The global outbreak of the corona virus has shown to the whole world what poor, working class, disabled, chronically ill, and immunocompromised people–in particular black, brown, and indigenous folks– have known all along. A society where a small group of people control all of the housing, ways to produce essential needs, and access to healthcare for the entire population is simply deadly.
I am a long time believer that everyone should have unfettered access to ways of producing and reproducing ourselves (ie healthcare, food, water, transportation, joy and entertainment, safe places to live, spiritual community, etc). Because of this I have done a lot of research, reading, thinking, and dreaming with the help of comrades from the present and past about what barriers exist and what are ways to live in ease and harmony with the earth and one another. The main barrier, as most can see now, is capitalism. That is, an organization of society where a few people control all of the food, shelter, medicine, and recreation while the majority of people are forced to do things every day, which, instead of directly benefiting us or our communities, benefits bosses and landlords who give us a relatively small amount of money that we then exchange for the goods we produce, but they control. In “ordinary” times, many people are able to put their energy to others, and exchange that for enough to pay rent or mortgage, purchase food, and for a smaller group even pay for relaxation and healthcare. But for a consistent group of people who do not have access to selling their labor due to discrimination, generational trauma, illness, caring for others, and prevention of access to education and the stability necessary to work, homelessness, hunger and suffering are fundamental realities of daily life.
For those of us lucky enough to sell our labor daily, the rapid spread of covid-19 and the subsequent shutting down of production and consumption has brought the everyday crisis that so many face, and the inherent instability of a capitalist mode of production into stark relief. As more businesses close, and stores empty their shelves, we are left wondering how we can get food, shelter, and medicine if there is nowhere to work and no where to buy. In this anxiety we can see that the issue isn’t an actual shortage of food and certainly not of housing, nor of skilled healthcare providers, but instead that we have to rely on the mediation of money, and of someone else’s alienated labor to obtain them.
There are currently several struggles to get immediate needs met by the state. Demands for testing, health insurance, emergency funds, and more. These are crucial struggles. As we make these demands we should also be thinking about and creating ways to build a society where we do not need to rely on money and stores to meet our needs. Examples from prior struggles show us that collectively run production, where communities are collectively meeting their own needs, and sharing with other communities, are not only possible but are part of creating a beautiful society. My greatest hope is that in collectively healing from this pandemic we will see how much we have in common with one another, and return not to the normal misery that brought on this spread of disease, but build a world significantly better.
I have included below a list of resources, both fiction (which I find so useful for imagining new ways of being) and non-fiction research, as well as groups and ways to get involved. These are in no way exhaustive and I will try to keep adding to them!
Fiction resources for thinking about different ways of living:
Octavia Butler, Parable Series Parable of the Sewer and Parable of the Talents
Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (also available as audiobook from the library)
Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing
Toni Cade Bambara, The Salteaters
NYC Mutual Aid Spreadsheet