Thursday, April 30, 2015

Four Pieces, by Barbara Ruth


here it is, my desiderata:
spiritual progress; the skill of surreptitiously sliding
along; sustained resistance in the face of oppression;
an accurate map to scale; indulgence for my shortcomings; sudden sunshine after long rain; no scrape I can’t get out of.

I am an ordinary, unheroic tourist.
I am native to this place, I shift shape, ceremoniously make magic
out of words. I travel far.
my maladies, my victories, both acute and chronic.
I climb mountains and I can’t get out of bed.


when I’m anxious for no reason
I clean the one corner of one room of the house
instead of drugging
myself to death.

When I’m so depressed I can’t stand it
I pull the blankets over my head
instead of drugging
myself to death.

When I haven’t slept for four days and four nights
I write as the tears sting my burning eyes
instead of drugging
myself to death.

When I can’t think, can’t rest, can’t write, can’t read
I wait instead
of drugging
to death.

Loma Prieta Epilepticus

    I was by myself that day. I’d been hanging out on my hospital bed, with the back raised, reading maybe, or doing paperwork. I know I was using the bed because it was days before the electricity came on again and I could return it to the flat position. I remember afterwards, yearning to stretch out, in my bed, and pull up the covers. Just that. I got up to go to the the kitchen. Then the lurch, the roll of the room. But that was one of my symptoms.  I’d said it  to my neurologist: my own personal earthquakes.
    I think it was warm. Afterwards, didn’t we say earthquake weather? But didn’t we often say that, here in California?
    After the quaking stopped, my neighbors checked on me. Shame, embarrassment, uncertainty as to exactly what DID happen; I didn’t tell them much. It hurt my brain to look for words. Even if I tried to explain - what could they do about it? I had a few scratches; someone got a first aid kit when I couldn’t remember where my band-aids were. No scars; the bruises didn’t show till the next day.
That evening the gas lines were turned off and the power was out so all my neighbors were cooking on their barbecues outdoors, and that just made matters worse as far as I was concerned, the air reeking of lighter fluid and charcoal and meat.
    Darlene came that night. She wasn’t even my attendant any more, but she was my friend and the phones were down and she was worried about me. She got me some food, cleaned up the broken glass on the kitchen, and settled me on the couch for sleeping.
    But the earthquake, the big one, not just my personal quaking, but this: the black and white of the linoleum smearing into each other, the black engulfing the white, and the black grew larger and larger, coming for me and the white shimmered and squeaked.
    I remember backing up from it. I didn’t want that black maw to reach me. But it did, as the lurching jolted me, and the black, the absence of color, the black, the absence of balance, the black and a color past black I do not know the name for  swallowed my brain and the place past black was all there was.
    Seizure. It will seizure. Seize your partner throw them all around. Seize her. We’re all having a seizure. The world is a seizure and all of us are seized.

Full Moon In Scorpio

    Adaptive yoga class, and I can’t make sense of the teacher’s words. I can hear her; we share the same California accent; she calls out the poses in English, not Sanskrit. But words and meaning keep drifting apart. When I do understand, I can’t figure out how to move my body into those poses I’ve done a hundred times. I’ve lost the file marked “Following Directions.” Am I having a stroke?
    Yesterday, on my way to an emergency dentist appointment, my attendant’s car broke down. It was over 100 degrees by then. We had to open the windows, even though we were right beside the cacophony of leaf blowers.   
I managed to postpone my collapse until safely home. Once in bed, I fell into a deep sweaty sleep. I awoke paralyzed, couldn’t turn my head, let alone find the grab bar to pull myself up out of bed. How long did that last? Five minutes? An hour? Maybe I had a seizure. Or maybe I dreamed it.
    Often my mind goes off on a tangent. Most times I like that.
    Yoga class is over. I’m home, still unsure what to do.
    I  could call 911. I’d have to tell the dispatcher, “Silent approach, no flashing lights, those things can trigger my seizures.” Sometimes that works. But they’ll pound on my door, stomp into my house, swirling my brain and polluting my home with the fumes of dryer sheets and shampoos, sunblock and gum: the smells of normal people. They’ll talk too loud, too fast. “When was the last time you took your medication? What else have you taken? What are you on right now?” Sometimes they complain that the house numbers on my street are out of order. “You should move,” they’ve told me, three different times, at different addresses in three different towns, when all I wanted was to quietly talk to an paramedic who didn’t reek of fabric softener, get a little help deciding if I needed to brave the ER.
    I’ve done hard time in the nearest hospital, the one they’ll take me to. The ER is always packed, overflowing with human misery, patients and staff stinking far worse than the First Responders. The moon is full, in the sign of Scorpio, they’re bound to have even more business than usual.  The cleaning carts relentlessly employed, never quite defeating the stench of death. And when they release me - how will I get myself home?
    I could call 911. But I can’t figure out how to answer the first question the dispatcher always asks: “What is the nature of your emergency?”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Anarchist Neuroqueeritude, by Susan Song

