It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Every time you say “but everybody has to—”
or “that’s just the way it—”
I know you don’t understand the point
I’m trying to make.
It’s OK. You’re not alone. Nobody else
does either. I’ve explained it
so many times to so many people.
As simply as I can put it, the idea is this:
Almost nobody would be doing
what they’re doing with their lives
if it weren’t for capitalism.
If we didn’t all have to work to survive,
to put food on the table,
to keep a roof over our heads,
to put gas in our cars to take us to work,
so we can work to survive, etc.
If we didn’t have to do all that,
we’d do other things.
We’d hike or read or paint or
make music or play touch football or
learn to knit or to cook or to juggle or
we’d spend time with our kids or
our parents or our lovers or our friends.
We’d make little communities where
folks watch out for one another.
We’d pool our resources. Stop driving
the planet & all life on it
over a cliff. We wouldn’t launch missiles or
make armies or have borders or
watch people starve or die of exposure
while food rots in the fields &
cities have thousands of empty houses.
People would still do bad things sometimes,
because that seems to be human nature or
the outcome of occasional bad wiring.
But in a world without so much scarcity;
without so many people living grinding lives;
a world without billionaires and millionaires
or aires of any kind; fewer people would feel
so trapped that their only choice is to steal or kill
or shoot up or put the barrel of gun in their mouth.
You can’t look at me with a straight face
& say this world is how it’s supposed to be.
You can’t look me in the eye
& tell me we couldn’t do better.
Every time you say “but everybody has to—”
or “that’s just the way it—”
you are explicitly accepting the boot on your neck,
the chain around your ankle,
the darkness on a limited horizon.
So that’s my point. I just don’t want to do it
anymore. It’s killing me. It’s killing all of us.
After 45 years I want off this hamster wheel.
I’m going to do everything in my power
to escape. To live the next 45 years (or 4 years or
4 months or whatever is coming to me) as freely
as I can. There is more to life than this. Because
“this” isn’t life at all.
It used to be that mental illness was a taboo subject. This was bad. The stigma created by the silence harmed many people and prevented people from living the happier lives they could have lived. Now, however, we’ve overcorrected, and mental illness has become the explainer for way too much of human behavior. I see this especially in my partner’s generation (people in their 20s), for whom various forms of mental illness have become the defining factor in their lives. This is particularly a problem, in my opinion, because of the second thing.
The Second Thing
Of course mental illness is real. People have actual malfunctions in their brains, PTSD from trauma, and a whole host of other things. BUT we also live in an incredibly sick society. We’ve been sold (quite literally) a lie about what constitutes success and happiness, and we’ve been sold that lie so we’ll buy things we don’t need, obey social mores and rules we don’t need, look up to “leaders” we don’t need, and avoid doing the things that actually contribute to human well-being and happiness. In a society as depraved as this one, feeling depressed and crazy is a rational reaction. Again, there are real mental illnesses, but I also really believe that many of us feel the way we do because we realize something is wrong but we’ve never been shown any way to live outside this awful, harmful system. We’ve been sold a series of yardsticks that all lead to less and less happiness, rather than more.
A logical question is to wonder what to do about any of this. And this is where I come back to the same song I always sing, namely that small intentional communities of mutual aid are the only rational way forward. We need to do everything we can, no matter how small each individual step may be, to separate ourselves from this system. Grow food. Make things. Stop needing crap. Help one another. Trade skills. Live together. Yes there are a million complicating factors, but some of them are what we’ve been told is unachievable by the very people who have the most to lose if we achieve them. We can heal ourselves, but we can’t do it using the system that made us sick.
every white person has a Cherokee grandma
& a dream catcher dangling like a promise
from the rear-view mirror of their Forester
they never look back because
someone might be losing everything
we grow up learning to love hot cocoa
from the box, the name with the funny accent
over the final e — & it certainly is final, nailing
the coffin lid shut as the last drop of water
disappears beneath a tight plastic cap
we let them have what they want
because we cannot face who we’ve become
or who we had to kill to get here
Nikes squishing through the mud
made by mixing blood & dirt
tie your lips shut so capitalism doesn’t slip out
stay in the protective circle or the Bogey Man (TM)
will come for you
do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
do you remember where you were when it was too late?
I’m an anarchist living in a conservative area. I work as a union organizer for a mainstream union and travel constantly. To maintain a sense of community, especially given how few anarchists I personally run into, one of the places I turn is the world of podcasting. Here are my four favorites. Whether you’re an anarchist or just want to hear views that aren’t covered in the mainstream media, these are all worth checking out.
It’s Going Down is a podcast and a robust website. I’ll let them describe themselves: “It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.” Looking for a place to start? I found the audio documentary on San Diego’s Chicano Park very inspiring. Make sure you stay till the song at the end.
The Final Straw is a weekly radio show produced in Asheville, NC, but covering a range of primarily national and international topics. Each episode is available as a podcast. The interviews are always smart and engaging. I also enjoy the weekly audio column by anarchist prisoner Sean Swain. Looking for a place to start? I enjoyed their recent interview about mutual aid in Puerto Rico.
The Ex-Worker was the first anarchist podcast I listened to. It’s always passionate and well-informed, and often focuses on big-picture ideas that help me as I continue to shape my thoughts on my own approach to anarchism. The Ex-Worker is produced by the folks at CrimethInc., who also put out books, pamphlets, posters, stickers, and a very rich and useful website. Looking for a place to start? Check out their three-part review (1, 2, 3) of 2017. You won’t believe how much stuff happened that you never heard about.
You’ll notice that The Hotwire has a very similar logo to The Ex-Worker, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s also produced my CrimethInc. Unlike its older sibling, The Hotwire is primarily an anarchist news podcast. It features a round-up of news from around the world with an anarchist bent, and also helps you take action with detailed show notes. Looking for a place to start? Try the most recent episode.
An essay written by Hicks shortly before he died. Published after his death by his parents.
I was born William Melvin Hicks on December 16, 1961 in Valdosta, Georgia. Ugh. Melvin Hicks from Georgia. Yee Har! I already had gotten off to life on the wrong foot. I was always “awake,” I guess you’d say. Some part of me clamoring for new insights and new ways to make the world a better place. All of this came out years down the line, in my multitude of creative interests that are the tools I now bring to the Party. Writing, acting, music, comedy. A deep love of literature and books. Thank God for all the artists who’ve helped me. I’d read these words and off I went – dreaming my own imaginative dreams. Exercising them at will, eventually to form bands, comedy, more bands, movies, anything creative. This is the coin of the realm I use in my words – Vision. On June 16, 1993 I was diagnosed with having “liver cancer that had spread from the pancreas.” One of life’s weirdest and worst jokes imaginable. I’d been making such progress recently in my attitude, my career and realizing my dreams that it just stood me on my head for a while. “Why me!?” I would cry out, and “Why now!?” Well, I know now there may never be any answers to those particular questions, but maybe in telling a little about myself, we can find some other answers to other questions. That might help our way down our own particular paths, towards realizing my dream of New Hope and New Happiness. Amen. I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.