Black Men Are Only Good When We Are Exceptional…Or Dead.

Black Women's Silence Has Never Gotten Us Free, Love.

 

All of this talk about Jay-Z has, not surprisingly, made me feel some kind of way.

I remember getting a call from my friend a few months ago, a Black woman, who lived in the New York at the time. She had been on my mind because she is a fountain of joy overflowing with the strength of truth telling. I wanted to talk to her because someone I cared about had just been sexually assaulted and I needed help processing it. I needed help figuring out how to be supportive.  Before I got a chance to talk with her about my friend, she told me about getting sexually harassed on the subway and she wanted to talk it through with me.

I listened to her story and tried, as best as I could, to be supportive of her. Eventually, she got to the point that all the Black women in my life get to in stories like this. The point where they say “but I just didn’t want to say anything because I feel like Black men are already so attacked right now, you know?” I had heard it before. It was the same reason that the person close to me did not want to report what had happened to her.

I was immediately filled with rage.

The rage of my friends being unsafe. The rage at understanding that these assaults are not isolated incidents. The rage at the reminder that they had just killed Philando Castile and it was not safe to be a Black man in America. But mostly the rage that my persecution was used to silence my sister. Rage that Black men could simultaneously be so monstrous that we need to put down for caring a pen and so fragile that talking about street harassment would tear us asunder. Rage that rage was the only feeling I knew how to feel.

I told my friend the only thing I could: “Black women’s silence has never gotten us free, love.”

To which she replied “But we keep trying it, don’t we.”

We do.

 

“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” –Zora Neale Hurston

 

Black men have survived the middle passage, slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow and lynching. How have we gotten to the point where we think Black men can’t survive the truth? Black people need Black women to break their silence.

Patriarchy, like all forms of oppression, breeds in isolation. Black people cannot get free if 51% of our people are in chains of a Black man’s making. AND, at the same time, I can’t shake the weight of the reality that Black men are only good when we are exceptional…or dead. And let’s be honest, usually only when we are dead.

I wonder sometimes. Did anyone ever call Mike Brown a good kid to his face, when he was still alive for it to matter? Did we tell Eric Garner he was a good father for doing whatever he could to bring home some change before his daughter told us to organize? Did people tell Trayvon that he had a bright future before a white man robbed him of it? I doubt it happened very often.

Black men are mostly talked about when we ain’t shit, absent or dead. Oh, there’s Idris’s too fine ass or Jessie Williams before he started dating white women… but they are exceptional. We only talk about them in contrast to other men, especially other Black men. The serial rapist Bill Cosby had more Black people capping for his lying ass than any Black man I know personally…because he was exceptional. He used to be exceptionally respectable and now we know he’s exceptionally fucked up.

Again, Black women hold me down. They always have and history has shown that they probably always will. In private, Black men support me while holding me accountable. Yet for the most part, besides my chosen and blood sisters, even the Black women who support me, praise me for being exceptional. I’ve done “the work.” I read bell hooks. I support the women in life in visible ways. I have mastered performative solidarity. I’ve learned how to be what my friend once called “a safe nigga.”

It’s rare that I am told that I’m still worthy of being loved when I’ve fucked up, especially from other men. It’s rare that people remind me, when I come home tired and angry from walking through a white world, that I’m still worthy of being loved. Like my uncle used to say, ain’t no body going to thank you for paying the bills on time, but they sure do holla when it gets shut off.

There is some sad truth to the old Chris Rock joke that niggas always want credit for some shit we supposed to do. Imma be honest. I really need that shit. Part of my on-going journey in overcoming patriarchy is to be in touch with my pain and be real about my needs. I know I am responsible for meeting 80% of my needs myself but that other 20% can be so crucial. I need, and I think Black men as a whole need, some public validation that even when we are alive and unexceptional, we are worthy of love. We need it from Black women and Black GNC folk but mostly, I think we need it from each other.

I think honestly I’d settle for the recognition that these social expectations are literally killing me. Paying the bills on time is a struggle when the bills are more than you make every month.

Sometimes I wish people recognized that the way I used my overdraft protection and post-dated checks like credit is Black boy alchemy. Me and my brothers are stretching a week’s pay to a month’s electricity like an old testament prophet.  I wish people realized that my ability to remind my sisters that they are beautiful despite what society tells them is the art of Black male healing that my grandfather taught me.

I wish that I had been taught that my desire to push people further, to realize their full potential, could be sacred masculinity; that I didn’t have to tear folks down to build them up. I wish we talked more about Black men who didn’t need to drag Black women over the coals in order to heal and get their shit together. I wish we could have a holiday to thank all the Black men whose aggressive posturing towards white people on street corners is the only reason I can afford to live in my neighborhood.

Sometimes I’ve wished that there were more writers like Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. I wish there were more writers who could express their love for me. I wish I could tell all the little Black boys jumping rope and being carefree that they are the real MVP. I wish I was better at telling my own father that I love him. I wish everyone knew him like I did.  I wish I could explain that I forgive him for being so tired every day when he came home…cause the bills were always paid on time. I wish we knew how to do that while recognizing that my mother paid more bills that he did.

I wish there was way to be real about the fact that my mother learned how to carry all that weight and still smile and play puppet games and that the difference in their capacity for affection is real and fucked up and still doesn’t detract from the fact that my dad loved me and showed it. He showed me he loved me in the only way he knew how, until he learned to show it better, to say it better, to apologize for not showing it in healthy ways and do better to love by building us up without tearing us down. I wish we knew how to praise him for learning how to love without losing sight of the system that never taught him.

I believe, and will always believe, that Black women need to speak their truth and their pain. The truth of all those 0-4:33 women show us how much work we have to do. It forces us to be better. But I need our politics to tell the whole story: that we are still good while we are trying to get to better.

I need a politics that acknowledges the Black men who stay, who hold families and communities down. I need a politics that acknowledges the Black men who show up and quietly do the work. I need a politics that can praise Black male charisma as divine and beautiful and necessary even as it challenges its centrality. I need a politics that can hold the reality of rape culture in one hand and the capacity for Black men to address harm without causing more harm in the other. I need a politics that can hold the capacity for violence in Black patriarchy and the reality of Black male growth.

I need a politics that can hold all of me and love me even, maybe especially, when I’m not exceptional.

I need a politics that can love me before I’m dead.

The Rise of the Party for Revolution and Evolution [U.S Social Transformation in the Post War Period]

*this is the third piece of speculation political fiction in a series written with just a hint of satire in the form of a Wikipedia article form the future. You can see the first piece here. The second piece is here. The purpose is imagine what all this craziness from the White House might be building to while envisioning how peace might come out of chaos and tragedy. We should not take Trump’s idiocy or bluster lightly. When the autocrat says he is coming for you believe him! I believe we can prevent violence in the long run if we build for transformation and autonomy now*

 

Overview:

 

The Party for Revolution and Evolution [PRE] is a political party and revolutionary group founded in 2021 in Detroit during WW3. It was founded during a joint effort between the Grace Lee Boggs society, an underground political group prominent in Detroit during the Enlightened Retreat, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement to take over Detroit’s political establishment. The party rose to prominence by taking the best practices for mass mobilization from several preceding social movements and political campaigns including Occupy, Bernie Sanders failed nomination run and the M4BL and mixing it with a revolutionary analysis of autonomy and transformation. The party was also protected and supported by its clandestine arm, the Maroon Society.

In just four years, the PRE went from an unknown speakeasy in Detroit to a major political party in America. Though the folk narrative focuses on organizers and political agents who have become legend and of the rise of the Maroon Society, most historian agree that the party was an idea whose time had come. Decades of ineffective government culminating in the Bush/Obama cultural war era created mass disillusionment with government that had two sides: apathy and anger. Bernie Sanders had used one in his failed bid to use win the Democratic Party nomination before the enlightened retreat while Donald Trump had used both against each other to get elected.

Beneath this national narrative there was a lot of work being done in smaller local third parties across the country during this time. As the enlightened retreat slowly developed spiritually grounded networks of engaged people at a time when most ideologies from socialism to liberalism were at best not clearly understood or at worst becoming irrelevant, the PRE was able to assemble many long simmering organizing campaigns together with progressive and radical organizations into a political powerhouse based on few revolutionary principles:

  1. Addressing harm without causing more harm
  2. Moving beyond non-violence
    1. Moving away from debates on violence vs. non-violence and towards seeing peace and self-determination as means not just ends
  3. Centering autonomy as interdependence
    1. organizing where you are at, with your people, for your own needs while supporting your neighbors
  4. Centering consent as radical co-creation
    1. Valuing the co-creation of political, economic, social, spiritual and sexual experiences with an eye towards addressing differences in power, resources, desire and ability so that everyone is fully powerful
  5. Repairing harm
    1. Embracing multi-lateral reparations in a diversity of forms for the history of slavery, genocide, mass patriarchal violence, forced migration and accumulation by dispossession
  6. Differential Political Movement
    1. Using the strategies of previous social movements as tactics to build accountable-power-with
    2. Embracing tradition while leaving what no longer serves us behind
  7. Being Holistic
    1. Addressing all issues holistically by simultaneous examining the intrapersonal, interpersonal, communal and structural aspects of a situation
  8. Emergent Strategy of Being
    1. Moving from a problem solving/deficient centered strategy to an emergent strategy based on embodying values and moving towards what we actually want
  9. Moving from a place of love
    1. Being gentle with ourselves so that we can be constructive with others
    2. Focusing on the power of love to remind us of our positive vision of the love, support and joy we want, not merely the hurt we want avenged
  10. Diversity of Strategies
    1. There is no one correct path to liberation. We seek to strengthen every front against oppression not to merely hold a party line. It’s more effective to coordinate everyone contributing the way they know how towards a common goal than to try and convince everyone that you have the one right path.

 

 

The key to these principles were that they were few, straight forward and fractal. It meant that they guided the interactions between individuals as much as they would the U.S government’s relationship to the rest of the world under the nearly 30 year democratic majority rule of the PRE. The principles, along with their strategy of connecting the mutual aid networks that were emerging into regional assemblies quickly made them a powerful alternative political force.

Their non-sectarianism that focused on embodying social/ethical/political values and shared visions for another possible world rather debating over how society is structured allowed for them to encapsulate many divergent political tendencies across the left-center spectrum while constructively engaging moderates on the right. It was also a key to their counter-organizing strategy to out organize far-right elements in the South and West.

Many scholars believe that the true fuel for the rise of the PRE wasn’t even political in the traditional sense. The vast majority of U.S residents cared little for political theory and much more about the food, housing, medical and worker cooperatives that the PRE stitched together. The PRE’s focus on hyper-local community-controlled direct service was its real strength.

Rather than build local mutual aid networks from scratch, PRE organizers applied the self-governing skills they had developed in their speakeasies to help facilitate meetings and complex democratic decision making processes for local groups. They were more conveners, networkers and facilitators than traditional revolutionaries. They linked the small, nearly illegible acts of everyday resistance and mutual aid that communities were already doing on their own into something more intentional on a large scale. Most importantly, they rarely focused on confronting the state they usually just out competed it for legitimacy by better meeting the needs of local people.

 

Political and Economic Context for the Rise of the PRE

For the spiritual and cultural context see the enlightened retreat

The U.S duopoly of Republicans and Democrats were so locked in a pitched battle of name-calling and responsibility shrugging that they neither party had been able to legislate a complete agenda for decades. The only faction that was consistently able to put forward its agenda were the corporate neo-liberals whose desire to deregulate, liberalize and privatize was accepted by both parties in various forms.  Even Presidents Trump bombastic rhetoric against renegotiating the “bad deals” of NAFTA and TPP didn’t lead to any substantial changes to those agreements. In fact, his Infrastructure bill was nearly entirely written for and by neo-liberal billionaires and their supporters.

However, the ongoing competition between individuals of the billionaire class and the political oligarchy of America’s ruling families meant that while they universally recognized the crisis of both capitalism and liberal democracy they had vastly different ideas of how to deal with either. This lack of class unity meant that they were slow to curtail the rise of cooperative economies and mutual aid groups nationally.

Corporations saw the threat to their bottom line but were unwilling to allow any regulatory body authority over business, even if it disproportionately affected their competitors. Attempts by organizations such as ALEC to bring about consensus on how to combat cooperatives was thwarted by the campaigns of corporate sabotage by the Maroon Society and eco-direct action groups like Gaia’s Progeny.

Movement scholar Jasmine Nwampa posited that “corporations were also unprepared for the dramatic shift to organizing at the point of consumption instead of production. Many capitalist saw the crisis of capital coming and assumed that either social democracy or some form of semi-privatized commons would have to be instituted to save industrial capitalist society. They did not expect people to merely take over and transform the market in the way that they did. By the time the writing was on the wall, they busy putting out literal fires up and down their supply chain.”

Most corporations were moving towards flexibility and sense and response supply chains that we able to respond to the market changes in record time. Amazon is a great example of this trend and its ultimate weakness. Amazon sought to use advances in internet usage, cloud storing, off shoring, automation and the gig economy to get cheaply made products, delivered equally cheaply by contractors within hours of being ordered.

They were largely successful in this effort. In addition, they were experts in trying to assess the consumer’s need in real-time and respond in addition to using big data to predict it. Their mass conglomerations of website, T.V stations and newspapers also gave them significant control creating new needs in consumerism while they forced their competitors to sell on their network.

Many contemporary scholars assumed that this model was the model of the future. Many leftist predicted an age of the super corporation that controlled the means of production and the market itself. However, few people foresaw the massive cultural shift away from consumerism that was precipitated by the enlightened retreat. While corporations like amazon were able to push forward the narrative of more and better, the cultural shift towards various self-reflection techniques made people want more autonomy and higher ethical standards in production.

It turns out that simple questions of Americans asking themselves where they hurt and what was causing it turned them away from seeing more consumption as the answer. Matched with corporate sabotage, boycotts and the rise of cooperatives even Amazon’s state of the ark monopoly collapsed into financial ruin.

While national right to work devastated labor unions, the movement for economic justice and self-determination emerged through consumer unions, cooperative associations,  CSA’s and the rise of increased worker-center and alt-labor organizing. Undeniably, the lack of powerful organized labor caused wages to drop severely and workplace accidents to increase just as fast. However, the resulting economic anxiety and anger was first expressed ass wildcat strikes and spontaneous boycotts that disrupted corporations enough to allow for the emergence of consumer unions and worker cooperatives.

Eventually consumer unions started boycotting companies with bad labor practices and launched buying campaigns for worker-owned cooperatives. Similarly, the rise of free-lancers guilds changed the face of the gig economy by widely boosting the desired prevailing wage and training workers on how and why to negotiate higher pay.

The rapidly increasing effects of climate change also devastated the political establishment and corporations. This time period in history saw an increase in massive natural disasters that devastated cities across the U.S. The Ryan Regime privatized FEMA in response to the abysmal job FEMA did during the Hurricane Jasmine humanitarian crisis of 2021. While ‘crisis capitalism’ saw an opportunity in climate change, they were out organized by far more effective mutual aid systems.

Meanwhile the rich paid millions of dollars for ex-special forces to extract them from climate change ‘red zones,’ the poor built environmental defense teams, survival camps and developed mesh networks that could be booted up in a crisis. Integration of the Rising Tide and Occupy Sandy networks with the PRE expanded these programs while building an effective alternative to both corporation and the state which in turned caused more people to turn to mutual aid.

Lastly, the PRE was also able to escape the brunt of political repression of the era due to federal government and corporative interest’s pre-occupation with combating the maroon society and by counter recruiting against fascist and white nationalist elements. The PRE’s greatest success was in creating the illusion that the PRE and the Maroon society were two separate and mutual antagonist organizations. However, it is now known that the Maroon Society was the clandestine arm of the PRE throughout most of its history. Not only were many Maroon Society members PRE members but the PRE funneled money to the Maroon Society and turned a blind eye when Maroons took refuge in their houses of hospitality.

Most historians agree that the Maroon Society created the political opportunities that the PRE took advantage of. The Maroon Societies devastating campaign of industrial sabotage, agit-prop campaigns, and prison/detention center breaks deeply unsettled the Ryan Regime and prevented them from ever consolidating power. The Maroon Societies “Rainbow Coalition” also counter recruited so effectively that White Supremacist organizations that were so powerful during the Unending March were marginal just six years later. For more on the Maroon Society visit “The Second American Revolution.”

 

 

General Strikes

 

The beginning of the end of the Enlightened Retreat was the general strike of the defense industry in 2021. Most scholars agree that the general strikes helped set the ground work for the PRE. The strike was organized by collaboration between the East Coast chapters of the Black Lives Matter [BLM] Network who partnered with International Workers of the World [IWW] across the country. While most historians agree that the general strike only effected a handful of factories and did not significantly threaten the war effort they also agree that it was a major symbolic victory.

It showed the maturation of the fight for racial justice with one the first major multi-racial attacks against racialized capitalism and imperialism. It also gave an example of effective organizing to all the networks of mutual aid that had been building over the last 3 years.

The subsequent trial of the BLM leaders was meant to instill fear in other dissidents. The leaders of the campaign were pulled from their houses at night and brutally detained. The police feared brutality against young white people would back fire against the state, especially considering that the IWW had their largest presence on elite college campuses that were doing Department of Defense research. Thus they rounded up the white IWW organizers gently and in secret. This tactic actually backfired as it showed blatant racism and racial disparities of policing as well as deep class differences.

Attorney General Rudolf [Ruddy] Giuliani charged the organizers with treason, a tactic that was meant to scare off further organizing but seemed more like government overreach as the penalty for treason was death. The trial was the most watched television event of the century and rather than discourage protests it inspired them across the country. The BLM leaders who were sentenced to life in prison all became leaders in the Maroon Society after their storied prison break in 2022.

As dead American men and women returned home from WW3, the organizing within the defense industry got more and more wide spread. After Teen Vogue released an exposé on the U.S government’s use of South African contract killers in the oil fields of Nigeria, public opinion turned against the war sharply. Despite the motion to bring back the draft failing in the house, the U.S saw anti-war protests that far outstripped the Vietnam era.

