So, my mother-in-law is making everyone in the family write a quote on a piece of cloth about 20cm x 20cm, so she can make a quilt out of all the different patches and auction it off as a fundraiser for something-or-other. TBH she started talking about this damn quilt last year, but the fundraiser was postponed due to Covid lockdowns, and I guess it’s taken until now for her to feel confident that a fundraiser can actually go ahead.

Choosing a quote has been a difficult endeavour. Vivian’s family is largely… shall we say… small-l liberal (that is, entrepreurial) in outlook; some of the sample/suggested quotes include such things as:

  • Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated and passionate about what they do. (Nelson Mandela)
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world. (Mohandas Gandhi)
  • Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it. (Maya Angelou)

So that’s like whatever… but I definitely didn’t want my quote to be anything so bland or ignorant of the capitalist reality that the vast majority of people are relatively powerless and can only make life choices from a very constrained set of options. (At least, as atomised individuals – obviously there’s a long history of people uniting in mass struggles to fight for a better world, and it’s the prospect of that that excites me, not this garbage like “well if you’re not individually ‘successful’ obviously it’s cos you suck and not cos the game was rigged against you from the start, lol.”) Apologies if that sounds harsh, I just really dislike such blegh “motivational quotes” as this.

So anyway. In search of a suitable quote, I logged back into my old Good­reads account and checked out the various quotes I had saved there. I want­ed one with real anticapitalist overtones – enough that the quote would actually mean something – but not such in-your-face anticapitalist overtones that people would get mad at me. I read a number of my saved quotes out loud to Vivian, so he could give me his thoughts on what was best. That said, his favourite was actually this one, from Brazilian archbishop Hélder Câmara:

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.

He has a number of relatives who feel virtuous about the charity work they do without having any objection to the economic system that forces disadvantaged people to rely on charity in the first place, you see 😜 While I definitely love this quote, I wasn’t sure about using it for a family quilt. Simi­lar­ly, some others that I love but didn’t think were appropriate for this context:

  • We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine rule of kings. – Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg on the streets, and to steal their bread. – Anatole France
  • There are decades in which nothing happens, and weeks in which decades happen. – Vladimir Lenin

One that seemed a little more suitable, and that I might well have gone with if not for thinking Viv’s family might not be happy about Karl Marx’s name adorning their quilt:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.

In the end, the quote I chose was from the wonderful Arundhati Roy, and although I could only use the part from “Remember this” onwards due to the space constraints of a small quilt patch as well as, you know, my desire not to be too overtly political:

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Honestly, even reading it again now, and even with my hands aching from the difficult task that writing this very quote on my patch proved to be, I’m struck by what a beautiful sentiment this is all over again ❤️ Our world doesn’t have to be as shit as it is, and it’s in the spirit of resistance that we get a glimpse of what a better world could be. And that’s what inspires me.