Saturday, 26 October 2013


home is a fruit fly fortress, a slow-cooker cave
we want wild and slow, unplugged connections
there is broth boiling, there are herbs drying
aroma seeps into my dreams

we operate on warmth, avoid burn-out
following our hearts as they lead us homeward, always homeward
homebody hearts and defiant souls ask
Are the streets the only places for struggle?

there is a yearning for more
collectivity, interconnection
in the comfort of our fortress we are safe

where is the in between? where care and combat come together?
i dream of warmth from the ashes of this city
and home cooked meals to share

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Fermenting Revolution, Culturing Care

A lot of response to my last piece touched on the idea of "self-care."
It would seem that this is what I was writing about, or at least what ended up being read. I am disappointed by this, not because I disdain all elements of self-care culture/rhetoric or because I don't factor that into my life, but because the fact that self-care ended up being the topic of what I wrote tells me a lot about why, though I am feeling much better, I'm still feeling hints of depression in odd moments. It is the reason why "My life is meaningful because..." isn't enough to keep me out of a funk.

Don't get me wrong, I respect people that practice (non-consumption based) self-care and I certainly practice it myself. I am not trying to write (yet another) critique of the concept. The reality is, however, that the revolutionary spirit that drives me is towards cultural shift, not private well-being. I want to blur these lines because for me to really be well, caring for others is integral. I cannot take care of myself alone, and without taking care of others (or a broader "community") my self-care goals are unattainable. While I recognize the importance of crediting myself for living the way that I do, it's just not radical if it is individual. Yes, the personal is political, and we should all strive to live our ideals in our personal lives, but if we aren't bringing our ideals into the public sphere, it's not revolutionary.
ALL THAT SAID, there are times and places for focusing inward! I have gotten to this place because I have needed it, my personal life has felt unstable enough that I must focus on righting it before I could look outward again.  There is no shame in this, and we must respect each others' choices and reasons for doing such.
For myself, though, I am tired of focusing only inward. I feel an urge and an impulse to live my ideals in another direction. I want to create care culture, not just self-care accepting culture. My utopia does not consist of a bunch of people cooking their meals, meditating, reading, writing, or making sauerkraut- alone.

When I wrote about how our focus on "action" can be really dismissive of those who do not "act," I suppose I was looking primarily at action that builds a culture of resistance. I am so happy that there are tons of people building this culture! I am equally excited about action towards solidarity culture (maybe this is a vague umbrella), and a culture of consent (for me, this action usually looks like setting good boundaries in all areas of life and handling the discomfort created). What I think is missing in focus, is culture of care. Maybe it's there to some extent, and we don't talk about it. Maybe we don't talk about it because patriarchy teaches us it's not worth noting. Maybe we don't talk about it because we've all been trained that (once we are adults) it is the role of a) ourselves, b) institutions/profesionals, and c) our monogamous partners to care for us. All of us who are involved in radical cultural struggle are doing it because we "care" at an emotional or intellectual level (hopefully both), but not all of us consider the direct and social labour of caring.

So I am looking for feedback, for what people think creating a culture of care (outside of self-care or even 1 to 1 relationship care) would take. What kinds of public "action" demonstrates radical generousity, mutual aid, and caring culture?

For now, I am fermenting.

Here's my recipe for self-fermentation:

Step 1: Harvest
As soon as a vegetable is separated from it's roots, certain organisms (heterofermentative bacteria!) begin to flourish. To take advantage of this, I must accept I am no longer rooted. I do not have what I once did, I am not connected in the ways I used to be. My identity must shift from plant to food. It's hard to accept that I am no longer what I once was, that what built me (in this case, as an anarchist) is no longer in my life. What I have depended on to feel useful, what others still point to when they say "you do lots of rad stuff," I no longer do. This is okay. Let the next phase begin.

Step 2: Chop
Need I say more?

Step 3: Salt and massage
This part still stings. I think it's where I'm at right now. Salting and massaging chopped cabbage breaks down the cell walls, lets the moisture out. I am raw, vulnerable, aware that my state is shifting but it's hard to know what into. It's a scary place to be, one that works best if not rushed, and pretty uncomfortable.

