Land, Home, and the Gods

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To Frigg, I address these words.

Beloved, Who Suffered Two Griefs,

Whose ashen box and secrets are tended by Volla,

In Whose Name Hlin brings peace and rest,

At Whose command Gna flies upon the Hoof-Kicker,

By Whose grace gentle Lofn brings union,

By Whose good counsel the women of the Winnili

Put their hair down in the likeness of beards and were thus rewarded with victory.

Receive these words

And grant that my hearthfire always burns brightly.

“When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.”

— Wendell Berry

Make the home the center of your life. For so many, home is lost in memory and dream. Nostalgia, a devastating longing. A force beyond our ken. What is it about the idea of home that is at once so comforting and so uncanny? It is precisely that link with those subterranean currents within us. The notion of home, so often retreating from us, brings us back to long forgotten memories. Not of our own childhoods, necessarily, although of course, the dollhouse world of the child is the model for the great world beyond. But the life of meaning and connection severed by industrial society. For where else is the power of the pre modern world felt more strongly than in the home and in the idea of the home. We cannot return to our home, any more than we can return to the wholeness that was taken from us. But we can reclaim something of our inheritance. We may light the fire in the hearth, call the gods and spirits to us, and make a new home for ourselves.

If we do not make a space within us and our lives for the gods and spirits to dwell, can we be surprised when we do not find them? Home is where the gods are. Home is not where the bones of ancestors lie, for the greater part of them dwells within us. We have all been driven hence, a vagabond humanity, and there is none who can find his home without seeking. Come upon your gods and you will need to build them a home. Gods and memories need a home with shadowy corners, nooks and crannies, garrets, attics, and cellars. They are tired and worn and are in need of refuge. They need places to sink down and sleep among the cobwebs and dust. And we will keep the fire burning on the hearth and fill the rooms with good smells and laughter and light. This is what Jung meant when he said that the spirits of the home loved old iron pots and pans. So much so was the divine alive in these simple old tools, that Jung developed friendships with the pots and pans at Bollingen Tower.

What kinship can the gods claim with things of steel and silicon? Veins of iron pulse in the earth, such things are known to gods and spirits.  The home binds us to the earth and through it, to the gods. Agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry writes: “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life.” In other words, the gods dwell in the soil and we find our home in the soil. The pagan is the country dweller. The godly world is not to be found in the cities. Home cannot be made of concrete and asphalt. After all, if we are made by the place that we come from, what manner of thing shall we be when we live and die in cities that stretch to the horizon? Sure enough, we are become things that do not need soil, do not need home, do not need gods. Not soul and blood, but machine. And the logic of the machine is war against life. Berry: “It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.” Declare for the creature within! For land, home, and the gods!

As Wendell Berry and many others have observed, the modern industrial home is little more than a site of consumption. It is not a place for creation, for production. There is no joy in it, only distraction, which passes for entertainment. The energy of life is expended outside the home. The business of living, we pay experts to manage for us. To grow and cook our food. To build what we require. To create what we desire. The home, understood as a place of creative energies, on the other hand, necessarily connects us to the earth and to the divine. Hands plunged into soil, planting seeds. Hands bathed in blood, slaughtering livestock. Creation and destruction are alive inside of us. We have sacrificed everything to escape struggle, never understanding that struggle is what gives us meaning. It is struggle that connects us to the earth and gods.

Modernity and industrialism, we believe, frees us from work but in truth, all it does is deprive our work of any meaning. There has never been a more overworked human being than the industrialized one. Work becomes labor, crushing the body and soul. The idea of the home retreats into the world of dreams, while we are bled dry to pay for the meanest and most squalid tenements. Let the home and the idea of the home become a pillar of strength. Let the home become a site of defiance, a bold denial of industrial society. Let the home be made into a bulwark against the modern world.

Make the home the center of your life. Economy, of course, originally referred to the management of the household. The global market, inseparable from industrialism, in this regard, is opposed by the agricultural home. Home work does not occur in the marketplace. Nobody is making money or profiting by your work except for yourself and your family and kin. Cooking, growing food, cleaning, chopping wood, raising children, arts and crafts. Industrial society shifts this work away from the home. But when we work where we live, we become more profoundly connected to both our work and the place we inhabit. Such work, the work of the home, is rooted in the cycles of the natural world, and as such honors the gods.

The human world is in ruins. It will not get better. The sooner we can withdraw from it, the better. Timothy Leary was right when he urged young people to “drop out” in 1966. His message is all the more profoundly true today. Life in urban, industrial society has no future. The modern world has failed on all levels. Capitalism and industrialism cannot be reformed. The gods have fled. Whether or not we can become completely independent of industrial society is irrelevant. The fact that it is difficult and perhaps impossible to utterly separate should not be used as an argument against withdrawal. Connection to the gods and the land is ultimately more important than material self-sufficiency. To whatever extent you are compelled and able, withdraw from society and make the home the center of your life.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He lives with his family among mountains and rivers in Western New England. He walks with the moon.

More of his writing can be found hereYou can also support him on Patreon.

 

 

Urbancentrism

“For me, there is a social disease that, I do not know if it is identified by science as “official” but, I usually call URBANCENTRISM. It prevents people from seeing beyond the structure of large cities, as if there was a huge dome around the metropolis that prevents access to other places, or that transforms other places into utopias disconnected from reality which can be accessed only from time to time in dreams”

From InfoGuerra

English Translation here.

ITACIRA-12-JUL-FB-2

Urbanocentrismo

Pra quem nasceu e cresceu na metrópole é bem comum a convivência com uma gigantesca diversidade e interatividade entre culturas e com uma vasta disponibilidade de informação circulando das mais diversas formas, assim como a rápida transformação dos costumes, das tecnologias, das ruas…

Pra quem nasceu e cresceu, e que veio ou vive nos interiores em que a urbanização não é tão latente, tudo isso é muito mais difícil de ser acessado, conquistado e assimilado. É por isso que damos tanto valor à coisas que pra muitas pessoas parecem ser minúsculas ou ridículas e que pra nós são grandiosas. Para os meus antepassados, a contemplação é algo fundamental e a fugacidade, a velocidade com a qual as coisas se desmancham na metrópole, muitas vezes é aterrorizadora. A valorização do que é construído de forma lenta, mas “bem feita”, observando os mínimos detalhes é muito mais importante do que se entupir de mil tarefas e informações e não conseguir dar conta de tudo. O que inclusive é fonte de diversas doenças modernas.

Para as migrantes e para os migrantes que vêm de uma realidade pobre do interior, a discriminação contra seus costumes, sotaque, cor, vestimenta, pensamentos e práticas é uma ameaça constante. Mas como a maioria se arrisca na Babilônia sem ter respaldo de alguém que pode fortalecer quando o bicho pega, acabam aprendendo à gingar, à dissimular, à jogar com essas discriminações, se adaptando ao que a nova realidade pede. Muitas e muitos acabam abandonando seus costumes com o passar do tempo e recarregam suas antigas práticas ao se reencontrarem com outras e outros migrantes. Outras e outros carregam consigo a melancolia somada com a sensação de derrota por não conseguir retornar pra casa com a missão cumprida e com a conquista nas mãos. Muitas e muitos acabam indo morar nas ruas, por falta de assistência. Muitas e muitos morrem, assassinados por uma violência urbana ao qual não estão acostumadxs. Algumas e alguns conseguem alcançar lugares de prestígio e experimentar e compartilhar privilégios já com a meia idade chegando, depois de terem doado toda uma vida de sangue e suor e comprometido todas as suas economias em parcelamentos extensos que lá na frente se tornam as dívidas que, se não houver cuidado, levam à falência.

Sinceramente, eu não conheço nenhuma família que veio de onde eu vim e de outros interiores que conheci que não tenham um histórico de batalha e sobrevivência em condições extremas e mantenho um pensamento de revolta e combate contra a discriminação direcionada à essas pessoas que são invisibilizadas no cotidiano da metrópole.

