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Exploring the Power of Mutual Aid: How to Cultivate the Mindset for Collective Support

If you're into any kind of social advocacy and activism, I implore you to please read "Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)" by Dean Spade. A lot of folks are talking about mutual aid, but few know exactly what it is and its purpose.

No, it's not a charity.

No, it's not a "non-profit."

No, it's not a bartering system either.

The above are rooted in authority and hierarchy and what you can provide. Mutual aid in essence is anti-authoritarian. 

The group is very flat and everyone works as a collective willing to give without "merit" unlike charities and NGOs that base their service on who's deserving. With mutual aid EVERYONE is deserving. You don't have a list of donors to appease who are basically shareholders in the NGO world. 

You're probably like, "wait, what? So what is it, then?" It's community resilience by sharing what WE have to protect each other. Safety is a community action. It requires shifting your beliefs on "who's deserving" "what can that person give me" "Me, me, Mine, and I"

My point is this: Mutual aid is absolutely COUNTER to everything we are programmed about our individualistic, capitalist society. It's not thinking of just "you and yours" but also "We and us."

Content creator Megan Rice had the best example:

If you need water, you ask the group. Someone says "I have water, here you go." You say, "Thank you! I'm using this water to cook dinner for my community, you're welcome to come eat, or I'll make you and your fam a plate." That's mutual aid.

Do you see any 20 questions about why you need the water, or the person asking "what can you give me in return?" Nope.

Both parties were thinking BEYOND themselves. This makes a lot of folks itch because we're taught that people are selfish and awful and we have to look out for Numero uno. Mutual aid can't function like that.

Respectfully, we can't continue to accept this programming as our reality and out the same breath talk about mutual aid. Mutual aid is anti-individual as it can't exist without community and understanding that you share with others in mind, not just yourself. 

You volunteer because it's the only way the community can keep going and you carry the water for those in your community who simply can't. They are not a burden. They always deserve help. That's how it is in a true community: you = me = we. And when you need something you lean on your mutual aid network. 

The practice of mutual aid believes:

  • Food is a human right.

  • Shelter is a human right.

  • Healthcare is a human right.

  • Self-determination and autonomy is a human right.

  • And that community and solidarity helps protect and provide access to our human needs.

Frankly, if you still have that hyper-individualistic mindset, you are not ready to be a part of a mutual aid network. You will just be a "capitalist in a communist world." You will immediately cause harm and negatively disrupt the community. Though mutual aid is not assigned to a specific political ideology, I would like to think it's a deep vein of communism ideology, but this is simply an opinion. I care more about outcomes than labels these days.

Now, no one's trashing charities, unions, or non-profits. Not at all. These are all helpful tactics that have been proven to support and help many people.

Diversity of tactics isn't a cute buzzword, it applies here. 

I just want people to understand that if you talk about doing actual mutual aid, I'm telling you this requires a different mindset and conditioning. This is a mindset that goes far beyond a trend--it is a permanent state of mind. Liberation or bust.

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