The speakeasies of the enlightened retreat planned strikes and rallies just as they had the rolling black outs. They sent messages through the farmer’s marches and during concerts. In later years, PRE workers organized churches to created packed lunch services for the workers on Easter Sunday and placed pamphlets that said “The lord commanded ‘thou shalt not kill’ don’t do the devils work for him. Strike for Peace and God on May 1st.”

Many PRE chapters sprung up in response to these mobilizations after the D.C PRE merged the analysis of the party with their own mass organizing trainings in 2023. The synergy of the PRE guiding principles with the DAT analysis that had gained popularity during the Enlightened Retreat allowed for thousands of activists to learn how to effectively organize and build political, economic and cultural power.

This allowed for distributed organizing on a massive scale as each city ran its own team of organizers coordinating thousands of volunteers also running their own campaigns. After three consecutive years of month long general strikes in the month of May, it was estimated that 35% of the industries workers took part and the United States signed the Beijing Accords ending WW3 in 2025.

 

Down But Not Out: Labor Unions and the PRE

For more on the Labor Movement in the 2020’s and 2030’s see the 21st Century Knights of Labor

 

Though devastated by National Right to work legislation, traditional labor unions played a significant role in the rise of the PRE. Most notably, the reconstructed Knights of Labor utilized solidarity unionism on an international level. Historian Stuart Le’Mark surmises their shift during the period thusly “previously ‘international unions’ weren’t actually that international at all. They usually meant the U.S and part of Canada. They were generally based on a model that could be summed at using the dues of 90% of the workers to focus on 10% of the workers; the 5% of that are active and the 5% that get in trouble. After national right to work, unions transitioned to a more worker center model of training working activists.

They disrupted production through direct action, mostly blockades on the entrances of workplaces and strategic slowdowns in which one or two key workers would stage a protest that prevented the other workers from working. Often they would do protests in stages, so that production would be disrupted for a whole day. Though much shorter than traditional strikes or slowdown’s, the shift to immediate delivery of products meant that companies could lose millions if products were delivered after their 3 hour guarantee.”

Additionally, groups like the Knights of Labor worked with organizations that managed to survive right to work like United Electricians and the Nurses Union to fund the organizing of workers further down the production line in countries that were termed “third world.” Unions were able to send money to worker centers and unions in other countries where a worker made several times less than a U.S worker and pay a whole factory to go on strike for a week.

Often times, these would be tied with boycott’s and slowdowns in the U.S. Eventually, the Knights of Labor would organize international strikes, factory blockades and work with free-lancer guilds to disrupt the gig economy that many companies relied on. These combined attacks were paired with combined demands that crossed sections of a company and locations across the world. Eventually, Knights of Labor and groups like Gaia’s Progeny would collaborate to make demands on entire industries.

All told, the smaller but still resurgent economic justice movement put capital on the defense for the first time in decades just as they seemed their most triumphant. Corporations were unable to rebound in time to stop the rise of the cooperative movement.

 

Accomplishments of the early PRE

 

By the formal end of the War in 2025, the PRE had 40 congressional seats, 6 senate seats, 10 mayoral positions, and the governorship in California. While it would not get a majority until 2030, its economic and cultural cooperatives fundamentally reshaped the country. The PRE had massive political power and used it to lobby governments at the local, state and federal level. Its deep cultural base and value of participatory democracy politicized its membership more effectively than any America political party since the communist party of the 30’s. Yet the real strength of the PRE was in the alternatives to the government it fostered.

PRE chapters run soup kitchens, childcare centers and crisis prevention teams across the country. Borrowing from the Catholic Worker Movement, chapters ran houses of hospitality that provided both affordable housing and refuge for immigrants on the Underground Railroad. The PRE’s great strength was working with ordinary Americans and taking the next step. They didn’t try to politicize people into their analysis, rather they went into communities, saw people helping each other out and asked if they could support them in any way. The mass radicalization happened mostly due to police repression. As grandmothers who opened up their homes to orphaned children were arrested, communities become more militant than any reading group or manifesto could have made them.

The PRE’s task was merely to build the infrastructure to support and develop people who were being radicalized and grow the techniques to coordinate all the projects they self-organized.  This was no small task. It was accomplished largely due to traveling facilitators and popular education teachers of the era. These trainers [often called griots in Black communities] went from city to city observing successful mutual aid programs, writing about them online and traveling to other cities to teach people how to do them. Cooperation Jackson and the British Columbia Cooperative Network played a leading role in creating best practices for cooperative development.

Due to the repression of the Ryan Regime and Proud Boy Brigades, these trainers were often travelling artists or Djays who used their art to cover the political nature of their work. Their teach-ins would often happen after the show. Some troupes like the Puppet Posse, incorporated their political education into the art itself. Despite these precautions, these traveling artist were the most often detained revolutionary actors of the period and would later become leaders of the prison riots of the 2030’s.

Most of the political accomplishments of the early PRE were at the local level. The massive increase in social engagement after the Enlightened Retreat kicked off a revolution in governance and civil society often called the “Civic Renaissance.” The PRE ended bans of rent control, instituted new local tax codes for consumer and worker cooperatives and abolished bail and ticketing as alternative sources of municipal income.

As a result, worker cooperatives went from barely statistically relevant in 2018 to nearly 20% of the economy in 2030 playing the same role in raising wages as unions formerly did. Many areas raised local corporate tax rates and, with the Financial Services Reform Act of 2026, established public banks and credit unions so that city budget would no longer be tied Wall Street’s whims. The PRE followed the blue-print in the Jackson Kush Plans and the Gar Alperovitz’s Pluralist Common Wealth for their local development schemes.

Many localities had radical experiments with different financial and political institutions. Seattle, D.C and Montgomery County all passed participatory budgeting of at least 15% of the budget in 2025. By 2035, 30 major American cities based similar initiatives. The entire states of Washington, California, New York and Connecticut developed land bonds that paid for public housing throughout the state. Oakland, CA, Jackson M.S and Washington D.C all passed Community Control Board for their police departments in 2027 and by 2035 this was a standard practice in most cities.

Healthcare saw one of the most complete overhauls under after the end of the Enlightened Retreat. The Nurses Union emerged as one of the strongest unions after national right to work legislation devastated the AFL-CIO. The nurses unions were pivotal parts of many of the community controlled direct service providers at the time and helped move America towards the Burtzorg model of homecare used in the Netherlands.

The National Patients Association was founded in 2027 as a federation of local patient care groups that forced major concessions from hospitals and insurances companies by launching a medical bill payment strike in 2028-2029. They forced hospitals and insurers to agree to medical patient’s bills of rights, which capped costs, made many services nearly free and forced insurance companies to pay for non-western medical treatments at the patients’ request.

Due to rise of Freedom Schools during the enlightened retreat and the abolition of the Department of Education under President Ryan, many localities passed voucher programs that allowed parents to choose which school to send their children and in many cases provided startup money for “small community schools” administered by local PTA’s.

When the Department of Education was re-established in 2032, 25% of children went to alternative schools of some form. Instead of returning to old system of public education, the PRE invested heavily in parent education and organizing and strengthened local parent associations and mandated parent centers at every school that received voucher money. With increased flexibility religious schools, free schools and ethno-centric educations became much more common to mixed results.

By 2040 however, there was revitalization of the American education system. With a decrease in consumerism, increase in the average wage and wide spread rent control parents had much more time to engage with their child’s education. With the mandated parent centers at each school, neighborhoods developed support systems to educate parents and support them in guiding their own children’s education.

This led to an informed community driven school model that changed from testing based, high pressure schooling to more project based learning that focused on nurturing whole children. The emphasis on math and science was replaced by an emphasis on emotional learning, appreciate inquiry and conflict resolution. As the technical aspect of educations was destressed, America saw arise in apprenticeship programs and comprehensive job training for college graduates.

In the 2020’s consumer organizing started to play a larger role in corporate regulation as organizations like Safe Food Network and Consumers Against Sweat Shops launched boycott and buy campaigns that created new markets for Fair Trade, Sustainable and High Wage industries throughout the United States. In the 2030’s, worker centers launched worker defense teams that fought for higher wages and better conditions on the shop floor. The consumer protection act of 2030 gave legal sanction and funding to these activities so worker centers, free-lancer guilds, and consumer unions replaced Worker Unions as the backbone of the economic justice movement. By 2040, the sustainable, fair trade goods produced with high labor standards had become the norm.

The progressive development of the United States was fairly uneven though much of this period and republican control areas in the American South and Midwest hampered much of the PRE’s work. However, with the election of 2030, the PRE took control of both houses of the federal government while the Democrats controlled the presidency until the election of Kelly Hadad in 2036.

With control of the House, the PRE immediately checked executive power by repealing the War Powers Act and Patriot Act in February of 2031. The PRE went on to slowly devolve much of their federal authority to states while increasing federal protections for marginalized people. Once in control of the U.S. government, the PRE would become well known and revered for its bottom up strategy to dealing with the catastrophic effects of climate change.

The PRE strategy of “empowering the people” revolutionized the role of the government in society as its general assemblies pushed for a constantly devolving of federal and eventually state authority to local mass assemblies. Often times the PRE politicians were at odds with the will of the people’s assemblies yet because the PA’s were the core of the party they won nearly every political disagreement.

 

The Enlightened Retreat: U.S Social Movements from 2018-2025

*this is the second piece of speculation political fiction written with just a hint of satire written in the form of a Wikipedia article form the future. You can see the first piece here. The purpose is imagine what all this craziness from the white house might be building to while envision how peace might come out of chaos and tragedy. We should not take Trump’s idiocy or bluster lightly. When the autocrat says he is coming for you believe him! I believe we can prevent violence in the long run if we build for transformation and autonomy now*

Overview:

 

The Enlightened Retreat, often called the DAT Revolution, is name of the powerful social movement that led to the fall of U.S Empire in the period of beginning with the Unending March and the end of WW3.  The great retreat was a direct result of the mass arrests and political show trials against socialist, communist, feminist, anti-racist and anti-imperialist organizers and artist during the Trump-Ryan political crisis of 2017-2021. Unlike the repression of the 1950’s which marginalized American communism by making it un-American, the brutality of the wave of repression in the pre-war years, combined with the deep community building in the U.S oppositional organizing lead to a mainstreaming of autonomous and transformative local organizing.

Due to fact that most political speech ended in jail time after the inauguration of President Paul Ryan following the impeachment of President Trump and resignation of Vice President Mike Pence and the economic down turn following the student loan and rental housing bubble bursting in 2018, most political dissidents went from protesting the government to building small communities of care and support. This often took the form of soup-co-ops, group housing and rapid response medical and mental health care. As housing insecurity due to loan repayments became wide spread, “take back the land” campaigns become more and more common in major Urban Areas as displaced people started squats in their own rental units.

The cultural practices of Block Parties and “Free Markets” where people shared food, music and unneeded clothes and supplies with their neighbors slowly became the mainstream as overt political speech was heavily monitored and the economic crises deepened. Eventually, larger scale cooperatives and community sourced agriculture networks started to develop as the gas shortages from the Qatar crisis lead to increased prices on food imports.

Political organizers started printing off political pamphlets and convincing CSA vendors and block party organizers to distribute them in the food and clothing giveaways at their events. As these critical connections developed, organizers would ask residents of a neighborhood to turn off their lights from 8:30-9:00pm, a tactic latter called “rolling Black outs.” The Black outs were massive acts of political disobedience that were low risks to residents but sent a clear message to government. Though they were tolerated by the local police who were still reeling from the massive Black Bloc demonstrations in Oakland, Detriot and Portland and the Afrikan blocs in Jackson, M.S and Washington D.C in 2019, it was widely believed that these small acts of wide spread solidarity, gave everyday residents the courage to take back the streets years later. Despite the increase in protests from preceding the Enlightened Retreat, the number of overt street protests went from nearly 4,000 in 2018 to 7 in 2021.

The rapid decline in street protests and the shift from digital communication to old fashion newspaper printing combined with the a disarray in the FBI and homeland security following the haphazard management by the Trump administration created the allusion of a U.S populace shocked into compliance. This allowed for a remarkable amount of cultural and spiritual organizing to happen without much confrontation by the state.

The first general strike of the defense industry in 2021, was organized by the D.C speakeasy through pamphlets at regional block parties distributed by traveling DJ’s and hip hop groups on tour. The speakeasies, or underground social clubs, where organizers meet in secret to plan campaigns and write their political pamphlets, often became the chapter hubs for the leadership of the Party of Revolution and Evolution that would grow to power after WW3.

 

The Call for Retreat

 

Most historians mark the start of the Great Retreat with the distribution of the anonymous essay “the way out is in, together” in January 2018 after the mass arrests of protestors in Portland, OR. The essay, or memo as it was called at the time, called for a “deep collective grounding in our own desire for connection, loving touch, joy  and freedom that can fuel the fire we need to burn down the aspects of the system that no longer serve us.” The essay argued the personal was political and spiritual. It resonated with many by speaking to the deep alienation that neo-liberal capitalism instilled in advanced industrial societies while connecting that feeling and spiritual sense of loss to structures of oppression. Marvin Jeffries, who would later help organize the 2023 general strike famously posited that “the memo gave us language to discuss a problem we were too afraid to let ourselves feel, while showing us that we were not alone in feeling it and we were not feeling it because of our individual actions but rather a system that was producing specific conditions of pain.”

By the time President Paul Ryan began ordering the mass arrests of 2019, the essay was well known among U.S organizers. That year it was common for posters with graphic representations of the main ideas of the essay to be wheatpasted by young dissidents at the sites of disappearances of organizers or mass arrests after political demonstrations. As protests dwindled in winter of 2019 and beginning of 2020, the posters became popular decorations at church revivals, farmers markets and block parties across the country. After the re-authorization of the Patriot Act in May of 2020 made the distribution of the posters a felony, they often lost their overt political content and took on a more overly spiritual tone which ironically allowed them to resonate with aspects of the Christian community that should have been a natural base for Ryan regime.

In this same period, the new monostatic movement of young Christians was reaching its height as rising housing insecurity and gas prices mixed with erratic weather to force many people into communal living situations. As always, desperate times called for theologies of escape as well as theologies of liberation. This helped popularize a less formally religious but deeply socially engaged spirituality that spurred revivals of Judaism, mass conversions to the Baha’i faith and an increase in socially engaged practitioners of American Buddhism particularly the Order of Interbeing.

 

The Revolution Was [Partially] Funded

 

Perhaps the most surprising role of the Enlightened Retreat was the role the philanthropic community played in it. Throughout most of its history previously, philanthropic organization were heavily tied to interests of the ruling elite. Their role had traditionally been to stop capitalism from being too brutal by providing for some basic human services the state would not and channeling righteous anger of oppressed people to movements of reform from within current political and economic frameworks so that all social change rarely threatened the status quo of the ruling class.

Not surprisingly, the rise of “progressive” billionaire philanthropist like Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates who criticized government austerity programs and inequality actually fueled conservatives in government dismantling the welfare state by showing that they would donate in proportion to the increased need created by cuts in government spending. Their charity actually played well into the argument that it is “civil society’s” responsibility to care for the poor and not the government. Thus, when the housing bubble burst in 2018 and the Trump administration responded with tax cuts and corporate buy-outs, the top 20% of the wealthiest Americans saw an increase in wealth while the bottom 80% saw a substantial decrease. Therefore, the amount of money in Philanthropic communities increased dramatically while the class of middle class white people who managed the social service organizations that received most of that money now saw themselves eligible for the services they delivered.

While the privatizations of social services had tremendously devastating effects on services as workers lost wages and protections, it also significantly decentralized the how social services were provided. In perhaps one of the era’s deepest ironies, the privatization did in fact allow for more innovation but not more neo-liberal individualization.

The shrinking of the middle class ironically transformed social service delivery because they people who needed services were now mainstream and no longer just marginalized communities. This precipitated the rise of the community directed service model designed to empower formerly middle class white communities that quickly made its way into urban cores around the country. Like the embattled communist who entered unions in the 40’s and 50’s, the anti-racist, anti-authoritarians of the enlightened retreat who managed to avoid jail time entered direct service organizations in droves. These influx in former political activist radicalized the industry in unexpected ways. Perhaps the most profound change was the shift from top down, massively hierarchical organized to more self-managed teams doing hyper local service provision.

These hyper local teams of food trucks, health workers and small mental health clinics developed actual relationships with the community. While the overall racial, gender and class hierarchies and pay disparities remained [frontline staff being mostly underpaid women of color] the staff in the communities had much more autonomy than they had as government workers. Many of these front-line staffers were friends and relatives to members of the more overtly political and thus clandestine speakeasies of the era. They would end up playing a critical role in distributing the political pamphlets and often became block captains for the PRE during elections.

The Black communities who were the most devastated by social service cuts became the most invested in mutual aid programs. Due to America’s historic segregation, the Black middle class saw itself once again surrounded by poverty. However, due to the lack of overt discrimination in many industries, the Black upper class retained much of income despite losing much of its wealth in the housing bubble. This ironically put the Black middle class in position of having the income to donate to social improvement, while redlining and discrimination in housing loans meant that they were unable to leave and needed to find alternative ways to have economic security outside building family wealth.

These conditions, combined with the decentralization of social services meant that Black people’s economic situation and political cohesion started to look nearly identical to how it looked at the beginning of the civil right movement. However, six years of solid M4BL organizing and increase of overt anti-Black racism meant that institutions like the NAACP and the Urban League were open to a Black politics that centered cross class solidarity rather than respectability politics. Once again, the line between the elite assimilationist Black politics and more radical, often nationalist Black politics, was  blurred as it had been 50 years before. So while philanthropic communities still gave little to overtly political social groups [some of which had also become illegal with the re-authorization of the patriot act] the established Black groups they gave the majority of their money to were much more willing able to pass some of that money onto clandestine activities. With the elimination of the IRS and increase of allowances of political activity by religious groups passed through the Tax Revision Act of 2020, this funnel from rich philanthropist to clandestine organizing groups became even more prosperous.

