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We're All Just STDs

3:19 AM

A little food for thought today. Every creature on this planet has its own natural habitat, a niche it fills. Some are even symbiotic in nature, such as the clownfish and the sea anemone, or tube worms and their internal bacteria. That being said, just what is a human's natural habitat? Unclothed, climates can easily be too hot or too cold. Put us somewhere where there is a lot of direct sunlight and we will burn and get melanomas, since our eyes and sense of smell aren't keen enough to hunt or scavenge in the dark. We aren't well suited for aquatic life. We aren't great climbers. We don't have wings. We don't have durable claws. So, let's say a moderate climate, slightly humid, near fresh water, with indirect sunlight at sea level... Anyone have any idea where that might be? Face it, without our big brain to adapt ourselves and our environment to our needs, we would be in serious trouble.
So, where do we fit in?

The first movie I got to see when I was transferred to Walnut Grove in 2001 was The Matrix. Still one of my favorite movies. I do not believe that humanity will ever be in a situation like that, but it made me think about the nature of reality and other such things. There is one part I'm reminded of now. Agent Smith (bad guy) is speaking to Morpheus (good guy), whom they are trying to break and find out about the rebels. Agent Smith says, 

"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer on this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure." 

That stuck with me. About six years after seeing The Matrix I was reading an article about viruses that really brought this home.

Something you might not know is that in 2003, when the human genome was fully mapped, it was found that 8% of our genome is composed of broken and disabled retroviruses, called endogenous retroviruses. If it takes less than 2% of our genome to create all the proteins necessary for us to live, to what extent are we -who we are, what we are- affected by the 8% of our genome composed of retroviruses? The rungs of the ladder of human DNA consist of three billion pairs of nucleotides spread across forty-six chromosomes. The sequence of those nucleotides determine how each person differs from another, and from all other living things. Something to think about is how we share, in thousands of exact places throughout our genome, viral fragments with primates like chimpanzees and monkeys.

Endogenous retroviruses aren't newly discovered. In 1968, Robin Weiss found endogenous retroviruses in the embryos of healthy chickens and suggested that they were not only benign but might actually perform a critical function in placental development. He was laughed at. Weiss went so far as to live with a group of Orang Asli tribesmen of the Pahang jungle of Malaysia so he could test the eggs and blood of red jungle fowl, ancestor species of the chicken. They had the same virus.

Did you know that the earliest mammals, up to at least a hundred million years ago, laid eggs? Then embryos essentially became parasites. They began to implant themselves in the lining of the womb, developing a placenta. The placenta is essentially a modified egg, yet allows for the elimination of waste and to take nourishment from the mother's blood while preventing immune cells or bacteria from entering. In the 1970s biologists were surprised to find retroviruses in baboons on a layer of tissue known as the syncytin, which forms the principle barrier between mother and fetus. The same is true in humans. Cell fusion is a fundamental characteristic of mammalian placenta, but also of retroviruses. The protein syncytin, which causes placental cells to fuse, employs the exact mechanism that allows retroviruses to latch on to the cells they infect.

So, where do humans belong? And just how close to the truth is Agent Smith's revelation?

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1:06 PM

Mercurial. That is the best word I can think of to describe the nature of memories. They even have a dualistic nature like that of the Roman god, Mercury. Some of my strongest memories are those of places I considered home as a child. We moved around a bit, so the homes of my grandparents and great-grandparents have more solidity in my memories. I remember the layout, where everything was, the atmosphere...and the scents. Scents seem to trigger memories associated with them and solidify them, in my experience.

The scent I associate with April 20, 2013 is that of blood. Coppery, cloying, all-pervasive. A wounded animal scent. The smell of blood is something everyone recognizes on a deep level.

Memories are such mercurial things though. Some memories of 4/20 are so clear, like the look the Vice Lords had on their faces as they realized their brothers on other pods had started fighting. The realization that they would have to fight, too, and how they struggled to work themselves into that frame of mind. Other memories of 4/20 aren't so clear, such as who tried to stab me -whether it was purposefully or mistakenly. We all fought, though. Offensively or defensively. Actively or passively. For an hour and ten minutes we fought for our lives while guards and SORT officers looked on.

As dangerous and deadly as the fighting was, there were still moments that stirred the streak of dark humor in me. When you see grown men throwing TV and microwave parts at each other, using trashcan lids and microwave doors as cannot help but shake your head at the absurdity of it. But it was no laughing matter that Demond Flowers lost his life during all of this.

Back and forth the battle went for over an hour, until there wasn't a place you could step that wasn't splattered with blood. Finally the SORT officers tossed in tear gas canisters -which the prisoners tossed back and forth at each other. Then they came in firing their crowd control guns. At me. I'm guessing I make a good target or something. They herded us into cells and locked the doors. Most likely you will never know what it is like to be locked in a cell with 14 other bruised and bleeding men, covered in mace and pepper spray. I hope you don't. We were alive though, and things could have been much worse.

Since 4/20  I have had time to reflect on what happened, and I want to point some things out. Surviving in prison has a lot to do with being aware of patterns. Humans are creatures of habit. The first tell-tale sign something was amiss that day was that someone in admin had turned off the primary satellite descrambler, so all the TVs showed an error message on the screen. On the West Hall, we found out later that they had let them out, then locked them back down before allowing them back out. On the South Hall they did not let us out of our cells until right at 10:00 A.M.; about an hour later than normal, even by these chaotic standards here. Patterns. The administration at WCCF knew of the potential threat that morning and chose to disregard it.

So now the entire prison conveniently stays on lockdown status until CCA's contract is completed and someone else takes over the responsibility. Business as usual in the world of the prison industrial complex.

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About Me

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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