Pra mim, existe uma doença social que eu não sei se é identificada pela ciência tida como “oficial”, mas que eu costumo chamar de URBANOCENTRISMO, que impede as pessoas de conseguirem enxergar para além da estrutura das grandes cidades, como se houvesse uma enorme redoma ao redor da metrópole que impedisse o acesso a outros lugares ou que transformasse os outros lugares em utopias desconectadas da realidade e que só podem ser acessadas de vez em quando nos sonhos. Sonhos estes que dão origem às máfias turísticas que fazem das paisagens dos interiores um produto de consumo acessível para quem tem muita grana. Sonhos estes que transformam as nascentes dos rios em poços de veneno e chorume despejado pelo agronegócio que abastece a metrópole. Sonhos estes que escravizam a mão de obra de meus manos que tão disputando uma diária de pouco mais de 30 conto no monopólio da banana que abastece a metrópole, fazendo serviço triplo: batendo veneno, cortando cachos maduros e transportando até os caminhões.

Eu sou migrante e também sofro com as sequelas causadas pelo urbanocentrismo. Uma vez um mano me disse que “o conhecimento é extremamente importante, mas nós precisamos ter cuidado pra não viajar demais nas idéias e esquecer de nossas raízes”. Infelizmente, de alguma forma, também sou infectado por esta doença. Mas não posso deixar que ela tome meu corpo e minha mente por completo. Pra isso preciso manter meus pés no chão, próximos às minhas raízes. Sempre em contato com quem também é migrante, com quem veio e com quem vive na mesma realidade da qual eu vim. E mais do que isso, observar, estudar e tentar compreender a estrutura de dominação que força minhas conterrâneas e conterrâneos à abandonarem seu local de origem. Observar, estudar e tentar compreender a história e a ancestralidade dos lugares e das pessoas que me ensinaram à caminhar e a lutar por minha vida.


ZAT Cinzenta

Editora/produtora independente e selo de divulgação/distribuição de material subterrâneo e libertário.


Translation

ITACIRA-12-JUL-FB-2

Urbancentrism

For those born and raised in the metropolis, it is very common to live with huge diversity and interaction between cultures, with vast availability of information circulating in the most diverse ways, as well as the rapid transformation of behaviors, technologies, streets…

For those born and raised, and who came or live in the inland where urbanization is not so latent, all of this is much more difficult to be accessed, conquered, and assimilated. That’s why we give so much value to things that to many people seem to be tiny or ridiculous; for us they are great. For my ancestors, contemplation is fundamental, and fugacity, the speed with which things break down in the metropolis, is often terrifying. Valuing what is built slowly but “well,” observing the smallest details is far more important than clogging up a thousand tasks and information and failing to account for everything. This is also the source of several modern diseases.

For migrants who come from poor conditions inland [into the city], discrimination against their customs, accent, color, dress, thoughts, and practices is a constant threat. But as most take a chance in Babylon without having the backing of someone for support when things get rough, they learn to dribble, to dissemble, to play with these discriminations, adapting to what the new reality demands. Many end up abandoning their customs over time and recharging their old practices by rejoining other migrants.

Others carry with them melancholy of defeat for not being able to return home with the mission accomplished, and the conquest in hand. Many end up living on the streets for lack of assistance. Many die, killed by urban violence to which they are not accustomed.

Some manage to reach places of prestige and experience, and share privileges with middle age already arriving, after having donated a whole life of blood and sweat, and having compromised all their earnings in extensive installments, that in the end become the debts, that, if not careful, lead to bankruptcy.

Honestly, I don’t know of any family that came from where I came from, or other cities inland, that do not have a history of battle and survival in extreme conditions, and I maintain a revolt and anti-discrimination thought directed at those people who are invisible in the metropolis.

For me, there is a social disease that, I do not know if it is identified by science as “official” but, I usually call Urbancentrism. It prevents people from seeing beyond the structure of large cities, as if there was a huge dome around the metropolis that prevents access to other places, or that transforms other places into utopias disconnected from reality which can be accessed only from time to time in dreams. These dreams give rise to the tourist mafias that make the landscapes of the inland an affordable product for those who have a lot of money. These dreams turn the rivers’ springs into poison and sludge wells dumped by the agribusiness that supplies the metropolis. These dreams enslave the workmanship of my hands, that compete for a little more than 10 bucks (30 reais) daily in the Banana Monopoly that supplies the metropolis, doing triple service: surviving poison, cutting ripe chunks, and transporting to the trucks.

I’m a migrant and I also suffer from the consequences caused by Urbancentrism. Once a buddy told me that “knowledge is extremely important, but we must be careful not to travel too much in ideas and forget our roots.” Unfortunately, somehow, I am also infected by this disease. But I can not let her take my body and my mind completely. For this I need to keep my feet on the ground, close to my roots. Always in contact with who is also a migrant, with whom they came and with whom they live in the same reality from which I came. And more than that, to observe, to study, and to try to understand the structure of domination that forces my countrymen and women to leave their place of origin. Observe, study and try to understand the history and ancestry of places and people who taught me to walk and fight for my life.


InfoGuerra


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Anti-fascism and the Left’s Euro-Secular Arrogance

Fighting fascism cannot be done with cheat-sheets, graphics, or slogans; it must involve building vibrant, tolerant, and culturally-rich communities that refuse to discard spiritual meaning. And that cannot be done without interrogating the secular arrogance of the left’s “founding fathers.”

An editorial, from Rhyd Wildermuth

Perplexity, shock, and a revulsion she tried to temper with all else she knew of us rippled across her face after we said the words to her:

“We’re pagan.”

“But you two…you’re both anarchists and anti-fascists! How…how can you two also believe that stuff?”

We’d met through my partner. Both were in the same graduate history program; her work focused on the Nazi extermination of Jews during the Shoah and the ways those histories have been written since; his focus was upon the alternative occult and queer communities in Berlin that the Nazis both crushed and appropriated in their march to power.

Most of our bonding came from our life experiences, however. We were all anarchists, had done anti-fascist work, were all queer, and had lived similar counter-cultural lives. Despite all we shared, despite already being good friends, my partner and I had been quite scared of telling her what we believed.

The conversation which followed our confession was long and sometimes heated. But it was around a table on a balcony overlooking a lake, with food and tea and German beer, and because we were all friends who genuinely wanted to understand each other (rather than merely wanting to be heard), we not only stayed friends but became better friends.

I remember what she said to us that night, because it was the first time we’d ever heard anything of the sort: “this goes against everything I have known, but I believe you that it’s possible to be Pagan and not fascist.”

Especially to those with shorter histories in anarchist and anti-fascist spaces, this conversation might not seem very significant. But for me, more than ten years ago, it felt like pure freedom and hope. Before then, whenever I told other anarchists or communists in the US or Europe that I was a Pagan, the response was almost always something along the lines of: “Wait…you’re a fascist?” Those who didn’t immediately make that conclusion instead responded with words less accusatory but no less dismissive, such as “that’s all nonsense.”

I’d been derided enough times that I learned to keep my beliefs as private as possible. I learned to smile pleasantly when atheism and anti-religious dogma was repeated in speeches at protests and organizational meetings. “No gods no masters” was an unquestionable foundation of every anarchist gathering, never to be challenged. And though my entire experience of the living world ran counter to the secular-scientific atheist consensus in the anarchist and socialist groups I worked with, keeping silent about what I believed was better than being lectured, laughed at, or more often: labeled a fascist.

So when my friend (herself an atheist, an anti-fascist organizer, and later a curator of anti-fascist and anti-nationalist museum exhibitions in Germany) accepted my apparently contradictory positions (being against fascism, being deeply Pagan), relief flooded my soul.

Her acceptance gave me the confidence to broach the subject with others in political spaces. Though most of the conversations repeated the same dismissals (or worse) that I had experienced before, I was able to slowly find others who would cautiously confess that they themselves also held similar beliefs. I remember an IWW and Solidarity Network organizer telling me in an anarchist bookshop (after looking around herself first to see who might hear her say it) that she read tarot. I remember a leftist social worker who also did sex work admitting she kept an altar and did protection magic. And I remember meeting a burnt-out anarchist magician coming to life again upon finding someone he could finally talk to about his work.

European Leftism, European Atheism

There are several reasons we had all felt both embittered and scared of being open about our beliefs.

Most of these reasons are historical. Anarchism and communism were both first articulated in Europe during a time when being anything other than atheist marked you as anti-intellectual and aligned with bourgeois values. Proudhon, Marx, Stirner, Bukunin–pretty much all of the early philosophers of anarchism or communism (with Tolstoy a significant exception) were not just dismissive of spiritual beliefs, but aggressively hostile.

