The Media Co-op

Local Independent News

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!

Fatigue and Struggle

Voir Magazine article about activist burnout written during the Quebec student strike of 2012, now translated into English

by Julien Simard

The red square, popularly worn as a show of support for the 2012 Quebec student strike
The red square, popularly worn as a show of support for the 2012 Quebec student strike

[Original published May 10th, 2012:]

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare. -Audre Lorde

Written with Pascale Brunet.

In this context of a long-term strike, of daily struggle day after day, of low shots of politicians and neurotic media temporality, we can sometimes forget to think about the duration, the length, the slowness. The strike appears as a moment of exception that deserves that we be thrown body and soul in meetings or demonstrations. Many of us crash due to tiredness, anxiety, dreams of cops, pod passages of the Code Morin. We sometimes wonder if we are not reproducing a certain tendency to performance, deeply entrenched in our post-industrial societies. The burnout of the activist? No, the fight continues. We are soldiers, and soldiers stop when they are dead, that's the idea. If you want to think of a post-strike that is difficult to distinguish from the strike, you should perhaps take a black tea with a cloud of milk (around 17h) and think about it. We’ve broken reality, right? Why stop so early? How to continue, expand, root (radicalize, "take root") all this in the coming years?

Between shame and denial, the action freezes. The shame of falling into depression, stopping, having a burnout, shame of not showing up to a demonstration because to rest is what we would secretly want, to heal this long-lasting flu that has lasted for three weeks. At the same time, denial of our own body, its alarm signals, as Paul Lafargue so aptly said a hundred years ago, the "right to laziness" (AK press, 2011). We do not say that this state is generalized, only around us, it turns out to be the truth: "Students exhausted", titled Radio-Canada on May 8. What is Radio-Canada worth? Oh well, it's also an empirical observation, lived and experienced. Does our activist "performance" play the game of power, which would thus determine the temporality, the very space-time of the struggle?

Media time is ruthless: it leaves no room for silence, for listening. Work time is also ruthless. The pocket clock and the punch card have a common birth: the factory. Our societies are bogged down in anxio-depressions and in this dripping awkwardness which is no longer regulated by a strike, but thanks to work breaks issued by doctors, the new mediators of our workforce (De Gaujelac, 2011, Otero, 2012). A relationship with capitalism and economics that has always been realized - even more today than ever - through the body! This good old great body that gets sick, who will fall ill sooner or later, this body in which and by which we are all going to die, probably of cancer. This good old great body that is shook every morning to go to work.

Maybe we should think of the post-strike, or in fact, the continuity of our collective groups, which would be transformed into new "institutions", more permanent spaces for self-management, and inspiring counter-powers? When the recently-passed-away Gil-Scott Heron was singing The Revolution will not be televised, that's a bit what he was saying. To model our struggle in the media structure, we get lost ...

Taking care of ourselves and others, working on emotions, on the social bond itself is traditionally a feminine domain: that’s what anglophones call "care". The "care" is always in the shadows; what we remember from a strike like this is rather the physical struggle or the "serious" political work, the language of the Code Morin, the circus of the political theater, the "negociations". There is still way to go to make our political spaces more feminist and "grounded"! There is no place for the "how are we" in the Code Morin. But the creation of a community implies this silence, this slowness, and the possibility of faults and deviations in the great political march, all up to an ultimate goal. We have trouble talking to the elderly: they speak slowly. When are we going to keep quiet and listen to the words of others, precarious people, people placed in institutions of all kinds, prisoners, differently-abled people?

"The revolution will not be televised," it must be said again. To fight together, side by side between sick people, migrants, workers! "Politics and therapy are one", headlined a page of the Adbuster's magazine at the beginning of winter: precisely, we and our communities are in great need of healing. The structural, systemic, sexual, physical violence of the world is sometimes such that it sneaks everywhere and break our heart, breaks us from the inside. The thing is, in fact, that this is precisely what we need to address: these snakes of power, this micro-violence that finds its echo in political and economic decisions. They are destroying lives, dignities with layoffs and evictions of homes. They have drones, robots, guns, banks and mass media and also polices.

Our counter-powers must be places of inclusion, as much in terms of identity as of physical mobility, of "capacity". Are our forms of political participation based on this paradigm? Accessibility: bringing more and more people into these counters-powers, to the point where we no longer distinguish them from our communities and vice versa. Social change and revolution are about reciprocity, mutual support relationships, based on equality and exchange. Or, as the French sociologist Marcel Mauss would have said, on the logic of gift and counter-gift. It means, among other things, to welcome fatigue, weakness, collapse, but also to recognize in one another the strength, the courage and the intelligence, all at the same time, in a long-term perspective of mutual healing. The culmination (the “Great Night”? Free Tuition?) is important, but not as much as the process, which can take unexpected or unpredictable ways. "Walker, there is no way, the path is created by walking" said the poet A. Machado. As long as our political spaces give us the motivation to continue and we leave aside the shame or even worse, the denial, it should go on that side, on the side of the unpredictable road blah blah. Capitalism gets energy from of our isolation, our atomized lives: let’s keep this energy for ourselves. Let's drink from your eyes instead.


Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.

Creative Commons license icon Creative Commons license icon

About the poster

Trusted by 3 other users.
Has posted 210 times.
View David Gray-Donald's profile »

Recent Posts:

David Gray-Donald (David Gray-Donald)
montreal and toronto
Member since September 2014


1033 words