I don’t want to change things. I know they will change. Just read the very first page of the parable of the sower. It will tell you all you need to know. Especially, that all that you touch, you change, and all that you change, changes you! I just need to give direction to this change. In my own way. For my sake and for the sake of people who suffer in similar ways as I do. I’m one of the lucky ones. I get to look back and think on my journey. I have time to write about it. About being queer, about being trans/non-binary. I get to be an immigrant and be treated with dignity most of the time. I get to be far from the suffering that goes on in my country of birth, suffering that this so-called Canada is complicit in. I get to read about the indigenous people that came before me and lived of this land, while sleeping in a condo raised four floors off the ground, elevated in my viewpoint, both literally and figuratively. I get to observe. What’s the point I’m trying to make? Sorry, I get sidetracked, listing all the ways in which I’m privileged. It’s frustrating, but it’s necessary. I am privileged, and I want to cut and burn the structures that gave me this privilege.
Recently, I was at an anarchist book club meeting. I arrived late, and only caught the tail end of the conversation. It was about portals, and how the pandemic has acted as one, in the sense that we must inevitably go through it, and there is no going back. People brought up the idea of being mindful about who we want to be as we emerge out of this portal. And I think many of us have thought about this. Change is inevitable after an event like the pandemic we just went through. Many people even claim that going back to doing things the way we did before the pandemic would be one of the worst outcomes possible. I agree. But now, the question is “what do we do?”
Well, ever since early 2020, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the issues that we’re facing. I don’t see the point in listing them here, only to exacerbate anxieties you may already have. But I wanted to hold on to the momentum that the protests during the Black Lives Matter movement created. I wanted to believe that there would be a before and after. And I slowed down to a halt, eventually refusing to initiate any long term project or accept any opportunity that didn’t align with a radical change in the world. I wanted a revolution. Again, waiting for the right opportunities and being picky about my projects are signs of my privilege, and this is how I choose to exercise my privilege, because this is how I reduce the harm that I cause. It’s my choice to make. But we’re now well into 2022, and the revolution has yet to come. So, I’m trying to figure out what to do while I wait.
Let’s go back to the idea of how we want to emerge out of this portal that is the pandemic. I have been reading authors whose identities are marginalized. I’ve been watching videos from Black, queer and feminist content creators with left-leaning, quasi-socialist views. I especially recommend Princess Weekes, Fab Socialism and Jouelzy. Steven Universe, She-Ra, Craig of the Creek, Pose and Avatar: the Last Airbender were my bible, so to speak, during the hardest months of the pandemic. They showed me that it’s possible to be a POC, queer and oppressed, and still fighting the powers that be. They made me believe that, with a small group of rebels, we can light hope in the hearts of the oppressed, and fear in the hearts of the oppressors. I consumed all of this media, and nurtured these hopes intentionally. I wanted to change my worldview and fight the despair that was growing in me since the pandemic, and since the start of my research into colonialism, capitalism and oppression. I also wanted to have a clearer framework for understanding the overwhelming amount of information that I consumed on these subjects. Finally, I wanted to figure out what I could do to contribute to the end of these systems of oppression we call colonialism and capitalism.
The answers I got gave me hope. I learned that there were already people out there, calling for an end to the carceral system and punitive measures to resolve injustice. I learned that defunding the police is a real part of the solution to our problems, and thanks to Black Lives Matter, it has become part of the collective imagination. I also learned about subtler things, like the relationship between pleasure and politics. For example, fascism, like many reactionary philosophies, appeals to the pleasure we feel in witnessing punishment. As a revolutionary, that taught me that we need to name the pleasures that we seek as we oppose punishment and oppression (I direct you to adrienne marie brown’s Pleasure Activism as a primer). Another subtle thing I learned was the way that oppressive systems work hard to limit our imagination, because our collective imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against these systems. (A friend of mine even suggested that the capacity for wonder and the desire for domination are opposing urges within all of us. This thought amazed me, and made me think of fascism and love, and how they oppose one another too.) Just think about how powerful we would be if we had time to learn and talk about all the ways we could undermine and dismantle the pillars that hold up corrupt institutions, like the police and the military. What if we could live differently, sharing resources and taking care of the people that usually find themselves discarded by our systems? I’m thinking of disabled folks, queer and trans folks, people of colour and neurodivergent folks. Thinking beyond that, how would this eventually affect the way we see nature? Would it remain something outside of us or become something we belong to?
This brings me to the idea of hope, because hope is integral to the process of change. It’s the slow-burning fuel that drives intentional change. Hope and imagination are deeply related. Hope requires imagination, and to keep imagining, we need to have hope that imagination will heal (or help) us in some way. Hope and imagination are integral to change. So how do we nurture hope within ourselves? This is a question that I am trying to answer for myself. Our life circumstances tend to affect how we think and feel about the world. But we can be intentional about changing that. For instance, we can read and consume media from people whose life experiences are wildly different from ours, such as people who have overcome obstacles we may never face, or people whose identities and world view diverge from ours. We may find that we have more in common with these folks than we thought possible. Either way, we will challenge our world view, and grow our capacity for imagination. Think of your mind as a clear night sky, and the things you learn as the stars. With each new star, your capacity to create constellations and wonder at the possibilities of the world stretches wider or grows more complex. So, if you feel stuck, light up a new star in your night sky.
Now, I don’t necessarily suggest reading hateful, reactionary literature if you believe in social equality. I haven’t done it myself, so I can’t recommend it. I believe I have my work cut out by reading the plethora of liberating narratives out there from people with a loving gaze on the world. Plus, I face enough hatred in my daily life to know that I disagree with the very idea of maintaining the status quo, or returning to a simpler time (e.g. “when men were men and women were women,” barf). It’s a subtle art to find someone that speaks to your heart while growing your mind. Oftentimes, they’re a youtube video away from you. I learned the name bell hooks, for example, from a video by pop culture detective on youtube. I learned about adrienne marie brown from a podcast.
I guess, what I’m trying to say is that the weight of the world is not on your shoulders. Change will happen whether you like it or not. That’s what I’ve learned so far. With that in mind, maybe the most important thing is to give direction to this change, and in such an incredibly complex world, where inaction seems impossible, it’s important to learn about all the ways our actions affect the world. In a way, it’s an act of love to learn about this world and all its mysterious ways. And with so many resources for learning all around us, there has never been more ways to love the world we live in!
- bell hooks (the will to change, all about love)
- adrienne marie brown (pleasure activism)
- Octavia Butler (the parable of the sower)
- Kacen Callender (Felix ever more)
- Kai Cheng Thom (I hope we choose love)
- Audre Lorde (zami)
- Akwaeke Emezi (pet, the death of Vivek Oji)
- Alice Wong, Ed Young (what counts as seeing)
- Tillie Walden (on a sunbeam, spinning)
- Julie Maroh’s body music
- ND Stevenson (Nimona)