Dance as a Revolutionary Tool in the Struggle for Climate Justice

By Joseph Orosco (July 16, 2021)

In this episode of our podcast, Conversations on Anarres, we sat down with dancer and filmmaker Shane Scopatz to talk about his new work “Steps and Strikes”. Shane is a recent graduate of the Master’s Program in Environmental Humanities at Oregon State University. His film hopes to address the provocative question: Why did the environmental movement fail to protect us from ecological crisis?

 We sat down with Shane to discuss his answer to this question We talk about the way in which global capitalism has dispossessed billions of people and created the conditions for climate catastrophe.  But we also talk about the ways in which people resist–using the labor movement to build organized people power against corporate control of the environment. The big issue today is: How do we bridge the labor movement and the environmental movement?

An answer to this involves the way Shane has chosen to resist:  that involves dance.  Invoking the legacy of a radical dance movement from the 1930s, the Worker’s Dance League, Shane has decided to explore how dance can be a way to expand the radical imagination and get us to think about the ways to build connection between social movements.  Art in general, but dance in particular can help to develop emotions like joy and ecstasy and sustain a guiding vision toward a more collective, just, ecologically attuned future.

If you haven’t heard of the Worker’s Dance league, you can start here.

This article gives some background, with video snippets, of the work of Sophie Maslow who carried on the legacy of the WDL, using dance to tell the story of working class Americans.

You can see Shane Scopatz’s film “Steps and Strikes” here.

Here is our full interview, with snippets from “Steps and Strikes”

Here is our podcast to listen and download.

Please let us know what you think!

We Are At Risk with Business as Usual: A Tale from Taos

By Rivera Sun (April 21, 2020)

I want to share a story. It’s personal.

Here in Taos, NM, our governor was on the early side of the stay-at-home orders. Our businesses closed, the town turned into a ghost town. We even have a nightly curfew. But here’s the thing: our total COVID-19 cases are 15. They have plateaued for two weeks. Our county’s population is around 30,000 (many of whom use Taos as the main commercial hub). That means our rate is around 40 per 100,000, vs. other counties that have 1500+ per 100,000.

But there’s more to this story. Taos, NM, is a destination spot. People come to the ski valley. We were the highest rate in New Mexico until the stay-at-home orders began. The stay-at-home orders stopped the spread and the influx of people with COVID-19. We know first hand that orders were necessary to stop this. We saw people not cancelling their vacations, trying to book Airbnbs, and fulfilling their non-essential interests when the warnings first started to be issued. It took the orders to get people to stay home.

By comparison, there are places in New Mexico where essential services have included things like oil and gas, where a higher rate of activity is continuing, where people are still out and about. And the rate of infection has climbed along with it. You can almost track it on a map. The highest rate of infection (and deaths, btw) in New Mexico is in the Four Corners region at Navajo Nation. They reported that tourists were still coming even as the pandemic arrived and started to spread in the US. You know what else still going on there? Fracking. Oil & Gas is considered an essential service. So, thousands of gas workers are still out and about doing their work. They’re coming in from other places, too.

Meanwhile, Taos Pueblo, upon whose traditional territory the Town of Taos sits, has completely shut its doors and is preventing non-residents (people who are not tribal members and their immediate family) from entering. One of the reasons I support the continued shut-downs, social-distancing, and stay at home orders is because the Town of Taos has a responsibility to limit the risk to Taos Pueblo. If we open up too early, if our tourists return and bring the disease with them, we expose ourselves and Taos Pueblo in ways that are eerily reminiscent of genocidal pandemics.

There’s this, too: as a rural region with a large incoming tourist group, we are not equipped with hospital beds, respirators, or supplies to care for a sudden and sharp influx of cases. Our doctors and nurses have told us this repeatedly. I believe we have 30 hospital beds in our local hospital. One of the reasons we are trying to flatten the curve is not just to save lives, but to keep our case numbers at a rate our hospitals can handle.

