When a man arrives in prison he quickly learns that most of its denizens have a hidden agenda, which they pursue by means of manipulation and ineffable trickery. It is a land of false flags and deceit.

Child molesters pretend that they are normal men with more 'respectable' crimes to their credit: murder, robbery, or other crimes of violence against people who had it coming to them. They act tough and move through the captive world they now inhabit cloaked in any mystique that they think will deter some of the really tough and violent prisoners from attacking them. Many prisoners are cowards who committed their crimes of violence against people who could not defend themselves -- sneaking up behind them and clubbing them over the head, for instance.

After a period of acclimatization the 'new fish,' as the recently convicted prisoner is sometimes called, gains his footing and begins to figure out who is who and what is what. The false flags and phony adumbrations start to melt away for him and he begins to see that these disguises are nothing more than 'the emperor's clothes', especially if the 'new fish,' by now an older fish, had engaged in similar deceptions for self-defense upon his arrival.

The emperor's clothes

All of the posturing and all of the pose
Are nothing more than emperor's clothes 
to one whose been there and done that
and knows he knows.

Introspection is close inspection of the reflection
you see of yourself in the mirror of your mind, 
so you pause to reflect, and when the mirror speaks, 
the reflection lies.

Windows to the soul? Those transparent panes
Gives me a view of your transparent pain
and the suffering of your greed, 
for what you want you think you NEED.

All motives are transparent to me.
Though divided, they are added and multiplied
until they exceed the sum of their parts
For one feeds the others and they grow.

Can I get from you what I please?
I'll don the trappings of the man you want to believe I am
and, so nattily dressed, you'll mistake me for the man you want me to be

In my fine raiment you'll see who you want you to see.

But it's really me.
And by these means I'll reach my end
and persuade you into persuading yourself that I'm your best friend.

I'll give, but I'll also take
and in the end
My end
You'll break

I'll be subtle, not exactly on the mark.
It's only stupid dogs that bark!
I'm not a stupid dog.
I'll bide my time, I am so cunning,
I'll lie right beside you on your front porch sunning.
But then the mark I'll realize 
By evolving right before your mesmerized eyes
Into your version of truth -- that lies.

You should have known better because you've been told
It's best to leave sleeping dogs lie. But awake I do l lie, and as I slyly lie
Your mind's eye
Sees only what you want you to see

It's my trap so neatly sprung 
But I'm content to leave my victory song unsung.
I'll be quiet and loyal and right there by your side
And lick the hand that feeds me
Just before I look you in the eye
And bite down hard and make you cry
I'll bite the hand that feeds, and chew until it bleeds,
And there is nothing you can do to me to avenge this sinister atrocity

Because I've been there and done that. You see?
I can always see
Because I'm the one who knows he knows
Exactly what a man is all about beneath those emperor's clothes.

A lesson in political 'realism.' There are no higher principles involved here, only a war for power. It is the rare individual indeed who sees behind the veil and does not succumb to the siren song of the power won by understanding the political realities and the profit to be made from exploiting that insider understanding.  

At Union Correctional Institution prisoners are domiciled in two-man cells. In times past, ending about 2001--2002, the cells were designated as either 'White' or 'Black' -- i.e., the prisoners assigned to those cells were of the corresponding 'racial' designation according to the color of their skin. This was a mandatory practice -- except that there were exceptions allowed for one, and only one, reason.

If a usually young effete and often effeminate (most often 'white') prisoner ‘asked’ to be placed in a cell with a black prisoner, the request was almost always granted. For reasons not always obvious to the civilians reading this, promotion of homosexuality was not the crux of the issue: the matter was resolved in this way for purely pragmatic reasons.  

The usually young, white-skinned, effete and effeminate prisoners are generally known in prison as ‘punks’ – i.e., in gay culture the men who are referred to as ‘bottoms’ as they are on the bottom in the sexual act -- not the traditional place of the 'man' in the 'missionary' style of coitus.

It should not be imagined that this was a progressive acceptance of gay culture and practices. It was a pragmatic policy to reduce the number of fights and stabbings that arise from separating sexual partners in a jungle-like environment where competition for a 'mate' is on an animalistic level.

The uninitiated must focus on this fundamental setting in order to grasp the alien cultural value-system prevalent in all or most maximum-security prisons in America and the world over. Men and women keep their basic primal drives no matter their situation and circumstances. Just because a person is in prison does not make him an ‘other,' a perversion, or distinct from the norm.

The goals of prisoners are often pursued partly through 'performative' propaganda. The prisoner dons the persona that most closely coincides with his perception of what will represent the existing and accepted conception and figure of the 'alpha dog' who will separate himself from the pack of ‘mongrels’ who constitute the majority of the prison population -- those who merely react to social-power differentials rather than exercising charismatic leadership. The 'alpha dog' position is the personification of power.

When the 'alpha dog' role is little or nothing more than a performative ploy, a power-grabbing vehicle and a sham, this strategy amounts to ‘theft by deception,’ and under the stress of a 'tension filled' and potentially violent and/or deadly confrontation tends to reveal the 'alpha dog' to be a fraud in the event that he hasn't the courage or fortitude to do battle. This can and does result in the fake 'alpha dog' being reduced to a bitch-dog, i.e., a punk. It has also to my direct knowledge resulted in the murder of the faker of social power.

Beware the lifting of the curtain if you are a weak and ill-intentioned counterfeit who has come into the possession of social power by fraudulent means in prison! This episode played itself out before my very eyes at Charlotte Correctional Institution in 1992. In prison it must be assumed that social power is inseparable from political power. I had seen it coming for months. I admit that I said nothing. That is the 'prison way.'

This is a drama. All true stories are dramas. As in Greek tragedy, a good deal may be light and humorous – funny in itself or through irony, satire, or absurdity. Humor is, after all is said and done, in the heart and mind of the beholder.