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no easy fix

(so, I’m gonna try to do NaNoBloMo: write a post a day for all of November. I want to get into the habit of actually writing and publishing regularly here…So here goes not-nothing :))

My friends just moved out of a house they lived in for 4 years. I lived in it for a few months too. It was an old powerful house in the country, where they had grown huge gardens full of medicinal plants, vegetables, legumes and they were even starting to grow rice. They decided to leave that house because after many people living there, and some conflicts, there was only two of them left. One was leaving the country for 6 months, so the other didn’t really feel like staying on his own. They needed a new start I guess.

But there wasn’t really only two of them. There was also a cat, named Minette. When I was living there I spend a lot of time with her: we were the only hardcore cuddlers in the house. Minette is now leaving with my friend in an appartment in the city, and she is sleeping all day. She is sad. In some ways, I feel like I understand her. I loved that house, the old stones the house is built with and the flowers and the big stone you can see from the farther end of one the gardens, a big stone in the middle of a field that feels so magical and imposing I never thought to go and touch it before just this moment and now I never will be able to.

Yet, I don’t think I really understand what Minette is going trough. She lived in that house, almost non-stop, for four years. She curled in every corner of the house, she ran trough the fields and chased, and rested under the trees. In reality I cannot described the life she lived there, I cannot imagine what it is like to be a cat, her relationship to the land. I only can guess how her whole body learned the land, how she made it her home. There was a time we humans did that too (some still try). There will be a time we will again.

For the moment, I have no idea how that’s like. I havent lived somewhere longer than a couple years in a long time. Most places I lived where in cities, and in all cases I didn’t spend that much time out, making friends with the trees and all the other beings. Maybe one reason I didn’t, maybe one reason I cannot bring myself to truly connect with the living world, is because I always  know I will have to leave someday down the line, and it is too much to loose. But Minette had no way to know that, to know she would have to leave, that she shouldn’t get attached. And more tragically, she had no agency, no way to participate in the decision of moving in and out.

As I’m writing this, I’m just remembering, there’s a dead fish on a plate next to me. I was excited yesterday when I learned my friends had cooked fish. After being vegetarian for ten years, fish is the only meat I can eat and I really like the taste and how nutritive it feels. WhatI didn’t excpect, maybe since I’m so used to canned fished, is for ki* to be so intact. I put ki on my plate with the other food anyway. But as I was eating the rest of the plate, I couldnt keep my eyes of kis. They seemed whitened by death, full of fear and a certain anger. I tried to eat it, but I couldn’t. Maybe it’s because the veil between the worlds are thin this time of time of year, but I was very aware ki was a dead being.  So now ki’s just rotting there on that plate, dead for nothing.

Me and my friends are doing what we can. They had to leave that house. I have to eat what my body truly needs. I wish there was an easy answer where no being would have to suffer. But there are only hard questions and trying to do right in a messy unbalanced unrooted world.

When I started eating fish again two years ago, I would light a candle and say a prayer for the soul I took. When I started eating fish in cans, the easiest way to eat it, I didn’t keep up that practice. I didn’t even think to do it this time.  Maybe it’s not too late.

As for Minette, how to even make that loss right by her? She is old, and I’m afraid she will let herself go, too sad to hold on, to wait for the new land they will move into someday. I hate cities with all my heart, and I can use the internet. I can’t really imagine what would make life in an appartment liveable let alone enjoyable for her. I know there is no easy fix for “mental illness” when the reasons are structural (and they often are), and that holds for cats too.

Maybe I’ll just tell her: I’m sorry, it’s terrible what happening to you. It truly is. You didn’t  get to choose to leave, and where you went. You have the right to be mad and sad, and to grieve for as long as you need. But if you can hold on,  stay alive, one day, there will be another land for you to fall in love with.  And I I’m not sure if it’s enough to hold on too, I’m still waiting for my first one, you see. I’m not sure the hope is enough for me to hold on either. But let’s try okay? Let’s just try. 


 

*“ki”  is a pronoun for living beings which replaces the objectifying “it” .For the moment I am keeping “She” for Minette because  “ki” for her would feel a little distancing (maybe just because the pronoun is new? because she’s like my cuddle buddy and I humanize her? idk) though she did not chose her gender… I’ll keep thinking about it!