I hope you will consider my personal observations on the efficacy of social distancing in my community. We are very at risk if we try to return to business-as-usual. For us, that means an influx of people from places of higher infection rates. It means exposing our town and Taos Pueblo to those higher rates of infection. It means possibly overloading our limited hospital capacity. I would like to see us avoid all of those tragedies. We can do it. But we have to care deeply and stay home.


Conspiracy Theories of the Left: 5G, Corona Virus, and Aliens

By Arun Gupta (April 10, 2020)

I am on a listserve of leftists who are debating the role of 5G and chemtrails in the pandemic, with some claiming there is no virus at all. One person is even trotting out anti-semite conspiracist David “lizard aliens rule us” Icke.

This isn’t coming out of thin air. These conspiracies on the Left are an updated version of JFK conspiracy theories (one person even raised that, “You no doubt believe the official story of the JFK assassination”).The same people think HIV does not cause AIDS, Lyme disease is a bioweapon gone amok, 9/11 was an inside job, the US invaded Iraq because they were no longer trading oil in dollars, the Bilderberg group runs the world. They also tend to be enthusiastic consumers of quackery, such as reiki, Hellerwork, cupping, craniosacral therapy, homeopathy, and so on.

This isn’t politics. It’s a cultish religion. These ideas take hold among people who are desperate to believe there are omnipotent, omnimalevolent forces who control all society, and indeed all of history. But they are the visionary prophets who can see the glorious truth and are trying to bring the good word that if we just eliminate the 5G chemtrails the coronavirus will disappear like magic. They want and need an all-powerful father figure to rage against and to overthrow, and only then can human potential be unleashed.

While I think it’s a mistake to see them as equivalent as Trumpkins, who are genuinely genocidal, there is a parallel with them in terms of lack of basic understanding of science. The pathologies of American society are not purely partisan. There are self-destructive and frankly moronic ideas that manifest themselves in different ways across the spectrum, among fascists, the right, the center, liberals, and the Left.


See below for some choice examples:




“If COVID-19 is not a virus and the cause of the ailment is 5G 60GHz, then wouldn’t it make sense to stay away from hospitals, other buildings, and cruise ships that have 5G installed? What possible vaccine could be developed for this except for another phony pharmaceutical prize, how could someene contract the ailment from droplets of fluid from someone who has it, and how could there be an incubation period? And is all this social distancing, hand washing, wearing face masks, and sheltering-in-place just distractions? Lots of unanswered questions.

“With the relatively recent roll out of 5G 60 GHz in various parts of the world, including near Wuhan, and all the damage it has and will be doing, one has to wonder if we humans are being used as guinea pigs for some nefarious forces. And what might they be up to going forward? What are they planning, building, putting in place right now, in plain sight (if only we were permitted to be outside and watch them)?

“This for me is about connecting the dots, the coronavirus/5G-60/chemtrails (the “aerosolized spraying” of “metallized particulates”)/bio-weapon connection. I appreciate all the contributions folks have been making to this issue”


“We may be looking at several different illnesses, some being caused by a virus, some by 5G and so on. But they’re all being called COVID19.”


David Icke presents interesting thorough discussion of why the tests are bullshit, false positives–in first 30 minutes.…/…
A lot of leftists become furious whenever I post ICKE(he is NOT alt- right so I’m not sure why), so ignore this if you hate Icke.
Icke contradicts himself. Later he says people are getting VERY sick
but it’s from 5 G. Whether it is or not they are rolling out 5G while we are distracted



In a Properly Civilized World

By Louis Colombo (April 6, 2020)

In a properly civilized world, we would view this pandemic as nothing but a reminder of our interconnectedness to nature, a reminder that we are part of, but not above, nature.

We would treat this time as a time to pause, retreat, reflect, be with those we love, tend to those we care about.

But our world is not civilized, so instead, we are thrown into panic, anxiety, and despair, worried about making it through the month in the blind hope that next month things will return to “normal,” all the while forgetting that our date with finitude is the normal we forever try to suppress.

