An overwhelming political climate has left many Americans frozen in a state of uncertainty. Unable or unwilling to fully process the enormity of climate change or the tragic circus of Trumpism, many are going through the motions of normalcy while the world burns. In this episode, Kelly talks with UndocuBlack organizer Aly Wane about how fear and anxiety can freeze political action and what we can do about it.
Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity.
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Kelly Hayes: Welcome to Movement Memos, a Truthout podcast about things you should know if you want to change the world. I’m your host, Kelly Hayes.
Today’s guest is someone I’m excited to have on the show. Aly Wane is a Black undocumented human rights organizer based in Syracuse, New York. Aly has worked on antiwar, economic justice, racial, and immigrant justice for the past few years. Aly Wane, welcome to the show.
Aly Wane: I’m really glad to be on the show.
KH: I would ask how life’s been treating you, but given the state of things, I’ll just ask, how have you been holding up?
AW: Well, you know, things are definitely rough. We are not starting 2020 well, as we all know, with the environmental crisis in Australia and, obviously, flirting with war in Iran, the prospects are pretty scary. That being said, I literally just got back from meeting with a couple of friends. We’re going to be doing some organizer trainings at the beginning of this year. And I mean, once again, that’s where the hope is: not to be paralyzed, but to connect with like-minded folks to try to move the world forward the best that you can. And, at this moment in history, really, paralysis is not an option.
KH: I hear that. Staying plugged into movement work helps me a lot in terms of coping with everything that’s going on, even though it does make life a lot more hectic. Last night, I was at a meeting for the Poor People’s March that’s happening on the first day of the DNC, this summer. So I was hanging out with a bunch of revolutionaries, talking about doing radical things. We were also celebrating Cheri Honkala’s birthday.
AW: Oh, great. Yeah. Cheri’s great.
KH: Celebrating by doing organizing work, which sounds silly, but it was really joyful. What’s been bringing you joy lately?
AW: To be honest, I haven’t been doing as much frontline work that I used to do. I’ve been mostly doing sort of analysis, these kinds of podcasts, interviews, speaking, but what has been giving me a lot of joy in the realm of activism specifically has been meeting and hanging out with younger undocumented organizers trying to sort of download some of the lessons that we’ve learned over the past couple of years.
Because as terrible as things are under Trump, there are resources right now for undocumented organizers and a lot of other organizers that just weren’t there a couple of years ago. So that brings me a lot of joy. To know that despite some of the dire circumstances, it’s really hard to tell day to day what kind of difference you’ve made.
But if you really take an inventory and think to yourself, well, where are we compared to where we were, say, 10 years ago, or 15 years ago? Versus those of us who are ancient enough to have been doing this kind of work for as long as we have, if you pay attention, you can tell that some things have shifted actually for the better. And that the Trump era is just this intense, reactionary conservative period that is a backlash to the progress that we have made. And now it’s back. It’s up to us once again to pick up the slack and not let the momentum that we had created all of a sudden go away. And I was thinking about this in terms of… the people who give me hope are the people who are doing the activism and paradoxically as an undocumented organizer… Because those of us who are undocumented, don’t have access to the ballot, we’ve always been very realistic about what’s possible in terms of what we can change through the ballot box.
And therefore we’ve had to resort to methods that are more connected to direct action. And while that has been exhausting, it has also been very empowering. And we have developed, I think, a certain level of resilience that some people who would describe themselves as sort of lower-L liberal, maybe, do not have. And I’m really thinking too, when Trump was elected in 2016, obviously it was disastrous and it was painful, but I gotta be honest, after about maybe a week or so, I checked in with some of my friends who were undocumented organizers, some who had been doing work for a long time. And literally our reaction was just kind of like, all right, well let’s just get back to work. Because by that time we had no illusions about how hard it is to change the system.
