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MARCH 2017

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--- GAZING INTO THE ABYSS ---
21st March 2017

Gazing Into The Abyss by Jeffrey P Frye

H.G. Wells once said, "The study of Nature makes a man at last as remorseless as Nature." Another smart guy named Nietchze also once famously said, "...if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Although, to my knowledge, neither one of these guys ever served a day in prison, both quotes are equally applicable to life no matter your Nature or no matter what abyss you gaze into every day.

I have spent the last two weeks on lockdown after my normally hospitable federal prison environment devolved into an all-out racial gang fight out on the rec yard involving 250-300 people. People used fists, knives, baseball bats, horseshoes, and the pool cues and pool balls from the pool tables in the Indoor Recreation Center. (If we're ever allowed back out on the rec yard, I feel sure that the pool tables and horseshoes will be gone.) They say that the beef was over a watch, but just as with everything else back here, the true issue was about respect. Simply put, disrespect brings violence. And at some point during the escalation phase of things, people have way too much ego and way too much testosterone invested to stop and hit reverse. So we do the next logical thing. We set about trying to kill each other. It's just what we do.

In my present world, different races fighting each other is what I refer to as "A worst case scenario." Like it or not, the world is a racial place most days. Look at the Unites States; look at France or Germany; look at the tribal regions of Africa. Let somebody of a different race get promoted before you, or let your daughter come home with somebody whose a different color, and chances are, the first thing you're going to do is zero-in on their race. It's a distinct part of our human nature no matter what color you are, and no matter how much you wish that it weren't so.

In prison, this anomaly of character is magnified x 100. Peace amongst the races, especially at higher custody levels, is a tenuous thing that ebbs and flows from day to day. In prison though, you stay with your own. Period. The ones who will go to war with you. Because no matter how cool you may be with somebody from a different race than you, when trouble invariably kicks off (in a riot), that person that you're "cool" with will be across from you swinging a bat or trying to stick you with a knife. Believe it or not though, I don't take this personal. If somebody from a different race that I'm cool with takes-off on me during a riot, I can go back to being cool with him when it's over. How? Because I look at it like it was just business; he was just doing what he had to do to survive. I cut him some slack because after all these years on earth now I've learned that the criteria for survival can be somewhat fluid. So if my friend ends up swinging a pool cue or a bat at me, I take it in stride. It's just what he does.

One thing's for sure. I'm going to do whatever I have to do.

When the mosh pit of miscreants here got active the other day, it rocked non-stop for a good 10-15 minutes. Then the battle cry went out with the cops and this place flooded with more cops than a Dunkin Donuts on 2 for 1 Day. There were guards pouring in from the joints next door and I even think that some U.S. Marshals and agents from the street showed up. These guys have great props too...way better than horseshoes or pool cues. When they rushed into the prison and onto the rec yard they laid-down tear gas and began shooting people with rubber bullets. They also used these Thompson Sub-Machine gun-looking things that fie high-powered beanbags and break bones. Even with all that though, it still took awhile to reclaim the tundra. It culminated with about 400 people laying face-down in the dirt choking from tear gas, with their hands zip-tied behind their backs with plastic flex-cuffs.

The Warden here is a bit of a Gangster himself and he's been doing this thing for a while now. So, going forward, he's easing us out one tier at a time for 45 minutes a day. He wants to make sure that the beef is dead before we go back to normal and everybody goes back to work and is allowed to go to the commissary and shop. For this weekend, each tier will have less than an hour to use the phone and get some fresh air. Some guys will run to the shower while others will run to recharge their MP3's. Others will fire off some emails. And at least one person in my cell block will go hunt some strawberry pop tarts and a strong cup of coffee, then sit down and blog about dead German philosophers, human nature, and forgiveness.

It's just what I do.

Jeffrey P. Frye
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