What does a post-capitalist world look like, and how do we get there? These are the questions that Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen mull over with Anuradha Kowtha. Anuradha is a catalyst, educator, Business Liberation Strategist, and the founder of The Kowtha Constellation. The three go on a deep dive on harm reduction strategies that could slowly liberate society from the shackles of capitalism. It is high time that people go beyond performative actions and it’s not as simple as checking off a box on a list. Anuradha also enlightens on concepts such as anticapitalist marketing and toxic belonging culture. Join in and get insights that will shake up how you view your place in the community with the evolution of capitalism.
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Harm Reduction Strategies For A Post Capitalist World With Anuradha Kowtha
There’s interesting energy when as human beings we acknowledge our lack of knowledge and our ignorance of certain things that are happening on the planet, and also willfully dive into certain frameworks of being and terminologies we have never heard before. We’re excited to have Anuradha of The Kowtha Constellation here on the show. As I was going through The Kowtha Constellation website, there were so many things that popped out at me where I thought to myself, “I have never heard this term or this framework before. I’m so unfamiliar.”
It was such a wonderful moment of learning more about your work, which we’re going to dive into. There are many subjects we want to cover with you. One thing that immediately hit me was on your website, you were talking about a free online summit that you were a part of called the Radical Business Summit, which was on September 2021. One thing that immediately jumped out at me amongst many things was the phrase anticapitalist marketing. I found myself sitting with that. First of all, my first impression of it was it’s an oxymoron. I was like, “These are two diametrically opposed concepts. How can you market something and be anticapitalist while doing it?”
There are many facets we want to cover about imperialism, supremacy and capitalism. We’re diving into a lot of deep pools with you. I want to start with this idea of anticapitalist marketing because I have wiring in my brain that tells me that somehow that’s not possible. How do I market to someone and do it with a sense of, “I don’t want to shove this product or this service down their throats, or try and convince them that they need it, or that their life is crap without it.” Could we start there? I want to jump into that. What does anticapitalist marketing mean to you? How the heck do we even do that? Where do we even begin to approach that?I can't just be, I have to be. I have to exchange my skill to get something. Click To Tweet
Where I would start answering is going back to the root of what capitalism is. It wasn’t a natural progression. A lot of people think it is from the feudal system that the only next progression is capitalism. It was codified laws and policies, especially by the upper classes or the bourgeois here in Western Europe. I’m speaking here from Greater London. There were very certain features that created what we have as capitalism. I have a course where I talk about this, Sowing Post-Capitalist Seeds. We do a fourteen-week dive on what is capitalism and how we can think about seeding other possibilities beyond what we’re in.
For clarity, so people can follow along, some of the features you might recognize because some of these changes came directly after the plague. We’re in a pandemic. There are parallels that have happened. One of them is the enclosures. There was common land that everyone could use. In Scotland, there are the Highland Games. You can have games, a community and water. You could allow your animals to graze. If you didn’t have a house, you could live in the commons. There was a lot of freedom in these commons. There were a series of laws even here in England that enclosed most of England. The upper classes did a whole lot of things, pushing people off the commons and putting hedgerows up to stop people.
That was a feature of capitalism. This was common public land. There was standard practice on how we might use it, and it was taken away. There were propaganda campaigns around feminization. They created this boundary of feminized labor. Here, it’s not necessarily about who is doing the labor. Generally, it’s women and gender minorities. The work becomes done in the private sphere versus the public sphere. That labor like care work becomes degraded and so on. That is not valued and hence not paid. The wages instead go to the husband. You see the construction of the nuclear family.
There are very specific features that come to capitalism. When we think of capitalism, there are many more details here of the kinds of things that happened like the labor shortage after the plague and so on. That’s what we’re up against. We have lost a lot of people during the pandemic. How that gets translated into a marketing sense is with these features, think about our ancestors. They wouldn’t have had a water bill or have paid rent in the same ways we have to do now. There was common land we could live and exist on. Now there is practically no space.
You can be outside without having to spend money like libraries and sidewalks. There are a few places like parks. Where can you be without the idea that I have to spend money for my existence? There’s a premium. I can’t just be. I have to now earn or exchange my worth, skill or labor to get something. What’s happening on the other end of that is a Marxist term. I’m not saying I’m a Marxist. I’m just explaining the term, primitive accumulation. It’s the idea that somebody is profiting from our labor and we’re seeing that in mass.
We might be making widgets or whatever that may be. We make ten widgets an hour. We’re not getting paid the net benefit of making those ten widgets. We’re getting paid an hourly wage or a salary wage. What we’re seeing in the pandemic is these billionaires creaming all of that up to the top, the CEOs and so on, and then giving pittance, not even a penny of per widget coming back down to the employee who’s creating the real value. We’re seeing that in real-time. Given that understanding of capitalism, there’s a lot of possibility of how we can be anticapitalists in the way we market.Whether or not we like it, we're in relationship with capitalism. Click To Tweet
Jason, you mentioned that we can not have a pain point marketing like, “You’re ugly. I know you want to look beautiful.” The health and wellness industry is a $72 billion industry that is making money off of people’s insecurity. They have created fatphobia, ableism, and everything else in this. They’re going to profit from that. This one is close to my heart. It’s also a several-billion-dollar industry just in the US. It’s the yoga industrial complex. Instead of that money going back to the indigenous people who created the arts and are dying in COVID, that’s not where the money is going. It is going into these people’s pockets who aren’t giving back to those communities. That’s painful.
