All media is opinion, it has a perspective, and a political purpose. Some are very transparent and honest. Others not so much. Either way, the media we consume is a reflection of our core personal values, not the other way around.
From Mirna Wabi-Sabi
As you might have heard, Brazil ‘s population decided to blunder into the depths of blatant fascism last month. Aside from the nerve-wrecking concerns over physical safety, the environment (future of humanity), and basic human decency, we had to cope with the heart break of seeing family members come out of the ‘fascist-closet’. One popular coping mechanism has been to blame it all on Fake News. “They don’t really think this way, they’ve been manipulated by viral lies. Trust me, Google Steve Bannon”. Even though I want to believe this argument, all I can think as I hear it is: “Humans have amazing mental gymnastics abilities”.
What came first, the personal values or the forwarded WhatsApp message? It doesn’t matter, because they depend on each other to exist, like the chicken and the egg. Or do they? Maybe I don’t truly know how chickens are born, what are facts and where do I find them? Maybe Bolsonaro didn’t really get stabbed, maybe the Gay Kit for school kids is real, who knows?
Scientific fact is based on consensus, and thanks to this we’ve been feeling pretty confident about things like chickens laying eggs and horses having hearts. Consensus and politics, on the other hand, seem to be concepts much, much further apart. The Democracy I’ve known has relied heavily on polarization, and regressive values, none of which are recent, or provoked by Fake News. The power to manipulate the population is something that can easily be framed as heroic; Google’s Jigsaw, for example, came gallantly on horseback to save children from the evil dragon Isis. But the very same power of manipulation can just as easily be framed as inauthentic behavior by Russian villains.
It’s possible to see, though, that there is a little something that holds the power to define what is a terrorist, who is the villain, who is the hero, and the victim. It’s not the big They; those in Power. Well, not only… They are the values we’ve internalized from our ancestors, and the eyes we choose to see them through.
A friend recently told me a traditional Quilombola saying:
“Those who sleep with someone else’s eyes, don’t wake up when they want”.
We all learn, we are influenced by things around and before us, we admire and we believe. But that doesn’t have to mean blindly following, it means making decisions that reflect our political principals.
All media is opinion, it has a perspective, and a political purpose. Some are very transparent and honest. Others not so much. Either way, the media we consume is a reflection of our core personal values, not the other way around. But if we don’t know what our values are, or how to recognize how these values are represented in all the media being constantly bombarded at us, is it because we’re lazy, go-alongers, or bigots?
Let’s say someone in your family is worried about homosexuality being promoted at schools and wants to vote for someone who says homosexuality can be solved with a good spanking early on in life. Either they’re too lazy to find out whether this “promotion” is really happening, where, how, and what this means to children’s sexuality, if homosexuality is “taught”, etc. Maybe they are going along with people around them, and don’t have the means to step out of the group-think. Or, they’re simply homophobic and think we need to prevent homosexuality from spreading; they think the traditional family needs to be preserved, that gay practices are disturbing, and they just instantly relate to the message. Either way, the results are the same. Going through the effort of distinguishing between these seems like a waste of energy, and even potentially dangerous if you consider the rise in physical violence on the streets.
Unfortunately, believing in certain people’s right to exist is a radical ideology as widespread as veganism. While some on the left are out there desperate trying to prove what’s Fake, I’m here thinking that thanks to “Democracy” we can finally see how the lives of LGBTQIA+, indigenous, black, and poor people don’t really matter to the majority of voters…
What do we do with this information?
One might say: “Not all of us have access to information, or the ability to process and analyze a message”. Well, you are here now, reading and analyzing this. If you have a skill or resource, share it, because waiting for your Government to do it clearly isn’t gonna work. Autonomous skill sharing is paramount for strong community building, and it doesn’t mean to lecture others on personal political views.
One might say: “But who has the time to fact-check everything these days?”. We seem to have plenty of time to scroll, read, watch, forward, click, click, click. But to spend a few minutes alone with our own thoughts seems like a daunting task. Take a moment to think for yourself. Harvest an idea.