Prominent contemporary scholar Jasmine Banks noted that “we often forget how absurd the old political and economic order was. It would be inaccurate to say that the progressive wealthy class acted against their monetary interests because of the moral evil of inequality. Rather, they worked towards their material interests by supporting an expanded safety net versus risking the inevitable attempts to address inequality through violence that had been the strategy of the disposed for centuries. The fact that the safety net led to the co-operative economy that would replace capitalism was not something they would have foreseen and, honestly, happened on a timeline that the crisis of liberal society did not allow them to think on.”

 

The Rise of the Political Speakeasies

 

Just as prohibition had given rise to organized crime so did the combination of laws prohibiting anti-government protesting but expanding the ability of religious institutions to do political work give rise to an underground political resistance movement. These speakeasies evolved from informal gatherings were people met in national parks, community swimming pools, YMCA’s or other places where people with little disposable income could gather and be social together. It just so happened that many of these gathering spaces were places where you could be relatively sure of little government surveillance to vent and complain about the government. As the economic crisis worsened low cost activities like reading groups, potlucks, and rent parties that Black and Latinx people would throw to raise money for their rent, became more and more common.

Organizers who managed to escape the purges would often find each other at these gatherings and form small little pods or affinity groups of closeted dissidents. Overtime, they began to have their own gatherings that were spread through word of mouth or embedded in geo-cashes by hackers. Participants would show up, dump their phones in cooper and lead lined box and hang out together. The vast majority of speakeasies were barely even politically but allowed for people to “thumb their noses” at the repressive government. In places like Miami, Houston and L.A. these speakeasies give rise to the Cabal movement of small dance clubs where people escaped the Puritanatical politics of the Ryan Regime through juking, grinding and twerking.

Most cities however, had two or three regular speakeasies, often differented by racial, class, and sexual expression of the participants, that were overtly political. While these identity differences often times caused conflicts, there was generally enough of a sense of a common enemy and pre-existing relationships across groups that they could work together. In larger urban cores like NYC, D.C, and Oakland, there were often dozens of such groups that were often coordinated through spokescouncils or steering committees. Out of fear of repression, these groups generally worked to find and support comrades who had been imprisoned or deported.

Inspired by political activity in Palestine during the first Intifada however, they began to use the emerging network of direct service provides, CSA’s and block parties to launch their “rolling black outs”  and other demonstrations of civil disobedience. The clandestine nature of their work and their prefigurative, anarchist influenced politics, meant that they had to developed new ways of self-governance across racial, gender and class differences that didn’t require 6 hour meetings which would have been suspicious.

Perhaps one of their most enduring developments was political hand dancing. Inspired by Black culture in D.C., Maryland and Virginia as well as the slaves who developed Capoeira in Brazil, political hand dancing allowed for communication of complex group decision to debated and accepted in real time without speaking. Originally developed as a warning system for police raids and as way to coordinate evacuating hideouts and delegating the destruction of materials on the fly, political hand dancing or the clapping game become a crucial tool for coordinating the silent Afrikan blocs during the general strikes.

By utilizing complexity theory, hip hop culture and musical theory the clapping game was used much like war drums of earlier eras yet the call and response, “remix” and beat dropping allowed for the “orders” to be decided by swarm intelligence. Affinity groups self-organized themselves into sensors, responders and facilitators. Each role has its sound: sensors clapped, responders drummed on whatever was available while facilitators hummed or sang well known songs to different rhythms.  Sensors role were to sense police presence and warn others of raids, kettling practices or general police movement. Responders developed responses to the sensors, often directing people to go to specific hideouts [each with their own beat] or to scatter. Facilitators had two roles one was to create noises that made it hard for the police to follow what was going one and two was communicate the meanings of the different codes that the responders were using.

The codes used were often determined by whatever songs were being played by speakeasy DJays or with new lyrics that often used inside jokes, movement slang and elaborate metaphors to refer to places that speakeasies met. The complex system allowed for groups to utilize swarm intelligence to evade the police even when leaders were arrested or not decided before had. Due to its relatively simple rules and communal nature, versions of the clap game become wide spread. The rules of the clap game were innovated on time and time again to be more effective. The decentralized network and self-referential nature of the code also made it secure as the police would have be incredible skilled at the game in addition to understanding the codes to counteract in real time.

While the clap game was the most famous innovation of self-governance it was hardly the only one. In many areas, CSA were coordinated into regional council for food distribution, women’s councils were created above ground to deal with street harassment and underground to provide clandestine reproductive health after the family values act was passed in 2020 severely limited reproductive choice. As the police force become more and more overtly political, the justice system lost more and more legitimacy. Eventually, speakeasies were created to do restorative circles for community violence ranging from theft, to domestic partner violence to arson.

In Detroit, the speakeasies spokes council partnered with the Malcolm X grassroots movement to create the Party of Revolution and Evolution [PRE] in 2021. In just three years, the PRE utilized a decentralized “movement DNA” system to create chapters around the country that began building larger networks of mutual aid and eventually taking over local governments across the country.

 

Aftermath

 

The beginning of the end of the Enlightened Retreat was the general strike of the defense industry in 2021. The strike was organized by collaboration between the East Coast chapters of the Black Lives Matter [BLM] Network who partnered with International Workers of the World [IWW] across the country. While most historians agree that the general strike only effected a handful of factories and did not significantly threaten the war it was a major symbolic victory. It showed the maturation of the fight for racial justice with one the first major multi-racial attacks against racialized capitalism and imperialism. It also gave an example of effective organizing to all the networks of mutual aid that had been building over the last 3 years.

The subsequent trial of the BLM leaders was meant to instill fear in any other dissidents. The leaders of the campaign were pulled from their houses at night and brutally detained. The police feared brutality against young white people would back fire against the state, especially considering that the IWW had their largest presence on elite college campuses that were doing Department of Defense research. Thus they rounded up the white IWW organizers gently and in secret. This tactic actually backfired as it showed blatant racism and racial disparities of policing as well as deep class differences.

The attorney general Rudolf Giuliani charged the organizers with treason, a tactic that was meant to scare off further organizing but seemed more like government overreach as the penalty for treason was death. The trial was the much watched television event of the century and rather than discouraged protests it inspired protest across the country.

 

 

The Unending March [An Alternative History of Trumpism]

*this is a piece of speculation political fiction with just a hint of satire written in the form of a Wikipedia article form the future. The purpose is imagine what all this craziness from the white house might be building to while envision how peace might come out of chaos and tragedy. We should not take Trump’s idiocy or bluster lightly. When the autocrat says he is coming for you believe him! I believe we can prevent violence in the long run if we build for transformation and autonomy now*

Overview:

 

The Unending March.

The Unending March, also called the Bloody March or the March of Blood, is a series of mass arrests and political purges carried out by the Federal Order of Police and the Proud Boy Brigades in January of 2019. It was part of Donald Trump’s attempt to consolidate power ahead of the Calexit, as the California Succession movement was then known. Despite its legacy as the beginning of political purge of the American left, most of the causalities were actually political moderates and rival members of the Republican Party and the armed forces. The most famous killing was the public execution of the 26th Secretary of the Department of Defense James Norman “Jim” Mattis by John Carver Johnson on January 30th during a press conference.

The Term “Unending March” comes from a speech by then Vice President Mike Pence who, at the March for American Patriots on January 20, 2019 said that “believers in America liberty most [sic] not allow social degenerates to rule our streets. In response to marches of feminist and queers we need an unending march of American patriots in every city of this great country.” After the bombings of the New York and Chicago subway systems later that afternoon were blamed on queer anarchist supposedly funded by ISIS, the coalition of white nationalist and anti-immigrant groups called the American People’s Army began making internet memes calling for mass violence against LGBTQ people, Arabs, Muslims and Black Lives Matter activists using the phrase “Unending March.”

The morning after the bombings President Donald Trump attempted to institute a nationwide martial law despite there being fewer than 10 casualties and the suspects being quickly identified and apprehended by local police departments. On January 22nd, Secretary Mattis said that he felt a nationwide martial law was completely uncalled for given the circumstances and recommended that the America people try to heal the divides that had been growing under the Trump administration through “understanding and respectful dialogue.” This in turn caused Donald Trump to publically call for Mattis’ resignation, though he later backtracked on that call after the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a statement against marshal law.

The newly appointed head of the Federal Order of Police, Edwardo Pena, was tasked by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “root out the enemy where ever he may be.” Edwardo Pena began working through his newly created office to coordinate the national police response through the Fraternal Orders of Police. Though this coordination would be later ruled unconstitutional, Edwardo was able to coordinate the arrest and detention of over 10,200 activist, organizers and journalist who had been flagged under the now infamous “Law and Order” program which monitored protestors. These mass arrests triggered wide spread protests which eventually became uprisings in 13 cities.

Memo’s leaked by Wiki Leaks in 2020 later revealed that the Uprisings had been planned by the Trump Administration who increased militarized policing through the so called “War on Drugs” while eliminating human services spending hoping that the increase in crime would justify even more authoritarian actions by the administration. Despite the chaos, many Democratic and moderate republican governors and mayors refused to call in the National Guard to stop the uprisings. This led to the American People’s Army to call for a mass mobilization across the country which eventually led to the paramilitary group attacking politicians and military leaders who were openly critical of the Trump regime.

Over 300 hundred movement leaders, politicians and military leader were killed in the ensuing chaos. Though it has never be substantiated, it is widely believed that members of Donald Trump’s administration provided the paramilitary forces with names and locations of individuals to target. A series of memos leaked to the British magazine The Guardian, later known as the Trump papers or red papers, did confirm that Donald Trump personally ordered Edwardo Pena to target activists with whom he had personal enmity towards including members of the group Black Lives Matter. These memos would later led to Donald Trump’s impeachment, the resignation of Mike Pence and the criminal trials of Jeff Sessions and Edwardo Pena.

Many scholars believe that the Unending March would have sparked a Second American Civil War had the World War 3 not started with the Invasion of Qatar 6 months later and following UN Syrian Resolution Crisis in the winter. The uprisings in American cities continued for many months including the D.C uprising in May of 2019 which forced the inauguration of President Paul Ryan to retreat to Camp David and resulted in the burning of the capital building by the newly established Maroon Society.

 

Calexit and Anti-Trumpism

 

Donald Trump was elected in the “Stolen Election of 2016” in which a confluence of the archaic Electoral College system, massive voter repression by the Republican Party, Russian political influence, an apathetic electorate and the first use of psychometrics in an American election. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and was inaugurated under mass protests as the least popular America president in history. Though modern scholars generally classify the Donald Trump administration as a plutocratic kleptocracy it was widely seen as proto-fascist by its contemporaries. The rise of “Trumpism” as it was called, coincided with a rise in the American left, particularly in the anti-authoritarian and anti-racist tendencies as many Americans began to view liberalism and conservatism as two parts of the same problem that caused the years of political dysfunction that had preceded Trump.

The left leaning and most populous American state of California, now part of the Western American Maroon Society, voted in 2018 to have a special election on California succession. This vote came after a heated legal battle over California’s right to stop payments to the federal government which had threatened to bankrupt the country just a few months before. In addition, the two years of Trump’s administration saw months of mass mobilizations against his agenda. This period of America history would later be dubbed the “Era of Marches”, due to the 26 marches on Washington with over 6,000,000 people that the period saw.

Trump’s attacks on women, people of color, LGBTQ communities and immigrants also lead to an historical level of cross community political activity that was rare for America at the time. After the federal government shut down of 2018 over the debt ceiling and subsequent human service crisis, this period also saw the beginning of the autonomous community organizing that would later form the basis of the War World III era Maroon Societies. The growing strength of all of these movements had led to growing bi-partisan establishment call for Trump’s impeachment.

 

Military Opposition to Trumpism

 

Despite his nationalist rhetoric, Trump was unable to coalesce military support around his presidency. While sentient beings today can’t imagine a “just military,” at the time, the U.S. military had seen itself a force for peace and stability in the world in which America led alliance kept threats at bay. Therefore Donald Trump’s short-sighted isolationism and chaotic behavior did not endear him to the military. In addition, Trump was loathe to actually listen to current military leadership and tended to rely on retired and often disgraced military leaders for consul. Therefore, those in the military who might have otherwise been emendable to his “America first” isolationism were often at odds with him for more personal reasons. Even Marine Corps, which had supported Trump’s ill planned invasion of the Philippines in March of 2018 had lost faith in him by the beginning of his third year in office.

Rank and file soldiers however were consistently opposed to the Trump administration. Even before the heavily causalities of the invasion of Manila, the rank a file U.S military had protested the White House’s defunding of veteran services. With much of the logistical support roles in the military being privatized and the controversial and short lived 12-20 program that allowed mercenary soldiers to command U.S. troops, the rank and file soldier was often of low rank and lower pay. Without the typical veteran and active duty support programs and the skyrocketing price of food do the trade wars with Mexico and China, many scholars believe that the U.S. military was nearly mutinous by the end of his term. Fragging of mercenary officers’ quarters was wide spread during Operation Island Thunder and only increased after the Bay of Manila disaster.

 

Aftermath

 

The majority of Americans were unsure of which news sources and leaders to trust after the initial terrorist attacks in New York and Chicago. As the crisis deepened, most Americans lost trust in mainstream media completely and started to see the dangers of the continual war on terror. However, rather than spurring a movement against the surveillance state, the lack of trust actually allowed the Ryan administration to launch an attack against progressives and radicals that far eclipsed the McCarthy years. When the rumors of night raids and detention centers were first confirmed by the NYT and even fox news, most Americans were no longer heeding news organizations.

It wasn’t until the Teen Vogue’s coverage of the treason trials of the leadership of Black Lives Matter after they organized a symbolically successful strike of the defense industry in May of 2021 that most Americans began tuning back into national media sources. Before the Trump administration, Teen Vogue was not seen as a news agency but by the end of WW3 it was the most respected source of investigative journalism in the world.

Overall, shock of the unending march and resulting political turmoil was devastating to the American psyche. Many leftist organizers went underground and began organizing small affinity groups of mutual aid. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, in her 2025 book “The time of great unlearning” called this period the “enlightened retreat” after an anonymous memo written at the time called “the way out is in, together.” The shift from disruptive politics to mutual aid politics ended in the general strikes of 2022 and 2023 with the rise of Differential Autonomous Transformative [DAT] ecosystem organizing. By the time of the 2024 general strike, the American left [through decentralized and relatively young] was the largest political block in America. They successful ended WW3 with a general strike reminiscent of the communist in WW1.

Despite the shock and trauma of the nearly 10 year period, DAT ecosystems focus of healing and transformation lead to a marked increase in international cooperation and what would later be called “progressive globalization.” The Party of Revolution and Evolution [the PRE] would come to power in the U.S. in 2024 and stay in power until the dissolution of the United States, and all other nation-states, through “World without Border” U.R. resolution in 2044.

The World Without Border’s [WWB] resolution is considered by most to be the greatest achievement of the leaders of the enlightened retreat as it effectively ended wars between humans and ushered in the greatest era of peace time prosperity and cooperative and ecologically conscious economic development between the last war [the battle of Jerusalem] and Alpha Centari Liberation War.

 

In popular culture

 

The WWB was a result of decades of global activism lead by members of the North American resistance movement founded just after the Unending March. A monument to these heroes was constructed in 2050 in Maroon Society of Anacostia [formerly Washington D.C.].

The human species folk anthem, “Below and to the Left” is based on this period of Earth human history.

The 2100 Kwame Jones historical drama “Unapologetically Black,” chronicles the leaders of M4BL who were instrumental who came to leadership in response to the devastation of the Unending March.

The short lived T.V series “Queer as Fuck” follows several U.S, Mexican and Canadian teens throughout these tumultuous years.

In his trilogy “Race Traitors: The Death of Whiteness,” Mark Peace argues that the virulent racism of the Unending March was the catalyst for the “Race Traitor” movement of European ethnic groups re-creating their identities through the lens of progressive globalism.

Dear Beloved: Let Love Fuel The Fire This Time

inaugural-resistance-poster

Dear Beloved,

Don’t Forget to Breathe.

The misplaced shame, fear and greed of few rich and powerful people is threatening to suffocate us in an ocean of hatred. In this onslaught of executive orders and dog whistles we are drowning in the ghost of enslaved past, the violence of our imperial present and the premonitions of a bloody future. We are struggling to find the space to open our mouths without oil from the Presidential gas lighting we are receiving filling our bodies. Yet we must breathe. We must take the time to remember what we fight for. We must breath in the visions of a new world that rise from the shell of the old in times of resistance.  We must let the life giving oxygen of our desire for liberation fuel the fervor in our bellies. We must let the remembrance of the lives we desire to live fuel our opposition. We must let the air into our throats so that we can expel it in the fierce roars of resistance.

 

Dear Beloved,

 

Don’t Forget to Hold Each Other.

It is not our differences that separate us. It is merely the fact that we have been so long without being deeply held, without the feeling of bottomless belonging, that we have begun to think we do not deserve it. We have been told that our bodies, our native tongues, our culture, our wallets and our ways of loving have made us unworthy of being loved. In this lovelessness we have been separated from each other and are now being picked off in coordinated assaults. The Trump administration is not the love we deserve. Militarized policing is not the love we deserve. Low wages and raising rents is not the love we deserve. We deserve to be so deeply held that wounds of our past are allowed to heal. We deserved to be so deeply supported that no obstacle put in front of us can stop us from being fully powerful. A sense of deep belonging that calls us forth, together, to build the worlds we deserve is our birthright.

 

Dear Beloved,

Don’t Forget to Love.

Love trumps hate, not because positive feelings are more powerful than negative ones but because love is a meta emotion that reminds us not only of who we really are but of the power that we have when we stand together. Love reminds us that we deserve more than what this current society has to offer. Love reminds us that borders are unnecessary barriers between human communities. Love reminds us that policing can make us secure but only healthy communities and mutual encumbrance can keep us safe. Love liberates us to head towards the light and not merely stand against the darkness.

