Embodied anxiety scatters my attention and makes my heart race; it takes a lot of concentration and determination to breathe into the anxiety and lessen my level of panic. Despite my angst I return again and again to online newspapers, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Zoom, Bluejeans, and FaceTime.
Words I have said in the past two weeks that I wouldn’t ordinarily say: immunocompromised, Zoom bombing, ventilators. I am not Slavoj Zizek, able and willing to write a book called Pandemic (O/R Books, 2020) before this pandemic is even over. Nor am I able to digest the responses to the pandemic by Giorgio Agamben or Jean-Luc Nancy or Roberto Esposito and so on. What I am digesting is that architect Michael Sorkin died of the COVID-19 virus on March 26, 2020; he edited Against the Wall: Israel’s Barrier to Peace in 2005. Art historian Maurice Berger, who died of the COVID-19 virus on March 23, 2020, wrote White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness in 1999. Both of these books have been guides for me and I am sad that these men are too-soon gone.
What is happening here locally (in east-central Illinois) in terms of mutual aid and cooperation offers more than enough evidence of the power of grassroots organizing. I am moved and inspired by Mariame Kaba’s People’s Bailout and her call for us to repeat our demands on all platforms so that we are creating the future we hope for. Dana Meadows wrote about changing paradigms:
[Y]ou keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you keep coming yourself, and loudly and with assurance from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power.
I am so moved and inspired by the extraordinary courage of people near and far. As messy, incomplete and imperfect as our actions are, “something is changed in the doing,” as Lola Olufemi said.
I also want to step back and list some of the ideas I was thinking about this year, before March 13, a rather arbitrary date but one which is a marker for me of When This All Began (even though it has been ongoing). We are sense-making creatures and I want to make sense. And to mark where I am at this point in time and space because it helps to ground me. I also added a list of some of what I have been reading and recalling and listening to in the past two weeks, which informs my list below.
- Harm reduction—moving living beings away from violence–is essential, but not even close to what my vision is. It is a short-term and still elusive goal.
- My vision is big, complex, in flux, uncertain, contradictory, messy, and funny. Right now, my vision is very blurry.
- My vision includes transformation of categories, borders, and boundaries across domains—that transformation is the horizon toward which I turn.
- Queer and trans* people are leaders in creating relationships in which gender is irrelevant; they are transforming what we think we can be and whom we think we are becoming, to paraphrase Gail Lewis.
- “Natural resources” is a phrase that reinforces the extractive, property-based approach to what is Not-Us.
- Feminism and the nation-state are at odds. Gail Lewis said: “A feminism that is worth its salt cannot be aligned to ideas about the nation.”
- Self-organization needs and thrives upon diversity.
Readings and Listenings and Recollections
Bambara, Toni Cade. “An Interview with Toni Cade Bambara.” By Kay Bonetti. Conversations with Toni Cade Bambara. Ed. Thabiti Lewis. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2012. 35–47.
Campt, Tina. Listening to Images (Duke UP, 2017). https://www.dukeupress.edu/listening-to-images
Hartman, Saidiya. Wayward Lives: Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals (WW Norton, 2019).
Johnson, Steven. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World (2007).
Kaba, Mariame “We Need a People’s Bailout to Confront Coronavirus,” Intercepted (March 19, 2020). https://theintercept.com/2020/03/19/organizer-mariame-kaba-we-need-a-peoples-bailout-to-confront-coronavirus/
Liu, Andrew. “’Chinese Virus’ World Market” n+1 Magazine (March 20, 2020). https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/chinese-virus-world-market/
Meadows, Donella “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System” (1999) http://donellameadows.org/archives/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/
Olufemi, Lola, Radicals in Conversation Podcast “Feminism, Interrupted” with Lola Olufemi, Jade Bentil and Gail Lewis Pluto Press. https://www.plutobooks.com/blog/podcast-feminism-interrupted/?dm_i=56G9,6KCK,1BOMWM,ORKL,1
Richardson, Heather Cox. “Letters from an American.” https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/
Smith, Justin EH. “It’s All Just Beginning,” (March 23, 2020). https://thepointmag.com/examined-life/its-all-just-beginning/
“Social contagion: Microbiological Class War in China.” Chuang 2 (2020). http://chuangcn.org/2020/02/social-contagion/?dm_i=56G9,6KCK,1BOMWM,ORJY,1
Wallace, Rob. Big Farms Make Big Flu (NYU Press, 2016). https://nyupress.org/9781583675892/big-farms-make-big-flu/
Zinsser, Hans. Rats, Lice and History (1935)