Guerrilla From Within
When I took a moment to look inwards, to think about what I was looking at and through whose eyes, it felt like political therapy. Forget the piles and piles of information on-line, these are just useless things we hoard and get on our way. Instead, I looked at the information I gathered first hand: memories. Then I thought about how they made me feel. These feelings guide my political existence, and consequently my work with Gods and Radicals.
The fact that I work with media now is no arbitrary phenomenon, although it happened unexpectedly. I know first hand its power to move people, and people can (and should) make a movement to change the world. When we talk about the (ir)responsibility of other people who produce (Fake News) media, and our artlessness when we consume it, we tend to forget that when we share and talk about it, we are taking part in its production. In other words, in this technological landscape, we should all learn not only how to consume media responsibly, but also how to produce conscious and honest content.
Whenever I talk about the Patriarchy or anti-capitalism, it’s not because I’m brainwashed by feminist or communist media. It’s because men* have interacted with me sexually without my consent since before I knew what sex was. It’s because I constantly see misery and poverty since much before I knew what “class” was. And this makes me feel an array of negative emotions. Media has helped me find the vocabulary to express and process how these memories and reoccurring experiences make me feel.
When I was 12, a group of about 8 boys came to the back of the bus and surrounded me. Some people stood up and moved to the front because they didn’t want to be bothered or harassed. I stayed, listening to my Walkman. They started talking to me, saying I was beautiful, asking where I lived, where I was getting out, until one of them started masturbating under his t-shirt while the others laughed.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how this event impacted me, and its relevance in the construction of my political principles. First of all, I only understood the sexual connotation of what he was doing later. But what impacted me the most was the class disparity in São Paulo. I was on that bus going home from school, where a girl’s driver had dropped me off after some type of play date. The whole day hanging out at her house was a bizarre experience. She had big swimming pool, a tennis court, “Friends” in English on DVD, and basically her own section of a mansion. Then suddenly I was on a bus going back to my modest apartment, when these black boys showed up making me feel like my Walkman and the way I looked were extravagant luxuries.
I could easily imagine that they felt about me something similar to what I felt about that girl; a feeling of being from worlds divided by a deep, dark abyss. A separation close enough we can wave at or insult each other from a distance, but deadly if we tried to come together. More disturbing than the public masturbation, was the fact that while some people have private tennis courts and an array of useless glittery objects, others need to sniff glue in order to not feel hungry, and sleep on the street.
From this point on, I could take the fight outwards. If I understand my own pain, I can easily imagine the pain of LGBTQI+ people; the rejection, the self-doubt, the threat at every corner, and the wide range of potential violence. We will fight side by side.
From that point on I can imagine the struggle of Indigenous people. The displacement, and forced assimilation framed as charity. I see first hand the racism, and neglect, no one needs to tell me, all it takes is looking around with my own eyes. All it takes is showing up and listening.
From that point on I can imagine what it must be like for black people. If my body has been used and abused, silenced and erased, how can I not listen and understand the particular, and even more brutal ways this has happened to them? All it takes is to listen the way I wish I was listened to.
Look, I can’t guarantee where people’s imagination will take them. Plenty of people will look inward and not be able to find principles like honesty and empathy, because they’re buried deep under the desire for personal wealth, and repulsion for deviant behavior. But that’s fine, because that’s better than to deny; to deny the racism, to deny the genocide, to deny the violence we are inflicting on ourselves and our environment. This denial is the historical loop we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of.
From that point on, we find safe ways to bridge the abyss to our comrades, and we find the strength to fight together against those who are a threat to our existence.
Rules don’t have to guide us, integrity to our own principles can.
My body, people desire. My heart is squeezed for blood almost every day. It has hardened, and at my age it’s no small effort to squeeze out one drop. I love it, because I love me. It took me 30 years to realize that my self-worth is the rope around the neck of the Patriarchy.
