With all the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people have needed more help from other people.
It’s clear that while there has been some help from the government and other institutions, it hasn’t been enough. So many people are struggling to stay afloat now.
I first started hearing the term “mutual aid” towards the beginning of the pandemic and drew the conclusion that it had something to do with grassroots type organizing.
As I did research, I realized that the concept of mutual aid in the U.S. originated in the labor and union movements of the 1800s.
Through community organization, people helped provide for each other’s basic needs like healthcare and sick leave.
The term “mutual aid” was coined in 1902 by naturalist and philosopher Peter Kropotkin.
He believed that cooperation was what aided survival of people and animals. This has become an essential principle for many leftists, and it’s something I wish I would have known about sooner.
In some instances, community organizers doing mutual aid have changed how the government aids people.
For example, the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program fed thousands of children.
While the Black Panthers were primarily focused on Black liberation and justice, they saw a community need to help feed children, and they organized in cities across the country to meet that need, since no one else would.
A few year later, the federal government instituted a free breakfast program, thus making it more accessible. It’s amazing how groups of people meeting needs that no one else will meet could eventually help create a large structural change like this.
I have written before about how some charities or non-profits aren’t the best ethically.
There are also a lot of so-called charities where more of the money raised goes to pay executives than it does to things like the scientific research they claim most of it goes to.
If more people focus on mutual aid or other community and grassroots activism, we can cut out the middleman. We would be helping people much more efficiently and urgently.
Across the country, people stepped up to help their neighbors and communities.
According to The New Yorker, there have been groups across the country organizing to deliver groceries to at-risk individuals, provide childcare to essential workers and more.
In other countries, some of these needs were met with federal programs, but sadly they weren’t here. However, it’s incredible that people stepped up.
There have been times where I’ve probably unknowingly done forms of mutual aid, as I’m quite active in the diabetic online community.
Diabetic supplies are price gouged, and people often rely on others to donate extra supplies they may have.
I’ve done this a few times, and it felt good to help someone get what they need.
I think donating my unused diabetic supplies has more value and influence than donating to a charity where a tiny fraction of a percent of my money would go to diabetes research.
When we can, I think we should all focus on a more mutual aid type of approach to helping others. It’s much more efficient than charities, as well as has a more direct effect on the people you are trying to help.
It can help meet a need that the government has failed to meet and could even put pressure on them to do better.
We should all care about our communities and neighbors, and mutual aid is a great way to do that.