As we begin answering questions of autonomy, we are faced with the myriad of material obstacles. Health, or our lack thereof, can be seen as a crucial weakness in the revolutionary struggle. We are tied to a “modern” health system that fundamentally remove our bodies from a larger physical reality. To it, we are cells in revolt, aberrant genes, failed organs, physicalities riddled with disease. Disease becomes individualized as “health” and “wellness” becomes commodified. States of mental health become symbols of individualized weakness. Propensities toward depression, or anxiety, and “imbalances” in the brain necessitate chemical intervention, while never addressing the overwhelming emptiness of modern life. An insane mind is the mind that can adapt to an insane society, and from the news today, we are surely going insane. What contemporary visions of “health” require of us, in order to perpetuate this economy, is that we stay atomized, necessarily taking on our struggles alone, seeing them as the individual products of a weak, chemically imbalanced mind.
We have lost control over our health. Our individualized choices to workout, eat right, not smoke, etc are important, but wholly insufficient to answer the demands of this century. In order to access healthcare, we are tied to jobs that are literally killing us, whether it be mental distress or physical degradation. Many people are in constant fear of losing their state granted access, others live in fear of having insufficient access to a system which could bankrupt them if they have to use it Because we have relegated health to these institutions, we have lost our ability to heal ourselves. We no longer look to the abundance in nature for helping to create health. Most people cannot perform basic first aid or use simple techniques for health. Many communities lack any cognizance or skill to handle the inevitable emotional collapse of our comrades. In addition, these institutions fundamentally cannot address the issues of climate change, economic collapse, or disruption of key infrastructure. They are as weak as we are, as evidenced by the effects of superstorms on the health infrastructure of New Orleans, New York, Houston, Puerto Rico, to name only a few. How can these institutions help us when the very air we breath is killing us? How do they help us adapt to a world without clean water? To answer the sadness in our souls to live in a world where we have killed all the fish in the ocean?
To answer simply, they cannot.
They are tied to the same system we are, replete with the same fundamental limitations. But we are not the same and we are not of the system.
We have not always lived this way.
To remember this fact is to regain our humanity.
We refuse this logic of isolation and nihilism. We begin by expressing the anger necessary for a health that recognizes the horrific nature of the time we’re living in and develop shared practices of care that diffuse isolation, so we can begin to grow the collective backbone we desperately need. We believe in the fundamental necessity for revolution and strive to develop the models of care that foster a new world. What we are beginning is the fostering of a community of health practitioners, both of “modern” and “alternative” medicines of all sorts. We need nurses, massage therapists, mental health practitioners, doctors, herbalists, acupuncturists. We need the grandmothers that have been healing the wounds of their family for decades and people who have no formal health training. As well as those who give us hugs that never end, remind of us the power of laughter, and allow us the space to dream impossible dreams.
We have been working to create a health resource center at Woodbine since January 2016. We have developed an active working group with diverse experiences in care reproduction. The space has hosted skills shared on Basic First Aid, Traditional Chinese Medicines, Urban Herbal Medicines, Flower Essences, Empathy Circle training, Nourishment skills, among many others. We have written texts about health, started a podcast, helped curate an international health festival, started community herbal medicine production, and integrated with other tracks within the larger Woodbine and Autonomy network.
As we progress on our path towards health autonomy, we continue to develop the fundamental questions around care. It is becoming clear that we must increase our capacity to offer clinical services for our larger community. We will be delving into questions of new spaces, new locales, working with models around community mental health, developing foundations for reproductive sovereignty, and increasing our collective resources.
In the midst of the catastrophe around us, the path towards revolution calls us forth. We begin the process of removing our physical and mental minds from an oppressive system, to reclaim our control over health and use health to increase our collective autonomy. Let us remember to take care of each other, so that we can be dangerous together.