How have you been?
It's taken a while to get back to this. This past year and a half has been a lot, with so much being so overwhelming, and still it piles on – anxieties sustained, isolation intensified, precarity multiplied, segregations reinforced, complacency entrenched, struggles pacified, horizons obscured… all entangled between infinitely scrolling news cycles of inescapable doom, rehashed political theatre, and spectacular ecological catastrophe. None of this needs reminding, and yet at the same time, it all seems so easily hidden from view as things return to normal.
If you haven't been able to be present, to be “of value”, to “contribute”, to either “resist” nor “see the positive”, to know and speak and be heard amidst all this, you're most surely not alone. Even this has taken months to write. An even longer journey to realise: It's alright. You're enough.
There is no denying the palpable feeling of fatigue and grief all around, a feedback loop of powerlessness that may have us each turning to distractions while toiling, waiting for things to get… better. Those of us who can anyway.
Help and empathy run up against the limits of uncaring structures. It almost seems like the closest thing desirable and imaginable is indeed “return” to familiarity which some would call “normal” – even if normal was always twisted, punishing, and blanketed by atomised hopelessness. And as if the lasting effects of living through all this could simply be brushed off later, always later, as the “new” normal they decided on is once again forcefully instituted from the top down.
What is or should normal be? Could its understanding and experience still be changed now, be dissolved into myriad divergences, when it's easier than ever to conflate nation-state, capital, and authority with expertise, ability, and possibility? Does the urgency for response to climate crisis make it seem like these systems of rule could magically start working differently? When they haven’t for the crises normal of pandemic or everyday harms? How could we possibly break expectations of peace, joy, and comfort away from this colonialist reality moulded by extraction and death? What is “safety” predicated on the border, on exclusion, on hierarchy, but violence?
The generalised quarantine has taken a toll for sure; enforced isolation only further stretches the racist, ableist, cisheteropatriarchal separations that were already so deeply present as capitalist “common sense”. Antagonisms are managed and neutralised, though always simmering.
Consumption – frustratingly made “necessary” with survival tied to wages paid through the absurd insistence on continued commerce and competition – becomes ever more the avenue for meeting and momentary escape, offered as a welcome roadmap (or ransom) for that normal's return. And this is somehow also the lens that filters how life, friendship, love, goals, fears, future are lived.
Why, how, and where do we gather? Can we when we're made to work to deserve living? When work makes us sick, tired, and mad? Can dreams of liberation be woven together, refined, realised, without meeting outside (in spite of) the wildly expanding aspirational regimes of cybernetic control?
It's rotten, and often it has felt like there is no point to go on, not with this project or with anything, when just about everything tells you that there is no other way.
But then there are glimpses of something else, things happening when a handful of people find each other and get together to act in common, friends afar restarting communal activities against challenges of state repression or indifference, occupying new spaces and formations as part of healing and nourishment; friends closer by forming care circles and committing to consistent actions deepening solidarity; new efforts sprouting autonomous knowledge, skills, connection, and potentials for being ungovernable even if not fashioned as anything “political”; those who never stopped even with how hard things are.
There are varying temporalities, some manifesting in bursts of youthful energy, while others iterate upon years-long experiences of struggle and failure, centring teachings from rest and disability for alternate bases of time and value, showing what's come before, what might possibly be in reach, and then how more could be done.
For the infoshop, things have been moving very slowly and will probably remain so for a while. Pause gives reevaluation. Beside everything, shakeups in the collective that hosted us forced changes to our leasing situation and a major reworking to the library – though it's a blessing getting to house and share a huge new number of books in a much cosier room. There's been many contradictions and missteps to grapple with: accountability, disposability, ideological purity, depression, joblessness, loneliness, overworking, ableism, burnout, neurodivergence, shame, guilt…
What plans were hatched wavered in uncertainty as two, five, nine months go by just like that, with little seemingly being accomplished, hopes battered by tired currents.
And in the middle: if it is in fact true that “all we have is each other” so that there’s “nice shit for everyone”, would it appear just from a short hike out in hostile territory, in the terrain of crisis normal, to be found already pre-formed and ready to be received, to be practiced? It’s not that mutual aid and cooperation doesn’t exist, but everything around us has been designed to squash these concepts of shared life, push back and co-opt and exploit and destroy – from the supposedly progressive promises of elected officials who still defend the persisting order of power, to the ideas of competition, suspicion, legitimacy, scarcity, or worth drilled into us as natural truths.
Surely it is more like a call, one to destitute, to communise, to transform – everything! Which can be easy to forget, and in its absence, massive scale, obstacles, slow becoming, or failure, be disappointing to witness. Lingering disappointment can swallow whole if not tended to, fuelling a heavy, immobilising, individualised guilt. Nothing is abolished overnight, nor alone.
What has become clear is that possibility arises from encounter. To have this space – hopefully one that's a node in a constellation, each maybe brief in existence but overlapping, amplifying, germinating more – is perhaps a way to meet this, to remind, feed, demonstrate, and live with each other this call and the challenges that come with it, growing capacities daily right from the smallness of the personal and affective. Especially in a place where heightened communal street-based actions and situations are suppressed, this remains what guides things to come for this project, and what we're committed to attempting.
The library is about ready to welcome you once again, with just a couple things like scheduling and registration to figure out. We hope to make specific announcements soon, pending other desires in preparation, such as: ways to fund our space, open up again for community use, potentially searching for and moving to a more accessible site; shifting reliance off of social networking products, building ways to find each other online while prioritising in-person contact; refining what practice for mutual care, non-normative resilience and collective autonomy means here, and how to better support, cultivate, and proliferate the conditions necessary for that.
But let’s go one bit at a time, against this crisis normal.