Injustices of Capitalism

I am a hierarchy resister

I spend so much time praying and writing about Mutual Aid because I believe Mutual Aid is the correct path for our peace and justice work. And because I get to spend time with my Des Moines Mutual Aid friends every week, where we catch up with each other and our work while we fill boxes of donated food to distribute.

Mutual Aid is the framework that models the Beloved communities we strive to create. And gets to the roots of injustice.

Those living in capitalist societies usually need some education to understand why Mutual Aid should be the framework for our justice work. Simply put, capitalism is a system that enforces injustice and oppression. It does this by violently enforcing strict hierarchies.

The greatest resistance I’ve found to embracing mutual aid is the difficulty people have in seeing the injustices of capitalism. So, I distilled this in the following diagram.

My experiences with mutual aid include:

  • My introduction to Mutual Aid was a Spiritual leading.
  • Maintaining a flat or horizontal hierarchy is what makes Mutual Aid work.
    • MUTUAL is the key.
  • Removing artificial hierarchies eliminates grouping people by race, class, gender, education, etc.
  • Mutual Aid resists authoritarianism and colonization.
    • There cannot be white supremacy, for example, if there is no hierarchy.
  • Mutual Aid is NOT charity.
  • A fundamental principle of justice work is to follow the lead of the oppressed community. In Central Iowa, a coalition named the Buffalo Rebellion is providing such leadership. The Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition consisting of
    • Des Moines Black Liberation
    • Great Plain Action Society
    • Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
    • Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice
    • Sierra Club Beyond Coal
    • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 199, and
    • Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement
  • I believe Mutual Aid is the Quaker way of being in the world.

Our Quaker Queries recognize the injustices of our capitalist economic system.

‘We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power. “

The advice also says “we envision a system of social and economic justice that ensures the right of every individual to be loved and cared for…” 

Faith and Practice, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

Queries related to Mutual Aid
Do we recognize that hierarchies are about power, supremacy and privilege? What are Quaker hierarchies?
Do we work to prevent hierarchies in our peace and justice work?
What are we doing to meet the survival needs of our wider community?
How are we preparing for disaster relief, both for our community, and for the influx of climate refugees?
Are we examples of a Beloved community? How can we invite our friends and neighbors to join our community?

Des Moines Mutual Aid

Mutual aid is essential to building social movements. People often come to social movement groups because they need something: eviction defense, childcare, social connection, health care, or help in a fight with the government about something like welfare benefits, disability services, immigration status, or custody of their children. Being able to get help in a crisis is often a condition for being politically active, because it’s very difficult to organize when you are also struggling to survive. Getting support through a mutual aid project that has a political analysis of the conditions that produced your crisis also helps to break stigma, shame, and isolation. Under capitalism, social problems resulting from exploitation and the maldistribution of resources are understood as individual moral failings, not systemic problems. Getting support at a place that sees the systems, not the people suffering in them, as the problem can help people move from shame to anger and defiance. Mutual aid exposes the failures of the current system and shows an alternative. This work is based in a belief that those on the front lines of a crisis have the best wisdom to solve the problems, and that collective action is the way forward.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 163-171). Verso.

Today, around the world, people resort to alternative forms of autonomous organization to give their existence a meaning again, to reflect human creativity’s desire to express itself as freedom. These collectives, communes, cooperatives and grassroots movements can be characterized as people’s self-defense mechanisms against the encroachment of capitalism, patriarchy and the nation-state.

Kurdish scholar-activist Dilar Dirk

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So, the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid

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