 

Dear Beloved,

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For What You Want.

We have been so thoroughly disinvested in and had oppression so thoroughly “occupy our breathing” that we have learned to ask merely for a reprieve from the onslaught. We have developed a reflex to ask for what we think our oppression will give. We have forgotten to ask for the things we need to thrive. Yet if we are going to take the streets in defense of our freedom then we must remember to ask for what we truly want. If want support then we must ask our neighbors to jump into the trenches and fight with us. If we want to be held then we must be willing to articulate the love we deserve. If we want to change the world then we must learn to demand the world we want, not merely the world we feel powerful enough to win. Collectively, we have the power to manifest with velocity. If we truly want liberation then we must demand and expect more than just an end to our bondage. We must articulate, demand and build the world that we deserve.

 

Dear Beloved,

Let Love Fuel the Fire This Time.

We have been so flooded with hate that we often find ourselves drowning in anger. Yet there are many types of anger. Some bind, some hold us back and many burn us down with the fire. Yet if we breathe, if we hold each other, if we remember to love yet do not shy away from the anger that arises from what we love being threatened we can spark the fire that finally sets us free. If we move from a place of love—for ourselves, for our community, for each other—then we can build engines of combustion that push us towards freedom. If we let love fuel this fire—instead of hatred, anger or shame—we can be warmed in the solidarity of our resistance. If we let love fuel the fire this time we can burn down this world we were not meant to survive and build many worlds of love, liberation and abundance in its place.

 

Dear Beloved,

Love Yourself Enough to Burn This Shit Down If You Need To.

It is only when we dare to assert that we deserve to be loved and that what we are being given is not love that we start to name and dismantle the systems that thwart our growth. It is only when we ask ourselves where it hurts and allow ourselves to sit with that pain, rather than listen to the stories of pain and greatness that are told to us or about us, that we develop a revolutionary drive for social transformation. We must realize that sometimes love looks like burning down the prison that holds us and divides us from one another. Sometimes love looks turn burning this shit down when it no longer serves you. Love will allow us to build a new world from the ashes of the old.

 

 

Shadowboxing My Pain

Our shadows are powerful things. Our shadows can guide our actions if we allow ourselves to chase them or we can reckon with them. Our shadows can be reminders of what we are afraid to feel and what we need to forgive ourselves for in order to stretch and grow. As my friend Rebecca taught me, our shadows are the things we hate about other people because they are the reflections of what we hate, fear or are most ashamed about in ourselves. Shadows are powerful things.

My entire political framework is based on convincing people to move past their shadow, show up as their greatest selves and walk with vision. For someone who uses organizing to push the existential dread of the ultimate meaningless of life out of my mind, this is a terrible political moment. It feels like all the world is in my shadow and our collective vision is clouded with shame, fear and pain. There is still work to be done. The work has not changed due to an election. Yet here we are, caught in a cycle of hurt and longing and fear; passing trauma back and forth.

There is a fear that has been creeping into my mind over the past few days. There is an anxiety at the base of my skull that feeds on my need for belonging and love turning itself into dread. It is a fear that strikes me so deeply at times that I manifest it into the world. It is a fear that before the oceans rise and food riots begin, before the camps and the cleansings, before the inaugurations become bloody affirmations of power we will tear each other apart while we wait for the other shoe to drop.

I see that I am not alone in these kinds of fears nor in my manifesting of the coming dystopia in my interpersonal relationships. As a dear friend recently put it, we are all expecting the repressions that are surely coming and living out our nightmares of them in real time. For some of us, for the marginalized and the oppressed, our fear is amplified by the real trauma caused by the pieces of the dystopia we have already lived through. It is amplified by the knowledge what though we might “have survived worse”– many of us didn’t. In this amplified state, we are so afraid of economic insecurity that we are fighting over money with our friends and family. We are so afraid of being alone, of our friends leaving, of being deporting or being killed that we are pushing them away before anyone can take them.

Some of us, I suspect, are just so hurt that we want to watch the world burn. Some of us are so afraid that we will turn to the devil to keep our communities alive. Some of us are merely shouting vitriol into the universe hoping it lands on someone who deserves it.  Some of us are retreating into our intellectual conclaves hoping to protect ourselves from the things we are afraid to feel. We are fortifying our echo chambers with shame hoping to create a world in which even if we are afraid and hurting we are not wrong…we are not to blame for this. Yet still, we are in pain. Our world is on fire. We are on fire and at some point, we have to admit that we are doing this to ourselves.

Of course we did not start the fire. The history of racism, sexism, genocide, classism and xenophobia are the tender. Our material insecurity and emotional pain is the fuel of course. The spark came from the rusted gears of empire turning as they have for centuries. No, we did not, as individuals, set this fire. Even the men in hoods merely lit the bonfire America built for them. Yet, this flame, this context, this system, and soon this rapist Klansman in chief is killing us. We have to recognize that regardless of who set the fire, we are burning and we are allowing ourselves to burn. We have been consumed by shadow, by what we are afraid to admit to ourselves that we feel. We are letting ourselves burn in hopes that those people in our shadow die first as we take a sick pleasure in the screams.

That is what we are doing when we point fingers, when we shame others. We are taking pleasure in the pain of those who are more at fault, more to blame, more ignorant, more privileged, more poor, more fucked, more of what we hate most about ourselves. It is a pleasure that corrupts. It is an addiction to cynicism. It is an emotional crutch that keeps us from feeling vulnerable. It leaves us feeling dirty and alone in our shame. As MLK stated, it is a guilty broken act that we double down on in an attempt to drown out our sense of shame. That is how addiction works. It is a pleasure dipped in the most profound pain. Yet it is the only pleasure we can see for ourselves. We are so blinded by hate, fear, hunger and loneliness that we have convinced ourselves that this pain is all there is. Now, I know our pain is not the same. In many cases it is not even similar in degree or kind, nor are our reactions to it. There are some people responsible for this pain and they must not escape justice. Yet we are passing bits of this pain around.  This pain is shared by all.

It is the pain of our hunger, abandonment, victimization, confusion, violence; it is the pain of vulnerability, the pain of hypervisibility and invisibilization, the pain of domination and forced submission, the pain of expropriation and exploitation; it is the pain of privilege and oppression. The causes of our pain are as dissimilar as their degree. Yet the existence of our pain is universal. It connects us. It ties us together in web of death. It is the black shroud of mourning for the joy of our highest selves, of better days, or another possible world, that even those in pickup trucks screaming racist slurs at their shadow wear. Yet it is not all that connects us and not all that can.

I am not writing this to convince anyone to love their enemies. I am not writing this as an attempt to unify with words rifts that have been caused by genocide, conquest, enslavement and deprivation. This is just me shadowboxing my pain. It is my plea to the universe. It is me asking that those you are able to close your eyes and remember that we deserve something better than this. Remember the joy we felt when we embodied our greatest selves. Remember that love can connect us and that light can push away the darkness. Remember the cracks in your soul that you have been told are weakness but are really how the light gets in…and shines out.

Share your light with me please. It’s cold and dark and I’m in pain and more pain is coming. I need your love. I need your light. I need to get rid of my shadow. I need you. Share your light please.

On Autonomy: Building Transformative Engines for [R]Evolution pt 3

*This Essay is the third in a series on my framework: Differential Autonomous Transformation.*

**The first essay is here and the second essay is here.**

“The revolutionary struggle against a colonial, racist, hetero-patriarchal capitalism which has for centuries separated us; arranged us in structures in opposition to each other; reduced our bodies to raw resources for abuse, exploitation and manipulation; and, in the words of Frantz Fanon, occupied our breathing, is today the struggle for a world—no, many worlds, where we might exist and thrive as each other’s beloved.

It is the struggle not only for a social universe that is meaningful and just, but lives that are inherently precious. It is the struggle against our elimination, our disappearance from each other.

Mothering is a primary front in this struggle, not as biological function, but as a social practice.”

Cynthia Dewi Oka

Mothering As Revolutionary Praxis

Revolutionary Mothering

“Autonomous projects are initiatives not supported or organized by the government (state) or some variant of monopoly capital (finance or corporate industrial or mercantile capital). These are initiatives that directly seek to create a democratic “economy of need” around organizing sustainable institutions that satisfy people’s basic needs around principles of social solidarity and participatory or direct democracy that intentionally put the needs of people before the needs of profit.” Kali Akuno “Until We Win”

‘No Man is an Island’

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

“The extension of the commodity form to every corner of the social factory, which neo-liberalism has promoted, is an ideal limit for capitalist ideologues, but it is a project not only unrealizable but undesirable from the viewpoint of long-term reproduction of the capitalist system. Capitalist accumulation is structurally dependent on the free appropriation of immense quantities of labor and resources that must appear as externalities to the market, like the unpaid domestic work that women have provided, upon which employers have relied for the reproduction of the workforce. It is no accident, then, that long before the Wall Street meltdown, a variety of economists and social theorists warned that the marketization of all spheres of life is detrimental to the market’s well-functioning, for markets too, the argument goes, depend on the existence of non-monetary relations like confidence, trust, and gift giving.6 In brief, capital is learning about the virtues of the common good.

We must be very careful, then, not to craft the discourse on the commons in such a way as to allow a crisis-ridden capitalist class to revive itself, posturing, for instance, as the environmental guardian of the planet.” Silvia Federici in “Feminism and the Politics of the Commons”

Autonomy

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I once spent a year at a Catholic Worker on the South Side of Chicago. That year taught me more about radical social change than almost any other experience in my life. A Catholic Worker is a radical community based off of the work of Dorothy Day. Day was a political radical, rebel rousers and devout catholic who believed in radical solidarity with the poor and began organizing in the great depression. In Catholic Workers across the country, people come to live in community and work for free in service to poor people. At the Catholic worker I lived and worked in, we ran a house of hospitality for women fleeing domestic violence who were also undocumented immigrants from Latin America.

These women were often single mothers who escaped poverty or civil war in South and Latin America only to find abuse and neglect here in America. I learned a lot in my two years as a Catholic Worker. Perhaps one of my most influential lessons was how wrong my pre-conceived notions of a domestic violence survivor were. So often we hear stories of broken down women who are rendered powerless by years of abuse and manipulation. While trauma and cycles of abuse can and does render many domestic abuse victims unable to break themselves away from controlling partners and force them to be submissive that is not the only kind of survivor. Similarly, being submissive in one aspect of your life does not mean you are submissive in all others.

Many of the women I met were some the best self-advocates and aggressive defenders of their children I have ever met. These women eschewed the stereotypes of passive and submissive immigrant women. Though years of abuse and fear had taken a physiological toll on them and a lot of healing was necessary to help them start new lives, they we by no means helpless. In hearing their stories I was struck by how many of them stayed from depressingly practical reasons. They stayed with abusive men because the men, as terrible as they were, would not dare harm their children and they simply could not afford to leave.

Even for the women who desired to leave their partners for the sake of their children often stayed because homelessness could have been worse than the abuse. Despite the incalculable benefits of providing a healing supportive community, the most valuable thing we provided some families was simply a concrete next step. We provided them with an alternative that was not being cast out into the cold Chicago winter or being broken up by child and family services. We often could not provide the long term solutions that families needed yet time and time again our Catholic Worker provided a the first step that allowed families to begin a path towards self-determination.

The physiological toll of domestic abuse is in many ways unlike any other thing one can experience. However, the cycles of abuse that families live through and the remedies that people need to regain their agency are remarkably similar to many other types of human suffering. We will attempt to endure anything until we are presented with a concrete alternative that leads us to something that appears better. Even the strongest and most determined among us will often chose the devil we know over total uncertainty. The goal of revolutionaries is to present such an alternative to the abusive social relationships of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. Once such an alternative is presented then we must provide them with the love, support and community to get stable enough to create healthier, more supportive relationships and contexts.

In their book Black Against Empire Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr utilize Antonin Gramsci’s definition of revolutionary in regards to the Black Panther Party that resonates deeply with what I saw at the catholic worker. They state that “a revolutionary theory splits the world in two. It says that the people in power and the institutions they manage are the cause of oppression and injustice…Further, it asserts that nothing can be done from within the dominant social institutions to rectify the problem–that the dominant social institutions must be overthrown.”  I believe that as their best, the differential politics of today’s social movements contain such revolutionary ideas. Like a social worker counseling a survivor of domestic violence, a revolutionary must work with the people to connect their plights to long string of abuses and show how the abuses will not stop until we leave our abusers home, or the confines of this current system.

They go on to say that “a movement is revolutionary politically to the extent that it poses an effective challenge…It must seize the political imagination and offer credible proposals to address the grievances of large segments of the population…But when a movement succeeds in this task, the dominant political coalition usually defeats the challenge through the twin means of repression and concession.” In other words, it is not enough to name the problem and show that the system must be overthrown. For something to be politically revolutionary it must challenge the status quo for legitimacy and somehow survive killings and jailings and reforms meant to weaken coalitions. We have to show that our vision can provide for the human needs of our base better than the status quo. We also have to build coalitions and transformative relationships with our allies who that we can survive cosmetic changes to the system.

cycle-of-abuse

Here we see the state mirror the same tactics as any other abusive relationship. There are periods of tensions building, an act of violence and repression followed by a reconciliation where the abuser promises not do it again and changes their behaviour for a time. We can see this as clearly in Nixon’s violent repression of anti-war and Black liberations movements followed by concessions on the draft, a de escalation of the war and the extension of affirmative action as Trump recent “walk backs” of his previous statements and the corresponding calls from his opponents to give him a chance. Yet we know by now that reconciliation is always followed by a brief calm before launching back into more mounting tension and violence.

I believe that social movements have a lot to learn from the differential human technologies that women supporting women fleeing domestic violence have mastered. People need to be loved and supported into self-determination. The best way to do this is in a supportive, tight night community removed from your abuser. In these communities we can heal and build personal strength and individual and communal autonomy. People also have to agitated, educated and supported in moving past a personal narrative of victimization into one of being co-creators of their own experience.

Yet this is much more easily said than done. Autonomy is a hard thing to create and even harder to maintain. While the Catholic Worker in Chicago did and continues to do phenomenal work it was also plagued with profound problems. Issues of race, class, gender, age, ability, status and language all created obstacles that were difficult to manage. There were power dynamics between the families and the workers that were problematic and slowed families gaining autonomy. There were profound differences of both personality and politics that almost destroyed the community several times. It also took resources both in terms of money but also in terms of countless hours of work that it was impossible to track much less compensate.

This essay, like the essays before, seek to illustrate these challenges and the solutions that folks in movements are finding. It is my hope that it expands of the previous essays to allow people to see how we might survive the next four years without the support [and for many against the will] of federal and local governments. How might we engage with our terrible, oppressive political system from a place that is not dependent on its resources, values or organizing logic nor under its control and supervision.

What is Autonomy?

When I speak of autonomy I mean it as a verb, noun and an adjective all at once. It is a praxis, a state of being, and a quality of social movement. It is both an ends and a means. Autonomy is something to be built and practiced. It is the ability to achieve resiliency by balancing mutual aid and encumbrance with self-reliance. Autonomy is self-sufficiency that recognizes the self as one part of a communal experience. The individual cannot be seen as separate from the community nor the community from the individuals that comprise it. Autonomy is the durability and sustainability of the I/We-inseparable-Ubuntu.

To be autonomous in the DAT sense of the term, is to find strength, sustenance and freedom in a network of mutually beneficial relationships in which our individual strength is nurtured by and fortifies our collective power. Unlike a capitalistic version of autonomy, DAT sees solitude and isolation as vulnerabilities and liabilities. Unlike a patriarchal/hierarchical view of autonomy, if your support system is overly reliant on you to direct them it will be unable to survive your own human failings.

If we continue to build our societies as a collection of pyramid schemes stacked on top of each other, we will continue to have crisis every time the tops of the pyramids make mistakes or fall into the inevitable potholes of human failings. Likewise, a castle surrounded by a moat is going to be less capable of handling life’s challenges than a network of villages spread across a diverse terrain. A centralized system where all information and resources are directed at a core group or person is often unable to deal with crisis as well as a deeply connected decentralized network based on shared values where information and resources move in many directions. Of course, decentralization has its own challenges. Decentralization is easier talked about than done. It calls on us to take full ownership of our lives, experiences and communities in ways that can be challenging and at times onerous.

For this reason, many of us would rather follow in many aspects of their lives than take responsibility for our lives. We often feel like if we take responsibility for our lives than we have no one else to blame if we fail. Because of this, when we do take responsibility we tend to want to have control over the situation to ensure that we do not fail at our task. Unfortunately control is not only dangerous to attempt but also practically impossible. The only thing we can truly control in life are our responses to it. The more we invest in the illusion of control as leaders or followers, the more likely we are to suffer from unintended consequences. As the saying goes: “man plans, god laughs.” There is so much in this world that is not only beyond our control but also outside our view. If we are invested in control we will be unprepared to deal with challenges just beyond the horizon.

I see this in my own organizing in DC all the time. I invite people to work on a project based on a vision I have. When I attempt to have people add to that vision or reframe it they are hesitant. Because it is my vision I become a defacto leader in it. This is often true even when I invite other people into leadership. We are so unfamiliar with co-ownership that we almost alway revert back to a singular owner of vision/leader. As I lead I then feel responsible for my vision being completed. Eventually this means that I want control over the process. In attempting to control the process I lessen other people’s feeling of ownership. It then becomes a positive feedback loop of control and disinvestment. Even as I try to interrupt this loop I realize that both leaders and followers have to be willing to do the work of disrupting the control loop. Autonomy is a two way street. You can offer and support people to step into a co-creator position but they also have to willing and able to accept that role and responsibility.

