Philology is a subject that I absolutely love — the study of the historical development, usage, and structure of language has always fascinated me. Knowing the etymologies of a large cache of words can really be quite enriching and insightful. I thought of this a minute ago when I signed the contraband form that was given to me today. As I was signing the evil little yellow form my love of philology stirred. “Contraband”: arrived in the English lexicon from the Spanish contrabanda via the Italian contrabando, from contra (against) and bando (edict). Original Latin “contra” (against). I thought of how the word “contraband” has been used during times of war to describe goods banned from being transported by NGOs. During the U.S. Civil War slaves who had escaped slavery into freedom across Union lines were referred to as contraband.
Wait. I paused in my thoughts when I saw that “4 pages hunger strike and photo of Prison Pelican Bay = denied” was written on the form. I asked the mailroom officer what that exactly meant and what exactly was denied and she informed me that the four denied pages were articles concerning the hunger strike at the Pelican Bay prison in California. Why were they denied? As of today the Administrative authorities over the Texas prison system have officially classified any and all information on the Pelican Bay hunger strike as “dangerous illegal contraband.” Our compañeros engaged in righteous struggle from inside the confines of Pelican Bay should be proud. This act of political censorship by the Texas prison authorities boldly illustrates the power of their campaign of resistance.
Censorship of information, of Truth, of Knowledge has been utilized in a systematic and strategic manner by every oppression regime history has known. Just this past week I’ve heard reports of journalists being attacked — and even murdered — in Mexico, Syria, Egypt, China, New York. Why? Because they speak of injustice and spread information about resistance to oppression. They write stories that are smuggled across enemy lines to find waiting and hungry eyes and ears. One of the reasons fugitive slaves were so very feared was because they brought with them such stories.
My fugitive articles were denied and confiscated a few minutes ago. So what shall I do? I’m about to go to my cage door and hold a discussion on all I just wrote and delve deeper into the psycho-sociopolitical meaning of the Pelican Bay hunger strike. My highly “dangerous,” terribly “threatening,” and officially “illegal” articles on peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience activity were seized by the TDCJ Thought Police but what they represent most certainly will not go down the Orwellian memory hole. Struggle can only be silenced if we allow it to be.
Today I’m re-committing myself to writing more, to utilizing the written and spoken word to spread Knowledge and stories of Struggle. You should do the same.
From the Polunsky Death Camp
In the Spirit of Free Thought: