The Three CrisesFeb 18, 2022
Here at the WildSeed Society, we have been having many conversations about what’s really going on in society today. Below, Sandra and Aaron try to lay out in everyday terms, what they feel is at the root of many of the problems we are facing.
One of the guiding intentions of WildSeed Society is to support folks who are seeking a way out of racialized-gendered-capitalism and state-managed society towards collective liberation. We want to let people know that they are not alone in thinking that this world is not set up for us to thrive or afraid that as bad as things are they might get worse, especially with climate change and growing white supremacist street movement.
More importantly, we want to let people know that they don't have to expend energy trying to save a system that never cared about them or was never designed to meet their needs. There are more realistic and acceptable options than a walking dead style social collapse. Likewise the U.S will not stop being a racist, sexist and xenophobic failed state just because we believe in the “American” Dream, give in to our racist neighbors who are really just angry at being left behind or vote for a democratic party that is more afraid of progressive women of color than Nazis.
The truth is, some fires need to burn and some houses, divided or not, should not stand. We are not suggesting that the United States as a community of people is not capable of transformation but rather the structures and government of the country that killed Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eric Garner, that steals indigenous women and locks children in cages is a house not worthy of our efforts to save it.
A culture is, fundamentally, how we choose to be with each other. The culture of the U.S. has always been mediated by the systems of cruelty and accumulation that regulate and organize how we are with each other. Instead of trying to redeem these institutions of cruelty and accumulation, we want to invite you to consider the possibility that together, we can, as the Zapatistas say, build a world capable of holding multiple worlds.
That is a world where a diversity of life and paths for collective thriving coexist and support each other. We can build a better house and learn to live in a way that doesn't constantly set the world on fire. We can retreat from the government structures, extractive industries, numbing overconsumption and electoral strategies that no longer serve us and build our liberation outside of its logics.
Now more than ever, we live in a high tech, low touch world in which we always seem to be sacrificing one need for another. Many of us want to end the crushing loneliness we feel but we don't want to sacrifice our dignity and self respect by hanging out in places that make us feel like crap or staying in relationships that no longer serve us. We want to remove the constant anxiety of not having enough money to pay the bills without working at a terrible job that hates us almost as much as we hate it. In short, we want to experience human fellowship and belonging while meeting all our needs with dignity.
Why is that so hard?
Well, as James and Grace Lee Boggs put succinctly, as a society we are overdeveloped materially and underdeveloped socially. We are good at making things, much of which no one really needs, but terrible at taking care of each other and making sound collective decisions that work for everyone. We have the ability to extract resources at unparalleled rates but lack the ability to be human with each other. This is what our socialist friends might call an antagonistic contradiction but what we think of as "where America fucked up at" and the reason we can't have nice things.
This contradiction shows up in life in three main ways: the crisis of belonging, the crisis of unacknowledged history and the crisis of [over] production.
The Crisis of Belonging
The first is the crisis of belonging. As Peter Gabel discusses in his book, "The desire for mutual recognition," the desire to belong, to experience co-presence with another living being, is a central motivation of human life. This desire always coexists with a fear of the other, or a fear of rejection in that quest for mutual recognition.
Over time, many societies have emphasized the fear of the other over our inherent desire to connect with each other. This age-old problem was exacerbated with the rise of racial, bodied, and gendered capitalism which uses both the fear of the other and desire for connection for control and profit. We are told we must confirm and "earn a living" to have respect and social recognition.
Our very identities are constructed to naturalize or justify our exploitation. This leads us to constantly navigating bias and bigotry while trying to belong to spaces set up to exploit us. It denies us mutual recognition at the interpersonal and social level. Without mutual recognition–that basic human need to be seen and respected by people and society–the fear of the other and denial of our full self becomes the norm.
At the heart of the crisis of belonging is something we call genrecraft. Genrecraft is about the way society--that is institutions like schools, legislatures and corporations as well narrative creating spaces like movies and books--create types or genres of humans with different levels of worth and then forces those genres onto people as identities.