You know, Trump did not come out of nowhere for us. As rosy as the Obama years have been painted and the Bush years before then, some things were very comparable at the grassroots in terms of the assault on our communities. So compared to a lot of our friends who were sort of more mainstream liberals who really were just paralyzed and were saying things like, “there’s nothing we can do, we’ve never seen this America before.” To be honest, a lot of us were just kind of like, yeah, well, this has always been around the corner, and therefore, paradoxically, we were able to tap into a sense of like, “we’ve dealt with this before. We have the tools. We’ve organized under terrible circumstances, we can do this.”
And it allowed us to, I think, move forward in a way that a lot of mainstream liberals did not have the tools to do. And it was actually very strange to be honest, like at the beginning of the Trump era, for a lot of us, especially undocumented activists, to reassure our allies that this is not the end of the world, that we’ve seen terrible things before. We have the tools to organize. This is not going to slow us down.
KH: Well, that’s great to hear, and we’re all so lucky to have your voice out there sharing these, these lessons of resilience that the undocumented community has needed to do the inspiring work that they’ve been doing for years. And, hopefully, people have been learning from that for years, but if they haven’t, hopefully they will tune into those stories now.
I’m thrilled to have you on the show today for this conversation because when it comes to activism, there is so much that needs to done. But, one of our foundational problems is a lack of activation. We have people out here doing all kinds of amazing work that needs to be supported around immigration, environmental issues, work for tribal sovereignty, you name it. And there are great people out there doing the work who need support, but to get them that support and to have any hope of seeing the kind of mass mobilizations that we’re seeing in some other countries, we really have to tackle what’s keeping a lot of folks from taking action. So I’d just love to get your take today on how do we do that?
AW: Yeah. I mean, it all begins and ends with community. Community and community organizing is the key. I think that the Trump era is kind of an era of exclusion, an era of separateness. Despite all our social media tools and everything, Trump is using fear as a way to divide and conquer us. And I think that the best thing that we can do is realize that our best chance at survival is connecting with each other and connecting with each other’s struggles, you know?
This actually makes me think of when I first started doing organizing, specifically on the immigration issue. I became undocumented back in ’96, I believe it was. So it was quite a while ago. And so when I first started to organize, I mostly did antiwar type work, also economic justice type issues. I really did not want to get involved with the immigration issue because, obviously, being undocumented, to be completely transparent, I was scared. I was scared of being deported. I did not want to touch that issue, but the issue actually came to me as an activist.
I had been here in Syracuse for a couple of years. And all of a sudden, this was maybe 10-plus years ago or so, we started hearing horror stories of people being disappeared off the streets of Syracuse. And through our contacts, in detention, we were able to figure out that these were undocumented people who are being rounded up by ICE and Border Patrol. Syracuse is within the one hundred mile zone that the Border Patrol has jurisdiction on. And so they were taking people left and right, incarcerating them for small things. For example, driving without a license, which undocumented people could not have access to back then, and were being detained and put in deportation proceedings. And the thing that was instructive to me about that experience was that I had internalized my own oppression as an undocumented person myself. I didn’t want to really sort of agitate specifically for my rights because I was so scared. But doing anti-deportation work, being involved with families who were being brutally separated by the deportation machinery…
First of all, the solidarity that was created by being in those families and with those families, it sparked a kind of activist rage in me that also, weirdly enough, made me feel connected and made me understand that just as these families do not deserve to be separated, I should also fight for my own rights as an undocumented person.
And so I didn’t come at the issue from this heady sort of intellectual organizer place. I came at it from the perspective of like, these are community people who I know and I love and I care about, and I’m not about to sit and let this happen to them and through the community.
So it started with community, and then we moved down to do the political organizing that was necessary to try to keep those families together and, to be honest, with varying levels of success with many, many families being separated despite our efforts. And I think that it radicalized me a lot more. But I think whatever the issue is — this is specifically on immigration issues, but I think whatever the issue is, go out to your community, connect with the people in your community. Find out what their needs are, what their struggles. Realize that your struggle is connected to their struggle and the political organizing can come out of that.
And I’m not saying start from scratch because usually, if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, there’s a really good chance that there are activists who have been doing this work for a long time, reach out to those folks, be in community with those folks, and then figure out what you can contribute. Because one of the things that’s amazing about organizing is that there is room for everyone to contribute based on their skills. Some people do frontline stuff and get themselves arrested and shut down streets. Some people are making phone calls, they’re doing the administrative work that comes with organizing. Some people do legal work, some people simply do support work.
