They say you learn something new everyday, but do you really? I see people losing their minds everyday and sometimes it seems like the people who keep us here want our minds to stay stagnant while we are in here, but it's really not up to them, it's up to us. It's up to each and every one of us to take true strides to educate and elevate ourselves. It's up to each and every one of us in here to take true strides to liberate our minds, liberate our souls through books, through knowledge, through the connections we make with others. It's up to each and every one of us to get our minds right and our game tight. For those who choose to stay stuck on stupid while they sit here and dwell here, that's up to them. If that's what they choose to do, then that's on them. It's sad to see, and it's hard to be around people like that, but what can you do?
Man, I've been through so much, up here in E.S.P. for 10 years and I've been through it all. All the ups and downs, all the riots, conflicts and struggles, I've got the mail room officers hating on me, fucking with my mail and trying to make my life a living hell because of the zines that I create, zines like this one right here ("Greetings from the Graveyard"). I've got the officers appealing to the assistant warden trying to get me thrown on H.R.P. status (High Risk Prisoner) for my latest "assault" on an officer and for everything else I've been through in the past 10 years.
I try to do good, but when they see me trying to do good they try to make it harder for me; when they see I'm doing good they always try to find some petty offense to write me up for. So it's hard to maintain, after all the shit I've been through, and go through.
There's been many times when I wanted to do right and was making an effort to do good and then something would go wrong and I'd slip up and just like that I'd be back in the hole for another assault. It's easy for my family and friends to tell me, "just do good, just ignore them, just don't feed into it," but they could never understand the struggles that I go through in here. When you're living amongst all this foulness and misery sometimes it's hard to maintain your focus. It's hard to care about things when you're living in a world where no body cares. It's hard to care when nobody around you cares about you and when some of these people don't even care about themselves. It's a struggle to do right when everything's going wrong. And it's even harder to get your people to understand it when you call them and tell them, Man, I just slipped up again."
We sit here locked down in these cells, letting our minds go numb as every man is pent up within the limits of his own frustration and rage. I always speak on the importance of resistance, and I always speak on the importance of making real connections with people on the outs. I feel that when you try to elevate and educate yourself while living amongst all this stagnation and deterioration, you are engaging in a true act of resistance. Resistance isn't always about clashing with the authorities, or physically fighting the system, because under these circumstances you're only burying yourself deeper in a hole every time you get violent. I've been violent the whole time I've been incarcerated and sometimes it was necessary for me to be violent, but even though it's kept my head glued on to my shoulders it has prolonged my sentence.
So, when you take true strides to educate and elevate yourself while living under these dreary and gloomy circumstances, I'd say you are participating in a healthier act of resistance, because by doing this you're resisting intellectual death and you're also resisting spiritual famine. You are becoming conscious while dwelling in a contemptuous, disdainful, ugly nebula of ignorance and hatred. You are taking true strides to rise above it all.
It is important for us to try to make meaningful connections with people on the outs too, because nobody in here cares about you one way or the other. There's no love here. The love here is earned, not a given. Love shouldn't be earned, that's not true love. That's prison love. It's not the good kind of love. Prison love is artificial, it comes and it goes and then has to be earned all over again, it isn't given freely, there is no compassion in the type of love you'll find in prison. But we can get that from people on the outs, they can help us, they can heal us, they can show us love, friendship and compassion. That's they type of love we need, that's the type of love that's going to help us endure and grow and develop and blossom and those are the type of people who are going to get us through this and beyond this miserable, lonely existence of prison life. We need love from the people on the outs, 'cuz that's true love, not like this artificial, condensed stuff you get in here. We need real love and real support.
Maybe the people who keep us here 'want to keep our minds stagnant, maybe they just don't care one way or the other. But the fact of the matter is we, ourselves have to take true and healthy strides to rise above the madness and stagnation that we live and suffer through every day. I feel that having our minds stagnant while in prison is not only an injustice to ourselves, but an injustice to society (after we get out of prison) and an injustice to humanity. It definitely makes you question the role of prisons in America and it makes you question the intentions of those who are intent on locking us up and building more prisons. It is c1ear that they don't care about us. It is c1ear that we have to take it upon ourselves to rise above this madness.
I sit here in this cell trying to cultivate my mind and trying to encourage others to do the same. We use this time to get our minds right and our game tight, trying to rise above all of this mental and spiritual oppression. We try to make the best out of a bad situation, taking the good with the bad, making sure we get back on our feet after each time we stumble and fall, still striving to move forward, towards the imaginary light at the end of the imaginary tunnel, because it's all about perseverance and survival. And yes, you can learn something new everyday if you have the desire to do so. Just because they want us to stay stagnant in here, doesn't mean we have to. Staying sharp and staving strong is what we should aim to do. Don't lose your mind, use your mind! Apply yourself.
Just in here trying to stay on the sharp side!
Ely State Prison, Ely, Nevada
October 27th, 2008
"Your way begins on the other side. Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall, escape
Walk out like somebody born into color.
Do it now"
- Rumi, 800 years ago
Please write to me and send me letters of solidarity and encouragement:
Coyote Sheff #55671
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, Nevada 89301-1989