In honor of a future where support and space are given as needed

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I’m blessed to share some thoughts here on the balance between support and space, a theme that comes up regularly for me, as an an unschooler who left home “early” and as a neurodivergent struggling in an ableist world. It came up for me recently while reading the rad sci-fi post-revolution/”silence-breaking” story, “Evidence” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs , and then again when I came accross the awesome post “The opposite of rape culture is nurturance culture“, that talks about attachment theory in the context of patriarchy. Made me want to share all of it with you, cause what’s better than visionary fiction and woke psychology, really? I hope it makes you as excited about turning the whole damn world of health care/ parenting /community support around as I am 🙂

“Evidence”, by Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a very weird and very powerful story. I’m still a little confused even after reading it a number of times, but basically the piece is made of different “exhibits” stemming from a history project done by Alexandris, a descendant of Alexis (the author) in the faraway future (five generations ahead). The history project is about the time of “Silence-Breaking” which happened in Alexis’ lifetime. Thanks to the “Silence-Breaking”, Alexandris, her descendant from the future and even herself farther in the future lives in a time radically different from ours. In one letter, Alexis from the future describes it so: “Now life, though not exactly easier, is life all the time”.

There’s a lot going on in that piece, I particularly love what Alexis Gumbs does with time in there, breaking linearity constantly, weaving different space-times together. While I read her piece, she creates in me a feeling of commitment and accountability both to the ancestors —those before us who risked their lives to break the silence—and to the descendants—those who depend on us breaking it.

It feels like in this future people have found a very good balance between supporting each other and giving each other space. In Exhibit B, a letter from Alandrix (age 12), says to Alexis:

“Now we are very good at growing. I’m growing a lot right now and everyone is very supportive of growing time, which includes daydreams, deep breaths and quiet walks. No one is impatient while anyone else is growing. It seems like people are growing all the time in different ways” (p.35)

This is very different from the way we “grow”, where everyone expects us to do this by this time but thinks we’re not ready for that yet and then considers it’s too late for that. As someone who quit school and my parent’s house at 15, I am very aware that society does not let you easily take the independance you feel ready for (nobody approved of my choices), and paradoxally doesn’t give you the support that you do ask for.

I spend years trying to find adults who would be my “mentors”, as Grace Llewellyn advised us unschoolers to do in The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to quit school and get a real life and education. But the truth is if what you’re looking for is not a parent or a teacher, it’s hard to come by adults who are willing to take any form of commitment towards younger people.

How I wish I’d had, and wish I had, a “Life Navigator” (someone who, as the name pretty straightforwardly explains, helps you navigate life), like it is common for people to have in the utopian story “Reproductive Supporters” in the book The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-seven visions of a wildly better future (which is another great book about imagining better worlds that I’ve just started reading).

But coming back to “Evidence”, In Exhibits E, Alexis from after capitalism writes to Alexis from before capitalism:

It is on everyone’s mind and heart how to best support the genius that surrounds us all. How to sheperd each of us into the brilliance we come from even though our experience breaking each other apart trough capitalism has left much healing to be done. We are more patient than we have ever been. And now that our time is divine and connected with everything we have developed skills to recenter ourselves. We walk. We drink tea. We are still when we need to be. No one is impatient with someone else’s stillness. No one feels guilty for sitting still. (p.40)

It seems like there isn’t this sickening atmosphere of competition (harvested mostly by middle-and-upper class folks, and that includes me) where we seem to think that someone’s brilliance takes away from ours. Everybody’s brilliance is honored. And at the same time, nobody is pushed. Nobody has to prove themselves or be brilliant all the time or only in certain acceptable way. Stillness is respected as a form of brilliance.

This made me think of something I really liked in the book A Woman on the Edge of Time. If you remember from my earlier post, A Woman on the Edge of Time is the story of Consuelo, a woman inprisonned in a mental hospital who is contacted by Luciente, a person from an utopian future. One day when Luciente is visiting Consuelo at the mental hospital, she asks why Consuelo has come to stay in a room “only fit for machinery”. Consuelo answers that she didn’t choose to come here, she was forced. Luciente is quite bewildered by that fact and says:

“Our madhouses are places where people retreat when they want to go down into themselves—to collapse, carry on, see visions, hear voices of prophecy, bang on the walls, relive infancy—getting in touch with the buried self and the inner mind. We all lose parts of ourselves. We all make choices that go bad… How can another person decide that it is time for me to disintegrate, to reintegrate myself?”