One thing, for example, that I think is really important to have when people do organizing is childcare. You know, childcare for families who might want to do organizing, but who don’t have the support.
In terms of that question of, how do you activate people? I think it really goes to the roots of what organizing is and to community. I think that right now we’re in an age when people are increasingly isolated. I think that Donald Trump, and a lot of conservatives right now are using fear as a way to divide us and to make us fear one another. And I think that the way to get involved is to go out to your community and connecting with people and like, to connect with people face-to-face, not online, face-to-face, connecting with people. You know, hearing from what their struggles are and sharing those struggles and realizing that your struggle is connected to theirs.
And I think that political organizing flows from community first. In fact, in the movement that I am a part of right now, broadly called the undocumented youth movement – even though I’m ancient at the age of 43 here – it did not start with the actual political organizing, it was literally undocumented people across the country connecting with each other, and just checking in on each other and validating each other’s existence and being like… it’s exhausting to be undocumented and to have to hide my identity and to be fearful and out of that community and out of the growing sense of, “we’re tired of this,” came the political organizing, the political organizing came after the community had connected with each other.
I think that’s what’s so exciting about organizing, is that it allows you to connect with people you might not have a lot in common with, but once you realize that their struggle is connected to yours, I think it is very empowering. So I think the biggest thing to getting people involved is, first, check in with your local community, check in with the people in your community, hear their stories, and then figure out how you can contribute.
KH: Absolutely. And this is a moment when I feel like we need as much mobilization as we can get. We need that activation. You know, the march that people attend or the meeting, the organizing training, these things aren’t necessarily what folks are going to wind up doing. But that introduction, that beginning is just so important.
I think that one of the things that maybe we didn’t think about 10 years ago in our organizing as much is how much we need to work to make this work fully accessible to people. And I think that there’s been a lot of growth in terms of making sure our spaces are welcoming — not just accessible, but also welcoming.
And that’s a high bar. But I think continuing to fight that fight is going to make a difference in terms of who engages and also being open to the various ways that people organize. I would love for people to be in in-person spaces more often and share community in that sense because it’s amazing to be in a room full of people who care about the same things and are willing to fight but, also, I know when I became disabled some years back and couldn’t be in the streets –which is what has always felt most natural to me — it was pretty devastating. So I definitely also want to convey to people who have physical limitations, who are struggling with chronic pain, that there really is a place for everyone in this work, regardless of where you work from. And I think that we’re going to have to really drive that home to people if we want to see the kind of activation that we so desperately need right now.
I think a lot of what’s not getting people to show up in whatever way that they can is just how overwhelmed folks are. I think, fear and anxiety have a way of making people feel trapped in a state of inaction. And Trump’s attacks on the environment, on Black communities and immigrants, reproductive rights, these are all ruinous attacks with deadly consequences, but they’re also extensions of preexisting horrors. And I don’t think that’s something we have really gotten right with either. People had already been conditioned to shut themselves down emotionally when something seemed too ugly or too large to tackle.
That desensitization, that desensitized experience that I think we’ve all experienced to some extent… I want to take a minute and talk about that because I can’t tell people that you shouldn’t compartmentalize, that you should try to feel the severity of everything at once.
And I think a lot of times that’s what people feel is being demanded of them, and it’s maybe even what some people are demanding of them, but that’s not good organizing. That’s not how we cater to the fact that people are really trying to get involved and really trying to do their best.
I think we have to go deep. I think we have to go really deep if we want to tackle this because we’re living in a country, like we were talking about, where there are all these preexisting horrors. There are all these things that people are conditioned not to look at. And you know, one that is very important to me is the prison industrial complex.
U.S. prisons are torturous and inarguably manufacture conditions that bring about premature death. Where you know that every year spent in prison takes two years off a person’s life in the United States, which has lowered the overall life expectancy of Americans by about five years.