Cesar Chavez and the Struggle for Justice During the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Joseph Orosco (March 31, 2020)


Some thirty years ago, Cesar Chavez staged his last major hunger fast. This fast went on for thirty-six days. In his statement issued at the end, Chavez said he had begun the fast because he had to do penance; he was ashamed of himself. For all his years as an organizer, he said he had not truly comprehended the pain and suffering of farmworkers due to exposure to pesticides.   He felt he had not done enough to make people aware of the immensity of the problem.


So after his debilitating ordeal, Chavez went on to speak to numerous audiences across the country, repeating the stories of farmworker children, such as Johnnie Rodriguez, who died after a two year battle with cancer; or of Felipe Franco, who was born without arms and legs to a farmworker mother who had been showered with toxic chemicals in the field. Most importantly, he wanted people to realize that, to the extent to which we all rely on pesticides and cheap farm labor to provide our food, we are also responsible for the suffering of children like Johnnie and Felipe and thus have a responsibility to prevent more pain. Chavez wrote in his statement:


“The misery that pesticides bring will not be ended by more studies or hearings. The solution is not to be had from those in power because it is they who have allowed this deadly crisis to grow. The answer lies with me and you. It is for all of us to do more. We will demonstrate by what we do and not by what we say our solidarity with the weak and afflicted. I pray to God that this fast will encourage a multitude of simple deeds by men and women who feel the suffering and yearn with us for a better world. Together, all things are possible.”

1988. UFW President Cesar Chavez, his mother Juana Estrada Chavez, and Jesse Jackson at the service during which Chavez ended his 36-day hunger strike and Jackson took his up.

I was thinking about Chavez’s words as I read about the two trillion dollar stimulus package passed by Congress to boost the US economy and provide relief for unemployed workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. As James Harrington–an organizer who worked with Chavez—points out, there are about 4 million undocumented workers, many of them farmworkers, who are not eligible for cash relief. And there are close to another 30 million poor people who are not eligible because they have not filed income taxes recently. Many of these people are likely to work in service or hospitality industries that have had to cut back or close down. Its not clear we are sheltering the most vulnerable among us with this package, but we are certainly propping up some of the biggest industries, with almost $500 billion in loans for airlines and manufacturers.


But I think the realization that made me most understand Chavez’s need for penance was thinking about the shelter-in-place regulations going on in many hard hit states. My social media is filled with funny memes and videos about people going stir crazy at home or dealing with their children. Yet, there are millions of working class people who can’t share in this humor because their work is considered essential: grocery store and pharmacy clerks, postal and special delivery drivers, truck drivers, sanitation workers, water and electric utility workers, and of course, public health workers in hospitals. They have to show up so the rest can work from home. Many of them are starting to realize that they are at a greater risk of exposure and have not received from their employers training to protect themselves, or hazard pay, or even masks and gloves. Some of them are starting to strike now, at Amazon and Whole Foods and other retailers, to improve these dangerous conditions. But I can’t get over the feeling that my well-being, and that of millions of other middle class people, depends on the labor of many people who were probably already struggling paycheck to paycheck to get by.


Of course, Chavez didn’t wallow in guilt and self-pity—his realization of the farmworker’s suffering was a call for him to think strategically and to act. First, he came to understand that the use of pesticides was the result of large agribusiness looking to make a quick profit rather than protect the health of workers: “The wrath of grapes is a plague born of selfish men that is indiscriminately and undeniably poisoning us all.”


It is undoubtedly the case that Covid-19 is a plague born of selfish men. Our top leaders in Washington last week were discussing the need to relax quarantine restrictions lest the economy suffer more damage—weighing human lives less than profit making. But more poignantly, we’ve seen how profit motives in New York City have shut down hospitals and, thus, reduced the overall hospital bed capacity over the last twenty years. The most blatant case of selfish greed is that of the large US manufacturer of ventilators, Covidien. In 2014, Covidien swallowed up a competing smaller corporation that had a contract with the US government to build thousands of newly designed and relatively inexpensive ventilators. Covidien then pulled the plug on the contract, saying it was not profitable to make the ventilators, even though the Centers for Disease Control were hoping to stockpile them for future emergencies.


