I continue to pray how to express what I’ve been learning about Mutual Aid, especially because I will be speaking about this in several weeks. What is confusing is Mutual Aid will not seem like a new concept. That is because it is not. What I need to convey is why we are at a point where we have no choice but to change. And that change is back to supportive local communities (Mutual Aid communities).
For millennia, people lived in sustainable ways. Life was often a struggle. But people did not use more resources than what could be replenished (up to the blue line in the graph below). They lived sustainably.
What has been different over the past several generations has been the wealthy and powerful asserting their dominance not only over people, but over Mother Earth herself with disastrous consequences.
The mistake the elites made was to view money as power. They achieved their goal to accumulate massive amounts of money and the material things that could be bought. In the process they impoverished the masses who would have kept the cycles of capitalism moving. Now their wealth is worthless.
The other mistake the elites made was to disregard the conservation of resources that fed the machines that built their wealth. Conservation necessary to sustain the very lives of everything on the planet. Now that the disastrous consequences from that overconsumption can no longer be ignored, the elites build fortresses to hide in. Those shelters cannot sustain them for long. Thus, even the elites are being forced to realize they face extinction along with the rest of us.
The elites could only have done these things by turning their back on the Creator. Perhaps the gravest mistake they made.
I’ve been praying and thinking about all these things since I moved to Indianapolis in 1970 where I was horrified by the foul clouds of smog. There was obviously something very wrong happening. In the years since, I’ve asked the Creator what I could do. I was led to live without a car. To fight against pipelines.
And yet, here we are.
We’re at an intersection where we can no longer rely on so many things we once could. We’re bewildered by the collapse of so many things we took for granted. Such as our educational, healthcare, and economic systems. The dramatic turn of our political and justice systems to destroy our freedoms, to increasingly oppress us. Collapse of our communities, including family, neighborhoods, and faith. Desecration of Mother Earth herself.
When I look at the world today, I see something chilling. Collapse is already here — and it’s spreading. And next to it is the curious juxtaposition of pretending that life will go on “normally.” I’ve warned for some time now that we’re entering an age of collapse, where our great systems will fail — and if you look around now, you can see it beginning to happen.
We’re going to talk about this in three forms — political, economic, and social systems — and on two levels, national and global systems. What’s alarming — oh no, am I an alarmist? — is that now our systems are visibly beginning to fail, and fail incredibly swiftly, in all of those ways.Collapse Is Already Here — And It’s Spreading. I Don’t Know If You’ve Noticed — But Our Systems are Breaking Down by umair haque, Eudaimonia, May 19, 2022
We have no choice but to change our ways as we move into the future. Those changes involve returning to the beloved communities of our ancestors. And that is what Mutual Aid is all about.
What do we do now? We rebuild our communities in ways not based upon money and dominance. Such communities thrive all over the world. Indigenous peoples have always lived this way. Even generations of white people once did so. Simply stated, Mutual Aid is a framework that can help return to those ways of living.
The concept of Mutual Aid is simple to explain but can result in transformative change. Mutual Aid involves everyone coming together to find a solution for problems we all face. This is a radical departure from “us” helping “them”. Instead, we all work together to find and implement solutions. To work together means we must be physically present with each other. Mutual Aid cannot be done by committee or donations. We build Beloved communities as we get to know each other. Build solidarity. An important part of Mutual Aid is creating these networks of people who know and trust each other. When new challenges arise, these networks are in place, ready to meet them.
Another important part of Mutual Aid is the transformation of those involved. This means both those who are providing help, and those receiving it.
With Mutual Aid, people learn to live in a community where there is no vertical hierarchy. A community where everyone has a voice. A model that results in enthusiastic participation. A model that makes the vertical hierarchy required for white supremacy impossible.
Commonly there are several Mutual Aid projects in a community. The initial projects usually relate to survival needs. One might be a food giveaway. Another helping those who need shelter. Many Mutual Aid groups often have a bail fund, to support those arrested for agitating for change. And accompany those arrested when they go to court.
Recently I came upon this Love Letter written by my Mutual Aid community in Des Moines, that expresses this so well.
A Love Letter to Y’all (a thread)
One year ago yesterday Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.
This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.
A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming.
As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder.
This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread.
Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.
In the past year DMMA has expanded it’s work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies.
We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM) to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.
The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid (@egma_dsm), DSM Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM), and The Great Plains Action Society (@PlainsAction).
The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (@prairielandsff) (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).
The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.
Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised.
All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.
These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize.
But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.
Much gratitude to you all.
In love and rage,
Des Moines Mutual Aid