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Interdependence and Mutual Aid

We Are All Connected

Interdependence and mutual aid. Painterly image of a box of cans and a work boot.
Not one thing in our cosmos exists without impacting and being impacted by everything around it.

Recently, we dropped off a case of ready-to-eat vegetarian meal pouches at the Little Free Pantry in our neighborhood. Last time we did a drop off, others were there, too, also dropping off supplies.

This time, I commented “Oh, look. Someone else just dropped off some food. That’s good!”

The person walked away, holding an empty sack that I assumed had been filled with food moments before.

I was wrong.

When I approached the pantry shelves, the only things on them were some sad radishes and one very mushy banana. The person walking away with the empty sack was a neighbor, hoping for food.

The person noticed us, and as we drove off, I saw them turn and head back. Hopefully they like Indian food, because that was what we left.

You wouldn’t necessarily look at my neighborhood and think there was food insecurity here. But you never know. Times are hard for far too many of us.

That neighbor has likely come to rely on whatever food gets dropped at the little pantry, just as the crows, opossums, and songbirds rely on the bird bath in our back yard and the water bowls I fill out front.

That neighbor has likely come to rely on a food source, just as I rely on the trees to give off oxygen, and the bees and wasps to pollinate the plants, and the soldier flies to lay their larvae in the compost heap, breaking down vegetable scraps to feed the soil.

I’ve got friends that regularly feed people sleeping beneath freeway underpasses. I’ve got a comrade who repairs old electronics and gives them away. I’ve learned what kind of donations these friends and comrades can use, to pass things from our household—and from other, wealthier friends—to those who have greater need.

But Mutual Aid takes many forms:
  • There are people who tutor children or adults.

  • There are small groups who volunteer to clean up yards and chop down dangerous trees and cut the logs into firewood for those who want or need it.

  • There are folks who will step between victims and aggressors, breaking up attacks. There are others who offer free self-defense classes.

  • There are people offering counseling services at a discount, paid for by those who can afford a higher fee.

  • There are peer counselors, helping out each other.

  • There are people making art to keep us all inspired.

Everything in the cosmos shares what it has with everything else.

Everything except a few human beings who forget their interdependence, hoarding resources and exploiting others for their own gain. They tip the balance into danger and undermine the tenets of both interdependence and Mutual Aid.

Mutual Aid is predicated on acknowledgement of interdependence. Mutual Aid not charity or philanthropy.

Mutual Aid is the rock bottom, unshakeable knowledge that we are all in this life together and must share what skills and goods we have in order to survive and thrive.

I need help with my computer, and one person I know offers this. I’m happy to listen to a local activist who needs a sounding board. When I was at my sickest, people cared for me. When I am healthier, I care for others, in turn.

This is not a one-to-one exchange. This is not quid pro quo. There is no keeping track or keeping score.

Mutual Aid is the flow of gifts throughout community. One day I need help, another day, you need help. One day I have something to offer. Another day you have something to offer.We all have skills and talents to share. You might give to one person and ask for help from yet another. And that is how it works. Mutual Aid builds functional, healthy, community systems.

We offer what we have and ask for what we need. We build a world—and a community—together.

Crows, squirrels, humans, beavers, wolves, gulls, plants, stars, planets, watersheds, clouds, and trees… there is nothing that exists outside these cycles of life that knit us together into one beautiful, radiant, whole.


Speaking of interdependence, this essay was made possible by my Patreon supporters. They pay for one essay and one short story or poem a month, plus process blogs and other things. My Patreon supporters also fund accurate closed captioning for my YouTube videos. I wouldn't be as creative as I am without their kindness.

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