Taenia solium, or the pork tapeworm, is a parasite that can be contracted by eating infected meat. If ingested, its larvae will find its way into your brain where they’ll cause cysticercosis, a disease that’s symptoms include headaches and seizures. In severe cases, cysticercosis may even cause death, but this disease is still better for your brain than watching Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing.” This 1999 political drama ran for seven years and covered the fictional Presidency of Josiah Bartlet, a Democrat occupying the noble center of the political spectrum.
”The West Wing” cements a number of problematic assumptions into the American public consciousness about the political process. There are no harmful systems, only individuals. Politics are a romantic and high endeavor disconnected from processes on the streets. Dramatized depictions of politics from ”The West Wing” to ”Parks and Recreation” create a limited picture of political structures, excluding the manifold possibilities that exist outside the boundaries of the government, its fractal administrative departments and its enforcement mechanisms — the web of organizations and people that compose the state.
If you are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs — with racism, patriarchal oppression, ableism, capitalist exploitation, imperialist wars — your ability to produce change is far closer within your reach outside of government institutions meant to reproduce or paper over these social ills. There are many avenues to exercise politics through outside of the state, and the key to finding them lies in how oppression works.
Houselessness, wide-spread hunger, police brutality, imperialism, you name it — all of these forms of systemic oppression are examples of non-state actors (civilians and their organizations) being subordinated under the state and the capitalist class that manages it. Organizing the victims of oppression is just as valid a political act as legislating and executing oppressive policies from seats of government. It is critical that we understand the manifold ways in which we can accomplish those politics.
Rent is one of the sharpest expenses incurred by most Americans, with median costs of housing in the summer season breaking $2000. While the cost of rent and the means of housing the population are controlled by landlords and the state that legitimates them, the housing market is not an infallible god. Rather, it is only functional insofar as renters participate in it and adhere to the terms of the people and corporations who hoard (stolen Indigenous) land. Organizing tenant unions, rent strikes
, and occupying unused housing are utterly political acts that actually serve people’s needs and improve their material conditions. Ongoing and past projects that serve as a model of this organizing work are the Connecticut Tenants Union, the Crown Heights Tenants Union in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Moms 4 Housing in Oakland, C.A.
Organizing a union is the easiest way to disrupt the oppressive and tyrannical conditions of most workplaces under capitalism. This economy, which is dependent on the labor of the majority class of service, maintenance and transportation workers, is not just regulated by policy. Organizations of working class people which can coordinate work stoppages and bargain collectively can exercise immense political control — especially considering that the United States’ economic magnitude is what justifies its imperialistic role of policing the rest of the world through sanctions and very, very large guns.
Civil rights are mostly associated with the legal and legislative process, as enshrining freedoms in policy is the most intuitive way of protecting them. Unfortunately, one of the most salient lessons of the civil rights movement is that legal gains are rarely permanent, as evinced by the fact that the many wins of the Civil Rights Movement are continually subject to being rolled back. The purpose of organizing outside of the confines of the state is to protect the rights that alternating neoliberal and fascist regimes are not guaranteed to value. Dual power, or the creation of independent institutions outside of the government that act as a counter-balance to state violence and capitalist exploitation, is precisely meant to sever our dependance on legal protections drafted by the class oppressing us. Dual power poses the critical question of whether the state can protect and understand the needs of the people better than the people themselves.
When traditional politics do not solve our problems — and more specifically, when traditional politics are the problem itself — it is incumbent upon us to grasp our from where it grows: right from beneath us.