I’m not a yoga person specifically but I am in lineage arts. That energy of tending that knowledge from generation to generation is important and we’re not respecting that. It depends on the industry. We stopped cultural appropriating and give back to the indigenous communities. That could be a way that we address this in our marketing. We could say we’re going to attempt to be accessible. There are a lot of ways and it depends. When I do consulting work, I don’t think there’s a checklist like, “Here’s the perfect thing everyone ought to do.” We have to come up with something that makes sense for our company, ethos and positionality, which matters greatly. Where are we in this spectrum of systemic oppression?
Thank you so much for articulating it that way and the education. There are many thoughts and feelings that come up in reflecting on how I have shown up, how I observe others showing up, and the things that I want to see happen around the world. I especially love that you said that there’s no checklist because a lot of people want a checklist. They want to feel like, “Let’s check this off. Everybody is going to see us as being ethical. People are going to see me as doing things right.”
I have realized, especially through teaching myself about racism and how I have inadvertently in some cases participated in that, it’s ongoing learning. It’s like capitalism in some ways where there’s so much to untether historically. There are many ways that I have participated in this without knowing. It reminds me. I was thinking about in the past, Jason and I used to participate in Black Friday sales. 2021 is the first year in a while that we haven’t.
We talked about in a past episode how we had participated in bundle sales. I‘m not sure if this was exactly what you had done. Collaborating with other people can be a wonderful thing but in our experience, we were part of some sales that almost felt like MLMs where the people at the top are benefiting so much more from this collective contribution.
My big frustration was that we were all contributing something of value. How do you decide? Is everything equal? Is something greater in value than others? It’s so challenging to decipher. If you’re all doing eBooks, “Is it based on someone’s knowledge, the topic or the length?” All of these factors, when it comes to pricing. These bundle sales would involve a ton of people collaborating and creating something of one value, and giving it some insane discount for Black Friday.
We had done this for years but in 2020, Jason and I realized it didn’t feel right to us. It gave me this icky feeling. One of those feelings was the overall feeling I have about Black Friday whereas it’s wonderful on some level to have a few days a year where you offer massive discounts. People that don’t want to work and can’t spend the money on certain things can get something of great value. Ultimately, that’s also part of this big marketing push where big corporations are often benefiting from convincing somebody that they need something that they don’t.
In 2021, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief that I wasn’t participating in a Black Friday sale because I have always resonated with the Buy Nothing ethos. Even though technically I’m not against people buying things, I‘m planning on buying some things during Black Friday because I want or need them and they are at a great price so why not get them at a discount? That’s what’s in my head. The sigh of relief was like, “I’m not going to be a hypocrite if I want to talk about Buy Nothing Day because I’m not selling anything.”
I feel like I can finally be like, “Let’s talk about not buying things, buying less, or evaluating what you’re purchasing but also thinking about the motivations for something like Black Friday.” It is also a touchy day because it’s centered around Thanksgiving, which has a lot of historical contexts that are disturbing for others. I’m very curious how you feel about Black Friday. Is this something that you participate in? Why or why not? Is it something that you avoid or feel uncomfortable with? You are in London so I’m curious. Is it as big in London as it is in the States?The longing for purity is just more hierarchy. Click To Tweet
I like that you are pondering, “Where do I fit in this? How does it fit with my ethos, the way I want to be running a business, and so on?” I want to applaud that because both of you have put in a lot of time to say, “We want to bring in more diverse speakers.” You can see the commitment shining through in the choices you’re making. That’s amazing. I want to highlight that. Do I participate? I haven’t sold anything on Black Friday in my business. I don’t think that I have participated in anything like that. I don’t fault people who for access reasons need to find things on sale because that helps their money go a little bit further. I don’t think that’s the thing.
A lot of people have this misconception about anticapitalism of, “I’m going to remove myself from the equation.” Whether or not we like it, we’re in a relationship with capitalism. That’s the fact. There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. We have to get rid of that purity like, “It’s going to be perfect.” That doesn’t exist. Longing for purity is just more hierarchy in my opinion. Maybe we can talk about that one a little bit more. What we can participate in is harm reduction. I’m neurodivergent. I will name that. I don’t often think linearly. At least I’m warning you now that I’m going to make a jump but I hope I will connect the dots for you all.
The ruling against Rittenhouse is that he is allowed to walk free. Ultimately, I don’t know if this is too radical to say but it’s my belief. I’m an abolitionist. We need to get rid of policing in the form it currently is. Harm reduction strategies could be defunding the police or re-allocating funding from police to other things. You will find crime because of lack of resources oftentimes. If we invested in the communities, we can say that. Here in the UK, it’s similar. With Black Friday, we’re totally taking a capitalistic point of view. We are falling lockstep into what’s going on in the US. Everything that is not nailed down there is selling off. That’s what the conservative government here is doing. That’s what Brexit has done.
