Category: Episodes

S1E112 – Dean Spade on Mutual Aid as Preparedness pt. II

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Margaret and Dean continue to talk about the ways that mutual aid helps communities prepare for disasters that are already here and disasters that have yet to come. They talk about what things like hope and success can look like even as the world crumbles around us.

Guest Info

Dean Spade is an American lawyer, writer, trans activist, and associate professor of law at Seattle University School of Law. You can find Dean’s work at Deanspade.net, and you can read the article that Margaret and Dean talk about, "Climate Disaster is Here–And the State Will Never Save Us" on inthesetimes.com. You can also find Dean on Twitter @deanspade or on IG @spade.dean.

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Dean Spade on Mutual Aid as Preparedness pt. II

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and this is part two of a conversation with Dean Spade. So I should probably listen to part one, but I’m not your boss. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on the network.

**Margaret ** 00:42
Okay, I have a kind of final-ish question, I think. And it can be "ish" on the final part. But at the beginning of this, you said that your politics have been moving towards anti-statism, or, you know, possibly anarchism, or whatever. And I’m wondering if you want to talk about that. In some ways, I feel like you’ve implied a lot of maybe what has drawn you more towards those politics, but I’m really curious about the kind of route you took–not like where you’ve landed, and what labels you want to throw on things–but what has led you towards those politics?

**Dean ** 01:56
I just talked with somebody yesterday who I know from the anti-Zionist Jewish world who was talking about the. . . about how he feels like people haven’t thought. . . that he hasn’t thought a lot about anti-State or anarchist politics, and he was like, "Why do you think some people haven’t and some people haven’t?" and I was like, "Oh, I think people just come to our politics. Like, we just kind of stumble into them." It’s like, if somebody stumbled into a punk scene in 1999, they probably found anarchism sooner than me. I stumbled into all this queer, anti-police stuff, and we were doing a lot of identity-based work, and people weren’t talking about political tendencies in the same way–in part also, because it had been really divisive, at certain points, in our movements where people had gotten so obsessed with their ideology that they’d been able to work together and got really insular. So there was a lot of, I think, push away for some people from that. I think, also, we have lived in times for the last, at least 100 years, that are so deeply reactive anti-anarchist, in particular, because of the history of anarchism in the US and elsewhere. There’s a really great piece by William C. Anderson that came out a while–like not that long ago–after the Atlanta indictment about how policing in the United States itself developed through policing anarchism, that I highly recommend. But anyway, I think a lot of us also just haven’t gotten. . . Like, it’s like you were told, "Anarchists are just people who want chaos and who are dirty white people," or whatever. There’s a lot of things that erase the contributions of anti-colonial anarchists and anarchists who aren’t white in all these things. Anyway, Or, anti-State tendencies that aren’t anarchism in the European sense. But for me, I think what happened is that I’ve been in movements that have been benefiting from a range of genealogies, including women of color feminism–specifically Black feminism–and other political knowledges and methods that have been anti-institutional, in really great ways have had critiques of the borders and the cops and the military have also had a focus on practices of collectivity and horizontality with us, you know, inside our movements, which are very. . . You know, that really parallel with a lot of anarchist methodologies like "Let’s not have a boss in this group," you know? And so all of those things really dovetail with anarchism, but I wasn’t ever studying anarchism itself. Some people who were in groups I was in maybe identified as anarchists, but it didn’t seem like an essential thing for me to study for a number of years. And I didn’t think a lot about whether or not that was my position, because also I just had the same caricatures in my mind that other people did. And I also was like, "Do anarchists think that people shouldn’t get welfare?" I don’t know. I had some of my own, you know. As somebody who grew up on welfare, I had some questions about that, that I didn’t have resolutions to. And then over time, especially doing abolitionist work, it just was so clear to me more and more not only that everything I was already doing dovetailed with anarchism: my interest in mutual aid, my interest in horizontal tactics inside our groups, and building group culture where we learned how to share with each other, and not boss each other around, and all that stuff. But also, the ways in which, I think, abolitionist frameworks are just. . . like, they’re so deeply anti-State. It’s like, ‘Yeah, don’t build a better cop. Don’t build a better jail. Don’t build a better prison. Don’t build a better social services framework that’s actually still a cop," or you know. And, that you can’t have a country without cops, borders, and military. That’s what a country is made of, you know? You can’t have a Capitalist economy without a boot on everybody’s neck making us participate in it. So I just came to realize like, I’m not only–I always knew I was against the United States settler colonial slavery project–but I was like, "Oh, my God, I’m against countries. I’m against that." And then I did start actually reading about this stuff and I was like, "Oh, my God, they’re a recent invention. They don’t need to be able to organize themselves. That’s not how people have always organized themselves." And I also started to see how it actually makes a difference in our tactics about what we’re going to do today, if we know this about ourselves, right? Like how we’re going to get basically co-opted by projects of "Oh, let’s let’s do a let’s do a million local elections and try to take over a city council ‘thing.’" A lot of that work steals the oxygen out of local movements really intensely. And I’m not gonna say it should never ever be done, but I just feel like so much of it actually has a lack of a conversation about what can happen in those spaces behind it and then is incredibly resource intensive and doesn’t lead to the things I think people hope it will lead to, like, "Oh, we’re gonna have an abolitionist prosecutor and abolitionist city council person or mayor and it’s gonna change everything," right? And then not seeing that happen. I think we’ve seen that it’s played out. Or the, you know, I think this is even sharpened for me with the period of the "Defund [the police]" work–which I care a lot about, trying to defund the police–and seeing the fights inside city councils and how deeply impenetrable–like even when you supposedly, in 2020, get the whole city council saying we want to defund the police and there’s so much effort on that side–it’s like our cities are run by real estate developers, chambers of commerce, and police departments. And the entire apparatus of the city councils–which is in some ways more accessible than any other level of government, of course–is still unmovable. Like you can’t. . . you can be right all day long. You can do every kind of research. You can show you can turn up with all the people every single time. And as soon as they can turn around and reestablish their nonstop march to constantly increase the police budget, that’s what they’ll do. And that is what they have done since 2020 after all this amazing work by so many people. So I think I’m just continually evaluating "Wow, where are there still parts of my own approach to politics that are assuming we can convince governments of things?"–even while I want to get rid of those kinds of governments–and why do I ever think they will voluntarily put down their weapons? And why do I think about getting any different people inside there, inside that machine? I don’t believe that about the military. I’m not like, "Well, maybe if Margaret Killjoy was the general, it would all be fine." I know, that’s not true. So why do I, and where have I still. . . And I, you know, I forgive myself and all of us. We’re all just trying shit our whole lives. And there’s so many things I’ve been involved in that I think were not that generative, but you know, we couldn’t have known that. Or, where there was a backlash so that the thing that was generative for a while stopped or, you know, was turned on us in a way that undermined our hopes. But I think that for me it’s just an ongoing deepening with different anti-State frameworks, an ongoing deepening of reading history, and understanding why different revolutionary projects that then took on State forms became authoritarian, trying to understand what this kind of insight–which is very hard, because it’s about letting go of a lot of hope and a lot of tactics that people are putting a lot of effort into–like, what it directs us to do to most immediately support people’s well being, and take down the apparatuses that are hurting us that are, honestly, just like continuing to grow. Like they’re all. . . Like the level of surveillance we are under right now compared to five years ago. Like, the capacity for political repression that the State has right now compared to five years ago. I don’t know if you saw this, but like– maybe it was this week–Georgia is going to outlaw bail funds, is going to criminalize bail funds. Tennessee’s trying to do the same thing. Like, tiny things we have in our movements to try to support people facing repression, even those they are directly going after. So, yeah, it’s really hard to face these conditions. And also, I see a lot of people working really hard on the ground blaming themselves for the effects of the conditions like "Oh, why can’t we? Why can’t we do a better job stopping these homeless sweeps in our city?" It’s like it’s not because you’re not doing a really good job trying to. There are a lot of really bad conditions. And I think that it goes back to this humility, like, "Okay, wow, things are so dire. What if I let myself know this so that I could talk with my friends about what’s possible–given how things actually are–and let go of some of the fantasies?" I think I talked to you briefly before we started the podcast but I recently rewatched those two videos that Naomi Klein and Molly Crabapple–both of whom I really, really respect–made a few years back. They’re both videos about what the world could be like after the Green New Deal and after many wonderful uprisings. And they feel so, so misleading to me, watching them right now. Like they imagine a world in which people just protest a lot. And then everyone has things that are better. And also, we still have countries and jobs. It very weirdly doesn’t get rid of Capitalism or the nation state. But it’s like, there’s a kind of like. . . I think that it’s very dangerous, those fantasies, that we can do certain kinds of tactics and our opponents will just turn over. And I think those are inside a lot of people’s–a lot of very wise people’s–messages. And I just increasingly, when I encounter them, feel much more concerned about what they teach us and how they mislead us.

**Margaret ** 11:00
I just think that we have to always look clear-headedly at what our actual threats are, at what’s actually happening, and then make our decisions based on how to actually address that, rather than being like, "I want to become just like this person I read about in history, so I’m going to do whatever they did." And this could be true of, "I want to be a principled pacifist and get arrested just like Gandhi," or whatever, right? You know, it could also be, "I want to be just like the following anarchist in the 1880s who decided it was time to start shooting people," you know? We just need to actually look at what’s happening and make our decisions based on that. And it’s hard, because what we’re facing is different from what anyone else has ever faced in history. Not necessarily worse–although the overall ecosystem is worse than anything minus whenever all the. . . you know, before humans evolved, and various other mass die offs that have happened or whatever. But it’s different and it’s bad. And we just need to look at it and then come up with solutions. Or even some of this is, "How do we solve this problem?" And some of it is like, "How do we live with this?" Not accept it but accept that it’s going to have consequences on us and that fighting it isn’t going to be easy and we might not win. But what are the best tools by which we can fight it, and/or what are the best tools that we can use to live meaningful lives in the process? You know, so that when we inevitably die, at 103 or 33, we can be proud of who we were. You know, and obviously, there’s theological or metaphysical considerations into exactly what that process looks like that’ll be different for different people. But, you know, I think that that’s what to do.

**Dean ** 13:06
It’s also about not trying to feel better. I think there’s just something so intense about how people are like, you know, "If you talk about collapse, it makes me feel bad." And there’s an assumption that that will demobilize me. And it’s like, actually, Capitalism is like, either feel bad or feel good, you know? And that’s not how life is. Life is like, fuck. . . For example, you have a terrible loss and you live with grief. And you also still enjoy this beautiful meal. And you’re still grieving. And you’re in pain. And being willing. . . or–I see a lot of my students–they’re like, "Oh, my God, the things I’m learning in your class, I’m so worried about these terrible things in the world that I didn’t know we’re going on. This is so awful." And they want to instantly know what to do to feel better. And I’m like, I can’t make. . . I don’t want you to do things feel better. I want you to do things to try to be part of something and you’ll never know if they worked or not. Because that’s the nature of it. You don’t know what our opposition’s next countermove is or whether we’ll regret some parts of it, but it’s the trying stuff, it’s the listening to feedback about what didn’t go well or how it hurts somebody else. The goal is connection and belonging with each other and experimentation. And, you know, it doesn’t always feel good to receive negative feedback, but often it’s like incredibly growthful. It’s like feeling good can’t be the goal. Feeling, Yes. And sometimes feeling good. And pursuing pleasure, absolutely. But not like, "I want to have a pat" happiness where I don’t have to worry or be concerned or be critical. Like of course nobody who sees themselves as radical should be wanting that, but I still think that craving–when it comes to conversations about collapse–where it’s like I want the one thing that will make me feel better. Or, people feel that about Gaza. Like, "Oh my God, I just found about about this horrible genocide that’s happening. I’ve not known about this before. I want to be able to go to one action and feel I did something and to then be better and post it on Instagram. And it’s like, A) love them for waking up to what’s happening in Gaza. I love, love any moment where people become more interested in the wellbeing of all people and stopping violence, and we have to be willing to take in how overwhelming this is, how unmovable the war machine feels, and still take action against it, but not because we’re guaranteed that what we did today works, or something. You know what I mean? Like that feels–that simplicity–really cheats us of the really complex position we’re actually in, that if we can let ourselves be in it, might allow discernment towards better action, hopefully, you know?

**Margaret ** 15:30
No, and I like how you tie that to the way that capitalism makes us think that happiness is the goal. Like, I like happiness. But my goal in life is not specifically to lead a happy life; it’s to have a meaningful life and to have as complete of a life as–I mean, every life is complete. And, you know, when you look at. . . Anyone who’s ever known a child who’s died has had to come to terms with the fact that every life is complete, you know, is a thing that I’ve been dealing with because of some stuff. And, you know. . . Yeah, the idea that you’re just supposed to be happy is some fucking McDonald’s shit. You know? And don’t get me wrong, seek happiness. Do it. It’s great. You know? But yeah, sometimes you just need to accept. . . Like, I want to live a beautiful life and I think that is a different thing, you know? And maybe because I’m like a goth, or whatever, I find a lot of different things beautiful than some other people. But. . . No, I. . . I like that. And it does. It helps get people beyond the like, "Oh, good, I can sleep at night because I went to one protest," you know? And instead, like learning to sit with the discomfort of all these things happening and understanding where we do and don’t have agency and. . . Imean, don’t get me wrong, people should be going to these protests. You know, if nothing else that are good ways to find the other people who care.

**Dean ** 17:04
Yeah, meet other people and try stuff. I mean, I want to live in reality. I want to know that. . . I want to. . . If I’ve been working on a strategy for 10 years and it has actually not been helping, it’s been hurting people, I want to know. I don’t want to keep doing it just because my ego is attached to it, or my paycheck. I’ve seen that a lot in the dilemmas with the [uninterpretable] movements, you know, where I want to. . . Yeah, absolutely, I’m like, be promiscuous about the stuff you try. Go to all the protests. Go to anything. Try anything. But it’s that willingness to keep open the possibility that I’m going to get feedback or learn that. . . learn the impacts, or learn my position on the world, or learn how the clothes I’m wearing impact people who made them, or what. . . I just like, I just want to be in reality, and that includes the reality of how unbearably beautiful being alive is, how the entire… how my entire body was structured to receive pleasure from this incredible landscape. That reality too, which is Capitalism also shuts down and tells me to only be entertained by video games and chips, or whatever. You know, I want to live fully in the reality of how beautiful and abundant and gorgeous this life is and how heartbreaking and devastating these systems are, and how little control I have over them. And then, the moments when I do feel a connection, or am of service to something in my community, like how that is–like all of that, you know? But not through the filter of liberalism, that’s just like, "I need to find out that I’m a good person. TM [trademarked]," you know?

**Dean ** 17:04
Okay, so in that vein, to bring it back to kind of some of the preparedness stuff that you’ve been writing more about and engaging with more, I was wondering if you want to talk about, like, what do you what is preparedness looking like for you right now? Or, you know, how is it affecting you as much as you feel like talking about anything personal? Like, how is it affecting the kind of decisions that you’re making about how you want to live or how you prepare?

**Dean ** 18:55
That’s such a good question. I mean, in general, my study of collapse is affecting a lot of things for me. I’m thinking a lot about the ethics of the fact that I travel on planes and how to reduce that or eliminate it. And also I don’t want to get stuck somewhere really far away from my people when things are bad. So I’ve been thinking a lot about shifting and changes around that. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I want to work a job. What are the other options here? You know what I mean? Just like when will I know that I don’t want to do that? Or whatever. I’ve been writing a book for 10 years that’s kind of like a relationships self-help book for radicals, you know, kind of thing, because I’ve spent so much time in our movements watching people, you know, tear each other in our groups apart with our own unexamined relational patterns that are very, you know, the pattern across the culture. So, I’ve been writing a book about that. And part of me is like, "At this point, I just need to recognize I’m writing this for pleasure. Like, I don’t know that there’s time for this to be of any use to anyone," you know what I mean? That’s an interesting move to shift from thinking the, you know, probably totally ridiculous fantasy any of us have when we write anything, that people will read this and it will help them do something, and be like, "Or not?" Or I’m just really working on a book for 10 years, just for me…because that’s what I did with those 10 years of my life. Okay. Like, that’s an interesting move to let go of outcomes even more than ever. And I don’t think I ever thought that I would have been terribly impacted by even the little hope of that.

**Dean ** 18:55
Yeah, I think just to. . .just to gas you up really quick. I’ve seen your cultural impact for years now, and it’s always been positive. So I appreciate it. But please continue.

**Dean ** 20:44
I mean, I think about whether I want to live in the country, whether the cities will be the hardest places to be. And I have friends who have moved to rural places and like really cultivated deep relationships with people, even across political differences in the places they’re living. And I’m like, "Huh." And then I think about some really, some really, you know, detailed specific things. Like, if I’m going to live in the country, in the Pacific Northwest where I live, how can I live less near all of the scariest…you know, right-wing neo-Nazis and closer instead to some of the rural people who are a little more like fruits and nuts, you know? So I asked myself that question. I think about what that would look like, you know, off grid? You know, I’m not somebody who can like buy a vacation house or something. So like what kind of off-grid small sort of thing can I do with anybody I know who already has a land project. I think about that. I think about. . .I think I’ve been thinking a lot about–I think maybe I mentioned this to you–of thinking a lot about doing something like go bag parties even in subcultural scenes in my own town. Like doing things to get more people to talk about disaster and collapse, you know? And if they want to think about it as an earthquake go bag, awesome. That’s a danger in Seattle for sure. If they want to think about it like that. You know, like, having people just, I was thinking about, like, how do you make those parties fun? Like, you know, having there be giveaways, having there be like. . . having people bring. . . You know, is it also a clothing exchange? Like, is it a sex toy exchange? Like, I’ve been just imagining different, you know, what would that look like for my queer-er friends versus what will it look like for people on my block, versus what would it look like with my students? Like, just kind of what would be different. . . what would help different people try it and then also think they could put one on, you know? Like, just how to really–especially because I feel like this podcast is very user-friendly in that way, so I’ve been really inspired by some of your episodes to think about what are the ways I could take what I love about mutual aid organizing, how I love meeting people, and I love making an event happen, making it welcoming, having people make new friends, and how can that be oriented towards people thinking about preparedness? And how much–some of the questions I’ve asked myself are–how much would there be any talking and programming at such an event or how much would it just be like, "come and grab this stuff. And here’s some printouts of things you could have in your go bag. And here’s a pile of bags. And there’s a pile of, you know, emergency blankets. And here’s a pile of whatever," right? So I’ve had those kinds of questions about how to do. . . I think that’s what’s next for me is to actually try on some of that organizing with some people that are actually interested in that.

**Margaret ** 23:10
When you do that, can you come back on and talk about how it went? I feel like people will learn from that a lot.

**Dean ** 23:15
Yeah, and I’d love to, if other people have tried it–I’m curious–please reach out to me. Curious to hear their experiences.

**Margaret ** 23:21
Me and one of my friends who does this kind of work too, we put on a day of preparedness. We did a, you know, where you get. . . There were a bunch of different talks by different people who lived in that area who came and they talked about the projects they’re working on. There was someone who was like, "Oh, I’m really into mesh networks." And someone else is like, "Oh, I’m doing things like water collection and rainwater and things like that." And there were multiple. . . There were, I think, a total of maybe about six events at. . . So you could pick between two at any given point, like the way that conferences work, or whatever. And it was, you know, a local food. . . a local food distro did lunch that was free for everyone. But then dinner was a giant potluck. And I’ve actually never seen a giant potluck work so well as the one that I went to. It was cool. And then there was a big talk that was everyone and it was more in the evening. Some people only came for that. And it was, you know, we used me as sort of a keynote-ish person but then it was. . . Immediately from there. It was a facilitated roundtable of the people who live in that town talking about their needs and how to meet them. And I’m now thinking maybe I talked about this before on the show. I have no idea. And then at the very end, we made a long term food bucket. You know, a mylar bag, rice, and beans thing, which is way easier to do if you buy it all in bulk. And then it was kind of fun. And it was. . . My favorite part about it was that theoretically I was organizing it. And I know how to make the bucket. But I don’t know how to necessarily make the 15 people figure out how to make sure that all the food goes evenly to these different buckets or whatever. And people were like, "How do we do that?" and I was like, "Figure it out. I don’t know." And then everyone’s self organized it and it worked perfectly fine. And then like everyone felt more invested, because they were…everyone was in charge and figuring things out together. And it was like a nice little microcosm of those, those nice moments in so many ways. And, you know, and then it was. . . I would say a good third of the people didn’t have any money–and so didn’t pay for their buckets–and a good third of the people were like, "I can easily pay twice as much as what this bucket cost," you know, because those buckets, if you make your own are only like 20 bucks. If you buy them at a prepper store–if you buy them at a reasonable prepper store, they’re 50 bucks–if you buy them from Alex Jones and all that shit, then they’re not very good and they’re way more than that. And so that worked, that model works really well. And we’re hoping to replicate it. And so, but I really like the way that you’re talking about it. I really like the idea of like, yeah, how would it be different? How would the go bag party be different for your block versus your students versus your queer friend group, but I’m fascinated. I want to hear how it goes.

**Dean ** 26:07
Yeah, I love what you said about people having to figure things out. I noticed this a lot when we had that police free zone in Seattle during the 2020 uprising, how many people who showed up who’d never done anything political in their life. they’ve never, ever, ever, and they like to come to it. Like they’re coming to the movement. And they arrived at the field, at Cal Anderson Park, and they wanted something to do, you know? They wanted to do part of an art build, or they. . . Like people don’t want to just sit and watch, you know? And then once you are a part of doing something, you’re helping move a barricade–whatever–then you’re like, it’s like a transformative. Like, "I was there and I was part of it. And I was important to it." It lets you have it be your…it’s your identity, instead of "I went and watched the movement," you know? Whatever it is, I just thought that moment, when you said–"agency" is the word you use earlier–I feel like that you can. . . that can happen anywhere. But part of the way it happens is not like overly babying, you know, everybody. You know, yes, making things accessible and trying to make it really welcoming, but also putting people to work if they’re up for it helping coordinate, you know?

**Margaret ** 27:11
This actually goes full circle to something we were talking about at the beginning. We were talking about how we talk about disasters with people, right? And the note, the words that I wrote down in my notes that I take while I’m interviewing people, is I wrote down "disaster fatigue," because that’s the. . . like the way that I think about it, you know, the. . . The way that I. . . A long time ago, I did forest defense and I would go sit in trees and fight against clearcutting and stuff like that. But I, I actually avoided going to West Virginia and fighting mountaintop removal for a long time, even though I knew it was happening, because it was too much of a problem. A clearcut is something that is a horrible crisis. And you can wrap your head around it even as people kill ancient trees. The Appalachians are like older than air, or something. I don’t even know. They’re old as shit. They are some of the oldest mountains in the world, right? And, the fact that people were clearcutting the mountain, like blowing up the mountain, was just too much. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. And so I just didn’t think about it. And I think that overall, that’s what people do with climate change. There’s big, major things that are happening, that are really big. And I’m not trying to say that other crises that are happening aren’t really big. Climate change is the mother of all crises. You know? It is the most existential threat to all life on Earth that has existed since there was sentient life. And I’m not just including humans in that, you know? And, so people don’t want to think about it. And I think that makes sense. And I think that the people who put in the work to be like, "Hey, come to Mountain Justice Summer Camp, or Spring Break Camp or whatever, and made these spaces where people could show up and learn about what was happening and get engaged. I think that maybe climate change. . . Yeah, it’s the. . . Have people show up and give them something to do or tell them that work needs doing and that they can figure out what to do, you know? But we kind of, as a movement, a little bit too much are like, "I don’t know, just figure it out." Because then the current people who like making. . . There’s actually some people doing amazing work. There’s a lot of people fighting pipelines and there’s people fighting extraction. And I’m not even like mad at the people who like throw food at paintings or whatever, but it’s not something that invites a lot of people in–from my perspective. I’m not. . . Honestly, I try not to talk shit on tactics. I try to be like…I try to do the "more stuff" model of critique where instead of talking shit on their tactic, I should do a different tactic. And what am I doing? I mean, whenever. I’m running around trying to help people get prepared. I actually think I’m doing a lot. But anyway. I just got excited about what you were saying.

**Dean ** 30:11
Yeah, that thing. I mean, it’s like. . . I think a lot about how the Young Lords said–you know, who are. . . they’re fighting Puerto Rican liberation in the 1970s and modeled themselves after the Black Panthers. And they said in their early texts, you know, that they believed that their own people seeing their people fight in the streets with the cops would radicalize people. So that like having escalated tactics–and this is similar to the Ireland story you told–escalated tactics, confrontational tactics, liberals will tell us we’re going to alienate people. . . What did you say?

**Margaret ** 30:44
Setting fire to trash on the streets. I really like the Young Lords.

**Dean ** 30:47
Yeah, like, escalated tactics don’t alienate people, they bring a lot of people in. And the people who think they’re alienated from them might feel scared of them and stuff, but the cultural shift and change that they produce still brings people along. In the end, they’re like, "Oh, no, no, I’m not racist," or whatever, you know? It’s like it moves everyone. It moves the needle. And so I think we need escalated tactics and we need invitations and inroads. And for a long time, I’ve said I think mutual aid is one of the best on ramps, and historically has been one the best onramps for movements.

**Margaret ** 31:16
Absolutely.

**Dean ** 31:17
Most people get involved in movements through trying to immediately help somebody, you know, because that’s what. . . when you’re fired up, that’s what you want, or because they got help through a mutual aid project of some kind and that’s what politicized them. They’re like, "Who are these people who are giving away this thing that I need that I can’t get anywhere else," you know, "Who are not mean to me and who tell me it’s not my fault, and that, actually, the system’s fucked, huh? What are they saying? And they’re right," you know? So that, I believe deeply in the mutual aid onramp. And I also think that moments like riots and stuff can be an onramp when people are like, "I’m joining in. And now I’m burning a cop car," and that feeling that kind of power. And then, "I want to learn more about who these people were, who I met in the streets," or whatever. And for some people, the on ramp is that they first encounter. . . I mean, I have a friend who’s a really incredible anarchist organizer who does really massive mutual aid projects, and is just so brilliant, and told me that they’re. . . they first were like. . . they joined the Bernie campaign. And then we’re really involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign and then we’re like, "Wait, I don’t know if this is really working," you know? But like, everyone comes in somehow, you know? And so part of it too, is that we should be in all those places trying to encourage people to learn more about movement history or horizontal tactics or bold tactics that are. . . I just went to an amazing event at an anarchist space in Seattle called Pipsqueak. The event was surrounding. . . they had collected all these accounts of kind of sabotage and vandalisms and shut-down types of actions related to opposing the genocide in Gaza. So many stories I hadn’t heard, you know? They collected this huge amount. They had this really wonderful hour of like, you could come and read this zine they’d printed out with all this stuff and think it through, and then a really, really well facilitated discussion for an hour and a half. And I was like, that’s like. . . Like, making sure people can find out about the rad stuff that’s happening, that’s not going to be reported in the news. That’s so cool. And also then people got to discuss all their dilemmas about tactics. Like, "Oh, my gosh, I’ve been going to all these kind of more, you know, media spectacle events about Gaza. I thought these things about that. What’s it like to learn about these other things people are doing?" You know, people get to have those juicy conversations about what they think about the tactics they’re using.

**Margaret ** 33:28
I love it. And we talked about twice as long as we thought we were going to and now this is two episodes. So you all listening had to wait an extra week to hear the other half of the conversation. Do you have any kind of last thoughts on preparedness, mutual aid, how your thinking has shifted, all the topics that we’ve been talking about today?

**Dean ** 33:50
Well, the thing that’s spurred us having this conversation was that I wrote that piece for In These Times that was about my experience of reading two sci-fi–cli-fi novels–one is "Ministry of the Future," and one was "The Deluge." And I encourage people to read that piece if you want to hear my thoughts on those books. But one of the things that happened from reading those books and then writing about what I thought was a failure of different aspects of those books was how now–I did think about this because you are an amazing fiction writer–like how part of what happens to me now when I read almost any speculative book, any book, that’s fiction that takes place somewhat in the future, is I am like, it feels instantly conservative because it never includes collapse, right? Because inevitably they’ve got us 50 years ahead and there’s some AI. Or there’s been some disruption from climate stuff. Like, it’s never as bad as it actually is. And that is fascinating to me, you know? And they always have all this intense tech development in such books in ways that I like–I really recommend people actually listen to Kelly Hayes podcast episodes about AI. Really useful for me in trying to understand the hubris of the tech sector, and the way they talk about AI and the way they’re making people afraid of or hopeful about AI, and how off base it is, and kind of what the deal really is. But anyway, I just want to say that I have historically found speculative fiction to be a vital place for trying to help myself think about crisis and collapse and also now I feel so strongly because I–I think I may have mentioned this to you, once–I’ve been very moved by this person Jem Bendell, who’s like this. . . in many ways, he does not share all of our values. And it’s coming from a very different place. But he’s this academic kind of whistleblower about how bad climate stuff really is. And he. . . I find myself often like, I find myself going into my own denial about what’s happening and retreating from what I know and then I listened to the introduction to his book, "Breaking Together," again to remind myself about the stakes of what I’m living through. And I feel like in some ways I used to use–and I still somewhat use speculative fiction in that way–but I’m just increasingly like. . . even most speculative fiction is telling us the wrong message about how long the systems we live under are going to last and how much they’re going to flourish with the technologies that I just don’t think is real.

**Margaret ** 36:12
You know, what’s funny, some of this–a little bit of it–is baked into a problem of writing fiction where if you. . . I’ve actually gotten–not in trouble with–but I’ve had editors take out dates in my writing before, right? Because I’ll write a short story about a sort of collapse-y world or whatever and I’ll be like, "After 2022, when the. . ." because I wrote this in like 2018, or whatever, because I was trying to write on a realistic timeline where I was like, "Oh, the world’s not gonna be the same in 2022." And I feel like I was pretty accurate about that, right? But they have to future proof their magazine, right? And so, you know, you don’t want to make certain types of claims about the next three years because you want your story to be…to have a shelf life of that long. And so some of it is baked in as a problem in publishing and in science fiction writing. And that said, I think most people. . . Did you ever read that book "Desert," the green nihilist book. . .

**Dean ** 37:12
Yeah, I’ve read like half of it.

**Margaret ** 37:15
I haven’t read it in a long time. I remember reading it and being like, "Well, this is naively optimistic." [Laughing]

**Dean ** 37:23
That’s the one where they’re like, "7/8ths of people are gonna die."

**Margaret ** 37:27
Yeah, I can’t even remember exactly.

**Margaret ** 37:28
But yeah, it was like climate change isn’t going to be stopped, and we have to re-address how things work on a fundamental level. And because where I’ve been at. . . I don’ t know. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m with you on. . . like, when I read stuff about the future, where it’s like, "And then it’ll all work." I actually still really like "Ministry for the Future," and maybe actually should have you on just specifically to talk about "Ministry of the Future" at a different point. But it. . . you know, because it’s a complicated. . . It’s a caveated, "I like this book," you know?

**Dean ** 37:28
It’s intense.

**Dean ** 38:02
That’s how I feel about "The Deluge." It’s like, I like "Deluge" even though I think it also has the same problem.

**Margaret ** 38:06
I haven’t read "Deluge" yet.

**Margaret ** 38:08
Oh, there’s no character development in "Ministry."

**Dean ** 38:08
I think it’s really worth reading. I think it’s way better character development than "Ministry." It’s way better.

**Dean ** 38:14
Oh god, yeah. "Ministry" is so dry.

**Margaret ** 38:17
Kim Stanley Robinson does not write people. Kim Stanley Robinson writes ecosystems.

**Dean ** 38:21
Yeah, and "Deluge" really ropes in a lot more of rise in fascism with climate crisis and has characters that are more different class, race, gender than "Ministry" and is just like. . . it’s way more compelling, unfolding, even though in the end it still imagined that states will turn around and like fix things.

**Margaret ** 38:47
Well, I think there’s plenty more we could talk about. And I hope we get to talk about it soon at some point. But in the meantime, how can people find you or your work? Or what would you like people to. . . or if you want to shout out any specific projects that you want to draw attention towards whether they’re yours or other people’s.

**Dean ** 39:07
Mostly everything I do I put on–I mean, I’m kind of bad at it–but I’ll put a lot of things at deanspade.net, which is my website where I collect the things I write and the videos and the many things. So that’s a pretty good source for the backlog.

**Margaret ** 39:23
If people want to read the specific article that we’ve been talking about, if you just. . . it’s called "Climate Disaster is Here and the State Will Never Save Us." But also if you type in–the way I found it just now while we’re…when I was trying to come up with the title–I just typed in "Dean Spade, Kim Stanley Robinson," personally, and it came up, you know. But, okay. Anything else?

**Dean ** 39:47
Thanks for having me.

**Margaret ** 39:48
Thank you.

**Margaret ** 39:54
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, then you should run around screaming that the sky is. . . No, don’t do that. You should make bug out bags for your friends or do whatever you want. You should think about. . . Whatever we already told you what we think. But you can also support this show. And if you want to support the show, you can do so by telling people about it. And you can support the show by supporting us financially on Patreon. Do not feel obliged to do it. This is a free show. However, we’re incredibly grateful because people’s donations are how we manage to pay our transcriptionist, which is very important to us the show is transcribed, and then also our audio engineer. And one day–I keep promising this but we don’t know when this day will come–one day, it’ll pay the hosts or the guests. But for now it doesn’t. And that’s okay because, you know, the world works the way it works. You can support us on Patreon by supporting our publisher, which is Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And in particular, we would like to thank Ephemeral. Oh, there’s new names on here. That’s really exciting. Ephemeral. Appalachian Liberal Liberation Library. And they wanted to specifically point–I would never make this–but they specifically pointed out it’s Appalachian [App-a-latch-un], not Appalachian [App-a-lay-shun]. That’s in the description of how we’re going to read this. Portland’s Hedron Hackerspace. Boldfield, E, Patoli, Eric, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S. J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Mic Aiah, and, as always, the immortal, Hoss the dog. And when you support Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, you’re supporting this show and you’re also supporting a show called The Spectacle. We renamed Anarcho Geek Power Hour to The Spectacle. And you’re also supporting the podcast called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness and a whole bunch of other projects. So that’s that thing where I do the outro and I hope you all are doing as well as you can, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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S1E111 – Dean Spade on Mutual Aid as Preparedness pt. I

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Margaret and Dean talk about the ways that mutual aid helps communities prepare for disasters that are already here and disasters that have yet to come.

Guest Info

Dean Spade is an American lawyer, writer, trans activist, and associate professor of law at Seattle University School of Law. You can find Dean’s work at Deanspade.net, and you can read the article that Margaret and Dean talk about, "Climate Disaster is Here–And the State Will Never Save Us" on inthesetimes.com. You can also find Dean on Twitter @deanspade or on IG @spade.dean.

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Dean Spade on Mutual Aid as Preparedness

**Margaret ** 00:24
Hello and welcome to Live Live the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today Margaret Killjoy. And today, I’m gonna be talking to Dean Spade, and we’re gonna talk about so much stuff. We’re gonna talk about so much stuff that this is going to be a two parter. So you can hear me talk with Dean this week and you can hear me talk with Dean next week. Or, if you’re listening to this in some far-flung future, you can listen to it both at once in between dodging laser guns from mutants that have come out of the scrap yards, riding dinosaurs. I hope that’s the future, or at least it wouldn’t be boring. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on the network.

**Margaret ** 01:53
Okay, we’re back. So if you could introduce yourself with I guess your name, your pronouns, and then maybe a little bit about how you ended up doing the kind of work that led you to be on this show talking about mutual aid and collapse and preparedness?

**Dean ** 02:10
Totally. Yeah, I’m Dean, I use he/him. And we could start anywhere. I became politicized primarily, like in the late 90s, living in New York City. You know, Rudy Giuliani was mayor/ There was a really vibrant, like very multi-issue, cross-class, multiracial kind of resistance happening to his range of anti-poor pro-police politics happening in the city; people, you know, in the fight around immigrant rights, in the fight around labor, sex workers being zoned out of Time Square. You know, there was just. . .it was a real moment. And I was part of queer nightlife. And people were experiencing a lot of intense policing. And a lot of us were part of work related to, you know, things that had spun off of Act Up, like a lot of direct support to people who were living with HIV and AIDS and trying to get through the New York City welfare processes, and dealing with housing. So a lot of mutual aid in that work from the get, and a lot of work related to that overlap between criminalization and poverty, from a queer, trans, feminist perspective. And that work was also tied into like, very, you know. . . a broader perspective. Like a lot of people were tied to the liberation of Puerto Rico, and the fight against the US Navy bombing Vieques, people were tied into the fight around Palestine. So it was very local–hyperlocal–New York City work, but it was very international because New York City is a very international place, and those politics were very international. So that really shaped me in a lot of ways. And I went from there to becoming a poverty lawyer and focusing on doing Poverty Law for trans people, you know, really focused on people in jails and prisons and welfare systems and immigration proceedings and foster care and stuff like that; homeless shelters. I did that for a number of years, and then increasingly felt like I. . . I just felt the real limits of doing that work as a lawyer and really prefer unpaid organizing and not being do not doing that to kind of the nonprofit and sort of like social services, legal services frame. And so my job, for now 15 years, has been that I’m a law professor. It’s like a really great job that’s not like. . . you know, it’s not a nine to five, and that’s wonderful. You don’t have a boss really, and things like that. And so I teach to kind of pay my bills and what my life is really about is, you know, a lot of. . . it’s been a lot of local abolitionist stuff. Like, you know, site fights around different jails and other facilities or police stations or whatever and mutual aid work and, you know, tied in for years with various aspects of like Palestine movement, especially around trying to push back against pinkwashing. And like writing stuff and making media and collaborating with artists and and, yeah. So, that’s like that’s that same. . .I’ve always think I’ve stayed the same, but also, I think my ideas have changed a lot over time. I’ve gravitated more towards anarchist or anti-state thought. And thinking a lot more in recent years about the ecological crisis and collapse and just kind of like what that means for the tactics and strategies we’re all engaged in kind of all these different movements spaces.

**Margaret ** 05:41
I think that that’s probably–that last point–is kind of the core of what I want to ask you about and talk to you about, because while you were talking, I was thinking about how like, you know, all of these things that you’re talking about–the activism you’re doing in New York, for example==I mean, it’s all preparedness, right? Like us, helping each other out is being. . . like, aware of actual threats and working to mitigate them? And that’s what preparedness is for me, right? And, I actually think activism is a very good, solid place to come from for preparedness, right? I’d rather have a bunch of activists and organizers around me than specifically people who like, know how to skin squirrels. I like people who can do both to be honest, but you know, as compared to the traditional assumption of what a prepper or someone who’s involved in preparedness, what their background would be. But I also. . .okay, so it’s like I want one, I kind of wanna talk about the activist-preparedness pipeline. But the thing that I’m really excited to talk to you about is kind of the opposite, is the thing that you just brought up. What does awareness of ecological crisis do to our activism? What does it do to how we make decisions around what to prioritize? How to live? Like, for me, the thing that started this show was that I was like, "I’m very aware of this coming ecological crisis. I feel a little bit distant from other people because I feel a little bit like I’m running around screaming, ‘the sky is falling.’ Because I could see it and I don’t understand why no one else can see it," you know? And it was basically like, how does this inform the decisions we make? Right? Which is where the title sort of literally comes from. But I think you’ve done a lot of work around this, around how awareness of ecological crisis impacts how we choose to be activists. And I’m wondering if you could talk about how it’s impacted you or how you’ve learned to help communicate this to people. Right, because that’s one of the biggest scary things is how do we not Chicken Little while needing to Chicken Little? You know, we need a little bit of Chicken Little–a little. Yeah, okay. I’m done.

**Dean ** 08:05
I want to come back to the pipeline later. Let’s remember to do that. But one thing that your question brings up for me also is just, I just want to talk–and I’m curious about your experiences of this–I want to be real about how much denial there is like. And I think this is really interesting. Like, I find an extreme amount of denial about the level of the crisis, even amongst people I know who are incredibly radical and spent their lives trying to end denial around other things they care about. Like we spent our lives trying to be like, "Look what’s happening in prisons and jails in our society," or "Look at what poverty is," or "Look at what the war machine is." But then when it comes to like, "Hey, y’all, I think that, like, collapse is nigh, and that might affect our strategies." People are like, "I don’t want to hear about that." Literally, "Don’t talk to me about that," because it’s so scary, and there’s so much stress. And then I get like a certain set of like really common denial reactions like, "Well, the world has ended before." And it’s like, yes, every time colonialism is happening a world, a way of life, a way people have been together is ending. Absolutely. And there is something unique and specific about this particular mass extinction event. And it’s okay to say. . . it doesn’t mean that those things didn’t happen or aren’t happening. But they’re. . .but that feels to me like sometimes a phrase people use that’s just like, "I don’t want to think about this anymore." I’m like, let’s think about that and this because actually, they’re all happening together. Right? Like, obviously, colonization is ongoing and it determines who is feeling the heat fastest, you know? That, I get that one a lot or I get like, "Well, humans are bad and maybe the world should just end," kind of thing. Like, let’s hasten it, or like, you know, maybe not, "Let’s hasten it," but like, you know, that feels really messed up to me. That feels like skipping over and denying how much meaningful suffering we want to acknowledge and recognize and also try to prevent, and it ignores the fact that not all humans have made this happen. Actually, most humans who ever existed have fought against extraction and states and wars, and it’s like just elites running state formations that have made this happen. Like that feels really not right and unjust, that kind of frame. I just get a lot of autopilot denial statements from people when I try to talk about this, that are from people like who I love and who really share my other values. And I’m just like, what’s going on? How can I get people to talk with me about this in a way that’s not–I’m not trying to just kick up fear and terror. And also, it’s probably reasonable to feel fear and try to hold that with each other, because that’s a reasonable response to the fact that I’m. . .I feel very certain that my life will end earlier than it likely would have ended because of the collapse of systems that I rely on–all of which are like terrible systems of extraction that I wish I didn’t rely on to live, but I do. Like, I want to talk about that with people I love. And, you know, I think it makes such a big difference in our political movements because we’re so often in conversations that are about unrealistic timelines of change by trying to persuade people, trying to. . . you know, let’s persuade Congress, let’s persuade. . . like, I don’t know, these are kind of moral persuasion, long-term frameworks for transformative change that are dubious on many levels but also are just really unrealistic with what we’re staring down the barrel of. So to me, potentially, awareness of the level of crisis that’s happening, would allow us to be very humble and pragmatic about immediate needs and preparation, as opposed to being invested in…. One other thing I’ll say about denial is I think one of the things that produces so much of this denial is there’s so much fake good news about climate. It’s like "This person is developing this cool thing to put in the ocean," or it’s all tech-based and it’s like tech is gonna save us somehow. And it’s those kinds of, "I feel good because I read one good thing about how one species is on the rebound." That is a whole news machine telling us not to be worried and also that experts have an under control, and someone else is going to fix it. And don’t look around at the actual overwhelming evidence of, again, living through another hottest year on record, you know? And so I guess I’m just–I’m sorry I’m all over the place–but I just, I really feel strongly about what would it take for the people in our communities who are so. . .who dedicate our lives to reducing suffering of all living beings, to let ourselves know more about what’s happening, and see how that would restructure some of our approaches to what we want to do with this next five years, you know?

**Margaret ** 12:50
I think that that’s such a. . .it’s such a good point because one of the things that we. . .one of the mainstream narratives around climate change–you know, I mean, obviously, the right-wing narrative is  that it’s not happening–and then the liberal narrative–and it’s the narrative that we easily fall into, even as radicals and progressives and anarchists an ect–Is that, "Hey, did you know that we’re in trouble by 2050?" You know, and we’re like, "We better get our shit together in the next 30 years." And I’m like, "I’m gonna be dead 30 years from now and not of old age." You know? And, I, maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I’m often wrong about this kind of thing, right? But I need to take into consideration the very likely possibility that that is going to happen. And I need to–and there’s certain things that I can do to like mitigate the dangers that I’m facing–but overall, it’s the same thing that you do by being born, where you’re like, "Well, I’m going to die," right? And so you’re like, I need to make decisions based on the fact that I’m gonna die one day. And so I need to choose what’s important to me and, like, do my YOLO shit. I don’t think anyone says YOLO anymore. But, you know, I need to, act like I know that I might die at any moment and make my decisions based on that. And people are like, "Yeah, by 2045 It’s gonna be so much trouble." And I’m like, "2030." You know, this year, last year, two years ago, COVID," you know? And we just need to take it into consideration. All of these things that you’re bringing up is a really interesting me. I took a bunch of different notes. I’m going to talk–I’m going to also kind of scattershot it. And one of the things that came up recently, we do a This Month in the Apocalypse and we do a This Year in the Apocalypse or "last year in the apocalypse," and the last year we did Last Year of the Apocalypse– whatever the episode we did recently about last year–you know, we got some feedback where people were like, "Y’all were a little bit more cynical and doom and gloom than you usually manage," and it’s true. And I try actually fairly hard with the show, because if you’re completely doom and gloom all of the time, it’s pretty natural to just shut down and eat cookies and wait for the end or whatever, right? And that’s like, not what I want to promote. But on some level, I’m reaching the point where I’m like, "Yeah, no, this is. . . it’s bad. The asteroid’s right there. We can see it. It’s coming. We need to act like that’s happening, you know? And there’s only so many times and ways you can say that. But the thing I…. Okay, one of the things I really like about what you brought up, is what that timeline does. In some ways it disrupts–including radical projects, right–like, one of my projects is social change and cultural change and one of my projects is to help people–and especially next generations of people–operate in a more egalitarian way, you know, in my mind a more anarchic way but whatever. I honestly don’t give all that much of a shit about labels with this, you know? And that’s like, a lot of my work, right? And then I’m like, I wonder how much that matters? You know, right now. And I wonder how much–and I think it does in kind of an…. I think this comes from the Quran, "If the world were ending tomorrow, I would plant a tree today." You know? I always saw it as like the cool activist slogan. And then eventually, it was like, "Oh, that, I think that’s a Quranic slogan." And that’s cool. And so as an anarchist that influences my thinking, right? About like,, okay, this slow cultural work has a point but isn’t necessarily what we’re going to do to save us–as much as "saving" happens. But it also really disrupts–and I think this is what you kind of mentioned–it’s really interesting how much it disrupts the liberal perspective of this. And I remember having this conversation–I don’t want to out this person as a liberal, [a person] that I love dearly [and is] an important part of my life, is very much a liberal–and when we’re talking about, "Oh, I wish we would have a green New Deal, but it just, it won’t happen. There’s no way it’ll get through Congress." And so at that, this person throws up their hands, they’re like, "Well, what would save us is a green New Deal and it’s not going to happen. So okay." And it’s just, to me, it’s like, well then what? You know? And you get into this place. And I think overall, I think anarchists and some other folks have been kind of aware of this for a while, where revolution is actually less of a long shot than electoral change on something that has a timeline, like mitigating the worst effects of climate change. And revolution is a shit fucking record, just an absolute garbage record. But it happens faster–but electoral change also as a garbage record and is slow as shit.

**Dean ** 18:04
Yeah, and also, if everything’s falling apart…. So like, I think that the systems that we live under, like the food system and the energy system in particular, are, you know, I think we saw this with COVID, the supply chains breaking down really quickly. Like the whole global supply chain is already like a shoe-strung, ramshackle, broken, messy, really violent thing and it falls apart–it’s barely patched together–and it falls apart quickly when it’s disrupted. And there’s no reason to think we wouldn’t have more pandemics soon. And there’s no reason to think we won’t have other major disasters, both resulting from political stuff and from ecological stuff and from economic access. So, if we know that the things we live under are falling apart, it’s not like. . . It’s like it’s not even like a revolution like some people topple something. It’s like things are just cracking, toppling unevenly across space and time across regions. And how do we want to be thinking about our lives? I like that you brought up that "YOLO," sharpens your own priorities, like who do I want to be near? What do I want? Who do I want to be with? How do I? What kind of person…skills would I like to have when that comes up? This relates to the kind of activist-prepper pipeline thing. Like, learning how to facilitate a meeting with a lot of people who are different from each other is really useful. Like my beloved, beloved, dear friend lived through Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. She lived in a really big apartment building that’s part of a complex of two really big apartment buildings. And she was like, "The thing I really wish I’d known how to do would be to facilitate a great meeting for that many people–even if everyone didn’t come." People were already supporting elders in the building, trying to help each other in every way possible, but she wished there had been big meetings to help facilitate that more. So those kinds of skills, knowing how to help people share stuff, knowing how to help deescalate conflict, knowing how to…what to do when intense men are trying to take things over, you know, and knowing how to organize around that. These are things that a lot of activists who are in any number of movements know how to do. So like knowing those skills and then also knowing it’s going to actually be really…like it’s going to be really local. There’s going to be a level of just like, "Do people have stored water on my block? How much? What stored water do we have to share? If I get more people on my block to store more water now, then when the water stops flowing we’ll have more water on the block." I think a lot about something you said in one of your episodes about how it’s more important to have a tourniquet than a gun. Like just things that you can share. Partly, it’s like, if more people are carrying tourniquets or Narcan or any of the things we know are about how I’m then a person who doesn’t need that and I’m a person who could share it. So just that aspect of preparation, that’s already what works. You know, we already live in a bunch of crises. Like, lots of our community members are in prison, people are living outside. Like, we live with so much crisis. We already kind of–if you’re working on those things, you know a bit about what that’s like, what you want to have in your bag, what kind of things would prepare you for the fight that’s likely to break out or emotional crisis people are likely to be about to fall into or whatever. So I feel like that kind of thinking, it’s like when we get to this level of awareness about the crises we live in and we’re like, "It’s not 2050. It’s already happening/it’s the next pandemic, which could be much a worse pandemic and start any day now. Or it’s the next storm coming to where I live or fire or smoke," or whatever. Like when we accept that more, which is like this whole difficult process about accepting our own mortality, accepting that things change, accepting. . . ridding ourselves of like, nationalism that tells us the United States is forever and will always be like this, you know, all these illusions are like so deep in us, like when we do that, it just clarifies what this short, precious life is about. You know what I mean? It gives us a chance–and there’s a lot of heartbreak. It’s like, wow, I won’t be with all the people I love who live all over the country or all over the world when this happens. I don’t know when this is happening. I don’t know how it’s gonna unfold. There’s so much powerlessness. And, what are the immediate things I want to do about appreciating my life right now and setting things up as to the extent that I can–I mean I can’t prepare to prevent it–but I can be like, "Yeah, I’m gonna store some water," or "Yeah, I would rather live closer to this person," or whatever it is, you know? I feel like people deserve a chance to ask those questions of ourselves and then, politically, to stop doing tactics that are based on a lie, that things are going to stay this way forever or even for a while. Because that feels like. . . I’m like, I want to stop wasting our beloved, precious time, you know, on shit that’s too. . . It’s on a timeline that’s not real. You know?

**Margaret ** 22:45
I wonder if it’s like. . .To me–I don’t talk much about my romantic life on the podcast, but I’m polyamorous–and one of the things that distinguishes a partner versus a sweetie is that I make my life plans incorporating partners, you know? Not necessarily like, oh, we’re gonna live together or whatever. But they’re like, these are the people that I like, from a romantic point of view, and being like, I am going to make my decisions absolutely, including these people. It’s like we need to date the apocalypse. We need to just accept that the apocalypse is our partner. Like, we need to make our decisions incorporating the uncertainty and. . . the uncertainty about what’s to happen, and the likelihood that what is coming is very different than what is currently–or certainly than what was 10 years ago. I mean, even like. . . I don’t know, talking to my friends who I’ve been friends with for 10-20 years, I’m like, we’ll talk about 10 years ago and we’ll be like, "That was a different world politically," right? It was just a completely fundamentally different world. And, you know, the future is going to be really different. And that is, you know…. For me, the biggest decision I made was around preparedness–and everyone has a different relationship with their families–I moved a lot closer to my family. I moved within one tank of gas to my family and back. And, you know, that is the single biggest step that I took in terms of my preparedness, and you know, that’s far more important to me than the, probably, about nine months’ worth of food, my basement. But, you know, I live in the mountains and have a lot of storage.

**Dean ** 24:41
Yeah, I think there’s a piece of this about getting to divest. Like, I mean, so much of what liberalism is and what nationalism is, is it tells us that if you’re mad about what’s happening, where you live, you should appeal to the people who govern you and you should further invest in their system and show up and participate in it. And maybe you should even run for office. It’s all about going towards, because that thing is going to deliver you what you want or not depending on how well you appeal to it. And when we’re like "That thing," you know, "first of all is rotten and is never going to deliver us anything but war and destruction and that’s what it was made for. That’s what it does." But also, like, even those of us who know that, even though those were like, "Yeah, I hate the United States. I’m not trying to improve it or fix it or make it into a wonderful…. Even those, we still, you know, we’re still very invested. Like, you know, I have a really mainstream job or there’s people I know, who want to own a home, all these things that we’ve been told will make us safe, it turns out they won’t? It turns out already they didn’t and haven’t for lots of people for lots of reasons for lots of times, you know? See 2008 crash, see, you know, hurricanes did taking out all-Black property and displace Black people. All the things. All the uneven, horrible, terrible violences of Capitalism and crisis. But it’s really a dead end. You know, when people ask me all the time about going to grad school and I’m like, "I don’t know, do you want to spend the last–possibly the last– few years of your life doing that? Will you enjoy it? Like will it let you do art and activism and whatever else you want or will it be a slog that you’re just putting in this time because you think in 10 years, you’ll have the job you want? In which case, no. Like for me that kind of invitation to divest from things that I don’t really want or believe in any way or to really be like, ?Why am I saying yes to this? Why am I saying no to that?" is one of the liberating aspects of accepting how dire things are that I want people to get to have. Because it’s about letting go of stuff that doesn’t work and that was never going to work, but like really, really, really. . . Like the Green New Deal. Like if I dedicate my life to passing and Green New Deal and Medicare for all in this political climate with this time, like, it’s not gonna happen, you know? And even I think many people who are liberals know that, but it’s like, what would happen? Like, do I really? Do I want to produce my own abortion drugs and hormones for my community out of my basement? Do I want to. . . Like, what do I want to do that is immediate support to people I love and care about instead of deferred, you know, wellness, "hopefully,"–if we can convince elites?

**Margaret ** 27:19
I like that idea. And I’m going to think about that more. I really liked the perspective of just specifically divesting, and I even. . . It’s one of the things I sometimes try to convince the liberals in my life is that the way that incremental change happens isn’t from people asking for incremental change, it happens when you’re like, "Oh, we don’t need you anymore. We’ve created our own thing," then the State is like, "Shit, shit, shit. No, we can do it too. We promise!" You know? And make them rush to catch up with us. And to compare it to something with my own life, when I when people ask for professional advice in a creative field, one of the reasons I like pushing DIY as a good intro–and even as someone who, you know, I do the show, which isn’t quite DIY, it’s collectively produced, but I’m one of the collective members, but started off DIY–and then I also have a corporate podcast, right, where, I get my salary from doing a podcast. And the way that you do things is you do things so well that the people who gatekeep look for you to invite you in, rather than going to them and begging for access. You declare that you’re too cool to go to the club, and then the club asks you to come in, you know? And in order to do that, you have to genuinely be too cool for the club. But then sometimes when people give you salaries, it’s fine and you can use it to fill your basement with food and give it to people and shit. And I think about that even with the Green New Deal stuff, it’s like, well, that’s not going to happen–probably at all–but it would need to be them co-opting a successfully organized wide-scale, decentralized movement, you know?

**Dean ** 29:11
And the Green New Deal is like the prior New Deal, it’s a deal to try to save Capitalism and extraction. It’s very drastically inadequate for anything that would. . . I mean, so much of what’s happened environmentally is not preventable at this point anyway, you know–in terms of what’s already been set in motion–much less the idea that something. . . I mean, it’s all based on the idea of maintaining a Capitalist job framework. I mean, it’s just, it’s really, really, really, really, really, really inadequate. And the United States is the world’s biggest polluter ever and has. . . The US military is the most polluting thing ever for reasons. It’s not just gonna be like, "Oh, you know what, those people those hippies were right, let’s stop." You know what I mean? Like, the idea that our opponents are gonna just change their minds because we tell them enough. You know? It’s just so. . . It’s like, we’ve been told. . . And it’s so like. . . We’ve just we’ve been given that message so relentlessly that if we’re just loud enough, if there’s just enough of us in the streets. And I think a lot of people saw Occupy and saw 2020 and see like, "Wow, this is so. . ." you know, Standing Rock, see these moments where people really, really show up and put everything on the line and are incredibly disruptive. And our opponents just right the ship and suggests that we don’t live in a democracy–and we never have. They’re not persuadable. Like, it’s not going to happen through those kinds of frameworks. And yet, I think that the kind of like brainwashing or the fiction version of the Civil Rights Movement that we’ve been given is so powerful. Like people really are like, "If I go to a march then. . ." I guess one of my questions at this point in life, too, is how can we bring new people into our movement, because more more people are like unsatisfied, miserable, terrified for good reasons, wonderful mobilizable. How do we bring people in and have ways that we engage in action together that help people move towards a perspective that isn’t liberal? So help people move away from love, just thinking they need to get their voice heard to like, "Oh, no, we actually have to materially create the things we want for each other." We have to directly attack our opponents’ infrastructure. And we have to have solidarity with everybody else who’s doing that instead of getting divided into good protesters and bad protestors, and all that stuff that you see happening, you know, every day. That to me, that question, like, what’s the pedagogy. . . What’s a pedagogical way of organizing that helps people move out of those assumptions, which are so powerful and are really in all of our heads. It’s just a matter of degree. Like, I feel like it’s a lifelong process of like trying to strip liberalism out of our hearts and minds, so to say. As they say. As liberals say. 

**Margaret ** 31:55
I really liked that way of framing it. I think about how one of my friends always talks about the way to judge the success of actions–and I don’t think that this is the only way. I think that sometimes, like "Did you accomplish your goals?" is a very good way. But I think that one of them is, "Does this tend to give the participants agency? Because I think that agency is–I mean, it’s addictive–but it’s in the same way that air and water are addictive, you know? The more you experience agency–and especially collectively produced agency–the more I think that people will tend to stay in the movement, even as their ability to express that agency, like even when the movement ebbs, right, people who learned. . . You know, there’s this thing that I think about with 2020, and 2020 has been memory hold completely, but on some level, everyone in 2020 who had never before seen a cop car on fire or never before seen the police retreat, I remember really clearly the first time in my life I saw the police retreat, because it never seemed like it was a thing that could happen. I’ve been doing direct action protesting for like eight years before I saw that police retreat, because the way that US tactics tended to work in protest didn’t tend to do things that made the police retreat. And that protest where I saw the police retreat, we did not win our strategic goals, right? But it’s part of why I am still in this movement is because I can’t forget that feeling. And so, yeah, I think that for we people are systematically stripped of agency, learning to invite people into space to collectively create agency is really important. But that said, I do think that actually–especially sort of anti-State leftism, which tends to be less structured, which I actually don’t think is inherently a positive or negative thing about it–is that I think one of our biggest stumbling blocks is we’re bad at bringing people in.

**Dean ** 34:13
Yeah, the insularity of some of the more insurrectionary work is, I think that is exactly it. It’s like yes, you can have your little cell that’s going to go into an amazing sabotage action or an incredible, you know, deface something or, you know, make something about the more machinery of the prison system or something harder, but how do people join? How are people? And also how to take those steps from like, "Wait, I’m really mad at what’s happening in Gaza," or  "I’m really pissed about what’s happening with the environment," or "I’m really scared about how the police are," or whatever, to finding what’s most available to find, which will often be organizations or groups that are doing a good job recruiting new people but maybe using not very bold tactics. How do we have those groups also be in better. . . You know, I was just reading Klee Benally’s book and one of the things Klee talked about is de-siloing the above ground from the underground, like having there be more solidarity is something I’ve been very concerned about, especially since the recent indictment of the forest defenders and in Atlanta. How do we not have people be like, "Well, the ones who were just flyering are just good protesters, and the ones who, you know, did sabotage and lived in the forest are bad." How do we build such a strong solidarity muscle–which means we have to break ties with like the pacifism narrative–how to build the strong solidarity muscle so that people can get recruited into our movements wherever they get recruited, whatever interests them, whatever tactic they first stumble upon, and then can take bolder action and take more autonomous action, cause there’s also kind of passivity in our culture. Like, wait for the experts to tell you. Wait for the people at the nonprofit to tell you. Wait for the group that organizes protests to tell you when to go home, instead of like, "What do me and my friends want to do? What do I want to do? Where it’s my idea to go, go off and do something else that’s potentially very disruptive to our opponents?" So how to have people get what you’re calling agency, or what I might call a feeling of autonomous power and inventiveness and creativity and initiative that isn’t just "I’m waiting to be called to come to the march once a year," or once a month, or whatever. But instead, like, "Yeah, I might go to that, and I also then met some people there, and they’re going to do this wild thing, and I’m gonna do that," and then how good it feels the first few times you break the law with other people and don’t get caught. Like having those joyful feelings–people talk about the joy of looting a lot and after 2020 there were a lot of great references to that–you know, those feelings of like, "Oh, my God, this entire system is fake. I can break the rules in here with others, and we can keep each other safe, maybe. And we can see that we don’t have to abide by this rigid place we’ve been fixed," you know? All of that, I think does–like you were saying–it keeps people in the movement or it feeds us. Given how difficult. . . I mean, you know, it’s not like anybody’s doing something where they’re like, "Yeah, this is totally working." So you need a lot of. . . You gotta get your morale from some kind of collaborative moments of pleasure and of disobedience that can like. . . You know, including hating our opponents and hating what they’re doing to all life, you know?

**Margaret ** 37:22
I really like the way that you talk about these things. I’m really. . . There’s like, so much more I’m gonna like to keep thinking about as I go through this, but one of the things that makes me think of is, you know, what does it take to take ourselves seriously, right, as a political force? I think that there’s this. . . Either, some people take themselves too seriously, but are not actually providing any real threat. Right? I would say that the sort of–don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked for nonprofits before and I don’t think nonprofits are actually inherently bad–but like the nonprofit, activisty, professional activism world, right, will often take themselves very seriously, but not present any fundamental threat or accomplish systemic change. And some of the people who actually do present a real threat, don’t take themselves seriously. They’re like, "Oh, we’re just kids acting out," kind of attitude. You know, I mean, like, well you’re 30, what are you doing? You know and they’re like, "We’re kids acting out," and like I’m like, okay, whatever you can, you can call yourself kids as long as you want. I remember one time I was hitchhiking when I was 26 and I was like, "Oh, yeah, we use the word ‘kids’ instead of like, the word ‘punks.’" You know? It’s like, "I’m gonna meet up with these other kids." And the woman who gave me a ride hitchhiking was like, "You’re an adult." And I was really offended. I was like…I’m an adult, that’s true.

**Dean ** 38:36
I’m not a square. I’m not a square. 

**Margaret ** 38:38
Exactly. And one of the things that I think about, I remember. . . Okay, there’s two stories about it. One was I was I was in Greece 10 years ago or 12 years ago, shortly after a lot of the uprisings that were happening in Greece, and after that kid, Alex, I believe his name was was. . . a like 16 year old anarchists kid was killed by the police, and then half the nation, you know, rioted around it. And I remember talking to this older anarchist about it, and he was saying that there were people who did studies and they were saying that the average person in Greece basically believed that the police and the anarchists were equally legitimate social forces. Like not like each. . . I think some people were not even like they’re both. . .they’re all the same. We hate them both. But instead, people being like, "Oh, well, the anarchists, that’s a perfectly legitimate thing that these people are trying to do, right, as a legitimate social force. And usually when people use the word "legitimacy" they mean squareness and operating within the system, and I’m not trying to use it that way. I haven’t come up with a better word for this. But I think about that a lot. And then because of the history research I do, I, you know, spent a lot of time reading about the Easter Rising in the early Irish Revolutionary Movement. And, you know, I haven’t gotten to read Klee Benally’s book yet. I got to start it. Someone had a copy of it. But it was sold out for obvious reasons. Although, by the time you all are listening to this Klee Benally’s book, which is–what’s it called? Sorry. 

**Dean ** 40:16
"No Spiritual Surrender" 

**Margaret ** 40:17
"No Spiritual Surrender" should be back in print from Detritus books. And anyone who’s listening, we talked about it before, but Klee Benally was a indigenous anarchist who recently died and had been doing movement work for a very long time. Might have actually hated the word "movement work," I’m not entirely certain. But, you know, the de-siloing of the above ground and the underground, I think that the more successful movements do that. And I think that, you know, the Easter Rising, one of the things that was really interesting about this thing in 1916, or whatever–you can listen to me talk about for literally, four hours if you want because it’s a four part episode–but one of the things that happened with it, that I didn’t realize, it gets presented most of the time in history as like, "Oh, well, there was a big. . . Everyone agreed that we should have this revolution." That is absolutely not the case. Absolutely the–I think it was called Redmond-ism, or something. There was like a guy and he was basically the liberal-centrist and vaguely wanted some a little bit of more freedom from England. And that was absolutely the political position of the average person in Ireland at that time. And then these crazy radicals, some of them nationalists and some of them socialists and some of them complicated other things, threw an uprising. And they threw that uprising, and it just fundamentally changed. . . That political position, that centrist position ceased to exist almost overnight. And I’m not suggesting that that is the way it will always work. But there is a way in which you say, "We are not embarrassed. . ." like sometimes you have to do things underground because you don’t want to get caught, right? But instead of being like, "Oh, well, I know this is unpopular," instead being like "I’m doing this, and it should be popular, because that makes so much sense." You know, and I actually think that the Atlanta folks in the US are some of the people who have been doing the most work about doing above ground and underground work in a movement that is like. . . These are all the same movements. Sorry, that was a long rant.

**Dean ** 42:24
I thought it was great. It made me think about how–and I really will listen to those episodes. I love that you’re doing history. It made me think about how sometimes I feel tension–I’m going to be overly simplistic right now–but between the parts of. . . In all the movements I’m in, there’s a part that’s more nonprofitized, and where people, I think, don’t know whether they’re interested in taking over the State or not, but because they are not sure and I’m not thought about anti-State politics there, they tend to actually accidentally be statist or some of them are more explicitly really trying take over the State or believe in that fantasy. And so that set of people, when you when you have a belief like that shaping what you’re going to do and you imagine yourself and you’re like "We’re going to run the FDA, or we’re going to run. . ." you know, when you imagine the scale of the nation and then you think about your people trying to get it, even though you know your people have never had it and aren’t anywhere near getting it, and maybe want to get rid of some parts of it altogether. Like maybe you want to get rid of the Border, get rid of the cops or something, that is not a non-humble framing. And it often includes a distrust of ordinary people and a sense that they still need to be managed. And those I think are like subtextual beliefs inside the work that is often happening at the more legitimized nonprofit side of our movements. And then more scrappy, you know, sometimes anarchist or less institutionalized parts of our movements are often much more humble. Like, could we stop one of these sweeps? Could we feed a hundred people in the park tonight? Could we. . . They’re very like, it has less of a like, "We’re going to take over and make a utopia out of this whole joint," which I think is a very unrealistic and also dangerous framework for a number of reasons, including to look at who else has tried that, you know? I think the idea of running other people in that massive way is just very dangerous and leads to different kinds of authoritarianism, honestly. But also, I think, for me, what happens when I really take into account the crises we’re living in and that are mounting and the unknown intense kinds of collapse that are coming soon, it really points me to that kind of humility. Like what’s doable here and now with what’s going on now? And what would I do if that were my focus? And it really leads to things like direct attacks, like sabotaging, like direct attacks on our opponents, like making their jobs harder. It leads to immediate mutual aid efforts to support people’s well being and preparation for things we know are about to happen. Like, what would make this less dangerous when this thing is about to happen? Like, that’s the stuff. Yes, it makes sense to just have masks now because more pandemics are coming, and the current one is so bad. You know, it makes sense to have certain things around or it makes sense to build certain skills and not to be overwhelmed. I think some people get really overwhelmed by the idea of, "Oh my God, I’m such a turn my whole life around, become a hunter, become someone who can farm tons of food," I know that’s not gonna happen for me. I’m not going to become an expert farmer and hunter. I’m not going to have the skills of somebody from the 1800s in the next few years. It’s not what I built my life to do. My body wouldn’t be good at it. But what is within reach that’s. . . How does it reorient me towards these very humble things that are both humble and that have a little more faith in other people? Like a little more faith that if we stored more water on my block–I don’t need everyone on my block to become interested in this–but if a few more people in my neighborhood were interested in this, we could store some more water. And if it feels. . . I just need to find some people who are interested. I don’t need to have every single person be interested. And I don’t need to convince everyone this is happening. But I also shouldn’t just do it by myself. Like somewhere in the middle. And this relates also to the pipeline question, like why are people who’ve been involved in organizing and activism often good at prep? One of the things is like–as I think your podcast does a great job showing–prep should be collective and not individualist. It shouldn’t be about "How can I have the biggest gun to protect my horde?" And instead, it’s like, how do I care about people even if I don’t like them. And that is something that our movements are about. It’s like, how do I care about people, even if they’re annoying, even if they don’t speak all the same kinds of terms, even if they don’t have my exact identities? How do I care about people because they’re around me and they’re thirsty? And that skill, that’s also going to be about "Who do I want to be in the end times?" Like, I’m living through a very, very hard time in human history, what kind of person do I want to be? I hope I’m generous. I hope I’m thoughtful. I hope I am oriented towards attacking things that hurt life and caring for life. And it’s not easy to do those things in this society. And so what would I want to change about what I’ve learned and what I know how to do to get a little closer to that. I’m going to die either way. Like we’re all gonna die even if we’re totally wrong and there’s no collapse and everything’s great. We’re all going to. So these questions aren’t bad to ask even if things turn out totally fine. 

**Margaret ** 47:28
No, I, I really liked this, this way of framing it. And it is. . . One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is I’ve been thinking about my own cynicism. And I don’t feel like. . . I feel like misanthropy is not the right word, because everyone I know who’s like a misanthrope is kind of an asshole about it. You know? But it’s like, once you realize that everyone is disappointing, you no longer have to judge the disappointing people as much, because then you realize that you’re disappointing, right? You know? And I’m like, "Oh, everyone kind of sucks." And then you’re like, "That includes me. I’m not better than everyone else. So now I should look after these people who kind of suck." And like, all of a sudden, I no longer have this thing where I’m like, oh, queers or anarchists or queer anarchists are the enlightened people and all the cis people are terrible and all the straight people are terrible. And I’m like, look, there are systems that privilege people of certain identities over certain other identities, right? But there’s nothing about being a lady who likes other ladies that makes me a better person than someone else, you know? And like, and so then I’m like, okay, well now I care about everyone because I dislike everybody. This is not what I actually advocate for other people to do. But this is kind of where I’m at a little bit personally. I really like this idea of pointing out how we care about people that we don’t necessarily like? And this is the thing that’s always felt strongly about communities. Community is the people who you’re doing a thing with or like to live near or, you know, whatever, rather than the people where you all agree about the current way to define the following word. And that said, I mean, there’s people who are like, "Well I might live near them, but they’re a racist who wants to hurt my friends." You know? But then again, I’ve also seen people–I know it’s controversial–but I’ve seen the people do the work of be like, "Hey, white person to white person, don’t be such a fucking racist. What the fuck is wrong with you?" And I’ve seen that work. Or, I’ve been part of a queer land project in a rural area where the neighbor starts off a little bit like, "What? What’s a pronoun?" you know? And then it’s like, "I don’t really get it, but you can use my tractor."  And I’m like, "Great!" Now we’re on the same side in terms of certain important decisions, like should we all starve to death when the food system collapses. 

**Dean ** 50:00
And safety can include–I think we see this a lot with people who’ve been working around domestic violence and intimate violence in our communities–where you’re like, "Yeah, there’s a guy who lives down the block and he has a lot of guns and he’s really, really reactive and he’s someone we all need to be aware of." It’s like not everyone is gonna move towards us. And so preparedness can also be about how we are currently supporting anybody who’s living with him? And how are we preparing to support us all in regard to him if that need be? Like that kind of just frankness, you know? Like just being clear with ourselves about. . . But that’s different. I do think that one of the downsides of social media has been–for me–like doing activism for many years before it started and then how it exists now, because it gives us a feeling that we could reach anyone–which of course, isn’t true. Most of us just reach people that are in our own little silos or a lot of nobody looks at it at all. It’s like there’s a fantasy that I could find my real people and I could have a real set of people who really understand me as opposed to just these jokers I’ve been stuck with on this block or in this school or in this job or whatever and actually who we are stuck with. That fantasy that we have. . . It’s true that it’s beautiful when we find people to share ideas with and that some of that happens over the internet, and I love all that. But ultimately, nobody gets to live in a little world of people who perfectly understand them. And when you think you’ve found those people and then you actually hang out with them, it always ends up that there’s actually tons of still intragroup differences and struggles and patterns. And so moving away from hoping to find the right people or climb to the right space where people will be truly radical–not that we don’t stop looking for our people everywhere–but also just be like, "Well, who’s here now? And what would it be like to learn how to care for those people? And also protect myself from them–to the extent that I need to.  And also try to make them more into what I want by showing them the cool ideas and hoping they come along?" You know, all of that, but not being in a fantasy that if I could just get these other people, then I would be happy. Like, that’s Capitalism just telling us to claim everything, you know?

**Margaret ** 52:00
I like that sometimes you’ll say the thing and I’m like, "No, I just agree with you. That makes a lot of sense. And I got to think about that." And like, I like it. Okay, I’ve got kind of a final question, I think. . . 

**Bursts ** 52:15
[Interrupting] But oh dear listeners, it was far from her last question. Stay tuned for the hair-raising conclusion of Mutual Aid with Dean Spade next week, on Live Like the World is Dying.

**Margaret ** 52:40
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, you should tell people about it. And all of the things that I always tell you to do, like hack the algorithms by leaving me. . . I hate anything that I say that involves me making that voice. I’m terribly sorry. I will never do it again. However, leaving reviews does tell machines to tell other people’s machines to listen to this. And that has some positive impact on the world that is falling apart. And I need to tell you that that’s what I do all day, is I tell you about the world falling apart. But you can support us as we try to alleviate it. We are saving the world, and if you don’t support us, it is your fault when people will die. That’s what I’m trying to say. That’s "not" what I’m trying to say. Put your money towards whatever you think is best. If what you think is best is putting it towards Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness so we can continue to produce this podcast, pay for our audio editor, pay a transcriptionist, and one day pay the hosts, then you can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. That supports all of our shows and all of our different projects. And in particular, we want to thank Amber, Ephemeral, Appalachian Liberation Library, Portland’s Hedron Hackerspace, Boldfield, E, Patolli, Eric, Buck, Julia, Catgut Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, Ben Ben, anonymous, Funder, Janice & Odell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David. Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Mic Aiah, and Hoss the Dog. Alright. That’s it. I’m done recording. I’m gonna go play with my dog and I hope that you can do whatever makes you happy between now and the end of all things which might be a long time from now. Maybe. Talk to you soon.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E110 – Colin on Structural Triage After a Disaster

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Colin talks to Brooke about how to asses damage to structures after disasters, what you can do when you’re stuck in a building after a disaster, and ways to make your situation easier and safer.

Guest Info

Colin (he/him) is a carpenter, industrial electrician, and backpacker.

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Colin on Structural Triage After a Disaster

**Brooke ** 00:15
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for it feels like the end times. I’m Brooke Jackson, your host for this episode. Today I’ll be talking with Colin, an experienced construction and trade worker, about how to prepare for and perform structural triage after disasters. But first we’d like to celebrate being a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts by playing a little jingle from one of the other podcasts on the network. Doo doo doo, doo doo.

**Brooke ** 00:48
And we’re back. Colin, thank you for joining us today to talk about structural triage after disasters. Would you introduce yourself? Let us know your pronouns, where you’re from if you want, maybe some of your background in the construction industry.

**Colin ** 01:19
Yeah, I’m Colin, he/him. Lived in around Western Pennsylvania pretty much my entire life—mostly in the Pittsburgh area. I picked up carpentry right after college just as a way to earn some money. Been in and out that for a while. I worked as an industrial electrician in the power industry for about seven years, and then decided I’d had enough of that and went back to doing carpentry.

**Brooke ** 02:10
Okay, so is your—is your background in those trades the reason that you’re interested in this topic, or was there something else that sparked you or made you kind of get into learning about it?

**Colin ** 02:23
Actually, the impetus for this was a little over—actually, seems like ages ago, but actually less than a year ago, a friend had an apartment fire right after Christmas last year. And it’s still that big cold snap. And fortunately, we managed to get them recovered from that, but it was only due to the fairly heroic efforts of a lot of friends. And after that I started thinking about, you know, like, what are the ways that, you know, if you don’t have people looking out for you and willing to come bail you out, what can you do if you’re stuck in a damaged building for a few days while you’re waiting for utilities to come back online, first responders to work through a backlog? Just, how can you make things easier in the immediate few days after disaster?

**Brooke ** 03:14
Nice. So is this something that you then have you had to put into practice, or other people around you have put into practice? Or are we mostly theoretical at this point and haven’t tested all these things—not that we don’t trust your experience here.

**Colin ** 03:31
Yeah, no, I have done some of these things more in the context of camping and backpacking, just like, there are things you can do that will make the situation easier and safer. Also, a lot of my background in working in power plants involved constant safety trainings about how do you do things safely? What do you have to look out for? What are, you know, things that you just need to be aware of when you’re in dangerous situations? And I’m continually surprised at how many of those applied to everyday life, and how much of that stuff we just don’t have to think about when we’re living in a house that has already been designed to be safe. But when you have a disaster, obviously things break. And suddenly, things that are—things that normally have the engineering and safety built into them no longer work the way they’re supposed to, and suddenly, you have to take care of all of that on your own. It’s not that hard to do, or even that expensive. You just have to do the planning and preparation before it happens. Because once you find yourself in that situation, it’s too late.

**Brooke ** 04:46
Yeah, that makes sense. And we’re gonna get into those details in a second. But for the listener, I just wanted to share that Colin had reached out to us with this really great list of different things we could explore on this topic. And as I said to him, the the part that stood out most to me was he was talking about how to shelter in place in a compromised building and how to do structural triage and first aid that can make the eventual recovery easier. So we may get into a lot more than that today, we may have a second episode at some point to talk about other things because Colin has a lot of great info to share. But that was the part that really struck me and the areas that I wanted to focus on. And so right before we get into the details, another question I wanted to ask you was, how broadly is this applicable? Like, you know, there’s all kinds of different disaster situations, right? We’ve got floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, unnatural disasters. Do you have different tips for different scenarios that we’re going to talk about, or is a lot of this like works across multiple possibilities?

**Colin ** 05:50
It’s some of both. A lot of the things you need to be concerned with sheltering in place, or just being aware of what are the things that change when systems go offline. So when you don’t have power anymore and you’re relying on batteries or a generator, or you lose your gas, now, suddenly, you’re relying on kerosene heaters or lamps. All of these things change how you have to think about your safety in a house. Obviously, people have been living with fireplaces and wood stoves and oil lamps for a very, very long time. It’s not that hard to do. But if you’re used to being able to flip a switch and have the lights come on, you’re going to have to make some changes. And if you don’t do those things, you can cause yourself serious problems.

**Brooke ** 06:38
Okay, so let’s talk about the first part of that where work. Let’s say we’re in a situation where we’ve just had a disaster, we’re in a compromised building—whether it be like—I guess mostly we’re talking about homes, or maybe your apartment complex too, not necessarily, like, work structures. So let’s say we’re in that in that situation, we’re in this compromised building right after a disaster, what’s one of the first things that we need to do?

**Colin ** 07:01
So the very first thing is always keep yourself safe, because there’s no disaster that you can’t make worse by getting injured. And this is especially true—

**Brooke ** 07:12
[Laughing] That’s a good line, yeah!

**Colin ** 07:12
That’s especially true when you have, you know, something like the ERCOT disaster down in Texas and 2021, and you have an entire city that is struggling, and your first responders are overwhelmed.

**Brooke ** 07:28
Was that when they lost power?

**Colin ** 07:30
Yeah, they lost power for I want to say a week or two? I don’t think it was continuous. I think it went off, and then it came back on, and then it went off again. The estimated death toll from that was like somewhere between 250 and 700 people, which is—that’s like 10 times the number of people that die from an average hurricane season. And most of it was due to things like hyperthermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. Just because people were trying to stay warm and making bad decisions either because they didn’t know any better, or they didn’t have the tools they needed. Most of it could have been avoided. But obviously that was a terrible situation, and Texas is still recovering from that. So yeah, you’ve got to keep yourself safe. Couple parts of that. The easiest thing is the personal protective equipment side. Because that’s just a matter of throwing a little bit of money at the problem, and it doesn’t even take very much money. This is stuff like have worked gloves around so that you can protect your hands. Keep safety glasses around, because getting an eye injury will make life real bad and real tough right now. Earplugs. Disasters are often loud, and even if they’re not, things are going to sound different. So having earplugs can help you sleep better. These are, like, not—things that do not cost a whole lot of money. But the most important thing is just to look at the situation and take a beat and figure out what has changed and what you need to do to stop the problem from getting worse. So the first part of this is anything that is broken or not working the way it is supposed to needs to be shut down. So like, do you need to get the power turned off? Do you need to get the gas turned off? Do you need to get the water turned off so your pipes don’t freeze and burst? These are things that the average homeowner can do: turning off the power, as long as you have access to the circuit breaker, it’s a matter of flipping a switch. Water should just be a matter of closing a valve. The problem is a lot of times the shutoff valves for water don’t work the way they’re supposed to because they haven’t been maintained. I have run into that a few times. And—

**Brooke ** 09:42
I know I know at my own house, shutting off the water is a much bigger deal than it should be.

**Colin ** 09:48
Right and most of the time that’s fine, until you have pipes that are actively spraying water, and suddenly it’s not fine. Getting the gas shut off. Usually, again, just matter of going outside with a wrench and turning the valve at the meter. But you have to have the right size wrench and you have to know where that valve is.

**Brooke ** 10:09
Okay, so here’s a neat—sorry to interrupt you. But I’ve had—for a long time I’ve had—I don’t know if this is good, so you tell me. I got a wrench that’s like specifically for shutting off your gas, it’s this bright red one, and you zip tie it next to your gas main. And then if there’s a disaster, you should have to go cut the zip tie and use that wrench.

**Colin ** 10:32
Yeah, that is a fantastic idea.

**Brooke ** 10:34
Okay.

**Colin ** 10:35
I would suggest maybe string or something that you can just yank to break it loose, because having zip tie on there that you have to cut, that’s one more tool you have to find before you can get to the wrench. Zipties are fantastic because they are very secure. Sometimes so secure that you can’t get them off.

**Brooke ** 10:50
So I might have to replace the string once in a while, but string would be better.

**Colin ** 10:53
Or, the meters normally magnetic, you can put it on a magnet, you can just have it—

**Brooke ** 10:58
Oh, yeah!

**Colin ** 10:59
—duct taped to the side of it. Something you can get off without tools. And it’s always there. And then periodically, every six months, just check and make sure it’s there. And, you know, a raccoon hasn’t stolen it. But no, that’s a fantastic idea.

**Brooke ** 11:13
Okay, so that’s a good planning ahead. But if you haven’t planned ahead, then, you know trying to find a wrench is generally the tool you’re going to need, right, to shut that off if you have gas?

**Colin ** 11:22
Yeah yeah. Then if you live in an apartment building, usually you will have access to your electrical panel, but not always. You may not have access to the main water shut offs for your apartment. You can probably find out where in the building those are. You’re not going to be able to tell if they’re working the way they’re supposed to before something happens. But have a plan for how to get into whatever room the shut offs are in. If you have to go through a door, this may mean keeping a sledge hammer or pry bar around so that you can get through to the shut offs in the case of an emergency. And yeah, your landlord is probably going to be unhappy and you may lose your security deposit, but it’s better than having your apartment burn down.

**Brooke ** 12:12
Yeah, seems like it.

**Colin ** 12:13
Yeah.

**Brooke ** 12:14
Okay, so step one is, like right after the disaster, donning some protective gear and then going around to shut off compromised utilities.

**Colin ** 12:24
Right, anything’s not working, get it turned off so that the situation stops getting worse. Once everything’s shut down, then you can take your time and figure out how to make things livable until systems start to come back online. The other thing to do with preparation is make sure all your smoke alarms are working, and make sure you have fire extinguishers. Because, again, fire when you don’t have first responders available is very, very bad. So hopefully everyone has these things to begin with. But if you don’t, I highly recommend going out and getting some as soon as possible.

**Brooke ** 13:01
Okay.

**Colin ** 13:02
So you now have everything turned off, you have your fire extinguishers, you’ve dealt with the immediate problem. Now you’re faced with, how do I make the structure minimally safe for the next few days? If you have broken windows, damaged roof from storms, things like that.

**Brooke ** 13:25
Okay, so it’s assuming your residence is still some amount of livable and/or you just don’t have anywhere else to go and you kind of have to stay.

**Colin ** 13:35
Yeah, as long as you have a roof and three walls, you’re gonna be fine most of the time.

**Brooke ** 13:44
What about—what about the fourth wall? Why don’t we get a fourth wall here, Collin?

**Colin ** 13:48
I mean, four walls is great. Three walls is enough to keep the roof up.

**Brooke ** 13:55
That’s a really good point though, no, genuinely.

**Colin ** 13:58
If a tree comes through the front of your house, you can still deal with that. It’s gonna suck, but it’s not the end of the world. And the things that you need to make the situation better than it would be? Not that complicated. It basically boils down a lot of times to having some plastic sheeting or tarps and a staple gun. If you can get something over your openings to keep the wind and the water from entering the house, that’s going to buy you a lot of time. If you’ve ever been driving through, you know, the back roads and rural counties and you see the houses that have the plastic tarps over their roofs that have obviously been there for many years, those houses are still functional. They’re still standing. A lot of times people are still living quite comfortably inside those houses. Doesn’t look very good, but it’s gonna work for a while. And oftentimes, that’s all you need.

**Brooke ** 14:50
Yeah, that’s one of the reasons you see tarps up there for so long is that they’re doing what they need to do and they don’t need to do more than that. For folks that don’t have that kind of stuff sitting around, I imagined that maybe grabbing some sheets or blankets or something and throwing those over the opening would still be better than just leaving it open?

**Colin ** 15:10
Yeah, even the bed sheet over the window is going to stop rain from blowing in and my dogs barking in the background. I apologize.

**Brooke ** 15:19
That’s okay. We are a puppy-friendly podcast.

**Colin ** 15:25
A staple gun is something that you should definitely own if you don’t, because that’s the easiest and fastest way of getting any kind of sheet, whether it’s cloth, or a tarp, or trash bags with plastic sheeting attached to walls really fast. A staple gun will set you back maybe $20 tops, and makes life a whole lot easier when it comes to covering openings. If you don’t, if you don’t have that, duct tape will also work. However, it doesn’t work as well as you would expect, especially when the weather is cold or if surfaces are wet.

**Brooke ** 16:01
Sure. Yeah. Thumb tacks if you have those sitting around.

**Colin ** 16:06
Thumb tacks. Hammer and nails.

**Brooke ** 16:08
Yeah.

**Colin ** 16:09
Anything to do to secure a sheet. At that point, you’re not really worried about damaging the house because the damage has already been done, and fixing a few nail holes is peanuts compared to trying to fix, you know, several hundred gallons of water that have been blown in by high winds.

**Brooke ** 16:25
Okay, so we close our openings to protect from water, from cold temperatures, probably from other elements too, right, if—blocking the sun?

**Colin ** 16:36
Yeah, sun. If you’re in a hot area—this is a totally different topic on its own. But trying to keep the sun out of your house, if you’re in a hot situation is just as important as trying to keep the heat inside the house if you’re in a cold situation. If you lose power and you’re relying on air conditioning to keep your house livable, the best thing you can do is get all of your windows covered as soon as you possibly can. Because solar gain through glass will drive up the interior temperature really quickly. Doesn’t matter what you have. Again, plastic bags will work. Anything, just block the amount of light that’s coming through the glass. Cardboard, sheets, blinds, you name it?

**Brooke ** 17:24
All right. So we’ve covered up our holes. What do we need to do next?

**Colin ** 17:30
Covered up the holes. Things are shut down, turned off. Now you have to start worrying about how am I going to actually get back to living inside this damaged structure for as long as I need to until help can arrive and start doing major repairs that need to happen? And a couple of things you want to look at, the—obviously we’re coming up on winter. So the first thing to talk about is how do you stay warm? Hopefully you have blankets and sleeping bags and things that will keep you warm overnight. But you can also look at how you can take a single room and the house and make that one room more pleasant for the duration. So like, if you are struggling to keep your house warm because either you’ve totally lost power or your furnace can’t keep up with the temperatures, shut everything down except for one room—preferably a room that has water and power in it. So you have all of your basic necessities in one spot. If you have a bathroom basement—or a bathroom in the basement is ideal because it’s usually going to be interior walls, you’ve got water, you’ve got power, and if you throw, you know, a pad down the floor you can even sleep in there. You’ve got all your necessities in one spot.

**Brooke ** 18:56
Now are basements fairly safe places in the face of most natural disasters? Are there times when you wouldn’t want to hang out in the basement?

**Colin ** 19:03
It depends on the disaster.

**Brooke ** 19:04
Okay.

**Colin ** 19:06
Obviously if you’re dealing with a flood, the basements not where you want to be.

**Brooke ** 19:10
[Laughs] Sure. What about if there’s been fire damage to like the upstairs of your house?

**Colin ** 19:20
That depends on how stable the structure is. If there’s fire damage, usually you don’t want to be directly over or directly under the damaged section.

**Brooke ** 19:31
Hm. Okay.

**Colin ** 19:32
So that if it collapses, it doesn’t land on you and you don’t go through the floor.

**Brooke ** 19:37
Okay. Makes sense.

**Colin ** 19:38
So fire—like talking about a fire damaged structure is probably beyond the scope of what I’m qualified to do, and beyond the scope of most of the people listening to the podcast because it requires you to be able to look at the damaged structural members and evaluate, you know, how compromised are these? Is this floor burned but otherwise stable, or is this going to collapse in the next five minutes? And that’s a skill set entirely on its own.

**Brooke ** 20:11
That’s a good point.

**Colin ** 20:12
If something looks burned and unsafe, just don’t go near it.

**Brooke ** 20:18
Yeah, and of course, you know, burned structures and objects can be very carcinogenic too.

**Colin ** 20:26
That’s also true.

**Brooke ** 20:27
They can really impact your health. So that’s a really good point that a lot of this maybe is really not applicable to the situation of having been in a fire.

**Colin ** 20:35
Now, that said, if you’ve lost half of your house to fire, and you have a few rooms that are still relatively untouched on one side of the house, and you can seal off the burned section of the house, again, using plastic, just so you don’t have the smell of the burned material getting into the living area as much as possible, you’re still better off inside the house in that situation overall, if you don’t have anywhere else to go, then you are trying to, say, camp out in the backyard. Because solid walls and a solid roof offer you more protection and better insulation, even when they’re damaged.

**Brooke ** 21:16
Okay, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. If you have a really bad kitchen fire and lose your kitchen, that doesn’t mean you have to move out of the whole house necessarily. Okay.

**Colin ** 21:24
Correct. Yeah. And obviously, the best thing to do is leave and go someplace else if you can. But this is: your stocking place because the roads are impassable, or you literally have nowhere else to go.

**Brooke ** 21:37
Yeah. Okay. All right. So moving into the basement, a good idea if you can, but in general is secluding yourself in part of the house. And to throw in a personal anecdote, we had this ice storm here in Kalapuya territory in Oregon—it was almost three years ago now. And most of the town lost power. And it was one, two, three days, a week, seven days, ten days for some folks—long time. And, I kind of without knowing any of this, just sort of instinctively moved us into the living room where a fireplace was because we had lost power and we lost it for a week. And we all just camped out, you know, slept, ate, played in the living room, because the only source of heat was the fireplace. So that’s what we gravitated to. Anyway.

**Colin ** 22:27
Yeah. And if you have a fireplace, if you have a room that’s already set up for that kind of thing, like a living room, that’s fantastic. I mean, there’s no reason to hide out in the bathroom, if you have a place with a working fireplace. Yeah, good, go for the fireplace room.

**Brooke ** 22:42
Yeah. On the downside, we had to pass into the, you know, 40 degree, 30 degree weather in the rest of the house to get to the bathroom. One in the back of the house. But, you know, for everything else, we were cozied up and warm in our one little room. Which, you know, we drove each other crazy. I will say that too being trapped in the one room together. But it was the only place that we be worn for that week.

**Colin ** 23:06
Yeah, like having just a contained place that you can keep as warm and comfortable or as cool and comfortable as possible is your best option. Don’t worry about trying to keep your entire house up to temperature, whether that be warm or cold. Because that takes a lot of energy to do and it’s just probably not gonna be possible in most situations.

**Brooke ** 23:28
Okay, here’s a scenario question for you: Let’s say same set of circumstances, like, that I went through, but something crashed through my big living room window, and we have to tarp over it. Is it? Is it? Is it better? Like, if I have to stay in my house at that point, is it better to still be in the living room with the fire in the tarped up window, or should I try and move to a different room and figure out some other heating source?

**Colin ** 23:54
I would probably still stay in the living room. If your concern is keeping yourself warm and you have a fireplace, that’s going to be your best option.

**Brooke ** 24:06
Okay.

**Colin ** 24:06
The issue of the window being broken and the tarp—the one problem with tarps is in high winds, they tend to flap a lot and they’re just kind of annoying. The easy solution to that is back it up with cardboard. Cardboard does not like to get wet, but as long as it stays dry, it’s a fairly good insulator and it’s solid. And it’s cheap. You can—everybody has a pile of cardboard boxes and their front hall from Amazon waiting to go out in the recycling. So take some of those boxes—

**Brooke ** 24:37
I’m just gonna close this door behind me…

**Colin ** 24:41
Take some of these boxes, break them down, put a few layers of cardboard on the inside just as a backup to the tarp so that your plastic is keeping the water out, but your cardboard is blocking more of the wind and keeping the plastic from flapping quite so much.

**Brooke ** 24:57
Okay got it. So staying close to that the best heat source is still the way to go.

**Colin ** 25:03
Yeah, it’s always gonna be a judgment call as to what that is. But if you have a fire, and you are comfortable using it, and you have a good wood supply, that’s almost always going to be your best bet.

**Brooke ** 25:16
Okay? Makes sense. All right, so let’s see, where are we even at not in our to do list here?

**Colin ** 25:24
Okay, so we have a warm place to stay. And, assuming you have a fireplace, we’ve got that taken care of. The trickier situation is when you lose power and suddenly you’d have no heat at all. And even if you’re relying—if you use natural gas for your heat, pretty much every furnace these days has an electric blower unless you have one of the, like, direct vent wall mounted furnace units that are basically just a gas flame that’s passively heating. But if you’re using forced air, it’s using gas for the heat source, but you need electricity to move that warm air through the house. So if you lose your electricity, you lose your heat, even though you still have a fuel source. And that’s something that a lot of people don’t think about, especially in winter, they’re like, oh, it’s not a problem. If you lose electricity, big deal, I have gas. Well, that’s not going to help you.

**Brooke ** 26:25
That was my circumstance. Gas furnace, but needed the electricity and we didn’t have that.

**Colin ** 26:30
Yeah. So if you can get yourself down to a fairly small room, a bathroom, a small bedroom, even a large walk-,in closet, it doesn’t take a whole lot of energy to keep one of those spaces warm. You can get the small, portable, like, propane heaters, little buddy heaters. They don’t cost a whole lot, but then you have the issue of combustion in a confined space, which is a good way to end up with carbon monoxide poisoning or asphyxiation or, yeah. It can be a very bad scene. So if you’re going to do that, be sure you have a portable carbon dioxide alarm. Just go to Home Depot or wherever, pick up another one of the nine volt battery powered smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and keep that in whatever space you’re running that portable heater. It doesn’t matter if you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide heaters or detectors throughout the house. Those aren’t going to help you if you have sealed yourself off from those alarms so that you can try to keep the space warm.

**Brooke ** 26:41
Makes sense.

**Colin ** 27:22
And actually, my recommendation, even more than one of the small portable heaters, is a kerosene lamp or propane lamp of some kind. A lot of the old ice fishers for heating their ice fishing huts in the winter just used Coleman lanterns. One of the propane Coleman lanterns will put out almost the same amount of heat as a 1500 watt electric space heater.

**Brooke ** 28:11
Oh wow!

**Colin ** 28:12
They are very, very warm. Now also, it’s still combustion. So you have to be aware of that. And they do get very hot. So you need to have a place to hang it to keep it away from fabric and other things that can catch on fire. But they will make a room surprisingly warm on their own. And then that also gives you light source, which is another thing that you’re going to need if your power is off.

**Brooke ** 28:39
Now, what if—what if it’s a reverse circumstance. You’ve lost power and it’s very warm climate. You’re in, you know, hot temperatures. Are you still trying to stay in one room? What tools do you have to get cold?

**Colin ** 28:55
That is a much more difficult situation. There are some things you can do, but it’s going to require more tools and more planning. If you’ve ever seen the giant black tubes coming out of pit toilets, usually like a national parks, what those are doing is pulling a draft on the underground part of the toilet by using a thermal chimney. That black tube gets hot in the sun and hot air rises, you’re pulling the hot stinky air up from out of your bathroom, and pulling fresh air in. So you can do the exact same thing with a house by having some kind of large black chimney. You can do this out of pipe or even black cardboard if you live in a very dry area. But this is something you’re going to have to know how to build and plan for in advance. It can be done, but it’s probably going to be on—be beyond the scope of what most people can do in an emergency. So really, in the situation where hat is issue, the best thing you can do is stay out of the sun and try to move as little as possible. Outside if you can, like wherever you can get fresh air, any kind of breeze, air movement, is going to keep you cooler than sitting inside.

**Brooke ** 30:24
Yeah. If you know how to make like a swamp cooler kind of thing—let’s say your water, you can still get coolish water coming out and you’ve got—well I guess you need electricity for the fan. Damn.

**Colin ** 30:36
You can use the swamp cooler, you can build a passive swamp cooler. Again, it relies on that thermal chimney to create the draft. But those do work, assuming that you’re in an area that is dry enough that you have evaporation. I live in western Pennsylvania, and usually in the summer if it’s hot enough to need air conditioning, it’s also about 95% humidity and swamp coolers do not work.

**Brooke ** 31:02
And I think they can even be dangerous, right? Making it—because they can make it too humid—unsafely humid?

