Abolition As Healing Work

I began my path into bodywork and healing 6 years ago with several fits and starts.  I started studying one modality and stopped after several months after learning the founder had politics I found commensurate with colonialism and white supremacy.  Later, I started massage school but stopped after one semester. I wwhenoneinchainsas doing healthcare worker organizing, and was worried that pursuing my path as a healer would mean only healing  individual people’s bodies so that they could return to an alienated life day after day.  If someone came in with an illness caused by capitalism (which most illnesses are), my healing work would only temporarily ameliorate the symptoms person by person, not move society generally in any way towards an overall healthy and balanced mode of producing and reproducing ourselves.  I was also worried about organizing.  My experiences to that point had been mostly workplace organizing–getting together in collective action with my co-workers to fight against the exploitation we all faced together. How could I do this if it was just me working in a room by myself?

Six years, several modalities, and many amazing encounters later, my perspective has shifted significantly.  I still struggle with the relationship between working with individual clients and transforming all of society from an alienated
mode of life based on white supremacy, patriarchy, and the murder (both immediate and long-term) of people of color, poor people, women, and queer people.  But now, doing healing work seems like an urgent necessity.  I have to study more, be a better diagnostician, understand all of the anatomy, physiology, and herbalism possible to help people heal the psychological and physical wounds we face, and work in community to help others learn this work.  But this is not where the work ends.  Instead of shifting my energy only towards solving individual crises, as I feared, my commitment to healing work has only increased my dedication to liberation for all people.  As I become more intimately aware of the relationship between trauma and physiology; about how the liver works and must process all the toxins we encounter in food, water, pharmaceuticals, and air; and how intensely lack of movement and sunlight affect health and
ife span, I am every day more convinced that healing requires a new society built on production for need and by ability as opposed to built by slavery to produce capital.  And as I become more involved in prison abolition organizing, working closely with and loving incarcerated people and their families, it is abundantly clear how the system of police, prison, and impoverishment are the largest health problems people face, killing off mostly black and brown people by the thousands in unimaginably cruel ways, all fabricated by our “justice” system and supported by the totality of capitalist institutions.

At this point in my journey, it is abundantly clear to me that being a healer necessarily means being an abolitionist.  It would be hypocritical to massage mothers of sons locked up on fabricated “gang” charges who are living with chronic pain and disability, or to prescribe commissary herbs to incarcerated people without also fighting every day against the conditions that daily re-create their symptoms.  I am struggling with the best way to fight, and I know that this is a long battle, but am blessed that others are thinking along these lines.  I often fail in both my organizing work and my healing work, but try to learn from these failures how to do better. If you are thinking along these lines are you want to share ideas or work together, definitely let me know.  To the ongoing struggle ahead, and the light of healing that is in every step towards liberation,


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