Popaganda: Birth of the New

End of the world getting you down? We may never truly know what the future holds, and to some of us, the looming threat of an apocalypse is the most effective birth control. In this episode of Popaganda, Soleil digs into parenting and the end of the world: whether that means a total lifestyle change or global environmental calamity.


First, she talks with Chicago DSA podcast producer Eleanor Russell about the ways in which reproductive justice is tied with economic justice. Then, she discusses the revelatory work of Octavia Butler and her imaginings of the future with essayist Jade Sanchez-Ventura. Along the way, she muses about Cormac McCarthy’s book, The Road; familiar dystopias; and Cardi B’s drive to have it all.

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TRANSCRIPT

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[pensive banjo music] 

Soleil Ho here, and you’re listening to Popaganda, a podcast by Bitch Media. Does it seem like the world is ending to any of you these days? With climate change speeding up, the incredible nonsense of American politics, and the increasing popularity of white supremacist heteropatriarchal fascism in the Western world, and the widening wealth gap, things feel like they might be coming to a head. Speaking personally, as an optimist with anxiety, I’m afraid of what the future holds. How could anyone have kids in times like these? 

That’s what we’re going to find out on this episode on parenthood and the end of the world! 

We’re also soliciting reader ideas for topics we could cover on future shows, so please email your ideas for topics or even people you’d like to hear on the show if you got ‘em! You can reach me at soleil@b-word.org. Now here’s the show. 

[theme music] 

I have to admit that a lot of my worry about having kids could be traced to reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In that novel, an unnamed protagonist and his unnamed son traverse a post-apocalyptic hell world, avoiding cannibals, bandits, and more cannibals. The child’s mother is a background character in the book: She’s pregnant when the switch flips and the world as they know it ends. Her anxiety about her future, and her son’s future, felt so real to me: Her guilt and grief about bringing him into a doomed world cause a deep rift between her and the father. 

[recorded clip from the movie] 

FATHER: We have to. We will survive this. We are not gonna quit. We’re not gonna quit. 

MOTHER: [sniffling] I don’t wanna just survive. Don’t you get it? 

SOLEIL: In dark moments, I worry about the possibility of this future. If I have a child, am I sentencing them to a life of bleakness, of running, of paranoia? Will they be angry with me? I look around at people with children and think, what do they know about the future that I don’t? 

I’m not the first person to fixate on this. The wonderful thing is, there are people tackling these same questions and finding their own answers through activism, literature, and creation. 

First, I’ll be talking to Eleanor Russell, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University and collaborator on the Chicago DSA podcast, about the ties between reproductive justice and economic justice. Then we’ll hear from Jade Sanchez-Ventura, who wrote an amazing essay in Mutha Magazine called Raising Babies in End of Days. I hope you enjoy the show! 

[Cover of The Ronettes’ Be My Baby] 

♪ The night we met I knew I needed you so 

And if I had the chance I’d never let you go 

So won’t you say you love me? 

I’ll make you so proud of me 

We’ll make ‘em turn their heads every place we go 

So won’t you, please? 

(Be my, be my baby) 

Be my little baby 

(My one and only baby) 

Say you’ll be my darlin’ 

(Be my, be my baby) 

Be my baby now 

(My one and only baby) 

Whoa oh oh oh 

I’ll make you happy, baby…. ♪ 

SOLEIL: Eleanor and her husband Andre are first-time parents with an 8-month old baby, and she graciously fielded my ignorant questions about what it all means.  

What was it like to shift into being a parent? You’ve been a parent for eight months, although you’ve been preparing obviously, for more than that. 

ELEANOR: Oh, there’s no preparing. I mean, you think that you’re preparing. 

SOLEIL: [chuckles] 

ELEANOR: But you’re not really. I thought that pregnancy would be like this test run for OK, your body is sort of limiting you in this very particular way that is maybe preparing you for how your child is gonna limit you in the choice you make about the way you spend your time and your resources. But it’s not really true. Even when I was nine months pregnant, I could still leave the house when I wanted to, you know? It was tough, but I could do it. Yeah, there’s nothing really, ‘cause it’s just a total reorganization of consciousness and relationship to your attitudes and your relationship towards time and your resources and what matters. It’s the biggest cliché in the world, but it’s just like having a child completely changes your life, and there’s a reason it’s a cliché: ‘Cause it’s true, you know? 

