The distinction between guard and prisoner is perhaps less important that it first appears, given neither (we assume) is here by choice, and neither may leave the confines of the walls, and though there is a stark imbalance of power, both are brutalised by it.
It may seem cynical, defensive, or evasively romantic to note that only the prisoner is offered the chance, however small the odds, to maintain his, or her, moral integrity, but it is no less true for all of that/ or, at least, it appears to be true, from this perspective.
THEY say, there is nowhere to escape to, which may be true, or may be a trick. If true then the energies we spend searching for an exit are misplaced, and bathetically at that, and yet, even then, what does it mean to give up?
To fall into politics, the death struggle? To say, the death struggle is all that is/ and with that, the meaning of teeth, yours or his, clamped down on a windpipe, yours or his, is changed, elevated, made heroic even. And perhaps it is.
It all depends on what the truth of the situation is, and that, is fatally ambiguous.
We can’t climb high enough. This perspective defines us. We walk the hard pavements. We can’t see out.
From the penthouse suite, at the top of the tower, the world is spread out like a map, and populations arrayed like toy soldiers, to be plucked up and set down again, in an unfamiliar landscape, of seething jungle, or howling desert waste, as a child might snatch two crabs from the sands, and place them in a box, to fight.
Helpless, powerless, our prayers demean us, our defiance renders us ridiculous.
We can say we will never betray each other, but if they want us to, we will, for our strength is finite and our will is fragile. We can say, I will never betray myself, but if they want us to, then we shall. For anything can be rationalised, excused and explained away to oneself.
And of course, we needn’t dwell on it, there’s ways to pass the time
It’s only when we’re lonely, and the solid door is bolted shut,
We’re reminded of our confinement, and all the things that we’d forgot.
That Freedom has a broader sense, we’ve hidden from ourselves
For fear of one another
We’re locked inside our cells.
We said another holds the key,
another guards the gate
All I can do is pace
The narrow confines of my fate.
How rousing the drum that beats in the bone-cage, how it fills us with courage, how it turns the blood hot, how it brings us to the brink of action, but offering no guide to action, nor any guarantee of its result, falters and falls away, embarrassed by its own bluster, chastened at the revelation of its own self-intoxicated recklessness, and yet, it remains, itself a chastisement and a goad.-
It is only at the moment of total commitment, at the point of no return, that anything is lost or gained.
The searchlights fix upon our frailty, the machine guns rattle and spit, or they don’t. Dead body falls upon dead body, or that other thing, the impossible occurs. A miracle saunters onto the stage, easy and unassuming, as if it had always been there, simple and obvious, just waiting for its cue, hands in pockets even, and whistling, so that disbelieving laughter displaces desperate panic, and the man, who shirtless, gambled the last thing he had to gamble, against the longest possible odds, inevitably, inherits the earth.