Heat

Their order crumbles as our power grows

The rebellion endures. Just last night, thousands marched in New York, Seattle, and elsewhere. In Portland, massive crowds equipped with the next level of PPE—helmets, shields, and leaf blowers—tore down a portion of the fence around the federal building. In Austin, Richmond, Eugene, and Louisville there was new carnage as gunfire escalates nationwide, leaving one comrade fatally wounded. In Atlanta, a crowd decimated the facade of an ICE building and in Seattle a juvenile detention building site caught fire. The uprising is deepening and a new courage is emerging, bringing the fight into the next month.

ICYMI, we published an extended essay on the George Floyd Rebellion in our last newsletter. Thanks to all those who read, commented, and shared their thoughts with us. The article is now available in French and Italian translation for our friends abroad. A zine edition is in the works too—look for copies at your nearest autonomous zone.

For this month’s edition of Territories, we’ve got 2 brand new pieces for you in addition to a new ‘monthly reading’ section. Check it out below.

By the way, if you were wondering about our recent Twitter silence—we’re locked out of our account. Hoping to get that resolved asap so we can get back into regular communication with all of you.


American Summer

A youth-oriented primer on race, revolution, and repression

Bella Bravo returns to Territories with a new reading and movie list geared towards youth finding their way amid the ongoing revolt. Some of these you may have heard of, others maybe not. No matter our age, we have much to learn—and inspiration to draw—from the brilliant resources collected here.

This is for youth, but also for those of us reckoning with a history of resistance that did not become revolution, a history of the status quo being preserved. We may march into the future chanting words we know by heart, but we need to find a way for the scripts written for us to burn like the Third Precinct.

Check Out the List

Vacating the Fire Temple

Finance rules the world. Is there a way out?

This crash course in the inner workings of the economy comes courtesy of an anonymous contributor. Opening with a wild glimpse into a post-2008 subculture called FIRE, the author walks us through the topsy-turvy world of finance, weighs predictions of the Greater Depression then turns to a critique of economy as such. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand the volatility of the moment, not to mention the voraciousness of capital.

Between the pandemic and the uprising, 2020 is very much the year of hindsight. But it’s also just the latest installment in a series of unforeseeable catastrophes, punctuated by the occasional black swan event. Within the ever-worsening storm of the last decade, the world clings and bobs along with the same buoy it’s held onto for its security since the inception of the liberal order: the economy.

Read the Essay

Monthly Reading

We’re trying out a new section in Territories, plugging work we find especially thoughtful and timely. Want to see something featured here next time? Let us know at hello@inhabit.global.

Jarrod Shanahan and Zhandarka Kurti on the anti-police movement

Micol Seigel on police abolition and electronic surveillance

Ingrid Burrington on our era’s intertwined crises

Yannick Marshall on the institution of the police and maroon communities

Nick Estes on indigenous sovereignty

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney on the undercommons (Part 1 + Part 2)

Phil Neel on the crowned plague

Cade Diehm on decentralized technologies


Stay together, stay tight.

You’re on Path B,

Inhabit

American Summer

A youth-oriented primer on race, revolution, and repression

By Bella Bravo

A guy in his thirties begged over a bullhorn, “Don’t livestream this. No selfies. Put your phones away. Turn them off. Leave them at home.” Only half of the crowd at the train station cheered, indicative of the generational divide that ran through the George Floyd uprising on tech surveillance. Some of us grew up in the mass-arrest kettles of the anti-globalization movement, kept the door closed to the FBI during the Green Scare, and have shook with anger and fear during every police encounter unaffected by reform after Ferguson and Baltimore. We are wary of the seemingly unbridled police authority to search and seize digital information—whether it’s cell phone pings, GPS tracing, metadata analysis, search histories, Etsy receipts, text messages, or facial recognition applied to social media posts. We know that whatever it is, they will engineer a way to use it against us.

The other half of the movement belongs to Gen-Z, also known as Zoomers, Doomers, or the Trayvon generation. After the man’s last plea, “Don’t make their charges easy,” echoed around the underpass outside of the station, a Zoomer took the megaphone. She belted out, “No more pigs in our community!” Everyone knew the response, shouting in unison, “Off the pigs!” She continued, "No more brothers in jail.” “Off the pigs!” “No more sisters in jail.” “Off the pigs!” The girl, who was high school age, thanked her fellow protesters, because that was her favorite chant. She learned it from listening to her aunt tell stories of her days in the Black Panther Party. It was a reminder for the crowd that this moment is one of many in the ongoing struggle for world revolution and that the repression we face will be brutal.

Now, as the George Floyd rebellion calms and counterinsurgency against its participants amps up, we have to ask ourselves: will it be a curse for history to repeat itself?