So, I’m still sort of adjusting to it, and the thing is that he’s a baby. So, he’s growing all the time, and you never know— I can’t imagine what he’s gonna be like at nine months old. I couldn’t imagine what he was gonna be like at eight months old when he was seven months old. There’s just nothing. You don’t know. This is entirely new. It’s completely improvisation. 

SOLEIL: So, why can’t you leave the house? 

ELEANOR: Oh! ‘Cause you know, you gotta— I mean, I can leave the house. It’s just like a whole different thing. You gotta load them up either in the Ergo or in the stroller. You gotta figure out—‘cause we live on the third floor—so, it’s like OK, should I take the stroller down first and come get him, or should I maybe wing it and try to do both? It’s stuff like that, stuff you don’t really think about. The little techniques of daily living are completely changed. 

SOLEIL: Oh, wow. 

ELEANOR: Yeah. That’s the stuff, to me, that has been the hardest to deal with, not even just the like, oh, I have to look after this child the rest of my life and this big scope. My life has changed in that sense. The little ways in which just how you approach daily life is what really has gotten me the most. 

[plucky music] 

SOLEIL: Her answer made me think around the idea of the end of the world. It’s not always so dramatic as mass extinction events or robot takeovers. An apocalypse can also signify a shift in priorities to accommodate new life. It’s easy to think that having a baby means your life is over, whatever that means for the individual. 

ELEANOR: Yeah, you know that was the thing that I was most terrified of when I was pregnant, and I would cry about it. I’d be like, “Our lives are over! I’m never gonna have a thing….” It’s not really true. For me, it wasn’t. Whenever I say anything, I’m only just talking about myself, you know. There are a million mothers; there are a million ways to experience motherhood. My friends still come over to my house to hang out. I still, I don’t really get to go out with Andre for drinks or whatever that much, but sometimes we do. And sometimes we get a babysitter. It’s not…it hasn’t changed…. I don’t feel like a different person, really; I just feel like a wider person, physically and also just in terms of my mind and my experiences. It’s just my life is still, other than the daily technique stuff, which is huge, I still have the same values. I’m still the same, I’m still interested in the same stuff. I’m not not interested in my dissertation anymore now that I have a baby. [sighs] I didn’t have that fundamental like, I’m a new person now. I guess I’m just like…my conscience is just more expanded, I guess. Which is nice. But anyway, you know, I could just take acid. 

BOTH: [laugh] 

ELEANOR: Maybe I could’ve done that instead of having a child. I don’t know. But yeah. I still feel like I’m the same person, though. Even as my attitudes towards me—like I said, my time and resources has changed—I’m still me. I still make the same kinda jokes, you know. I’m still sensitive and anxious and sad. I still care about reading, [laughing] you know? All that stuff. Yeah. What I like to do hasn’t really changed. 

SOLEIL: So, I feel like Eleanor and Cardi B have a lot in common here. Cardi, the New York rapper who recently revealed her pregnancy during a musical performance on Saturday Night Live, faced criticism for getting pregnant so early in her career and out of wedlock too. 

Here’s Cardi during an appearance on The Breakfast Club. 

[recorded clip plays] 

CARDI: Yeah, you know what? It just really bothers me and it disgusts me, because I see a lot of women online like, “Oh, I feel sorry for you. Oh, your career is over.” And it’s like why can’t I have both? 

MALE HOST 1: Right. 

CARDI: As a woman, why can I have both? Why do I gotta choose a career or a baby? Like, why can’t I have both? I won’t both. 

FEMALE HOST: Yeah, men never have to choose. 

MALE HOST 1: Well, those are the people that’s rooting against you anyway, though. So, they wanna see you fail anyway. 

