As we continue to struggle in NYC, many changes have come about since we last wrote of the Woodbine Health Autonomy Center and our thoughts After Occupy. The chaos of the world seems to grow larger, pushing us to further investigate the materiality of autonomy. The growing migrant crisis in Europe, the rise of proto-fascist forces across the world, the election of Trump here in the US. The continual melting of glaciers. The mundanities of crushing debt, the anxiety of our culture, and the everyday loneliness of the city. And for us here at Woodbine, the loss of a dear friend and comrade who was traveling to support the indigenous resistance at Standing Rock.
We don’t bring these up to merely add to the general devastation. But because they are our reality. They exist and to not acknowledge that is to cover ourselves with superficial banalities. The crises that continue to arise are merely symptoms of the disintegration of a way of being in the world that is becoming rapidly untenable. So when we think of care, we must take on the task of being a bridge to a new way of being.
At Woodbine, we are continuing to develop a path toward health autonomy. We are looking to meld many different modalities of health. We have been experimenting with different projects and finding ways to build community. We’ve had a garage gym with weekly fitness classes, open hours in our Resource Center, and ongoing public workshops. Our series of “skill shares”, has included subjects from acupuncture to foraging urban medicinal plants, to workshops on first aid and large discussions questioning what communal health really requires. Autonomous mental health infrastructure seems to be the most pressing immediate need of our community. This is a key place we are focusing our energies at the moment. We find that the act of sharing responsibilities, allowing for new innovation, and practicing vulnerability with our comrades are the first steps to addressing these larger questions of health and care.
With the proposed health care cuts as well as the general trend our government is taking, we fear that some heightened level of austerity will be upon us. As resources to critical health infrastructure are being threatened, as evidenced by Planned Parenthood cuts, the war on women’s health, and the potentials for immigration officials to use health institutions as a screening tool, we are increasingly seeing a need to provide clinical as well as educational resources. Because of the immense cost and regulatory difficulty of providing clinical care in NYC, we need to seek and develop work-arounds. As we see the needs increasing, cuts being made and draconian measures to make non-violent actions to protect water punishable with prison sentences, we can only imagine a future where care for ourselves and our fellows will become increasingly criminalized. Therefore the steps we make to gain and share skills and develop subterranean practices of care can return some of the agency we’ve lost to the professionalization of medicine and the profitable mystery that is our bodies. As we think about expanding our capacity, we don’t want to just “fill in the gaps” of public health infrastructure. We need to slowly break our dependence on these institutions in all the ways that we can and also look for ways to use them to our advantage. We think this happens through sharing knowledge and skills, an emphasis on preventative care, and finding ways to manipulate existing structures to allow us to move forward on this path of autonomy.
We believe in the utter necessity of revolution, of the development of material lines of power. Questions of care and health autonomy are pivotal to that progression. From the Greek solidarity clinics to the Zapatistas “healthcare from below” to Black Panther Clinics and GynPunks, there is inspiration for this path all around us. We begin by finding each other.