I’ve put together a summer reading and movie list about resistance movements (i.e. uprisings, riots, insurrections, and what have you) and the containment, neutralization, and harsh repression that the state has welded against them—because the state has and will continue to use the same counter-insurgency measures to defang the George Floyd rebellion.

Please consider this summer list in light of recent arrests and investigations after the death of George Floyd. For example, feds have arrested TikTok influencer Bryce Williams among others for the burning of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct, citing their TikTok and Snapchat posts from that night. In Atlanta, a Twitter post blaming a “white girl” for burning the Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was killed led to the arrest of his girlfriend Natalie White. In Philadelphia, the FBI used Instagram, Etsy, and LinkedIn to track down a protester accused of setting a police car on fire. Police reviewed footage from a television helicopter and then zoomed in on photos and videos of the protest posted on Instagram and Vimeo to find their suspect. In New York, feds charged two Brooklyn public defenders with explosives offenses, which carry a potential penalty of life in prison, citing surveillance camera footage of the pair. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has established task forces in cities throughout the country, such as Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Chicago. They are releasing images from social media posted by protesters and asking for public help to identify and locate persons of interest connected to arson and vandalism.

This list is for youth but also for those of us reckoning with a history of resistance that did not become revolution, a history of the status quo being preserved. We may march into the future chanting the words we know by heart, but need to find a way for the scripts (and warrants) written for us to burn like the Third Precinct.

Books, Poems, and Essays

  • “The Anarchy of Colored Girls: Assembly in a Riotous Manner” is an astounding speculative history of a child Esther Brown and the riot at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 1920s New York. Using Inmate Case Files from the records of the Department of Correctional Services, Saidhya Hartman imagines the juvenile girls imprisoned at the facility and their insurrection, “a revolution in a minor key.” This history can be found in Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (W.W. Norton, 2019).

  • Black Mask & Up Against the Wall Motherfucker is a collection of pamphlets and a biography of the Motherfuckers, “a street gang with analysis” which was reputedly the only white group taken seriously by the Black Panther Party and whose interventions in 1960s art, politics, and culture influenced essentially every radical left movement since. Their name was taken from the poem, "Black People!" by Amiri Baraka in Black Magic—“The magic words are: Up against the wall, mother fucker, this is a stick up!”

  • “Paul Robeson” by Gwendolyn Brooks is a poem about the iconic Black singer and radical activist who in April 1949 went to France to attend a Soviet-aligned political conference. After singing “Joe Hill,” a ballad about a union activist falsely accused, convicted of murder, and executed, Robeson spoke impromptu about the plight of Black people in the US, concluding that Americans did not want another world war. That same day the Associated Press transcribed his off-the-cuff speech and dispatched it stateside. The government vilified Robeson as a communist traitor for suggesting that Black Americans would not fight against the Soviet Union.

  • Detroit, I Do Mind Dying, is Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin’s chronicle of the activities of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the group at the center of Black labor radicalism in Detroit from 1967 to 1974. They look at various publications of the time, including the Inner City Voice, a Black revolutionary paper inspired by the rebellion in 1967, and the South End, a student newspaper seized and operated as "the voice of the de facto radical united front" for Wayne State University. They also survey personal accounts from the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement about its formation and their 1968 wild-cat strike at a Chrysler Assembly plant as well as the later splits within the movement.

Movies

  • The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971) captures this high-profile case of police brutality in the US. Police assassinated the 19-year-old, charismatic Black Panther Party leader in his sleep. Reporters and filmmakers armed with new lightweight, handheld cameras were able to expose the lies behind the Chicago Police Department’s cover-up. Cheap recording devices have continued to play a pivotal role in outing state murders. Passers-by at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Eve 2009 recorded the police murder of Oscar Grant with their cell phones and Darnella Frazier filmed and posted to social media George Floyd's death. Other great Black Panther Party documentaries are The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. Both are readily accessible on Netflix.

  • The Spook who Sat by the Door (1973) is classic pulp, blaxploitation, and spy movie all in one. A former CIA agent organizes and trains Black teenagers in Chicago, turning them into guerrilla bands committed to overthrowing the white establishment. Herbie Hancock did the soundtrack, for all the jazz freaks out there.

  • The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (2016) travels to unexpected locations, revealing how mass incarceration shapes the geography where we all live and who we are.

  • We Shall Not Be Moved (2018) is an opera about five adolescents seeking shelter in the ruins of the MOVE building. They attempt to come to grips with the devastating history of the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE headquarters and surrounding neighborhood in West Philadelphia, a massacre of eleven people.

  • Children of the Revolution (2010) is a documentary about Ulrike Meinhof and Fusako Shigenobu, the respective leaders of the German and Japanese Red Army Factions—and their daughters. Inspired by the student revolutions of 1968, each woman set out to plot world revolution. In these interviews, their children speak to the legacies of these radical figures.