MALE HOST 2: And you absolutely can. I mean, you’re showing it now. You absolutely, positively can. 

CARDI: But it’s not even people that like not ruining it for me. A lotta people around me was concerned, like “I don’t think it could happen. This never really happens.” And I don’t wanna wait until I’m 30-something to have a kid. I want my kid now. I want me kid now that I have energy and stuff. 

ALL: [laugh] 

SOLEIL: One important aspect of this, though, which Cardi emphasizes when she talks about her decision, is that she’s literally a millionaire. For a lot of people in this country, especially Black and Latinx people, their careers do take a hit when they have children. Workplaces here don’t make it easy to balance parenting with one’s career. Every industrialized nation in the world except for the United States offers paid parental leave, and childcare benefits are non-existent for the majority of working parents. 

I asked Eleanor, who is a member of the Chicago branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, to elaborate on how reproductive justice is tied to economic justice. 

ELEANOR: Well, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot in terms of abortion rights and justice: OK, first of all, what I wanna say is that I am 100% for free abortions for anyone at any time. Just abortions on the demand. I am in favor of that. I think that’s very important to have that. Abortion is healthcare. “Do I wanna have an abortion? Yes. I should have an abortion.” That’s it. Done. 

But if what you’re really doing is saying, “Well, I have to have an abortion ‘cause I can’t afford to have a child,” that’s a choice being made for you by the state or by capital. That’s not a choice that you yourself are making ‘cause you don’t have the freedom of choice to decide how you’re gonna live your life, even if that were to include having a child. Do you see what I mean? Do you see the distinction I’m making? 

SOLEIL: Yeah. I guess the analogy that I would make—because I cannot relate at all, but you know, I want to—is if you’re at the store, and you’re trying to choose between two types of cereal. And one of them, you literally cannot afford because you don’t have the money, and the other one you can. 

ELEANOR: Yes! Yes. 

SOLEIL: You make the choice, but it’s not actually a choice. 

ELEANOR: It’s not a real choice, yeah. And I think that’s true for any choice you make about limiting the desires that you have and the life you wanna live, but you have to limit yourself based on your economic circumstance. That’s not a real choice. That’s not a will to destiny. That’s nothing. I want people to recognize their rights and their ability to make the choices that they wanna make. ‘Cause you are able to make certain choices all the time, but I want us to think about how the ways in which we understand the concept of choice are hamstrung by capital. 

SOLEIL: Having a child doesn’t have to be the end of your career, or your social life, or your world. It’s just that the current economic system limits our options. It’s not forever; it’s malleable. 

[chill music] 

When I was deep in apocalypse thoughts, I came across Jade Sanchez-Ventura’s essay, Raising Babies in End of Days online. In the essay, she discusses the role of speculative fiction, like Star Trek and Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, in shaping her vision of her child’s future. Butler’s work helped Jade quiet her fears.  

Here’s Jade reading an excerpt from her essay.  

JADE: Time whirrs and circles and dazzles my child. 

When I get home from work he tells me the story of the day. 

“I made muffins with Nana, and went to play school, and then Luke fell, and then Sam lost his scarf and Fred got muddy and then we all took a bath with Daddy.” 

This is how it translates: He made muffins with Nana the week before; he did see Luke at play school; Sam and Fred are a boy and a dog, respectively, from his favorite cartoon; and he’s hoping to take a bath with Daddy that night. 

Over and over, he weaves his own world, of his own making. It is impossible for me to parent and not feel the future shimmering with possibility, and it is impossible for me to read the news and not see evidence of huge and terrible forces at work; more suffering, more fences, more brutality, more bombs. To not feel the sea levels rising. 

We need water and canned food in the basement, I think. 

I need to prepare. I am going to regret not being prepared. 

And yet I do not. The needs of the day and the moment trumping all. 

The writer Junot Díaz says a lot of smart things. Among them, this: What better way to convince young people they are powerless than to flood them with novels predicting coming catastrophe? Be wary, he said, of the perpetual dystopian story telling of books like The Hunger Games and Divergent series. Are these really the only young adult books being written, he asked, what else is out there? 