Any astute reader of the aforementioned paragraph, however, will note that the philosophers of whom I am speaking are all of European origin or derivation. This is an important fact, because the atheism that was carried into leftist thought was a European atheism. Being European, it bore with it utterly unnoticed colonial conceits. While many were influenced by indigenous (including Iroquois) forms of autonomous self-government and anti-colonial struggle, the European narrative of progress (which posits that all societies eventually “progress” from animist and polytheist beliefs into monotheism and finally atheism) prevented these philosophers and theorists from accepting the metaphysically animist nature of the cultures that inspired them.

This arrogance is what then allowed communists, anarchists, and socialists to argue that indigenous cultures would need to relinquish their non-scientific (that is, non-European) beliefs and worldviews in order to achieve full liberation. No gods no masters was not just a rallying cry but an imperative, and this has in no small part led many indigenous cultures to reject some leftist ideologies as continuations of colonial oppression.

This arrogance was rarely subtle in the leftist spaces in which I moved. I listened to socialists, anarchists, and communists (sometimes to crowds of thousands) say that First Nations and indigenous peoples of other continents must eventually come into the 21st century and “throw off the chains” of shamanic and other traditional beliefs. Never once did I hear this challenged in those spaces.

As non-indigenous adherents to reconstructed Pagan beliefs, my partner and I had even less ground to stand upon in these arguments. Though the “backwardness” of indigenous people gave them some time to change, we were white, which meant we were supposed to have moved beyond such beliefs centuries ago. We were “lifestylists,” according to the worshipers of Bookchin and  “immature” according to the Scientific Socialist currents birthed by Trotsky and Lenin. But worse than this, we are also “crypto-fascists.”

There is another root to this accusation. The history of Paganism and occultism in Europe during the 19th and  20th century is unfortunately rife with fascist forms. Esoteric fascists such as Julius Evola evoked Pagan forms in their writing, Theosophy and the Golden Dawn both had adherents who were sympathetic to fascist forms, and of course some Nazis attempted a re-invigoration of ancient Germanic religious beliefs. But socialists and anarchists also evoked Pagan forms, and the aformentioned occult traditions (Theosophy and the Golden Dawn) had more intersections with leftist groups than they did with the right (*a good source for more on this is Affective Communities by Leela Ghandi). Further back, as Peter Linebaugh has shown repeatedly in his works, leftist and anarchist resistance to Capitalism in Ireland and England often evoked ancient pagan gods (particularly the Whiteboys in Ireland and the Luddites in England) and pagan forms (such as May Day) as part of their resistance.

So while a case can be made that Pagan, esoteric, and occult forms are fascist and do not belong in leftist or anarchist movements, the exact case can also be made that they were important parts of leftist and anarchist movements from the very beginning. Thus, leftists who label Pagan beliefs as fascist by pointing to historical connections are only ever looking at half of the evidence, if they are even looking at all.

Why they would appear to miss that evidence has been addressed succinctly by post-colonial historian Dipesh Chakrabarty in his work, Provincializing Europe. Basically–European secularism is an artificial narrative, and it is one which attempts to overwrite its own non-secularism. Erasing traces of folk traditions and religious beliefs within European (and generally Western) societies helps European societies and intellectuals see themselves as more “advanced” and “modern” than the rest of the world. That is, this secular-atheism is a product of its own colonial arrogance.

The continuation of this arrogance in Anti-fascism

Anarchism, Communism, Socialism, and especially Anti-fascism has never really interrogated this arrogance. This becomes a particular problem now that we are seeing increasingly public displays of aggressive white nationalist, anti-immigrant, and extreme right rhetoric in the United States and Europe.

This rise is absolutely cause for concern. Unfortunately, the violence of their ideologies and their actual physical violence has initiated quite a few panicked and uncalculated responses to their threat, some of which spread patently false information. In such a panicked state, we can clearly see the symptoms of this un-examined arrogance.

For instance, consider this image from the U.K. group Brighton Anti-Fascists:

Text reads:” Know your enemy–NeoNazi symbols & codes Nazis and white supremacists often use codes and symbols to disguise their true politics. Memorise these symbols–if you spot one (of[sic] more) of them, you’ve probably got yourself a fascist!”
I encountered this image with great dismay after it was shared by another anti-fascist group. Dismay might not even be the correct word: I was horrified by the inclusion of one particularly image–that of the Valknut (third image from the left on the bottom row).

The Valknut is an ancient Nordic symbol found on stone work and textiles, and while its precise original meaning is unclear, it’s usually thought to have indicated the procession of ancestors and to honor warriors who died in battle. Currently, its most common uses are amongst those who adhere to Heathenism or Asatru, religions derived from Scandinavian and Germanic cultures. Some followers of these religions profess racist, exclusionary, and even fascist beliefs, but many more do not. I personally know several antifascist organizers who use this symbol, including one who has it tattooed on his body.

Claiming that the presence of the Valknut indicates that “you’ve probably got yourself a fascist!” is, therefore, no more true than claiming that a person wearing a cross is a child-molester or a person carrying a prayer mat in order to pray towards Mecca is a terrorist. That is, while there are Heathens who adhere to fascist beliefs, and no doubt there are fascists who adorn themselves with the Valknut, there is no correlation between the symbol and the violence of the extreme right.

The presence of the Valknut in this list of “NeoNazi symbols and codes” is not only misinformation, but it has other effects as well:

  • It damages the credibility of the anti-fascist organizations who disseminated it. Any reader aware of the much larger non-fascist and even anti-fascist uses of the symbol immediately understands that Brighton Antifascists don’t actually know what they’re talking about. People are thus less likely to take anything else they say seriously.
  • It causes unfair and damaging defamation of people who use the symbol and are not fascist, putting them into situations where they have to “prove” themselves not to be fascist.
  • It makes anti-fascism in general elsewhere lose credibility among those who are not yet politicized. Anti-fascists are often criticized for being “alarmist,” “fanatic,” and otherwise unable to distinguish symbolic meaning from actual threats; lists of symbols and codes that signify someone is a fascist increases this perception, and when those codes are demonstrably false such accusations become irrefutable.
  • It undermines years of work that anti-fascist Heathen groups (like Heathens United Against Racism/HUAR) have done to prevent their religious beliefs from being co-opted by white nationalist, supremacist, authoritarian, and explicitly fascist groups.
  • Perhaps worst of all, it increases the already-high fear and anxiety felt by oppressed peoples in a damaging way. The trauma experienced by those against whom the marches, rallies, and repeated identity-based violence of the various extreme-right groups occurs is already deep; inflating their fear through false information only helps those who wield terror against them.

The importance of this work

The Valknut is hardly the only symbol that that has been recently mis-labeled (see my previous critiques of such panics regarding the Tyr rune, red boot laces, the Black Sun and egoism, and the wolfsangel.)  And some of these mistakes can be ascribed to mere panic or a puerile fundamentalism that mistakes the symbolic for the real, much in the same way that Christian fundamentalists publish lists of “signs” your child is into the occult.

But a larger criticism is necessary.

The larger issue is that leftist, anarchists, and anti-fascist spaces in European and Anglo-American contexts have too long failed to re-evaluate their inherited Euro-atheist arrogance. The Valknut is an artifact of the pre-Christian cultural existence of Europe, one which has persisted into the present through folk customs and art. It’s part of the paganism that European secularism–especially now in its Anglo-American leftist forms–tries to forget it ever was. And by forgetting, it gives over those who find meaning in such things to the very fascists it claims to fight.

Much has changed already regarding the arrogance against Paganism and magical traditions in leftists spaces.  Some of this change is on account of my work and the work of other writers at Gods&Radicals, as well as more clear-thinking anti-fascist theorists such as Shane Burley. This collective work has brought us to a place where Paganism, witchcraft, and occultism are now much more accepted as authentic expressions of autonomy and resistance.

Heathens unfortunately remain too often smeared as crypto-fascist by anti-fascist groups and the larger public. Worse, these smears and misinformation campaigns comes at a time when white supremacists are actively recruiting in Heathen communities, making it much harder for Heathens to fight off their advances.

