“The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need – the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel…”
A u d r e L o r d e
I am an anti-capitalist business owner. Capitalism is a highly dysfunctional and destructive system which perpetuates both the oppression of humans and exploitation of natural resources. It damages the human spirit to be essentially forced to participate in capitalism for our survival. And yet, here we are, all having to do our best within an inherently flawed and unjust system. I truly believe that we are all doing the best we can with what we know. Until we see a more generous and equitable way of doing anything modeled for us, it can be difficult to imagine that it is possible.
We all need to be able to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves to a reasonable degree. For each of us this looks different, and these standards of living are yours alone to define for yourself. But once we’ve met whatever we believe to be our basic needs and we have disposable income, it is essential to give back as much as we can to those who lack the privileges we hold, or who do not even have access to the basic necessities of life. This includes not only those persons who experience oppression, but also our more than human kin: plants, animals, and ecosystems.
Power, resources, and access to capital are extremely unfairly distributed in our society based on race, class, gender, and sexuality. Reciprocity is the practice of acknowledging this fact and actively leveraging whatever privilege one holds, to shift power and resources into the hands of those who are systematically oppressed.
Reciprocity is foundational to the work that I do through both La Abeja Herbs and Garden Party. And for a long time, I didn’t think anyone else needed to know about it. In an age where nearly everything is subject to the harsh criticism of the online sphere, it just felt easier to manage this aspect of my work quietly and privately. But recently, I’ve realized that this was mostly out of fear — fear of being challenged, questioned, or perceived as being a performative ally. My choice not to share this aspect of my work publicly was actually a form of white silence and not something I wanted to perpetuate.
“If you have come here to help me,
you are wasting your time. But if you have come
because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.”
L i l l a W a t s o n
We each have a sacred responsibility to create reciprocity in whatever ways we are capable of. That will look different for you and for me and for everyone we know. And that is ok. I truly do not believe that there is one right way to give back, or to be an activist, or to live an ethical life. There are many others ways to reject a capitalist system and capitalist practices, and to actively work to create something new and different. I am in no way suggesting that I have an answer or that other actions should not be taken as well. Below you’ll find an [imperfect] set of suggestions and guidelines for living well and wisely during these trying and transformational times.
I am the first to admit that I have my blind spots as a white woman of relative privilege in this world. If there is anything missing from this list that you believe should be on it, or anything which you find problematic, I would love to know about it so I can continue to learn, grow, and show up as effectively and empathically as possible. I want this to be an ongoing dialogue because I recognize these are not solutions on their own. I hope you’ll join me in adopting some of the following suggestions, as well as taking the time to share your own on social media, using the hashtag #ReciprocityInAction so that others can be inspired by your example
Note // While these practices are specifically meant for anyone who offers their time, services, or goods they produce for sale, it is my hope that there will be some pearls of wisdom and healing in these words that can be put into practice by anyone who makes above the living wage. Additionally, as a consumer, these are important things to be looking for when supporting businesses and individuals.