In class we broke down Focault’s theory of “docile bodys” and honestly I have not been the same way since. I have thought about this phrase or idea or whatever you wish to call it, for a long time. The term docile was something that I had related to having a positive connotation up until I reached high school and something changed. Synonyms such as obedient and shy were words that I would not have necessarily scoffed at if it were used to describe my demeanor or personality at the time. But now I’ll probably give my most confused squint and either ignore the comment or ask you for an elaboration. Kind of besides the point you might think, but I promise I’m going somewhere with this…
Focault’s docile body explanation highlights the creation of the prison system through the very grotesque and vivid death of a man, Robert-François Damiens, who was charged with attempted regicide. The public and gruesome execution described by Focault makes me wonder, one, why do they think that’s fun to watch and two, the infliction of punishment on a body for a crime they committed is the same thing, no? Focault also explained the same idea and related it to the creation of the Westernized penal system. This was only done once the citizens started to make that same connection him or herself. I made the connection that our penal system of today operates in much of the same way as it did in Medieval Europe and most like many more nations.
The modern prison does have something that was not introduced back then and it is that it was not a very lucrative business. People make money off of prisons. I repeat, people make money off of prisons. How has this sat so well with the public for so long? People make A LOT of money off prisons and this of course gives them a very strong motivation to keep them going and that creates a bevy of its own shady problems and shadier solutions. People are making very big and grand lifestyles off of the punishment of others. Kind of sad.
Fortunately there are people trying to dismantle this industry, such as Bernie Sanders. Putting people “away” does not seem like a particularly efficient use of a humans potential. Their possible contributions to life are stripped without a thought, instead of trying to understand and work through the issue.
These prison pipelines are usually filled with under privileged youths who are almost pre-destined for a bleak future. Resources allocated to continuously building these prisons could instead be used to fund tons of futures and educations, but it’s not like thousands of pages of research on this topic has been done before lil ol’ me. Unfortunately knowledge is power and we know how upsetting it is for the privileged when power is shifted and not in their favor. Thus the cycle continues.
The positive image that I had once collected about the idea of docile has greatly shifted. The thought of not having my own agency is own that can very scary (I know in many ways I don’t but that’s not important right now) and knowing that this is what is potentially happening within these systems is highly concerning. Focault has stirred my inner discussion about prisons and why they are kept in place and it has been very enlightening. I hope the discussion of the prison system is one that is taken seriously and soon dealt with.