Vacating the Fire Temple

Finance rules the world. Is there a way out?

By anonymous

To work just enough to have as much time as possible to oneself and one’s community is a pursuit as old as economy. Take the Benedictine monks of the Middle Ages, to whose industriousness early capitalism owes so much inspiration. By meticulously arranging their activities to maximize productivity, they allowed themselves more time for the most important pursuit—prayer. Ora et Lebora they said: Pray and Work.

Or consider the more recent systems of pensions and social security, which promise a degree of security for workers in a world where community, family, or connection to the land no longer act as insurance for the aging. So long as workers try hard enough, long enough, the ROI on their savings—entrusted to market experts and the state—will allow them a few years at the end of their lives to live in relative comfort, as a reward for all that toil.

For the generations who can no longer imagine the world lasting until retirement, however, everything is sped up. During the longest post-war market run, from 2008 to April of this year, it’s become possible to serve as your own pension fund. As financial knowledge has become more diffuse, new innovations in escaping the daily grind have been discovered. Of those innovations, none is as accessible and as thorough in its guidelines as the FIRE Movement. Short for “Financial Independence, Retire Early,” the goal of FIRE is to use knowledge taken from the finance world and, in blogs and forums, reappropriate it for mostly middle-class salaried people to achieve retirement as early as their 30s and 40s.

FIRE, like many “movements” much more fitting of the name, has its origins in the 2008 financial crisis. But while that crisis made the cynical workings of financial capitalism painfully clear, definitions of agency in FIRE remain narrowly-defined. “We’re in a society that values capital more than labor,” said millionaire FIREe Jason Long in an April New York Times article. “I don’t like that, but I take advantage of it, I guess.” FIRE gamifies the system as it exists, adhering closely to its rules. The trick is to leverage assets the best one can, in order to retire as soon as possible. Tools of the trade include geeking out on compound interest, optimizing returns on investment, starting rental properties (or, more profitable, AirBnBs), seeking out the best low-fee index funds, and so on.

Like the Benedictine monks, FIRE adherents preach asceticism, or a variant of it anyway. Stripping the anti-consumerist call to action down to its most essential conceit, FIRE makes the old Epicurean argument for finding satisfaction in the simpler, cheaper things in life, so that one may take pleasure in the present while still earning and saving as much as possible.

It’s a nice idea, but history may be proving it a bizarre anomaly. Following the market volatility of the COVID crash in April, it has occurred to many small-time investors how quickly the road to early retirement can be obstructed. In their recent article, the New York Times wrote that as the interest and dividends from their savings plummeted, early FIREes were considering going back to work, while those still seeking early retirement were recalculating their plans considerably. Like the sunken S&P, optimism was low.

Even now, unemployment in the US hangs around 20% (up from 3.5% in February, of course). Everyone's bank accounts and asset values are wrecked. Consumers don't have extra money to spend. Publicly traded companies don't have customers. Fundamentally, the market’s without fundamentals, floating. There is a logical next step to this progression: Stonks go down.

An ominously large number of big names in finance are in agreement on this point. Howard Marks, “the guy that wrote the book on market cycles,” notes that the market today is disregarding all the uncertainties present and the big declines that lie ahead for GDP and earnings. The famous conservative investor Paul Tudor Jones takes those claims a step further in a recent report, predicting the greatest inflationary event of our lives is right around the corner. Nouriel Roubini, an economist who was nicknamed Dr. Doom after predicting the 2008 financial crisis, gives an especially wide-ranging prognosis that foresees several convergent macro factors forcing an L-shaped recovery as the world sinks into a “Greater Depression.” Eccentric billionaire Raoul Pal, who’s now leveraging half his worth in gold and Bitcoin in hopes of trading the crisis, believes a coming solvency event could spell the end of the dollar system as we know it. 

Still, many are making the case that another bull market is just around the corner. Despite the S&P’s record-breaking drop of 34% in five weeks, the following pullback was strong enough that the S&P is barely down from the all-time-high it struck in trouble-free times. Positive previews now trickling out for Q2 earnings seem to confirm what many have already been saying: the recession is technically over and the economy is now in recovery. Nevermind that because of the magnitude and arc of greater economic disturbances, markets can be out of a recession while still not knowing whether they are in a depression...

