Essays, etc.

My name is Diana. I make things but generally not very well. I put thoughts here.

> Revolution and the World of the Heart

Revolution and the World of the Heart

I want to tell you about my revolution. I want to tell you because, for me, it has already happened.

Inside my heart there is a door, and behind that door gleams another world, one where we overthrew the settler and the capitalist and buried them both, once and for all. Life is different for us beyond that threshold, without war or poverty or privation. I doubt you'll believe me when I tell you: those things are not our destiny as humans, but are inculcated by enforced material circumstances. Indeed, what we have overthrown are those very systems and institutions which bred scarcity and greed and brutality. You would recognize how we spend our days, in work and play alike, but our rationales might seem alien. We do the work that needs doing, and we decide what that work is, individually and collectively. Some days, I clean the toilets because I don't want them to be gross. Together with other like-minded people, public bathrooms remain generally pristine. Other days, I participate in the elevation of thousand-year monuments to solidarity and cooperation, testaments to the capabilities we possess as a massive living complex. Usually, I work in a basement, where my spreadsheets coordinate local grocers without prices. It doesn't matter whether you believe me about "how it works" because it is just a way of life. Even in this time and place of overwhelming cruelty, I can choose to live that way.

As Le Guin said before us: the means are the ends. Our principles imbue us with a duty to enact them, so I do. I try, anyway. This world doesn't make it easy, so my obligations and ambitions alike spread like vines up and down the face of this era. I must see to my kin, so I secure the means; to secure the means, I sell my body; to escape the sale, I construct an independent logistical basis; to construct it, I form tight bonds in a material community; to scale it, I lay roots and ties in pursuit of federation. I do this to realize a world of which I have only dreamed, whose compassion and justice fill my spirit to bursting, which seems more like home than anywhere I have ever been. However far I feel from it, my body recalls it like a bird knows north. I move in alignment with a society that has yet to exist, though without any doubt that it could – that it will.

This is not the story of the killing fields where the rending limbs of death gods were broken and humbled once and for all. Mine is the story of decay, of compounding catastrophes and the inability of a staid and decrepit order to confront them, and of all the things we did to survive as the world that made us came to an end.

Negligence governed the empire's final years. Industrial arteries broke down for want of able governance: roads decayed, bridges collapsed, profiteers poisoned the water, and all the critical institutions we required became overwhelmed, expensive, and inaccessible. The police reigned in those days, sitting with a gun to the head of princeling mayors, overseeing internment camps with ever-deepening malice, and killing with impunity. Everything about our existence was prison-like, however often we heard that we alone were free. Everyone knew something had to change, but even unarmed insurrection faced gas and bullets. So we made small lives and passed around what we needed to live, back and forth, again and again, because the alternative was a humiliating expiry by exposure mere meters from shelter. It wasn't enough for everyone, and I mourn the people we lost every day, but it was the best we could do. That's all you can do, in the end.

Apologists vociferously disagreed that the state was withering when its atrocities grew only more egregious, but that was exactly what it was doing. Every absence we felt, every crucial want unmet was a sign of its abandonment. Ultimately, it didn't matter what moderates thought because they never showed up: every conversation about appealing to the middle amounted to nothing because the solidarity of such fickle friends amounted to nothing. Their political locus existed solely to transmute discontent into despair. Words couldn't awaken them the way tribulation did: it wasn't my manifestos that radicalized them; it was my hand pulling them from the rubble.

Sometime during my childhood or perhaps before my years, something tipped over. The twin titans of capital and colony, which animated the animus of my enemies, had somehow overplayed their hand. Crippled by paranoia and arrogance, they lost the ability to topple their subjects long before they lost their grip on the core where we lived. Once self-assured imperial bureaus found their agents exposed en masse, their puppets laughed out of their positions. Time and again even their assassins amounted to bumbling fools. Free elections ousted settler governments and revolutionary states nationalized extractive industries with intent to curtail them almost entirely. Those coups which the empire could still exact proved ephemeral, as popular movements returned to power again and again. It was in those far-off places that the government I now serve was born, in the hands of peoples my keepers had once devastated.