**Colin ** 31:09
Yes.

**Brooke ** 31:12
Sorry, you’re getting outside your realm.

**Colin ** 31:17
No, no. So the swamp cooler, you know, for listeners who are not aware of what this is, it’s a—basically the same thing as a wet rag that the moisture on the—in the cooler evaporates and evaporation requires energy. So you’re pulling heat out of the air and using that to evaporate water. And what you end up with is air that is cooler than it was before, but also more humid. So obviously, before that can work, you need to have air that is dry enough that it can absorb some amount of moisture. If you already have close to as much moisture in the air as it can possibly handle, you’re not going to change the temperature significantly by evaporation.

**Brooke ** 32:03
Okay. Make sense. All right, so we we’ve gotten ourselves down to one room, we figured out a way to heat ourselves, and we’re hunkered in and it’s gonna be a few days that we’re in this situation. So what now and what next?

**Colin ** 32:22
So now you have to think about, you know, the basics of survival. You need food and water. Food, hopefully you have some stores around. If not, you know, at least in the United States, getting food is not that difficult most of the time, it may not be good. But you’re probably not going to starve if you’re in your house.

**Brooke ** 32:52
Even if you’re iced in and can’t—can’t literally get out of your house, you probably have something in your pantry, it might not be what you want to eat, but there is calories available.

**Colin ** 33:02
Yeah. You have calories. They’re maybe not the best calories, but their calories. Water is trickier. Hopefully, you have at least a little bit of a stockpile, but not always. And if you have lost your water supply, or if there is damage to the mains—like again, using Texas as an example. Once your water mains freeze and the pressure in those pipes drop, you start having issues with groundwater making its way into the water mains, and that results in a boil order. So it’s entirely possible to be in a situation where your taps still work, water comes out, but you can’t drink it. And now you’re faced with a problem of, like, how do you make this water supply drinkable again? And if you have a small water filter like the Sawyer Mini, it’s popular with a lot of backpackers, a LifeStraw, anything like that, those are great. If you don’t have one of those, the reason it’s called a boil order is because you can always boil the water. Again, assuming that you have a heat source with which you can get the water hot. If you have a gas stove, most of the time natural gas is not disrupted by natural disasters with the exception of earthquakes. But if you’re relying on electricity, if you’re cooking like a lot of people do and you lose electricity, now you’re kind of out of luck. So you need to have some kind of way of boiling water. If you have that Coleman lantern or a kerosene lantern, a lot of those get hot enough that you actually can boil water in a small container over one of those lanterns. It’s not ideal. My recommendation is actually just one of the old school Coleman propane two burner backpacking stoves. They are absolute workhorses, indestructible. My brother just inherited the one of my parents, which I think is pushing 50 years old and still works just fine. You cannot kill those things, and you can pick one up off eBay for somewhere between $20 and $50, depending on what kind of condition it’s in. And the other great thing about propane is that it has an indefinite shelf life. So if you have one of those stoves sitting around and you have one of the green one pound cylinders of propane, that you inherited from your grandparents, plug that in. It doesn’t matter if it is twice as old as you are, it’s still going to work just fine. Same is not true of gasoline and a lot of the other fuels. They’re hard to store, they smell, they have other issues. But propane is fantastic. So you can buy it, you can stash in your basement, you can forget about it, and it’ll be there when you need it.

**Brooke ** 36:01
Now a complicating factor to be aware of ahead of time, of course, is that you can have a big propane tank like you might use for your barbecue, and then you can have those little green ones. And they’re not—they don’t necessarily all hook up into the same canisters, you know, the camp stoves versus barbecues, right, so you might not have the right size of—like if you’re—if you have a camp stove and you’re like, I can hook my barbecue propane tank up to it, that’s not going to work with what you normally have, right?

**Colin ** 36:31
With what you normally have. There are adaptor hoses that are designed to do exactly that. And a lot of times if you have outdoor events, they will use those two burner stoves but they will hook them up to the barbecue tanks because the little one pound cylinders get expensive if you’re relying on those for a large amount of propane. You also can’t refill them like you can with a barbecue tanks.

**Brooke ** 36:54
Right. So it’s so frustrating.

**Colin ** 36:55
Yeah. So if you have a bar—if you have a barbecue grill already, then, you know, there’s your heat source. You have to go outside to use it, but you can put a pot of water on your barbeque grill and bring it to a boil, it’ll work just fine. Or if you have one of the little two burner backpacking/camping stoves, they make the hoses to go from the barbecue tank to that kind of stove. And now you can bring your propane tank inside as you need. Again, under normal circumstances don’t do this. But in a disaster you can. And run the propane inside.

**Brooke ** 37:35
Check your venting, check your C02 levels…

**Colin ** 37:38
Again, there’s a very good reason that they tell you not to do this. And if you’re cooking inside with a stove that has not been designed to do this, you need to have your fire extinguisher, you need to have your carbon monoxide alarm, and as soon as you’re done with it, get that fuel back out of the house, because obviously propane is flammable.

**Brooke ** 38:00
Alright, so we’ve got a way to get some water, hopefully, and to warm up some food or cook some food if we need to. So we’ve got those basic elements that we can survive and subsist for however long we’re gonna be stuck in this compromised building in this disaster.

**Colin ** 38:18
Yeah, so the next part is, don’t get sick. This means how to have a way to keep yourself clean. [Everyone dissolves into a fit of giggles] Hot tip! Don’t get sick. Life is better when you’re not sick.

**Brooke ** 38:21
[Laughing] Yes.

**Colin ** 38:40
Keeping up with sanitation when you don’t have running water, especially when you don’t have hot running water, is hard. If you don’t have water, you also probably don’t have a functioning toilet anymore. And that’s going to be a problem sooner than—real quick. Takes about 24 hours, possibly less, and suddenly it’s unpleasant. So have a way of dealing with all that when you don’t have running water. The easiest solution is a five gallon bucket and something for urine. You want to try to keep those things separate because you’re in, you know, you can take it outside, you can dump it in the grass, it’ll be fine. The same is not true of feces. You need to at the very least compost that. You can get fancy composting toilets that will set you back several thousand dollars.

**Brooke ** 39:41
Yeah

**Colin ** 39:42
They worked really well. They have fans and tumblers and everything else. But for the van that I use for camping, my solution is a five gallon bucket with a gasketed lid and plastic bag full of chopped straw, and it works just fine. It doesn’t smell that great when you open it. But honestly, it’s not terrible. As long as you keep the feces covered with a layer of either chopped straw or peat moss or something else that will absorb all the excess nitrogen is really what you’re after. You’re fine.

**Brooke ** 40:21
A brief segue as we talk to Colin’s husband/wife/romantic partner. How do they feel about the shit bucket?

**Colin ** 40:30
Not a fan. On the other hand, given a choice between the shit bucket, and going outside, when it’s pouring down rain in the middle of the winter, and we’re camping? [Laughing] The bucket is better. It’s not ideal, but when you need it, you’re really glad that you have it. And it’s something that you can keep around, it’ll set—it’ll cost you maybe $10, and throw it in the basement. Hopefully you never need it. But if you do, it’s there, and it will get you out of a bad situation. And it doesn’t require you to put a whole lot of thought or effort into dealing with it. And then once everything is back online, and you have trash collection, again, if nothing else, seal the bucket up, put it in the trash can, and let the whole thing go to the landfill. Composting it is great, that’s what I do. But if you just don’t want to deal with it, put the entire bucket in the trash.

**Brooke ** 41:28
Or an even poor man’s version of this, you can put a plastic bag in a trash can and put your business in there and then tie up your plastic bag, set it outside. And repeat, if you forgot to get a bucket ahead of time.

**Colin ** 41:43
Yes, that also works just fine. The nice thing about the bucket is then you have a sealed lid so it keeps the odor inside, and you can keep it in the house where it’s warm and dry. Because there’s nothing worse than having to poop in the middle of the night when it is sleeping and five degrees outside.

**Brooke ** 42:03
Yeah, that’s pretty awful.

**Colin ** 42:05
Food waste and trash are two other big things. Trash collection, we take for granted. But if you’ve ever had a couple bags of trash sitting in your garage for a week because you forgot to put them out on trash day, they get real unpleasant real fast. So again, if you’re in a situation where you know you’re going to have to be living with this stuff for an extended period of time, try to keep your food waste separate from your trash that doesn’t stink. So plastic bags, solid stuff that will be dry and relatively odorless in one bag. Food waste, again, can go in a sealed bucket, or in a smaller bag, you can keep further away from the house. If you’re familiar with Bokashi, I think that came up on one of the episodes about composting. It’s not, it’s not composting in and of itself, it’s a bit more like fermenting—kind of like making sauerkraut, but with food scraps—and basically does the same thing. You just get a bucket with a sealed lid, put your food in there, let it sit and it will slowly ferment on its own. And it can take pretty much anything. Even things that normal compost can’t. So it can handle small amounts of meat and protein, cooked food, things like that. We have a bucket of that just under our sink that all the food scraps go into. And it probably gets emptied maybe once every two weeks, so that we don’t have to have any food going into the trash. And yeah, it’s—it’s funny, like I will occasionally go to people’s houses now that are just using trash cans the way people do where everything goes in the trash can. And I walk into the kitchen. I’m like, why am I smelling, like, food waste? Like I smell rotten food. What’s wrong? It’s like oh, right, it’s because you’re putting in the trash can where it sits and rots. So if you can just keep those two things separate. It will make the situation a lot more pleasant. That’s a great tip. And yeah, just, you know, as much as you can, wash your hands and do all the things you are supposed to do. Brush your teeth, floss, things like that nature. Just take care of yourself and try to keep yourself together for as long as you possibly can. The situation will improve if you can just avoid making it worse. Human body is amazingly tough. All you have to do is sit and wait and most situations disaster-wise will improve on their own because the pressure on first response yours and utilities will ease up and things will start to come back online, as long as you can make it through that first critical period.

**Brooke ** 45:08
Okay, do you mind now if we shift to talking about structural triage and things that we do to our actual residences, dwellings, things to look out for and know in disasters, and sort of that aspect of it?

**Colin ** 45:28
Yeah, definitely. Did you have anything in mind in particular, where you wanted to start, or?

**Brooke ** 45:32
Well, we talked about, you know, turning things off, of course. And then closing up holes. There’s lots of other things in the house that can get damaged, in, you know, different scenarios, earthquakes and tornadoes and floods. So I’m curious, like, if there are other structural indicators or things to look for, you know, that, you know, from sort of your construction perspective that, like, oh, that’s a sign of this thing is unstable, that you might not know just as a normal person.

**Colin ** 46:09
Yes, generally when you get into questions of structural stability, like is this house going to fall down? If you have any doubt, the best thing to do is vacate the structure. Because actually looking at structures from an engineering standpoint, and determining when something is safe and when it’s not, is beyond the scope of most people, myself included. I know what structures are supposed to look like and I can tell you when something is damaged, but I can’t necessarily tell you how close it is to falling down. But the big things to look for are just like, do you see cracks in the foundation that weren’t there yesterday?

**Brooke ** 46:54
Okay,

**Colin ** 46:55
You’re probably familiar with, with how your house looks. If you see something that looks unfamiliar. investigate further, as much as you possibly can. This is kind of the best advice that I can give.

**Brooke ** 47:08
Okay, what about things like crack new cracks in the wall? Like, is that is the wall crack itself a sign? Or was that—would that be like, okay, now and go look at the foundation and see.

**Colin ** 47:18
If you’re talking about cracks in interior plaster walls, those are not necessarily an issue by themselves. Because buildings can have a fair amount of flex to them before they fall down. Like you look at the number of houses that have an alarming lean to them and have been standing for two hundred years. Like, structures are remarkably resilient until they’re not.

**Brooke ** 47:45
Okay.

**Colin ** 47:45
But if you have any doubt, the best thing is, get yourself out of the structure.

**Brooke ** 47:50
Okay. I guess I’m also thinking about it from, like, the opposite perspective of something you might see and worry about and think you need to leave, but then actually it’s okay and you could stay. So that’s, you know, like the wall cracks, that might not actually be a big issue if you’ve suddenly had a crack on the wall.

**Colin ** 48:10
Yeah, so the best thing you can do is try to get yourself into part of the house where you have as little as possible above you and as little as possible below you. So if you have a three story house, you don’t necessarily want to be on that second floor for any reason. Because that’s kind of the worst of both worlds, because you could go through the floor or the roof could come down on you. The best thing you can do, again, is get yourself into a small space where the only thing above you is the roof and maybe some insulation, and the only thing below you is concrete slab. Still not a guarantee that you’re safe.

**Brooke ** 48:54
Sure, yeah.

**Colin ** 48:55
But you’re gonna be better off there than in a multistory structure.

**Brooke ** 48:59
Right. Yeah. We talked about how, you know, things might come through the windows or the walls, but as long as you’ve got your three walls in your roof, you’re okay. What if you have four walls and a hole in the roof? Like things come through the roof.

**Colin ** 49:13
Yeah, if you have a damaged roof, the best thing to do is get up on the roof and patch it from the outside. But that’s not always possible. Especially if you have a multistory house and you don’t have an extension ladder that can get you up to the roof, which is true for a lot of people. So then you’re stuck with, how do I deal with this hole in my roof from the inside? Sometimes, assuming you have access to the attic, you can get into the attic and if you have, you know, a gaping hole where say a meteor came through your roof and punched a big hole in it. [Laughing] You can feed things in from the outside and then pull them back down against the roof. So you can build your patch and feed it through and pieces. Reach up from the inside, lay it down on the outside. And it’s not gonna be a perfect seal, but it will keep at least some of the water and weather from getting into the house. Usually when you have that big of a hole, if you can’t patch it from the outside, things are going to end up leaking and you’re gonna be faced with situation where you have to try to catch the water once it comes into the house and get it back outside the house where it belongs. Again, the key for this is a staple gun, and some plastic sheet. So just, if you can hang plastic underneath the area that is leaking, or tarp to catch the drips, and then divert that water to a collection point, whether that is a bucket if it’s a very slow leak, or a improvised funnel if it’s a faster leak. It’s not hard to make a funnel, if you have a garden hose and a two liter bottle, the garden hose thread is close enough to the spread on two liter bottles, that you can literally just screw the bottle onto the garden hose. And if you cut at an angle, cut the bottle at an angle, you can make something that is big enough that you can make a channel in your tarp, they will direct that into your two liter bottle funnel into your garden hose which you can then, you know, run down out of your attic and out of window.

**Brooke ** 51:35
That’s really cool, I might need to do something like that—not for disaster reasons, but just for gardening stuff this summer.

**Colin ** 51:44
The two liter bottle to the hose connection will probably leak a little bit.

**Brooke ** 51:49
Shhhhhh, kill my dreams.

**Colin ** 51:51
Duct tape will fix that. Or if you have any of that self-fusing silicone tape they sell for emergency plumbing repairs, that works too. But honestly, as long as the water that’s flowing through the bottle and into the hose is not under any pressure, the leak is probably going to be slow enough that it’s not gonna be an issue.

**Brooke ** 52:14
So roof damage is not necessarily something to run away from.

**Colin ** 52:19
Roof damage is not the end of the world. It’s bad, especially if you can’t get up on the roof to fix it. But there are things you can do to keep it from totally destroying the house, the first thing to do is just figure out how you’re going to keep the water from getting in. And if you can’t do that, figure out how you’re gonna get the water that’s inside the house, back outside the house.

**Brooke ** 52:44
And is that one of the biggest risks in the in any kind of natural disasters is water damage?

**Colin ** 52:49
Water Damage is the hardest and the most insidious, because once water gets into the house and things get wet, now you have issues of mold to deal with. Once you have mold that can render a structure uninhabitable in a matter of days. As long as things are dry, they can last a very, very long time. But once they get wet, you’re in trouble.

**Brooke ** 53:15
Okay, what about the opposite side? Fire damage. We talked about that a little bit. But you know, let’s say you had a kitchen fire destroyed the kitchen. Is there anything you can do in the aftermath of a fire that’s going to do anything to help you save structures or objects and make the recovery easier?

**Colin ** 53:36
Assuming that the fire was put out with water, you’ve got the same issue.

**Brooke ** 53:41
That’s a really good point! [Laughing] No, I didn’t think about that. That’s a really good point.

**Colin ** 53:45
Dried back out. If you put the fire out yourself, you probably use a dry chemical fire extinguisher. So you have a giant mess to clean up, but it’s not soaking wet. If the Fire Company had to come and put it out with hoses, not only do you have the fire damage, everything you own in that immediate area is now soaking wet and covered with soot and just generally filthy. That was the situation that we had with the friend that I talked about earlier with having the apartment fire, that it was kind of a blessing that it happened in the middle of winter because we were able to just go over there and get everything out of the apartment and throw it in our backyard and it just stayed frozen for a week until we were ready to deal with it.

**Brooke ** 54:32
Ah, right. Because your winters are snowy and icy, not rainy, like here.

**Colin ** 54:35
Yeah, it is generally rainy her. But it just happened to be in the middle of cold snap. So it was in the 20s for the most part, dropping down to single digits for about that entire week. So we just had bags and bags of wet clothing, wet furniture, sitting in the backyard under plastic so they stayed frozen and didn’t grow mold. Because once things are wet, you’re in trouble. So if it’s not frozen, the best thing you can do is get fans on it, keep that air moving, and try to get it dried back out as soon as you can.

**Brooke ** 55:11
That makes sense. I guess I’ve never thought about this, but it makes sense. The fire department, if they come in and they take a host of things, they don’t come back and dry it out for you. Right, you’re left to handle that part on your own.

**Colin ** 55:24
You’ll have to handle that part. And usually, they have broken windows in the process, because that’s how they get the hoses in and that’s how they control the flow of the smoke and the fire through the structure, is making holes in walls. Generally, once you have a fire, you also have other structural damage to deal with.

**Brooke ** 55:43
Yeah. Okay. We’re kind of get down to our last few minutes. I know there’s a lot more that we could talk about and go over with all of this. But I want to make some space here for any other sort of critical things that you really want to talk about, teach and share with this episode.

**Colin ** 56:01
I think we’ve covered most of the critical things. Again, the biggest one is just keep yourself safe and don’t make the situation worse. No matter how bad it seems, take a minute, breathe, look at it, and think. I know, again, other episodes of the podcast, they’ve talked about the, like the threat onion from the military, which is the same basic idea as the layers of safety that they talk about in industrial design. And all these things say step one is your design and your engineering controls that make it safe. So the good analogy for that is things like antilock brakes in the car. You don’t have to do anything for those to work. They’re just there. They don’t require any thought. Seatbelts and airbags are also great. Seatbelts, you have to remember to use them, and they only help—they only help after the accident has already occurred.

**Brooke ** 57:06
Right.

**Colin ** 57:07
A seatbelt does not prevent an accident. So when you’re in a bad situation, look at what you’re about to do, think about the situation, figure out which of those engineering safety controls have gone out the window as a result of the disaster. So you had a fire in the kitchen, you’ve lost your stove, you’re gonna have to rely on your little tiny Coleman backpacking stove. That’s great, it’ll work. But you no longer have that automatic ignition, you’re going to have to use lighter to light the stove. You don’t have the combustion controls to make sure that the flame has a pilot light, that the pilot light turns off when the gas goes out. So you can have the gas from one of their stoves leaking if you fail to turn the valve off all the way when you’re done with it. All these things that are part of normal everyday life that you just don’t think about, no longer work the way they’re supposed to in a disaster. So just look at what you’re doing, and see what you’ve lost, and figure out how you can get that safety back on your own.

**Brooke ** 58:22
Okay, that is really great. And I am wishing we had more time because I just feel like there’s so much more that we could say and get into. But I think this has been a really, really great, you know, just kind of primer and information that would help people get through, you know, the first two or three days after a disaster for sure. So, I really appreciate that you joined us today on the podcast and share this info with us. Is there anything else that you want to plug or promote or share?

**Colin ** 58:56
No, I think that was pretty much it.

**Brooke ** 58:58
Okay, well, thanks again for being here.

**Colin ** 59:00
Thank you very much.

**Brooke ** 59:05
To our listeners. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoy our podcast, please give it a like, drop a comment, or review. Subscribe to us if you haven’t already. These things make the algorithms that rule our world offer our show to more people. This podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You can connect with us on Twitter @tangledwild and also on Instagram. Or check out our website at tangledwilderness.org where you can find our extensive lists of projects and publications. This podcast and much of the work of Strangers is made possible by our Patreon supporters. If you want to become a supporter, check out our Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. They are cool benefits various support tiers on Patreon. For instance, if you support the collective at just $5 a month, then we will mail you a monthly zine. Those contain essays, stories, poems, art, all kinds of great stuff. We’d like to give a specific shout out to some of our most supportive Patreon supporters. Thanks to Aly, Paige, Jenipher, Eric, David, Staro, Patoli, Chris, theo, Kirk, Princess Miranda, Milica, Marm, Catgut, Janice & O’Dell, Dana, Carson, Buck, Lord Harken, Nicole, paparouna, Funder, Perceval, BenBen, Mic Aiah, anonymous, S.J., Trixter, Hunter, Chelsea, Julia, Boise Mutual Aid, and as always, Hoss the dog.

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S1E109 – This Month in the Apocalypse: March, 2024

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Brooke, Margaret, and Inmn talk about the environment, how a Boeing whistle blower died suspiciously, Abbot’s newest attempt to make Texas a mini fief, and remember the lives of 3 teens. They also talk about hope and some nice things that happened for a change.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery. Margaret can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: This Month in the Apocalypse: March 2024

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello and welcome to Cool People Who Did Cool Stuff your podcast. . . I did the wrong. . . Did I do the wrong one? Should we keep it?

**Brooke ** 00:23
[All laughing] I love you so much.

**Margaret ** 00:26
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, the other podcast that I’m one of the three hosts of. I’m Margaret killjoy, and with me is

**Brooke ** 00:37
Brooke. Hi. 

**Inmn ** 00:38
And Inmn, who can’t tell if this was a bit or not,

**Margaret ** 00:41
Let’s pretend it was a bit. [Sarcastically] I have functional memory. I’m not on podcast recording number five for the week. I don’t know what you’re talking about. And this is Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. And welcome back. We’ve been on a break because we were all a little burned out and we wanted to catch up because we didn’t want to. . . We thought through our options, we could either have gone off a weekly schedule, but we’re like, "Well, we like having a weekly schedule." So we took a break. And I don’t remember whether we told you about that break, but it’s over. Don’t worry. It’ll never. . . It’ll totally happen again. And whatever, you like watching TV shows that have season breaks, you can. . . I’m sure you all figured it out. Anyway, it’s This Month in the Apocalypse, only this time, we’re going to be a little bit messy because it’s been a little bit. So it’s like this month and a half in the apocalypse. So you get an extra. It’s like 1.5 as much apocalypse as usual. Y’all are so lucky. But first, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcast and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. 

**Brooke ** 01:14
Okay, so it just occurred to me that if we’re doing half of March, we’re at some point going to have to do half of March. So we’re either going to have to have half a month in Apocalypse or do half of March and April, and then there’ll be another month and a half. So maybe we should call this 45 Days in the Apocalypse? I’m just saying.

**Margaret ** 02:52
I’ll just continue to messily not exactly keep track of "Oh, that happened on this date instead of this state, so it can’t come in." But I’m open to it. I can be convinced. So I want to talk about some stuff. One of the things I want to talk about is how I would never say Boeing assassinated a man. But I would say that everyone who pays attention to the following news story comes to the inevitable conclusion that the private company Boeing, which manufactures an awful lot of the planes in this country, has been having a lot of problems lately. A lot of people think they assassinated a man. There was a man named John Barnett. He was a Boeing whistleblower and he was found dead on March 10th. And the news can’t say, quote, "he was assassinated." So instead, they’re dancing around it, doing things like putting "self-inflicted," in quotes, when they talk about the gunshot wounds that this man had to his head. I honestly. . . like this one, it’s like, it’s like one of those things where it didn’t surprise me, but it still surprised me. I don’t know how to describe this. It’s a very common feeling these days were something absolutely horrible happens, where you’re like, "Oh, of course that happened." But you’re still a little bit like, "I can’t believe that happened." John Barnett was a quality control manager at a Boeing plant in South Carolina. He worked on the 787 Dreamliners. And he had been pretty upset about a lot of the quality control that was going on. There’s been a lot of conversation recently about Boeing and its lack of quality control, because their planes are literally falling apart in the air. And of course, there were two crashes a couple years ago that killed hundreds of people, that had to do with some faulty technology that caused the planes to go into nosedives that the pilots couldn’t correct.

**Brooke ** 04:52
And John Oliver just did a longer piece on Boeing too. So that brought it out in conversations.

**Margaret ** 04:57
Yeah, well, and then the main thing that brought it up I think is that in the US it actually happens to US people. So people noticed. An airplane had the plug in the side of the plane blow out. And it was before it had gotten up to cruising altitude and it would have gone a lot worse if it had happened a little bit later. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured and the plane was able to land. And from there, it’s just been this cascading thing. I really recommend John Oliver’s The Last Week Tonight about Boeing and what’s been going on with the planes. Anyway, John Barnett, quality control manager, and he was in Charleston to give a deposition against Boeing because he was suing them for retaliation because of his whistleblowing, and then they were like, "Hey, how come he didn’t show up in court?" And so they went to his hotel and they found him dead in his pickup truck, having a quote unquote, "self-inflicted" gunshot wound. He was 62 years old. And rest in peace. And I have yet to meet anyone who has heard this news and not been like, "Yep, Boeing killed a man."

**Brooke ** 06:15
Sure seems like it. 

**Inmn ** 06:16
That’s what reasonable people would come to the conclusion of because it’s what’s happened in the past.

**Margaret ** 06:27
And, you know, I mean, there’s also. . . Sure there’s technically a version of the world where he was like, "I’m just so sad about. . ." No, he was. . .whatever. Anyway, Okay, so then I’m gonna talk about environmental news. 

**Brooke ** 06:42
Do that. 

**Margaret ** 06:44
Don’t worry, it’s worse. 

**Inmn ** 06:46
Oh, no. 

**Margaret ** 06:48
So let’s see. This was the warmest February in Earth’s history. This is the ninth month in a row that we have been in the warmest of this following month on record. The time we beat this time, for February warmest, was 2016 was the previous warmest month of February in history. And charts are literally being recalibrated to show the excessive heat. If you look at a lot of these charts, the lines from this year don’t even touch previous years, you know? Next, there’s the warmest winter on record in the United States. This month, the average global sea surface temperature was the highest it’s ever been in the recorded history of the Earth for any month at all. The average global sea surface temperature was 69.96 degrees Fahrenheit. And we’re very likely to have a very active hurricane season this year in the Atlantic because of the fact that. . . We actually might not have a hotter year this year than last year because the–I get El Nino and La Nina mixed up–but overall we’ve been–I’m pretty sure it’s like El Nino is the thing we’ve been in and it’s the thing that makes it warmer and La Nina cools things down a little bit. And so that’s like, cool, right? We’re like, "Oh, all right, we could definitely use some cooling things down a little bit." However, people have guessed. . . "Guessed" is the wrong word. Scientists who study this shit have looked and been like–you know, or climatologists have looked–and been like "Well, this slight cooling coming at this particular way that all this heat is working we’re very likely to have a very active hurricane season."

**Brooke ** 08:27
Do you know what that starts? 

**Brooke ** 08:31
I don’t live in a hurricane zone, so I. . . Like I know it’s always summer and early fall that it’s crazy, active , busy and the worst of it, but I feel like I don’t know when that season quote unquote, "starts."

**Margaret ** 08:31
No, I don’t. 

**Margaret ** 08:43
I can’t remember that I don’t live in that area anymore. But speaking of seasons not being what they used to be, there was a study that showed that–it’s not just in your head–spring is indeed on average 13 days earlier in the United States than it was in 1981 There’s a chart up you can look at–the Washington Post actually has a pretty good article about it–that shows, it’s kind of a U shape of the country, is having way earlier springs, whereas some parts of the the Upper Midwest are a little bit later springs than usual, although not this year. But–and especially on mountain ranges–Spring is remarkably earlier, which made sense as I was walking my dog today in the middle of March and looking at the flowers blooming and thinking to myself, "Ah, yes, April showers will bring those flowers to me in May." [sardonic]

**Inmn ** 09:42
It’s early.

**Margaret ** 09:43
Yeah, so that’s not just in your head. It’s a thing that’s happening. Texas saw an incredibly destructive wildfire in the past month or so. It’s the most destructive in Texas history, is the Smoke House Creek Fire. It burned more than a million In acres. And Texas is primed for more fires. That, actually, that fire came earlier than the usual fire season, which is March and April. In the panhandle of Texas there’s a lot of basically dry grasses. And there’s specifically ways where it’s like when it comes out of freezing, it is more primed for these fires–I think the way that the grass breaks or something in the freezing. And so that is part of why the. . . You know, obviously, it’s like things are getting warmer on average, but we’re also seeing all these crazy weird cold spikes, you know? And this fire killed at least 3600 animals. I believe that it means cows in this case, and the fire was started by power lines. However, it’s unlikely to affect your beef prices this year, so don’t worry. However, the meat that you will have trouble getting this year for a reasonable price is crawfish. The crawfish population is dropping rapidly in Louisiana, and it’s fucking up the harvest like wildly. I actually care more about the ecosystem than the harvest of crawfish, personally. But I also recognize the importance of crawfish to traditional dishes and things like that. And, you know, in Louisiana, a combination of drought heat and saltwater intrusion up the Mississippi followed by a hard freeze has fucked up the harvest enormously. It is an estimated $140 million in losses. And crawfish meat has gone from $3-5 a pound to $10-12 a pound. And a critically endangered fish called the Small-tooth Sawfish has been washing up dead in Florida. And it’s funny because it’s like 20 or 30 of them have washed up, but this is a very endangered fish. So when one of them shows up, it’s a big deal. And scientists are trying to figure it out. And they’re ruling out all of these different, you know, bacterial causes. But the sort of fish going crazy and then dying is a thing that is happening. We’ve talked about more on the show before. I think Inmn talked about it. Almost positive environmental news, there is a plan in place from the Biden administration to limit drilling and cattle grazing on a fuck ton of BLM land. And as part of a plan to save the Greater Sage Grouse, adding restrictions to 67 million acres on drilling, adding drilling restrictions to about 67 million acres across 10 states. And this seems really good. And it is really good. It is. . . What actually happened, Obama passed a law limiting a bunch of drilling, and then Trump was like, "Nah, we don’t need that. Drill, baby, drill." That’s a slogan from the 80s. And so that got reversed. So Biden is like, "Well, what if I half reversed it?"

**Brooke ** 12:52
So reinstating some of it? 

**Margaret ** 12:54
Yeah, bringing back some of it.  It’s not as strong of a bill as the Biden [meant to say Obama] administration did, which sort of shows the like, constant rightward drift of American politics.

**Brooke ** 13:07
As soon as you said that the Biden administration had passed a bill, I was like, there’s a caveat coming into this. I was also like, I wonder if someone else is the President next, are they just going to undo the whole thing?

**Margaret ** 13:20
Well, considering the next president will almost certainly be Trump. I continue to hold by my theory that the next President will be Donald Trump unless Donald Trump or Biden dies a natural death. If any of them die–well, and obviously if Trump dies an unnatural death, he won’t be the next either–but if Biden dies an unnatural death then Trump is the next president, and if. . .anyway. Whereas if anyone else runs–this is my theory. Okay. Anyway, so it’s sort of actually positive. . . Well, I guess we’re gonna save the positive stuff for the end. I’ll save this positive thing for the end. That’s my environmental news. And the one other thing that I wanted to talk about before I pass it off, is I want to just sort of. . . I suspect that a lot of people already have been following what happened when an anarchist and active duty service personnel person named Aaron Bushnell killed himself by setting himself on fire while saying, "Free Palestine." I think that’s something that people are already aware of. And so I don’t want to go into it too much. But I just feel like that is a thing that needs to be on our mind that happened on February 25th this year, and, I don’t know, "Never let them say that you curse the darkness instead of lighting a candle," Aaron Bushnell. Inmn, what do you got?

**Inmn ** 14:51
Only happy things.

**Margaret ** 14:55
You’re lying.

**Inmn ** 14:56
I’m lying. You know, it’s like, to kind of put it in perspective. . . I mean, this is a perspective that we and I’m sure all our listeners already have, about just the severity of what is happening in Gaza. And this is not a new thing, but it is a thing that is taking particular note right now in Gaza, we had something that people are calling the Flour Massacre in the last like month or two. And the Flour Massacre occurred when an aid convoy was announced in Gaza City. And so you know, thousands of people showed up to receive food, receive aid, and Israeli forces used it as an opportunity to kill 118 people. Literally just shot into the crowd as people were scrambling to get flour, bread, you know, basic stuff to stay alive. And these are people who have been experiencing very long periods of malnutrition– because Israel cut off most aid from coming into Gaza–and these are super basic things that are keeping people alive. Since then, there have been another string like this. Like this big one happened and then it’s been a repeated tactic by Israel over the last month or two is attacking aid convoys, or using aid convoys as a way to gather and then attack a lot of people all at once, people who think that they’re showing up to receive food and instead are getting killed. I think of like, right now, they’re like. . . A couple days ago, there was another instance of this where like 20 people were killed, who had shown up to a supply convoy. And like another 150 or so were injured. And to make things worse, I have a story kind of about–well, it’s three. It’s three stories. It’s three very different but similar stories about three teens who died in the last month or so. And the first one is connected to Palestine as well. We have Rami Al Halhouli, who was a 12 year old Palestinian boy who was killed by Israeli border guards in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem on the third night of Ramadan. Rami was out in the street playing with fireworks with his friends. And they were just shooting fireworks up in the sky and a Israeli border guard–whatever the fuck they’re calling them–shot Rami three or four times. And the way that–one of the disturbing things about this is the way that it’s being talked about in some media sources–and especially by Israel–is that if you read the Israeli reports, you might imagine a night of rioting, you might imagine a wall of people encroaching upon the border guards–whatever they’re called–and you might imagine people throwing Molotov cocktails at lines of soldiers. And you might imagine Rami standing out in front of them shooting a bottle rocket at border guards. This is the media narrative that Israel, and you know, consistently conservative news sources, want people to believe. In actuality, there’s video footage leading up to Rami getting shot and it shows like three or four kids playing in a vacant street and next to them, you see, like 100 feet away or something, you see the giant border wall and you see watch towers in the distance. You see a line of parked cars and you see no people in sight. And that is the scene that we have for Rami and his friends playing with fireworks on the third night of Ramadan, and Israeli forces just rolling up and shooting them for playing with fireworks. And so they’re. . . It’s like. . . They’re, you know, there’s all these, there’s all this media narrative build of "There were riots. There were disturbances–" as they’re being called. But there’s no, there’s no proof of any of that happening. And there’s literal video footage showing a few kids playing on a secluded street with fireworks. One of the security Prime Ministers of Israel was then. . . People were following him around being like, "Yeah, what the fuck? Like, what happened?" And he’s. . . there’s all this video footage of him congratulating the soldiers who shot Rami. And he then like, eventually, he eventually makes a statement, where he condemns the child as a terrorist and praises his soldiers who he’s calling warriors for killing a "terrorist." Basically being like, you know, calling for the extermination of an entire people based on this myth of terrorism. And it’s just, it’s just supremely fucked up. I had a quote prepared for something that this Prime Minister–whose name I can’t remember or find and I truly hope is lost to time, and that no one remembers him ever. And I’m not gonna say it because it’s just, it’s just too fucked up. And we can all kind of imagine what it sounds like. But it reminded me of a similar story from the Southwest United States where in 2012, Lonnie Swartz, a border patrol agent shot Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who Swartz said threw a rock at him through the border wall. Jose was on the Nogales, Mexico side of the border wall and was just throwing rocks at the like 60 foot wall, you know, and Lonnie Swartz shot at him 30 times through the wall. Swartz was later acquitted of all charges and Jose’s family was blocked from suing him.

**Margaret ** 22:56
It’s pretty cool that you can just kill people in other countries.

**Inmn ** 23:00
Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty. . . I can’t even make this joke.

**Margaret ** 23:08
Okay.

**Inmn ** 23:08
So yeah, that is a story of one teen who was killed for playing with fireworks. Next, we’re moving back to the United States and I want to talk about Ryan Gainer. Ryan Gainer was a 15 year old black, autistic teen living in Apple Valley California. And, Ryan–this is the report that I’ve read–Ryan was having a dispute with his family that turned destructive and. . . Because people experiencing different realities, different needs, were having a destructive outburst and a family member called 911 for help because they didn’t know what to do for someone having this experience of a very–like a fairly mild thing turning into a destructive outburst. And police, instead of psychiatric services or something, showed up and within 30 seconds of the police showing up, they had shot Ryan three times. The officers say that Ryan, when they found Ryan, Ryan was wielding a garden hoe and the officer ran from him and shot him while running from him or something. And family members who, you know, were immediately, they were like, "Oh my God, wait, you shot my kid?" had maybe been expecting officers to come and–or you know anyone–to come and just like help them calm their son down. And instead the police shot him within 30 seconds of being there.

**Brooke ** 25:20
This is why we don’t call the cops. This, among other reasons, but it’s a good. . . It’s not good reminder. It’s a terrible reminder.

**Inmn ** 25:31
Yeah, it is a grim, grim reminder that any one who believes that calling 911 will help someone, especially people experiencing either like a break in reality or just having different communication needs,  the police will not help you. And they will most likely harm your loved one. And this is not me throwing any kind of blame on Ryan’s family. Yeah, but it is a grim reminder. The last person that I want to talk about is Nex Benedict.

**Brooke ** 26:20
This one hits real hard.

**Inmn ** 26:22
Yeah, it’s a hard one. Nex Benedict was a 16 year old nonbinary Choctaw teen living in Owasso, Oklahoma. Nex loved nature, drawing, reading, and inventing new recipes. On February 17th, Nex was involved in a fight at school in a bathroom and Nex was very badly beaten up by three older teens. And, so much so, that Nex had like, you know, raccoon eyes. Meaning like visible contusions around the eyes from head trauma, from having like–I’m actually not going to describe it. And Nex, I believe, went to the hospital after that and then the next day, Nex collapsed at home and was brought to the hospital and pronounced dead. And there’s kind of these two waves of media around this. One was right when Nex died, and one was just within the last few days when a medical examiner ruled Nex’s death as a suicide because of a like blood toxicology report. And it’s like, the way that the media is kind of spinning this is like, "Oh, Nex. . ." Like, people are exacerbating what happened, like "Nex wasn’t beaten to death. Nex. . ." 

**Margaret ** 28:10
Was just beaten into suicide. 

**Inmn ** 28:12
Was just beaten into suicide. 

**Margaret ** 28:14
That’s totally different and better, somehow. [sarcastically] 

**Inmn ** 28:17
Yeah. And that’s a lot of the media going around is like it’s trying to absolve blame from the people who bullied and beat Nex up so badly that they killed themself. Or, they took a lot of drugs and either meaning to or not, died as a result.

**Brooke ** 28:47
And the lack of care and support. It was after Nex went home and talked to the family that the family took Nex to the hospital. The administration, the school teachers, counselors, looked at what happened and didn’t call in medical professionals to help at the school.

**Inmn ** 29:10
Yeah. And it kind of raises this point of like you know, suicide in the queer community that if people are living in such like desperate and violent measures that people are driven to self harm or driven to like any of these things, whether intentional or non intentional death, like that is the fault of society. And yeah, if you bully someone so badly, that they self harm and die as a result, you killed that person.

**Brooke ** 29:51
Yeah. And I don’t know why I found this particular detail so disturbing, but I read that it was three teenage girls that had beat Nex in the bathroom. And I don’t know why the fact that it was girls that, you know, caused this that was so. . .It was just like an extra layer for me. You know? Like, I guess I did not expect, but when you talk about bullies and physical violence–maybe it’s just from my own childhood or life experience–you expect that to come more from men, boys. Like they’re the ones trained to have more physical altercations. So the fact that it was three girls was just, I don’t know, it’s extra weird to me.

**Inmn ** 30:43
Yeah, this one hit especially hard for me and just being someone who was like, you know. . .Like, I didn’t know I was queer when I was a teen, but it seems pretty obvious now. And like the things that I was heavily bullied for were things that, looking back, I’m like, "Oh, yes, I was bullied because I was queer. Like, this is pretty, pretty obvious to me." And it’s like, the amount of stress that you can experience from like, the daily reminder and like daily fear of being bullied is horrifying. 

**Brooke ** 31:23
And yeah, well, you know, there’s someone else out there who’s a real big bully and has a lot of power. . . 

**Inmn ** 31:31
Before we segue, I just want to wrap this into like, that these are, these are three very different and very similar stories at the same time of teens who were killed for being Palestinian, for being autistic, for being queer. And like, they all happened in the same month. And I don’t know. I think. . . Obviously, these are systemic problems and systemic and individual and personal problems in our society of like people, not knowing how to. . . not knowing how to and being aggressive towards these identities. And I don’t know. That’s just bad. And some more bad things. So, I’ve been talking on the show for a little bit now about how Abbott has kind of turned Texas into like a little mini fief via these like. . . like testing of power with the power of the Texas governor and the power of the federal government. And in the newest series of that, we have Texas, SB4. Texas SB4 is a law that was passed last year, which would allow Texas law enforcement to detain, arrest, and prosecute suspected migrants. And this is in. . . so if this seems like what normally happens, the difference between this and what normally happens is that Border Patrol is the agency that arrests people. And this would allow any Texas law enforcement to detain suspected migrants, arrest them, and prosecute them under Texas law, not under federal law.

**Inmn ** 33:15
This is like, you know, you can stop every brown person and check their papers law, right? 

**Inmn ** 33:47
Yeah. Or, sort of. Yeah,

**Margaret ** 33:51
Well the, "suspected migrant" I assumed, made it specifically around some racial indicators.

**Inmn ** 33:57
Yes, yes. Yes. Yeah. Yeah, it’s that one. And the sentences that people could have from it, for the first time, it would be a misdemeanor, and you could get six months. And for repeated prosecutions, it would be a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years. And this is what’s interesting is like, this is the exact same sentence sentencing procedure for Operation Streamline, which is the court that does this at a federal level. So it’s like, it is the same sentencing that already exists. This would just grant Texas the power to do it as a State rather than at a federal level. And it is specifically aimed at circumventing asylum procedure. Yeah, so that people who are presenting for asylum can just be arrested by Texas law enforcement and prosecuted for illegal entry instead of going into asylum proceedings, and that is one of the bigger deals about this bill. And it is a bill that passed, but the Supreme Court has put a pause on it. And that pause has been recently increased until like March 18th, or something. But it seems like the Supreme Court is probably going to shut this law down.

**Margaret ** 35:28
You all listeners know, and we don’t know.

**Inmn ** 35:32
Yeah, yeah. And another legislation aimed at migrants and people seeking asylum, the Castle Doctrine in Arizona is trying to be expanded. And this is around like, you know, home defense with HB 2843. And this bill would expand the Castle Doctrine to not only include the use of lethal force to protect your home–someone from trying to break into your home–but for merely trespassing on the land that you own.

**Margaret ** 36:13
Oh, interesting. Okay. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 36:16
It doesn’t suspend any need for there to be the presentation of fear of your life, you know. It just kind of expands the area. And it’s like, caused this thing, which I think is really indicative of politics right now, which is politicians bickering with each other over like, I don’t know how to say it, like schoolyard antics, where, the Republicans are like, "Democrats are blowing this out of proportion. And they’re spreading misinformation that this law means that anyone can just shoot anyone for trespassing on their land. And that’s going to get…that’s going to get good people prosecuted for murder, because Democrats are spreading misinformation about the harm of this bill." 

**Margaret ** 37:10
Oh, okay, because they’re like. . . I have a feeling that no good person will shoot someone just for being on their property. I have to admit that like, I mean, I’m a gun rights supporter, right? And, overall, like the concept of Castle Doctrine, I’m not inherently opposed to Stand Your Ground laws and all those things. Like, obviously, they’re used, like every law, in horrible, racist and classist ways. But I am like, you know, if someone…if I’m out walking my dog on my property, and someone’s like. . . Well, I guess like, it’s so weird, right? Because then it’s like, well, what’s the difference? Because if I’m walking my dog anywhere, and someone pulls a gun on me and tries to kill me, I’m allowed to shoot, unless it’s his property or something, I guess. I am allowed to defend myself, right, from the threat of lethal force. And like, I guess it’s like. . .No, it’s just interesting. Because people shouldn’t be able to shoot people just for being on their property. And same as you shouldn’t be able to shoot someone just for taking your TV. But there’s also like…it’s fairly understandable that someone breaking into your house, in the middle of the night, can be perceived as a threat to your life. To me, the problem here is not the gun rights of the house owner. To me, the problem is the systemic poverty that has led someone to a life of stealing TVs, you know, and I don’t know, I need to learn more about this one. And I’m sure it’s being used in horrible ways and stuff, but. . . I don’t know.

**Inmn ** 38:48
Yeah. Because it’s like, it’s just an expansion of protecting people who are defending themselves, you know, right? And it’s like, in the goodest sense, in the goodest situation, it protects people. But the intent that it’s being crafted for, is to provide more protection for ranchers and farmers to shoot migrants for trespassing on their property.

**Margaret ** 39:20
Yeah, yeah, I see what you’re seeing.

**Inmn ** 39:22
That is the intent with which the bill is being explored.

**Margaret ** 39:26
No, I believe you. Yeah, that makes sense.

**Inmn ** 39:30
Yeah. That’s…that’s all I’ve got.

**Margaret ** 39:36
Well, that means it’s time for good news. Good news with Brooke

**Brooke ** 39:43
Are you two ready for some good news? Ready to cleanse our palates and feel joy again?

**Margaret ** 39:49
I’m sure I’ll come up with some way where the good news is not actually all that good. 

**Brooke ** 39:53
Whatever, you’re our Pollyanna. Madam positivity. Margaret, we look to you for hope.

**Margaret ** 40:04
Yeah. Okay, what do you got?

**Brooke ** 40:06
Alright, good things that have happened. Okay, so in February, the country of Greece legalized same sex marriage,

**Margaret ** 40:17
And they invented democracy. [Sarcastically]

**Brooke ** 40:20
That’s right. By a pretty good margin as well, much more than two thirds majority. So that’s cool. That’s wonderful. And then, kind of related, although, wow, maybe it’s not, but it’s like related in my mind, because, you know, leftist stuff. France became the first country in the world to put abortion rights into its constitution.

**Margaret ** 40:52
Okay, so they probably did it because they looked over across the ocean, and we’re like, "Oh, God, we should probably enshrine this." 

**Brooke ** 41:04
Right, which it’s been legal in the country since the 70s. But they, you know, putting it into their constitution is the thing, but yeah, first, and I mean, you know, France has written and rewritten their constitution more than once.

**Margaret ** 41:20
They’re pretty prone to revolution, traditionally,

**Brooke ** 41:23
Right? And like, willing to fucking edit the Constitution, like "What we can do that?"

**Inmn ** 41:29
Wait, you can decide that something wasn’t a great idea and then change it? You’re not beholden to things that happened. . . 

**Margaret ** 41:37
I hate defending the US legal system, but we have amendments. We have a system for this. It’s happened. How dare you put me in a position of defending the US government.

**Brooke ** 41:55
But we act as a society like it doesn’t happen. Like that’s what we do.

**Margaret ** 41:59
It’s true. And there’s that word like necrocracy, like ruled by the dead. And, and what’s funny is you’re like, "Ah, ha, ha, that’s like a fantasy thing." We’re a necrocracy, like, we’re ruled by laws made by dead people every single day. The Constitution was written by people who have been dead for a very long time.

**Brooke ** 42:22
Okay, I see you trying to ruin this good news, but you’re not going to do it, Margaret. No, no.

**Margaret ** 42:29
I have nothing negative to say about them enshrining abortion in their constitution. Great.

**Brooke ** 42:34
That’s great. So all the rest of the world, let’s go ahead and follow suit there. Thanks, as a woman and a queer. Good news coming out of Europe. Another bill that France is working on passed half of its legislative body, and they’re working on trying to curb fast fashion. Which I don’t know if y’all are familiar with fast fashion. Right. So yeah, you know, basically, that’s what it sounds like. It’s very wasteful and polluting. And the slightly sad part about it is that France is looking at doing this, so working on it, because they want to protect their high fashion industries from the influences of the fast fashion world. But as a fashion leader, the choices that they’re making here are, you know, have impacts on the fashion world in general. And it’s, you know, it’s an important statement to make too, and is ultimately good for the environment. If they can move that forward and slow that trend. That’s good. Yeah. So always look on. . . [singing]

**Margaret ** 43:46
No, so that is actually the perfect song to sing. And that’s because that song is most famously sung by people who have nails through their hands attached to boards of wood and are going to die. At the end of the Life of Brian, when they’re all being crucified, they sing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." This is not a visual medium, but the face that Inmn is making right now is truly for the history books.

**Inmn ** 44:13
I’ve never seen Life of Brian so I was like, "What the fuck are they talking about?"

**Margaret ** 44:19
Yeah, like one of the other crucified people is like, you know, "Just got to kind of think about it, just think about different ways," which is really just cognitive behavioral therapy in a nutshell, you know?