A total decoupling of the market from reality notwithstanding, another financial reckoning still seems imminent. The Fed and Treasury’s responses to the initial crash may be acting as a stopgap, but we also have to consider the rolling shutdowns, the lack of new jobs, bankruptcies, the escalating trade war. Since markets have recovered so quickly, hope has tip-toed back into the pockets of small investors and the pages of FIRE forums. But if the current market rebound is indeed just a moment of suspended animation before a second crash, all those baby sharks who wanted to swim with the whales will soon find out they were merely floating in the formaldehyde of furlough schemes and stimulus checks all along.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. But maybe it’s wrong, and with a higher dose of cash injections and Prozac, we’re about to witness several more years of market euphoria. For that matter, if the goal is to simply stay in the green, there are ways to remain profitable during depressions too. The problem of having faith in the market lies elsewhere, beyond any particular cycle.

Between the pandemic, the crisis, and the uprising, 2020 is already very much the year of hindsight. But it’s also just the latest installment in a series of unforeseeable catastrophes, years of piling-up disasters, punctuated by the occasional black swan event. Within the ever-worsening storm of the last decade, the world clings and bobs along with the same buoy it’s held onto for its security since the inception of the liberal order. The acquisitive drive. Industry, commerce, banking. Economy, in a word.

Models of prediction fail as the finance doom loop spins out of control. An empire is coming apart and, with it, the ideal that appeals to FIRE and the wider middle class alike is giving way. The case for a particular good life, one that could only be attained under the conditions of modernity, no longer holds water.

All the economy has ever really promised the modern world is a kind of calculated stability—the very kind that the religious orders it succeeded failed to provide, incidentally. The structuring of a more compliant, less chaotic world is achievable by continually suppressing the unrestrained passions that once ordered feudalism, forever in favor of the lesser evil passion of greed. Even Keynes believed “the love of money is detestable.” But as he also put it: “It is better that a man should tyrannize over his bank balance than over his fellow-citizens.” That sentiment is intrinsic to the mindset of FIRE.

What’s being laid bare now is the extent to which economy was never more than the next big political theology, and its ideological pillars—lofty concepts like democracy, rights, independence—are performed in service to the major practice, worship of avarice. From treasurers to politicians, the proffered diadem of holding office is accepted on the promise to make the needed ritual offerings to the economic deity. Just think of how quickly failure to do so results in their replacement with more pragmatic arrangements. Think of how quickly those new arrangements rescind whatever liberties we think we have.

The world is still reliant on the invisible hand to make sense of disorder, to root out irrationality, to find a new equilibrium. We need only give the market our faith, our fealty, our passion, our investment. To invest—from the Latin investire, “to clothe in, cover, surround”—is the act of dressing in the robes of office. When we let market forces guide history, we are dressing them in the official robes, that they may act as our guide.

The guide is fatally lost. Economy’s promises can no longer be reliably delivered. With nowhere else to go but down, the accumulation craze that for centuries has animated everyone from bankers to small-time investors is, at the very least, presenting us with a golden opportunity to trace a new path. A new set of passions to invest in, ones that take joy in giving, sharing, expending. Good FIRE plans to burn away all the useless assets like so many Third Precincts, that center Friendly Initiatives & Revolutionary Encounters, that are capable of celebrating just how little we actually need when we find each other. New ethical leanings that achieve the good life not by the perverse pleasure of accumulation, but in freeing joy of relinquishment, of destitution.

Dignity

On the George Floyd Rebellion

The storming of the Third Precinct lifted the veil of fear. As it went up in flames, so did the self-assured certainty of the old world. More than half of the country believes burning the precinct was justified. All the institutions have lost legitimacy: the government, the cops, the media, the economy. The law has shown itself for what it is: sad, scared men draped in a Blue Lives Matter flag crying when the lights go out. Liberalism and its peace treaties are in tatters. This is really the end of an era, the breakdown of an intolerable order. Now we must learn to inhabit the ruins we have given ourselves.

The racial nightmare in this country is an atrocity without comparison. Every nation state is founded on massacre, but the unique violence of chattel slavery, the juridical categories of race, and the direct line from slave catchers to present-day police is specific to the US. The liberal order may apologize profusely for its racist history, but these are crocodile tears. They believe racism is part of human nature. They tell us we need cops to protect us from an evil within—that left to ourselves we would be more cruel than their whips or prisons. But the truth is they wrote this order into law precisely because we didn’t accept their paranoid view of life. Confronted with revolts in the early colonies, the planter class punished servants and slaves by codifying the white race and enshrining its supremacy.

Since the invention of the legal concept of a "white" person, race has marked some as capable of becoming human while separating out others as always less than human. It’s a refinement of the old colonial order in which Christians were the privileged subject. It’s a weapon used by elites to divide us, granting privileges to some at the expense of their dignity. There is one history where we see Europeans fighting each other viciously for access to whiteness. There is another history, parallel and diffuse, of those who wished to hold onto their dignity by searching for ways to deactivate, destroy, or escape this racist civilization. Every movement traverses these two histories and must decide upon which of the two they will stake their future. Barring a few exceptions, social movements in the US have sided with the racial order. Each time a revolutionary upsurge shook the foundation, a more optimized racist solution emerged to put people back in their place.

