Saturday, August 25, 2012

The End Of The Begining

I would hope that old Winston might forgive my theft of his wartime quote, but it is as apt for my circumstances as it was for his. Great change is afoot and it is tempting to think that every hurdle is overcome, every battle won.

The largest personal struggle is over. I am as free as any Lifer can be within our State. And yet...freedom was, in itself, rarely my main aim during most of my sentence. That was displaced by the struggle to "speak truth to power", to try - as best I could by my lights - to do the right thing. And in prison, in a place where the powerful traduced the powerless, the "right thing" was often to challenge and question abuses of power.

And that struggle continues. how can it not? For I cannot forget those left behind, the prisoner society that fascinated, frustrated and yet sustained me. As powerless as ever, as vulnerable to the spasms of the populist politicians and the basest of media, the only change that there has been is my own release.

Change is possible. Change requires struggle. I can only continue to play some small role in this - for change within prisons rests on the efforts of those inside the carceral machine and not us on the outside. I can only hope that I may have been of some small use in the struggle, and may continue to be so.


  1. Ben,so glad to hear that you are on the outside now.
    Enjoy the moment, just like you posted a few weeks ago, sitting outside in the warm evening sun.
    When you have settled down, remember the healthcare staff!!
    That posting has always stuck in my mind.
    I hope you feel happier now, at the start of your new journey.
    Keep on blogging.
    Best wishes.

  2. Proselytising to prisoners is one of the basest abuses of power.

    Manipulating a captive audience for your own ends who will probably take any chance to get an hour out of their cell.

    There are no gods, no devils, no angels nor demons, just the natural world, that which we can observe and measure; as Stephen Hawking said: "Heaven is just a fairy story for people afraid of the dark".

    Religions are nothing but another tool of control, mostly created in bronze age times so tribal leaders could keep their population in line and treat women/children as property. They have started more and bloodier wars than any other factor in human history! These days it's used to keep the congregation in line and make a fortune by skimming 10% off everyones earnings.

    One church in York pays its pastors over £40,000/year, not bad for a few hours/week of work, wish my programming paid as well!

  3. When I was in prison people disappeared through the gate before breakfast on their release date without even saying goodbye to most of their friends. Thirty years inside may be different, but I should not feel guilty about leaving others behind. You can always write to them.

    Ben needs to feel his way forward over the next many months. As much as anything this includes discovering people's attitudes towards him so as to develop a new and constructive relationship with the crowd. I made the mistake of trying to be too honest because I wished people to know about my past. They did not. Veteran syndrome is another problem when you find you can only fully relate to other ex-cons, particularly lifers. Again, fear when making a new friend that someone will whisper in their ear bringing the relationship to an abrupt close.

    After prison, I suggest, comes the real punishment for a lifer. The life sentence is an obscenity. Some wilfully inflicted damage will never be repaired. I hope Ben's new life develops three good-sized dimensions none the less.


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