There’s a basic fire sale going on of everything of value in the UK. They are in the process of trying to sell off our NHS or National Health Service. That’s on the chopping block. They are doing a lot of cruel things and putting raw sewage in our waterways. That’s the stuff happening here. When we think about participating in Black Friday, that’s happening. What I’m saying is what our harm reduction strategies we as business owners and individuals can start participating in. It seems like it’s quite a jump, “I’m not going to spend any money,” but we do. We have a long history of currency use. There’s a whole history we talk about in our Sowing Post-Capitalist Seeds class. We weren’t always bartering. The ways we talk about bartering are very different.
What I’m saying is money is necessary but we can reimagine how we start to engage with these things. I hope that makes sense. That’s the jump we’re trying to make. In the meantime, it’s such a big jump. We can be doing harm reduction strategies like choosing not to participate or participating less. In the UK, they started Black Pound Saturdays. Every first Saturday of the month, they encourage people to spend on Black-owned businesses. To me, spending with LGBT-owned or people of color-owned businesses is an excellent strategy because it gives them much-needed revenue and supports them. It’s not going into a big corporation’s pockets. It’s going into someone who’s going to recirculate that money into their local economy, hopefully.
We certainly don’t mind that you go off on tangents and don’t always make perfect points because I’m very much like that for sure, and I believe Jason is in some ways. Also, anything goes here. We appreciate your perspectives because you’re certainly bringing things to the table that no other guests have before. Thank you for sharing all of this with so much passion. The whole aim of our show is not to censor your thoughts or feelings on this because it’s so important for us to hear all different types of perspectives, whether we align with them or not and hold space for each other in that way. I love that point.
For those that are reading and didn’t realize that we have a YouTube channel, if you want to see our facial expressions, you can go to YouTube.com/Wellevatr. I believe your quote was, “The longing for purity is just more hierarchy.” For a moment, I felt confused by that, but then I realized it reminds me of things that we have heard a lot. I’m grateful for a movement around anti-hustle culture, which is a topic we have addressed maybe more than anything else on the show. Jason and I, in running the show, have felt like we’re awakening to that. We’re recovering hustlers. We are re-examining things and that’s exactly why we’ve decided not to participate in Black Friday in 2021.
We felt like we had to do some of these things like, “This is what everybody else is doing and how everybody else is doing it.” A lot of things were bothering me about it. That hierarchy is part of it because a lot of that is a privilege. It’s the privilege of your gender, skin color, sexuality, where you live, how you were raised, and all these factors that would go into somebody’s influence. Having been in the influencer-marketing world for so long, a lot of it doesn’t resonate with me. I’m feeling that a big shift is happening. It’s like everything is starting to bubble and change. It excites me but it’s also getting messy along the way.
When we think about these hierarchies and that longing, I do believe it’s part of capitalism in this way because they are just desires to constantly be proving ourselves and our value, and always making money. Jason has articulated this a ton, how draining that is. We see burnout happening constantly. That word is the number one piece of feedback we hear from people. If we ask them how they’re feeling, it’s either going to be burnout or overwhelm. The fact that it is so common and anxiety is also so common, it should be that canary in the coalmine.
Why are the majority of people that at least I’m speaking to are using these terms? A huge part of it is because we never feel like we can rest and stop because so much of our societies are built for that. Even in the times where we do stop, we’re still longing for something that we don’t have or feeling guilty about. I also know myself and a number of other people express that they don’t feel like they can rest because when they do rest, they’re still longing and thinking about work or whatever they need to do. Even if they’re not working, whatever is going on in their life still revolves around productivity.
We had a guest on our show, Celeste Headlee, who has written a number of amazing books on this and has a book about race. In her book Do Nothing where we highlighted it, she talks about our addiction to efficiency. I’m curious to hear this in your own words. What do you mean by the longing for purity and how does that tie into hierarchy? Is it in alignment with how I view it? Is there another level to it that I have not understood yet?We don't have time for purity culture. Click To Tweet
Do you think you could rephrase that a little bit for me?
I’m curious. When you phrased that, I could tell you wanted to come back to it and dive deeper into that phrase or quote of, “The longing for purity is just more hierarchy.” Can you share with us in your own words, what did you mean by that? Maybe my interpretation is not in alignment with the root of what you were getting at there.
Your interpretation is a good starting point. That’s what I was saying about positionality. Where are we? It’s not just people of color, disabled people or so on who have been saying these things for a long time. J.K. Rowling is a good example of this. It’s only when it’s affecting her and impacting her that now it’s called cancel culture or this attitude. With post-capitalism, I see a lot of people saying this ethic of, “I don’t need to use money.” Often, it’s very privileged White people saying this. If we look at communities, the disability community is an excellent example of this.
Here in London, right after the pandemic started, there were mutual aid groups that popped up all over. Even in our borough, we’re in Greenwich Borough, they all popped up. The group immediately were saying, “We’re not going to talk about politics here,” even though it was the Tory government possibly doing the worst damage by not taking care of people and making choices. In reality, what’s happening? People of color are dying at higher rates, and 60% of the people dying are disabled here in this country. They have DNR provisions put on them.
I’m having a conversation with my kids saying, “We’ve got to make sure nothing happens to us because we’re not going to be the people who they are going to save.” My partner is visually impaired and I’m chronically ill. What does that say? This thing is upsetting. If we look at these communities of color or disabled communities, their mutual aid ethic is very different. They are uplifting each other and it’s not temporary. All of those mutual aid groups by and large have faded away within a few months. After the first wave, that’s it. I don’t even hear about them anymore.
