Like so many of us, it’s been hard to figure out the ways my pre-trump activism fits into the big picture now. My immediate response is my own personal revolution of hunkering down into my creative life. That’s how I make sense of my relationship to the world around me. I go internal to recuperate from emotional blows until I’m ready to get off the ropes and go for the KO. As we learned from Mohammad Ali, being on the ropes is a strategic resting place where one can wait until their opponent tires out and loses power.
I’m so grateful for all the people out in the streets regularly, the new activists learning how to organize, the long time activists keeping things moving while I cheer and support from my writing desk and art studio.
Fortunately, while in my fallout shelter, Peter Sinnott, Jr. from the Contriver’s Review, contacted me for an interview about issues of labor and higher education from my perspective as a former adjunct and current organizer. His thoughtful questions allowed me to frame my work and ideas in the context of our current political climate. It also let me consider the narrative trajectory of what I am in the midst of writing now that I’m three years out of academia and the weight of failure- which I’ve mostly shifted emotionally but am still carrying physically.
I answered Pete’s questions while reading Jane McAleavey’s book, Raising Expectations and Raising Hell: My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement, as my own staff union (CWA 9404) started contract negations with SEIU 1021, and absorbing how SEIU is preparing for inevitable national right-to-work laws and the fact that me and my co-workers are all targets for being laid off in the next year.
The interview was an incredible exercise in making my thoughts concrete. It also helped me figure out a framework for the book I am writing, a memoir of experiencing higher ed collapsing, the rise of the adjunct movement, and where we go from here. The super cool thing is the interview went live the same day I found out I was accepted to a writing residency to work on the book.
As always, Leonard Cohen was right, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s where the light gets.
Here’s the interview, Ponzi Schemes, Bastards of Neoliberalism, and Social-Justice Intelligence: An Interview with Jessica Lawless on Union Organizing in Academe and Other Topics.
I’m very interested in your responses.