Archive for April, 2012

When you first get to Dekalb County Jail, after being cuffed, taken for a ride, patted down, and photographed, you have two tendencies.  This is when you are actually put in a cell.  The first is to try not to touch anything.  You notice before anything else the pool of urine around the toilet in the corner of the cell, and you see that it’s impossible to tell where the wet floor ends and the dry floor begins.  You also see the men, mostly older and maybe, you think, more accustomed to such realities, but some also younger, lying down near the toilet and around the toilet – right in the puddles of piss.  You think about how they’ve probably been so beaten down by the world that what’s smelling like piss compared to some of the other things they’ve seen and done.  You see them get up and lay down on the same benches you were just thinking of sitting on. Now you’re wondering about those benches, so sometimes you sit on the edge of the bench, or stand near the cell door.  Anything but the floor.

Your other tendency when you first get to jail is to act a certain way, exude a certain toughness.  You’ve heard the stories, seen the jail-focused reality TV shows, and you think you know there are some hard screws behind bars – who else would be back here, right?  So you try to be quiet, or maybe put on a serious face, like you, too, are bad and anyone who messes with you is surely asking for it.  You know you just don’t want any trouble, whatever that may look like, so you try both to stay out of every man’s way while also not appearing meek and able to be taken advantage of.

Time passes. Hours, you don’t know how many – there’s no clock. You wonder when the hell you’re going to get your ‘one phone call’, not to mention get finger-printed and processed.  You start to get actually frustrated, instead of just pretending to be.  But the funny thing is, all the posturing tired the muscles in your face, and so now you’re frustrated but you just look very, very tired.  You’re no longer thinking about how to hold your face.  In just few hours you find yourself much more relaxed on that bench you didn’t want to sit on before.  You even cross over the moat of urine and make it to the toilet to take a piss – because you couldn’t hold it any longer.  You’re still not comfortable, but your outer-world pretensions are quickly dissolving in a cell of brute necessities.

And so maybe you hold your face up, signaling that you’re at least open to a conversation or two.  There’s one guy who’s been chatting away since you got in there.  He’s telling everyone how they’re their own corporation, and that their legal name is separate from who they really are as a person. He tells them that you can ‘claim sovereignty’ over themselves, and that they need not be subjected to the laws of the United States.  You let someone else argue with him, and laugh at the names they call each other.  There seems to be a different kind of knowledge that circulates in here than in the university halls.  The conversations you have, the camaraderie you find constitute the only pleasant moments of your time inside.  You still haven’t gotten your phone call, but now you’re just thinking about food – not the junk you know they’ll serve you, but the food you plan on eating once you get out.  Even though you’ve never been in jail before, you have an idea or two from the conditions of the cell what the food must be like.  But that just makes your dreaming of outside food that much more alluring.  Mmm, it’s going to be so good.  You think a lot about food over the rest of your time inside.

The first time you’re in, you have no idea about the process.  You’re surprised when they put a needle in your forearm to test you for Tuberculosis.  You wonder how many times they’re going to call you out of the cell to feel you up and down.  Unlike adjusting to the in-cell conditions, the groping never gets easier.  They give you a psychological test asking you if you hear voices in your head, or see people who aren’t there.  You remember a line from a jailed political prisoner regarding this question, something like “They asked me if I saw people who weren’t there.  My problem wasn’t this… it was seeing too much the people who are there.”

They move you from one cell to another to another.  And another and another. They put handcuffs on you, take them off. You’re tired, but you’re always being moved around so you can’t sleep. Then comes the big surprise.  They bring you and several of the men you’ve just been sharing a small space with to a larger room.  They tell you all to sit on the stairs. You’re used to waiting by this point, and instead of worrying what you’re waiting for, maybe another pat-down, you’re still thinking about that food.  Then they call 3 of you at a time, yelling and hurling verbal insults at you along the way. Whatever, you’re still much too tired to try to figure out what’s going on. But for some reason you glance to your right – ah shit! You see the 3 men who were just called over butt-naked, bending over to pick up and put back on their clothes. Your heart literally drops into your stomach.  Strip-search time.

