A conversation with nursing student and organiser, Cindy
A few years ago I had a beautiful conversation with Cindy for my blog. In this new podcast episode we got to reconnect and discuss allopathic medicine, bodywork, prisons and solidarity. We also got pretty deep into individualism, celebrity culture and learning to live collectively.
Cindy is currently a nursing student, parent, and organizer with a group working to abolish prison slavery, in community with people impacted by the system and medical workers. They are the parent to an amazing almost-4 year old, and have worked for the past 8 years as a massage therapist and bodyworker. Cindy finds a lot of hope and grounding in speculative fiction. www.cindysamanthalmt.com
Cindy’s shout outs:
- Eyes on you NYC, a committee of community members, formerly incarcerated people, lawyers, and medical providers who have seen first hand the impact of the systematic white supremacy of NYC DOC, COBA, and NYPD, and are demanding that all prisoners in NYC Jails and external holding sites be released and all jails close permanently.
- Stop Cop City, a coalition of organizations working to stop the building of an enormous police training center in Atlanta that would destroy a large part of the Atlanta forest.
- Ayelet Haschachar offering trans-centred herbal care and anti-zionist Hebrew lessons
- Left Voice, an internationalist socialist organisation active in the US and Latin America
Kes Otter Lieffe: Hi, I’m Kes Otter Lieffe and welcome to Margins and Murmurations the podcast. If you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends. As I don’t have social media, this is the best way for people to find out about me. And if you’d like to know more about my work, you can check out otterlieffe.com otter like the animal, L I E F F E, and you can support this podcast at patreon.com/otterlieffe
A few years ago, I had a beautiful conversation with Cindy for my blog, and in this new podcast episode, we got to reconnect and discuss allopathic medicine, body work, prisons, and solidarity. We also got pretty deep into individualism, celebrity culture, and learning to live collectively. I hope enjoy the episode.
Cindy is currently a nursing student, parent and organizer with a group working to abolish prison slavery and community with people impacted by the system and medical workers. They are the parent to an amazing, almost four year old and have worked for the [00:01:00] past eight years as a massage therapist and body worker.
Cindy finds lots of hope and grounding in speculative fiction.
Cindy: Hi. This is so nice.
Kes: I’m so excited. Um, I was just saying before, but I’ll say it again, like, I’m really loving this, um, podcast experiment because it’s giving me like such a nice reason to reconnect with people that I really want to like, know how you’re doing and catch up and have a little chat and talk about some ideas and I’m really, really enjoying it.
Thank you for being here.
Cindy: Thank you so much for inviting me. Yeah, it means a lot. It’s very humbling
Kes: Thank you
Cindy: Because I’m a huge fan of your work! No, I really am because we were talking about it and yeah, I just need to say that, um, I’m like a little bit of a fan kid over here, so it’s very like, you know, I’m sure you and other people have that experience of getting to like, talk to someone whose work has been very meaningful for them.
It’s like a very, um, like grounding and humbling experience and it’s kind of just like very. Cool and validating and um, and it, it is a good reminder of, um, it’s a good reminder of like community and hope in that way, even when, when things are feeling kind of hopeless.
Kes: Hmm. Thank you for making me blush.
Um, the background of that is that Cindy tried to write something about how much they like my work in the bio that I just read, and I refused to read it. I got embarrassed. Anyway, you got it in. Um, so first question. Um, You know, I think a lot about like more than human nature, other than human nature.
And I’m curious about, yeah, where you are and the more than humans that are around you today.
Cindy: Yeah. Um, well, I’m in my home in Brooklyn. I actually, um, live not too far from a [00:03:00] prior guest and our mutual friend Ayelet mm-hmm. . So I’m, I’m very much in the same kind of, I listen to her episode and I really appreciate the way she described the neighborhood.
One thing that I’ll add about our neighborhood is that it is this really mix of, um, of like, Very wealthy, these huge Victorian houses, which I live in the attic of one. Mm. Um, and uh, like rent stabilized or rent controlled, quickly becoming unranked controlled through gentrification, um, housing and, and you know, slums that are maintained as slums so that landlords can extract capital and all this stuff.
And one of the funny things about the neighborhood and other than humans is that it often smells like shit, like the sewage system around here just is shitty. Like it just smells. So sometimes you walk out and it smells like shit, and I really appreciate that shit is like a experience regardless of class.
Like the wealthy people who live in this neighborhood can’t avoid walking out. Interesting, [00:04:00] shitty smell. So even though I don’t love like being in a shitty smell, I’m really glad that. , and I’m not crazy about like, what it probably represents about sanitation. I really appreciate that. Um, all the like really rich people who own the houses around me have to just like walk outside and smell shit just like everybody else.
Kes: Wow, . What I love about this story is that you are so able to reframe something really terrible into wow, the rich people have to suffer too. So it’s not so…what an amazing reframe. Like I’m really impressed.
