Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Survive, and Sacrifice

What has stood out most to me in the past few months, is the level of mental and emotional space my workplace experiences take up. Apart from physically altering my life -- the machinification of my body, the degrading of activities that should express love and care into senseless, objectifying, rushed, numbed acts, what is also tormenting for me, is how even after I clock out, my bosses faces dont disappear from my mind, our interactions replay, the emotions I feel swell up, and anger disgust fear layer up over each other.

At my best, I channel these emotions into organizing -- both in my mind and in conversation -- to speak not of the emotions as they are static feelings sitting, dull, boring, tiring -- but rather dynamic feelings that can move us and push us along, toward another place; emotions that can be transformed and not be tired refrains. I have raved and gushed about this many times before on this blog, of my love for my coworkers, and the cooperation, solidarity that we experience together everyday, and how I never felt in such a deep way that someone's got my back. These forms of solidarity contrast deeply with the negative emotions of anger and fear and stabilize a vision, for the direction our organizing needs to be headed: where these socialist expressions can be normalized, accountable and generalized. This outburst of creativity, affirming of our loving capacities, of envisioning how struggle can transform us into people who bring joy, not pain to each other and others around us -- this is living. this is loving living.

At my worst, I realize that this churning and rechurning of hate, anger, frustration at my workplace -- and add to the debates within Congress, police brutality, queer violence, the wars, etc -- means that everyday I only survive, not live, that I am functioning in reaction against the determinancy of the worst aspects of my material reality. Not dreaming, not organizing toward something fresh, beautiful, not loving...

And this is how my bosses hope to do, to wear and tear me down. Their daily repressions are aimed at exactly that: MAKING MY LIFE MISERABLE. That seems more satisfactory than immediate firing -- it assures that everyone on the job becomes demoralized and questioning of our resistance.

Capitalism, Patriarchy, Racism wants us to merely survive. They dont want us to live.

And ironically, we use our life capacities and time to engage in activities that make sure we only survive, not live. And these institutions make sure too that the rest of our free waking life is also channeled toward survival.

And then we internalize everything. The pain, stress, anger we feel from work, lacking a channel for transformation into new things, then settle to become a part of us.

There is so much history in this. There is so much history to how our emotions, as women of color, has been internalized, like a bucket that needs to be dumped out but yet we are forced to swallow its discontents, swallowing till we have a belly full of life and its discharges, which then become a part of us. Then they tell us we are angry, resentful and aggressive.

Some of my coworkers go through this back and forth where on the job, we share moments and enthusiasm to fight to preserve the solidarity we practice, yet when they go home, check the bills, see the kids, they do a "reality check" and come back saying we can't afford to do it. The job is more important.

Suck it up.
Bear with it.
Swallow life's pain, life's debris



I hate this word. I want to tear it apart.
Separate the fibers that form the tenacity of this term, especially for women.

Our daily survival, is already a daily sacrifice of our lives.


  1. hey comrade,
    I really like this post. I feel like there's not enough good analysis written on the emotional life of hte workplace, or maybe I should say, on how it feels to work for a living, including off the clock, and what that does to us.

    Your point about surviving vs living reminded me of this old quote I read when I was raelly into the Situationists once - "survival means suicide on the installment plan."

    I hope you have a restorative holiday!

    take care,

  2. Hi

    This post resonated with me a lot. As I have gotten older I have seen how having a job becomes more important. More and more I am grateful just to have a paycheck at the end of the week and struggle to swallow all the crap that works shoves my way. I come home saying, I have to do this to have a paycheck. I have to the bills. I cannot bail. And before I bail on this job, I have to line up something else. Life becomes a rat race just to put food on the plate. All the creative, happy moments become devoured by just struggling to put something down on the dinner table.

    I have been a part of the precarious working class all my life. Jumping from factory work, to disher, to pizza delivery were not a problem in terms of putting food on the plate. It helped living in Detroit where rent was 180/ month. It was much easier when I was younger. Did not worry about my health and at times did not have a partner to worry about. But now, as I get older those things matter. Now as I get older, different things matter in the mix as well...

    But it is soo true about the saying, "garbage in, garbage out." Work can really fuck you up and shape your personality in a messed up way. Where you hate yourself, take out your anger at work on others... fundamentally ruining your life. I can see more clearly why people escape into building their families so militantly. It is a place that is supposed to be fundamentally different from work. The same problem applies to any project which can become escapist. The reality is nothing can escape the degradation of capitalism and the workplace relationships.

    I have so much respect for the generation of revolutionaries who worked on the job and organized there. There are limitations to it, but it is not easy. At the same time the working class has so much power at the point of production, reproduction, and circulation. I miss these working class warriors/ revolutionaries with all my soul. I feel so adrift without them, knowing that capitalism has destroyed many of them, raped them, demoralized them, broken them, beaten them... the few that are left... I admire and only wonder how they did it. In that sense revolutionary sacrifice is something I uphold against the demands for sacrifice from the capitalists. Damn their calls for sacrifice! The working class will only make sacrifices for its own liberation and other oppressed layers and nothing else! These thoughts keep me moving, keep me fighting, keep me a revolutionary...

    keep writing...
    in struggle

  3. Yeah, I love this post!! Especially this line:


    I hate this word. I want to tear it apart.
    Separate the fibers that form the tenacity of this term, especially for women."

    I agree with Nate that not enough has been written about the emotional aspects of being a worker. These kinds of experiences you are going through are not validated enough, even on the Left, as part of a dignified struggle. Just like we embrace the insights of Assatta and Frantz Fanon when it comes to Black liberation, just as we see their emotional struggles against white supremacy as part of the revolution, just as we see their specific experiences as expressions of universal humanity, so too do we need to see pieces like this, and other experiences workers express, as part of the struggle. Not to get too philosophical about it, but it's part of being true to a new subjectivity, a new way of thinking and feeling about the world, that can generate new struggle. If not then as workers we just end up judging our emotions by capitalist standards, going home and doing that "reality check" and we tell ourselves to suck it up. This leads to almost warring personalities within us, between the invading socialist society at work and the bootstrap ethics that start to sink their teeth into our knotted shoulders on the bus ride home when we start to think that we may have to do this for the rest of our lives....

    with love,