This Week in the Prison Industrial Complex (June 30)

20150630_123007A weekly roundup of news and action alerts about political prisoners, prison struggles, and organizing against the prison industrial complex (PIC), both nationally and internationally. If you’ve got something you’d like to see included, leave a comment or send me an email.

  • Internationally recognized experts on the effects of torture filed an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) brief regarding the appeal of prominent Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh, who is challenging her November 2014 conviction on an immigration charge. The brief argues that Odeh, who was tortured and raped in Israeli prison, was denied the right to present a meaningful defense in her trial and that the judge erred in not allowing mention of the torture or expert testimony on its effects.
  • On Thursday, June 25, the No New SF Jail coalition packed a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Report, arguing the proposed new jail in San Francisco is indeed an environmentally hazardous project.
  • On Friday, June 26, there was a statewide mobilization in Sacramento to stop jail expansions in communities around the state.

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Racism, privilege, guilt and social justice

privilege-knapsackWith a few edits, I wrote the below piece before the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It expands on my previous post and shares the path I traveled when it came to beginning to understand racism, white supremacy and my place in it all.  It is my hope that as white people grapple with what it means to be white in the United States, and to publicly speak and act around it, that this account may be helpful.

When I was 17 years old, I went on a student exchange trip to Mexico. I ended up having a fantastic time and was perplexed by that. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of my host family and the ebullient friendliness of so many others I met. In looking at why I was surprised that I enjoyed the trip, I uncovered a world I was previously unaware of. I realized that outside of my conscious awareness I had formulated negative stereotypes and expectations about Mexico and Mexicans. I was racist and didn’t even know it! How did this happen? Prior to the trip, I knew no Mexicans personally, so I couldn’t have had a negative experience, and in my home environment racism was frowned upon. Yet here I was with these deeply disturbing attitudes. Upon further examination, I came to understand that my beliefs, about Mexicans in this case, had been formed bit by bit, societally and culturally, until by the age of 17 I held racist views yet was unaware that I held them until they came into conflict with reality.

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This Week in the Prison Industrial Complex

prison-barbed-wireInspired by Solitary Watch’s “Seven Days in Solitary” weekly post, it is my intention to start here a weekly roundup of news and action alerts that I become aware of about political prisoners, prison struggles, and organizing against the prison industrial complex (PIC), both nationally and internationally. For a variety of reasons I will elaborate on in future posts, I feel passionate about issues of detention, imprisonment and the PIC. Given the format of this blog, however, a post for each piece of news wouldn’t make sense. Yet I would like to call attention to them – hence, a weekly roundup. These posts cannot be and do not aim to be comprehensive. If you’ve got something you’d like to see included, leave a comment or send me an email.

  • June 16-19 saw the most recent in a series of Medical Justice Days of Action for U.S. political prisoner and former Black Panther Robert Seth Hayes. The pressure seems to have been somewhat successful, but Seth’s team is requesting donations for legal and medical efforts, as well as for people to send him letters of support.
  • Today marks Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan’s 50th day on hunger strike against his ongoing detention without charge by Israel. Supporters and the Red Cross say that he is at grave risk of death. In response, the Israeli government is attempting to pass a law permitting the force-feeding of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. Take action to support Khader Adnan here.

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Grief, understanding, action

ame-charleston-vigilI hesitate to write this. I do not feel it is my place to take up space opining on what happened. I would, however, like to attempt to hold a space for reflection in this corner of the internet.

Nine people are dead. How does one respond? For me, the first act is to give space for grief. Lives have been taken, families torn apart, a community terrorized. Those facts easily get lost to analysis and spin. I cannot imagine the pain, loss, disbelief, fear, anger, confusion, sadness, or outrage that this single event has laid at the feet of so many. My heart hurts for those lives stolen and those who now find a piece (and peace) missing in their lives. Those in the midst of this storm must be tended to and cared for.

The next part is to understand. I am not original in identifying this massacre as the culmination of what white supremacy offers. The Charleston killings are only the latest manifestation of a politics and belief structure embedded in the fabric of the United States. One that traces its legacy from the genocide of the indigenous populations to slavery to Jim Crow to the prison industrial complex to Ferguson and countless indignities and atrocities committed along the way. This was not an aberration or a bad apple, it is part – granted, an extreme part – of how the institution of white supremacy unfolds in the United States.

