The Land Under Our Feet
Tribes which hadn’t spoken to each other in decades gathered together on frigid northern plains to face down hired mercenaries, police, infiltrators, and their army of bulldozers.
At the same time on the other side of the planet, mothers raged and fathers wept to Allah as their children were shot dead for throwing stones at other bulldozers and other mercenaries called “soldiers.”
A few hundred years ago, women laid their children in graves dug shallow into peat. Beneath threadbare cloaks clinging to shoulders laden with what little they could carry, they cursed landlord and king while boarding ships to take them across a cold sea into servitude.
At almost the same time in the land to which those other women traveled, other women clawed into dry hard earth with nails made brittle from famine. There they buried their own dead in their own shallow graves–all those who died on the march from the fecund swamps that were once home along the trail of tears.
As you read this, undocumented refugees and artists hide behind barricades in a forest, shouting and jeering at and sometimes fleeing police armed with grenades and truncheons. The police advance and with sledgehammers smash homes where children were born and lovers held each other in desire; then they retreat to their own homes in time for dinner before sleep to begin the destruction the next day.
In high mountains a village mourns a shaman whose songs led them and many others into the arms of the goddess of a sacred plant. Her body riddled with bullets, like so many others murdered for the sole crime of being in the way of those who wanted the land upon which she lived for something more profitable.
The brutal repression of the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, the violent oppression of Palestinians, the Irish famine, the forced marches of indigenous people and the murder of their leaders, and the French government’s violent eviction of the Z.A.D. from Notre Dame des Landes: these are the stories of capitalism, the blood and sorrows of millions soaking into the land under our feet.
Today’s Mayday. It’s Beltane.
It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of revolt.
For anarchists and communists, it’s a sacred day, marches and riots to remember martyred workers. For Pagans and witches, it’s a sacred day, when forest and sun dance like sex and the life it breeds and the meaning it gives.
One chants of resistance, the other sings of joy, and under both is the land under our feet.
Capitalism began only a few hundred years ago with the forced expulsion of peasant from land in Europe and the forced expulsion of colonized from their land across the waters. Evictions, massacres, enslavement, settlement and re-settlement: without these things there could have been no Capital, no factories and what they produce. Marx called these acts “primitive accumulation,” theft of wealth and labor and most of all land by force and law.
But this is not just our history, this is our now.
The money funding the bank which forecloses on a poor Black family’s home is the labor stolen from Africans enslaved and land stolen from commons enclosed.
The investment capital that gentrifies a white neighborhood is the alchemical product of cheap labor and the forests in which First Nations hunters stalked Elk and Bear.
The bulldozers used to demolish the homes of Palestinians are the bulldozers that tear down homeless and refugee camps, that move the rubble of bombed homes and move the dirt into mass graves.
The guns used to shoot the child throwing rocks are the guns pointed at the Black kid just trying to walk home from the store, the guns which kill American kids in their classroom are the same guns used to subdue Mexican teachers demanding better pay, guns hoarded and wielded by police and soldiers everywhere to prevent us from taking back our collective birthright: the land under our feet.
Under all of this is land. Humans live only because of land, we eat and drink and breathe because of land. Without land our gods are naked and cannot speak, our children are hungry and cannot live, our ancestors forgotten and cannot be heard.
Paganism is about that land. Anti-capitalism is about that land.
Colonialism, Capitalism, Empire: these are the names of the story of how humans are ripped from land, severed from the gods and each other and themselves.
Now in the crush of cities we rush from rented space to work, from work back to rented space. Now in towering tenements we open foil packets into boiling water as children cry, sirens wail and televisions declare the future is now and capital always.
Now the forests die.
Now species older than humanity breathe their last.
Now the oceans rise and storms rage.
Now backlit screens become our society, likes and retweets our comfort, all because we have forgotten we are also the land under our feet.
Today is Beltane. Today is Mayday. People are dancing. People are being shot. People are shouting in rage. People are fucking each other, people are sighing at another day of wretched work.
Gods&Radicals exists because they are connected by the same thing. We write because we remember the land, remember each other, remember ourselves. We remember our gods stolen from us by sword and cross and dollar, springs and forests taken from us by fence and judge and profit, ancestors and offspring asking us when the cruelty of Empire will finally end.
We are witches, heretics, dreamers and bards. We are guerrillas, organizers, rioters, saboteurs.
We long for the liberation of others and for the liberation of ourselves, the coming time when around burning barricades or crackling hearths we can be ourselves again. No longer laborers for others, no longer criminals under the tyranny of law. No longer illegal and refugee, no longer colonized and conquered.
No longer anything but the land under our feet, and those who live upon it.
Happy Beltane. Happy Mayday.
Rhyd is one of the founders of Gods&Radicals. He lives everywhere, but mostly in Rennes, Bretagne. Follow his newsletter here.