Knee-jerk assumptions, simplistic reductions of symbols and beliefs, and a willingness to discard spiritual and cultural symbols in our fight to stop a nebulous Fascist threat will not only lead us nowhere good, but will aid the recruitment efforts of the people we are claiming to oppose. It not only shows us as ignorant but willfully arrogant: our “enlightened” European-derived secular-atheism is the only true way, and any who find meaning in spiritual symbols are at best foolish or, more often “fascist.”

Fighting fascism cannot be done with cheat-sheets, graphics, or slogans ; it must involve building vibrant, tolerant, and culturally-rich communities that refuse to discard spiritual meaning. And importantly, greater acceptance of non-Christian and non-Atheist cultural and spiritual beliefs supports a much larger work: abandoning the colonialist arrogance which still sees European-derived civilization as superior in its secularism.

As this arrogance is abandoned, indigenous and colonized people will able to claim more space to articulate their animist and ancestral beliefs, without being dismissed as uneducated or backwards in leftist spaces. It’s this larger work we must be committed to, a work that cannot be accomplished by sacrificing the beliefs of others on the altars of purity or the fight against fascism, nor can it be accomplished without interrogating the secular-atheism of the left’s “founding fathers.”


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is one of the co-founders and co-editors of Gods&Radicals. His recently released collection, Witches In a Crumbling Empire, is available now. You can support him on Patreon, and listen to his podcasts with Alley Valkyrie, Empires Crumble.


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Place of Discourse and Folklore of the African Diaspora

On being white and talking about racism. How to learn about Afro-Brazilian stories of resistance, through lenses free from the objectifying effects of the white gaze.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

photo
“To get rid of the curse, the community called for good spirits to take to the streets in the month before August to ward off the evil spirits and attract good ones, managing to save the community from the great tragedy of Death. Initiating thus the apparitions of the mandus and Caretas (grimaces) on the streets of Acupe on Sundays of July.” (Wiki)

Each Sunday of July, a small Brazilian town called Acupe hosts street theater folklore of the African Diaspora. People come from all over the world to witness this unique cultural manifestation, and to support the community’s effort to reclaim its history. Nego Fugido (the play’s title, which I’ll roughly translate as “runaway black guy”) represents the long overdue opportunity for Afro-Brazilians to tell their own stories of resistance, spirituality, and ancestry. This way, they combat invisibility and the twisted white gaze of recorded history and western anthropology.

This play is about enslaved Africans who ran away, then were chased and killed by their master. This master was trying to avoid bankruptcy by offering the lives of enslaved runaways to Ikú (an Orixá, a force of nature, Death itself in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé), and planting a banana tree over each grave. Eventually, there are no more lives to be offered, and Ikú curses the whole town. Every year, good spirits must be sent out to chase away the bad ones and break the curse. Caretas, the masked children that roam the streets, symbolize the “insertion of blacks and their culture into Brazilian society” (Jamilson Oliveira). Ultimately, the enslaved are granted freedom, and the town manages to arrest and auction out the King. Today, the skirt made out of dried banana tree leaves worn by the performers holds immense spiritual power, symbolizing the sacrificed lives of their ancestors.

“The banana tree leaves themselves are used in Candomblé terreiros to scare away eguns (spirits). Every terreiro has a babá of the house, a good egun that prevents other eguns from disrupting celebrations and rituals.” (Jal Souza)

The story, which comes from oral tradition of a couple hundred years ago, is remembrance of colonial power dynamics, the brutality of the struggle for freedom, and the primordial strength of Ikú. Acupe is a Quilombola community at the “Bay of All Saints” (Bahia de Todos os Santos), a region with a long colonial history, and land with deep ancestral roots. The combination of lifelike reenactments, on the Land where the story took place hundreds of years ago, and the sacred ritual to rid the town of evil spirits makes for a breathtaking experience.

Unfortunately, the swarm of white photographers overpowers not only the audience, but also the performers. There is nothing inconspicuous or ordinary about those giant lenses being shoved at all angles and in all directions. These hybrids between tourists and professionals felt no shame in interrupting the performances to direct the actors into ideal poses. The drone hovering over us witnessed hostile arguments between photographers who fought over an ideal viewpoint, or between audience members that just couldn’t take those people’s entitlement over some cubic meters of aerial space.

Perhaps the the lack of a formal theater setting caused uncertainty over of what would constitute etiquette. Or perhaps they felt that this was a once in a life time opportunity to register that moment. What is certain is that the colonial gaze, and the historical form of racism being depicted in the play, was also manifested in its modern form, making people very anxious.

The population of Acupe is predominantly black. So, when there are white people there they are seen as outsiders. In fact, a lot of white people show up only to document this event, and the objectifying effects of the white gaze are palpable.

I believe there is a level of entitlement that comes through when white people act like being there and documenting the event is a favor they are doing for the community, as if their presence there is what gives the event value. There is absolutely no way that a photographer would interrupt an actor’s performance with “psssst! pssst!” while aggressively pointing to where the actor should move for a better shot at Shakespeare at the Park in NYC.

The “epidermalization of inferiority” may or may not come at play in response to this, but it is easy to imagine that many black people feel that the “social cost” of calling out white people’s insensitive behavior is too high, aside from having to deal with a likely outburst of white fragility. What I can say is that a hand full of black people in the audience were pushed too far and lashed out at arrogant gazers who were clueless and disrespectful.

I was taking pictures with my phone… the costumes were beautiful and designed to be photogenic. The problem isn’t visiting the town for the event, watching the performance and taking pictures. The problem is treating the Other as there to serve You.

One extremely insensitive thing you can do as an audience member is to treat those performers as objects, as if their purpose for being there was for you to make a fantastic photo. The parallels between history and modernity are distressing. The community is passing down a tradition to their children, honoring their ancestors on the very land where their blood seeped into the ground. Being able to witness it should be taken as a humbling learning experience.

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Place of Discourse

As someone who is not black or of the African Diaspora, I tell this story partially. I don’t, nor will I ever want to, speak for anyone. I speak about them, and about myself, because we exist in relation to each other, dialectically. My place of discourse is not, and doesn’t claim to be, impartial. That doesn’t mean I have no right to speak.

“[W]hite people cling to the notion of racial innocence, a form of weaponized denial that positions black people as the “havers” of race and the guardians of racial knowledge.” (Robin DiAngelo)

It’s my responsibility to address my white passing privilege, and to address how my own community might be reproducing classism and colorism. As white (passing) people, we must listen and learn (and read), but when we demand the unpaid emotional labor of racial education from Afro-descendants, we fall in the trap of reproducing the very thing we want to eradicate.

Support the community, don’t take from them. Learn without demanding labor. And attend when you’re invited. This is the etiquette we can establish.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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Bargaining Even With the Spiritual

“Rules to be followed in order to achieve something desired, exchange favors, the human mind is so materialistic that it bargains even with the spiritual.”

From Jal Souza

English Translation Here

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Barganhando Até Com o Espiritual

Regras a serem seguidas com o intuito de alcançar algo desejado, troca de favores, a mente humana é tão materialista que barganha até com o espiritual.

Não se trata de um texto didático, baseado em livros de pessoas celebres ou de status reconhecido, mas sim um relato de uma simples alma, que aprendeu na pratica, sendo liberto do crime, das drogas e da ignorância política, através da fé, vendo a força dos ancestrais, filhos da grande mãe África, dos impérios de Oyo Yorubá, Kongo, Aksum, a quem somos herdeiros e guardiões legítimos de sua sabedoria, livrar o povo preto da morte, em todas as formas que ela se apresenta aos jovens de periferia, e escutando os ensinamentos de uma ialorixá, não uma com iniciados famosos ou com terreiro gigante em algum bairro nobre, citada em veículos de comunicação, mas uma de baixa escolaridade e muita sabedoria conquistada nos seus 27 anos de feita, iniciada na religião, que perdeu muitos filhos, vê os iaôs como nascidos dela, para a política assassina racista do estado brasileiro, mas salvou muitos, esse texto é uma prova.

