RIP Michael Brooks

I can’t think of a time in my life when I’ve been so wracked with grief for someone I never met. My favorite podcaster, Michael Brooks, died unexpectedly on Monday of a blood clot at the young age of 36. I’m heartbroken.

There’s an intimacy to podcasting and radio, to the regular sound of someone’s voice in your life even if that voice is thousands of miles away. Micheal kept me company for years during my chores. He was a rare talent, a democratic socialist with a sense of humor and an internationalist with a deep empathy for working class people all over the world. That empathy was born of experience. Michael grew up knowing what it’s like to not know where your next meal is coming from and to get evicted from your house as a child. He was also the only person I know who could talk Gramsci and basketball.

I have no idea how I found his podcast but I remember the moment that kept me listening. He and a guest were discussing spirituality. Rather than the dismissiveness that you might expect from the old school left, Michael thought that we needed to integrate spirituality and politics. In a memorial show on the Majority Report, his sister Lisha Brooks recounted their last conversation. Michael was, as he often did, talking about spirituality. As he asked in that last conversation, “Why allow Steve Bannon to have a monopoly on the Bhagavad Gita?” Amen.

I have to be honest that I’ve been very gloomy of late and often find myself doomscrolling the covid news and the latest twitter outrage. I took great comfort every week in Michael’s honesty and insight about the trouble we’re in combined with his humor. Michael was only getting started. I hoped that, as I grew old, I would see him become a major media personality and politician and a voice for working people. His passing is a tremendous loss.

I have a lot to learn from his example. My discussion of politics on this blog has fallen into two categories. Early on I was snarky, arrogant and mean. Then I just clammed up while, all around me, an ideology of toxic individualism has created the terrible crisis we are now in. My writing beat, what has, for lack of a better term, been called “urban homesteading” is poisoned by that individualism which manifests in a concept of self sufficiency whose ultimate destination is a lonely existence in a doomstead bunker. I’ve always tried to point out that we’re all in this together, that we need to build up our households and our communities. It’s not one or the other.

Michael was just beginning to formulate a strategy that would normalize ideas like medicare for all and the plain, decent notion that we should respect and take care of working people in this country. He said to his sister in that last conversation that he felt that we needed to, “build a world where all can listen to each other without turning to violence. This doesn’t mean that we give up the fight for justice. We need to fight that fight more skillfully.”

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  1. My son listened to Michael. I feel we lost a close family friend. We are heartbroken. He reminded me a lot of my son .. his education, interests and imitations – and I feel he was helping my son be more whole. Michael will always be a great loss and a great gain.

    I was very tearful reading your post. I’m sorry for your loss – and I hope his listeners will continue on, TMBS club or something, for everyone’s sake…

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