Cindy: Yeah. I love it because there’s so much class. I mean, class division is so apparent everywhere, especially in New York, and I’m just like, well, that’s what, gotta smell the shit just like everyone else.
Mm. Um, so I love, thank you microorganisms that are making it smell like shit for the rich people. Right. and, and you know, I’ve got two lovely cats. Last time we spoke I had one wonderful cat and he did pass, um, during the pandemic. And we, we got two kittens. And now they’re, they’re great. They’re, they’re wonderful.
They’re very different. I was [00:05:00] very used to having an animal that was super attached to just me, , and that kind of relationship. And now these cats, um, primary relationship is to one another. Mm-hmm. and us humans are just kind of like around. And, uh, and, and I love them for that. It’s really nice that they, that they’re like that, that they are kind of like exist in our space without needing to be, um, in primary relationship with human.
I think that’s pretty cool.
Kes: Mm. Um, yeah. So the last time we spoke you were working a lot, uh, in bodywork and. since reconnecting and reading your bio, it seems like you’re in nursing school and I’m super curious about that transition and yeah, I remember we had a lot of conversations about like your feelings about, um, body work and community healing and like where it fits into kind of revolutionary struggle and resistance [00:06:00] movements.
And I’m curious Yeah, how that’s looking for you these days. Nursing school must be really intense, I guess.
Cindy: Yeah, nursing school is really interesting. It’s, um, you know, It’s interesting for me because I specifically went into, um, other types of healing modalities or other types of, you know, healthcare support specifically because of my, um, critiques of allopathic medicine.
Mm-hmm. and then, I, you know, I think like a lot of people, the pandemic hit and I was like, no one’s ever gonna wanna get a massage again. So, you know, let me think about other things. And um, and I kind of came to nursing through, I was looking at occupational therapy as a possibility, um, and wanting to work also in a more institutional setting.
I think I was getting kind of tired of, um, the hustle. [00:07:00] Of being a private provider. Um, I like the flexibility, but having a kid and just trying to figure out like, okay, how am I gonna make this work? And, you know, never being, I’m never gonna have health insurance as a massage therapist, so in the United States, You know, um, there’s no nationalized healthcare of any sort.
The closest thing that we have is Medicaid, which you have to maintain a pretty low income for. So it just was, has just been, you know, it’s just been like a gamble, like I have to work and keep a very low income so I can keep Medicaid for myself and my child. Cause I can, I’m fine without health insurance, but I can’t really exist without her having health insurance.
Right, right. Um, or I look for a job where I can get health coverage through my employer, which is Yeah. The only way you get it here. So, um, so that was a big factor, just like, you know, brutal, brutal aspects of capitalism. And then I have a lot of friends who are nurses and they’re amazing organizers, political organizers.
Interesting. Yeah. And I was kind of getting there, you know, [00:08:00] um, Well, we were in communication because there was this horrific mass murder of undocumented massage parlor workers in the United States last year, and I was really trying, you were so helpful and I was really trying to do some organizing of massage therapists around that.
And I just realized that I had no, um, real connections with other workers because the workplace is so isolated, right. And I really, I’m just really looking forward to kind of, I started my revolutionary existence as a workplace organizer and I was really looking forward to getting back to that. So that’s like the political aspects of it and the medical aspects of it is like nursing school and maybe there’s listeners who are a nursing school who went through, who will relate, but I’m not learning anything, you know, really.
Um, except that, except what I need for tests and then forgetting. Okay. Right. That sounds . And it’s pretty, that’s pretty demoralizing. Uh, and, and also like [00:09:00] it’s, you know, I always knew this and I think all of us who have been through like capitalist and allopathic medicine as patients have experienced this, but, um, it’s really apparent how allopathic medicine like is so true to that like the, the other medicine.
Is, and I believe, I’m not even sure of the origins of allopathic, but I believe from what I read, it comes from like countering osteopathy of like looking at the whole with allopathy or the other mm-hmm. . So like a medicine that looks at the other and how to get rid of it through surgery, pharmaceuticals, et cetera.
And um, and that is just like, that’s it. And I don’t wanna say this of all providers because I’m sure there are providers that have much more holistic views of the body, but the education and the system itself is very much about, um, what is the, like particular like pathological agent and how do we, [00:10:00] or what is, what are like the symptoms seen discreetly and how do we eradicate each of the symptoms through like, it’s like not a dialectical relationship, right? Right. Like we think about, um, body work sometimes of like meeting the symptoms or feeling or understanding where the symptoms originate and investigating that origin and kind of like unwinding it or un tangling it it’s just like, you know, you’ve got asthma because your, um, bronchials are constricted.
We’re just gonna like inflate your bronchials and you’re gonna have all the other things happen, , because we’re gonna mess with your nervous system, but like, whatever. And I’m like, that’s cool. Like people are gonna like die from an asthma attack. I’d rather them just get their bronchials Sure. Um, inflated as quickly as possible or relax as quickly as [00:11:00] possible, but, but, uh, it’s not really a, uh, any kind of like holistic understanding.
