We stand with struggles of oppressed peoples around the globe! Black Lives Matter!
To write or talk about this historical moment is to hold a lot of things together at once. There is a constant overarch- ing fear, a fear that is collective and something we, people living today, have not experienced at this level of collectivity. And, while yes, we are all in the same terrible storm that is Covid-19, we are not all in the same boat. Structural inequality shows itself in crisis and disaster, and this one is revealing all the ugliness and systemic oppressions and inequalities most of our societies were built upon, and that privilege the very few, and try and pit the rest of us against one another.
How, then, do we function with this different individual fear and danger, and collective overarching danger? In many parts of the world we are told to fear one another, that some anonymous person is going to take our food, toilet paper or bleach. And in many cases people who could did big grocery shops, took home months’ supplies of toilet paper. Why is that? Is it that we are only out for ourselves, hoarding toilet paper? Or, could it be that our fear is that the institutions of power in our societies are such that we do not believe they will take care of us – not even at the basest level – of bathroom hygiene.
There is something deep here connected to what is the real truth about who we really are, not what we are told about ourselves. Yes, we are afraid. Yes, we feel pain and vulnerability, and what we do with that, again and again, throughout history and now more than ever, is to reach out to one another and find ways to care for each other. We feel all of these things, and it is an and. We do not need to either fear or help, be vulnerable or open, protective or protecting, we can and are doing all of these things, and that is what makes this moment both horrific and trans- formative in a deeply hopeful way.
This book is a collection of narratives from around the world, based on interviews that took place in April of 2020. Together they give a glimpse of who we really are – the open, vulnerable, caring, brave, dedicated, compassionate and socially responsible people we are – acting with and through our collective fear. This book shines a light on aspects of our better selves, not to romanticize us, to ground us in the very real, day-to-day, ways people survive, have survived, and will continue to survive, if we listen and follow our own collective paths.
THE BOOK BECOMING
The process of this book becoming is prefigurative in many ways, as are the experiences within the chapters. Prefigurative in that it models the relationships we desire in our very acts and relationships. It began with a conversation, and then another, and another, and these expanded globally, got recorded, transcribed, translated, and within two months from inception, on Mother’s Day, we collectively birthed this book. Birthing is an appropriate word here as we are mostly women, some of us already mothers.
There is a lot of privilege tied into this process, including those of us who had that bit of extra time to work on it, something many if not most people do not have – and here I am talking about clock time, as well as emotional time. The sort of privilege that allows time out to inter- view people, transcribe and translate those interviews, and then painfully edit the total to 3,400 words, all within a month or two, is huge. Regions of the world with intense and ongoing histories of colonialism and inequality, such as Africa, Central America and northern South America, made it harder for participants to collaborate. I want to recognize those people who wanted to participate and then, due to the violence of capitalism and the pandemic, were unable.
BORDERS AND VIOLENCE
We had a number of conversations about borders and countries, and the violence implicit in both. Had there been more time we might have organized the book thematically, to include the many areas interviewees covered, such as: prisoners’ self-activity and solidarity; food production and distribution; disability self-organization and solidarity; art, music and poetry; public displays of care; mask and protection making; healthcare and self-organized health; First Nations and Indigenous organizing; education, students and teachers; pet care and animals. However, we decided that it was best to get the book in people’s hands as quickly as possible, so it is organized by artificial separations, made by the dominant countries of the time for reasons of power. None of us are comfortable with this. To that end, we decided to decenter the dominating countries and, thus, Europe and North America are close to the end. Turtle Island is the landmass we have been told is North America, and that regional chapter explains the reasons, through interviews with First Nation communities and networks.
I don’t know if it was the stories that we were facilitating, the crisis opening our hearts to more compassion, our urgent desire for a new world, that we are mostly women or/and some combination of all of these, but the result has been the most beautiful and supportive collaboration I could have imagined. Nancy wrote at one point that this project was like a life vest, and many echoed the sentiment. People volunteered to read and edit one another’s chapters, countless conversations took place outside of our weekly face-to-face (computer mitigated) discussions, with those with more experience conducting interviews guiding those who had not. Writing sessions happened via computer in vastly different time zones, chapters were co-authored by people who had never collaborated and, in one case, who never had met. And the result is friend- ships, deep care and support, and a powerful collection of stories of solidarity and mutual aid. In two months, from beginning to end, the project was completed. This includes people working in their second and third languages.
Authorship is complicated, and often not honest in that it never fully acknowledges all the people behind a given thought, process or theory. This book is no different. As our group quickly became a collective, in many more ways than expressed above, it became clear that the book itself is a collective project. ...
THE OUTWARD SPIRAL
The stories in this collection, in different ways, manifest the sort of society we could have and, in fact, already have. Our invitation with these pages is for you, our dear readers, to garner some inspiration together with concrete ideas for how to engage and expand the project that exists. This pandemic is creating small and large fissures, what we do with these openings is up to us. The new world is already being created, it is up to us to expand this creation, continuing to spiral outwards until ... and then more.