*Neighbors* Part 8: "Agency" Blogpost!
Read The Comic:
Neighbors Comic Series Landing Page
Part 1: Discomfort
Part 2: Distance
Part 3: Sympathy
Part 4: Empathy
Part 5: Experience
Part 6: Intersectionality
Part 7: Interdependence
Part 8: Agency

Okay, first of all, thank you for reading Neighbors. And for following these blogposts, and for sharing your thoughts along the way. What's resonating with you? What are your takeaways from this series? I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email/messages.

Bonus Blogpost for "Agency"

PART 1: The Journey Continues

This was the last chapter of Neighbors, but I hesitate to call it "the end". From the get-go this has always been a journey. And 1) journeys don't end, 2) it's about the process and the here+now much more than it is about the destination, and 3) as Walidah Imarisha reminds us, journeys and progress are NOT linear.

A journey framework that I recently discovered was activist Trystan Reese's framework for Allyship Identity Development, which he introduced during a talk at the Corvallis Changemakers Conference. He describes the different stages people can be at: 

  • Denial
  • Rejection
  • Tacit Acceptance
  • Full Acceptance
  • Solidarity
  • Liberation

The first three are DISINTEGRATED and the last three are INTEGRATED positions/places -- with another reminder that journeys are not linear, and we all have our own personal journeys. Although it's hard to become 'unwoke', intersectionality guarantees that we all have learning to do as we move forward. Thinking of it as a journey helped Trystan gain some distance from hurtful comments from readers; he could have compassion that they were still in the disintegrated phases of their becoming. (He's also gotten help from friends, family, and moderators, so that he doesn't have to deal directly with those hurtful comments when they are more about the writer than in service to his work or life.)

Sometimes, I think we don't give each other enough (or ourselves!) compassion for being on our journeys or making mistakes along the way. There can definitely be backlash for talking about your journey to becoming woke, because it acknowledges the you that wasn't. A complex recent example of this is the backlash for this starred Kirkus review about a YA speculative fiction book that centers a white protagonist who becomes aware of more systemic oppressions by befriending a character of color. I get that we need to de-center these narratives, but if those kinds of narratives can bring more people along on the journeys to waking up, then isn't that still valuable? I don't know that we can leapfrog these stages of awkward awakening; I don't think it does any good to shame others or ourselves for being ignorant about things we've been taught how to believe implicitly or explicitly by our society; and I don't know that we can unlearn some of those harmful threads without first understanding and seeing them for what they are in the first place.

On the other hand, certain narratives can show growth in the character while upholding the status quo. (e.g. the slavehunter grows a conscience and maybe saves one person but ultimately does nothing to challenge the systems at play)(or e.g. the strong female protagonist adopts characters typically associated with toxic masculinity to achieve their goals vs. a narrative that questions and subverts the dichotomy of gender and the devaluing of vulnerability in a culture+world drowning in its certainty of our own invulnerability)

I guess I am still a little uneasy about the fact that I have written this story without centering the voices of those who are currently experiencing homelessness. There are other ways I could have told this story, and it is worth questioning.


The journey continues...

PART 2: Community in Times of Disaster

The second thing I want to address in today's blogpost is the deux ex machina of the Hurricane. Rebecca Solnit writes in the intro to her book A Paradise Built in Hell about the resiliency and joy that she has  consistently heard people talk about when they recount their memories of the days immediately following disasters.  

“In the wake of an earthquake, a bombing, or a major storm, most people are altruistic, urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them, strangers and neighbors as well as friends and loved ones. The image of the selfish, panicky, or regressively savage human being in times of disaster has little truth to it. Decades of meticulous sociological research on behavior in disasters…around the world have demonstrated this..."
“…among the factors determining whether you will live or die are the health of your immediate community and the justness of your society. We need ties, but they along with purposefulness, immediacy, and agency also give us joy — the startling, sharp joy I found in accounts of disaster survivors. These accounts demonstrate that the citizens any paradise would need — the people who are brave enough, resourceful enough, and generous enough — already exist. The possibility of paradise hovers on the cusp of coming into being, so much so that it takes powerful forces to keep such a paradise at bay. If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”

Disasters, in this sense, then give us fleeting glimpses into the possibilities of paradise.

So, too, does art -- especially speculative fiction, sci-fi, and Afrofuturism

We cannot build toward a world we cannot imagine (another quote from Walidah Imarisha). So we look for the signals and signs of what can be, what is, what will be.

I'll end for today with this Ursula K. LeGuin quote: 

"We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words."

I still have some wrap-up Neighbors things to post about in the coming couple weeks. So I will just say: see you soon. Thank you again, for reading. <3 

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