And um, so I’m grateful to nursing school for grounding me. Mm. Great. And, uh, and I really have no clue. where I’ll end with this journey, but I’m just trying to really learn those lessons. I’m trying to be a little bit less, um, sectarian than I have been in the past and just be really open, but not forget, you know, where I come from and all those beautiful lessons that I’ve learned from, you know, holding people’s bodies.
Kes: Right. Yeah. I’m curious. I I, I’ve definitely known people who kind of went the other way, who would. Be working in allopathic medicine would kind of get frustrated at like how reductive it is or like, um, whatever the opposite of holistic is. Um, and then look for something. Yeah, different. And I, I really see those like practical elements.
I [00:12:00] feel like there’s something really interesting in moving in the other direction as well, that you already have that kind of base knowledge and experience and that will change the way that you’re kind of approaching nursing school or nursing, uh, possibly in the future. And yeah, that they don’t have to be these kind of completely opposed things.
And sometimes we need a bit of both. And even just in the, the practical aspect of who gets to access which thing, and, um, Yeah. Does it feel, I know you were, um, talking about like the, the forms of teaching and like just memorizing things for the exam, which I can imagine kind of fits. Um, does it feel less isolating than, uh, your body work journey?
Cindy: That’s such a good question. Um, it does, you know, it feels really, We are all going through this together, and I know there’s, um, I’m not sure how it [00:13:00] is in other, in other places geographically, but you know, the US has this kind of legacy and present of real, um, a real dichotomy of solidarity among nurses and competition and bullying and.
I’m curious to see how that will play out, you know, in my own workplaces, cuz it really is like, both really strong, like really strong solidarity. Like people who aren’t even political, just like, yeah, I’m gonna, we’re gonna go on strike for this demand, you know? Um, and then really like, like cutthroat competitive, like hazing and definitely I’ve seen.
We’ve already experienced, I feel like hazing from the university. Um, just like the way that we’re sometimes talked to, the experiences we go through and the way that we get gas lit through them. Like if they do something, [00:14:00] they’re like, well, you’re gonna be a nurse, so you’re just gonna have to deal with it.
And it’s like, well, this wouldn’t really happen.
You know, I wouldn’t have my schedule changed, like, 24 hours before I’m supposed to be at a clinical site, you know, in my nursing job. Cause I’ll just sign up for my shift and go, you know, stuff. But they’re like, this is just how it’s gonna be, so get ready, um, kind of stuff.
But then I’ve also seen real, we really come together as a class and, um, and, and at the same time, the relationship then to patients is very different. And in that way it’s more isolating like right. Started my clinical rotation in a nursing home and it’s, um, people are, I, I believe, really doing their best, but the type of relationship that is structured by the medical system is like, you know, people are kinda like repositories for like drugs and devices.
Mm. It’s, it’s, I, I, you see that break, you see people breaking through that in [00:15:00] moments. But the requirements of the job are that you deposit medication and hook up machines to people, and, um, no matter how great of a person you are, it’s, it’s pretty hard to break through that, um, structure.
Kes: Yeah, I was definitely thinking, um, when you said the word structure I was imagining or just Yeah, like how different it must be if you are working directly and you’re like running your own independent business and it’s very much, I think a lot of that work comes down to kind of people’s personality, the way they’re holding space.
There’s something like the way you’re organizing your business, there’s something very kind of personal, whereas in a, in a structure that kind of doesn’t matter. You just have to do this thing and you’ve got eight minutes to do it, and there’s. There’s less of like that personal aspect of it, which might be good in some aspects and difficult in other aspects.
I can imagine that it’s maybe a bit a mix of both.
Cindy: Yeah, no, it’s really true. And I think that was part of, also, I was just like, I can’t, [00:16:00] I felt so much pressure to hold space in certain ways that I just didn’t feel that anymore. Um, and that’s sad because I like doing that and I, and I really hope to come back to it.
I really, really do, because. It is so beautiful to be able to do that. And also, as you know, it’s hard to do that in a, cuz we’re always in the structure, well I mean, we live in capitalism in a capitalist society. So in some way or another, if we’re doing this kind of thing, you know, as part of our financial survival, um, we’re, if we’re create, when we’re creating those moments and that connection within that structure, we’re kind of always fighting.
Against it, you know, fighting to make space for ourselves and for our community and our patients, and I don’t, I love that struggle. That’s a really important struggle and it’s very exhausting. and Absolutely. Yeah. Like just back to your question before, I think the struggle, the [00:17:00] collect possibility of a collective struggle in our workplace, even though, and, and, and maybe, you know, we’ll talk about this I guess when we talk about the prison work, but.
even though it’s harder in the, in the moment when you’re a private provider, you’re like, you make the decision. Like today, I’m gonna put everything into building the space for myself and my, and my patients, my clients, my community. And you know, as an individual, you, you can make it happen usually in some way or another.
