Sophie Scholl: “I choose my own way to burn”

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

― Sophie Scholl, member of the anti-Nazi resistance group the White Rose executed by guillotine on February 22, 1943 at the age of 22.

Computer programs as developing models / Design to handle complexity (SICP)

“Every computer program is a model, hatched in the mind, of a real or mental process. These processes, arising from human experience and thought, are huge in number, intricate in detail, and at any time only partially understood. They are modeled to our permanent satisfaction rarely by our computer programs. Thus even though our programs are carefully handcrafted discrete collections of symbols, mosaics of interlocking functions, they continually evolve: we change them as our perception of the model deepens, enlarges, generalizes until the model ultimately attains a metastable place within still another model with which we struggle. The source of the exhilaration associated with computer programming is the continual unfolding within the mind and on the computer of mechanisms expressed as programs and the explosion of perception they generate. […]

For all its power, the computer is a harsh taskmaster. Its programs must be correct, and what we wish to say must be said accurately in every detail. As in every other symbolic activity, we become convinced of program truth through argument. Lisp itself can be assigned a semantics (another model, by the way), and if a program’s function can be specified, say, in the predicate calculus, the proof methods of logic can be used to make an acceptable correctness argument. Unfortunately, as programs get large and complicated, as they almost always do, the adequacy, consistency, and correctness of the specifications themselves become open to doubt, so that complete formal arguments of correctness seldom accompany large programs. Since large programs grow from small ones, it is crucial that we develop an arsenal of standard program structures of whose correctness we have become sure — we call them idioms — and learn to combine them into larger structures using organizational techniques of proven value. […] More than anything else, the uncovering and mastery of powerful organizational techniques accelerates our ability to create large, significant programs. Conversely, since writing large programs is very taxing, we are stimulated to invent new methods of reducing the mass of function and detail to be fitted into large programs.

— Alan J. Perlis, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (2nd ed), ‘Foreword

Proudhon: Your employer is your enemy.

“The civilised labourer who bakes a loaf that he may eat a slice of bread, who builds a palace that he may sleep in a stable, who weaves rich fabrics that he may dress in rags, who produces every thing that he may dispense with every thing, — is not free. His employer, not becoming his associate in the exchange of salaries or services which takes place between them, is his enemy.”

— Pierre Joseph Proudhon

We Wake The Day

We wake; we wake the day,
the light rising in us like sun–
our breath a prayer brushing
against the feathers in our hands.
We stumble out into streets;
patterns of wire invented by strangers
are strung between eye and sky,
and we dance in two worlds,
inevitable as seasons in one,
exotic curiosities in the other
which rushes headlong down highways,
watches us from car windows, explains
us to its children in words
that no one could ever make
sense of. The image obscures
the vision, and we wonder
whether anyone will ever hear
our own names for the things
we do. Light dances in the body,
surrounds all living things–
even the stones sing
although their songs are infinitely
slower than the ones we learn
from trees. No human voice lasts
long enough to make such music sound.
Earth breath eddies between factories
and office buildings, caresses the surface
of our skin; we go to jobs, the boss
always watching the clock to see
that we’re on time. He tries to shut
out magic and hopes we’ll make
mistakes or disappear. We work
fast and steady and remember
each breath alters the composition
of the air. Change moves relentless,
the pattern unfolding despite their planning–
we’re always there–singing round dance
songs, remembering what supports
our life–impossible to ignore.

-by Gail Tremblay, in Reinventing the Enemy’s Language

Outrage over bumfights vs. porn

Do you remember Bumfights where a bunch of arseholes took a bunch of socio-economically disadvantaged/homeless men and boys and made them do humiliating, exploitative and dangerous acts on film for money/food/etc? Remember how fucking outraged people were?

Now, there’s currently a multi-billion dollar industry doing the exact same thing to countless girls and women and men masturbate to it. And yet, apparently, it’s “free speech”.

— pornographicmeatnightmares on Tumblr

Durruti: We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall …

“We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a while. For you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.”

-Buenaventura Durruti

Frantz Fanon: Europe is literally the creation of the colonized nations. Stolen resources, slave labor built their “tower of wealth”

Confronting this world, the European nations sprawl, ostentatiously opulent. This European opulence is literally scandalous, for it has been founded on slavery, it has been nourished with the blood of slaves and it comes directly from the soil and from the subsoil of that underdeveloped world. The well-being and the progress of Europe have been built up with the sweat and the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians, and the yellow races. We have decided not to overlook this any Jonger. When a colonialist country, embarrassed by the claims for independence made by a colony, proclaims to the nationalist leaders: “If you wish for independence, take it, and go back to the Middle Ages,” the newly independent people tend to acquiesce and to accept the challenge; in fact you may see colonialism withdrawing its capital and its technicians and setting up around the young State the apparatus of economic pressure. The apotheosis of independence is transformed into the curse of independence, and the colonial power through its immense resources of coercion condemns the young nation to regression. In plain words, the colonial power says: “Since you want independence, take it and starve.” The nationalist leaders have no other choice but to turn to their people and ask from them a gigantic effort. A regime of austerity is imposed on these starving men; a disproportionate amount of work is required from their atrophied muscles. An autarkic regime is set up and each state, with the miserable resources it has in hand, tries to find an answer to the nation’s great hunger and poverty. We see the mobilization of a people which toils to exhaustion in front of a suspicious and bloated Europe.

