As a person who’s been criminalized and arrested for the sole act of being poor in the US, it’s probably something I’m always walking with, speaking on, and trying to effectively change just by…in some ways not so much raising awareness, which seems very passive to be, but more about sparking people’s understanding and change.
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I think what is particularly striking about the question of disposable lives in the 21st century is what seems to be a new global common sense about poverty, the ways in which poverty and particularly poor others have become visible. And how that in turn, particularly for millennials in the Global North—college students, young professionals, so‐called ordinary global citizens of the world—how this has mobilized them to action.
People think that the Civil Rights Movement and all big epochal movements involve conscience, and they do. They also involve consciousness. I mean, you can’t struggle against what you’re unaware off, right? The Klan as the iconic carriers of violence, the Bull Connor of the iconic southern white male resistance, George Wallace the iconic neopopulist racist. You know, these were historic figures in myth and reality. But we wouldn’t get to what they represented till much later.
When I learned to farm mushrooms, I discovered to grow mushrooms you use agricultural waste that is available to all the poor families in any any place we can say this is a struggling country. As long as they practice some form of agriculture, they will have this kind of waste material.
Much of class and isolation and pulling away is this sort of illusion that somehow we can be apart from the suffering that is in our midst. And that’s a myth. The social isolation that many people in the one percent experience is a wound.
We don’t have a concept of balance. Not only do we not have a concept of balance, but we have a very distorted sense of social justice that has been reframed to justify a society that is fundamentally anchored around the concept of imbalance. The resources of the world cluster toward a handful of very very powerful countries, one country having an even greater share. In order to justify this greater share, it’s made them believe that this higher concentration of power is normal, and that anybody in all countries can have it, and that all countries should aspire for it.
My thinking is how do we design systems that provide for every aspect of our humanity? How do we design a city that cares for all of our needs? You know it’s not just thinking about shelter, but it’s thinking about our food and our air and so, obviously the types of industry we have are very different, because we have to make sure that our air and our water is clean. And that our food is readily available, and that we have spaces for contemplation and reflection. And that we have places for communing with each other.
I like to think that we are an intelligent species. I mean, actually the people that often get this most quickly are the people who are poorest, because they know the system doesn’t work. But so many of our supposedly brightest people pick this up and don’t question it. And then we have the all the whole field of economics, which is an ideology built on assumptions that if you examine them are absurd. Because you know, economists simply look at the economy as a pricing system. They’re not system thinkers. Part of the cause our crisis is that we’re not educated to think in terms of systems.
What’s key…is that we all need to work together. There’s no way for all of us to know about each other. We’re in that part of this new way of being that there’s too many players. It’s too chaotic. There is no center, there is no hub. But we need to find ways to work together, and to lose the idea that any one of us is the solution. Because if any one of us were the solution, we wouldn’t be where we are now.