieval on your ass."

[ That line ranks up there with » "Say hello to my little friend." I'm sure most would agree. ]

And then comes one of my favorite lines in the film » "Oh, *that* what now."

I've already said it, but it may bear repeating » I am not trying to associate these scenes. The association comes on its own. (And yes, it surprises me. You are free to do whatever you like with that little tidbit. In a res-ipsa-loquitur sort-of-way.)

This is a great spot for me to discuss my impressions of Tarantino. But I will return for that. For now I will only say that » I find him something of a genius. An evil genius, maybe.

But I am talking about that which lies beyond moral valuations .. which appear to differ from tribe to tribe. So, the term » visionary comes to mind (quite naturally). I find myself curious about his creative process.

My point is, perhaps » Tarantino has had a strong influence on the culture. Modern American culture. Not if you havent seen his films, no. But who hasnt?

Quentin TarantinoTarantino lies outside the Hollywood secret-handshake circle, so he will not win an Oscar for best director (I read this shit somewhere) ..

.. but that is what gives him his freedom. An Oscar would be like a directing ball-n-chain. And think of all the handshakes he would have to learn.

Nevertheless, I feel film enthusiasts will be talking about him well into the future. Isnt that really what counts?

Back when I first split with the Bug's mom (uh, when she split from me) .. I was in a bad place. Very bad.

Where I was groping desperately for something (anything) to make the soul-fucking torment stop. (I knew that drugs or alcohol was not the answer.)

And besides just running on the beach until all the shit went away .. there were two movies that helped (.. I learned thru much trial-n-error).

The first was Beyond Borders with Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen. Now, I can see why that movie appealed to me. Because it made it easy for me to see that my circumstances were not as bad as they seemed or felt. That others had it worse. Waay worse.

The reviews sucked, but I didnt care about the reviews. I watched that movie over and over and over again (on different nights).

It was being featured on HBO or one of the other premium channels at the time. And every time it made me feel better. (Less bad.)

The other movie .. is more curious. Because I'm not really sure why it soothed my inner savage beast. That movie was Pulp Fiction.

Yes, I have tried to figure it out. You know how I am such a geek-engineer type. And it has something to do with the quick, dramatic transitions.

Free-climbing in YosemiteI told my rock-climbing friend, Tom, that I felt it was the demand for single-minded focus in rock-climbing that felt so liberating ..

.. because it made you forget your problems. (For a season, anyway.) Perhaps the same principle applies.

In Pulp Fiction, the plot doesnt seem to make sense at times, so it draws your attention (.. away from the soul-fucking torment that would otherwise be gnawing on your ass).

I mean, if you would have asked me back then if Pulp Fiction would be a good movie to sooth the savage beast, I would have said, "No."

So I appreciate Tarantino for that. I watched that DVD many times. It relaxed me and helped me get to sleep.

Tarantino and Angelina Jolie are special to me in that way. When you are really hurting and need help (in a bad way), they are there with their wares. (Heck, they might not even like each .. I dunno.)

Otherwise you cannot take your mind off your troubles .. where it becomes easy to feel doomed.

Or perhaps the craziness in/of the film somehow resonates with the craziness in your life. To be honest, I dont have it totally figured out.

But I know that .. when I think of the term » zeitgeist .. I think of » Tarantino. You?

Lani | Pulp Fiction and French Toast aficionadoLani was the one who really sold Pulp Fiction to me. She was the Pulp Fiction queen. She watched that movie many times.

Her and her friends. "What is it about that movie that makes you want to watch it so many times?"

You could always count on Lani for the best french toast. For all her girlfriends from the drama dept at Laguna Beach high school,

On weekend mornings. After sleep-overs.

» U-Turn

Another movie that did it for me like Pulp Fiction was » U-Turn .. an Oliver Stone film starring Sean Penn, but also with a strong, deep cast. (Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.)

The story is based on the book » Stray Dogs, by John Ridley, who won the Oscar (YouTube acceptance) earlier this year for writing » 12 Years a Slave (Best Adapted Screenplay).

It is really the bizarreness of U-Turn that did it for me. Which somehow makes your own bizarreness seem a little less bizarre.

The way Oliver Stone got all those talented actors and actresses to work together like that .. in such absurd roles .. something about that eased my anxiety.

But I didnt watch this movie nearly as much as I did Pulp Fiction .. because I didnt have a copy and it was a popular title at the library.

» Transition to Closure

When I write about stuff, sometimes confusion becomes less confusing. Knots unravel. And I can see that the biggest knot is the incarceration knot.

Go to Jail | Go directly to Jail | Do not pass Go | Do not collect $200A very big, ugly, nasty knot. So sure, I can see why God might send me.

And now that we have better illumination and compassion .. we are better prepared to craft a solution.

From an admittedly limited perspective .. here is my over-arching impression of jail [ drum-roll, pls ] » jails aint gonna do jack-shit to 'reform' anybody. It just » fucks them up. It fucks up their head (read Kakfa's The Trial). It fucks up their finances.

It fucks up their relationships with their kids. It fucks up their sense of self-esteem. Should I continue? Yes, I could go on for quite some time. (And would enjoy every minute.)

