Capitalism makes us think that having our basic needs met is revolutionary. It’s a lie.
But aren’t we tired of making do? Aren’t we exhausted by the stories and marvels of making something out of nothing?
The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us, and which knows only the oppressors’ tactics, the oppressors’ relationships. -Audre Lorde
I check my bank account every day, regardless of whether or not I make any purchases. If I order takeout, I compulsively check my refrigerator and cabinet for the rest of the week, sometimes literally dreaming about the food I’ll make the next day. I promise myself that I’ll use only what’s inside, and if there’s a recipe, the ingredients will be substituted for what’s already here.
But there’s always something that I don’t have and I do the walk of shame into the grocery store, berating myself for not being able to make do. I think of what I could’ve done with the money instead, like save up to afford health insurance, or buy a much needed bra.
And while waiting in line at the check stand, I check my account again because I know exactly what it’s like to be ushered away when my card declines, with everyone pretending like they don’t know what’s happening. As if brokeness is contagious and will rub off on them.
If someone is behind me, I cover the available balance with my thumb. When my account online, towards the upper right hand corner is a question, “Save password?”. I say no each time because I fully expect password savers to steal what little money I do have.
I’ve gone to the restroom during dates, romantic and otherwise, to discreetly transfer money from my savings account to checking. Even when whomever I was eating with offered to pay the bill, I’d insist we split it. And most times, they made at least twice my income. I’ve pretended to have these things because the look on folks’ faces when they know I don’t never quite leaves. And even when I need something, nobody wants folks’ “handouts”.
I grew up in public housing. I was 9 years old the first time I helped my mom make a repair that our soon to be landlord was legally required to make. We had an inspection coming up and desperately wanted to move into the house. He promised he’d fix it completely once the inspection passed, and after it passed, he pretended not to know it was still broken. I internalized all of it.
I keep telling folks I’m lucky to be able to write and work part time, with the income from that covering my housing costs. I say I’m lucky to mostly create my own schedule. And that when my carpal tunnel, IBS, anxiety or depression flare, I can take days off. I say I’m grateful to be able to attend funerals of my loved ones without receiving flack from my supervisor, or worse, having to mourn a death secretly because I just can’t get the time off.
I say all these things, because I’m angry that they are both true and not. Am I really lucky? Is this what luck looks like? I’m angry that this is even a thing to begin with. I’m infuriated with the ways capitalism fuels ableism especially, demanding that we constantly produce lest we be deemed unworthy, lazy and irredeemable. I’m angry with myself for internalizing the idea that if I saved enough, I’d be okay, all the while knowing that capitalism ensures none of us are ever really okay.
The intersections of capitalism, colonialism and anti-Blackness have done such a successful, thorough, and frightening number on Black folks that getting our basic needs met is packaged as revolutionary instead of the bare minimum. The systems that created the conditions in which Black folks do not rest are the same ones that dangle “possibilities” in front of our faces in an effort to appease us. I’m tired of that story.
Getting basic needs met is not revolutionary, it’s the bare fucking minimum. And any system/society that frames needs as optional has already mastered the violence it takes to ensure its communities never reach it. The bullshit propaganda that encourages us to be meek and eternally grateful when receiving food, shelter and health care are all byproducts of intentional systems that require our suffering.
Housing is a human right that all of us deserve and the ability to pay shouldn’t even be a part of the conversation, but it is. There are folks in my world now who pay rent on time and yet, don’t have full use of their kitchens, restrooms, bedrooms.
They are afraid to contact their landlord for repairs because they fear retaliation, harassment, and eviction. So they stay, refusing to “cause any issues” because the conditions in which they live now have become so utterly routine that there is no fight left in them to say they deserve more.
I worry because some of their roofs have caved in and it may rain soon. I worry because some of them use the showers at work to clean themselves, and a lot of them are elders, who feel like they should be grateful for having a roof (or half-roof) over their heads when so many folks who look like us are either sleeping on the streets or in their cars. The ones who sleep in cars risk being ticketed by the city for doing so.
And it makes me think about how insidious and romanticized not resting is across generations. Capitalism gaslights poor folks for being poor and then humiliates them in their everyday lives for looking like they need and/or when they ask for support.
In my family, no one wants to retire. They think that if they retire, they might as well start digging their own graves. Imagine, millions of bloodlines across the world whose DNA and memories have been impacted by the expectation that they be constantly in service of (and indentured to) producing, that any hint of a lilt in their productivity is grounds for death. The metaphorical whip is still there, showing off and requiring that we bleed, toil, and cower.
Folks have gone into cardiac arrest, bled out and eventually died on workroom floors, while managers directed other employees to continue working. Their families then had to raise money for funerals as the companies shirked accountability for developing a work culture that required folks to complete their shift, even as they experience critical health crises.
White violence has encapsulated our lives ingeniously, to the point that even our rest is a direct risk and platform of resistance against the means of production and consumption. But aren’t we tired of making do? Aren’t we exhausted by the stories and marvels of making something out of nothing? Don’t we hear the hum of picking ourselves up by our bootstraps when we sleep? Is that true rest? Aren’t we over working twice as hard for half as much?
Fuck that. I’m ready for revolution. I’m ready for movements that expect and require our basic needs to be met first. I’m ready for a world that does not require our all while promising this future dreamscape where we finally get the bare minimum. I’m ready now. Fuck tomorrow.