By Diana Paz Garcia
The human experience is a weird one – this thought has popped in my mind several times during this program, either walking in the streets of Monterey, in class, during our prison tour and even watching Hamilton. This idea had already begun to germinate in my brain a time ago, but it was pushed to grow exponentially after Eugenia’s talk and with our visit to the different criminal justice system facilities.
More and more, I encounter the word decolonization in academia – it is the idea of freeing knowledge from its engrained Western vision. But, is it decolonizing to go back or decolonizing to build something new? If we are going back, how far are we going? Who gets to choose? And what tells us that the past is the best option? Unfortunately, we do not know and the game of historical “what if” is counterproductive. Yet, I am still left to wonder what would the world look like today if Europeans had not taken the endeavor to colonize the world. I struggle with the idea of going too far back because then: what is left? If we undress history what are we going to found at its core? Is there anything? But, I also understand and support the idea that if we do not undress history we will just be reproducing the harmful and detrimental historical systems. Nevertheless, what tells us that even in the “beginning” there weren’t unequal systems of power? Is it in the nature of humanity to be unequal?
The human experience is weird; as we walked around the prison I was surprised by the existence of these institutions. Someone, thousands of years ago, decided that the best way to deal with people that broke the implicit social structures was to put them away in a space with restricted mobility and less than desirable conditions. Not only that, but that humanity continued to reproduce this practice until it became “normal” to have huge industrialized complexes with thousands of people in its inside restricted from their freedom. On an everyday basis, most people do not question the existence or validity of these institutions. But, as we toured the facilities, I was weirded out by the materialization of this idea and the acceptance towards it. The existence of prisons seems to be part of the human experience.
Another curious aspect of our existence is that although, we – humans – have a shared “humanity” we are unable to completely shared it. We are isolated we our own feelings, completely unable to share or communicate them in their whole complexity with others. What we hold up to be our more prized common ground is also what alienate us and makes us the “other”. We are a prison to ourselves – maybe that is where the idea started?