[Originally posted to kasamaproject.org]
by Rosa Harris
Rosa Harris, photo: Monte
I live confined to this housing project, surrounded by bone-hard poverty and everything it brings with it.
If our car is broken, we are literally pinned down. We can’t get out – not to doctors, not to meet political comrades.
But there is something deeper about the hole we are trapped in… My son thinks of little other than getting out. And he isn’t thinking so much about getting “the people” out – but of getting away from the people.
My mind has always dreamed of a better world, but my daily experience is here, in a place where you just can’t romanticize “the oppressed.” Up close, people are often caught up in some terrible stuff. It’s not just the capitalists who live in a dog-eat-dog world, it’s us too. The dominant ideas of an epoch become dominant ideas among the people themselves.
I’m not going to apologize again for my moods and my conflicted thoughts — even though I feel I need to. The other day something happened that made me feel very ashamed and hurt.
Mary, one of my few friends here in this project is a crack user. Her daughter is a prostitute. And her son recently got out of prison.
I’ve never understood completely what the word “lumpen” means in our communist language – but these are part of a broken section of the people. Desperate. And at times, using each other… badly. And yet, she is one of my only friends here. And what does that say about me, and my life?
I should tell the whole story I suppose. I know you won’t blame me.
Mary brought her son by. To meet me, she said.
My boy friend was getting ready to take me to the store and we were practically out the door. I walked into the kitchen and Mary handed me a sack in each hand – each small, wrapped in cellophane. I looked at what they were and tried to put them back into her hands. She kept pressing them toward me.
I don’t know why she was trying to hand them to me in the first place. I could tell she was cracked out. Was she wanting to hide it in my place?
I said “I got to go to the bathroom” – just to get out of the situation.
I didn’t want to out to my boyfriend that they had brought this shit into our apartment. We don’t use it. We don’t want it around. And he doesn’t want me hanging with Mary. I’m always covering for my friend when she does stupid stuff like that when she’s cracking out on me. Mary had stolen my laptop once – which is one of the few things of value I own– my connection to the world. But then we got it back afterwards.
I went to the store, came back and went to her place to let her know that this had not been ok..
Her son and daughter showed up and confronted me. They said they wanted “their money.” Even though I don’t use that shit, even though I was angry they had brought it over, even though I hadn’t bought anything. He was threatening me. And made me go to the ATM with them. They were desperate for quick cash, and the whole thing was an excuse. It was theft.
I’ve known the daughter for a long time, and she never treated me this way before. My friend Mary watched this, saying nothing. She didn’t stand up for me, or call him off. I couldn’t believe this was happening. It felt like being raped — like I’m watching myself and my life, and my pain happening outside me — powerless.
I feel like an idiot for not just outing them in front of my boy friend – cuz it meant he was not there standing with me. I feel like an idiot for staying friends with them even though they had hurt me before. But I’m just so alone at times.
But suddenly I was “going” with them to the ATM, and giving them all my remaining money – a few hundred dollars. Everything.
I need people, and these women were among my the only friends – and yet they turned on me, and ripped me off. Something that happens every day here, among the people.
It is so hard and desperate here. My kid gets threatened and arrives home breathing hard. He talks of things he’s seen, and things he fears. He thinks of arming himself (which terrifies me) or simply act invisible… or somehow getting out.
It took me a few days to even tell my boy friend because I was afraid of what he would say. He turned out to be very understanding, but still said “You shouldn’t hang out with people like that” — which puts blame on me again.
I have the horrible feeling I should be blamed. Now I am also out a friend and my money. But don’t we also lose our hope — piece by piece?
And part of me knows, of course, where the blame belongs. There is a system that put us here. There is a hopelessness we are all injected with. There are circuits of empire that bring the drugs here, and run the prisons (which are just training camps for brutalization and mutual torture).
But often that system feels far away. And that blame feels very abstract. And our immediate oppressors are so often each other… as we claw each other, and brutalize each other in our despair and madness.
I even wonder why I use “we” here. I don’t claw anyone. I don’t brutalize anyone. We divide up, don’t we, once again, into victims, abusers and indifferent observers. We live in a time when, here a least, there is so little solidarity or glimpse of a bigger picture. Here people are often broken, and it is hard to imagine where the unity or vision could come for changing anything.
My son said “The people here are so fucked up, they don’t deserve communism and would mess it up if they had it.”
I don’t believe that, of course. I never have. But I just want to share, honestly, how from here everything just feels so bleak sometimes. How do we show up here, as communists, and change people’s choice, and change the people themselves?
Are these really the people that can become the rulers of society? And how do we help that happen?
This has been a hard moment, and right now the whole world seems dark to me. And, the money thing really bothers me. I’m lucky its December – the food pantries give away a lot of food during the holidays.
And I have you, my comrades, around the world: I have your ear, and I have whatever we manage to create together.