Don’t you hate it when you miss your favorite linguist’s birthday or when Hallmark doesn’t have a “Happy 164th Birthday” card for your favorite anarchist? Well, no need to buy cards for Noam Chomsky or Peter Kropotkin this year for the celebration at Mercury Café, because a little donation towards Midwest Books to Prisoners is all they want for their birthdays.
Since this has been a relatively unnoticed year gone by for both men (including the very-much-still-living Chomsky), Mercury Café is hosting a brunch benefit and “Manufacturing Consent” viewing in honor of their work. “We want people to take notice…during this time there are a lot of holidays that, as radicals, we don’t celebrate,” Rachel A., the coordinator, explains about why Midwest Books to Prisoners chose this kind of fundraising event to promote its work.
While most people downstairs at the café do not take notice, those upstairs, in a room deconstructed in a prison-like way, are working towards change. “Too many people in jail are falsely accused…when they are let out there is no compensation for the lost years,” Rachel elaborates about their objectives. As most prisoners request dictionaries, GED, automotive, carpentry and legal books, they just might be investing their lost years towards a promising future.
But what do Chomsky, Kropotkin and prisoners getting books really have in common? Taking on the duties of a citizen through self-rule is an idea that both men promoted, and Midwest Books to Prisoners is helping to give prisoners at least the chance to take charge of their lives again. At this point, “we use [prisoners] as cheap labor…. basically slave labor,” Rachel says. So Midwest Books to Prisoners wants to give them something to hope for beyond the work that prison allows them.
The benefit ends with an almost three-hour viewing of “Manufacturing Consent,” a film that purports to expose how the government and media cooperate to produce an effective propaganda machine used to manipulate the opinions of society. Especially appropriate here, since “it is more expensive to incarcerate someone for a year than to send them to Harvard for a year,” according to the Midwest Books to Prisoners’ Web site. (Molly Sullivan)