I have been completely fascinated with this woman who calls herself Cornelius Vango. She is an anarchist librarian, squatter, community-builder, van dweller, adventurer and a skilled vidder, vlogger and editor and an above-the-knee amputee having apparently lost a leg in an accident as a young teenager. For the past 3.5 years, she has lived in an off-grid squatter community called Slab City in the California desert and routinely manages extreme conditions including heat that exceeds 120F degrees in the summertime. She also regularly bathes in, washes her clothes in and collects drinking water from an agricultural canal that runs through the Slabs and has gained considerable weight since arriving there which looks to me like systemic inflammation and has been having noticeable negative reactions to food so has gone gluten-free.
I am consistently amazed at what she is able to accomplish as an unkept female in these so-called anarchist communities where she has to constantly deal with anarchist, anti-civ and generally anti-social males but she is very good at it. She has said that pregnancy is her greatest fear which is realistic considering her situation and I would frankly be amazed if she hasn’t had to face her greatest fear more than once. If she hasn’t yet, she probably will. When I watch her as she documents her extremely physically active and demanding “alternative lifestyle” I cannot help but compare my own situation to hers where the physical limitations of my disease are obviously more disabling to me than her missing and prosthetic leg is to her. For example, I now suffer from extreme heat intolerance that would make living in an off-grid desert community physically impossible. And where she takes regular hikes through difficult terrain and has said that she is limited only by the quality and condition of her prosthetic (which she recently had replaced because it was in poor quality and condition and was limiting her) and I would assume also some body and joint pain from her altered gait, I grapple with disabling fatigue where I pay for any above-average exertion with many days if not weeks of increased gastrointestinal symptoms as well as full body and joint pain, fever and malaise.
Clearly this woman has her own personal and class struggles in addition to those she shares with all females under capitalism and patriarchy and I am not comparing her to me except to note what appears to be a notable difference in physical ability arising from a serious and life-changing injury such as a limb amputation versus a confounding autoimmune disease such as the one I suffer from, Crohn’s disease. And in the case of Cornelius Vango, as in the case of all women, she is regularly exposed to male-made environmental toxins that are likely to render her quite ill in the future in addition to her already significant challenges as an amputee: she swims, bathes, washes her clothes in and drinks agricultural runoff from a canal that runs through the community which itself is off-grid and does not have its own water supply.
In essence, she is being completely polluted inside and out with Big Agriculture’s worst byproducts and poisons including glyphosate, the active ingredient of the industrial herbicide Roundup. I recognize in her some of my own early symptoms of Crohn’s disease including systemic inflammation and weight gain that is noticeably different from an increase in body fat, and food intolerances that began with wheat and gluten but which progressed to include all grains and then all foods that were not exclusively organic and non-GMO. So while she seems to have found a way to survive outside of overtly capitalistic communities as an anarchist, she certainly has been unable to avoid overt patriarchy and will never escape the more insidious facets of both which include the devastating physical and psychological effects of environmental pollution that none of us can escape. In the end, she may well end up an amputee and a seriously chronically ill person due to these exposures. Of course I hope she doesn’t and that will continue to be my hope. Her YouTube channel is here.