I’ve been preparing for a discussion my Quaker meeting will have this weekend about Mutual Aid. At the end of this is a table of posts I’ve been writing to help me organize my thoughts. I am not satisfied with how this post has turned out, but these are notes, not a finished document.
Stepping back from the details, I’m reflecting on what I hope will happen as a result of this discussion. My hope is that we begin to use Mutual Aid to guide our work, both in our Quaker meeting and how we do our work in the community for peace and justice.
Mutual Aid requires a paradigm shift from a community of primarily White Quakers immersed in the capitalist economic system, white supremacy, settler colonialism and land theft, forced assimilation, foreign and domestic militarism, state sanctioned violence, punishment oriented criminal justice system, fossil fuel power, and whatever you call our political systems.
The greatest obstacle will be to persuade Friends that we should stop participating in those systems. Although that is looking more attractive as these systems are rapidly collapsing now.
Capitalism is economic slavery. Capitalism has forced millions into poverty. Capitalism denies shelter, food, water, healthcare quality education, and the ability to build any wealth at all to millions of people.
There were White Quakers who were involved in the institution of slavery. Even those who did not claim ownership of enslaved men, women and children benefited economically. Continue to benefit.
I don’t think we have many years of civilization left. But I think a few years hence people will look back at this time in a similar way to how we look back on slavery.
Quakers also have their history of participation in the institutions of forced assimilation to atone for. This is a significant barrier between Friends and Indigenous peoples.
In December 2020, Ronnie James and I had the following email exchange:
|Ronnie||I don’t know what you can do. The church is the church’s past, which is its future. It continues to see my people as obstacles in its endless conquest.|
|Jeff||I was not feeling worthy of participating in Mutual Aid but thanks to you, I’ve signup up again for this weekend.|
|Ronnie||You’re a good relative Jeff. To be blunt, there is too much damage that the church profits from and needs to protect to have any future there.|
|Jeff||I am afraid you are right.|
|Ronnie||I wish you the best. I imagine its a hard struggle.|
Mutual aid work is not easy. It means forming lasting commitments to doing hard work collaborating with people even when we have conflict. And facing the heart-wrenching realities of the systems we live under. It is also deeply satisfying work that transforms us from being exasperated passive observers of the shitstorm we’re living in to inspired builders of the new world we desperately crave.Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall