The Moral Landscape

Submitted by Chris Webster on Fri, 2008/12/19 - 05:53
My Revolutions

With about twenty hours of solitude a day, I had plenty of time to think in prison. If Pentonville was a factory, what would it make? If it was a machine, what was it designed to do? I spent hours running through my memories. I thought about when I’d been happy and unhappy, the times when I’d been closest to feeling there was a future. The more I thought, the clearer the moral landscape appeared. There seemed to be two worlds. One was basic and sensual, a human-scale place of small tasks and pleasures, building things and eating good food, lying in the sun, making love. In this world, human relations were very simple. The desire to dominate, own and control, just didn’t arise. The other world, the world of Law and War and Institutions, was a strange and abstract place. In this mirror-world I was a violent person and had to be punished because violence was a monopoly of the state. I’d somehow authorized the British government to distribute violence on my behalf, which it did through various branches of officialdom—the army, the police, the Pentonville screws. The problem was that I couldn’t remember giving my consent. What paper had I signed? Where had I said I wished to regulate my habits and govern my sexual behaviour and strive for advancement in various abstract games whose terms had been set before I was born? The state claimed it was an expression of the democratic will of the people. But what if it wasn’t? What if it was just a parasite, a vampire sustaining itself on our collective life, on my life in particular?


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