Starting in 2019/2020 and now continuing into the summer of 2021, global civil society is witnessing the biggest neoliberal disaster capitalist shock yet: COVID-19. Millions of people have been and continue to be killed by this unprecedented disaster. Like most catastrophes, those historically oppressed and least responsible for this pandemic are nevertheless those most impacted. The death toll is comparable in magnitude of lives lost to another World War.
Every age has it’s kairos, those moments of possibility where the fate of humanity and all life on the planet hangs on the smallest of threads. What we choose to do or not do in these moments of twilight has the greatest of consequences. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos was/is chronological or sequential time, while kairos signifies a moment of truth – the time for action – pregnant time. Similarly, crisis, in its etymology, is a turning point, a moment where there are multiple paths in front of us, and we must make choices on which path to walk. The Zapatistas, likewise, taught us about the crack in the wall:
“Most of the time the wall is a big marquee where “P-R-O-G-R-E-S-S” repeats over and over. But the Zapatista knows it’s a lie, that the wall was not always there. They know how it was erected, what its function is. They know its deception. And they also know how to destroy it.
They are not fazed by the wall’s supposed omnipotence and eternity. They know that both are false. But right now, the important thing is the crack, that it not close, that it expand.”
Breakdown, personal and collective, can lead to breakthrough. Hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and pandemics cause untold suffering, devastation, and loss because of social and ecological conditions and our untenable relationships with other people and with the natural world. These extreme events unmask the disasters of social and economic inequality that existed previously.
We on Turtle Island, the so-called “United States,” look back to our history with blindness. We have eyes but we don’t see; ears, but we don’t hear. We travel the world telling every Nation that they are committing human rights violations and should be more like “American Democracy” the “Ruler of the Free World” and “World’s Only Superpower.” Here in the so-called “United States,” we tell ourselves if we were in Nazi Germany, we would have done something different. This blindness is beyond heart-breaking and soul-crushing. It denies the indisputable truth that the Nazi holocaust was modeled off of the theft, rape, pillage, genocide, and enslavement of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and Human Trafficked Africans brought to so-called America and forced into slavery.
It is no coincidence that the storms tearing holes into this country follow the same path as the bodies thrown overboard for white-supremacy’s blood sacrifice to its God of Money. Bodies of Ashanti, Ibo, and Yoruba have become the ocean, America. Wherever we stand on Turtle Island, there are bodies of the worst genocide and ecocide in Earth’s history buried beneath us. This holocaust isn’t just history, isn’t just something from our past. It continues into the present. In the so-called “United States,” many people have eyes to see Nazi Germany’s forced relocation, imprisonment, internment, forced enslavement, ghettoization, ethnic cleansing and wholesale extermination campaign of people they considered “other” based on race, religion, disability, and other differences. Nazi Germany called that campaign “National Socialism” and the “Final Solution”. It is one of the most evil stains in the history of the human race. In so-called America, most people do not have the eyes to see the forced relocation, imprisonment, internment, forced enslavement, ghettoization, ethnic cleansing and wholesale extermination campaign of people the colonial state and its allies consider “other” based on race, religion, ability, and other differences, despite the fact that this is ongoing. The branding and names for these genocidal projects are different. Terms are used such as “Manifest Destiny,” “Free Market.” “Development/Gentrification,” or even “Communism” or “Democracy”.
Nazis called their infrastructure to imprison and exterminate their “enemies of the state”:
“Concentration Camps”. In the so-called “United States”, those in power now call these institutions: “Correctional Facilities,” “Detention Centers,” “Mental Health Hospitals,” “Ghettos,” and “Reservations”.
This is Orwellian Double-Speak. We are unlearning that prison-speak. The genocide of Black, Brown, Indigenous, White, Poor, Urban, Rural, People experiencing a disability, People experiencing homelessness, People experiencing altered states of consciousness, People who experience being poisoned by opiates, alcohol, or other drugs, our Elders, Children, Animal Relatives, the Earth Herself, everybody considered an “other” or a “disposable” “object” to be “dominated” or “possessed” are considered enemies of the state.
