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Mutual Aid

Started by droqen, August 05, 2022, 03:02:28 PM

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Regarding Dean Spade's
"Mutual Aid"

I'm like five pages in and I can already tell what a wild ride this is going to be. Great reading alongside The Dispossessed.


Quote from: p7Mutual aid is collective coordination to meet each other's needs, usually from an awareness that the systems we have in place are not going to meet them. Those systems, in fact, have often created the crisis, or are making things worse.

I need some specific examples of what systems created crises and I'm about to get them, but not to my satisfaction.

Quote[..]setting up a ride-sharing system during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, putting drinking water in the desert for migrants crossing the border, training each other in emergency medicine because ambulance response time in poor neighbourhoods is too slow,

These examples back up my suspicions, or I could say my biases, that so many of the problems are not systems which "created the crisis, or are making things worse", but which are solving a problem in an incomplete and unjust way. That is, the bus -- a transit system created to help people get around -- is being boycotted, so the people boycotting the transit system need a way to get around. The system of ambulances is insufficient for poor neighbourhoods, but the ambulances do exist. The systems are doing what they were designed to do, but not well enough, so through mutual aid people can find better solutions for their local communities and for people they care about.

Quote from: p7,p8There is nothing new about mutual aid--people have worked together to survive for all of human history. But capitalism and colonialism created structures that have disrupted how people have historically connected with each other and shared everything they needed to survive.

I've had a problem with this centrally anti-capitalist viewpoint for quite some time now and I've heard it from many mouths; capitalism feels to me like a symptom of something deeper, not the enemy itself. But aside from laying the blame at the feet of a specific sort of human system, which I suppose arose to deal with some larger unidentifiable beast that would eventually be attended to in some other likely equally harmful way, I am here for the topic of discussion.


Right now, I should record that my thinking is along these lines: the systems which Spade claims mutual aid combats, the systems which create the need for mutual aid began, themselves, as mutual aid of a sort: social systems get put into place to meet people's needs, from an awareness that existing systems are not meeting them and are not going to meet them. But to place the blame for these problems on those faulty systems is folly. The problems arise from our basic existence, from humanity, from the consequence of chaos, from our need to do better. Every system is flawed, and mutual aid's only advantage is that it exists at a small scale.

Nothing scales up without failing, and nothing huge fails without someone supposing that it is fundamentally flawed and that their small solution is better because it succeeds at a scale many magnitudes smaller.

The question I have is can we avoid ever scaling up? Will this be addressed?

Anyway, time to read.


Quote from: p13Under capitalism, social problems resulting from exploitation and the maldistribution of resources are understood as individual moral failings, not systemic problems.

What does "under capitalism" mean? Capitalism exists, yet... People undertake projects of mutual aid. Individuals are capable of perceiving social problems. Why do these things not fall "under capitalism"?


Quote from: p12-15Solidarity

I love the way solidarity is described - but as it goes further I realize where it has failed me, or where I have failed it.

Quote from: p15Solidarity and an ever-expanding commitment to justice emerge from contact with the complex realities of injustice. This is exactly how movements are built, as people become connected to each other and as one urgent issue unspools into a broader vision of social transformation.

I've experienced this unspooling and it's terrifying and uncomfortable. I don't think that I ever want to face the entirety of 'the complex realities of injustice' because there is no end. Social transformation will always lead to new injustices. I suppose that as a person I don't get significant satisfaction out of seeing justice done. It's not something I can put energy into sustainably. I'm not passionate enough about it.


Frustrated. I love the do-ocratic energy that suffuses mutual aid. 'If you discover that people need something, help them with it.' But I'm not a fan of the wrapper in which it comes: 'We are only doing this because the systems are bad.' No! No!!! To me that suggests the underlying ideal is to use mutual aid to arrive at a new state of complacency.

Why do I feel this way? Am I wrong to feel this way?

Quote from: p8In this context of social isolation and forced dependency on hostile systems, mutual aid--where we choose to help each other out, share things, and put time and resources into caring for the most vulnerable--is a radical act.