É triste ver como as pessoas, até mesmo praticantes da fé africana, não entendem a força dos nossos antepassados, não conhecem a essência dessa crença tão rica de sentimentos, onde não é preciso ser o mais letrado ou endinheirado, vivemos do resplendor dos impérios da terra natal ao cativeiro do solo americano, e nem isso nos apagou da sociedade e do crescimento. Fé significa verdade, se encher um copo na torneira, colocar em uma prateleira e crêr que ali está uma energia sagrada, o que chamam água, chamamos Oxum, se tomar um banho na praia e acreditar que ali foram tiradas todas negatividades, o que chamam de água salgada, chamamos Iemanjá, ao dar de comer a um semelhante faminto, ali está a terra que nos da o alimento, chamamos Omolu, Obaluaiê, o que chamam natureza, chamamos Orixás, seres de luz, guias, aqueles que não mudam o planeta, mas mudam a nós, para agirmos pelo mundo. Não se trata de oferecer e receber, a experiência de colocar um simples prato de milho branco na pratileira, após usar cocaína, e nunca mais usar novamente, dá essa certeza, e até mesmo não adepto do candomblé, mas que fez o bem a si mesmo e ao próximo, está rodiado das energias positivas, pois, o vento não se vende por bens materiais, Iansã não precisa, e sopra o agô, misericórdia, também aos que erram, pois nos erros que aprendemos, mas pesa o martelo da justiça aos maldosos convictos.

O mal existe? Sim! A personalidade do ser humano faz parte da natureza, temos positivo e negativo, não chamamos os deuses dos outros de demônios, ou quem não segue a crença de perverso, cada um tem seu papel e aprendizado nesse universo, que chamamos Oxalá, Obatolá, e só o Grande Criador sabe o que cada um passou, e passa, em sua caminhada, o diabo é nossa própria escuridão. Cultuamos seres malignos? Opcional de cada um. Se alguém lança uma praga contra outro, seja acendendo uma vela, em oração, e até mesmo pura palavras, o maligno se apodera, para prejudicar a todos, mas, a natureza é justa, não mau, assim como um animal predador só caça a quantidade de presas de que precisa para sobreviver. Dificuldades todos passaremos, conheceremos o melhor e o pior de existir, faz parte do aprendizado, mas o senhor da guerra, o sangue dentro de nós, Ogum, tem as chaves das portas da prosperidade para quem merecer, lutar por si e por seus semelhantes. As entidades não farão milagres do acaso, mas, como o ar que é vital a vida, te dará a energia para vencer na luta, as ruins não vão segurar seus braços, pernas, não há melhor ferramenta que a própria preguiça, desatenção.

Não é preciso ser adepto do candomblé, umbanda, quimbanda, para ser agraciado pelos grandes reis e rainhas do oculto, do não palpável, cada tempo que vivemos é um novo conhecimento, senhor Tempo ensina, basta abrir a mente para o que é mostrado, se apropriar do que faz bem, distribuir amor, com justiça. O espiritual não é capitalista, não está a venda, só entende quem conhece a gratidão e paz interior.


Jal Souza

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 17.41.25Um brasileiro de 30 anos, nascido e criado nas periferias da capital do estado da Bahia, candomblecista e esquerdista, me descobrindo tarde, após vencer preconceitos e senso comum aprendidos desde infância.


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English Translation

Bargaining Even With the Spiritual

Rules to be followed in order to achieve something desired, exchange favors, the human mind is so materialistic that it bargains even with the spiritual.

This is not a didactic text, based on books of selected people or of recognized status, but rather an account of a simple soul, which he has learned in practice, being freed from crime, drugs and political ignorance, through faith, seeing the strength of the ancestors, sons of the great mother Africa, of the empires of Oyo Yoruba, Kongo, Aksum, to whom we are heirs and legitimate guardians of his wisdom, to rid black people of death, in all the forms that it presents itself to the peripheral youth, and listening to the teachings of an ialorixá, not one with famous initiates or with a giant terreiro in some noble neighborhood, mentioned in vehicles of communication, but one of low education and much wisdom conquered in his 27 years, initiated in the religion, who lost many children, sees the iaôs as born from her, to the murderous racist politics of the Brazilian state, but saved many, this text is proof.

It is sad to see how people, even practitioners of the African faith, do not understand the strength of our ancestors, do not know the essence of this belief so rich in feelings, where one does not have to be the most literate or wealthy, we live from the brightness of the empires of the homeland to the captivity of American soil, and not even that erased us from society and from growth. Faith means truth,

if you fill a glass on the tap, put it on a shelf and believe that there is a sacred energy, what is called water, we call Oxum,

if you swim at the beach and believe that all negativities were taken, what they call salt water, we call Iemanjá,

when giving something to eat to a famished fellow, there is the land that gives us the food, we call Omolu, Obaluayê,

what they call nature, we call Orixás, beings of light, guides, those who do not change the planet, but they change us, to act for the world.

It is not a matter of offering and receiving, the experience of putting a simple plate of white corn on the shelf, after using cocaine, and never again using it, gives that certainty, and even those not adept at Candomblé, but those who did good to themselves and the neighbor, is surrunded by positive energies, because the wind is not sold for material goods, Iansã does not need it, and blows the agô, mercy, also to those who err, for in mistakes we have learned, but the hammer of justice weighs on the vicious convicts.

Or does evil exist? Yes! The personality of the human being is part of nature, we have positive and negative, we do not call the Gods of others demons, or who does not follow the belief of perverse, each has his or her role and learning in this universe, which we call Oxalá, Obatolá, and only the Great Creator knows what each has passed through, and passes, in his walk, the devil is our own darkness. Do we worship evil beings? It depends on each one. If one hurls a plague against another, whether by lighting a candle, in prayer, or even in pure words, the evil one seizes itself, to harm everyone, but nature is just, not evil, just as a predatory animal only hunts the amount of prey it needs to survive.

Difficulties we will all endure, we will know the best and the worst to exist, it is part of learning, but the warlord, the blood inside us, Ogun, has the keys of the doors of prosperity for whom deserves, to fight for him or herself and for his or her fellows. Entities will not perform miracles of chance, but, like the air that is vital to life, they will give you the energy to win in the fight, the bad ones will not hold your arms and legs, there is no better tool for that than your own laziness and inattention.

It is not necessary to be adept at Candomblé, Umbanda, Quimbanda, to be graced by the great kings and queens of the occult, the unpalpable, each time we live there is a new knowledge, Lord Time teaches, just open the mind to what is shown, to appropriate what is good, to distribute love, justly. The spiritual is not capitalist, it is not for sale, understood only by who knows gratitude and inner peace.


Jal Souza

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 17.41.25A 30-year-old Brazilian, born and raised in the outskirts of the capital of the state of Bahia, Candomblé and leftist, discovering himself late, after overcoming prejudices and common sense learned since childhood.


This is America’s Enslaver Culture

It’s no surprise that, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, enslaver culture is still very much alive.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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There are about 30 million pets abandoned in the streets of Brazil. Cats in particular are treated as a plague, killed and tortured indiscriminately.

Helping take care of street cats has been my way of dealing with the occasional helplessness many of us activists feel. I can’t always stop an armed policeman from telling a Candomblé worshiper dressed in white to lay on the floor with hands on the head for no reason. I can’t always stop a pack of drunk men desperate to prove their masculinity to each other from violating a trans woman on the street. But one thing I can do is clean the eyes of motherless kitties so they can see for the first time.

This coping mechanism recently lost its effectiveness when the dynamic at the cat shelter revealed a serious political issue: Enslaver culture.

It’s no surprise, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, that enslaver culture is still very much alive. One example of this is the donor/volunteer relationship.

When I go to the shelter, once a week, I clean, feed and give medicine to cats. I’m a light skinned Latina, with a job and a house, so I’m considered a volunteer. People with means in the group donate a little money to buy whatever is needed, and there is also lunch for whoever is working.

For years, one young homeless black man goes there everyday, twice a day, to clean, feed, medicate, and build little houses for the cats. He even monitors who is coming to abandon and who is coming to adopt. In my eyes, he is the boss of the operation. To the donors, however, he’s a lazy employee.

When I receive lunch, it’s a donation. When he receives lunch, it’s a salary.

One of the donors had an abandoned house, and decided to allow the homeless young man to stay there. This gesture turns out not to be as generous as it sounds. He has the responsibility to renovate and maintain the home (which is in poor condition), and he takes dozens of the most vulnerable cats home with him to care for overnight. Now that donors offer him food and shelter, they feel even more entitled to demand more labor, and the laborer is dependent while earning no wages.

