This post is a bit of an ode to my friend, Sam Yang (he/him/Comrade): aka Liberation Martial Artist aka yangfluencer aka half of the Southpaw podcast duo aka someone I “met” online in the pandemic era who has been a great inspiration and support to me ever since (even if I cannot handle being in the Discord chat!). This past weekend Sam posted a video essay that really struck me titled, Have Gi, Will Travel, about his decision to leave a cushy job in the finance sector to travel the US as a wandering martial artist. Check out Part 1:
While the typical way that we conceive of politics in the US is linear, rigid, and predetermined, Yang calls us back to adventure and complexity: embracing impermanence instead of grasping for control, exercising compassion for all people instead of fostering empathy for the few people in our immediate circles, celebrating the spaciousness of boredom and spontaneity instead of set plans and goals that we didn’t even consciously make for ourselves. It’s a truly liberating vision of what it means to be human and to take care of ourselves and others. To watch the full supercut (it’s about an hour long), sign up to support Southpaw on Patreon or leave a tip via Ko-fi ($1 minimum). I loved this video essay so much that I made a donation on behalf of a couple friends. If you cannot afford to donate, send me a message and I’ll donate on your behalf and send you the link. That is how much this piece means to me <3.
Don’t want to support Amazon? Download my book below for free! It is nicely formatted for printing in the “booklet” format (about 40 sheets double-sided). Just three asks:
If you can afford to donate something for the book, anything helps. I’ve been unemployed, but I start at Safeway on Monday so anything really does help: Venmo: @Heather-Squire PayPal.me/Hsquire Cashapp: $squireheather
I still want to donate to the Thai democracy movement tho, so if you only have $1 to donate, send it to Prachatai, an English and Thai-language news outlet that is telling the truth about dictatorship and the movement for democracy in Thailand.Donate via PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org. ♥️🖤 [https://prachatai.com/english/]
As someone who thinks that humans are capable of an economic system far more stable, equitable, and sustainable than capitalism, I haven’t spent that much time thinking about what a socialist economy would look like in my every day life. When I say socialism, I mean a democratically-managed economy, where the industries and services we all need (like power, the mail, and healthcare) are owned by all of us. But what about businesses? Many internet critics that rail against the evils of socialism and communism conjure up these drab, grey pictures of people waiting in breadlines and a massive unaccountable bureaucracy. And I have to admit – the image is certainly not the kind of world that I want to live in. But are they correct that a democratically-managed economy must certainly turn into such a dystopia? I have been a critic of capitalism for more than twenty years, but I haven’t seen that many descriptions of a post-capitalist economy that really get me excited. Not that they don’t exist – Cooperation Jackson and the World Social Forum immediately come to mind – but they never really make it out of niche circles of activists and into the world of cable news. So I decided to lay about daydreaming what it might look like.
The smart money hit the canvas. The long shot got the nod. The yokel had simply stepped inside of his opponent’s sense of time.
[Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man]
As I write this conclusion in the little bedroom of the Covid-safe friend pod, Trump and his followers are waging yet another war on reality, denying the legitimacy of Biden’s election victory. More than 100,000 cases of Covid-19 are reported every day in every part of the US. The 24 hour cable news cycle is reporting every absurd event, debating whether or theorizing how a Trump coup might unfold. The atmospheric dread is thick and orange, choking us with disbelief. The democratic experiment feels more like a failure than usual, especially as so many of us lacked faith in our institutions and that old promise of opportunity to begin with. Not many people believe that a Biden presidency is capable of bringing about the deep changes necessary to confront either the viral memetic infection of Trumpism or the contradictions of racial capitalism. Climate change looms heavy in our hearts too, even as we feel confident in Biden’s ability to bring actual science and scientists to the fore in our battle against Covid-19. Where do we go next? How do those of us that believe in truth, justice, and democracy orient ourselves in the proximate and distant unknowns? What are our weapons and tools of resistance? Who is our opponent?
Despite attempts by Thailand’s elites to cast ordinary Thais as docile, obedient, and uninterested in politics, evidence of resistance to exploitation and domination in the region pre-dates the formation of the Thai state. The popular uprising that spread across Thailand starting in July 2020 traces its lineage back to the Red Shirt political movement that emerged in 2006, resistance to the 1991 military coup, the coordinated student, labor, and peasant struggles of the 1970s, and the Siamese Revolution of 1932 before that. While Thailand was never formally colonized, it was still economically dominated by the British imperial system since being pried opened to British foreign trade with the signing of the Bowring Treaty of 1855. The organizers of the Siamese Revolution ended the absolute monarchy and put Thailand on a path towards economic nationalism and modernization; the political ideology of the organizers was not monolithic, however, and the party would eventually split into civilian and military factions. The military faction along with its royalist supporters would ultimately win the dispute, excising any mention of a welfare state or land reform from the new constitution and ushering in fifteen years of authoritarian rule that outlawed communism. Post-World War II prosperity brought with it a more liberal mood and Marxist ideas gained traction in urban Thai society. Progressive political parties, trade unions, literary movements, and the publication of original Thai socialist ideas – as well as translations of Marxist works in other languages – multiplied from 1946 to 1957. These once-banned ideas inspired a generation of student activists, many of whom would go on to organize protests right up until they were banned yet again by another military coup in 1958.