If there were a disease that did that, we would dedicate so many… there would be huge nonprofits raising money to fight this illness, to research. But we know what the illness is. We know what the illness is, and this is well-established stuff. And also we know that many, many people will acknowledge that the prison system is highly racialized and that most caged people don’t belong there, as people would say.
And yet most people don’t really push back against the prison system. And I know there are a lot of reasons for that, including anti-Black fear-mongering, and classism, and the genuine fear that people attach to — well, without prisons, we’d be in all this danger, even though prisons don’t have a great record of creating safety in any way.
The system we are in really doesn’t create safety. It kind of caters to our impulse for retribution without expecting us to dig deep and think about what justice might mean. And I think a lot of people are willing to accept that validation. They want to be told that their impulses are correct and they want to be told that punishing people who they understand as having done bad things is super necessary. Even if there are a lot of casualties involved who I don’t think necessarily deserve that fate.
I think we really have to look at our sense of inevitability about the prison system. You know? How was that forged? Who does that benefit? A lot of times people see injustice and they think it’s necessary because they think it’s always been that way. And therefore is clearly how you handle the thing. And not only have these things like not always been this way, but that’s not a good gauge of what should morally be happening. Because there are some things that have always been the way they are in the United States that we should really be trying to root out of our society.
AW: Mm-hm. You know, one of the things that I was thinking of is, it’s so important to pay attention to the trauma that we’re subjected to and the historical trauma that this country has dealt over the years because it’s so connected in any fight. If I could share something about my own life story in terms of the criminal justice system, in terms of prisons… It’s heartbreaking to say, but my mother was a victim of domestic violence. She was killed by my stepfather. And, after that horrific act happened — this is way back in 1999 — I remember just being faced with the inability of the criminal justice system to give me what I wanted, which is to have my mom back.
As much as I was angry at my stepfather, as much as I wanted some form of retribution, the real thing that I wanted was to have my mother back. And the criminal justice system could not provide that for me. I knew that sort of blind retribution could not provide that for me. And one of the things that was amazingly transformative for me was at the time I connected with a group in Chicago called Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation. They were all people who had lost family members or close friends to murder, but were advocating against the death penalty. And I found that community much more healing than if I just spent my life sort of trying to seek retribution from my stepfather.
And I think people heal in different ways, but that was the healthy way for me to heal. And all that is to say is that we think of prisons as ways to solve these problems, whereas what we really need is healing. And yes, certainly, the prison-industrial complex in this country is absolutely brutal. One of the key insights that I’ve found in my life as an organizer, and specifically as an undocumented organizer, is that the immigration issue is absolutely connected to the issue of prisons and that we need to look at the criminalization process as a whole.
And as someone who was undocumented and who has been legally, technically criminalized, I should not think of myself as somehow separate or better than other folks who have been criminalized. I think that for the migrant rights movement to really forge ahead, we need to do much more cross-movement work with folks who have been fighting against mass incarceration for many years.
U.S. citizen folks have been fighting against mass incarceration for many years because literally, structurally, the very same corporations that made a lot of money under the so-called War on Drugs, incarcerating Black and Brown folks… After 9/11 happened, all of a sudden, those same corporations decided that immigrants were going to be the new cash cow.
I’m not someone who believed that we should only focus on for-profit prisons. I think prisons as a whole should be something that we should fight against. But all I’m saying is that I think that this country presents people with the idea that somehow prisons or policing are going to solve are our problems. Whereas what we really need is to think about what healing looks like. And there’s a term that I really like out of the Movement for Black Lives. They talk about healing justice, which I always prefer that term rather than quote-unquote “self-care.” Because I think it’s kind of important as we do the organizing to also recognize our limitations, recognize our own traumas that we’ve had to overcome. Participate in the work that we can participate in, but not in a self-sacrificial way where you just throw yourself at the system and you never give yourself a break.
