Natasha Lennard

Being Numerous: Non-fascist Life in a Crisis with Natasha Lennard

Transcript May 19, 2020

[edited for clarity]

Laborwave speaks with Natasha Lennard, author of Being Numerous: Essays on Non-fascist Life from Verso Books and contributing contributing writer at The Intercept. Her work covers politics and power and has appeared in Esquire, The Nation, and the New York Times opinion section.

Lennard discusses non-fascist life during the crisis of capitalism, intensified by a pandemic, and helps analyze this moment in terms of "accidents" and full surrogacy for each other. 
 

Preface:

"What would it look like if we were all surrogates for each other in all kinds of different ways. If we ushered ourselves through the world and held each other in our porousness, our wateriness, our undeniable and often conflictual interdependency. So I think this is the moment of undeniable interdependency becoming clear. What would it look like to live well by it?"

Laborwave:

The place I wanted to start was with a quote from the poem that you use pretty often and you refer to often in your writing. "Obsessed, bewildered/ By the shipwreck/ Of the singular/ We have chosen the meaning/ Of being numerous." Why do you keep returning to those lines?

 

Natasha Lennard:

So that that poem by George Oppen, which was written in 1968, is called "Of Being Numerous," and yeah, I certainly keep returning to it. I mean I cribbed from it for my book title, I just basically stole it and called my book "Being Numerous." Particularly those lines I think are really striking and seem applicable again and again to so many sociopolitical circumstances we find ourselves in that relates to not only how we are enumerated and how we get to live as enumerated and numerous masses together, but I'm particularly interested in the way Oppen frames the idea of choosing the meaning of being numerous.

The first time I really was trying to ruminate on that came about when I was writing a number of years ago about the Snowden NSA revelations, and that kind of tangled complicity and consent and lack thereof when it comes to how we live, enumerated, counted, surveilled online and those who can benefit from that and those who are punished by that. The kind of impossibility is of a certain dissent from that type of being numerous. How far does it make sense to talk of choosing that meaning of being numerous? Now we find ourselves in a really fierce moment of having to think about ourselves both as statistics with more or less proximity to certain dangers under a pandemic.

Thinking about the ways in which some of us can avail ourselves to being individualized family units closed off from certain other numbers of humans and risks and those who obviously can't, those enumerated by virtue of being prisoners or forced into shelters or overcrowded workplaces or project housing that has not nearly enough resources and space for people to be safely distanced and isolated right now. So I think again, the kind of Oppen framing of what it means to choose the meaning of being numerous really struck me. And not only in painful ways. Obviously what we're seeing right now in a really affirming and really powerful sense is versions of mutual aid networks and people making really wonderful choices about the meaning of being numerous at a time like this when we can't be proximal safely. So I think that's why those lines came back to me and keep coming back to me and seem applicable again and again.

 

Laborwave:

It seems too that in your essay for Commune you're really trying to wrestle or ruminate over your position in all of this, from the position of somebody that has the ability to remove themselves from a lot of the risk of the pandemic. And I really like a line that you have that I want to quote from the essay, "if it is because we see our potential for interconnectedness that we stay home, what will we do with that same potential, in plain sight now when this virus has peaked and passed." So again, returning to how do we choose to be numerous, what are the choices that you hope people will make once the pandemic has subsided to some degree? Because it sounds like that's what you're really wondering in this essay is are we going to just completely forget about this, ignore some of the revelations that should have been available to us right now or are we going to make different choices?

 

Natasha Lennard:

I guess the kind of point I'm trying to push in the short piece that I wrote for Commune is summed up in how I end the piece, which is if we know where to avoid each other, we know where to find each other too. When the loc down first started there was this growing fixation for a lot of people on the spaces where bodies can mix, where breaths can mix, where we could be mingling spit, and be together that we don't think of maybe all too often in those terms of how we work as flows together in a city through certain junctions and intersections. And now we think of them in this kind of fearful way as sites to avoid and the vagaries of inequality and capital distribution make very clear who can avoid and who can't avoid them.