You didn’t expect this, and you immediately become nervous. Quickly you tell yourself you have to try to mentally prepare. But how do you steel yourself against having the authority-man who just cuffed and transported you, who just yelled at you and treated you as less than dirt, now order you to take off your clothes? And you have to use your own hands to assist in exposing all of your parts to him?? You don’t know how you’ll preserve your mind, but you try whatever you can.  Thinking of something nice.  Thinking of something more terrible than this, something others have endured. You want to run, or scream, or fight – but you can’t. Standing there for naked for 30 seconds feels like an hour. Turning around and squatting and being made to use your hands to spread your butt just about breaks you. You’re no longer chatty with the other men you had just met.  You’re ashamed.  You’re upset.  And you’re very, very angry.

After this episode, you’re left in the big cell.  The waiting game continues.  But now it starts to gets to you.  You wonder what time it is, since you have no way of knowing.  You wonder what you’d be doing if you weren’t stuck in here.  You wonder who’s helping to get you out, who’s going to be there to give you a hug when you’re released, who’s going to drive you to get that food you’ve been thinking about.  You wonder.

The waiting game grinds on you. And now you’re really cold.  A t-shirt isn’t enough in this concrete room. You tuck your arms into your sleeves. You’re sprawled out on the floor, leaning on one shoulder until it hurts too much, then rolling over and leaning on the other.  Half-awake, half-shivering, half-breathing, half-you.  When you first arrived you thought, anything but the floor.  But now your mind is mush and your body’s needs take over.  The floor is all there is.  Fatigue and pain is all you feel.

On the floor, now you look just like those men lying down near the toilet, those men snoring in a puddle of piss, those men you thought must’ve been in and out about 100 times, those men you thought might mess with you.  You almost let out a macabre half-laugh at it all. Feeling not yet broken, but like maybe you could be broken. Feeling your body, that you are a body, a body to be moved, searched, patted down, inspected, stored.  You just want to get out.  You just wish there were no prisons at all.  And this is just your first time.



(Experience is told from the perspective of a male inmate at Dekalb County Jail located in Decatur, Georgia)

A certain economy of illegalities exists at Emory University.  The term ‘economy’ here refers to a distribution of things.  Distributions can be equal, or skewed in favor of the few.  One can say that at Emory University, there is a distribution of illegal activities, and they are administered to differently, rather than entirely eliminated.  In this economy of illegalities, illegal activities are distributed to certain subjects based on their actions and political importance.  The key point is that the desire to eliminate all illegal activities at Emory University is non-existent.  Rather, some illegalities go punished while others are tolerated, and still others are quite encouraged and even rewarded.  The act of differentiating between these types of illegalities is political, insofar as the decisions to cultivate or exterminate the practices in question, or even the drives that may lead to the carrying out of such practices, depend solely on the interests of those administering Emory’s own Law – the Emory administration.  Illegalities that buttress the position of Emory’s administration, or in other words, achieve the bottom line of an elite private university – enriching its stakeholders – are deemed desirable, and so are consistently produced, reproduced, perpetuated, and championed.  Other actions that may undermine the interests of Emory’s administration, even if they are not actually ‘illegal’ according to the law as it is administered off-campus, are represented as Illegal activities and punished, so that the potential for their imitation and duplication can be liquidated, thus accomplishing the desired political effect – preservation of the administration’s interests.

