Session 2: We are all on the same ship, aren’t we?

Introduction

At their very best, responses to a problem perceived as external to particular (individual or group) agency - in origin at least, and possibly of such a scale that it gets called a “crisis” - include intensified emphasis on community organizing. It is one of this charged words, rich in history yet elusive in its contemporary forms in capitalist societies: a community. (Mostly reduced to the following prefixing contexts: indigenous, gated, activist.) A community can be conceptualized as an ongoing process/action of co-producing relationships, values, material resources, infrastructures, needs, preferences, commitments, identities, and beings. In the words of John A. Schumacher ( John A. Schumacher,1998.‘Communal Living: Making Community’.nothingness.org. ), making community is never over: community is the making of it. On a search and rescue ship, with crews of 22 most of whom change for each mission - every three weeks or so – there is a strong overlap between missions and communities. So-called virtual communities, on the other hand, can stretch longer in time but lack a connection to a place and sustenance and are perhaps always affinity groups rather than communities.

Let’s Learn Together

Step 1: Introduce ourselves

Step 2: Let’s read (30 min.)

Participants take turns reading aloud a paragraph each of the introduction to the Camille’s stories in Donna Haraway,2016.‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’.Duke University Press. (pages 137-143). The facilitator reads out the following statements of the interviewees from Morana Miljanović,2020.‘To Care like a Pirate, to Pirate Care: Ethics of Confrontational Search and Rescue, Practiced by Sea Watch’.:

  • Sea Watch crews see abuses of people in Lybia (torture, slavery, rape, etc.) as intolerable, human life and freedom of movement as valuable irrespective of race, and it runs the ship in their own way, operating “outside of the wishes of the states, not outside of the law.” (Kim)

  • It is exactly the common goal and common cause that has also led to failure of crew care in some cases, according to Ruben, “because we always put the mission first, and sometimes we should say crew first”, not as regards safety on board but giving time off to hard-working volunteers.

  • In the words of Daniel: “Without the ship being in good order, we’d be in trouble. That focuses people on being a good community, cleaning, being responsible.” There is a common understanding that consequences of lack of care for the ship can mean a “a bad rescue, where our actions could contribute to people dying” (Daniel), or inability to stay operational, if the organization fails to comply with legal standards regarding the condition of the ship.

  • (Kim) pointed out that everyone’s voice is heard – although whether one would voice an opinion is up to an individual crew member – and that this has been “built into the organization from the beginning, and not something that grew organically on the ship. It was consciously decided to have as flat a hierarchy and as inclusive environment as possible.

  • (Lorenz) observed that opinions and proposals of crew members who are shy or disliked are less likely to be heard. Lorenz also noted that skill-sharing acts as an equalizing mechanism: everyone is invited to learn new skills.

  • Due to the large number of people participating in the weekly teleconference call, which is the decision making forum, discussions are difficult and decisions are de facto made about ideas that had been discussed first in small circles of friends.

Step 3: Vessels of the times past (30 min.)

Ask participants to map out their experience that comes closest to their notion of community along the vectors of relationships, values, material resources, infrastructures, needs, preferences, commitments, identities and beings. Ask them to discover what was missing in each plane, where they overlap, and what alternative ways of connecting these planes exist. Guide participants in the analysis of the above concepts that enables mapping to be as concrete as possible. Ask how features internal to the community (e.g. size of the community, communication structures, decision-making structures) and those external to it (e.g. place where it was situated, climate, political context) shaped the experience.

Step 4: Ce ci n’est pas un bateau (45 min.)

Ask participants to imagine a community that would come closer to a functional community along the same vectors as mentioned above, and to map them out one by one, without reference to others. Then, ask them to put these mini maps together. Guide a discussion around what has happened.

Bring back the maps made in the Step 2 and contrast them with new maps. Solicit observations and thoughts on this process as well as what participants find as interesting discoveries in their maps, guide a discussion. Examine the choices of each of internal and external features of community making/maintenance and ideas underlying those choices.

Step 5: Who are we (45 min.)

Ask the participants to list those who would be excluded or have trouble accessing their imagined community, as well as grounds and modes of exclusion/limited access. Then, ask them to revisit the maps and identify spaces where exclusion originated.