**Brooke ** 44:29
Find that YouTube clip of that. It’ll be the really highest bright side at the end of this episode.

**Margaret ** 44:37
Alright, anything else?

**Brooke ** 44:39
Yeah. Two more happy things in the world.

**Margaret ** 44:42
And then I got something to stick on at the end too. 

**Brooke ** 44:44
Yeah, you do. Okay, Japan has a program for child care support that has existed for a while and prioritizes, currently, the children of working parents, but starting in April, they’re expanding that program to a large portion of the country for childcare access for all, basically, kids that are between six months and two years having free childcare options available. It’s limited in the number of hours that people can get with free childcare. But it is open to working and non-working parents. And the long term goal is to, over the next couple of years, actually roll that out to the whole country. And long term, also expand the number of hours that people can access that. So as a parent who formerly had a small child and knows what a nightmare child care is, I am very happy to hear that they’re working on this. Thank you. Thank you, Japan for that program and for where you’re going with it. And in broader news, just an overall fun note about millennial parents, specifically dads, millennial dads doing a better job than previous generations, in many ways, like changing more diapers than ever before, taking more paternity leave. . . 

**Margaret ** 46:13
Doing the dishes without being explicitly asked to. That’s a really major one, right?

**Brooke ** 46:19
I don’t know about that. I was reading about parenting, but hey, that’s also…that’s great. That’s wonderful. And of course the, you know, the highest portion of stay at home male parents in modern history amongst millennial parents. So, millennial dads, thanks for stepping up and doing a good job. Yay, families.

**Margaret ** 46:50
Okay. So, Elon Musk has this Gigafactory in Berlin. I’m going with something positive here. 

**Brooke ** 46:58
I know, but then you say, "Elon Musk!" No, but then. 

**Margaret ** 47:01
But bad things are about to happen to him.

**Inmn ** 47:03
Yeah, it’s a cool thing.

**Brooke ** 47:04
Speaking of bad dads.

**Margaret ** 47:08
Well, he’s not amillennial. But he acts like. . .No, he doesn’t. 

**Brooke ** 47:12
But his partners are. 

**Margaret ** 47:14
Yeah, that’s true. Okay, so, Elon Musk has this Gigafactory five kilometers outside of Berlin in a forest. And it is for building Tesla’s, and people don’t like it. And it builds most of the Tesla’s…or more Tesla’s than anywhere else in Europe. And people don’t like it for a lot of reasons. One, Elon Musk is at war against labor unions in Europe and keeps running across that Europe actually has some decent labor union culture built into it right. And on March 5th, the entire Gigafactory was shut down for several days by an arson that targeted its electrical grid substation. Basically, someone burned an electrical pylon that connected it to the grid. The arson was claimed by the eco-anarchists group, Vulkangruppe, or volcano group, which has been doing eco-sabotage attacks since 2011. And their statement said, "Our fire stands against the lie of the green automobile. And it’s funny because like most of the news articles are like, "Well, that must be confusing because the automobile that’s green is the green one. It’s painted green. It has lithium batteries. Don’t pay attention to where the lithium batteries come from." But people in Europe, more than in the US, there’s obviously still a culture of cars there, but more people are kind of aware of that, like, actually, you can get around with trains and stuff really well. And that the idea of greening the automobile in the way that we’ll all get around is by having these individual multi-ton machines that take us places is not what’s gonna lead us into the future. Well, it is, but it’s gonna lead us into the bad future. But if we were imagining a good future, it would not be built around cars. Whether or not it would have cars is a totally separate question, but it would not be built around it. So this stopped work for several days, this fire, but also the next morning the stock price of Tesla dropped 4.5%, which is an awful lot of financial damage. Elon Musk himself flew out there and then made snarky comments on Twitter about things like "Oh, they are clearly mistaken because actually I care about the environment." And also there’s an occupation in the nearby forest that the Gigafactory is set to expand into and you can read an interview with those people on Crimethinc.com. If you go there you’ll find a discussion around the Gigafactory and resistance to it. And I also just want to kind of shout out that in the United States, or anyone listening to this, my default advice to people. . . When my friends are like "I don’t really know what to do with my life right now." Like, my default advice isn’t: go back and try and get another degree or a degree at all. My advice is go to the forest and join a forest defense camp, because eco-defense when you do–I’m not talking about volcano group stuff, I am talking about going and joining like thee sets and stuff–you join a community that needs volunteers and you join a community where you become empowered to make decisions and advance a thing as part of a collective process. And, and it’s kind of an all-consuming thing. It’s actually hard to dabble in sometimes, right? Because often people just go and live there. And there are a bunch of different action camps that I couldn’t immediately come up with, in the 10 minutes that it occurred to me right before we recorded that I should do this particular shout out, that are happening across the US at any given time. 

**Brooke ** 50:40
There’s one in Alabama.  

**Margaret ** 50:45
And there’s also a lot of resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the MVP. And a lot of people are  doing really amazing blockades where people are climbing into the pipelines. Inmn’s laughing. Did I get something wrong?

**Inmn ** 50:57
No, sorry. Just MVP. Most Valuable. . .Pipeline. Sorry. 

**Margaret ** 51:03
No, that’s okay. The other day on a different podcast, I said MVP, and then I was like, I think kids these days say, "GOAT", but then I didn’t say that in the podcast. That would be embarrassing to say a "kids these days thing," so I don’t worry. I didn’t. Totally didn’t say it now. Anyway. Okay. So my other big piece of good news is something that I’ve been watching happen, and was like thinking, oh, I think this is happening. And then I read a news article that was like, "Yes, this is happening." Prepper culture has reached a tipping point. Like we did it, y’all. Like not us three. But like, everyone listening. We did it. Prepper culture is no longer an overwhelmingly right-wing phenomenon. There’s a an article from Routers. Routers? From the news. Writers. [Pronouncing it differently] Reuters. And it says that the number of preppers has doubled since 2017. People who self-identify this way are up to about 20 million people in the United States. And much of that growth is coming from marginalized communities and progressives and leftists. And so there’s like, you know, it’s obviously not like, "Oh, hooray, everyone who’s listening. And if you’re marginalized, you can go to the prepper thing, and no one is going to be weird." Like, I can’t promise you that, right. But I can promise you that there are other people who are experiencing similar marginalization or have similar values as you. And for example, the subreddit, R/preppers. . . So Reddit is not like, where I immediately think, like, oh, everyone here is gonna be like, really not weird. But that subreddit, it’s great. I mean, it’s not totally lined up with everything I specifically believe and, you know, whatever. But it talks extensively about community preparedness. And it often kind of makes fun of the people who are like, "I can’t wait to have my bunker full of beans and bullets," or whatever, you know. And so that’s my favorite, final little good thing is that, compared to where this podcast started–as I say, three years ago, but it’s been four years, I just lost track of time–I wouldn’t have expected that to happen. And it is happening and the number of people who have bags and are like. . . You know, like my whole big thing is that, if you’re just starting, you should have a go bag, you should have about a five gallon container of water, depending how many people you live with, you get about about a bucket of food that lasts a really long time, and then slowly kind of build out your pantry a little. The number of people who do that basic stuff has just gone up so much. And it makes such a massive difference. Okay, I have one more. It’s the Margaret rants time of the podcast, apparently. I’ve been watching what’s happening in a lot of places that are in more immediate crises like Gaza, right? I mean, think about all the journalists who have been killed. There’s, you know, more journalists killed in Gaza than all of World War II, or whatever the fuck that statistic is, right. And you reach the point where you’re like, you could just go through your whole life and be like, I’m a doctor and learned all these doctor skills, but then you don’t even have a chance to use it. Because if the crisis kills 80%…or 20% of the people that you’re around, it could kill you. And then you’re like, "Oh, I spent all this time getting prepared. And then I died. So what good does that do?" Right? And that’s when I realized, individual preparedness almost isn’t good for the individual. The thing that individual preparedness is good for is [stress on "is"] community preparedness. Because, you know, a lot of people they’re like, "Well, I don’t want to get prepared because if I fill my house full of beans and bullets, and then the world ends and I’m alone, I don’t really care and that sucks and I don’t really want to go on anyway." Or, you know, "Oh, well, I’m just gonna die when the nuclear blast hits," or whatever it is, right? But when we think to ourselves, "I am part of a community, so me having basic medical skills means that if everyone is doing that, everyone is individually prepping, and I am hurt, someone around me is going to have basic medical skills. And so by getting myself individually prepared…I don’t know, I don’t quite know how to frame all of this yet. But this is this kind of epiphany where I’ve been like, "Oh, this is why individual preparedness doesn’t make sense to people, is because it’s not good for the individual." So if you’re hating on individual preparedness, it’s because you’re secretly being individualistic. And the best thing that you can do for the community is get your shit together. And that’s, that’s my final rant for the month.

**Inmn ** 55:50
Okay. Do you want to hear a really cool little story about some people who got their shit together and prepared their community? 

**Margaret ** 55:59
They built a house out of brick instead of straw. But they didn’t let their friends get eaten by the Big Bad Wolf, because they actually hung out in the brick house because they’re like, "Yo, wolves coming, and the guy wasn’t like, "Well, you gotta stay in the fucking house that’s made out…" Oh, you’re telling a story and I’m ranting. Go ahead.

**Inmn ** 56:15
I loved it. Proverbial tale. So I couldn’t. . . So I challenged everyone to come up with a good thing, because I think we should be talking about cool things that happened too, instead of all the doom and gloom, and then I failed to find a cool thing that happened over the last month. Not because a cool thing didn’t happen but because I just couldn’t find something that spoke to me. But I did come across this little blurb about this really amazing group that I didn’t know about, and it feels very, very relevant to stuff we talk about on the show. Y’all ever heard of the Chrysanthemum Flower? Like the group? Not the flower.

**Margaret ** 57:02
Wait, it sounds familiar. But no, let’s just go with no. 

**Inmn ** 57:07
So the Chrysanthemum Flower was a secret feminist organization in Palestine that resisted Israeli occupation in Jaffa before the 1948 Nakba. The organization was started as a community mutual aid group, which was formed by two sisters, Mohiba and Nariman Khusid. And what they did was they started this secret feminist organization whose goal was to organize their community. They bought weapons and relief supplies for their community. It transformed into an armed organization, when Mohiba watched a child get killed by a British sniper, and she’s quoted as saying, "That day I returned home and decided to take revenge." Nariman, at one point, led an attack at night where after, you know, a lot male squadrons were like, "No, don’t go do this attack." She was like, "We’re going to do this fucking attack." And she led an attack where they rolled up on this Israeli Zionist force squadron and she shot the commander, killed him with one shot, and then the entire squadron just threw down their weapons and surrendered to this group of armed women. It’s so fucking cool. They, the Chrysanthemum Flower, defended Jaffa when it was being invaded. And the group unfortunately ended when the city fell and the ethnic cleansing of that part of Palestine began. Mohiba was literally driven to the sea. But she eventually escaped to Egypt, where she settled and returned to teaching. And she died of natural causes in 2000. And yeah, a shout out to the Chrysanthemum Flower for preparing their community for devastation. And yeah, I don’t know, everyone go out and do that.

**Margaret ** 59:26
Yeah, or whatever. And shout "Wolverines!" while you do it, because the real Red Dawn was the Nakba.

**Margaret ** 59:41
Well, that about does it for This Month in the Apocalypse. Catch us next month when we talk about. . . the apocalypse. And in the meantime, catch us every week where we talk about how to live with the apocalypse with all of our usual content. And if you want to support this Podcast, you can do it by supporting Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which is our publisher. We put out a bunch of different stuff, including a bunch of other podcasts, including a podcast called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. It comes out once a month and includes our featured zine that we’ve put up on our Patreon. As well as The Spectacle. it used to be called Anarcho Geek Power Hour, but then people were like, "But The Spectacle is better." And then it changed because that’s the kind of. . . because we didn’t have to amend our constitution to do it. You like that callback? And if you like nerd stuff and dislike the Constabulary, then it’s possible that The Spectacle is for you. And you can support us on Patreon. You can support us on patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. We pay our transcribers and we pay our audio engineers. And we all hold out the long held dream of getting paid as hosts. But we’re not there yet. But, your support makes so much possible. And if you don’t have any money to support us there, just don’t. That’s fine. Just keep listening to our shit. Tell people about it. Or don’t. Do whatever you want. But in particular, we would like to thank Amber, Ephemeral, and Appalachian Liberation Library. Portland’s Hedron Hackerspace, Boldfield, E, Patolli, Eric, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, Ben Ben, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & Odell, Aly, paparouna, Milica. Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Mic Aiah, and the immortal, the deity, Hoss the dog. That’s it and hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that’s happening. 

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E108 – This Month in the Apocalypse: Feb. 2024

Episode Summary

This time on This Month in the Apocalypse, Brooke and Inmn talk about volcanoes, fires in Chile, rivers in the sky, storms of new magnitudes, the war in Ukraine, the ICJ ruling on Israel’s genocide, how the immigration bill is confusing and bad, God’s Army descending on Eagle’s Pass, and how charitable bail funds are under attack. Live Like the World is Dying will be taking a break until sometime in March! Stay tuned!

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke. Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E107 – Ben on Communication After a Disaster

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Ben and Brooke talk about communication systems during a disaster. They cover basic communication infrastructure and equipment as well as what kind of information is vital to be able to communicate when cell phone towers go down. They also cover just how awesome amateur radio is.

Guest Info

Ben Kuo (he/him) is an amateur radio operator. Ben can be found on Mastodon @ai6yrr@m.ai6yr.org

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Ben on Communicating After a Disaster

**Brooke ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m Brooke Jackson, your host for this episode. Today I’ll be talking with Ben about communication and sharing information after disasters. But first, we’d like to celebrate being a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts by playing a little jingle from one of the other podcasts on the network. Jingle, Jingle jingle goes here.

**The Ex-Worker Podcast ** 00:45
The border is not just a wall. It’s not just a line on a map. It’s a power structure, a system of control. The border does not divide one world from another. There is only one world and the border is tearing it apart. The Ex-Worker Podcast presents "No Wall They Can Build: a guide to borders and migration across North America" A serialized audio book in 11 chapters released every Wednesday. tune in at crimethinc.com/podcast.

**Brooke ** 01:29
And we’re back. Ben, thank you so much for joining us today to talk about communication and information sharing after a disaster. We’d love to know a little bit more about you if you’re willing to share your pronouns and where you hail from and anything else that you want to say to introduce yourself? 

**Ben ** 01:49
Sure. My name is Ben Kuo, and I am in Ventura County, California. My pronouns are he and him. And my background in disasters is I have been very involved in responding to disasters, providing information on social media, and making sure that people, you know, get the information they need to stay safe and stay healthy and help other people.

**Brooke ** 02:17
Nice. Was this something that you got into because of a disaster that happened? Or was it something you were interested in before…before it became useful in this context? If that makes sense?

**Ben ** 02:28
It’s interesting. I really got involved in this in 20–I believe it’s 2018–when Hurricane Maria hit, and hurricane Maria was a category five hurricane, and I am…one of my hobbies–and I have many hobbies– but one of them is amateur radio. And for folks who have never heard of amateur radio, what it is, is a hobby where you learn how to use the radio and to communicate with people. And that is locally, you know, with people in your area, that is internationally. And you can talk to people all across the globe using just a radio, a power supply, a battery, and an antenna without any of the world being up. So that’s no internet, no telephone, no power supply, no power grid. And you can communicate with people all over the world. And it’s fun. And I started because it was a lot of fun. But it ends up being very, very, very useful nowadays with the increasing pace of disasters. And so I became an amateur radio operator partially because of the emergency aspect of it. There’s a big community around it. But also just because it’s a lot of fun for the technology and playing with the technology. So the big story of how I got into the disaster is Hurricane Maria was bearing down on the Caribbean. And it is…I don’t know if you’ve seen the trend in recent years but hurricanes have been spinning up much faster and much more intensely. And it’s called rapid intensification. And because of that you don’t have quite the warning that you used to with hurricanes. And so people go, "Oh, we can watch this. And we can react." or "Oh, it’s gonna be coming in a week." And that’s not happening as much anymore. So what happens is someone says, "Hey, it’s a tropical storm. We don’t have to worry too much." And all of a sudden, it goes from a tropical storm to category five hurricane. This actually happened only a few months ago in Mexico. A tropical storm, everyone says, "Oh, it’s just going to be a tropical storm." Even the expert of the National Weather Service said, "Oh, it’s just gonna be a tropical storm." And it went from a tropical storm to category five hurricane. And it totally decimated a resort area in Mexico. 

**Brooke ** 05:16
I had no idea. And it’s interesting because I feel like I seem to hear about them going the other direction so often. Like, oh, there’s a hurricane off the coast and it, you know–especially on our coast here on the West Coast–and then it dissipates into, you know, just a tropical storm or what have you. So I wasn’t aware that we’re seeing an increase of them going from tropical storm to hurricane. That’s really interesting.

**Ben ** 05:40
Yeah, I think the scientists say, you know, it’s an outgrowth of warmer oceans and with the climate crisis and all that, you have more energy. So it hits a warm spot in the ocean and all sudden, you know, it becomes quite crazy. So how I got involved is–I was not involved very much with emergencies and disasters, until hurricane Maria–and I was, you know, monitoring things here and there. And I learned that amateur radio was the only way to get to the…there’s a little island nation called Dominica, it’s not affiliated with any large country. It’s kind of its own country. And they were cut off from the world by hurricane Maria. So they had, I guess they lost 90% of the roofs. They lost…they had no power system. They lost their telephones. And interestingly enough, everyone thought they were okay, because they didn’t hear any messages from Dominica. They were like, "Oh, category five, it should be fine." And no one called for help. [Brooke exclaims incredulity] I got on–the amateur radio operators had already been active. There’s an active Amateur Radio Group on the island. And I stumbled upon them and discovered they were in big trouble. And they were just begging for help. And so I stumbled in here–I’m all the way in California–and using the magic of amateur radio was actually talking to these folks in the Caribbean. And actually also using the internet kind of to bridge some of the parts of it. It’s interesting, all the technology aspects. But the important thing ended up being that they were in a lot of trouble. There’s no one to help, and they just needed to get information about what was going on. And I started relaying information to the amateur radio operators there in the region on what was going on, what help was on the way or not on the way. In the meantime, they actually had…the amatory operators actually arranged a rescue of the Prime Minister of the country. And that’s like, you know, rescuing the President of the United States. Yeah, they rescued the president of Dominica, the Prime Minister. And they had…they were laying information back and forth like, "Oh, we need this. There’s a problem here. People here need dialysis. How can we get help from these people? These people are trapped." At one point, I relayed information from them about someone who had been…who was able to–I guess there’s limited cell phone coverage within the country–where they were able to tell somebody else that they were stuck underneath the house. And that got relayed by amateur radio operators out of the country, and I got it and it went back into the country elsewhere. And I rescued somebody. And in fact, I ended up relaying information from the US Embassy. And they actually were sending in…they actually sent in an entire warship, the USS Wasp. It’s an amphibious carrier. And they were airlifting US citizens out of the country. And they would actually go in and, you know, drop people off and pull them out of the, you know, whatever vacation villa they’re staying at and have them evacuate. It was a big operation. No one…no one really heard about it here. But that was kind of my introduction to the fact that amateur radio was very, very useful in really, you know, like a worst case scenario. And I learned a lot of lessons there, for sure, about how to deal with it. And eventually after Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, it actually hit Puerto Rico. 

**Brooke ** 09:37
What year was this by the way? 

**Ben ** 09:39
It was September of 2017. And it first hit Dominica, but then the hurricane curved up and it hit Puerto Rico. And I was involved in that. There’s a huge…Puerto Rico also had no communications. And the only communications was amateur radio for a good two days I believe. And I was really relaying information back and forth there. And how this ties into social media is I was collecting all this information, relaying it back and forth. And I said, "Hey, I’m listening to all this, I can see what’s going on and I might as well post it up on Twitter." And I did that. And I also put up a YouTube stream of all the radio communications that were happening….

**Brooke ** 10:25
Back when Twitter was good and useful and we loved it. 

**Ben ** 10:29
Yeah, back when it was a cause for good as opposed to what it is now.

**Brooke ** 10:33
Sorry, go on. Mourning the loss of Twitter.

**Ben ** 10:38
Yeah, exactly. It’s actually quite a thing. So interesting…that would have been it for me. I was going to delete my account. But shortly after that, there was a fire in my own county. And it’s actually between Ventura and Santa Barbara County, the Thomas fire. And I said, "Oh, I’ve got a social media account." And one of the things about amateur radio is you learn how to listen to what’s on the radio. And not…this is not broadcast radio. But this is police and fire channels, official agencies, people talking back and forth about what’s going on the ground on the scanners. And I was relaying what I heard there. And my followers went from, I think, you know, a few thousand to, you know, 50,000 people because information was so useful to know. So, you know, if you think about what you see on network TV, you’ll see the same, you know, Hillside burning the whole newscast, no context. Where is it? What’s going on? And when you listen to the Police and Fire Radio, you can say, "Hey, I know that that is in this neighborhood. The fire is moving in this direction. We need to get people out and to safety." And, "Oh, hey, we heard that there’s an evacuation here." And it takes…it takes, you know, a couple hours sometimes for the firefighters on the ground to say, "We need to evacuate this neighborhood," to actually, you know, you getting that on your phone or the press picking up on it. So that’s kind of how I got into the disasters. And, you know, it kind of has kept on going because, as I mentioned, you know, I think the pace of disasters has increased. I think they just saw…there’s just a report this week that said we had the largest amount of billion dollar disasters in the US in 2023 on record.

**Brooke ** 12:40
Wow. Like the largest total dollar value amount or like the largest number of disasters?

**Ben ** 12:48
Yes. Total dollar amount.Yeah, and so, you know, it’s just an ongoing, increasing need in the world.

**Brooke ** 12:55
Alright, interesting. So I want to talk about what we can do to prepare before a disaster but I think it would help if we talk about, really quickly, what you lose communication wise in the beginning of a disaster because I think that’s going to help make it clear why you need to prepare, if that makes sense.

**Ben ** 13:16
Yeah, you know, I mentioned, you know, we are so used to having a smartphone with us. We have a phone with us all the time. It is our way of getting information. It’s our way of communicating with people. We text people back and forth. We may use Snapchat or Instagram or whatever your social media is. And people don’t realize how much we rely on that today. And what happens during a disaster is the first thing that goes down is the cell phone network, right? Your cell phone network goes down. The cell towers only have so much battery before they fail. And then all of a sudden you don’t have a way to say "Hey, is my you know Aunt Marge, okay or not?" right? It’s, "What’s going on? Where should I go? What should I do? Where can I go?" This was brought home really…. A really terrible example of how we are depending on this and what goes wrong when it fails is Lahaina Hawaii.

**Brooke ** 14:22
And I don’t know if you listened to it, we released, just a couple weeks ago as we’re recording this, I did an episode about Lahaina and kind of reviewing what happened and where they are right now.

**Ben ** 14:39
Yeah, and so you’re familiar with the fact that, you know, the warnings went out too late. And then the cell towers went down. So no one knew what was going on. And so you were down to, I believe there’s a video of some guy without a shirt, you know, bicycling down the street yelling at people to get out. You know, that is your early warning system because your phones don’t work. And, you know, if the cell phone network goes down, you know, that cell phone that you’re holding is, you know, as good as a rock. You could throw it at something I guess, but it’s not going to do much good.

**Brooke ** 15:20
Yep. Yep. That’s right.

**Ben ** 15:22
Yeah. And, you know, I don’t think most people think about how much we depend on communications for all the things we do, especially in a safety situation, you know. Should I be evacuating? Where’s the disaster? Where’s help? Where should I not be going? That is all information that when you lose communications, you’ve lost, and it can be fatal. So that’s why, you know, as much as people often say, "Hey, well, you know why are you doing this amateur radio stuff? You know, we have cell phones now. We have the internet. Why do we need this, you know, old fashioned stuff?" It’s not really old fashioned. But, you know, that is the struggle that I often have with people thinking about disasters. And the other problem that we have is–and not obviously listeners of your podcast–but we live in a world where everyone thinks that it will never happen to them. And people don’t want to prepare. They say, "Hey, I, you know, this is never going to happen to me. I don’t want to think about bad things." And if you don’t do that, then you’re in a much worse spot when it does happen.

**Brooke ** 16:33
For sure, for sure. Okay, so when it happens, you know, we lose…we lose our phones. That’s one of the biggest things and basically all of the ways that we’re used to communicating. So what do we do before a disaster to get ready for that scenario? What kind of things do we need to have on hand or need to know how to do? Please teach me?

**Ben ** 16:57
Yeah, so. So some basic things you should do is have an alternate communication plan, or at very least someplace you can meet people. So say you don’t have, you know, a radio or anything like that, you say "Hey, if we have a disaster, here’s the plan," right? "This is where we go if there’s a fire or a flood or whatever it is. What are we going to do?" Okay, and that doesn’t require you to have communications. It just means you have to pre-plan what you’re doing. But, you know, the first level up–and this, you know, there’s kind of levels of how much you want to invest in communications–but, you know, you can buy off the shelf radios at sporting goods stores, which, you know, they’re called FRS radios or GMRS radios.

**Brooke ** 17:47
Is that a special radio then? Or is it like the old school radios we grew up with?

**Ben ** 17:50
Yeah, so it’s different. So, a lot of people are familiar with CB radio. And that’s an old technology. And people still use it. But it’s not really used a lot for this kind of thing, mainly because it doesn’t have very long range. You can’t go very far. But FRS and GMRS radios do have a little bit of range. And in radio, the key is something called line of sight, which is how far you can see. So if you are standing on top of a mountain, you can talk a very long distance. If you are in the bottom of the valley then you’re not going to get very far. And so most of those handheld radios that you can buy don’t require a license, you just have to pay your money and get them. You know, their range is probably–they say 20 miles–but really, practically, it’s about two–five miles. And those are great for your family group. Or if you’ve got a group of folks that are in your neighborhood and you want to communicate then that is kind of the first step and you have now…. Now, you can say instead of all of sudden everyone’s lost their phones, no one knows what’s going on, everyone can turn their radio on–as long as it keeps it charged and knows how to use it–they can go "Hey, Jill, you’re down the street. How are you? You know, are you okay?" "Oh, yeah, we’re okay. You know, there’s an earthquake. Oh, yeah. Everyone’s okay. We’re outside, right." So, you know, that’s something that’s very easy to do. It’s off the shelf there. They’re actually sold in blister packs at the sporting goods store. And it’s a level one. It’s like, oh, do you have a plan to at least communicate with your family and people in your neighborhood?

**Brooke ** 19:40
Okay, that sounds so much like walkie talkies that we had as a kid but like a higher end farther distance thing.

**Ben ** 19:48
Essentially, it is a walkie talkie. And that is what they are and, you know, they sell them as kids toys, but it’s a first level of basic communications that you may want to consider, especially for your family. It’s like, even if you look at some of the…if you see people fleeing from fires and from disasters, you know, see these videos of people, they can’t talk to someone else in another car when your cell phone network goes down. And you can with a little walkie talkie. So that’s, you know, you may have two people, one person in one car, another person in another car, and you can at least talk and say, "Hey, you know, this is what we’re doing. This is where we’re going."

**Brooke ** 20:26
Do those–I’m getting into the weeds here but I’m just so curious to those–like, if you buy a set from the store and somebody else buys a set from the store, I’m assuming those must like cross traffic with each other?

**Ben ** 20:41
Yeah, as long as you buy the ones that are licensed in the US. It’s called FRS and GMRS. radios. GMRS actually requires a license, which is I think it’s $25 for 10 years. But no one’s checking on those. It’s kind of the Wild West. I would advise getting a license, but they saw them everywhere. And a lot of people don’t. 

**Brooke ** 21:04
Okay, so if you get those planning to use them to communicate with loved ones and neighbors you may have other people using theirs that you’ll have cross cross talk.

**Ben ** 21:16
Yeah, for sure. For sure. And those are the same frequencies that, you know, the kids down the street. So you’ll turn it on and go, "Oh, there’s little kids playing cops and robbers." They are shared frequencies. Yeah, so your next level up is–and I advocate for this because I am an amateur radio operator–is to actually get a license. And in all the countries around the world, you can get an entry level, amateur radio license and you can use a lot more frequencies and much better gear even at a very basic level. And in the US, there’s, I think it’s a 25-30 question test. And all the answers are pre published. So you can actually go and, you know, cram for this thing and get it in a week if you’re…if you so desire.  And so that actually can get you much, much farther. And so in the US it’s called a technician license and you can actually…. With those, I’ve talked to someone 50 miles away direct. So that is, you know, nothing in between. And there’s also things that are called repeaters that sit on top of hills, and you can talk to people hundreds and hundreds of miles away because they’re all linked together. And there’s actually…and there’s an interesting tradition among the amateur radio community, which is they have groups that work on doing communications and they focus on, you know, those kind of bands on VHF, UHF, those things are all local. So you have a group of people…. In our area, they actually have people, you know, you’re on a list, and they say, "Hey, who’s on the list?" They’re all licensed. And this is licensing in the US by the FCC. And they actually check to say, "Who’s here? Who’s not?" And it’s a practice, right, to see whether or not. So it’s a good thing to do, at least in our area. And I’m in California. It is, you know, men and women and kids and that sort of…anyone who can get a license, and, um, it’s definitely something to think about.

**Brooke ** 23:46
Okay, so anything else kind of on that part of things you can do before the disaster to help get ready with communication and information sharing?

**Ben ** 23:58
Yeah, so the, you know, the other thing to do is I found that you need to know who is out there in the community that you are going to communicate with. And I think too many people do not think about it. You need to know who you’re talking to and whether you trust them or not, and have your resources lined up. And I saw this in hurricane Maria where people were asking for help, but no one had ever met the folks, didn’t know them, didn’t trust them. And so, it was a very different thing, right? You’re…. When you’re talking to someone, communicating with someone, you need to have a pre-existing relationship with them. And, you know, I think in this world, you know, you’re asking for some kind of mutual aid but you kind of want to have an idea of who it is or what group it is or do you trust them or not? And it’s good to have that stuff kind of thought of, to, you know, think of think of that stuff beforehand, right? Who are the resources In our area if we had a disaster? Hey, you know, the folks in the next city, we’ve got to…you know, we’re okay here. Do we need to bring some of them in? Do they have, you know, the resources? And would they help us if there’s a problem? There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be, you know, thought about, which is beyond the communication but more the organization.

**Brooke ** 25:20
Yeah. Is it devastating if you haven’t built out those networks yet prior to?

**Ben ** 25:26
It’s not. It’s just hard. I think it’s just harder.

**Brooke ** 25:29
Yeah. Makes sense. Alright. Other things to prepare before your disaster hits?

**Ben ** 25:38
Yeah, the other piece of it that I run across is because the communications folks tend to be very good at communications if they don’t cover the basics, right? So you need to think about all the basic disaster stuff first, before the communications, which is, "Hey, do I have the basic food and water kind of things? Have I got, you know, all the safety stuff for myself, my family. And, you know, for yourself first, before you even think about, "Oh, do I even have a way to communicate?" 

**Brooke ** 26:10
Yeah, okay. That makes sense. 

**Ben ** 26:13
You’re not useful in that role of communicating if you, yourself are no longer able to help. You know what I mean. 

**Brooke ** 26:25
Alright, okay. Alright, shall we move into talking about, you know, you’re in the aftermath of a disaster and you need to communicate and share information?

**Ben ** 26:36
Yeah, yeah. So, you know, the things that happen after a disaster is people are looking for ways to get information to family and friends. And the number one thing I find is people either have to ask for help, because there’s a medical issue or they need to be rescued or something like that, or the other big thing is people…I don’t think people understand how much people miss knowing what’s going on. Right? So if there’s a disaster, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people who go all sudden, "Hey, is my grandmother okay? Is my grandfather okay? Is my friend okay? What’s going on?" right? And it is…. A lot of times people say, "Hey, if I call somebody in such and such an area, maybe they can go find, you know, whoever is missing, or whatever, or something like that, right? So this…we saw this during the Lahaina, right? There’s people, you know, thousands of relatives going, "Oh no, I know somebody in Lahaina. Are they okay?" And the lessons I’ve learned from so many disasters is there’s no way to get information into a disaster zone. Not very efficiently.

**Brooke ** 27:55
That’s a really good point. 

**Ben ** 27:56
Yeah, so information can come out of a disaster zone, but it doesn’t go into a disaster. And so, if you…so for example, if you’re an amateur radio operator, generally, you could get a message out saying, you know, "Help me. I’ve got a problem." Or you can say, "Hey, I’m okay. Let someone know that I’m okay." If you are just someone with a smartphone, and no communications, you are just out of luck, unless you can find someone who can lay that information. And there’s a lot of these systems, and I hate to…I hate to criticize some of the nonprofits that exist in the world for these things, but they have "Oh, hey, check in safety." It’s like, they say, "Yo, check in on Facebook that you’re okay." It’s like, well, you have no way to get on Facebook. There’s no internet, there’s no power. How are you supposed to do that, right? Yeah, and even even the case, there’s a system by a big aid organization that has a red symbol and it says, "Oh, it’s a safe and well if you need to know someone’s okay." And two things. One is, if you try to ask for someone’s information, they say, ‘What was their phone number and their last address?" And you go, "Well, how am I supposed to know that? You know, I just know that they’re in this town," and whatever. There’s a lot of stuff like that that’s like, "Oh, do you have their social security numbers?" It’s like "No, I don’t have their social security." So there’s a lot of stuff in the way of that. And it’s a lot easier, and I found all these disasters, if someone’s able to get out themselves. So like I said, the amateur radio operators can relay information to other people. So if you’ve got a neighbor who’s an amateur radio operator, they can go "Oh, hey, I’m gonna call somebody up." This happened actually after–famously after Katrina–Katrina. Hurricane Katrina took down took down communications and there was a lot of communication out by people relaying information to other amateur radio operators they knew. So they said, "Hey, you know, this is where the Smith family is. We’re at this street. Can you let somebody know at our family that we’re okay." And they would pass on a phone number to call or someone to text or something like that. I did that a lot in Puerto Rico. So a lot of people who are in Puerto Rico, they have family somewhere else, they have no way to tell them that they’re okay and they really don’t need anything, but people are worried, right? Imagine your family is in the middle of a hurricane or something like that, or wildfire, and how do you let people know you’re okay.

**Brooke ** 30:45
Yeah, that makes sense. With the amateur radio networks and whatnot, you know, I know you just mentioned a few times about how you can relay information through those. And I’m curious if they’re sort of existing networks of communication at all. I mean, obviously, there are folks that know each other. But do you guys have any kind of, I don’t know, pre existing…. Like, do you already know where some of your people that you talk to live? Like if you had to get information to, I don’t know, Montana–random example. 

**Ben ** 31:27
Yeah, there’s an established network to do that. I have my own opinions on how effective it is or not, but they do have a…. It’s actually one of the reasons amateur radio exists in the US. It was very early in the 1900s when there were disasters, radio was the only way to get out information. And so they actually started doing that back in the days of Morse code, believe it or not, when they were relaying it. And that’s part of the reason why the hobby has such a strong tradition in the communications and emergency area. And so, you know, I mentioned I was doing a lot of stuff online about, you know, wildfires and hurricanes on Twitter and what’s going on. And a lot of what I do and have done is stuff that the hobby, as a whole, has been doing since its beginnings.

**Brooke ** 32:22
I didn’t think about how deep those roots are. But that’s kind of cool to think about going all the way back to, you know, using Morse code to relay the information.

**Ben ** 32:32
Yeah, well, in fact, you know, if you think about it, you know, everyone knows SOS in Morse code, right? Did, did, did. Dot, dot, dot [making noises like someone speaking in Morse code] All that came from–an amateur radio started around the same time as all that kind of communication was going on, you know, like the Titanic or whatever else like that. So, that is, you know, a long standing tradition. And before the internet, before we had phone networks, we had radio networks. So that’s kind of the long tradition there.

**Brooke ** 33:06
Yeah, that makes sense. So you said you have some opinions about the efficacy of the system of relay that they have now and it sounds like maybe you’re not entirely happy with the way that works. I’m curious to know what you think there are and why? So, you know, if there’s a limitation that we need to understand.

**Ben ** 33:29
Yeah. So they have a very regimented way of sending messages. And they try to pass messages…they try to do it the old fashioned way, which is you get a message, you know, here and then you pass it. Say I want to send something to Boston. Well, they may send it to somewhere in between. And then it goes through the neighborhood and then eventually, at some point, it gets there.  And nowadays, I think it’s more effective to just get out of your disaster zone and get the message there. And so, you know, for me, what happens is during the hurricane issues that I had, trying to use that network didn’t work because I said, "Hey, I just need…I have a real disaster here. This is not pretend. This is not a simulation. I have people who need to know that their family’s okay." I had a text on my phone from people–it was actually relayed from a boat after a hurricane–saying, you know, "We’re docked here. We are okay. We just want to let someone know. And so this is the boat name. This is our location. And here’s the neighborhood. Here’s our relative. We need to let them know that we’re okay. They don’t need to send the Coast Guard." and trying to send that through a network which is used to passing it by hand, it’s like can someone just call them? Like, we don’t need to do this. It’s great practice. But when it comes to a real disaster, why are we doing all this stuff when we can just call them up? The first person who’s on a cell phone network can call them up and say, "Your relatives are okay." 

**Brooke ** 35:04
That’s a good point. And, you know, the children’s game of telephone that you’re practically doing with passing it from one place to the next place to the next, you know, is not ideal, as we all know, for many reasons. 

**Ben ** 35:22
And I think that’s their legacy is they don’t use it as much as they ought to. And maybe they’re using it more now with the disasters we have. But there’s a lot of experts in the world who’ve never applied their knowledge. I find that also the case in just disaster preparedness in general. You have a lot of people who are disaster preparedness experts and they’ve never had to deal with a disaster. And the worst is that people sometimes they’ll say, "Hey, you’re a prepper. Blah, blah, blah," and I go, "No, the preppers don’t have any concept of actually reacting to a real problem." The pandemic was the big one that I saw. All these folks who said, "Hey, watch out for the zombie apocalypse, we need to, you know, stock our homes with guns and MREs." And then when there’s an actual, you know, pandemic, they go, "We’re not wearing masks. We aren’t gonna get vaccinated." You’re going, "Oh, my gosh," you know? So there’s, you know, there was a miss, a complete miss, because they’re just not…you know, they call themselves one thing, but they don’t have…they didn’t have the experience or the right mindset going into it.

**Brooke ** 36:40
So I’m curious about the types of information that we need to share. You know, we talked about after a disaster, you know, being able to relay that, you know, this person is okay, you know, finding so-called missing or unknown people and figuring out what’s going on with them. But what else…like what other kinds of things do people need to relay that this network could be useful for after a disaster?

**Ben ** 37:08
Yeah, help. Help is number one. So life threatening information. So if somebody is trapped or needs help, medical help. And, obviously, you have to know where to get it to. But in most cases, if you can get that information to the authorities, somebody is going to come and help you. And they just need to know it, right? So your local fire department, right? Or, maybe it’s a search and rescue team or something like that. You need to be able to get that information to them. And so that’s definitely a big one with communications. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that 911 systems go down in the US all too often. 

**Brooke ** 37:53
I have heard. 

**Ben ** 37:54
And if you don’t have 911, you have to be able to call for help, right? And so we haven’t seen that a ton where people have used radio to do that. But it is one thing. So if our 911 system here goes down, I know that I can call somebody else who can get to, you know, fire and rescue or whatever it is. So, help for sure. And the other part of it, the communications, is for your community, is helping out in the community, is knowing more situational–it’s something called situational awareness–what’s going on? Where are the issues? What’s happening? And, you know, that’s not just for you to communicate. It’s another thing to listen. So, you know, the nice thing about radio is you can both listen and also communicate. And being able to listen to know what’s going on is a huge piece of it. So you’ll find that even if you’re not somebody who’s on the air communicating after a disaster, you can at least listen and hear what’s going on and know what to watch out for. Like, hey the freeways shut down, so don’t go that way. Or, you know, the fire is in this area. Or, you know, in hurricanes, hey, you know, this is where the aid center is, or whatever it is, or this is where someone’s distributing food, you know? So there’s all that information. It is really helpful as a part of a disaster plan is how do you know what’s going on and where things are happening. In the amateur radio community, which is something that everyone should do, you know, they actually share information. So there’s people all around town and they go, "Hey, no one said this on the news. There’s no information about this. But you guys can’t go there. The bridge is down." 

**Brooke ** 39:42
That makes sense. So, escape route, maybe for lack of a better word, but just like, you know, communicating infrastructure issues. That’s really interesting. Other things that you can think of that are, you know, types of information that people need that can be useful in sharing, if any? If not, that’s okay.

**Ben ** 40:09
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think it’s the general awareness. And this is a tool, you know, the radio stuff I talk about is just a tool for what’s going on. And, what I’m sharing on social media, it’s not just the radio stuff, although it’s a big part of it, but it’s things like, you know, where do you get information about evacuation zones, right? Where is–during fires we can see maps of where the fires are. You can look up… You can look up evacuation centers. You can get maps of flooded areas. There’s a lot of information sources. And I think on the communication side, even if you’re not cut off, there’s a lot of things that just letting people know about–and that’s what I do–is what is this situation? Where are the issues? What’s going on? I mean, today, I’ve been sending out messages about flooding. And I don’t know if you know, but there’s huge waves off the coast of California right now. And they’re parts of Santa Cruz, there’s parts of the Pacific Coast Highway that are underwater because of these big waves. And just knowing about that stuff is useful in that general awareness. And this whole area of communications, you know, the situational awareness is something that in disasters, you know, it really does make a difference. And I’ve had people say, "Hey, you know, we knew, because you were paying attention to what’s going on with the fire, that we needed to get…we needed to take our horses and get them evacuated," And it takes a while to evacuate horses, right? And, "Oh, our house, we knew that our house was in a threat area. We needed to get…we needed to get our aunt, you know, to safety." And it’s just that time, that information, you know, you don’t want to be the last person to know that something’s happening in your neighborhood. And this whole part of the aspect of listening to the radio helps with that in just the general situational awareness.

**Brooke ** 42:11
There’s, you know, kind of a component after the radio, because not everyone’s going to have the radio, you know, if then, you know, if you are the one who gets the information via the radio, then how you go out and disseminate it. But that’s maybe kind of another topic, unless you want to get into it. But, you know, do you put up posters? Like, you know, letting other people know, "Oh, I found out that such and such bridge is down. How do I communicate that to folks that don’t have a radio? How do we spread that wider?

**Ben ** 42:41
Yeah. And that…I don’t think we’ve solved that problem in general, you know, just how do you get the information faster. I, you know, I talk about the rate just because that puts you on the knowing side of things versus the not-knowing side of things. And it’s just…it’s just one of those things in disasters, having that awareness–even if you can’t communicate out–knowing what’s going on gives you an advantage to you know, safety and health and all that. It is really helpful.

**Brooke ** 43:12
Yeah, okay, I’ve got one last question for you, I think. I think, unless something sparks in my brain here. But is this useful in all types of disasters, natural disasters, emergencies, whatnot? Or are there ones that this tool would not be useful or effective for?

**Ben ** 43:34
Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, I think it’s actually useful in most cases. It’s very used during hurricanes. It’s used a lot during wildfires. It is used a lot in earthquakes. Most of the folks that I know who are licensed here in my area, who are older than me, are, were licensed because of the Northridge earthquake. They all said, "Hey, we…" you know, the typical problem was, "Oh, I was at work. And my wife was one place and my kids were somewhere else and we could not communicate." And they said, "How do we fix that problem?" And so they said, "We’re gonna get licensed as an amateur radio operator." And so earthquakes are a huge driver in California. But I think in general, I found it useful in all sorts of situations, whether it’s an emergency. So yeah, and even interesting enough–and maybe it’s more of a social thing, because there’s a social group built in–but even with the pandemic, we we had a group who started out on the radio. And it’s…maybe you could have done this on Zoom or on the phone, but there’s a bunch of folks on radio who started talking every day. And you knew what’s going on and you were able to trade information. Even today, now I go, "Oh, hey, there’s a big outbreak of COVID," because, you know, three of the people on the net–we call them net like, it’s like a round table or networ and people check in–and someone goes, "Oh, you know what, our whole family just caught COVID." And you go, "Oh, you know, I haven’t heard that for a while. So maybe something’s going on." You know? It is interesting. It’s just another way of getting information about what’s going on. And it gives you a little bit of a network. And that network also operates…. You know, the nice thing about what we do is that operates when all the power goes. In California, they’ve been shutting down power during high-wind events. And that often takes down cell towers. They’re supposed to…. They’ve got some laws in now and they’re supposed to put them back up, but it’s not there yet. And so they shut things down. No one knows what’s going on. They hop on the radio, they go, "Hey, I got a blackout here. What’s going on?" Somebody who’s outside of the blackout looks it up and says, "Hey, they shut down your whole part of town because of the wind danger," or whatever it is. So, it is useful.

**Brooke ** 45:57
Yeah. And going back to our Lahaina example, that’s a thing that would have been helpful in preventing some of those fires, if they had shut down power lines with what was coming in. And that is, unfortunately, because of the age of our power system and the lack of maintenance we’ve done on a lot of our infrastructure. Shutting off the power is one of the things that power companies are doing more often as a safety measure.

**Ben ** 46:29
Yeah. And you know, some of that is…is liability, because of the number of fires that have happened and all that. And some of it, interestingly enough–and this is a climate issue–is some of that damage is just happening much more often than it used to. And, you know, some of the things I didn’t talk about, but, you know, part of what we do as amateur operators is you don’t just have the radio, but you also have to consider how am I going to charge it? How am I going to do that? Do I have a battery bank that works? Do I have a solar panel? There’s a lot that goes into that, you know? It’s kind of a general resiliency thing, which is…is very relevant in that case, right? Your power goes out and your cell phone tower is now down, how do you know what’s going on? Most likely, somebody who’s an amateur radio operator has a battery-backed up radio and knows what’s going on. Because you know, and it doesn’t matter. I can talk to Brazil when none of my neighborhood has power just for fun because it’s there and running.

**Brooke ** 47:42
Yeah. And before anybody asks me about it, I am not trying to say that the power company shutting down the power is a good thing or a bad thing, only observing that it is a thing that is happening and it has benefits and costs to it.

**Ben ** 47:59
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And it makes sense. I mean, most of the…many wildfires here have been caused by power lines. So, you know, the converse thing is when they shut down the power the, you know, like I said, the cell phone tower doesn’t work anymore. And that’s what happened in Lahaina, the power stopped working and you lost the cell phone towers and then all of a sudden you’re in trouble. 

**Brooke ** 48:21
Yep, yep. Alright, I think that brings us to a conclusion on this topic for today. So Ben, I want to thank you so much for reaching out and offering to have this conversation with us and making the time to sit with me and talk about it. I have learned some things today and I’m excited about that. Is there anything else that you would like to say? Anything that you would like to plug, social medias, charity groups, anything like that?

**Ben ** 48:51
Yep. So um, I am nowadays on Mastodon. So if you want to follow my disaster emergencies and random musings on life, I am ai6yrr@m.ai6yr.org. So that’s my…that’s actually my callsign, my radio callsign, ai6yrr@m.ai6yrr.org. And, you know, as much as I talked about the disaster part of the hobby is there’s a lot of fun stuff too. We can talk to astronauts in space. We have our own satellites. There’s all sorts of science stuff you can do. And it is really quite a…it’s not just for disasters and emergencies. It just happens to be a useful part of it.

**Brooke ** 49:43
Well, thanks for putting that in. I appreciate it. You can also find me on Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke, that’s Brooke with an E. And Ben again, I just really want to thank you for coming on today and talking with us. Yeah,

**Ben ** 50:00
Hopefully someone learned something. So thanks a lot.

**Brooke ** 50:06
And to our listeners, thanks so much for listening. If you enjoy our podcast, please give it a like, drop a comment, or review. Subscribe to us if you haven’t already. These things make the algorithms that rule our world offer a show to more people. This podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You can connect with us on Twitter @Tangled_Wild and also on Instagram. Or check out our website at tangledwilderness.org where you can find our extensive list of projects and publications. This podcast and much of the work of Strangers is made possible by our Patreon supporters. If you want to become a supporter, check out patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. There are cool benefits at various support tiers on Patreon. For instance, if you support the collective at just $10 a month, we will mail you a monthly zine. We’d like to give a specific shout out to some of our most supportive Patreon supporters. Thanks to Aly, anonymous BenBen, Boise Mutual Aid, Buck, Carson, Catgut, Chelsea, Chris, Dana, David, Eric, Funder, Hunter, Janice & O’dell, Jenipher, Julia, Kirk, Lord Harken, Marm, Mic Aiah, Milica, Nicole, Paige, paparouna, Patoli, Perceval, Princess Miranda, S.J., Staro, theo, Trixter, and Hoss the Dog.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E106 – Zena on Parenting

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Zena and Brooke talk about parenting.

Guest Info

Zena Sharman (she/her), PhD is a writer and consultant whose body of work pivots around the questions “How do we create change?” and “How do we care for each other?” She’s the author of three books, including The Care We Dream Of: Liberatory and Transformative Approaches to LGBTQ+ Health (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2021) and the Lambda Literary award-winning anthology The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016). Her next book, a memoir, is forthcoming from Arsenal Pulp Press in 2025. She’s an engaging speaker who regularly gives virtual and in-person talks and workshops to audiences across North America. You can learn more about Zena and her work at https://zenasharman.com/

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Zena on Parenting

**Brooke ** 00:14
Hello and welcome to Live like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Brooke Jackson, and today I have with me Zena Sharman, and we’re going to talk about collective parenting. But before we get that, we want to celebrate being a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts by giving a little shout out to one of the other wonderful podcasts on our network. Insert jingle here!

**Brooke ** 01:31
And we’re back. Zena, thanks for being on the podcast with me today to talk about collective parenting. I’m really excited to discuss this topic more with you. But first, let’s, I want—I want to get to know you a little more. Let the listeners get to know you a little bit more. So, would you introduce yourself? Tell me name, preferred pronouns, other things you want to share?