It’s hard. Um, and the collective space, you. Want that to happen and fail. But if you are fighting for it and from a collective perspective, patients and workers together, there’s a greater potential for that, um, spaciousness and care to happen collectively. So it doesn’t happen very often, I guess, that we succeed in building those spaces, but the potential for it, I think is really great.
Kes: Mm Oh, that’s interest. Thank you, [00:18:00] um, prisons.
Cindy: They suck . I don’t need to tell you that. They’re like the worst. There’s slavery . Yeah. Um, yeah, so I, last time we talked I was doing, um, work around prison abolition. I’m still doing it in, in certain forms still. Um, you know, had a lot of humbling experiences over the last four years and longer.
Um, I’m excited about the work that I’m doing in community right now because we’re really working to, um, organize healthcare workers and people who are, and sometimes it’s the same people, right? And, but, and people who, uh, who are directly affected by prison slavery, whether they’ve been locked up or a family locked up or in community with people who are, um, locked up and targeted by police and prisons.
And to really look [00:19:00] at the responsibility that healthcare providers have to abolish prison and, and capitalism is of course of, of course, but specifically trying to focus the energy of healthcare providers who have some kind of relationship with the prison system, or even don’t. I mean, we all do in New York City.
Um, I believe it’s one in eight, one in eight Black people. Have a relationship to the prison system. Right. Um, and I’m not sure what the number is, um, more broadly in the city, but it’s really quite intense. So even if you’re not working in the prison or in a prison ward, you have your patients have some kind of likely have some kinda interaction with prisons or police.
Um, and, and. The interesting thing about nursing school is we are learning all this stuff that’s like your primary responsibilities towards your patient and you know, like health equity and all this stuff. And it’s just like [00:20:00] prison is, is how can you talk about this stuff and not talk about the fact that we live in a country where slavery exists.
And where, you know, these slave plantations are really like concentration camps. They really are. It’s, it’s, it’s, um, people die on the regular. Uh, we have a lot of documented deaths that we can see, but just anecdotally from people that I know, I’m like, oh, they’re telling me this person died. This person died.
None of those are public or documented. Mm-hmm. Um, and just the medical torture that goes on is inconsistent. The oath that medical providers take. So as much as I don’t believe in the way that contemporary medicine is practiced, you know, it’s a a, a colonial project. It’s a capitalist project. There is an element that you just can’t remove from any healthcare provider, no matter I don’t think should [00:21:00] remove from any healthcare provider of maintaining that commitment to caring for people. Um, and so that’s really where, where we are is trying to, um, organize healthcare workers regardless of where they are, to take a stand against the existence of prisons, um, through the lens of supporting people who are in the New York City jail system, and we have a hotline that people can call and record their, um, various abuses that they’re facing or they see other people facing. We do analysis and our main goal is to get access as medical workers and community members into the jails, to the floors, to triage people basically being like, well, no one can actually survive jail because you have people going in who are ostensibly healthy, who die.
So from a medical perspective, everybody needs to be released because it’s unsustainable. It’s not, no, no one can, no one is medically cleared to be in this [00:22:00] situation. Right. Um, and we’ve had some bumps in the road. We’ve, we’ve gotten certain ways in our, in our process of trying to get in and we’ve been bumped back and, you know, we’re just kind of like in a, in a push and pull with, um, Trying to, you know, continue our goal to enter the facilities while doing what we can until that happens.
Mm. Hope that makes sense.
Kes: Yeah. It sounds like a lot that you’re holding. I mean, that sounds like a whole bunch of things. You also became a parent since we last spoke, and I’m wondering like, how do you fit all this into your week and how, how does it feel to be holding, like you were telling these really difficult stories, and you’re also focusing on your studies and being a parent.
And I just, yeah, I feel like I just know all these like super human people holding a lot and I wonder how that looks like for you. If it’s too personal a question ?
Cindy: No, no, no. [00:23:00] Nothing’s too personal. Just with, with you. Mm-hmm. , um, uh, Yeah, I fail. I often fail. I think I fail frequently in my communication with people who are, um, who are locked up.
That’s a failure that is ongoing. Um, and in following up on things I’m supposed to follow up on. And I think I’ve gotten slightly better in mediating, um, you know, the expectations I set up. But, um, but yeah, and I fail in parenting often. I. Yell at my child more than I would like. I don’t appropriately answer her.
She’s a brilliant person. She is very adamant that police and prisons are very, very bad. And yes, she also, as I mentioned, she, she knows that leaves need to stay on the ground because that’s where bugs go and that’s where the leaves decompose and make new soil. So she’s, you know, she’s not even four. She’s really, um, she really hates the [00:24:00] police.
She, she gets to the point, and, and this is like a very challenging thing about parenting, because it’s really hard for kids to hold complexities. They just, they, they, their brains are not experience, it’s hard for grownups to hold complexity .