Step 4: Submerge (heterofermentation begins)
This part stinks. Literally. Heterofermentative bacteria produce carbon dioxide, acetic acid, lactic acid and more, and smells like rot. It's bubbly, it's messy. It serves to create the environment (acidic) for homofermentative lactic acid bacteria, which is what creates the desired result. So it's a messy phase, and a necessary one. It produces many products, one of which turns out to be particularly useful.

Step 5: Lacto-fermentation
The fizzing dies down some, the colour brightens, and what seemed like rot has turned into something super tasty and nutritious. What started as one thing has become another, related thing. A new version of oneself. Through fermentation, a sustainable (preserved), thriving (with bacteria) and extra healthy (vitamin B!) being has been created. The process hurt, but it was worth it.

Step 6: Eat me
I'm better than raw cabbage.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Work and Value. Y'know, the little things.

I've been looking for work for about 2 months, and have become increasingly discouraged. What's been hard to explain though, to myself as well as those around me, is that the primary problem is not a lack of jobs. Granted, I haven't been offered much and the jobs I have found have had so few hours (or such insulting wage) that they don't solve the paying rent problem (the constant problem!), but still, it's something else that is even more discouraging.
I am seeking community, communality, collectivity, and mutual aid. I am seeking these in a job because I am not experiencing them in my life. Until last winter, I had always experienced these things to some degree, but when some shit fell apart, and spaces where I thought I'd find those things proved to be less thriving than I'd hoped, I was left with a distinct lack of belonging. For someone whose anarchistic values are founded on ideals of collectivity and who has been privileged enough to always have it, this is a pretty awful position to find myself in.

Yesterday my mother asked me what job I would have in my dream world, realism aside. Well, first we had to amend the obvious problem with that question which is that in my ideal world jobs wouldn't exist. Work*, of course, would.
So what kind of work would I be doing? I'd be doing the work of every day life. I would be looking after people, cooking food for myself and hopefully many others, as well as contributing to the rest of the things that make things go. Not go towards progress, or capital, just go, to the next minute and the next.
I sobbed as I pictured my ideal world but spoke quite simple words. When I've told people what I would be doing without capitalism, often the response is "Well great, those are employable things!"
And I shut down, because we obviously aren't understanding each other.
Why was I crying when I told my mom about my dream life? Because all I am trying for right now is a toxic mimic of that dream. I will go to school so that I can get better jobs taking care of children. My work and my home will still be separate things, I will remain an isolated individual struggling to get by in a system I can't stand.
Though it is capitalism that is suffocating me, I feel drowned in my own ideals. The more idealistic I am, the harder it is to live with the world as it is.

I have always been someone who has a hard time getting over things if I don't feel like I have changed the situation. When the situation is the world as we know it, things start looking mighty dire.

*I make a distinction between jobs and work. While I know many anarchists deplore the idea of work altogether, with the idea that the stuff of life outside of capitalism shouldn't be associated with the words we use now for job-work, for ease I prefer to simply think of work as getting things done, which can be a super positive thing to go along with play, love, etc if we take capitalism out of the equation.


It's been about two weeks since I wrote the above, and things have changed a little.

1. Through choices, support (professional and personal), and a whole lot of effort put in to functioning/coping, I have gotten out of the pit of depression, for now.
2. I decided to go to school as soon as possible in order to get better* work sooner than later.
3. I found pretty decent temporary work until school starts. In fact, it's pretty ideal as far as jobs go.

