On Being An Anti-Capitalist
& pissing people off
Lots of people on the internet recently been telling me I’m not an anti-Capitalist since I did the Loro Piana shoot which………. is less annoying then I thought it would be. People would much rather fight you on the internet about being a Communist then to actually, like, blow up a pipeline? Strange.
I guess this is where we at, a lot of ideological chatter over who’s a better accomplice in late-stage capitalism as the planet continues to deteriorate and burn... but instead the bros wanna call you a sell out and debate theoretically an ideology you are living and breathing. Most people I know were not raised by a Marxist (my abbu, my father) or prominent Socialist party leaders (like my maternal grandfather, Abdul Haque) and that’s why I’m not as apologetic as people want me to be through this whole experience. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again, being raised by / in / with ideology is not fun. I’m not a kid that was accidentally radicalized in college as a Marxist, my family history is that our entire ethos is based on socialist values and practice. My grandfather lived long enough to pass on the texts that radicalized him; my father is an academic who has dedicated his entire personal and professional life to understanding our reality and complicity under capitalism… so, as a daughter of these lineages, but also as a thinker, writer and artist myself I’m also trying to expand and generate new conversations around Socialist/Marxist ideals, because I am invested in repair. Of myself, but also of this planet.
I don’t see a lot of other folks trying to do this work out there for all to see and part of the reason for that is cancel culture. We’d be having many more robust conversations on the internet if we weren’t so invested in carcerality, thereby making people scared to say anything, let alone things that may be contradictory. Then, when you are read as a woman in the public eye, people expect you to be perfect—as a non-white woman that requirement is doubly multiplied. Just say you expect me to be silent, composed, subordinate. You expect me to serve, and to be in service. But when I am loud, when I am messy, when I am trying to figure it out, when I don’t have the answers you seek — I am disposable.
One person in the comments of the LP post wrote that Who Is Wellness For? and all the work I put into this book for years of my life — is null because I worked with a fancy cashmere company. Can you imagine what level of carcerality has to exist inside of someone to be that mad at you? Did we forget the abolitionist anthem: abolish the cop in your heart and your head? It’s pretty astonishing to be on the receiving end of people trying to tear you down. The world shows you again and again how disposable you are when you are a woman on this tightrope we are all walking. But then I keep thinking about how my body in the relationality of the world’s politics—my broken abandoned sweet queer Muslim Bangladeshi femme body—is so low on the totem pole that when I speak, and am able to penetrate through pores of our shared ether, what bothers people the most is that I don’t fit what they expect me to be. And yet, that is what I will continue to be. Myself.
I found it interesting that despite numerously exacting that I understand I’m being a contradiction via my desire to want to work with a very expensive cashmere brand, some people in the comments were still demanding me to be honest. And I’m like bruh do you think I’m calling myself a contradiction for fun? But also let’s just unpack some things real quick: money is not capitalism… I think we’re all a bit confused here. Capitalism is a system that regulates money for profit, thereby using extractive methods in the means of production. Socialism embarks on the possibility of fairness within a structure that means everyone is equally responsible to production and therefore all goods are shared. These are very quick summaries of two ideologies that have defined our last two hundred years of human civilization… but money itself is not bad, it has been hoarded and therefore it has been misused.
I had to learn that money wasn’t bad over years through trauma therapy. The amount of healing I’ve had to do of my lineages —including my own father’s relationship to money, deeming material always as greed. My grandfather, Abdul, in the space of his lifetime, gave away all his land that he had inherited from his father, a wealthy Bengali landowner. One could say that Abdul initiated a beautiful act of generosity or the other layer of it is that because of his actions—his three children, including my mother, are now in a pathetic sibling war with one another after one of them is reviving those lands and reclaiming them for himself, and not sharing the resources with his sisters, whilst fully living under the shadow of his father being a great Socialist leader. This is all in one fucking family—this is how generational socialism has looked like to me. Here, I wish my grandfather had the foresight to teach his kids about revolution but also to think about the generations that would come after him, and how would they survive? Giving everything away is a beautiful theoretical solution but life is more complex than that.
Money is not bad. I’ve had to heal that a lot in myself. And let me tell you, anyone who works in liberatory work has probably had to heal the same wounds. In order for our survival we must. A lot of that is because we see and look and realize that there are many comrades we are fighting for who don’t give a fuck about us and never will—so they don’t care if we are well or healthy. Many of us do this work because we were neglected as children or understand trauma and pain, so fighting for revolution is a way we are fighting for ourselves. In that sense, it’s wild to me that anyone could read my work and be bothered by the one time I worked with a fashion brand in two years… without asking why someone who has revolutionary politics would want to work with a brand. The lack of curiosity is embarrassing! The lack of complex comprehension! Can people not understand that we are at an odds in society now because the wealthy continue to extract, steal and exploit and because we have replaced God with capital and therefore our only interaction with money is through extraction. Either we are being extracted from or we are extracting… but pursuing and sharing and generating resources is not bad.
It’s a deep lack of imagination that in order for me have revolutionary politics I must not want nice things. Do poor people not deserve beautiful things? Is me working with a cashmere brand suddenly a statement on how much I hate poor people? Am I, a person who was raised poor and struggles continuously to feel financially stable, not also allowed to pursue beauty without defending myself? Am I suddenly a Capitalist because of it? It’s deeply sad how little people are thinking about utopia, or the possibility of revolution. If that person actually read Who Is Wellness For? they would know the book actually talks a lot about beauty, and the bind of Capitalism, in fact so much of my work over the last few years has been about this. I’m fighting for our right to have beauty amidst the darkness of the times.
I’m not solely responsible for the workings under capitalism, and for those of us who aren’t just theoretical Marxists, the reality is you realize how enmeshed your life is with capital. Whether you buy a matcha, drive a car, work at a university… you are inextricably linked. There is NO ethical consumption under the heinous realities of capitalism. So would it be better if I worked with a brand that sold $100 sweaters? Or if I was a bookseller instead? Is selling books more reasonable under capitalism? You’re still selling something.
It’s ironic, too, that I begged for years for folks to become a paid subscriber to this newsletter so that I didn’t have to do brand work… To this day… even if half the people who subscribe became paid subscribers, for just $5 a month, I’d never have to do brand work ever again… And I really wouldn’t. I don’t want to! I begged… for years… but still things didn’t really change on the paid subscriber front, not enough for me to rely solely on this. And, yet, the moment I take literally one piece of real brand work — I AM A HYPOCRITE. It makes you wonder, how do people expect you to survive when the same people you’re fighting for are angry at your survival. It’s disheartening to see they’d much rather fight you then the system that’s exploiting everyone.