… the imperialist states would make a great mistake and commit an unspeakable injustice if they contented themselves with withdrawing from our soil the military cohorts, and the administrative and managerial services whose function it was to discover the wealth of the country, to extract it and to send it off to the mother countries. We are not blinded by the moral reparation of national independence; nor are we fed by it. The wealth of the imperial countries is our wealth too. On the universal plane this affirmation, you may be sure, should on no account be taken to signify that we feel ourselves affected by the creations of Western arts or techniques. For in a very concrete way Europe has stuffed herself inordinately with the gold and raw materials of the colonial countries:

Latin America, China, and Africa. From all these continents, under whose eyes Europe today raises up her tower of opulence, there has flowed out for centuries toward that same Europe diamonds and oil, silk and cotton, wood and exotic products. Europe is literally the creation of the Third World. The wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples. The ports of Holland, the docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool were specialized in the Negro slave trade, and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hand on his heart that he must come to the aid of the poor underdeveloped peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves: “It’s a just reparation which will be paid to us.”

Excerpt from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth

Prison is the ultimate power the democratic state exercises over a citizen

“We must keep in mind that with the exception of capital punishment, prison is the ultimate power the democratic state exercises over a citizen. That prisons fail miserably at their professed objectives-rehabilitation, deterrence and protection—is immaterial to their survival. These failings, along with cruel, dehumanizing prison practices, have constantly been exposed by rebelling prisoners, by shocked reformers, by governmental commissions and academicians. But exposes alone do not determine the fate of prisons.

What determines the survival and expansion of prisons is their success in controlling particular segments of the population. Prisons, the end repositories of the criminal (in)justice systems, maintain the concept of a “criminal class” selected with discretion. Such discretionary power can be wielded indiscriminately by functionaries such as police, district attorneys, judges and the parole apparatus.

Functionaries of the criminal (in)justice systems represent the powerful and influential. Their use of vast discretionary power distorts the principles of justice. Recognizing and identifying the locus and misuse of such power is central to an abolitionist approach to prison change.

If we are unclear about power and how it operates, we will be impeded in our ability to properly analyze specific prison situations. As a result we will find ourselves grappling with only the outer layers of the criminal (in)justice systems rather than the core. We will be relegated to acting upon surface reforms—those which legitimize or strengthen the prison system. We define abolitionist reforms as those which do not legitimize the prevailing system, but gradually diminish its power and functions.

This is the key to an abolitionist perspective on social change. Abolition is a long range struggle, an unending process: it is never “finished,” the phasing out is never completed. Strategies and actions recommended in this handbook seek to gradually limit, diminish, or restrain certain forms of power wielded by the criminal (in)justice systems.

The pressure is excessive for abolitionists to immediately produce a “finished” blueprint, to solve every problem, to deal with every “criminal” before we can begin to deal with and change the systems. The first step toward abolition occurs when we break with the established prison system and at the same time face “unbuilt ground.” Only by rejecting what is “old and finished” do we give the “new and unfinished” a chance to appear. Pursuing an abolition continuum strategy, we can undertake a program of concrete, direct and immediate abolitions of portions of the system beginning with abolishing further prison/jail construction.

Sometimes our recommended strategies and actions utilize conventional judicial and legislative processes. Abolitionists are not apprehensive about working within the system, so long as it permits us to change and limit the system. When systemic options prove inadequate, abolitionists strive for newer and more creative approaches—building alternatives to existing structures and processes.

As with all social change, prison abolition produces many paradoxes. We work in the here and now: a quarter of a million prisoners suffer in cages [now 2.7 million]; plans or construction are underway for the building of hundreds upon hundreds of jails and prisons while the economy declines for the poor and the powerless. To move from this shocking reality toward the vision of a just, prisonless society, requires a host of in between strategies and reforms.

These interim, or abolishing-type reforms, often may appear to contradict our long range goal of abolition, unless we see them as part of a process—a continuum process—moving toward the phasing out of the prison system. If interim strategies become ends in themselves, we will reinforce the present system, changed in detail only.

Modern reforms attempt to mask the cruelty of caging. Our goals are not diverted by handsome new facades, the language of “treatment” and prison managers who deftly gild the bars. Present reforms will not abolish the cage unless they continue to move toward the constant reduction of the function of prisons.

The abolitionist’s task is clear—to prevent the system from masking its true nature. The system dresses itself up: we undress the system.  We strip it down to the reality: the cage and the key. We demystify. We ask the simple but central political question: “Who decides?” We raise the moral issue: “By what right?” We challenge the old configurations of power. We begin to change the old, begin to create the new.”

– Instead of Prisons (1976)