Our Tragedy, Our Rage: The Politics of Precarity
It is a feeling all its own to have The Fates not only work against you, but crush you beneath their heel. Not petty troubles or a small “rough patch,” but to witness entire chunks of your life reduced to ash. The loss of a job, the illness of a loved one, the wrecking of a car, all jump out at us as events where, however powerful we once felt, we find ourselves as playthings for probability… or worse.
It is in these moments of tragedy and sorrow we find the fuel to defy the conditions of our existence.
Precarity and the new Peasantry
As Mars Retrograde continues to wreck havoc on the less fortunate (including the entire Brazilian people, who now have an American informant for a president) I can’t help but notice the “better off” seem to be doing just fine.
The wealthy, those “of means,” never truly know the sensation of deep and abiding suffering because they always have the capital to rescue themselves. Divorce means little when you have the money to start all over again, and the failure of a business doesn’t matter much if it was really just a lark anyway.
Precarity, an existence lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare, has been the everyday existence for our people and our ancestors. While aristocrats could shelter themselves from religious wars and social upheaval, the peasants of the world have always been just one illness or one upset away from disaster. These are our ancestors, those Cunning Men and Wise Witches, the Rootwomen and Hexenmeisters, those people so crushed by economic conditions that the only thing they COULD rely on was the Spirit World and their own magic.
The old grimoires are obsessed with finding hidden treasure, not out of fun, but because even a magician’s life was lived on a razor’s edge of starvation and death. Books like “The Long Lost Friend” are packed with not only healing spells for the animals that kept your family alive but charms against being murdered, shot at, and assurances the user might make it home on even a short journey.
Truly, the world of the ancients is still with us.
What you may not know is that it’s progressively getting worse. Social inequality has only increased, in some ways even vaster then the gulf between ancient nobility and the peasants they exploited.
“In reality, the poorest Americans are barely getting by, the middle class is barely distinguishable from the poor, and the top 10 percent are much better off, especially the top 1 percent which has 40 percent of the wealth. The bottom 80 percent has only 7 percent of the wealth….The richest 1 percent earn 24 percent of the income today, whereas in 1976, that number was only 9 percent. Moreover, the top 1 percent own half the countries’ stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while the bottom 50 percent own only .5 percent of them.”
The facts are in and we will be the first generation in a very long time to be worse off then our parents. Stable jobs and benefits are a thing of the past, as an entire generation spends it’s youth working two jobs as “freelance contractors.” The techno-uptopia promised to us in the 90’s has been exposed for the lie it always was: technology has only made us more disposable, more nameless, as we become mere servants for “platforms” like Uber, Lyft, Shipt, or AirBnB.
“‘Uber’s like an exploiting pimp,” said Arman, an Uber driver in LA who asked me to withhold his last name out of fear of retribution. ‘Uber takes 20 percent of my earnings, and they treat me like shit — they cut prices whenever they want. They can deactivate me whenever they feel like it, and if I complain, they tell me to fuck off.”…
“’These days, I won’t even stop to take a shit, I just drive — sometimes for up to fifteen hours a day,’ a driver named Dan told me after pulling an all-nighter bringing drunk people home from bars. ‘It’s humiliating.'”
My wife worked from 7am to 6pm the other day without a break because Florida law doesn’t demand one. When she asks to eat they yell at her. When she asks to go home at her appointed time they make her to stay 3, maybe 4 hours over.
All this just to survive.
Is this not the face of the new peasantry?
The conditions today are so stark some economists have decided we are a new social class defined by this condition of precarity and actually deemed us the Precariat.
How can the wealthy possible understand our lives and motivations when they practically live on another planet? To them the loss of a car, while unhappy, can be fixed by getting a new one. Such trivial people cannot fathom what it is to be on the highway at 4:00am and an hour away from home, as I was just recently, fully aware that all the mobile freedom I had so greedily enjoyed had now evaporated. No more out of town trips, no more fun and exciting restaurants, no more anything after the buses stopped running. I had not merely lost a vehicle, but in a state where public transportation is a joke I had lost a very real sense of agency.
THIS, in it’s sublime terribleness, was life. Real life, real precarity.
There is no money for a replacement. The Ace of Spades had reared it’s ugly head and like a bullet punching through cheap concrete walls it’s decision was a final one. This is over.
