What diagrams can reveal

As a software engineer I’ve used diagrams most of my life to help me understand the process I’m trying to create a computer program for. Those diagrams at times reveal an idea or relationship I hadn’t thought of.

As an example of how our experiences often coalesce, the first presentation I heard about Decolonization was given by my friend Trisha Cax-Sep-Gu-Wiga Etringer, as we sat around the fire one night during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March (September, 2018). Following is the first diagram I created (September, 2019) as I studied more about colonization,

I began to learn more about colonization from workshops and presentations regarding “toward right relationship with native peoples” when Paula Palmer came to the Midwest. https://friendspeaceteams.org/trr/ And learning from the website, Decolonizing Quakers. https://www.decolonizingquakers.org/

That diagram has gone through many revisions, this being one of the latest.

I’ve been learning so much lately about the concept of mutual aid, and have been blessed to join a working model as my friend Ronnie James taught me about Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA). As I continue to learn and write about mutual aid, I am able to speak from my own experiences.

It started as group of my friends working with the houseless camps some years back. It has now grown into a solid crew that runs a free food store started by the Black Panthers, still work with the camps, we organzied a bail fund that has gotten every protester out of jail the last few months, and we just started an eviction relief fund to try to get a head of the coming crisis, in cooperation with Des Moines BLM. We have raised $13,000 since wednesday and the application to apply for the grants goes live this week.

Ronnie James

I see mutual aid as an implementation of the concept of “Beloved community” which I’ve prayed about and studied for years. As Eva and I were waiting for Ronnie to arrive to open the church yesterday morning, I mentioned mutual aid as Beloved community, and it was obvious this wasn’t a new idea to her.

This is the current version of the diagram with Mutual Aid added.

Getting to the title of this post, what this diagram revealed to me is there is no path for white people to arrive at community and mutual aid except through the process of decolonization. It also shows what I already know, that capitalism is the root cause of so much injustice, including environmental chaos. Another key aspect of mutual aid is that it is an alternative to capitalism.

there is no path for white people to arrive at community and mutual aid except through the process of decolonization.

Jeff Kisling

Following is another example of experiences coalescing, informing each other. Back in my days in Indianapolis, circa 2015, when I spent time at the Kheprw Institute, we once had a discussion related to the work activist Grace Lee Boggs, author of The Next American Revolution. Her work in Detroit, and how she expresses it below, is mutual aid.

The next American Revolution, at this stage in our history, is not principally about jobs or health insurance or making it possible for more people to realize the American Dream of upward mobility. It is about acknowledging that we Americans have enjoyed middle-class comforts at the expense of other peoples all over the world. It is about living the kind of lives that will not only slow down global warming but also end the galloping inequality both inside this country and between the Global North and the Global South. It is about creating a new American Dream whose goal is a higher Humanity instead of the higher standard of living dependent on Empire. It is about practicing a new, more active, global, and participatory concept of citizenship. It is about becoming the change we wish to see in the world.

The courage, commitment, and strategies required for this kind of revolution are very different from those required to storm the Winter Palace or the White House. Instead of viewing the U.S. people as masses to be mobilized in increasingly aggressive struggles for higher wages, better jobs, or guaranteed health care, we must have the courage to challenge ourselves to engage in activities that build a new and better world by improving the physical, psychological, political, and spiritual health of ourselves, our families, our communities, our cities, our world, and our planet.

Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution

Randomly passing an accomplice on the street and throwing up a fist at each other as we go our separate ways to destroy all that is rotten in this world will never fail to give me extra energy and a single tear of gratitude for what this city is creating.

Ronnie James

Around the globe, people are faced with a spiraling succession of crises, from the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change-induced fires, floods, and storms to the ongoing horrors of mass incarceration, racist policing, brutal immigration enforcement, endemic gender violence, and severe wealth inequality. As governments fail to respond to—or actively engineer—each crisis, ordinary people are finding bold and innovative ways to share resources and support the vulnerable.

Mutual aid is the radical act of caring for each other while working to change the world. Survival work, when done alongside social movement demands for transformative change, is called mutual aid.

Dean Spade, Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) 

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