Care or barbarism, life beyond the self
- Culture Folder
- Sep 21
- 4 mins
I recently read in Forbes magazine that there are more billionaires this year than ever. In fact, last year, every 17 hours a new person became a billionaire, according to the magazine. Faced with the pandemic year of liquid images of coffins, residences, hospitals and hunger lines, the paradox is, to say the least, grotesque. A few days later, as an antidote – which is what books are for – I read in The Care Manifesto that “every millionaire is a failure of politics”. And I thought that Forbes needed more care and had an excess of fortunes, like the world.
I therefore believe that The Care Manifesto. The Politics of Interdependence is a painfully necessary hymn to hope. A text that a pseudo-anonymous group began to write before the pandemic and that, with the disease, has been remoulded and lent new meaning; it has become a survival guide that we should pass around. It could prove very useful the day we take to the streets to rethink the world we want after the pandemic.
The manifesto is an extremely optimistic lifeline without being foolish: a better world is possible, because it already exists in some parts of the world.
The manifesto is an extremely optimistic lifeline without being foolish: a better world is possible, because it already exists in some parts of the world. Without lapsing into the magical realism that some left-wing essays often fall captive to, the ingenuity of the text lies in the rational, well-documented narrative, brimming with examples of practices that improve people’s lives, as starting points. It is neither a list of do’s and don’t nor the programme of any political party; it is a paradigm shift: “What would happen if we began to place care at the nerve centre of life?”
The manifesto invites us to imagine a world in which the goal of the human species is not to accumulate and to be richer, but simply to be happier, work less and take care of ourselves more. The text puts forth a possible world where care is at the heart, drawing on feminist, queer, anti-racist and eco-socialist lessons, with the premise of gradually accepting that we are independent: I need to be cared for in order to be able to care. If we do not look beyond the self, there is neither me nor us (there are only lists of fortunes, I guess); the authors cleverly put forward the concept of “universal care”. An idea of care that is as broad as possible, “to think of care as an organising principle on each and every scale of life”, from birth to death, including both individual care and collective care spaces that make us – or could make us – a more democratic society.
Care that should not always be delivered during our free time, and should not always be unpaid and basically carried out in precarious positions – 99% feminised – but should undergo decent, cooperative professionalisation. Because care is not always rewarding but exhausting, and often exposes us to our darkest side, to the human miseries that we do not post on social media. Thus, family members are not always the best suited to take care of them, and hence the authors’ proposal for “mixed care”, which is still a nice and provocative way of talking about expanding the tribe and moving beyond the nuclear family.
Not long ago, in a WhatsApp group of activist mothers that ended up nowhere on account of lack of time, a mother asked: “What do we want? Money and time”. At the time it seemed enormously practical, perhaps even simplistic, to me. Today, a few months of parenting later, I know she was right. The Care Manifesto hones it further and speaks of “resources and time”. I do not want to reveal how it ends, how it resolves the demand of the mother in the WhatsApp group, because it is worth taking care of yourselves and finding time to read the book. But, by way of farewell, I’d say that it is a book that helps restore a certain faith in humanity and leaves you with a smile on your face. Maybe changing the world was easier than it seemed.
The Care Manifesto. The Politics of Interdependence.
The Care Collective
New York, 2020
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