Prefigure Your Pleasure

"...the movement should seek to prefigure, or anticipate and model, its goals in its own work."

Oppose and Propose: Lessons From Movement for a New Society, pg 24


"If there's no dancing at the revolution, I'm not coming."

- Quote attributed to Emma Goldman, deriving from her works and words


"Regenerative hedonism: have so much fun that no one can resist joining in." 

- Grace's Permaculture Wisdom, Woolman PDC 2013


I spend a lot of time wondering about, talking with folks about, and working towards, prefigurative spaces and practices.

My way of explaining prefiguration: spaces and practices where the how models and matches the what. Container = content. Micro and macro correspond. The means both move towards, model, and are the ends.

An example: a group that has ends of racial and gender equality and justice designs its meeting facilitation process with careful attention to who shares and how much, in order to make sure traditional patterns of conversational and decision-making dominance are subverted and replaced with an equitable balance.

Often, my interest in prefiguration comes up outside of the explicitly political arena. Actually, it comes up everywhere.

Right now, I'm doing some gentle loping into the questions "Why does this matter so fiercely to me?" and "How do I locate this in larger contexts of activism?"

The main delicious and frightening creative challenge usually on my mind and heart is:

What would we want this to look like in the next world?

and Ok, what are the barriers? What's stopping us? How much of that can we go ahead and create right now? How do we want it to feel?

and For/with who? Are we just dropping out? How do we make sure access, collaboration and radical inclusivity are part of that creation?

In the spirit of prefiguring a world that does not demand that individual contributions be perfect performances to be worth hearing in the collective space, instead of writing a novel as is my tendency, I'm going to leave these musings here, threads on a partially woven loom. Here's to prefiguring imperfectionism and vulnerability, here's to prefiguring an invitation in to a conversation with many voices, rather than just presenting a closed script (I tell myself as my hand hovers over the little trashcan that would delete this post...)

How do you experience prefigurative practices and spaces, not just in explicit political movement building, but also at your work, in your home, in your relationships? Is this important to you? Why? 

I'll leave with an old poem I wrote after seeing the Beehive Design Collective present their project "Plan Colombia" in 2008 or 2009, during which they spoke about their interviewees description of the essential and necessary power in singing and celebration-to generate strength, resilience, co-care, and solidarity in a community of workers under attack.

How might this beloved community, this necessary play, allow us not only to model the joy of world we want to live, in the face of all that works against that next world, but also lend us the strength and support of interconnection, the sharp pleasure so that we can keep on facing and working in the current world with our eyes open to its pain, a pain that an individual person sometimes cannot hold alone?

"If there is no dancing"

If there is no dancing the revolution will not come.

If there is no dancing the sunflowers will curl in on their heavy heads too early, stars bound straight to red death no chance to feed the curious mouths of children or birds.

If there is no dancing your ears cannot hear my tongue-song drumming I will never know what sound your body makes.

If there is no dancing the revolution will stay too long calling itself progress and turning pale a death un-coming un-feeding un-found.

If there is no dancing our hammer-hearts cannot feel the nail.

Once, the hive-minded painters walked out of the coca fields and into the local bar to ask why everyone was singing the people looked over their glasses over swaying heads and said:

song is the only choice when the soil voice gets hit with helicopter fire.

what do you do when everything is coming up orange?

how else will you un-lid your eyes and not turn and run?

Alone, I open up landscapes of the possible behind my eyes, like we could walk speakers into the parking deck and mad dance stamp until the rains redistribute the water

or until we are declared a wild nuisance

or until the mud-slung hateful shape of things grows us another hammer and another hand to hold it and we write songs that say what will be built out of houses, coastlines reef-depths that now stand broken.

We could kiss like the abandoned so that nobody would be.

We could write those songs on the bark of a tree without touching it.

We could overlap and balance invisible wings wrapped twisting to vestigial beats.

We could reopen the sunflowers petal by bright sky petal until they too dip their heads into music and move until they too can turn faces towards the horrors and hurts.

Without dancing we will never remember how to spin the rusting wheel.


If you want to read more about prefigurative politics in movement building, check out the Berkeley Journal of Sociology's forum on Power and Prefiguration, and the book Oppose and Propose: Lessons From Movement for a New Societyover at Anarchist Press.