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Land demarcation efforts by Quilombo Quingoma

It’s hard not to see the connection between this situation and our colonial history. Salvador, as the world’s capital of the African diaspora, is the land on which to witness, not the demise but, the development of colonialism and its deeply rooted white supremacy. Here, much of what is now urban residence used to be Quilombos.

Quilombos were communities formed by enslaved Africans who ran away. They were highly organized, militant, autonomous, and posed great threat to the Portuguese and Dutch authorities of the time. Today, there are much more than a million Quilombolas still fighting for their right to territory throughout the country.

Records show that there were compliant enslaved people who had stable relationships with their owners and did not want to join Quilombos. Some claim that abolishing slavery left the “freed” in worse conditions: “jobless”, homeless, and helpless (as some may say about my friend at the cat shelter). How reliable are these accounts? Not very, since those who kept records were the ones interested in using them for their advantage.

Arguments on the subject in literature in general have little empirical basis and tend to focus on the interplay of interests that would be associated with the diffusion of that interpretation. Several authors have considered the thesis of benignity a mere expression of the ideology of the ruling classes in the nineteenth century; its dissemination, especially abroad, would be part of the imperial government’s efforts to disseminate an amicable image of slavery and thereby oppose the abolitionist movement.

Flávio Rabelo Versiani (Economist, Brasilia) comparing enslavement in the U.S. and in Brazil.

On the other hand, in economic terms, not using “coercive force” (meaning, here we didn’t have as many lynchings) was a matter of efficiency, as was eventually abolishing slavery altogether. So, using words like “amicable” and “benign” to describe displacement, dehumanization, forced labor, murder and torture of black people is only considered empirical when described in economic terms. This, to me, is one good example of the rotten core of Academia.

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Today, some academics use this shaky empiricism to argue that the resistance against slavery was hypocritical. José de Souza Martins, one of Brazil’s most famous sociologists, claims there was slavery in the Quilombos. Dissociating the term “slavery” from “race” became his professional mission; white supremacy wasn’t the problem, according to him, rigidly stratified societies were.

His broad use of the term “slavery” can be compared to the broad use of the term “Nazi” when describing a feminist. José Martins says that because of the spread of “Islamism” in Africa, Africans enslaved themselves at a much higher rate than the Slave trade to the Americas, and that Islamic polygamy is also a form of slavery. The fact that he uses the term “Islamist” as synonymous with “Islamic” speaks volumes to the racial insensitivity of his rhetoric. But his use of biased (white) “empirical” evidence to delegitimize an organized resistance movement of the African Diaspora speaks even louder.

There is little denying that hierarchy existed in Quilombos, and that they used violence against enslaved people who chose to stay with their white masters. We have to understand that they were at war, and the decision to be compliant turned them into an enemy. So much so, that those compliant Africans were sent to the Quilombos as an army to defeat Quilombists. This practice hasn’t stopped, and is perpetuated by the military police force to this day.

Zumbi‘s opposition to Ganga Zumba, and the consequent shift of leadership at Quilombo dos Palmares, is symbolic of all anti-colonial resistance because it was a refusal to submit to Colonial authorities, and a declaration that no enslaved African would be free until all would be free. This fight is not over yet. There is still enslavement, displacement, incarceration, genocide, and struggle for land demarcation. We must acknowledge that, because not picking a side, being compliant, is in fact siding with white supremacist forces.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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The Factory Floor & The Witch’s Stake

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

From Rhyd Wildermuth

The following essay is adapted from Rhyd Wildermuth’s speech, “Witches In A Crumbling Empire,” to be republished as part of his next collection, Our Time of Springs, Our Time of Flames (August, 2018)


The Empire under which we all suffer, under whom we are all ruled, was born upon the factory floor and upon the witch’s stake.

Industrialised capitalism started in England around 1760. Before then, almost everything humans used was made by humans with human effort, without the input of petroleum. So, in the early 1700’s, any clothing you wore and any food you ate was made or grown completely without fossil fuels.

The first coal-fired factories were built in cities swollen with refugees from the surrounding areas. Those people had just lost all access to land and the means to support themselves because of laws called the Enclosure Acts. No longer could they raise animals and plants from the earth with their own two feet firmly planted on the ground; now, their only option was to stand on wood and stone factory floors for 14 hours a day making things for other people.

Humans are hard to control. Humans don’t like working all day for someone else. They have to eat, and piss, and shit, and rest. Many women bleed every moon, sometimes they get pregnant and have to care for their children.

But Coal doesn’t tire. Coal doesn’t show up to work late after a night of drinking or fucking. Coal doesn’t need a rest, doesn’t get menstrual cramps, doesn’t daydream about how life can be better. Coal also doesn’t demand wages.

So the great ‘revolution’ of industrialisation was the slow replacement of human labor with black carbon labor from the earth. In the Americas, the people called Black were also used to replace waged labor. In both cases, the rich tried to find a low-cost, easily-managed, fully-predictable means to gain wealth.

Slaves revolt, though, and kill their masters. Coal and oil blacken the cities and skies with soot, but burned through filters, the carbon becomes invisible, escapes quietly into the atmosphere, warming the earth at such imperceptible rates that it could be ignored until recently.

What could not be ignored was the tendency of humans to revolt against their masters, be they slaves or peasants, workers or servants. Humans don’t make very good machines, we are unpredictable, tire easily, and anyway would rather be creating art or eating, then doing monotonous work for little pay.

The same era which saw the birth of industrialised capitalism also saw the birth of all modern forms of government and control. The modern city, the nation-state, so-called Democracy, representative government, prisons resembling factories resembling schools which resemble prisons. It also saw the birth of the modern police and the political order under which we now live.

But what is Empire?

By Empire I mean America, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean Capitalism, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean colonization. I mean industrialisation. I mean the slaughter of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans. I mean the carbon in the air and the worker in the factory. I mean all the newly extinct species and all the dying forests. I mean the corporations which own the internet and the corporations who profit from the computers and smartphones you read this on.

By Empire, I mean the foreign wars. I mean an Arab woman cradling the corpse of her decapitated daughter and shaking her fist at the gay Black dude from Los Angeles who only joined the Army to get money to support his mother.

By Empire, I mean the Mexican child screaming as her father is taken away by an ICE agent whose grandparents fled the Nazi advance in Europe.

By Empire, I mean the Black father mourning his son killed by a cop whose ancestors sold themselves into indentured servitude rather than starve to death during the famine in Ireland.

By Empire, I mean the intersectional feminist writing essays about the exploitation of women and children on a computer made through the exploitation of Asian women and African children.

And by Empire I mean the Arab man who massacres gays in a nightclub to retaliate for atrocities none of those people committed.

By Empire, I mean the single white mother driving her disabled kid to a doctor’s appointment over roads lain by migrant workers who are about to get deported.

By Empire I mean the civitas and the polis. I mean civilization and the police, the laws and logic, the political order, the thou shalt nots and the prisons where you go when you refuse to listen.

But more than anything, I mean the Empire in each of you and the Empire in me.

I mean all that was once wild and raw and sacred in us that is now ground into machine-parts and mechanical obedience.

By Empire I mean you, and by Empire I mean me.

And finally, by Empire I mean this thing that is crumbling around us, gasping for air, begging us to keep it alive.

The Empire that is crumbling around us was born on the factory floors and the witch’s stake, and both were assaults on the human body.

Silvia Federici said it, in her essay “In Praise of the Dancing Body:

Capitalism was born from the separation of people from the land and its first task was to make work independent of the seasons and to lengthen the workday beyond the limits of our endurance…. What we have not always seen is what the separation from the land and nature has meant for our body, which has been pauperized and stripped of the powers that pre-capitalist populations attributed to it.

If the first task of Capitalism was to separate us from land and nature, they have more than succeeded. One need only look at the vastly artificial surroundings we all live in, the devices we use to speak with each other, the manufactured foods and synthetic medicines. Can you walk outside your home and find something edible growing by the pavement? Do you know which birds share your neighborhood with you? Can you point to where precisely the sun will rise tomorrow morning without a compass? Without looking outside tonight or at the internet, which phase is the moon in?

But it’s useless to rail against this disconnection. What separates us from the land and nature is not a current assault in an ongoing struggle: the war was won by them long ago. We are an occupied people, often occupying occupied land cleared long before any of us were born.

If that war was lost, though, the other war is still on going. Says Federici again:

Mechanization—the turning of the body, male and female, into a machine—has been one of capitalism’s most relentless pursuits.