Emotions run high, strong drinks follow. In your condition you can’t help but think. You start thinking about all the people above you, safe and decent. You start seething at the relative who sells drugs and buys cars as if they were candy. You grow wrathful, violent, hell-bent on destroying the world and everything in it. You begin to despise your precarity.
You are unstable, cracked, and in this moment a powerful truth is forged in your stomach. Gone are the whispers of the American dream, replaced by the very real nakedness of your poverty.
It is in this torrid tempest and raging inferno where the birthplace of radical politics is to be found.
“We must never stop bringing our thoughts out of our sorrow and maternally giving them that within us which is of blood, of heart, of fire, of joy, of passion, of anguish, of knowledge, of destiny, of fatality.” – Renzo Novatore
It’s unpopular in political circles, even radical ones, to cherish one’s anger or sadness. Calm is always being called for, one’s level-head to be kept and cherished above all else. Police are even regarded as “potential allies” in these madhouses. We are cautioned “not to get angry” as if a smile held the key to our economic freedom. Things like The Secret tell us to “think positive,” that our anguish isn’t connected to our conditions but to our attitude. The world is a beautiful place, you see, you’re just choosing not to enjoy it.
Beautiful it is, even in destruction. As I walked 20 miles to the nearest gas station I couldn’t help but marvel at how fucked I was, how total and full my defeat had been. Perhaps this love of fate, this amor fati is impossible for others who’ve never suffered to understand.
Often it’s the only thing left to us, we precarious ones.
There is a beauty perhaps even acknowledged by the prey items of the world at how fast it’s captor runs, how cleanly and quickly jaws and teeth turn the once bright and vibrant jungle into an inky blackness. While I could not stop the tables turning on me I could at least marvel how fast they spun. One cannot deny we have built by far the greatest prison ever thus seen for humanity.
Sorrow is a great teacher, for in it all illusions are quickly dispelled. Concretely and with both eyes open we witness a tragic Truth parade before us. Concepts such as “rights” and “justice” are torn away as the rosy sunglasses they always were. I do not want to play pretend. This is my life, this is real life, and no manner of positive thinking was going to make things go away. There are no guarantees, no promises of anything anymore. Better to fully and exuberantly experience life even in these dark times. The world is neither positive or negative, belief in otherwise is merely shield to keep the knowledge of the world from you, a knowledge only the suffering can know.
“I’d rather have a handful of might then a handful of ‘right'”
The poet Bruno Filippi wrote:
“I don’t believe in the right.
Life, which is all a manifestation of incoherent forces, unknown and unknowable, rejects the human artificiality of the right. Right was born when life was taken away from us. Indeed, originally, humanity had no right. It lived and that was everything. Today, instead, there are thousands of rights; one could accurately say that everything which we have lost we call right.
I know that I live and that I desire to live.”
In the Age of the Precariot “rights” are nothing more then a possibility floated above you in contrast of you actually having a thing. I paid for insurance for the “right” to drive, a loan permitting me to exist beyond a 5 mile area. By “rights” they, a company in theory to “protect against misfortune” should have helped me out.
They towed me 15 miles farther from home and wished me good luck.
By “rights” my wife should be able to go home, should be able to eat at least at some point in a 11 hour shift. Alas, our “lawmakers” have determined the employer has the “right” to deny her human subsistence.
Candles of Boss Fix curl as I can only think of dynamite.
The concept that we are owed anything is a dangerous one because it causes us to stop living and start waiting. We create a false utopia to protect ourselves from the tendrils of sadness, from the very Real that is existence. It was my very real bonds of friendship that got me home the next day, not any high-minded company. The false virtuous world overlays the actual one. We trust our leaders because they’re “good people,” as if such a thing existed, rather then viewing them as walking tempests of competing drives and desires–just like us. We think business leaders actually care about their employees when all they care about is making money. We believe we share a common interest with those that have never worked, never gone hungry, and never worried because we’re “all in this together.”
We have the “right” to work, guaranteed the opportunity to compete against our poverty stricken comrades for market priced wages, yet if I conspire with my friends to force our boss to pay us better I’m infringing on HIS “rights.” Everyday I am subjected to countless acts of violence yet I am always chided to “remain peaceful” and mind the “rights” of others.