**Zena ** 01:54
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for the invitation to be here. I’m a really big fan of the podcast and hopefully will have some useful things to share with the community of listeners. So I’m Zena Sharman, I use she/her pronouns, and you can find me on unseeded Cowichan territories—so colonially known as Vancouver Island up in Canada. And I come into our conversation as a queer femme. I’m in my mid 40s, which feels salient to how I’m moving through the world as a parent, and I am a parent to three kids. And I’m raising them collectively with three other queer people. And outside of the work that I do—the care work that I do as a parent, I am also our writer, I have done a lot of queer and trans health advocacy and systems change work over the years, and then have a growing practice in my communities as a death doula and a hospice volunteer. So thinking about many facets of how do we care for one another? 

**Brooke ** 02:51
That’s really great. We recently did an episode with a death doula and talked about a little bit of that subject. But—

**Zena ** 03:00
You know I listened to that one. 

**Brooke ** 03:03
I’m glad. But we’re gonna talk about the other end of the life spectrum, and the the little ones, and how we care for them. So you mentioned that you collectively parent, and of course I’ve mentioned that that’s our subject for today. So I’m curious what that phrase means to you, how you define it, and what it looks like in practice.

**Zena ** 03:29
I think practice is the operative word, in the sense that I’m definitely not coming into this conversation as someone who claims any kind of expertise or definitive take on how to do this. And what I can say is I’m coming into the conversation sharing some of the things I’ve learned, and I’m still in a process of learning now, having been in this experience for more than five years, almost six years. So I wouldn’t say that I use collective parenting necessarily, kind of, consciously in my day to day life. And I do think it’s actually a really nice way to describe what it is that I do. And I mean, I think if I had to give the most distilled down definition, collective parenting would be parenting together, including with more than two parents are multiple kinds of caregivers and whatever that family or caregiving formation looks like. And I think it’s useful to think about how there are many ways in which different kinds of ways of taking care of children are collective. Though there’s definitely variation in maybe the shape or intensity of the collectivity kind of inherent in that. And I mentioned that because I think about the ways that family structures continue to change, right, like if we think about the dominant norm of the nuclear family, which is such a structuring shape in the context of settler colonialism, in the context of the ways in which the state seeks to legislate family. Yet many kinds of communities are creating family in different kinds of ways, you know, even down to kids with multiple parents because of having blended families, you know, maybe with divorce, for example. 

**Brooke ** 05:01
Right.

**Zena ** 05:01
So I think it’s useful to think about that bigger picture piece, but also think about like, what does it mean to make an intentional choice to parent together outside of the nuclear family form? And that’s the particular kind of collective parenting that I’m practicing.

**Brooke ** 05:18
Very interesting. Did you—I’m really curious, did you start doing that when your your first child joined the family? Or is that something you discovered, sort of after they, you know, after you became a parent? 

**Zena ** 05:34
Yeah, it started even before that, actually. 

**Brooke ** 05:36
Okay, cool. 

**Zena ** 05:38
I’ll give you that the micro genesis of our family. So many years ago—so our—I should maybe you kind of bring us into the present for a moment and say that there’s four adults in our family, there’s three kids. So we have a five year old and we have 20 month old twins. We’re busy. And among the adults, we have two romantic couples who are coparenting together, we all live together in one big house, and at the core of that, as well is a platonic coparenting dyad. So two of my coparents many years ago, as friends, said you know, we keep dating people who don’t want to have kids, but we really want to have kids. What if we committed to co parenting together as friends? You know, we’re queers. We do what we want. And so that I think was really cool origin story was them basically saying, look, we know we want to become parents, we don’t want to have to wait to find, you know, quote, unquote, like the one, you know, the romantic partner who is going to be your like perfect coparent. And then eventually, you know, my other coparent, like, dated her way into this family system. And then I kind of laugh because my agenesis was actually initially, like, what was very much supposed to be a casual hookup with my now-partner. So I hooked up my way into this family. And the process of becoming a parent, you know, it took longer than that. But actually, by the time my partner and I really very first got together, they were already in the process of trying to become pregnant, and were already committed to coparenting with these other two folks. And so, as our relationship became more serious, as they were still in that ongoing process of trying to become pregnant, you know, then I became essentially folded into this family through a lot of conversation between us. So it started on purpose before our first child was born. So that’s where we’ve been at this for nearly six years. So that’s where it is—an everyday practice in my life, and one that I’m still learning from.

**Brooke ** 07:42
That’s a really great origin story. I love that so much.

**Zena ** 07:47
Yeah, like it wasn’t—it wasn’t through any kind of, you know, there’s different kinds of apps I think now that some people are using to find coparents. This was definitely born thorugh the classic queer practice of hooking up.

**Brooke ** 07:59
[Laughing] Yeah, well, as a as a polyamorous person who is very—I purposely call myself slut positive, because that word to me is a compliment that I use about myself—I can identify, especially being part of a polyamorous community and watching the fluid dynamics of so many of those relationships, and that do sometimes lead to coparenting situations. Which is I think—not to say that you have to be, of course, polyamorous or even queer, to do collective parenting at all. It’s just interesting how that ends up intersecting a lot of the time, it seems like. 

**Zena ** 08:38
Yeah, I mean, I think certainly something that I think about in the context of our family system is, like, what are the lineages were part of. And for me there is that aspect of, by parenting in this way, we are connected to lineages of queerness, you know, thinking about historical movements for gay liberation, for children’s liberation, you know, and that there are these really interesting kind of entanglements and histories that I think, you know, feel important for me to be able to lean into, like, as a queer person doing it in this way. But I think also recognizing that these kinds of family formations exist in so many historical and cultural and geographic contexts, you know, and that, you know, they’re very deeply tied into particular kinds of communities. You know, thinking about many Indigenous communities, for example, or Black communities and all of these different ways of practicing forming family, and what does it look like to actually be in a conscious or intentional practice of pushing against the kind of narrow family forms that the state—and again, through processes of settler colonialism and white supremacy—tries to impose, often violently, you know, on particular communities and particularly in people and families.

**Brooke ** 09:50
Yeah, I was gonna say, as an Indigenous woman, you know, that was a rich part of our history, you know, before colonialism came along was the more collective parenting and, you know, grandparents, if they were still around, were always very involved in taking care of children—and not just their, you know, biological grandchildren, but the children in the tribe. So that collectivism was there for a long time and was—it worked very well. And it was a very healthy and functioned for the better of the community. So it’s unfortunate, for many reasons, that we don’t have that now. And really inspiring and uplifting that folks like yourself are putting that into deliberate practice and helping teach others about, you know, collective parenting and ways to do that, because I think it, it does strengthen our communities and, you know, helps us all as individuals, and parents, as well, you know. As a single mother now, it’s nice when I’ve had friends, or when family lived nearby that I could have more shoulders to lean on. Anyway, we can get into more of that. It’s just, uh, yeah, I’m just really touched by that.

**Zena ** 11:15
Well, and it feels like an important point of connection for me as someone who is the only child of a single mother, you know, and I think so much about how the image of parenting I had growing up, you know, was certainly of seeing a mother parenting in a lot of isolation because of the really important survival-driven choices my mother made around purposely moving us away from her family of origin as a way to break cycles of intergenerational trauma—which was really necessary for our survival, and also was something that did cause different kinds of severing from kinship, right? And so I think a lot about, like, what does it mean to be parenting the way that I am now? And how is that teaching me really important lessons, and simultaneously allowing me to do a lot of unlearning, I think, about maybe narratives of independence or isolation that I think I internalized really deeply as a young person. And that, I think for many years, gave me the idea that I couldn’t want—couldn’t becme and didn’t want to be a parent because it felt overwhelming to contemplate the idea of doing it on my own or doing with a single person, a partner. And it was really only through this family formation that I realized, oh wait, you can do this. And I know—I now know, of course, it’s so possible, but those possibilities hadn’t been modeled for me until my late 30s, was how I came into this. 

**Brooke ** 12:37
Wow.

**Zena ** 12:38
Yeah. And I wonder too, I know that, given I think particularly the focus of this show, I wonder if it would be helpful for me to talk a little bit more about maybe some of the practicalities or structural aspects of our collective parenting, because I think it’s—I think it’s maybe sometimes useful to sort of turn it inside out a little bit. And the specific things I’m thinking about are, so domestically, you know, we are a family that, we live in a house together, we share our resources and financially share all of our resources on a sliding scale basis that shifts according to what any person’s income is at a given time. So there’s, I think that experience of, like, what does it mean to be dwelling together. But we also have different parenting roles. So we have to lead parents, you know, those platonic coparents at the center. 

**Brooke ** 13:30
Ah, okay.

**Zena ** 13:30
And then to vice parents, so me and my other coparents. So we kind of made up our own name. 

**Brooke ** 13:35
Yeah, I like it. 

**Zena ** 13:36
I think that that maybe is useful to talk about, too, because I like the idea that parenting—or parent—isn’t a monolith. Like, it also gets to be something where there’s that opportunity to really think about, okay well, what does this look like in practice. And I mean, in our family what that’s looked like is the lead parents are the people who, you know, individually, each were pregnant and carried our kids, they nursed them, you know, we’re really fortunate to be in Canada where more people have access to extended parental leave from work. So they were ones that took longer periods of leave to care for our children when they were really young. And they also, I would say, kind of carry a heavier, heavier mental load of parenting, you know, which is I think a big part of the work of parenting is just—

**Brooke ** 14:20
Yes!

**Zena ** 14:21
—holding it all in your head. And for me, as an early morning person and recovering Insomniac, I’m also grateful that I don’t do nights in the same way that the lead parents do. So that’s a real win for me and I think can also be, you know, for some people, you know, thinking about parenting through the lens of accessibility, like, what possibilities might collective parenting create in terms of thinking about, like, how can we each show up as parents in ways where we can both meet the needs of the family system and have our needs met? And as vice parents, you know, we’re very, very actively involved in the everyday work of parenting, you know, getting the kids ready for school, making lunches, giving baths, taking them to school and daycare, putting them to bed at night, all of those kinds of things—particularly because of living together and having three small kids. But I think it’s useful maybe to think about some of those practicalities, and I’m happy to answer questions if there are specific things you’re curious about.

**Brooke ** 15:18
Yeah. When you when you say vice parents, you know, I just inherently hear a word that makes me think there’s a hierarchy to it. But then, of course, what you just said, there’s, you’re very actively involved in all these other aspects of their life. So I am quite curious about whether there is any sort of hierarchical structure in your collective parenting situation. And also noting—this is a very random question, I’m sorry—but, you know, sometimes when you fill out school forms for a kid, there has to be like the medical decision maker who they contact and, you know, gives permission if there’s an emergency. There’s some of that kind of stuff, which isn’t necessarily hierarchical, but it is like, you almost have to decide, okay, whose name is gonna go on, you know, this part of the form. So, that’s a two or three part question, if you want to try and tackle that.

**Zena ** 16:17
I like it. I feel like it’s an inherently polyamory-inflected question. Like, is there a relationship hierarchy? And I would say, you know, yes and no, in the sense of the hierarchical nature, like, one of the things I think is really interesting in the context of our family system is to see how attachment operates. And like—

**Brooke ** 16:35
Oh, yeah.

**Zena ** 16:36
Our kids are all attached to all of us. And it is true that the children in our family, at this time anyways—and they’re all pretty little still—have particularly strong attachments to the parent who birthed and nursed them, right, and was their primary caregiver through the first year of life. So I think that’s an aspect of it. And I think we run very democratically in terms of how we show up in our family and how we make decisions together. And there’s also the both explicit and implicit understanding that, by virtue of the roles that we have, we get to participate in different ways. I would say, for me, as a vice parent, the way that I would describe it is maybe I have a little more freedom and flexibility to tap in and out of parenting, which is helpful for me as someone who has a full time job, a writing practice, you know, thinking about the other ways that I’m spreading my time and attention across all of the things that I do. So I think that’s a—that’s a piece. And one of the things that I think is a really crucial, honestly, tool for our family is we have a weekly schedule, and every weekend we sit down and have a meeting called Week In Review. And we look at the schedule for the week and we say, okay, who’s doing bedtime for which kid? Who’s doing school drop off? Who’s doing daycare drop off? Who’s doing daycare pickup? Who’s doing school pickup? Who’s cooking dinner? What are you cooking dinner? Who has a massage appointment? Who has a volunteer shift? When is our friend coming to visit?

**Brooke ** 18:04
You do that every week, once a week? Wow.

**Zena ** 18:05
Yeah, and it takes like half an hour, you know, because we—we’re so practiced at it, right? It’s very straightforward, because we also have places where we try to have a regular cadence of, you know, this is the bedtime rhythm we work with, this is the school drop off and pickup rhythm, that kind of thing. And it creates predictability for the kids to which is helpful for them. But I also find it—it takes, I think, maybe the decision fatigue out of having to do it on an everyday basis—

**Brooke ** 18:32
Yes.

**Zena ** 18:32
Because we just have it mapped out for the week. 

**Brooke ** 18:34
Oh, yeah sure.

**Zena ** 18:35
And then—and then we flow and flex, of course, as things come up. So—

**Brooke ** 18:39
Are there—

**Zena ** 18:40
Yeah?

**Brooke ** 18:41
Are there—are there defaults at all in the schedule? Like so-and-so usually is able to do Tuesdays and, you know, person Q is able to do Wednesdays, or anything like that, that you can kind of start from a place of predictability, or—because it almost sounds like every week you’re reinventing—not reinventing the wheel, but like, figuring out who goes into all the slots. But I’m hoping—I’m guessing that there’s a little more that’s maybe already built in normally that you can work from.

**Zena ** 19:10
Definitely.

**Zena ** 19:11
Yeah, there’s definitely some predictability, like we have a standard bedtime rotation, and we just go basically in alphabetical order. And so—and then it’s also really helpful because it means that the couples, we get two date nights a week.

**Brooke ** 19:11
Okay. [Laughing]

**Brooke ** 19:26
Nice.

**Zena ** 19:27
Because we are not on a kid bedtime those nights. And so even just being able to have more time off, right, than would be afforded if we were doing this, you know, if there were just two of us, or if it was one of us doing it on our own. So I think that’s also something that’s been really helpful to build in. And I know you asked a question, too, about what I would think of maybe more around, like, how have we chosen—what are the decisions we’ve made around legally formalizing our roles. And I would say, we’re in a space of evolution around that. So we made a very intentional choice, including after talking with, you know, radical queer lawyers who’ve done a lot of work in this area, to think about, you know, what do and don’t we want to have legally or state-sanctioned around the family relationships that we have. And the choice we had made was to have the coparenting dyad be the two people on the birth certificate for all of our kids. There’s some greater degree of flexibility where we live in Canada because of the legal advocacy of people with different kinds of family structures. But we still would be limited. We couldn’t actually put all four of us on the birth certificate, it isn’t allowed, given the nature of the relationships that we have. 

**Brooke ** 20:37
Yeah.

**Zena ** 20:38
And that’s been fine up until this point. But now that our older kid is in public school, we’re actually now in a process of realizing that it is really necessary for the two parents who are not on the birth certificate to go through a process of formally—we’re choosing to do a legal guardianship of our kids rather than going through becoming kind of a full legal parent. And again, that’s through consultation with other radical queer lawyers. And I say that because I think this is one of the tricky things about, like, what would be most values are politically aligned around, I don’t want the state to sanction my relationships. Like that, that feels values misaligned for me. 

**Brooke ** 21:17
Right, oh yeah. 

**Zena ** 21:17
And simultaneously, like, what does it mean when, you know, we and our children become implicated with these institutions in different kinds of ways, and when does it become a barrier around things like getting to be recognized as a parent by the school, getting to be a healthcare decision maker in the event of an emergency, that kind of thing. 

**Brooke ** 21:34
Right.

**Zena ** 21:34
So we’re in a space of having to make some different choices now. And that’s complicated, because it involves the courts, it involves getting criminal record checks, like, things that are highly inaccessible to many people in many communities. And that we’re muddling our way through.

**Brooke ** 21:49
Yeah, that’s quite the—that’s quite the journey, for sure. And I’m sure very—a very interesting process to go through and figure out and—

**Zena ** 21:59
My learning is: don’t casually mention to the lady at the police station that you’re doing gender open parenting. She will immediately become icy cold to you. 

**Brooke ** 22:11
Okay.

**Zena ** 22:11
Why did I not predict that? So many reasons. She asked me about the gender of our children and I chose to answer honestly. It was probably the wrong choice.

**Brooke ** 22:23
Yeah, I hear ya. In our—in our pre-taping conversation, you mentioned that phrase, the gender open parenting, and this is maybe kind of an aside and not exactly collective parenting. I’m intuiting what I think you mean just from the phrasing, but I haven’t actually heard anyone use that phrase before until you said it. So I’m wondering if you might be willing to go off on a little tangent here with me and teach me about that. 

**Zena ** 22:50
Yeah, I mean, the maybe the simplest way is that we didn’t assign a gender to the kids when they were born. And we just use they/them pronouns. Which, again, I recognize is still a choice. But in our family, we’ve opted to use they/them pronouns for our kids until they were big enough to say otherwise. And so with our older kid, it was very clear—just before she turned three she said, I’m she, I’m a girl. And we said, okay, and proceeded accordingly. And our other kids are still little enough that they haven’t articulated that to us. And, you know, the message we always want to give to our kids over and over again is, whatever that looks like in the future, if it changes, wonderful. You know, we will celebrate and accept you exactly as you are. And that also feels really important in our family with a couple of parents who are nonbinary, all of us who are queer, you know, and really trying to create a space for our children that’s really affirming of them in the fullness of who they are, and who they’re in a continual process of becoming.

**Brooke ** 23:47
With your—with your older child who has now identified her own gender— and I guess, as you’re doing—you’re raising the younger ones too, are there—I’m thinking about, like, when I go to the toy store, right, and there’s still, you know, the "girl" aisle and the "boy" aisle kind of a thing. And there’s probably other scenarios of that kind of, like, classic gender division, and I’m wondering how much you all had to work to, like, to avoid any of that, or if you did, or how you manage some of that while you were trying to keep this gender open parenting philosophy going on. Practice, practice. 

**Zena ** 24:27
Yeah, I mean, I think gender is always present, right? 

**Brooke ** 24:32
Right. 

**Zena ** 24:33
In so many ways, and certainly becomes this like shaping and structuring thing in our society.

**Brooke ** 24:38
You go to a public bathroom. 

**Zena ** 24:39
Yeah, absolutely.

**Brooke ** 24:40
Yeah, okay. 

**Zena ** 24:41
I mean, you know, even thinking about it at the level of like children’s clothing you know as a micro example, it is so fascinating to me how different the cuts are—

**Brooke ** 24:50
Yes.

**Zena ** 24:50
Which means a tshirt for a quote unquote girl and a tshirt for a quote unquote boy, identical sizing in terms of the kid clothing size, but actually, in our experience, like vastly different size, right?

**Brooke ** 25:05
Yes.

**Zena ** 25:06
And so I use that as a micro example, I think, to think about the ways in which, you know, gender shows up in so many layered ways and obviously shows up for kids in a whole bunch of kinds of ways. And I think what we try to do was just create a space of possibility, giving the kids lots of choices around the type of garments that they wear, not attaching labels around, this is a boy thing, or this is a girl thing, you know, just really saying, oh, okay, this is what you want to wear, this is what you like, Great, how can we support you in that and give you lots lots to choose from, whether it’s around how they want to express themselves or what they want to do. I mean, I like it in the context of our multi parent family too, because I think about the different strengths we bring as parents, and I know that I will never be—nor do I want to be—the sports parent. As a queer femme, you know, who has been deeply immersed in femme community for 20 years, I am definitely the parent who will paint your nails. 

**Brooke ** 26:04
Nice. 

**Zena ** 26:05
You know, if you want your nails painted, like, my got you, you know? And so I think about that too in the different ways we can model, like, what are the gender expressions we have as adults in our family—we’re very lucky to have a community of people around us with a lot of really diverse gender expressions. And so I think that’s also something that’s really helpful for our kids to see that there’s a lot of kind of ways to be,

**Brooke ** 26:27
Yeah, that’s really neat. So I imagine that you, you know, probably don’t even sort of approach clothing from a gendered standpoint a lot of the time. Like, you know, I need to work on my own thinking—but like, if I were to pick up a two year old size bright pink shirt, my brain immediately would go, oh, you know, girl, or, you know, if I pick up a two year old shirt that’s got, you know, big old monster trucks on it, I think, boy. And so my original question to you was—was trying to imagine like that scenario, and then what you do or don’t put on the kids, but I suppose that if you’re coming at it with a really non-gendered perspective, and saying, this is not a girl thing, this is not a boy thing. it doesn’t matter who’s wearing what. You need—you don’t have to try to put them in quote, unquote, gender neutral things, either. Am I—am I right in thinking that? 

**Zena ** 27:20
Yeah. And I think especially because I think sometimes what gets coded as gender neutral, you know, often is something that might look more sort of, quote, unquote, kind of masculine. And I see this, I think, probably more reflected in my observations of some of the sort of ostensively gender neutral clothing lines that have come out, like, I think often in context of queer community and being marketed at queer community. But then, multiple times I’ve seen femems say, hey, but is that actually neutral? Or is it—is it really kind of like repackaging something that, you know, might be coded in other contexts as more kind of masculine, right? So, I mean, again, it’s sort of the malleability of all of this stuff, but also kind of the stickiness of these, these gender norms that show up in all kinds of places. And I think, you know, for our kids, like, hopefully, we can bring the same ethos we bring to our own clothing, which is like, what feels good on your bod— including from a sensory standpoint—like, what’s comfortable? And then also, like, what delights you and what can you move in, you know, and the clothing that a little kid needs is different, right, that perhaps what my wardrobe looks like. Though, I also think a lot about what can I move in. Because I sure do a lot of crouching and crawling around—more than I did before I was a parent. 

**Brooke ** 28:30
[Laughing] Yeah.

**Zena ** 28:31
And I think a lot more about how will this outfit hold up to all manner of bodily fluids and other weird liquids, you know, it’s really—it’s really a factor that I didn’t used to think about in my pre parenting life.

**Brooke ** 28:43
Yeah, and my—my child was far enough, kind of, from that age, that’s not really an issue. And so, you know, you say that I’m like, oh yes, I remember that phase of parenting, where that was one of the considerations. And it’s funny to be on the other side of some of these things and realize some of what I forgottenthat used to be of such great concern. I want to back up though with you like three steps, because we were talking about how, when you came into the relationship, you know, it was sort of already established that there was going to be this collective parenting where that quickly developed, whatever, whatever the timeframe was. But, you know, by the time children came along, you all already knew that’s how it was going to be. I’m wondering if, in that time or since that time, if you’ve done a lot of, I don’t know, reading or researching or talking to other collective parents, or if you’ve done mostly kind of figuring it out, you know, with the four of you of how it works, or perhaps a mix of both techniques. But how did you learn how to collective parents, is really what I’m getting at.

**Zena ** 29:49
Yesah! Well, and I—I’m definitely learning all the time, and that’s one of the things I love about it. Right? You know, I think parenting is such an ongoing learning process, whether you’re doing it collectively or not. 

**Zena ** 30:01
And I think, for us, there is a really—a really beautiful aspect that is about rootedness and community. And I feel grateful for that. Like, there are other people that we know who were already doing different forms of collective parenting—again, as has been done for generations. But in this case, these are maybe more immediate kind of peers of ours that are parenting kind of similar age kids in different cities, some in Canada, some in the US, that we are in relationship with. And so there absolutely are those kinds of conversations and connections that happen, which I think can feel like a real balm for us in terms of saying, oh yeah, you know, how do you navigate this particular thing? Or, oh, yes, I also have had these types of conversations. Like, it’s so great to be able to talk about this with another set of coparents and see how you guys are, you know, dealing with this particular challenge you might be grappling with. Or, oh cool, you have a neat kind of hack, like, tell us what it is we want to know. And then I think, again, because we also have been more open about our family story intentionally, because I think we’re mindful that—you know, certainly even thinking of my own experience, I didn’t have models for this kind of parenting when I was coming up as a younger person. So as a family, we’ve made an intentional choice to tell our story in certain contexts. As a way, we hope to be able to open the door for other folks to contemplate what kinds of possibilities they might want to co create and the communities and relationships they’re part of. 

**Brooke ** 30:01
Absolutely.

**Brooke ** 31:25
Yeah!

**Zena ** 31:25
And so I think there also is that element where then people will come to us and say, we’re just starting out, or we want to do this, can we talk with you? Can we learn from you? And we always try to be in that space of generosity and reciprocity. And absolutely, there’s a research-based element, including for me as a writer whose work is historically-informed, like, I’m always really interested to learn about the lineages we come from. I’ll never forget, you know, the the story I often think about—which is mind boggling to me when I think about it in terms of era—I read about a lesbian woman, this would have been in the late 70s, who was coparenting a baby. And she was doing it with 10 of her friends. 

**Zena ** 32:05
And like in the era before cell phones, and group texts, and email and Google Calendar. Like to coparent a baby with 10 people. What an accomplishment. Right? 

**Brooke ** 32:05
Wow. 

**Brooke ** 32:15
Yeah. 

**Zena ** 32:16
Just logistically alone, it’s astonishing. 

**Brooke ** 32:18
Right? Yeah, for sure. Do you find that—let me say it this way, how common is that people become parents after they’ve decided to collectively parent, as opposed to becoming collective parents after they’ve become… regular’s is not the right word. But, you know, after they’ve become a parent, starting to do collective parenting versus pre planning for that?

**Zena ** 32:50
That’s a good question. And I can’t say I have an easy answer to it, because I would say it probably depends. Like I get the sense that more people are going into these kinds of parenting arrangements, like, intentionally, before there are kids on the scene. And I also think that these kinds of collective parenting relationships and arrangements emerge organically over time as well, right, as relationships change, as people situations change in the context of their family systems. So I would wager it’s probably a mix. And I would guess that there might be a bit of an upward trend in terms of seeing folks maybe coming into these types of family formations with intentionality before they have kids. 

**Brooke ** 33:33
Yeah, interesting. 

**Zena ** 33:34
But that’s, you know, that’s based on literally no data whatsoever—

**Brooke ** 33:37
Oh I know.

**Zena ** 33:38
Except—except vibes and what I know about, you know, how family formations are changing in a lot of different ways.

**Brooke ** 33:45
Yeah. Well, you certainly talked to a lot more collective parents than I have. So, you know, not that’s a representative sample as an economist. But certainly, there’s there’s some information to be gleaned from your connections there.

**Zena ** 34:01
Yeah. And I think you can maybe also think about it in relation to, you know, places where we do see like legal advocacy happening, like, often driven by folks in different kinds of poly family arrangements or, or what might be a different or kind of non normative family arrangement, like, fighting to have those family arrangements and relationships recognized by the courts. So, you know, I think that that is also a place where I have seen shifts, both in the US and Canadian context. And, you know, what that’s going to look like over time. Obviously, given the regressive politics we’re seeing right now, given rising fascism, and obviously the targeting of trans and queer folks and people across a lot of lines of identity. I don’t have a sense of any of those advances are going to be rolled back, but I do look at the work of organizations like the Chosen Family Law Center in the US would be a great example of a place, I think, where they’re doing some really interesting advocacy about, you know, how might different kinds of family formations have greater legal recognition, greater state recognition—which does have many forms of utility, right, and all it’s complexity.

**Brooke ** 35:01
Right. Yeah, yeah, unfortunate, as you had said before, that you know, the state—that we sort of have to get the state involved in some of this because, you know, we don’t want them in our relationships. At least I don’t want them in mine, much as you said you don’t want them in yours. But then, yeah, there’s certain rights and privileges that are granted or denied, you know, based on—purely on biology a lot of the time. So there’s the work that has to be done to, you know, move that forward. So you were just talking about, you know, our current political climate and the rise of fascism. Do you feel like collective parenting has become more important or more useful because of our current political and social climate that we’re in?

**Zena ** 35:47
Yeah, as I was thinking about this conversation, I went back to the book "Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice" by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. And in that book Leah quotes their friend, Dory Midnight who says, "More care more of the time." And I love the simple potency of that phrase. And the reason I’m drawing a direct connection to the current social, political, economic climate is that I believe very strongly in the need to grow and deepen our capacity for interdependence, and to build the relationships that are necessary to enable more of us to survive. Like that, that is something I try to organize my life around in a lot of different ways. And certainly, I think, collective parenting is is one of those. And I think that, you know, certainly parenting—and I think caregiving more broadly, whether you’re caring for kids or other adults in your life—can be immensely joyful, pleasurable, rewarding and fulfilling. And it also can be exhausting, depleting, and unrelenting, right? Like you’re a single parent. I’m sure you have your own intense experiences of the joys and challenges of what it means to be a parent and a caregiver. And so I think a lot about, like, how might we actually grow our capacity to care for one another, you know. And I don’t think it’s unconnected that one of the tenets of disaster preparedness is to get to know your neighbors. Like I think about that in the sense of, like, what does it mean to build relationship, to be an interdependence? And like, what does it mean to push back against isolation, including the isolation that can come from the ways in which parenting is often organized in our societies? 

**Brooke ** 37:30
Yeah. 

**Zena ** 37:31
But I think also how to broaden the framing so that we’re not solely thinking about the experiences of parents, but also, again, thinking more broadly about caregivers, right, and that many people are giving care to folks of different ages. And, more broadly, how do we all care for one another? You know, and thinking about what we can learn from disability justice around that, in the sense of really thinking about an active and ongoing practice of interdependence and collective care in all of its difficulties and messiness, and the transformative potential of that. And that—I don’t, I don’t mean that in a romanticized way, either. Like I know that, before we started recording, I was talking about, like, how many butts I wipe in my everyday life, you know. It’s a butt wiping intensive phase of life, and I’m sure I will enter into other ones as I—as I and the people around me age, right, or become disabled in different ways. And so I think so much about, like, the practical, tangible hands-on aspects of this, and how that connects to the politics and values we might be bringing to this, you know. And for me, this is a form of praxis, it’s a form of prefigurative world building, you know, really thinking about like what is the world I am working to build? And how am I living those values in my intimate domestic relationships? And like, it matters to me that I am doing this in my home space with the people with whom I am in the most intimate of relationships. 

**Brooke ** 39:01
Yeah.

**Zena ** 39:02
But I also don’t want that intimacy to stop, like, at the walls of our house either. And so how can we then continue to expand that web of interdependence out and—you know, it’s interesting, I say this like as a gay divorcee, right, like I have been gay married, I got gay divorced many years ago, I came full circle there. My partner and I—my current partner and I had a DIY backyard magic ritual this summer, you know, no state sanctioning involved. And it was really important to us in that, where we intentionally spoke our commitments to one another, and we spoke our commitments to our coparents and our kids. And then we spoke our commitments to the community and family that were gathered there. And that it was really intentionally about, like, how do we create a space where we can honor the interdependence that we are part of and that holds us and holds our family and holds our relationship, and like, what does it mean to make an active commitment to that, including in the context of actually ritualizing it. And as a—as a way to demonstrate the importance of that to the people that were there bearing witness and sharing that experience with us.

**Brooke ** 40:11
Wow, that is—that is so beautiful. It really is. Thank you for sharing that. All right, so we’ve talked about some of the great parts of collective parenting, and the good that it brings to the children, the good that it brings to the other parents. You talked about some of the tools that you have that have made that practice more successful, like your weekly sit down on you, you know, discuss calendar things together. Are there pitfalls in collective parenting, you know, things that—lessons you’ve learned along the way, things that you’ve seen and heard in talking to others. You know, anything that sort of collective parents always try, but it never works out. So, you know, something somebody could avoid trying and inevitably failing at, because it always goes that way—or anything like that, that you might want to share. 

**Zena ** 41:02
One of the things that I really appreciate about—and find consistently challenging—about this experience of collective parenting, and this particular form of, like, deeply intimate and sustained interdependence, is what it asks, I think—certainly, it asks of me in terms of building my capacity for conflict intimacy outside of romantic partnerships or professional relationships. Because I actually think that there are entire cultures and industries around how to have a better fight with your partner, and how to have a better fight with your coworker. And I think it is really interesting, and in some ways, unsurprising that there’s not similar modeling in a maybe more mainstream way around how to actually move well through conflict in our friendships, our intimate relationships. And like, of course, this is a place where I think there’s much to be learned from transformative justice. And—and! It is a whole thing to think about, like how to bring that into practice in your everyday life, you know, how to have a difficult conversation with someone you love and are intimate with to say, oh hey, like, that interaction we had in the kitchen, you know, was frustrating for me, here’s why. While still giving us, like—one another, a lot of grace for, you know, what it means to be living in the fullness of who we are and all of our messiness and grouchiness, you know, in the way that nobody needs to be perfect or perfectly happy all the time. But I would say that that’s something I’ve talked with my coparents about at different kinds of points is like, how do we get more practice—practiced at having those kinds of challenging conversations, including in the context of just also the fullness of our everyday lives. Like, you know, we do have a weekly kind of evening, just the adults, you know, checking in talking about parenting stuff, you know, bringing up anything that we might want to surface. And certainly we’ll have one-on-one conversations when we need to work through something maybe that’s kind of challenging or sticky that’s come up between a couple of us. But I also am just tired a lot of the time, you know, and it’s the end of the day, and I’m ready to go to bed. I don’t want to be like, and now let’s talk about our feelings for one hour. 

**Brooke ** 43:14
Yeah. 

**Zena ** 43:15
And sometimes you need to, right? 

**Brooke ** 43:16
Yeah.

**Zena ** 43:17
And I think also, for me, that’s a place where, you know, speaking personally, I’ve found it really useful to have a therapist, you know, and to be able to reach outside my family system—of course, like, through friendships and other kinds of relationships. But I mention my therapist specifically because I think so much about how so much of parenting for me is also about that process of reparenting myself. And like, looking back on my own childhood experiences, and like, appreciating the gifts that I received through those experiences, but also the ways in which there are things I need to unlearn from how I was raised, you know, and thinking about how those show up in my parenting. So big fan of Internal Family Systems, you know, and I think that that’s also a really interesting therapeutic modality in relation to collective parenting, because it’s like, how are we holding the fullness of all the parts that make us up as individuals? And then how are we showing up in these more expansive intimate and familial relations? So that’s another pro tip: if you’re into therapy, get a therapy. Just a really good advice, you know, generally. As long as you can find one and afford one. And that’s also often impossible, which I recognize. But I think, you know, the other thing I would say, too is, I think it can be sometimes—it can be easy to get caught up in perfectionism, or the notion that there is any sort of getting it right, you know? 

**Brooke ** 44:36
Ah, yeah. 

**Zena ** 44:37
And I don’t think that there is. You know, I think something I feel really grateful for in our family is that we come in with a shared set of values around parenting, and a shared set of political commitments. And that makes a difference, I think—

**Brooke ** 44:50
Absolutely.

**Zena ** 44:51
—in terms of, we’re able to move from that shared foundation in ways that makes the harder stuff easier to navigate and also the places where we do things differently—like, sometimes difference is perfectly okay. Right? It doesn’t have to be perfect unity on every single thing, right? But it is really understanding, where do you need to be aligned on the stuff that really matters? Right? And how can—how can those shared values be helpful in that regard?

**Brooke ** 45:16
Yeah. And I—and then I also imagine that having and practicing some amount of, you know, compassion and empathy and understanding for other people in different viewpoints—you know I, again, I’m not collected parenting, I’m a single parent. But my child’s father and I are sort of opposite ends of the political spectrum almost at this point. And I try very hard to be in practice of, you know, never putting down her father, you know, that’s part of who she is. And being clear that, yeah, you know, I don’t agree with this thing that he said, I don’t agree with his stance on this and whatnot. But never making that about who he is as a person, that never making it that he’s wrong, even if I feel that way. But, you know, being able to, you know, articulate that we have this difference of opinion, in a way that holds compassion and kindness for that other parent in the situation, you know, even if I don’t agree with them, even if, you know, I do think that some of their beliefs and practices are genuinely harmful to other human beings on this planet. But not putting that into my child so much, because they’re going to, you know, learn that part on their own. And really, what I need to do is just be clear on what I believe, and not damage their other parenting relationship in the process. At least that’s how I feel about it. And you know, I’m open to being wrong or having—learning that there’s a better way to do that even than I am.

**Zena ** 47:03
Yeah, and I mean, I think about it in this sense of, like, I sometimes think about how parenting feels like the most sustained and complex form of activism that I’ve ever done, in the sense that it asks me to live my values in a really intimate and ongoing and everyday way. And one of the places I continue to do learning is around children’s liberation, confronting adult supremacy. You know, when I think about, like, Carla Joy Bergman the anthology "Trust Kids" that came home with AK Press, that’s all about confronting adult supremacy and supporting youth autonomy. You know, I know Carla uses the phrase, "solidarity begins at home," you know, and I think so much about that, too, of like, what are the ways in which many of us have both been taught and internalize the relations of domination over children? And like, what does it look like to actually try and disentangle ourselves from those, I think really often insidious tendencies, like, even in those of us who are trying to, to the best of our ability, come at this from a more liberatory kind of way. So that for me, I think, feels like a really rich site of inquiry and practice in all of this too. And definitely a place where I’m really still learning. 

**Brooke ** 48:12
Yeah. So I got the chance to interview Carla—almost a year ago now, it was February of last year—on, you know, we talked about—we talked about our book, and we talked a lot about adult supremacy. So that was February 24th 2023 episode, episode #59, should any of our listeners be curious to go back and talk about that. And it’s funny, because, you know, when I—when I sat down to talk with her I actually wanted to talk with her about collective parenting. And then our conversation really took us into this realm more of talking about adult supremacy. And so that really ended up being the focus of that episode—it was great and really interesting, and I think an important component of parenting in general, but also collective parenting, as well. So yeah, there’s a lot that I certainly have learned about that as well. In our last couple minutes here, I’m wondering if there were any other things that you might like to talk about with collective parenting, the ways it ties to other social movements or issues going on, or, or just generally, anything else that you want to say or share about collective parenting?

**Zena ** 49:29
Yeah, I mean, I think I would want to speak to some of those bigger connections. And then, I think, end on a really practical tangible note, because it’s something I really appreciate about this podcast is I feel like I always walk away with things I can do. And so, you know, something I do think is—

**Zena ** 49:45
Something I think about is, like, you know, how can these forms of parenting, you know, in this practice of deepening our capacity for interdependence—and for intergenerational solidarity, right? Like, I don’t assume that every person out there wants to be a parent, you know, or wants to necessarily be someone who’s in an everyday caregiving relation. And I do believe very deeply that all of us should be committed to a practice of intergenerational solidarity. That includes giving a shit about the children in our community, and seeing them as self determined people whose liberation is bound up with ours. And I have absolutely no patience for adults who think it’s cool to hate kids. It’s not radical to hate kids. It’s not cool. It’s bullshit, and it’s ageism. And I just feel so strongly about that, you know, similar to the ways in which I think so much about like what might it look like to build communities where we honor and ritually welcome in older adults, you know, disabled people, like, all of the people who capitalism and white supremacy and settler colonialism and ableism and ageism and childism tell us are less valuable, you know. When in fact, they are vital members of our communities and our movements. Right? 

**Brooke ** 49:45
Take it away!

**Zena ** 51:01
So I think about that. And I think about how we can also connect these practices to movements for abolition, you know, in thinking about the violence that the family policing system does to so many families, particularly Indigenous, Black, other racialized families, disabled families, you know, poor folks. And so what might be the ways in which these forms of collective parenting—and again, just deepening our capacity for interdependence and solidarity with kids in our communities and parents and families can also be a way to intervene against the violence of that kind of state surveillance, child apprehension, family separation, and just reproductive injustice, right, that is happening in so many communities today—including and not limited to the experiences of trans kids. So I want to pull in those threads. And I also want to take a moment to just to speak, maybe, to the folks that are asking themselves, like, do I want to parent in this way? And what might that look like? And so some of the things I would share would be: I think this is a place to begin by reflecting on your own wants and needs, you know. How do you imagine parenting? What would you want your role to look like? You know, if there aren’t already kids in the picture, how do you imagine those kids coming on the scene? You know, would that be through a process of somebody becoming pregnant? Would it be through adoption or fostering? You know—and again, all of these things are part of this process. I think it’s also really important with the folks that you might be doing this with, to really think about, like, having upfront conversations about your needs, your desires, your dreams, your visions, but also your fears and boundaries, and your desired family or coparenting structures, and how you want to distribute the care and parenting labor. Not that you’re going to have all of that figured out upfront, but I think—I think it’s useful to begin the conversation. And I think, also, to really understand that, like, none of this is fixed. It’s going to change over time. And I would say, you know, maybe just a couple of other thoughts that I think are really pragmatic and useful are, I think, to also think about how "out" you want to be and can be about your collective or co parenting relationships. Like, are you in a position to be able to be out about this to your families of origin, to your neighbors, you know, to your kids, daycare providers, or school teachers, or health care providers, to your kids’ friends and their parents? You know, like, we’re really fortunate to be able to be out and well supported by our family of origin and the various caregivers and teachers and community members we have. But that is absolutely not the case for everyone, and I think is also entangled with, with the whiteness and other forms of privilege of our family that insulates us. 

**Brooke ** 51:01
Yeah, mhm.

**Brooke ** 51:01
Yeah.

**Zena ** 51:02
And I think also, as we’ve talked about, like to think about where and how you want and need the state to sanction your family structure, you know, and that that can create a lot of barriers for folks, right, you know, including the ways in which that can disrupt people’s access to disability or welfare benefits, for example, or bring the surveillance of the state onto you and your family system in ways that can be really harmful. 

**Brooke ** 54:16
Yeah.

**Zena ** 54:17
But it also can be an enabling tool in the system that exists. So I think, I think to ask those kinds of questions as well. So yeah, sort of kind of toggling between the like relational and values based and care work based piece, and then also the, like, what happens when your family system is turning outward to the world that exists now, and what are the ways in which you want to be navigating that world as purposefully as possible?

**Brooke ** 54:42
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And I really appreciate the—that advice for folks considering the situation. It’s obviously really important starting point, if you get to do that before you know children come in the family, or are something that you definitely have to think about if you’re—if you’re going into, like you said before, an organically forming collective parenting situation. So I appreciate that a lot. Before we say goodbye, I wanted to, again, thank you for being here with me today, talking to me, teaching me, I learned a lot today. And I—I’m really grateful for that and hope our listeners did as well. And then give you space if you have anything that you want to share, plug, endorse, etc.

**Zena ** 55:41
Yeah, really appreciate the opportunity to be in conversation with you. And hopefully, there are some useful gems, and I can also share some resources with you to put in the show notes if there are just going to be some other books or things that that I think are useful for folks maybe to check out as kind of part of their contemplations here. And I would say, for plugging, I know you and I were chatting a little bit earlier. So I’m a writer, and my most recent book came out in 2021. I have a new one coming out in 2025, but it doesn’t have a title yet. But my 2021 book is called "The Care We Dream Of: Liberatory and Transformative Approaches to LGBTQ+ Health." And the simplest way I can describe it is: the queer and trans health book that loves sex workers and hates cops. So if you want to learn about that, or learn more about me and my work—and I do actually write a little bit about our family in that book as well—you can find that and more information on my website, which is just zenasharman.com.

**Brooke ** 56:35
Great. Thanks so much. 

**Zena ** 56:38
Thank you.

**Brooke ** 56:43
And to our listeners, thanks so much for listening. If you enjoy our podcast, please give it a like, drop a comment, or a review. Subscribe to us if you haven’t already. These things make the algorithms that rule our world offer our show to more people. This podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You can connect with us on Twitter @tangledwild, and also on Instagram. Or check out our website at tangledwilderness.org where you can find our extensive list of projects and publications. If you want to connect with me directly, you can find me on Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke, that’s Brooke with an e. This podcast and much of the work of Strangers is made possible by our Patreon supporters. If you want to become a supporter, check out patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. There are cool benefits at various support tiers on Patreon. For instance, if you support the collective at just $5 a month, we mail you a monthly zine. We would like to give a specific shout out to some of our most supportive Patreon supporters. Thanks to Aly, Paige, Jenipher, Eric, David, Staro, Patoli, Chris, theo, Kirk, Princess Miranda, Milica, Marm, Catgut, Janice & O’Dell, Dana, Carson, Buck, Lord Harken, Nicole, paparouna, Funder, Perceval, BenBen, Mic Aiah, anonymous, S.J., Trixter, Hunter, Chelsea, Julia, Boise Mutual Aid and Hoss the Dog. 

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E105 – Eric King on Surviving Prison

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Eric King talks to Margaret about navigating and surviving prison after spending nine and half years in a federal prison after firebombing a congress person’s office during the Ferguson Uprising.

Guest Info

Eric King (he/him) is an anarchist, a father, a poet, a brutal scrabble player, an adoring Swiftie and an undying anti-fascist.  You can support Eric on IG @supportericking and @rattlingcagesbook as well as at https://supportericking.org/ Eric also co-edited the book Rattling Cages, which can be found at http://rattlingthecages.com/

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Eric King on Surviving Prison

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast where it feels like the end times. And this week—I’m really excited about this week—I get to talk to someone that I wanted to talk to you for a very long time, but I wasn’t able to because he was in prison. And that’s not a good place to talk to people if you don’t know them. But what we’re going to talk about this week is how to survive prison with Eric King, the recently released anarchist prisoner who spent way too fucking long in a cage. And so we’re gonna talk about how to survive being in a cage because it’s a thing that we should all be aware of, even if we try to avoid it. But first, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero etwork of Anarchists Podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. 

**Margaret ** 01:41
Okay, we’re back. So, Eric, if you could introduce yourself with your name, which I already said, and your pronouns, and then why you know something about surviving prison. 

**Eric King ** 01:51
Hello, happy to be here. My name is Eric King. I go by he and him. And I spent just about nine—nine and a half years in federal prison after firebombing a congress person’s office in Missouri during the Ferguson uprising.

**Margaret ** 02:10
Okay, so, which is I mean, I don’t want to… It is good when people act in solidarity, I will just say that. So I think a lot of people are nervous around—I mean, I’ll say I’m nervous around incarceration, right. I’ve only spent two nights total in lockup, and I’ve never been in general population. And I think it’s a kind of a black box. It’s sort of a mystery. And I was wondering if you had any advice for people who, whether they’re, like currently facing incarceration, or whether they’re making decisions based on their ethics that put them at risk of incarceration. I’m wondering if you have, like, and it was a big topic, but like, how do you get ready to go to jail?

**Margaret ** 03:01
Okay. 

**Eric King ** 03:02
So I wasn’t ready. I’m going to tell you that right now. Um, I got picked up on the streets, just the cops rolled up on me with their machine guns and everything like that. And so I wasn’t ready one bit. I didn’t have a support team ready, I didn’t have funds ready. And honestly, even though I had read books and I watched documentaries, I didn’t know how to behave in prison at all. Um, so when I showed up, I was—I got myself in a lot of trouble with both other prisoners and guards, because I was doing a lot of reckless shit. Um, and so if I were to tell people to get ready, my first advice would be, like, to understand where you’re at. Like, you’re in a county jail, most likely. 

**Eric King ** 03:48
And depending on what state you’re in, like, that’s gonna depend on like the politics of that jail. And there’s ways to survive in county jails and there’s ways to survive and low security prison, medium security prison, maximum security. And you can get yourself ready for that stuff. You can be ready. 

**Margaret ** 04:06
Yeah. Okay, so what kind of prisons were you in?

**Eric King ** 04:11
So I was at a—I started off in a federal pre trial place. It was a it was one ran by CCA, which was just a nightmare because that’s one of the private companies. And then, I’m one of the few people ever in the feds have gone to a low, a medium, a USP, and the supermax—the ADX. So I worked my way up, yeah, I did all four custody levels. And so I’ve seen like how the survival, like, how you have to move and behave. It’s 100% different in each one of those. So it takes time to learn to like it’s weird.

**Margaret ** 04:49
So what are some of those ways—like, what are some examples of like how you behaved incorrectly when you first found yourself in lockup.

**Eric King ** 04:58
Sure. So when I first got to CCA, I’m on full insurrectionist anarchist time. And I’m refusing to play by the politics of that jail. And that meant that I sat and ate with the black bros. I let ,the gay and trans people, I always worked out with them, you can come work out with me. I watched the Mexican TV—when the Sureños and the Paisas are watching the Spanish channels, I sat with them. And those are things that I got away with because I can fight. If I wasn’t ready to throw hands I got destroyed. And so I had a bunch of fights. I’ve fought all the time. 

**Margaret ** 05:41
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 05:41
And then eventually the other races talk to me. They’re like, bro, look, you’re causing problems for all of us. Like, your behavior—it’s cool, we appreciate the solidarity, we saw you on the news, respect. But you’re gonna get us in a race war because we’re letting you do things that like other people aren’t allowed. So you got to cut that shit out. 

**Margaret ** 06:02
Right. 

**Eric King ** 06:03
Um, so I was still able to gamble with other races. And I was still able to run my boxing class. And so, like, the LGBT people could always we’re still involved in the boxing class, because that’s from every race. But like, once that was over, I wasn’t—I couldn’t sit with the black dudes anymore. I couldn’t watch the Spanish channel anymore. Just simple shit like that, that people in prison would say, like, duh, duh you idiot. But like, I didn’t get that early on.

