Thursday, September 6, 2012

when hell's near

A lot of the collective organizing I find myself engaged in is that which some dismiss as "identity politics," but which I really believe is a politic of survival - the necessary agitation needed to disrupt a system which both historically and currently restricts access to resources to certain people based on race/gender/class/sexual orientation/ability.

When the sheer fact of your existence in the world means that you are subject to potential violence, when you are not safe walking down the street because your body scares people who have more power than you do, when you are cut off from the resources you need to support yourself and/or your family, you do what you can to get by. You hustle, you organize, you use what voice you have to advocate for yourself.

I agitate for my own survival, of course, and for/with others facing the same challenges I do - but I'm also not that far down the chain of power, personally, and so I believe that supporting others who are further down the chain from me in their quests for their own survival is critical. That can manifest in many ways, the most common being sharing resources (financial, informational) on a micro-level and using what platforms I have to boost others' voices, ideas, and organizations.

It should not ever mean busting into discussions that don't directly involve me, insisting that I know better than someone else what they need in order to survive, thinking any of this makes me a better person than others, talking over others, insisting I deserve praise for my Good Deeds, ignoring preexisting community networks in favor of my splashy new organization, hogging the spotlight, making a career out of my participation in an oppressive system and criticism thereof (when perfectly good and voluminous criticism already exists from those who are oppressed by that system). It should not ever mean becoming so enveloped in my movement that I defend the ways in which it's flawed and shout down legitimate criticism.

It involves a lot of listening and a lot of reading. A lot of thought. A lot of meaningful personal relationships. It is not easy or simple and it can't particularly be packaged neatly or sold because it's so practical and conditional.

This is a politic of personal survival as well as collective survival. This is the only thing that matters to me: that we still live in a massively fucked and weighted world that favors those who already have the resources and who are given the benefit of the doubt and are treated with full humanity, who live in this world with less fear of personal harm every day than others, and continues to shaft those who don't.

One more thing: should you dismiss rhetoric (as we are in hyperelectoral mode as a country in the US right now), it matters. It matters because rhetoric is used to enact and justify policy, and policy has real life effects.

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