Is Prison Necessary?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner)

Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer.

We Can’t Ride it Out

Eugenics Isn’t Going to Get Us Out of This Mess (Sarah Jones)

They’re asking [willing death] of your grandparents, and of your neighbor with cancer; they ask it of me and of you, too, if your body is flawed or simply unlucky. The views…are eugenics. They separate human life into categories. In one box, there are people worth saving. In the other, there are people we ought to let die. Believing this makes them eugenicists. What they contemplate is not quite mass murder, but a sort of planned, negligent homicide….Let nature take its course. The fit will survive the cull.

[The] obsession with market forces was not about human flourishing, productivity, and abundance, but about something else. Supply-side economics gave them a way to intellectualize their own amorality. Markets care nothing for ethics. They aren’t governed by justice and they don’t feel mercy.

What today’s eugenicists are unwilling to admit is that there is one, less deadly way to rescue the economy from this pandemic. It’s redistribution, not just of resources but of power. The government will have to massively expand its tiny welfare state, and grant workers rights they do not currently have. It has the financial capacity to do so, but the project would force it to reconsider its priorities.

Dear Designer

Dear Designer: The Road Back (Mike Monteiro)

We were given the responsibility to use our labor and our expertise to make the world a better place, and we failed. We have, in fact, made it worse.

Yes, design is political. Because design is labor, and your labor is political. Where you choose to expend your labor is a political act. Whom you choose to expend it for is a political act. Whom we omit from those solutions is a political act. Finally, how we choose to leverage our collective power is the biggest political act we can take.