Mutual Aid or Collapse

For a long time, we have been observing the breakdown of so many systems we depend on. In medicine we have the term ‘multi system organ failure’. I’ve begun to think of the dysfunction of our economic, political, educational, medical, spiritual, and social support web as being in multi system failure now.

We have three choices.

  1. We can try to continue to ignore these failures. But that is becoming increasingly difficult to do.
  2. We can try to repair those systems, hoping they will keep working a little longer.
  3. Or we can build something new. Which might be a return to how things once were.

The consequences of the Covid pandemic are a preview of the future if change doesn’t happen now. As in NOW. As umair haque says below, “And so what do you expect to happen? If change can’t, then only collapse is left.

I think of Covid as a message backwards, from the future. And it says something like this. Life as you knew it is now over. The future is now going to become a bitter and bruising battle for the basics. The basics. Air, water, food, medicine, energy. Things that many of us once took for granted, and assumed would simply be around, as if by magic.

That age is now coming to an end. Did you ever think that breathable air would be in short supply? Where you have to wear a mask, because the air could infect you with a respiratory virus? That is what the future looks like, except for all the basics.

Life as you know it really is coming to an end, my friend. If it hasn’t already. The problem? Not enough of us can face that simple fact with courage, grace, truth, kindness, love, and goodness. And so what do you expect to happen? If change can’t, then only collapse is left.

Things Feel Bleak Because This Way of Life is Coming to an End. The Lesson of 2021 is Either We Change — or Things Collapse Around Us by umair haque, Eudaimonia, Nov 7, 2021

The phrase about Covid as a message from the future reminds me of this Terry Tempest Williams quote.

The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come.

Terry Tempest Williams

When I decided to start my own blog about six years ago, I was led to call it Quakers, social justice, and revolution. I wondered what “revolution” might be about. Now I know this revolution is Mutual Aid. As my friend and Mutual Aid mentor Ronnie James says, “The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution”.

“Mutual aid, a radical practice that has been undertaken by marginalized groups for decades”. Setting up Mutual Aid communities is more urgent now as systems we depended on are collapsing.

Mutual Aid Goes Mainstream” is the title of an article published yesterday. Subtitled “Now that the pandemic has shifted from an immediate to a chronic crisis, organizers have a chance to rethink the political implications of their efforts.”

Mutual Aid is one of the main subjects I’ve been writing about for some time.
See the Mutual Aid tab on this blog, https://landbackfriends.com/mutual-aid/
and this link to articles about Mutual Aid on my other website, Quakers, social Justice and revolution https://jeffkisling.com/?s=%22mutual+aid%22

I wrote “An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK” that summarizes what Mutual Aid and LANDBACK are about.

Mutual aid, a radical practice that has been undertaken by marginalized groups for decades, became a mainstream buzzword almost overnight.

Lucia Geng

Last spring, within hours of the University of Chicago’s announcement that classes would be held online, students created a Facebook group to coordinate mutual aid efforts. Even with finals right around the corner, UChicago Mutual Aid came alive with activity. Students eagerly offered and accepted support in the form of advice, essential supplies like food and moving boxes, and spreadsheets listing leads on resources like housing. 

What I witnessed at my college was just one example of the many mutual aid networks, both college-based and non-college-based, that sprung up across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mutual aid, a radical practice that has been undertaken by marginalized groups for decades, became a mainstream buzzword almost overnight.

Mutual aid efforts often arise during moments of crisis when those in positions of authority fail to help people, and when the importance of grassroots efforts comes into full focus. When the immediate crisis passes, groups may either fizzle out or choose to adapt to a new context.

“Mutual aid is a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions,” wrote organizer, lawyer, and mutual aid advocate Dean Spade in 2020. Mutual aid involves people “building new social relations that are more survivable.”

MUTUAL AID GOES MAINSTREAM by Lucia Geng, Dissent Magazine, November 9, 2021

I’ve been blessed to have become involved with a local Mutual Aid group for over a year. I’ve seen the concept in action and am now trying to get others involved in Mutual Aid. Some of the reasons why are because the underlying principle of Mutual Aid is the opposite of capitalism. At a time when millions of people are feeling hopeless about the future, isolated, and living in conditions of poverty, Mutual Aid is about supporting everyone in the community. Working in the present to provide food, shelter, and dignity. Not waiting for help from government systems. Government that serves the wealthy and not the rest of us.


As bleak as this is, there is a significant amount of resistance and hope to turn the tide we currently suffer under. We stand on the shoulders of giants that have been doing this work for centuries, and there are many lessons we can learn from.

The first, and possibly the most important, is that it was not always this way, which proves it does not have to stay this way. 

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war.

Ronnie James


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