We Can't Live Without Our Lives
Do the powers and institutions that dominate contemporary life attach any importance to our wellbeing, are they interested in anything other than our fitness to work? Are our exhausted bodies and minds anything other than a means to an end? What’s normal about being turned inwards on ourselves, individualised? Is this care? Can we care differently? Can we think of ourselves in excess of any single individual?
To cast a stone into a commanding centre of capitalism is one thing. But to transform a kidney-stone into activity is the same. Protect yourself not only against kidney-stones but also against political murder! Turn illness into a weapon!
Socialist Patients Collective of the University of Heidelberg (SPK)1
Our bodies and lived realities are marked by oppressions, privileges and power structures that limit what we can be, do or say. Dominant Western ideas of who can call themselves human have historically been used to enslave, colonise and kill. These ideas are still used to justify treating people as disposable no-bodies. But what if our idea of being human goes beyond those constraints? What if we don’t agree with what a ‘normal body’ looks like, how a ‘well-adjusted’ person behaves? What if ‘normal’ looks pathological to us – a kind of normopathy? What if we practice multiformity instead and resist ‘deformity’? What if we refuse what has been refused of so many – the so-called right to be a human, a citizen, a subject? Maybe we want to be more than that. Maybe we want to give humanness a different future.
Do we want to be some-body under the state, or no-body against it?
Denise Ferreira da Silva
We think that the ways we dance or limp together; talk and stutter together; look, listen and feel together, can embody our desires and struggles - inhabiting them to generate different possible futures together. Our most recent episodes have worked with groups rehearsing these new worlds, going beyond the ways power can divide us from one another in relation to supposed norms of race, gender or sexuality. The episodes have asked us to also think along with people and communities who reject normalising ideas of what bodies and minds can be, imagining care as a form of resistance whilst resisting the state’s damaging notions of 'care’ - a radical socialisation of care that might generate points of solidarity where many of those different struggles overlap.
Episode 7 is not an answer to these concerns. It’s more like an invitation to complicate them together – to open up different possibilities alongside one another.
Sickness, disability and unproductivity are not anomalies to be weeded out; they are moments that occur in every life, offering a common ground on which we might come together.
Crimethinc Ex-Workers’ Collective2
Working with these ideas and with people who are involved in daily practices of radical care has challenged us to think about how we incorporate care into the content and the structures of our episodes. We’ve had to consider how various languages can exist together – Portuguese, British Sign Language, English, the languages of the body, poethical languages; political, informal, philosophical languages. We’ve thought about the importance of intimacy, and what can be shared in small encounters. We’ve had to ask ourselves whether it is preferable to be felt rather than understood. What might it mean to feel through others – to get a feeling for others feeling through you, and the potential of mobilising the way in which these feelings feel. We’ve had to think differently about daily rhythms, logistics and social reproduction. Before we do anything - struggle or imagine or dance - first off we really just need to exist: ‘we cannot live without our lives.’3 We’ve tried to organise Episode 7 in a way in which as many of us as possible could explore these things together.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
If there is anything we can do to make it easier for you to attend any of these events, please get in touch via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
- 1. The SPK was a “free space for political therapy" involving over 500 people in practices of collective care and resistance.
- 2. From The Self As Other zine by anarchist CrimethInc. Ex-Worker's Collective
- 3. We first heard this phrase from our friend Reina Gossett - trans activist & artist who participated in Episode 6. It’s the title of a book by the feminist, political activist and essayist Barbara Deming. Reina used it in a talk to think about how we cannot reproduce in the abundantly queer nonsexual and sexual ways we have if we don’t have our lives, our welfare, the basic means of our survival.
- 4. Audre Lorde was a black radical lesbian activist poet who struggled towards forms of collectivised care and community. She wrote this while experiencing breast cancer, resisting a rhetoric of survival. When she talks about ‘self’ we think she means being in excess of any single individual.