To navigate the inferno, we must rely on each other

This week the streets exploded again. The unrest that has defined this summer finds its latest geographic center, shifting in recent weeks from Kenosha to Rochester, Lancaster to Louisville. It's hard to think of a city that hasn't revolted since George Floyd was murdered, the ebb and flow of the movement finding new intensities as the police continue to kill and get away with it. The scene in Louisville resembles the others: looting and fires, teargas and gunshots, crowds clashing with the cops. The memory of Breonna Taylor is carried by courageous thousands in the dark night of rebellion.

Every day we’re faced with the practical problems of an ongoing movement. How to help the rebellion endure? How to spread new tactics and keep things fresh? How do we keep going, months on end? How do we scale our practices so that more people can participate in more ways? With an eye towards the coming weeks, how do we prevent the movement from being cannibalized by the election—turning marches into Get-Out-the-Vote efforts or, as some have grimly joked, becoming nightly riots for Biden? And how do we stay one step ahead of the police, avoiding the long reach of the state and its digitally-enhanced repression?

The weeks since Kenosha have been hard for us. We're running up against tough questions without precedent in our generation, and which the modern legacy of American protest, from anti-globalization to Occupy, hasn't given us the framework to deal with. How can the struggle against the police and the racial nightmare escalate and expand without incurring a higher level of lethal violence? How do we combat, neutralize, or otherwise defend ourselves from right-wing opportunists and straight-up sociopaths, without ceding any terrain or legitimacy to them? How do we prevent social unrest, eerily foreshadowed by that bloody night in Wisconsin, from tipping over into open conflict between armed factions?

These have been the immediate problems we’re wrestling with, often in conversation with many of you. But reality is no less forgiving. There is no hiding from the questions our epoch poses: the upheaval of our time is so wide-ranging that it touches each of us intimately and will alter our fates. The complex of wildfires in California and Oregon converted the skies a terrible orange, confirming our hypothesis that now is the color of emergency. Everyone stuck inside, choking regardless. Days later the plume traveled across the continent and obscured East Coast skies—particulate matter of burnt houses, animals, and trees suspended in the atmosphere—proving that in this dying civilization no one can breathe.

Whatever the outcome in November, the overall situation is set to deteriorate. The strange case of the militia stopping cars to look for a phantasmal enemy felt like a bad premonition, an all-too-plausible indication of where we’re heading. The looming election promises only chaos and the confirmation of the worst biases in every political corner. Everyone’s fears will manage to come true at the same time, even in contradictory directions. Blue-check liberals subtweet their outrage while they fantasize about which country they would prefer to receive asylum in. Nevermind that we have 200k dead and, due to the pandemic regime, borders are closed and US citizens won’t be going anywhere. Diehard realists and political strategists wargame election scenarios, all of which signal the collapse of democratic legitimacy and the violent fracturing of society. Everyone wants it to end, but no one can imagine positing anything better.

Can a culture war really escalate into a civil war? What we witnessed in Kenosha convinced us that the dreaded conflict is already here. A reprisal in Portland the following week, and an extrajudicial execution in response, while Kyle Rittenhouse skips court dates without consequence. November may burst the bubble of the last fantasies of liberal peace, but we already knew no one was coming to save us. The question we should consider now is not whether there will be more serious unrest and open conflict, or how exactly it will play out in the streets, the courts, and on Twitter. We must ask ourselves how we will choose to inhabit this conflict, what ethical intensities can exceed a left/right cultural war, and what truths will never be expressed in a battle between the adherents of nationalist conservatism and the proponents of neoliberal progress.

Without putting down any of our weapons, how can we refuse that terrain of battle and impose new polarities? How can we bring more and more people into this fight and offer them something beyond a side in the culture war? As millions are losing their attachment to being governed and simultaneously disregarded by a failed state, how can we all illustrate what is possible when we shed this historical weight?