From the first slave revolts to the George Floyd Rebellion, this other history beckons us to burn it all and not look back. With each of our defeats, even the dead are sent back to the fields. The racial order mutilates history—first with its minstrel shows, now with its branded content. Politicians feign somber expressions and kneel for photo ops. Amazon ads say “We see you.” Gushers collaborates with Fruit By The Foot to celebrate Black Lives. Soon they’re going to tell us that the Black Panther Party was a civil rights organization that wanted to uplift black entrepreneurs. It’s not because the elites don’t get it. It’s because their system relies on black suffering, racist lies—and its latest version includes self-flagellation for clicks. They will always find a way to profit from it.

Brands and billionaires repent, but the racial nightmare is woven into the social fabric. We see it in our jobs, housing, the media, courts, schools, hospitals. We see it in how black and Latino people are denied access to medical care and are forced to work amid a pandemic to keep the economy afloat. After the upheaval of the ‘60s, urbanists frantic to save capitalism restructured the social landscape along racial lines. The police—a murderous gang, emancipated from the law—decide who lives and who dies on this terrain. Everyone knows cops kill. They kill regardless of their own ethnicities and they kill black people disproportionately. The cops kill black Americans because black life has been and continues to be considered disposable. Slavery, Jim Crow, ghettoization, private prisons—the US is a slaughterhouse. 

All manner of reforms have come and gone, even a black president. But Obama presided over Trayvon’s lynching, Tamir’s slaying, and Mike Brown’s murder. What’s left? Generations have prayed, paid, marched, sat-in, voted, cried, and gave their lives. Should kids born after 9/11 hurry up and wait? We are sick and tired of this hell. It’s not surprising the cry of Ferguson was “burn this bitch down.” No wonder that’s got more appeal than Biden telling people if they don’t vote for him they’re not black. The chorus of “fuck the police” has resounded for almost thirty years. The days after the Third Precinct burned were a crescendo built upon the ‘92 LA riots. Like Ferguson, Minneapolis spread because people didn’t back down and demonstrated a courage we all yearn for. A generation is waking up to the realization that body cameras, woke cops, sensitivity training, and “community policing” are all bullshit. If we want to end the racial nightmare, it’s going to take all of us digging up the roots of this rotten society.

Everyone hates the police. Our rage is justified: it begins with racist murder but encompasses the indignities we each suffer at their hands. In trying to repress the movement, their stupidity and brutality have turned millions against them. Thousands defied the curfews, braving arrest and violence. Traffic halted, bridges blocked, windows smashed, stores looted, statues toppled, cop cars set ablaze—such is the fury they set loose with the murder of George Floyd. Even the National Guard had to be demobilized, because they were faced with a conflict they could not win. The government would prefer to save face, and to prevent defections, by bowing out of a situation over which they did not have control. Watching the police flee the Third Precinct, we learned they are not invincible. For once, we defeated them in the streets. How do we make their retreat permanent?

This rebellion cannot be separated from our tumultuous epoch. The American uprising echoes the experimental advances made in Hong Kong and Chile last year and continues to develop tactical innovations in real time. We’ve seen teargas doused and umbrellas used as shields and to protect anonymity. Cops’ personal information gets leaked, department sites get hacked, and people listen to police scanners to convey the cops’ actions to their friends in the streets. “What to wear to a protest” infographics go viral and engineers build sound-deflecting anti-LRAD shields. Barricades ring autonomous zones to protect against cops as well as the far right’s vehicular attacks. We have new technical means of communication and coordination to keep us moving together, one step ahead of our enemies.

Every movement has its hangups. Not a week had gone by before the various activist/organizer cliques began scolding anyone daring enough to fight back. We’ve all seen them: people who are obsessed with telling others what to do or guilting them into playing an assigned role. Showing up in the middle of a rebellion, just to give the order to disperse before the cops do, proves you’re out of touch with reality. We shouldn’t trust every dumbass with a megaphone, and we need to understand the nuances of “leadership.”

A march can be “led.” Everyone can stay in line and do only what the leaders approve. But it wasn’t marches that broke the hold of the police-enforced racial order, it was an uprising. In an uprising, leadership emerges from moment to moment: who displays courage? Who pushes past their own fear, inviting the rest of us to confront our own? Who refuses to stand by and watch the intolerable? Who sees the relation of forces and opportunities in a clear way? Anyone who has entered such a situation knows the impossibility of following any pre-appointed leadership. You follow the intelligence that emerges from the crowd, you contribute your part then step back and allow others to do so. In those situations, the person on the megaphone is usually left in the dust. 