So what does it mean to keep hold of that and to be aware that there are so many sites of intersections and ways to be proximal together and come together that is so important that we're kind of fixating on negative space now. But what would it look like to hold on to that and fix it differently when we're able to actually come together as bodies, say in the streets or in transport intersections again? Obviously we have really powerful examples that predate the pandemic. If you think about some of the blockades of oil pipelines or if you think about the mass protests that surged towards airports after the Muslim ban was announced, and any kind of major examples of intersection lockdowns such as the blocking of ice vans. These are really crucial examples of being proximal together prior to the pandemic that hopefully we hold fast to. 2019 was a year of social street explosions and struggles from Chile to Hong Kong and beyond.

Now we're kind of nullified in isolation and that's the best we can do for many people to stay safe. So I guess, remembering what it means to be numerous differently is really crucial. And obviously we've been thinking about that because we know what areas to avoid. We know where intersections of human flow exist or could exist.

 

Laborwave:

I'm reminded of the subtitle of your recent book of essays, which is called Being Numerous: Essays on Non-fascist Life. In thinking about the places that we choose to congregate, the ways that we choose to enumerate ourselves, I can't help but be reminded of daily with headlines of people protesting their social distancing and showing up in mass congregations in the streets to say that we want to be together, and exhibiting what I would probably describe as more fascistic behavior versus the non-fascist life that you're writing about in your book. I don't know if I really have a question there, I'm just kind of thinking about it.

 

Natasha Lennard:

No, totally. I mean it's an obviously perverse conception of liberation that, I'll note, these very small number of anti-lockdown or anti-social distancing protestors have taken part in and hasTrump tweeting "liberate Minnesota" along with them, and it's a really, really nasty perversion of liberation language. Obviously those sorts of protests have to be completely rejected as any performance of a fight for true liberation. Keep in mind, this is once again falling into a lot of the mythology that followed Trump's election of the liberal media scowling at a white working class without paying attention to actually who that white working class they were talking about might be. These few hundred protesters are on the whole actually pretty well-off suburbanites. There's only a few hundred of them garnering an absolutely disproportionate amount of media attention. I think it's because they've been endorsed by Trump through kind of abstract tweets, but also because I think a kind of Washington Post style and New York Times readership really enjoys feeling superior to that kind of backwards, right-wing conservatism, which is no doubt dangerous and reactionary. But of course a lot of these people aren't really saying 'we want to be together, we want to be differently numerous, we want to be communal.' What they're saying is 'we want essential workers to be expanded in numbers and more people to be able to die so we can accumulate capital again.' I mean that's what those protests are clearly about under the very, very flimsy guise of liberation. And, you know, very few people, even very few reactionaries are even fully buying it.

In the meantime, what's actually a shame around that, or I should say it's more of a media narrative shame, that these people are getting a huge amount of attention for how fringe they are. I mean, if only fringe leftist activity got nearly as much media attention because if we want to talk about different sorts of communizing efforts that we are seeing in response to this pandemic, and the economic crisis that predated it was exacerbated by it and all the cruelties that are also being exacerbated, in this moment we're seeing an immense amount of unprecedented activity in terms of labor strikes. Just like a wave of labor strikes from Amazon workers, Instacart, shoppers, fast food delivery workers, so many unprecedented numbers of walkouts and organized, coordinated calling in sick at the same time.

Come May 1st we're looking at probably the largest coordinated rent strike in New York City at least in almost a century being planned. And that's been organized by tenants unions, by activists, by people who've never thought of themselves as participating in a rent strike or any kind of radical framing of their relationship to their material conditions of their housing for the first time ever. And that's all been organized without having to put bodies at extra risk. I think that's really astounding stuff and it's getting a kind of fraction of the establishment media attention.