I know very well as a neurodivergent, a mad person that this is exactly what I would have needed and need sometimes. That the healing that in our society is so hard to find—that seems like years and years, really a life, of work— might happen relatively “easily” with the support and space offered by such madhouses.

When I think too much about this I wonder how the hell can people fail to realize that instead of wasting ressources on treatments (hospitals, meds, etc,) that we do not want nor need nor find useful it would be much better give us just exactly the support that we ask for. Why is it so hard to find and access any middle-ground between on one hand being forced to be independent and to do things beyond our capacity (such as when living on our own) , and on the other hand being forced to be dependent and forbidden from doing anything for ourselves (such as in hospitals and nursing homes)? I think the answers lie in power, money, how screwed up the Industrial Medical Complex is, ableism & ageism; all of which I’m not feeling like getting into too much right now.

One other piece of the puzzle I can give today though, that might help us birth that utopian future, are insights I got from learning about attachment theory in the piece “The opposite of rape culture is nurturance culture” by Nora Samaran, which completed very well what I’d learned about this theory in the Trauma Informed Conflict Transformation course by Rain Crowe.

There’s a lot going on with that piece as well and I really love how she approaches the question of why do people rape—a very important question for a girl like me who’s into transformative justice—and how she puts attachment theory in the context of patriarchy. Psychological and biological theories often don’t consider the importance of social forces such as gender or race so I’m really glad she’s mixing those up in here (at least with gender).*

All that said, what is this attachment theory I keep talking about and how does it relate to a better future?

Basically, according to the research as Nora explains it, people can be divided in four types of attachment styles (ways in which we attach in our relationships). Those styles were wired in our limbic brain when we were small depending on what our relationships with our primary caregivers was like. Those four types are: secure, anxious, dismissive avoidant and preoccupied avoidant (and a few who are “Disorganized”).

Secure people, which apparently compose 50% of the population (really?? where you all hiding at?!) are both comfortable with intimacy and independence. Their parents or caregivers were attuned to their needs both for support and for space and gave them each as needed. In relationships (I guess most of the litterature speaks about romantic relationships but in my opinion those theory totally can and should be extended to frienships), those people know how to show up for the other person, and trust that the other will, so they easily find the right balance between autonomy and intimacy. And as Rain pointed out during the course, they both feel their emotions, and know how to deal with them.

Cool. What about the rest of us? People with insecure attachments are divided between anxious (23% of people) and then two styles of avoidant (25% of people), dismissive-avoidant and preoccupied avoidant.

Anxiously attached people like meself look actively for intimacy, and are always afraid that people will bail on them. So we need a lot of reassurance and closeness, especially at the beginning of a relationship, and if the other person shows up with consistency, our need for autonomy (which everyone has) can then express itself. We’re also super loyal and loving to the persons who help us feel safe. So far as our emotions goes, we generally feel our emotions and are able to express them but get overwhelmed by them and have a harder time dealing with them on our own.

Then avoidant types:  Dismissive-avoidant people do not feel their need for intimacy (which they have like everyone— every mammals) and believe they don’t need anybody. They need a lot of space and can seem very distant even to the people they’re close too. They can deal with their emotions, but don’t feel or express them. Preoccupied-avoidant people on the other hand seem to me like some sort of a mixed bag between anxious and avoidant. They crave closeness but are scared to express it and hope people will figure it out on their own while they sulk.

I learned a lot in “The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture” about why some of my friendships were/are so difficult, each of our attachment styles being so different, which is apparently not surprising because anxious and avoidant people seek each other out since we confirm each other’s ideas about “reality”. I also found very useful her analysis of this dynamic in the context of oppression: “it takes two to enter into the avoidant-anxious trap, but patriarchal culture normalizes an avoidant style and stigmatizes an anxious style, wherever it appears”. However none of us should feel ashamed about our attachement styles, as Nora Samaran says:

“This is really tricky, because insecure attachers have limbic brains structured by shame and guilt and may hear accusations where there are none. The solution is not to shame people for feeling shame. Instead, the solution is a complete transformation of social relations to allow wholeness back into our world”.