*- If you have an urge to react to the word “men” by saying something like “but women abuse too,” think of all the times you have been abused by a woman, then use the feeling to try and relate to me, to how I felt when I was abused. Please refrain from using comments like these to correct me, or to point out how what I feel is wrong or invalid.
is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality, feminism, and anti-capitalism.
“Recovering our pagan traditions we could learn again to swim in the skies, return with cloud seeds to sow new myths, new rites, to recite and paint the poetry of clouds”
From Lorna Smithers
VI. AERIAL SPIRITS
The science of meteorology (from the Greek metéōron ‘thing up high’) has ancient roots. In his Meteorology 350BCE Aristotle developed explanations of the weather based on the relationships between the four elements: ‘fire, air, water, earth’. He provided an early theory of cloud formation: ‘The exhalation of water is vapour: air condensing into water is cloud. Mist is what is left over when a cloud condenses into water, and is therefore rather a sign of fine weather than of rain; for mist might be called a barren cloud… From the latter there fall three bodies condensed by cold, namely rain, snow, hail.’ His work was developed by his successor, Theophrastrus, in ‘On Weather Signs’.
Naturalistic explanations of the weather sat reasonably comfortably alongside polytheism. Once Christianity became the dominant religion, scientific principles were replaced by the doctrine of the Bible. Aristotle’s ideas were kept alive by Muslim scholars and revived in Europe in the 12th century.
During the Renaissance the four elements became central to philosophers and occultists. For Cornelius Agrippa, in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1531 – 1533), the elements were the basis of magic: ‘As therefore the Fire is to the Aire, so Aire is to the Water, and Water to the Earth; and again, as the Earth is to the Water, so is the Water to the Aire, and the Aire to the Fire… he which shall know these qualities of the Elements… shall be perfect in Magick.’
In the Liber de Nymphis in the Philosophia Magna (1556) Paracelsus introduced spirits associated with the four elements: salamanders (fire), sylphs (air), undines (water), and gnomes (earth). ‘As a fish lives in the water, it being its element, so each being lives in its own element.’ ‘The sylphs/sylvestres ‘are the nearest related to us, for they live in the air like ourselves; they would be drowned if they were under water, and they would suffocate in the earth and be burned in the fire.’
Once again agency was attributed to spirits who shaped the weather. In a remarkable passage in Of Spectres (1593) Randall Hutchins spoke of ‘aerial spirits, who, straying here and there in the air, tread nearer us. Such can descend to lower regions quicker than thought and, having taken on bodies from the denser air, appear visibly at times.’ He claimed they appeared to his father as ‘men of the air’. ‘These spirits often disturb the air, stir up tempests and thunders. They do not retain one form, but take on various forms, and change these according to the manifold variety of attitudes they encounter.’
Robert Burton also wrote of ‘aerial spirits’ in his ‘Digression of the Nature of Spirits’ (1621), saying they ‘are such as keep quarter most part in the aire, cause many tempests, thunder, and lightnings, tear Oakes.’ Both Hutchins and Burton believed these spirits could be invoked by witches and magicians.
The paradigmatic example of an aerial spirit is Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (or The Enchanted Island) (1611). Ariel was bound to serve the magician, Prospero, who rescued from him a tree, where he was imprisoned by the witch, Sycorax. It is he who caused the tempest which destroyed the ship of Prospero’s brother, Antonio, the usurper of Prospero’s position as Duke of Milan.
At the beginning of the play Ariel boasts of his abilities ‘to fly, to swim, to shoot into the fire, to ride on the the curl’d Clouds’. It is slowly revealed he is a being of immense power with the ability to charm, bind, and imprison mortals ‘with Walls of Adamant, / Invisible as air.’ In one night he flies across the earth collecting herbs then to the planet that ruled each to increase their power to cure Hippolito
Although the name Ariel, with its –el (god) suffix seems related to the names of the angels, he is clearly an elemental spirit. He speaks of his origins in ‘the lightsome Regions of the Air’ and says ‘we Airy Spirits are not of temper / So malicious as the Earthy, / But of a Nature more approaching good. / For which we meet in swarms, and often combat / Betwixt the Confines of the Air and Earth.’
