Note: This is an abridged version of a longer essay that can be found here
As a Black futurist, I chose Abolish Time as a tagline because I felt the demand, in its apparent impossibility, confronts the social dynamics that exploit the ordering of time. By “ordering” I mean the structuring of our social landscape such that our collective behaviors are both predictable and non-threatening to the state and its monopoly on violence. I studied under mentors who saw their growing influence as inevitable, unstoppable, and exponential. I spent time in Vanguard parties and cadre-led organizations where members openly advocated that we save our resources for the next wave of protests in order to yield the highest number of new recruits. I’ve been fired from multiple workplaces because managers believed their control over their remaining employees would go uncontested with me out of the way. These experiences all showed me some of the ways I’d been naive about how struggles, however righteous, would play out.
The state’s existence is predictable without a liberation movement that can threaten its position in everyday life. Because of this fact, it’s relatively easy to make accurate predictions about what most people will do when they are subjected to forms of social power that are backed up by the state. A white supremacist country will always be dedicated to the project of eugenics. A patriarchal society will always imperil the livelihoods of women, trans and queer folks. Landlords will always be willing to evict when rent goes unpaid. Bosses will always try to punish workers who contest their workplace conditions. These systemic patterns are all made possible, in part, by smaller-scale patterns of behavior from people who feel entitled to wield those forms of power. And those forms of power have largely been accessible in a consistent and uninterrupted way up until the overlapping global crises we find ourselves within today.
While the state remains intact and only a fraction of the tools at its disposal were temporarily suspended, we have all witnessed an interruption to certain dynamics that we were taught to believe were uncompromisingly permanent features in our daily lives. The taste of a life impacted by surveilled wage labor just a small percentage less has threatened longstanding unapologetically ableist workplace cultures. Mass quits are common, workers “ghost” jobs that don’t meet their basic needs, people are burning out from institutions that were never sustainable. Traditional organizing strategies have been forced to take matters of accessibility more seriously. The pace of a world that leaves those of us behind who can’t keep up suddenly slowed, offsetting the ratio of people who are intended to navigate precarity. One of the main throughlines I’ll be touching on in this series is the fact that these changes have a lot to do with the increased amount of time we found ourselves with.
The normal configuration of the workweek was deliberately engineered to restrict our free time to the point that we are unable to thoroughly process the experiences we accumulate under capitalism. We have only enough time to reproduce ourselves for the next work week. This restrictive position makes it difficult for us to develop and defend strong boundaries about the kind of treatment we are willing to tolerate. In many ways, we cannot afford to object to our conditions. Alongside the 2020 uprisings were also a wave of callouts of harm and abuse, disturbing decades of silence and inaction in the face of intracommunal violence. Despite celebrity leftists and “revolutionary” vanguard’s best attempt to condemn so-called “cancel culture” on a national stage, folks on the ground who reject abuse apologism and happen to be discarded survivors themselves have insisted on prioritizing safety and care in movement spaces.
This development has created a level of friction between leadership bodies and their base membership that I believe is greater than ever before. This is a development that I also believe can be attributed, in part, to the increased amount of time we have to ourselves and our increased reliance on technology to communicate with each other. In the context of social media, more of us have been communicating about our experiences with a relatively wider audience than when most of our socialization happened in person, at the workplace, in meetings with comrades. As previously stated though, this is just a part of these cultural shifts. These same conditions that have emerged during the pandemic have also increased the rates of domestic violence*, making abuse more visible for a lot of people. Outside of the connections I’ve made online through my platform, most people I know personally have come in contact with abuse either directly or through their friends and loved ones’ anecdotes since Quarantine began.
Alongside housing and financial insecurity, which we have largely tried addressing through various mutual aid strategies, the threat of interpersonal violence has become more severe. We are much further from reaching a consensus on what we should do about harm and abuse than we are able to agree on how we can care from each other and collective care is still incredibly difficult for many people to access or practice. Neoliberal fascism has made it clear that it agrees with everyone who condemns cancel culture, and the number of people who support this position grossly outnumber those of us who stand in opposition to abuse apologism. However, as our discernment grows and the number of networks practicing survivor-centered care increases, DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender) tactics are becoming less effective. The more this happens, the more conflict emerges in spaces and formations where these norms of safety and care have not taken root.
Groups that have always responded to interpersonal violence by purging, isolating, and attacking survivors are having to grapple with members who can no longer stomach this kind of business as usual. This dynamic is not necessarily at the core of every formation that has found itself in serious crisis this year, but it does account for a significant number of them. Unsustainable work practices that lead to burnout are just as formidable a crisis that many managerial bodies are having to grapple with. However; just because a crisis emerges does not mean that the outcome will favor those of us fighting for liberation in the margins of society. After reflecting on all of the above, I began trying to map out the different trajectories people are likely to take when a new dynamic, conflict, or crisis emerges in a group formation. I tried including worst-case scenarios that play out all too often as well as best-case scenarios that most of us rarely, if ever, see. As I began to share my map with other people, I received excited affirmations and started working harder to try fleshing it out and organize the map in an accessible way.
Mapping The Rupture Of Reality has been my personal working title because I feel we are witnessing an instability of what we perceive to be possible. In the context of this project, the “rupture” refers primarily to disruptions to organizational patterns. The “reality” is our collective behavior within those patterns, how we move through social space, how we plan for the future, which power dynamics we play off of or oppose. Less abstractly, this project is about organizational conflict, co-optation, hierarchical power, insurrectionary survival, militant care, and our proximity to capital. It will include a discussion of Abolition strategies taken up by Anti-Authoritarians or diluted by liberals and the current of Black Anarchic Radicalism that has made a huge impact in anti-capitalist organizing circles. In the next entry in this series, we will begin with the first point in our map and explore the branches that stem from it.