Some concrete examples can aid in understanding the particular configuration of Emory University’s economy of illegalities as we find it today.  Perhaps the most obvious and blatant illegal activity, which would make it the most reproduced through the active preservation of its enabling conditions, at Emory is the ubiquity of under-age drinking found inside and around on-campus fraternity and sorority houses.  Apart from cases so egregious that any perceived indifference towards them could itself be politically costly for Emory University, almost all of these actual infractions of state law not only go unpunished, but form a vibrant part of daily campus life.  Several nights throughout the week, expensively-dressed underage students can be seen in droves walking into and stumbling out of these bustling Greek-lettered taverns.  Even without visiting campus, one can see the celebration of such a culture by simply browsing the Emory webpage, as well as that for the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, where one can find numerous front-display pictures of students with red cups – the universal college alcohol-container used at parties highly patronized by students not yet of age to drink.  Such visibility and prominence of this particular illegal activity on campus evidences its desirability for those with the power to eliminate it.  Obviously they choose not to do so.  This benevolent relationship characterizes the privileged position of those who engage in underage drinking at on-campus fraternity and sorority houses within Emory University’s economy of illegalities.

While under-age drinking parties come with their own dangers, perhaps an even more troubling coordinate within Emory’s economy of illegalities is the use of illegally acquired amphetamines and cocaine as study aids.  A great number of Emory students use drugs such as Adderall, Dexedrine, and cocaine as performance-enhancers during study time so that they may chemically induce more intense focus and higher energy.  Apart from being illegal and incredibly dangerous, such usage also contributes to a thriving culture of academic dishonesty.  Clearly, the illegal usage of Adderall, cocaine, and other similar drugs by Emory students (if they do actually help one ‘cram’) affords an immense advantage to those a) rich enough to acquire them, b) socially safe enough to be inoculated from the adverse legal consequences of trafficking in such illegal substances, and c) morally willing to reap the benefits of illegally enhanced mental capacities.  Emory University students find themselves busy in many aspects of their life, so artificially boosting their energy while at the same time vastly increasing their focus unfairly gives them a leg up on all who cannot or will not do the same.   Dangerous and dishonest – yet at Emory University, Adderall and cocaine usage is quite out in the open (with transactions happening in the Woodruff library and students crushing up and ‘blowing addy’ at computer labs and even in classrooms).  A student need only ask around at Woodruff Library for at most a quarter of an hour in order to find these drugs.  In fact, ask almost any student, and an honest reply will tell you that Emory University must rank near the top nationally in terms of illegal amphetamine campus saturation – it just seems so normal.  And yet the Emory Administration says nothing about the campus-wide normalized illegal amphetamine trade.  Why?  Because the return effects of punitively pursing such illegal activity, as well as the removal of those amphetamine-using subjects from Emory campus does not outweigh the political benefits of retaining such subjects and reproducing such illegalities.  For the Emory administration, the enrollment and multiplication of ‘addy-blowers’ and ‘cokeheads’ at Emory University is politically remunerative; as such, it is not an accidental, but rather produced university reality that is part of the administration’s idea of Emory.  And so the economy of illegalities again dictates that those who partake in these particular illegal activities are safe and secure, if not in their health, at least as far as in the evasion of punishment by the Emory Administration goes.

If the analysis of this illegal economy is pushed even further, one can say that a curriculum of illegality is firmly in place at Goizueta Business School, the proud No. 5 ranked business school in the country. At this training ground of future Bernie Madoffs, Enron CEOs, and Newt Gingrinches, students are explicitly taught to disregard moral values in favor of market values, and to look to the ‘bottom line’ of profit maximization rather than human life.  Students are even wildly encouraged to market themselves.  Their curriculum not only requires no authentic moral wrestling with the world’s problems, but it actively induces amoral, and often illegal, cognitive reflexes.  A common question for a GBS student facing a problem in or out of class is “What can I get away with?”  It is no coincidence that tales of entire-class cheating, successive-semester ‘answer-sharing’ replete with extensive file systems, active and exaggeratedly performed professorial ‘indifference’, and other instances of blatant academic dishonesty that come from the halls of Goizueta are so folkloric in their boldness and scope.  An important connection can be made here between the flows of illegal thinking and acting cultivated at Goizueta and the endemic illegal and fraudulent behavior that characterizes our nation’s governing political and economic systems.  Prefiguration of the formal strategies of political illegality used within the larger national economy of illegalities is being enacted, and this makes sense, as many Goizueta graduates will be encouraged by the powerful offices they may hold and institutions they may run to expand upon the dishonesty and fraud learned and performed during their years at Emory University.  From the Goizueta Buisness School, we can learn that the problems of megalomaniacal governmentality replete with its agents’ perpetual disrespect for and manipulation of the law do not necessarily emerge upon the assumption of offices of great power, but rather are cultivated and developed along the way.