Before you go to jail, yes, you have a certain idea of it .. that » it is for somebody else (who is not you, who you don't even know, and who probably deserves it).

And sure, there are some of these, no doubt. But not nearly as many as there are sitting in jail right now.

People are being incarcerated for farting in public. Yes, I exaggerate .. but not as much as you might think.

In Ferguson, for example, a teenager (named Michael Brown, aka "Big Mike") was shot in the head (multiple times) for jaywalking. (And no, sadly, I am not exaggerating.)

In Queens, a father was literally choked to death for selling single cigarettes. And in Orange county, a man was mercilessly beaten to death by uniformed police officers for .. not being pretty enough.

My point is » the SY$TEM has a built-in draconian knee-jerk response to insignificant bullshit. I could go on. And on. And on. But you get me point.

lightning bolt strikes empire state bldg nycLocking away another human being for a good chunk of his life comes with HUGE moral implications.

You cannot continue to charge the lightning bolt of morality for very long and not expect it to discharge at some point.

The greater the charge, the greater the discharge.

Intuitively, I feel the solution involves looking closely at » the incentives. We want to cultivate incentives that help make our nation better and stronger (less twitchy, you might say) ..

.. and de-cultivate those incentives that are designed to fuck people up.

If you do not think that jail and prison and solitary doesnt fuck people up .. then, you are telling me that you've never been » Locked Up in America.

I leave you with this parting thought » While capital in the Twenty-first century may indeed be illusory .. something that depends upon your mind for its existence .. something that exists only in your mind .. these are » real lives .. that are getting fucked up. (Yes, you can quote me.)

[ My ego just said » "Dude, did you notice how they included the word 'explore' in their subtitle?"

I said » "Yes, this time I *did* notice." (.. tho not at first).

Get out of jail free"Did you also notice that they used the word » incarceration?"

"Yep, I noticed that, too." ]

Regarding the issue of solitary confinement .. let me quote a verse of scripture for you » it is NOT GOOD that the man should be alone.

The end. ■

Update May 11 - On the subject of being locked up in America .. you must read this article written by Steve Lopez of the LA Times.

Basically, the gist is that the LA County Prosecutor (Jackie Lacey) told the county leaders that too many people are being locked up .. people who shouldnt be locked up.

The city supervisors responded by voting to proceed with the building of a new $2 Billion jail complex that will incarcerate another 3,200 people. Talk about fixations.

Prosecutors are normally people who define their very success by the number of people they send to jail. So, do you see the wider/larger implications behind this article?

Does not this article remind you of that famous line from the film » Field of Dreams, starring Shoeless Joe Jackson and Kevin Costner, which says » "If you build it, they will come."

I am sure that some incarcerator$ are hearing voice$ whi$per » "If you build it, we will send them to you."

Oh, look .. this is encouraging. Most encouraging. That makes me feel good. ■■

Update August 2, 2014 » here is a promising article about California revising the rules it uses to deal with mentally ill inmates. Kudos Kali.

Update August 4, 2014 » Very interesting article here, titled » U.S. Inquiry Finds a 'Culture of Violence' Against Teenage Inmates at Rikers Island.

Does it not seem that the social SY$TEM there in New York City treats youth likes dogs (instead of gifts from God) .. and TRIES to make them mean as hell.

So that .. when they become mean and hardened .. the SY$TEM can lock them away, saying » "You are mean and hardened. We must lock you away"

If you mistreat a dog, no matter how affectionate it might have been .. it will eventually become mean and nasty .. to the point where it will think nothing of lunching on your ass.

Does it not seem that the SY$TEM there in New York City is doing this very thing to its low-income youth?

Such mistreatment comes with moral consequences. Dont say you werent warned. You will see what I mean. ■■■

Update Sept 22, 2014 » This is worth mentioning » Prosecutor Warns That Rikers Island Problems May Prompt U.S. Lawsuit .. or what I would title » Your 49 Days Are Up, Bitch | Stand the Fuck By.

This U.S. Attorney, Preet Bharara .. he seems like the real deal to me. "I tried to be nice, but nice obviously doesnt work with you guys. So we will go to another option, which is not as nice. Trust me."

I have read other articles about him and I can feel my respect for him growing.

In nuclear power, if you cannot operate a reactor safely and effectively, you soon have a cadre looking over your shoulder, telling you what you can and can't do.

Which sucks immeasurably.

If you have teenagers affected here, then conscience demands that you bring the thunder .. sooner rather than later.  ■■■■

Update June 19, 2015 » Speaking of sooner rather than later .. the editorial board at the NY Times wrote an interesting piece today titled » Justice Kennedy on Solitary Confinement.

While solitary confinement, especially long-term, is certainly cruel, it is (unfortunately) by no means unusual.

<end update of June 19, 2015 on Justice Kennedy>

<ignore this intentional text spacer>

Radified home

<ignore this intentional bottom text spacer>

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rad published on March 15, 2014 3:15 AM.

The Misprioritization of Profanity in Polite Society was the previous entry in this blog.

The (Fateful) Call from the Rad Whore Contractor is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.