What’s the Catch?: Mind Controlling Worm Balls and Prison Abolition

I had to look at so many creepy pics of worms to find this and it literally didn’t occur to me that this would happen until I had already hit Image Search.

Mind controlling worm balls and prison abolition.

Something I think about often is the episode of Angel (“Jasmine” Season 4) where they kill Zoe from firefly.

Angel! What a terrible show with interesting (but unpacked) themes! The originator of the Supernatural Corporation, with ideas about what it means to sell out! Tina from the L Word is in it! Don’t rewatch it though.

Jasmine — Mind Control, Ethics, Worms.

Anyway, Jasmine is a mind controlling god, who brings intense joy to everyone who sees her, creating instant world peace.

But… it turns out she’s eating people, like 4 or 5 a day (and her face, without an illusion, is just a bunch of crawling worms).

Twice this week, people have mentioned this episode to me, and Daniel+Grave Lavery, two amazing trans writers in the midst of addressing harm/violence in their family’s evangelical church, mentioned this narrative to describe their feelings on realizing the harm their family had caused.

The resurgence of “Jasmine” is weirdly reassuring to me.

  1. It means this is a real episode of television that aired at some point (which I was unsure of before!), barring any Crystal Cove esque horror scenarios.

  2. This episode, for all of its poor execution, addresses desire, harm, and want, the cost of utopia.

Ursula Le Guin also wrote about the baseline paradox presented by Jasmine, in a short story called “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (She cites Dostoyevsky + William James as the originators of this idea*).

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” By Ursula Le Guin

The story describes a city of happiness, perfect for all those who reside in it, called Omelas. But that happiness comes with a cost — a single unfortunate child must be kept in perpetual filth, darkness, and misery.

There are some pretty on the nose parallels you could draw from this story — the relationship between the United States + mass imperialism, the ways that white supremacy underpins societal structures.

But I actually don’t think this story is particularly useful as a condemnation of ‘society’. If COVID and the mass uprisings have shown us anything, it’s that it is a very slim (though powerful majority) that’s intentionally unaware of the ‘single unfortunate child’.

More importantly, I don’t know anyone who lives in Omelas.

The Day to Day of Mind Control Worms + Prison Abolition

So what I’m interested in regards to mind controlling worm balls is the ethical quandary it presents in our day to day.

As we talk about prison abolition, and the alternatives to our current (broken) justice system that need to be imagined, I feel like, weirdly, the ethical questions posed in Jasmine are related to some of the recurring questions I see people ask about prison abolition.

When people ask: What about rapists?

It’s not a logistical question.

It’s — who and what has to give up what in order for this work?

It’s what does your perfect society require to function?

What is your 5–6 people a day getting eaten by a glowing ball of worms?

In spite of what Puritans might tell you, there is no innate relationship between sacrifice and good.

“It Is Possible It Does Not Exist”

At the end of her story, Le Guin writes that “The place those who leave head towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”

At the end of Jasmine, Angel gets a call from a Supernatural Corporate boss, who works where he is considering Selling Out. She mocks him for destroying world peace + mass cooperation over a couple of people getting eaten.

(Since I’m rereading The Dispossessed and on a Le Guin kick lately, here’s a related quote — “[… People ask me] ‘Where do you get your ideas from, Ms. Le Guin?’ From forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards (Salem OR), naturally. Where else?”)

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