intersiderale - διαστρική

Nomatic Folk No.3 p.3-7

Sickness (part 1)

by Fly Johnson

Sunday 1 January 1995 (Date of earlier publishing: 1 January 1995).

A friend of mine recently told me that when a human dies most animals stay as far away as possible from the corpse. What they see is disease. After spending two days in jail, that is what I see. There is a serious sickness going on. People have lost any sense of compassion, identification with others. There are stuck in their own diseased logic.

Three of my compaņeros and myself were arrested for opening the front door of the building we have been living in for three months. The building has laid vacant for over twenty years. In the three months we’ve been living there we’ve done more to improve the building than we’ve done in all that time. We had started clearing the top floors of rubble and making our living space. We scrapped the lead paint off the walls and cleaned the pigeon shit of the floors. The top four floors were going to be our living space and on the bottom two floors we were going to start a school. The first floor was going to have a stage and auditorium and the second floor was going to have smaller rooms for classes. Up to this point we have been coming in the back window, but it was time to open the front door. We needed to get supplies in the building to repair the roof before winter and to begin the long process of removing all garbage that had been dumped in the building by its owners.

No speculator is on any ground morally, waiting to cash in big on a building when there are countless number of people sleeping outside with no shelter.

As we are moving the front door the police come. They order my friend to dance. He refuses and tries to explain to them what we are doing and they laugh. We’ve got you now. Third degree burglary, possession of burglar tools, and criminal mischief. Locked up for sure.

The rage builds within me.

At the precinct my compaņero goes into a state of shock, hits his head on the wall and lies on the floor with his eyes wide open and his face twitching. l’m afraid that he’s dead and yell for the police to call an ambulance. They tell me to shut the fuck up before they come into the cell and beat me. He’s faking it. they say. He lies on the ground motionless for forty-five minutes and doesn’t blink once. I sit next to him, my skin touching his, trying to convince myself that things will be okay. He’s a dancer and to see him unable to move his body, unable to talk pushes me to the edge. The ambulance finally comes and the paramedics are worse than the police. They cut his clothes off in order to punish him for faking it. They say they’re going to take him to the psych ward and lock him up for forty five days unless he quits. The rage builds within me. I envision smashing the parameters head against the bars of the cell. My head tells me not to.

I tell him that he’s not faking it and needs to go to the hospital. The paramedic tells me to shut the fuck up before he beats me. At this point I really don’t care because there is no longer anything he can do to me that matters. He’s sick, full of disease, lost all touch.

They take Khunta away. They say he’s going to the psych ward. I lie on the bench and cover my face with Khunta’s hat that was left sitting on the floor. The tears come, what have I gotten myself into. Face to face with the terror. I know they are trying to break us, make us live in fear. I worry about Khunta, so articulate, so intelligent, a beautiful person. And they want to brand him as crazy.

Somehow he gets to the hospital and the doctor recognizes that Khunta’s in shock. They pinch his body, stick tubes down his nose, fill him with drugs, make him vomit, and none of this matters to Khunta as he tries to reach through to them, reach through their sickness. And he finally pulls through and the first thing he says is where has all your compassion gone, why are you all so cold, so blind. And they all stand in silence because he has temporarily pulled them all out of their sickness.

They take us all down together to central booking. The jail is full, literally overflowing with people. There is a guy on the ground with dried blood coming from his ear, begging the police to loosen his cuffs. They all walk past. It’s hard for the other prisoners to hear him in such pain and a few tell him to shut up, but most sit In silence and see the sickness.

We begin tile slow process of going from cage to cage. I get a pack of cigarettes past the guards and our original plan is to sell and trade them but we end up smoking and sharing them. Even in the jail cell they can’t have absolute control.

Twenty of us are loaded into a paddy wagon. We’re all pressed up against each other. it’s dark, its hot and there’s little air. I’m stuck standing. Someone yells get some air back here. There is no response. Another yells, he has asthma and needs some air. The CO in front says I’ve heard that before. Someone responds it was probably true then too. A prisoner says don’t cause any trouble or they’ll keep us longer. There’s a silence.

