Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Capitalism Destroys Us, Movements Heal Us"

"The body had to die,
 so labor power could live"
Silvia Federici 
Caliban and the Witch (141)

I am strongly influenced by Silvia Federici's "Caliban and the Witch." I read that book alongside Maryse Conde's "I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem." Conde's book is also really amazing, and Federici's historical and theoretical ideas give another layer of meaning to the depth that is already there. I hope to do a more detailed write up of these books sometime down the road.

In the meantime, I want to share a talk that Federici recently gave in Philadelphia, entitled, "Capitalism Destroys Us, Movements Heal Us." The organizer has kindly uploaded the audio recording. Check it out. It's super helpful. I especially like the distinction between "sacrifice" and "suffering." The Buddhist instincts in me really like her acknowledgement and acceptance of aspects of life as suffering.

It's making me think alot about the importance of organization in helping maintain sustainable political lives. The 10% we can offer to political work while also studying, working, caring for family, self care, is small when it is alone. In fact, it becomes a small droplet that gets lost in the midst of a gazillion other things. But when many people pool their 10%, 5% - s together, then our joint (small) forces become bigger and more meaningful political activities.

I have been to meetings where people spend the only 2 hours of the week they have to spare, nearly dozing off because the work is not engaging or meaningful. Being present at a political meeting does not mean we are growing and engaging meaningfully. We need to have organizations that channel the only 2 hours of spare time someone can offer, into meaningful, inspiring, challenging work that helps us grow. For that, we need structure and political content.

We need to build that! Or we won't win against the capitalist scum bags that overwhelm us! We need to build that, so we dont burn out! Also so we won't conflate all forms of "sustainability" with self care that takes us AWAY from political work.  I believe it is possible to be sustainable and be engaged politically. I also do think there is need to take time away sometimes, but that cannot be the only way we conceptualize sustainability.

1 comment:

  1. This is a comment by Sycorax from
    Thanks for the engagement, and I dig how revolution is the ultimate direction and form of self care!!!

    Here goes:

    I love that talk also! I love Federici. She has a ton of amazing insight because she has so thoroughly synthesized marxist analysis with feminism.

    I think a lot about sustainability too and whether it is possible to do self care, and work, and do political work also. It feels really hard most of the time to try to balance these things. Most people go extreme when they become activists and then burn out and many drop out of activity. People who don't either get a more sustainable practice or have spurts of activity. I think two things in relation to this question-- can we do self care while also political work?

    - the first is that i think that coming up with a way of organizing that is sustainable is a more practical long term way of looking at our roles as revolutionaries. it also requires a lot less polemicizing and focusing on differences between political people-- if the struggle is long you have time for people to grow and don't necessarily have to force change but can see the process of learning from each other as a process of co-evolution. We learn from one another as people coming from different parts of the division of labor, and through the process of forming relationships and influencing one another we grow and heal. That is my ideal scenario.

    - Second, i think that because capitalist work schedules are so intense, most people are exhausted and tired and don't have much money to do shit other than work and whatever form of stress release (most of the time partying, drinking, smoking, etc.) Self-care needs time, and most people do not have much time or money. So i think that we as revolutionaries have to move more and more towards models that look a lot like lifestyle anarchism--but which integrate those ways of living with serious organizing. What would happen if working class folks of color were able to pool resources and re-create the large communal families that most of the world uses as a way of coping with very low wages. Nuclear families and privatization in the U.S. makes sure every individual and family is struggling isolated and weak. If we start developing and prioritizing living together, sharing expenses, collective gardening, support groups, etc. Live closer to one another, etc. We have more of the time, money, energy resource to devote to organizing, and we are happier because we are less alone and less depressed (as we all tend to get when we are isolated).

    Just my thoughts :) Important convo to have.

    Oh and then this -- i do think that theres an aspect to healing and self care that cannot be accomplished within this system. As krishnamurti once said-- to be well adjusted to a sick society is no measure of health. We need revolution ultimately! That's the ultimate self care :)