Monday, May 17, 2010

Authoritarian Urges

Ah, if I ruled the world... And who hasn't had that thought on occasion? I have a sneaking feeling that each of us has an authoritarian streak deep within our psyche. Perhaps my obsession with resisting abuses of power is as much a suppress of the internal as a battle against the external?

What does, instantly, irritate and anger prisoners are those few prisoners who attempt to exercise authority over their peers. This usually flows from their employment position. Storemen of various types and servery workers are most prone to this authoritarian disease.

Some can come to believe that they are "in charge" of their little sphere, a delusion which can be amusing to watch. They are as likely to be treated with contempt and dismissed by staff as the rest of us but they think that they are somehow more than the average prisoner.

Some take this to the extent of adopting the values of the staff, rather than the interests of prisoners. Of course, we couldn't fairly ask a Storeman or servery worker to issue goods or food to the extent that they put their own position at risk.

But there are prisoners in those positions who will deny their peers goods on the basis that it would be against the interests of the prison administration. A con has refused me an extra pair of socks from a shelf with hundreds of pairs, solely because the prison says I should have only one. The needs of the prison are more important to them than the needs of prisoners.

These prisoners are slightly baffling but always irritating, a source of mockery from others. They are regarded as being deluded, authoritarian and obnoxious.

I see these people as being rather sad, even pathetic. Their only status in life, their only source of self respect, comes from wielding a spatula under the supervision of staff. In being the controller of their goods, their self esteem appears to be directly correlated to how much they please their staff masters.

And yet such prisoners rarely appreciate their position or their actions. Their values are not so deformed as to become grasses, i.e. utterly incorporating staff perspectives, and so they perceive their actions as being perfectly normal.

And me? When I was a servery worker I was repeatedly sacked for giving out too much rice pudding. My attitude was that that kitchen wasn't making enough, not that I was giving too much away. And when I was a workshop Storeman I used to leave the door open, put my feet up, and let anyone wander in and help themselves. Knives, saws, drills, whatever. As long as it was all back by the end of the day, all were happy.


  1. oh the police are like that out here, they think they yield so much power, but in reality many are just puppets of the government, and not many can think for themselves.

  2. Perhaps the people you mention Ben just believe in fair play. Equal share out for all prisoners - nothing to do with pleasing the officers. I bet you Ben would not be happy if you could not get what is 'rightfully' yours because loads of others had more than their share.

  3. I know the kind ben is talking about - they are deluded power cravers and will kiss the a*se of anyone in power just to stand next to him/her. In my country during apartheid they were called 'Chiefs'and given khakhi uniforms - their job was to oppress their own people, but like all of us they were told what to do and how to do it by those in power. Human mentality always amazes me!