On the Radiocamp: The Momrade, and the old Hippie!

An Article from Mahtab Mahboub

Even if you never heard of the Community Radios/ FreiesRadios (Free Radios) in Germany, you can still continue reading, this is more than anything about human interactions without masks and enforced distances at the “almost” over corona times! (It is an absolute “conspiracy theory” that we have overcome this virus and its era has passed, more than a dozen of us came back from the camp infected!) So, as the saying goes: “stay at home, wash your hands and listen to the radio!” 

  1. I have almost been forced to believe myself to be a rarity: I have been invited to three different events in two months to talk about the experience of being an activist migrant mother in Germany! I treat every other activist (visibly) mother I meet at events almost the same way: I take their whatsapp number and instagram account avidly (I know not-the-most-radical-social media platforms! Sorry about that!) and keep following/monitoring/stalking them. 
  2. Living in migration with an only child and no biological “family” around, makes making contacts and keeping connection to other like-minded parents a constant concern for many migrant “families”. I hear from “German” acquaintances that they are going to spend the weekend getting together with their kindergarten and school friends and I think to myself  “what a luxury at many levels!”. Apparently they didn’t have to move so many times in their lives so as to lose previous contacts at the pre-social media times. It is probable that the education system was not so alienating that it doesn’t torture them to meet again with the same people who witnessed their suffering and humiliation at school. In my twelve years of school, I made two friends and that was in the fifth grade: one is now in Melbourne, the other one in Tehran! So, I don’t have that luxury at the moment and my child is not benefiting from such social connection. Yet, I feel so blessed to not only have met people who laugh at my rarely made jokes about how the trade unions are still as functional as their old-fashioned vending machines at the RadioCamp; but have also met other mother(er)s there! 
  3. I joined the gang just as I saw them walking out of the camp to get ice-creams! Miri said she has been coming to RadioCamp ever since she was a child and adults used to take her and other kids to get ice/creams and now it was her turn! You know this feeling that you just walked in an already existing beautiful tradition? I was there! She was taking my child, her child to get them ice-creams and the day after, she took another kid and her own. I am not sure if I was more moved by the continuum of this “praxis” or the kindness of the act itself. Whichever, I felt like my child and I made new “kin”s there and I even dreamed that if the three kids meet even once a year, they are still present in each others’ lives!
  4. Long after midnight, people are still sitting around the fire. There appears one party mix box of chocolate for everyone to pass around and share! All day long there is more than enough food, snacks and everything but this person thought about this moment and obviously didn’t just think of themselves (and I use “them” purposefully to de/gender the act); no wonder the same person had fought DDR when they were young, and does the most invisible task when it is time to cleaning up after ourselves and despite their age! 
  5. A couple of days after I was back from RadioCamp and as I was preparing for one of those workshops on mothering, I came across the idea of “momrade” in an article by Sophie Lewis. According to the Urban Dictionary “momrade” means:1. comrades who have children and/or 2. comrades who do the lion’s share of support work and reproductive labor in the movement. Reading this text was a total struggle, among other things, that day turned out to be one particularly loaded with my toddler’s tantrums. I finally used “punishment” and threat to manage the situation and was afterwards totally disappointed in my parenting. Yes, activist moms can make messes and drown themselves in the good old feeling of “guilt” like other moms!Towards the end of the article discussing family abolishment, I remembered that it was only recently that I learnt two of my parents’ friends, both of whom I used to call auntie, were actually “biological” sisters. When I was younger, whenever I went back to my childhood city, there were always people (women) who recognized (now adult) me and said they had taken care of me as a child. This community, I assume, had gathered together as the 1970s leftist rebellious youth organizing against the Shah’s regime in Iran. The regime that emerged from the 1979 revolution in Iran not only failed to fulfill any promise of social justice and freedom but limited the already existing civil freedoms including forcing women to wear Hijab on women. An era of terror began, many were killeds, were forced to flee or lost their work and livelihood.The communitarian ties wore out decrementally as the hegemonic discourse in the society became more individualistic with the biological “family” as the only legitimate source of reproduction and care again. That means mothers were the main caregivers and outspoken women had to pay an extremely high price to remain active. For children, it meant ties limited to blood relatives and less. 
  6. The Radiocamp experience brought up the questions of non-biological kinmaking, possibility of collective arts of care and solidarity across differences to the forefront for me. How can this care be anti-reproductive and revolutionary? Questions about the Utopia that we are sometimes encouraged to avoid, because we are no more in the 60s and 70s and didn’t the rebels, guerrillas and hippies “fail”?! As if anything more humane won in their so-called failure! Yet, human capabilities for care, solidarity and comradliness vis-à-vis the “alien” are of essence, especially for those of us with international biographies and our allies supporting the right to freedom of movement for all. How can we collectively -along with children and the most vulnerable- unmake the world, the miserable conditions of things as they are? With these concerns, many more questions and much inspiration, I look forward to the Radiocamp meetings next year!