“The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.”
– J.K. Rowling
And suddenly (almost) everyone finds themselves wondering: “What if I get sick? What if I need resources that I cannot safely access? What if everyone gets sick? What if?” And out of the blue, the necessity of being connected to others in a network becomes more than ever so real.
“As lockdowns and layoffs sweep the U.S., mutual aid groups are forming to protect and provide for the vulnerable, including the elderly, incarcerated, undocumented and unhoused.”
Surprisingly for many, in a few days, the words mutual aid are heard over and over again – even from the mouths of politicians. Like they have a choice.
In its own sense, mutual aid describes a practice of reciprocal care through which participants in a network ensure that everyone gets what they need so that everyone has (more) reasons to invest in the well-being of others. It is not an eye-for-an-eye exchange, but rather an exchange of care and resources that creates the kind of redundancy and resilience that can sustain a community in difficult times. Like we have a choice.
“From Washington state to the Bay Area, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota and New York City, thousands of mutual aid efforts are aimed at building solidarity, not charity.”
Mutual aid networks thrive best when it is possible to build trust with each other over a long period. You don’t need to know or even like everyone else on the network, but everyone has to give enough to the network so that the efforts together create a sense of support. Like you have a choice.