Monday, June 20, 2011

Clearing up our national thought process

When I was first 'promoted' from medium security prison to serve out my sentence at a minimum security prison camp I was the subject of a meeting amongst the warden, assistant warden, sanctions officer (who would eventually become my parole officer) and me. I was learning about the levels of objectification and paranoia generally present in the thinking process of the average prison official. I underestimated those levels, not hard to do when they seemed to spike off the graph.

I spoke to them like adults, as though they were fellow citizens (even though my citizen privileges were temporarily suspended), and that alarmed the warden, who looked at me long and hard and eventually said, accusingly, "You don't think like an inmate."

Since prison officials and indeed most law enforcement officials all the way from judges to deputies routinely chastised inmates for 'criminal thinking,' I responded, "Well, isn't that the point?"

The next morning, I was in ankle chains, belly chains and special disabling handcuffs, driven almost 200 miles south to the maximum security prison where all vehicles are laboriously checked with mirrors and other inspection aids as they bring new inmates in, and dumped into solitary confinement. Evidently, my responses to the committee weren't "Yes sir, boss" enough for them. They felt it necessary to do something to my thinking.

So, I ask you, what do we need to do to our national thinking to clarify it around issues of violence? What do we do when we see such poor thinking that we are willing to sacrifice environmental protection in order to 'protect' us from cranks and wanks who might intend harm to Americans anyplace on Earth? How can we help our fellow citizens to reframe thought patterns when they allow our economy to degenerate in order to fund a military to new record levels every single year--not just new records for our nation, new records for any nation, ever, in human history?

Glenn D. Paige (2000) gives some frame to this problem:

Examples are when guns in the home kill more family members than intruders, bodyguards assassinate heads of state, violent revolutionaries become oppressors of the liberated, armies for defence oppress the defended, and the ultimate victorious weapon and its associated technology become the most dangerous threat to the continued existence of life on earth. (p. 12)

Apparently, these illogical outcomes seem perfectly sane and rational to Americans. It may require our best efforts at cultural, educational, and subsystemic levels over time, in addition to our ongoing rational arguments. I only hope it doesn't require complete catastrophe for a reset in our national thinking. Neither humankind nor Mother Nature will fare well in that case. The stakes are far too high for us to let it get that far.


Paige, G. D. (2000). POLITICAL SCIENCE: To Kill or Not to Kill?. Social Alternatives, 19(2), 11-18. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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