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.