I find attachement theory very useful for understanding my own life and relationships, and I’m glad there’s hope for individuals to change our attachment styles through both securely attaching to ourselves (the path for healing Rain told us about), and securely attaching to others (which Nora gets into), thus building our “nurturance” ability. “Nurturance”, as Nora explains,  is the beautiful word for a balanced way of being with another person that gives both support and space, as needed, mostly by picking up on non-verbal cues, and responding accordingly. So excited to build this ability in myself and my friendships! But we must see this change as a collective wide-scale undertaking, as building this “nurturance culture”, this future where “our time is divine”.

We can’t expect one or two caregivers to be able to be constantly nurturing to their kids, especially if that role mostly falls on women (of color, particularly). We need people who take on roles like the Life Navigators from “Reproductive Supporters”, and we need places like the madhouses from A Woman on the Edge of Time. We need people who are willing to support kids, disabled/sick/mad people and elders to the entire extend that they/we ask for it, and no more (that part would be a lot easier if adults and abled people weren’t getting much more out of having people depend on them then they realize and admit).

We need to be part of and create more Radical Childcare Collectives (collectives of people who offer childcare for free, often but not only to help parents be available for community organizing) and Centers for Independent Living (centers by and for people with disabilities, that offer peer-support, and sometimes assist with housing referral and adaptation, personal assistance referral etc). We need more radical health support networks and mad/sick/disabled solidarity, because we don’t need sane and abled people as much as they think we do (which, to be clear, is no excuse for them not to show up, after all they’re the one keeping us from accessing each other!), just as kids don’t need us as much as we think they do (and the same warning applies: this is not an excuse to leave any of them behind!).

And, circling back to transformative justice, in Nora’s words :

What we need is a model for slow self-love that brings the shame up into the light, and reality checks with others who accept you unconditionally, hold you accountable, and aren’t going anywhere. We need a model of justice that recognizes the lived reality of interdependence and learns to do it well, not a justice of shame that frightens us all out of looking at our shadow sides or weakest selves…

 

So, are you as excited as I am ? What do you feel/think about all that? Tell me all about it 🙂

 

Ressources

Octavia’s Brood: Science fiction stories from social justice movements edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha

Woman on the edge of time by Marge Piercy

The Feminist Utopia Project: fifty seven visions of a wildly better future edited by Alexandra  Brodsky and Kauder-Nalebuff

The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture by Nora Samaran

Trauma-aware Conflict Transformation course by Rain Crowe

The Icarus Project, a radical mental health network

The National Concil on Independent Living

The teenage liberation handbook: How to quit school and get a real life and education by Grace Llewellyn

Don’t Leave your Friends Behind: Concrete ways to support families in social justice movements and communities edited by Victoria Law and China Martens

The Intergalactic Conspiracy of Childcare Collectives


 

*I’m also always wary when talking about knowledge that comes from very ‘official’ sources as attachment theory does (it comes from neurosciences). Those kind of knowledge tend to be construed as objective and universally true which in my opinion is incredibly cocky. I see them as nothing more than what some American white upper-middle class abled men in the 21th century have thought by looking at brains—a totally valuable and useful knowledge but not in any way more so than knowledge my grandpa & great-grandmas, would have had in the land now known as Cameroun a century, or ten centuries back. So my personal approach is to take that knowledge to the full extend than I find it useful, no less, no more.

Picture from: http://www.thetravelchica.com/2011/12/puerto-madryn-argentina-elephant-seals-isla-escondida/

Community Accountability, Relationship Skills, Neurodivergence and Sci-fi inspirations aka. Fire and Worms

content warning: this post mentions sexual assault and abuse

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About a month ago, my long present interest for transformative justice (TJ) and community accountability (CA) was renewed intensely. I was part of and witness to a few conflicts, some a little violent, and it made me regret once more how we often utterly lack in current western culture the skills and processes to engage with conflicts, let alone abuse. I started devoring book and articles on TJ/CA (check out resources at the end). More than anything I wanted to find a training to nurture my practical skills. I was blessed to learn that Rain Crowe, a witch I had met before and have deep respect for, was holding a Trauma-Informed Conflict Transformation course, the first session of which I participated in last thursday. I don’t have the hope that I can share everything I want on this topic in one post, especially since it connects to so many other, so I will say what I can here and more will come in future posts.

In this piece, I will explain a little what transformative justice and community accountability are and how people have extended it to the work of nurturing relationship skills (creating “Accountable Communities”), how this shows up in my life particularly as a neurodivergent person and share a lively metaphor on conflict (by Rain Crowe) as well as some inspiring ideas from the science-fiction novel A Woman on the Edge of Time.