**Margaret ** 06:33
That makes sense to me. One of the first friends of mine that I talked to about dealing with jail—a white anarchist who spent a bunch of time in jail, about a year or something, I guess prison more than jail. And one—and yeah, he tells me these stories about how, you know, he did the exact same thing. He went and he sat with—he was like, very consciously, he’s like, I’m not hanging out with the white supremacists. You know, right? And he was like, alright, I’m gonna go sit with black folks. And, you know, and he grew up on a primarily black neighborhood, and—

**Margaret ** 07:06
And eventually he—eventually he threw this, like birthday party that had everyone come together. But then immediately afterwards, someone tried to kill him. 

**Eric King ** 07:06
Same. 

**Eric King ** 07:18
[Laughing]

**Margaret ** 07:21
And it was because—they were like, they were like, well, we think you’re trying to unite everyone, like, under you. You know, we think you’re trying to, like, form this, like, you know—

**Eric King ** 07:33
What gang are you trying to form?

**Margaret ** 07:35
Yeah, exactly. And he ended up being put in solitary, like, ostensibly for his own protection. And, you know, and I think he’s spent the rest of his time in prison in solitary as a result of that. And that was like a—okay, so—but that brings up a question that I think that a lot of listeners would have, especially any white listeners, is then, how do you navigate that while still not joining the Nazi gang? And while indicating solidarity with people of other races without—even if you’re, like, not trying to disrupt the structure of what’s happening inside the jail? 

**Eric King ** 08:18
Sure. So the people listening online can’t see me. But I have the word "Antifa" tattooed on my face. I made it clear—I made it clear early on, I’m not fucking with these Nazis. I don’t care about you dudes. I’m not going to be your friend, I’m not gonna play like I’m your friend. If you come talking around me with that n-word stuff, that race lover stuff, miss me. You can do whatever you want to do, but like, I’m not doing it. And so, to navigate that, you have to be—you have to be willing to fight. Once again, like, you have to show them—and this is important for people, it’s important for anyone coming to prison. If you’re willing to stand on your beliefs, you can have those beliefs. What they don’t respect in any jail, any prison, any custody level, is talk. 

**Margaret ** 09:09
Okay.

**Eric King ** 09:09
So if you if you show up in jail, and you’re like, trans people are equal, don’t be mean to them. But then you watch them bully a trans person. You’re a bitch now, like, your word means nothing. 

**Margaret ** 09:23
Oh, interesting.

**Eric King ** 09:24
So you don’t get to have an opinion anymore. 

**Margaret ** 09:26
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 09:26
But if instead, like a Florence Medium for example, we had a person in their name Crazy Pete. That’s what—that was what she chose to go by. And some of the wannabe tough guys tried to bulldog her and saying like, oh, you can’t—

**Margaret ** 09:43
What’s bulldoging?

**Eric King ** 09:44
Oh, I’m sorry. They tried to—

**Margaret ** 09:47
No it’s okay. You can use that slang, but you’re gonna have to explain it to me. 

**Eric King ** 09:50
Okay. Yeah. So they uh—their agenda was to force her out of the unit or to rob her, one of the two. And I said no. Absolutely not. You’re not doing this. Ah, my wife and I had already raised money to essentially buy a gay guy out of debt so they wouldn’t be sold by the—by some of the other races. And so people already knew like, this is what EK is standing on.

**Margaret ** 10:17
Right. 

**Eric King ** 10:18
Um, and so when it came time for the Crazy Pete shit, like, you just show up, and you show up with your weapons, and you show up with your hands, and you stand on it and you say this is not happening. 

**Margaret ** 10:29
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 10:30
We can do whatever you guys want to do. And when you take that stand and they know you’re serious, it can defuse the entire situation. Um, but if I just spoke from my little chair, no, don’t do it be nice… 

**Margaret ** 10:45
Right.

**Eric King ** 10:46
Pete would have got fucked up, and I would have got fucked up. 

**Margaret ** 10:49
Right. 

**Eric King ** 10:50
So that’s, that’s the first like, I don’t want to make prisons seem like it’s only violence, but the first way to get people to understand, like, what you’re about is to show them what you’re about. 

**Margaret ** 11:04
Right. 

**Eric King ** 11:04
And sometimes that means, like, just telling like some racist dude next to you, like, man cut that shit out. Cut it out. I’m not trying to hear that shit. 

**Margaret ** 11:12
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 11:13
Or like, I would not let people say the f-word around me—like the homosexual slur. 

**Margaret ** 11:19
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 11:20
You couldn’t say it around. If you said around me, I’m calling you out or we’re fighting. 

**Margaret ** 11:23
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 11:24
And that was, like, these are stances I took. And sometimes you put me in harm’s way and sometimes I had to pay the price for that for real. 

**Margaret ** 11:32
Right.

**Eric King ** 11:32
But a lot of times it just let me live as me as, oh that’s Eric, he’s fucking weird. But, you know, he’s not a punk. That sort of stuff. If that makes sense.

**Margaret ** 11:44
No, that—that does make sense. The whole kind of, like, so you need to basically not be weak. You need to be—like you need to like—So. Okay, so—

**Eric King ** 11:59
This isn’t about winning the fights either just so you know. It’s not about, like, being tough. It’s about being brave more than anything. 

**Margaret ** 12:06
Okay. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 12:07
You have to show up on your—on what you believe in. Not other people’s, but what you believe in.

**Margaret ** 12:14
How much does, for example, being antifascist alienate you from the rest of the white population? Like are you, lik,e eating alone as a result? Like or like—

**Eric King ** 12:24
No, you can’t eat alone. There is no—so like, in the feds when—if people go to federal prison, like, people very likely to catch RICO charges in the next couple of years. Like it happens. 

**Margaret ** 12:33
Right.

**Eric King ** 12:34
Um, like that dude whoe just bomdb the abortion clinic in Wisconsin. He’s going to the feds.

**Margaret ** 12:38
Okay.. 

**Eric King ** 12:39
Or not the abortion clinic, the anti-abortion clinic.

**Margaret ** 12:42
Oh, yeah, that makes okay. Yeah, uh huh.

**Eric King ** 12:44
I was like, oh my god. 

**Margaret ** 12:45
Yeah, all right. Yeah,

**Eric King ** 12:49
But that dude stood on pro-women’s rights stuff. 

**Margaret ** 12:53
Right. 

**Eric King ** 12:54
Um, and so, I’m going to pretend like he’s white. So he’s gonna go to the feds and he has to eat with the white guys. You either sitting with white guys, or you’re gonna get fucked off the yard. 

**Margaret ** 13:05
Right.

**Eric King ** 13:06
And that means—that means beat up, put in PC, and shipped to somewhere else. 

**Margaret ** 13:09
Okay, what’s PC? 

**Eric King ** 13:10
Oh, PC means protective custody. And you can go in there if you’re—if you ask to, or they understand that you’re going to get hurt.

**Margaret ** 13:19
Okay, so this is what my friend was put in. 

**Eric King ** 13:22
Yeah, like your friend. Like they most likely understood this dude’s about to get hurt. 

**Margaret ** 13:25
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 13:26
Let’s get him out of there. 

**Margaret ** 13:27
Okay. 

**Eric King ** 13:28
And so, you’re gonna sit with the white guys. And most likely, like the gang dudes will have like their own little—because whites will have their own separate tables, they’ll have like five or six tables. 

**Margaret ** 13:38
Okay. 

**Eric King ** 13:39
And that’s where you eat. And in the federal system, you eat and sit with your state. Like where—what you represent. So I’m from Kansas City, Missouri. I sat at the Missouri table. It was us, Kansas, Oklahoma, and sometimes Chicago—it’s like a Midwest table, basically. 

**Margaret ** 13:55
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 13:56
And the gang guys—[laughing] might as well. So the gang bros, they would say,, like they have they’re like, that’s the SAC section, or that’s the ABT section. SAC is Soldiers of Aryan Culture. ABT is Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. 

**Margaret ** 14:13
Okay.

**Eric King ** 14:13
Um, and so I don’t have to fuck with those guys at all. I don’t have to associate with you. But like, if they see me doing something they don’t like, like for—I taught the yoga class that Florence and I allowed all racists and sexualities, you’re coming to this yoga class. 

**Margaret ** 14:31
Right.

**Eric King ** 14:31
So sometimes some of the—some of the dudes would come to me and be like, hey, man why do you got this n-word in your class? Or why do you got this gay dude in your class? And then you just have to tell them, like, you’re not my fucking boss. Get out my face. 

**Margaret ** 14:45
Right.

**Eric King ** 14:45
I don’t answer to you. I’m not in your gang. 

**Margaret ** 14:47
Right.

**Eric King ** 14:48
Um, and so sometimes they go to your rep. Each car has a rep. 

**Margaret ** 14:55
What’s a car?

**Eric King ** 14:56
Okay, yeah, my bad.

**Margaret ** 14:58
No, it’s okay. Yeah, I’m just gonna say it for the audience.

**Eric King ** 15:02
I’m from Missouri, so that’s called the Missouri car. It’s like our group. 

**Margaret ** 15:06
Okay

**Eric King ** 15:06
You’re in that car.

**Margaret ** 15:07
Okay, which is separate from a gang. 

**Eric King ** 15:10
Yeah. Because we’re not trying to make money. 

**Margaret ** 15:14
Ah, okay. 

**Eric King ** 15:15
Like, if someone attacked a member of my car unprovoked, like, without us knowing about it, I could then be called to have to go and retaliate against that person. 

**Margaret ** 15:25
Right.

**Eric King ** 15:25
Even though it’s not a gang. 

**Margaret ** 15:27
Right.

**Eric King ** 15:27
You still assaulted our group, and so—it’s a group with our money making scheme. 

**Margaret ** 15:33
Right, okay. 

**Eric King ** 15:34
And so, I—if that gang had a problem with me, they would then have to go to the head of my car, someone who had a lot of respect, been down for a minute, and tell them like, we want EK, to shape up or we want EK off the yard. My car would then decide to either talk to me, fuck me up, or tell the gang did kick rocks. Like leave us alone. 

**Margaret ** 15:56
Right. 

**Eric King ** 15:57
And so, depending on how that went, depends on how far it goes. But I never got fucked off yard, so.

**Margaret ** 16:06
So it worked, but it was a it was a tricky situation to do. 

**Eric King ** 16:09
It’s so tricky, because  one wrong move—and this is what I hope anyone going to prison in the future always understands—you have to always be respectful, even if you hate someone. 

**Margaret ** 16:19
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 16:20
So if somebody with a swastika on his face comes up and tells me to do something, I can’t say like, fuck you Nazi bitch—Nazi jerk.

**Margaret ** 16:28
That’s fine. Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 16:29
Okay, but I can’t say that to them. I will get stabbed. 

**Margaret ** 16:32
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 16:33
And not hypothetically, like literally. 

**Margaret ** 16:35
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 16:36
So I have to say to them, like, hey, man, I understand, you have your beliefs. I get that. But I’m doing me right now, and I’d appreciate you just let me do my time. Stuff like that. That’s how you have to talk, until it’s done talking.

**Margaret ** 16:49
Okay, and is that kind of how you would like—okay, another anecdote that’s not mine. Another one of my friends who spent about half a year in prison for a while and is—he told me that his cellmate was the tattooist for the Nazi gang in the jail. 

**Eric King ** 17:06
That sucks.

**Margaret ** 17:07
Yeah. And so the Nazi kept being like, hey, you got to join us. And my friend kept being like—the way that my friend handled this, and I’m curious, your take on this. Basically, he was like, he was like, no, I can’t. I’m already in a gang. I’m an anarchist. 

**Eric King ** 17:23
Oh! 

**Margaret ** 17:24
And it—and then the the cellmate didn’t really buy it until there was a noise demo outside for my friend. And so then there’s all these people with circle A’s and fireworks outside. And it was just like—yeah, so now th cellmate’s like, oh, I get it. You’re already in a gang. They just, it’s fine. And then they like stop trying to recruit him at that point and they were able to live in peace, which is an awkward—it seems like the things that we assume about how to interact with people and how to carry ourselves on the outside don’t relate to how we have to do it on the inside. Is that kind of—

**Eric King ** 18:00
Hell no they don’t. 

**Margaret ** 18:02
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 18:03
But so your friends situation worked because it was a jail. 

**Margaret ** 18:07
Yeah, uh huh.

**Eric King ** 18:09
Like in a jail—jails are so different than prison. 

**Margaret ** 18:12
Okay.

**Eric King ** 18:13
Because it’s short term. All custody levels are mixed in there. 

**Margaret ** 18:18
Right.

**Eric King ** 18:18
There’s not going to be as much racial like—the dynamics aren’t as aggressive because you’re all from the same place. You’re all from Kansas City or New York or whatever. 

**Margaret ** 18:29
Uh huh.

**Eric King ** 18:30
Um, so the—it’s not split up like that. So if I was in a jail and some dude told me to join his gang, I’d probably laugh in his face. 

**Margaret ** 18:38
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 18:39
Like unless he was seriously dangerous, like your friend did the right thing. Just got the attention to, look how I had this over here. 

**Margaret ** 18:46
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 18:47
Because apparently that dude, that gang dude thought like, that’s what you respected. He respected someone that was—that stood on something. Basically, you already stand for something.

**Margaret ** 18:55
Right.

**Eric King ** 18:56
Um, but also if you—if you go to a lower custody federal prison, like let’s say you go to a low—I started out low. 

**Margaret ** 19:03
Okay.

**Eric King ** 19:03
There’s no gang members there. No gang is going to recruit you there. 

**Margaret ** 19:07
Right.

**Eric King ** 19:07
Those dudes, they can’t do anything there. So like, that—you don’t have to worry about that in a lower custody level. Some dude tried to press you at a federal low, you could laugh right in their face. 

**Margaret ** 19:22
Right. 

**Eric King ** 19:23
You soft mother fucker. Get away from me.

**Margaret ** 19:25
Because it’s not—the lows are not run by gangs as much. Is that the—or at all? 

**Eric King ** 19:31
No. Yeah, they’re run by sex offenders. 

**Margaret ** 19:34
Oh, interesting. 

**Eric King ** 19:35
Those security federal prisons, that’s where they put the vast—the nonviolent sex offenders, the first time—first time nonviolent offenders, like I started low. I’m a first time offender with a college education. I’m not a threat to them. So even though I have this charge, they don’t care. I go to low. Um, and so that’s where, like, white collar people, they go to lows.

**Margaret ** 19:59
Right. 

**Eric King ** 19:59
Um, big time rats in informants go to lows. 

**Margaret ** 20:04
Okay.

**Eric King ** 20:05
So if you see a gang member there trying to push that line, or some racial dude trying to push that line with you—and push that line means trying to force his agenda on you—you can basically tell him, like, if you want to do that shit, go pop yourself up to a higher custody level. 

**Margaret ** 20:19
Right. 

**Eric King ** 20:20
If that’s where you want to be, go be there, but I like walking outside and playing tennis. So leave me alone. 

**Margaret ** 20:26
Right. Okay but then—

**Eric King ** 20:27
Lower custody levels are sweet. 

**Margaret ** 20:29
Okay, so then this brings up the question, because it seems like one of the other things that one would hope to not do is have what happened to you happen, where you got escalated up.

**Eric King ** 20:38
Oh shit. It was crazy! I’ve never seen nothing like it since I’ve been in.

**Margaret ** 20:41
Was it your behavior? Or was it some decisions that they made around your politics or like what—what caused you to end up escalated?

**Eric King ** 20:47
So, and this is something that all activists and radicals, especially white ones, need to worry about. Because like, honestly, like the white guards don’t really bother the other races about their politics. They just assume you have bad politics in their eyes. 

**Margaret ** 21:00
Right.

**Eric King ** 21:00
But so for white guys, they see you as a race traitor. 

**Eric King ** 21:04
So when I got to Englewoo I was doing fine, but the cops there would harass me relentlessly. So I’d get called to SIS almost on a daily basis. SIS is like the FBI inside the prison system. Special Investigative Services. 

**Margaret ** 21:04
Okay.

**Margaret ** 21:21
Okay. 

**Eric King ** 21:22
And so they had—if you’re an activist, or you have one of our charges, they have to read it approve your mail, they have to live listen to your phone calls, like, they make it a burden. 

**Margaret ** 21:31
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 21:31
And so these pigs would call me to their office every other day, like, what do you mean in this email, what do you mean in this email? And then I would have my books confiscated on a seemingly weekly basis, they would just coming to my cell, take all my literature, all my writing materials, keep them for a week until—until I filed to region, and then they’d give them back. Um, and so I got bumped up in custody level because one day I was in the—I had a beef with these guards at visiting because they kept harassing my kids. They kept trying to get my kids by the sex offenders. 

**Margaret ** 22:06
Oh, god. 

**Eric King ** 22:06
I was like, just stop it. Like, leave us alone. I don’t bother you. 

**Margaret ** 22:10
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 22:12
And so, well I got an argument was one of them in the bathroom, and you’re not gonna believe me when I tell you this, but this officer had the gall to tell me he was gonna have his little boys beat up my daughter’s in their school.

**Margaret ** 22:23
Damn.

**Eric King ** 22:24
I reported it right then. I had one of the other guards go call the lieutenant. The lieutenant remove that guard from visiting. Well, the next day, I had gone to psych because I was so angry with being in prison and they told me, like, write down your anger in a poem. Write it down in writing form. 

**Margaret ** 22:26
Right.

**Eric King ** 22:26
So I did. And I mailed to my wife. Well, SIS takes that letter and accuses me of threatening staff. 

**Margaret ** 22:50
All right. Yep. 

**Eric King ** 22:52
So they chained me up and that day drive me to Florence medium and put me right in the SHU. That day.

**Margaret ** 22:57
Yeah. And SHU is solitary. That’s one I do know. 

**Eric King ** 23:00
Yeah. Yeah. Special Housing Unit is what they try to—try to call it in Orwellian speak. 

**Margaret ** 23:06
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 23:06
Nothing special about it.

**Margaret ** 23:08
Yeah, well, it’s—it’s certainly not normal to spend all your time alone. 

**Eric King ** 23:12
[Laughing] Fair enough. 

**Margaret ** 23:13
And not like in a fun hermit way where, like, you’re Thoreau and your mom brings you your lunch.

**Eric King ** 23:22
[Laughing] Then then I just kept progressively, like—I don’t know if you know what happened me at Florence medium to where my politics pissed off food because I—Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

**Margaret ** 23:31
No, no, I’m—you should tell the story. I’ve—I’ve read a version of it, but you should tell me and the audience what is safe for you to tell?

**Margaret ** 23:40
Right. 

**Eric King ** 23:40
Yeah, I was—I was politically active as hell on Florence medium. Um, like I told you I ride with Crazy Pete, do my yoga class. 

**Eric King ** 23:42
Um, and I made—I had good friends there. There’s people that accepted me there for me. I had tons of fights with uh, with the bigots, but that is just what happens. But so the staff there hated me. I would write articles calling them out. I would, I would put it in calling campaigns about their, how they treated vegan meals, how they treated the Muslims, how they treated the gay—the gay folks. So I beefed them all the time. And then one day I—a lieutenant got beat up. And I sent my wife an email laughing about it. Yeah, cuz I know they have to read my email. So it’s not—

**Margaret ** 24:24
Yeah, it’s a bad idea. But I understand—

**Eric King ** 24:26
Yeah, yeah. If you go to prison, don’t do this. Don’t instigate them. They will give you what you want. 

**Eric King ** 24:31
They’ll show you how real they are. So they call me lieutenant’s office, dude throws his big hissy fit, starts calling me a terrorist and all sorts of crazy shit. I laugh in his face because it’s so uncomfortable. He pushes me—punches me, and I dog walk him. A dog walking means, it means you beat someone’s ass. 

**Margaret ** 24:31
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 24:52
Um, so after I got punched twice by this cat, I dog walk him. And then the guards proceed to, you know, beat me half to death, strangle me, choke me, and then put me in four point restraints for seven hours. And those are when you are handcuffed on a steel bed, stretched as far as your body can go, left arm at this corner, right arm at that corner, your legs spread doing the same thing. And they leave you there. I was mostly naked, sometimes in my underwear. Um, and sometimes, like, the captain would come in and bring in a plastic shield—like a riot shield—and strangle—he put it over my face and pushed on it. So they’d choke me. 

**Margaret ** 24:52
Oh my god. Uh huh. 

**Margaret ** 24:52
Alright.

**Eric King ** 24:56
And other times he’d come in and just put his hand over my mouth. He’d tell me, like, we’re gonna get you fucked up. We’re gonna rape you. We’re gonna get you raped.

**Margaret ** 25:14
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 25:15
You wanna be a tough guy. 

**Margaret ** 25:26
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 25:28
So that’s what got me moved up to the USP system from Florence. That’s how I went from medium to high. And then when I—they prosecuted me for that. They said, I assaulted him. 

**Margaret ** 25:52
Right. 

**Eric King ** 25:53
So I had—I took him to trial, I refused to take a plea deal. I took it to trial. And when I won, that’s when they moved me up to the supermax, the ADX were El Chapo is and the Unibomber, all those guys.

**Margaret ** 26:04
Punish—that—I mean, all of them were just punishment, but that one was like extra punishment. You got found innocent of assaulting a guard so they put you in supermax. Is that pretty much—?

**Eric King ** 26:13
So, I don’t want to minimize but, like, you know,you—we just talked about noise demos.

**Margaret ** 26:18
 Yeah.

**Eric King ** 26:19
A second ago—your friend, like, you know what they are? 

**Margaret ** 26:21
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 26:22
Um, when I was pre trial, they held me in the Englewood SHU for two and a half years. And I was there—and this will happen other activists if you use your voice—they took away my mail, my phone, my email, my visits. I had no communication. I could only write my wife. And people I don’t know, I don’t know these people, but they didn’t always demo New Year’s for me one year, and they record it—like it was on live stream. So they had banners and bull horns and fireworks. 

**Margaret ** 26:49
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 26:50
And one of them I think busted up a cop car. 

**Margaret ** 26:53
All right. 

**Eric King ** 26:53
And so they accused me of organizing and Antifa riot. And so I gotta rioting shot. That’s one of the most serious shots you can get.

**Margaret ** 27:02
Yeah, even though what happened outside the jail and you had no—

**Eric King ** 27:04
I had nothing to do with it.

**Margaret ** 27:06
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 27:06
Um, so that noise demo was listed on my ADX referral—you have to have a referral and it has to—you have to have an interview. And under the thing it said, like, Mr. King planned and organized an Antifa protest and Antifa threats against staff. So that’s what happened, like, when Trump became president. [Laughing] Things got real ugly for antifascists. 

**Margaret ** 27:27
Yeah. Okay. Well—god, that brings up so many questions. So one of them is, like—

**Eric King ** 27:32
What about noise demo. 

**Margaret ** 27:35
Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of my question is, like, should people—there’s probably not a right answer, but it’s like, when do we have noise demos? Like, when is it useful to a prisoner and when does it interfere with the prisoner’s ability to get by in jail?

**Eric King ** 27:53
So before this happened, if you would have asked me, EK, do you want a noise demo and people to show up at a prison and go crazy for you? My answer would have been enthusiastically yes. Because, especially a jail too, like, jails are different. Always. They do not have the same—it’s not the same. 

**Margaret ** 28:09
Right. 

**Eric King ** 28:10
So visibility can keep people alive. That’s something that supporters and you know. Like, you letting the jail know that, like, I see what you’re doing to my loved one, my friend, my comrade. Ee’re watching you. We’re recording you…

**Margaret ** 28:22
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 28:23
That helps. I’m not kidding. That can save someone’s life. 

**Eric King ** 28:26
In a federal prison, um, I wouldn’t recommend doing noise demos at federal prisons anymore, honestly. I don’t know—I don’t know the—I just think there’s better ways to support federal prisoners going—this is gonna sound, you know, stupid and anti-anarchist. But like, we can pressure them using administrators, using politicians, using these people at higher institutions, higher levels of government, because like Cory—Cory Bush, like they were calling the bureau for me. The congressperson from Ferguson? 

**Margaret ** 28:26
Yeah.

**Margaret ** 29:04
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 29:05
Different congresspeople from Denver, were calling from me saying, like, why are you guys doing this to this dude, what is going on?

**Margaret ** 29:13
So—go ahead, go ahead.

**Eric King ** 29:14
I was just gonna say, like, we can put pressure without putting boots on our own necks.

**Margaret ** 29:20
No, that makes sense to me. And I think that—I think that we do well when we stay tied into the larger movements that we’re part of, and when w,e like, when we show—when we ask for solidarity from groups that we’ve been showing solidarity with, you know, like, like, because like, you were in jail for solidarity action. And so then folks calling and being like, well what the hell are you doing to him? Make sense to me, you know?

**Eric King ** 29:47
Yeah. And it worked. Like, that’s the only thing that’s worked for me.

**Margaret ** 29:52
Yeah. Well did you spend the rest of your time in maximum at that point? 

**Eric King ** 29:55
So after doing the two and a half years in the SHU for pre trial, they, they sent me to some other prisons to do my ADX referral. Because it’s a big like legal referral process. And then when I finally got accepted and approved, they flew me right back to Colorado. So I went from Virginia, all the way back to Colorado, and then I spent the last year and five months at the supermax and ADX, yeah.

**Margaret ** 30:23
Okay. 

**Eric King ** 30:24
They did not like me there. 

**Margaret ** 30:26
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 30:27
And those—Nazis. They are Nazis. If you look on their Facebook pages, they are full throttle white power, you know, patriot—we’re patriots, they’re their cry baby, like, Nazis. 

**Margaret ** 30:42
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 30:43
It is stunning what they’re about. 

**Margaret ** 30:46
That doesn’t surprise me. 

**Eric King ** 30:47
[Laughing]

**Margaret ** 30:50
All right. How do you—you spent two and a half years in solitary. 

**Eric King ** 30:55
I spent seven and a half years in solitary. 

**Margaret ** 30:58
Oh, Jesus. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 30:59
Two and a half just on this pretrial.

**Margaret ** 31:01
 Yeah.

**Eric King ** 31:01
It was a part of a five and a half year stretch.

**Margaret ** 31:04
So obviously that is a very different thing to survive than general population. 

**Eric King ** 31:08
Yes. It’s hard. 

**Margaret ** 31:10
How do you do it? I obviously since, I spent one night alone in jail, I obviously understand it completely, because I did one night, but you did seven and a half years. 

**Eric King ** 31:20
You are the expert.

**Margaret ** 31:20
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But how’d you do it?

**Eric King ** 31:28
I can break it down. So I didn’t realize—when I first came to jail, like when I was in the county, like pretrial the first time, I didn’t nine and a half months straight because I fucked up a lieutenant. Because I thought it was, like, serving the revolution. I thought I was like being a good anarchist. And so, once again, SHU in county jail is different. Anyone can survive that. You get visits, you get phone calls, you get food you get sometimes even TV and tablet. But when you get to the feds, or probably the state too, it’s different. And when you do long stretches, um, for me, it came in waves were like, I’d be doing really good for like three months, I’d be working out every day, I have a routine. You have to have a routine, do your burpees, do your push ups, do your abs and calisthenics and yoga. Make it—set a time where I’m going to write letters from this time to this time. Like make it, like, if you make a routine, it becomes an important part of your day. And then when you finish doing it, you feel like you accomplished something. Now your day wasn’t worthless. 

**Margaret ** 32:15
Right.

**Eric King ** 32:24
Now you have purpose to your day. But also, like for me, like, I’m not gonna lie, I went through a lot of depression—like depressive periods. 

**Margaret ** 32:34
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 32:35
And when that happens, you really have to check in with yourself and you have to be vulnerable with the people that love you. If, like, my wife would write me sometimes I write or some bullshit letter and she’d have to call me out being like, dude, like, you’re hurting and you’re not talking about it and it’s not helping. 

**Margaret ** 32:52
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 32:52
Let us be there for you. 

**Margaret ** 32:54
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 32:55
And when I was finally able to do that, like Josh Davidson, the guy that I wrote Rattling the Cages with, I met him in the SHU right after this happened. And because I was able to keep myself vulnerable and open s a human, I was then able to develop a real relationship with him and then work on a project. We develop that whole book from the SHU because I—I was able to do it, and he cared enough to work with me. 

**Margaret ** 33:23
Okay, but wait, how are you communicating in the SHU? Is it like, like, are you like writing a little notes and sending them down the… yeah, how do you do it? 

**Eric King ** 33:32
Kinda. So when I—when I got my—if you’re just normally, like, let’s say you stab someone and your in the SHU, or you fuck someone up and you’re in the SHU, you still can write letters. You get a pad of paper, you get pens, you get stamps. You have to buy them, but you get it. When I was on my mail ban, I would have to pay the guys in the other cells. So I would shoot a kite to some bro three cells down—

**Margaret ** 33:53
Which is where you send a, like a paper football with a note on it basically, or like what’s a…? Okay.

**Eric King ** 33:58
Yeah, we would make—we would make a rope, like, tearing up sheets or the elastic band in your underwear and tying—tying a rope. And then I would shoot it, I would flick it or throw it against the wall so it tried to bounce in front of the cell. And then he would shoot out his, like throw it under his door cell, and pull it—like try to connect with mine and pull it in. And when he would do it—would be like, I’d be asked him, like, hey, I got this letter. I’ll give you five bucks if you write it and send it. So then that guy would have to rewrite the letter in his own handwriting and then send it out to Josh.

**Margaret ** 34:33
Oh Josh wasn’t in the SHU with you. I see. 

**Eric King ** 34:36
No Josh is—Josh is a free world supporter. 

**Margaret ** 34:39
I see. I thought—you were saying you met him in the SHU and I thought you meant—okay.

**Eric King ** 34:42
No, my bad. Josh is a member of the Certain Days Collective and he wrote me. 

**Margaret ** 34:46
Yeah, yeah. Cool. Okay.

**Eric King ** 34:47
Yeah, it’s my bad. I misunderstood the whole question. 

**Margaret ** 34:50
No, no, but I mean, this is still very useful. This is very useful. 

**Eric King ** 34:54
So for the most part of our friendship, like, we were able to write normally, but for like two and a half years I was paying creeps to mail letters for me. 

**Margaret ** 35:03
Yeah, no. Okay. All right, so many more questions. How—you know, you said that you spent a lot of time, like, standing up for LGBT folks in prison, right? 

**Eric King ** 35:15
It was the main priority in my life. 

**Margaret ** 35:17
And, so what did you—from being friends with folks, how did they get by? Or what was like for them? I assume it was different at different levels and things like that. But like, is it_

**Eric King ** 35:29
It’s sort of just really tricky.

**Margaret ** 35:30
Yeah. Did they get outed ahead of time? Like, you know.

**Eric King ** 35:34
Ah, you’re out, You’re out. When you’re low security for—for LGBT people—um, you are, you’re not a victim at low securities from other prisoners. 

**Margaret ** 35:48
Okay.

**Eric King ** 35:48
You might be from your own car, because, like, they have their own little section. 

**Margaret ** 35:53
Right. 

**Eric King ** 35:53
Um, and so—

**Margaret ** 35:54
Oh so there would be an LGBT car.

**Eric King ** 35:58
Basically, yeah, it might not be organized like that. But they have, they have a structure. And so they—I don’t wanna say they run those prisons, but like, they control the kitchen, and rec, and like, the different jobs. And so their problem is staff. Especially for trans prisoners. 

**Margaret ** 36:17
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 36:17
Because staff and medical treat these people so bad. 

**Margaret ** 36:21
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 36:21
Even at low securities where, like, there’s no need. There’s no threat, like, but so I feel like all of them—are the ones I met were getting black and pink and stuff like that, I still don’t feel as if they were supported properly. But maybe they were. Maybe I just interpreted that way. Um, but their main problem is staff. They’re not going to get beat up by other prisoners that are low security unless it’s a personal thing. It’s not going to be because of, because of who you are. 

**Margaret ** 36:48
Right. 

**Eric King ** 36:49
Um, but like, I’ve seen people get denied medication, denied their shots, denied access to the doctor. Um, Marius is a rare example of someone who was able to, like, put enough pressure to force the change. 

**Margaret ** 37:02
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 37:03
But most people do not have like that sort of visibility, or that sort of courage to constantly fight. Like it wears on you, you know, I mean—

**Eric King ** 37:12
You know. So at a medium—at most mediums, that’s where you can have problems. Especially if it’s an active yard, like a gang, an active gang yard. Because like, let’s say you’re at a medium on the east Coast. Let’s say you’re in New York and you fuck up and you go to Otisville or some medium out there. You’re gonna have like a safe place just for queer folks, people that are gay or trans. And they’re gonna be—you’re gonna be isolated, basically, but you can still live in exist, you just have to exist within your own friends. The further West Coast you get, and the further south you get, the more bigoted it becomes. 

**Margaret ** 37:12
Right. 

**Margaret ** 37:51
,Oh, interesting. Okay. 

**Eric King ** 37:52
And so like, in the yard at let’s say Florence medium, there was one table where gay people were allowed to sit and eat. That’s it. If that table is full, you don’t eat. You’re not going to sit with anyone else, because you will get hurt. If you—if you were able to get a cell—if someone else needed it, they were gonna fight you or just kick you out. That’s why I fought so hard for—yeah, like, let’s say you’re in my unit. I was in OA. And there’s a gay person in cell 305. It’s a two man cell. But then the bus—like a new transport bus comes in. And there’s a—there’s a decently respected duse from California, and he gets put in the unit. Well, he’s taken that cell. You’re not going to keep a good cell from this guy.

**Margaret ** 38:36
Okay, I see. And so then the gay folks will be the first kicked out of this given cell.

**Eric King ** 38:41
Yeah, and your options will be, check in—which is go to PC, go say you need help—fight me—which, which is a death sentence. Or go tell staff that you no longer have a house and you need to get moved to a different unit. 

**Margaret ** 38:55
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 38:57
Because prisoners still have a lot of power in prison. And at the bottom of that totem pole is, is gay people and trans people. 

**Margaret ** 39:03
Okay. 

**Eric King ** 39:04
And then at a USP, you’re not gay. You’re not trans. You will be murdered. 

**Margaret ** 39:08
Yeah, oka. 

**Eric King ** 39:09
If they say, if they—if you’re listening to this and you’re gay or trans and they send you to a penitentiary you’re checking in right away. You tell SIS that you cannot be—I don’t care if it’s considered snitching, I don’t care if it’s considered ratting, because if you go to that yard, you will get killed or sold.

**Margaret ** 39:28
Why would it be snitching or ratting to tell yourself as—are you saying go and be like, they’re gonna murder me or whatever?

**Eric King ** 39:35
No no, you don’t even—so in prison culture in the feds, it’s so goddamn stupid. Um, checking in—checking in is where you go tell staff you’re in danger and you need to help. If you do that, you are now considered a snitch. Even if you don’t say who’s gonna hurt you. And so even if staff says to you—because like let’s say you get off the bus and you have to interview before you go to the yard and stuff will ask you, do you identify as gay or trans, and if you say yes, even if they offer to put you in PC—which they won’t because they want to see you hurt—u,m, but even if they do and you accept, you are then now considered a snitch or a check in—

**Margaret ** 40:13
Just literally for being in PC even I haven’t even met anyone yet. 

**Eric King ** 40:16
Yeah. Exactly, yeah. 

**Margaret ** 40:17
Okay, so you like—so then you have to stay in PC forever while you’re there because you’re now known as a snitch?

**Eric King ** 40:24
Well, in the feds, they have PC yards. They’re called drop out yards. And so those, like—let’s say you’re a sex offender but you raped eight kids, you are a violent sex offender, you will go to a drop out yard for violent sex offenders. Like Tucson USP, Terre Haute USP, and Coleman 2 where Whitey Bulger was at. And so, if you’re a gay or trans person who has been at a USP yard and you couldn’t walk there obviously, they will either drop your custody after a certain period of time, usually a year of sitting in the SHU, they’ll drop your custody and send you to a safe medium, or they’ll send you to a drop out penitentiary. But you will sit in the SHU for a long time. And they will put people in there to try to scare you, they’ll put rats in there to snitch on you, they will put straight prisoners in there—because that’s straight prisoner, if he is put in a cell with a gay person, if he doesn’t attack that gay person, he’s now considered gay. 

**Margaret ** 41:29
All right.

**Eric King ** 41:29
And the other white guys will attack them.

**Margaret ** 41:31
All right. Yeah.

**Eric King ** 41:33
It is so disgusting and stupid. And staff sets that up. Like that’s intentional.

**Margaret ** 41:38
Yeah, I mean, that’s like one of the things that—you ever hear about the whole, like, how the whole alpha wolf thing is a lie. You’ve heard this?

**Eric King ** 41:48
I never heard that it was a lie but I’m very interested and I trust your experience on this.

**Margaret ** 41:51
I don’t have the—I don’t have the guy’s name in front of me. The guy who developed the concept of the alpha wolf, right? The alpha male of the wolf pack that dominates everyone else or whatever, right? He quickly learnedhe wrote a whole book about it, and then he was like, oh I was wrong. That’s only true of wolves in captivity. Wolves in the wild—

**Eric King ** 42:10
Oh! 

**Margaret ** 42:12
Yeah! So he has spent the—wolves in the wild don’t have—they have dominance games, but it’s almost entirely the oldest male in the family, right, and they have family units instead. But then, if you put them in captivity, you start getting aggressive dominance and all this violence. And wolf packs do fight each other over territory and stuff like that. It’s not like a utopian thing. But he spent the rest of his career running around being like, hey, I was wrong! Alpha wolf thing, not a thing. But instead, everyone’s taken it and run with this and you have all of these like fucking alpha male idiots: who are running around being like, I’m an alpha male. And it’s funny to me, because every time someone says I’m an alpha male, what I hear is: you’re in captivity. Right? 

**Eric King ** 42:57
Oh.

**Margaret ** 42:58
Because—and I would argue—you can like make arguments, like, civilization being a form of captivity and—

**Eric King ** 43:02
Here we go, here we go. 

**Margaret ** 43:04
But, so prison to me, from the outside, seems like a clear encapsulation, where it doesn’t reveal human nature, it reveals what humans in captivity do. Which is entirely separate from what humans outside of captivity do, in the same way that it’s true with wolves. That’s my, like, general takeaway, and it—the thing that you’re describing about prison, really, all of these like wild dominance games and things like that seem like—

**Eric King ** 43:36
The whole thing is a wild dominance game. 

**Margaret ** 43:38
Yeah. How do you—okay, so it seems like in low you would have an easier time just kind of keeping your head down and staying and out—just fucking do what—there’s like the doing your own time or whatever—

**Eric King ** 43:54
In low custody you can fly under the radar and do whatever you want. 

**Margaret ** 43:57
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 43:58
I’m not—it’s still prison. You can still get in trouble, there’s still fights, there’s still restrictions. But if you’re going to be in prison, and you’re an activist, you won’t be in a camp, you can’t go to a camp. So if you’re going to be in prison as an activist, you want to be in a low. 

**Margaret ** 44:13
Camp is a step lower than like—

**Eric King ** 44:15
Camps don’t have like fences on them, like you can go out into the world and stuff like that. It’s basically like an aggressive halfway house.

**Margaret ** 44:21
I once—the first political prisoner I ever wrote was a Catholic Worker woman named Helen Woodson who had like—

**Eric King ** 44:28
I love Helen. 

**Margaret ** 44:29
Yeah, cool. 

**Eric King ** 44:30
Yeah. 

**Margaret ** 44:31
Yeah. And she told me about how she was, like, in a—in a low. And she didn’t feel like it was right for her because she, nothing was keeping her from walking out. So she kept us like walking out of jail, you know, so that she could go like do—commit more crimes in the name of, like, Christ or whatever. 

**Eric King ** 44:48
[Laughing] Yeah.

**Margaret ** 44:49
I think she’s great. I’m not trying to talk shit.

**Eric King ** 44:51
Those Catholic Workers are hilareous. 

**Margaret ** 44:53
Yeah, no, and it’s really interesting. 

**Eric King ** 44:55
In a good way.

**Margaret ** 44:56
Okay, so actually, that ties into, like, how does—like how does being a political prisoner impact how you are treated by other prisoners? And then also, how would someone like a prisoner of conscience—like, like someone who was like super Catholic Worker, someone who is like, I’m a pacifist and I’m 60 or whatever. Like, like, how would—I assume everyone’s going to have a slightly different experience based on—okay, and to tie into it, I wonder whether older prisoners are given less shit. Okay, and then I wonder whether—I’ve heard from a lot of people that like their experience of going in and already being, like, a tattooed person who’s like lived on the street some or whatever, like, is like wildly impactful. But like, how different is it if someone comes in and is like—like, how does someone who’s just like, I’m a 23 year old activist who’s out of college, I’m from the middle class, I’m white, I’m not tattooed, etc, etc. Like, how do they handle it? And then also how do like prisoners of conscience handle it? Sorry, it’s a big question. 

**Eric King ** 46:00
So I’m going to talk about the, first like, let’s say you’re just some college kid and you—you get picked—let’s say, a Palestine protest. And you get picked up and you catch a year—you broke a cop’s window, you catch a year. You need to adapt. Like, most likely, people aren’t going to press—you’re not going to have like a violent experience with such a year—like with such a short amount of time. But you need to… How do I say this? I want to say this in a way that—

**Margaret ** 46:28
Toughen up?

**Eric King ** 46:30
Yeah, like kind of. You, you need to understand that—and this where I failed—you are no longer on the streets. Like, what you felt about how you should hold yourself out there doesn’t apply. Like, you need to, without jeopardizing your ethics as much as possible, adapt to the world around you. Like if I lived with apes in the wild and I was still trying to talk on my phone, like, it’s not how it works. Like you have to adapt to them. 

**Margaret ** 46:56
Right.

**Eric King ** 46:56
Um, and I’m not—oh, my god, I’m not calling prisoners apes. But like, you understand what I’m saying? 

**Margaret ** 47:02
No, we were using—we’re using wolves and shit like that. 

**Eric King ** 47:04
Right, right. 

**Margaret ** 47:05
No, we’re not—

**Eric King ** 47:05
Yeah. So like, that person needs to understand that, this is where you’re at. And you’re around people that are not going to share your socio economic background, most likely. There’s going to be lots of different races, lots of different perspectives. Most likely, people are not going to agree with you. And they don’t have to. Like, I don’t view the role of the political prisoner, especially a short timer, as a recruitment specialist. Like, if anything, use your time there and whatever perspective you have to learn. Like, get their stories. Figure out how you get other people. 

**Margaret ** 47:40
Yeah!

**Eric King ** 47:40
Um, and so for prisoners of conscience, like most—those, those people almost always go to lower custodies. Unless you’re like Dan Berrigan or whatever his name was in the 70s, or 80s. And those dudes got into USP Lee and one of his friends, I think, violently assaulted. Because that consciousness shit at the higher custody levels is dead. 

**Margaret ** 48:05
Yeah, okay. 

**Eric King ** 48:07
If you need to go put in violent work, if they tell you do it, you do it or you get destroyed. So there’s no—there’s no consciousness at that point. But if you’re at a low o medium and you’re there for throwing paint on a nuclear submarine or something, there’s going to be a Christian car, there’s going to be a Muslim car, there’s going to be people that will let you be who you are as long as you’re not this pedantic annoying piece of shit. 

**Margaret ** 48:35
Yeah yeah. 

**Eric King ** 48:36
Like, if you treat people with respect and like are kind and—kind and understanding of them while also sticking up yourself and not letting yourself be seen as weak, you can be fine. Like, you will do—you will do fine. And the cops will most likely leave you under the radar unless you’re trying to organize. Um, or unless you’re getting crazy support. So it’s all about, you know, don’t let yourself be a victim, and don’t let yourself be an asshole. And I failed—there was times I failed at both those things.

**Margaret ** 49:09
[Laughing] Yeah, I mean, there’s no perfect, you know.

**Eric King ** 49:13
I had a tough learning curve for a while. 

**Margaret ** 49:16
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 49:17
Because I was both an asshole, and then also like, we’re prisoners, we didn’t want to fight each other! 

**Margaret ** 49:22
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 49:22
Well, yes, we do. We hate you. You’re annoying.

**Margaret ** 49:25
I talked to one guy once who—and I—I had this conversation 10–15 years ago. I don’t remember where he was in jail or how long he did or what level it was—where there was, he managed to stop a race riot by—

**Eric King ** 49:43
[Laughing] Wow.

**Margaret ** 49:45
There was like a race riot that was like being planned. And he will be like stole enough—yeah, there was like, the gangs were like planning to fight each other. Right? And they were planning to have this big conflict. 

**Eric King ** 49:57
Okay okay okay.

**Margaret ** 49:57
And so he like stole—he and another guy stole enough stationery to, like, make a publication about how in here the only colors that matter are —and as the colors the uniforms, I don’t remember, it’s like orange and blue or something like that. And then he spent the rest of his time in solitary because—

**Eric King ** 50:13
[Laughing]

**Margaret ** 50:17
But he considered it completely worth it, where he was like, well, I—I stopped a race, you know, I stopped a race riot and then went to solitary. 

**Eric King ** 50:26
Right.

**Margaret ** 50:26
But I have a feeling this is a random, exceptional, you know, like—or also just a lie. I don’t know. I, you know, I don’t—I didn’t know this guy incredibly well, you know.

**Eric King ** 50:36
Where’s this at?

**Margaret ** 50:39
My money is on Colorado, but I couldn’t promise.

**Eric King ** 50:44
Ah, if he’s trying to say he stopped the race riot in a prison, I don’t believe him. I don’t believe him.

**Margaret ** 50:50
Okay. Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 50:51
I really don’t because like, that’s—that can get you killed. And also, who’s gonna listen to you? No one gives a shit about you. 

**Margaret ** 50:58
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 51:00
I’m not disrespecting this person. 

**Eric King ** 51:02
No, and I’m not trying to advocate people do this. And it’s literally a conversation I had, like, drunk late at night once, you know. 

**Margaret ** 51:09
Don’t do it!

**Eric King ** 51:09
I’m telling people right now that if you’re ever in prison, and you see gangs organizing in a race riot, you mind your own fucking business. 

**Margaret ** 51:15
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 51:16
You don’t get involved. Their business is not your business. If they want to fight each other, go ahead. If they want to sell drugs to whoever, that’s their business. But we don’t—we don’t tell people—you don’t tell other prisoners how to live, good or bad. 

**Margaret ** 51:33
Yeah, yeah that makes sense. 

**Eric King ** 51:34
I saw—if I saw some people organizing race riot, I’m buying coffee, I’m buying stamps, I’m going to the store, man, and I’m getting ready for the lockdown. 

**Margaret ** 51:43
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 51:43
That’s what’s happening. I’m staying out of the way. 

**Margaret ** 51:45
Yeah. No, that’s that’s—

**Eric King ** 51:48
Put your life on the line for some other people? You’ve lost your mind. 

**Margaret ** 51:51
Yeah. Okay, so my last question—for now—

**Eric King ** 51:57
Aw!

**Margaret ** 51:58
Is—it’s at least the last one I’ve written down. How did these dynamics, all the stuff we’re talking about and all the stuff you witnessed You know, you talk about how like you came in kind of, um, let’s say a starry eyed anarchist, right? And like—and it’s like, even on the outside, I’m like, man, I don’t do everything that my conscience tells me to do or I would be in prison, you know? [Laughing] And that’s actually almost a problem is that I think a lot of people don’t act on their conscience because we don’t want to go to prison. But how has this experience, this whole fucking long, crazy shit—and also just specifically the experience of watching all these power dynamics within prison—how has it influenced your anarchism, or your philosophical outlook, or your spiritual outlook, or like, how has it influenced you personally about how you perceive the world? 

**Eric King ** 52:51
Um, yes. It’s came—and it’s not a one—like, at one point in time in my life, like, in my prison bid, I would have had a different answer for you then like ight now. But so I, nine years and however many months later, and seven of those was in, you know, 24 hour lockdown. Um, my anarchism is tougher than ever. 

**Margaret ** 53:14
Yeah, believe it. 

**Eric King ** 53:15
Like, I feel like I’ve grown. I feel like I became more empathetic. I became more accountable to the people I love. I saw what, like—I saw a mutual aid really is. Um, when I needed help, people would help me. When I wanted to help others. I could put it, like that dude at Florence, the gay dude. We needed to buy him, basically. My wife got that money in about 22 minutes. 

**Margaret ** 53:41
Fuck yeah.

**Eric King ** 53:41
She put out a request, we need to help somebody. And so, like, my job right now—my job is Bread and Roses right now—this came out of mutual aid. They wanted to help me as a person first, and then it developed into something else. So prison gave me the—I gave myself the opportunity to grow while in prison. Because you can do the opposite. You can choose to do drugs, fight, rape, stab, get involved in politics, become racist, become homophobic, fall in line with this bullshit. So prison, I chose to use it as a chance to sharpen these knives of my mind and my heart,, to be a kinder person. So when I came out, I was ready to love, man—or, friend. I was ready to dive into sympathy and dive into help. 

**Margaret ** 54:31
Yeah.

**Margaret ** 54:32
Cuz I watched for the last ten years, people do the opposite and try to crush and hurt and take. And so I never want to take from someone again. I never want to hurt somebody again. But if I can help you, if I can do something to make your life just a little bit easier, that’s what I want because I just spent nine years watching people go out of their way to help me. Yeah.

**Eric King ** 54:53
I didn’t have shit and I’m not sure I deserve shit. But people said I did, and because of that my life got to be easier. My wife’s life got to be a little easier, all due to other people loving me. So that’s what—my anarchism right now is built around: how can I make someone’s life easier without—without jeopardizing my ethics? How can I not be someone else’s warden? 