*What is good work??
The more I think, talk, read and cry about it, the more I am finding hope or at least solace in the idea that work (job-work) is meaningless (and that this is okay).
My priorities for jobs are currently as follows:
-Do work that doesn't make me miserable
-Make enough money to feel comfortable and safe, and save a little so I can stop working sometimes or eventually
-Get paid enough that I don't feel terribly resentful (see first point) and undervalued, and so that I can work very little to earn the money I need to get by

That last point has been difficult to come to, as my anti-capitalist ideals make wanting a higher wage feel really weird. The reality is, though, that we live in a capitalist society. Job-work is inherently within this framework, and we are not doing ourselves or our fellow workers any favours by accepting unfair pay. Obviously, the whole system is unfair, but allowing our employers to profit off of our labour without struggling together for our share of it just fuckin' sucks. Many people work for exceedingly low wages and in awful conditions, and I am privileged to be choosy about making more than minimum wage, but this doesn't make me a capitalist. Like I said, it helps no one (except the capitalists) to accept unfair wages. If our culture equates money with value, then our labour and time is being undervalued when we are paid poorly. In the realm of work, we have to see value like this or get exploited.

Outside of work, however, we get to decide what creates value. What makes my life valuable is not my job, or even what I do (in so much as what is typically considered action is limited to a patriarchal and dis/ableist idea of such). I don't think it's my place to say what makes life, objectively, valuable. Make your own meaning! To get out of my own aforementioned pit, though, I'm deeply considering the meaning that I make.

My life is meaningful because I share laughter, food, space and time with people. My life has value because I am learning, and because I share what I have learned.  Every time I ask for help, I am doing something radical. I open space for others to be equally vulnerable, and we create the much sought after mutual-aid by just extending generousity. When I am honest and imperfect, I am being generous. When I set boundaries, I am doing radical action. Living my queer fucking life, dancing, creating home, and loving my mom a whole fuck of a lot are all actions in defiance of dominant culture. Every step I take towards solidarity, away from the isolation that capitalism imposes on us, is radical.

I found that, in my depression (and this is a pattern), I become very stubbornly defiant against politics of love, happiness, or hope. These are all things I believe in, but so often, as radicals, we are told by more dominant left-wingers (and just about everyone) to look on the bright side, that love will heal all, blah blah blah and it's really fucking dismissive and often bullshit. This outlook is used to silence dissent, further silence oppressed folks, and shut down any ideas that involve destroying what destroys us. In the face of this, I tend to swing to the extreme which similarly lacks complexity. Fuck you, the world is getting worse a lot faster than it's getting better, and it's hopeful fuckers like you who are ruining everything.
And so I convince myself that if I have hope, if I look for silver linings, or if I believe that joy and love can heal and even destroy what destroys me, I am on the side of the enemy who seeks to sustain the current systems by silencing unrest. No, no, no.

Neither of these positions reflect the complexity of the world, the complexity with which I believe we MUST perceive the world if we have any fucking chance at changing things for the better.

So I'm going to go to work cooking for people and supporting families. I'm going to acknowledge the privilege of making more than minimum wage, and know that if within my work life my value is made up by how much money I make then yes, I am still being undervalued. I'm going to go to fucking school so I can get higher paid work, work which might bring me some joy and that I don't think will make me miserable, or at least not very. And I'm going to keep resisting the idea that meaningful work is the fucking be all end all. No! The work I hope to have after school isn't going to make my life meaningful, just like the work I haven't had the last few months hasn't made my existence meaningless. I'm going to keep fighting patriarchal notions of what valuable participation in resistance communities looks like, and I'm going to keep participating in the ways that bring me joy and that don't feel like work. I don't want to work for a non-profit making bullshit wages, work my life away, and feel fucking righteous about it. I don't want to do work that hurts my body or soul if I can avoid it, and it wouldn't make me more radical to do so in order to not exercise my privileges. When people ask me what I do I'm going to keep telling them what I really do ("well, today I cooked all the meals I ate, tomorrow I am going to go to work, and right now I'm reading a really good book") and exploring the discomfort this brings out in myself as well as the asker. I'm going to work on deconstructing the identity I've created which says I'm valuable because of the groups I'm part of, the activist work I do, or my work and how it's like, somehow better than service work (which I was doing not so long ago) and somehow better than high-wage career work like "ooh aren't I radical for refusing to be valued in capitalist terms?"

And I'm going to keep hurting from the blows that capitalism throws my way on a daily basis. I'm going to keep trying really hard to ask for help when I need it. I'm going to see beauty and ugliness in the same gaze, and keep fighting (which usually looks like making lunch).