Abolition: a piece in four voices


  • The Author – Late 20s
  • The Critic – Mid 30s
  • The Bored – Early 40s
  • The Curious – Unaltered by time
  • The Librarian – An Ethereal Being

The action takes place in a library

Int. Library – Day

The Critic sits at a wide library commons table, penciling frantically into a notebook. Around him lay various books: RD Laing, Reich, Foucault. Sweat drips from his brow as he runs his highlighter through a copy of The Politics of Experience.

Another person, The Author, enters from the right, messenger bag with ACAB patch slung over their shoulder, catalog from AK Press in hand.

The Author: So, you’re here, that must mean you’ve finally read my piece!

The Critic: Well, yes, read it in a certain sense. I tend to call what I did to your piece rage skimming.

The Author: Hmm, I take it you didn’t agree with my point then. Can I ask what you found so unappealing?

The Critic: Well, before I answer your question, you can answer mine. Who exactly were you writing this for?

The Author: Wasn’t it obvious? For anyone who cares about freedom and abolition, for anyone who has ever suffered from oppression, whether because of race, disability, or supposed madness. For anyone who has been labeled as crazy and deviant, and longs for spaces of healing outside the reach of the state and racial capitalism. Wasn’t that clear?

The Critic: Hmmm, I think I would take issue with “anyone” there, it seems like having all those identity qualifiers kinda negates that…

The Author: Wait, you mean like race and disability? Are you trying to make some kind of anti-identity argument to me? Are you reading Stirner AGAIN?

The Critic: I will never read Stirner again, thank you very much. But no, I’m not necessarily making an anti-identity argument writ large. Obviously the way we go through the world is managed by both internal and external identifications. But when it comes to something like anti-psychiatry, to the ways that the system we live under regulates peoples’ psyches, don’t you think that kind of applies to everyone?

The Author: Well, sure, I guess. And there should be space for everyone to heal, but I’m not sure we’re gonna learn a lot from a white boy on Zoloft, especially when compared to how much, for example, people of color have suffered from labels like crazy and schizophrenic.

The Critic: What do you mean by “learn”? You’re not just trying to have people share their experiences?

The Author: Maybe, but we should be learning from those who suffer most from the systems we live under who still survive, to learn how to fight, right? Otherwise we’ll never get to total liberation, only to liberation for those who already have it good.

The Critic: Oh, so you mean Maoism?

The Author: That shit again? How does this even remotely relate to Maoism?

The Critic: You’re telling people to look at the most oppressed in a society, pick them out based on certain identities, and then tell people to help them as a path to revolution. Basically saying “if you’re not black, disabled, and crazy, your perspective isn’t revolutionary”.

The Author: You keep saying revolutionary, I never use that word.

The Critic: Ok, abolition then.

The Author: Man, sometimes you suck. Anyway, this isn’t about revolution, it’s about healing. I’m trying to point out the ways a system based on white supremacist, ableist bullshit targets people based on identity and then when it kills them, we radicals fail to acknowledge the full breadth of that targeting. We point out that a black person was murdered by police, but not that they were also disabled. How are we ever gonna get free if we don’t understand all the ways that the state seeks to label us as dangerous, deviant, or crazy?

The Critic: What I’m trying to say to you is, if we’re all trying to get free why wouldn’t people want to focus on their own experience? I mean, sure, racism, ableism, etc. all exist as material ideologies in the world, but everyone has their own negative experience of them, even those who are more privileged. If we’re really going to be intersectional, we should be asking everyone to look at their own positions in this system, as it fucks everyone, even if unequally. You get at it a little bit in a couple places, in your own way, but they’re pretty brief.

The Author: In my own way, what are you even talking about?

The Critic: You mention that group that talks about schizophrenic people accepting and working with the voices they hear, what was it called?

The Author: The Hearing Voices Network.