Through Ariel Shakespeare gave voice to an occult philosophy wherein aerial spirits occupied the sublunar regions between the celestial spirits (angels) and earth spirits and controlled the weather. His representation contrasts with Biblical doctrines in which spirits of the air were identified with devils.
The relationship between Ariel and his ‘master’ Prospero is complex and quite moving. At some points Ariel is willing to serve, ‘All hail great Master, grave Sir, hail, I come to answer thy best pleasure’, whilst at others he rails against his servitude, ‘Why shou’d a mortal by Enchantments hold / In chains a spirit of ætherial mould?’ At the end he is finally freed and the ‘Enchanted Isle’ flourishes.
Shakespeare’s artistic representation of a relationship between a magician and an aerial spirit with power and personhood at a time when witches and magicians who interacted with spirits were being persecuted was quite radical. Although learned magicians (usually men) were targeted less than uneducated witches (usually women) persecutions still took place. Giordano Bruno was tried in Rome on account of seven charges including ‘dealings in magic and divination’. In 1600 with ‘his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words’ he was hung upside down naked then burnt at the stake.
The Enlightenment, which ended the witch hunts by ending the belief in spirits and magic, also culled the Renaissance occult tradition. The scientific revolution replaced theories about aerial spirits with scientific laws. The potential for re-establishing our relationships with the spirits of the skies was snuffed out and would not gain popularity again until the occult revival of the mid-19th century.
VI. THE CLOUD CHAMBER
During the scientific revolution nature was subjected to the mechanical principles of Isaac Newton (1643-1727). With thermometer, barometer, anemometer, hydrometer, hygrometer, rain and wind gauges the skies were weighed and measured. Even the ever-changing clouds were classified and systematised.
In ‘The Modifications of Clouds’ (1803) Luke Howard established seven modifications based on Latin words: cirrus ‘curl’, cumulus ‘heap’, stratus ‘layer’, nimbus ‘rain’. 1. Cirrus 2. Cumulus 3. Stratus 4. Cirro-cumulus 5. Cirro-stratus 6. Cumulo-stratus 7. Cumulo-cirro-stratus vel Nimbus.
These replaced the older poetic names of which, sadly, only a few remain in living memory. In English: sheep’s backs, buttermilk, mackerel skies. In Welsh: cwmylau blew geifr ‘goat’s hair clouds’, cwmwl boliog ‘pregant clouds’, cwmwl cawn ‘reed-grass clouds’, cwmwl caws a llaeth ‘cheese and milk clouds’, cwmwl psygod awr ‘fish of the air clouds’, cwmwl torgoch ‘red-bellied clouds’.
The science of cloud seeding was discovered by the French pharmacist Paul-Jean Coulier and Scottish meterologist John Aitken. In papers published in 1875 and 1880 they conducted experiments with similar results supporting the explanation: ‘vapours condense on solid airborne nuclei’. Together they validated the ‘condensation nuclei hypothesis.’
In 1911 the Scottish physicist Charles Wilson perfected the cloud chamber – a sealed device containing air supersaturated with water vapour which detected charged particles by their condensation trails. Experimenting with a cloud chamber the American meteorologist Vincent Shaefer discovered that clouds can be seeded from dry ice in 1946. His colleague, Bernard Vonnegut, learnt that silver iodide, which has a similar crystalline structure to ice, works the same way.
Soon afterwards governments across the world began experimenting with cloud seeding to modify the weather and for military purposes. In the early 1950s the British military conducted an experiment into rainmaking called Operation Cumulus. Its aims were clearing airfields of fog, ‘bogging down enemy movement’, and ‘incrementing the water flow in rivers and streams to hinder or stop enemy crossings’. There was also talk of exploding ‘an atomic weapon in a seeded storm system or cloud’.
