A talk by Anthony Rayson
January 14, 2014
I appreciate this opportunity to have your attention tonight. Some of you may be new to this type of stuff, prisoner zines and prisoner artwork. But, to many, it is a crucial lifeline to the outside world. I liken it to the samizdat press of America. It’s the real underground, where the slaves themselves get their chance to express what is important to them. It’s the brutal truth!
Prisoners don’t really have access to the internet. If they have email, it is heavily monitored and not much worth using. Their phone privileges are few and far between and even a hug or kiss is pretty much forbidden. Of course, they can stare at the idiot box and get dummy-downed!
The hand-written letter is the lifeblood of communication with those on the “outs.” But, this is even iffy. Mail is read by the gulag censor trolls, whether it goes out or comes in. Many have “jobs” but they get paid very little or nothing. They can only “buy” the inflated garbage available through the commissary and that’s only if they have these “privileges.”
Zines are like a tangible miracle. Read over and over, they are then “kited.” A mail service is improvised as cheap towels are meticulously de-threaded and made into a moving clothes line of zines from one cell to another.
Remember, the whole idea of the fascists running these concrete tombs is to break you, drive you insane and fill your every second into an endless agony of feeling abandoned by your loved ones and the whole world, really. Zines, especially written by fellow prisoners & those who have proven they are hip to this vile charade, mean the world because they are unafraid of the truth! Prisoner artwork is the most real kind in existence! Blend these two together and you have an empowering cocktail of liberating, humanizing ideas–and useful contacts.
Color is important, too. Prison walls are drab and stark. Send pictures of nature, people and animals, whenever you can. Did you know that leaves are considered “contraband?” Tax dollars at work. Their only “argument” is cruelty.
So, even though the prisons are on high alert to make sure their captives stay ignorant, these zines (usually) fly under their radar. After all, they can’t tell the religious folks that they can’t send their little brochures, how can they deny prisoners their zines? The First Amendment hasn’t been totally ripped up and most thoughts are not quite a crime–yet!
Of course, the 13th Amendment, which allows for slavery, is the cornerstone of the whole, racist, sexist, classist, genocidal and lie-based system, even though it is claimed to have “ended” slavery.
The truth is, government can never “grant” anybody any rights–they can only take them away. The Constitution isn’t worth the parchment it was written on because you can use parchment to cook with.
I wanted to find writers who were willing to write hard about this demented society that is America. I wanted real answers. Why is everybody so alienated? Why are the worst bastards among us the ones who get to make all the decisions? Why are we forever at “war? Why is it, we consume 5 times our share of the world’s resources, yet still have tens of millions in dire poverty? Why are people so ignorant and unable to function, much less think properly, even though they’ve undergone several years of expensive “education?” Why is there a garbage dump of plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as big as a continent? Why does our government insist on incarcerating 25% of the world’s prisoners, with only 5% of her population?
I didn’t come to the realization that I was an anarchist until I was around forty. And, I read voraciously since I was a child and sought to find answers. The government holds people in a sort of life-long stupor. They control our education and regulate our lives and if they don’t like what we’re doing, they will make sure you are sent to their prisons. I have a saying. “The world gets bombs and we get bars.” They claim to be “exceptional.” Yeah, exceptionally evil!
I wanted to be a writer–a “free thinker.” I never aspired to “be” anything. I knew I would have to procure an income somehow, but I didn’t feel compelled to drink the fucking kool-aid and abandon all hope that I could ever find people also looking to speak the truth. And, I didn’t really find them until I looked inside the prisons. Those closest to me live in cages! I remember a women’s prison in Tallahassee was converted horse stables! Mass incarceration is modern-day slavery with a Mengelesque clinical vengeance!
I’ve always hated bullies and people who force people to do things they don’t want to do. That’s all government really is–coercive authority. Do what we say, give us your money, cough up your children for our Haliburton wars or we will torture you for life! I hate criminal behavior and certainly don’t condone whatever prisoners might have done to hurt themselves and others. But the crimes of government dwarf the crimes of those who are punished. The crimes of government aren’t even considered as crimes. They’re instead glorified!
Those with the courage to stand up to this uniquely sadistic regime are its most repressed. They’ve been so brutally treated, there’s nothing they haven’t already been subjected to, except actual murder, which is also used constantly. In a sick way, it makes sense. After all, the school system is based on the German model and the best nazis were quickly hustled out of Europe after WWII so they could teach their American colleagues how it’s done.
I was frustrated and atomized, like so many others, coming up. Every day, the government was murdering an average of 1,000 people a day, in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Most of my old friends are already dead–and have been that way for decades! Many others are living dead. They eat, work, watch TV, drink and sleep. This isn’t good enough! People need their freedom. They need to discover their humanity and their real heritage. They need to overcome self-loathing and cross that fear line and become their real selves. Is it any wonder that the freest people in this country are the most locked down and shackled? Down is up!
I want to learn and I want to live–experience actual life. I want people with pulses! These types of people are the ones willing to die to be alive. They’re the ones who organize and go out on hunger strikes. They’re the ones who analyze this beast and face the gruesome consequences and they aren’t afraid of their shadow, either!
You look around and what do you see? We have a president whose claim to fame is he won the Nobel Peace Prize and has been murdering people every week since! The “terrorists” we are supposed to hate are brave people who are warning us about how evil the real terrorists (the government) are–by using government created (and then hidden) documentation! I’m talking about people like Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden.
