Thursday, September 29, 2016

Panopticon.



OMNISCIENCE

"God knows what you are thinking. When you kneel down to pray he listens."

I was never very comfortable with the idea of being subject to divine surveillance. 

I knelt as an infant, I knelt reluctantly as a child, then I knelt no more. 

SEPARATION

The line of beds were lit up by matron's torch-light. 

She was there standing, observing the pupils. I turned over, pulled the covers over my head.

I closed my eyes and played dead. 

I craved to dream.  

I heard her footsteps in the corridor.  
She had left. 
I turned back to face the shadows in the doorway.

All the other boys seemed asleep.

"On he wandered, gaping exploring, a little , with no company but those thoughts of his. He felt very small, very strange and horribly lonely...
He had no right to feel lonely."

Gunby Hadath, Major and Minor, Boys Own Paper, 1937

TRANSITION

"On his way to bed he had time to learn from some other boys that there existed in the school a gang of bullies whose custom it was to visit all new young boys on the first night and give them something to remember. He lay there shivering and sick in his cubicle. When the lights were out, he heard the gang arrive and visit other cubicles. Presently after what seemed like long hours his turn came. He was ordered to get out of bed which he did. He was asked his name and he replied... Whereupon he received a blow to the face. More questions and a thrashing followed. Finally cold water was poured over him and he was left."

Lady Lugard, The Lugard Papers.

INCORPORATION

Where are those we have known, those that will understand what we live, those that smile or weep in recognition at our stories, those that make us feel less alone?

I typed in the personal details, chose an unlikely password and was confronted by a barrage of questions.

Was I single? Was I in a couple? Was it complicated? Where did I go to school? Where did I work?What books did I like? What music did I listen to? What movies did I love?

It felt like I was being sized and shaped, it felt like I was being fitted to purpose.


CUBICLE

There was never any means of escape.

Those who ventured beyond the frontier found themselves "out of bounds" and were thrashed.

Everything remotely personal I hid, I locked in a box, I dispossessed, I gave away.

I became an other.

I locked myself in the cubicle.

I read the graffiti, it was more grim than amusing.

I sheltered in the library on a Sunday morning.

Nobody came.

I didn't care for dusty books, I only cared for finding refuge.

It was a privacy of sorts.

PANOPTICON

It is a privacy of sorts: this page, my thoughts, these words.

"God knows what you are thinking. When you kneel down to pray he listens."

I knelt as an infant, I knelt reluctantly as a child, then I knelt no more. 

Does God read crude graffiti?

Will I be punished?

We are here in our cubicle, with our blue uniform, now grown up, well drilled and fearful.

"We have to be practical. Drill is little good without shooting."

J.P. Way 1900

Will I be shot?

How is it that we have become so satisfied with so little?

Who prowls our drill ground at night?

Is it not so kindly matron?

A war plane screeches overhead.

My thoughts are scrambled an instant.

My dreams are on their knees, quaking.

PRIVACY

Whose drill ground do we occupy?

What are we at war with?

I couldn't sleep, I tossed and turned, and then I got up to read.






"The Panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is a diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form."

Michel Foucault.