Kes: I was gonna say, lots of grownups also struggle with that. I think
Cindy: I do, it’s really hard.
Um, and yeah, her brain is just, It’s so much to hold. And um, and uh, and we talk about this stuff a lot and it’s very hard and I don’t have, you know, if we talk about grief and death a lot, um, she’s very interested in death and very worried by it. And I’m not, um, I’m not a Christian or someone who, who believes in, in heaven.
So there’s not an easy answer. We’ve been talking about. Your body, um, your body goes away, but your spirit is everywhere, which I, I believe in a lot of ways, um, I think she interprets it quite [00:25:00] differently because she, the idea of permanent loss is, is, is not something that she can really handle. Mm-hmm. . Um, but yeah, I find, just to answer your question, I find myself often not being able to, to really focus on addressing her questions, her big questions as much as I would like.
Um, and, uh, but yeah, and I sleep lately I’ve been sleeping a lot. Um, which means I don’t, I’m just gonna bring my computer to the other room so I can plug it in. Um, I, I, it means I don’t get the homework done that I need to get done. . Right. And I, I, um, I fall behind, um, on my homework. That’s another way that I hold all of this stuff.
And I have a wonderful partner, um, who picks up, you know, where I, um, sorry, technology who picks up where I leave off, in [00:26:00] particular, caring for the household, um, cooking, childcare. So yeah, a lot of people don’t have. When they’re caring for a child. So I feel, um, I feel really grateful for that. But yeah, it’s a good question.
I mean, how do any of us do these things? I think probably pretty imperfectly.
Kes: Imperfect is okay. I mean the, yeah. I think it’s interesting that you mentioned your partner and the support you’re getting there because I think my next thing that I was thinking about was like the role of community in these struggles and.
I think you answered the question in the same way that I asked it, and I don’t know how else we would have that conversation, but like, how do you individually do all these things as an individual, individually or something? And actually I, maybe I asked the wrong question or I’m asking myself that question like, oh, how many things am I gonna do today?
What am I involved in? What am my decisions? [00:27:00] And actually sometimes that’s, I just think I’m asking myself the wrong question. It’s like actually like, Because it, it can be impossible, I think when I’m like thinking about, um, yeah, getting overwhelmed with all the terrible things and it, it’s. I think the, the, it’s already the, the starting point is weird that like me as an individual, I need to do all these things, get through at the end of the day and also like keep myself feeling perky and well and like take care of myself and do this thing and this thing.
And actually like, that’s, that’s way impossible. Of course, we’re like, um, failing as you call it, and like it being imperfect with it. And maybe that’s just kind of also a symptom of just like us being these very atomized individuals. Which is a very different way, um, of living than um, other people in other places and times.
Cindy: Oh my God, I so appreciate you saying that. Cause I think about it’s so, like, it’s so easy to just forget that. [00:28:00] And yet it’s like so much a part of our existence and it’s, so, I’ve been talking a lot with a friend recently, um, who. Who is a very dear friend who, um, has two children who are in the same school as my school.
And, um, they live, their family lives very close by and we do some childcare exchange and we talk a lot about, you know, living together and community and, and, you know, they’re in the process right now of trying to, um, purchase a home and. We’ve just been having these conversations about like, could we do this together?
You know, and, and it’s so interesting to me because the problems are really logistical. I don’t even, I don’t know the right word. The problems are capitalist. Hmm. That, that, that are, that are interrupting that. Um, and, and it, it’s very little to do with what our desires are for a community and for our kids.
It’s about, [00:29:00] um, timing, uh, you know, money. Stability, um, not knowing the future because of jobs and stuff like that. And, um, it, it’s, so, yes, it’s very impossible feeling because I’m someone I believe really strongly in the necessity, and it’s why I, I love your work and I love the work of speculative fiction because our survival is dependent upon us being able to maintain our creative capacity to think in terms of humanity. Mm. You know, like what humans need because, you know, I’m, I’m like a die hard Marxist, so I apologize for being such a dorky nerd, but you know, like I really like when I read something like a Strange Labor where Marx talks about how. [00:30:00] Our, um, most animal tendencies are, are, are turned into our most human and our most human are turned most animal. You know, like our, what appears to be us as humans is like our alienated work, but that’s the opposite of what we are, right? What we are is our creativity, our love for each other, our community, our relationship to the planet and nature, and that so deeply turned against us in capitalism.
It’s hard to even imagine. What do we want, what do we desire? What does our real relationship to the earth look like? Without thinking of what commodity can I use to get that, or, you know, how do I get myself enough therapy as an individual to achieve that? Or even like, what group retreat do I need to purchase to do this as a group?
Um, or like, how do I collectively purchase a house? So that I can try to live in community. I mean, it’s all questions that we just should not [00:31:00] have to answer, uh, in, in a society that would be focused on like human relations. Mm-hmm. . So I’m going off on a tangent, but Yes. No, I’m here for it. . It’s really hard to think of this stuff as individuals.
