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Who grew, picked, processed, and transported the food that sustains me everyday? Where does the water I drink come from and where does it go when I flush the toilet? Who labored to make the shoes I’m wearing, and where did those materials come from?
Essentially, most of the labor and processes that make everyday life possible under capitalism happen outside of our perception. These systems of life-sustaining infrastructure are the basic cultural and economic foundations of daily life yet many interact with them only as goods or services to be paid for, or which aren’t affordable and thus denied.
This simple infrastructure rosary was created by crocheting linen that we grew from flax around a set of 13 objects which represent 13 domains of basic life-sustaining infrastructure. The rosary was designed to meditate on manifold nature of these culturally-determined systems, especially as they relate to my life: their banality and complexity, the injustice required to maintain them, and to pray for shared access to all of life’s necessities. Nobody should be denied their right to life’s essential resources!
Starting from the yellow corn in the bottom-left corner, let’s go around the infrastructure rosary and begin to think about these culturally-determined systems of infrastructure.
- Food – the corn husk grown in the backyard represents the energy embodied in food. Eating is essential for life, and food is such an indelible component of every culture. Food represents the necessity of healthy soil and water, the Sun’s continual gift of energy, and the hands required to plant, care for, harvest, and prepare dishes. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING of the cultural systems whereby our food is increasingly: grown on colonized lands, by private corporations in destructive mono-crop plantations; worked by migrant labor in dangerous, underpaid, and precarious conditions; fertilized by poisons and transported by fossil-fuels; processed into products which harm peoples health; sold at exorbitant prices; and simply thrown into the landfill literally half of the time (where it creates methane and accelerates global warming).
- Land – the little baggie of soil represents the land upon which life plays out and the Earth upon which we all live. This stands for territory, including lakes and seas, that a culture develops relationship with. Land has character and contains stories from the past and potentials for the future.In our case we are living on the occupied lands of the Massachusett Nation, and the entire U.S. Empire exists on the occupied lands of some 560 Indigenous Nations. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING of the cultural systems whereby land has been transformed into a commodity to be bought and sold; desecrated by colonization and nearly purged of its relationships to Indigenous peoples; continually stolen by the wealthy and colonial corporations in the pursuit of profit; and abused unrelentingly for the sake of profit without a thought of the consequences.
- Shelter – the rusty, bent nail represents the forms of shelter within which so much of culture takes places. Architecture, and especially housing, are intrinsic aspects of human culture and are imbued with tremendous meaning. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING of the cultural systems that: deny millions of people access to adequate housing; force people to live in unhealthy neighborhoods which are deprived of resources; displace people through skyrocketing rents and gentrification; replace the breadth of cultural architecture with mass-produced, environmentally destructive shelter; and intern millions of people in jails and prisons.
- Security – this bullet that was found in the forest represents a cultural right to self-defense, emergency response, and overall security. Security means the ability to live without threat of attack or annihilation from human or non-human forces. Things like a smoke detector or evacuation route, self-defense training, and/or protection from malicious intrusion are all forms of security which should guarantee a sense of safety and ease for all of humanity. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING of the cultural systems that: rely on the military to provide a false sense of “global security” in order to implement an Imperial agenda; empower the police to use lethal force as the only “legitimate” security force in a system whereby they primarily protect the property and interests of white citizens; create a deep sense of insecurity for cultures and identities targeted by patriarchy, white supremacy, and international corporate colonialism; and sow the seeds for unending climate insecurity and global chaos as a result of colonial folly.
- Energy – this piece of coal which I found in the back yard represents energy. From human or animal labor power to wind, solar, or fossil fuel energy, human culture depends completely on the ability to consume energy. Almost all of the energy present on planet Earth comes from the Sun as sunshine, including fossil fuels which are the physical manifestation of ancient photosynthesis. There are so many forms and levels of energy, and in fact even matter is made up of energy. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING of the cultural systems which waste so much of the precious solar energy being gifted to our planet; obsess over the use of fossil fuel energy and are literally sacrificing the Earth to burn these fuel sources for profit; make people pay exorbitant prices for energy which should be a basic right for all; abuse the energy embodied in human laborers in all segments of the economy; and trap the energetic equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs PER DAY in the atmosphere because of the accumulation of greenhouse gasses.
- Transportation – this teal Maersk shipping-container tag represents the physical transportation of goods and people. The ability to migrate, move around, and transport necessary goods is essential for the survival of cultures. There are rich traditions of cultural circulation involving traversing ancient paths, river and ocean navigation, and the use of animals and vehicles to travel. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING of the cultural systems which force people to migrate because of colonization and homelands destruction caused by global warming; restrict access to movement because of colonial borders and/or exorbitant transportation costs; rely on the consumption of fossil fuels and the consequences of such energy sources; continue to privatize the means of circulation; and privilege the needs of cars and transportation companies over people.
- Communication – the tip of this ink pen represents the many ways individuals transmit ideas to one another and the cultural modes of communication. From oral traditions to the written word, fiber-optic cables to smoke signals, cultures around the globe have developed an array of means to share the necessary knowledge to coordinate life. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING OF THE CULTURAL SYSTEMS WHICH: continue to eradicate Indigenous languages through the expansion of colonialism; centralize the means to communicate in the hands of privatized communications companies; spread false messages of supremacy; and are becoming increasingly monitored, censored, and expensive.
- Manufacturing – this little metal gear represents the vast realm of production that furnishes human life with the goods and tools necessary to thrive. The creation of human artifacts is one of the most definitive aspects of a culture, especially for ancient cultures where only material objects remain. Everything that we use day to day, including the physical aspects of these infrastructural domains, were produced by a human nature and/or machines from the physical body of Earth. I LAMENT AND PRAY FOR THE OVERTURNING OF THE CULTURAL SYSTEMS THAT: have historically relied on the exploitation of workers to create commodities for profit; continue to destroy Indigenous means of production for the expansion of capitalism; contaminated the Earth, sky, and waters with the byproducts of industrial production; rely on the consumption of fossil fuels to manufacture goods; prey on formerly colonized countries “overseas” as labor markets where products can be created for the cheapest price because of lax labor and environmental regulations; are oftentimes toxic for consumers; and wind up in landfills shortly after being bought.
- Waste – this little trash baggie, full of actual little trash, represents the systems that are generated to deal with waste. For much of human history the waste generated by society was organic and could be incorporated back into Nature. But with the advent of industrialization and urbanization, the concentration of waste needs to be managed for sanitation and aesthetic purposes.