Study in the Garden: Caring Sustainably

Friday March 25

Since autumn last year I have been part of a research group on care initiated by Michelle Teran. I wasn't able to attend many of the meetings, but I'm planning to go more regularly now. We met on Friday in Michelle's garden. It was beautiful weather and we sat in the sun, checking in, sharing what we were concerned with. Similar to the Cooking Something Up group, the conversation was flowing naturally, meandering between personal experiences and larger political frameworks. The subject of sustainability in political activism came up multiple times. Too often, at least for me, being involved in activism feels draining after a while and I need to recover from it afterwards. It also comes down to an issue of care: How can one be engaged, care, while also caring for oneself?

I was very sceptical of the notion of care at first, as it is currently very fashionable in the art world and risks becoming shallow. But the more I think about it and engage with the research group, I realise how crucial and multi-faceted it is. Caring about something, or someone, is maybe the only antidote for the banality of evil that Hannah Arendt describes.1 It might be precisely this lack of care, this ability to disengage, to not feel implicated, that facilitates violence, or at least leaves it unchallenged. We also discussed different modes of engagement, such as volunteering for the Red Cross, organising educational events, writing demands, or organising protests. One person said she feels like those very out-there forms of activism aren't really for her and she prefers contributing with supportive work. Another person noted that nobody really wants to be the out-there, shouting activist person, that this is often not a voluntary choice, but a necessity.

1 Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Penguin, 2006.