The following quotations are from:
Nick Montgomery and carla bergman, Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times
“Empire works in part by constantly attenuating and poisoning relationships. Kinship has been enclosed within the nuclear family, freedom within the individual, and values within morality. Together these enclosures sap relationships of their intensity and their transformative potential. If relationships are what compose the world and our lives, then the ‘free individual’ of modern, Western capitalism (an implicitly straight, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, property-owning man) is a sad and lonely vision: a strange fiction invented by a violent and fearful society, walled in by morality and self-interest. This is an uprooted being who sees his rootlessness—his very incapacity to make and sustain transformative connections—as a feat of excellence.
We suggest that Empire’s grip on relationships is being broken by new and resurgent forms of intimacy through which people come to depend on each other, defend each other, and become dangerous together. Friendship as freedom, in this story, names interdependent relationships as a source of collective power, a dangerous closeness that Empire works to eradicate through relentless violence, division, competition, management, and incitements to see ourselves as isolated individuals or nuclear family units.” 81-82
“Freedom and friendship used to mean the same thing: intimate, interdependent relationships and the commitment to face the world together. At its root, relational freedom isn’t about being unrestricted: it might mean the capacity for interconnectedness and attachment. Or mutual support and care. Or shared gratitude and openness to an uncertain world. Or a new capacity to fight alongside others. But this is not what freedom has come to mean under Empire.” 83
“Under capitalism, freedom is especially associated with free markets and the free agent who chooses based on individual preferences. In spite of colonization and capitalism, this vapid form of freedom still can’t get a foothold in many parts of the world. Even in Europe, where so many tools of colonization were refined, the roots of freedom were different. Centuries ago, some Europeans had a more relationship conception of freedom, which wasn’t just about the absence of external constraints, but also about our immersion in the relationships that sustain us and make us thrive.” 84
Invisible Committee: “‘Friend’ and ‘free’ in English… come from the same Indo-European root, which conveys the idea of a shared power that grows. Being free and having ties was one and the same thing. I am free because I have ties, because I am linked to a reality greater than me.” 85
“When peasants were ‘freed,’ during this period, it often meant that they had been forced from their lands and their means of subsistence, leaving them ‘free’ to sell their labor for a wage in the factories or starve. It is no coincidence that these lonely conceptions of freedom arose at the same time as the European witch trials, the enclosure of common lands, the rise of the transatlantic slave trade, and the colonization and genocide of the Americas. At the same time as the meaning of freedom was divorced from friendship and connection, the lived connections between people and places were being dismembered.
As Empire was enclosing lands and bodies, it was overseeing the enclosure of thought as well. The Age of Reason was marked by a new kind of knowledge that could subdue and control nature and the human body, enabling capitalist rationalization and work discipline. Time and space would become measurable, stable, and fixed. Bodies were no longer conduits for magical forces but machines to be harnessed for production. Plants, animals, and other non-human creatures were no longer kin but objects to be dissected and consumed.” 86
“Whereas morality asks and answers the question: ‘what should one do?’ a Spinozan ethics asks: ‘what is one capable of?’ Unlike the cold abstraction of morality, a body’s capacities can only be discovered through attunement and experimentation, starting right where you are. You never know until you try. I n trying, whether you ‘succeed’ or ‘fail,’ you will have learned and changed, and the situation will have changed, even if only slightly.” 89
“Someone gets in touch with bird migrations, insects, weather patterns: they affect her more and more deeply as she tunes into their rhythms, over months and years. They begin to make her up. The loss is palpable as fewer return each year, and her hatred of the destruction grows alongside her love of the few remaining refuges for nonhuman creatures where she lives. Her rage and despair finds resonance with others, similarly entwined, and they figure out how to fight together. This is neither individual self-interest nor moral altruism. It is relational ethics: the willingness to nurture and defend relationships.
Two friends fold their lives together; they draw new capacities out of each other. They hurt each other, and they work through it, emerging more intertwined than before. They are no longer sure which ideas and mannerisms were ‘their own’ and which belonged to the friend. They know each other’s triggers and tendencies intimately. One finds himself in trouble, and the other drops everything to help, at great personal risk. But this risk and sacrifice is not because it is morally right or because they have calculated that it is in their own self-interest. It is not even felt as a choice; it is something drawn out of them.