I’m writing this as a distraction from checking in on the election results. It’s mostly directed at educated white liberals who insist on seeing this close election as evidence that 50% of the population are racists. I am arguing for greater compassion and empathy, and meeting people where they are at cuz calling someone a racist on the internet doesn’t actually have a material effect in the world, but shaming and ostracizing a person we decide is racist does. Racial and economic justice are not incompatible – they are inseparable! And unless our imagination stops at inclusion – a few more scholarships, a handful more vouchers – we need to talk more effectively about class and listen more effectively to the ways class is experienced at the intersection of all our identities – no matter who wins this election. I’m not interested in proving a theory, but I welcome thoughtful questions, comments, and discussion. Continue reading “Shame and the liberals”→
Thailand had a very different strategy from the US for managing Covid-19, as well as a spectacularly different outcome. I lived in Northern Thailand from mid-March of this year until late-September, watching the country of my birth and the home of my closest connections mortally fumble as life in my adopted country started to get back to normal. I want the American reader to observe how Thailand responded to Covid-19 and what it was like to live through such measures – not to critique the Trump Administration so much as to dispense with the fiction that hundreds of thousands of deaths were inevitable no matter who was leading the country. Indeed, Thailand is a “democratic dictatorship” with its own dubiously-elected conservative strongman at the helm, but even he yielded to the scientists and public health officers when it came to managing a pandemic. Did these strict – yet ultimately triumphant – measures hurt the Thai economy? Absolutely. But in the context of a *global* pandemic, there isn’t an economy that remains unimpacted. Now a third wave of Covid washes over the US, provoking a discordant patchwork of just-in-time lockdown measures that can only slow the bleeding while delivering blow after blow to the economy, from the micro to the macro. What would it have been like if the US had a plan before Covid even reached our doorstep? If the border-neutral fields of epidemiology and public health had not been drawn into the morass of partisan politics – both through funding cuts and a cynical rejection of science’s apparent “liberal bias”? If we all decided to take this one for the team back in March – knowing that some would have to make greater sacrifices, but that no person would be forced onto the street by eviction or foreclosure or medical bills. What would it have been like if American culture valued all human lives, and not just the unborn or those considered to be economically productive? We cannot know for sure, but it is my hope that by looking at Thailand’s response in parallel to the US response, the reader will be able to think critically about these questions. Continue reading “What it feels like to flatten the curve”→
I taught an undergraduate class on the housing crisis for the Fall 2018 semester that met weekly for 2.5 hours. I wanted to spark debate and discussion about segregation, redlining, gentrification, the failure of public housing in the US, etc., but I quickly realized that the readings I had assigned were too dense for a student lacking a background in social science, rendering in-class discussions lifeless right out of the gate. I started researching films to show in class that would reinforce what I thought were some of the most important concepts, as well as drive home the human element of the housing crisis (in particular for the students who had never experienced housing insecurity). We watched several films throughout the semester and they were great tools to help students talk about various facets of the housing crisis in their own words, as well as to interrogate some of their own internalized biases around housing, poverty, and race. Most of these films can be streamed for free, via Kanopy (login using your local public library card), PBS, Vimeo, or YouTube. Do you have a film related to housing justice to suggest? Add it in the comments and include a link if you can. Continue reading “10 Films to Help You Wrap Your Head Around the Housing Crisis”→
Realizing a Right to Housing in Philadelphia: Towards a Cohesive Strategy
This paper is an intervention into the market-based housing policy status quo in the United States, and the city I call home, Philadelphia. It is also an intervention into the single-issue activism and advocacy that dominates in social movement circles that deal with housing issues. I will argue that current housing policy in the United States is layered upon generations of racialized public policy that has always centered market ideology at the expense of human flourishing, and therefore an ameliorative approach that seeks to tweak current policy will not be able to adequately address either the structural racism built into the US housing market or the gross distributional inequities the market produces. Instead, I will build the case for a transformative approach that not only critiques the status quo, but parts ways with it to create a realm of struggle for an ideological and instrumental right to housing. Continue reading “Imagining Housing Justice Under Late Capitalism”→