The recent deaths of my mother and mother-in-law, the fostering of five kittens, a withering cold that has clung to me for almost two weeks, and reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book, Natural Causes, has made me aware of how different things would be if social structures and political programs were built upon the body and its sufferings because, as is true, we all have ’em, and they all go south on us at some point.
In the cases of my mother and mother-in-law, their bodies gave out on them long before their bodies stopped working, which meant that much of their last days were in starvation mode blunted by morphine. I thought, and still do think, the situation was barbaric. There was nothing to be gained by their passing away “naturally” and much comfort to be given by increasing the morphine drip. Avoiding this barbarism is certainly my goal at my own end time, and more personal choice about how and when to shuffle off the mortal coil should be part of the process.
Ehrenreich’s book makes this “body politic” connection more explicit, explicating how a politics not based in human suffering and human need gives us the ramshackle systems that we have, which are full of capitalist logic and have no empathy.
What passes for politics these days is also ambered in “principles” as opposed to bodies, allowing people to lock-in “positions” rather than experience each other’s corporality. I almost think that anyone running for office has to cook a dinner with his or her opponent(s) and serve it to constituents, if for no other reason than to side-step positions in order get the damn food on the table! It’s more important to break bread together than to break each other’s balls.
The suffering needy body is the source of everything humans do, negative and positive. A politics jiggered to reduce the former and increase the latter would start from the premise, “What can be done to reduce unearned suffering and cruelty for everyone?”
These are my thoughts these days.