The thing about speculative fiction, its importance, is that the stories we tell about our future reveal—with painful clarity—our perceptions of where we are today, and how we got here.” 

SOLEIL: I love your honesty in figuring this out in this essay because there’s no answer. Because you don’t know. You just can’t know what’s gonna happen. 

JADE: Mmhmm. Mmhmm. I mean, I think what is interesting about parenting is that they are swirling when I’m parenting my child, but also, they’re not at all. 

SOLEIL: Hmm. 

JADE: In that…it’s in the quiet moments, often during bedtime I think, that I’ll start to be like, what is this planet gonna be like in 10 years? Dear lord, what am I gonna do for my— Like, this feeling of the intense need to protect. But then the other part is the mundane details of the day become so paramount that I can’t think about this stuff all the time. So, that’s also a different, there’s like— I talk about, in that excerpt, where there is this beautiful optimism of seeing a new person become themselves. It’s enchanting to watch a brain develop and a body learn how to do things. But the other reason I think parenting can be a refuge from the fear is because there’s literally no energy or space to think about anything other than sleep and diapers and the pick-up schedule. And I guess I don’t go into that so much in the piece, but I think those pressure feel very real as a parent. And then also, the pressures are so trivial in comparison. 

SOLEIL: Mmhmm. And the layering of the immediate— It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right? 

JADE: Right. 

SOLEIL: You have to feed your child right now, and you have to make sure they’re safe and you know, happy, maybe. 

JADE: Mmhmm, mmhmm. 

SOLEIL: And you have to think about, OK, what are they gonna do tomorrow, and then what are they gonna do when I’m gone? It’s a lot of stress. 

JADE: Mmhmm, mmhmm. It’s funny. Yes, it is a lot of stress, and I find myself trying to understand what stress means these days. Sometimes that’s the nice part too, like it can be a relief that that takes up so much space. So, I think that’s something that I never thought about before becoming a parent, where all of those things—I’m trying to think of the right way to put it—sometimes, it can feel like, not so much that my worlds got smaller, but that I’m zooming a camera all the way in. So, it’s just like the radius I’m paying attention to is much more detailed. And that that can be stressful, as you’re talking about, and it can also be kind of a relief ‘cause I have to think about this. And I can’t think about things that feel outside of my control. 

SOLEIL: In her essay, Jade points out that we’ve endured so many dystopic experiences already, as she puts it: “small pox blankets, internment camps, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Jim Crow, the KKK, lynching, redlining, minimum mandatory sentencing…” just to name a few. But the world didn’t sit in its doomed state. Jade writes, whatever change is coming, we—people of color and other marginalized folks in this world—have seen the worst. We’ve been through it, and we kept going forward. We continued to raise children.  

JADE: I was thinking about Junot Díaz did this interview. It’s kind of the confetti of life. It’s just where I’ve been for the last few months. Junot Díaz did this interview with Krista Tippett on On Being, and he was talking about this idea that it’s really gonna be people of color who are gonna be able to imagine a future, that are essentially gonna be able to imagine salvation. Because these are the people who’ve known such devastation, historically. And he was kind of putting out this idea of we’re all talking about apocalypse. And kind of what I refer to in the end, when I’m talking about kindred, I really was thinking about this idea of what makes this so apocalyptic? Isn’t just kind of like for white liberal people that things have gotten so rough? Because so many communities have known such…violence and brutality. That is apocalyptic. That is horrific. And yet, you just keep going. 

And then so, those ideas were bouncing around in my head, but then just listening to the news coverage. And I remember it, the way people are reporting on this administration as if they’ve never heard Trump speak before, you know? It’s like this continual thing of, “Oh my god! Can you believe what he did?” And I just, I’ve been laughing about it, but it’s that kind of sad laughter. So basically—this is a long-winded answer—to say this is what has been in my mind, right? Listening to the reporting, listening to the people who I think are smart, and just thinking about the narratives we tell and how much, what an effect these narratives have on us in how we live our days. What are we gonna do? What action are we gonna take? What attitude are we gonna bring to our daily life? And to insist on being surprised by Trump is to deny very real narratives. 