I believe that instead of control based organization, the kind of autonomy that many movements are trying to build now is an autonomy aligned with the theories of emergent strategies.  It is an autonomy based in the belief that communities that work together with intention and shared values can manifest abundance for themselves and their neighbors. Even with our communities as disinvested and disjointed as they are it is still possible for us to come together and meet our individual needs with collective support. We all must rise to challenge of understanding we are responsible for our lives even if we cannot control our circumstances. It is on us to build a world capable of meeting our needs. No one else can do it for us and we cannot do it alone.

Autonomy means accepting the mantle of co-creators of our world.

What Does Building Autonomy Look Like?

tragedy_revisited_script_100620_01

Building DAT autonomy is building a movement commons. Rather than seeing the revolution as a thing perpetuated by one strong organization that gets the masses to seize the system, DAT autonomy views each person as a historical actor. DAT sees the work of organizations as bringing resources into a commons space that can be used by all who share their broad vision or points of unity. For instance, the commons of M4BL includes energy of that direct action stirs up. When BYP 100 shuts down Homan Square, individuals around the country get activated and want to join the movement. BLM DC can then tap into these energy by sharing the news of the action and including a “this is what you can do in DC to support the movement.”

The goal of DAT autonomy is to name this dynamic and increase the amount and variety of resources that are held in common while also increasing accessibility to the commons. What if artist allowed their stencils and graphics to used by anyone under creative commons? What if one group decided its role was to create an online curriculum for people who are eager to get involved to start educating themselves? We would we a larger pool of activated folks for other groups to organize. Similarly one group could offer healing to the ecosystem of organizers so that the work is sustainable. One group might launch social events that keep the spirit up while also building relationships between different organizers and acculturating new organizers into the politics and revolutionary social relationships of the movement. I think most local movements could be supported by a logistics team who helps coordinate food, locations, equipment and volunteers for events.

If we can bring all of these different activities and roles together we can free each collective or organization from belief that they have to do everything. We can also open up the movement to variety of different roles and move away from the current hierarchy of privileging activism and organizing over support roles, fundraising, culture building, childcare, logistics, education, healing etc. It would also bring all the work that makes “movement moments” possible into the foreground. This would in turn help in removing the mystique of organizing that causes some people to defer to visible leaders and set them on pedestal forgetting that they are all too human.

“This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an

opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master

builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

Homely for Oscar Romero

 

“We are prophets of a future not our own.” Our movements spaces can become whatever we need them to be. Eventually these ecosystems can be developed into autonomous spaces which are polycentric spaces in which individuals come together for the common good in resistance to Empire. Autonomous spaces are places where the whole life of a freedom fighter is supported outside of any reliance on and or supervision by the state. It could be networks of cooperates that provide food, clothing and communally owned and accountable financing and capital. It could be religious communities that support the independent investigation of the truth and communal support, transformative and spiritual growth. It could be housing through community land trusts not private property. It could be social clubs, sports leagues, WOW tournaments etc in which consent, affirmation, nurturance and empowerment are embedded with politics of anti-racism, feminism, and class consciousness. By sticking all of this together we can create a new liberated culture.

Such a culture is crucial to the use of a differential action by oppressed people. It helps foster what Chela Sandoval calls “oppositional consciousness.” Oppositional conscious is the revolutionary outlook needed to use things like the liberal strategy tactically which is to say, as a means and not an end. Put another way, liberated culture allows for organizing from a vantage point outside of state centered capitalist ideology, values and paradigms so that we can strategically demolish them while dismantling the structures and interests they serve. Autonomous spaces are needed to foster increasingly strategic differential movement.

Where Do We See Autonomy Being Practiced?

The current struggle of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota is perhaps the clearest example we have today of DAT autonomy. Comprising over 4,000 water protectors, elders, allies, lawyers, spiritual guides and future national leaders, it is verifiable modern maroon society. It is supported by the offerings and mutual aid of nations who have come together for this common cause. It has a kitchen, spiritual center, living quarters and even a free school where first nation children can learn their history, culture, spirituality and skills for resistance. Here seeds of oppositional consciousness are planted that can sustain a multi-generational struggle for national sovereignty. People are drawn to the spiritual energy of the place and once there dive right into becoming co-leaders of the space. It is a generative space in which people can bring their whole selves and in so doing, create a different, more powerful way to be in the world. It is an autonomous space in which one of the most significant transformative campaigns of my lifetime is being waged. The actions of BLM Atlanta, who shut down a train bringing supplies to standing rock, shows how autonomy spaces can generate the multi-frontal campaigns that were talked about in the essay on differential politics.

The sort of autonomy and solidarity built at Standing Rock is also being built in the Black only spaces that the M4BL is building, though diffused through many different spaces. Spaces like BLM DC’s Black Joy Sundays are a solution to disintegration of Black communities that was a direct result of racial integration. It is our response to neoliberal assaults on our autonomy by the Reagan and Clinton administrations.  As Ruby Sales mentioned in her interview on “On Being”, an entire generation of Black youth feels abandoned by our elders has we were sent into a white world that did not love us. Though we should be wary of “Jim Crow nostalgia” we should also be real about how unprepared whole swaths of Black America was to face the brunt of U.S imperialism at home without the parallel power structures that segregated society allowed to thrive in Black communities.

Key Human Technologies for Revolutionary Autonomy

Building, maintaining and expanding this kind of autonomy is incredibly difficult. Fortunately different movements have developed human technologies that support this kind of revolutionary autonomy.

The first such political technology I want to explore was developed by BLM organizer Elle Hearns called “collaborative solidarity.” It says that in order to have powerful coalitions we must invest in the leadership capabilities of the most marginalized while decolonizing our own praxis. Often times groups trying to be helpful to under-resourced communities end up reproducing a paternalistic narrative in which the community is treated like children. Paternalism is both an internalized belief of the oppressor and also emerging power dynamic that arises when one side has the skills, resources and relationships needed for sustained strategic action. To have truly collective broad based movements, the most marginalized communities need to be invested in for the long term. Then they can create their own vision for the future and strategies to achieve in collaboration with other communities. Then and only then, can we build a new world with the space for many worlds.

Another human technology we will need is that of radical identity reformation. We see this in the popular creations of Black Girl Magic.  Black women are reframing their identity not through the lens of struggle but through the lens of the lessons and skills that resistance has taught them as well as their achievements against the odds of Empire. So often, Blackness is defined as the opposite of whiteness. Whiteness is defined as being worthy of dominating and Blackness as worthy of being dominated. We have to realize that we cannot take either identity as it stands into liberation. However, this does not mean that we can simply overlook our socially constructed identities any more than we can overthrow capitalism by pretending money doesn’t exist. It also doesn’t mean that the Black culture, which is in many ways a product of Black resistance, should be disregarded or not valued. Rather, we have to be willing to allow our very identities to be transformed in service to the work.

That personal transformation, like all positive transformations, happens when we are supported by a community. Personal autonomy does not being removed from others but merely changing our relations to ourselves in order to transform our relationship with the world.  To transform, we have to tell ourselves new, empowered stories of ourselves and exist in a community that accepts, nurtures and supports that empowered narrative. Personal autonomy is achieved through a praxis or a habit of balancing vulnerability, service, and self-care with boundary setting and standing in our own power. Your personal freedom comes when your community is free but you don’t have to allow people the freedom to walk all over you. Thus you can learn to see your personal desires as existing at their greatest in their communal form without becoming a martyr for a communal experience. This is how we can become the strong people Ella Baker talked about, the ones who don’t need strong leaders.

In his illuminating essay “The Dragon and Hydra” Black intellectual and political Prisoner Russel Maroon Shoatz provides useful historical context for radical identity formation in resistance to domination.

“Consequently, from the 17th century until the abolition of slavery in the U.S., there were also Maroon communities in areas stretching from the pine barrens of New Jersey, down the east coast to Florida, and in the Appalachian mountains and later to migrate to Mexico’s northern border regions. The best known (but little studied) ones were those that occupied the dismal swamp of Virginia and North Carolina and the Seminoles of Florida, which contrary to popular belief have never been an Amerindian tribe, but instead – from their beginnings – an ethnic group made up of Africans and Amerindians who came together to form the ethnicity: just like the Boni Maroons were formed in Suriname.

All of this replicated the decentralized organizing forms of the Maroons in Suriname and Jamaica. And although their political histories fall short of them winning and maintaining the degree of autonomy achieved in Suriname or Jamaica, the descendents of the Seminoles in Mexico and the U.S. still fiercely guard their communities against the Mexican and U.S. governments: in Florida they’re recognized as a semi-autonomous tribe, and the Africans (Seminole negroes) in Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico also distinguish themselves from their neighbors – while calling Blacks in the U.S. ‘state negroes.’ According to New Afrikan nationalist cadre from the U.S. who have worked around them, the African Seminoles never considered themselves citizens of the U.S. like African-Americans do.”

I know it is a controversial proposal, but I firmly believe that we must use this human technology of radical identity formation to not only reframe our existing identities but to create new ones based on shared revolutionary values and shared struggle. As Cathy Cohen argued in her seminal essay “Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens: the Radical Potential of Queer Politics” there is a deep value in creating new identities based on the simultaneous affirmation of marginalized ways of moving through the world and vision for better future. Dr. Cohen suggest queer politics encompass not only same gender loving people but also low income people, kinks, asexuals and other people whose consensual sexual expression and enjoyment is curtailed or denigrated in society. They should be included in a vision for a world of sexual and economic liberation. I believe that we need a similar radical identity formation for people interested in co-creating a world capable of meeting all human needs where all of life can focus on thriving rather than just surviving.

I believe that this could either be done through expanding the term Black to include anyone invested in co-creating a world rooted in the Black Radical tradition or the creation of an entirely new maroon identity. Some first nation organizing standing in solidarity with standing rock have even suggested an identity based not only being a first nation person but also folks who “think and act indigenously.” That is to say, those who support community autonomy and rooted in the knowledge that we cannot own the land, in fact that the land owns us. I believe that such radical identity formation forged in the fires of resistance while being rooted in the values of the world we want is a crucial component to building and sustaining a revolutionary engine of the size and scale we need.

This brings us to the next central technology of interpersonal autonomy: a radically democratic version of consent where consent is seen as the active co-creation of experiences whether they be sexual, spiritual, emotional, economic, political or all of the above. Our thought is constructive of our experience in the sense that we interpret our experience based on our disposition, emotions and ideology. One person’s tragedy to wallow in is another person’s point of activation. Further, our lived experiences are based on our actions and how we conceptualize the actions of others. We have all had relationships in which we felt there were unspoken and unfair expectation being forced upon us. Sometimes those expectations are societal and sometimes we are projecting them onto our interactions because of where we are mentally and emotionally. Either way it affects how we engage with each other and thus how people react to us. We already co-create all of our experiences yet it tends to be subconscious and non-consensual.

Whether it is our work schedules or our sexual experiences we are often not given proactive choices and only allowed to choose our reaction. This is why consent is important. However rather than merely allowing people to make informed decisions, radical consent as co-creation is working together the transform the options available to us so that there are multiple ways for individuals to get their needs met together. This radical version of consent as co-creation is the lubrications that allows the revolutionary engine to run without grinding itself down and the shock absorbers that allow the revolution to cover rough terrain. This level of radical consent involves a practice of transformative love utilized by a differential consciousness so that one is aware of the intersection of all parties needs in their spiritual and political contexts.

It must be said that a whole lot of healing and self reflection is necessary for this kind of radical consent to be practiced in a society based off of domination. We have to heal from the deep often childhood wounds that instill in us a need for validation, an unhelpful yearning for certainty or other deep seated fears and unmet needs. It takes years of self reflection to name and accept that hurts that compel our destructive actions. It takes a autonomous community committed to healing to work and free from at least some of the instability and alienation of mainstream society to work through this pain and hold us as we stumble. Only then can we stop passing our hurt back and forth as we organize.

Radical co-consent means developing a habit of stating our needs, naming the tensions in our relationships and making requests of each other directly, clearly and respectfully. It means hearing these requests when they are offered. Rather making yes or no decisions about them it means asking clarifying questions and offering ways that you can meet those request while also getting your needs met or clearly stating that we cannot meet those requests. Too often we ask for solidarity in terms of a specific ask whether it is in terms money or turn out or a role in an action. While this can be effective, it can also lead to their only being one strategy or groups feeling like solidarity means following blindly and putting your campaigns on hold. With this radical consent we can allow for flexibility in how we support each other in our differential political tactics and swarm our common enemies. It also helps us navigate the minefield of emotions, egos, and silence due to shame and hurt that often disrupt collective action, derail organizations and ruin relationships.

Related to this, the last human technology needed for Autonomy is caucusing. Caucusing is a process in which people gather around shared identities of race, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation etc. They are microcosms of autonomous spaces where people have the ability to look critically at how their identities shape their experience and analyze the complexity and fluidity of those identities. Here we can examine the structures that perpetuate the fictions identity and brainstorm how we can transform them.The Black only spaces that BLM is known for like Black Joy Sunday is an example of caucusing.

These types of autonomous spaces are key to building the cross-class, genderfull and multi-racial coalitions we need to build in order to overthrow capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and state domination. So often we see Black people and other marginalized groups rush into coalition with white people or other privileged identities and still end up being dependent on the whims of ours oppressors who, due to systemic privilege, have the free time, resources, professional credentials and connections to dominate the coalitions. Without internal solidarity, Black people often feel that holding their white allies accountable puts them at risk of losing the skills and resources that they bring. Just like how without the separatist aspects of the second wave feminist movement [itself derived from the feminism of Black women within the Black Freedom movement] many women would not have had the self-actualized autonomy to demand respect and dignity in their coalitions with men.

Similarly in order to be invested in transforming the context in which we live, people who have systemic privilege need spaces to de-colonize their investment in systems of oppression and develop a positive vision of how they will be better off after collective liberation. White people must be able to imagine a world without whiteness worth fighting for. Men must have a taste of a world without patriarchal expectations that often cause them to transfer the violence of capitalism and white supremacy to women and children. This allows us to build unity that is not merely forced homogeneity. It allows us to build a shared democratic vision worth sacrificing and dying for.

Caucuses and single identity autonomous spaces that celebrate the diversity, complexity, fluidity and intersectionality of every identity are therefore crucial to building coalitions with poly-centric intersectional leadership in which our differences can be leveraged as strengths. Yet it is crucial that we never lose sight of the goal of collective liberation and the beloved community lest we end up reifying the same social constructs and self-limited binary identities [black/white or male/female etc.] that oppress us. We must find the delicate balance of acknowledging the impact of our socially constructed identities without reinforcing them.

How Can We Challenge the System and Survive Repression and Concession?

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It seems to me that the goal of our autonomous spaces is two fold. The first to support our revolutions and provide a launching place for campaigns beyond the confines of our oppression. The second is provide people with a viable alternative to status quo. We have provide a space where we can show people that leaving capitalism does mean that they will be homeless and starving. We have to create a world in which the hurt that people feel in the outside world does not exist. At the same time we have to provide them with alternative ways of getting their material needs met as well as emotional needs like belonging, safety and self esteem.

I believe that we are going to see America society go through a series of crisis over the next four years that the Trump administration will not be close to equipped to handle. We already know that climate change is going to mix with our crumbling infrastructure and growing migrant crisis to wreck havoc on our society. In addition, a Trump administration is likely to underfund the very non-profits and civil society organizations who would traditionally deal with these problems. While this is a prospect as terrifying as mass immigration raids and increased hate crimes it is also a potential opportunity if we rise to meet the challenge.

The organizations that generally provide services to those in need tend to disempower communities and make them dependent on the state or wealthy people for their welfare. As these organizations are defunded and unsupported by the state under a Trump administration there are many possible consequences. I think two are crucial to examine here. One is that some of these organizations will be more interested in doing empowering work not tied to service delivery but rather to advancing justice. While there are legal limits to how far these non-profits can go we also see examples in attempts like Service to Justice or the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to move organizations closer towards advancing justice and being community run. Perhaps more usefully though less likely, we might see grassroots funded and embattled organizations like labor unions step up to support programs that meet their members needs like we saw during the strike funds and food programs during labor’s heyday.

The second and infinitely more promising option is the rise of survival programs, social programing and alternative education spaces modeled after groups like the Black Panthers or the SCLC’s Operation Breadbasket. Networks like Black Lives Matter and Standing Up for Racial Justice could develop collaborations to fund and run programs in communities most likely to be hit by federal disinvestment to ensure access to healthcare, food and education. We say a little of this happen with the Occupy Movement and in particular Occupy Sandy. We have seen it with BLM chapters doing aid work in Baton Rouge. We also see it done masterfully at the four camps in Standing Rock. Eventually these networks could launch alternative economic systems modelled after the Malcolm X Grassroots Movements Operation Cooperative Jackson.

In most cities across America, bits of autonomous spaces and survival programs exist in isolation. DAT suggests that we begin to connect all of these different spheres into several holistic communities. For DAT, autonomous space is what it looks like if we merged our folk schools and movement retreats with our worker cooperates, urban farms, spiritual centers and intentional communities. We must provide the next step for people abused by the system. We must let them know another way of living is possible. We must protect these communities like maroons protected their mountainous villages of runaways [hide, flight or fight]. We must bring other activist, artist and social change agents into them to allow them to grow. They should be spaces in which we can raise families and retire or be taken care of when we are sick.

We can build the kinds of communities where restorative justice is possible. We can build spaces where a culture of critique is supported. We must build spaces where the deprivations of capitalist accumulation and horrors of oppression do not rob us our ability to work together in mutual aid. Within these autonomous spaces a liberated culture can emerge in which individuals can be transformed. Here we can be our full authentic selves and have our personal failings countered by the strengths of others. In essence, in these autonomous spaces a revolution can happen that can birth the organizers of the revolution we need.

We need to invest in the leadership and personal growth of the most marginalized members of our community so that they are equipped to engage in the radical co-creation of our new world as equal partners. We need to move beyond trying to build mass organizations that can run these programs and towards autonomous ecosystems where several different collectives work towards meeting different communal needs. We need to build a movement commons where goods, funds and services are thrown into a large pot open to all and replenished by all.  We need build movement ecosystems based on shared values and identifying with the world we want so that we can avoid co-optation and the dissolution of our coalition through small concessions that neither end human suffering nor change the fundamentally unequal power dynamics that underlie the system.

