Without a community, we have no future

It’s starting to look a little dim out here. I’ve been pacing the same mental spots for nearly two weeks and there are no signs of stopping, but I processed enough to write this and I hope you’ll hear it.

The tension is high and care is at a premium.

Everything and everyone feels like a knifepoint these days. I like to think that many of the people I have come to like and enjoy also like and enjoy me, but I don’t know what that means anymore. So many of the relationships I have are about one word or sentence from shattering completely and, to be sure, they are fractured as it is. Especially in the circles that are adjacent to social justice.

Over the last two years, with mounting pressures from changes in federal law, loud voices asking for queer lives to fade into obscurity, more mass shootings that I can keep track of, racism, sexism, abusers in various spaces, etc and the interplay of those have sapped us all of energy and patience except to demand that everyone around us throw whatever they can against this darkness. However, like I said here:

“I am constantly in a low-level state of stress because at any moment, if I were to submit myself to the purity tests that others put forth online, I have to be ready to light my current and potential friendships on fire just to maintain or achieve that purity.

…But here’s the thing: you probably don’t care. I should do it anyway. I should leave with nothing after building so much and be okay with it to appease you. You don’t know my name, my birthday, my favorite color, or what keeps me awake at 1AM, but I should do it anyway.

You will not tend to me as my mental health tanks from a lack of connection. You will not offer other games to play with me with any kind of consistency. You will not text me. You will not call me. You will not email me.

But hey… I did the right thing here and that’s what matters.”

“Where Do We Go From Here”

Let’s talk about it.

Winning a war doesn’t mean anything if you can’t grow crops afterward. We either make it together or not at all.

When it comes to justice, we have some sense of how to do it well. Bans, blocks, whisper networks, DMs, Discords, the whole nine. It seems to be the clearest thing; the bad guys are here, they need to go, deploy the means to do that.

So we devote energy, effort, and time to doing that over and over and over. However… what then? What’s left? The most active of us are burning out every other month and we have to choose between continuing to “fight the good fight” and collapsing under the weight of our physical and mental health or stepping back from it all to spare the bit of energy, passion, or bandwidth we have left in order to focus on recovery, healing, or even just things that give more than they take.

What are we doing this for if this is all we get?

Well, it shouldn’t be. That’s part of what community is for: holding us up, carrying us through, building strength together. We don’t know how to do that beyond the platforms we’re on. It’s just one call after another to attack, to defend, to sacrifice, to prove yourself an ally, and to do it all every time without a moment’s hesitation or consideration of the situations we’re in.

Let me ask this another way: since we know that the pursuit of social justice often impacts the marginalized first and, often, the most severely in terms of occupations and opportunities..

  1. When the jobs are lost, can I crash on your couch while I figure out what to do?
  2. When the opportunities are lost and I am spiraling, can I call you and know you’ll be there to respond as often as I need until I get through it?
  3. When I lose my insurance, can I count on you to contribute what you can to keep me able to get medications?
  4. If I have to choose between rent or ramen, can I count on you to help relieve that choice?
  5. Can I know you’ll do this without holding it over my head or lording it over me at a later time?
  6. Can I know that when I express my very real concerns and aversions to what lies ahead that you will treat those concerns as valid, reassure me in the work, and work on ways to move forward toward our common cause and not treat me as an enemy or count me a coward or…?

In our quest to seek justice, I feel that we often forget what we are for. Additionally, we are not taught this at any age and unless we make effort to learn how, it will be our undoing.

We are excellent warriors, but not very good friends (if we are friends at all).

Knowing the right thing to do doesn’t do much when I am torn between that and the real possibility of my material needs not being met in a system where not having them met puts my life at risk.

The only counter for that fear is the sure knowledge and comfort that my people have my back in tangible ways once the dust settles. We don’t have that and we are not good at building it either because – systemic issues being the major disadvantage that they are – we simply don’t have the tools for it. We also do not do well when it comes to caring for people in general.

“But, I check on people and I know things about them and…”

And absolutely none of that seems to be a factor when we consider people’s actions toward social justice. We can know that someone only narrowly escaped eviction 24 hours ago and still be like, “You can’t just not speak up because it might cost you your job.”

“So… what? Do we just not say anything? Do we give people passes not to do the work? Do we coddle people who could clearly be doing better?”

Can I do the work without the internet? Can I do the work without food? Can I do the work without water? Can I do the work unhoused? Can I do the work unmedicated? Can I do the work with my mental health in shambles? What does the work mean when we have people who are too broken to do it?  Why don’t you care about me and my material circumstances as much as whatever work you are asking me to do? Because let me say this as plainly as I can: we are all we have.

If people are made to leap and there’s nothing to catch them, they may never recover from that. 

As it is, most people are within a single major accident or other negative life event from being made completely destitute or worse. They don’t have family to go back to and if they do have friends, they are often far away with no resources to help them get by until they can get back up on their own. If you are marginalized in any way, you are made aware – damn near hourly – that the governments we are under are indifferent to our living or dying at best and at worst are actively working toward it in every conceivable way as an organized unit.

Meanwhile, we are fighting our own. Not for being heinous or terrible or doing something that they need to be called in or called out for, but because they said, “Here are the concerns I have if I do this…” and the response they get?

Fuck you.

“Why can’t I demand that of them? I did the thing…”

Neverminding the many things I could ask in response, what caring and compassionate person would say something like this?

I’m not gonna hold you long on this one: we can either treat people as people or we can treat them as means. We cannot do both. 

If someone is truly a friend, then we have to interact with them in good faith, try to understand them and empathize with them, and see what can be done when they are acting out of character or out of turn. If we’re not doing that, then that’s not community or friendship. Rather, we are seeing them as a means to an end based on the amount of power we perceive them as having.

We owe it to ourselves and the people around us to be clear about which of these vibes we’re on.

To be sure, when it comes to social justice, people come ready to fight. They don’t come ready to care for people. That lack of care is taking people out of the game daily across the board and more is soon to come.

If we’re gonna make it through, it’s going to be caring for each other in real and tangible ways while we’re in the middle of everything else that will get us through. If we fail there, our best efforts mean nothing.

There is no community when every moment is a moment you could be stabbed by the people alongside you. There’s no future in that. Sure, we win some battles, but that’s as good as it gets and we can have more than that.