I'm pissed off that it has to be "radical." I can't put my finger on it. Someone tell me what I'm doing wrong.


Quote from: p16Mutual aid is inherently antiauthoritarian, demonstrating how we can do things together in ways we were told not to imagine, and that we can organize human activity without coercion.

Quote from: droqen on July 27, 2022, 04:41:30 PM
Quote from: p76, The Dispossessed"But we haven't been sure whether or not you came with the approval of--" [Oiie] hesitated.

Shevek grinned. "Of my government?"

"We know that nominally there's no government on Anarres. However, obviously there's administration. And we gather the group that sent you, your Syndicate, is a kind of faction; perhaps a revolutionary faction."

"Everybody on Anarres is a revolutionary, Oiie. . . . The network of administration [does] not govern persons; they administer production. They have no authority either to support me or to prevent me. [..] Most people on Anarres don't want to learn about Urras. They fear it and want nothing to do with the propertarians. [..] I came to begin to change that."

"Entirely on your own initiative," said Oiie.

"It is the only initiative I acknowledge," Shevek said, smiling, in dead earnest.

In dead earnest: People can just do things. Does it really have to be antiauthoritarian to say "Just do things that you want to see done"?

Quote from: droqen on August 04, 2022, 09:10:40 AM
Quote from: p128, The DispossessedTo his surprise a good many students came to him to complain. They wanted him to set the problems, to ask the right questions; they did not want to think about questions, but to write down the answers they had learned. And some of them objected strongly to his giving everyone the same mark. [..] If no competitive distinction were to be made, one might as well do nothing.

"Well, of course," Shevek said, troubled. "If you do not want to do the work, you should not do it."

Are so many people really so stripped of their basic desire to do things for their own sake? I am as troubled by Shevek is here, that it seems Mutual Aid must be framed as an anti- something, must be given a name, to seem worth doing.


Quote from: p18MADR asserts that "saving lives, homes, and communities in the event and aftermath of a disaster may require taking bold action without waiting for permission from authorities. [..]"

Quote from: p18-19Mutual aid projects [..] developed to support people living through the crises caused by poverty, racism, criminalization, gender violence, and other "ordinary" conditions[..]

What constitutes a disaster, for me especially? I don't know how to draw that line, myself... What would I do for what I believe in? What do I believe in? See 'unspooling' above. Is everything a disaster? Is nothing? Am I a cold and uncaring being because I'd rather care about nothing than everything? I have no particular passion here, no focus. It seems unjust and basically impossible to focus on any particular injustice.


Last messagethought reminds me of Everything Everywhere All At Once


Quote from: p19[The devastating 2018 California fires] were caused by Pacific Gas and Electric Company's mismanagement, and then [..] California's government immediately offered the company a bailout, meanwhile failing to support people displaced by the disaster.

Big yikes. Why do things like this happen?


Quote from: p19[Naomi Klein] argues that in energy, as in other areas of survival, we should be working toward locally controlled, participatory, transparent structures to replace our crumbling and harmful infrastructure.

Quote from: WikipediaA participatory organization is an organization which is built based on public participation rather than their contract obligations.

I don't quite follow, but sure. But the question still stands -- why do things like this happen? how do we get from where we are now to "getting rid of the undemocratic infrastructure of our lives"? Individuals need to get interested in mutual aid. participate in mutual aid.

Is there a way to take the infrastructure we have now and make it porous to participation? Open to gradual transformation?


Quote from: p20For social movements working to imagine and build [..] sustainable, regenerative ways of living, mutual aid offers a way forward.


Quote from: p21mutual aid is not charity.

I've skimmed this chapter. I don't want to know in greater detail about this thing that mutual aid isn't, because I (personally) already understand that it isn't it.


Quote from: p31

We Get More When
We Demand More

Solid title.


Quote from: 40How do we imagine "scaling up" mutual aid to a point where everyone has what they need, and gets to meaningfully co-govern and co-steward the structures and conditions of their lives?

Hell yeah, this is the question I want answered!