Of course we must also have a plan for surviving repression. Both the Tulsa Massacre and MOVE bombing in Philadelphia show us the potential fate of such autonomous spaces. The current crackdowns of the Standing Rock Occupation are another. Isolated autonomous spaces are appealing but isolation makes repression easier. That’s why I think we should never lose sight of the need to gain power, outlast repression and constantly rebuild in order to create a broad base woven into the fabric of civil society. However, it would be disingenuous to say that I have a theory of how we survive repression. The lack of a clear framework to survive the repression that we know is coming, and in many ways has arrived, is a serious gap in this emerging framework. Yet I do think that Bloom and Martin do make several conclusions in their book Black Against Empire that might prove instructive.

The Black Panthers reached the height of their popularity during the time that they were undergoing the most repression. There is an extent to which oppression breeds resistance. However, not all types of resistance breeds support from broader social bases. You resistance has to be contextualized to what your base of support sees as credible not merely what is morally, ethically or otherwise justifiable. Bloom and Martin put the success of the Panthers in using the right tactics at the right time. They highlighted an existing contradiction between the land of equal opportunity and the land where poor people were getting sent off to die or killed by police at home. Armed resistance was easily supported by a broad social base of the respectable Black moderates and anti-war whites.

Bloom and Martin continue by saying “The nixon administration responded by attempting to repress the radicals, on the one hand, and making broad concessions to moderates, on the other. Nixon was the one who rolled back the draft, wound down the war, and advanced affirmative action. In the 1970’s, black electoral representation and government hiring ballooned. As a result of these changes, the Panthers had difficulty sustaining broad support among blacks and antiwar activist…The hard-core right wing was not the main threat to the Party. Rather concessions to blacks and opponents of the war reestablished the credibility of liberalism to key constituents.”

I think that this analysis could be useful in our thinking. If we are to look at Standing Rock, one can see that the more police repression they face, the more people are interested in going out there. Yet, what will happen if the Obama administration moves the pipe-line off Native Land? Has there been sufficient ground work to highlight other social contradictions in addition to Native Sovereignty and by whom? It becomes an environmental justice issue will you still see BLM chapter sending support? Will it feel as urgent a call as indigenous rights?

At this point, my preliminary framework suggests that the key to surviving repression is highlighting the key political, ethical and even spiritual contradictions at the heart of an issue and building engines that are centered on multiple contradictions with multiple tactics that illuminate them at a time. BLM’s State Sanctioned Violence lens must work to highlight mass incarceration, police brutality, gendered violence and economic injustice simultaneous. Multiple tactics should be used to highlight the contradictions underlying each issue.

At the same time our ally work must continue. We must continue to agitate, educate and support white allies to fight for a world that is not simply “more just” but outside the confine of the current system. We have develop a shared vision that justify the multi-front campaigns that were discussed earlier. In this way, the concessions Bloom and Martin suggest are needed to “re-establish the credibility of liberalism to key constituencies” are much more massive than the cosmetic shifts in power that we are used to getting.

With autonomous spaces, we have the potential of creating a shared vision at the intersection of so many movements that no capitalist state solution could possibly satisfy the people fervor for change. This to me, is the radical possibility of DAT autonomy and why we should treat it as much as an end in and of itself as means to liberation. In short, our counter hegemony [alternative status quo] must use bits of the old world as protection until it is strong enough to rival aspects of the state. We will gain legitimacy not only by challenging the legitimacy of Empire in dramatic moments but also by providing for our broader communities in times of crises. Like the Brazilian slaves who created Capoeira, we might need to make ourselves ungovernable while hiding in public and preparing for the final escalation in tactics which may or may not mean self-defense.

“Perhaps the kind of home we need today is mobile, multiple, and underground.

Perhaps we need to become unavailable for state scrutiny so that we can experiment with reorganizing our social relations in revolutionary ways.

Against the rallying cry of freedom, I propose to embed revolutionary struggle in a politics of necessity and responsibility, a politics that enhances our encumbrance upon each other while rejecting the extension of our dependence on state and capital.”  — Cynthia Dewi Oka “Mothering as Revolutionary Praxis.”

Building Transformation Engines for [R]Evolution pt 2: Differential Politics

*check out the first essay in the series here*

Differential Politics

“We seek a world in which there is room for many worlds.”

Sub commander Marcos

Zapatista Army of Liberation (EXLN), Mexico

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia.

“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, – a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.”

W.E.B. Du Bois Souls of Black Folks

“In attempting to repossess identity and culture, U.S. feminists of color during the 1960’s and 1970’s, U.S. punks during the early 1980s, peoples of color and queers during the 1990’s developed survival skills into technologies for re-organizing peoples and their collective dreams for empowerment into images-turned-facts…

Dominated populaces realize their subjection to power (that people are the words the social order speaks). The radical form of cognitive mapping that differential consciousness allows develops such knowledge into a method by which the limits of the social order can be spoken, named, and made translucent: the body passes through and is transformed.”

Chela Sandoval Methodology of the Oppressed.

“Who or what is the collective subject of history? Is it the nation? Civilization? Class? Is it Hegel’s Cunning actor, Reason? Each of these categories of comprehension, while determing present phenomena as meaningful, comes to us full of residues of the past, containing the sedimented history of utopian dreams and cultural blind spots, political struggles and power effects. Historically inhereted concepts form the collective consciousness of actors who, in turn, create history. Paradoxically, even when collective actors proclaim themselves the standard bearers for universal history–indeed, especially when they make this avant-gardist claim–they establish their identity in contrast to others, to outsiders. This brings our inquiry back to the thought with which the essay, “Hegel and Haiti,” came to a close. Is it possible to reimagine universal history out of bounds of exclusionary conceptual frames? Can we humans, in a kind of reversal of Hegel, refuse to see ourselves as history’s instrument, our particular actions meaningful only when subsumed within some overarching concept as it historically unfolds–even when that concept is human freedom? Can collective subjectivity be imagined as inclusive as humanity itself? Is there a way to universal history today?” Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History.”

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Differential: To be Differential is to utilize political, emotional and spiritual discernment for revolution.

Perhaps now that state power seems so unreachable to progressives in the wake of the election of Trump they will finally be open to leftist non-state centric solutions to our problems. Likewise, I am excited by the number of people who are trying to understand why people voted the way they did on both sides. Not only can this election unveil what America has always been but it can also force us to look deeply and analytically at each other’s social position to understand why we do what we do. In this exercise of trying to understand each other’s social location I am hopeful that many of us will learn to see past the veil of ideology being spewed by mainstream society. This essay, like all of the ones in this series, hopes to provide fodder for these “what do we do next” conversations. I hope it can exist as a generative launching point for collective discussion and action.

Like the Zapatistas, I believe that the way forward is “below and to the left.” That is to say that we should organize communal power structures outside the confines of the state along anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist lenses. We need to have control over our resources and communities not just control over the liberal political structures that legislate the businesses that control the resources. I believe there are many ways to do that. Groups like the next system project outline possible alternatives to way we currently organize society.

This essay, like most of the rest of the essays in this series, is more concerned with the how than the what. How do we move from where we are to where we want to go? How do we evaluate one possible vision from another? How to we work together to manifest that vision without ending up at each other’s throats? How do we overcome the social constructs of race, class, nationality, gender and ability to build a shared vision of the world capable of holding the complexity of human experiences, contexts, desires and needs?

There are many analyses of the way forward with complementary visions of the future from Marx-Leninism to Revolutionary Nationalism to Ecofeminism. This essay suggests a way to use those analyses in tandem to create complicated maps of the terrains of power that show us multiple possible ways forward. In addition to creating maps, we must also develop a political consciousness capable of seeing our place in the terrain of power rather than accepting the place we are told we live in. This is especially true at a moment when we are all being asked to give Trump “an open mind.”  Armed with these maps and consciousness we can head toward the world we want not merely the worker revolution or nation our analysis says is the goal. Most importantly, with differential politics we are able to see every individual as a historical actor and envision worlds that can encompass many different visions for liberation, joy and freedom.

The book Radical Dharma contains a poetic description how our analysis created from a single view [Black people or the working class] often hem us into thinking we are fighting different battles or worse, that only one side has any real skin in the game. It is about the cops policing of Black bodies but it could be extended to include the policing of bodies in many ways including gender, sexuality, ability, respectability, class etc.

“Whose Liberation?

We’re in a moment in which the attention of our nation is rightfully turned to the policing of Black and brown bodies. From above, it looks like just Black and brown folks are being policed, and, while you may feel bad, at least you are free.

The policing we are witnessing is expressing itself through the State. The police force is the state institution carrying out a specific mandate. The mandate expresses an energetic need of the construct we inhabit.

The mandate is to control Black bodies.

The need is to have the constant specter of the other.

When the other exists, it strengthens your need to belong.

Your belonging is necessary for compliance.

Your compliance maintains the system.

You are policed, too.

You are policed by your need for belonging.

Your need for belonging requires control of the other.

…Or at least the illusion of it.

You are policed through the control of my body.

You are policed, too.

Once you are aware of how you are being policed, you can begin the process of self-liberating, from the position of realizing the mutuality of our liberation rather than suffering under the delusion that you are doing something for me. There is intimacy in that realization. And because Dharma is ultimately about accepting what is, it can undermine the need for control that keeps you invested in the policing of my body, thus freeing yours.”

This multi-focal approach, this attempt to view the system from seemingly opposing perspectives at once is, to me, at the core of differential modes of organizing. Not only does it allow for polycentric analysis of policing but also connects the visceral and emotional world that policing penetrates that is often left out of our analysis. The differential modes of resisting domination is a concept I first encountered outlined by Chela Sandoval in “The Methodologies of the Oppressed.” Differential movement, in this political sense, is to be able understand one’s own and one’s opponent[s] social location deeply while also being able to read power in complex ways and to use this reading to subvert, hide from, retreat from or disrupt domination and oppressive power thrusts.

A boxer, if they are any good, is hyper aware of their own body and its ability to move, dodge and fight. In order to win, a boxer must be able to read their opponent’s body and capacity with equal precision. You have to see not only the jab but the hook that the jab is trying to set you up for. The bobbing and weaving of boxer as well as the combos and breathing techniques, is all differential movement.

At it’s best differential movement exist in non-binary terms, when there are multiple combatants. This is something I always loved about the X-men comics. Sure they had superpowers and [sometimes] cool costumes. Yet what made them great was their teamwork, Cyclop’s detailed action plans and their opposition research. They had to put together all of their powers in order to exploit the weakness of their opponents. The had to fight opponents who shifted and changed and adapted while learning to see the positive side of their most volatile and unhealed teammates [i.e. Wolverine’s berserker rage or Magik’s fractured soul]

Differential movement is like the improvising of a musician. Improvising only works within the context of boundaries. What separates improvising from random notes is an understanding of the underlying structure of notes, rhythms, harmonies and melodies that are possible. One might decide to play off key or without discernable rhythm but it is the decision that makes its improvisation and not chaos. Improvising is better when you understand the science of music and the art of the instrument you are playing. This is why most Jazz musicians are classically trained. In order to, as Miles Davis said, “play what’s not there” you have be able to see what is there and know how slide beauty and quirks into the gaps.

Whether the task is fighting or making music, differential movement takes both feeling and study and practice to be effective. Differential movement is not purely intuitive even if it is driven by our visceral experience. Perfect pitch, a musical ear, naturally deft hand eye coordination are all helpful but are basically meaningless without knowing how to read music, knowing how to play an instrument or heading to the gym.

All of this is true for differential political movement. Tools like dialectical materialism, intersectionality, social reproduction feminism, and de-colonial lens all help organizers read power and determine their own social location. Ideologies like Marxism, Revolutionary Nationalism, or Anarchism help provide models of the terrain of power in which you are struggling. Boycotts, rallies, speeches, agit-prop distribution, shut-downs, strikes, campaigns, twitter storms, canvassing, bird-dogging, insurrections, people’s war and sabotage are the strategies and tactics that constitute political movement. They are the notes and combos that organizers must learn to employ effectively.

Perhaps most controversially, spiritual, social and emotional techniques like meditation, yoga, conflict resolution, thought-stopping, restorative processes, emotional intelligence, generative somatics, visioning, manifesting, healing praxi etc are all skills [human technologies] crucial to the interpersonal aspects of differential political movement. They allow us to ask us where it hurts and then map those answers to the terrains of power that political tendencies create. If our politics is geared towards ending human suffering then it should include the emotional and spiritual technologies we have developed to name, process and soothe human suffering. If our politics is not geared towards ending human suffering then it is not geared towards liberation.

To be differential is to not be dogmatic. It is not to follow a map blindly. One does not organize to seize the means of production just because we read it in a book. Just like one should not try to jump across a canyon because it looks like a small ditch on our map. We should not organize our political strategy over what the polls say.  We have to learn to use our eyes and use maps only as extra information to aid us in our journey. In a negotiation you cannot just assume that a white male capitalist is going to react a certain way based on an ideological understanding of the world, you have to read their body language, have empathy [though not necessarily sympathy] with their situation in order to decide how, which and when to press demands.

By understanding our social position in such a complicated way, we all have the tools to create a compelling narrative of personal and communal freedom. It opens up the possibility of a multi-front campaign against domination in which we are experts in our chosen field of battle. Rather than have those with “privilege” stand as “allies” in other people’s fights, differential politics allows people to understand where their fight is.

This is the essence of what is meant by political discernment. When we tie this discernment and analysis to our visceral unease with our way of life we are prepared to change our circumstances. When we connect a polycentric political analysis to a practice of asking ourselves where it hurts a seed of oppositional consciousness is created. Oppositional consciousness is knowing that there are more ways forward than society wants you to believe. It is knowing that Trump is still dangerous and autocratic regardless of the conciliatory tone he and the establishment are presenting. It is realizing that however real white supremacist institutions might make its effects, race is a social construct whose rules need only be noted, not abided by. Oppositional consciousness is knowing that bullshit is bullshit. It’s being able to see that what we are being feed is lies and recognize the truth of our own power. Hip Hop and Black Folk religion are two great examples of human technologies for transmitting the oppositional consciousness that arises in Black autonomous spaces.

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Hip Hop is culture based on radical self-expression and living against the grain of anti-Blackness and urban deprivation. Black folk religion is a set of human technologies that allowed enslaved people to build community and celebrate their collective humanity and individual worth in the most soul crushing of circumstances. At their most authentic, they help Black people choose freedom over slavery and radical hope over crushing despair and helped Black people survive a system we were not meant to survive. Hip Hop and Black Folk religion were many Black communities’ way of playing the notes the system denied us but that we knew we needed to survive. Of course, no technology is perfect. Like both Jazz and Vodun,  Hip Hop and Black folk religion have been co-opted, revised and repackaged to suit purposes antithetical to their creation. This is one reason that Black communities constantly create new genres [human technologies] for spiritual, cultural and political expression.

This is one reason why culture is an important terrain of struggle. Culture holds us down and makes our organizing spaces sustainable. Culture also reminds of who we are and our history. Rather than disdain the joy that folks get from a Beyonce video, radicals do and should understand the importance of Black popular music to oppositional consciousness. We should push our artist to be more radical and systemic in their analysis and support artists whose radical content makes them marginal. We should also consider what cultural strategies we could use to tell polycentric stories about the world we live and and the world we want.  What human technologies can we create to navigate power in the age of Trumpsim and the internet? What will be the caperoria of our Black abolitionist movement?

Oppositional consciousness is crucial to sustained differential politics in the coming era when neo-liberalism will sell prison to you as affordable housing and a jobs program. Differential political movement is developing a strategy of reading corporate and state invasions into our communities and assessing the power dynamics that make them work in order to disrupt them with strategies from previous eras of social movements used as tactics. For instance, when Wal-Mart tries to enter your community you can either fight to unionize them as a labor organizer might have in the 70’s or take a strategy from a more liberal play book and try to get community members elected to the zoning board. This choice is based on which tactic better suits your community’s needs, abilities and long term goals rather than a dogmatic theory of change from an earlier era. The liberal approach might not bring liberation but it might be an easier way to keep the homes where you plot liberation.

Central to differential politics is the understanding that all systems analysis is fiction, a good story and useful map. Marx-Leninism views the oppression of Black people in one vein and revolutionary nationalism in another. Neither of them actually explain the full range of Black political, social, emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual experiences. Like all stories the questions is not whether they are true or false but whether they are accurate and useful. Just like Newton’s Laws of Physics, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or Quantum Mechanics are all accurate at specific scales for specific questions and uses, so too are Marxism, Nationalism, Anarchism and yes even identity politics. Differential political movement is the discernment to know when to use which tool and how, never confusing accuracy for truth.

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One great example of effective differential movement is Black Lives Matter Cleveland’s Campaign against the District Attorney Mcginty. After the DA refused to prosecute the cops who murdered Tamir Rice, it would have been easy to simply run another candidate. Yet, BLM: Cleveland understood the limits of electoral organizing and the limits of getting anyone, even a movement leader, in office. Thus, instead of backing a better political candidate, launching their own campaign or trying to build a campaign to reform government they simply ensured that the local democratic party did not endorse any candidate. This meant that candidates had to go directly to communities in order to raise the funds and awareness to be viable. This made politicians accountable to Black communities without wasting energy trying to influence a fatally flawed system. The base that was built to pressure a non-endorsement can now be utilized towards more revolutionary goals. This is a brilliant example of differential political movement.

In order to be effective, differential political actions must be made from a place beyond domineering ideology in order to not reproduce oppressive social relationships. Take over your zoning board if you need to but don’t confuse proximity to power or bureaucracy with autonomous power. As mentioned in previous essays to be beyond oppressive ideologies is not to be beyond ideology itself necessarily. Rather, it means to be able to read the ideological context within which one is organizing and set one’s strategies to oppose the naturalization of oppression and domination. It also means to move without the blindness of narrow sectarian ideologies.