One of the first things that you really have to learn as an activist or an organizer is that if you don’t learn when to stop, there’s never going to be a moment that’s perfect for you to take a vacation, right? Because every single day these huge oppressive systems throw something at us. And there are days when you might not have the time to, you might not have the energy to do that, or you might feel angry or frustrated or depressed — take some time off, you know? Literally this just happened to me when you we had just assassinated Soleimani in Iran, and some friends of mine organized a local rally to call against the war in Iran. And that day I was just like, yeah, I don’t have it in me. Yeah, I’m just going to stay home and watch some TV. And I’ve learned that that’s okay now for me to sort of step aside and really check in with myself, before I throw myself into something, because one of the things that can be very seductive is to think of activism as a way for you to pay your dues or activism as something that even validates your existence and our existence is not simply the struggle.
Our existence is also… we deserve to enjoy life, as we try to change these oppressive systems. So, years ago I used to be much more of a self-sacrificial kind of activist and organizer. I felt like I needed to be at every meeting, every protest, every rally. Now I’m much…
KH: Oh, same here.
AW: Yeah. Now I’m much more intentional about checking in with myself, my own levels of energy. If I feel like I can fully, with my whole being, throw myself into something where I think I can make a difference, I will do that. If I feel like I just don’t have the energy or I’ve been doing a lot of work for a long time. It’s weird to say, but, I have developed a kind of faith in the community.
It’s like, after all these years, I found out that I’m not, like, God. You know, I’m not the center of the universe. If I’m not going to be around to participate in this particular march or rally or whatever, I know plenty of people who are going to be there and I think having that faith in the community has been so good and helpful, especially in a time when you feel really isolated and the news doesn’t report on grassroots organizing and you feel like nothing is happening.
One of the most wonderful things about organizing is that you get to know… just to borrow a terrible phrase from Bush senior, you know, “thousand points of lights,” across the United States, of people just steadily doing good, important grassroots work. And that’s really helpful to know too, so that you don’t lose your sense of despair out of a sense that it’s all on you.
‘Cause that’s also a trap, right? To think that if I don’t do it, no one else is going to do it. Well, that’s ego. That’s not consciously healthy organizing.
KH: I couldn’t agree more. I think we lose a lot of people in organizing because there’s so much wrong with the world and if you’re taking in so much suffering and all these life-and-death issues are in your face every day, it can be very difficult. It can be overwhelming.
I used to try, too. I used to think I needed to be at every protest too. I thought I needed to be at every meeting. And what I tell folks who are new to the work is that, if you don’t figure out what your boundaries are, if you don’t figure out what you need for yourself in order to be able to show up, you will burn out. There’s no question. And so, if you value the work that you’re trying to do, you have to protect that work.
Sometimes we don’t think in terms of protecting ourselves, and we should. But even if you’re prioritizing the work and you’re being selfless about it in certain ways, that also means you need to keep you in the game. And I think we don’t emphasize that enough to people. And you know, I don’t think that anyone should feel the full weight of human suffering all the time. Or environmental destruction. We would just straight-up lose our minds. And there is a difference between responding to injustice and being consumed by it. We need to help people understand that they can respond without being consumed.
Sometimes it feels like processing the truth of what’s happening would just break us. So we hide from it. And I think everyone needs a place to hide sometimes. I know I love television and I know you do too, Aly. And we all need breaks. We all need joy. But my breaks and joy do mean more to me because I know that the rest of the time I’m doing my best to make sure we can all make it. There are moments where we have to stop and look at what we’re doing and look at what we have to give and just tell ourselves, “you are enough.” You are doing enough. And I learned to do that soul searching.
Miriame Kaba, dear friend and beloved mentor, really drove home to me that if you can do the soul searching you need to do and believe that you’re giving all you can, you’re taking care of yourself and if this is your best then your best is enough. Nothing that happens, no big event, no, you know, Twitter power hour works without like — hey, those get a lot done.
KH: None of these things exist without so many people giving whatever they’re able to give that day. If it’s 10 minutes, you know, these things add up. On New Year’s Eve, we did the Free the People Day, where we asked folks to contribute the cost of a New Year’s Eve drink to this bail fundraiser for bond funds across the country, where their primary work is bailing people out of jail who are there because they’re poor. Folks who have money are out walking around, they’ve been cleared for release. But these people are caged for being poor, sometimes for their immigration status, sometimes just because they’ve been criminalized in the past… and it’s such crucial work. But what really moved me this year was — we’ve done this for several years now. This year I really looked at the donations coming in and saw that so many people were actually contributing the cost of the drink.