Ethics is the dynamic space beyond static morality and vapid self-interest; it is the capacity to be responsive to the relationships that make us up.” 90
“We always begin in the middle: amid our situations, in our neighborhoods, with our own penchants, habits, loves, complicities, and connections. There is no individual that comes before the dense network of relations in which we’re embedded.” 91
“Freedom here is not the absence of restriction or attachment but the capacity to become more active in shaping our attachments. This becoming-active is not about controlling things but about learning to participate in their flow, forming intense bonds through which we become implicated in each other’s struggles and capacities.” 92
“Under neoliberalism, friendship is a banal affair of private preferences: we hang out, we share hobbies, we make small talk. We become friends with those who are already like us, and we keep each other comfortable rather than becoming different and more capable together. The algorithms of Facebook and other social networks guide us towards the refinement of our profiles, reducing friendship to the click of a button. This neoliberal friend is the alternative to hetero- and homonormative coupling: ‘just friends’ implies a much weaker and insignificant bond than a lover could ever be. Under neoliberal friendship, we don’t have each other’s backs, and our lives aren’t tangled up together. But these insipid tendencies do not mean that friendships are pointless, only that friendship is a terrain of struggle.” 93
“By creating relational webs that reinforce the values we aspire to, relationships can help undo patterns that Empire has ingrained. Loving relationships can be what allow us to face the things we fear about ourselves. They can help undo the ways that we have internalized notions that we are not good enough, not worthy of love, or that we have to put up with things that deplete us and those we care about. Relationships of mutual love and support can enable us to see and feel the toxicity of some of our attachments. They can help us to look at our patterns of addiction or depression without shame. Those we love can be our reasons to stay alive when we aren’t sure that we want to. They can help us leave miserable situations by leaping us into the unknown. Friendships can be the source of our capacity to take risks and get in the way of violence and exploitation. They can be what make us dangerous and capable of fighting in new ways. This might be something like what ‘friend’ meant to some of our European ancestors before the witch trials: not just someone to hang out with, but also someone whose existence is inseparable from one’s own.” 96
“While friendship is made vapid by Empire, coupledom and the nuclear family become the container for all other forms of intimacy. As anti-racist, Indigenous, and autonomist feminists have shown, the nuclear family—where one generation fo parents lives with one generation of children, separated from everyone else—is a recent invention of Empire. It was (and is) a crucial institution for the privatization and enclosure of life. It is also central to the maintenance of a culture of authoritarianism, abuse, and neglect that underpins heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. It evolved as a way of reproducing wage-laboring men through the unpaid labor of women. Violence against women and children within the family was condoned as part of a civilizing process, and it became a conduit for intergenerational violence and for the accumulation of white wealth and property through inheritance.
Through feminist struggle, some of the most brutal, state-sanctioned violence of the nuclear family (such as legalized rape and abuse) have been challenged, but it remains a site of isolation and violence, for children in particular. One of its most brutal effects is that it makes other forms of intimacy difficult or unthinkable for many of us. Through suburbs and apartments designed for a privatized existence, the nuclear family is even coded into the built environment.” 97-98
“Creating intergenerational webs of intimacy and support is a radical act in a world that has privatized child-rearing, housing, subsistence, and decision making. Challenging the nuclear family is not about a puritanical rejection of anything that resembles it; it is about creating alternatives to its hegemony, to the dismembering of social relations, to the spatial division of people through suburbanization, incarceration, schooling, dispossession, and displacement. This entails the proliferation of relationships that may or may not be based on blood but are built on care and love. The Latin American political theorist Raúl Zibechi argues that non-nuclear family and kinship networks are at the heart of Latin America’s most transformative and militant movements, piqueteros, and women’s and youth movements. These collective forms of life are based in new forms of dwelling, subsistence, and resistance. At the same time, Zibechi is clear that these are ‘only tendencies, aspirations, or attempts in the midst of social struggles.’ Relationships of mutual support are not a destination but a continual process of struggle.” 101-102
“Friendship, kinship, and communalization have also been at the heart of working across the hierarchical divides of heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonization, ableism, ecocide, and other systems that have taught us to enact violence on each other and internalize oppressive ways of relating. To make kin across these divisions is a precarious and radical act. Everyone knows how difficult this can be and how people fuck up, hurt each other, and blame each other. Those conscripted into oppressive roles can always fall back into old habits. In some cases, people are able to talk about all this in ways that are subtle, gentle, and more attuned to each other’s tendencies, triggers, and gifts, and genuine relations of support emerge.” 103