So as Chavez said: “the solution is not to be had from those in power.” I’ve been so impressed to read of all the different mutual aid project erupting across the country in which people are stepping up to collect food and other goods for vulnerable people in their own communities. They are creating thick networks of assistance and developing skills for more organizers.


But more will have to be done. It’s said that physical distancing could become a regular occurrence, not only in dealing with a resurgence of Covid-19, but with other viruses that are expected to become pandemics in the future. We are going to have to yearn and dream for what we will need in a better society. If this experience teaches us anything, it is that we need a much more accessible and equitable public health care system, and better social welfare services, than the US currently offers.


This radical imagining means confronting both political parties that have but profit before people and the corporations that fuel political ambition. However, this is precisely the strategy Chavez envisioned. In an essay written in 1970, he said:


“The attacks on the status quo will come not because we hate but because we know America can construct a humane society for all of its citizens—and that if it does not, there will be chaos…The power class and the middle class haven’t done anything that one can truly be proud of, aside from building machines and rockets. It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease. When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn.”




I Am Because We Are, and So We Will Rebuild in the Aftermath

By Louis Colombo (March 22, 2020)

Lots of doom and posts prophesying the end of the world. No doubt, these are some unsettling times and it’s hard to know where the bottom is. No doubt too that there’s lots of reasons to be concerned for yourself, your loved ones, and even folks you’ve never met.

But here’s the thing. From where I sit, it looks like the vast majority of people have agreed to disrupt their lives in some really radical ways, not just to protect themselves and their loved ones, but to stop this thing from spreading to the stranger they’ve never met.

Lots of folks are opening up with new ways of being in community online, sharing things with folks they don’t know, and for free. Folks are picking up the phone, checking in with neighbors they might never had occasion to speak to.

We’re recognizing – and hopefully not forgetting – the value of work we might have once ignored. We’re recognizing that we need support, all of, some more than others, and we’re doing so without shame or stigma. Let’s remember that.

I don’t know what a new normal will look like, but with any luck and a lot of courage, it just might look like something built more on love and solidarity, for in our moment of isolation, what are we learning if not how connected we all are, how much we need one another, how much community is the basis for our individuality. Hold that. I am because we are, and so we rebuild in the aftermath.

This will be bad for a while. It might get better and then worse before it gets better. We may see the worst in some folks. But I’m willing to bet that we’ll see the best in a whole lot more. And we will get through.


The Left Needs to Think About the Political-Economic Future in Six Months

By Joe Lowndes (March 21, 2020)

Tucker Carlson is being cheered by some liberals for calling out NC Sen. Richard Burr for insider trading.

Burr should be investigated for this, to be sure. But this is consistent with Carlson’s right-wing nationalism more generally – just as it was Pat Buchanan’s before him. However, it will matter in a new way in coming months I think – and in ways that the left should be paying close attention.

The economy is unquestionably going to continue to collapse at the top and the bottom in coming months. When the presidential campaign season begins in earnest this summer, when things may really spin out of control and suffering really increases, it is easy to imagine real pressure from below on the Biden campaign to call for greater economic reorganization that would include heavy taxation on the top brackets and more redistribution in the form of major healthcare reform, debt cancellation, relief, etc. (the return of Sandersism).

Trump will have to outflank this. As the livelihood and lives of members of his electoral base fall apart, they will need to hear him demonize some elites in their defense along with the nationalism he always draws on – more border control, more crackdown on immigrants, more hostile language about China, etc..

This will be where Carlson will be crucial. His distinct framing of politics – a combination of xenophobia, racism, authoritarianism, and full-throated defense of working-class Americans; broadcasted to his massive nightly audience – is exactly what Trump will need to beat Biden.