The mutual aid that I have within the queer, neurodivergent, or the subsets of all of these communities is we reach out for each other. We are checking in on each other and asking basic questions like, “This person is depressed. Did you brush your teeth today?” We’re passing around £20 because we know that this person needs it. These kinds of things are the backbone of a lot of these communities. I’m not faulting a lot of more privileged people, especially in the Global North. It’s just hitting them now because by and large, we have been sheltered from that.
Every year in the monsoon season in South India where my folks are from, different places are flooding like Bangladesh. With the climate crisis, people in the Global South are dying and very little is changing in terms of attitude in the Global North. People are concerned too much about purity culture. Like J.K. Rowling, she’s punching down on trans and non-binary folks and now gets to scream foul that people are coming for her. The people around her continue to get uplifted, media attention, platformed, book deals, and everything. Similarly, we’re facing climate destruction and we have less than a few years to correct that, and people are worried about which strategy. I remember the Kyoto Protocol and all of these other ones. We’re at COP26 and pretty much the Global North has not taken any sizable action and similarly, privileged people.
This is not just people of color or just White people. Privileged people, in general, are creating the most carbon thinking, “Do I get this car? Do I do this thing?” or policing people because of straw use and single-use plastics or whatever, and not targeting those hundreds of companies that are creating things like the military-industrial complexes. Even here in the UK, there’s the Trident and other nuclear projects. That’s where the environmental destruction is coming from.
Instead of putting our power together and disrupting it in many places and as many ways as we can be, people are getting like, “This is part of the individualistic culture that we have.” The whole thing that is hilarious is that British Petroleum is a company that created this and said, “It’s your individual carbon footprint.” They’re the ones who created this language that puts it squarely on the individual. Companies like Shell, British Petroleum, RJ Reynolds, and the tobacco industry knew what was happening. These industry leaders have known for decades what was happening.
The data was very clear. They have suppressed any action and now they want to profit on both sides, “We want to profit on the oil making until that runs out and also on the other side.” It would be negative money for them to make if we had solar panels. That’s where the place we’re at. If we had wind and solar power, it would cost negative, meaning it would be free and pay people. That’s where we’re at. The companies are sitting there having legislation. Us being obsessed with purity culture doesn’t do that.
That’s why I’m saying harm reduction strategies. Move our feet personally, “I have influence here. I’m going to do something,” but collectively, we need to be sitting on the people who are making the laws because we’re being out-funded in every single area. In my opinion, we don’t have time for purity culture. We need a diversity of strategies because capitalism is working on a diversity of strategies. These organizations have media, indoctrination campaigns going on, and laws. They’re working in the legal systems and changing the perception of individuals. They are out-funding this. They have the technology and people in their pockets. We need to be taking a diversity of strategies to get back at them.
There’s one thing that has come up for me, especially when you’re talking about purity culture. When you mentioned the topic of cultural appropriation, you mentioned the yoga community. It’s not exclusive to Los Angeles but here in LA, I certainly have fallen into this mentality of, “I’m a good person because I take my Ayurvedic herbs and go to my yoga class. I drive my fuel-efficient or electric car. I only buy organic clothing and I’m reducing my plastic usage.” It’s the checkboxes of things that show that I’m a “good person.”
It brings up a phrase that I also learned through your work on your website. I had never heard this terminology of toxic belonging culture. I’m curious what your definition is if you could educate us more on that terminology and what it means to you. The way that it hits me is people are doing certain things where they feel like they’re being good global citizens and allies, “Look at me. I’m woke,” this performative stuff. Everyone is patting themselves on the back.
With what we’re talking about, “Are you working with disadvantaged communities? Are you talking to and learning about people of color, neurodivergent people, differently-abled people, and what their actual life situation is?” Is it simply a checklist of, “I’m eco-friendly. I’m vegan. I’m this and that. I’m doing my part. Everyone, look.” If we find ourselves as part of the toxic belonging culture and doing this pat on the back, how do you recommend people to break away from that, start opening themselves up out of these insular communities, and looking at what is happening in the world outside of their little privileged pocket?'I'm a good person' is one of the hallmarks of whiteness. Click To Tweet
This is a place we could spend a lot of time going into. When you were talking, I made a note about when you’re describing purity, “I’m a good person.” That is one of the hallmarks of Whiteness. This is not specifically about White people. I want to be clear on that because I have seen this in all communities. Some of the ways we’re indoctrinated into Whiteness is good versus bad. We can also make the same argument that White equals good, or lighter. In our culture, there’s colorism. It’s the closer you look to European beauty standards and Whiteness and so on. South Asia is famous for skin lightening creams.
We have to challenge that. This is where we can do our individual work and what we can do in the community with people we’re influencing. Can we look at how that is? When people are confronted by their privilege, most people’s reaction is not like, “Let me take that on board and do the inner work.” It is, “Let me be performative and show that I’m doing something. Let me say that I’m not a racist. I’m not transphobic. I’m a good person.” Even if that’s true, that negates it. The thing when we’re talking about radical accountability is we often can be both. We can be someone doing the best we can in whatever situation.
That’s the way I approach whether that be personal growth work that I do with people or consulting work. The assumption I’m going in with is you’re doing the best you can in this situation. Once you know more and you’ve got these paradigm shifts that happen, you’re going to behave and show up differently. We want to be in a space in our communities where we can challenge these things and not take them personally like with the racism piece.
