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Where We Are

In thinking about how to describe where we all are now, I asked Dana and Laura for a word for something that “changes form and then comes back stronger”.

They first suggested compost, but it struck me as slightly too gunky and eaten by worms (though good and important…compost your food waste if you can, y’all!).

I then asked about diversion or maybe something related to water….maybe tributaries?

Looking at the wikipedia page for tributary, I see that distributaries are streams that branch off and flows away from a main stream channel. We have all drifted, some just a bit from where we were; others quite far away.

As I read further I see that in Australia, the term anabranch refers to a distributary that diverts from the main course of the river….but then later rejoins. This is the word I like the most today. It is clunky, but it feels closest to what I think I am hoping for. I wish that even as we are scattered now, we will bring everything we learn and see back from our diverted, composting path back to enrich our work and fun times together.

Here are some of the things we have picked up along our winding (diverting? composting?) tributary/distributary paths:

How ‘Tikim’ Shaped Filipino Food Writing—and How It Was Resurrected (article) This is a long read about a highly-celebrated but collosally hard to find essay collection about Filipino cuisine. I was riveted from start to finish and desperately want this book now.

Yes We Cannibal (group) – new friends in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Mushroom At The End of the World (book) by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
This book was so deliciously good that it inspired us to make some major changes to a project we’d been working on. More details coming in the new year!

Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art (book) by James Nestor
By understanding the miraculous and underdiscussed functions of the nose, you can improve your health, or in some cases, heal yourself with your own body. Empowering and timely, as we think about keeping our respiratory systems healthy during Covid. The nose can trigger different hormones to flood into our bodies, can lower our blood pressure and even help store memories. Long story short: Breathe through your nose. It’s much better for you.

Care Work, Dreaming Disability Justice (book) by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
I learned about Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha through a plenary at the 2020 Allied Media Conference. As a mother, woman, friend, lover, steward of the earth care work is at the core of what I do, so something with a title as literal as Care Work piqued my interest. This book dives deep, critically thinking about what care is exactly. What does care require of us? Care is slow. Care is witnessing others lives and not fixing or changing anything. Mutual aid is great, but let’s not romanticize it. In studying the disability justice movement, there are lessons and tools to be harvested by anyone looking to build radical and resilient communities.

Kollaps und Mutualism

Since the lockdown/”PAUSE” order was issued here in so-called New York nearly a month ago, a group of friends have come together to discuss the current collapse/failure of the state and what we radicals might make in and of it. For our first session, we discussed technologist Vinay Gupta‘s concept of resilience maps (video below) and were lucky enough to be joined in discussion by Vinay Gupta himself. In one of the many fortuitious moments that have been sparked by the global pandemic, afriend tweeted at him and he just happened to be awake, quarantined at his home across the pond, and happy to walk us through the finer points of his SCIM threat modelling framework.

We quickly noted that this model could likely be spiffed up and fashioned as a response to (or furthering of — to be less of a shadethrower here) the current mostly-grassroots and largely apolitical disaster charity efforts that have been posing as “mutual aid”. By creating groups of actual mutuals and doing regular wellness check-ins, maybe we could identify gaps and quickly help each other address them. Rather than wasting tons of food when what people might actually need is medicine or masks or bandages, maybe we could take the time to talk through needs and identify if there even were any for that particular day.

statefailuremap

The basic ideas that we have boiled it down to are twofold.

  1.  A daily checkin with 6 discreet questions: – Is anyone in your home too cold? – Is anyone in your home too hot? – Is anyone in your home hungry? – Is anyone in your home thirsty/needing water? – Is anyone in your home injured? – Is anyone in your home ill?
  2. A regular cadence to do more extensive mapping and addressing of threats beyond the domestic sphere (infrastructure challenges, transportation and logistics, security)
SCIM-1
The infrastructure map

We discussed this all for several weeks, and came up with many questions and few answers to how or if we wanted to proceed. So we figured a logical next step would be just to “open source” the thinking via this blog and see whether it would gain any traction. We will also share a few more resources unearthed during our brainstorming.

Questions 

  1. Are these the right questions?
  2. Is computerized technology an appropriate way to address this?
  3. Should this be an app or an SMS bot or something else?
  4. Where should the data live?
  5. How should the data be shared? (For my part, I liked the idea of anonymized time series data)
  6. Who should be able to join?
  7. Should it be a community of folks that know each other or just a geofenced open community?
  8. What about privacy?
  9. If privacy was coupled with anonymity, how do we meet needs? A centralized drop off point? A dating app-like mutual reveal and chat?
  10. Are frameworks developed for state purposes appropriate for autonomous mutual aid?

Resources

CoLET Lately

Here's a rundown of a few things we have been/will be working on, reading up, and thinking about these days.

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