Our bosses can fire us for requesting religious holiday’s or asking for pee breaks, yet the Occult community would tell us to conjure for managerial positions! We are to ask these people quietly for our right to be human?!?
Funny, isn’t it, you folk lighting candles and hacking because you don’t have insurance? Funny it’s YOU that must “brighten up,” that must “keep a stiff upper lip.” There’s something to be said about how it’s always the poor that must remain virtuous and deny certain aspects of human existence: the hungry are reminded not to steal, the oppressed are cautioned towards non-violence, and those with the power to remake their lives are warned to remain humble.
Tragedy, Anger, Terror, Wrath, the very visceral facts of existence in the world, are denied in favor of the false gods of Positivity, Pacifism, Passivity, and Peace.
The spooks of “how things are supposed to be” tear you away from how they are now and render you impotent to change them.
“Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.”
You may bleat at your shepherds for healthcare yet refuse to demand to be healthy; you may treat “officers” with slavish obedience because they deserve your “respect,” yet you go down willingly when they hand you nothing but violence in the name of this invisible ideal; you may shout calls for peace into a world bathed in blood, hopeful cold hearts might twinge with love.
Why? Why expect anything else from the people at the top? Why dilute the experience of life in foolish and high-minded Pollyanna? Your life is disposable to the people that rule you, why do you hold THEIR safety in such sacred regard?
You fight for symbolic victories, hoping to sway them.
I desire real ones.
As a conjurer and a person I’ve seen unseen hands wreck human lives for mere amusement, teenagers throw curses at falsely accused victims, and spirits still tortured by lives that could have been lived decades after death.
The lies you’ve been given about “peace” and the “goodness” of life belong on the school yard with the certainty that Santa existed.
“Only great suffering; that great suffering, under which we seem to be over a fire of greenwood, the suffering that takes its time—forces us philosophers to descend into our nethermost depths, and to let go of all trustfulness, all good-nature, all whittling-down, all mildness, all mediocrity,—on which things we had formerly staked our humanity.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Don’t look away! FACE your terror, FACE your anguish, let it wash over you and remove all illusions. Drink deeply and measure the world around you against it. It is this anguish and woe that awakens the god within you that REFUSES to obey whatever slave morality they taught you. Your sorrow teaches you the world as you desire it does not exist, and the only thing that can change that is your Will and your Force.
“You are a reflection of life, I am its essence. And you certainly, feel atrocious pain in your hearts at seeing rhetorical castles collapse, and in spite of it all you continue to support them out of hatred for anything new….For you cowardly annihilation, for me the sublimation of being. And surely if life is for the strongest, I will have it. I will take it by force and by force I will steal well — being and enjoyment…
You dream, you dream. I live. You are not; I am.” -Bruno Filippi
“Positive thinking” denies not only aspects of our lives but aspects of our selves. Capitalism transformed us from Beings into Workers, and with it reduced us to a life of mediocrity. We are taught to be “content” with our lives as all our value is stripped away and kicked upwards for others to enjoy. Why must I toil why they play? Why must I behave and “play by the rules” when those who are my captors do not?
Only when our “oughts” and “shoulds” are melted away by the sting of defeat and the wine of woe are the fires of Being breathed into once more. Indignation leads to action, action those “above us” rightfully fear. They made your anger and violence illegal because through them you might feel alive again, might actually refuse the pathetic and base existence they desire you to wallow in.
They love to point to the Civil Rights movement as the crowning success of non-violence, of positivity, to keep you quiet and behaved, yet they forget the Holy Week uprising following the assassination of Dr. King. It was only after the largest series of riots since the Civil War, stretched across over 100 cities, that Uncle Sam relented; only after buildings had been burned and blood spilled was any small measure of freedom gained.
The Arab Spring too was far from the liberal “non-violent” ideal, one Egyptian noting in To Our Friends: “Those who say that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that the police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even the force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces: by the government’s own admission, 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed and all of the ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down.”
Activists whose politics rise from lukewarm colleges are not dangerous, neither are marches and sign-holders. The mother whose son died needlessly on the battlefield is the most dreaded opponent of the Military-Industrial complex because it is her sorrow that pushes her onward and her rage that keep her fighting.
Look at who gets the heavier dose of propaganda. It should be easy to see who’s the bigger threat.
