The Rhizome House is a project that strives to create spaces of encounter for radical ideas and initiatives. This effort does not cease in moments of crisis like this pandemic, and in many ways this endeavor becomes even more important in times such as these.
From the initial stages of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have watched the Trump administration intentionally misrepresent the scale, scope, and risk that this virus poses. Tests have been impossible to come by, preventing us from understanding the size of the problem, in turn preventing us from forming adequate responses. People are losing their jobs, being laid off and confined to their homes. The financial markets are collapsing and the internet is rampant with misinformation and half-truths. This is a time when the one source that we can rely on for support and solidarity is each other.
In the span of a few short days, the material functioning of late-stage capitalism has collapsed, and in doing so shifted the dynamics that frame and confine our existence. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, all major pillars of the United States institutions disintegrated and fell into disarray as it became utterly apparent that they are unable to handle the situation around them. Wall Street went into free-fall and, unable to "pick itself up by its boot straps," went pleading to the government for intervention. The state floundered as it tried to maintain control over the situation, and in many cases (but not all) stark individualism put all of us in danger. People hoarded, speculated and attempted to turn cheap profits from this crisis. Stores are short on supplies, hysteria is starting to break out and we are increasingly being confined to our homes. It is difficult to make sense of the present, let alone the future that will emerge from these events.
We need to be clear about one thing. This is not just a public health crises; this is a social and political crisis. As a society we find ourselves not adequately equipped to handle this situation as post-industrial capitalism has been pushing us towards a place of greater division, alienation, and loneliness. Our roles as "consumers" and "workers" have atomized us to a place where it is only possible to frame our lives in the context of consumption and economic competition. Recent events have pushed this condition to an extreme in a short matter of time. The conditions that led to the lack of available tests, an overburdened healthcare system, and the bailing out of the economy are the same conditions that have left us unable to figure out how to buy basic goods, pay rent, or have any certainty of our security or survival; these are the results of capitalist marginalization, austerity policies and the realities of the politics of the state.
The decision before us is whether we want to go back to a world in which we are separated from the conditions of our own existence, or whether we want to learn from this experience and chart a different course. All around the country people are banding together to build structures of community support, mutual aid and community accountability in the face of crisis. We are increasingly the ones keeping ourselves safe, as the state resorts to naked repression, increasingly relying on curfews and imposing control over economic life as its primary response. In that situation we have to choose to try to reconstruct what was, before the crisis, or to take the structures we are building today to fight for a better future, one where we have control over the conditions of our own lives.
People in Cleveland have a long history of pulling together in hard times. From seemingly perpetual financial crises to our collective responses to police brutality, economic marginalization and gentrification, the people of Cleveland have a proud tradition of banding together, acting collectively and supporting one another when times are difficult and uncertain. These moments are no different. The situation we are facing is unprecedented, and it is forcing definitions of solidarity and community to be rethought. We are all aware that maintaining physical distance from one another is the socially responsible thing to do, but that does not mean that we cannot still act in concert with one another and support these same communities in different ways. Distance does not mean solitude.
To help facilitate autonomous community health, to protect outreach workers who are putting themselves in harm's way, to assist the most marginalized during the crisis, and to work to provide the most up-to-date information and resources available, the Rhizome House is going to be taking the following actions:
- We have published a website with up to date health and safety information, links to resources and organizations that are willing to assist those in need and information about groups around the city organizing mutual aid based community pandemic response campaigns. Please go to https://mutualaid.rhizomehouse.org for more information, printable fliers and links to resources.
- We are working with frontline workers who are taking risks to assist marginalized communities by organizing the manufacture and distribution of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, alcohol pads and nitrile gloves. To continue these efforts we need the following:
- 91% isopropyl alcohol
- Vegetable glycerin
- Paper towels
- Nitrile gloves
- Alcohol pads
- Tea tree oil
- We have also assembled the following flier for distribution, and have begun putting them up around town. These fliers provide a simple list of support resources that are available. Please print or share the PDF with your friends. You can get the PDF here
- We are working with community members to release a zine titled Hands Please, a reference to a phrase used by healthcare workers to remind one another to wash hands and practice good hygiene. The zine discusses the spread of Coronavirus, the importance of hand washing, proper hand washing procedure, and provides instructions on how to produce hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. You can get a copy of the zine here
As the crisis proceeds we will continue to update these resources, and will likely be producing more. For questions or to offer donations please email firstname.lastname@example.org