by The Philadelphia Student Union July 18, 2013
Yesterday, the Philadelphia Student Union recieved a letter from an activist and inmate from SCI Green, Sergio Hyland. Mr. Hyland’s words touch on the deep connections between capitalism, the destruction of public education and the booming Prison Industrial Complex. We were inspired by his article and encouragement to continue our fight for public education, so we wanted to share it with you. Here is the letter:
To who is may concern,
My name is Sergio Hyland. I’m an activist, and I work with many different organizations. I stand with you in the cause of education, and I think that what’s going on right now in Philly is a travesty. I wrote this article about the entire situation, and I hope that you find it useful. If there’s anything that I can do to help this righteous cause, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for your time.
While students, parents, and teachers alike, continue to protest the impending closings of almost two-dozen public schools in Philadelphia, a few very important issues are being overlooked. Some subtle. Others not so much. Either way, the obstacles ahead, which pose a clear and undoubtedly present danger to not just future generations of youth in Philadelphia, but also of those across the nation, must be emphasized in every form of media, and exposed in detail, ad nauseam.
The rationale behind the looming mass shutdown, is that a deficit of over 300 million dollars has crippled the state’s ability to maintain Philadelphia’s long and proud history of providing free public education to all. As a result, almost 4,000 teachesr, safety officials, and program instructors will be fired and replaced with, well, nothing.
Though politicians seem content on pointing fingers and making this an issue of left versus right, the very fact that this issue is political at all, suggests a greater, more shameful trend is threatening the future of this nation.
Increasingly, politics have been the driving-force behind many major social and economic decisions. Decisions that have traditionally been made by communities as a whole. This wholesale economic and social takeover has been the result of Big Corporations who spend Big Dollars on savvy, cutthroat, political “game-changers”. And with those corporate puppets in power, corporations now have the political clout to influence elections, and introduce legislation that will create streams of money made to flow into their coffers for years to come. Today we see the trenches of those streams being dug inside of the neighborhood of Philadelphia, where its denizens need – and benefit the most from – public education and other associated programs. The estimated tax-breaks for corporations amount to almost 8 billion dollars over the next ten years. The onslaught to accumulate funds is destined to destroy anything in its path.
What students, parents, and teachers must be willing to acknowledge is that we all are students. Even the educators must sometimes be educated. And today’s lesson is “capitalism”. Its needs. Its wants. Its desires.
Capitalism is the new “Frankenstein”, and with every new awesome invention, and every innovative pieces of intellectual “property” that is developed, we dig our own grave, because capitalism – by design – no longer has a need for its workers. The consequences of that void is now being actualized through mass firings and school closings. To be very blunt: The 1% is nearly at the point where it no longer needs you, the 99%. And is it no longer needs you, it no longer needs to waste money on your cultivation – safety, education, health care, adequate housing, etc… Even pizza delivery men and women will soon be out of work, due to developing commercial drone technology. Student loan debts now top 100 billion dollars, while college graduates scurry to submit applications at the local Walmart – which itself has come under fire recently for out-sourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops.
Capitalism NEEDS to thrive. And the only way it can do that is by maximizing profits by minimizing the cost associated with making those profits. Capitalism WANTS to take over the world, and dig those trenches that flow into the streams leading directly to Wall Street. Capitalism DESIRES a split global society, where the 99% are virtual slaves to the 1%.
And it is happening right before our very eyes.
Newly developed technology, and the overall lack of need for education, students, teachers, and workers, have combined to forge a surplus population of both adults and youth, all simply struggling to survive. But as the great abolitionist – and former slave – Frederick Douglass pointed out, with struggle comes progress. And the 1% is well aware of that, which is why it has invested billions of dollars in the largest system of social-control in the history of the world: the booming Prison Industrial Complex.
Its no coincidence that a 300 million dollar education deficit overshadows a 400 million dollar project to construct one of the world’s most technologically advanced prison right here in Pennsylvania, capable of “housing” 5,000 students, err, humans, err, prisoners! Even with a documented decrease in crime rates, more prisons are being constructed against the backdrop of continuous school closings. A public school – to – public prison pipeline has quietly been thriving over the past few decades. Though current Pennsylvania laws prohibit the state from playing host to privately-run and privately-funded prisons, the economic incentives of private prisons far outweigh the morality of such a law, and Wall Street will soon have a direct stake in Pennsylvania’s booming prison industry. With the capacity to “house” 5,000 people at a time, these futuristic prisons all but guarantee a spot for those students who can’t find work, and end up engaging other activities as a means of survival or rebellion against the system that left them to fend for themselves.
What may surprise most people is that the environment on the insides of prisons, are near replicas of the environment outside of prisons. Starting with a democratic president – Bill Clinton – education and vocational programming has been gutted. And each successive president has continued the process, guaranteeing that most prisoners will re-offend, due to lack of preventative measured for re-entry. Prisoners are no longer allowed to participate in college courses, and all federal grants for extended education have been eliminated. Like the outside environment, the only jobs available to prisoners are service-style maintenance jobs. For 19 cents per hour, prisoners lay bricks, mow acres of grass, and are forced to work in some of the harshest conditions under the sun – literally! And the United States Constitution takes away prisoners’ rights to refuse this unfair treatment.
As prisoners, we too would love to stand unified and fight for equality, decent pay, good education, health care, and better living conditions. But inside of these inhuman human warehouses, there exists a prison within the prison. A dungeon where torture and human experimentation are commonplace. Where political prisoners like Russell “Maroon” Shoatz have been illegally held for over 30 years: Solitary Confinement, A.K.A. the “Hole”.
For years, solitary confinement has been used for the purpose of intimidating the prison population. Just like terrorism, its meant to be an incentive for prisoners to not rebel against the corrupt status quo. Solitary confinement is to prisoners what prison is to the average citizen, but heightened to an unimaginable degree. Is a “stop” sign. A red light. A prophetic warning to all of us to stop fighting for justice, or end up trapped in its clutches. The same way that it was used on our heroes – Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Nelson Mandela. The list goes on. Too many prisoners never make it out of solitary confinement; forgotten by a society who has been tricked into believing that all prisoners are evil criminals. Society is a reflection of how it treats its prisoners. But in this case, prisons are starting to reflect society.
In closing, all students, parents and teachers must remain united in your demands that our youth’s future cannot be bought or sold by the stroke of a politicians pen, or gambled away on the whim of an investment banker’s hunch. The safe haven of our youth, and the infrastructure of our communities will not be used as political dominos. You must demand that prison construction be immediately discontinued, and that those funds be reassigned to the revitalization of education – and other – programming, including the rehiring of teachers, counselors, instructors, and safety staff. You must demand that corporations be required to pay their fair share of taxes, so that public programming will never again have to bear the brunt of budget cuts. And you must demand that those taxes be reinvested in the community, so that the prison pipeline can no longer claim as its victims your sons and daughters, nephews and nieces.
And if your demands continue to be met with indifference – or outright opposition – your actions must speak louder than your words. The corporations who are responsible for your suffering, must be boycotted, and you must deliver a message of your own:…
What will that message be?
The choice is your’s.