complete culture of misery
Tuesday, October 2 2007
When I wasn't working on a PHP interfacing project involving communication between a web server a cell phones I was outside cutting and splitting firewood. Eventually I hit an important milestone: all the wood outside the garage had been broken into stove-sized pieces. These pieces were all scattered about randomly atop a thick accumulation of sawdust, and so Gretchen used the handtruck to move it all up to the woodshed. At some point, though, and unnoticed when it happened, she must have strained a muscle in her lower back (in the area of her coccyx). This put her in such pain that she was forced to walk about with an absurd gate, her rump held as horizontally as possible and her back held as vertically as possible. She was walking this way as she headed for the car to do one of her prison teaching gigs (as part of the Bard Prison Initiative). Happily, though, her prisoner students took pity on her and volunteers in her class took dictation and wrote the things she would have normally written on the blackboard.
Along with sodomy and other informal punishments America is confortable dishing out to its large prison population, there is the matter of unpleasant temperature extremes. Prisons in New York State do have heating systems, but not air conditioning. At some point during the class Gretchen shed her sweater, a normal thing for a person to do in our society (as opposed to, say, Saudi society). Now Gretchen's arms were visible in all their uncluttered bareness, and it no big deal until a female guard tapped on the window, motioned Gretchen over, and ordered her to put her sweater back on. She was doing her best to maintain a complete culture of misery.
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