Underage drinking, illegal amphetamine and cocaine usage, induced illegal cognition, not to mention the fake-ID trade and the actions of Emory’s secret societies, among other activities, comprise the politically desired, and thus permitted and reproduced, illegal activities at Emory University.  And yet, for all the tolerance, encouragement, and rewarding of illegal activity at Emory University, as in every economy of illegalities, there are some illegalities that must go punished, for their existence is politically disadvantageous to those who make juridical decisions.  Or better put, there are some actions Emory students may take to which the title of ‘illegal’ as well as stringent punishment must be affixed, so that the Emory administration can successfully eliminate the conditions for repetition, imitation, or proliferation of the so-called ‘crime’, serving and protecting its interests in the process.

One example of such undesirable ‘illegal’ action was my inquiring as to the well-being of a woman I had recognized sitting in Emory’s Woodruff library, as well as the non-communication with the Emory police officers that followed.  As of today, April 14, 2012, Emory University, in conjunction with the State of Georgia, is still pursuing criminal charges for what I ‘did’.  According to the official juridical construction utilized by the state of Georgia, the ‘crime’ I am being charged with is ‘Obstruction’ – a catch-all if I have ever heard one.  But more interestingly, I am concerned with what, for Emory University, was my prosecutable action – what kind of action, in an environment of such tolerated and encouraged illegalities, is undesirable to the point that it merits the Emory administration’s pursuance of criminal prosecution?  (Yes, the Emory administration can easily petition the State of Georgia to drop my charge, so the final decision, and thus the reality of the prosecution, lies with the Emory administration)

Again, as seen in the now widely-circulated video footage, I inquired as to the woman’s well-being, and then had an interaction with an Emory police officer that I’ve described at length in a previous writing.  But this alone is not why Emory seeks to punish me with up to one year in jail.  For Emory, my action is understood solely as the embodiment and enactment of a potentially non-submissive engagement with the Emory Police Department.  More important than the actual action itself, the appearance of my action as potentially non-submissive towards the EPD is indeed what is being seized upon by the Emory administration.  A simple counterfactual proves this point.  It is likely that if I did not have or fumbled with my ID card before the Emory officer handcuffed me, yet appeared submissive to that EPD officer, my charges may have already been dropped and a meeting with the administration and ensuing apology may have already taken place.  However, the reality of potentially appearing to interact with the EPD officer non-submissively is deemed by the Emory administration to be politically too costly, and so is labeled ‘illegal’ and punished severely.  In a sort of penal demonstration involving my arrest in the library in front of many students, along with my rough handling, as well as my transfer to Dekalb County Jail where I was patted down on all of my body parts, stripped naked, and told to get in humiliating positions, the actions that purportedly exist to constitute merely the bringing about of charges were in actuality already-executed punishments themselves.

One thing is clear: the Emory administration’s prosecution of my action is political.  Obviously putting aside conspiracy theories that have been floated out about the administration orchestrating my arrest given my participation in protest movements, it is demonstrable that Emory University has a political interest in my prosecution insofar as maintaining the absolute submission of its students to its on-campus police department is within its set of political desires.  And it is.  With Emory University’s ties to the Department of Homeland Security, CIA, and FBI, maintaining a stout and commanding police force on campus is part of a political program that secures various law enforcement interests, as well as coextensively expanding them in lucrative directions at the same time.