This happened to me. I’m using my name as my pronoun and this White person comments and says something to the effect of, “I don’t believe in names because that puts humans above other species. He’s assuming that’s speciesist. I thought, “That’s fine,” but I said, “That doesn’t take away from the fact that it makes me happy to be called and referred to by my name.” Maybe with a common name, he has not had the experience as I have.
Do you know the two most common ways people refer to my name? The first way people refer to my name is, “That’s a difficult name. I’m going to butcher that. I won’t say it.” They don’t ever say it. That’s the first way. It’s ignored. I don’t even get acknowledged. The second way is, “Can I give you a nickname? That’s too hard for me. Annie, Amanda, Andrea or whatever.” I’m like, “That is not my name.” People don’t say my name. For me to radically say, “I want my name and I want that to be my pronoun,” is me. My business, I renamed in 2021 The Kowtha Constellation. It’s a reclamation for me. That’s the way I’m choosing to belong like, “I belong here.” Belonging is such a question.
I grew up in Arizona. I love the desert and the mountains, yet I knew that that’s not our land. We’re settlers here. We’re an immigrant family. My parents immigrated to the US in the ‘70s. I moved here to do my PhD but I didn’t do it because of a whole host of reasons. I started the business instead. I don’t feel like I belong here. It’s colonial land. It’s the land of the people who colonized my people. It’s not my land. It’s like they have home turf here. When I go to India, I don’t belong there. It’s the land of my people and I might look the part but the minute I start speaking or being, I don’t fit in there.
Belonging is a thing that I grapple with a lot. You’re talking about toxic belonging culture. What are we belonging to? Who are we? We want to be grappling with those questions. I don’t have an easy answer. That’s why I brought up my own identity because those are places I can spend time, and because of that positionality, people often ask me how do I tackle this stuff. My Master’s research was looking at the British. When they came to India, how did they change this specific dance form called Bharata Natyam? How did that rhetorical situation change when they came to India? It’s a very specific thing. How did that shape?
For my PhD work, which I said I didn’t do, I was going to look at South Asian diasporic populations. How did that echo into the next generation? How did that shape identity? How did that shape who we are and how we behave? I’m curious about this. I don’t think there’s one way we can do that. Also, with some of your questions, it seems like you liked that Radical Business Summit. Mindy was the one speaking on toxic belonging culture. If your audience is interested to know more, she did an excellent job. It’s the same with Marketing Beyond Capitalism. That summit had some great speakers so you can hear other people’s thoughts on that.
I want to take this in a little bit different direction for a moment as an activist, changemaker, and someone who is not only personally but also professionally invested in teaching inclusivity, diversity, and these paradigm shifts. Having worked as an activist in different ways, and I work for a nonprofit, we go back to what Whitney has brought up about burnout and the importance of taking care of ourselves. It’s easy not only as a business owner but certainly where there’s an activism component in our lives that is deeply passionate, especially if you’re an empathic or sensitive person.
I have struggled with a lot of mental health issues for many years. I find sometimes that it’s difficult for me to be working for change and be working in the nonprofit world, and not feel sometimes crippled by the weight of the suffering that I am viewing and working to bring awareness and relief to. For you as a neurodivergent individual and someone who has struggled in certain ways maybe with mental health things I have read online, how do you find the balance? How do you care for yourself in the midst of doing this work that you do in the world? Is that a struggle for you? Do you feel burnt out at times where you’re like, “I can’t do this. I need to go take a break.” What’s that like for you? What’s your self-care like in that sense so you can keep going and doing what you do?
I love that you two are focusing on these kinds of questions because that’s what’s going to help us continue to do the work. We need it to be sustainable. My partner Moriah Helms, we co-teach that class together, Sowing Post-Capitalist Seeds. Joanna Macy, that’s who teaches it. She created this framework, called The Work That Reconnects. It’s about how do we teach activists. She inspires environmental activists. How do we keep doing the work? It’s a cyclical thing. There are many frameworks that I can give you but I’ll share two that have helped.
One is this process that many cultures have a culture of honoring grief. That could be grief like tears. It could be fear or rage. We don’t have general outlets for that in our culture, especially more so here because I live in England. That stoic way of being is different from the southwest United States culture. Perhaps it’s a little bit more open, and we can cry and laugh. It’s a little bit more different over here. One of the things she talks about, and certainly we talk about in our course, is how can we bring those grief cultures and practices to the forefront of our work. That means allowing space for that.
It means even in a call. I love the way you both in the show setup. Do you have a glass of water near you? It’s these kinds of things. I used to be a public school teacher. It’s thinking about the needs of the kids in the classroom and not treating them like robots. They are humans in a body. Let’s remember that. It’s remembering our own humanity. Sometimes as I’m saying these things, it’s a reminder to me, my clients, my kid, and the people around me.
It’s making the space where they feel comfortable to share that as well, “I have this access need. Should we take a bio break?” These kinds of questions. It opens the door for people to say, “I can do that.” Grieving is part of that. The grief piece of crying or, “I’m having an off day. Can we go a little slower today? Can we do a shorter call?” These are parts of access needs. It could also be making time to cry together or express our feelings in different ways.
