The Carceral Archipelago Must Go As We Surveil Ourselves



“You can’t reduce violence in the U.S. without being proactive about violence abroad. Not just the continuing catastrophes we bring down on others, but the violence that others inflict on one another… like what some educators in France did to their students on March 24th this year.” — Richard Martin Oxman

“Doesn’t it seem strange to anyone that all of those youngsters and highly educated adults seem to think that it’s possible to provide sufficient services for mentally ill citizens in the midst of our violent cultural matrix?”– Rachel Oxman

The concept of a carceral archipelago (meaning a prison consisting of a series of islands) appears in social theorist Michel Foucault’s work on surveillance systems and their technologies over modern societies and its practice of social control and discipline over its population in all areas of social life.

Surveillance of this sort is nothing short of the straw that’s going to break the camel’s back, taking us back to the days of rack and torture when we don’t obey. [Pause.] Oh, we’re already torturing as the new normal, I forgot! That should say a lot to educators in the good old U.S.A., but it’s not, is it? Zero tolerance? How about Zero Learning?

I’m burning with opposing passion with my stance against the dance that teachers and administrators are doing. They’ll get in line right now to march in circles with placards with their charges to declare that Black Lives Matter and/or that everyone needs to participate in a March for Our Lives, but they won’t touch what’s at the core of our collective crises.

March for Our Lives? How about March for Their Lives? Meaning, one cannot get all hot under the collar about massacres on the domestic front if one continues to support massacres abroad, is not affronted by our surveillance and slaughter of foreigners.

No one in the realm of American education is making that connection, are they? They are not. Rather, they are ignoring our abominations abroad, and — simultaneously — condoning the rise in nationalism, state sanctioned racism, expansion of both the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex, accelerating police violence…and — mindlessly — NOT protesting with regard to how Big Pharma and Big Ag are undermining our collective health and safety in ways that far outstrip the combined threats of illegal drug dealers and foreign terrorists. And all of that is in bed with the dynamic that allows us to blame, say, Russia for being invasive respecting our data while viewing the surveillance of government, law enforcement and corporate kings as… nothing much to be concerned about, or something that mere talk about suffices.

Hey, you can’t have the nuclear dynamic we have and the violence inflicted on Mother Nature which we’re responsible for and expect a few changes in gun laws — regardless of how historic, necessary and admirable they might be — see a reduction of violence on campuses throughout the great U.S.A.

It is a politically correct show, and that’s all it is, what we’ve been witnessing with recent demonstrations. Granted, it’s a healthy step in a decent direction, but the teaspoon that’s being held up in the face of the powers that be will be washed away soon enough when the five-hundred-foot wave that’s headed our way comes crashing down on our heads. Not one out of a hundred and twelve participants in the March for Our Lives extravaganza who I interviewed throughout California expressed any concern about their identities being recorded. “There are too many of us to worry about that,” was a typical response to my inquiries. Too many? The well-meaning folks who insisted upon their democratic right to demonstrate — and should be applauded for that — are ignorant, it seems, about the power of the state, and the numbers they command when push comes to shove. Ignorant too about how many citizens have been taken out virtually overnight from the barricades… and their beds in the middle of the night.

They get all caught up with head counts coming out of the corporate media and its so-called alternatives. Activist successes should be cited, of course, but outlets like Democracy Now! — and it has many counterparts — mislead by misrepresenting the impact, minimizing what really has to be done by the participants for us to turn the corner respecting violence in the violent culture of ours. For instance, you can’t — out of one side of your mouth — praise flicks like Black Panther and Star Wars and — from another angle on another day say the marching of millions in the streets is going to lead to more peace on the planet.

Oh, our precious head counts! Where are our heads, what are we thinking? Are we thinking at all in or out of academic circles? We cannot be, to see how we aid and abet the powers who control the lion’s share of the surveillance these days here and overseas, making sure that they maintain full spectrum dominance… which enables them to commit atrocities without pause.

We’re descending down a carceral blind alley willingly. Will we — will any reader out there — take the bold step of confronting educators on any of the issues touched upon above? Any takers from the Facebook crowd? Do a head count on that, will you?

Folks who are cynical about the possibilities for positive change are taking the easy road away from responsibility. We must get the notion of numbers out of our heads, stop stopping ourselves by reciting over and over how daunting and impossible our present unfolding scenario is. For it is no more beyond our reach to teach youngsters what to do, and to join them in solidarity than it is to simply be honest about WHY we’re being spied on by our government and corporate entities. And those who proclaim they’re here to protect and serve us.

The carceral archipelago must go, but our first order of business must be to free students — all youngsters and adults — from the false notion that we can March for Our Lives the way in which we’re presently doing, not acknowledging what’s really going on.

Change gun laws if you want to, but do so while simultaneously changing other things, including the part you play in our present  momentum.

Surveil yourself. Avail yourself of forms of protest which are not fashionable… as a supplement to what others are doing.

Marcel Duchamp Oxman can be reached at [email protected]. He will be happy to provide examples of the “supplements” he speaks of above, viable options. The most recent article by Henry Giroux — though the author has reservations about some points made in the piece — should serve as a decent supplement for this article.


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