“The People Don’t Need Permission to Feed Each Other”

Santiago de Chile’s community kitchens amid the pandemic and uprising

Benito Brava returns to Territories with an on-the-ground look at the community kitchens which have sprung up in Santiago de Chile in recent months. Autonomous mutual aid practices often arise when governments abandon people—so how do we respond when the state tries to recuperate, or simply repress, such efforts? What responsibility does mutual aid have in a moment of popular revolt, especially when social emergency meets political crisis? This essay explores these questions and more as it weaves together original reportage, Chilean history, and radical analysis.

Despite an uprising’s power to break boundaries of political conflict, participants risk retreating into familiar terrain as revolt stretches on for months and uncertainty takes its toll. As new uprisings around the world erupt in the midst of the COVID pandemic, yet-to happen natural disasters, and resulting economic crises, it becomes imperative to imagine the conditions under which autonomous relief initiatives can contest territory alongside wider revolt.

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For David Graeber

Friends of Inhabit share their encounters across the decades

Without hesitation or being asked, David gave our affinity group his credit card back in 2001 after border police seized all our things heading into Quebec City. He insisted we use it to buy helmets, shin guards, etc. After I thanked him profusely, he told me: “This is exactly what I have a job at Yale for.” Cheers and plenty of love to David Graeber from that one small crew of 16-year-olds in army surplus helmets trying to bring down global capital via vandalism and lots of sprinting, the only ones who ever will.

I first met him at this talk we organized in New Orleans in 2010. It wasn't about anything specific, but ended focusing on the student movement that'd just happened in London. As a gift, he gave us a thick shard of glass from one of the windows of the Tory HQ that got smashed when people briefly took over their building.

He happened to be in Austin, TX for the early days of the local Occupy and spoke at the first General Assembly, introducing himself to the crowd only as "David." We were standing in the back, somewhat disgruntled with the libertarian-pacifist-hippy-party vibes of other speakers. Reading us from afar, he approached and said "Oh, I found the anarchists!" Over the next few days, David was in it with us, sitting in awkward meetings, defending the contraband tents, and living the strange now-time of the occupation, perfectly charmed and interested in it all.

Zuccotti Park had already been evicted. There was some action Uptown that night. Against what or exactly where, I don't remember. I was there with friends visiting the city, two anarchists from the Southwest, who wanted to experience Occupy—or at least what was left of it by then. They said while they were in town, they were staying with "our friend David." They introduced us, you and I, by first name only. We exchanged pleasantries, spoke for a few minutes, hung around as the small crowd shouted slogans. I left soon after, not sticking around to the end like you did. Only later did I learn who you were, connect your first name with the last name which was a part of practically every conversation that fall, in those days when it felt like we were capable of anything. We never ran into each other again, but I remember you as kind and humble, a participant in the movement like anyone else—dedicated, sincere, willing to do the work, always ready to fight against the odds.

I’m trying to remember back to ‘09, talking with you and our friend at a cafe in NC. I’m probably giving you shit about what the youth are into. You’re telling me about the new book on debt you’re writing and I’m saying you gotta read Agamben and Benjamin’s essay on capitalism as religion, like the autodidact fuckwit I could be. Our friend is whipping his dreads back and forth. I can’t remember if it was then or at the bar later when we were talking about the book. Maybe H is there. The ethos we share made us co-conspirators, created the possibility of friendship—gave me opportunities to encounter this possibility, without school, without a shared discipline. How we grew apart before Occupy, how I never got the chance to cross paths with you again. I feel fortunate that we could exchange laughs and fistbumps during that time of political uncertainty. That time takes our friends from us, that our enemies conspire with the passing of time to impose tiny little shit restrictions that obliterate experience. We all know the sadness of debt, I feel it anchored to me, an unfulfilled history.

Monthly Reading

Shemon & Arturo on race traitors

Hari Kunzru on the politics of whiteness

Julien Coupat on the revelations of coronavirus

Nikita Gale on life in quarantine

Cory Doctorow on surveillance capitalism

Diana Vela Almeida on extractivism

Leah Penniman on Black land stewardship

Mike Gouldhawke on land as social relationship

Liaisons on the Beirut explosion

Want to chat about the future? Get in touch:

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