The other powerful practice I do is connecting with ancestors. We’re not coming to this work whether you believe in reincarnation, my culture does. Regardless of that, many cultures have an ancestor elevation, worship or connection in some way. That could be people who are directly related to us from the past, blood relations if you will. It could also be communal ancestors. I’m thinking of Toni Morrison’s death. She’s an icon and has done so many things. When we can find these people who are doing amazing work, we all share in that loss. That could be more of a community person.We don't have outlets for grief in our culture. Click To Tweet
I’m thinking of Robin Williams. He touched so many lives so he could be considered a community ancestor in some way. It’s connecting to them, talking to them, and understanding where they came from, and the lives that they lived. We’re standing on the shoulders of giants like the Harriet Tubmans of the world. We have people who have done amazing work here like Stuart Hall. They have been doing this work. They might be ancestors now but they have paved the way for us to do the work that we can do now and led that way.
It’s remembering and honoring them. This is a little personal but I have done some ancestor work. The thing that they were asking me a lot and I felt it so deeply in my heart, “Don’t forget us and our contribution.” A few generations back, we might not even remember people’s names past their grandparents or their parents. We could be forgotten yet we’re remembering that, and making decisions like some indigenous tribes. The Iroquois in the US are making seven generations back and seven generations ahead.
This kind of thinking is not thinking individually. This is thinking as a community. I don’t know how much it helps in practical day-to-day stuff but I have found my life richer for it. It’s certainly a way to connect back with our rituals, customs and language. It’s because of colonialism that we have lost land, languages and people. The global crisis is because of colonialism. To be in solidarity like what’s going in Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia. There is global warming destruction happening there in terms of flooding, lack of access, and people without food and electricity.
Yet, what is the Canadian police doing? They are sending troops to Wet’suwet’en to put in that pipeline. It’s another pipeline where the tribal elders said, “This is a route where you can put it in. That’s not of cultural importance. It is not a biodiverse area. You can put the pipe here.” Even though it’s unseeded land, nobody gave that land up.
You can see where their priorities are. They said, “We don’t want that. We want to put the pipeline wherever we want to put it in a culturally important area.” When I think of this, what are some of the things we can do? We have to be thinking about praying to the ancestors and being in solidarity. Living and not living are ways to be in that. I know it seems a bit weird. If it’s too weird out there, I can understand but it gives me a lot of strength.
It’s inspiring because it’s not something that I was raised to prioritize. It was a big focus on living family members and also beyond family too. As part of your point, it’s the whole community. Something that came up for me as you were speaking was it seems like a lot of people struggle to do things for others because they’re feeling so much within themselves. They’re feeling burnt out, overwhelmed and anxious. It feels so much to get through the day on their own that doing something for others feels too much.
Sometimes people feel like they’re doing so much for others that they lose track of themselves. There’s this whole idea that you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first in order to help others. It’s a very holistic perspective of everyone’s taking care of themselves and others at the same time as the ideal. I think about, as you brought up the environmental issues here, how throughout my career having so much emphasis on eco-friendly actions, how much I’ve observed people struggling to do the basic things like recycling.
To me, recycling is second nature whether recycling makes as big of a difference as I hope. How much of that is wish-cycling or whatever it’s called? It’s tricky but it goes back to this idea of, “I’m trying and doing the best that I know at this moment.” Whereas it’s interesting to me how for some people, that effort in itself which seems so simple, struggle with it. Going back to what Jason said too, it can start to feel hopeless. If somebody can’t put something in the recycling bin, then what hope do we have? If someone chooses something that’s more wasteful than something else in its equivalent but better for the environment, what hope do we have?
I wonder if we have become so disconnected from one another as some odd coping mechanism. If we want to survive, we need to come together more as a community. For me, what has helped is when I did my cross-country trip. I got to see so much of the United States and it reconnected me with the country, not just the city that I live in but also how other people are living and how they’re different. In seeing them and interacting with them, I feel almost brought to tears by the deeper connection to other people in this country that I experienced and witnessed the kindness of strangers that many of us forget about because we’re not interacting with strangers. Sometimes we’re not interacting at all.
Also, seeing the visuals of different parts of the country and understanding where things are, I have noticed many people have barely traveled at all. They don’t have the perspective of seeing what it’s like in Arizona, North Dakota, or these areas where these people are living that live so differently from me or these things that are happening in different parts of the country or the world nonetheless. When you’re speaking about things that go on in India where I have never been, I can only imagine based on what I’ve seen and been exposed to but I’ve never witnessed it in person.The global crisis is because of colonialism. Click To Tweet
I would like to do more traveling because that reconnects me to the world in that deeper way. Travel, as much as it’s a privilege, is important to prioritize as much as we’re capable of so that we have a reason for choosing better action. At the very least, conversations with people like you have helped on a deep level because you’re reminding me but you’re also teaching me things that I haven’t tried yet like connecting first and foremost to ancestors of all different types. I’m grateful that you brought that up and also touched upon grief in the way that you did.
One thing I love about Jason is, and maybe it’s the Southwestern person within him even though he wasn’t born here, he’s so good at connecting with his grief. I know, Jason, sometimes you struggle to overcome it and it becomes so intense for you. It’s no wonder you asked that question. Sometimes we get so deep in our grief that we can’t see the way out. It’s that balancing act of not falling too far into it where we completely lose sight of our purpose and meaning in this world.
