How is solidarity possible in a world where strangers can never talk to one another? That is the world I live in.
I know that solidarity requires that there be communication between groups of people who seem to have nothing in common. According to the standard version of American “liberalism,” individuals are defined by their age, religious affiliation, sexual preferences, “race,” gender, “socioeconomic status,” regional identity, country of origin, political “party,” etc.
I have learned what solidarity means as a descendant of unwelcome immigrants and poor southerners; as a service industry worker; as a student; as a friend of lesbians; as a sexual partner with bisexual women; as a neighbor; as an anarchist; as a lover of punk rock; as a lover of hip-hop; as a resident in Black neighborhoods; as a worker in majority-Black workplaces; as a resident in recent immigrant neighborhoods; as a patient in locked psychiatric wards; as a cyclist in cities with no bike lanes; as a minimum-wage-earner in psychiatric facilities where my job was to use my lived experience as a “mental health consumer” to help other “mental health consumers” manage their symptoms, learn about recovery, and navigate the social service system in Chicago so that they can achieve stable housing, a stable source of medications, etc., etc.
I have never felt solidarity with “White people,” even though according to the genetics website 23 and Me I am 100% European. I have never felt solidarity with “heterosexual men,” even though I am certainly a heterosexual man. I have never felt solidarity with “real Americans,” even though I have ancestors who have been here since 1640. I have never felt solidarity with the Stars and Bars, even though my ancestors owned slaves and colonized Mississippi.
Every time a giant automobile nearly runs me over, I curse at that automobile. I would rather not curse at it. What I would like to say instead of “FUCK YOU” is, “Pardon me, but have you ever had your brain hit the front of your skull so hard that it completely and permanently severed all of your olfactory nerves? No? Well, I have, and it was a giant automobile that did it. If I still had a sense of smell, maybe I would have realized that you were headed in my direction earlier. Isn’t that something?”
It’s impossible to have a conversation with a moving vehicle. A moving vehicle objectively has more killing power than an unarmed human being.
Every time I am walking down a sidewalk in the dark and I encounter a small woman walking a giant dog and talking on a cell phone, I want to say, “Pardon me, I know that I am six feet seven inches, 225 pounds, and dressed all in black. I am not an aggressive person, and I accept most of the conclusions of radical feminism, despite being a heterosexual man. I have been bitten by dogs twice while walking down sidewalks in Chicago. If I stepped in your dog’s poop, I might never even realize that everyone smells shit on my shoe when I walk by. The thing is, you are walking slower than I would like to walk, and I hesitate to pass you, because that would be frightening.”
It’s impossible to have a conversation with a person talking on a cell phone. And so I walk slowly, and cross to the other side of the street at the next intersection.
A giant dog under the control of a distracted person is objectively more dangerous than a big smelly bastard in the dark.