We should all really be thinking about what the political-economic landscape looks like in two, four and six months and how we should respond. The right surely is.

joe lowndes

Pandemic Reveals the Harsh Realities of Our Society

By Natan Rebelde (March 19, 2020)

Y’all scared? Good. You should be.

I am too. But I have been, for a very long time. I hate that I feel vindicated to some degree. And the reality is, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The disruptions and collapse to come will dwarf this by comparison. But they are part of the same phenomenon: our civilization running up against the natural limits of planetary ecology.

Just as massive wildfires have become a regular annual recurrence, I suspect these sorts of epidemics will as well, likely centered around historical “cold and flu season”. It will just be the height of epidemic season, often leading to global pandemics, born of the globalized industrial consumer economy. These are the consequences of our own choices and actions as a culture. These are, in a very real sense, vengeful (and perhaps compassionate) spirits of the Earth, here to teach us difficult lessons that we’ve refused to learn otherwise.

The silver lining is that our current responses, for better or for worse, point towards many of the ways in which we must change our ways of living if we are to survive as a species upon this planet and create cultures that can sustain themselves on an evolutionary timescale (ecologically sustainable, in other words).

Many of the harsh realities of our society appear laid bare for all to see. Both our current successes as well as our failures can, should, and must inform us as to what works, and what does not. It can, should, and must show us what turns towards life, and what turns towards death. Turn towards life. It is not yet time to awaken from the dream of living. Death is inevitable, and can (and eventually should) be embraced as a friend, lover, ally, and accomplice. But life, on the other hand, is not guaranteed, and thus, a most precious gift. Honor it. Defend it. Then meet death with a grin and a hearty laugh.

Reflections for the End of the Term in Plague Years

By Joseph Orosco (March 16, 2020)


Last week, I held my last classes of the Winter 2020 quarter and, most likely, my last face-to-face classes for some time. It was the day after the university administration ordered that there were to be no in person exams or classes for several weeks. I knew going into these classes that my students would be scared, confused, angry, and traumatized. I was not wrong.


I began each class by just checking in with them to hear how they were feeling. Most expressed frustration about school—how was remote instruction going to work next term? What did they have to avoid doing in order to be safe? How were they going to manage?


I didn’t try to assure them that it would all be all right. I told them that, at least in terms of what to expect for their educational needs in the next few weeks: that its going to be a nightmare. The technology is not going to work all the time, and the educational experience is not going to be the same, and most likely, subpar to what they would have gotten otherwise. That’s because we are not offering online education, which is intentional, but remote education, which is about triage and trying to stuff material into new packages that are not necessarily time tested. Plus, I said, they were going to have to worry about more than their intellectual needs—they were going to have to think about their family and friends and themselves. How would all this work if they got sick, for instance? No our feelings of frustration and sadness are not going to go away anytime soon.


But I tried to emphasize that the work we had done in the past three months—thinking about peace, justice, human rights, and war in one class, and the political philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the other—could be useful for them to deal with these feelings of despair. Because the essence of our work together had been learning how to think about oppression and the philosophical tools to overcome injustice. Many of the tools we had examined had been forged over millennia from various wisdom traditions. Different cultures have grappled with trying to devise spiritual, moral, and meditative practices to struggle against the pain and suffering found in human life–some of it caused by our own selves, such as war and cruelty, and some of it which is just the inevitable in our existence, such as disease.


One of those traditions is Gandhi’s notion of Satyghaha—“soul force”—a kind of strength that comes from devoting oneself to committing no harm in a world full of harm and opportunities to perpetuate violence. Another one of those traditions of soul force was probably familiar to many (even though it is not one of my own). The early Christians sought to become spiritually resilient by imaging certain kinds of values they believed a person should embody in order to to be strong in the face of calamity. They arrived at the trio of faith, hope, and love. I admitted that when I tried to make sense of these theologically they often didn’t make sense to me. But I said I had been trying to work out the meaning of what these virtues in light of the philosophical arguments we had been unpacking together over the term. Here’s what I came up with for my students before we said goodbye:


Faith: Faith is usually taken as the belief in the existence or truth of something, God, without any evidence or reason to support that belief. It’s a belief that draws you toward it elementally—you either know God to be, or you just don’t. I admit I don’t. but I think I understand the psychological mechanism of faith. I see it as it operates in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. He had Christian faith, that belief in the existence of God that requires no proof.