SOLEIL: Yeah. I guess the way you pick apart the idea of surprise in this context is really smart, and you quote Ta-Nehisi Coates as well, where he says that, “Surprise is necessary for us to maintain our illusion of what the United States is and has been—” 

JADE: Exactly. 

SOLEIL: —for a very small number of people, not actually a lot of people. And it helps preserve our myth of the country. 

JADE: And that piece by him really clarified things for me, as happens with people who are as brilliant as he is. It’s like he gave me an understanding of what I was experiencing every day. Because I was confused ever since Trump won the Republican nomination, and everybody was telling me not to be worried about him winning the presidency. And they were using the same logic that they used when they told me he wouldn’t be the Republican nominee. 

SOLEIL: Hmm. 

JADE: Right? It was just like— And I remember that, to me, was actually the darkest day ‘cause I was like, “Oh, we’re gonna let this happen. This is now one of two candidates, and this is happening.” I’m like, “This is the reality that we’re in.” 

And yeah, I think Ta-Nehisi really clarified that for me, the investment in that surprise. ‘Cause until I read that piece and started to think about it more, I was confused by it. I couldn’t get my brain around what was bothering me so much about the news coverage. 

SOLEIL: Mmhmm. Yeah. And ugh, it’s frustrating, and it feels almost gaslight-y, right? 

JADE: Absolutely. 

SOLEIL: Where you’re saying, “No, we’ve seen this happen before. You know, this is a real thing that can occur and has happened in history.” And people just think you’re totally just making things up. 

JADE: Right, right. And then, the parallel is then the constant headlines about doomsday. So, it’s like over—not that the headlines; I think the threat is real, and I think the urgency around the climate and the environment are real—it’s just that the constant reporting on that paired with the surprise seems to me uniquely designed to get people feeling inactive. 

SOLEIL: There was a line from Jade’s essay that really, really struck me. “The art of science, or speculative, fiction is to take a thread from the pattern of the present, and pull it out, extending it to its furthest possible conclusions; to see our own selves without flinching.” And I love that definition of speculative fiction and science fiction and the potentials of it. I think that’s just my favorite part about the genre. And especially because that line is in this particular essay, it made me think about the act of raising kids. 

JADE: Mmhmm. 

SOLEIL: Right? 

JADE: Mmhmm. 

SOLEIL: It seems like a very clear connection here, where a child is speculative. 

JADE: Oh, totally! I love that. I mean, it is. You’re right. It’s a leap into the future. 

SOLEIL: Mmhmm. 

JADE: And a child is gonna go, and a child is gonna know lands and times that you are not. There is, yes, a child is speculative, and a child is gonna know—ideally is gonna know—a future that you can’t imagine. 

SOLEIL: It’s interesting too because it made me think of the genre as a whole and how sometimes science fiction, the kind that I don’t like, it replicates what kinda the status quo is, you know? Except they add robots or whatever. 

JADE: Exactly, exactly. 

SOLEIL: And that feels like a sort of regressive thread of the genre. Whereas the sort of science fiction that I enjoy kind of takes on, I don’t know, it thoughtfully takes on colonialism and patriarchy and racism and all of these big things and just either blows them up or just does away with them in a really smart way and gives us a lot to reflect on, as readers. And so, you can almost apply that to raising kids, again, where some people raise their children to replicate the status quo and not even on the individual level, but just the way we think about kids as signifiers. 

JADE: You got my brain going in so many different directions at once. 

SOLEIL: [laughs] 

JADE: [chuckles] My son is gonna be going to school more regularly next September, and he is a white boy. He is blond, he has white skin, he’s a boy, and one of the things that I find myself being nervous about is that I put so much, I realize I’ve put so much intention and energy into trying to teach him not the status quo, to be in the world in a way that does not replicate that. And then the school he’s gonna be at is wonderful and has social justice values. 