Furthermore, a submissive student body is a welcome sight to corporate, government, and hybrid public-private entities that may invest in Emory University, in the same way that a repressive nation’s politically subdued population is perceived positively by potential foreign investors – the more in-line those at the bottom are (students), the more those at the top (administration officials, board of directors, high-paying investors) can exploit them with impunity, without resistance.  For example, say a large and wildly unethical food-service corporation (imagine that!) wished to open up a location on Emory campus.  If Emory campus was known to be a place where students were free from police harassment and able to exercise political dissent in order to contest such an opening, that corporation might think twice before it concretizes its investment.  But with a subdued student body in place, that corporate entity can carry out its investment because of the low risk involved in doing so, and the Emory administration and its stakeholders can of course glean their significant share of the profit.  With a student-body absolutely submissive to the campus police force, the safety of a wealthy entity’s investment and its profitable return can be more readily expected, and so more expansive investments, which as we know often involve deeper and more finely-tuned exploitation, can be pursued.  Thus, the Emory Police Department itself is an indispensable asset in not only securing but attracting investments.  The key to this all is that the EPD’s authority must appear at all times to be moving uni-directionally – in the direction of ever-expansion.

And so the question that follows becomes, did my action undermine the steady expansion of the authority of Emory’s Police Department?  But in fact, this is not exactly the best question.  A more precise inquiry asks, was the appearance of my action perceived by the Emory Administration as potentially laying the groundwork for any possible future undermining of the expansion of the Emory Police Department’s authority?  By the evidence of Emory’s continued criminal persecution of me, one can conclude that my measured exchange with the Emory police officer, in which I asserted my rights and peacefully disengaged, is in fact understood by the Emory administration as non-submissive, and thus, the first step on the road to questioning and perhaps even demanding justification for(!) the expansion of the authority of the Emory Police Department on our campus.  For the Emory Administration this is politically unacceptable.  If the EPD’s expanding authority is questioned, then their very function and existence on Emory campus may be questioned as well.  Public visibility of such questioning could shake the confidence of potential investors, who could just as easily take their large sums of money to more politically subdued campuses, hurting the interests (profit) of the Emory administration.  The groundwork for potential questioning of the Emory police had been laid, disrupting the apparatus that secures and attracts lucrative investments, and so by the administration’s calculus, computed in terms of its own interests, the dictates of the economy of illegalities prescribe that my act must be publicly paraded as illegal (hence criminal prosecution rather than in-house negotiation) and punished to the strict extent that the potential for the action’s repetition by me or imitation by others is expunged.  This is how Emory University has become a corporate campus within which maintaining an absolutely and unequivocally authorized and indeed unquestionably supreme, or should I say supremely unquestionable, police force is a central pillar of its operations.

By matter of a confluence of covetous interests, punitive interventions, and productive-regulatory programs, Emory University is a college campus in America where rampant cocaine usage is permitted by the indifference it is shown, while a considered exchange with a police officer is prosecuted with fervor.  Considered as such, the outcome of the political calculations and relations constituting Emory’s illegal economy is demonstrated to be twisted and contorted into a disturbing shape.

Now that the economy of illegalities has been laid out, I can conclude by asking the question that those who exercise administrative power at Emory University wish not to be asked.  For whom, or for what, is the Emory Police Department good?  Does the EPD prevent violent crime or theft for campus workers?  Do they protect students with certain needs from being bullied?  As we know from a recent upsurge in the reporting of sexual assault, they do not prevent abhorrent actual crimes such as the rape of female-bodied persons.  So what does the Emory Police Department do?

I put forth the hypothesis that primarily, the existence of the Emory Police Department serves to enforce the economy of illegality desired by the Emory Administration.  It does this by forcefully putting down any political action that the administration finds undesirable.  This is the EPD’s raison d’êtreAgain, a political action is understood by the administration as any action that may potentially lead to an effect on its interests, such as raising questions about campus labor relations in an unmanaged fashion.  Almost any action can be perceived to be political and treated as such if the Emory Administration deems it necessary – the decision is solely theirs.  To a great extent, the Emory Administration controls the means of the representation of campus actions.  Indeed, what the Emory brand seeks, and is already in the process of developing as a model for the 21st century University, is the total management and oversight of campus action representation.