That question is a perfect question because that is the reality that we live in, in this moment. Or part of the reality is that we are forced to face, um, the world alone. Mm-hmm. . And yet, you know, it’s also true that we are constantly, whatever tiny shred of like humanness exists within us as it gets beaten out, you know, is always having to strive towards, um, Erupting that individualism and erupting that, um, aloneness with community.
So poof. Yeah. Yes.
Kes: Um, yeah, it’s something I think about a lot. I think it’s, [00:32:00] I kind of, yeah, get stuck with it sometimes that it’s just, it’s something I’ve just grown up with and just like been born into, and then I’m. Wait, this isn’t the only way of conceiving of things. Like, and it’s, um, I think also as someone who’s like very public, there’s, there’s like an experience where people are kind of, um, yeah. Projecting things onto people who are, who are very public and also like, Making us even more individualized as like this person knows about things and does a thing and has to be this expert or something. And I feel like, obviously, you know, from my experience, that isn’t what’s happening. I mean, I like take responsibility for putting some words in some books, but it’s not that I just came up with something in a vacuum or by myself.
It’s like a million conversations that led to, um, those words in books and. Yeah. So, you know, I’m happy to take responsibility, but I also feel like it’s not, I’m not sure about credit. [00:33:00] I feel like that’s, that’s the, the tricky part for me. And um, yeah, that’s definitely, I have that as a public person, but I think we all have that in some way where we’re like, I need to do all these things and I’m expected to do it by myself.
Cuz that’s the only model I have of like, um, yeah. Survival and existence is me alone doing a thing. And that does like that is really difficult. No wonder we’re so often struggling with it. I mean, that is a really impossible thing to hold, an impossible thing to live. I think it’s kind of based on a lie that we’re all super isolated and so like it kind of self reproduces.
Its, it reproduces itself, I guess. And yeah, that’s tough. I think the alternatives to that give me some hope and I, I do see. Space opening and speculative fiction, for example, where, yeah, the ability to, or the space to imagine other things when I’m like, like running a workshop and people are just [00:34:00] like, I get an hour to think of something totally different to this and like there’s something beautiful in those little creative spaces where it kind of gives us something to work towards as well.
And just like kind even if. it’s not true yet. Just imagining things can kind of make it just a little bit more possible, a little bit more true. Gives us something to work towards. I, yeah, I really love it.
Cindy: Yeah. I, wow, I really appreciate that. And it makes me think, like, well it makes me think two things. One, like, um, it’s such an inversion because, you know, I think in a really, in a really like different kind of society. Upholding, um, people who are very creative and who are visionaries wouldn’t have to be alienating. Mm. Right. Like, like take out the competition and [00:35:00] the individualism and the, and, and also like what you’re describing of like the expectation that people have, that one person will have an answer, which is such a bizarre capitalist like, You know, like, oh, like this one person, whether it’s like a dictator or a, you know, um, like electorally, democratic elected person, like is, is going to, you know, handle things for us or the father, whatever the pope, like whatever kind of structure.
Um, like take that away and you have, you. Visionaries. And, and I, and I love that about your work, not to be a fan kid again, but like I love that about your work, that the characters that you create, um, are visionaries and they do play a role in revolutionary activity, but they. [00:36:00] It never feel like I, like when I watch things with my kid, right?
Like I watch a lot of kids stuff now, and one of the things that I hate the most about, um, about like kids’ television, really any television or film, but kids’ television is this idea that one person will save everything. So, right? Like we watch a lot. We, we just watched, um, riot in the Last Dragon, and there’s ways in which they’re so beautiful, right?
They’re about, um, ways. Humans have become, you know, lost and need to like, make a reconnection with the planet in order to, uh, kind of survive and thrive. Right? That’s such a beautiful message and I love it, but it’s like one individual , you know? And what I love about your work and other work that I find really hopeful is that you can have those people who are.
Really the visionaries, um, and who [00:37:00] have ideas and set things in motion, but they’re not acting out of community. They’re not acting in an isolated manner. And the, the social movements, um, and the broader societies that you’re able to describe. And I don’t mean to like put pressure on you, you and other like.
You know, like really amazing. There are, you know, other really amazing examples of this. Um, you know, I do think a lot about women on the edge of time. I don’t know Marge Piercy’s politics now. I try not to think about it. Hmm. But you know, like that’s it, it’s so much about, um, the lens of like one person who does have a special eye, but they’re really supported by broader struggles and that those types of examples that have.
Or at Hunger Games, I freaking love Hunger Games, you know, and in Hunger Games. Yeah. Like you have Katniss and there are ways that she is like this individual hero, but if [00:38:00] you read the books, like there’s so much description of these collective struggles that are happening in all the districts that Yeah, there’s some like inspiration by her image.
But by no stretch of the imagination, is it about like her being a savior at all? It’s about, uh, class struggle, you know?