Pilots poured salt, dry ice, or silver iodide, into the tops of clouds. A pilot called Alan Yates expressed his elation at bringing about a heavy downpour over Staines in Middlesex. On the 15th of August 1952 disaster followed. A terrible flash flood hit Lynmouth in Devon, destroying buildings and bridges and killing 35 people. Operation Cumulus was put on hold. The UK government has still not admitted to responsibility for causing this tragedy. The US military notoriously seeded clouds during the Vietnam War on the Ho Chi Minh trail to increase the monsoon season.
Across Europe cloud seeding is used to prevent hail storms from damaging crops and vineyards. When hail cloud formation is detected silver iodide is either dropped from planes or fired by hail cannons, seeding smaller hailstones higher in the atmosphere which melt before hitting the ground.
In drier places cloud seeding is being utilised to create rain. The most ambitious project is taking place in China on the Tibetan plateau where tens of thousands of fuel burning chambers are being built to produce silver iodide which will be swept into the clouds by the wind. This will result in an increase of rainfall by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year across an area of 620,000 square miles.
The United Arab Emirates recently launched its £3.6 million UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement last year. Last year, in the first three months, 101 cloud seeding operations took place. This resulted in two months of ‘unusually wet weather’ and record rainfall was recorded in Dubai and Al Ain.
On the downside cloud seeding has resulted in a sudden temperature drop closing roads in Beijing, 600 accidents caused by rain in Dubai, and the flooding and floods that killed 100 people in Jeddah. Scientists have voiced concerns about unpredictable effects and the possibility it might change the climate.
Seeding clouds to prevent crop damage and create rain for the purposes of human survival is, perhaps, ethically viable. It seems less so when used purely for the defence of capitalist interests. It also used by car manufacturers based in North America to stop hail storms damaging the cars. People near the Nissan plant in Mississippi have voiced complaints about the noise of the hail cannons and farmers in Mexico have accused Volkswagen of ruining their crops by causing a drought.
Cloud seeding has also been used to create snow at ski resorts – the weather manipulated to provide pleasure for the rich. In a jaw-dropping example of ultra-capitalism, UK company Oliver’s Travels charge £100,000 to use cloud seeding to clear the skies in advance of weddings at select venues in France.
The most disturbing thing about cloud seeding technologies is they have the potential to be abused in wars for water. When they are in the hands of capitalists it will always be certain the poorest people will suffer along with the earth’s non-human inhabitants who are rarely given consideration.
Disasters such as Lynmouth and Jeddah provide just a taste of what might happen if we continue to treat the skies like a cloud chamber without consulting the sky gods or considering the global impact.
VIII. TO SWIM IN THE SKIES
In the paintings of Eugene Boudin (1824 -1898) awesome cloudscapes dwarf les parasites dorés ‘the golden parasites’ (the upper classes) and place humans within nature rather than above it.
In his diary Boudin wrote: ‘To swim in the open sky. To achieve the tenderness of clouds. To suspend these masses in the distance, very far away in the grey mist, make the blue explode. I feel all this coming, dawning in my intentions. What joy and what torment! If the bottom were still, perhaps I would never reach these depths. Did they do better in the past? Did the Dutch achieve the poetry of clouds I seek? That tenderness of the sky which even extends to admiration, to worship: it is no exaggeration.’
It is the loss of this kind of worshipful attitude toward the sky and its gods and spirits that has resulted in cloud seeding. I believe this is something we need to win back as artists and pagans if we are to live in tune with the changing climate rather than working against it and causing further disasters.
Recovering our pagan traditions we could learn again to swim in the skies, return with cloud seeds to sow new myths, new rites, to recite and paint the poetry of clouds. To seed a new world based on respectful relationship with the gods and spirits of the skies, the animate earth and all her inhabitants.