[Editor's Note: This is the transcript of a talk given at the Disability Studies in Education 15th Annual Conference, April 14th, 2015, at National Louis University in Chicago, Illinois.]
My talk seeks to discuss queer and anarchist theory as they intersect and lend to
neurodiversity theory. I will start with a short discussion about what I mean
when I talk about queer anarchism and continue into a way of looking at neuroqueer through that
lens. I argue for an anarcha-feminist theoretical impulse in creating relationships based on love
and mutual aid.
Queer anarchism and disability have similar understandings in the ways they trouble the
boundaries and borders of identity. Classical anarchism is mostly focused on looking at power relations between people, the economy and the state. Feminist theory adds to this by encompassing the idea that gender is not natural, stable or “innate” and queer theory opens this up further. Queer theory opens up a space to critique how we relate to each other socially in a distinctly different way than typical anarchist practice. Queer theory understands people in relation to the normal and the deviant and troubles those borders surrounding identity instead of simply focusing on issues of economy and capitalism. Queer theory seeks to disrupt the “normal” with the same impulse that anarchists do with relations of hierarchy, exploitation, and oppression. We can use queer theory to conceptualize new relationship forms and social relations that resist patriarchy and other oppressions by creating a distinctly “queer-anarchist” form of social relation. I see this intersect with disability theory in how both perspectives de-stabilize what it seen as biologically normal or natural in the physical body and identity. Identity exists on a continuum of experiences and not in discrete binaristic terms.
I ground this queer-anarchist understanding in some of my favorite anarchist theorists:
Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman and Gustav Landeur. The classical anarchist Peter Kropotkin
in his book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution critiques social Darwinism’s conclusions that the
“fittest” in nature are those that compete and dominate over others. Kropotkin writes, “[If] we resort to an indirect test, and ask Nature: “Who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?” we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest”[1]. From this, we can see the roots of
relationships built on the strength of community interdependence which contrasts with a
capitalist logic of individualist production.
I find the work of Gustav Landauer and Emma Goldman also compelling in theorizing
the kinds of relationships I believe we should create. Landauer in Revolution and Other Writings writes that “The state is a social relationship; a certain way of people relating to one another. It can be destroyed by creating new social relationships; i.e., by people relating to one another differently.”[2] And Emma Goldman in Anarchism and Other Essays writes about free love. She discusses the power of love, writing “Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love.”[3] From these writings, I find that social relationships based on radical love and a shared sense of community create a model for the kind of world I wish to create.
I have recently asked myself the question what is it that we are supposed to be able to do
under capitalism and for what reason? It is not simply that we are to produce labor or to consume
goods. We participate in this system that has been intentionally structured to create power differentials that reinforce social difference designed to divide us. I see the way this system works too in how I have internalized ableism about how I link work and production with my value as a person and also see this ideology in the professional work that I do working in mental
health social services. I feel as if I cannot take sick days for my mental health and feel pressure
to be a “good” worker.
So what are we to do with this to combat this practically? I find the work of Liat Ben-
Moshe in her essay “Queer-Cripping Anarchism” particularly refreshing. She writes that
“through a queer-crip lens we should perhaps focus more on DIT—do it together. The focus on
independence, we would argue, is an adoption of capitalist values. […] This ideology, however,
is a lie as all of us are interdependent and rely on each other not only for our food, shelter, and clothing, but also for our emotional, physical, and intellectual needs.”[4] This is a critique on a
prevalent individualist punk ethos of DIY or do-it-yourself and articulates what I feel we must
have in the relationships we build with each other. To me, being in community means that we
must create a space where we are accepted, supported and loved and we cannot participate in a
meaningful world unless we do it together. Unless we do it together, we cannot do it ourselves.

[1] Kropotkin, Petr. Mutual Aid, a Factor of Evolution. London: William Heinemann, 1902. Print.
[2] Landauer, Gustav and Gabriel Kuhn. Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader.  Oakland, CA: PM Press. 2010. Print.
[3] Goldman, Emma. Anarchism and Other Writings. New York: Mother Earth Association. 1917. Print. 

[4] Ben-Moshe, Liat, Anthony Nocella II and A.J. Withers. "Queer-Cripping Anarchism:
Intersections and Reflections on Anarchism, Queerness and Dis-ability". Queering
Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire. Oakland, CA. AK Press: 2012. Print.