It Turns Back Upon Itself

By | 1 October 2020

It moves like a broken dog. like a dog that has been broken. is what he said to me as we watched it. I read that Wadjemup began as a prison for Aboriginal men and boys. the records show that 373 Aboriginal prisoners died while incarcerated. these men are understood to be buried at a ma ss burial s ite, a b urial ground. the numbers do not seem to be holdin g eno ugh meaning: 437 deaths in custod y since t he 1991 ro y al co mmission. no police or pri son officer has been charged.

He explained that the movement is in the elbows: inward and out. this is how to scoop the air beside you. There are six boys being held in isola          tion at Don Dale who are tear ga ssed and we thep ublic areto ld it is because of a riot but five of th e bo ys are locked in their cel l whe n they were gassed ten times in the space of one and a half minutes. The prison staff are lau ghing andcalling one o f the b oys alittlerfu cker. one boy is lying face down on the floor and is expose d to          t eargas fo r eig htmin utes.

I say to him: I do not believe w e are a c hieving anything. he says back: the words       spoken at protests are heart-felt. I reply that I do not believe that th e government of this country has heart. our words become empty as the government rolls them around on their tongue. throw ing them back                    ward and forw ard o ver an d over              until th e language tur ns inwards: the language turns back upon itself.1

I say to            h im: I donotbelievewea reachievin ga nything.hesays back: thew ordsspokena tprotests are heart-felt. I replythat I do notb elieve that the governmentof this coun tryhas heart.our languagetur ns b ack on itself.o urwordsbecome empty as the governmentro llsthemaround on t heir tongue.throwingthembackwardandforward overandoveruntilthel anguageturn sbac kuponitself.

  1. ‘Headed towards death, language turns back upon itself; it encounters something like a mirror; and to stop this death which would stop it, it possesses but a single power: that of giving birth to its own image in a play of mirrors that has no limits’ writes Michel Foucault (1977, p.54).

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