He is from Argentina. He's tall and very dark brown. Soil dark brown. He's six foot three or six foot four, but add in the bouncy monstrosity of his 'fro and you could then add on six inches or more. He weighs no more than 125 pounds and so his clothes sa off of him, more closely resembling window drapes. Throughout the length of his arm the thickest section is where his hands attach to his wrists. He is the epitome of what it means to be a human stick. When he walks around it most closely resembles a stringless dia de los muertos (calaca) puppet.
I know very little Spanish and he knows even less English, so when we talk it is very limited. The other inmates have come to call him "Seagull" because after each meal he hovers around the garbage can, with a large plastic cup in hand, he scoops everyone else's leftovers into it. For some reason the great majority of other inmates can't stand it.
The black inmates beat him to the garbage and the wait for him to get there. When he does, with exaggerated movements almost taunting him, they dump whats left of their meals instead of giving it to him.
The young Hispanics will accidentally drop their bread on the floor and then after recovering it will send one of their to deliver it. Sometimes the filth on the bread is still really obvious, but they'll hand it to Seagull with a sincere face of charity.
The group of older Hispanics always share portions of their beans and rice, but they never forget to add snot, spit and mucus before giving it. They will even have a friendly conversation in Spanish while doing it.
The whites of all ages, to no surprise, are by far the worst. They try to police the situation by complaining to the guard that its not fair that he gets more to eat. They loudly scoff, scold, insult and harrow him in a language he cannot understand but with a body language that is universally crystal clear.
I can't help but to feel that all of this is more than an exotic big bird being locked in a cage and fed scraps as a source of amusement. This isn't just ignorant cruelty, but intense and deep feelings of hate. I've tried to ask each group of inmates why they do this, and tehy are all quick to get aggressive and I am even quicker to go back to my form of self-protective silence. Sometimes I feel just as guilty for perpetuating this silence through my own silent passivity. How are we ever going to ever see that it is us the inmates, against them, the guards, if we can't even see each other as humans?
Even my use of the nickname Seagull really started bothering me, that is until I realized how anthropocentric I was being. I was viewing seagulls only as I was raised to see them. I was only seeing them as a scavenger of human trash but now I can see that calling the young Argentinian as a seagull is far from an insult and may be an accurate description,
Seagulls are forced to rummage through a city's trash only because cities have successfully ruined their original food sources. Industrial commercialized fishing has stolen most of the ocean's fish while hospitals, factories and refineries have polluted all the world's water. The ecosystems of beaches have become places of beer, tanning and other senseless forms of recreation. After seagulls are born on their native sea shores, they are quickly forced to migrate into cities to subsist on what humans deem waste and trash.
Now the young Argentinian is forced to salvage what he can from inmate's leftovers because he has no access to subsistence food sources. Argentina's land, people, forests and beaches have been converted into resources for hospitals, factories and refineries serving the on-demand exploitative consumption of cities, especially the rich and white ones. Ex-African slave/indigenous forests and shore communities that share the young Argentinian's beautiful espresso skin tone are all but almost completely removed from their native lands and are forced into city centers, slums and even landfills. Their natural communities they were once a part of are now Burger King cattle ranches and the ultimate alcohol and club filled spring break hot spots.
All of this abstract theorizing and critiquing does not change these very real world situation though. Seagulls are still dying from consuming pounds of plastic instead of pounds of fish, while Seagull himself is being subjected to extremely cruel and malicious behavior from other inmates in an already over-bearing, disempowering and oppressive system. Beaches and forests are dead or dying from our gross domestic consumption. Inmates are spending time policing and oppressing each other instead of making attempts to challenge their mutual and overriding conditions. The destructive ideas of waste and trash are still as prominent in the outside world as they are on the inside. The world is going to be completely discarded, just as the inmates in jails and prisons have been, just so a select few can have a world of power, control and money.
This isn't a very good ending and that bothered me at first, but now I'm not worried about an ending. The world's major religions start with people and end with abstractions of faith and paradise and sometimes we as radicals/people/animals are guilty of the same thing. We look at theories as a relief ending point of some understanding instead of using them as a starting point for tangible and meaningful action. We look at events with their own beginnings, middles, and ends instead of looking at our lives as a constant struggle. Who cares if some battles are won if you and everything you are fighting for gets eradicated before the war's end?
This is not the only an end to my writing, but a beginning- no, a continuation of my personal struggle. A struggle that is interwoven into other struggles, human and non-human alike. A struggle of seagulls. A struggle of Seagull. A struggle against those who destroy life.