It's not just about stereotyping or bigotry but also about the concrete material goods and relationships to institutions and social protection that some identities are routinely denied so that emotional energy, culture, labor and land can be extracted from them more readily. This leads even those who are privileged by the system to hide their true self, to trade authentic co-presence for material goods and social protection against the worst the system has to offer.
Whether it is talking about race, class, gender, ability or other identities, genrecraft is the codes that police behavior, the rituals of dominance and submission that are expected in everyday interaction and the way that we think of kinship and relatedness that are tied to what "genre" of human people are seen as.
Genrecrafting complicates real human connection by conditioning us to place ourselves and others in boxes that distribute worthiness,authority, access to care and material resources, protection from harm, rights to comfort and autonomy over our own bodies in unequal ways. Genrecraft is often a tool of colonization of indigenous cultures, causing ways of being human together to be destroyed and replaced by new identities that leave us without the tools to articulate our humanity on our own terms.
Overtime people come to embody, in deep somatic and unconscious ways, the genre stories that have been told about us.You might say, we have come to believe the lies that empire has told us about ourselves. So the fight against bigotry and bias is crucial but overcoming genrecraft will mean both rethinking the basis of our social institutions and our identities. It would not be an exaggeration to say, as many afro-pessimists do, that to all be fully human together will take the end of this world and the start of a better one.
Fundamentally, genrecraft prevents us from experiencing co-presence and meeting our basic need for mutual recognition, to be fully seen and accepted by peers and society at large. Instead genrecraft teaches us to trade the possibility of mutual recognition for promises of material and emotional comfort at the expense of the other. Thus people who are socialized as white are taught to forget the indigenous languages and practices of mutual recognition their ancestors practiced in order to achieve a level of access to land and comfort that is conditioned on their policing of themselves and non-white people.
The main takeaway here is that if you feel like there is nowhere you can truly belong it's not because you are unlovable or unworthy of belonging.
It's because we have been taught by society to treat belonging and care as a scarce resource that must be earned and the boundaries of belonging have been policed by institutions and actual armed police that embody our conditioned fear of the other. We think that the solution to this is to find refuge by offering it to other people. To build a world in which you belong by being truly present with others as they are and building spaces where we can all get our material, social and spiritual needs met with dignity. We need to create a world where our belonging doesn't have to be earned or bargained for.
This is why the WildSeed Society has been so focused on collective care and mutual aid. We are experimenting with how to consistently hold spaces where not only are all welcomed and tolerated but built with real human participants, in all their sacred messiness, pain and rage, hopes and dreams in mind. This is why in the coming weeks, we will be inviting folks to join us in a liberating retreat away from capitalism, the state and fear of the other.
The Crisis of Unacknowledged History
The second crisis stemming from the central antagonism of U.S society is the crisis of unacknowledged history. We lack the cultural practices to really acknowledge our actual history and prefer watching myths of an inherently good or infinitely improving "America" on t.v while consuming away our sorrows by buying more and more. This leads us deeper and deeper into financial and spiritual debt while training us to project our intergenerational trauma onto each other and blaming each other instead of the legacies and institutions that caused and profit off our pain.
At the heart of the crisis of unacknowledged history is the nation's refusal to come to terms with how the genocide of indigenous people of this continent and the enslavement of Africans still informs the basis for our way of life.
As William Appleman Williams argues in his book "Empire as a Way of Life," "Racism, the product of the image of the Ignoble Savage, began and survived as the psychologically justifying and economically profitable fairy tale. It provided the gloss for the harsh truth that empire, soft or hard, is the child of inability or unwillingness to live within one's own means. Empire as a way of life is predicated on having more than one needs."
Our collective inability to recognize that the U.S is an empire means we fail to see that the "American Dream" is essentially giving riches to some and abundance to many by taking it from other people while telling stories about how they didn't deserve it in the first place. It is the narrative that justifies everything from the war in Iraq, to the neoliberal privatizations schemes of the 80's to disastrous welfare reforms in the 90's.