 

Laborwave:

I fully agree. One of the immediate impressions I had is just it's a shame that no attention is being paid to the mutual aid networks that I've seen in my own neighborhood propping up and doing tremendous work and getting more than, I don't live in a huge town, but getting more than 200 people to sign up and volunteer within a week. It's tremendous. I don't want to dwell too long on the right wing protesters, but what I was looking at when I was reading the headlines and watching some video clips from it is there's a lot of liberal smugness in how people are reacting to these folks being like, 'oh look at how unintelligent they are, go back to your bunker' kind of mentality. And I get it because I hear people talking about how they can't get their hair dyed, and at first you want to laugh at them. But then I think about it more, and it doesn't surprise me that when you grow up in a capitalist consumer society that when people don't have the ability to participate in self-soothing activities, like getting their hair dyed or fast food consumption every day that they want it, or whatever these kinds of minimal forms of leisure that's available to us, that when those things are stripped away it's like we have no sense of what to do. Like we don't have any ability to shift to different forms of pleasure and leisure. They're just not made available to us. We've grown up in a way that we've been so starved of the idea of what pleasure can look like in a different kind of society.

 

Natasha Lennard:

You've got a group of people who are saying, 'I'm desperately missing,' and there's a truth to that 'I'm desperately missing getting my hair done.' Obviously there's so much that can be taken from that sentence. Is it you only value yourself because of a certain look that you've been demanded to have, or you feel empowered by it, or actually, as is true in so many communities, the hairdresser and the barbershop are real sites of communal gathering and they actually do exceed themselves as places of commerce to be places of community too. And so many sites have those multiple layers.

Aside from when you hear it coming from a really disingenuous and uncaring place, for example, a racist protester wanting to send immigrants back to work whilst also closing borders, I'm not interested in being generous to that kind of person and that speech. People missing the kind of pleasures of shopping or beauty treatments and elements of that, of course they're missing the service, but I'm sure there's also a way of pointing out how much people miss just sites of togetherness and touch and ways in which you can come together that largely don't exist right now. In New York there aren't a lot of places, people don't have a lot of home space, there aren't a lot of public spaces available for free and open long sociality. You can't drink in a park. So, it's no wonder that the sites that we miss are usually also sites where we have to pay for stuff. Wouldn't it be nice if that was fully challenged and upturned by virtue of this crisis? I hope there are a lot of reckonings, and I think there might be some. Certainly I hope that a lot of the incredible mutual aid networks that have formed don't dissolve as soon as shops open up, and that we continue this work.

But at the same time when I see people tweeting things like, 'now neoliberalism's dead,' I'm like, a) for what the gazillionth time, and b) don't be ridiculous. I'm as skeptical of the kind of well-meaning revolutionary spirit that's like, 'well, it's a free for all now.' Welcome to full communism once everyone's better.' Obviously that's absurd and incorrect and doesn't manage to deal with the vast problematic structures that this virus has not felled, but I do see a lot of apertures for points of pushing from the part of workers, and viewing ourselves as communal beings and not just individual consumers. I think there is a lot of opportunity there, but I definitely don't think it's any sort of determined fate.

 

Laborwave:

I'm guilty of this too in that I've used a quote, and see others use it too, that goes back to Rosa Luxemburg claiming that now the choices are between socialism or barbarism. I actually think that might be a fair framework for today of the directions that might be available to us. But what you're saying, I think you captured really well in your Commune essay, so I'm going to quote at you again your own writing if you don't mind. You write that "the logic of virus containment has not escaped the logic of capitalism. There's a reason that power will bend in the face of what it sees as a temporary crisis in order to keep capital buoyant. In the long term, mass disruptions caused by strikes and industrial sabotage tend to win fewer and slower concessions from power than the pandemic has brought about. Bosses know that workers, unlike viruses, question their current containment under capitalism when its conditions are shown to be contingent and mutable. Stoppages and disruptions become uncontainable."