This is a complicated and confusing moment. There is no shame in not knowing what to do. We are a generation without victories, without a tradition to teach us what it means to fight and win. Our collective intelligence will only come from being there and experiencing it, without preconceived notions of what it is or what it should be. All the rules, roles, and identities are going to get broken as we figure out how to undo the American nightmare. An uprising is not a Zoom call.

There is no outside to the movement. Parasites come from within. A dying liberalism, white or black, crops up as a real hurdle to the radical leap we need. Some shamelessly do the work of the police, while others hide their agendas behind mission statements. If they get their way, the end of the police will not be the end of policing. We already see abolition being diluted into palatable reforms in elaborate rebranding campaigns. Cops are learning to speak like nonprofits. Mayors call out white privilege to delegitimize the revolt— identity politics weaponized as counter-insurgency. Politicians pretend to listen, while ensuring that protests are subject to heavy surveillance. Under pressure from their workers tech companies promise not to sell facial recognition technology to the police, but what else is that shit even good for?

Broken Windows gives way to the snitch in the screen. If progressives attempt to drain the movement of its vitality, it’s because their political goals are to achieve in the industry of crime and punishment what Amazon has done to retail—optimized, on-demand, always-on policing. Their reforms entail a perverse version of transformative justice hinging on deeper racial ordering, with silicon chips rather than nightsticks and prisons. The site of incarceration might change, as in the case of electronic monitoring, but the fact of control won’t. The irrational prejudice of the beat cop is outperformed by predictive algorithms whose insidious outcomes are perfectly logical and built to spec. The bias in the machine conflates race with crime. The historical legal construction of race in the US is now outmoded by intelligent machines acting on data sets. Instead of the gavel or the badge, a computer decides who gets to become human and who is always less than.

Cutting back on the number of cops on the street, only to put more in the cloud, is just the latest user update to the familiar cycle of revolt and repression. As police departments are defunded, Silicon Valley will be eager to seed the next wave of technological solutions to the problem of crime and unrest. In the historical collision of the pandemic and the anti-police movement, “contact tracing” might become the latest attempt to control an ungovernable populace. All your qualities, calculated and policed. Your health, your neighborhood, your habits, your movements, your friendships, your immigration status, your genetic makeup, your skin color, your job, your finances, your search history, your protest attendance—each one coded as variables in their perfectly calibrated nightmare. Hell is by design.

In crisis lies possibility. Our time has been upended. Coronavirus and the George Floyd Rebellion form a wedge bending the continuum of time at the present. This simultaneous event is a wellspring, where the sad legacy of the racial nightmare and the tradition of incomplete revolutions rise to the surface. The uprising proves that normalcy is far more lethal than the pandemic. The lockdown interruption of the economy has exposed everyone to just how cruel the system is. Those forced to stop working realize just how unnecessary work is. Those forced to keep working realize just how expendable they are. Pent-up energy from months of isolation erupts in the streets—contesting the reign of the police and the economy they defend. Is that store closed down for the quarantine or the riots? Hard to say.

There is unrest in every state. A generation is learning what it means to live and fight. The racist urbanism that structured our cities is being torn apart. Landscapes are being reconfigured with the art of distance and the spirit of rebellion. Outside the burning Third Precinct, laughter and speeches. Outside the burning Wendy’s, sideshows with dirt bikes and cars doing donuts. In cities everywhere, fireworks and gunshots in the distance. The mood of this uprising oscillates from rage to exuberance, from celebration to seriousness—somewhere between block party and civil war.

The rebellion is wildly diverse in terms of who is taking part and why they’re out there. We are now a month into the unrest, punctuated by sudden intensities as the police kill again or as people in the next city show themselves to be as fearless as Minneapolis. As statues come down amid cheering, it feels like we’re witnessing the fall of a regime. But we aren’t the only ones watching it happen. There are many forces at play and countless ways this can go. As the rebellion converts urban hell into popular inferno, we have to dream about what can fill the ruin. If we don’t, our enemies will.

Minneapolis set a tone of ferocity. The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone set another. A choice between clearing the way or laying the path is a false dichotomy. We need to exert force that gives us the room to grow and to grow material power that gives us the capacity to exert force. Rebellion deepens by increasing the distance between our world and theirs, but it also grows from incorporating what exceeds their order—all those whose labor is redundant or whose creativity is meaningless under capitalism. Each autonomous zone constitutes a radically open commune, contingent on who moves through it. Right now, we need to expand the ways people can participate in the uprising by extending its revolutionary horizon. If the zones of autonomy are to resonate, they must be able to convert our passions, skillsets, and creativity into practical solutions.

