On ISIS and Mindfulness

My newest blog post about the politics of mindfulness meditation over at Medium: https://medium.com/@eastonsmith/on-isis-and-mindfulness-d2882f020745#.hf6qwlwr9

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Alfreds Or Precarious Workers in the Globalized Political Economy

I wrote a response piece to a rather interesting article in Medium about the “Shut-in Economy”. My piece talks about the missing class analysis, and about the language we use to discuss precarity and why it is important.

An excerpt:

“As Smiley notes, the name Alfred effectively covers up the fact that the majority of the “Alfreds” are actually women. But the name covers up even more than just this gendered aspect of the work — it covers up the exploitative nature that is at the core of the entire scheme. “Alfred” effectively erases the fact that there are real people, doing real work, with real lives that they have to manage, and it replaces these real people with a caricature. It is easier to abuse, neglect and marginalize the needs of a caricature from another world.

Ironic humor works as a veil in the high-technology, service economy. If users can poke fun of themselves and their aristocratic lifestyles, they can feel absolved. As long as they know that it’s ridiculous, they don’t have to do anything about it. “We’re trying to remove the taboo and the guilt that you should have to do it,” says Alfred’s CEO. “Do it,” in this case, means do anything that you don’t want to do. And that is the goal of this economy — to enable the wealthy to spend all of their time accumulating more wealth, without needing to deal with the petty details like taking care of the core-human needs like washing, cooking, watching your kids, etc.”

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The State, Occupy, and Disaster: What Radical Movement Builders Can Learn from the Case of Occupy Sandy

By Easton Smith


Occupy Sandy Distribution Hub at St. Jacobi Church in Brooklyn

Nearly two years ago a group named Occupy Sandy organized an unprecedented response to the unprecedented disaster that was Hurricane Sandy. Occupy Sandy, which was sparked by a few radical activists who knew each other from Occupy Wall Street, accomplished very significant feats for any organization, let alone one that was created ad-hoc and spontaneously in the days immediately following a disaster. Occupy Sandy (OS) dispatched tens of thousands of hot meals, more than 60,000 volunteers and was in the hardest hit areas of New York City, often times before the Red Cross or FEMA arrived and after they left. The efforts of Occupy Sandy signify a qualitatively and quantitatively impressive achievement for the radical political activist community in New York City and the surrounding area and for the “Occupy” social movement more widely. This novel achievement can be an instructive reference for organizers and movement builders of all stripes.

The achievements and pitfalls of the Occupy Sandy’s tactics and strategy contain salient lessons about how to build large scale, direct-aid organizations and broad social movements in horizontal and effective ways. The ways in which Occupy Sandy interacted with the state in a crisis situation can likewise teach us valuable lessons about how to effectively organize radical projects without being co-opted, marginalized or outright repressed. The activist community in the United States as a whole, however, does not know that much about what happened in the weeks and months following the storm, and those who participated in the efforts have few resources for reflecting on and understanding the value of their work.

In order to study Occupy Sandy for its political and practical lessons we need to have resources that document the movement with its complexity and many components in tact. Continue reading

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