So too are all who side against that domination and oppression and stand with the poor and oppressed in the pursuit of justice and the better world we know is possible. This spirit of disease and pathology that is nearly all pervasive in the so-called “United States” (and much of the rest of the world) takes many forms. At its root is one’s belief in their superiority, another’s inferiority, and thereby their right to dominate. We have seen this manifest across all axes of oppression. When this spiritual, relational pandemic is recognized, when one looks at their reflection in the mirror, or in the water, and sees what humanity has become and what has been allowed to be done in our name, passivity is no longer an option. Taking action for love, for hope, for climate justice, for freedom for all, to protect the water and future generations, to defend the sacred – all life – is not a luxury, it is how we heal ourselves and survive.
COVID-19 is a drastic escalation of this genocide on Indigenous Nations, Black, Poor, and “others” across the world. Over 600,000 deaths have already occurred in the “United States” due to COVID-19. Over four million people have been killed worldwide, and the death toll is still rising.
At the same time, fascists have stepped up their terrorist attacks and, among other atrocities, have driven their vehicles purposefully into gatherings of Indigenous People, Movement for Black Lives demonstrators, and others gathering to protect the Earth, the Water, and its People. Many of us carry deep wounds and trauma from witnessing these and other senseless acts of settler-colonial, white-supremacist terrorism. Rarely has there been any accountability for the perpetrators. And some states have even passed statewide ordinances to sanction and try to make legal these horrific terrorist acts of vehicular homicide.
Heather Heyer, Summer Taylor, Robert Forbes, Deonia Marie, Andrew Joseph III. And more broadly: Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Karen Smith, Syd Eastman, Meg Perry. We hold the memory of and carry on the names of so many we’ve lost along the way, and they remain present in us and our struggle.
The Indian Wars and Slave Revolts on Turtle Island never ended. Just as in the centuries before, settler-colonial subjects are pushed to the margins, or confined to meaningless work in state or nonprofit bureaucracies or body and soul crushing amazon warehouses, or picking cotton, tomatoes, or tobacco and, in some cases, experiencing outright modern-day slavery as vulnerable sweatshop workers, migrant farmworkers, and prisoners confined by night and forced to work for little to no pay during the day. Indigenous Women are “disappeared” and murdered. Indigenous Children have been stolen and murdered in colonial schools. Now is the time to renounce our ill-begotten inheritance on stolen land and join as accomplices in defense of the sacred.
Again, the Zapatistas teach us an invaluable lesson: that we are in the midst of the Fourth World War. After the Cold War, neoliberal capitalism and neoliberal colonialism turned its sights on humanity and has been attempting to complete its project of domination.
But everywhere there is resistance. We are all on sacred ground. Every sacred site is a battleground of the heart and spirit. Mountains, rivers, parks, streets, places of worship, people’s homes, pipeline encampments, even within ourselves; these are all battlegrounds.
This shaking off of the bonds of oppression includes people of all genders, sexualities, nationalities, abilities, and ages. Participants are of every color of the rainbow, and span different geographies and political chasms.
Mutual aid is a guidepost. Helping us along the path to a return to our humanity. It’s about saving ourselves, not the oppressed “other”. We have some humanity that can be re-awoken.
Mutual aid and collective care is an antidote to the mental poison and prison of alienation, isolation, the loss of authentic social relationships, the poison of the land, sea, and sky, and the ecological and relational homelessness that surrounds us. It is a key that opens the locked door.
Community mobilizations for mutual aid and solidarity have formed and grown in as many spaces as the new coronavirus has spread.
From continent to continent, people have innovated and navigated through information suppression, governmental inadequacy and unpreparedness, an attempted entrenchment of global authoritarianism, as well as supply shortages in panic-economies while the stock market crashed.
Prisoners were forced to work for little to no pay to make masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies. At the same time, prisons, jails, meat-packing plants, detention centers, and juvenile detention facilities were incubators of disease and widespread medical abandonment, causing untold numbers of people experiencing modern day slavery to lose their lives.
Many in positions of power have been consistently doing the work of delegitimizing their own positions due to the state and capital’s inept and tepid response to the coronavirus crisis. The political and cultural sphere’s diseases of xenophobia, racism, and ableism among other manifestations of domination have been exposed. Inclusionary public health information, gradually proliferating online and through working in community with each other has been an antidote and critical to our community safety and public health. So too, have the relationships that bind us to one another.
