hello, so I’m here with Combabe Clem who has an amazing youtube channel that I think everyone should go and check out. Check out my channel… and today we would like to talk about collective care there’s like a million definitions of collective care and I think that whatever position that you take will absolutely change it for me it’s doing actions in most of the time the structures of your group rather than like interpersonal things although it also involves interpersonal things but things that are like embedded in the structures of your group that will allow for that group to flourish not only survive on a day to day level, but also grow and be stronger and the movement from full on depression and anxiety and vulnerability to actually being successful and thriving and full of respect for each other is a really important dimension of collective care for me. It’s definitely something that’s lacking for me and whenever it is not, whenever it has been the subject of really good political theory and political action in the feminist movements in the 1970’s, then it’s been recuperated by capitalism and the marketisation and individualisation of self-care or care in general means that we actually have to take the other direction which is focusing on collectives and how communities have to be rebuilt before they can do the incredibly important essential work of caring for each other and also how it has to be demarketised and radicalised to the point where we talk about radical love rather than marketised forms of comfort or sustenance on a daily level it has to be in everything that we do. So if you have meetings, actions, if you have socials all of different aspects of what you’re group are doing to be doing have to have a dimension of it which is we have to take care of ourselves because what we are doing is fundamentally exhausting and we come from a society that will make us also exhaust each other and if you don’t have that then your group just burns out and hurts itself to extinction, and that has happened so many so many times. The idea that if someone is going to be struggling politically then it has to come with a sensation of burnout, it has to come with a form of martyrdom whatever you do taking care of yourself is actually selling out or abandoning struggle or taking time out of very precious time that you have. I see it more as preparation for the action to be successful. It is fundamentally important to sustaining any kind of organisation for any minority self-care is a radical political act in a society that’s constantly trying to push you down it’s a radical political act to reclaim time and care for yourself in a society that’s trying to do the opposite. But for you, what does that look like in practice. I think it depends on the type of organisation. Maybe start by looking at the structures of your group, and then seeing if there are any bigger problems, like burnout or harassment or gendered forms of violence racialised forms of violence etc. or people not having enough time, or the costraints people have if they have caring roles or anything like that and make sure that any kind of support that needs to be brought to these different issues is brought in a way that’s serious and structural in your group. So not just the small things which also count like serving tea or having sessions where people can actually genuinely air their concerns, life debriefs after every big action strong structures of accountability everyone being briefed on what transformative justice is on what intersectionality is, that’s always really important for me. It has to go way deeper than what people think care is. Because care is not just making sure that we’re comfortable at one point in time. It’s making sure that, the damage that’s being done by society every day is not reproduced in our groups and our groups actually foster something much better and a much more positive form of energy and motivation to be able to continue ourselves. Coming from a place of empathy and kindness and compassion for all the other people in your group that you’re organising with can be so much more effective at getting everyone to agree on things and understand each others perspectives and move forward. I think that’s a much better approach that just going into a space, ok we’ve got to get this done let’s do it. Not building those foundations. For me that’s why it’s really important that all of this is formalised and made into democratic structures. The roles that people can take on for instance and the responsibilities are both clearly defined, on rotation. In general, making sure that all spaces are accessible so for instance, having go rounds in the beginning where people can say their gender pronouns so that no one gets them wrong. Making sure that all of this compassion that we can have for each other is not just dependent on people and interpersonal will because most of the time that’s goign to fall on women and people of colour to make sure that it happens. But is actually inscribed in the structures, the very DNA of what your group is. A lot of push-back that I’ve had to my ideas and implementing these ideas in my group haven’t necessarily been like ”oh you’re being hysterical we don’t need this” it’s more, no one is doing it but me all of the labour has been on women, non-binary people and people of colour to make sure that people are comfortable and make sure that people are listened to and make sure people can have their emotional needs met at one point or another which means that we’re also the group that’s more likely to burn out and not benefit from the groups that we put so much of our emotional energy and investment in.