The Critic: Right, that I loved. That–telling people that their life isn’t just illness–is what I’m trying to get at. That’s helping people to look inward at their lived experience, and saying that it’s not just the result of some abnormal bio-neuro-psycho- chemistry, but instead that they have a particular experience of the world and of their psyche, and that’s ok.

The Author: Isn’t that the same thing you were just ranting at me about though? Picking out some kind of specialized, oppressed category and trying to learn from it?

The Critic: Only partially. That is the starting point, but the lesson ripples out further. If everyone is oppressed by a totalitarian system, and people who are categorically labeled crazy can provide an example of how that system turns a regular part of their experience into an illness, it means that even people who are well adjusted or successful might be able to look into themselves, and see where pieces of them are cut off in order to fit into that same system.

The Author: It still kinda sounds like you’re agreeing with me…

The Critic: I will never agree with you. It’s that self-reflective piece that you’re missing. You ask people to look at the most oppressed, the most downtrodden under these labels of crazy, disabled, raced, but you don’t ask people to then reflect on how the same system that crushes the super-oppressed also crushes them.

The Author: So you assume that the people reading my shit aren’t the most oppressed. They’re some white suburban housewife who pops pills to keep running their luxury children’s clothing boutique, who should look at their life and all the ways the system privileges them and be sad about it?

The Critic: It would be a start! If you really want wide-scale societal change, wouldn’t some of it need to look like that?

The Author: I dunno man, but what you’re describing just sounds like GOOP, and I’m not really into yoni eggs. Even if I accept that the system we live under affects even the privileged, what the fuck changes if they realize their lives could be better? Aren’t they our enemy?

The Critic: Enemy, ally–those might make sense at a certain scale, but with a wide-enough lens they are just system terms like crazy and sane. It all works in the same binary that seeks to separate mind from body, individual from their experience, people under the boot of oppression from one another. If you start working outside that division, beneath it, behind it, that’s where you’ll start finding real connection, and a chance for real healing.

The Author: Sure man. Well, if you’re pushing that, I don’t see what the harm is in me pushing my position. I mean, can’t they both happen at the same time?

The Critic: Hmmm, I guess? I dunno, feels like neither really gets us that far, but with mine you go in with eyes a bit more open.

The Author: So with less room for fantasy.

The Critic: Just different, smaller fantasies.

The Author: Ah, so you’re categorizing fantasies now!

The Critic: Wait, just a min-

The Librarian enters the frame.

The Librarian: Please refrain from further conversation. You’re disturbing the other patrons as you fail to grasp how you are two sides of a single system, which always shifts, flexes, and works to strengthen itself through its opposition.

The roof caves in over the shared library desk.

Exit: The Author and The Critic.

Int. Library, Children’s Area – Day

The Bored sits on a low stool, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “In the Dust of this Planet”.

Next to them sits The Curious, who appears to be an adult, and is wearing an adult-sized children’s French sailor uniform.

The crash of a ceiling collapsing is heard in the background.

The Curious: What was that noise, friend?

The Bored: Just the sound of dead ideas collapsing in on themselves.

The Curious: Should we be concerned?

The Bored: I would say no, it seems to be the fate of most dialogues.

The Curious: Hmmm, well, I hope they enjoyed it while it lasted.

The Bored: What are you doing there with that marker?

The Curious: I found this article on the way in, Madness, Disability and Abolition. It was pretty interesting, but not sure that matters. Anyway, I’m just marking out words to make it more interesting.

The Bored: Huh, and whaddya have so far?

The Curious: “Mad often have different id relationships, the center most impacted depend on lived pipeline. If it seems impossible consider the mad people over half a million dropped lessons, this necessarily reframes “solution” psychiatric settings. We dream another world.”

The Bored: You know that’s gibberish, right?

The Curious: Have you read the original?

The Bored: You know how I feel about your jokes.

The Curious: Killjoy. Well, the piece was interesting enough, but not exactly much fun.

The Bored: What exactly could anyone think was interesting about a piece that calls for anti-psychiatry to be put through a social justice lens?