So it sounds like you're displaying again that there might be options and opportunities, but this isn't determined and destined to topple governments, overthrow capitalism, and win communism. So what choices do you feel we should try to nurture and strengthen and highlight most in this moment instead of claiming easy victories?

 

Natasha Lennard:

A lot of what I'm getting at in that little passage is that the reason the capital capitalist class will not as readily bend to a mass work stoppage as it would a forced pandemic stoppage is because there's a resistance to masses of workers realizing that they, if collectively organized, have power. Capital doesn't exist without labor. So I do feel like that's where there's opportunity, that's where the strengths that you're already seeing here is workers saying 'screw you, you're saying we're essential. We knew that and now you see that too. And now the world is and so you better treat us as essential.' But that's obviously the beginning of a struggle that already was ongoing and now has been at best emboldened, but under really, really terrifying and devastating conditions for, say for example, Amazon workers and Walmart workers who are on the front lines and are incredibly high risk and still have very, very few protections, if any. These workers have had some small victories, which were really hard won. So I see this as a kind of mass point, an upsurge of organizing, and people taking really brave steps, and that's something to build upon. But to say anything beyond that I think would be too presumptuous.

More astounding work that you are seeing happening on the ground right now is something I'm reporting on in an Intercept piece, and that's the amount of people participating in the upcoming rent strike and some of the tenants who are not only just signing up to be strikers and publicly saying that, but also who are organizing. These are people who are in many cases undocumented who obviously have numerous fears about being taken to housing court, about facing any sort of institutional pushback, and who are saying 'look, we can't pay and not only can't we pay we're going to have to subjugate ourselves into shame and apologies and begging. Instead, we're going to recognize that collectively this isn't on us and it shouldn't be on us. And there's no moral feeling here. There is no failure to pay. At this point now is a refusal to pay.' And I think that's a huge shift. In April, I think about 13 million renters didn't pay their rent because they couldn't. And to see a dramatic shift in rhetoric away from can't to won't, if that sort of thing sticks and reorients how we think of our relationship to the properties we live in and housing, that alone is huge. You're already seeing aspects of that taking hold, if not in vast scales, certainly on considerable scales within the last century of American history.

 

Laborwave:

In your introduction to your book Being Numerous, you talk about, in a very specific way, "accidents," and those are the accidents contained within technological progress, as well as other things that capitalism claims as progress. I'm wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on what you mean by accidents, and also what accidents do you think this pandemic is revealing for us?

 

Natasha Lennard:

Sure, so when I use accidents in the book, I'm using the term as it was used by Paul Virilio, the late great urbanist, and he talked of accidents in the sense of all of those things that are not aberrations of, but inevitabilities baked into a certain mode of what we call or what gets to be called progress. So the Ur example was you invent the plane and you invent the plane crash. So before the invention, before the high speed rail, there was not the capacity in the world for such an accident of the scale of a plane crash, a high speed rail crash. You know, nuclear fusion, nuclear bomb. So it's not that if you invent the airplane, the jumbo jet, there will necessarily be x number or this exact plane would necessarily crash, it's that you've brought in the new potential for this kind of accident in the world that didn't preexist this act of progress.

Virilio is not a Luddite. He's not saying, so no more airplanes or no more online connections, because the accident of them might be mass surveillance. He's just warning correctly against this sort of lionization and fetishization of progress that doesn't also account for its accident in the terms that he means accidents. Virilio applies that pretty much wholly to technological advancement, both in modes of transport, communications, and weaponry. And I just cribbed that and also apply it to progress as it's described in that kind of arc of history progress within the sociopolitical field. When I was writing the book, the focus there was to speak against that liberal reading of 2016 election as some sort of aberration, some bizarre u-turn in history back to the earliest 20th century as if fascistic evolutions aren't always continuous with modernity. They always have been. They always were. Trump is not an aberration. Even if he's horrific, even if it's a worse than worst case scenario, it has to be seen as, in the Varilian sense, the accident built in and baked in to the system of capitalism that we were all too comfortable calling, not we, but many, were all too comfortable calling an assertive space and trajectory of progress.