**Margaret ** 55:19
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 55:20
I never want to be someone else’s guard or warden where I say: you can’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, you’re bad, you live wrong. That’s not my job. Unless you’re a fascist, then it is my job and fuck you. I that makes sense. 

**Margaret ** 55:35
Yeah, no, that makes total sense. Like, I—okay, wait, then the the actual last question then, eh?

**Eric King ** 55:43
I hope there’s 50 more questions.

**Margaret ** 55:45
Tell me about this book, Rattling the Cages. Just for anyone who’s listening, Eric has a book that he is co-editor of called Rattling the Cages that came out in December 2023 from AK Press and it’s—I haven’t read yet. It’s sitting on my shelf.  

**Eric King ** 55:50
You better read it! 

**Margaret ** 55:56
It’s stories from political prisoners. Is that?—I mean, like, tell—sell us on this book. 

**Eric King ** 56:05
Yeah. 

**Margaret ** 56:06
I mean, I’m gonna read it anyway, but. You could tell me it’s the worst book ever written and I’m still gonna end up reading it.

**Margaret ** 56:09
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 56:09
Um, because I, tthat’s when I was going into my empathy stage. And so I brought this idea to Josh of like, what if we just interviewed ten elders. Like just a handful of our elders. That way we get their story, their history, before they die.

**Eric King ** 56:09
Um, so this book came about, it was me and Josh Davidson, Josh and I—Josh is a long term—I told you he started writing me when I was at Leavenworth about six years ago. I was being—I was there in holdover status in the SHU when this assault first happened. And so Josh started writing me. And we, we hit it off based off of, like, our love of political prisoner history, like Sundiata, and Kuwasi and those, like, the elders, basically. And when I was—a couple of years later, I’m going through just like a really hard time. And like, me and Josh were reading different books together about political prisoners in other countries. And like it—people—like Thomas Manning also died. And like, I thought, like, all his stories, the history this man led, died with him. We don’t get to know what his life was like inside prison. We know what his writings were like, and what his paintings were like, but what did he feel? What did he experience? What did he think? Like, what were his hopes? 

**Margaret ** 57:31
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 57:31
Because like, Thomas Manning—Tommy dying really affected me. It made me sad. It hurt me even though I never knew him. And so then Josh, being Josh, turn into, like, well, what about instead of ten we did kike fifty? What if we did every political prisoner still alive? I was like, well, that’s fuckin awesome. And then we—my wife decided, like, she helped us think it out, like, what if instead of it being a zine, it was a book. 

**Margaret ** 57:58
Yeah yeah yeah. 

**Eric King ** 57:59
And so then from there, like, it came down to, I wrote a bunch of questions out. Like, what would I want to know from Susan, or Linda, or Laura? What would I want to know if I got to talk to Maroon, you know what I mean? 

**Margaret ** 58:13
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 58:15
Or Marius, or whoever. And so I wrote these questions out, and then Josh, god bless him, like this dude cares. And so he got to work getting a hold of essentially everybody on earth that’s ever been, like, even stepped foot into a jail or prison. And he put in the time and work to interview them. And then he would mail me back edits, and we were talk about it, we’d write questions back and forth to each other. And then Josh hounded AK Press relentlessly until they finally agreed to work with us. And even then, like, I’m not taking any work away from Josh. He edited it, he did the bibliography, he did everything. And then I asked Sarah Falconer to write and ,intro, we got, ah—we got Angela Davis to write an intro—,I almost forgot her name, Jesus. But like, people, people cared because the questions were all about not—what’s the revolutionary spirit inside prison. It’s, how did your heart feel inside prison? What was your actual life like? Because that’s what I was saying, like, these Cop City dudes are gonna go into jail, um, and like this might—they might want to know, like, that it hurts. That it makes you sad. That it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not want to hurt somebody. You don’t have to do this, this tough, like, posturing basically. You can if that’s who you are. But like, you can be hurt too, and you can be vulnerable, and you can be—you can also be happy. You can make friends. You can get hobbies. You can fall in love with somebody. You can get a partner. 

**Margaret ** 59:57
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 59:58
As long as you’re not hurting someone, ah, and that includes spiritually and emotionally, there’s no wrong way to do prison. Just don’t become a racist bigot rat. So if you want to just sit in your cell and cry and write books, like, that’s fine. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:17
That’s mroe or less my plan, I gotta admit,

**Eric King ** 1:00:18
[Laughing] What you do right now in your daily life is just sit and write several books a day.

**Margaret ** 1:00:24
Yeah, I’ll just keep doing that. That’s my plan,

**Eric King ** 1:00:27
You would do just fine. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:29
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 1:00:30
But like, it’s okay just to be a normal human with feelings. And it’s also okay to organize your ass off, you can do both. And like, we wanted to show that, that like, the heart doesn’t die in prison. Neither does the revolutionary spirit. And there’s not just one—it’s not a cookie cutter sheet of how to be a prisoner. 

**Margaret ** 1:00:46
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 1:00:47
And if I had known that, I would have started very differently.

**Margaret ** 1:00:51
Okay, I know I keep promising last question. What would you have done differently? 

**Eric King ** 1:00:55
To start with or to end with?

**Margaret ** 1:00:57
To prepare? Like, let’s say you knew you were going to jail. 

**Eric King ** 1:01:00
Oh okay. Yeah. 

**Margaret ** 1:01:00
And you—and you’re not you now where you’ve been to jail for ten years. You’re like, you’re someone who is out on bail and thinks is very likely that you’re gonna go to federal prison, since that’s what you’ve experience with what. What would you do? 

**Eric King ** 1:01:15
First things first, rob a bank so you have money for commissary. [Laughing] Put that money away. But no, like, I would make sure I have funds going in. Find a way, fundraise for yourself, ask other people to fundraise for you because prison is expensive. This might not be the answer you expected, like the first thing to do. But the more you have going in, the less you have to be a burden to your community while you’re there. 

**Margaret ** 1:01:38
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 1:01:38
Um, and I—I regret that. People had to do like crazy fundraisers for me because I didn’t have shit. I’m a dirt ball kid from the streets of Kansas City, you know what I mean? Yeah, so that’s what I would do. I would also—and this might sound stupid, too. I would start building relationships. I will let the people that I love around me know, this is what I need. But also, what do you need? Like, what can I do to ensure that we maintain this friendship or this love and this connection? Because people throw throw away relationships, they get in prison and think that the world stops, that their loved ones lives stop. But like, just because we’re inside doesn’t mean that, like, we’re not selling an asset to the people we love. We still need to be there for them.

**Margaret ** 1:02:21
Yeah. Okay. Uh huh. 

**Eric King ** 1:02:22
That’s important to me. And I wish I’d known that because I went through some selfish periods where, like, my world was the only world that mattered. Meanwhile, people have bills and depression and domestic abuse and shit like that. It’s not all about these knives I’m carving in my cell all day. 

**Margaret ** 1:02:38
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 1:02:40
I would also, I mean, real talk, I would probably learnt how to make some weapons.

**Margaret ** 1:02:44
Yeah, no, I mean—

**Eric King ** 1:02:45
I’m not joking.

**Margaret ** 1:02:46
Yeah, like, I mean, I remember having this conversation with someone years ago, where some people were considering whether or not jail was in their future or whatever. And I remember being like, I think if I was about to go jail, I would just like really focus on learning how to fight. And my friend was like, no, I would only focus on meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy. For anyone who’s not, who can’t see: Eric King has presented a middle finger to the ladder suggestion.

**Eric King ** 1:03:17
Take that sits somewhere else, man. You’re not going to retreat. 

**Margaret ** 1:03:21
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 1:03:22
And that’s—like, I’m joking, of course. But—

**Margaret ** 1:03:24
I mean, it’s to not lose your mind. I think it’s the purpose there.

**Eric King ** 1:03:26
Yeah. So real talk, I’d learn how to make like plexiglass knives, or learn how to carve steel using fingernail clippers or something. Because you may be in that opportunity where you need that and you don’t want to be without it. You don’t want to have to ask someone for that resource. 

**Margaret ** 1:03:42
Right. 

**Eric King ** 1:03:43
Ah, and so that sucks. We’re not above that, though. This is something where I failed. I thought I was above that. I’m aboveI don’t need to participate in that stuff. And now I’m getting my face kicked off. I’m like, well, maybe I wish I’d known how to do that. So learn how to fight, for real. That’s not stupid. Take MMA classes—not karate. But like, learn how to kick, punch, run. Ah, because like the whole—the whole point in prison, the only way you win in prison is if you leave prison. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:12
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 1:04:12
If you die in prison, if these motherfuckers kill you, you lose. Like, they got you and I hate that. And so do not let yourself be a victim. That’s something I would tell myself, I would tell you, I would tell anyone: never let yourself be a victim. Don’t be above, don’t pull this whole I’m a pacifist shit when someone’s coming at you with a lock in a sock. Because that lock doesn’t care that you—that you study Dan Berrigan or whoever. They don’t care that you’re—that you love animals. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:42
Berrigan? Dan Berrigan? 

**Eric King ** 1:04:43
,Yeah, thank you. Yeah, great guy, RIP. But so, we have to be real. Like if you try to meditate with a lion, it’s going to eat you. 

**Margaret ** 1:04:54
Right.

**Eric King ** 1:04:54
So fight the lion, and then use your skills that you were practicing at home of calming yourself, centering yourself, meditating, you can do that as long as you’re safe. 

**Margaret ** 1:05:04
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 1:05:05
You’re safe? Do that. And I will teach myself that—like, yoga and meditation are great. And please use them when you’re safe in your cell, or when you’re a rec and you don’t have enemies. But know how to protect yourself. The old timers will tell you that too. That’s the first thing they tell you. You know how to fight? You know how to make a knife? You have to.

**Margaret ** 1:05:26
That make sense. 

**Eric King ** 1:05:27
Be safe. Be safe always. 

**Margaret ** 1:05:29
Yeah. 

**Eric King ** 1:05:31
If I were a gay prisoner—real quick. If I was a gay person or a trans prisoner, I’m  fucking somebody up. I’m going in there. Learn how to fight. I don’t care—I don’t care how opposed to it or how—if you think you’re weak, if you—like physically weak, not mentally. But you’ve never worked out before? Work out. Get yourself in shape. And the second someone calls you a name, fuck them. Get them. Hit them. Hit them hard. The cops will break it up in 20 seconds, I guarantee it. Even if you lose, set that tone right away: I will not be disrespected for who I am. 

**Margaret ** 1:06:05
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 1:06:06
It’s dang—if you’re going too low, it doesn’t matter. But anywhere else, you have to set that tone, and I wish I had done that earlier too. Because people started thinking I was this soft anarchist kid and bullying problems where I had to fight more to defend myself later. PNrotect now to be safe later. Sorry for rambling.

**Margaret ** 1:06:21
No no, it makes sense. And we’re just kind of out of time, but I’m gonna probably have you on more to talk more about this stuff because I think that—I don’t know, there’s so much more to talk about.

**Eric King ** 1:06:33
I could’ve talked for another like seven hours. 

**Margaret ** 1:06:35
Yeah.

**Eric King ** 1:06:36
[Laughing] For real.

**Margaret ** 1:06:38
Well, okay, so if folks want to check out your work, they can check out Rattling the Cages from AK Press. Is there anyone else—any other, like, group or anything you want to direct people towards? 

**Eric King ** 1:06:48
So I—we were posting a lot of good stuff on Instagram as well and Twitter from @supportericking. Um, I always tagged my bosses Z and Erica, these people gave me a life your Bread and Roses. They gave me a career and that started with mutual aid and started with friendship. Um, Sandra Freeman, she’s my civil lawyer, that started from mutual aid and friendship. And now we’re fighting the system together. And then always represent Fire Ant, anarchist prisoners and anarchist journal out of Maine and Bloomington. That’s by anarchist for anarchist. Just really great people involved in that. And thank you so much. This is a real blessing, real treat. 

**Margaret ** 1:07:25
Yeah, thank you.

**Eric King ** 1:07:26
And I love my wife. I love my wife Rochelle.

**Margaret ** 1:07:28
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’ll be another thing. We’ll just do a whole thing on maintaining relationships in jail at some point.

**Eric King ** 1:07:33
It is so hard, but so worth it.

**Margaret ** 1:07:35
I—I believe it. Thank you so all much for listening. If you enjoyed this content, avoid going to jail, but help—but don’t do it at the expense of your ethics. Don’t avoid it so hard that you never do anything. And help people who are in jail, and, I don’t know, do stuff. You can also support this podcast by supporting Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness which is the publisher of this podcast. We’re on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. Don’t feel that financial support is the only way to support us. But we do pay our audio engineer and our transcriber, because that’s the most thankless work involved in podcasting. And at some point, we might pay the podcasters and our guests and that’ll be cool thing too. We send out ziens every single month to our backers. And in particular, I want to thank Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’Dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Mic Aiah, And, of course, we would never forget Hoss the dog, our longest standing Patron backer. I think. And I hope everyone is as well as you can with everything that’s happening. And we will talk to you soon.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E104 – This Year in the Apocalypse 2023

Episode Summary

This month on Live Like the World is Dying, we have This Year in the Apocalypse where Margaret and Inmn go over some broad strokes of 2023, from the genocide in Palestine, to anti-trans legislation, to the state of the environment.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery. Margaret can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: This Year in the Apocalypse: 2023

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for it feels like the end times. I’m one of your hosts, Margaret Killjoy, and the other host is

**Inmn ** 00:22
Inmn Neruin. And we’re here to talk to you about the dumpster fire that was 2023.

**Margaret ** 00:29
Oh, come on, it is generalized far beyond dumpster fire at this point. Dumpster fire is like a nice contained thing. And you can push it in front of a line of cops. And so this is our annual year in review, as compared to our usual month in review, this one is for an entire year. It is for the year 2023. And it is coming to you in 2024, which we think makes sense. But first, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. And the reason that you haven’t heard jingles for us on other shows on the network isn’t because they don’t like us, but because we haven’t recorded a jingle in a really long time. And that’s on us. And we’re terribly sorry. But here’s a jingle for a different show.

**Margaret ** 01:37
And we’re back. Okay, so we have a lot to cover today, because we’re covering an entire year. We’re not going to get into every single story. If we missed your favorite story, it’s because we don’t care about it. And you should yell at us on Instagram. [said jokingly like she doesn’t mean it] However, a lot of really fucking crazy shit happened in the past year. And I think that 2023 will stand as a…see change for society at large accepting that things are not going back to the way they were. In a lot of ways I think 2023 will stand as important of a year in history as 2020. 2020 obviously brought us COVID. But 2023 brought us: one, an ongoing genocide–I mean, unfortunately those happen quite often–but there’s one happening in Palestine right now as we record this that has been…its effects are being felt all throughout the world as people try to reckon with their own governments’ complicity in the ongoing genocide. Also, 2023 just destroyed every climate record. And really marked a time when we can no longer pretend like climate change not just isn’t coming but isn’t here, because climate change is here. And when I first started the show, it was like "Haha, what if everything went as bad as I would say." And actually things are going–well, not worse than I expected–they’re going about as I expected but way worse than scientists expected. We’ll talk about that later. First, we want to start with some impromptu–we didn’t plan enough–in memoriam. In 2023, we lost a lot of really amazing people and we lost more people, of course, then we’ll be able to give time for today but we’re going to talk about four anarchists who died this year whose memories will live on. And that’s one of the beautiful things about being involved in a movement is that the work that you do is felt and reverberates throughout history. I don’t have a great summation of how important all of this is because it’s heavy. First, on January, 18th 2023 Tortuguita was killed by the Atlanta Police Department. Tortuguita was a Venezuelan eco-anarchist who was part of the Stop Cop City movement in Atlanta, which I am kind of guessing everyone who’s listening to this is at least somewhat aware of–we’ll talk a little bit more about it later, but not really focus too much on it–and, if so, you probably remember when Tortuguita died, but we just want to remember them again. Next, August died.

**Inmn ** 05:07
Yeah. August Golden was a musician, activist, and just fucking rad person who was living in Minneapolis and on August 14th was shot at a punk show in Minneapolis. And, you know, to the best of stories that I’ve heard, at least, was possibly specifically targeted for having told some creepy fucking dudes to leave the show. And….

**Margaret ** 05:46
That’s what I’ve heard too.

**Inmn ** 05:51
And, yeah. I knew August a little bit and–not very well and not in years–but every…. There’s just been this really overwhelming outpour of like, like, love and celebration of that person’s life since August. And yeah, we’ll miss you. And then in December, we lost a pretty prolific anarchist writer.

**Margaret ** 06:24
That’s right. On December 6th, 2023, Alfredo Bananno died. He was 86 years old. It’s still sad when people die in their 80s but it’s…. Alfredo Bananno got to do his fucking life. And he’s primarily remembered as the [emphasis on "the"] insurrectionary anarchist writer. There are many, many other insurrectionary anarchist writers but in particular, his work "Armed Joy"–and a lot of other works, honestly–have been incredibly influential on anarchism in general. And I really recommend that people, even if you don’t identify with insurrectionary anarchism–I don’t personally identify as an insurrectionary anarchist, but I love the insurrectionary anarchists tendency as I love all of our tendencies. All of the ones that are actual tendencies, unlike those fake ass ones. I…I really highly recommend reading Bananno’s work, even if it’s just to challenge your own conceptions, if you’re coming from a much more organizationalist perspective. And yeah, he was a Italian anarchist who just fucking did it all and just kept going for a long time. He’s been arrested a bunch of times. He spent a year and a half in jail just for publishing "Armed Joy" and if you haven’t read it, you should read an anarchist piece–it’s short–that got someone to spend a year and a half in jail literally just for writing it. So that is him. Yeah. And then finally, we lost Klee.

**Inmn ** 08:06
Yeah, on December 31, or 30th–I’ve heard different things–Klee Benally joined his ancestors. Klee was a writer and land defender, musician, podcast host, and just overall incredible and amazing person. Klee was about to be doing some book talks for his book, "No Spiritual Surrender," which is out from Detritus [pronounced with a short I sound] Books, I think.

**Margaret ** 08:45
[Marget corrects with a long I sound]. Detritus.

**Inmn ** 08:47
And this is like how I can’t say the word foilage [realizes they said it wrong, corrects] foliage. I can’t say foliage.

**Margaret ** 08:56
I’ve never tried. It’s never come up in my life

**Inmn ** 09:03
Sorry, Gourd. Klee was just like…I met Klee a few times. Especially when I was younger, in Arizona and like I have probably never felt like so challenged by someone and someone’s writings in really good and important ways. And like I don’t know. Yeah, that’s what I have to say. This one hit me particularly hard because this is someone who’s part of communities in Arizona that I’m peripheral to and like….

**Margaret ** 09:45
Yeah. I was really caught off guard when he died. He was 48. He was Diné and he did more visible work than anyone I can immediately point to about, not just indigenous anarchism but challenging European anarchism and anarchists who come from the European anarchist background and/or European backgrounds. And I will shout out that Klee, in one sentence, changed my perspective on everything by him challenging me. I was traveling and I was giving a talk, about 10 years ago, about my book "A Country of Ghosts" at Taala Hooghan, the indigenous anarchist infoshop in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Klee listened to my talk and then during the question and answer was like, "You know that this whole continent was destroyed by people who look like you who had utopian ideas, right?" And I don’t remember the exact way that he phrased it, but it wasn’t polite. No, it was polite, but it wasn’t…. It wasn’t afraid to be challenging. And it wasn’t like handhold-ey it right? It was direct. But it wasn’t to like "Fuck you," either. It was, by my read–and maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong–by my read, it was an invitation to be better. And I really appreciated it. And I’ve read some of Klee’s writing and I actually don’t know what of Klee’s writing was and wasn’t anonymous, so I don’t know which pieces to talk about as being particularly influential. But we…. I don’t know.

**Inmn ** 11:39
We hope that everyone just takes a moment to remember, as the year passes, these four wonderful people and the uncountable others, that we’ve lost this past year.

**Margaret ** 11:55
And I will say, I mean, and it’s…. There are new people, you know, and we stand on the shoulders–I don’t have anything inspirational to say. It just…it influences me a lot. It affects me a lot. But I think that there’s…. This is the way the world works. Okay, so Stop Cop City, which Tortuguita died for, continues. And we’re not going to talk too much about that. There’s plenty of…. They actually do really good PR, and you can find out a lot more about Stop Cop City. But I will just say that if you’re only paying attention really peripherally, it’s worth noting that the protesters are getting Rico charges and domestic terrorism charges for fucking nothing. And no matter your political allegiance, it is worth paying attention to the criminalization of this kind of dissent. Basically, as everything gets crazier, the authoritarian state is trying to double down on cops and authoritarianism and we shouldn’t let them. And I think that in terms of a diversity of tactics, I think Stop Cop City has a lot to teach us, but we also need to stand with them and protect them. Yeah. And then we’re gonna talk about the elections.

**Inmn ** 13:21
Oh God, the…. Wait, I have a funny thing about the elections. Do you want it now or later?

**Margaret ** 13:27
Let’s hear it. What do you got?

**Inmn ** 13:29
Okay, so in some…there have been these news articles popping up in my algorithm about Ron DeSantis, you know, who’s running for president probably, or is?

**Margaret ** 13:43
Yeah, he’s got nothing.

**Inmn ** 13:45
Yeah, who’s actively trying to lie about his height? [Margaret laughs] Did you hear about this? [Marget negates] Yes, he claims to….

**Margaret ** 14:00
Is he short?

**Inmn ** 14:00
I don’t know. Well, I’m short. Whatever. He’s not as tall as he says he is. Yeah, he claims to be 5’11". And there’s all these people, like shoe makers and stuff, who have been looking at his shoes and being like, "His shoes are weird. I think he’s wearing four inch heels." And that it’s like built into this weird boot that looks like a normal shoe.

**Margaret ** 14:24
That rules.

**Inmn ** 14:27
Which would make him 5′ 7"or something, which would make him one of the shortest presidents, if he were elected president.

**Margaret ** 14:36
There’s this awful thing that just studies…when in doubt, the taller man wins an election in this country and has since…. There’s like, there’s been occasional exceptions to this. I fell down a rabbit hole about this a long time ago. So we’re not going to be like, "Ah, I think it’s going to be this guy with this sub president." Vice President. That’s…you can get that news anywhere. I wanted to talk about the elections, because I want to talk about the fact that we’re in an election year and how it relates to crisis. And if you recall, 2020 was a year of crisis around the election, especially very early in 2021. But, you know, it is entirely possible that we will see a repeat of 2020, in which nothing in the end really happens, right? It’s entirely possible that nothing in particular will happen. And it is entirely possible–I give it a very low percent chance, I give it a 5% chance–that this will cause a civil war in the United States. However, I would like to say that a 5% chance is a really high chance when you’re talking about something like civil war, right? If I were to get in my car right now and drive to the store and I had a 5% chance of dying, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t get in my car. I’d be like, "You know what, I don’t need vegetables today. I can wait till the weather’s better," right? There’s a lot of snow and ice where I’m at right now. And also, if you play Dungeons and Dragons, you know what a 5% chance is like. That a 1 or a 20 on the 20-sided die. So I would just say, in the year of our Lord, 2024, be aware, be careful. I used to think this election was, I was like, "Oh, Trump versus Biden again, we know how that goes. We’ve seen it before, right?" But Biden has completely torpedoed all of his base, his support from the base by supporting genocide in Palestine. And Trump probably will go to prison if he doesn’t win the election. So he’s got a lot to lose. And so it could get complicated. And I would just say, take it into account in your planning, take it into account in your decisions about where you want to be this Fall geographically. I’m not going to tell you whether or not to fucking vote. That’s between you and your maker. And I don’t know. That’s what I gotta say about the election. It could be sketchy.

**Inmn ** 17:13
Yeah. And yeah, in thinking about how you prepare for such an event, like, I don’t know…. I remember during the last election, when–and you know, there was so much other shit going on in the world–but like, more so than the horrors that Trump introduced into the government or into legislation or any of that, remember that this person has a really fanatical base, that killed a lot of people in the last eight years, or like, whatever, you know?

**Margaret ** 17:49
And we shouldn’t be afraid of that. Right? Or, I mean, we shouldn’t make our decisions based on that fear. And like, it is worth remembering that all of the culture war shit is actually a losing proposition for the far-right. And it has not won them a wide electoral base. And more importantly than that, it hasn’t won them a wide…. So, a random, average person–I keep saying this and eventually people get mad at me at some point, I’m sure–the average random center-right person you’re going to meet in a rural area isn’t like, waiting to kill all the gay people. You know? And we shouldn’t…we shouldn’t assume…well we should…I don’t know, whatever. What are all the dumb cliches everyone uses? Every time someone says, "Keep your head on a swivel." I like hate it. It’s like the word "Huzzah.” I hate the word huzzah. I shouldn’t. There’s no reason to. I’m part of cultures that say, "Huzzah," because I’m a nerd. And I am part of leftist gun culture, whether I like really want to admit that or not. And so I’m around people who say "Stay frosty," and, "Keep your head on a swivel," unironically. But I’d rather you just said "Huzzah. " I hate all of it.

**Inmn ** 19:12
Well, you know, is trying to fuck with trans people, Margaret?

**Margaret ** 19:18
Who is this a good segue?

**Inmn ** 19:20
This is a good segue out. I mean, it’s not a "good" segue. It’s just…

**Margaret ** 19:25
It’s good as a segue, not a segue of goodness.

**Inmn ** 19:30
So, 2023 was a pretty horrifying year for anti-trans and anti-queer legislation. We saw things like the country of Russia can just completely outline like gender-affirming care of any kind to adults or children or youth, except in the case of like "genetic anomalies," which is code for like fucking with intersex people. And then, you know, in other places we saw like England had a lot of anti-trans legislation around, specifically around the youth and gender affirming care for the youth. In the United States, there were 75 anti-queer/trans laws across 23 states stemming from 500 bills that were proposed in the year of 2023.

**Margaret ** 20:36
That does mean more than four out of five got shot down.

**Inmn ** 20:41
Yeah, it’s something like 15%. And I can’t do math. Yeah, but yeah, so you know, in the face of, it’s a slim amount of them were passed, like, and by slim, I mean…. But yeah, there’s so much energy and attention going into this that it’s horrifying that there were 500 bills proposed. 21 of those are on transition-related care for minors. Some of those are outright bans. And some of them have a lot of caveats and addendums. And there’s also a lot of effort going into…. I think the Right has realized that outright bans are difficult to get support for in some places. And so there have been a lot of like, instead of having outright bans, making it structurally impossible or improbable that care could be provided, even if it was technically legal.

**Margaret ** 21:48
Okay, like what they did to abortion before they overturned Roe v. Wade?

**Inmn ** 21:52
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And so there’s like….

**Margaret ** 21:55
Your gender-affirming care facility can only have hallways that are 26 inches wide, whereas every other hallway for every non-gender-affirming care place can only have 27 inch wide hallways. That kind of shit. That’s what they fucking did with abortion clinics anyway, sorry.

**Inmn ** 22:09
Oh, no, yeah, no, that’s exactly. It’s stuff like that. Like in Missouri, for example, there was a…there was this new ban on gender-affirming care for minors. But people who were already receiving transitional care, like hormones and stuff, were kind of grandfathered in to continue to receive care. But they also passed a legislation that made it so that current or former patients who are minors were allowed to sue their providers for 36 years or something. Which means that a lot of parents are going to be suing their providers either because their parents are like horrifying bigots or because they’re trying to get money out of their providers. And so, like, pretty universally, hospitals and stuff that we’re providing gender-affirming care for minors who have been grandfathered into continue to receive care, we’re like, "We can’t continue to provide care because of the liability." And so it’s like there’s not an outright ban, but they’ve made it just impossible for people to actually receive care.

**Margaret ** 23:31
That’s cool. [Said very sarcastically]

**Inmn ** 23:33
Yeah, and you know, there were a bunch of similar bills like that in Texas for abortion access and abortion care. 10 of the laws limit classroom instruction, eight of the laws restrict restroom usage. And the rest are related to drag performances, which we all remember was a huge topic, continues to be a huge topic and was like a huge hot-button issue for the far-right over this past year. This is a…this is a newer one. I saw this in the headlines the past couple of days, but Ted Cruz has introduced a new bill to limit funding to workplaces for the purpose of using money to somehow enforce using pronouns or preferred names. Which is ironic because Ted Cruz’s legal name, it’s not Ted Cruz, it’s Raphael so like he has crafted legislation that could be used to affect him, but obviously won’t be used to affect him. Yeah, that’s a lot of really bad things for queer and trans people like us this past year.

**Margaret ** 24:57
Okay, here’s a weird one–everyone’s gonna get mad at me for this one too–you know, a large institution that is traditionally not on the side of LGBT folks that is standing up about both Palestine and LGBTQ folks this year?

**Inmn ** 25:13
Who? [said sheepishly]

**Margaret ** 25:15
The Vatican.

**Inmn ** 25:18
Wait, really? That is news to me, actually.

**Margaret ** 25:20
Yeah, no. on both counts. So the Palestine thing is a little bit more obvious and direct. And you’ll see, you know, and we’ll talk about this a little bit when we talk about Palestine, but it shouldn’t be the main issue. But, you know, I don’t know, I was talking to someone the other day where they were someone who doesn’t like the Catholic Church, but who was like, it is the largest institution in the world that is speaking up about Palestine because no fucking government is besides like…. Well, some governments are right, and some governments are doing a lot.

**Inmn ** 25:53
Sorry, I just want to counter that. There are some governments that are doing a lot and it’s really fucking cool.

**Margaret ** 25:58
Yeah. No, that’s what we’re gonna talk about in a bit. But, yeah, the Pope is outspoken about the Palestine issue and not being in favor of what’s happening there. But also, there’s this thing–this is a complete minor thing that I just find really interesting–all of these right-wing folks who come from evangelical backgrounds, who are like Christian nationalists, were like, "Well, we like authority, fascisty things, right? What kind of looks like that and is super Christian? The Catholic Church. So we’re all going to join. We’re all going to become trad Catholic. We’re all going to stop being evangelical Protestants and start becoming Catholics," right? And then they realize that the Catholic Church is not–the Catholic Church has fucking problems–it’s not a racist organization on the level that they want it to be, right? Like it is a fundamentally racially diverse group. And so they’re all freaking out. And then also, specifically, the Pope dismissed a conservative U.S. Bishop named Strickland because basically, he was like–I’m not fucking getting into the politics of that shit too much right now–but basically, the church is trying to be like, "Hey, we don’t actually hate gay people, even though we kind of aren’t like really cool with gay sex. But that’s only because we’re kind of not cool with any sex because like, we’re weird Catholics." And then all of these right-wingers are like, "What? What do you mean? I thought this was about killing everyone," and so then they’re all getting kicked out of the Catholic Church. And then they’re all freaking out about it. It is the funniest thing for me and for probably no one who’s listening is like watching…. You can like go on to Twitter and see all these Trad Caths be like, "I’m starting to think that this is a bad organization for us to have joined." Anyway, there’s been all this shit where a lot of religious communities are stepping up their defense of LGBT folks. And I just want to…. Like, the culture war, even in the like terms of large, weird institutions, is a complicated one. That’s what I got. It’s just fun to read about.

**Inmn ** 28:10
Yeah. And it’s like…as much as bad, you know, horrifying legislation that’s being passed, there’s also…there’s a ton of resistance. And there’s a ton of people who are not trying to see the United States specifically turn into a more polarized bigoted hell-world for queer and trans people, despite the fact that the UN declared a state of emergency in the United States for queer and trans people this past year.

**Margaret ** 28:12
Make sense. Christian nationalism as a fucking evil thing that is trying to take over the United States, which is funny, because the United States is already an evil country. Like, we are the–this is my attempt to transition to Palestine–we are the, the Israel to Palestine, like it’s just…it just already happened. And continues to happen. But you know, it’s like, we got like, 400 years on Israel in terms of being a settler-colonial state doing a bunch of genocide.

**Inmn ** 29:25
Yeah, and I don’t know. I’ll–actually I’m gonna segue into this a little bit later. But yeah, so Israel has been carrying out a genocide in Palestine since October 7th. I mean, they’ve been carrying out a genocide in Palestine for like over 75 years, but the most recent incarnation of that has been since October 7. I’m not going to go over the broad strokes of it because if you have not heard about this and have not seen a ton of news about it since October then you live in a very different world than the rest of us. Over 28,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th. Two thirds of those are women and children. The current statistic is that a child dies every 10 minutes in Gaza, which is an utterly horrifying statistic. About 4% of the population of the Gaza Strip, which is more than 90,000 people, are now dead, wounded, or missing. This is being considered an extreme mass destabilizing, or sorry, mass disabling and mass destabilizing event. And, you know, I’m not critiquing people who put out infographics at all, like the infographics on Instagram and social media are incredibly informative and there is a lot of focus on the the death tolls and less focus on the amount of people who are…who are now becoming or have become disabled since the start of this most recent wave of genocide. About 70% of civilian infrastructure in Gaza has been destroyed. This includes 318 schools, 1,612, industrial facilities, 169 health facilities, including 23 hospitals, 57 clinics, 89 ambulances, 201 mosques, 3 churches, and 169 press offices. The death toll, which is as of a few days ago, I think, is about 28,000. And that includes 12,000 children, 6,100 women, 241 health care workers, and 105 journalists.

**Margaret ** 32:15
Which is like more journalists than were killed in like World War II total or something like that. Like some it was just like, astounding, weird… It’s not an accident.

**Inmn ** 32:28
Yeah. And, you know, this is something that people have been talking about for, you know, a very, very long time at this point is that Israel very specifically targets journalists in their airstrikes. And this is like…. As far as Israel has reported, I think there have been like, I think, like less than 500 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the conflict since October 7th. And there’s a lot of…there’s a lot of criticism about these, or there’s a lot of talk, about these statistics and these numbers from a lot of sides, the right-wing is saying that these numbers are completely inflated and then, you know, people on–I don’t want to say the Left–people who are thinking reasonably about the world see it as being vastly underreported because it is…because of how difficult it is to actually ascertain the amount of damage that’s been done. Yeah. So that’s really, really horrible. And as some things that have happened, kind of like in the United States at least, there was also this…. I think it’s like part of this kind of polarizing culture war that we’ve all been experiencing for a while at this point, but the US Congress had a bill go into effect that kind of effectively defines anti…redefines anti-semitism as being anything that criticizes the State of Israel. Which is fucking crazy. And it was opposed by two people. Do you want to guess who those two people were? Or like, what their backgrounds were?

**Margaret ** 34:29
Palestinian…wait, we only have one Palestinian senator, right?

**Inmn ** 34:33
Yeah, it was a Palestinian. Yeah and a libertarian from Kentucky who thought that it was a little…like that the bill too broadly defined anti-semitism and I feel like probably because he was worried about his own anti-semitism coming into conflict, you know?

**Margaret ** 34:57
Maybe but libertarian–I don’t know this guy. Yeah, libertarians historically…Libertarians recently have gotten worse. But libertarians historically are like–I mean, they’re right-wing–but they sit outside of traditional right-left in a lot of ways, you know?

**Inmn ** 35:13
Yeah, no, that’s true. That’s true. I don’t know this person’s inclinations.

**Margaret ** 35:17
I don’t know this one guy.

**Inmn ** 35:18
Yeah, I hope they’re cool but probably are not. So in terms of, you know, out cry there’s a lot of it. In the US people have–and all over the world–there have been these mass marches, mass mobilizations, like millions of people showing up for demonstrations, especially in areas around Palestine, which is amazing. In the US, and like, I’m just focusing on a couple things in the US, there’s…people have been targeting different Israeli companies and different companies that sell things like arms and technology to Israel and doing things like…there’s indigenous water protector blocs who have been going out in boats and blocking ships from being able to leave port and just a lot of really incredible stuff happening. But who kind of, I don’t wanna say takes the prize, but like guess who has been showing up in an absolutely ridiculous way?

**Margaret ** 36:32
Jews.

**Inmn ** 36:33
Jews. Yeah. That is not where I was going. But yes, Jews have been showing up in really incredible ways, especially in fighting this idea that criticizing Israel is anti-semitic or that Israel has anything to do with Judaism or Jewishness.

**Margaret ** 36:53
Well, like relates to it, but it relates to it antagonistically half the time.

**Inmn ** 36:57
Yeah. But where I was going was the country of Yemen.

**Margaret ** 37:02
Oh, yeah.

**Inmn ** 37:06
So there are these trade routes that Israel uses through, you know, these like narrow, narrow waterways and Yemen controls one of them and has totally blocked Israeli ships from going through it, and which has a lot to do with shipping oil and just anything. Israel has been blocked from shipping things through the portages that make the most sense and has been forced to sail completely around Africa, which has cost them billions of dollars. Yemen has also, like they’ve just literally attacked Israeli ships with missiles and shit. So Yemen is…Yemen is showing the fuck up. In terms of like, a lot of like, Western countries, Ireland is really showing up, which is not surprising.

**Margaret ** 38:08
Yeah, I was about to say is like, "Why do you sound surprised?" What are you doing? Yeah.

**Inmn ** 38:11
Yeah, not surprising at all like in, especially the UN there’s all these videos of Irish politicians basically being like, "What the fuck is wrong with everyone?"

**Margaret ** 38:25
Yeah.

**Inmn ** 38:27
Which is incredible. And South Africa is suing Israel in international court for genocide. Yeah. Which you know, it’s interesting to me that like South Africa, a country that has…that was…"affected" is not the right word…

**Margaret ** 38:53
Well they know apartheid better than anyone else.

**Inmn ** 38:55
Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I got about Palestine. Keep showing up.

**Margaret ** 39:03
Okay, my–it’s hard to put a positive spin on any of this–although things like people stepping the fuck up is that one of the things that’s so interesting to me about this is if you told me 20 years ago that the media consensus around Israel would be broken, I would either not believe you or be jumping for joy. Because as long as I’ve been involved in activism, people have been, you know, on the anarchists-left and whatever have been trying to show up for Palestine in various ways, right, and be in solidarity in various ways, but it has always been wildly a minority position. And because Israel has always successfully used the manipulation of the idea that to be anti-Israel is anti-semitic. And that’s finally breaking. And I really want to say that like, I think a lot of that breaking is because of groups like–what is it called–Jewish Voices for Peace? And, like, the work of being clearly on the front line in saying, "Not in our name," and like…. Because that kind of activism, I think, matters more than it often does. Like, usually when I’m like, "Oh, like, ‘not our name,’ is just kind of some liberal nonsense that people will shout sometimes," right in other contexts. But in this particular context, I find it very useful, because I think breaking the media narrative and the political narrative is necessary for any chance of the American people to put pressure on lawmakers to push for a ceasefire. And or honestly, like, I have never seen such a stark division between all mainstream media outlets and the government, on one side, and everyone in the country on the other side, because I don’t think it’s leftists who are against the genocide in Palestine, it is like you said, it’s anyone who’s paying any kind of attention to what’s happening. And that is really, really promising to me. That’s my…I don’t know. The question is whether or not it’ll like, work, right? And I don’t want to spread cynicism.

**Inmn ** 41:34
So yeah, but there are some not so promising things on the world’s horizon.

**Margaret ** 41:44
Yeah. Oh, is this your climate transition? Yeah. Okay. So the main thing–not the main thing…. I want to talk about all the stuff that we talked about, but I started off by saying 2023 is the year where we can no longer in any way ignore climate change, right? It is the year where it really became clear to a great deal of the world that climate change is not just coming but is here. And so I’m gonna talk a little bit about some of the ways that we know that. 2023 was the hottest year on record across the world. Some of the cities in the United States that experienced their hottest ever year last year include, and these are only some of them, Albany Austin, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Burlington, Vermont, El Paso, Houston, Jackson Key West, Lexington, Little Rock, Miami, Milwaukee, Mobile, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Raleigh, Richmond, San Antonio, Tampa, and Worcester. Is it Worcester [pronounced to rhyme with war-chester] The sauce is worchestershire [like war-chester]. I think the town is Worcester [first syllable as similar to "would"-ster. ] Worcester. Yeah, why? Just pick one. Okay, anyway. Well, they won’t have to pick one because it’s too hot to make their sauce. Phoenix, Arizona became the first major US city to average 100 degrees or higher during a month, with a July average of 102.7. November 17th, was the first time that global temperatures reached two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Overall, we hit 1.46 Celsius above global pre-industrial levels, with 1.5 being the level that the Paris Agreement was supposed to be about avoiding. The UN says that there’s a 66% chance that we’ll hit 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next four years. Europe is the fastest warming continent, warming twice as fast as anywhere else. I hate to be like well, it’s your fault anyway. But I mean, anyway, but whatever.

**Inmn ** 43:47
Yeah, yeah.

**Margaret ** 43:51
The COP28 summit finally saw country’s–like finally in 2023–countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels entirely. They’re like, we’ll be net zero by 2050, which is hilarious, because we’re all gonna be dead by 2050. I hate to say this, but…. I’m gonna talk a little bit about ways that we might be not dead by 2050. But like… That’s too late. Okay, anyway, so Florida Keys hit a water temperature of 100 degrees this year. And Arctic ice was at an all time low. The rain forest had a drought. Swiss glaciers were still melting in October. The Mediterranean floods were 50 times more likely than a usual year. And this caught climate scientists off guard. Climate scientists, like at least according to–I’m sure there’s climate scientists it did not catch off guard–but even climate scientists tended to have, at least the ones who were talking to the media about these certain types of things, have like a slightly…. There’s a lot of scientists, as far as I can tell who are like, "We can’t really communicate everything because then we’ll just have like worldwide panic," right? I don’t like any of this, but I also feel vindicated. I don’t feel good about feeling vindicated. But there’s this thing where…I have looked at what has been communicated through the media for the past 15 years and been like, "That is wildly optimistic," and like irresponsibly optimistic is how I have felt about it. And I have tended to, even amongst my peers, not be believed about how bad I think that things are going to get. And I’ve probably talked about this on the show before. And in some ways the show is the reflection of that. And yet, at the end of it all, I’m not a Doomer. I think things are really bad. And they’re going to be really bad. But we need to just actually notice that take a real look at what’s happening. I want to–I don’t know whether the episode will come out before or after this one will, but I just did an interview…. Oh, here’s positive news. The anarchist prisoner Eric King, who spent almost 10 years in lockup, finally got out for a direct action that was related to the Ferguson uprisings. [Inmn yays] And, and I just had a conversation with him, that you all may or may not have already heard, and one of the, you know, it was about how to survive prison. And, you know, in some ways, whenever you ask someone how to survive prison, you’re kind of looking for the like, hopeful, like, "Oh, I could just keep my head down and read books and stay out of the fights," right? You know, and, a lot of his advice was, "learn how to fight," you know? And like, because we actually just need–I don’t want to say we don’t need people to hold our hands. We need to hold each other’s hands. But what we need to do is soberly face what appears to be happening. And what appears to be happening is the dissolution of the climate that we grew up in. And that climate change is happening faster and with more chaotic effects than we’ve been told. And all of the methods that we’ve been told that will work to stop or alleviate climate change are not effective. I want to read some Washington Post headlines. They have a…they actually have a better climate section than any other major newspaper, as far as I can tell. I actually canceled my subscription. I like to subscribe to a lot of the newspapers because I do work and need access to it. I actually finally canceled my New York Times subscription mostly over the Palestine issue because they’re just propaganda for Israel. But the Washington Post is better climate reportage anyway. But even in the Washington Post, you can see the media spin. I’m just going to read you some headlines. "Indoor house plants come with a cost to the planet. Here’s how to minimize it," or "How soon do you have to buy heat pumps and electric vehicles to avoid climate catastrophe?" "Renewables and electric vehicles are soaring, it’s still not enough," "Companies made big climate pledges. Now they are bulking on delivering," "Companies capture a lot of CO2. Most of it is going into new oil," or "Exxon Mobil doubles down on fossil fuels with $59.5 billion Pioneer deal."

**Inmn ** 48:48
Are these Onion articles? Is this the game of whether it’s an Onion article or not?

**Margaret ** 48:51
Those are literally all Washington Post from about the past month or so. They’re all currently on the website. And yeah, exactly, exactly. Because the juxtaposition between "Hey, maybe you should get a heat pump and put solar on your roof and think about getting your house plants from somewhere local," like, I do literally all of those things. I swapped out my oil furnace for a heat pump. I put solar panels on my roof. I went into debt in order to do so. I actually did these as preparation things because whatever, like, you know, they don’t stop climate change. Stopping fossil fuel infrastructure stops climate change. There is no other thing… There are other things that are big, like changing the way that our agriculture works, to not have factory farming and like distribution of animal products across the country. Ironically, centralizing grain production actually lowers the environment embedded greenhouse gasses as compared to like… It’s complicated. But like there’s stuff, but ending fossil fuel infrastructure is the only thing. And then the other thing is that it’s like…. And then okay, the Doomerism is, "it’s too late," right? And it is too late to not have climate change. But there’s like…when you’re watching a genocide, it’s too late to have the genocide not happen. It’s never too late to stop the genocide from happening, you know?

**Inmn ** 49:04
You can always choose to stop….

**Margaret ** 50:43
Yeah. And we need to stop climate change. It is too late to, "peace and love, everything is going to be totally fine. Everything can keep going the way it used to, " right? But there is a difference between a world in which we can survive and a world in which we can’t. And like I know that I’m…I’m just going to like finish out my…. I think it is very likely that we, during our lifetimes, will need to grow all of our food underground or inside. I think that is entirely possible. I think it is entirely possible that we will be looking at mountain ranges and looking at how to put roofs between…. well, where I live where the mountain ranges are right next to each other and they are a little bit short, you know…. Like, roofing in things so that we can grow things inside and we can have some level of climate control, right, in order to have a consistent enough way to grow food. I think that it is entirely possible that everything will be different. I don’t want that to be the case. Well, I do want everything to be different. But it’s because I want a mutual aid utopia where we all take care of each other and etc, etc. But..

**Inmn ** 52:01
Out of the questions. [Jokingly]

**Margaret ** 52:05
So, I don’t know. That’s, um…. And I will say, the best sober look that I have ever read about this, is a book…. Have you read "Ministry for the Future," by any chance? I’ve been mostly talking to the audience and not you Inmn, but I’m switching over to talking to you.

**Inmn ** 52:23
No, I have…I have not. [laughing]

**Margaret ** 52:24
Okay, there’s this book by Kim Stanley Robinson, who’s like probably the most experienced climate fiction author in English that…certainly that I’m aware of, but has been writing climate fiction for a very long time. And "Ministry for the Future" is like, as far as I can tell, it’s a couple years old now, his best guess at what could possibly pull us out of this tailspin. And Kim Stanley Robinson is not an anarchist but he’s always been anarchists adjacent or has always been friendly to anarchists. And we’ve appeared sympathetically in many of his books. And oh, yeah. Yeah, like the "Mars" trilogy is about terraforming Mars and it being complicated. Has anarchist characters that are pretty explicit. And the book "Antarctica" has like eco-saboteurs and stuff like that. The book "Ministry for the Future" is about–what he does best is less the like "eco-arson" and more of the like, "you and organization tasked to fix climate change" or whatever. So it’s like from that perspective. But they work hand in hand with–it’s been a couple years since I read it–I think the Children of Kali or something like that, which comes out of basically–since India is one of the countries that’s going to be the most affected by climate change–and they are basically a direct action group that in that book is like just blowing up airplanes and just like, absolutely being like, "Fossil fuels are done and we’re gonna blow them the fuck up." And now…. And it’s about the, not even the tension, but–dare I say–the dialectic between those two forces. It is about the relationship between and how they can work together between institutional radical change and direct action. I think what is happening is bigger than ideology. I think what is happening is bigger than anything that has happened in human history. And we are so blessed–I say that ironically, but in a weird way I don’t–to be alive during one of the most tumultuous things that will happen in the history of the Earth. And it’s our fault. But it’s not our fault because you didn’t buy an electric vehicle fast enough. It is the fault of a civilization that, you know…is a fault of Western civilization, but it is our responsibility to do what we can about it and/or to try and survive what’s coming. That’s my…. Sorry, this has been… I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

**Inmn ** 55:22
No, I think that makes sense. And I…just a couple days ago, I was talking to a friend about–they work outside a lot collecting plants–and she’s like a plant archivist. I’m forgetting the words for these things. And, like, she was talking about, how, in 10 years, probably this is…. You know, she’s a botanist and a biologist and studies this to some extent, but she thinks that in 10 years that the world will be not a comfortable place, in more places, to just exist outside in. And so she’s on this quest right now to catalog as many plants as possible before they don’t exist anymore and before, it becomes not…like a lot less possible to be out in the world doing that kind of work. Like, her 10 year plan is to not…somehow not work outside anymore. Yeah. Which is not going to be a reality for a lot of people. But yeah, it was very like, oh, yeah, this is not some distant thing. This is like, this is…

**Margaret ** 56:52
What happened now?

**Inmn ** 56:53
What’s happening right now. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, that’s not like a…that’s not like a hopeful or whatever. But I don’t know. I do want to, I do want to say that, like, you know, 2023 was a lot of really bad things that happened in it. And I think people are also doing a lot more about all of this stuff. And, like, I don’t know, it’s like…. I feel like there’s this kind of joke, especially in activist or anarchist circles, that it’s like, the true revolutionary spirit comes out when the most repression and horrifying shit happens. And I don’t know, I hope that at least, at least, more bad things happening means that more people are doing more to stop bad things from happening. That make sense?

