Losers Holding Hands

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, comrades, we should all be feeling pretty flattered right now.

And if anybody’s wondering what our reflection might look like in the warped mirror of capitalism, there it is: the Modern Acupuncture franchise, with its sleek recliners divided by gauzy screens.

At the moment I admit I can’t take my eyes off it, I’m fascinated, because as some of you know, over the past decade or so I fired a whole parade of would-be business coaches and advisors who urged me to go for this very thing, who warned me that if we didn’t do this, somebody else would.

And now somebody has. I admit I’ve always wondered how I’d feel about it. Scared? Envious? Regretful?

So now I know how I feel about it, and oddly, it’s pretty similar to how I feel about heteronormativity. I figured out how I felt about heteronormativity long before I knew what the word meant (and possibly before the word was really in circulation, because I’m old). In terms of my own life, I thought about heteronormativity as “the white picket fence of love”.  I was in my early twenties, and it was like: oh, so THAT’s what I’m supposed to want. Okay. Umm…


Which is when I started to understand that I was queer.

And while I guess it’s theoretically possible I’ll feel differently if the founders of the Modern Acupuncture franchise make a zillion dollars, my experience with being queer/bisexual suggests that desire doesn’t work that way for me — it’s not about what other people want or get. Apparently, using the community acupuncture model, or any version of it, to make a profit is not something I’m able to want. Seeing more details of what that looks like, making a profit, just validates how much I want something else. Something marginalized and forbidden and true. Even if it’s hard to get, even if it’s not rewarded, even when there’s a cost.

I love being reminded of love: how it actually works, and where mine belongs.* So thanks, Modern Acupuncture.

About a week ago I had a great conversation with Jade about winning at capitalism and how POCA’s not doing it; this is a regular topic because we never get tired of it. Recent events have raised the question of who’s a winner and who’s a loser and what that means, and Jade noted that how we talk about success can be subtly destructive. Capitalism is so insidious and it can make everything we do into a form of consumerism and competition, including our personal relationships.

Anyway, we got to talking about how the most important thing about POCA, and probably the most important thing we need to teach at POCA Tech, is self-organizing, because that’s the source of our strength and empowerment and creativity. Self-organizing is liberatory. It’s the polar opposite of consumerism. It’s knowing what you want and learning how to build it, alongside other people who want the same thing, as opposed to plugging some coins into a vending machine and hoping it will spit out a crinkly package of what you want.

A franchise with a price tag of $30K and an expected investment of $150K to $300K is what our project looks like without the self-organizing. It’s what it looks like if it’s aimed at a different class of people both as clinic owners and as patients. It’s community acupuncture for the winners and the consumers.

As Jade said, we’re not the winners. We’re the losers, holding hands.

*And no, I haven't read this book, but I hope to.

Author: lisafer

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. Sometimes NJ feels pretty tight and rigid and my small town feels like any tiny lovely piece of yourself that grows out creatively seeking beauty may just get cleavered off at first discovery.
    And then I fall into POCA and read and hear words that resonate in my heart and body and remind me I am part of this team of truth seekers and justice makers. I am reminded when a person from the west coast, visiting their parents in their hometown, brings them in to my clinic and thanks me that I am bringing this change to the town they had to flee. This network of beautiful humans, connected thru POCA that amplifies truths we barely get hear.
    Thank you thank you, for helping me to recognize myself. For giving me some footing, some strength, some community to be bolder, that I may stand in my truth when the tides are overwhelmingly other.

  2. Oh, the ironies that pile up in this work! In reading your post, all I could think of is that you, the great heretic; smasher of Ming vases and melter of scented candles, have circled back to what might be regarded by some as a very classical Taoist idea – winning by losing! Here’s to taking the dive, ALL TOGETHER!

  3. Nicole — thanks for the kind words. I love hearing people talk about how they experience CA clinics as places of refuge or places they feel at home. Somehow I have a feeling that franchise expansion won’t be based on putting clinics in places that NEED it.

    Brent — yes, the ironies do pile up. And thanks for the compliment. 😉 I’m just an aspiring heretic though. Here’s to all together.

  4. My previous comment got deleted, so if I am reposting twice somehow I apologize. This is my backyard, 20 minutes from my clinic, so it has brought up a lot of different emotions. Nice to hear the emotions of others, thanks for this!

  5. all this talk of winners and losers seems like a moment of reclaiming words, and giving them the meaning that makes sense to us. Losers could mean that weŕe not interested in playing that game!