The Curious: That in itself! The author manages to both lay out a program for viewing anti-psychiatry through that external oppression lens, and then subverts it in spite of themselves at the same time! You can see the battle of their internal multitudes in real time!

The Bored: So you think that seeing someone accidentally contradict themselves is interesting enough to continue engaging with it?

The Curious: Interesting enough to engage with, but not important enough to take seriously.

The Bored: Are you about to start one of your spiels about ludic reading again?

The Curious: Of course I am! What would be the good of reading if it weren’t to play?

The Bored: I mean, there are all the ones that people typically say: to inform yourself, to find new ideas, to prompt emotion. I’m not sure any of those really do it for me, I mostly find repetition in reading, recycling old ideas in new contexts, which certainly works on some level, but only goes so far.

The Curious: Hmm, seems like the new context might make the ideas new too, but who am I to tell you how to feel.

The Bored: I don’t know that it’s really about a feeling…

The Curious: There is a historical narrative/myth that ex-inmates fill an ant’s body with hyphae and takes control of its actions.

The Bored: Wait, what?

The Curious: Despite the overlap between disability and other struggles for justice They can also direct the flow towards particular areas: when it is time to produce a mushroom especially in communities of color and among poor and trans communities.

The Bored: Stop talking to me in cut-ups!

The Curious: But don’t you see! Just by placing those words into a new context, new ideas and associations arise!

The Bored: I fail to see the new ideas created by putting struggles for justice and mushrooms into the same sentence.

The Curious: Well, let’s try again, they can’t all be winners: Since prisons and police reliance on its mycorrhizal partners is so complete that its roots struggle to absorb water, an abolitionist future, here and now, in our relationships, movements, and communities, that With a decentralised body that grows independently at every extremity, can look to these movements and their tactics for furthering our struggles together.

The Bored: Alright, well that one almost made sense, althou-

The Curious: Some have evolved new colours, like the flaming crimson collective care, jaws rigid over their own communities and land. This is not hypothetical If we are to succeed in our struggles for liberation chemical plumes and microflows of pressurised liquid are, after all, dreaming new worlds (back) into existence.

The Bored: This is worthless, you are just playing, it means nothing. You can read as creatively as you like, but what you produce remains locked in your head.

The Curious: Solving mazes and complex routing problems are non-trivial exercises. We can also submit reportbacks of direct action to integrate the streams of impulses from the foraging tips. Yet it is important to acknowledge that intersectionality in our movements is not new, The question of fungal sentience hovers in the background, like the ambiguous ghosts of spirit photography.

The Bored: I think I’ll leave you to your game, I need a smoke.

Exit The Bored

The Curious: How rapidly, how finely must the network be communicating and acting to puppeteer the central nervous system Following the re-writing of diagnostic criteria in 1968, schizophrenia became a “disease”. Lichens, for instance, whose existence is often glossed as a symbiosis between plant and fungus insists that barriers to access don’t exist at the level of the individual, pushing up through damp soil overnight or delicately forcing itself out through the bark of a rotting log. The same is true of most mobile crisis intervention units, Discovered 10,000 years ago, We can see this in our own bodies supporting individuals to define their own experiences, and to make autonomous decisions about their lives.

Enter The Bored, The Librarian (floating)

The Bored: This, uh, entity has informed me that ultimately your exercise in creative reading only serves a generative purpose if it can be shared with others, otherwise it is your typical, opaque, artsy-fartsy, special snow-flakery. Oh, also the library is closing.

The Curious: Ah, but don’t you know, just in running the exercise I’ve opened my mind to new possibilities in any text I encounter! It might have come off as bad poetry now, but the next time I can do it with another, and together we can make something meaningful just through the doing!

The Bored: Well, just don’t expect anyone else to ever care about what you’re saying.

The Librarian: Outside the circle, things will always lose their sheen.


This Piece References: Madness, Abolition and Disability

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