Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Editorials, US
This essay was originally posted on Philly Anti-Capitalist and written by the Friendly Fire Collective.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in early September we came together to reflect on the trauma that we experienced at the hands of the State this summer (and in general). All of us have been involved in the turbulent street protests that happened over the summer and so far this fall, including the Occupy ICE encampments, the Anti-Blue Lives Matter march, actions in solidarity with the prison strike, etc. Although we all knew each other–some before this summer, others as a result of this summer–there was one person, experienced with therapeutic practice, who most of us met for the first time. This person facilitated the discussion and did a great job doing so. It’s important to have people with this kind of expertise.
Besides talking about and processing our personal experiences with state violence, we also talked about how to foster a political culture that prioritizes mental health care alongside other kinds of work–legal, medical, food, study, writing, research, agitation, street tactics, intelligence gathering, etc. To this end, there should be a collective of people with skills in the mental health field who make their expertise available to those experiencing post-traumatic stress. And this collective should not just be providing their skills, but helping people develop these skills themselves, so that the skills can generalize. We talked about how at a leftist camp for children this summer, for example, there was the concept of the Care Commune, in which caring for each other was meant to be part of everyday camp life, which was primarily devoted to intense theoretical discussion and debate. This included collectivized childcare, artistic activities, meditation sessions, live action role playing, a talent show, and a general spirit of the Care Commune.
It’s crucial to cultivate a space where people are encouraged to be intentionally vulnerable and to reflect on state violence in a freely associative manner. It wasn’t until some of us took part in this meeting that we even began to think about the trauma we had experienced, which we tend to repress and disassociate from. One person didn’t even realize that they had had a panic attack at a protest earlier that week, until they started to share what they were feeling.
Regularly checking in with each other before, during, and after actions, not only about mental health, but also to consider the effectiveness of our strategy and tactics, is all connected. Mental health shouldn’t be an afterthought, but a central part of what we do as revolutionaries. A revolutionary movement will inevitably experience violence and trauma from the police, prison guards, and other armed agents of Capital. If such a movement is to succeed, it will need to address and process the question of trauma and the mental-health problems that arise from it, simultaneously as it challenges state-power.
So where do we go from here?
Here are some suggestions:
- This group should meet regularly to engage in such a practice and open up homes for meals/social gatherings not necessarily centered around an action or specific political goal.
- Hangouts/check ins before and after actions. Establish post demo space for anyone not wanting to be alone.
- Probe personal connections for community care resources in effort to offer them to people coping with mental/physical distress related to political actions.
- Reach out to elders who have experienced state violence in order to learn skills and to normalize trauma affects in relation to state violence.
Let us work together to begin this work of Liberation in ourselves and in our communities!
Let us hold our comrades close! A new world is possible!
Solidarity – and healing – forever!