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WHAT IS MUTUAL AID?

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    Mutual Aid is a guiding factor behind anarchist
    practice, and an essential framework for understanding
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    anarchist views on social organization more
    broadly.
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    So... what is it, exactly?
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    Well... in its simplest form, mutual aid is
    the motivation at play any time two or more
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    people work together to solve a problem for
    the shared benefit of everyone involved.
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    In other words, it means co-operation for
    the sake of the common good.
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    Understood in this way, mutual aid is obviously
    not a new idea, nor is it exclusive to anarchists.
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    In fact, the very earliest human societies
    practised mutual aid as a matter of survival,
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    and to this day there are countless examples
    of its logic found within the plant and animal kingdoms
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    To understand anarchists’ specific embrace
    of mutual aid, we need to go back over
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    100 years, to the writings of the famous Russian
    anarchist Pyotr Kropotkin, who in addition
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    to sporting one of the most prolific beards
    of all time, just so happened to also be an
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    accomplished zoologist and evolutionary biologist.
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    Back in Kropotkin's day, the field of evolutionary
    biology was heavily dominated by the ideas
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    of Social Darwinists such as Thomas H. Huxley.
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    By ruthlessly applying Charles Darwin's famous
    dictum “survival of the fittest”
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    to human societies, Huxley and his peers had concluded
    that existing social hierarchies were the
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    result of natural selection, or competition
    between free sovereign individuals, and were
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    thus an important and inevitable factor in
    human evolution.
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    Not too surprisingly, these ideas were particularly
    popular among rich and politically powerful
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    white men, as it offered them a pseudo-scientific
    justification for their privileged positions
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    in society, in addition to providing a racist
    rationalization of the European colonization
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    of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
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    Kropotkin attacked this conventional wisdom,
    when in 1902 he published a book called Mutual
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    Aid: A Factor in Evolution, in which he proved
    that there was something beyond blind, individual
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    competition at work in evolution.
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    Kropotkin demonstrated that species that were
    able to work together, or who formed symbiotic
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    arrangements with other species based on mutual
    benefit, were able to better adapt to their
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    environment, and were granted a competitive
    edge over those species who didn't, or couldn't.
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    In today’s metropolitan societies, people
    are socialized to see themselves as independent,
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    self-sufficient individuals, equipped with
    our own condos, bank accounts, smartphones
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    and facebook profiles.
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    However, this notion of human independence
    is a myth, promoted by corporations and states
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    seeking to mould us into atomized, and easily
    controlled consumers, concerned primarily
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    with our own short-term well-being.
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    The truth is that human beings are incredibly
    interdependent.
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    In fact, that’s the key to our success as
    a species.
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    Do you ever spend time thinking about where
    the food you eat, or the clothes you wear
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    come from?
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    What about the labour and materials that went
    into building your house, or your car?
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    Left to fend for ourselves without the comforts
    of civilization, few among us would survive
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    a week, let alone be able to produce a fraction
    of the myriad commodities we consume every
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    day.
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    From the great pyramids commissioned by the
    Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, to today’s globe-spanning
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    production and supply chains, the primary
    function of the ruling class has always been
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    to organize human activity.
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    And everywhere that they have done so, they
    have relied on coercion.
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    Under capitalism, this activity is organized
    through either direct violence, or the internalized
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    threat of starvation created by a system based
    on private ownership of wealth and property.
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    Capitalism can inspire people to do many amazing
    things, as long as there is a profit to be
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    made.
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    But in the absence of a profit motive, there
    are many important tasks that it will not
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    and cannot ever accomplish, from eradicating
    global poverty and preventable diseases, to
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    removing toxic plastics from the oceans.
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    In order to carry out these monumental tasks,
    we require a change in the ethos that connects
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    us to one another, and to the world that sustains
    us.
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    A shift away from capitalism... towards mutual
    aid.
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    Glimpses of the Anarchist ideal of mutual
    aid can be seen today in communities of open
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    source software developers, and in programmers
    coming up with new forms of encryption to
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    thwart NSA surveillance.
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    They can be seen in neighbours coming together
    to organize a daycare collective, and in the
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    aftermath of disasters such as Hurricanes
    Katrina and Sandy, when in the absence of
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    state institutions, perfect strangers rush
    to one another’s aid.
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    It can be seen in the bravery of the white
    helmets of Aleppo, who risk their lives to
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    pull children from the collapsed ruins of
    buildings hit by Assad’s barrel bombs.
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    Imagine a world in which human activity was
    not organized on the basis of ceaseless competition
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    over artificially scarce resources, but the
    pursuit of the satisfaction of human needs…
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    and you will understand a vision of the world
    that anarchists seek to create.
Title:
WHAT IS MUTUAL AID?
Description:

In a world ruled by ceaseless capitalist competition, where people are pitted to work against each other, anarchists offer a different vision: Mutual Aid.

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
05:27

English subtitles

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