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One of the biggest lies of the systems that oppress us is that it is your individual merit that earns you anything you gain. If you work hard, we are taught, you will ascend the social ladder. If you are rich or successful, it is of your own doing. The inverse is also supposed to be true: if you are poor or struggling, it is because you haven’t worked hard enough.
The myth of the individual meritocracy is a belief that is rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy. I don’t believe this bullshit, and I don’t expect that most of you reading this do either. We know how race, class, and gender privilege lift some of us up while holding others down. We understand how these systemic factors are intertwined with individual behaviors, and that the two cannot be unwound.*
In the face of the impending crises of our time, it can be tempting to want to protect yourself and yourself alone. But I believe a better strategy is to always keep looking back for those who still need to be protected. As has been said by many advocates for justice, “None of us can truly be free until all of us are free.”**
As evidenced by the millions of people who came together at protests and rallies around the world this weekend, the fight for justice will not be won by any one person. Despite our cultural longing for an individual savior, the truth is, we are stronger together.
So as you bolster your skills for self-care, commit yourself also to community care. Integrate yourself into your community. Ask for help when you need it. Offer help when you can give it. Seek support from friends. Build relationships like family with those around you: become each others siblings, cousins and elders. Find your kin.
Share when you have an abundance, so you may lean on others when you come up lacking. Interweave yourself with those around you. Seek interdependence rather than independence.
This is how we find safety: by being indispensable to each other. This is how we survive: by holding each other up. This is how we win: by striving towards one goal of liberation for all.
*My thinking in this article has been variously influenced by the work of Kelly Diels, Desiree Lynn Adaway, and Yashna Padamsee.
**This quote has been attributed to Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr, and Mahatma Gandhi. I looked for its original source but was unable to locate it. If you can confirm, let me know!
P.S. I'm teaching a workshop series in a few weeks on how to use yogic practices to manage anxiety. I'd love to have you there. Click here for more info and to sign up.
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