Some basics on Transformative Justice/ Community Accountability and the Accountable Communities framework 

Tranformative justice and community accountability are theories and practices used in radical/activist communities (in the West, to my knowledge).  They draw heavily  (and sometimes appropriate) from Indigenous justice models (1).

In the introduction of the print version of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Partnever Violence in Activist Communities (print edition), community accountability is defined this way:

“What we call “community accountability” (some call it transformative justice, others call it as many names as there are people) has existed for as long as we hold collective memory. A simple definition of community accountability: any strategy to address violence, abuse or harm that creates safety, justice, reparations, and healing, without relying on police, prisons, childhood protective services, or any other state system. Instead of police and prisons, community accountability strategies depend on something both potentially more accessible and more complicated: the communities surrounding the person who was harmed and the person who caused the harm” (xxiii)

In the zine Transformative Justice and/as harm, A.J  Withers says about Transformative Justice:

 TJ works towards community based solutions that do not involve the state. It is different than restorative justice (RJ) as it has not been co-opted by the state it recognizes the fundamental injustices that pre-exist and inform harm (it does not presume that there is a just foundation to which the situation can be restored). While TJ can be broad, four general themes emerge as its key principles: (1) a commitment to prison abolition and the understanding that the criminal justice system (CJS) is unjust; (2) a commitment to and belief in healing, not simply protecting/punishing; (3) an understanding that sexual assault happens within the context of systems oppression that must be overthrown; (4) and, the belief that communities have the capacity to solve our on problems and do not need to turn to the state for this. (p.17)

In the past decades, Community accountability/TJ process have been put in place in radical communities mostly in situation where sexual assault and partner abuse had occurred or were occurring. One reason why that is the case is that for people who are so harmed, particularly people of color, poor, queer, disabled or otherwise marginalized folks, often it is not safe, accessible or even desirable to engage with the police. Meanwhile, since in most cases the person doing the harm is known to and part of the community of the person they are harming, CA/TJ process may feel more accessible and desirable. One consequence is that women and trans people—the people who are the most often harmed by sexual and intimate violence—often end up “bearing the brunt of the Community Accountability learning curve” (1)

I know quite a number of people (mostly women and trans) back home (in France) who have been involved in those processes (I have been part myself in mediation, that is, in cases of conflicts, not of assault) and have read about some of those happening in the United States and Canada. What stands out strongly in both the stories I heard and those I read, is, not surprisingly, that holding those processes is extremely difficult. It requires people, time, resources and skills that are rarely available as needed.

In the piece “Think, Re-Think: Accountable Communities”, an article in The Revolution Starts at Home, Connie Burk, from the Northwest Network of bi, gay, lesbian and trans survivors of abuse, says:

We have seen this happen again and again with Community Accountability processes: survivors are exhausted, the community divided and angry, and the folks who caused the harm suck up the attention, community resources, and all the air in the room. (p.270)

In making the realization “that we do not have the skills, shared values and cultural touchstones in place to sustain Community Accountability”, the Northwest Network has experimented with another framework which they call “Accountable Communities”.

Accountable communities shifts the emphasis from a collective process for holding individuals accountable to individual and collective responsibility for building a community where robust accountability is possible, expected and likely. (p.273)

An amazing thing they’ve done in this framework is to begin offering a Relationship Skills class (in 2002, and it is still going on!). Connie Burk describes the Relationship Skills Class (RSC):

RSC is a six-week skill building class that explores all forms of relationships- including but not limited to intimate partnerships- using the lens of “personal agency” (making choices and being responsible for our choices) from a number of perspectives. The RSC series originated in a support group for queer domestic abuse survivors held at our organization. After spending a long time working together on issues of power and control, signs of abuse, ways to safety plan, and so on, group members asked for more information on building the skills they needed … they wanted to shift their focus to what kind, loving, sustainable relationships could look and feel like… (p.276-277)

Formalized relationships, a neurodivergent perspective 

The Accountable Communities framework and its perspective of people engaging collectively in building the skills to create loving, equitable relationships is extremely exciting for me. In some ways, I have been engaged in that work for a while.