It was so many people giving this little piece of resource that they could, and in the end we wound up with $380,000 to get people out of jail and to start the new year off knowing that so many people are being reunited with their families. People are not going to lose their apartments or their jobs or even custody of their children just because they’re being criminalized or they’re serving a sentence before they’ve had a chance to make their case. And that only happens to impoverished people in this country.
So, that touches on another thing I want to talk about: the ways in which we’re trying to help each other. The ways in which we’re trying to help each other that aren’t simply feeding into some notion of philanthropy, but empowering people to really help each other. And in the case of Free the People Day, to literally get people free. But you know, there are a lot of people out there doing great work and prepping folks and their neighbors for some of the hard times ahead, including climate catastrophes, which a lot of people are already enduring, have already endured. And some of those people have been very generous and are trying to teach others what they’ve learned and trying to help people organize so that folks can help each other in these drastic and catastrophic situations that most of us are afraid to really think about.
There’s an amazing website called bigdoorbrigade.com that can connect people with a lot of ongoing mutual aid work and also some great how-to information that people who’ve already been organizing in their communities to get things done. And folks who, like I said, they’d been down in it. There are people who learned in this trial-by-fire manner, how to create these networks of care and create networks of people supporting each other. Even psychologically. And so I really feel that the path to activation that we need to organize and create for people, to get people into the streets is, in a lot of cases, going to come through the experience of people showing up for each other. Not necessarily as marchers or as attendees of a rally, but as people who are on a very human level helping to ensure that the catastrophe isn’t the end of the community, that people have a chance and have hope and can find that in each other. I mean, people are so frightened by what we’re up against and very reasonably so that a lot of people are just stuck there, just going through the motions of normalcy.
In my experience, mutual aid really allows people to think about what’s ahead from a place of what we’re empowered to do for each other. I think that empowerment will help people get unstuck and that people will begin to imagine themselves in the ranks of a movement where people are fighting for each other.
I’m sure you’ve seen that in your work with people supporting communities that Trump has targeted.
AW: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, we shouldn’t take this this moment lightly. The broader system of neoliberal capitalism is failing more and more of us. People are needing basic things. I mean, basic services, food, healthcare. And the only way we’re going to survive this is not just to create future systems that are sustainable, but also to connect with each other and to help each other out on a very basic level.
I find myself sort of, paradoxically, both happy and sad when I see that so many people right now are using internet tools and GoFundMes and things like that in order to support each other. On the one hand, that heartens me because it does say that, as human beings, we generally do want to support one another. There is something inside of us as human beings, as a species, that does believe in interdependence and in mutual aid. It is sad, however, that obviously we can’t rely on systems to take care of each other. But, I do find some hope in the fact that there is something about the human spirit that allows this basic sense of compassion and we’ve created more and more grassroots ways us to help each other. One of the things that came to mind as you were speaking was… I don’t know if you know the queer hip hop artist, Invincible, out of Detroit?
KH: Oh absolutely.
AW: Yeah. Invincible is amazing. And I remember talking to them, at some point a couple of years ago, and they do amazing work out of Detroit. And the way that they frame their organizing out of Detroit was that they were building a new system within the crumbling system. And I found something so helpful about that.
Because we are in a really terrifying time in terms of the socio-economics of this country that actually informs the organizing that I do on immigration. You know, I think the reason why a right-wing populist is so popular right now is that immigrants are just scapegoats to the broader problem of neoliberal capitalism, hurting more and more folks, including U.S. citizens, and people are angry.
But, yeah, as things are crumbling around us, mutual aid projects and actually creating more and more organic communities together, and not staying isolated and fearful of each other, but actually reaching out to each other and figuring out how we can help each other, is very important.
