Fences are the contours of dominance, power, control, oppression. Whether they are keeping people in or people out.

Baxter 05
We stood outside the fences and sent balloons up into the air. So that in their isolation the political prisoners could see that there was humanity. That there were people that deeply believed they should be free. We threw tennis balls over the fence with messages of support in English and Farsi. We threw a grappling hook over the perimeter fence. For which people were arrested and threatened with incarceration within prison walls. More fences. The further fences of prison walls.

…raging against fences. I feel hot. I feel suffocated. I feel all the injustice of the world raging through my body. And I feel terrified. The police remind me of the second assault, of the police inquiry into ‘aggravated sexual assault’. They remind me of that disempowerment. And their bodies pressing towards us, masked and faceless in their riot gear remind me of the faceless person fucking me. Feeling powerless. Feeling like they will always win in the end no matter how much you lash your body against them.

I sit now in Cipanas, a small village in West Java. It is past 7pm and I am locked in. But I am here out of choice. Working in a fundamental religious organisation. As a most passionate atheist I thought this would be selling out. But when I think about what is the most direct action I’ve done I think of here.

In jargon my position here would probably be best described as ‘consultant’ and I am accountable to no-one but myself. Which means being accountable to the community I’m working for. The place is a mental health and drug use rehab centre. In a country which views people as ‘setengah orang’ (half a person), this primarily means locking people up. My counselling and community development practice is based in a radical/anarchist perspective founded on ideas of empowerment, self-determination, resisting the pathologisations of people, and seeing well-being as a function of true freedom.

I have sat with people holding hands through the bars of the isolation cells. I have woken up every morning and spoken and laughed with people I love through the barbed wire fence which marks off the small yard connected to their dorms. And I regret not bringing my bolt cutters. But after a couple of months here, we have forged a relationship, a willingness, an understanding of ‘recovery’. And by hand, piece by piece, the fence comes down and the isolation cells become a store room for dusty cans of paint. This is only one drop in the ocean. But it is the first fence I have torn down. And it’s staying down. And we’ve planted vegie gardens where it used to stand. And inside I feel the deep secret warmth of solidarity with all those raging against fences with Molotov cocktails.