Christos Politis: Days of War
From Viva la Anarquía! (May 31, 2011):
On December 4, 2010, Christos Politis and a number of other comrades were arrested during a massive counterterrorist operation covering the Athens metropolitan area. Three weeks ago, Politis was conditionally released on charges pending trial. The following was written during his time in Grevena prison.
“Medication! Come get your medication. Bring your water.” The orderly reminds us of our daily date with apathy. He has a bunch of little packets in his hand, and each one has a name. While you can accuse the prison administration for lacking even the most basic items, you certainly can’t say the same about the dosage that always arrives on time. Akineton, Hipnosedon, Largactil, Lexotanil, Seroquel, Effexor, Remeron. And if you still haven’t calmed down, two tablets of Alobertin will make you stupid for months. These are pills you need a special prescription for on the outside. Thus, prisoners are kept half asleep and the ministry stays relaxed. They need the prisoners to be wrecked. They’re afraid of the ones who stay human. They’re only satisfied when the cell blocks are quiet, the prisoners are arguing over dominoes, and it’s every man for himself, period. When the people in the yard are sluggish and slouching. When the prisoners think the days of their sentence are passing by, without comprehending that they are destroying their minds and bodies, that every day they are signing their death sentence.
“To the jailer, the prison population represents a number of easily counted and controlled people, while to prisoners it represents a scrutinized and absolute solitude.” In high-security prisons, which are officially called “Type C General Internment Centers,” you find yourself in the midst of an organized layout, an analytical arrangement of everything. Every surface, every object, every person. Here in Grevena there are 650 prisoners divided into 10 small blocks of 20 cells, each with its own yard. An entire city consisting of 10 little autonomous prisons. Prisoners have to be in a specific place at every moment of every day. Their cells, the common areas, the yard, the gym. “It is essential to eliminate the effects of open-ended groups—the uncontrollable disappearance of individuals, their disorderly movement, their dangerous and inappropriate solidarity—by using antidesertion, antiloitering, and antiunity tactics.” The guards, behind reflective glass on the ground floor of each wing, watch through cameras and notice the slightest movement. They control everything. They open and close the doors, the yards, the hallways. However, the absolutist goal of subordination and isolation is also a function of how architectural plans and psychological studies have been applied. It is a function of all those trips taken by civil engineers in search of the most remote sites, way out where there is nothing. Because here there are no colors other than yellow, blue, and gray. Just a piece of sky as small as the yard. Here the only sounds you hear are the daily noises of isolation.
Penitentiary centers don’t just agglomerate and isolate those who are considered useless, undesirable, and dangerous. They don’t just “neutralize the surplus population,” like the criminologists say. They don’t just reaffirm prevailing values, punishing any action or behavior that diverges from them. Penitentiary centers are also mechanisms that produce and reproduce misery. They are ultraspecialized industrial zones that manufacture subordinated people—poor, shattered ex-cons, most of whom will either accept the most miserable living conditions or shortly return to prison. They will capitulate and accept their own degradation. Because everything “newcomers” go through, from the moment they enter to their first humiliating body-cavity search, will leave them scarred. Their friends and family will forget them; they will wind up penniless; they will be disdained by evil, swaggering, indifferent jailers; they will be degraded by disciplinary measures and the rejection of their requests for leave. Their health will decline. Transfers will rob them of visiting and work hours.
In order to survive here, “we have to be hard. Maybe deep down inside we can remember what it’s like to not be as hard as a rock or a stone. However, we have to appear hard and believe that we are. Only in that fantasy world reachable by a select few can we allow ourselves to get carried away.” In order to survive here, we have to fight the visible and invisible limits of our existence, from the obvious barbarity of prison itself to the notorious punitive power it has over us, which attempts to completely submit us. In order to survive here, we have to form little communes—meeting places where prisoners in struggle can share our daily difficulties, communicate truthfully, organize self-training workshops, and fight.
For the destruction of prisons.
For the proletarian who “storms the heavens.”
—Christos Politis; Grevena Closed Penitentiary Center, Block D2; January 22, 2011