Asking practical questions signals that the uprising is serious. A revolution needs to eat, rest, and care for its injured. We need places where we can catch our breath together, whether it’s an autonomous zone or a safehouse away from the frontlines. This is how it is now: street medics must learn how to treat gunshot wounds. As coronavirus cases rise again, we will need not only vigilance towards everyone’s safety but the knowledge to care for the sick. If nurses in New York applauding protesters is any indication, defection in the medical industry is not off the table. Such measures aren’t only practically necessary for the rebellion to endure, but testify to the ethical truths of the movement. We can give one another the care that the state and its racist order have denied.

The heart of revolution is communal. Revolutionary gestures proliferate, set in motion in Minneapolis and Seattle and reverberating outward. These gestures bring with them advanced propositions but also a certain amount of baggage. Half-measures and activist jargon can portray the movement as roleplaying. It’s important the autonomous zones go all the way—keep the cops out and break down the activist cliques. As housing security and unemployment expire for millions of Americans, expect to see more zones of autonomy and more kinetic spikes of intensity. The short-lived seizure of a hotel in Minneapolis is just the beginning. A looted Target opened the possibility for the redistribution of goods, the making-common of what was prohibitively enclosed. Private property must be practically abolished through use. We need to increasingly convert hostile environments into territory, enemies into friends. Stripmalls and urban architecture are terrains we have to radically reimagine. What questions have to be answered in order to turn the footprint of a ruined big-box store into habitable space? How to make these into something dignified, beautiful even? What bioremediating plants can be cultivated to heal the soil in vacant lots? What laws must be ignored and whose authority must be disregarded in order to grow food at scale in city parks?

Urban areas tend to be the site of the most fierce battles, but movements have to exceed them to survive. Small towns and rural areas have their own revolutionary part to play. The backwardness of the country is something of an urban myth. Acting with tact and speaking truth, you’ll find people there who are just as angry about the cops and elites as any hood in the city. Racism should be openly confronted where and how it appears in these places, but don't expect people to follow the script of anti-racism that has been forged in the Ivy Leagues. Holding everyone in your small town rally to the “high standards” of Twitter dialogue could destroy opportunities for building a common force. The toxic legacy of racism is literal too, and will be even harder to dislodge than the last Confederate monument. Whole swaths of the countryside have been devastated by industrial production—a system for which black lives have always been expendable. With the right alliances, the historical dispossession of black farmers can also be reversed and new maroon communes can strengthen our collective fist.

Global logistics has made most cities fatally dependent on outside inputs. So it’s no surprise that small farms are in demand during a pandemic when you have to depend more on local food systems than the global market. As crises overlap and accelerate, converting farms and other local production into hubs along an autonomous corridor might be the way to stitch together a durable revolutionary force across the shattered capitalist landscape. The hinterlands, depopulated but traversed by supply chains and critical infrastructure, remain a social contradiction of the regime and one of its strategic vulnerabilities. So too might they become our strength, from the opportunities for systemic disruption to the possibilities of freedom and refuge they offer, waypoints on an exodus from the uneven violence of a changing climate.

The police were a moment in human history when a civilization created a fundamental distinction in its social fabric and democratically gave the right reserved for the sovereign to a privileged warrior class. The spartan aesthetic and gritty Punisher imagery popular in police culture revealed how the cops really saw themselves as different and closer to the heavenly elites than the rest of us. The police were paid tribute in upper bracket wages, earning higher salaries than even those who die in war.

To undermine this legacy, we must re-envision duty. Revolutionary struggle creates the conditions for selfless acts. We often elevate comrades who’ve been forged in the fight, but it’s important to remember they’ve also lost themselves there. We need fighters, but their mixture of adrenaline, ethical fervor, and trauma cannot function as the constituent element of the worlds we are building. Heroism should be honored, but heroes cannot be the source of judgement. This is how every revolution has created a new police and popular heroes become the new tyrants. We need to constantly ground ourselves in love for daily life, to tend to the wounded souls of those who’ve found their heroism and bring them back down to earth. Our duty is to repair the world. Reparation—the historical undoing of white supremacy, the states that have enshrined it, and the economy it has served—will require heroic acts from every corner of existence. The burden to serve cannot be the sole task of our fighters. Each of us has unique potential to perform an exemplary act. We have an obligation to cultivate strength and the capacity for heroism in everyone.

How will we handle interpersonal conflict and harmful behavior? Who will judge? There is no uniform order that can be mapped onto the earth. There is a unique way of inhabiting each place. Repairing a damaged world will be messy and contingent on our shared values. Maybe in some autonomous zone there will emerge an irregular council of grandmas whose wisdom is respected. Maybe elsewhere long conversations facilitated between those in conflict will mark the way. It’s not up to us to create a blueprint and judge others by it. What’s demanded of us is that we accept a deeper sense of responsibility to nurture our relationships with vulnerability and care. We may need to grow up—to demonstrate revolutionary discipline by discussing the complexities of relationships with each other, learning patience and forgiveness, knowing where to draw harsh lines, and owning the agency of our bodies. Finally, we may still fuck up and we may still need a period of exile to reflect.