It is logic through which Biden believes we can take billions of dollars from Afghans while they are starving and spread it out to U.S citizens harmed by attacks, that while devastating and unquestionably horrendous, were done by men who are long dead and not from Afghanistan. We are all trapped in a racist ponzi scheme and taught from birth that our success is due to the wondrous American system and our struggles due to our own moral failings or, better yet, the failings of other less distinctly American people.
While the American Dream is and has always been a lie, the dreams, strivings and struggles of our ancestors are not rendered meaningless by this truth. The dreams of immigrants who came here for a better life need not be forgotten. The strivings of enslaved Africans for a more substantive and expansive freedom based on mutual recognition still remain valuable aspects of our history.
We simply need to develop the capacity to understand those dreams in context as neither innocent nor evil, but human and deeply interwoven into all the dreams and stories that have taken place in this land.The hard truth is that beautiful, invaluable dreams of freedom have been planted in stolen land and fertilized with blood by the descendants of the enslaved, the settler and the native alike. One truth does not destroy another. We need not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors to honor them.
The take away from this is that we need to learn to grieve our history together, taking what is true and useful while leaving what no longer serves all of us behind. We can't afford to repress the pain of this unacknowledged history any longer nor can we afford to keep sacrificing our time, energy and capacity trying to save or reform a way of life predicated on theft and slavery. When we repress emotions, even the bad ones, it takes a toll on our bodies.
More importantly, repressing the pain makes it harder to fully live into our joy. Similarly, when we don't grieve we can find ourselves trying to lead from our wounds and end up causing more harm in our search for justice. This is part of the reason why social movements have been so harmful to the spiritual wellness of its participants.
This is why WildSeed centers the questions “How can we collectively metabolize the toxins that arise when subverting empire?" Which is to say, how we create collective rituals that allow us to be transformed in service of liberation rather than just poisoning ourselves and our communities in supposed service to "the work." We believe that reparations for slavery, gencocide and exploitation (for those of African descent, indegenous people and other exploited populations) and the rematriation of most of the land of the U.S into indigenous stewardship is the way in which we can finally acknowledge our true history.
Rather than focus on the loss of riches that such acts might lead to for many, we should consider such acknowledgments the first step in building a world in which we are all human together. Reparations and rematriation are simply down payments on our shared humanity. With this down payment we can begin to create new kinship structures or ways of relating and distributing power, roles and expectations between people.
The Crisis of [Over] Production
The third crisis is the crisis of [over] production. We work too hard making shit no one needs so that other people can get rich while we struggle to pay rent and see a doctor. We work so hard to make others profit that we barely have the energy for social reproduction, that is all the care, culture and nurturing work that makes life livable. On top of that all our hard work is literally killing us and the planet.
At the heart of the crisis of overproduction is the Logic of Capital. The logic of capital is a set of underlying assumptions that most modern societies have about hows things are made, specifically how the people making, buying and profiting for producing things relate to each other. It is based on order givers controlling the worker's time and efforts rather than the worker's own creativity and need determining what is produced and how. The logic of capital can manifest in things like market forces under capitalism or some political bureaucrat under centrally planned socialist economies.
Whether you make and sell widgets because there is a market for it or because the party bureaucrats demand it, you end up spending your time working for other people in ways that don't serve you or meet your needs. Under capitalism, it often doesn't even serve your community. Over time, the logic of capital alienates us from our own life. Our daily grind becomes less and less about getting or achieving the things we want or how we want them.
When we work to meet someone else's desire for profit or power, our own initiative and desire to do something for ourselves increasingly seems alien to us.
This alienation is prevalent even when we do work that "we love" or for the "the cause." In order to get funded, we always seem to be trying to solve someone's else problems somewhere else with solutions from outside the community. Funders, donors and clients trying to get the best "bang for their buck" ensure that the only work you can get at livable wage is work the majority (those enriched by the capital system) approve of and understand.
The work of reproducing society–of literally birthing, nurturing and raising children and feeding ourselves–is not even considered productive work in this scheme. So called "Women's work" or care work is invisibilized even though we would literally die without it. As the care economy has all but shut down due to COVID, thousands of people have died for lack of care provided by family, friends and neighbors.