You have both given me lots of food for thought here. I’m so grateful for this conversation. I’m curious about your thoughts and perhaps a final topic for this discussion. By the way, your name is so beautiful to look at, to say and to hear. It also felt sad to me when you said that so many people are avoiding your name. It’s such a beautiful thing. That in itself is a lesson. Sometimes we’re confused by something and feel uncomfortable with something so we avoid it. We’re missing out on something as beautiful as a name like yours.
I’m curious. Speaking of hope and taking action, what do you see on the horizon? We’re getting close to the beginning of 2022. What things do you feel like you are personally going to focus on and would like to see the world emphasize more so that we can start moving in more positive directions? Some people are afraid of big changes. One that I’m paying a lot of attention to is technology, the metaverse, and these digital communities. I find hope because we’re moving towards a place where people have new opportunities to come together. The metaverse example is a project that Facebook has morphed into but also something that encompasses a lot of where technology is headed.
The promise that I see within this new digital space that we are likely entering into is that it’s giving people an opportunity to connect and represent themselves in a way that feels truer to who they are, which I find very exciting. Some people are afraid of that. They’re afraid that we’re going to spend too much time online and that’s going to take us away from connecting with the Earth. Do you feel any of that? Do you have other things that you’re focused on that are of greater importance? What does 2022 and beyond hold for you?
Thank you for sharing those thoughts. I’m hesitant to embrace those kinds of technologies because we still see the same ableism, whiteness, and so on popping up when these technologies are used. There’s the Brown Paper Bag Test. I’m not that dark-skinned and there are taps that I cannot turn on because they won’t pick up my skin color. They don’t work on Black people or darker skins. We’re written out of things. We never see bandages in multicolors. Somebody wrote a book on medical racism of how skin conditions look on darker skin because all these medical textbooks only focus on whiteness.
I could take you on a deep dive on so many topics of the dangers if we don’t look at these things. There are people, mostly Black people, who are stopped from using these platforms or trans people who can’t use their names because it’s not the legal name. They can’t use the name that they’re comfortable with because they don’t have the legal standing. If those things were connected, I could embrace those technologies because ultimately, it could bring us closer together.
As a biology educator, I’m concerned that a lot of natural words are being removed from the dictionary. Google is being used as a verb. That is supplanting words for many types of trees or plants. We’re losing that. Not only are we losing the biodiversity but we’re also losing the names and the understanding of what some of these plants do. Holistically, it could be a good thing for an educator. Technology can help us. I often advocate for my disenfranchised students to get them into the classroom. I got to teach so I did that.
What projects am I interested in? I’m going to keep doing this educating, and clarifying some of these points because I hope that these kinds of conversations are paradigm-shifting. There’s one conversation I wish I had. I was in the doctor’s office. There was a Brown lady. I think, “I’m safer there than I would be as opposed to in a White male’s office.” I have faced all sorts of medical gaslighting in my life where I’m not taken seriously. She commented on my weight. I did a podcast on Live Your Best Fat Life. We frequently talk about fat liberation as part of our work in body liberation.
I didn’t have the wherewithal to correct her at that moment but when I follow up with her, I’m going to say, “That’s fatphobic.” That means she was praising my thinness, meaning if I had been fat, then she would have denied me treatment or access in some way. I could use my thin privilege there. I want to keep having these discussions where I am and where I have the capacity to do those kinds of things. I’m not going to do it while she’s treating me. I’ll do it after so I get what I need. I want to bring this up. Having these kinds of conversations one by one or in classes and so on. That’s on the horizon. We did The Future is Accessible where I interviewed people on accessibility. I’m going to be relaunching that and putting together some new features.
I’m working on a project that I want to start showing. I’m creating PDFs of the most common questions I keep getting from business owners who asked me about the consultancy like, “Do I need to do DEI or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work? How can I do this sustainably? I’m thinking about hiring people. How do I diversify without tokenism?” I want to answer some of these questions that a lot of companies, nonprofits, and people in the community activist spaces are asking themselves like, “How can I make my work accessible?” It’s these kinds of questions.
I love that you’re doing all that. I’m curious. Do you have a page on your website where you have all of this organized? Do you have all of your interviews and podcast conversations like this on one page? If someone wants to go binge-listen to everything that you have done, where’s the best way for them to find it?Things that are needed for life shouldn't be for profit. Click To Tweet
The website is a little behind at the moment but we’re certainly adding those pieces. The Future is Accessible would be ready. People can pay and there’s a learning portal where they can go and listen to all the talks. In 2022, we’re going to be doing six live conversations where people can bring their questions about the HR or hiring process, the company culture, and corporate social responsibility. We can talk about accessibility in those ways. One of the things that we talked about quite a bit in this, and I’m going to bring back the harm reduction, is we think corporate social responsibility is very different from accessibility.
If we look at land access, who has access? Here in the UK, we have privatized so much land. There is very little land and there’s not that much land available to poor or people of color for instance. On public land, it’s even less so. You don’t see people hiking in public spaces and so on. You can see people of color specifically and understand why this happens. One of the things in harm reduction strategies is challenging some of these things. Taking up space, being in those spaces, changing legislation to stop privatizing. That gives us breathing room and pushes off some of the harmful strategies or laws that are coming down the pipe.