“The insurrections no longer base themselves on political ideologies, but on ethical truths… When the world is fucked with, it’s we ourselves who are being attacked.” – The Invisible Committee
Occupy, in the moments it was most dangerous to the powerful, resonated nationally because of the shared sorrow of the oppressed and tapped into the rage for a new existence. The minute they denied this rage, moving instead towards symbolic action and the morality the wealthy had hoisted upon them, the movement was finished.
Others are not so stupid. Nuit Debout in France has not made such mistakes, and is growing. While generally peaceful they still riot on a regular basis. People there are not afraid to attack a bank that has attacked them, or kidnap bosses that threaten to outsource their livelihood. Such tactics are looked down upon in the US, that “violence” distracts from the message.
Whose tactics seem to work better? By one CEO’s admission French workers “are paid high wages but only work three hours. They have one hour for their lunch, they talk for three hours and they work for three hours.”
IMAGINE! Living not for production or consumption but LIVING! Whose really living might I ask? The American Precariot who tells herself that all is well, safe in her “noble” virtue of slavish obedience, or the French human-being who work less, eat better, and lives life dictated on her terms, by righteous violence if need be? An existence of meager cubicles and cartoons or one of danger and uncertainty, crowned by the highest highs and marred by the lowest lows?
What’s real life, what’s real being, other then the struggle for existence? Why allow others to dictate the “acceptableness” of my actions, if they please me? What’s wrong if my politics are born not from theoretical flourishes but the indignity of alienation and the thirst for vengeance? If my freedom depends on the existence of the freedom of all, does not the freedom of all depend on the assertion of my own freedom?
Must I not liberate myself today, now, if anything is to be accomplished?
In the swamps of sorrow, of precarious existence, I am left with only myself and my own unbounded power. I have no rights, no guarantees, and it is in this void that I am free to do as I wish. By force of will or force of fist I alone must struggle to survive. In the war of All vs. All my success is not promised nor fated, but borne on the winds of action, either alone or with accomplices and comrades, spiritual or otherwise. In between bouts of desperation we plan our revenge for the morning, no matter how bitter the defeat.
Each failure only tests our body with anti-venom.
Each victory only sharpens our fangs.
“All those who society flagellates in the very intimacy of their being instinctively want vengeance.
A thousand institutions of the old world are marked with a fatal sign.
Those affiliated with the plot have no need to hope for a distant better future; they know a sure means to pluck joy immediately:
Destroy passionately!” – Zo d’Axa
In accepting my own defeat, my precarity, awash in rage and sadness, I am made anew by allowing myself these feelings. I know that I exist, that I still live, for they have not torn that natural wrath of a spirit done wrong from my soul. What HAS been torn away is my illusions; through my suffering I see the world for what it is. Defiant, I rise like a dragon from the ashes, no longer bound by moralistic platitudes, living beyond the conquerors and the conquered. My rage burns with the vitality and uncertainty of life! By courage, cunning, or conjure I will make war on the world, a war against all that would limit me to the anxiety of Precarity and to existence as the Precariot.
I do not fight for high minded ideals, I do not strike back to honor lofty goals. I make my attack and destroy that which destroys me that I may live. Victory and defeat are both inevitable. The only thing that matters is that I keep fighting; existence itself is a war of attrition.
I wait on nothing and no one, no ideals shall hold back my hands from smashing the snouts so eager to see me eaten alive by precarity.
I am a living reverent whose body has been dishonored and by the spirits I call you shall know me: by Guland I shall be healer to the broken and pestilence to the wicked; by St. Christopher I shall rouse the dead and terrify those who torment the living; by He Who Dwells at the Crossroads I shall upset and destroy every structure and system that binds me to an existence of serfdom!
You may keep your peaceful revolution, you may keep your non-violence! My sorrow and rage began my own war long ago and I intend to WIN!
Dr. Bones is a 9 year practitioner of the Southern occult tradition known as Conjure, Rootwork, and Hoodoo. A skilled card-reader and Spiritworker, Dr. Bones has undertaken all aspects of the work, both benevolent and malefic. Politically he holds the Anarchist line that “Individuality can only flourish where equality of access to the conditions of existence is the social reality. This equality of access is Communism.” He resides in the insane State of Florida with his loving wife, a herd of cats, a house full of spirits.
Dr. Bones is one of the writers who will be featured in our next issue of A Beautiful Resistance.
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