The paddy wagon pulls to a halt. We wiat. I try and control my breathing, try not to panic from my fear that I’ll suffocate. More people demand air. More tell them not to cause trouble. One or the prisoners says he’s tired, tired of all the Uncle Tom’s cutting other people down. There’s a silence. We’re on a twentieth century slave ship. More silence. We all know exactly what he’s saying.

Sweat is running down my body, my skin is cold, I feel dizzy, we’ve been here for over an hour. I reach out and bang my fist against the front door. I know they can open it and let us have air. The guy next to me yells what the fuck are you doing. Haven’t you ever been in jails can’t you take it. He’s looking at my white skin, the orgy whitey or the twenty of us. I say, "You’re sitting down and I’m standing." My rage focuses on him. All I can think about is smashing his head against the metal bar behind him over and over again. The sickness and violence has entered my head. There is a long silence. Someone says we’re all in this together. Another yells to the CO’s, if you have any kind of humanity, give us some air. The heat is driving us crazy and someone is going to get hurt. Another says you can’t treat us like animals you wouldn’t even treat your dog this way. The guy who yelled at me for banging, starts the banging again. He says give us some air. Everyone starts demanding air. We all see their sickness. We’ve seen how it contaminated ourselves. We cut it out. At this point they have to open the door. We finally get air.

Gentle Spike has tweed separated from us. I hadn’t seen him in hours and finally I get a glimpse of him walking past his cell. He’s in pain, I can tell he’s in pain. His face looks dazed and he doesn’t acknowledge me when I yell out to him. I worry about him and I remember the fight we had just hours before we were arrested. I told him that we should be careful that Folk House/La Casa Popular did not turn into another 5th street. He knew what I meant, a building full of white kids who only cared about leaving a continual party (respect to those at 5th street who are so much more than this). I was afraid that could happen once we got our front door off. I was afraid of losing our vision. And he said don’t worry about the school, all I’m worried about is setting up walls for the winter and my own toilet. And I was furious, because I knew that if we waited to start the school until everything was perfect then it would never happen. It had to start with the building and grow with the rest of it.

I went into Gentle, saying that he better not be trying to set himself up and than forget about everyone else. And he told me to leave him alone, I wasn’t the only one who had a brain.

I know I’m not. I never said I was you fucking asshole. And I stormed out of there and went straight to the six floor.

I went and laid down and Khunta said he couldn’t understand why we were fighting. I knew it was about Glass House. I knew that was what Gentle was thinking about. It was over all that Glass House was supposed to be and all that it never was. All the ideals that it never lived up to. And both of us were afraid that would happen to us.

I told Khunta about the Temporary Autonomous Zone. I told him how Hakim Bey talks about liberated space being temporary. Once certain elements see the lights, they want to put it out. And if they do put it out we have to move on and try and create a TAZ in a new location in time and space. We can’t live in fear that they will put out the light or we will never get it started. And if they do start the light and they put it out we should not look at it as a failure, but as a success and move on to create elsewhere. Khunta said that is what we are in right now, a TAZ.

Gentle Spike came upstairs to my room yelling. I’m tired of people like you coming here with your pipe dreams. You don’t know how many people like you I saw come and go at Glass House. As soon as things get a little difficult you take off. He gets in my face. Don’t get it in my face, Spike.

Gentle said, to you this is all a choice, it is just a god damn game. You’ll sell out as soon you can. Spike, you don’t know shit about me. This is no game, it’s about me living, not destroying myself. I get right back in his face and he grabs me. Get your hand off me. We were about to go at it. There was a serious communication breakdown, a sickness. Our frustration was leading us to violence. I grab him with both my hand. Get your hand off me.

We drop our hands.

I’m in so much pain, you don’t understand. You coming down to talk, gave me flashbacks of Glass House. I’m in so much pain. I don’t want to think about all this. My wisdom tooth hurts so bad, you don’t understand.

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