Monday, March 5, 2012

Is there really a Sky? Questioning Illusions & Reality.

   What is "reality" in a prison setting? This study is one in which an illusion of imprisonment was created, but when do illusions become real? Contrast consensual reality and physical or biological reality, and explain the implications of the following poem:
Within the illusion of life,
Death is the only reality,
is Reality the only death?

Within the reality of imprisonment, by 
Illusion is the only freedom,
but is Freedom the only illusion?
        When you take away all windows that let in natural sunlight to a structure, and find yourself for one reason or another are unable to leave the confines of that space, the perception of night and day is bound to slowing to warp.   The only way one can keep tract when any semblance of external ques are null and void, causing confusing to our biological rhythms, even the vague sleep cycle left, also changes over a longer period of time extending from the average 7 or 8 hour spans to 13.   Still, one could determine the idea of day versus night depending on when one is at rest or awake.  If not there is a desperate grasp to count the seconds, a form of recording the minutes, hours and days that pass when no clock is present.  This too can be skewed by mental count and recount, but is a common scene in places where people are devoid  of power over technology or personal possessions, such as jails where hash marks have been the means of  tracking number of days detained.   So what does one hold true when they no longer have touch with any world outside the confines of their skull, a captor and the role of the isolated?      The pressure on the human mind to be able to adapt as means of survival, thus creating new solutions to each situation that form patterns over time is very important, but can lead to further questioning and understanding of the cost attached to evolutionary behavioral reactions that surface today in terms of psychological trauma or change.        When one depicts solitude it is often the image of a grand outdoor adventure, perhaps a refreshing vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the repetitive jobs and chaotic living.  An example of such would be a mountain-side camping trip, which if goes as planned will still allow the nature explorer an assured control over food, water, sleep and safety.  In this case one is merely seeking some solace rather than complete detachment from others.  This is a far cry from the sort of solitary settings that were tested out in an study done at Stanford University in 1971, which was lead by Dr. Phillip Zombardo to examine the effects of the psyche and human relationships in a basic prison, and tested on a young, healthy group of males.   The area the enclosures where set is not a place where anyone is ever truly alone either, but those who were placed at random to be prisoners are without everyday human socialization.  Civilizing oneself is something that has become vital to organizing Homo-Sapiens into groups, packs, if you will, that have proved to be mutually beneficial for everything from food and reproduction to defense, and both social and physical territories.  In following the study to see the reaction of 3 days of effacement of identity, perhaps the actions observed should take into consideration this along with other biological influences, like mating and dominancy, and how these build the drive for conversation and other interactions.  In American society enculturation teaches norms, but still values individuality as a key part of one's identity.  Names, clothes, jobs and philosophies are all positive additions to our predisposed temperaments and thus a personality is formed, something that was diminished in the Stanford study when the subjects were stripped, chained, separated into mock cells, assigned numbers and deprived of basic decision making rights, such as where and when one may sleep, eat or use the bathroom.  The power was arbitrarily given to the designated guards, who possessed material signs of power, including clubs, uniforms, whistles, and the ability to go home to comfort after their shift as in a regular job would allow, so they could perform the role while still holding onto some external reality, one that gave them an ability to be grounded, but also to hold this privilege and knowledge above the prisoners and even further manipulate them.  Even if the potential to see family or friends during a visitation, they are monitored in a way which the details of situations bother internal and external are kept quiet and they have succumbed to the guards control to take the opportunity to see a loved one's face.   By this point the figment of imagination that leads to daydreaming and creativity has either brought images of death or some sliver of hope that exists in what seems like a past life or alternate universe to the inmates.   This is what leads to the contemplation above, the bittersweet poem the divulges the belief that the only things they can hold true are taking one's life, as that is some how the only power left to these prisoners, as not eating can be turned into a stake to all of those captured there, and a death still remains the same in nature in this setting as any other, which codes of conduct and everything else is constantly brought into question.  When the guards are not able to physically torture them, but still able to find devious ways in which to pose people against each other (constant role-calls, shame inducing tactics obedience rewards as simple as having sheets on one's bed).  In an innocent by-standers approach to a glance at this small ward, they would be horrified by the lack or morality occurring, but this is because these actions are considered to be unjustified by the general public, as there was never actually any crime committed and so harsh treatment is not warranted.   This reality is no longer shared with the guards or prisoners, because, simply voiced information that one would generally deem incorrect, unless the overwhelming majority offers it with confidence it is proper.    The shared faith of their deserving this treatment grows to fact because of  roles or place and relationships with each other and the world is now a shared, or consensus reality because they both can agree on it's existence; that despite our previous understanding of right or wrong, if the majority believes that 2+2=5 then they may disagree at first that it is actually 4, but after a sustained encounter with this information, they too will likely believe it is true. This can be seen as the prisoners no longer partake in calling each other by name or their roles as a student, civilian or careers previous to the experiment, and how most contestants quickly stop revolting or repelling the concept this is fake, for one that does consider this to be a play or experiment may be viewed as the most mentally unstable.   This is a disturbing image, because it has been seen over the course of many experiments, like the Asch Conformity Studies, where there is very little to no applied pressure to conform.      It is no surprise to those who have observed domestic abuse that the relationship relies on this seclusion and degradation, but at it's height the manipulation of reality itself is used to say, our shared reality claims that love is standard and all else is an act of love or a warranted abuse due to a threat to this reality.  Warping of perception is full-force here, and the psychological basis for brain-washing, and it is a successful (thought potentially very harmful to the psyche as Dr. Zombardo later agrees to be a fault) is a gradual placement of these conditions (Asch) rather then an brisk command from an authority figure (Milgram), which still places pressure to create a change from the norm, but is often conspicuous and thus still detected by the brain to be wrong.   This scientifically research has since been used as guidance for minor prison reform and must be put to careful consideration when approaching the point of view or trauma endured by those captured in this sort of environment.     Similar themed experiments have gone into further depths, and used more strict control variable dynamics, while not getting named one of the more ethically questionable human studies, like that of the Milgram and Stanford Prison cases.  A longer-termed experiment was performed and analyzed between 2005-2008 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's research facilities.  Some Quick Sources:

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