By using tendencies as models for terrains of power, we can use them like overlays to create more complex maps of our social location. These new maps allow us to see the different intersections of structures of oppression. With this intersectional power mapping we can strike where we are strongest and empire is weakest. This intersectional power mapping is what allows for the Palestinian Student Movement to stand in solidarity with M4BL Black August actions against mass incarceration. An anti-imperialist lens makes the international-personal connection while a marx-leninist allows you to hit the Imperialist in the pocket book where it hurts.

In our planning sessions and debrief as well as in the streets we also create a new communal identity of solidarity that can, at times, transcend the limiting social constructs we live in.

Lastly, differential political movement is a skill that is learned over time. Like most skills it takes practical experimentation and the fruits of scientific observation to master. Once base level differential action has been mastered and studied aspects of it can be written down and general principles can be learned in a book. Yet, there is no preparation like experience doing it. Fortunately, most oppressed people naturally learn differential political skills. Anything from code-switching, to learning to navigate welfare offices to learning to avoid the police is differential movement.  Organizers must recognize, name, praise and nurture the preexisting differential strategies in the communities we organize.

Likewise, we have to remember that scientific observation has very concrete limits and the context within which we experiment is constantly changing anyways. Thus it generally better to create space for people to recognize their pre-existing differential skills. Then we can set people up to learn as much of the general principles as possible and to support them in gaining the practical experience necessary for mastery. This is where Autonomous spaces are useful. In an autonomous space, away from the hegemony or mainstream views, it is easy to analyze the terrain of power. Once you have removed yourself from the mist of capitalist, white supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchal ideology and its values it is easier to decide how to combat it.

What does this mean practically speaking?

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“What if every time that the consciousness of individuals surpassed the confines of present constellations of power in perceiving the concrete meaning of freedom, this were valued as a moment, however transitory, of the realization of absolute spirit? What other silences would need to be broken? What undisciplined stories would be told?” Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History”

At its most basic level, differential politics allows us to move past sectarian divides that no longer serve us. It also allows us to be more strategic by providing us with a better sense of the terrain and our place in it.  At its highest level differential politics, with its oppositional consciousness and intersectional power mapping, allows us to swarm our enemies with expertise. Rather than have allies off on the sidelines in support roles or trying to lead on someone else’s front line it allows for a total war against domination in which our tactics come from the human technologies we have learned to navigate empire.

Earlier in the essay I asked what will be the Capoeira of our generation. To me, this is not a rhetorical question. What human technology will we create to bring tribes together, away from state supervision and practice revolution? How might we attack the supply chain of domination from where we currently stand instead of constantly rushing to other people’s communities from call to action to call to action? What would happened if we held onto the “absolute spirit” of freedom and visioned the polycentric world of the future with that lens?  I think these are questions that need answers and I think differential politics can go a long way in doing that.

In today’s movements, I think you see differential politics helping people make critical connections between movements. At standing rock you see it connect environmentalism, anti-racism and national sovereignty into a powerful movement for autonomy that is sparking fires in many communities across the globe. We have chance to come together in these moments strike a powerful collective blow to empire.

What might be the result if low income Black and Brown communities shut down the trains carrying pipeline equipment to protest the invasion of Native land AND the fact that trains run through their already polluted neighborhood? What if middle class Black homeowners owners launched lawsuits against the financial backers of the pipeline who happened to also be same banks that redlined them into “less desirable” neighborhoods and higher interests rates? What if people who were raced white threw massive cultural festivals geared towards creating a new culture based neither in whiteness nor in cultural appropriation that simultaneously raised awareness of the cost of assimilation and funds for standing rock? What if a contingent of south asians held teach-ins on eastern religions to decolonize the practices of white burners who appropriate their culture will raising funds fo Standing Rock? What if all of this work was considered historically important and we stopped fetishizing [or demonizing] those with the resources, time and inclination to chase calls to action?

What if we coordinated events with same guiding questions, spiritual grounding and sense of liberated culture? What if worked to build a shared polycentric understanding of our shared human skin in this fight? Might those who have been stolen from their lands or whose nations have been so destroyed by imperialism that we left to come struggle against extermination and assimilation  connect with those whose lands have been stolen to assert a way forward that heals the wounds of our ancestors and suggests a new way to live liberated right now. At it’s core, differential political action is about this kind of radical possibilities in context.

The next essay in the series will dive more into the what: autonomous spaces. As always, please give me any feedback, pushback or questions you have. Feel free to write a response! I think building a culture of critique and rigorous engage with political issues is necessary to develop differential politics.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Breathe.

Take a deep breath in. Let the air fill your stomach. Hold for a count of 4.  Exhale.

Shit is real. Donald Trump was just elected President of the United States. You are currently feeling all the feels. Allow yourself to feel it. Ask yourself, where does it hurt? Even if you are only experiencing anger right now, ask yourself what lies under the anger. Is it possible you are only feeling anger so that don’t feel deeper, more vulnerable emotions?

What are you afraid to let yourself feel?

Sit with that.

Ask yourself where it hurts.

What do you need? A nap, food, water, comfort, intimacy?

Go and get that. Take a drink. Cuddle with a friend. Call your mother to process. Take a twerk break. Eat food and come back to this. Take care of your needs.

Now that you are little more centered, let’s talk about what happens next. The election last night didn’t change everything. Nothing that exists today wasn’t around, in some form, last week or last month. America did not lose its mind. Racism did not “win.” Social forces of insecurity, deprivation, separation, anger, fear, resentment, disinvestment and hurt coalesced into a 30 minute up or down vote.

This is not to say that you are overreaching. This is only to say that we are not in the beginning, or end, of anything. We are in the middle of a long process of American politics which has always been fraught with anger, racism, sexism, violence and hurt [not to mention genocide and slavery]. Yet this development is serious and there are changes coming ahead that unless we intervene will be scary, dangerous, violent and hurtful.

Moving forward we know that we will have to hold each other. Regardless of what Trump does during his administration we know there will likely be some crisis in the coming months and years. Climate change, mass migration, infrastructure failure, and rising inequality were already potential humanitarian crises we were ill prepared for. America is already involved in 5 wars abroad. Unions are under attack and labor has been the red-headed step child of the Democratic Party since Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.”

Trump and his white nationalist supporters will make all of these things worse unless we come together and stop them. Our communities will be further divested from. Our water is already poisoned and our infrastructure will only get worse. Perhaps the most often unspoken part of the Presidential election is the narrative shift that occurs. Obama’s hope and change narrative was fundamentally different than Bush’s. Obama’s America was lauded as a post-racial society in which America was an “unfinished pyramid,” not perfect but getting closer every year. He re-defined what it meant to be American and what American values were. Some of this was window dressing, but some of it was substantial.

Reagan similarly changed our vision for American life.  His invention of myths like the welfare queen and the need to escalate the war on drugs retooled Lyndon Johnson’s view of government as a social worker to that of a part time cop – part time venture capitalist. Instead of building towards a great society by addressing inequity, we needed to attack those that were “living off the system” [as if anyone wasn’t in some way]. This is not to suggest Johnson’s great society was not fraught with issues. Rather it goes to show you that the bully pulpit extends into our view for the role of government and vision for America. Ultimately, it bleeds into what we expect from each other and ourselves.

I think Alexis Pauline Gumbs states it best in the book she co-edited Revolutionary Mothering.

“I was born in 1982 in the middle of the first term of a president who won by demonizing “welfare queens,” in the global context of “population control,” a story that says poor women and women of color should not give birth. A story with a happy ending for capitalism: we do not exist. The queer thing is that we were born; our young and/or deviant and /or brown and/or broke and/or single mamas did the wrong thing. Therefore we exist: a population out of control, a story interrupted.”

The economic conditions of de-industrialization made Black and poor working families disposable and would have under any president. Yet, Reagan weaponized white supremacy to infuse neo-liberalism into the American ideology. Reagan used the myth of the welfare queen to dismantle systems that mostly benefited poor white people. His narrative made their hurt invisible, in some cases even to themselves, or turned that hurt to anger and misdirected it to inner-city drug users. This is a real danger of Trump. We’ve seen inklings of this with Reagan’s and Clinton’s welfare reform but nothing of Trump’s vitriol and violence.

The point here is that some of us have been here before. Some of our communities have known that America hated us for generations. Some of us are just now realizing what America has already been. What happens next will be a cycle of crises, weaponization of hate and furthering of the crises. Marginalized people will be scape-goated in schemes to dismantle what is left of the safety net. Middle class white families will face the same sort of economic insecurity that has been a fact of life for Black and brown communities for generations. Those marginalized communities will face new levels of disinvestment that resemble the crack infused Reagan years.

So what do we do? Where do we go from here?

We need to ask ourselves where it hurts and support each other. There will be no bailout or reinvestment plan for our communities in the next four years. There will be no politicians willing and empowered to halt the mass deportations. There will be no fireside chats and WPA programs to deal with the Trump recession. Like the great depression, Black communities who have been under attack are more psychologically equipped to deal with this lack of stability and persecution.Not because we’re superhuman, we’ve just been here before and some of us have developed certain skills and practices to survive.

One of the reasons why Black people seem to be less distraught by Trump is because to us he is clearly our comb-over chicken coming home to roost. Many white people aren’t ready to acknowledge the truths that Black people have been long prepared for. Yet psychological preparation doesn’t obscure the fact that Black people and other marginalized groups will face the brunt of this crises. Not being so surprised doesn’t mean that as Black people we also don’t need to ask each other where it hurts and ask what are we afraid to feel.

It will be a rough couple of months. The communities Trump decides to target will be devastated and that devastation will be felt by all of us. We need to build autonomous communities that can provide the stability and safety to counter the insecurity Trump will engender and try to use for his own purposes. We need networks of support where we can ask ourselves where it hurts and communally manifest political, economic, spiritual and emotional balms. As the Zapitista’s say, we need a movement from “below and to the left.” Building these autonomous communities will take time and hard work, but they will be how we survive this.

This is not to say that we don’t also need to build alternative political parties and social movements. Yet, as leftist Latin American movements or Greece’s Syriza show us, without communal autonomy we will be ill equipped to survive austerity whether it is imposed by the IMF or a result of Trump’s terrible policies. We have to invest in our communities in order to build the resiliency they will need to survive the next four years. The main political aspects of what I think we should do to move forward are outlined in my essay series Differential Autonomous Transformation: Building Engines of [R]evolution.

There will be a time for serious organizing in the next few weeks. Yet many of us are shocked and that shock needs to wear off before we organize. We need to begin to support each other and give ourselves time to feel the magnitude of the moment. We need to allow ourselves to feel that which we are afraid to feel. We need to ask each other where it hurts.

Here are things you can do today to begin moving forward:

  1. Don’t shame people for how they voted or for choosing not to vote.  Voter shaming has no place in transformative politics. No matter how bad some behavior might be, the internalization of shame never leads to sustained positive change. Shame can make someone change tactics but it rarely changes hearts and minds for sustained action. Shamed people either become reactionary or internalize the shame to become apathetic or feel powerless over time. No one demographic group caused this outcome. White supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, the limits of liberal democracy and a culture of lovelessness are the problem. People who voted for Trump, Clinton or Stein still are complicit in those systems regardless of their vote. This outcome is not a reflection of who we fundamentally are as individuals but rather our system of government and our social relationships. It’s not us, but it is our shit to clean up.
  2. Take care of yourself. Like truth telling, organizing is serious business, and only truth telling and organizing will allow us to combat Trump’s agenda. We need to engage in a communal marathon, not a series of individual sprints. Self-care has to be the center of any organizing strategy. Tired, hangry, unhealed people make for reactionary, short sighted and unstrategic organizers. Create a list of things you do to destress, decompress and cultivate joy. Create a list of “Signs That I Am Not Taking Good Care Of Myself” and use it as a reminder that self care is a practice, not a one off thing.  Put that list somewhere you will see it often. Use it as a reminder to check in with yourself. Remember to love up on yourself.
  3. Reach out to your network. Create a list of all the people you love, all the people whom you are afraid for, all the people you turn to in times of deep pain. Reach out to the people on the list. Tell them you love them, ask them where it hurts, asks what support they need and tell them how they can support you. Be explicit about being willing to support your network and specific about the support you need. These personal networks will be crucial in the coming years. They will be the central hub in our autonomous networks.
  4. Don’t let Trump create a new normal. Carve out space in your home, or room, to create an “Altar To The World I Want.” Place symbols of what you are determined to keep under a Trump presidency on the altar. This is not a place to continually mourn, rather it’s a living visual reminder of why we fight. As the weeks go by, add things to it that symbolize things that come under threat or that disappear (proof of what we had). It’s important that we don’t buy into all the people telling us it will be okay, especially since they are the same people who said this would never happen. It’s also important to have a north star, to remember the world we want as we build it.
  5. Support the organizations that are already building community autonomy. Many of these organizations planned for Trump winning. Most of their plans would be the same under a Clinton Presidency, and many of them will be developing plans to tell folks what is coming. All of them will need more resources, members and volunteers. You can donate to Black Lives Matter DC here.
  6. When you are ready, centered and have a strategy get to organizing!

Building Transformative Engines For Revolution : Differential Autonomous Transformation

“I think that DAT is how left organizers, activists and leaders are re-inventing human possibility in real time and creating different ways to navigate terrains of power in order to end human suffering.”

This essay is the first in a series of essays I have been working on over the past year. I hope to finally be releasing them over the next month! Please let me know what you think!

Sparks vs. Combustion

An old SNCC organizer once asked me if I knew the difference between spark and combustion. He said the Movement for Black Lives [M4BL] has learned how to create big sparks, starts fires and get attention through direct action and protest. Yet, in order to get free, you need combustion. Combustion is what happens when a spark is tied to an engine. Engines allow you move things and consciously shape change rather than just demand it. Our protest and shut downs were creating fires all over the world, but where was the engine?

It’s engines that drive [r]evolutions.

This essay is my attempt to outline how communities facing domination by outside forces are creating their own engines of revolution. It is not an assertion of how to overcome oppression or the best way to fight it. Rather it hopes to present a generative framework to better understand how we are effectively resisting oppression right now. My hope is that it can be critiqued, rephrased and collectively turned into a platform from which stronger movements can articulate more powerful, liberated and sustainable ways to be fully human.

It is my belief that a revolution is simply a change in who has power over aspects of a given system.  With the advent of global warming, the increasing complexity of society and simplicity of our public discourse, the crises of capitalism and global unease with our way of life; a revolution in our lifetime seems inevitable. The world is in constant motion and there are several engines of change from political machines to industrial supply lines that are changing the face of our planet. Yet when workers, community leaders and organizers talk about the revolution we generally mean a struggle to end domination of one group over others. In order to ensure the coming revolution is our revolution we need our own engines of change. We need a new political analysis and strategic outlook for building movements.

The old way simply isn’t working. Our beat-up unions, civic associations and nonprofits can’t travel the roads that haven’t been repaired since the last infrastructure bill or have been washed out by the latest “storm of the century.” They can barely even ensure that all of us, Black, Latinx, Queer, Trans*, poor, differently abled, femme, youth, etc. are in the same car. Likewise, identity politics without an engine for power building and social transformation has a tendency to lead towards reinforcing a self-limiting victim narrative and framework. We can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that victims do not shape change, rather they are shaped by it.

We need a politics that allows us to recognize each new ploy by corporations to make money off our backs, each time the state overreaches and each time we reproduce the same forms of patriarchal dominance and pyramids of power that we are trying to escape. At the same time, our politics must be able to develop a posture and strategy of opposition tailored to repeal them. We need a politics that realizes that regardless of how we might feel about the state in the abstract or our personal experience of America society, the history of gender, class and racial oppression in this state shows that it cannot be reformed to justice, nor the basis of its society intentionally changed by protests alone.

The politics we need is one that is able to stretch and bend itself to fight in different terrains. From the workplace, to media and cultural commodification, to the psychological and pharmaceutical invasions of the market to the bedroom and the politics of sex. Such guerrilla opposition to capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and state domination seems the only way to defeat the array of forces lined up against us. This is especially true given that the arrangements of corporate and elite interests [post-modern capitalistic hegemony] have moved from pushing their agenda in state capitals and big cities or bodies like the World Trade Organization (WTO), in favor of a decentralized global totality and near omnipresence.

In this opposition it is my belief that we will destroy the normative, ableist and limited view of humanity that these ideologies and systems of oppression foster and thrive on. In so doing, we will create multiple new ways of being which can not only reduce human suffering but actually bring safety, stability, a sense of deep belonging and joy, love and happiness into all of humanity’s everyday lives.

The Engines of Oppression

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This framework starts with a basic premise: there are a lot of things in life that are shitty but they don’t have to be.

Our stress levels, the violence we face from each other and the police, our struggle to pay the rent, our difficulty in finding, sustaining and expressing love, and degradation of our environment are not normal or inevitable parts of how humans act and live. These problems and many others are results of engines designed by other people to structure our lives. They are the result of choices we make and choices people with more power, influence and resources make for us. These engines of oppression have divided and conquered and spiritually starved us into this current world.

First, our communities were divided and conquered by explorers, conquistadors, slave traders, and inquisitions. Indigenous spiritual practices, social and human technologies that allows us to make sense of the world and each other, have been ripped apart. Then, years of state and capitalistic domination by “enlightened” imperialist missionaries and “visionaries” have divided our inner life and forced us to deny the existence of much of our pain to cope with the human tragedy of the world they have created.

We retreat into our minds, ivory tower universities or digital landscapes in order to ignore our emotional, physical and deeply spiritual pain. By spirituality I simply mean that sense of being connected to something bigger than ourselves that gives a sense of deep meaning, perspective and wholeness [God, the Universe, the Planet, the Movement, Ancestors, Each Other etc.]. With the perception that the mind and body can be disconnected, we retreat into our bodies [or from our bodies], and dive deep into the escape of drugs, instant surface level gratification of pornography or the numbness of emotional eating; all to escape the deep emotional pain and the gnawing intuition that there must be a better way to live. We have been conditioned to accept and seek out sensation and basic stimulation, without the vulnerability and discernment of actually feeling things deeply in our mind AND body.

