Today, we are told, we should go out and participate in the so-called political process: stand up and be counted, let our voices be heard, pick the man who supposedly best represents our interests. That is fine. We are not for or against it. We are agnostic. In truth, we are living and dying in another universe altogether--we are aliens from the future who recognize the perils and the promises of our latest disaster.
Ten days ago, the climate went on strike against Wall Street -- and we all got flooded. The tide surged and the lights went out. Our friends and families, our neighbors and communities, our networks and allies were under water and in the dark. Our lives are at stake. We could not wait for the State. We had to step in.
We declare a state of emergency. This is our emergency. They have tried to claim it--in their own belated, uneven, incompetent manner. For them, the emergency is a temporary problem to be managed and administered in the name of restoring things to normal. But their normal was already a perpetual emergency for us--an emergency of economic inequality, debt-bondage, racial oppression, union-busting, municipal austerity, ecological destruction, police violence, historical amnesia, and more...
We will not allow a return to normal.
The People's Emergency responds to the crisis; we set up distribution centers and energy-generators; we mobilize volunteers; we raise money and attract media; we help folks on the ground when their lives are in danger from hunger, darkness, and exposure to the elements.
But the People's Emergency is not a humanitarian operation. It is not about charity. We are not an army of salvation or an agency of administration. We wear red squares, not red crosses. We are creating autonomous zones for community and solidarity, not camps for managing the lives of powerless victims.
We are autonomous, but this does not mean that we are indifferent or hostile to the State and the vital services it could or should provide. We are simply stepping into the void to do things for ourselves as the clock ticks and the Winter storms approach.
The National Guard has come to sniff around our autonomous zones. The young working-class New Yorkers in uniform--Black, Latino, Irish, Italian, East Asian, South Asian, Arabic, Jewish, Polish, Slavic--see themselves and their communities in the disaster; they see themselves in the People's Emergency, because they come from the same places we do.
At heart they are good people and they want to help, but they are hamstrung by their commanders and their marching orders. They roll up in their armored vehicles, but they don't know how to plug in. They are disarmed. They ask us what to do and where to go, like newcomers used to do back when we had Zuccotti Park. We tell them to get in line at the back of our trucks and help unload the care packages being sent from communities around the city and the region. They offer their cardboard MREs: cold freeze-dried meals cooked up in a military-humanitarian factory months ago and stored for the latest disaster. We politely nod, but we are more concerned with laying out warm aluminum trays of homemade lasagna, arroz y gandules, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, biryani, chicken noodle soup, halal and kosher meats, vegan lentil salad, apple pie...and magical brownies for those who choose to partake after hard days of shoveling debris, pumping out basements, sorting boxes, lugging generators, shuttling volunteers, directing traffic, taking care of the kids and the elders.
The People's Emergency is a real emergency for the 1% because we intend to sustain our intensive care units beyond the immediate crisis of food and blankets and electricity. We assume the State and the companies will eventually come to restore power, haul out the rubble, put people in trailers, and so on--not because of any deep love of humanity, but because of the shitshow they will have on their hands if they continue to neglect the hardest-hit communities. Among other things, the State will offer emergency loans, backed up by corporate debt-collectors. Real-estate developers and disaster capitalists of all sorts will be swooping in too. We will be prepared.
The People's Emergency is doing something different than the disaster-management of the state and the traditional relief organizations. Even as we respond to the short-term crisis, we are building power from below and establishing networks of intensive care and mutual aid for the long-term. In the coming months, we will see the People's Bailout to abolish predatory debts; we will see the establishment of debt-clinics throughout the city; we will mobilize for an Eviction-Defense of the Earth of November 17th; we will see the Black Friday strike by workers and communities against Wal-Mart; we will see a People's Reconstruction from Red Hook to Staten Island to Rockaways and beyond. In each case, we will practice direct action in the deepest sense of the word: everyday folks taking matters into their own hands, outpacing and outsmarting the corporate and governmental agencies tasked with managing and containing the potentially revolutionary life-energies of the People.