But there’s a way in which he gets treated in the world that teaches him that status quo. It’s like I lose the ability to dictate the terms of his reality [laughs] as much. And he sees. I mean, kids see everything. I think it’s a real myth that you’re not supposed to talk to your little ones about race, ‘cause they notice everything. They know exactly what’s going on. But parenting, to try to parent in a way that establishes outside the hierarchy the standard socio- and economic racial hierarchy…it’s really hard. ‘Cause those influences are everywhere. 

SOLEIL: Yeah. When you were talking, I was thinking about how we think about dystopia and the apocalypse in sort of specific ways right now, culturally. You know, the world’s become a wasteland or whatever and rife with conflict. But there’s also the idea of dystopia that is about dismantling the status quo and ending society as we know it. And the assumption in the negative take of that is that the society as we know it is an inherently perfect that we wanna preserve. 

JADE: And that’s what I comfort myself with. That’s where I find reassurance for my personal fears. Have you read that fantastic collection, Octavia’s Brood? 

SOLEIL: Oh! No, I haven’t! I should. 

JADE: It’s edited, I think she’s the only editor, adrienne maree brown, and she’s fantastic. And the idea is that it’s social justice thinkers and activists and writers writing speculative fiction short stories. It’s a fantastic collection. And in one of those stories, it’s somebody, the character is living already in a future that is a positive future, and they talk about the moment that I think we would call “apocalypse.” I think the phrase was “the breaking of the silence.” 

SOLEIL: Hmm. 

JADE: And that really stayed with me. I should be able, I wish I could give that writer their credit right now because I can’t remember that particular author’s name or the title of the story. But it’s in that collection, Octavia’s Brood. 

SOLEIL: The story Jade’s talking about is Evidence by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. 

JADE: That’s where the real hope is, and it’s scary because it’s unknown. And I think that some of my, The Next Generation, Stark Trek The Next Generation is not a alternative vision. It recreates all the power structures. But I think that early comfort in it was the land beyond, like the life that happens beyond the crumbling of society as we know it. 

SOLEIL: Jade also found inspiration in Nnedi Okorafor’s book Who Fears Death, which also delves into the parent-child relationship. The protagonist, Onyesonwu, struggles with the social stigma of being the product of rape. Her mother’s choice to bear her, despite the stigma and the difficulty of their lives, is something that weighs on her. 

JADE: The decision, in that book, the times are more desperate, more violent. But the conversation around choosing to have a child, or in this particular narrative of a woman has a child borne of rape, and how that this understanding that the parent-child relationship, that you always have a right to it no matter what is happening. That just because somebody is living in horrific times doesn’t mean they don’t get to be a parent or love a child. Which is an interesting counter to sometimes I think there’s this narrative that somehow it’s selfish to have a child when the world is hard, or this kind of looming over-population discussion. As if somehow, you’re doing something unkind to the child by bringing them into the world. And that’s a strange, I guess I can’t dismiss that. I think some people feel that very powerfully, but I have found in parenting— 

I mean, I guess I talk about it like this—and it is the link—but you really drew this link between parenting and the genre that was not super conscious for me. But I think yes, a child is a leap into the future. I think I just rubbed my headphone against the wall. That it’s OK for us to think that maybe this child will do something amazing for another human being. Maybe they’ll do it, and it’s not like oh, they’re gonna be president, but maybe you’ll have a kid who will change 10 people’s lives. And that is beautiful. 

SOLEIL: Yeah. I admit that I’ve fallen victim to that mindset of just why should I have a child if I’m dooming them to a life of who knows what, right? 

JADE: Mmhmm, mmhmm. 

SOLEIL: But at the same time, who is certain about the future of any of their offspring? 

JADE: Mmhmm. 

SOLEIL: And also, another point that I’m very curious to hear your take on is the over-population argument and how it’s so, it feels like it’s pointed very intently on communities of color, people in just in places that aren’t necessarily wealthy. They’re the ones who are accused of over-populating and of taking up resources and just having kids willy-nilly, without thought. And I’m wondering, there’s a racialized aspect to the over-population argument. 