So then how can we think about the accident in those times with the pandemic? Well in terms of novel viruses and these new sorts of pandemics and their increasing regularity, many people have pointed out, many people wiser than me, that the accident here are of certain types of environmental disruptions when certain species are bought into human contact that wouldn't have otherwise been. There are other novel viruses that are accidents in the sense of mass farming and agro trade and the way certain animals are mass killed and treated and spread across the world because of agro farming.

 

Natasha Lennard:

So I think that would be the framing I would apply here. I mean, not necessarily to the corona virus, but definitely in terms of the way we think about supply chains, and what we rely upon and how things get to spread, and what sort of movements around the world have enabled not only just the virus to spread, but also the virus to become a pandemic. The pandemic is a crisis and the pandemic is a crisis of capitalism, and a crisis of inequality and a crisis of brutality and cruelty and barbarism. It's not just one lineage of, 'oh, here's what makes a virus possible and here's how it spreads.' It's what are the certain ways in which our world has been constructed and established such that a virus like this can become a pandemic in the way that it has and who is harmed by it. Who gets killed, who's offered up for slaughter essentially. So it's a lot going on there, but I definitely think the Virilian idea of the accident is always useful in these sort of considerations when you hear all too many people go, 'wow, how did this happen? But progress.'.

 

Laborwave:

I really like this line in your, I believe, first essay in the book called "We, the Anti fascists" about liberals. But first I'll preface it with just kind of wondering about the liberal viewpoint overall in what this pandemic reveals. You write, "it is a great liberal tradition to stand on the wrong side of history until that history is comfortably in the past." I think it's pretty spot on. You're seeing people like Joe Bide, who's the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, still kicking and screaming against the ideas that Medicare For All is a necessity. You see the Democrats every now and then getting punched from the left in some ways by the Republicans. The Republicans are beating them to the idea of providing direct stimulus to people and then the Democrats come along. What do you make of this whole liberal reaction to things and what do you think is the possibility for maybe more liberals starting to become radicalized in this moment?

 

Natasha Lennard:

Obviously I have very little hope of a kind of Biden or Pelosi style liberal having any sort of radical rethinking or reorienting themselves, their ethics, their motivations, who they serve at all. I think these are conservatives. Obviously they are very interested in conserving. If you think of the Democratic establishment, I don't see much shifting there, and I think they'll lose [the presidential election.] And that's obviously worrying. I mean, I despise Joe Biden, but I deeply fear another four years of Trump. Beyond that liberal is obviously quite a loose word. I mean, most political categories work as sort of family resemblance concepts, right? They're kind of interconnecting networks. So I can't be like 'liberals be doomed cause x.' I'm sure there will be a lot of people who by virtue of loss or hardship in the virus could potentially start rethinking a reliance on the Democratic establishment and its promises, and the idea that the healthcare system is sufficient. I think the current situation gives light to that, but I don't think that necessarily entails there being a grand reckoning and a jump to the left. It's obviously on all of us to try and push that, and to look after each other. Because the state's really not going to sufficiently, and it's up to us to put pressure on the state as opposed to assuming that that goodwill is there. So yeah, I mean honestly Democrats are doomed. I think it's an absolute horrow show. I didn't really know what else to say about it.

 

Laborwave:

I'm predicting a loss in the general election too. I don't know what their strategy is at all. But yeah, I've been chewing on this question a lot because when this pandemics first started kicking off and we started to see the impacts of it, and predicting the economic catastrophe that's going to ensue or that already is ensuing for a lot of people but will just get worse and worse, it was easy for me to immediately be like, 'well now we've been exposed to how all these socialists and communists and anarchist ideas are correct.' But then I'm remember, and I know this because I've been organizing for a long time, that people's ideologies go deep. They do not change very easily. And I guess I just keep wondering like what does it take to change people's attitudes and ideologies so that they start participating in class struggle? I know that's a question with no easy answers.