Kes: That is interesting. Yeah. I mean, I definitely perceive it as, I don’t know, different people have different roles, so this kind of. Um, like zooming in on just one role, which as you, as you call it, like being a visionary or, yeah having like, I dunno, good strategy or whatever the, um, whatever the role is, like choosing just one as being this like unique and special thing and everyone who’s like cleaning the toilet and making dinner. Um, it is not important and I think that, that for me is, yeah, that’s definitely something that I, I [00:39:00] like to, uh, confront a little bit with the, the way that I’m writing the characters specifically because, um, I’ve often been the person cleaning the toilet and I want to like, have that person also be here
Um, so, and to be able to be both right. Exactly. And that, yeah, or I mean, all the people are just like a bit imperfect and doing the best they can. And also that kind of shakes out in the end because there’s so many people doing so many things that it kind of like works out. And it’s not just about like one individual with impossibly high standards, um, who kind of has to do everything, but everyone, like, that’s, that’s not a realistic thing.
And it’s not very like, I don’t know, I don’t really aspire to have a movement that looks like that. That just sounds very unsustainable and exhausting for that person and for everyone else who like doesn’t, who’s cleaning the toilets invisibly or something. Yes. Yeah. Shout outs. Who would you like to, um, while we’re talking about community, um, [00:40:00] yeah.
Groups and projects and things that you would like to, you’d like people to know about. And we’ll also put things in the show notes.
Cindy: I’m looking at my list so that I make sure I keep it to the ones that I said. Um, so, so I wanna shout out, um, stop Cop City. Mm-hmm. , um, stopcop.city is the website, um, for, it’s a coalition of organizations.
I wanna be clear, um, just so that I’m not like claiming to be doing active organizing in this group when I’m, when I’m not. Um, That I, I’m very, very much wanna shout this group out cause I think they’re doing amazing work and there’s ways to support from all over. Um, right now in Atlanta, there’s a plan to build an enormous cop training center where cops from all over the country, possibly the world would come to train. How to kill people, um, globally. And, uh, on top of the [00:41:00] horrors of that, it’s, um, destroying the Atlanta forest, which is, um, well, like all land in, in the so-called United States is occupied indigenous territory and is just a really, I mean, there’s so little, um, forestry, natural forestry left on this land, and Atlanta Forest is one of those places.
So it, it covers a multitude of struggles. And it’s just a very beautiful example of people from a lot of different political tendencies working together, not to minimize the complexities, but um, but it’s a really beautiful project, so I would suggest people check it out. And there might even be ways to oppose some of the corporations involved in this, even if you’re not local to Atlanta.
Um, I’m always into supporting local bail funds, abortion funds. Um, you know, I. There’s nothing like big and national, I have to, to shout out. But, um, I think working at the community level is great. And if you’re [00:42:00] feeling stuck, like check in with your local providers or activists or bookstore, um, radical bookstore and see what they have because there’s often ways to plug in and giving money is always great, but, um, but really, There’s lots of of money in the world that is in the wrong hands, and probably, um, a maybe more engaging thing to do is to, to possibly get involved in those types of groups.
Um, And then my, my last shout out is that I do wanna shout out our mutual friend, Ayelet , who, um, is just a, a wonderful herbalist and person. And, um, I know that she is, um, I hope it’s okay for me to, to, to say this I, and ask her if I could shout her out. But, um,
Kes: absolutely okay to gush over Ayelet right? We all do .
Cindy: Um, but she is working on building her practice and she has been supporting [00:43:00] a dear friend of mine right now with a lot of generosity and support, and I just want her to get like all the love, um, and great clients and students and, um, and support that she can. Beautiful.
Kes: Thank you so much. Thank you for the,
Cindy: oh my God, thank you.
Kes: Answer all these questions. Like I, I was super curious where we would go with this conversation.
I knew we’d kind of like, you know, we’d touch a few things and then we’d really get into it because I remember that’s how our conversations go and we, we got into it. I really love that. . Thank you so much.
Cindy: I have a lot of questions for you, but I feel like I’ll ask them another time. Maybe I’ll interview you for a podcast.
Oh, okay. I don’t have a podcast, but I, maybe I’ll make one. Wow. No, no pressure. But you know, like, or maybe you know other people who are like, really? Um, you know, I did this like review of your books a couple years ago. I dunno if you remember. I do, yeah. But, uh, [00:44:00] yeah, but just like it is not trying to do the thing that you were just like, oh my God, people do this.
It’s so overwhelming and like, not appropriate. But I do think that it is really important for people who. . Um, it is a very special skill, right, to be able to interpret the social struggles around us, into, um, literature, art, you know, poetry, film, theater, all these things. And, um, it’s not a skill that I think I have other skills.
It’s not a skill that I have, and I’m just like so in awe of that practice and, um, and. Yeah, I just, it’s, it’s just a great, it’s a great gift, you know? Um, and, and I, it is a great gift because like, because what you’re doing is not just an act of like creating out of nothing, you know, because it is [00:45:00] this act of like integrating the struggles that you’re seeing around you, you know, in the past and in the present, and.