JADE: Oh my god! Absolutely! And I mean, to me, it links to the complete way in which so many Americans just do not see ourselves accurately. Because when you look at, you know, there’s all of the excellent studies being done on the average environmental footprint of an American is like so much bigger. We just consume and consume and consume resources, and we do that with having one child or no child or two children. And it is not typically the populations who are targeted with this kind of over-population charge that are the ones that are using the world’s resources. So, it’s just a totally, I think it’s a totally racialized argument, and that is— 

I mean, I shouldn’t. I am not a scientist. I’m not a social scientist. I really can’t argue the ins and outs of what having more kids does to the planet, but I have read about and have thought about how Americans typically are the ones who use a far greater number of, far greater percentage of resources than people in developing, outside the Western world. And of course, you know, I think that the work done around arming and educating women so that they are the ones making the decision about how many children they are having is essential. That is very important. But to kind of like, yeah, I think it’s a really racialized and problematic argument. 

SOLEIL: I recall at the end of your essay that you kind of hint that your attitude feels like optimism, but you hesitate to call it that. I guess I’m curious about—if you don’t wanna call it optimism, maybe getting more into specifics—what is the future that you want, that you’re looking forward to for this person that you’re raising? 

JADE: Oof. That’s a good question. And I think there is some optimism, or maybe it is just hope because I want this person to be OK. I want them, but not only this person. I mean, I think what I hope for in my wildest imaginings is a dismantling of white supremacy, which I think is a very loaded term right now. But I use it deliberately, like a dismantling of a very, I think, brutal hierarchy that is built around race in this country. And capitalism is all wound up in that. So, my wildest imaginations, it’s like a totally reinvented way of people interacting and living and supporting each other. 

And I’m reading a fantastic book right now. It’s this very short book, and it’s just called Revolutionary Women. And it’s a book of stencils with short bios written by this Queen of the Neighborhood Collective, based in New Zealand. And it’s a reminder that there have been outstanding people for centuries who have fought for ideals that treat people kindly, that imagine new ways of the world being. So, I suppose my hope for the future is that some of those folks succeed. 

[mellow ambient music] 

SOLEIL: I posed a similar question to Eleanor as well. 

ELEANOR: Yes. I think that not only is it optimistic, it’s Utopian. I mean, well, my biggest concern is literally everything all the time because we live in a post-modern hellscape. But also, my biggest concern is global warming and the idea that John Jack is gonna grow up and have nowhere to, he’s gonna be you know, there’s gonna be nowhere for him to live ‘cause we’re all gonna die in some sort of weather apocalypse. But I think part of the reason that—and even if I’m doing this unconsciously—what if shellshock saves the world? Like every time a child is born, I think. And this is maybe my— I was a religious studies major in college, and I had this really devout attitude towards the Liberation Theology and the idea that every time a child was born, it is like a sort of last gasp of hope that maybe this, like every child has the potential to be the Christ child. Every child is an effort and a hope against all odds to build a bigger world and a better world. So, yeah, I think it is a flailing, gasping Utopic vision and action to have a child. And whether or not that’s good or bad, I don’t know. But it’s something I’m trying. 

[Cover of The Ronettes’ Be My Baby] 

♪ The night we met I knew I needed you so…. ♪ 

SOLEIL: Thanks to Eleanor Russell and Jade Sanchez-Ventura for talking with me for today’s episode of Popaganda. And huge thanks to you for listening. 

This episode was produced by Ashley Duchemin. Thanks to Hurricane Duo for their cover of Be My Baby. Our jingle is by Mucks & Owen Wuerker. Additional music was provided by Blue Dot Sessions. If you have thoughts or feelings or feedback on the show, please feel encouraged to send me an email to soleil@b-word.org. Or just review us on iTunes. 

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[theme music]

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by Soleil Ho
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Soleil cooks for a living and writes sometimes. When she was in kindergarten, she reviewed a book for Reading Rainbow that she didn’t actually read. She cohosts Racist Sandwich, a podcast on food, race, class, and gender.