The state and the market downplayed the crisis and ignored the needs of the people. In response, growing from deep roots, there emerged a beautiful outpouring and blossoming of community rooted mutual aid to deliver supplies to immunocompromised persons, accompaniment of elders and other people who felt unsafe due to the rise of hate crimes, street level organizing in neighborhoods across the globe providing medical support, the construction of handwashing stations, the sharing of food and water with neighbors, and resisting sweeps of people experiencing homelessness. People engaged in mutual aid gathered resources and vetted the copious levels of incoming data from day to day to help support the health of communities as we faced the new and strange ways that a global disaster could stunt the system, cause catastrophe, and leave impacted communities to fend for ourselves and each other. But, as they say in Boriken, “Solo el pueblo, salva al pueblo”. “Only the people save the people”.
Mutual aid networks formed and grew to keep us as safe and cared for, as possible, in what truly are perilous times. The words of Audre Lorde echo in us, “We were never meant to survive.” When bosses (or poverty) forced us to come into work sick or risk our lives and those of our family, this paid labor felt more like indentured servitude. It highlighted the necessity for a fundamental transformation of our economic and political systems. And the vaccine apartheid, whereby the rich and powerful had access to the life-saving vaccines and people residing in the global south were denied access, laid bare the genocidal contradictions of global politics.
Radical solidarity in every corner of the world continues a compassionate and informed COVID-19 response to build access, resources, and power for all people in all places. The people of the world are crying out from the deepest places within them for no “return to normal”. We want to return home. To where the heart is. To where we are in right relationship with each other, ourselves, the Earth, and all beings.
Neoliberal Capitalism, Settler-Colonialism, and the State have been and continue to be threatening life as we know it. We are at a crossroads: one way is annihilation, the other is liberation. Malik Rahim, the elder Black Panther who introduced many of us in Mutual Aid Disaster Relief to this type of organizing, always told us that our generation would be known either as the greatest generation that saved life as we know it, or the most cursed generation that squandered life on this planet as we know it. Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it, but those who create the future are the ones who can see it. A “free market” where nothing is free is Orwellian Double-Speak. The real free market we want to live in involves sharing goods, services, power, everything, freely and with no restrictions, completely outside of the oppressive confines of Money and Power. The poet Andrea Gibson, said, “We will learn how much we have, when we learn to give that shit away.”
Audacity is our capacity. We move at the speed of trust and at the speed of dreams. Moving at the speed of trust reminds us to invest in each other, to be mindful, and take the time to develop the bonds that are stronger than any disaster the powerful thrust upon us. Keep etched deep into your memory those who are there with you in the mystical moments bridging dawns, when you become aware of a sense of possibility and sacredness.
Finding each other is a revolutionary act, and it is the basis from which all other revolutionary acts flow organically. At the same time, we dream. Once we begin to escape the colonial prison of our minds, and remember to imagine freely, dream big, and put our head, heart, hands and feet to work in service of those dreams and imaginings, they grow exponentially. Everything begins as an idea, just a little idea. And through the speed of dreams, through a form of magic if you will, empires fall, slavery is abolished and movements take form and flight. The biggest threat to Power isn’t us seizing power through violence or some other means. The real threat to Power is us breaking their monopoly on creating – breaking their monopoly on bending reality to will.
One of our secret missions has always been to dispel the illusion of powerlessness people feel. To give people glimpses that Power is fragile. Give people experiences of altering reality. To show people the only thing that keeps those in power in that position is the illusion of our powerlessness. The State is a theatre-state, full of pomp and circumstance, signifying nothing. Once we, the people, understand this arrangement, we can make the choice to join in an exodus from Empire. Across all calendars and geographies, there have been courageous people who have resisted Money and Power. There have also been countless examples of people who even when already under the spell of Money and Power, awoke, turned away from the forces of domination and oppression, in favor of community, justice, and caring for one another and sought a new horizon, the better world we all know is possible.
Is it difficult to go from complete darkness, to blinding light? Yes, of course. Will we stumble as we gain our footing? Certainly. But we carry with us the understanding that many before us have been through similar transformations and rebirths.
The future, from here, is unwritten. We invite you to write it with us.
All power to the people.
All power to the imagination.
Everything for everybody, nothing for ourselves.