“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents
The truth is, this election was never gonna save us.
2020 has tested us like no other — we’re either struggling to stay healthy and alive or struggling to make ends meet. We’re exhausted and polarized but we don’t dare let that silence our demands for change. Over the next few days, and maybe weeks, we’ll hear fluctuating reports about who won the election. I don’t know about you, but none of the people I care the most about will win regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. Victory may eventually come, but it’s on a distant horizon and we need to gear up for it.
This country’s two-party political system has never been about true transformation. It’s a system hellbent on maintaining the status quo and disregards the harm caused by the unwillingness to evolve. Evolution is incremental and impermanent. Systems that ignore the volatility and randomness of evolution are bound to be replaced.
I’ve been reading a bit about “antifragility,” a phrase coined by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whose work primarily focuses on randomness, probability, and uncertainty. While much of what he talks about is central to economics, there’s also a connection to the nature of evolution. “Some things benefit from shocks,” he says. “They thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder…and uncertainty.” Taleb says that antifragility is beyond resilience because to be resilient is to resist the shock and revert back to steady-state. The antifragile adapts and thrives. Antifragility equips us with the capacity to deal with the unknown because nothing stays the same all the time. Antifragility is necessary for anything to evolve.
Nature isn’t always safe and for damn sure it ain’t stagnant. It is aggressive in the way it destroys and replaces. The planet has survived, thrived, and evolved using a system that is constantly regenerating. Whether biological or cultural, evolution doesn’t happen overnight – it occurs in a series of seemingly small shifts (small is all.) Rather than suffer from the inevitable shocks to the system, what do we need to do to roll with them and emerge whole? Different, but whole.
White fragility, misogyny, transphobia are all forms of resistance. Those who resist are afraid of what they’ll lose. But we’re not fighting to dismantle white supremacy, the patriarchy, and structural violence to gain equality with the white ruling class or to return to some previous state of conditions where oppression in the U.S. didn’t exist. History shows us there was never a time where BIPOC and poor people were safe in this country.
We’re not fighting for dominance. We’re fighting for a new world, one that isn’t dominated by white supremacy, the patriarchy, or subjugated by caste.
I know who we are. We are people who use drugs and people who trade sex. We are people who have been keeping each other safe outside of systems for a long time. We are a community of people who stares the opposition in the face to show that the exercise of power will not go uncontested. We are a community filled with beautiful, courageous, and fallible human beings working to transform the world. We know how to fight — we’ve been fighting all our lives.
We can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s time to rest. It’s time to care for ourselves and each other. It’s time to recharge. It’s time to pause and remember loved ones who stopped breathing. And then we breathe for them. The breath is a powerful reminder of how precious life is. Each breath is an opportunity to tap into the higher consciousness that binds us together – in this moment and across space and time. Each breath is an opportunity to remember harm to one is harm to us all. Each breath is an opportunity to adapt to the new reality.
We ain’t about to give up. As exhausted as we may be, giving up betrays our ancestors who died fighting for us to be here. So rest up. Hydrate. Use safely. Check on your people. Tap into the collective consciousness. The work of harm reduction has always been about creating our own safety. If you don’t know where to start, check out some of the self care and mutual aid resources we collected below.
Self Care and Mutual Aid Resources
Thinking about the next few days and weeks and how important mental and emotional health is, we’d like to share some of the harm reduction community’s favorite ways to care for ourselves and each other.
If you’re interested in mediation and mindfulness, here a few good apps to get you started:
- Liberate Meditation app – A safe space for the Black community to develop a daily meditation habit. www.liberatemeditation.com
- The Shine Meditation app – A daily self-care app for all with access to meditations, teachers, therapists, and healers. www.theshineapp.com
- Calm – An app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation. www.calm.com
- Headspace – An app with customizable meditations for sleep, stress, and mindfulness. www.headspace.com
Learn about Conversational Intelligence to help manage how we react when triggered by things people say to us – it’s the literal neuro-science of conversations!
Mutual Aid Networks and Community Building
Mutual aid and sharing networks may be popping up everywhere, but they’re not new to people who’ve always relied on their community instead of the government. If the term is new to you, think of mutual aid networks as open source coops where people can both build skills and exchange or receive goods and services to help make their communities safer and more equitable.
Mutual aid isn’t charity – it’s about solidarity. The Underground Railroad and the Black Panthers’ breakfast and health programs are powerful examples of mutual aid networks. Even the first naloxone distribution sites in the U.S. were early harm reduction mutual aid networks! Check out these resources if you’re interested in joining or starting a mutual aid network in your community.
- Big Door Brigade’s Mutual Aid Toolbox has ideas for starting bail funds, harm reduction work, eviction defense and more.
- Steady Collective provides harm reduction training and resources through their mutual aid networks in Appalachia and the South.
- #WeGotOurBlock – This toolkit on how to start a mutual aid network was co-created by AOC and Mariame Kaba and is accessible to anyone for free. Think of it as “the people’s COVID-19 response.”
- Mutual aid networks by state
- Map of mutual aid networks around the country
- Mutual aid pandemic disaster relief
- Pods and Pod Mapping Worksheet written by Mia Mingus for the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective
Keep the momentum going
Here are some tips and ideas from the harm reduction community. Want to add to the list? Use the hashtag #HarmRedNow on social media to share resources with each other.
- “Community-wide workshops with rotating presenters is huge…to keep the movement going. Like at CHPLA I’m having some of our board members present on their topics of expertise to help enrich staff’s work experience. Talking policy history, movement history, data collection best practices, etc. Not exactly ‘self-help’ but keeps enthusiasm up and increases the sense of unity. In lonely times it’s good to be reminded that we’re all working together on a larger scale. But the workshops could be about anything!”
- “Networking with other “Boots on the Ground” Advocacy Groups to keep pushing forward Harm Reduction and HIV policy agendas that make people’s lives more bearable. No matter who wins, they will need educating about what’s really going on in our communities.”
- “Non-USA centered TV.”
- “I got A LOT out of “morning pages” from “The Artist’s Way” writing 3 pages longhand first thing every morning about whatever. It reset my depression and made me evaluate ways I could cope with the day first thing in the morning. Within 2 days I was making new artwork and felt like a giant weight was taken off my brain.”
- “Meditation to start the day. Reading a book. Doing or learning something creative. For me right now that’s crochet and knitting and learning to play a keyboard and goofing around with recording/production software.”
- “Good pizza. Baking bread, blueberry muffins, oatmeal-raisin cookies. Football on Monday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday. Some YouTube and Netflix binges. Long chilly walks with Banjo. Good local IPAs and choice recreational drugs. Last but not least: A few long, supportive, political phone conversations with far away friends.