Matters of the mind
This week I am reading Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements by Chris Dixon. The way my professor explained it, the author Chris Dixon traveled across the North America interviewing activists in various movements about their practices and philosophy within leftist, radical politics. The book, published in 2014, constructs the basis for “another politics” by compiling the common threads and best practices derived from these interviews.
What I have enjoyed about this book are the ways the interviews from those on the ground lend credence and practical application, as well as opportunities for critique, of ideas that are usually presented as wholly aspirational and often abstract. For example, while talking about the value of “being nice” and providing “healing spaces” there is also a frank discussion of the limitations of internal healing — that internal work only challenges systems of oppression as much as the internal is a site for oppression, but is not the only location of resistance. Internal healing arguably does little to actually change society. What I found is that through the combination of various voices constructing this idea of “another politics” we get a rich look at both large ideas and the nuances that emerge when they are put into practice.
I was originally concerned about what I would get out of this book. I have misgivings about the anarchist lens (often too white, privileged, male) but while the author does have a significant anarchist bent, he does not hesitate to critique its history and current iterations, or find an array of interview subjects who are critical of it and provide alternative approaches. My second concern was the matter of relevance. This book was published in 2014 and since then we have seen the growth of BlackLivesMatter, #NoDAPL, and the inauguration of Trump, which seems to have heightened the struggles in areas of immigration (the Muslim ban, refugee crisis, and undocumented immigrants and families), LGBT rights (particularly around bathroom restrictions targeting transgender and gender-nonconforming folks), and so many more. While the Occupy movement is frequently cited in this book, making it feel a bit dated, I have found that the basis of Another Politics is still incredibly relevant today.
Throughout this book I was reminded of all of the people who I could share this reading with — friends on the frontlines of organizing work who could derive inspiration, guidance, and deeper conversations from its contents. The book is well-organized and concise, yet I don’t feel that it cuts corners in critically examining its arguments and beliefs. It has prompted a closer look at my own work and ways that I can better align my practice with my ideals, which is really exciting for me!
Practice makes… something
Due to winter break and the messiness of the academic calendar, we stopped running clinical groups at my internship for a month or so. This week marked my second week co-facilitating groups since the hiatus, and I will say that it was not an easy transition. I am co-facilitating the Relapse Prevention group for the third time, but this time with a new co-facilitator, SH. She was actually out for the first week, so my previous co-facilitator, UK, subbed in (is this confusing yet?). I have enjoyed co-facilitating with UK in the past because we have a similar approach and viewpoint, and also she is more experienced (and thus great at managing common issues in group dynamics). The new co-facilitator is, well, newer, and while she is very open to suggestions and has a great demeanor I knew that I would have to step up (scary!).
The first week I felt out of sorts — struggling to link group members in discussion and fearful of losing control. People were participating at different levels and it was difficult to establish a sense of congruency. I also assisted UK in facilitating a Women’s Group, which was a challenge due to the nature of the group (no clear focus, curriculum, or attendance norms) and the size (upwards of 15 participants). Not to mention begrudging mandatory attendance (never a good start).
Arriving back at my internship this week I was a bundle of nerves, knowing that I would be leading the group while showing SH the ropes and lacking confidence from the previous week. Luckily, I did not need to worry so much. While there were things I would improve on, I did feel like I was getting my sea legs back. The Relapse Prevention group was smaller this week, which felt safer and more intimate, and people participated meaningfully, even feeling comfortable to challenge each other (and me!) on assumptions and ideas. SH was mostly quiet throughout it, but congratulated me on a job well done when it was over.
I know every week and every session is different, but at least I am continuing to grow in confidence and comfort in this role. I can focus my energies more on improving and moderating a participant-led space, rather than my own anxieties.
Assorted wins and losses
This week I was inducted into the Phi Alpha National Honor Society, which felt nice. I am not really sold on any of the benefits of this organization, or the sense of prestige, but it means something in some way so I’ll stop trying to discount it and call it a WIN. What an honor.
Due to having the day off on Monday for President’s day, I spent most of the week completely wrong about what day it was. Basically, a constant state of confusion. I took this photo to demonstrate the struggles I was going through when trying to manage my life while under the impression that it was one day when it was decidedly not. Things cleared up by the weekend, but now it is Sunday at midnight and I need to get to bed.
My hand-eye coordination was especially spotty this week. I managed to get yogurt all over my black pants after eating a small yogurt cup. Luckily, there were non-bleach Clorox wipes handy. On Thursday I ordered Chinese soup for lunch. The first thing I did when opening the bag was drop the fortune cookie, which would have been fine (it was individually wrapped) but then I rolled over it with my chair when I went to pick it up. I suppose one could say I was saved from having to consume a mediocre fortune cookie, but the feeble crunch it made under my desk chair wheel was pitiful. No lessons here, except maybe don’t wait until 3pm to order lunch because you will inevitably tear open the bag with wild abandon, putting its contents at risk! Always order ahead, friends.
I am attempting a weekly round-up of sorts. I’m calling it the Knapsack. Let’s see how long it lasts.