“Is there anybody out there?” A timeless line by Pink Floyd which has occupied my psyche on many an occasion over the years. I first heard this as thirteen year old teenager who had just sampled his first puff of the magic weed and the even more sensual puff of the opposite sex. A heady cocktail indeed. The thing was when I heard the music of Pink Floyd it made me feel stoned even when I wasn’t. Today marks a milestone in my weird and wonderful life. A completed circle of knowledge and myth and much much more. This evening I go to watch “The Wall” by Roger Waters at the Aviva Stadium (Landsowne Road) Thirty Three years after first hearing them and Twenty Five years after watching them live at Wembley Stadium. The thing about now is that I’m going stone cold sober yet I know I’ll be completely tripping by the end of the night on the buzz of the music and being in the heart of Dublin’s midweek nightlife later on. My only concern is how much mineral water the old bladder can put up with.
It’s 07.30am now and I’ve just completed my daily breathing and meditation exercises taught by the Art of Living Foundation and originally by PrisonSmart.eu If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know all about this but for me I need to tell you that I cannot believe how much energy this daily ritual gives me. I’ve been dying with the cold three days before I did the level 2 course and that was nearly three weeks ago. It doesn’t cure the common cold, mores’ the pity, but what it does do is give you the energy to navigate the day. Erwin James of Guardian note once told an ensemble I was part of that “no person will ever understand the energy it takes to get through a day in prison unless you’ve done it yourself.” He is 100% correct and it still leaves me mystified how I managed it. I did have the breathing exercises for a couple of years but I lost that when I came back to Northern Ireland for a plethora of different reasons. As soon as I was free I hooked up with this global organisation again and they embraced me and took me under their wing and here I am without my panic and anxiety attacks, post traumatic stress nervousness fear, self doubt and all the other glorious things that one inherits during and after the duty of care of the institution of Her Majesties Prison United Kingdom. I still can’t get my head around the fact that Duty of Care of the Institution is known to cause mental illness yet the ethos of the institution is about humanity and dignity. It’s gawping gaping lie from start to finish and I’m so glad I’m gone from it. However, there is always a however. Someone recently told me that they sincerely believed that “Prison Worked,” this member of the institution would wouldn’t they. The strange thing is I agree with this person but not for the same reasons as they. This person admitted that there were a few C….. in prison but you get that anywhere in life. Yes you do but not in a total institution where the power play is totally one sided and the petty punitivty might seem like nothing to the average Joe and indeed if one tries to explain how bad this petty bullying and spite delivered by few nasty people one can’t because it seems so bloody petty; but in there it’s the end of the world. Prison did a number on me towards the end of my sentence and this has now been hinted at by they. There aren’t apologies nor do I need them but it a start that those now in charge recognise what was going on. There are new sheriffs in town and the old guard needs to take note. The transparency required to run a purposeful prison service will not allow them to hide behind the walls and the policies so rigidly adhered to. Common sense is actually starting to creep into the discourse of the great and the good and they are starting to listen to guys similar to myself who’ve been there and survived and used our time to re-educate ourselves in the worlds of criminology, psychology and splash of social policy making process thrown in for good measure. The same faces are starting to appear at the same seminars, lectures and meetings I attend and people are now starting to approach me and have a wee chat as I am no longer seen as the threat and sabre rattling psychopath that some of my previous cares would have them believe. I find it’s a bit like having a puff when one is asked ones views by the great and the good. Maybe it’s because I had a big boot on my neck for so many years, maybe it’s because I wanted to die way too often or maybe it’s because I made it despite their attempts to destroy me. even though I have achieved so much and live is a clean healthy life, at the minute, there is still this dread that if I ever had to go back I’d be dead. At my own hands. Prison has worked for me, but only because of the people in it.
So, on that cheery note I will have to leave you with a wee poem and a pause for thought. If prison is so perfect and humanity and dignity are at the core of everything that it does why can’t a I ask the question on a psychology paper “What was your attitude towards authority before you came to prison and what is now that you are in it?” Shine on you crazy diamonds I’m off to be a rocker for the day. Maybe that should be “off me rocker?”
The Perception of Threat
By Michael Irwin
HMP Magilligan July 2012
I’ve only just realised the cause of my plight, going through philosopher’s revelations on bigotry, conflict, prejudice and dehumanisation whilst staring at the person who caused my mum pain and hurt. On the day of this event my temper nearly went, lets just say I can never discuss what I didn’t do; never felt as impotent, my manhood my love for my mother, torn beyond comprehension, unable to defend my dear sweet mother.
However, a light has just come on, sparked my synapse, “I am a criminal, a nothing.” I have been dehumanised by a bigoted institution, not in the political sense, more the moral and social sense. Constantly judged by the… the assumed arbiters of justice. Yes I am a criminal but I am also much much more.
I am thinker, therefore a threat
I am respectful and polite, therefore not normal and a threat
I am compassionate therefore unpredictable and a threat
I am not afraid to speak as an equal, therefore rational and threat
I treat as I find, therefore insightful and a threat
I am logical, therefore illogical and a threat
I am acquiring knowledge through academia, therefore unconventional and a threat
I am a threat, therefore manageable and not a threat
I am free in eleven months, therefore where’s the threat?