‘The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.’
I let her pass and she smiled at me, giving me the thumbs up.
I smiled back.
All we have is each other.
These words have been going on in my head for a while. Since we have been ordered to remain in the confines of our homes (those of us lucky enough to have a place to call home, those of us lucky enough to have a place to call home that is not violent and abusive), I’ve been thinking about what our after will look like. Those of us lucky enough to have an after.
All we have is each other.
Another favourite of mine is ‘Only the people save the people’, which I think I even prefer. ‘All we have is each other’, against the deathly individualistic ideology of neo-liberalism. And I’m sick and tired of the emphasis on just the one person, sick and tired of the cult of the individual, of the myth surrounding self-made men (and sometimes women, because you know, feminism LITE TM) , removed from the dynamics of oppressive systems, usually a white straight cis-gender person, the universal metric against which we are all measured. That one person, who had the right amount of hustle and grit to ‘pull themselves by the bootstraps’. That one person, who more often than not, had a safety net. And not a public one.
Sick and tired of what capitalism has done to us: having us focused on individual responsibility, leading to the criminalization and moralization of poverty, sexuality, disability, otherness. Sick and tired of this lie that if you’re struggling, one way or another, you are somehow lacking. That there is something you’re fundamentally doing wrong. That you’re doing life wrong, because the market doesn’t lie and that it does you no good to go against stereotypes conveniently and neatly waiting to rule your life so you don’t have to think. We have seen a lot of individual responsibility discourse lately, and it has almost always come with repression and punishment against those who were already marginalized way before COVID-19 ever appeared, and who now have to face the instrumentalization of a pandemic geared towards the increase of this repression.
‘Only the people save the people’ conveys the idea of solidarity. The idea of collective power and action. Of unshakable bonds built between individuals united in their decision, in their political choice, to support each other against the assaults of the ruling classes and their systems of oppression. Solidarity is the beautiful battle cry of those who refuse fashionable cynicism, of those who agitate, educate and organize, of those who refuse point blank to consider poverty a moral failing, gender a destiny assigned at birth and race anything else than a social construct.
Solidarity is subversive and beautifully dangerous: it defies the frames of charity and performative support devised by neo-liberalism to depoliticize struggles. Solidarity asks uncomfortable questions about patterns of discrimination, public spending, corporate responsibility, impact of austerity measures and neo-liberal policies on the lives of people and of workers, it asks to speak to the manager to hold them accountable. It is obsessed with justice and accountability. Solidarity is thousands upon thousands of hearts beating in unison, realizing their collective power. Solidarity is a fist raised, ready to support, embrace, build. Re-build.
Re-build lives and bodies, not the economy. Re-build them in sustainable communities. Now that confinement measures are slowly being lifted in some parts of the world, even though the virus is still circulating amongst us, aren’t we all silently asking ourselves a thousand questions? (or maybe, indeed, it is just me and my ever-present friend anxiety). Where will we park our fears? What to do now after having heard of, witnessed or existed next to so much death? What to do when mental health care is stigmatized, deprioritized, inaccessible for so many? What to do when you have seen the devastation caused, not by the virus in and of itself, but by the result of years and years of defunding and neglect of public health and hospitals, of unaddressed racial and gender-based discrimination, of rampant ableism and ageism, of criminal classism? When those who die are seen as expendable anyway, because they lived in poverty, because they were women who stayed in abusive households for lack of support of any kind, because they were old or had underlying conditions and were seen as a weakling anyway by a neo-liberal society that only assigns value to productivity. Productive bodies are worth saving, others, not so much.
This is where we need solidarity, in its most radical, political form. This is when political choices, from votes, to mobilization for social, gender and reproductive justice, to online activism, to organizing support for the most marginalized become a manifestation of a refusal to exclude and other, and become the foundation of a society outside of the neo-liberal paradigm.
One thing is clear: we should not go back to the way things were, not because of some romanticization of ‘the day after’, but because the way things were proved to be, quite simply, deathly.
Imagine for a second if we brought together that righteous, pure, unadulterated outrage and grief, and solidarity, and let the world explode in collective action and calls for accountability and the dismantlement of the systems that accepted all of these deaths, and so many more that are not COVID-19 related. We should expect higher levels of repression, surveillance and punishment still: the old world has smelled the threat and will not go down without a fight.
All we have is each other. Only the people save the people. We might not be able to touch, or hug, or hold each other just yet, but we can still organize and resist.