In your case, in many people’s cases, who do this kinda work for the future. And, um, and that’s just very special. That’s just very special work. And I think that there’s just some people in the world who, um, who really have that skill and it’s, and, and I, and I very much appreciate you for that. Thank you.
It brings, it brings life. It brings life to other, to other people and to other work, you know, as well. So thank you.
Yeah. No thanks. It, um, Yeah, the podcast listeners won’t see me blushing, but, uh, it’s, it’s happening. Um, but I, I, it’s, it’s an interesting thing, um, talking about like individualization of, uh, collective practices or something.
I think the, I often kind of really struggle to receive, um, uh, feedback like this just [00:46:00] because, I mean, I’m very, I’m very grateful. , just to be clear, um, Sometimes I feel like, yeah, it’s, it’s a collective work. So as I say, like individually, I know I sat down and did the thing. Um, and I do still work my 60 hour weeks and I, you know, every podcast will take like, at least 12 hours of editing and processing.
So I, I’m doing a lot of invisible labor and I shouldn’t invisibilize myself, uh, on top of the rest of the world, invisibilizing my work. But I think I do sometimes find it difficult to. Have it reduced down to me as an individual, because I should say like sometimes I’m reflecting things that are happening collectively.
Um, and they are like sometimes community experiences and the things that people have taught me. Um, and you know, it’s not like a science book where I can put all my, uh, references or something. It’s like these are things that I’ve learned from like 20 years of organizing and um, forty years of existing and there’s, yeah.
Um, [00:47:00] so I. I mean, I do see that, like I have a role in it , um, in my work. But, um, I do also think that it is one skill among many. And yeah, no, I really, I totally get why, um, why it seems like special or something, and like, or. Um, when someone does something that you personally don’t feel like you can do, it feels different.
Um, but I, I don’t know. I mean, shout out to nurses, right? Like, I feel like all the parents, I mean, there’s so much, um, there’s so many different skills and I think the, yeah, it’s quite easy. And I also have those of. Focusing on just a few and then being different to all the other things. And it’s the people that are clean, the toilets there actually like running the world or something.
And having been that person a lot, um, I try [00:48:00] not to kind of internalize, like I, I just use it as like useful data. I’m like, great. This is like, you know, writing has been for sure the most politically efficacious work I’ve done, but it doesn’t mean that it was more important than all that invisible work cleaning community centers for decades.
and it’s not. Again. Oh, I’m sorry. It’s not separate, right? Like you wouldn’t be able to do what you’re doing. Like there’s, from what you’re saying and, and my own experience with this stuff, right? Like, you wouldn’t be able, you wouldn’t, they’re, they’re, they appear, or, or there’s a, there’s an appearance put upon you that they’re, you’re like, has the writer or like, has the organizer and they’re distinct, right?
Kes: Mm-hmm. , but that’s like a lot of reality, right? And also all of those, um, Skills and, uh, jobs, but it’s not always professionalized are super connected. So there is no, uh, writing without somewhere to write. There is no, [00:49:00] um, public speaking without the space that somebody else organized and somebody put a cable somewhere and did it.
So I, I feel like it is all just very, like, networked and, um, interconnected, interdependent, and that. That takes a bit of pressure off me as well, because I’m like, well, we’re all doing this. Um, and yeah, not to like, not take responsibility for my work, but I, there’s something in that as a response to like this kind of very, like, individualized, I need to do everything.
Um, and that’s not just me, about myself at all. That’s just like, I don’t wanna do that to other people. Sometimes. That like scared of, um, yeah. Worshiping my friends because I do . Yeah,
Cindy: I appreciate you saying that and I, and I definitely am. Hmm. Yeah, I appreciate you saying that and I appreciate that reflection and I think, um, it is really hard and I think there’s a way of like,[00:50:00]
there’s just, it’s just so complicated cuz there’s also ways of like hiding in collective work. I know I find myself doing that sometimes. If I can collectivise this, I don’t have to be, uh, accountable and
Kes: Oh, interesting.
I mean, I, you know, I try really hard not to to do that, obviously, but, but, but, um, but yeah, I think that’s another reason why I’m like, oh, it’s so, uh, I see.
We’re also. as someone who does collective work and then puts yourself out with a specific skill that’s part of a range of skills. It’s very vulnerable. I can imagine it be very vulnerable. Mm. I don’t, um, do any political work, like with my, um, name. Mm-hmm. . Much of that, like, you know, avoiding potential accountability, you know, in, you know what I’m saying?
Oh. But yeah, I mean, there’s so much to what you just said. My brain is like [00:51:00] really busy, like hiding in collectivity. Ooh, yes. Um, that’s our next podcast. We’ve got it. Let’s get it in the calendar!
Cindy: Oh my god!