If we can save the NHS for a little bit longer, that’s a harm reduction strategy. It’s combining these kinds of things. They’re all on my website. They will be popping up as we go. That’s the thing with being someone who’s chronically ill. I have bigger visions than I can do some days. The best way is if people are interested, they can always email me or find me on social media. I love to talk to people and connect. That’s the best thing.
Jason, I’m curious. Are there any final words before you do your official episode closing?
I had one final question come up if we could before I do the official wrap. It feels like a hanging indent mentally for me. You mentioned, Anuradha, a post-capitalist world many times during our talk. If there’s a way for you to succinctly describe what that looks like for you, I’m very curious. What is your personal vision of what a post-capitalist world looks and feels like for humanity?
Some parts of this are radical and some parts are common sense. People should have access to food, water and shelter, and things that are needed for life shouldn’t be charged for or for-profit at the very least. Those are the things that a lot of people can agree with in whatever way. It’s access to healthcare, education, and these kinds of things. More importantly, it’s being in the community. We have this hierarchy. Even with people, humans are above other animals even though we are animals still. We forget that.
When we’re looking at animals, we have domesticated so many of them, and we are very choosy. There are several talks that I have heard about how we’re preserving the prettiest animals like, “Snakes are scary. We’re not going to preserve those but we are going to preserve these cute otters. We find otters adorable.” There’s this prettiness, the fatness, who deserves to live or not like here in the UK, and who has access? We’re deciding who’s going to live or die in this pandemic. When we allow one person to die, that means we’re making choices to say, “You’re worthy of life and you’re not. This habitat is worth protecting for this animal and this one is not.”
What radically we need to be doing to be in a post-capitalist world is not forgetting our place or remembering our place in the universe and with each other, the relationships we have with each other. What do we owe to each other? It’s easy for us to think, “I put on my own oxygen mask.” That’s what the whole Global North is doing at the expense of the Global South. That idea’s not working. We need to be doing both. We need to be making income so we can thrive, but we also need to be redistributing out of those resources where we can and removing barriers.
It would be a fat person going into a doctor’s office and getting the things they need to be met without being first told they need to lose weight before they can get any treatment. It’s the same with, let’s say, top surgery or bottom surgery for people who are having gender confirmation surgery. That’s the truth. They have to crowdfund these things. I don’t even bother to have the gender argument with my physicians because I’m not going to win. I have to save my precious energy because I already know I’m going to be medically gaslit and I have a history of trauma. I’m going to put my spoons and energy into that.
It’s being able to walk into those places and know that our needs are going to be met. We can have global solutions about how we deal with climate change but very specific things. Here in London, we have the London Barrier. We’re outside the London Barrier. There’s the Thames Barrier. They put up these walls to stop the rising sea level but only the inner parts of London are covered. The outer parts are not, the rest of the Thames Estuary. There are lots of people who live along the Thames Estuary. They are not protected. The Thames is a tidal river.
Globally, we need to have good technology and all of these other things. Locally, what we need to do is different. I grew up in Arizona and was a teacher in New Mexico. The water solution is different. We don’t have enough clean water. We channeled water. In Albuquerque, we’re using aquifer water and we’re not replenishing that water fast enough. In Arizona, they have dug diversion channels from the Colorado River. That’s what they’re using as drinking water. They are unsustainable solutions. What they’re going to do about their water situation is going to be different from what we’re doing here in London.
We all come together and look at that positionality and what’s here that we can work on. There are a lot of things we can be doing here to make sure people have access to clean drinking water. Foodbank usage here in the UK is alarmingly high for being the sixth-richest country in the world. There are starving kids. We can do that better and still all live in luxury. We don’t need to all live in poverty. When we say we got to share resources, it’s not like everyone has to go live in huts. It means everyone has access to what they need and we don’t need to keep extracting from the Earth and each other to get by. We can replenish and put things back into the soil, into the Earth, and into our communities to uplift people.
Thank you for such a well-thought-out, eloquent and soulful answer. You injected the whole conversation with such a spirit of heartfulness and education. It has been an absolute pleasure, Anuradha, to have you here, to learn from you and feel your spirit. Thank you for sharing all of these resources and perspectives with us and our audience. We appreciate having you here.
Thank you for having me. I loved it.
- The Kowtha Constellation
- Radical Business Summit
- Sowing Post-Capitalist Seeds
- Episode – Are We Being Manipulated By Discounts And Free Offers?
- The Do Nothing Revolution: Relief, Happiness, and Overarching Goals – Previous episode
- Do Nothing
- Kyoto Protocol
- The Work That Reconnects
- Live Your Best Fat Life
- The Future is Accessible
eBooks/PDFs on post-capitalist business practices: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/anuradha
About Anuradha Kowtha
Anuradha Kowtha (pronoun: Anuradha) is a catalyst, educator, consultant, and the Chief Liberation Officer at The Kowtha Constellation. Anuradha works with individuals, small businesses, and organizations to lead them through transformation and sustainability through a unique combination of science, creative process, and universal laws.
Anuradha’s journey working across both public and private sectors has led Anuradha to see systemic issues like hierarchy and exploitation and find ways to address systemic problems at their root cause. The thread that runs through Anuradha’s work is to illuminate and liberate individuals and small teams from the indoctrination and cookie-cutter thinking that comes from capitalism and colonialism to provide bold and innovative solutions that are rooted in justice for their clients and communities.
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