Paradox of Mutual Aid

In response to a recent article I wrote, Ideological commitment to destroying life on Earth, there was an objection, that simply changing to another political system will not result in the changes we need.

I had quoted George Monbiot. “Until we change our political systems, making it impossible for the rich to buy the decisions they want, we will lose not only individual cases. We will lose everything.”

I agree with the objection about political systems. The changes needed now go far beyond political systems. What is needed is a complete change in the structure of how we live with each other and all our relations. A change in how we prioritize among the urgent needs, and how we come together to address them.

Today, in industrialized countries, all of our systems have become vertical hierarchies. Supervisors, teachers, politics, medicine, military, priests, and police. These hierarchies came about because of population growth and industrialization, which made our society more complex.

The primary reason for this switch to vertical hierarches was for control. The hierarchy for governance, for example, begins with the president, vice president, etc. Then Federal agencies, state governors, state agencies, mayors and city councils. These systems attempt to control us with laws, enforced by courts and police.

In a broader sense, the whole framework of capitalism and colonialism requires, and has viciously enforced vertical systems for control.

How does Mutual Aid replace these hierarchies? It does so by bringing governance and care back to local communities. At an earlier time, there might have been a debate about whether to do this. But since our current political chaos has paralyzed city, state, and federal governance, we will increasingly see the collapse of those systems. Hence another significant reason to build Mutual Aid communities now.

Mutual Aid is about a fundamentally different system of living in community. Mutual Aid is about living in a system of horizontal, flat, or no hierarchy. In horizontal group structures. A system that works in local neighborhoods and communities.

Trying to explain Mutual Aid is paradoxical, because that is the way peoples all over the world lived prior to industrialization. The way those in non-industrial places continue to live. The way our ancestors once lived.

People in our current, vertical hierarchies, don’t understand why we have to return to those ways. And why, if we decided to do so, it wouldn’t be easy to return to living without vertical hierarchies.

The problem is we bring our learned practices of hierarchy with us. We have forgotten how to live in a community without hierarchies. People become very uncomfortable when they realize they have forgotten how to act when order is not imposed by those above them in a vertical hierarchy.

“Mutual Aid is essential to our survival” by Dean Spake, Truthout, October, 28,2020

Because we bring our learned practices of hierarchy with us, a learning process is required to return to horizontal group structures.

As I was researching this, I came across this description of a book that I look forward to reading. Which describes my own experiences as a middle-class settler activist. It has taken me several years to learn how to be in a Mutual Aid community, and I’m still learning. Giving away food and providing for the houseless are public political actions. As have been public political actions for reproductive justice, against carbon pipelines, removing racist monuments and celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day. All of these actions occurred out in the community, on the streets. We have to be there to be transformed. There is no alternative to doing this together, in public.

And I’ve prayed a lot, with critical self-reflection, about all these things. And continue to pray.

Decolonizing Solidarity: Dilemmas and Directions for Supporters of Indigenous Struggles by Clare Land

Land argues that the predominant impulses which drive middle-class settler activists to support Indigenous people cannot lead to successful alliances and meaningful social change unless they are significantly transformed through a process of both public political action and critical self-reflection.

description from goodreads

This is a link to one PowerPoint presentation I have created about Mutual Aid.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s