At the same time that we have been separated by the unity of mind and body, our bodies are being destroyed by exploitation and expropriation. The material costs of capitalist and state domination whether through brutal labor conditions, the deprivations of both absolute poverty and relative inequality through underdevelopment and sheer ecological destruction are almost impossible to quantify. The pain of this current system is simultaneously material and psycho-spiritual. Its attacks on one realm of human existence reinforces its invasion into another.

Now that we all feel that this way of life is untenable, that we have made our world unlivable, the same indigenous practices that were ripped apart have been pieced back together, devoid of any kernel of resistance, and sold back to us. Yoga and meditation is now a tool to sustain us as good employees, mild mannered subjects of capitalism. This is much the same way that Christianity, a religion that was formulated in large part by Africans, was later repackaged to enslaved Africans to keep them subservient. Likewise, in the realm of science and medicine, the same doulas and midwives that western science scoffed at as “unscientific” are now sometimes only available to wealthy white families.

The very communities that had medicine women and midwives now face a whole host of systemic health problems including high rates of infant mortality. Family farms stretching back generations are sold to agro-businesses whose industrial mono-cropping now threaten our food supply. Now NGO’s try to teach third world farmers the same poly-cropping, nomadic and other ancient agricultural practices that their ancestors were forced to abandon by colonial governments.

Thanks to centuries of colonialism, divide and conquer strategies and spiritual and economic disinvestment, we now have few communities whole enough to organize the type and magnitude of the movements we need to get free.

Civil society has broken down across America. The natural meeting places, outside of state surveillance or market forces, where we could get needs met have either been destroyed, outlawed or co-opted. Even our religious life has moved from patriarchal, but local and attentive to community needs, to mega churches which preach a self-serving prosperity gospel. Block associations,  while often being insular and problematic but at least provided a space for the neighborhood to discuss issues of importance, are now few and far between. There are few places in which whole lives [familial, political, economic, spiritual] can be lived and there is a shared sense of being in “it” together. Now our lives are fragmented into several spheres where we choose different communities from a market of options. Community organizers now have to rise to the challenge of building the communities they seek to organize in the first place. Without strong empowered communities with a shared sense of togetherness we cannot resist the schemes of those with plans for our lives.

Our current daily struggles are in large part due to the fact that power, influence and resources are not equally distributed amongst everyone. They are hoarded by the wealthy and powerful who create or invest in stories like “America being a meritocracy” together with systems of values and worth to make it seem like the wealthy deserve to have what they have hoarded. Systems of belief like racism, sexism, elitism and anti-rural sentiments were old prejudices that those in power developed when they needed to make it seem normal, right and just that the ruling class has more than those “less deserving” others.

Race, class and gender constructions are often tied to stereotypes and social value judgments that seek to divide those of us at the margins against each other rather than against those with wealth and power, and make it seem like we deserve the stress, violence and insecurity we face. The belief that we deserve these things, and so do other people, then goes on to influence the choices that we make. The stress of all of this forces us to lose the unity of mind, body and spirit and individual and communal experiences of life. We have normalized our own self-destructive coping mechanism and accept their isolating, ahistorical, decontextualized profit driven solutions and value systems.

We have to realize that the cures and solutions that the wealthy and powerful give us to solve the problem we face is the same disease they caused and profit from.

The latest, and perhaps most nefarious, disease packaged as a solution we are being sold is called neo-liberalism, the belief that the market can solve all problems. Neo-liberalism, the latest form of capitalism, is not only changing how our governments function but changing the very notions of what everyday people think government is for. Neo-liberalism is by no means the major engine of human suffering operating today but it does bring the interconnectedness of those engines into sharp relief.

Gone are the days where the common citizens believed the lie that our government is for the people and geared towards the pursuit of happiness. Now the common person seems to see the government’s job is to protect business. Now the undefined but all important “market” is seen as a natural social phenomenon that the government must respect and tend to rather than seen as something the government creates by deciding what is and isn’t legal.

People start to become bits of human capital to be invested in or bundled and traded as toxic assets for profit rather than interconnected autonomous beings to support and let thrive in communities. The purpose of life implicitly argued for in our founding documents, that one should pursue happiness and liberty, while often times overlooked or perversely inverted in the history of slavery and genocide, are in danger of being permanently replaced by the imperative to generate economic value in the minds of ordinary citizens. In this whitewashing we even forget that being free to pursue happiness is something we should fight for. Everyday people cede love, belonging and the ability to build communities that meet their needs as a terrain of struggle. Us radicals are often not far behind.

Our liberal democracy, with its focus on individual rights and disregard for power structures and history, was never going to bring liberation to people who were oppressed on the basis of a specifically constructed group identity [race, class, gender etc]. However, liberal democracy does provide a potential platform from which more liberating radically democratic projects could be launched. As Barbara Ransby once cautioned me, “it can always get worse.” Those of us who have for a long time known that the United States was an empire and the largest purveyor of violence in the world should not take solace in Marcus Garvey’s words “when all else fails to organize people, conditions will.”

While this is undoubtedly true, there is ample evidence to suggest the current engines of change are bringing about conditions that will not organize people to greater freedom and liberation. Far from it. Neo-liberal Global Capitalism— a form of imperialism fueled as it is by white supremacy and patriarchy—threatens to bring the spiritual, emotional and psychological alienation, and culture of lovelessness inherent to modern life to unimaginable depths.

It is not enough to take over the skeletal remains of the engines of our supposed democracy. We need an engine that can drive us away from this mad house to a place where we can breathe freely, see clearly and love deeply. From there we can decide what to do with the state as terrain of struggle; as an actively contested subject.

In addition, we have to be real about how much we as social change agents have to change. Anyone who has been involved in movement work for more than a few months knows how toxic, draining and harmful it can be. Anyone who has been in movement spaces for years can see how much de-colonizing work organizers and activists have to do in order to not reproduce the same or similar hierarchies and aspects of domination we are organizing against. The lovelessness, alienation and competition of the outside word is thoroughly embedded into most movement spaces. At times, we even begin to think of our movements only as brands to be invested in and leveraged.  Similarly, many in the divested communities we organize in think of organizing as a service, like dry cleaning, and expect leaders to be miracle workers for their individual problems.

If a revolution is a people taking power over their own lives, then we have to be honest about the need for our personal and communal transformation to keep pace with our revolution. Once we have power, we need the skills, restraint, balance and communal accountability to wield it differently, as well as the skills, practice and knowledge to wield it effectively. These tools must be put into the hands of many and not reserved for an enlightened vanguard.

We need new, energy efficient and sustainable engines that can be mass produced with drivers who know how to navigate through rough terrain.

[R] Evolution

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Here we run into the chicken or the egg problem of the so called transformative [r]evolution. We cannot have a successful revolution unless we have liberated, healed people to manifest it. We can’t be fully liberated if we are just focusing on surviving an oppressive system. Thus you can’t have the revolution until you have a revolution. Yet, we can’t wait for the perfect leaders to come and guide us. We are the ones we have been waiting for and we will never be perfect so our politics shouldn’t expect us to be. This is why autonomous spaces outside the constraints and expectation of mainstream society are so crucial. In autonomous spaces we have the opportunity to be our full, liberated selves and organize without much [though never all] of the self-limiting beliefs and habits that make organizing so difficult. From these autonomous spaces we can launch campaigns that build personal and communal power and that dismantle oppressive systems. Autonomous, liberated spaces where people can be free from the trauma of modern like, make it easier for us to think and act from a healed and empowered place.

Instead of thinking of a revolution as a series of events that build momentum, we can think of revolution as a cyclical process of carving out autonomous space where we are freer and can look beyond the ideologies of oppression to devise transformative campaigns. These transformative campaigns carve out even more space, while teaching us the necessary skills of resilience, self-governance, and mutual aid.

In these autonomous spaces we can achieve what Elle Hearns calls collaborative solidarity. Collaborative solidarity is where campaigns invest in the leadership capability of the most marginalized so that they can be leaders in their own frontline struggles while in common cause with multi-front campaigns for collective liberation. Then, as stronger movements, we can launch more broad based multi-front attacks on oppressive structures and better protect our communities from repression. Thus, we can see that Revolution is the cars we build around our engines [social movements and autonomous projects] to carry us on our multi-generational journey to liberation. Through all of this work, we can be collectively and individually transformed into the people capable of manifesting a more just world.

The basis of this belief lies in my lived experience organizing for my own freedom and in my observation of other frontline community struggles. It lies in the way I’ve seen Black people reclaim spaces in gentrifying communities, use unapologetic Blackness to expand that space and build community and then launch campaigns to further their material interests, and from that liberated space build political and personal power while psychologically and spiritually transforming themselves. It comes from me seeing flawed Black people find as much healing in shutting down a highway as in a healing circle. It is also based on seeing so many campaigns win symbolic victories that have little effect on people’s lives and instilling no desire to take on the next fight.

This analysis is heavily based off the transformative organizing model, Third World Feminist Analysis of writers like Chela Sandoval, emergent strategies as articulated by the brilliant adrienne maree brown, the visionary work of Black Queer Feminists like Audre Lorde and June Jordan, and the vision of Octavia Butler who understood that change is a primary force in the universe. Also, issues of reclaiming the commons and building autonomy as articulated by Silvia Federici and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Kali Akuno were essential to my thinking.

I also have to give thanks to my various DC activist and organizing communities whose thoughts and perspectives show up in all my work. I appreciate Benjamin Woods, Eugene Puryear and Netfa Freeman for encouraging me to read more about Black freedom movements around the world. Thanks to Marybeth Onyeukwu whose fiery anti-carceral feminism and focus on Black immigrants always encourages me to make critical connections. Thank you to amazing Reece Chenault for reading a draft of this and for our incredibly generative conversations on the practical side of organizing and the politics of love. Special thanks to Rob Wohl and Bjorn Westergard whose late night debates on western Marxism have clarified a lot of my thinking.

Most importantly, much of the transformative nature of this analysis is a direct result of Black Women organizing for liberation in our lifetime. I owe a major spiritual and intellectual debt to Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Erika Totten, Adaku Utah, Omolara Williams McCallister, Katie Lonke and Elle Hearns for their strategic brilliance and cutting edge analysis, their embodied examples of a more livable Black Future and their organizing/healing work which were the initial impetus for this idea. Also my big sister and my immediate family’s first organizer April Goggans who is the reason I started organizing. I also owe an intellectual debt to Buddhist Peace Fellowship whose members brought the intersection of social justice and spirituality and the formation of Build/Block/Be into my life at just the right time to crystalize all of my thoughts into something useful.

Naming this history is important to me because I am interested in highlighting the current existence of and need for more organic intellectuals.

“Traditional intellectuals can distinguish themselves purely through the originality of their ideas or the eloquence of their expression, but organic intellectuals must initiate a process that involves people in social contestation…Organic intellectuals try to understand and change society at the same time…Organic intellectuals generate and circulate oppositional ideas through social action. They create symbols and slogans that expose the commonalities among seemingly atomized experiences, and they establish principles that unite disparate groups into effective coalitions. Most significantly, they challenge dominant interests through education and agitation that expose the gap between the surface harmonies that seem to unite society and the real conflicts and antagonisms that divide it.” George Lipsitz

In my mind, Differential Autonomous Transformation is not something new, nor is it something I created or discovered. Rather, DAT is a description and an analysis of resistance in action. It is an attempt, incomplete but hopefully useful, to synthesis the praxis of many different contemporary organic intellectuals. DAT is an attempt to illustrate the tactical genius of directly affected resistance so that front line communities can learn from each other. DAT is part of the long legacy of the many headed hydra. DAT provides a glimpse of what Susan Buck-Moss calls “universalism from below,” a global revolution for communal autonomy. It allows for the utilization of a specific form of collective subjectivity in which our narrative, political and spiritual terrains become polycentric palimpsests which can be the basis for mass based resistance and collective liberation.

Polycentrism:

  • This means having many centers instead of one
  • Polycentrism is unity in diversity or the ability to incorporate multiple experiences, both subjective and objective, into our understandings of the whole.
  • It means having multi-focal spaces that value a diversity of experiences within the space, allowing for folks to contribute different things to shared projects and receive different benefits from them
  • It means holding pluralistic views without being tolerant of intolerance
  • It means centering the experience and leadership of the most marginalized without reproducing hierarchies.

Palimpsests: is technically a manuscript page, either from a scroll or a book, from which the text has been scraped or washed off so that the page can be reused for another document. Often the word is used to describe an object made or worked upon for one purpose and later reused for another in which the earlier work can still be seen. Here is a crucial metaphor for understanding the history that is still visible and important in creating our new one.

So What Is Differential Autonomous Transformation?

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Differential Autonomous Transformation [DAT] is a synthesis of emergent strategies of resistance to domination in which oppressed people build engines, guided by a revolutionary love burning in their chests, that manifest the world they want by launching decentralized, targeted swarm attacks on structures of domination to carve out and expand autonomous spaces from which to launch transformative campaigns that build a new world in the shell of the world. DAT is what revolutionary love looks when it is employed by autonomous, healthy, healing communities of resistance simultaneously as tool, weapon, and sustenance.

From my view, DAT is how new social movements in America are trying to build engines of change. DAT is a style of organizing where communities use a praxis composed of several human technologies. A praxis is a cycle of acting, reflecting on the results of that action, reading accounts of other similar actions and then putting all that knowledge to use by acting again. A human technology is a social skill set, ritual or cultural practice that allows people to navigate aspects of the social, political, emotional and spiritual world we create. They are means of social reproduction geared to vision how one can and should move through the world. DAT human technologies allow people to navigate power with increasing agency, autonomy and self-determination.

Most human technologies are passed down to us over generations and re-fined each time an elder teaches it to a youth. Some emerge out of crises to be refined over-time or abandoned once the crisis is averted. Some human technology, especially those we create to deal with trauma are kept long after their usefulness. Human technologies include everything from family structures, to religion, rites of passage, musical genres like the blues or Hip Hop, and hospitality culture to Black folk religion [not to be confused with the hierarchical and colonial Black church] and the hymns and theology that it developed to allow enslaved Africans to recognize and celebrate their humanity under the brutality of slavery.

I believe that over time different conceptions of humanity, human life, human nature or human possibility arise and create a logic to organize our human technologies towards that end. The enlightenment re-organized the human technologies in the image of the rational man in much the same way that neo-liberalism re-organizes society for the economic man.  I believe that the left needs to assert a new vision of humanity, not of human nature but of human possibility, that enables us to ask each other [including ourselves and our enemies] where it hurts and have the skills to move to soothe that pain and dissolve the systems that perpetuate that hurt en masse.

I think that DAT is how left organizers, activists and leaders are re-inventing human possibility in real time and creating different ways to navigate terrains of power in order to end human suffering.

The core human technologies that I see comprise DAT are deeply intertwined and often times inseparable. Like DAT itself, they seek to build a comprehensive whole and compliment each other. They are separated out into three sections for ease of understanding. This is by no means comprehensive. Like everything about this framework, this is just the start of conversation. I hope this essay series leads to people adding on to and challenging this list:

Differential: To be Differential is to utilize political, emotional and spiritual discernment for revolution.

  • Critical engagement
    • The ability to read power in real time and devise a series of tactics suited to your conditions that align with an adaptive and emergent strategy for shifting power.
  • Intersectional power mapping
    • The ability to see how multiple systems of oppression influence and work together to create the power dynamics that underlay a given situation while understanding yourself, your communities and their opponents in relation to these system of oppression, resources and power.
  • Strategic collective action
    • People working together to build power-with (not power over) in ways that further goals of liberation, freedom or ending suffering.

Autonomous: To be autonomous is to be healed and whole outside the structures of oppression and away from state supervision.

  • Oppositional Consciousness
    • The realization of how what you want for yourself and your community is fundamentally at odds with what is expected of you from the society.
  • Radical consent as active co-creation in creating systems of mutual aid
    • Rather than merely helping people make informed decisions, it is working together to transform the options available to us so that there are multiple ways for individuals to get their needs met together with an understanding that we cannot separate our individual and communal experiences/contexts.
  • Holistic healing and well-being practices
    • Ways to disrupt cycles of violence and stop communities from passing trauma between each other
  • Decentralized ecosystems [networks] of intentional spiritual, social, political and economic communities
    • Every thing from co-operatives, intentional communities, new monasticism, anarchist collectives, sou-sous, settlement houses, catholic workers, to the elderly couple that opens their homes to the kids in destabilized conditions up the street.
  • Liberated culture
    • having culture based on non-hierarchical, anti-racist, feminist, anti-capitalist values that affirm the inherent value of all people and all bodies. It is a pluralistic culture that is not tolerant of oppression and domination and puts life over profit.

Transformation: To be transformative is to move through the world in way that forces ourselves to grow and that changes the world around us to better reflect the world we want.

  • Transformative Love
    • A commitment to building relationships based on an ethic of ending human suffering by coming together to meet the needs and desires of all parties simultaneously, by transforming the context within which those relationships exist.
  • Faithful Witnessing
    • Witnessing against the grain of oppression.
    • A commitment to deep empathy where we recognize people’s [including our own] actions, thoughts and desires as a result of their social location within systems of oppression and affirm acts of resistance to that oppression even when it is uncomfortable or seen as impolite, “unstrategic” or not sanctioned by mainstream society.
  • Letting the erotic guide
    • Using the viscerally felt joy we experience in life, what Audre Lorde called the erotic, as a guide towards liberation
    • remembering that the point of ending human suffering is to feel joy, wholeness and deep satisfaction.
  • Revolutionary visionary experimentation
    • Praxis of testing our beliefs of what it possible by living them out in the present with a commitment to rigorous critique and self reflection that allow us to sharpen our analysis.