After I wrote last week’s post, it occurred to me: my relatives committment with each other is to provid mutual aid.
That’s not to say that there is no love and affection, but the committment to mutual aid comes first. That actually makes me feel more secure – I know that even if one of my relatives doesn’t particularly like me, they may still help me when I need it.
Research, such as the work of Dan Buettner, indicates that the happiest and longest-lived people in the world have solid mutual aid networks – people who they can count on when they are in a pinch. It’s not just about having help when you are in the pinch – though that is important – it’s also the relief of not having to worry as much about pinches on a day-to-day basis.
The problem with contemporary U.S. society is that monogamous/sexual/romantic marriage is the primary way people are encouraged to form mutual aid pacts (I say ‘marriage’ rather than ‘nuclear family’ because children are not expected to contribute). And, while such marriages can certainly be part of a solid mutual aid network, in isolation, they are a terrible mutual aid network. Two people is simply not enough.
I think part of the question of how to get committment without a sexual and/or romantic component is how to form a mutual aid pact without being obliged to have sexual/romantic activities. Well, I got lucky – I was born into a mutual aid pact, but it would be more stable if I got into a mutual aid pact with more people, and my family is shrinking. I think that, without luck, one has to specifically articulate that one wants to form a mutual aid pact. There are many ways to do this:
– join together with other people on the ace-spectrum who also want mutual aid (hey, why not?)
– join an anarchist group of some kind (anarchists are very pro-mutual-aid)
– join a tight-knit club where the members seem to have good personal relationships with each other (martial arts club, board game geek club, wine-tasting club, native plants gardening club, etc.). That’s not to say all clubs of this type foster mutual-aid pacts, but some do. I have observed in certain clubs, when a member has an emergency (i.e. sudden illness), other members pitch in to help. It may be best to a) find out if this club has a history of sticking up for its own and b) if you feel like you have become a member, to ask the other members if they would help you out in a pinch – and tell them whether or not you would help them in a pinch.
While I think mutual aid is important, it’s just one facet of ‘committment’. There is also the question of committment to love and affection.