Usefulness of Mutual Aid Against Our Failing Government

There are times when I’m afraid to write certain things. When I fear those I care about will be hurt by what I write. Afraid they will think poorly of me.

That was the case yesterday when I wrote “what this means for me is I don’t worry about the dysfunction of the political system. The culture and identity wars.”

For me this means rethinking whether we can influence government, which no longer serves us. Trying to engage with government officials has been one of the main ways Quakers and many others have worked for change. In earlier times, remarkable changes sometimes resulted.

I know many Friends will disagree when I say I believe this is no longer true.

Previously I wrote we need to rethink the stories we tell ourselves. Let go of the stories we have discovered were not, or no longer are true. Rethink stories of our past, of other cultures. To seek and really listen for Spiritual guidance. Act on that guidance. Question everything. Create new stories.

What I pay attention to, what I can actually help with are the survival needs of my community.

Your local Anarchists, Communists, and Black Liberations organized a mass evacuation of the houseless camps to hotel rooms paid for by the community. We have turned no one away in this polar vortex. We keep us safe, the government is incapable of doing so.

Des Moines Mutual Aid

The Mutual Aid work I’m most involved with is the free food project, which is a continuation of the Black Panther program mentioned below, that has existed in Des Moines since that time in the early 1970’s. I was there this morning. The wind chill was -11. Several of us mentioned we couldn’t see because our masks (which everyone wears) fogged up our glasses. Each time we would laugh about that. As always, we enjoyed being and working together.

We have only so much of ourselves that we can invest in work for justice. We can’t afford to waste that on things that will not result in change. The effort put into ineffective processes is effort that will not be available for other things, such as Mutual Aid.

I would ask what your stories are.

  • What is your justice work?
  • What has that work accomplished?
  • Have you developed deep, new friendships? New community?
  • Does that work excite and fulfill you?

Too little attention is paid to how justice work affects those doing the work. Too often I see those who want to make a difference go from committee meeting to meeting. Too often feeling dissatisfaction and fatigue. That isn’t going to do anyone any good.

That’s what Jason Laderas meant when he wrote mutual aid focuses on the root of community problems, rather than their symptoms. We bring the Beloved community into existence when we realize that with Mutual Aid, we are that community.

mutual aid focuses on the root of community problems, rather than their symptoms. 

Jason Laderas

Now more than ever, it is clear to me that there is not much of a difference between the Democrats and Republicans in America.

While the Democrats may seem to favor human rights more than the Republicans, they have failed to deliver the type of change that could transform our society and lift millions out of suffering.

This whole two-party system is a facade. Neither party has the average person’s interests in mind. It’s about what benefits the billionaire corporations the most; it’s about serving the wealthy elite and leaving everyone else behind.

It’s not surprising that during this past year of COVID-19, where millions of people became unemployed, thousands of people died and millions were at risk of eviction, that the billionaires in the United States gained about 1.3 trillion since March of last year, according to inequality.org.

It doesn’t surprise me because this is just how our capitalist system is supposed to be working — the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer.

For far too long, our government has failed to vastly improve our material conditions. While people of other countries have enjoyed monthly government payments to help deal with COVID-19, the U.S. has only issued three direct payments.

It really makes me think, are we really the best country in the world?

If we cannot depend on our elected officials to deliver change that is going to benefit the overwhelming majority of this country, it is self-explanatory that the people may have to take matters into their own hands.

All massive changes in the history of America have started with everyday people banding together for a cause that they believe in. It does not start with the government. In the push for civil rights for Black people in the ’60s, change came to be with grassroots organizing.

The same can be applied to the changes that we want today. Since we cannot depend on our government, we have to depend on each other.

The Usefulness of Mutual Aid Against Our Failing Government, By Jason Laderas, slice of culture,  

If we cannot depend on our elected officials to deliver change that is going to benefit the overwhelming majority of this country, it is self-explanatory that the people may have to take matters into their own hands.

Jason Laderas

One of the most famous examples of mutual aid is the Free Breakfast for Children Program of the Black Panthers. The Panthers took notice that poor black children often could not learn to the best of their ability because of poverty and hunger, so they took it upon themselves to feed the children. 

They served free breakfast and lunch daily, also intaking donations from other organizations within the community like churches and other businesses.

This program spread all around the Black Panther chapters across America, eventually reaching 36 cities by 1971. In 1969, 20,000 children were fed across America through this program. 

It was admitted during a 1969 U.S. Senate hearing in California, that the Panthers did a better job of feeding poor children than the state did. 

The Black Panthers breakfast program is a prime example of just how mutual aid can benefit communities. They took notice that the government was not doing their job to adequately educate, feed and house Black people in America, so they did it themselves. 

The Usefulness of Mutual Aid Against Our Failing Government, By Jason Laderas, slice of culture,  

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