**Margaret ** 57:58
Yeah, I mean, what’s funny is like, historically, I tend to think that it’s actually not repression that brings out resistance as much as I’m like, when people are repressed for a really long time, it doesn’t necessarily make them resist as much as like when things get slightly better and then that reverses really quickly…

**Inmn ** 58:16
I see.

**Margaret ** 58:17
…is more often. But that is also part of what’s happening right now. And yeah, I think that we can look at more and more people showing up for Palestine and more and more people showing up for the climate and I think that that will continue and will continue to grow. And I think that another random weird positive thing that’s happened in the past couple of years, or past year in 2023, is that the prepper space is no longer a right wing space. I think. When I look at mainstream… like when you look at like prepper Reddit, right? It is like people talking about how they can take care of their communities as well as get ready for themselves. And it’s like a… that is a sea change. Right. And I…that gives me hope. Okay, one other like, not actually really positive, but funny, almost positive: You know, the DC was built on a swamp?

**Inmn ** 59:11
Yeah. A lot of major cities were.

**Margaret ** 59:15
DC is built in a low-lying delta like New Orleans, but it was constructed on top of rubble fill and the Federal Triangle–which unfortunately includes a lot of museums and I like museums–is built on land reclaimed from Tiber Creek, which is occasionally…. which was eventually buried and turned into a sewer. The US Capitol is sinking. Sea level is rising. The like abandoned…the like forgotten creeks are returning and just using roads. And this will fuck up a bunch of poor people. Like DC is like–although it’s gentrified, like fuck since I first lived near it–but um, it’s still a city with a lot of marginalized people living in it. It’s not going to just directly affect the lawmakers. So it’s only symbolically beautiful that DC is sinking. Practically, it’s actually a disaster and a crisis.

**Inmn ** 1:00:10
Yeah. Golly.

**Margaret ** 1:00:12
Which is a good metaphor for civilization itself. We can be like, "Hooray, civilization is collapsing." And you’re like, "Oh, wait, who is that gonna affect the most? Oh shit," you know?

**Inmn ** 1:00:22
Yeah. Which I…you know, I hope everyone knows this, we are not eco fascists.

**Margaret ** 1:00:29
No.

**Inmn ** 1:00:30
Yeah, if you’re getting that from this show, you’re listening to the wrong show…

**Margaret ** 1:00:34
You’re listening wrongly.

**Inmn ** 1:00:35
You’re listening…listening wrongly. Margaret, you know what other really…. You know what kind of cool thing happened in 2023?

**Margaret ** 1:00:44
What?

**Inmn ** 1:00:46
Um, this podcast, which you are maybe familiar with, I think, Live Like the World is Dying.

**Margaret ** 1:00:54
Sounds familiar.

**Inmn ** 1:00:55
Yeah, we hit 100 episodes.

**Margaret ** 1:00:58
Oh, shit.

**Inmn ** 1:00:59
In 2023. And…

**Margaret ** 1:01:00
We hit any other milestones?

**Inmn ** 1:01:02
Yeah, we also hit over a million downloads.

**Margaret ** 1:01:06
Hell fucking yeah.

**Inmn ** 1:01:08
Yeah. Like, and I don’t know. It’s…I feel like…. Oh, and I came on as a host in 2023, which I think is pretty….

**Margaret ** 1:01:19
Was it only a year ago?

**Inmn ** 1:01:21
It was less than a year ago, actually. Well, we switched to being weekly too, which was…has made it seem a lot longer.And, you know, it’s like I hope that…I hope that more people listening to the show, I hope that us doing more–even though every time I get on the air I’m like, "Wait, how do you be a person? How do you say things?" It’s been really amazing to see this show be important to people and to see this show be helping people have more conversations, more conversations about COVID, more conversations about disability, more conversations about preparedness, more conversations about the dumpster–I’m gonna say dumpster fire again….

**Margaret ** 1:02:11
That is okay.

**Inmn ** 1:02:11
That is our country. But thanks everyone, for supporting the show. And thank you for listening to us rant and all of our Lord of the Rings jokes.

**Margaret ** 1:02:26
We didn’t get a single one in this time.

**Inmn ** 1:02:29
It’s true. We’ve failed you.

**Margaret ** 1:02:33
You have failed me. [Joking] Yeah, that’s why we’re ending the episode. Should we end the episode? Should we sign out?

**Inmn ** 1:02:39
Probably.n Do you have any like…. I feel like…. Margaret was like…I guess reflecting on all of that and having created or founded the show, I’m just wondering if you have any more reflections on 100 episodes of Live Like the World is Dying and anything that you’d like to see in the future going forward for maybe, more specifically for the show. We’ve kind of talked about what we would love to see people do in their lives.

**Margaret ** 1:03:12
I never expected Live Like the World is Dying to take off. I obviously started it right before the pandemic began. So that gave me a little boost right out the gate, you know, but I never expected my interest in preparedness to be more generalized. And, you know, I’ve been so used to feeling…. One time I lived on a land project. And I was saying, "If the following bad thing happens, don’t worry, I’ve got about six months worth of food for everyone in the barn." And the person…one person was like, "You have salt?" And I was like, "Yeah, no, yeah, I’ve got a bunch of giant cans of salt." And then I realized they were joking. And, I feel less alone as a result of the success of this show. And I’ve heard from other people. I’ve heard from listeners who feel similarly. One of my favorite types of messages to get in this world is people who were sort of a political getting into preparedness and were starting to get sucked towards individualistic and right-wing preparedness and then ran across the show and felt like they were pulled back from that brink. I also sometimes hear from people who are starting to normalize, as part of anarchist and mutual aid practice, to encourage individual preparedness. And I also would say that over the 100 episodes and the, coming on, four years of the show, I’ve learned so much from the people that I’ve interviewed and from the people that you’ve interviewed and that Brooke has interview and it’s really given me a lot more of a holistic picture of what preparedness is. It’s really helped me focus my own thoughts on the matter. And, you know, I, when I say things like, "Well, we can do it." I don’t mean it’s going to be easy. But I mean, we can do it, you know, and one of the things that I’ve learned by being an anarchist and how Bonanno influences this, is that doing it is the winning, right? It’s not about…. Like, you know what I have 0% chance of surviving? Life. Life kills. We all fucking die, right? Yeah. And so all we can do is live as well and as in alliance…allegiance to our own values as we can. And I think preparedness is a big part of that. And I think that preparedness has taught me responsibility. I come from a very chaotic background. I think that anarchists in general sometimes eschew responsibility a little bit too much, even though that often when crisis comes up, we’re some of the more…like, our entire ethos is built on responsibility. And sometimes we forget that. And this show has helped me remember that. And a million fucking listeners…listens is a fucking lot. And that’s cool as shit. That’s awesome.

**Inmn ** 1:06:47
Yeah, it’s like a lot more than a million now.

**Margaret ** 1:06:50
Hell yeah.

**Inmn ** 1:06:51
We didn’t like just barely hit…scratch it.

**Margaret ** 1:07:01
Should I do a little close out spiel?

**Margaret ** 1:07:04
And if you want to support us, you should tell people about the show. You should tell people about it in person, you should tell people about it while organizing preparedness gatherings where people from your region get together and talk about needs and how you can help each other. And we’ll probably be putting together a little bit of a like "How to do that" based on one that–I’m going to say "we" organized, but that’s…I’m over emphasizing my own importance in the organization. And you can also just rate and review and do all that other algorithmic shit. I am becoming more and more of a crotchety old lady and I hate all that shit. But you can also support us on Patreon. We pay our transcriber and we pay our audio editor. And we have hopes of paying our guests and hosts at some point as well. And if you want to help make that happen, you can support us on Patreon. We’re published by Strangers in a Tangle Wilderness, which puts out several other podcasts including Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which features our monthly zine, as well as The Spectacle, recently renamed from Anarcho Geek Power Hour, which talks about nerdy shit in a way that is hopefully entertaining. Well…it is entertaining. But in particular, we want to thank some of our patrons, we want to thank….

**Inmn ** 1:07:04
totally.

**Inmn ** 1:08:30
Wait. One second. I’ve had a new thing. I’ve had a new idea about these acknowledgments. So these acknowledgments that we do at the end of each episode of our podcasts are for people who are in our $20 a month Patreon tier, and maybe piggybacking off, you know, some of Margaret’s other work is, you, if you sign up for this $20 a month here, we’ll acknowledge something, and it could be you, it could be a mutual aid group that you work with, or dare I say it could be whatever you say that we want to acknowledge. Obviously, we’re not going to do anything fucked up….

**Margaret ** 1:09:09
Like "Pee Pee Poo Poo" or something? If you want me to say "pee pee, poo poo," give me $20 a month, I’ll fuckin say it.

**Inmn ** 1:09:15
Yeah. So in reframing this–and we have some other stuff coming out for $20 a month patrons, hopefully soon, some more some more stuff beyond acknowledgments–but you can get us to say funny things or thank theoretical concepts by signing up for our $20 a month Patreon tier. [Margaret laughs] And that is…that is my new plug about the acknowledgments tier.

**Margaret ** 1:09:40
That rules Okay, well, this is the list from before anyone realized that they could do that. And it is, Patoli, Eric, and Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and the immortal Hoss the Dog.

**Inmn ** 1:10:12
thanks everyone. Talk to you soon

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E103 – Crisis on the Arizona Border

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined by two humanitarian-aid workers who have been providing care to asylum seekers along the Mexico-Arizona border near Sasabe where Prevention Through Deterrence policies are playing out in realtime as thousands of asylum seekers are left out in the winter desert by Border Patrol.

Guest Info

Groups like the ones these volunteers work with can be found at nomoredeaths.org/, www.tucsonsamaritans.org, and www.gvs-samaritans.org.

Groups in California like borderkindness.org are doing similar work.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Crisis on the Arizona Border

**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today Inmn Neruin and today we’re gonna be talking about some pretty horrible things going on in the world which, you know, of course, we never talk about horrible things on this podcast. It’s always really good and wonderful things. But yeah, we’re going to be talking about a crisis that has been going on on the Arizona border near the town of Sasabe. And it’s gonna tie in a lot of things that we’ve talked about on the show before, especially from the No More Deaths interviews. So, if you haven’t listened to the No More Deaths interviews, they’re not…it’s certainly not required. But if you do not have a…like a broad understanding of the history of border militarization or fucking dumb things that Border Patrol does, it might be helpful to go back and listen to those episodes first. But yeah, but before we get to all of that, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts and here is a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo. [Singing a simple melody]

**Inmn ** 02:54
And we’re back. Thanks you all so much for coming on the show today. Would y’all Introduce yourself with your names, pronouns, and I guess a little bit about like what you do in the world that relates to what we’re going to be talking about?

**Bryce ** 03:24
Yeah, Bryce, he/him. I’ve been working with various desert aid organizations over the past couple of years, Tucson Samaritans, No More Deaths and some search and rescue search and recovery groups.

**Ember ** 03:42
I’m Ember, he/him, and have been working with No More Deaths around Arivaca, Arizona for the last year and a half.

**Inmn ** 03:53
Cool. So there’s been a lot of stuff happening at the wall recently, which, you know, is what we’re here to talk about and, yeah, I don’t know, do y’all want to just tell us about what’s what’s going on at the wall?

Ember04:18
Yeah, I’ll just preface it by saying, you know, we’re very much just speaking as individuals who’ve been involved with wall stuff around Sasabe, Arizona, which is about an hour south of Tucson and we’ll talk more about it but to just step back, this is a crisis that’s happening all over the border and we’re really going to be speaking primarily to the situation that’s been unfolding around Sasabe in the last months and weeks and not speaking on behalf of No More Deaths or any other groups.

**Inmn ** 04:58
Cool. Cool. Yeah. Yeah, it seems like a huge, huge, huge, sprawling crisis of horrible things.

Bryce05:07
But yeah, so I think there’s been a lot more media about what’s happening in Jacumba or in Lukesville, where hundreds or thousands of people have been coming through the wall, not a port of entry, to seek asylum, and have been left out there in sort of makeshift camps for days or weeks at a time waiting to be apprehended by Border Patrol. And something similar has been happening east of Sasabe, which is this tiny, tiny, tiny little town, as Ember said, about an hour south of Tucson. For the past couple years, people have been doing a similar thing of coming through gaps in the border wall to seek asylum because they’re blocked from presenting themselves at ports of entry. So over the past couple of years, it’s mostly been like the Tucson Samaritans and Green Valley Samaritans that have been helping these people out, because pretty much the situation was that if you don’t call Border Patrol to come apprehend them then Border Patrol will just never come. It’s a super remote area of the desert. There’s a road that goes along the border wall that you can easily drive to get to these people, but Border Patrol just won’t do it because it’s not really worth their time. And so at times, there would be people stuck out there for like three or four days. I ran into one group that had written SOS in rocks and had built a fire just trying to get Border Patrol’s attention. And this is like two years ago before any of this was even in the news. And just…it’s kind of just slowly escalated until the beginning of November. A lot of violence broke out south of Sasabe on the Mexican side. And it’s just…. Between that and just other dynamics happening, it just shifted things so that we suddenly started seeing just hundreds of people there on the border wall seeking asylum. And where usually there were gaps closer to Sasabe where they could present so that Border Patrol could just show up in buses or vans and pick people up, now people were showing up much further east in more remote areas that are much more difficult to get to because of Biden’s new border wall construction that blocked off access to some of these closer areas. So now the situation quickly became that Border Patrol would take a very long time to pick anybody up. And because of the high volume of people, they’re now 20 kilometers, or 30 kilometers away from the actual port of entry. People are having to hike are left overnight just in the middle of nowhere, just building fires or doing whatever they can to survive the night. And, yeah, it’s been about a couple of months of that now.

Ember08:20
I’m going to just reiterate that, you know, a big call of a lot of groups is to open ports of entry because this is stemming from the point that people can’t claim asylum at a port of entry, people are being forced to use this bullshit CBP app and wait for insane amounts of time, if ever, to be allowed to present for asylum. And so as we kind of hear the mainstream propaganda about what’s going on, there’s very little emphasis on the fact that the reason people are coming through gaps in the wall in really remote areas is fundamentally because they can’t claim asylum at a port of entry and because the gaps are being closed nearby and that’s just really important to ground it because there’s just so much misinformation about that.

**Inmn ** 09:10
For folks who don’t know, why can’t people claim…apply for asylum at a port of entry?

Bryce09:17
I think there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about this. A lot of people I think thought that that was going to change when Title 42 was repealed or thinking it had something to do with the MPP, the Remain in Mexico Policy, but this actually was, it was a separate policy decision that at first got some media exposure. It started with metering back in like 2017 or something–sometimes during–where they would where they would just let in a certain amount of people and then CBP agents would actually block people before they got to the port of entry and say "We can’t take any more people. You have to show us your passport," all this stuff. And then that turned into during COVID, "We’re just not going to take anybody." And then now with Biden, it has continued, where if you don’t have a CBP One app, CBP agents will just turn you away at the port of entry. And there’s been a lot of legal stuff about it. Like, I think in San Diego there were a couple big court cases where they said, "You can’t continue doing this," but the Biden administration has come out saying, like, "We don’t actually turn people away at the port of entry. We don’t do turn-backs." But clearly on the ground, that is what’s happening. And so I think people think of it as like that there’s some big law that needs to be changed or that, you know, people are trying to do something sketchy by coming between ports of entry, or at the port of entry, or that there is a legal pathway through the CBP One app and people just aren’t doing it. But really, the CBP One app forces people…. It’s essentially the remain in Mexico Policy but without the Remain in Mexico Policy. And then if people try to present themselves at the port of entry, which they should be allowed to do, they’re just turned away. And there’s not some…there’s not some big thing causing this to happen. It’s just pure policy that could be changed very, very soon if they actually had the desire to do it.

**Inmn ** 10:29
Yeah. So it’s like with this app, people are being asked to download an app to apply for asylum through and then they just wait for a notification?

Bryce11:48
Yeah. And then once the…. This should all be…. Nobody should take my word for this because I’m not like a fucking asylum lawyer or something. This is just from talking to people, my understanding of it. So definitely don’t…. Don’t take it too seriously. But from what I understand, people are…people download the app and once they get the notification that they have an appointment then they have to get to the port of entry where that appointment is within 24 hours or something. And then just get to it. But there’s no like…. The people will wait, you know, a couple months, six months, a year, and they just are sort of in limbo until they get their appointment.

**Inmn ** 12:35
Golly, it sounds like…. This sounds like a sick joke of like people like…. Wait, I’m not even gonna make the comparison. This sounds like a sick fucking joke. But um…and so this has been happening for quite some time. But very recently, things kind of got a lot worse in Arizona, or like around Sasabe.

Bryce13:05
Yeah, I mean, and it definitely seems like a big part of it is…whatever fighting between rival factions of the cartel south of the border. It’s hard to really say exactly, but at the same time, that…. People started coming in higher numbers in the last two months. People also started coming through the San Miguel gate on the Tohono O’odham Nation in even higher numbers than here. And over there, there’s not nearly as much…. Border Patrol was promising to, you know, set up structures and give water and all that stuff, but in the end, there’s just really not a lot of support over there like, you know, what we have here. There’s been a lot of community committee support and donations coming in, which has been great, but over at San Miguel, there’s not even that which is already inadequate.

**Inmn ** 14:08
Yeah, yeah. And maybe this is sort of me asking a question that I’ve had about all of this: I’ve heard that the town of Sasabe is like…. I’ve heard it referred to as a ghost town right now?

Bryce14:27
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s like 20 residents left or something like that. I have…a couple of friends of mine went down there recently to visit a friend who’s still living there and she runs a migrant outreach center in the town, which hasn’t really had people in it, but it’s doing fine. The garden is still going. [Inmn "Hell yeahs"] I do know people are definitely interested in coming back if and when things calm down.

**Inmn ** 15:00
Do…I guess do you want to talk about what y’all have been experiencing in kind of like the last week, I guess?

Ember15:08
Yeah, I mean, pretty much as Bryce was saying, there’s been folks responding to this, primarily the Samaritans as a formal group from Tucson and Green Valley, who have been responding to this for much longer. But folks involved with No More Deaths really got involved more significantly about a month ago because of the massive increase in the numbers of people out there and people being pushed further out into the desert. And that response has grown quite a bit. It kind of started with a few people from No More Deaths who were getting involved and then has exponentially increased in the last week. It was a situation that was really, really challenging in terms of the amount of resources and supplies needed for stuff. Like, basically hundreds of people, primarily a lot of children and babies and families and elders, stuck out in the increasingly becoming winter temperatures with completely inadequate supplies, most people who expected to be picked up immediately and we’re instead waiting for up to three or four days in the winter conditions in very remote areas of the desert. The border wall outside of this area goes just right through very, very mountainous terrain. And so the border wall, you know, there’s a road on the border wall, but it’s basically, as you get far out, just being completely out in the middle of the desert. It’s an insane road. It just goes straight up and down mountains. And so people are stuck out there for, at times, up to multiple days and may have been waiting on the other side for some days before they crossed. And so a lot of the original response as our group started to get involved was just primarily supply distro and medical care and medical triage. And I mean, just to give a context of how many people were out there, I think we originally had an emergency request for $10,000 and we used that money in about a week.

**Inmn ** 17:41
Oh my god.

Ember17:42
So that’s primarily for food, water, blankets, you know, over the counter meds, and gas for the trucks, and things like that. Things really came to a head. I mean, it was a very untenable situation or unsustainable situation in terms of people going out there regularly and being like, "People are going to die out here. This is a really fucked up situation." People tried to pressure and call Border Patrol to pick people up, which they were slow to do. So sometimes they would do it regularly. Sometimes they would take a lot longer. But last Friday, there was a massive rainstorm. And we had…those of us who had been involved in organizing support around it had already started to put out larger calls for support, realizing this was way out of the depths of just what our group could respond to. And so we were putting out larger calls for support from the Tucson community, from Arivaca, which is a town about 15 miles from Sasabe, and we were preparing a little bit for the rain in terms of…the day before we set up some tarp structures at some of the places people were waiting. But what happened on Friday, I think really expanded the calls to mobilize and got way more people involved. And yeah, I’ll leave it to Bryce if you want to talk a little bit about what happened on Friday.

Bryce19:25
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I guess some other context would be that, increasingly, we had to do a lot of advocacy for emergency situations because, like Ember said, it was really just, you know, kids, infants, people that were not prepared to be out, you know, 30 mile…30 kilometers from a road, coming just with the clothes on their backs or maybe a little day pack or something but really kind of expecting to be picked up by Border Patrol immediately. And there’s a lot of people that had started out with very serious medical conditions even. There’s at least a few cases that I was personally involved in of people coming to the United States specifically to seek medical care for their children. So, it’d be like a kid with kidney disease or, you know, needing some kind of medicine daily that hadn’t had it for multiple days are really serious things, you know, or some woman who is nine months pregnant and having medical issues. I mean, really serious things where somebody should just not be out in the middle of the desert. And the kind of advocacy we had to do for on 911 [calls] was just really obscene. Like, we call 911, say, there’s somebody out here with some particular medical emergency, they’d ask the nationality of the person, whether they were entering the United States illegally, things like that, and then transfer us to Border Patrol. And Border Patrol would either drop the call or say, "Okay, we’re sending somebody." and then we sit there for six hours and, of course, nobody comes. There were times when Border Patrol would actually come out. They’d check out like two or three 911 calls, say, "Okay, this person is not going to die today," and then leave. And then we eventually were able to convince some ambulances to occasionally come out for very, very serious cases. But even then, they started getting upset with us for, quote-unquote, "Crying wolf." And just the amount of advocacy that we had to do even to get that response was just…I mean, it was…it would just be hours of calling everybody we knew with connections to be able to get an ambulance down there. And then, even then, we would get threatened with arrest by Border Patrol for transporting people to the highway to rendezvous with an ambulance, even with permission of the ambulance. And so when the rainstorm came, it was this sort of perfect storm where we had a system in place where we were sort of prepared to medivac the most serious patients out of there and just sort of keep everybody else alive until Border Patrol came to pick people up because…. And then we would advocate for, "Okay, these people really need to be taken first. You need to take these people first." Which in itself is a really compromising position to be in just because we’re acting as an intermediary between people and their physical safety and the asylum process. It’s like this weird…. Like, we’re not the government, but we’re fulfilling this weird government role. And, yeah, it’s a very weird thing. But when the rain storm happened, we were not prepared for the reality of Border Patrol just not showing up at all. They had been pretty consistently, even if we don’t see them all day, they eventually show up at like five or six, especially if we call a million times and advocate and call 911, and all that. And so, the roads were muddy, but we were doing it in our janky little trucks, we were driving back and forth just fine. And somewhere around like two or three, it started…we started to realize that just nobody was coming. And they were…. Like, I don’t know why, after everything we’ve all been through, that anybody would have had any faith in Border Patrol to avoid, to want to avoid a mass casualty incident. But here they were, seemingly, just like willingly causing one. Just to give an example of what the scene looked like, we showed up, things were already pretty bad. Like people were in good spirits, just because, you know, they’ve been traveling so long, they’re glad to finally be there. And having a good sense of humor about things is kind of the only way to survive something horrible like that. People were still kind of in that space when we showed up. We handed out food and water. Most people, even though we had built some really rudimentary tarps structures, people generally opted to just keep walking because they didn’t want to just be stuck out there in the cold and rain. And every time we drove back and forth along the wall, we just noticed people getting increasingly more desperate as they realized that they’re just stuck out in the middle of the desert in this rain. And to the point where there was just no way to properly triage. There would just be…. We were just sort of bouncing…. Or, instead of actually helping people out, we were just bouncing around from emergency to emergency Yeah, we would be on our way to an emergency and then just see somebody laying in a puddle of water, just in agonizing pain–because even, you know, somebody gets a muscle cramp and can’t stand anymore and then they’re just laying in the cold and rain. And they don’t have warm gear, they don’t have anything waterproof. They’re just laying there and it becomes a medical emergency just because they’re stuck out in the elements in this rainstorm. And so we’d be on our way to some medical emergency and have to drop two people off to go deal with another one and then just hope that another of our trucks would come back to get people. And yeah, we started just having to treat it as–I mean, Ember could speak more to the medical stuff as an EMT–but there were…we had nurses with us and other medical people who essentially just started treating the triage as if it was…as if it was going to be a mass casualty incident.

Ember25:55
Yeah, I mean, Friday set historic rainfall records. In Tucson, there was an inch of rain. And there was probably almost that much where we were and we’re talking about, you know, winter desert rain. So you know, 4000′, almost 4000′, elevation, like freezing…almost freezing temperatures and dumping, dumping rain, including large amounts of thunder and lightning. And with the lightning, keep in mind that everybody who’s there is against this 30′ metal border wall. And so, just a really, really scary situation. And it very quickly became obvious, as Bryce said, that we were…it was going to be way overwhelming for the capacity of the amount of people who are out there to respond to. It kind of started in the morning, there were a few Samaritans’, a group out of Tucson and Green Valley, a few Samaritans’ vehicles out there and then a few No More Deaths trucks came out. But one of the first things we did when we really understood the scope of the situation was just put out a massive call for more support, which was really inspiring to see really come out that night. But obviously, it takes time for people to mobilize. So we really tried, those of us who were on the ground there really realized, "Okay, this really has the potential to be a really horrific mass casualty situation." And I want to say, I have no illusions about Border Patrol, no illusions about the State giving a shit about people seeking asylum dying in the desert, but I was surprised, based on my experiences in the few weeks prior, I was genuinely surprised that Border Patrol completely refused to come out at all. And once that became clear, I think our plans really changed, because those of us who were responding that day, our plans for the rain were really to try to build, you know, to have some some shelters but fundamentally to keep people okay until they can get picked up by Border Patrol and brought to an actual place to be warm and dry. And as it became clear that Border Patrol was absolutely not going to come that day–and we had Border Patrol liaisons on the phone with them–and they were being pretty explicit about, "Yeah, we can’t come. It’s raining." Obviously, they can. They have trucks way better than our trucks. And they chose not to at all. And once that became clear, I think our mission really changed quite drastically too, to where, "Okay, we need to get as many people to these shelters and we need to build more shelters, but, fundamentally, we need to get people off the wall, just from a medical perspective." I mean, I was rolling out in the morning with my friend who’s a nurse who has been in a lot of disaster contexts and situations and he was like, "Holy shit, this is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen."

**Bryce ** 29:01
I think he said, "This is [emphasis on "is"] the worst thing I’ve seen."

Ember29:03
He said, "This is the worst thing I’ve seen," and equated it to when he was in Haiti after the earthquake. It was where I think those of us out there were…. Once we realized the extent of the situation and thought that we are going to see a lot of children die today. A lot. You know? It was–and I will preface this by saying that, as we know of, nobody did die that day. And I think that was because of generally just choices of people responding on the ground, people taking care of each other who were out there on the wall, and pure luck of breaks in the rain are the reasons for that. I think it was a situation that could have…. A lot of people absolutely could have and would have died. But, you know, before the rain storm, there had been a lot of conversations about, you know, "Should we be driving people to the substation?" which is, you know, where people can be processed by Border Patrol–that has a certain capacity limit–in the town of Sasabe. And there were a lot of these conversations about the legal risks of that and the potential dangers to people seeking asylum because, to keep in mind, like most people, when we’ve been out there for the time any of us had been out of the wall, most people wanted rides to the substation. That was, you know, a big thing people wanted and needed. That’s where they were trying to get to. And there were all these conversations about the potential dangers of that legal risk. And what we encountered on Friday in the rainstorm was a situation where there was simply no choice. I mean, we were able to have some janky makeshift shelters at two camps along the wall that people, some people, did stay in, and we’re trying to treat and warm and dry and triage those people, but there were about 150 people–there was over 300 people out in the wall that day and there was about 150 people who were walking past the last camp the 12 to 15 miles between the camp. And by camp, I mean a very shitty janky tarp structure setup. I don’t mean a real camp. But there are about 150 people walking between the town of Sasabe that like 12 to 15 miles from the camp. Those people were out in the rain with no protection whatsoever. And so after we did some triage and made sure that, you know, the people further back on the wall were at one of these makeshift camps, we made the decision–that was not even really a choice–but just fundamentally that like people are going to die if we don’t drive everyone to the substation. So we made a choice to evacuate everyone on the road in multiple caravans of trucks and shuttles to the substation while calling Border Patrol, telling them what we were doing, making it clear that it wasn’t really a choice, that people people are going to die if they don’t get to get to the station. And we weren’t really sure how they would react to that. They, Border Patrol, did process everybody that was brought to the station. They got buses down from Tucson. And at the same time, they were being pretty hostile with volunteers that were evacuating people there, including a lot of threats of arrest, that people would be arrested and to "Not be doing this." But no volunteers were arrested. And everybody who was evacuated to the substation was processed within the next chunk of hours. And so, yeah, that kind of changes the whole dynamic in a sense. And the other thing that changed the dynamic is just this massive call for mobilization and support. So a lot of people from Tucson and Arivaca came down to support that evening and we were really in a triage situation all day and night of evacuating the most vulnerable and medically unwell people to the Border Patrol station and trying to do our best to make the makeshift camps slightly safer. But fundamentally, they were extremely inadequate shelters for people in the conditions that we were in.

**Inmn ** 33:34
Dang, yeah, that sounds harrowing and just fucking terrible. I I don’t have a real emotional response to it because it’s just…it’s just fucked. But I don’t know, it’s like this thing where it feels like things we’ve talked about on the show before with Sophie and Parker from No More Deaths talking to us about Border Patrol’s kind of…their tendency to create a humanitarian crisis that they then refuse to respond to. But they, at the same time, you know, they claim to…like, they claim all the time to rescue people from the desert. Or, like, framing themselves as these humanitarian actors when they’re the ones who are creating these crises and then completely not responding to them or like…. I don’t know, like, hearing more confirmation of discrimination of medical dispatchers and stuff to respond to calls or to pass that off to Border Patrol who then just doesn’t respond. I don’t know. It’s just terrible. And it’s like… Like Border Patrol’s perfectly capable of responding to these crises, right?

**Bryce ** 35:24
Oh, totally and even in this case with the same…. Because eventually they do get everybody. So if they just…they’re basically making the choice, in addition to like border wall, asylum, all that stuff, even with the current situation as it is, they’re making the choice to leave people out there versus if they just went and got everybody. They say their issue is capacity for processing people. But why not have them wait in Sasabe or near the station or somewhere where they’re not in the middle of the desert? They could just go get everybody, bring them to the station, and have them wait where an ambulance can arrive, where people can easily show up and give them help, where they’re not just…. I mean, there’s vigilantes along the wall, there’s like gun battles. For many days, we were hearing automatic gunfire just south of where people were waiting for asylum. Like it’s very much even outside of the danger of the desert itself. It is not a good place to be waiting. These people are freaking terrified. But the benefit of them being there for Border Patrol is that they’re totally invisible. So they’re just sort of hiding what…a thing that should be happening in public view in front of the Border Patrol station, in the middle of the desert where there’s just extreme danger. If they wanted to, they could bring everybody to a safer place. It would be bad for PR, because then we’d have a bunch of news articles about like, "All these people are like being kept in an open air detention facility," or whatever. But they’re essentially doing the same thing. But because it’s far enough away from the public eye and from their own facilities, it just becomes invisible in a way, the same as, you know, Border Patrol’s nonsense that they get up to with other kinds of people crossing the border with Prevention Through Deterrence, all of that policy; the suffering really is the point. I think they’re hoping that people will tell stories back home that they, "Showed up and things were really bad and we almost died and there was this rainstorm," or whatever, "Don’t do it this way." And the same way that their narratives kind of push things on the quote-unquote "smugglers" as being these predatory people that–which they are–but as being like, "It’s them that’s doing this. They’re the ones that are causing this," and just really outsourcing any blame of anything on to on to other people.

**Inmn ** 38:05
This situation makes me wonder if Border Patrol is making this conscious choice to, where with open air detention facilities they’re–in Arizona at least–are just like, "Oh, we don’t want to deal with that." or, "We don’t want to deal with the PR. We just don’t want to deal with it so we’re gonna do this other thing to push people further out or to really invisiblize it," like you’re talking about? I mean, that seems like a very Border Patrol thing to do. Which is horrible to laugh about but…. I guess you talked a little bit about Border Patrol’s responses to what’s going on, or to interventions that people are taking, and I’m just wondering if there’s any more, anything more to say about how Border Patrol is reacting to how people are intervening in the situation?

**Ember ** 39:09
There’s been significant threats of arrest to people as we’ve continued to evacuate people to the substation, and to people that are just walking to the makeshift camps. There have been continual threats of arrest. Some volunteers had their IDs taken and said they were coming back for them to arrest them. Fundamentally, we feel extremely strongly that, obviously, we would be doing it even if it wasn’t legal because it’s the right thing to do, because we’re not going to…we’re going to do what we can to keep people from dying. But fundamentally, we feel very strongly that it is completely legal what we’re doing and we will not back down from threats from Border Patrol and have been pretty explicit with them about that,

**Bryce ** 40:00
Yeah. Also, after one of those threats of arrest, they did go up to the further camp, which usually is a lot of women and children, and they picked up just a few people. They could have picked up way more. They just picked up a few people and said, "Wait in three lines. We’re coming back for the rest." The people all–it was, I think, like, maybe 100 people or so–they all waited in lines. Border Patrol left and then just never came back. And so people ended up standing in lines for hours, thinking that they were going to miss their place in line or mess up if they left the lines. And [it was] just this really cruel display of–and this is right after we got some media attention for the thing that happened during the rain, so maybe [Border Patrol was] punishing them for what we were up to or, you know, who knows how those people think? But that was one thing that we saw. Another thing is, we’ve actually been caught by Border Patrol while transporting people. And they stopped and essentially thanked us. So there’s, in addition to threats of arrest, we’ve also gotten that, because, I mean, if you’re a Border Patrol agent, and you have an…you believe your own bullshit about like, "You’re a humanitarian," and all these things, or whatever, then by those standards, hypothetically, we were actually doing your job and you should be thankful for what we’re up to by moving people. And this one agent that we’ve run into a few different times has definitely had that attitude, which is…. Yeah, I don’t know whether…. I don’t even know how to think about that. But it’s made it so that it’s given us a little bit more confidence in what we’re doing, but also has set up a weird thought of like, "Oh shit. At what point are they going to stop picking people up because they think we’re gonna do it? At what point are we really just unpaid fucking Border Patrol agents?" And so I think there’s a big…. And even just our role in the camps and all this stuff, like, how much of what we’re actually doing to save lives is playing into the wants and needs of the Border Patrol? And so trying to figure out ways to–we have been talking a lot internally about ways to ways to push back on that and sort of change tactics of what we’re doing in order to…in order to pressure them to be doing the right thing, rather than this unsustainable thing in which we’re clothing, feeding, housing, and triaging hundreds of people a day, which is just like wildly unsustainable.

**Inmn ** 43:01
I mean, it seems like this thing that’s become very wildly unsustainable. And I know that y’all have recently put out this big call for like, what? For like things needing to be different? Pr like, just like broader kind of community support? Just wondering if y’all wanted to talk about that a little bit?

**Ember ** 43:28
Yeah. The calls for support really started to come out of, you know, conversations after a few weeks of folks in our group responding really heavily to the situation and realizing that we needed way more support. And also, I mean, for one, supportive people autonomously responding to the situation outside of our organization, and also more like visiblization what’s going on because it was very invisible. There’s a few news stories about things going on in other parts of the Borderlands, similar situations, or even worse situations, but really not the attention that the extent of the situation demanded. So those calls for support went out before the rain, but the rain day really amplified it. A lot of people from larger networks in the area came out that night. And it led to huge…way more numbers of people getting involved. And part of it is us really trying to encourage a non–outside of our organization–an autonomous response from more people regionally to the situation that can obviously look a lot of different ways and I don’t think any of us presume to know what the best strategy or way to go about this is, but that, you know, making it more visible and having more people being involved is is an important and good thing. And I will add to that, this is obviously a situation going on throughout the Borderlands. But I think we’re in a unique position because of where we are, because of our proximity to Tucson because of networks of mutual aid and support that exists in these areas, because of the proliferation of aid groups that exist in these areas, and just generally, yeah, large networks of individuals that are down to support with something like this. I think there’s a potential for us to really build a lot of mobilization and support here that hopefully can also help spread and support other places where people are trying to respond to the crisis in their areas, some of which, as Bryce was talking about are, are significantly worse than what’s happening here. But it obviously also breeds enormous questions about like, what are we actually doing? What is our role here? And, yeah, and what are we doing? And I don’t think, you know, anyone presumes to know the answers to all questions.

**Inmn ** 46:06
Yeah, I think in terms of what the role of aid groups is…. Just just wanting to bring up this like, kind of weird, maybe complexity of like, I don’t know, it sounds, it sounds really, it sounds really weird to have to put yourself in the position of helping people get to Border Patrol or like helping people get to situations that are a potential open air detention facility or a detention facility that’s as hellish as it is out in the desert. But like, I don’t know, that…. It seems like a real…it seems a real mindfuck. And I don’t know, this isn’t really a question, just a thought.

**Bryce ** 46:58
It’s fucked up.

**Inmn ** 47:01
Yeah. Yeah. I was…we talked a little off air about this, but so there has been a little bit of media attention and I know that y’all have not been exactly happy about the media, like what large media sources are saying about what’s happening? I was wondering if y’all wanted to talk about what kind of media myths or narratives you see going around that don’t reflect what’s happening?

**Ember ** 47:44
Yeah, and I think on a personal level, just those of us that were out Friday that had been out for weeks before, you know, there have been a lot of conversations about the role of media and our general hesitation with media with most of our other work. But it just became clear that there had to be a significant push for a lot more media outrage about what was going on and about what happened that rainy day, because it was just a question of that this is just going to continue to happen and we need to visibilize this more. There was a journalist, a local journalist, who was out, who came out during the rainstorm and wrote a solid story about what was happening, but the larger mainstream media attention to it has been pretty horrific. I’ll say the New York Times came out here a few days ago and wrote a disgusting propaganda piece that basically…it was a piece about how, you know, hordes of people are coming into the country and Border Patrol is overwhelmed and doing everything they can and trying to rescue as many people as they can. But they’re so overwhelmed. It felt very much like the liberal media version of like an "invasion of the country," and Border Patrol being overwhelmed. I mean, I think it’s really scary that those are the…are the stories that are taking shape in the more kind of centrist or liberal mainstream media with no context of why people are coming here, no context of why people are being pushed out into the remote areas of the desert, no context about how much money Border Patrol has, and their absolute refusal to do their job in this case, which is to process people that are seeking asylum. None of that context. And instead, a story that literally is about, you know, Border Patrol just like trying to do everything they can to save these people being manipulated by smugglers. And it was also in the New York Times, was next to an article about the–kind of fear mongering–about a large migrant caravan that’s coming up through Mexico right now. And it just felt very much part of this media narrative that is really just playing into the worst fascist impulses. So, yeah, it was a pretty horrific article.

**Bryce ** 50:20
Yeah. And in addition to that, I mean, the New York Times article, in addition to other articles that ended up talking about the rainstorm and some of what we’ve been dealing with, we’re really tucked into a different story about the record number of migrant apprehensions. It seems like all these news media outlets were just sort of waiting for those numbers to get released and then they kind of had these pre-written articles and anything about the humanitarian disaster was just sort of tucked into that, which that narrative is always like, "There’s too many people at the border. Border Patrol is overwhelmed," or they’re not really interested in any other narrative whatsoever. And, which is just really bizarre, because, I mean, when a journalist comes out and we talk to them, the first thing we explain is [that narrative] is so much the opposite to what we actually see on the ground. Like, the migrant apprehension data is inflated because there’s now, rather than people seeking asylum at a port of entry, they’re coming through irregularly where that gets put in as a Border Patrol migrant apprehension. So it seems like numbers-wise that there’s some huge surge of, you know, the numbers are just off the charts and they’ve "never seen anything like this before." But these people actually should be under an entirely different system altogether, coming through a port of entry and, in which case, the migrant apprehensions would probably not change that much at all. And so there’s this narrative that gets pushed forth where you look at this increase in numbers, which is totally fake, and then you get to show Border Patrol in a place where we’ve been going out and just seeing…dealing with the most horrific medical emergencies every single day and watching Border Patrol do nothing to stop it and also [Border Patrol is] causing the situation in the first place, and it shows them, like…rescuing people. I think the New York Times article specifically said like, you know, under the caption for one of the pictures, it was like, "Border Patrol’s leaves with a group of people and rushes off to go rescue some more people," or something like that, which as you’re saying before, it’s like, they cause a problem and then give themselves credit for rescues, which is just not…is just upsetting and false and just like, insulting on a human level, you know?

**Inmn ** 52:57
Yeah. Yeah, they’re really…they’re quite…they’re quite adept at what they do, which is creating humanitarian crises that they then pretend to respond to so that everyone thinks that they’re humanitarian actors. Meanwhile, they’re sitting on their asses doing nothing.

**Ember ** 53:25
Well, I mean, literally. When we were evacuating people to the station that day, they were sitting on their asses doing nothing, not wanting to get up. "Well, there was a massive rainstorm," and asking us, you know, like, "How do you know these people are cold?" as a question.

**Bryce ** 53:42
Yeah, literally.

**Ember ** 53:43
That was a question. I was literally asked. And this was with a group of like, mostly children who had been out in the freezing rain and were in severe danger of hypothermia, and they [Border Patrol] literally were like, "How do you know these people are cold?"

**Bryce ** 54:00
And then since we started building shelters, they would ask, "Oh, do they have shelter?" using our little like, half-assed, last-ditch effort to fucking have people not die against us or as an excuse to not go pick people up because they have, quote-unquote, "shelter?" You know, I mean, it’s just horrific. And Ember, do we have permission to say that correction thing?

**Ember ** 54:26
Oh, yeah, I think we should say it. I mean, yeah.

**Inmn ** 54:31
I’m so curious about what’s going to be said.

**Bryce ** 54:32
So, the New York Times, their original article that they published, so we all sat together and read it together and we’re like, "Oh!" we’re all yelling like, "What the fuck? That’s bullshit. Like, what the fuck are you talking about? Like, that’s totally…" and we get to the end and see that they have a paragraph saying, "Last friday, Border Patrol had to evacuate 300 people during this rainstorm that almost caused all these deaths," or whatever. And we were just like…I almost threw the computer across the room. It was like, you know, we expected an awful narrative but to have not just a lie but the literal opposite of what happened, like the people that caused the problem…. You know, because it would have been messed up no matter what it was on that day, but we expected, stupidly, Border Patrol to show up in the same way that they had been. And so by not showing up, they actually caused a potential mass casualty incident. So to give them credit for averting something that just outside of anything, any context, just was going to happen, and Border Patrol "rescued" people…and not that some random scrappy punks from Tucson wandered down into the desert and under threat of arrests drove a bunch of people to the Border Patrol station was just like…like, I don’t even have words for…. Like, what do you even fucking do with that? Like? Yeah, it’s…it was, so we…one of our media people forced them to make a correction. And they quickly did. They didn’t fix the rest of the heinous fucking article, but they at least changed that, which they also seem to credit it to Border Patrol. But our person was there during their [NYT’s] interview with Border Patrol, and at no point did Border Patrol claim to have rescued anybody on that day. So this was just New York Times on their own just coming up with some bullshit out of thin fucking air.

**Ember ** 56:37
And then when they corrected it, they never…there’s no note in the article that says a previous version was…had this lie in it and it was corrected. But I will also add that the article on the website was also next to an ad for Exxon Mobil and the other articles next to it were defending the genocide of Palestinian kids because IDF spokesperson says "It’s justified." So we also obviously shouldn’t be, you know, shouldn’t be surprised.

**Inmn ** 57:06
Yeah. I mean, you know, it’s like, we see the same thing over and over and over again, of governments causing horrifying things to happen and then blaming it on some shadowy thing and then taking credit for fixing it. Or making it worse. Wow, yeah, that’s fucked up. Like fucking shame. Shame on the New York Times. I know this is not a new thing for anyone to hear, but fucking shame on y’all. Yeah, it’s upsetting. It’s beyond upsetting. Well, I, you know, I want to end on a positive note. What’s some like…what’s some inspiring shit? Because also, this is…this is like, I don’t know, it’s…I feel like it’s easy to get wrapped into this, the horrifying reality of like, "Oh, we’re just doing Border Patrol’s job for them." Or, like, "How sustainable is this?" But y’all I’ve been doing…like, people have been doing some truly inspiring shit and I think that’s like really worth reflecting on and y’all will continue to do really amazing things to respond to these horrifying things.

**Bryce ** 58:42
But also, just right afterwards, the huge community mobilization that happened and continues to happen has just been not surprising but just really amazing like knowing that in some situations like this people can just…the Tucson community will just throw down so hard and so quickly for some shit is just… like I think brought us all to tears the next day when we went down to collect donations and stuff.

**Inmn ** 1:00:13
Yeah, the supply drives have been wild. Like that’s… Yeah, I don’t know. Ember, you got any inspiring shit to go out on?

**Ember ** 1:00:25
I mean, everything Bryce said. And just like, I mean, the night with the rainstorm, where it’s like, what we really realized we needed at a point is just like, people are building tarp structures, people are taking care of each other, but what we really needed at a certain point was just more trucks to drive people and evacuate people to the substation. And we would just get, kind of, convoy after convoy, late in the evening and at night of friends or people we don’t even know, through our networks, coming down. And it was really fucked up because it wasn’t Border Patrol, who we needed to fucking pick people up. But to just see so many people come out on really last minute notice and be able to help with evacuating lots of people, what we needed was those vehicles and more and more people. And people really showed up and continue to show up. And it’s the same thing people are doing all over the country in response to this, you know, from cities where people are mobilizing to support asylum seekers that are, you know, just being dropped off in random cities, and to just like other places along the border where people are responding to this at its inception point at the wall. Like, it’s really…. Yeah, the amount of mobilization is pretty awesome, just people like trying to take care of each other on all levels.

**Inmn ** 1:01:52
Are there any things you want to say before we…before we break? Any, you know, broader call things people who are listening hundreds or thousands of miles away can do?

**Ember ** 1:02:12
I think, you know, on a small scale people are gonna do what they can in the places they are, but on a larger scale, it’s like…a lot of these media narratives, a lot of the right-wing push, all of that is really going to continue to grow and push for harsher, gnarlier border policies. And I think that really the thing that can push back against that is people mobilizing together and organizing against it. And I do think there is power for…or potential for, with enough, you know, people, power for things to actually not get gnarlier but, you know, go in the other direction. And I think we really have to keep that in mind that we can’t just submit to the idea that, you know, the right-wing and the mainstream news outlets are just gonna push this narrative and policies are gonna get stricter and stricter. Like, we have power to push back against that as people everywhere, mobilizing and organizing together.

**Inmn ** 1:03:18
Great. Well, I mean, you know, not great, but…shit. Great that people are doing great things in response. I’m a little emotionally dead end right now because this…because everything’s just really fucked. Thanks, you all so much for coming on today and talking about what’s going on. And, you know, if anyone in the Arizona area wants to donate 4×4 trucks, donate your 4×4 truck.

**Ember ** 1:03:58
It will die a glorious death.

**Bryce ** 1:04:03
Yeah, a couple of trucks have already died on the border wall roads. So, trucks are very needed.

**Ember ** 1:04:11
I will add too, obviously, we preface it that we’re just talking about this one area, but maybe we could link in the show notes to just some of the other struggles of other groups and communities, you know, pushing back and mobilizing for similar shit.

**Inmn ** 1:04:28
Yeah.

**Bryce ** 1:04:30
I mean, yeah, it’s all over too. I mean, the stuff in California has gotten a lot of coverage. But also in Texas this stuff is happening just as much. So it’s really like border wide. And it’s somehow managed to be pretty invisible or co-opted into other narratives. But yeah, pushing…pushing back on that I think is super important.

**Inmn ** 1:04:52
Cool. Well, thanks y’all for coming on today. Hope you get some rest.

**Bryce ** 1:05:02
Yeah, thank you.

**Inmn ** 1:05:07
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this show, then do what you can to fight border militarization and do what you can to support asylum seekers in your city. Or go out and respond. If you’re near a place where similar things like what’s happening in Arizona and Sasabe are happening, then go out and get involved, see what you can do to help. And also, if you like the show, you can support it. You can support the show by liking, subscribing, following, and whatever…. These words are…. I’m clearly actually detached from how the algorithm works. And you can also just tell people about the show. It’s one of the better ways to support it and one of, just one of the best ways that people hear about the show. You can also support Live Like the World is Dying by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness is a radical publishing collective. We put out books, zines, and other podcasts, obviously. And you can support Strangers by buying books. You can support Strangers by listening to our other podcasts, like my other podcast, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, or our other podcast, The Spectacle, which was formerly the Anarcho Geek Power Hour. You can also support Strangers by supporting us on Patreon. If you support us on Patreon, for $10 a month, then we’ll mail you a cool zine every month, anywhere in the world. And you can subscribe to our Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And if you support us at $20 a month, then we will give you a really awesome thank you at the end of all of our podcasts, which are the names that you usually hear. And what I think is really cool about the acknowledgments tier of our Patreon is that you can put whatever! You know you can put whatever name you want there and we will thank and acknowledge it. So, you know, come up with a cool name or a cool organization that you want people to about like six times a month and we’ll thank it. We will thank those things. And speaking of which, we would like to thank Patolli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, Theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the Dog. Thanks y’all so much for all of your support and making this show and so many other shows possible. And you know, to let people know, our Patreon goes to support, you know, broader things that Strangers does, but it also goes to support people who helped create the show. We pay our audio editor and our transcriptionist and maybe one day we’ll be able to pay guests or hosts. But currently…currently, we can’t do that. But yeah, anyways, I hope that everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s going on. And we will see you next time. Bye.

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