A Place for Everyone / No Place for Anyone

Freedom demands we find our place in the world, and depending on where we start, and the challenges we face, this task is easier for some than for others.  When others perceive us to be out of place, they are always there, in one way or another, to put us in a place society has defined as our own.  Before the fictional Gilead was founded, for example, Serena wrote a book called A Woman’s Place.  (Season 1, Episode 6).  Gilead took people who had already determined their own place in the world, and based on gender, fertility, and cooperativeness, assigned them to different roles in the new society.  These roles included commanders, wives, guardians, aunties, handmaids, marthas, jezebels, magdalene centers (breeding camps), and laborers sent to the colonies (environmental clean-up work camps).

Forcing people into places and roles not of their own choosing is no easy task.  It requires the marshalling of massive resources and energy.  So almost in the background of The Handmaid’s Tale, we see large facilities that contain people for training in subservience, punishment and torture, and housing those assigned to the work camps.  At the Red Center, for example, young, fertile women learn what is expected of them in their new roles as handmaids.  Understandably, there is resistance to this indoctrination, leading to the need for both crude and sophisticated means of punishment and torture.

At the Red Center we see state-of-the art torture tools and facilities, high surveillance equipment, and guards dressed in threatening, hooded attire that separates them from the women on which they will inflict torture.  Even though the TV show offers an image of life at these containment facilities, it remains difficult to grasp how one human being can take on the role of treating other human beings in such dehumanizing ways.  Who are we?

Interestingly, in real life, such facilities are a relatively modern invention – little more than a hundred years old.  Large holding centers go by many names.  Whether we call them immigration processing centers, political education centers, prison complexes, detention centers, rural encampments, or concentration camps – they are a modern way of separating people from the main social structure to manage various tasks – and sadly, they are growing in popularity around the world, on our watch. 

If we created these systems, it seems to me we have the power to abolish and forbid them.  While society is able to make a place for everyone, a concentration camp is not a good place for anyone.

Learn more about these facilities in the article below, and consider how you might influence their extinction in your neck of the woods.  — LMO

“At the start of the 21st century, the following things did not exist. In the US, a large network of purpose-built immigration prisons, some of which are run for profit. In western China, ‘political education’ camps designed to hold hundreds of thousands of people, supported by a high-tech surveillance system. In Syria, a prison complex dedicated to the torture and mass execution of civilians. In north-east India, a detention centre capable of holding 3,000 people who may have lived in the country for decades but are unable to prove they are citizens. In Myanmar, rural encampments where thousands of people are being forced to live on the basis of their ethnicity. On small islands and in deserts at the edges of wealthy regions – Greece’s Aegean islands, the Negev Desert in Israel, the Pacific Ocean near Australia, the southern Mediterranean coastline – various types of large holding centres for would-be migrants…they share certain things in common.  Most were established as temporary or ‘emergency’ measures, but have outgrown their original stated purpose and become seemingly permanent. Most exist thanks to a mix of legal ambiguity…And most, if not all, have at times been described by their critics as concentration camps…

“…the disturbing truth is that concentration camps have been widespread throughout recent history, used to intern civilians that a state considers hostile, to control the movement of people in transit and to extract forced labour…”

“…the disturbing truth is that concentration camps have been widespread throughout recent history, used to intern civilians that a state considers hostile, to control the movement of people in transit and to extract forced labour…Andrea Pitzer, in One Long Night, her recent history of concentration camps, estimates that at least one such camp has existed somewhere on Earth throughout the past 100 years…They are a way for modern states to segregate groups of civilians by placing them in a closed or isolated location via special rules that are distinct from a country’s main system of rights and punishments…

“Cruelty and the abuse of power have existed throughout human history, but concentration camps have not. They are little more than a century old. “

“Cruelty and the abuse of power have existed throughout human history, but concentration camps have not. They are little more than a century old. The earliest began as wartime measures, but on numerous occasions since then they have become lasting features. They are a product of technologically advanced societies with sophisticated legal and political systems and have been made possible by a range of modern inventions. Military technologies such as automatic weapons or barbed wire made it easier for small groups of officials to hold much larger groups of people captive. Advanced bureaucracy and surveillance techniques enabled states to watch, count and categorise civilians in ways they couldn’t have done in earlier eras. As Pitzer writes, such camps ‘belong in the company of the atomic bomb as one of the few advanced innovations in violence.’