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The Zapatistas and consciousness

Compañera Lizbeth reads her statement.

Compañera Lizbeth reads her statement.

The other day I was reading statements made by Zapatista women at the “Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra” seminar organized by the Zapatistas in May. In her remarks, compañera Lizbeth said:

“We are going to explain a little bit of how we have been living and doing our autonomous work after the 1994 armed uprising. We as Zapatista youth today, we are no longer familiar with the overseer, with the landowner, with the hacienda boss, much less with El Amate [a prison in Chiapas]; we do not know what it is to go to the official municipal presidents so that they can resolve our problems.”

That same day I was reading a book on the work of Carl Jung, in particular about individuation and synchronicity. I’m not going to pretend to know much about either of those things, however I do know they have to do with the development of consciousness, and how, if what he postulates is correct, the places we can reach through our consciousness are much more profound than where most of us currently are.

This led me to wonder what the difference is, if any, between the consciousness of someone born and raised in Zapatista territory after 1994, like Lizbeth, and someone born and raised under the previous system, before 1994? I believe there would be a difference, and this is the beginning of attempting to answer my own question.

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Reflections on a year past

difficulty-relief-verseJust after midnight on June 12 of last year there was a knock on my door. Awake but startled, I peered through the peephole to see three friends, grinning and holding a cupcake with a lit candle in it. “That’s right,” I recalled. “It’s my birthday.” I begrudgingly let these kind souls in. Seeking to escape just such a circumstance, I had intentionally told no one of my upcoming birthday. Was planning to spend it in my apartment alone. Facebook probably ratted me out. So here life was, in the form of three friends, squeezing through the blockades of isolation I had erected specifically to keep it out. “I must try harder,” I thought.

And so I did. And it worked. The texts, calls and visits grew less and less frequent. But I was also growing sicker and sicker. One fortuitous knock unexpectedly brought help, and over a period of time I was nursed back to health physically, with attention also directed to my mental, spiritual and social well-being.

Now at another birthday, I take a moment to look back at the past year, and also to scan the horizon. For about half of last year, I did not think I would make it this far, and for the greater part of that time, I didn’t care. But I’m glad I did.

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Elections in Mexico: Close the streets, open the way

A bus serves as a barricade in the historic city center of Oaxaca.

A bus serves as a barricade in the historic city center of Oaxaca.

On Sunday, June 7, midterm elections were held in Mexico. Well, the state attempted to hold elections. As it turns out, the people of Mexico weren’t having it. A vast majority – 71 percent in a poll I saw – did not believe that the elections would be fair. With rampant vote-buying, candidates with documented links to cartels, party-affiliated candidates running as independents, political assassinations, and an ongoing climate of impunity, massacres, terror and voracious capitalism, not many are enthusiastic about the direction Mexico is going in.

As well, the family members of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa Teaching School in Guerrero called for the elections to be boycotted unless the students were returned alive. Their argument being that a government which murders and disappears students, then criminalizes those demanding their return, and has known links to drug cartels is not to be trusted nor is capable of holding free and fair elections. The CNTE, the more militant wing of the national teachers union, joined onto the call, furious – among other things – with government moves to privatize education and introduce standardization and quotas.

The call to boycott elections turned into efforts to impede the elections from happening. Over the past week, especially in the southern rural, indigenous and poor states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas, teachers and their supporters seized National Electoral Institute (INE) offices, burning voter rolls and hundreds of thousands of ballots. In Oaxaca, teachers also blockaded the airport and seized an oil refinery and gas stations around the state, dispensing gas for free.

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Navigating spirituality and radical politics

malcolm-x-prayOne of my biggest fears in undertaking this new site and a more open posture is that I will be judged by colleagues and comrades, people I’ve worked and organized with in the real world and online, as selling out, going soft, turning liberal. In the past, I very much adhered to a type of role or persona in carrying out my work. I held onto an internal narrative that I constructed which said I must present myself as a strident, uncompromising, militant radical of the anarchist variety lest I be thought less of, judged unworthy. Of course such thinking is flawed and problematic on numerous levels, yet that narrative became very loud, drowning out the parts which desired to share a more complete version of myself. It still holds a lot of sway and tells me I will be judged for writing these very words. All the more reason to continue doing so.