 

Natasha Lennard:

Yeah, I don't think I have an answer at all. And I think you see different versions of it. I mean quite a lot in my career I've definitely been, I guess if not asked, then criticized for not sort of trying to convince perhaps a boomer liberal audience more generously. And my answer has probably always been a bit glib, but I do agree with it, which is like, no, I'm kind of not trying to convince them. I'm trying to help people that already are living under these terms, understanding it, already suffering the most, and are already trying to fight to spread that fight. Like I don't need to be some messenger people are already doing that work from the ground up. I could spend the rest of my life like banging on doors in Kalorama or wherever, being like, 'but don't you see?'

I don't really think that's how politics work. We build from the ground up rather than convincing the top. The point is to make the top uncomfortable and that's what things like strikes and rent strikes do. Which isn't to say I'm not grateful for the influx of politicians who do genuinely seem to give a shit like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. I do genuinely think they have good politics and care, but again, you don't need to go begging to them. You don't need to convince them. So it's about building those coalitions and fighting. There are so many people you don't need to convince that actually you just need to work with and help. I think it speaks to a flaw in mainstream media, or understanding of how world historical political change happens, that there seems to be this gobsmackedness of 'why aren't people trying to convince us, and prove to us. Why aren't the left trying to convince us and coddle us? I'm not convinced, convince me.' I'm just not that interested in doing that.

And then you sometimes see rare examples of good changes in disposition and commitments to ideology. Like, my mom is gone really left wing in the last 15 years and she was not before. I think she used to think Margaret Thatcher was a good woman and she doesn't anymore. So, you know, if you're stuck at home with your moms, talk to your moms. Or choose better moms, also a choice.

 

Laborwave:

I've had a similar experience in my mom's political evolution, and it's hard to figure out, or it's a both/and I guess, that I've influenced her or vice versa, and it's due to the material circumstances of her life. She's shifted from I think saying positive things about Ronald Reagan to being a big Bernie Sanders supporter. So, people can change. And I do agree with what you're saying in that we probably don't need the mass numbers that people assume you need to make massive changes in the political and social order. What you're saying makes me wonder about, just going back to being numerous, maybe being numerous isn't necessarily a numbers consideration? In the labor movement, I'm a labor organizer, I do think at times there's maybe an overemphasis on mass numbers. Like there's always this attitude that we have to have super majority everything to be effective. But then I recall an earlier conversation I had on this show with Jarrod Shanahan where he pointed out that the abolitionist movement was never more than a minimal fraction of the population in the United States that did massive and major things that huge major impacts. It seems like a lot of political history reveals that even when you're talking about mass numbers, you're really talking about tiny slivers of the overall population. So being numerous might just mean being numerous in our own networks.

 

Natasha Lennard:

I also think it totally depends on the conversation you're having. Like what are we talking about and what are we trying to achieve? When it comes to strategies and tactics, there's a lot of unfinished questions there. Obviously the biggest protests ever against the Iraq War were not very potent because they didn't stop a war, but they also did, however kind of fangless they might have felt, politicized in a certain way a generation of people that then moved on to do a lot more potent activism and organizing. If the end in and of itself of a big mass protest is just for people to be out together, and feel some sense of togetherness like during the Women's March on the day after Trump's inauguration, then maybe that's what that's for. But let's not pretend it's a threat.

So I think being clear about what you want a set of numbers to do is important. With something like a rent strike, I think numbers do matter because something like a rent strike in New York you're trying to push back against one of the most powerful lobbies that is reliant on numbers for payment. With other sort of different tactical interventions, or blockages of certain circulations of goods, of capital, you don't need loads of people. I just think you have to be precise about what exactly a given tactic is for. Certainly I don't think lots of people trying really, really hard to convince individual capitalists to have better morals is a good idea. Maybe loads and loads of people ensuring that capitalist can't accumulate more capital is a different question.