The main takeaway here is that work sucks. Work leads to inequality that stifles democracy, is killing the planet and killing us, so let’s abolish it!
Instead of work we could have play. Play is voluntary. You cannot be forced to play. There are also two types of play, finite play in which one party wins and infinite play in which the point of play is to keep the play alive. We think that instead of the regime of work where we are coerced into making widgets in order to earn a living (forcing women and femmes to do double duty doing all the uncompensated and invisibilized reproductive work) we should have infinite play where the objective is for everyone to support each other getting our needs met with dignity.
In infinite play there is no artificial boundary between so-called “productive labor”, reproductive labor and leisure. There is no need for private governments called employers to tell you what to do, when to do it and how to smile while you are doing it. Instead we can be in right relationship with the land because it reminds us that all life is sacred and food we grow for ourselves (or is grown by people we are in relationship with) tastes better to us. We can make care work communal and not tied to sex or gender so that doing laundry or dishes is no longer drudgery but an excuse to see friends and catch up. If we ever make widgets during infinite play, it will be because those widgets are awesome or because the next community over needs them.
A world of infinite play requires the creation of a new world of belonging that is the solution to the first crisis. It also requires the down payment on our humanity through reparations and rematriation that is the solution to the second crisis. In that new world, we can collectively steward the resources we hold in common, for the good of all beings (including non-human people, plants and other animals) with voluntary, life affirming, emergent aspects of infinite play.
A world of infinite play is world of freedom of movement, freedom to disobey orders, freedom to create new social relationships and forms of kinship. Combined with a culture of belonging and reparations it will also provide freedom from relative deprivation thereby creating a world in which everyone gets their needs met with dignity.
We Are Not To Blame But We Are Responsible
Now that we've contextualized why it's so hard to find belonging and meet your needs in this society, we want to share how we can internalize those messages in ways that keep us trapped in the system - and how it doesn't have to be that way. Not if we get out together.
When we are lonely, we often think it's because we are unlovable. When we're unmotivated, we think it is because we are lazy. But the vast majority of problems we face are not individual failings. Your lack of a community isn't your fault. It is a result of prolonged assault against communal spaces by the forces of privatization, profit and fear of the other. Your lack of motivation is the natural response to perpetually shitty options coupled with decision fatigue. We get a hundred unnecessary options for every daily commercial decision but little control over the things that matter like how we do our work, how much money we make or how we relate to each other in society.
The truth is, we have all been sold a pack of lies about our society, how it works and why it works the way it does. We feel alone because our communal spaces have been privatized, underfunded or attacked by powerful interests. Community Centers get torn down to build luxury condos, schools are systemically underfunded and starting to resemble prisons and social movements that seek to demand more from our government are brutally repressed by police and demonized by the corporate press.
People with money and power in society have used both to push a narrative that the problems we face are individual or unsolvable. We traded the possibility of true belonging for a false sense of security and esteem based on not being at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Instead of freedom and belonging we have settled for not being “those people” and have lost a bit of humanity in the process. We have allowed the controllers of capital to mobilize our fear of the other to get us to accept this high tech, low touch world. Yet the problems we face are more a result of systemic outcomes not individual choices and these systems can and must change.
Of course, while we might not be to blame for our problems, we are responsible for them. In the literal sense of the word, we are able to respond and so we must. No one will fix society for us but us. As the poem goes, we are the ones we have been waiting for. Or more constructively for this particular moment, we need to become the people we have been waiting for, because to do differently we are doing to need to be different. We are going to need to learn to care for ourselves better, to be more generous and lovable neighbors and more capable buildings and maintainers of alternative systems that nurture and regenerate our world.
The good news is that together, through collective action we can build multiple worlds that actually allow us to live the lives we desire and deserve. By doing it together, we can find the refuge and belonging we so desperately want. And in the course of building this new world we can transform ourselves into the kinds of people capable of the generosity, care and love that these worlds require. Universal Belonging that abolishes Genres of Human Worth, Reparations and Re-Matriation as a down payment on Liberatory Kinships and Infinite Play with Substantive Freedoms are possible and being seeded right now.
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