When I began doing radical organizing at 16, I was particularly attracted to groups who practiced what we call back home “formalism” (I don’t know if/how the following shows up in radical communities in other countries). “Formalism” is a mode of organizing where, in short, a lot of attention is put into how we organize. Formalist are very attentive to group dynamics, how power is distributed, who talks more, who does the dishes, and use tools and processes in order to attempt to share the power and make sure everybody feels as well as possible. In france, “formalism” is considered the opposite of “spontaneism”. People who are more into spontaneism believe that since radical/anarchist organizing is about freeing ourselves from structure of oppressions, we shouldn’t create structures in our groups and thus be “spontaneous”. In my experience, advocate for spontaneism are very often white abled men (manarchist) who can talk for a long time very easily and thus do not personally feel the need for structures to help them take space or feel welcolmed.

This is only a simplified explanation, but it brings me to my next point: While the groups I have participated in have been mostly (and more and more) formalist, until recently my social relationships have mostly stayed within the ream of “spontaneism”, meaning : doing it like we’re used too, following implicit rules we learned without being aware of it. A notable exception to that is when I began entering non-exclusive relationships, because the feminist polyamorous culture encourages strongly to talk about needs and boundaries and to negotiate agreements between partners (see resources for a great book on that). But even within those relationships, while we made agreements about how we could “see” other people, our relationship in itself and our interactions remained vastly “spontaneist”.

One of the reason I feel most comfortable in formalized groups and relationships, is probably because I am neurodivergent (though there are many ways to be neurodivergent, affected not the least by the other identities we hold). I can be intensely unnerved (anxious) when I am with people and do not know what is going to happen and there is no place to talk about it. I may be having very strong needs (like wanting very badly to tell a story of something that just happened to me, or to get a hug) and at the same time be extremely aware of the needs of the other person through the non-verbal signs they are giving. Most social interactions, 50% of my mind at least (more likely 90% if there’s more than one person) is busy analyzing my needs, the other person’s needs and figuring out how to meet them all. Usually I don’t succeed at all ( who could do that on their own?) and I feel overwhelmed, unsatisfied and guilty, sometimes for long after the interaction ended. (3)

One of the most satisfying relationships in my life right now is with a friend in France who is neurodivergent as well. We share a common experience of being targeted by ableism/saneism/neurotypical supremacy and both feel more at ease when needs and boundaries are discussed and negotiated formally and with transparency. I have actual notes from meeting we had together to talk about our needs and boundaries around touch, frequency of calls and visits etc. Now that I’m in the US, we talk only over the phone, and because of troubles we were having stemming from unstated needs and boundaries in our calls, we now have a strict policy for our conversations. Each time at the beginning we ask each other: “How much time do you have for this phone call? What do you want to talk about? What are your needs?”  (eg. I have 30 minutes, I want to talk about this blog post I have a hard time to write and I need you to be encouraging) and we share the time roughly evenly unless there are special circumstances (if we call each other in time of crisis this process doesn’t apply).

So, one can understand why I am so excited by the Relationships Skills Class offered by the Northwest Network (I contacted them about having them come on my campus!) and by the Trauma-Informed Conflict Transformation course.

Fire and Worms 

I won’t talk much about the course right now, but Rain Crowe used one imagery that I want to share here. She compared conflicts to fire, and talked about how on the West Coast there has been a policy of fire suppression for 50 years enforced by forest services. Because of this policy, instead of low-heat fire burning underbrush, downed limbs, etc regularly, those fuel load have accumulated, so when a fire does happen it is a huge high-heat devastating fire that burn miles and miles of acres of forest. Similarly, instead of anticipating conflict and addressing tensions when they arise, we let them build until it all ends in flame: we break up, we hate that a*******, the collective ends, he kills her etc..and the fire has devastated everything in its path: group of friends, communities and individuals.

This bring me to the last part of this post. In the transformative justice strategic science fiction reader, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha talks about the book Woman on the Edge of Time, which brought me to read it. Woman on the Edge of Time was published in 1976 by Marge Piercy, a white working-class jewish women, and is the story of Consuelo, a Chicana living in poverty in the seventies who is inprisonned in a mental health hospital after defending her niece from her abusive partner. She is contacted by Luciente, a person from an utopian radical future (exact year 2137). There are a lot of wonderful ideas to take from this future (and also some not as good), and I will probably come back to it in future posts, but I want to focus here on ” wormings”.

