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.


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.

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