But I’m more interested in the fact that his career as a crusader for justice was always driven by a utopian vision of society. Sometimes he called this the “integrated society”, sometimes the “Beloved Community”, other times “the Promised Land”. Early in 1961, in his “I Have a Dream Speech”, he told the nation he was propelled into public life by the dream of a society in which human beings cared for one another, supported one another, and believed that their full potential as human beings could only come about if other human beings also had their potential supported. He called on us to imagine a world in which we could each be our best selves, helping each other to reach that life.


Yet in 1967, he admitted that this dream was nowhere close to being a reality. This was even after the Civil Rights legislative victories of 1964 and 1965, demolishing segregation and clearing a path to voting equality. But the cruel bombing that killed little girls in Birmingham, and the horrific bombings that were killing thousands in Vietnam, made Martin Luther King, jr agree with Malcolm X: the United States was a nightmare, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and it would lead all of humanity to extinction if it could not cope with its addiction to violence, racism, and greed.


At the same time, he said he still had the dream enticing him, even though there was no good proof that we were actually on the way toward building that society. The dream was a like sun using its tremendous gravitational pull on his imagination. Though there was no good reason to believe that the Beloved Community was manifesting right now, its power as a vision of what life might be like drove him into thinking that it just might be possible to build. And that was enough for him.


So faith may not have to be theological to be powerful. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream can inspire us to activate our own imaginative powers to find that vision of a world of better selves that draws us out to make it real.


Hope: Here, I admit, that when I look at Christian theological discussions of hope, I get utterly lost. But it does seem as though hope is something that is in short supply among my students. They often tell me things seem “hopeless” or they don’t have “much hope” that the problems we study in class can ever be changed.


I recently read an interview with Cornel West in which he said that to talk about hope as some kind of sign that things are going to get better is probably a bad idea. Because, at least from the standpoint of Black folk in the US, there’s not a lot of reason to believe that the future is going to be so much brighter, more just. Instead, West recommends, we ought to think about “being a hope” rather than “having hope”. And what he seems to mean is trying to live an ethical life, devoted to justice and the ending of oppression, but without the satisfaction of knowing that your work is making any difference or that you will ultimately win in your struggle. Instead, the struggle itself is what should be meaningful.


The example of being a hope that came to mind for me is from Albert Camus’ novel The Plague (a book that apparently no one reads in high school anymore since only one person in two classes had ever read it). The story of the novel is of a plague that strikes the North African town of Oran and how people react to its destructive path. The character that stands out for me is Dr. Bernard Rieux. As the plague envelops the town, he is a tireless worker. He cares for the dying, tries to soothe them as best he can, and he watches hundreds die. He knows he cannot save so many. But each day he gets up and goes to work and tries to do the best job he can because he is a doctor. He is not motivated by any religious belief to help the afflicted, or any political ideology to stand with the oppressed. There are other characters that do that in the novel. He does what he does because he must—he’s a doctor and that’s what doctors do, and that’s who he is. He cares for the dying even though he thinks it’s not clear it will change the plague situation at all.


Rieux seems to be what West calls “a hope”. He does what he has to because to do otherwise is to betray the values that make him who he is as an individual. The trick seems to be then to figure out how to build a life in which one goes out each day and does good, ethical work, without any signs that it will change the world or motivated by the effects we have. Should we even try to do anything about climate change at this point? Will our efforts even matter to make life possible for human beings? Who knows? But a good person will try to work on this now because that’s just what a good person does. Can we even eradicate white supremacy in the US after centuries of its entrenchment here? Isn’t racism simply a permanent feature of our social landscape? According to Afropessimism maybe. But a good person will devote themselves to anti-racist work, personally and socially, nonetheless because that’s just what a good person does. There are no signs that our climate justice or anti-racist work will eventually succeed in grand victories, but that’s beside the point. Hope is not about those signs, but being the kind of people that think the struggle against those injustices and evils is worthwhile in itself.