These prisoner artists and writers that you’ve come across tonight have resolved to perform this public service–educating us and illustrating these truths. They often pay a brutal price for their humanitarian work. Once the authorities find out they are involved in this educational project, they are often, beaten, gassed, tasered, stripped, sent to isolation, set up for future assaults, sent to supermax, control unit prisons, have all their possessions stolen and other forms of punishments, such as sensory deprivation, loss of canteen, phone calls, visits, you name it. Sometimes they even stop letters and zines.
They come up with all kinds of reasons why these enlightening, life-giving zines are not allowed. Well, think about it. During chattel slavery, it was a crime to teach a slave to read. Since slavery never really ended, but morphed into the prisons, it’s OK if they read, they just can’t learn how to think! I got a letter from the Missouri DOC head sensor. He said they were going to deny my catalog from all the prisons in the state. The catalog merely lists the titles of these zines. They are afraid of simple titles! That’s telling me that we are onto something very important!
One of the brilliant artists you see here tonight,
Todd (Hyung-Rae) Tarselli, just recently came back to general population, after years on the hideous control unit in Waynesburg, PA. where Mumia Abu Jamal is also encaged. His “crime?” They claimed he was going to use some fabric to make a “ninja” outfit! How insane is that? He’s Korean, so they use this flimsy racist idiocy, concerning mere fabric–which had already been allowed into his possession, to clumsily conjure up a “threat!” This went on for several years!
It gets much worse than that! Let me read you part of a report that Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, another brilliant artist and thinker, recently wrote about a fellow captive. Rashid has paid a horrific price himself, being beaten and tasered, having his hair pulled out, etc. He’s the Defense Minister for the New Afrikan Black Panther Party–Prison Chapter–NABPP-PC.
I just did a zine with a guy in a New York prison about PSV–Prison Sexual Violence–i.e. RAPE! Yeah, I know Jay Leno makes jokes about it and millions snicker, but 200,000 people are raped in prison every year and fully 50% of them are committed by guards! Guards set up other rapes and assaults, too! That is to say, that 1 out of 11 inmates is raped every single year!
Who is the criminal, here? The majority of prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders. More and more, marijuana is seen as a unique medicine that helps patients, when nothing else can. Are these pot prisoners being let go? Hell, no! They’re afraid you won’t be their little, chicken-hearted coward, anymore, if you smoke that shit. Die from alcohol, nicotine and your fanny pack of pills, instead! They’re “legal!” Set the sheeple up for slaughter.
I think they blame weed for having to slink out of Vietnam. G.I.s would rather give each other stinger hits of weed through their M-16’s than murder people and get shot up, themselves. For survival, they turned to fragging the real enemies–their officers! In the mid-to-late seventies, over half of the prisoners were Vietnam Vets. “Welcome Home!” Of course, the government blames those clamoring for peace for their rough re-entry into this sick society. Mass incarceration was on the way.
Notice, they stopped drafting people and made sure the fear and brainwash would stick–at least while on the foreign killing fields. Once you got home with PTSD, suicidal nightmares and depleted uranium poisoning, they didn’t know you anymore. So much for “money for college!”
It has absolutely nothing to do with “justice” and everything to do with guaranteed profits for a massive punishment industry. Taxpayers, who have a sizable chunk of their wage-slave earnings extorted by the counties, the states and the federal government, are forced to pay for the ill-treatment that is meted out to prisoners. If you’re rich you don’t get messed with. If you’re poor, you’re done for. For it is a Criminal Justice System run by trained criminals!
Prison guard unions are the most powerful unions left in the U.S. Hitler had the workers in Germany on a stranglehold leash, too! Governor Brown has been told by the California Supreme Court to release prisoners because the Cali prisons are so overcrowded. Is he doing it? Hell, no! He farms them to other state’s prisons, which are often privately run by corporate bottom feeders like CCA & GEO Group. After all, the prison guard union bankrolls his “liberal” campaigns! Moonbeam’s gone fascist! But then, haven’t they all??
It’s even more about social control, too! Just like these endless slaughterings the U.S. inflicts on various countries, such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Vietnam, Chile, East Timor, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan–you could probably name damn near every country and many of them, multiple times. We ruin those people and poison their countries, so that others won’t want to improve their country, lest the U.S. destroys it.
It’s outrageous to know the government has zero moral scruples. It’s “worth it” to Madelaine Albright to slowly torture and murder hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s little children! Wasn’t that cute, when she made a guest appearance on Gillmore Girls? How about Henry Kissinger’s crimes? He’s right up there with Herman Goering and Lavrenti Beria! Yet, we allow the government, by our shameful squeamishness, to punish guys like Leonard Peltier, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz and Marie Mason!
Well, I could go on and on about this most evil of authoritarian systems. I consider the prisons “ground zero” in the struggle here at home. But, those most affected, the prisoners and their families, aren’t really ever given the floor. So, I want to turn the mike over to the prisoners themselves.
But, since they can’t come here, I’ll read what they have written for you, here tonight. And, of course, I’m making a zine of all this, so that prisoners and others interested in learning about this can do so at their own convenience in a tangible, hard copy way. Zines are cheap, crash-proof, do not require electricity and easy to make copies of. They’re the weapons of mass instruction.