My fingers have anxiously hovered over my keyboard many times this past week. With so many of us currently rendered static and stuck to screens, the anticipation of formulating a contribution to the dialogues now surging between servers only intensified my inability to settle my thoughts to a point of graspable clarity. Then one of my English professors emailed me and my comrades a link to a Zoom webinar put on by a coalition called The Rising Majority that would feature Angela Davis and Naomi Klein in dialogue over the current moment of crisis, providing a left feminist perspective on 21st century radical capitalism. This was the site of my awakening.
Their careful considerations and powerful ideas about racialized capitalism and its inability to sustain the people in the face of the current pandemic were the threads with which my own flailing grievances, anxieties, ideas, and imaginings finally sewed together.
The following is what I have to offer.
“When we lose certain people, or when we are dispossessed from a place, or a community, we may simply feel that we are undergoing something temporary, that mourning will be over and some restoration of prior order will be achieved. But maybe when we undergo what we do, something about who we are is revealed, something that delineates the ties we have to others, that shows us that these ties constitute what we are, ties or bonds that compose us. It is not as if an “I” exists independently over here and then simply loses a “you” over there, especially if the attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost “you” only to discover that “I” have gone missing as well.” – Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
THINGS TO RESIST:
Being afraid of one another
Human connection is the foundation for being. There simply is no "I" without "You." I went on a walk the other day, and for the first time in two weeks had a stranger smile and say “hello” to me (from across the street of course). It jarred me — I faltered a moment, tripping over my feet and tongue as I met their gaze and mustered a “hi” back. I realized how easily I’d allowed myself to become afraid of people, to treat everyone in public like their very existence was an offense, even as I occupied those spaces myself. Resist this slippage! For those who might be living in close quarters, don’t let animosity fester. Be kind. Be respectful. Find new ways to connect, and if you’re in a position to, reach out to those who might be suffering to reach out themselves.
Racist response and behaviour
Do not allow media giants pushing racist, xenophobic content to seep into your framework, or shift your attention away from the real crises among us. Pay attention to the information you are digesting — who fed it to you? Who and what are they interested in supporting and pushing forth in this moment? Bite the hand that feeds only the widest mouths, attached to the fullest bellies. Resist misdirecting your anger.
Capital-based valuations of life
There is no one who deserves to die, especially in the interest of profit. Resist the idea that a valuable life is one that produces capital — that "being productive" is synonymous with "making money." Being forced to forgo (corporate) work routines and stay at home is forcing many to face the importance of reproductive labour — the largely female work that sustains the world, deemed unworthy of monetary compensation under patriarchal capitalism. In my own life, the upkeep of my home has been inevitably intensified by the constant habitation of five college students ravaging ramen in hybrid work(out)/kitchen/living spaces. It’s been difficult not to feel as if I’m being “less productive” by focusing more of my energy here — on these seemingly monotonous maintenance tasks. I urge myself and others to resist the devaluation of this kind of labour. Recognize the work that you, and women all over the world, do that needs to be done so that work can be done — the reproduction that sustains “production.”
The 24-hour work day
Personal computers have morphed and muddled “free time” with “work time” to such a degree we might very well dismiss the concept of “free time” completely. Leisure and labour are near indistinguishable in the digital sphere, whether your time feels laborious or not. This makes it easy to slip-out of ‘allocated-work-time mode’ into ‘work-time-all-the-time mode', and feel as if the modern “rise and grind” mentality is working you into bed, and into the ground. In this moment of broken routines, schedules, and mobility, it’s important to resist relinquishing leisure for leisure’s sake. Find new ways to organize your days, new ways to allocate. Put your computers away, and resist the guilt that surges when it’s time to simply play.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Having a home is a luxury, being able to stay at home is a luxury, feeling safe at home is a luxury
The very concept of “home” carries a wide range of connotations for people — around the world, within your neighbourhood, and possibly even within your own place of home. Remember that images of bubble baths, silk pajamas, and steaming cups of coffee propagating social media right now represent “home” for the 1%. Remember that the ability to dwell, to dwell comfortably, and to dwell safely are foreign concepts to so many in this moment of enforced isolation.
None of the above should be luxuries
These are the people who need to be at the forefront of our thoughts and efforts in this moment of crisis: homeless, inmates, victims of child abuse and sexual assault, minorities, essential workers — the 99% bearing the weight offloaded by the 1%. Everyone should have access to housing and the means to feel safe protected in this moment, and the fact that so many do not points to the innate failures and contradictions of racialized capitalism. Do not let this slip your mind in this moment of crisis. Remember the transformative potential it exposes to us. Remember that we have the capacity to formulate alternatives.
What gets declared an emergency is an expression of power
When the red lights turn on and the sirens sound, recognize who and what is at stake. Who and what is being threatened? By whom/what? Remember that crisis is not called upon when profits are continuing to be made; when risk can be off-loaded and displaced unto minority populations; when others can be silenced, discounted, devalued, and swept under the cost-benefit-analysis rug. Remember who pulls the alarm, when, and at what cost.
Suffering is not a homogenous experience
Remember that we must make space for everyone — we must work to understand the full range of the people and the ways that they are suffering. Remember that violence is often afflicted indirectly, covertly, and systematically. Who is benefiting in this moment? Whose lives are being exploited? Remember that vulnerability is both what unites us and what tears us apart when that vulnerability is exploited. Remember that no one is naturally diseased/healthy.
The solace we find in nature, creative expression, and appreciating caregivers
The most uplifting moments of my isolated days thus far have been watching my friends and family members turn to painting, drawing, crafting, and art-making of all kinds for comfort, and listening to the cheers yelled, pots banged, and bells rung at 7PM in appreciation of caregivers. Remember this — the ways you’ve sought comfort, the ways you’ve found feel-good productivity, the people your heart reaches out to and celebrates in this moment. Remember how badly you wish you could go on a hike, or to the beach, or hug a tree right now. Remember who and what must be protected — where our care must be directed.
THINGS TO RISE-UP:
In the fine words of Terence McKenna, “What we call imagination is actually the universal library of what’s real. You couldn’t imagine it if it weren’t real somewhere, sometime.” This moment of crisis presents radical possibilities for change, and it is absolutely imperative that we make the most radical demands that we can. Rise-Up visions of the world we deserve — a world of alt-capitalist feminist economies, food solidarity, environmental protections, and humanities education for all. Poke at the holes in the current system, rip them wide, and fill them with new ideas. Be bold. Be unforgiving. Be ruthlessly imaginative.
One another (metaphorically of course)
One of Naomi Klein's final comments of The Rising Majority's webinar was a reminder that "we’re all that we have." This is a call to action for us all! To Rise-Up the people, not the corporations; to defend life, not profit. Don't let go of each other in this moment of separation and isolation. Find solidarity. Pour love and strength into your relationships. Rise together.