Love: I’ve found that this aspect of Martin Luther King Jr.’s work is some of the hardest to understand and teach. King went to great lengths to try to explain what he means by love, and I know many Black activists even today who dislike this emphasis. My students scoffed especially when King would that white people needed Black people’s love in order to overcome their commitment to white supremacy (he talked a lot like this in the late 1950s—after about 1965 he didn’t speak of nonviolence in quite these terms anymore. He talked about creating crisis rather than sowing love).


It’s always important to remember that King did not mean that Black people had to like white people. By love, he meant respect (using the ancient term agape)–a caring for a person not because they have particularly likeable qualities, but simply because they are a person.


I think this makes more sense when we recall that the essence of oppression is about dehumanization—the capacity to forget or ignore the humanity of other persons. Phillip Halie says that oppression, or substantial cruelty, happens when there is a power imbalance that allows one group to ignore and crush the dignity of another group of people. In this way, oppression is really when power and authority imbalances eliminate love/respect.


King then was trying to find a way to make love of humanity the linchpin for just transformation of society. Halie warns that the answer to oppression is not individual kindness, not charity. We need structural revolution to remove the imbalances of power that inure people to one another. Its important then not to put too much emphasis on love as the end all, be all. Maybe its good to think along with Cornel West again: “Justice is what love looks like in public”.


In the next few months, love might be in short supply, supplanted by fear, suspicion, and panic that seem to be sowed by our leaders. But we will need to be patient, show kindness and compassion to ourselves and others. Most importantly, it will be necessary to make our love/respect real. This will be hard in time of what is called “social distancing”. I prefer to call this “physical distancing” because what we will need to get through the crisis of disease and institutional collapse will be even more social (or soulful) connection with one another. So much of our world is already full of loneliness, alienation, and social distance and the worst parts of this crisis will build on those tracks laid deep into the foundation of our every day lives.


I’m impressed with the accounts of mutual aid networks already being built up in neighborhoods to deliver good and services to people who might be more vulnerable to contagion.  What kinds of support will be developed for all the hospitality servers that are going to find themselves our of full time work? More of this will have to happen, I’m afraid, because I think its clear from what happened in the case of Hurricanes Katrina in New Orleans and Maria in Puerto Rico, that the federal government is not to be relied upon to provide adequate care and services, especially for poor and working class areas. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge the government to be more proactive—we should, because otherwise its tendency will be to protect the powerful at the expense of the poor.


These are scary times. And it may get worse before it gets better. But hopefully we realize all these efforts at containing the virus, and helping the afflicted, are global and this is a experiment in human solidarity that we can learn from in order to do even more amazing and grander things in the future. Through the love we express today, we can start to gather the images for the society we want to have faith in later, and in our work, be the hope that gets us through the day.









Instead of Preparing for War, We Need to Organize

By Teka Lark (February 24, 2020)

The problem with individualism is this: eventually, you have to go to sleep and that is when they will shoot you in the head. See Fred Hampton for a historical example of that.

I have friends that are far-left individualists, kente cloth capitalists, and others who don’t have labels, who say they are ready for the revolution. They are ready, because they have guns and they have gone to the shooting range and they have practiced.

When they talk this way I typically stare. I stare not because I am anti-violence, I stare, because I have read The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Prince by Machiavelli , On War by Clausewitz (I read SOME of that one)…in any uprise of violence at this current time, the left will lose. It will lose badly.

The Far Right (which includes present-day Republicans) has more people, more discipline, and more weapons.

In an armed fight, disabled people will die, older people will die, children will die, and those who hesitate will die.