 

It depends in service of what, what kind of numerousness we should look for or need. I think the presumption that you've just got a million people in the streets and that's necessarily a threat is wrong. I point this out in the book, and I'm definitely not the first person to say it, I think we get a kind of misplaced nostalgia around what radical politics looks like. We think of the really profound successes of mass marches in the sixties, and we might forget that could within that context be read as a threat to the status quo. Because if you don't have the internet, you don't have cell phones, you don't have the kind of speed of transportation, mass transportation we have it's very difficult to get a hundred thousand people together in one place on one day. With Facebook, Twitter, Tic Toc, Zoom, I mean right now it'd be very difficult to get a hundred thousand people together in one day and nor should we try, but that kind of mass gathering of people might be in some sort of historic imaginary what politics looks like, what protest looks like. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm just saying we have to keep in mind that there's a reason based on different technological possibilities now that power doesn't see a gathering of a hundred thousand people as a threat, because it is so much more easy to achieve. Obviously we're having to rethink lots of what a what a tactic, what a togetherness, what a threat could look like now given that we can't even try and be threatening numbers.

 

Laborwave:

Something that you write in your book is something of a reframing and deepening of the classic line, "another world is possible." I want to share it and get your thoughts on it, because it seems very pertinent to the moment. You write, "it's a political imperative to believe, impossibly, that another world is possible, while necessarily being unable to explain that world from the confines of this one." It's almost like you wrote that line for this moment.

 

Natasha Lennard:

I mean what's funny is that I wrote that line in an essay that I like a lot, but it seems kind of frivolous now because it's about a ghost that lives in my childhood bathroom that I both do believe in and don't. The point is that actually when you expand that out there are ethical imperatives to breaking outside of dominant belief systems when those dominant belief systems and ideologies are in service of the current system, of capital, of racism, of the patriarchy. But, it's one of those easier said than done moments. You can't really think outside your context. You can't think outside the constructs that formed you as much as are formed by virtue of us all collectively deploying them and using them and making meaning through them. Meaning isn't made democratically obviously. And that goes from the fact of literal democratic processes and who gets to rule or not, to no less than literally how language gets determined and used and learned, and those sorts of regimes.

I think there's a lot of insurmountable barriers to necessarily imagining a whole new world, but there are obviously grand and crucial needs to do so. So where do you find the cracks? The apertures? Where do you find spaces to collectively make new and better meaning together to remember that these structures are fierce but mutable, they're not immutable. You do see apertures, especially in moments like this. You see cracks and you don't necessarily see a path through, but you see potentials for different kinds of collectivity and collective care.

 

Laborwave:

What do you hope the world will look like after the pandemic has subsided?

 

Natasha Lennard:

I feel like I don't know if I can answer that. I mean, obviously I hope we have a radical revaluation of values and focus, not in terms of financial capital, but actual resources and allocation and sharing those resources as not defined the arbitrary ability to print dollars, which is obviously endless. And that we stop thinking in terms of nation-state governments as if their households, and realize that there simply is enough for everyone. But that's obviously just a dream of rethinking how we can live with and for each other in the world. More realistically, I hope that we do maintain in the areas we have seen thrive right now, this commitment to living for each other.

I really love the work of feminist theorist, Sophie Lewis, who has this idea of surrogacy. Full Surrogacy Now is the name of her book, and what she means by that, by way of a very excellent argument around the surrogacy industry and against surrogacy, is she's invested in this idea of what surrogacy would look like if we were all surrogates for each other in all kinds of different ways. If we ushered ourselves through the world and held each other in our porousness, our wateriness, our undeniable and often conflictual interdependency. So I think this is the moment of undeniable interdependency becoming clear. What would it look like to live well by it would be nice to see.

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