While they fought death squads, I focused on growing the whisper-nets that tied together the enclaves of those I trusted, and those they trusted, and so on. Our secretive exchanges of goods and information matured under duress into durable distribution practices. We made humorous names, like the Greater Western Co-Prosperity 'Cule, but the work was a matter of survival. I fought famine, drought, plague, suicide, and freak weather. As a flailing gerontocracy illegalized us axis by axis, our connections crystallized, and the logistical network we had agonizingly maintained came to vivid life. I'll tell you, you can accomplish great and terrible things when you're staring down mass death.

As our circles became cells and teams and members of decentralized civic organs, laid-off workers organized into syndicates of the commons. Squatter associations repurposed empty apartment towers held by speculators; wildcat engineers implemented an independent utilities grid. I and comrades across the continent fused radio-towers and junked routers into a new internet as the old one imploded, and it endured even the quake that flattened half my hometown. The pieces of a new society emerged leaf-like from the carapace of a rotten past.

No specific institutional disintegration transformed our faction-of-factions into a fighting force, though earth-shifting degradation shook each season. Rather, our ties deepened and evolved as we surmounted the challenge of each new crisis. I awoke one day with the realization that we had developed practical zones of control and intercontinental infrastructure that, however improvised, had taken on permanent natures. We were only rushing into the vacuum left by the state's desiccation, yet because we didn't practice borders, the empire could save face and imagine that they remained the master of what they could not control. Our rough dominion fortified in plain sight.

The street battles happened later. Despair succored most, then and now; I found one could only rise to the task if they instead grieved. Grieve for what was taken, what was lost, what will never be no matter how much you need it. Grieve so that you can apprehend clearly how the present unfolds. Once you have grieved, once you find your soul in your hands like a white-hot tool of infinite potential, you will find your place in the broad front. Then, death takes on a different nature, as you live for something bigger than your body. I gave myself to the effort, but not everyone who did survived. That's what it means to live in an indifferent universe: to bear choice and mortality alike, and the awful tension they share.

After the state had necrotized enough, there remained nothing to stay its worst impulses. The police fought like bastards, even without badges, but we had a more genuine courage on our side. A frightened bigotry drove most pigs; that's why they acted so viciously. They didn't understand how they'd been used and weaponized, and that ignorance left them cowardly bullies. We found that if you could cow the cop, you could scatter their ranks. To protect and serve was just another job, and when push came to shove, pigs loved life more than work. Hired from three 'burbs over, they always lacked the home-field advantage.

The military never came to rout us out. It had bigger problems, until even their own logistical basis had crumbled: jets without fuel, tanks without munitions, soldiers without food. The magnitude of our prevailing catastrophes could not be overstated: the old ways, despite all their commanding power and complex dependencies, did not and could not survive. Once the dust had settled, nothing remained of my enemies but stragglers and scars.

Recovery took generations. We overturned one set of institutions to raise up others we could imagine, to best befit our highest ideals of agency and camaraderie. But the world we had fought for, we found we couldn't quite realize. Bearing decades of struggle, haunted by countless horrors, we turned staid in our own way. It fell to our children to do the greater imagining. In a bloodless revolution, a novel standard emerged to unite the world. Power flowed from one body into the next, in good faith among peers.

Neither a nation nor a state proper, our government came into being as a kind of shared trajectory, a crucible of systems to enact the mandates we curried as peoples, honed through continuous reinvention. If you could see it, you might call it many governments, or many syndicates, an eternal revolution or what have you – the words don't matter as much as the doing, and with so many languages in our midst, with so many cultures and heritages and traditions, how could only a few words suffice? Ours is a way of life now, the likes to raise a child in, to grow old in, to pass on and into, beyond the grasp of capital and colony. It is not some watchword or slogan. It is a place, it is my home, and its sunbeams feel as real as any other.

It doesn't matter whether you believe me. Believe your senses and the writing on the wall. Lift up the compassion from the reality in your heart and mete it diligently into the foundations of a new world, the world that you need, so that by our love and faith we might realize the unimaginable. What else is life for, if not to distinguish ourselves from the inanimate through willful deed and the sharing of our dearest dreams?

I know the future is scary. I was scared too, but I need you to understand: we won. We can win again.

February 6, 2023