This week has brought the constant, seething dynamics of white supremacist capitalism to the forefront of public attention, with the Grenfell Tower fire, the police murder of Charleena Lyles, the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez (the cop who murdered Philando Castile), and the brutal beating and murder of Nabra Hassanen. Meanwhile, over 2 million people live daily in prison slavery in the United States; the planet is facing record breaking temperatures, causing destruction to plants, animals, and humans; labor conditions all over the world continue to kill and maim workers especially in colonized and formerly colonized countries; and many of the world’s “leaders” are avowed right wing war-mongers. With all of this going on, not to mention the daily traumas that people of color, women and queers face through conscious and unconscious “microaggresions”, cultural appropriation that is a continuation of a long history of colonialism and white supremacy, and poverty and ill-health, it is easy to feel like there is nothing but doom in the present and future.
Sitting in this weight of the world last night, a dear friend and comrade asked me if I feel “hopeless”. Although I often think about “the new society”, struggles for freedom, and human capacity for liberation, I needed some time to process the question, and was grateful for the opportunity to bounce ideas off of someone else whose perspective I trust. The answer I wanted to give, is that yes, if I think about an end to all suffering, a new form of social relations based on need and ability, the end of white supremacy and patriarchy, and then compare that future to all of the conditions that I listed above, it is hard to have hope that we will achieve a truly liberated society. But if I think about if I have faith in humans, plants, and animals to survive whatever is thrown at us, to be creative, courageous, and flexible, and to constantly be renewed despite the best efforts by the current organization of social relations to destroy us, then I can also say a resounding “yes.”
In my life and work (my political work and healing work), I draw on a series of philosophies and practices that are concretely distinct schools of thought, but that methodologically have extreme resonance. Revolutionary theories of humanity, specifically those discussed by Marx and CLR James, the spiritual and philosophical teachings of Zen Buddhism, and the practice of osteopathy all share a foundational methodological approach: that the meaning and content of life is in the process of its unfolding, or, as all three philosophies say, in “becoming.” Now, with the addition of my study of herbalism and in particular the specific knowledge of my teacher Karen Rose, I have more history and knowledge to work with that further develops these methods.
What is important for me to remember is that to have hope in the process is not the same as being passive. In all of these philosophies, there is also great struggle, intention, and work that needs to go in to the processes of subsuming (destroying thro
ugh building anew) the alienation that we face. However, the result of that struggle might not always be what we think. When we enter the streets with our comrades to fight white supremacy, we have not failed if we do not abolish the police in that moment, as long as we are making connections and building trust with one another. When we go on strike at work, we might lose our jobs, but we show ourselves and our bosses that we can control the means of production and we do have the power to create without being exploited. When we go on a journey to heal our bodies, although we might never be the same as we were before an injury or illness, we become stronger, wiser, and different. Each struggle builds new lines of communications, news types of social relations, and new forms of support. We build new avenues of struggle, and are left stronger even if we feel we have “failed”. Like the web of a spider, which becomes stronger when a single strand breaks, our resolve for freedom and our ability to coordinate recharges the more attempts there are to destroy us. Murder, torture, slavery, neglect, and many forms of trauma are real and present parts of too many people’s lives, particularly the lives of people of color, but the world we live in now is not only creating victims. As Valerie Castile, and many mothers of those murdered by the police have said before her, “Now you see what these motherfuckers think about us…Do what your heart desires, cause that shit wasn’t right.” The more you try to break us, the stronger we become, and our current conditions are the origin of our militancy, our healing, and our communities.
Revolutionary love and healing for the summer and beyond,