And if there is one proverb that sort of, animates the organizing that I do, it’s this old proverb from the Kikuyu tribe of Kenya. And what the proverb is, is “I am only well, if you are well,” and I love that sentence because it is about a recognization that it’s not simply… like, your health is literally connected to the health of your community. And I think keeping that framing in mind, there is hope in the future as long as we don’t stay isolated from each other as community members and even as movements, you know, I think that as movements now it’s a really important time for us to start to think about how different movements are interconnected and share strategies and ideas cross-movement so that we can actually pool all of the wisdom that we’ve learned over the past couple of years. Because, I mean, as dire as things are, you know, organizing is an experiment, right? This here shout-out to Mariame Kaba, right? Just one of the most amazing organizers in the country.
She always talks about this, that organizing is an experiment and sometimes you’re going to get some things right. Sometimes you’re not going to get them right. But even in the so-called failures, you learn something. and I think we have a lot to learn from each other, as organizers, activists, and just as human beings, sharing skills with each other.
KH: Absolutely. And I totally agree with your point that we shouldn’t have to do these things, that we should be living in a society that has more provisions. I’m a big believer that we need to build a culture of care where it’s normalized that people take care of each other, where it’s not normalized, that there are people living on the street. And I do think that people have that in them, if we were able to understand how much we have in common, because I mean this capitalism teaches us, it conditions us to focus on just our own interests, from the political down to the personal.
We are encouraged by the system to individualize, to segregate ourselves from each other in the work. You know, whether it’s environmentalism, whether it’s equality issues, whether it’s racial issues. It’s baffling when you take a step back and look at it that these things haven’t been strung together yet, that we haven’t found a way to really come together behind the fact that we have way more in common with each other than we do with the people who are slowly destroying us by creating a situation where we have people who are running GoFundMes to pay for insulin, for cancer treatment, so they can get a heart transplant.
It’s just unbelievable where we’re at. But it was also inevitable under capitalism. It was always inevitable under Neoliberalism that we would wind up here and that’s why I’m going to be working on an effort to do some mutual aid organizing in my neighborhood this year.
Because I’m an organizer and I don’t know most of my neighbors, and I understand that I am not exempt from this, this isolation thing. I’m really lucky that I’m part of a broad community of people who work together to make a more just world that helps me get out of bed in the morning, but most people don’t have that.
We’re all so isolated and as I keep saying, and I’ll say it a million times, folks who are anywhere left of center cannot continue to operate in political silos because those silos have become death traps. And that’s why I want to know more of my neighbors and how we can help each other. I want us to find hope in each other.
I think there’s always hope waiting for us in the friends we haven’t met yet. Dahr Jamail, who was our climate correspondent at Truthout until he retired last year, shared a story after Hurricane Harvey about a friend of his who lived in Houston, who he managed to get in touch with after the storm. When his friend texted him, it was this moment when people are out in boats trying to save each other. It’s just the aftermath of this catastrophic storm and Dahr’s friend said, it will take years to recover. We are all rescuing each other.
Odd to think our future can be summed up like that. And that quote has always stayed with me because, you know, I firmly believe it. What’s ahead of us is, it’s going to get worse before it gets better for many people, if not all of us. I really hope that we can all get to that place that Dahr’s friend was when he sent that text.
As horrible as the circumstances were, I hope we can all get to that place where we understand that we’re going to be rescuing each other for years. And that doesn’t just pertain to people who we closely identify with. It has to pertain to people whose lives we don’t understand, whose struggles we don’t understand, and that we need to learn from. Well, with that, I’m just going to say, thank you so much for joining us today, Aly, It’s it’s been a great talk.
AW: Yeah. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be on and looking forward to the future work that you do on this podcast.
KH: Thank you so much. I’m still getting the hang of this and it’s a whole thing but I’m really grateful to be able to talk to folks like you and to hopefully connect with our listeners over time and figure out what we can build together. And with that, I want to thank our listeners for joining us today.
And remember, as long as we’re fighting the good fight, there is good in the world. I’ll see you in the streets.
Music: La Luna, by Son Monarcas