Wormings, are the process in the book used to engage with tensions, conflict and harm. They are not trials, but, as Leah Lakshmi points out, a form of “community mediation”. I personally really like the name, I imagine it refers to the idea of taking the” worms” out of the apple. In the book, a worming is called for after tension has been building between Luciente and Bolivar, who both are in a relationship with the same person. Many people who live in the village and have been affected by the tensions participate in the worming, which is facilitated by a referee, who is:

“Here to make sure the group crits each justly. I can point out injustice. Watch for other tensions that may surface, clouding the issues, weighing the reaction. Someone not from this village must play referee.”

I really like how something that may be seem very mundane and unimportant, like tension between two people, that expresses itself “only” by criticizing each other, is nonetheless taken seriously enough by the community for some of them to gather in a room and for someone from another village to come over. The idea, taken literally, feels a little overwhelming and from my experience, having two mediators present might be enough to help (with some form of feedback loop with the rest of the community). I can imagine that having many people present might make matter worse by putting a lot of pressure on Luciente and Bolivar. But I don’t live in that utopian future, so maybe social pressure is not as big an issue there^^ . At least it seems to work for Luciente and Bolivar, who decide to spend more time together since “the friction seems to lie in (their) lack of rapport—no friendship yet constant contact”.

About this scene Leah Lakshmi asks

Could this prevent intimate violence from occurring, this working out of the poly jealousy between Luciente and Bolivar? How does just knowing there is a community-based structure in place to work out said tensions help prevent them from building to a fever pitch in the first place?

I’m very sure it would. Taking the worms out is kinda like burning small fires regularly, it might just keep the apple from burning. Or something :).

 

How about you? What do you think? What’s your experience with all that like?

 

 

Ressources

Incite! “a nation-wide network of radical feminists of color working to end violence against women, gender non-conforming, and trans people of color, and our communities” . The Incite! Community Accountability Working Document is particularly useful if you’re looking for something short and practical.

The Northwest Network of bi, gay, lesbian and trans survivors of abuse

The Revolution Starts at Home, which there two versions of: on online (older but still awesome and you know, free!) subtitled Confronting Parner Abuse in Activist Communities and another version, in print and much bigger, subtitled Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communitie, edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Andrea Smith

Transformative Justice and/as Harm by A.J Withers ( a free zine)

Creative Interventions Toolkit: An Invitation and Practical Guide for Everyone to Stop Violence (also free)

The Transformative Justice Strategic Science-Fiction Reader by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, adrienne maree brown, Alexine Pauline Gumbs and Jenna Peters Golden

Trauma-Informed conflict transformation course by Rain Crow

And also the book The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy


Picture: Epicormic (vegetative) regrowth from the bark of a eucalypt at Strathewen, four months after Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires.
Credit: Robert Kerton

Notes:

1)The most thorough examination of this topic I have read at the moment (though I’m researching documents written by Indigeneous people) is  “Indigeneity, Transformative Justice and Appropriation” in the zine Transformative Justice and/as Harm by A.J Withers (who identifies as a white disabled poor trans man). An excerpt : “While transformative justice and restorative justice are based on Indigenous approaches to harm, it is important to recognize that they are not themselves Indigenous models. Consequently, a number of Indigenous women “complain that many of these models, are termed ‘indigenous’ and hence Native peoples must use them, even though they may bear no resemblance to the forms of justice particular Native nations used at all.” {Quotes from Incite, 2003}  Healing/justice circles were never universally practiced on Turtle Island, yet notions of pan-Indigeneity have constructed them as universal. (p.41)

2)This is from p.272 quote “Think Re-Think” from Connie Burke, this really great article I’m quoting a lot. She only says “women”, but it applies to trans people as well. A.J Withers in his very awesome zine (you’re getting that, right?) expands on that: “Frankly, the mistakes that we have made in Toronto on the backs of women and trans people in the name of TJ have been incredibly brutal. In order to build capacity to do transformative justice, maybe we should do more of it when the stakes are not as high. Why aren’t communities working to do TJ when organizations denounce each other, when friendships break down, when collective houses implode, when someone steals, when people behave in oppressive ways, etc. If we want to create communities of healing and care, we need to do that at every site of conflict, not only in relation to sexual assault.” (p.38) He’d dig the trauma-informed conflict transformation course I’m taking!