90% of the fraction of the people the left has who has the stomach to kill, will die, and that means all us will have to move, die, or be locked up.

You know I am not an alarmist. You also understand that I have been great at deducing future actions by observing present and past actions.

So my point is that what we need to do, instead of preparing for a battle, is to organize for peaceful political change. We need cooperatives up and running, so when the fire sale of the United States is over we have examples of a better way, instead of hoping the wealthy’s robots won’t enslave us for our universal basic income.

I guarantee we will lose in a violent battle. Accelerationism theory is only going to work well for those with an escape hatch: a passport, a trust fund, and a Ph.D. or other credential that allows a person to wax poetically in the ivory tower in another imperialist country after this one has burned to the ground.

We need to work together. We need to cooperate. Being reactionary is not going to be helpful. We need more time, this is not about stating that what we have is OK, or repairing what is not broken, because the system is not broken, it is working as it is supposed to. This is about giving us more time, because I don’t want us to die or even worse — be forced to live in what I fear is coming.


A Prayer for Black Futures and Collective Liberation

By Chris Crass (February 20, 2020)

While Elizabeth Warren was destroying Bloomberg from jump at the Democratic Debate, I was doing bedtime with River and August (but I watched what I missed right away and Warren was incredible).

We read Freedom Soup, a gift from their aunt Rahula S. Janowski, and it’s a beautiful picture book about a Haitian Grandmother telling her Granddaughter about Black people fighting back against the ruling class and leading the Haitian Revolution against slavery and colonialism. The Grandmother is preparing Freedom Soup, denied to enslaved people before, as their family and friends come together to celebrate.

“They won!” River said with excitement.

“It’s like the Civil War.” my little four year old August says.

“Yes, in the Civil War, thousands and thousands of Black people fought back against slavery and freed themselves, just like in Haiti. And the revolution in Haiti both scared racist people in power, and inspired people here who had been forced into slavery, to fight back – before and during the Civil War and they were a major part of ending the slave system here.” I shared.

River asked questions about the Civil War and August mentioned how families were divided on different sides of the Civil War – as they’re learning about it in his pre-kindergarten class.

“Malcolm X had his family separated when white supremacists burned down his house.” River said, and his eyes got big as he starts making historical connections. River did a Black History Month project on Malcolm X last year and is learning more about him this year.

“What else do you know about Malcolm X’s life?” I ask and River goes over a handful of moments in his life, while August and I listen.

“And Harriet Tubman fought back against slavery too.” River adds. He continues, “She freed herself and then freed lots of other people from slavery and helped them get to a country where slavery was illegal.”

“They covered themselves in hay”, August jumps in. Which leads to a conversation about the Underground Railroad and how people used hay to cover themselves up riding in wagons and other ways people hid, as well as the Black and white abolitionists who hid people in their wagons, boats, and houses.

River read a kids book about Harriet Tubman – a book I’d been asking him periodically if he’d like to read for a couple of years, and he had said no, but now he was the one who brought up Harriet Tubman, he was the one who wanted to learn more. August and I snuggled and read stories about Frozen.

Before they both went to bed, we talked about how important it is that it’s Black History Month, and that a Black man named Carter G. Woodson, who lived here, in Kentucky, two hours away from Louisville, in Berea, taught history and created Black History Month and that because people fought and organized for justice, we now have Black History Month in our schools. Racism doesn’t want us to know these histories, but people fought back, just like in our book Freedom Soup, that aunt Rahula gave you.

I prayed last night with gratitude for all who have fought back, who have brought leadership to and participated in the vast efforts to make Black History Month a reality and who continue to expand what is possible, expand what kids and adults are learning, and making Black History Month part of movements for Black Futures where there is racial justice and collective liberation. And movements to end the malnourishment of white people’s souls and historical knowledge by white supremacy, so that white people rise up against this death culture too, and can get inspiration from the Haitian Revolution, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman and Black and white abolitionists, inspiration to get free.

Chris Crass on collective liberation
Chris Crass on collective liberation