Crisis is the flavor of the week for politicians and the news media: opioids, borders, student loans, Venezuelan elections - to name just a few recent ones. Calling something a crisis does a lot of things - it mobilizes people towards a goal, opens up funding streams, allows policies to be implemented in the name of health, defense and democracy, and gets people to click on links. It’s a way to get people talking, and more importantly, to get some of them moving.
Yet it’s also hard to deny that the term crisis may have some substance beyond these cynical uses - for example, many people are killing themselves with opioids for reasons that are widespread and often systemic. And those who fall on the receiving end of many of these crises (opioids, student loans, foreclosures, etc.) are often the poor and exploited. It’s also true that the mobilizations called forth by official crises will almost inevitably hurt those same people with border walls for border crises and new laws for drug crises.
For this and a variety of other reasons, anarchists have often chosen to engage with crises. Yet do we not also risk something by playing by the same games that politicians do? How equipped are anarchists for dealing with problems conceptualized in the order of thousands of people, or even hundreds or tens for that matter? How do we prevent our projects from falling into pure service provision or evaporating as soon as the next big headline appears (if not even before)? Do anarchists even have a role in providing relief to strangers?
So here are my questions for you - should anarchists intervene in a crisis? Is that even a useful category for thinking about problems? What are better or worse ways you’ve seen this done?