It happened that I was indulging in this particular fear on Malcolm X’s birthday, May 19. A common ritual on a commemorative day such as that is to share quotes from the deceased. And so I was looking over some quotes and found a few of his that resonated with me around this very topic.

“If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success.”

“Every morning when I wake up, now, I regard it as having another borrowed day.”

“Stumbling is not falling.”

Then I recalled how after Malcolm X went on Hajj, where he had a spiritual experience, he was viewed as being “softer.” His letter from Mecca is a profound recounting of the opening that occurred for him. Later, upon speaking with Alex Haley, he shared, “Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as the result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true Sunni Muslim. I must repeat that I am not a racist nor do I subscribe to the tenets of racism. I can state in all sincerity that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”

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On process: Grains of sand

A grain of sand, magnified 250 times.

Now more than any other time do I understand why people write poetry. I do not write good poems. I wish not to clutter the poetic realm with my overwrought and undercooked lamentations. They may distract someone from finding the real gems, the poems that squeeze an unsolicited exultation from one’s gut.

On the other hand, I’ve been told my prose writing is decent, so I’ll stick with that. In a way, it’s riskier. Poets get licenses. Writing in complete sentences, it is easier to come across as odd or unstable and be judged negatively for it, whereas in a poem, it is slightly encouraged. After all, it’s “just” a poem. Vulnerability and stanzas seem to have been made for one another.

So there is the poetic impulse without the poem. What is the point? The point is a desire to reach you – the you in you – via words ill-equipped for the mission in a format constrained by clunky rules with the hopes of getting a reply. Or perhaps just a troll or two. And to do this in public. With my name attached. (Oh, he had such a bright future until he started getting all emo on the internet.) Back when I was really blogging, eight or nine years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter. And once I got on Facebook and Twitter, I didn’t blog much. Now all three are happening and people who know me in real life will be reading this. Interesting.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten into the business of feeling feelings. Still a novice at life, I’ve somehow accrued 33 years worth of experiences. A lot of them hurt. I believe they must have been for some purpose. Not a grand one, but a grain of sand-sized purpose. I see others’ experiences in the same light. Gather many millions of us and we’ll have ourselves a beach. But for that to work, we’ve each got to put our grain of sand out there.

So this blog is me here holding my grain. It’s not unique or original. Not all that poetic. Just quaint and quotidian. But it’s what I’ve got. Let’s get started.

Welcome!

Greetings! Thanks for dropping by, however you may have ended up here.

My name is Scott Campbell, and previously, for nearly eleven years, I maintained and occasionally posted to my previous blog, Angry White Kid. For reasons I elaborate on in my first post here, “Reorienting and debranding,” I feel a new outlet and approach calls to me at the moment. Hence, Falling Into Incandescence.

Explaining the name may help explain the purpose. Falling Into Incandescence is a phrase a professor of mine used to describe what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was attempting to encourage humanity to undertake. In brief, it is the idea that were we to let go and fall into our authentic selves we would become incandescent with the fire of truly being alive. I make no claims to authenticity or incandescence, though I strive for both. It is that striving in written form which I aim for with this site, in particular pursuing an integration of personal well-being, spirituality and social justice. As well, I hope to encounter others who feel similarly.

If you’d like to get in touch, please leave a comment, send me an email, or connect with me on Twitter.

Some may be interested in my qualifications. Sentience and self-reflection are the two main ones. But if it matters, I have a BA and MA in Humanities and am entering a Ph.D. program in the fall of 2015. My work (writings, translations, photos and videos) have appeared in outlets ranging from La Jornada to Al Jazeera to The Jerusalem Post, though I’m more likely to be found on ZNet, Upside Down World or MR Zine. I am also member of the collective which publishes the bilingual website El Enemigo Común.

The banner image is from the piece “Plunge” by André Varela and is used with permission.

"Plunge" by André Varela

“Plunge” by André Varela