3)Being socialized as a woman obviously intersects with my neurodivergence here, as it taught me to be attentive to other people needs and to be caring. I’m not sure if that would be such an issue for a neurodivergent (particularly, cis) man. On the other hand as I was raised mostly upper middle-class, talking can come fairly easily to me, so in some case I could be having this 50 or 90% of my brain dealing with all that I explained, and still be talking confidently.

 

 

Disability & health justice, Conflict transformation, Youth liberation and Live action role play (aka: what to expect in the coming months)

(For more context read About me, this blog and this section in English)

My projects currently revolve around disability and health justice with a particular focus on mental health, an intense passion for the experiences of children/youth, POC, women and other marginalized people’s and a strong link to alternative perspectives on health and medicine as well as transformative justice/community accountability. My own experience as a queer young neurodivergent women of mixed heritage is a driving force of my work, and I try to consider how it enables and keeps me from understanding the experiences of others.

Here are some questions that populate my mind nowadays: How does ageism and ableism intersects in the experience of mad/sick/disabled children? And with being female, POC or working class? How does oppression and abuse creates and/or magnifies illness and disability? What are the many ways the Industrial Medical Complex itself acts as an oppressive force and creator of illness? What path to healing and transformation can we find that do not involve more oppression, including internalized, in respect and deep listening of our bodies? How do we relate to each other and become allies for collective liberation when we each hold different sets of privileges, oppressions and traumas? How do we deal with conflits constructively in this work, without destroying each other? How do we stop ignoring how common abuse is, particularly of children, disabled people and elders, and take action? While moving from punishment to accountability? How does the Industrial Prison Complex affects mad, sick and disabled people? How could a more accessible, freer, world feel like? Can we try it out sometimes, in play? How can plants and otherworldly creatures be allies in this work?

I am and will be working with the following books (to my current knowledge, meaning: it might change):

Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitetaker

Same Time Next Week: True Stories of Working Through Mental Illness edited by Lee Gutkind

Sick: A compilation Zine on Physical Illness, edited by Ben Holtzman

-Le Corps Accordé: Pour une approche raisonnée de la santé et du soin de soi (French forThe Body Tuned: For a Reasonnable Approach of Health and Self-Care) by Andréine Beil

Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation by Eli Clare

The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Violence in Activist Communities edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Andrea Smith

Disability Incarcereted: Imprisonement and Disability in the United States and Canada edited by Liat Ben-Moshe, Chris Chapman & Allison C.Carey

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from the Social Justice Movement, edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Escape from Childhood: On the Needs and Rights of Children by John Holt

As well as the blog Leaving evidence by Mia Mingus, a disabled femme of color, and probably many other blog posts and articles.

I will be making contact with Mia Mingus, The Icarus Project (building radical mental health networks in a world gone mad), Kai Cheng Thom from the Monster Academy (Mental health skills training by and for youth in Montreal) and anyone else I feel I must.

In the coming weeks I will be taking with friends a weekly online course on Trauma-Informed Conflict Transformation taught by the wonderful Raincrowe and on January 22 I will attend a workshop by Octavia’s Brood (Science Fiction from Social Movements).

I also intend to organize Live action role-plays (Larps), putting to use the skills I learned last Summer at the Larp Summer School in Lituania. While Larps are mostly famous for men running around pretending they are knights saving princesses, in the Nordic parts of Europe a different kind of Larps as emerged, called Nordic Larps. Nordic Larps aim to be not only fun but also political, meaningful and transformative. An example is a Larp -based on Ursula Leguin’s Sci-Fi books- called Mellan himmel och hav (Swedish for Between Heaven and Sea), in which people played during 3 days a world where there are no men and women but morning and evening people (who both had attributes of the female and male genders : the morning people concerned themselves with philosophy and decision-making and served as the objects of sexual gaze while the evening people served as the sexual initiators and were responsible for practical arrangements and implementing the decision of morning people ), and marry traditionally by groups of 4 (two morning people and two evening people). In the workshops leading to the Larp, the players learned to deconstruct gender and desire in the way they walked, talked, reacted and learned to behave as evening and morning people. THAT is how I think Larps can change the world and why I aim to organize some soon (though they’ll most likely last 3 hours than 3 days).

So, keep tuned to find out what glimpses of answer to the questions that haunt me I gathered from the books and articles, my contacts, the online course and Larping! Also for people in my community who want to collaborate or be part of what I’m working on, this is a good place to hear about opportunities 🙂

Blessings to you all!