“…The concentration camp is a symbol of everything such societies are supposed to stand against: the arbitrary use of power and the stripping of people’s rights, the systematic removal of liberty; dehumanisation, abuse, torture, murder and genocide…”

“…The concentration camp is a symbol of everything such societies are supposed to stand against: the arbitrary use of power and the stripping of people’s rights, the systematic removal of liberty; dehumanisation, abuse, torture, murder and genocide…

“Surveying what he called ‘a century of camps’ in the mid-90s, the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman warned that the temptation for governments to use them would always be strong ‘when certain humans are declared redundant or forced into a superfluous condition.’ There is no shortage of threats in the current century – from environmental catastrophe to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic – that are creating such conditions. The question is how to ensure that the concentration camp is not the state’s inevitable response…

“Writing in 1950, the Martiniquan poet and politician Aimé Césaire argued that the Holocaust ‘applied to Europe colonialist procedures’ that until then had been reserved exclusively for people of colour…

“Concentration camps were indeed colonial in origin. Their earliest uses came at the turn of the 20th century…”

“Concentration camps were indeed colonial in origin. Their earliest uses came at the turn of the 20th century – by the Spanish in 1896 to put down a rebellion in Cuba, by the US in 1899 to do similar in the Philippines, and by the British empire in southern Africa during the Boer war of 1899-1902. The first use of concentration camps for a deliberate policy of extermination was not in Europe but in German South West Africa– modern-day Namibia – between 1904 and 1907…

“The sovereign has the power not only to kill, but to strip people of rights through forms of banishment, reducing them to a state of what he calls ‘bare life.’ In the past, sovereignty would have been concentrated in the figure of the monarch; modern states are supposed to have improved upon monarchy by restraining the arbitrary use of power through democratic checks and balances…

“When Zygmunt Bauman turned his attention to camps in the 90s, he argued that what characterises violence in our age is distance – not just the physical or geographical distance that technology allows, but the social and psychological distance produced by complex systems in which it seems everybody and nobody is complicit.”

“When Zygmunt Bauman turned his attention to camps in the 90s, he argued that what characterises violence in our age is distance – not just the physical or geographical distance that technology allows, but the social and psychological distance produced by complex systems in which it seems everybody and nobody is complicit. This, for Bauman, works on three levels. First, actions are carried out by ‘a long chain of performers,’ in which people are both givers and takers of orders. Second, everybody involved has a specific, focused job to perform. And third, the people affected hardly ever appear fully human to those within the system. ‘Modernity did not make people more cruel,’ Bauman wrote, ‘it only invented a way in which cruel things could be done by non-cruel people.’

“…camps work by enforcing a rigid distinction between people on opposite sides of the barbed-wire fence. Those inside are kept silent and invisible, while those outside are encouraged to ignore or accept what is happening. Successful resistance aims at breaking down this distinction…”

“…camps work by enforcing a rigid distinction between people on opposite sides of the barbed-wire fence. Those inside are kept silent and invisible, while those outside are encouraged to ignore or accept what is happening. Successful resistance aims at breaking down this distinction: governments know this, and even states that operate relatively mild forms of mass detention make significant efforts to obscure the conditions inside, and to deter their own citizens from prying too closely…

“The Australian government forbade journalists to report on the full extent of these conditions, which included the beating and abuse of detainees, and introduced a law threatening doctors and social workers with up to two years in prison if they spoke in public about what they had witnessed…”

“…the Kurdish author Behrouz Boochani [gave] a talk…[he] spent four years in Australia’s ‘regional off shore processing centre’ for asylum-seekers on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Australia has pioneered a type of long-term detention for unwanted migrants that is now becoming more common elsewhere in the world. Boochani and his fellow detainees were not merely being held for ‘processing,’ but in harsh conditions intended to act as a deterrent to future travellers. The Australian government forbade journalists to report on the full extent of these conditions, which included the beating and abuse of detainees, and introduced a law threatening doctors and social workers with up to two years in prison if they spoke in public about what they had witnessed…

“Boochani, however, smuggled out accounts of life in detention…that were turned into articles for the Guardian and other outlets – as well as a memoir, No Friend But the Mountains. Boochani explained to us how he saw his detention as part of Australia’s – and Britain’s– longer history of treating non-white people as disposable. ‘It’s worse than a prison,” he said of the Manus camp. ‘It’s a place where they take your identity and freedom from you, and try to destroy you.’ Detainees were given numbers, he said, which the guards used instead of their names; his was MEG45.”  — Daniel Trilling | The Guardian Long Read

“Boochani explained to us how he saw his detention as part of Australia’s – and Britain’s– longer history of treating non-white people as disposable. ‘It’s worse than a prison,” he said of the Manus camp. ‘It’s a place where they take your identity and freedom from you, and try to destroy you.’”

Read the full article at the link below.

Published by Loga Michelle Odom @Odomanian

Founder/Host, Reading Changes Lives; Senior Producer, OUR COMMON GROUND Media / TruthWorks Network / If America Fails?: The Coming Tyranny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: