One: Reproductive freedom is international
Mexican feminists could help Americans resist new restrictions on abortion. In the face of terrifying rates of feminicide and open government hostility, they have built a diverse and influential movement that has forced the legalization of abortion and made misogyny a central issue in public debate. Insights drawn from their experience could help us think through how to navigate our increasingly polarized context. They could also help Americans secure abortions south of the border. For either of these things to occur, there has to be dialogue. Linguistic and other differences can make this difficult, but of course it is worth the effort and, besides, the fight for reproductive freedom has to be international. The following eight-minute video, which is in English and subtitled, documents an anarcha-feminist-led occupation of a government building in Mexico City. It sheds light on one faction of the movement’s motives and priorities. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aanF5x72JIw.
Two: The Democrats
It is important to track the Democratic Party’s political evolution, given that it occupies the left(ish) flank of America’s two-party system. Although it has taken a more radical turn in recent years, the conservative “Clinton wing” dominated the party for most of the last three decades or so. With a punitive stance toward the poor and a commitment to mass incarceration and hardening the southern border, Democrats tilted sharply to the right. Why did they become so reactionary? Some claim that this was a pragmatic response to Republican victories in the 1980s and 1990s, not a matter of principle per se. However, in Left Behind: The Democrats’ Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality (PublicAffairs 2022), Lily Geismer challenges this interpretation. She argues that Democrats were positively committed to a conservative outlook organized around curbing poverty through economic growth and doctrines of individual responsibility. She recently discussed her book in a helpful episode of The Dig podcast, which you can listen to here: https://thedigradio.com/podcast/the-new-democrats-w-lily-geismer/. You can also read about her work on the publisher’s website here: https://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/titles/lily-geismer/left-behind/9781541757004/.
Three: The politics of ending mass incarceration
People in the movement against mass incarceration are still trying to make sense of the recall of Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s anti-carceral DA. In his thoughtful “Changing Everything,” Dan Berger contributes a broad survey of what progressive prosecutors can and cannot do to the discussion. He concludes by saying that “progressive prosecutors were never going to be the primary path toward true decarceration . . . [but they are] a critical part of a larger decarceral strategy.” Nonetheless, the main thrust of his essay is to suggest that Boudin was naive to embrace an election-centered tactic that operated primarily within the justice system. The article is here: https://inquest.org/dan-berger-changing-everything/.
Four: Land struggles at sea
We tend to think of gentrification as a land-based conflict but Anchored Out: Evicted at Sea shows that it can take place on water too. This twenty-five-minute documentary from The New Yorker tells the story of a small band of people who live on boats in Richardson Bay, just north of San Francisco. Most of their vessels are barely operational and serve mainly as lodging for people who would probably be homeless without them. We learn that local authorities are trying to expel them from the bay by seizing boats that have been stationary for more than seventy-two hours. The filmmakers illustrate the settlement’s links to radical housing and architectural currents born of the 1960s and show how gentrification’s enforcers often frame their actions in a language of social concern, which are nice touches. This is an aquatic parallel of attempts to drive the poor from the city by fining people for sleeping in their cars. I also think of it as a moment in capitalism’s centuries-long effort to capture and inscribe itself in water. Two thumbs up! You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSoDkEk-eYE.
Five: Food radicalism
When anti-capitalists talk about revolutionizing the food system, they typically mention ending food worker exploitation and equitably distributing the products of their labor, but they rarely say much about food itself. Can a cuisine or a meal or a dish be radical? Can it oppose war like Picasso’s Guernica? Can it challenge white supremacy like Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit? Can it impugn capitalism like The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht? To even consider these questions, we have to develop the capacity to think of food in aesthetic terms—not simply as a vehicle for nutrition—and that is more difficult, theoretically speaking, than one might suppose. Anyone interested in the endeavor should check out Dwight Furrow’s work. His American Foodie: Taste, Art, and the Cultural Revolution (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Beauty and the Yeast: A Philosophy of Wine, Life, and Love (Probe Head, 2020) focus on redeeming food’s aesthetic content. You can read about his books and find some of his writings here: https://foodandwineaesthetics.com/.
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