I’ve been doing further reading on the kaupapa of some cultural worker activists from the northern hemisphere and been both startled, stimulated and grateful that the energy and analysis that arose in the 1990s and then had seemed to dissipate, even disappear, has returned – stronger and more coherent. It leaves me with a ‘I can die happy’ sort of feeling.
They are saying something like the following: We have to admit the crisis and realise that all the crises are connected. Rather than put our energy and tolerance of risk into surviving individually within a decaying capitalist system, let us put our energy into and take the risk of establishing relationships of solidarity.
And then a set of questions:
- Given unstable incomes, unstable housing and an unknown future how do we organise within this set of completely unstable conditions?
- Can we organise without money, space, stability and experts?
- Do we trust ourselves?
- Can we disentangle our nervous systems from the habits of capitalism?
- Have we the courage to be disobedient in terms of energy and time?
- Can we look at wishes not problems?
- Can we understand that reciprocity is complex and that post capitalist reciprocation looks different? (By this they mean that relationships of gift and reception, work and payment are not simply binary.)
- Can we understand that difference and change are our greatest powers?
- Let us understand that what we are doing and making is done and made by workers, for the community.
- Whatever we do has to be such that it cannot be colonised by google, has to outlast capitalism and doesn’t replace the government’s work.
- Radical change is no longer about a singular confrontation or revolution, but rather a complex integration of multiple responses operating in a precarious manner – indigenous, gender, worker, hunter and gatherer, sexual orientation, national, ability, age, environmental, with often the conflict being between this diversity and the imposers of regularity.
One of the activists, Cassie Thornton, who describes herself as a feminist economist artist, has modelled a system of care, based on what she saw happening in Greece during the austerity crisis. She calls it the hologram (giving a picture of a three dimensional person). The person who is the hologram gathers three people who interview the hologram – one focusing on physical health, one on psychological health, the third on social and relationship health. They meet perhaps once a season or if there is a big decision to be made. It becomes a system of caring outside the mainstream. And then each of those listeners become a hologram, getting three people to form the triangle. And then those people meet etc. A network of different relationships spreads, like a virus. In this way, new systems of relationships could be built up, subverting capitalist relations.
Thornton is also active in a Canadian organisation called RiVAL (Reimagining Value Action Lab), which operates ‘at the intersections between art, research and social activism.’ The organisation mounts projects around three themes: Post extractive futures which requires an expanded imagination of ‘the economy’; Decolonising the settler imagination through establishing new communities of risk and relation and storytelling solidarity; and Investigating what comes after revenge politics (falling out of love with authoritarian institutions, transcending capitalist neurohacking(facebook etc) to establish a new radical humanism. The hallmarks of a project they would support is that it is about collaboration and relationship, has a radical imagination, is challenging conventions and power, and is in dialogue with struggles for social justice.
Another woman, Sibylle Peters of Fundus Theatre in Hamburg does this amazing theatre work with children based on the children’s wishes. If they want to be astronauts they build a spaceship, but then the sense of flying through space? – lie on your back and stare at the sky and imagine. You want to be rich? – start a children’s bank. Projects also involved finding the spirits within a school and inventing rituals to relate to them. You want to destroy something? Work out what and why and go and do it. Amazingly enough, schools (from low decile areas) go along with it. Once again art is used as a means of research.
There are other groups in the states and obviously a network which is building. I’ve started circulating people here. The question remains, Is this just arty-farty ideas? Well, at the moment, the shuttle co-op we’re running is proving popular as an income earner for locals who are under-employed and in some cases unwilling to go back to 12 hour shifts and 60 hour weeks. Put simply, they want a life. I have a feeling this is more generally the case, and the choice: over employed and stressed out. or under-employed, broke and stressed out. I begin to see the possibility of a ‘virus’ of co-ops solving this, meeting the outlined ideology. The one thing stopping it is access to capital. How do we organise without money?
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