Such concentration of representational power in the hands of those with undisclosed interests and vast punitive power on a college campus is flatly dangerous for independent thinkers.  As we can see, with regard to politically undesirable actions, Emory seeks not just to avoid their occurrence, but in practice to abolish the conditions for their mere potentiality by representing them as socially unmeritorious and specially dangerous for those who partake in them.  And this is where the unquestionability of the EPD and its troubling punitive power comes in.  The existence of the much-funded and seemingly unquestionably authoritative Emory Police Department serves to strike a preemptive blow against any and all students that may wish to engage in independent political organizing and action that could potentially place in question the goals and interests of Emory’s stakeholders and the Emory enterprise at large.

To understand how this functions at the level of individual student realities, one must ask the following question: if any Emory students wanted to strongly question, say, the direction of the Goizueta Business School or Emory’s ties to the CIA, Coca-Cola, or AIPAC, what must they consider?  Any student partaking in such unauthorized and unmanaged political engagement on Emory campus is now forced to weigh the strength of their convictions against their willingness to confront the absolutely real possibility of being arrested and potentially injured by the Emory Police, carted off to Dekalb County Jail, searched by the probing hands of multiple officers, and stripped down and made to “squat and cough” – not to mention the coextensive potential state punishment of serving one year of incarceration.  Understandably, for many students, this is a deeply personal risk, the price of which is simply too heavy to pay.  For instance, many rape survivors or persons triggered by thoughts and experiences of sexual violence may find themselves summarily occluded from taking spontaneous political action due to the certainty of the bodily harm they would face by carrying out their beliefs.  Handcuffs, pat-downs, and forced nudity could send them into violently traumatic episodes that they strongly wish to avoid.  And of course, the personal risk is unacceptably high for any student who may wish to become politically involved.  Indeed, at Emory University, for most students the movement of thinking in spontaneous political directions is stopped before it can even start – much to the delight of the administration and its well-heeled backers.

Things have been arranged at Emory University so that those who may wish to become involved in genuine political engagement falling under the undisclosed and liberally wide category of ‘undesired by the Emory administration’ are produced as criminal subjects, and the penalties associated with such ‘criminality’ have been calibrated to such a degree of intensity, that the desire to repeat the offense is squelched, and the drive to imitate it is liquidated, nearly eliminating the conditions for the potentiality of independent political thinking in the first place.

The existence of perpetual illegal activity at Emory University is not a result of the flow of unchecked or unnoticed action, nor activity’s surplus.  Rather, the functioning of Emory’s economy of illegalities evidences a finely-tuned and fiercely managed political coordination that protects the interests of the Emory administration and high-paying investors, while seeking to eliminate even the possibility of those interests being in any way undermined.  Covered up with slogans, committees, and all sorts of administrative, professorial, and student cheerleaders, the political reality of Emory University is that not only has the administration put in motion the preemptive suppression of independent political action, but it has already nearly succeeded in erasing the mere disposition of any of its students towards spontaneous political thought.  Emory University’s ethical engagement can be summed up in two words – Administrative Totalitarianism.  If one is not willing to risk such a condemnation, I would only ask, what more must one see in order to do so – perhaps the active physical suppression of students by the EPD?  Well, that’s already happened, too.

“Look at yourselves.  Some of you teenagers, students.  How do you think I feel belonging to a generation ahead of you – how do you think I feel to have to tell you, ‘We, my generation, sat around like a knot on a wall while the whole world was fighting for its human rights – and you’ve got to be born into a society where you still have to fight that same fight.’  What did we do, we who preceded you?  I’ll tell you what we did.  Nothing.  And don’t you make the same mistake we made.” – Malcolm X