I’ve also been thinking about collective care kind of from a different perspective because recently I’ve been looking more into differnt forms of therapy and I’ve been to therapists in the past and every time it’s been such a strange experience for me because they have such a psychological background which can be useful, but it doesn’t help with the fact that so much of how we’re feeling comes from the systems and structures of our society and I feel like therapists should have an understanding of the fact that if you’re having problems because you’re homeless or if you’re having problems because you’re poor or even sexual abuse, there are so many systemic factors that lead to sexual abuse and often in the past when I’ve been talking about pedophilic culture and stuff, within therapy they haven’t really understood what I’m talking about, I think it’s very problematic that therapy is very focused around psychology as opposed to politics and politicising psychology. Yeah I’ve had the same experiences. Definitely the same experiences And I think all of these critiques are incredibly valid, especially for people who go to therapy and then see their experiences literally just denied to them. I think that’s what I want to implement with collective care. It’s not just getting by day by day and surviving in a shit system. It’s being able to change that system. What I see collective action as is actually a form of collective care because if you’re doing a strike for instance you’re becoming very vulnerable. You’re facing a side of yourself that you don’t want to see which is someone without a job or without money and you’re exposed to the violence of a system that is probably much more powerful than you are but once you win which is likely then you are much stronger because you’ve exposed yourself to deconstruction. You don’t just curl up into a ball in the evening and have a bit of a cry and be like ok I can face tomorrow now I don’t know about the rest of days, but I can face tomorrow now it’s like, no, not only can I face tomorrow but I’m going to be better at facing it. I feel like at the moment we have such individualistic understanding of what self-care means self-care is packages as doing a face-mask buying yourself new clothes a very consumer based approach, which one isn’t accessible to a lot of people and secondly what you’re suggesting actually tackled the material conditions. Self-care rooted in corporations and consumerism isn’t actually tackling any of those things No it actually reinforces them Because it makes you think, well I can survive in this system , it’s not too bad. They’re actually my friends because you know Google offers me yoga sessions every once in a while or oh my god I can buy this branded thing and my life will be like a million times better. But that’s not, brands are not your friends, they’re not your friends. If you start thinking that your sanity in this world, or your health mentally in this world, depends on brands or being able to buy something and be able to work on yourself then that just reinforces the system, it just makes you think now I can face my shitty job and my shitty landlords and this shitty environment and the worlds going to shit and that’s exactly what workplaces have done they’ve hijacked self-care and repackaged it as ”if you do yoga and meditation within our corporation that’s going to make you a more productive worker and it’s going to be good for their profit margin. It keeps you in this equilibrium where you’re meditating to mitigate the effects of capitalism or the effects of your work, that isn’t actually getting to the heart of the problem in any way.
Oh yeah no the more yoga you do, the less pay you get let’s say. Not being anti-self-care but having a critical view of what self-care is and being actually really honest with yourself about what works. The fact that we have such prescriptive ideas about what it means to take care of yourself, means that a lot of the time, it’s not going to work and it’s also going to be balanced towards, as we said, maintaining the same system and not stepping outside the bounds of comfort because not stepping out of your bounds of comfort is so difficult when you’re depressed and your anxious and your out of time and out of money and out of a job and also it just highlights to what extent we live in such an individualistic culture because we’re constantly told that the problems that we have are all our individual problems, it’s something we cognitively need to change, or something about our psychology, our way of thinking our attitude we need to change, as opposed to NO this is a problem with the structure of our society, and this is a problem that can’t be solved by going and meditating this is a problem that needs to be solved by us taking collective action to create changes in the systems that we live in we need to get away from this individualistic way of thinking. Self-care is not necessarily an act, but it’s a movement. A vector towards something towards strength and support and feeling less lonely. If you move away from the act in itself and you go more towards the structure, the movement of where the act will take you I think that’s a much better way of looking at it because it expands but it also frames much better what we want out of it. I mean there’s a really good philosopher called Mark Fisher who was also going through a serious depression and wrote something really, really beautiful about depression. That we all feel it, even though it’s an incredibly isolating thing to be experiencing, we all feel it and in a society that has taken individualism as the lynch-point of where you would start your life, and entire view on life, then actually reclaiming that individualism and saying that’s something that’s so alienating let’s organise around it. Let’s organise around collective care provisions or building better communities or more funding for mental health provisions in universities, which is also a really big thing that’s been developing these days because mental health provision and the NHS and public services is just no, there’s none. That’s actually a really beautiful thing, the fact that, if you think about capitalism as a system that will produce that psychic state of depression and through that will strategically try to distance people from each other, then using that exact thing it has created against it, saying we are all depressed let’s do something about it is not only strategically amazing but also I mean it gives me a lot of hope for the left, because it’s starting to understand that as soon as you include the importance of mental health in our organising then not only do you have a lot more people organising with you because a lot more people feel better organising with you but also you have a lot more wins because that is what holds people together a lot more Recently psychologists have been saying that we live in a society of sickness or a sickness of society, just existing within our society can make you mentally ill But I’ve heard anecdotally of people who go to therapists and they talk about how they’re feeling grief or climate grief or eco-grief and feeling stressed about what’s happening in the world and anti-biotic resistance and climate refugees and all these problems in the world and it completely being dismissed like oh don’t worry about that, just focus on your own life. Yeah and I think it’s becaues a lot of therapists do not even conceive of the possibility of collective action and these things actually working, so they will be like oh it’s not going to work just live your own life and try to be happy. Whereas as soon as you start thinking no actually collective care actually works, then you have a very different outlook on what eco-grief is and what we can do about it. Yeah in my ideal society, I think we would all be given the knoweldge and understanding to be therapists to one another, not just something that some people who have to study for eight years are able to have access to. Society.wants us to be depressed, sad and take self-care measures individually because if all of us came together then that would be a problem for the system so of course they have vested interest.
Don’t do what they want you to do. In keeping us oppressed individually we need to fight, we need to fight back against that. So thank you so much for watching and please make sure to check out Combabe Clem’s channel And we’ve also made a video on her channel. Byeee