The legal origins of race and the police share a common denominator: a political technique to govern who can become human and what life is allowed to live. Some of the fundamental laws that established race in the US legally forbid the love between servants and slaves, and restricted Africans, even freemen, from possessing arms. Their merciless law has meant the cops are the first response and, at the same time, have the final and often lethal say. Practically abolishing the police will mean the violence they hold can no longer be the first resort in any situation, nor the exclusive burden of any particular section of society. Like love, the capacity for force is something we all must understand we have in our core. We must honor each other by cultivating it and deciding how not to use it.

We must love each other with more intensity than law can govern. The history of black struggle in the US has blessed this uprising with a repulsion to captivity and the instinct to cultivate joy in fugitivity. Law functions by forcibly attaching our selves to qualities which are only useful and profitable for the order of racial capitalism, draining worlds of their complexity, and segregating bodies according to multiplying red-lines. We have to break out of this imprisoning logic by establishing authentically diverse worlds. Collective autonomy can only be born by materially breaking down the borders of racial order. The history of resistance to all forms of slavery has shaped blackness in the US. The George Floyd Rebellion has shared this gift with humanity, proving we always exceed the ways we are governed.

Human drama will not vanish when the thin blue line finally disappears. The stakes will only get higher. As their time comes, we can expect the police will be even more frightened than they are now, lashing out as a new world renders them an artifact of the racial nightmare. There will be more defectors among their ranks, disgusted by their own atrocities. They will have to learn to live with the burden of their acts. Like anyone else who harms their communities with predatory acts, they will have only the mercy of that community and their own will to change. Our task is to untangle judgement from transcendental law. For each other, we must welcome the end of policing—emancipating ourselves from the urge to cancel human beings. We must permit ourselves atonement and grace. Assuring someone learns from their mistakes hinges on their bonds with people willing to forgive them. We must likewise learn how to be responsible for our capacity to take or give life. For someday we may be asked to be wise enough to pass judgement. As a revolutionary process settles all debt, may the racial nightmare finally come to a close. May the year of Jubilee finally arrive.

Dependence

What do we need – and what do we need to be rid of?

Welcome to the latest edition of Territories, the Inhabit newsletter. This time we skip the preface and get right to the goods. We’ve got two brand new pieces for you.

The first is an extensive interview with Ingrid Burrington, a wide-ranging conversation that touches on the power of Amazon, supply chains and surveillance capitalism, the limits of DIY medical equipment, going to the moon, and resistance in a time of isolation.

The second is a survey we conducted with rural organizers to see how they’re coping with and responding to the pandemic, covering everything from rural mutual aid to countryside commons, from metropolitan exodus to post-pandemic futures.

For good measure, we’ve also updated the popular Coronavirus Reading List with the best stuff we’ve read in recent weeks.


It’s Only Going to Get Weirder

An interview with Ingrid Burrington

There’s some truth to the idea that we only notice the structures around us when they start to break down. Recent months have been an extended lesson in what happens when systems stretch, snap, and give way – as well as a cruel reminder of who usually makes out fine and who doesn’t make it out at all. We can think of no better guide to the contemporary landscape of systems, infrastructure, and logistical power than the brilliant and reliably curious Ingrid Burrington, an artist, writer, and researcher whose work explores the materiality of our networked world. In this extensive conversation, you’ll find her thoughts on Amazon, medical supply chains, and even what we can learn from outer space (we were surprised, too).

Read the Interview


The Commune & the Virus

Rural perspectives on coronavirus and the post-pandemic future

We’ve read a lot about coronavirus from those stuck in cities, holed up in apartments as governments decree the latest measures and services grow scarce. We’ve heard less from those in the countryside about their experiences since the pandemic began. In recent weeks, we called up a dozen friends variously involved in small farms, rural collectives, land projects, and more to learn what we could. Here we splice together what they said, honing in on common themes and shared insight into our circumstances, wherever we may find ourselves. It’s a snapshot of collective intelligence, a portrait of struggle in a hundred guises, and a glimpse of hard-won hopes for the future.

Read the Survey


A Coronavirus Reading List (Part 3)

An updated reading list compiled by friends of Inhabit. Featuring Paul B. Preciado, Jules Bentley, Drew Austin, and more.

Check Out the Reading List


There’s a difference between life and survival. Keep getting organized for the worlds we want.

You’re on Path B,

Inhabit

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