Capitalism has needed us to act like machines so we can fit into the system as mere, fully-interchangeable cogs. Many of use don’t fit, though: be it our bodies themselves or our failure to conform, the process of turning us into machines is never fully complete.

Those of us who gum up the gears aren’t welcome in the factory, but Empire has a place for us too.

Empire was born on the factory floor, and it was also born on the witch’s stake. Failure to file down your rough bits, refusal to conform to the will of the political order, and worst of all encouraging others to do the same will land you at best in jail, or riddled with mental-illnesses that were non-existent in pre-capitalist lands, suffocated with a crushed trachea for daring to sell loose cigarettes or bleeding to death in the street for looking non-white when the polis tried to enforce its will.

There are countless technological distractions and institutions which have helped us forget our bodies: the masturbatory fantasies of video games and pornography, the medicalisation of any bodily refusal to be a good worker. Gyms look like factories for a reason, for it’s in the mills and on the mechanical looms where we first lost the meaning of muscle and blood. And then there is clock time, our smartphones and alarm clocks, schools which teach kids to move from class to class to prepare them to move from task to task.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our body because it is the land and the body which tells you this is all wrong. The land screams as species go extinct, forests die, icecaps melt. Your body screams when you treat it as a machine.

Your body tells you this is all wrong. Starting from the body, you know you tire faster when you are doing meaningless work. You know the food on offer to you at the supermarkets is empty, you know that the air you breathe is often toxic. You know sitting for eight hours staring at a screen hurts more than just your eyes, that standing behind a counter slinging coffee to exhausted people makes you a poorly-paid drug dealer.

All that knowledge is what capitalism needs you not to know.

All those feelings are what Empire fears you’ll feel.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies for another reason.

Your body is always in contact with something else, something outside yourself. Your feet, the lowest part of you, the easiest part to ignore until they hurt, they connect to the entire world-soul. Taking your shoes off, standing on the grass or the sand or stone, you become no longer a machine but a body again, part of something always bigger than yourself, with a different logic, a more intuitive time, a deeper truth.

Your feet on the earth, you cannot be disconnected from the earth and the seasons, because you are also the earth and its seasons. Work in summer is not work in winter, the time of your waking and the cycles of your sleeping follow a different rhythm fully separate from the time of money-making, the time of machines.

Capitalism needs you to forget this.

Witchcraft tells you to remember.

If Empire was born on the factory floor and on the witch’s stake, it spread into every last bit of our existence, making subjects out of each one of us. While Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies, Empire needed us to become passive subjects of the political order.

Passivity is not receptivity. As a gay man I can assure you, more action goes into receptive sex than merely closing your eyes and thinking about the Empire. I suspect most women would concur.

Receptivity opens us to the world of senses, of feelings, of meaning. You are being receptive now, taking my words into you, playing with them, weaving their meaning into the tapestry of you. But passivity makes you a victim, a mere tool in the hands of the powerful. Passivity is consumption, selection between lifestyle options, an identity defined not by what you do but by what you choose. Did you vote Democrat or Republican? Drink Coke or Pepsi? Use an iPhone or Android?

Passivity reduces will to mere consumer preference. No longer will to power but a mere checkbox on a ballot or a selection on a screen. No longer desire and suffering but mere distractions to dull the fatigue of work and the anxiety of alienation.

You cannot force someone to become passive except by long applications of torture. But there is another route, a slower one, by which you can conquer the will of others by telling them not ‘thou shalt not’ but ‘thou cannot.’ Like the God of Eden’s lies to the woman in the garden, we are told we cannot survive without capitalism, cannot be safe without police, cannot find meaning outside of waged work, cannot find love without cosmetics.

And so what we did not lose on the factory floor we lost with the death of witches. Not only the women with herbs and poison roots, not only the crones bearing stories from times before private property, not only the maidens urging worship in temples of wild lust, not only the mothers feeding us from their bodies. Not only them, but also them: the women who reminded us an entire world can be made not from city and machine but forest and dirt.

Not only them, but also the heretics, the mad, the dreamers, the rebels. The men dressed like women tearing down fences along with women drest like men, refusing the enclosure of the sacred commons and the seizure of land for the profit of the few. The indigenous elders gunned down by settlers, the traditional healers dead in the hulls of slave ships. All of them taught what Empire needed us to forget: the earth knows what the computer never will, that the body bleeds a liquid more powerful than petroleum.

With them gone, we started to believe we can-not. We cannot heal ourselves without pharmaceuticals, we cannot feed ourselves without factory farms. We cannot make our own clothes, cannot craft our own homes. We must now suckle at the toxic teat of the Market while it slaps us with an invisible hand.

We started to believe we cannot resist.

But in the screaming defiance of the immolated witches was a reminder: we can refuse to submit, even in death.

It took centuries to shape us into what we are now, passive sniveling subjects of Empire and Capital. Though this may seem long, we lived outside Empire much longer. Capitalism is new and short-lived, compared even to Feudalism. It differs only in its full permeation of all our existence, and it is for this reason I call it Empire.

It is also collapsing.

The climate change caused by Capitalism cannot be stopped any longer, and its effects already cause famines and resource wars throughout the world. Between 30,000 and 140,000 species go extinct every year now; at the beginning of the 1800’s, this number was no more than 1000 yearly. Cities are beginning to flood, water tables depleting, while the oil-wells which makes the entire Empire run are going dry. Climate change will increase the refugee crises currently fueling the nationalist parties in Europe and the US, and whether they are fleeing from resource wars or unmanned drone bombers, they are undoubtedly the first quakes of Empire’s impending collapse.

Empires always pompously declare themselves eternal. The British swore the sun would never set on them, the third reich was supposed to last 1000 years. Western Democratic Capitalist Empire declared itself ‘the end of history’ in the 1990’s, but of course Fukuyama’s prediction sealed its fate.

Empires have always tried to cheat death and this one is no different. But the crone that stands on the other side of death’s door revealed her trump card, and now few can deny what this means.

Some still cling to the vain hope that Donald Trump is merely an unfortunate set-back to the progress of civilization. But reversing civil protections, installing fascist theorists in positions of power, rattling the chains of other world leaders, building a wall to keep the Mexicans out—these are not mere reversals of Empire’s progress, they are Empire trying to save itself.

Consider this wall between the US and Mexico. See past the obvious racism of such a thing and its absurd cost to what’s lurking beneath the political veneer. Consider the impending flood of climate refugees: remember your geography, look at a map displaying where the major destruction will occur first, and suddenly Trump’s idea isn’t mere xenophobic delusion.

The increase in surveillance powers, the militarization of police forces, the dismantling of the courts and the rights they are sworn to protect, the stoking of fascist flames: these are not just the actions of a psychopath, but of an engineer shoring up the ruins of Empire.

The same is happening everywhere else in the world. The capitalists know we are remembering to resist again, and so they are raising again the stakes, piling faggots beneath them, waiting for our next sign of revolt.

To accept what is around us now, to call such things “good” and “necessary,” is to laugh in the faces of the screaming witches who died so this Empire could arise. To chase after like mongrel dogs the trinkets and crumbs the capitalists throw down to us on the floor–the “rights” and “freedoms” and all the glossy junk cluttering store shelves–is to jeer at the sorrow and sufferings of our ancestors hauled to work in chains or prodded into mills by the terror of starvation.

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

To fight Empire is to stare in the face of our own deaths and laugh, knowing the worst that might happen is Empire might burn us, too.

But to the witches who risked the stake to avoid forever the factory floor, the insurrectionists who risked bullets to forever avoid submission, and any who risked the rage of Empire for the possibility that Empire might fall, the choice was an easy one.

So is ours.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals Press and a co-editor of godsandradicals.org.


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The Apocalypse Will Be Brought To You by Car, Not Truck

“Cars are bourgeois and trucks are proletarian.” An analysis of the truck-driver’s strike and diesel crisis in Brazil.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

You can hear this article read by the author here:

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Cars

In high school, I failed an economics class. Now, 11 years later, I look back at that situation as symbolic of the capitalist indoctrination in the public school system.

The assignment was to develop a business plan. It was 2007, so most students came up with online businesses that could maximize profits by not having storefront rent draining money.

