1867 c/o Olivia Louise

i. Barbed Wire was invented in 1867 by Lucien B Smith.

ii. Barbed wire was initially developed for the American settlers to contain cattle. The barbed wire could contain the cattle at a lower cost and was more effective than its predecessors. They all wrapped the metal strings around their land. This gave their land a shape.
There was pain involved. This gave their shape authority.

The innovation allowed the settler’s cows to wander freely, but not away. They could be free as long as they stayed. A specific kind of free. If they would try to leave they would be stabbed, so they stopped trying to get more free. They decided they were free enough.

Some barbed wire was better than others.

Not enough barbs and the cows got out. Too many barbs and the cows got killed. The correct ratio is “more ways to get killed: less ways to get free.” The correct place is in-between free and dead.

iii. In a barb-wired land, here is always safest even when it isn’t safe. Crossing out of the barbs is the impossible option. The settlers learned that cows wouldn’t cross the wire even in a blizzard. They couldn’t cross because it hurt so they stayed where the blizzard was. One time they found so many dead cow bodies after a blizzard that the settlers decided to call it “the Big Die Up.”

No one blamed the barbed wire for doing what it was invented to do.

Barbed wire is more than an object; it is also an idea. That’s why they made the barbs so small — so that they could fit into ideas. When the cows cannot see the barbs and only feel them under their skin, they think that they imagined the barbs. They can’t remember why but getting free is very painful.

One day, the cows will all stop trying to get free.
They will finally stay where they are supposed to be. Not there, here.

They will feel punished for even thinking about blizzards.

iv. Barbed wire was invented because everything should abide by the rules, even when the rules are not said out loud. The rules are as follows:

+ When land has a shape then it gets to be a place
+ and places have names.
+ Names have authority and
+ trying to cross lines of authority is punishable.
+ You cannot cross them, even during blizzards that will kill you.
+ If you leave, it will kill you.
+ If you stay, you may also be killed.
+ If you would like, we could kill you in other ways.
+ All of these things hold you without touching you.

v. Since its invention, barbed wire has served many more functions than animal husbandry. It was first used to contain humans when the Boer South African settlers rebelled against the British monarchy. You can only rebel if you are the opposite of the authority which is still a kind of authority.

The British said that South Africa was colony and a colony had a specific definition. The Boer people wanted to change that word and their definition.

Nobody asked the natives what kind of barbed wire they preferred.

So the British army contained both natives and settlers in a place called Blomenfontein that was wrapped in barbed wire. Blomenfontein was a hospital with a death rate worse than blizzards. Everyone knew it was created to kill them and yet they learned not to leave.

When there were enough dead bodies, they decided to call it a war.

vi. When barbed wire is broken and ineffective, everyone gets mad and wants their money back. Sometimes the barbed wire is too effective and unbroken and then too many things get killed.

When this happens, nobody gets their money back.

vii. We love barbed wire so much that we decided it wasn’t barbed or wired enough. We made it sharper and ran electricity through it. We learned to hide. It sits high on top of chain link fences. It lines the schools and federal prison parking lots! In or out, it doesn’t matter. Also, we can’t tell anymore.

Now, all space is razor blade sharp and electric!!

Here, place has a shape and space has a name. You have to know both so you don’t die. I for one prefer to be in the less painful place, where we are quite free enough. Don’t move too much – you might kill you. This is barbed wire land: where freedom is another way to die.