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On alertness and intersectionality.

  • Nov 11 2021
  • Aurélie Sophie Coulibaly
    lives, works, and writes in London and Athens. Her practice focuses on formal stylistic experiments in short prose and interrogates themes of belonging and alienation, exploring ways in which people connect, repel, and reconnect.

Far from heartlessness lies a multitude of possibles; a soothing detour via mutual aid grounds a practical stance on unconditional support.



Thinking about the future also looks like considering the continuum. Crises are spectacular at first because they expose the consequences, limits and other tipping points at play, simultaneously. They eagerly take on the role of the defamer. By way of transparency, like a hinge on the thread of the sequence, they make known the pressure points; they expose. They gather momentum. And this ability for avoidance that we humans have becomes bleating, squealing, heckling, even with a sneer as it will be its time to shine for a while, now that it is time to manifest at full-scale. And because in this case the only way out is through, I would like to start by asserting this: it is sensitivity that shall be expected in this period for improvisation.


Rather than thinking in terms of tabula rasa (clean slate) or from a perspective of defending against, or anything two-sided at all for that matter, I started to
look in the direction of clear-sightedness, of reasonableness. Not so much concerned by the state of being ill as by an alternative to binary reasoning, it is of a lifebuoy and grace, of swinging freely under the influence of gravity that I found myself daydreaming. Think intimations, self-reflection, resistance. To pose the matters of what has been destroyed, what is going on, what may be at stake. Who will perform the ritual, who will be thoughtful, who will carry the hassle. Where is the caring mother, where is the tenderness. Considering our desires, our agency, our dignity.


From the general perspective of rearing up a bit - considering a legitimate, healthy dose of probity - it might be interesting to ask ourselves the reasons why we do things, to take a serious stand. And since the lockdown has, in many ways, highlighted the limits of individualism, and since it is also a question of integrity, the sooner I understood that the state of wellness of the other necessarily concerned me and even set the framework for my health, the less I started to rely excessively on the intellect. All of the roads leading towards my health, towards my development, my well-being, necessarily traverse the roads of another. Right, we better knit people together rather than apart; we are interdependent by-design. By the time I was able to make sense of this, of these opinionless things, - facts, - these laws of nature, I had landed on the word dignity. Once I arrived here, I wished that life had always been so simple, so promising.


But as the public space got shattered, and as it was a stampede, a network of doctors and volunteers have considered the issue of unconditional support. Not farfetched; very real. Solidarity clinics were born in the hands of self-initiated and self-managed communities. It is about commitment, discernment, about caring. On an equal footing, standing upright with anyone requiring health. On the basis of mutual aid. It also means standing openly against nationalism, against racism, against the exclusion of the most volatile and unprivileged populations, the houseless, substance users, sex workers. The horizontal structure of solidarity clinics has unveiled that what was at stake was not so much the embodiment of evil, the virus, yikes!, for as far as the living are concerned, we’ll be better off thinking in terms of cosmology. The very idea of cooperative health, with the ability to see care as a hub that radiates and caregiving and receiving as a matter of unconditional solidarity, is very far from where the vast majority of us currently stand. Our centralized units, our bivalent, vertical, pharmapornography-configured, soul-eating machines have much catching up to do. The Metropolitan Clinic of Helliniko (MKIE) in Athens, on the other hand, has deployed this local, communal, and as some say, anthropocentric perspective on health sharing.

Is integrity still a thing?

MKIE has no political affiliation. She is independent. She does not accept donations in the form of money. If anyone wishes to help, MKIE will gladly take your time or whatever she requires to function: medication, equipment, your expertise, your services. On a practical level, she operates in groups: pharmacy, administration, reception, coordination of these working groups, and it is the General Assembly that decides everything. Assemblies are open to all: everyone can participate. At its peak, up to 300 volunteers at once. MKIE does not publicize any donors. Whoever gives shall remain unnamed. MKIE sends a thank you letter. A token of gratitude from the clinic to you, helping us nourish ourselves and grow. She treats donations of any kind as an act of decency and as a provision of volunteering.


Προσπάθησε να τα φυλάξεις, ποιητή,
όσο κι αν είναι λίγα αυτά
που σταματιούνται.
Του ερωτισμού σου τα οράματα.
Βαλ’τα, μισοκρυμένα, μες
τες φράσεις σου.
Προσπάθησε να τα κρατήσεις, ποιητή,
όταν διεγείρονται μες το μυαλό σου
την νύχτα ή μες την λάμψι του μεσημεριού.


Try to keep them, O poet,
however few of them can be contained:
The visions of your eroticism.
Put them, half-hidden, in your phrases.
Try to hold them back, O poet,
when they are roused within your mind
at night, or in the blaze of noon.


How intersectional we all are, ultimately. Before our bodies were rationalized. Before ticking the boxes of biology, of symptoms, of being divisible. Consider how much we do have in common, through our experiences and our identities. Apathy is simply counterproductive. And, vile. Never should it have been a question of making profit out of care. At no time should there be any question of making business out of a catastrophe. Yet here we are. Without ideology and grounded in the practice and urgent response to concrete health and psychosocial needs, patients themselves are encouraged, in turn, to become a living example of how men and women can participate and offer solidarity. That is to say, solidarity clinics are not an act of philanthropy. It is not a question of charity. It is about thinking in terms of a critical reassessment of how to manage wellness, and reflecting on how to deliver health in relation to one other. Solidarity clinics demonstrate a possibility, - not utopian, - of how social relations can be successful when collective. This transformative element in the functioning of the clinic is at the heart of the query. There are others: for example, how the monolithic Public Health System could operate more inclusively, how to deal with excess medicine in relation to refugee camps and other bodies in need. Unlike unipolar mega-systems of the public healthcare apparatus organizations, with such a transformative agenda we are bound to survive beyond crises, beyond austerity. Shielding together, building a life net, seeing clearly and bailing out of the dogmas, to make time to be idle and read Don Quixote again and revisit Alice Walker, to pledge time as far from cynicism as we can possibly imagine and to safeguard our many reasons to live.


    [1] When They Are Roused, Οταν διεγείρονται, C.P. Cavafy, The Collected poems, translated by Evangelos Sachperoglou, Oxford World’s Classics p.97

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