My idea was a bike sharing system integrated with the metro, where people paid a small fee monthly or yearly for unlimited access. The goal was to make cars obsolete, improve personal health and urban life standards (by minimizing all kinds of pollution, and death).

The class voted against the plan because it would definitely not be profitable. In fact, it might drain money with people breaking or stealing bikes. What I didn’t know at the time was that I wasn’t in an economics class, I was in a Capitalist economics class, because in “America” there was no other type.

Unlike everything else in high school, I actually got invested in this project. Public transport was awesome to me. Taking the bus alone made me feel free, in control, and in harmony with my surroundings. The metro pulsates through the city, and gives life to the urban organism. Adding public bikes to the mix would be next level awesomeness (I even made a cheesy youtube video).

Cars, on the other hand, are the embodiment of capitalism, and its sickening properties. Those that make us forget that we are a part of a community, of nature, and trick us into believing it’s possible (and desirable) to be at the driver’s seat of personal property, crushing everything on the way (the planet and everything on it). Even people’s temperament gets toxic in traffic.

Six years after receiving my memorable failing grade, my mom sent me a picture of herself on a Citi Bike (in New York) with the caption “Look, your idea”. Now these bike stations are in several major cities, I’ve just signed up to the one in the city where I live for 3 dollars a month.

A community owned not-for-profit initiative sounds pretty anti-capitalist, so how come are they all sporting Bank logos?

Because, as activists of React or Die have put it, we’ve become minimally content with symbolic gestures of generosity by Capitalists and the State; pacifying and trapping those with the slightest inclination for dissatisfaction with the system.

“We do not trade our pains as cheap merchandise from the colonial period, we do not bargain for crumbs.” –Winnie Mandela Tribute

There is a difference between smashing a capitalist state, and helping capitalist institutions improve. This here might be a third option. Neither revolution nor reform: revitalization. Or what urbanists call: make-up (in this case for tourists).

If we were to paint these Bank Bikes white (covering the logos) and keep them always unlocked, they would be outlawed and reduced to a teenage vandal art project (Provos).

I took this picture yesterday at the supermarket near my house in Salvador, Brazil.

Trucks

This week, the streets had the post-apocalyptic vibe you would expect from any tasteful Sci-fi pilot. The grim atmosphere of scarcity, and the controlled anxiety of people becoming aware that things have not yet turned into the Walking Dead- but might next week.

Lines for gas are growing around the few places that still have it, people praying at gas stations, some flights are not taking off, there are almost no fresh vegetables at supermarkets, the few street markets left are 7 times more expensive than usual, the T.V. is fuming with sensational stories about medicine not arriving at hospitals, people who “might” die and right-wing propaganda…

Indignation is widespread. While the left blames Temer’s failure at managing inflation and protecting people from Petrobras’ price fluctuation, the right blames the truck-drivers for not prioritizing the people who need food and medicine over their own “profits”. Of course the truck-drivers that get no wage readjustments based on the outrageous price spike are pissed, and so is anyone else who just wants to drive to work.

A place like Brazil, with such abundance of food and oil resources, not having enough for its own people reveals the catastrophic potential of the global Capitalist system. The middle class can’t imagine going to work by bus or bike, and had to be reminded of how supermarkets are stocked and the true power of workers.

These workers on strike are not representing any political party, no grand scheme coordinated by politicians on election year. This is a fairly mild wake up call, reminding us of how fragile the (in)balance of power is, and how our relationship with foreign markets is not in the best interest of the masses.

“A good pricing policy for fossil fuels should have two focuses. First, encourage biomass fuels and discourage fossil. Second, make a division between individual fuel and cargo fuel and public transportation, discouraging the former.” Caio Almendra

Unfortunately, individual fuel is still a priority in many people’s minds, and most of the the upper and middle classes have not learned to respect truck-drivers. Things will have to get a lot worse before we wake up to the reality of our daily exploitation and submission to foreign currency.

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Anti-development

“Development” is often reduced to road building. The higher the number and quality of roads, the more advanced and modern a place is; meaning, car and cash flows go hand in hand. This is not only an issue of class struggle and Capitalism, it’s about White Supremacy as well. We must not underestimate the affect this aspect of Capitalist development has on Indigenous and Quilombist communities.

Our Western lifestyle and backward politics make their way of life virtually impossible. Roads in particular play a major part in suffocating Indigenous and Quilombist land.

A leading figure of the Quilombo Quingoma told me she hates it when massive groups of motorcycles and random cars drive through their territory, and that paving roads is not good for their horses. Suburban “development” surrounding their land is directly connected to their lack of agency towards the preservation of the forest, and therefore the resources they need for autonomy.

Colonialism (and capitalism) have lead to the Western belief that being of the land is “less developed” than being on the land. The concept of ownership lead us to stop seeing ourselves as a part of our environment, to becoming people on or in property. That’s why the American dream is reduced to owning land of your own, and by doing that earning true freedom (meritocracy).

The tribal concept predates this capitalist concept, and it’s no surprise that after so many years of racism in the field of anthropology, that the term has had the derogatory connotation of underdevelopment.

The “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” shows well the ways in which the tone of anthropological research of tribal behavior is deeply problematic (Eurocentric). The Othering of Navies shows our inability to look at ourselves as ritualistic, and utterly nonsensical in our own behavior.

“While much of the [Nacirema] people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent in ritual activity.” -Horace Miner

The way we deal with our property is savage. The way we treat each other is horrific. Honestly, we have enough ways to kill, torture and enslave to make anthropophagy look honorable and humane. Still, somehow an incredible amount of people have the audacity to look at Natives as underdeveloped, just because their lives don’t revolve around screens, cars and money the way ours do.

If there is one thing we can do, in this seemingly helpless situation, is to unlearn what has been taught to us about order and progress, and learn what it really means to be a “developing” Nation.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

1527654533485_photois site editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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Beasts Must Stick Together

“Said the old beast to the young: Unless you make a hollow of yourself

There will be no room for the gods to dwell inside of you.”

From Ramon Elani

Plate 4 of 'Visions of the Daughters of Albion' c.1795 by William Blake 1757-1827

—For Bec

“If wanderers were not themselves the cause, then like the scent and color
of the lotus in the sky, there would be no perception of the universe.”—Nagarjuna

 

The young beast said to the old: How can I live in this world?

This lacerated, ruptured world.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Follow your breath. Speak to the spirits in puddles.

These things shall pass.

 

Said the young beast to the old: All I see is foul and unspeakably ugly.

A world that is torn and I, torn, within it.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Go into the forest, make pies, and knit.

Listen to the voices of the storm upon the cliffs.

 

Said the young beast to the old: O crone, hag! I seek the deep well in the dark woods.

I cannot find it.

 

Said the old beast to the young: You will only find it in the murky depths of sleep.

What will you search for that you cannot find within yourself?

 

Said the young beast to the old: But I rage with anger! I crave blood and vengeance!

The gods must witness the terror I will unleash upon this bad world.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Unless you make a hollow of yourself

There will be no room for the gods to dwell inside of you.

 

Said the young beast to the old: My heart is black and I cannot let go of my bitterness.

I spit upon peace and the gentleness of slumber.

 

Said the old beast to the young: When you are alone upon the ice, surrounded by devils

There will only be the voice of your true soul to guide you.

 

Said the young beast to the old: Storm Crone, I am drifting away, floating,

Haunted by the ever-watching eyes of the deep.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Look at the cuts upon my breast. I severed my flesh

With jagged cuts of the skinning knife.

 

Said the young beast to the old: I will prepare you a feast and glistening red meat

Will wet your mouth.

 

Said the old beast to the young: See this spear upon which I have impaled myself.

See the braids of hair with which I have strangled myself.

 

Said the young beast to the old: I saw you in the dusky house that was choked with

Smoke. I saw you walk with the moon.

 

Said the old beast to the young: I slew my brother for his blackened hands that night.

I slew them all for their silence.

 

Said the young beast to the old: What did you see walking among the stars?

What did you hear in the whispers of the snow?

 

Said the old beast to the young: The blue demon is rising from his icy depths.

He digs his sharp fingers into the guts of the world.

 

Said the young beast to the old: Will we drown in tears? An ocean of rust.

Obliterated into fragments by the iron waves.

 

Said the old beast to the young: Dive deep into the abyss of the ocean and do not fear.

After all, beasts must stick together.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


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