A Twitter thread by Douglas Craig.
This is a short and interesting read by @mich261213. Used to be Russia's richest man until he got chucked him in prison for some time. It's about some people he met in his 10 years in prison. I shall post some thoughts tomorrow
1/ Khodorkovsky (Ходорковский) on the folk he met in Russian prisons, he writes about roughly twenty people.
2/ Mikhail Ходорковский survived prison by relying on the internal discipline his parents taught him. He never allowed himself to think about getting out soon, and kept himself busy by writing letters and prison stories.
3/ "Prison is a place where you encounter the most unusual people"
4/ Ходорковский writes about how often police would find a drug user who wouldn’t tell on his dealer. Instead of finding the dealer the police would frame the user as the dealer. So not all prison sentences reflect reality.
5a/ Criminality/non-criminality is no sign of being principled. Ходорковский writes of Kolya whom the police were trying to frame for theft. He didn’t mind being framed however refused to be framed for robbing the elderly. The loss of his self-respect to him was unimaginable.
5b/ Kolya tried to kill himself in his cell and was left permanently disabled out of principle.
6/ “The judge understood everything but she too had a quota to fill and a campaign to adhere to”, as soon as justice becomes political, instead of fair and proportional, it is the beginning of the end.
7/ Ходорковский – “When I read articles, letters of blogs I am often amazed at people’s genuine belief in the integrity of the police and judiciary, and how their pronouncements and interviews are taken as a fairly reliable source of information”
8a/ On police + judiciary people: “When they’re at work and part of ‘the system’, however, they lie virtually all the time, and as a rule tell the truth only to gain someone’s trust – which enables them to lie more successfully afterwards.
8b/ They lie to individuals, to the court, to one another. These are the rules of a system which, if for this reason alone, needs to be dismantled. It just isn’t a place where honest people can function”
9/ “Prison has terrible effect on the majority of both prisoners and guards. It’s not yet clear, in fact, which group is affected more”, in all fucked up places think how it affects everyone, not just the worst off
10a/ “And what happens to those of us who are too frightened to stand up for our rights, who adapt and hide behind a mask of submissiveness? Does this protective mask not morph to become our real face? Do we not gradually turn into slaves, silent and unresponsive...
10b/ ...but prepared to commit any abomination if so ordered from on high?” If you see fraud, and do not shout fraud, you are a fraud.
11/“When people can be kicked to death, when courts are prepared to cover up crimes and convict the innocent, decent conduct is not the most convincing defence”
12/ A fellow prisoner was bribed with two packs of cigs and told to lie against Ходорковский however he didn’t do it. “Why on earth did you do that? You know only too well there’ll be trouble.” Lyosha responds “You haven’t done anything bad to me. I couldn’t do it” - real courage
13a/ “we make a deal with our conscience: we lie, leep quiet, don’t ‘notice’ things for the sake of a quiet life, we hide behind the interest of our nearest and dearest. We justify ourselves, saying that ‘these are the times we live in’, that ‘everyone else is the same’.
13b/ But whom, in fact, are we striking that deal with? And how will we know when ‘the other party’ – our conscience has refused it? Is It only when we end up facing adversity ourselves?”
13c/ – If you see fraud, and do not shout fraud, you are a fraud. You are morally obligated to stand up to injustice and rationalising injustice for personal reasons is dishonourable.
14a/In some systems it is almost impossible to change them from the inside, they are just too corrupt. So the only way to resist is to leave them. This leads to “negative selection” where only the worst stay...
14b/ ... In systems with guaranteed power, the state for example, this leads to terrible consequences. So be careful of orgs with guaranteed power as when they turn bad, terrible consequences can happen
15/ If you incentivise snitches by lowering their prison time for information, you incentivise people who are snitches to re-join society. In Russia it is despised to snitch, in the US it is more encouraged. I’m not sure what is better
16a/ On a homeless man he met: “his was a familiar story: his son was killed, then his wife died, he started drinking heavily, his devious neighbours got him kicked out of his apartment, he lived on the streets for nearly a year, got into a fight and was brought in.” ...
16b/ ... a few lines later “So then, what do you think? Is it not worth trying to make our world just a bit less cruel? After all, these people need only a very small bit of help.”
17/“generally people who are unable to stand up for themselves, who have shown some form of weakness. And it is they who are forced to carry out all kinds of unpleasant work” – tyrants want rid of principled ppl 1st + make friends with weak willed. Good principles make u stronger
18/ “human beings are actually nothing less for the state – they’re just statistical report fodder” Can’t help but feel a lot of gov stats are mostly first order thinking which doesn’t actually improve the country much, the gov never thinks of the interactions or the dynamics
19/ “I’ve got nowhere to go, and no reason to go anywhere” –Lyosha, a prisoner. If the prison system destroys people’s roots to the outside world - what is the point of ever getting out? How much crime is done because people enjoy the stability of prison? Things to think about
20/ on a nazi kid he met: “emotions have evidently clouded his logic”,“the nationalist-socialist community had given the kid a sense of security, of being part of a team with a defined role, a sense of being part of something bigger than himself”–human nature can easily be abused
21/ “Bureaucracy is able to take advantage of universal apathy”
22 a/ Ходорковский on a depressed prisoner: “You feel sorry for the guy, but in this place every other place has exactly the same story. You simply don’t have the energy or time to listen to other people’s woes” - humans survive first then have emotion later...
22 b/ ...Yet when after the guy tried to kill himself (Ходорковский saved him): “as for the rest of us, we avoided each other’s eyes, ashamed. After all, we could have known he was on the edge, but we chose to ignore it. Indifference is a terrible sin.”
22 c/ “Can we really be at peace with ourselves, pretending that someone else’s fate is no concern of ours? How long can a country survive when indifference becomes the norm?”
23/ “the administration has no truck with suicides, they mess up the statistics” The previous depressed guy tried to kill himself, yet Ходорковский saved him. So the prison, not wanting suicide stats on their record shipped the guy off. Be very careful of statistics.
24/ Prison enquiries into stealing were serious, swift and exhaustive. Being accused of stealing was one of the most serious accusations you can make. Macro BSing is impossible in prison, if only it was the same in politics
25/ Ходорковский on stability in politics: “it’s very strange to expect anything positive to come from ‘stability’, when the entire political regime is gradually turning into a nest of greedy, vile rats.”
26/With an older guy: “we sit there drinking our tea. Two men no longer young, who have both made a choice to go to prison. Loved ones are waiting for us at home, and we’re here, and it’s our decision. Was it the right one–who knows?” Life is lived forwards, understood backwards
27/ An addict on why he was addicted: “I tried to quit, several times. But then my mates would come along and it would all start off again … I don’t have the strength anymore”
28/ Ходорковский chats with a pro thief. The thief discusses how he often gets caught, yet bribes the security to get away. Interesting use of incentives.
That’s all, would recommend you read it, it is only 80 pages long.