The audacity to believe

The election results aren’t final, yet, but things are looking much better for the current president than I expected. I could wait for the final tabulation, but am being led to begin the search for what the president’s re-election might mean. I’m shocked at the possibility of another four years of this administration.

It is not a partisan statement to say this administration has completely failed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, over 230,000 people have died from the virus. To this day, the administration has no plan for response to the pandemic, other than hope a vaccine will be available soon. After months of tireless work, healthcare workers are exhausted. Some have died, many have tested positive. There is no quick fix to generate more doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. Especially those trained to work in intensive care units. Hospital capacities have been reached, and makeshift hospitals are being built. Infections and deaths will only continue to grow. Increasing numbers of people who are infected will accelerate the rate of the spread of the disease.

Of course, millions of people have suffered for centuries under leaders who didn’t care about them. In conditions where they struggle to meet basic needs, and often aren’t even able to do that.

For years I’ve been writing about capitalism as the root cause of so much suffering. And how increasing environmental chaos will destroy the capitalist system and the political system built on it. Just these past several days we are breaking high temperature records in Iowa. Rather than seeing the danger, people act like it is a good thing to have milder temperatures.

The contemporary political moment is defined by emergency. Acute crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change– induced fires, floods, and storms, as well as the ongoing crises of racist criminalization, brutal immigration enforcement, endemic gender violence, and severe wealth inequality, threaten the survival of people around the globe. Government policies actively produce and exacerbate the harm, inadequately respond to crises, and ensure that certain populations bear the brunt of pollution, poverty, disease, and violence. In the face of this, more and more ordinary people are feeling called to respond in their communities, creating bold and innovative ways to share resources and support vulnerable neighbors. This survival work, when done in conjunction with social movements demanding transformative change, is called mutual aid.

Disasters are pivotal times in the competition between political programs, moments when much can be lost or won. Winning the world we want is far from guaranteed. Our opponents, those who currently control the most of the land, work, food, housing, transportation, weapons, water, energy, and media, are feverishly working to maintain the status quo of maldistribution and targeted violence, and worsen it to increase profits and power for themselves. Our capacity to win is possible to the extent that we can collectively realize what they do not control— us— and collectively disobey and disrupt their systems, retaking control of our ways of sustaining life. If we want as many people as possible to survive, and to win in the short and long term, we have to use moments of disaster to help and mobilize people. Mutual aid is the way to do that. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mutual aid groups have proliferated and more people are learning how to organize mutual aid than have in decades. This is a big chance for us to make a lot of change.

We need mutual aid groups and networks capable of bringing millions of new people into work that deepens their understanding of the root causes of the crises and inequalities they are fired up about and that builds their capacity for bold collective action. We need groups and networks that do not disappear after the peak of the crisis, but instead become part of an ongoing, sustained mobilization with the capacity to support people and keep building pressure for bigger wins.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 364-367). Verso

.I look at this past year with a sense of wonder. I am so grateful for the kindness and patience of new friends who are teaching me about mutual aid. I’ve been learning how we can feed our neighbors and ourselves, for example, with Des Moines Mutual Aid’s Free Food Store. I’ve been writing a lot about Mutual Aid recently.

I chose the title, “the audacity to believe”, not because I believe the Democrats will win the presidency. Rather, I have the audacity to believe our expanding Mutual Aid networks will allow us to help each other with food, shelter, education, dignity, equality and freedom.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.

I still believe that we shall overcome.

Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (10 Dec, 1964)
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