Andrew Griffin, ‘Rain-free Weddings’, Belfast Telegraph, (2015)
Britta K. Ager, Roman Agricultural Magic, (The University of Michigan, 2010)
Boudin, ‘Skies’, Muma Le Havre, http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/collections/artworks-in-context/eugene-boudin/boudin-skies
Detlev Möller, ‘On the History of the Scientific Exploration of Fog, Dew, Rain and Other Atmospheric Water’, Die Erde, 139, (2008)
Franz Hartmann (transl), The Life and the Substance of the Teachings of Paracelsus, (Philalethians, 2018)
Jessica Brown, ‘Cloud Seeding: Should we be playing god and controlling the weather?’, The Independent, (2018)
John Vidal and Helen Weinstein, ‘RAF rainmakers ‘caused 1952 flood’’, The Guardian, (2001)
Luke Howard, ‘The Modifications of Clouds’, (John and Churchill, 1803)
Olivia Solon, ‘Rain Dancing 2.0: Should humans be using tech to control the weather?’, The Guardian, (2018)
Randall Hutchins, Virgil B. Heltzel and Clyde Murley (transl.) ‘Of Spectres’, Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 4, (1948)
Shakespeare, The Tempest, https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/Tempest.pdf
Stephan Harding, Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia, (Green Books, 2009)
Stephen Chen, ‘China needs more water. So it’s building a rain making network the size of Spain’, South China Morning Post, (2018)
W. Stacy Johnson, ‘The Genesis of Ariel’, Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 3, (1951)
Lorna Smithers is a poet, author, awenydd, and Brythonic polytheist. She is currently exploring how our ancient British myths relate to our environmental and political crises and dreaming new stories. As a devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn, she seeks to reweave the ways between the worlds. She has published three books: Enchanting the Shadowlands,The Broken Cauldron, and Gatherer of Souls and edited A Beautiful Resistance. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist.
“I offer you a different reason to fight, beyond hope and despair, beyond a hollow victory that only restores Status Q. A reason that can exist regardless of the chances of victory, regardless of the size of that dragon.”
It was an ancient mound. The thief was sure that only he knew where it was, and in the dark, it looked even more defenseless than in the light of day. He could hear what sounded like a moan, as he broke through the outer wall. He broke through, and then he saw it all in his torch light. The gold. Wrought into plates, cups, torques, cuffs, rings, coins, so many coins. Gemstones rough and cut, silver pooled in solid lakes lapping shores of those gold coins. A hoard. And it was all his. But he heard it again. Louder, a rasping exhale, from deeper in the mound. The hairs stood on his skin. And for a moment he started. But he laughed at his own cowardice. Ghosts and spooks were for cowards who didn’t have the courage to seize hoards like this. It is just wind, air allowed to flow for who knows how long.
He reached out and took hold of a golden chalice, and the rasping exhale became an angry groan. A sound rolling like thunder from the depth of the barrow, a feint green light coming from the passage leading down. The hairs stood on his skin again, but now could not be banished by false bravado. He ran, the chalice in his hand forgotten but held fast. He ran, heedless of the laws of fate. He ran, a coward and thief whose avarice must now be put right by others.
Cornwolf had been king for many years. He sat and listened. He sat and listened to the descriptions of the dragon. He sat and listened to the stories of its green poisonous fire. He heard the laments of his people. The villagers, of how their homes have burned. The farmers, their crops burned and the land laid waste with poison. All knew that such a beast was the product of the wrath of the ancient ancestors. The thief was unknown, his whereabouts unknown, what he had stolen also unknown. The only option, aside from restoring what was stolen, was to slay the dragon. For any mortal this was certain failure, and certain death. But Cornwolf was no normal king, no normal man. When the fates branded his lot, they decreed him to be a hero. And hero he was, but the fear of his subjects were many. What would they do without him if he dies? What of the dragon? Should he not send his younger warriors in his place? But Cornwolf would not do this, send others to fight for him, like a coward sitting on a mound of gold? No. “Bring me my armor.” Only a hero could slay a dragon. The words having passed his lips, joy returned to his heart, long forgotten. The joy of living the truth of his soul had returned. Whatever the gods pronounce of his doom this day, he goes to meet it in joy. Even though he may fail and die, he rides out, heedless of the danger. For it is right that he should fight, even though it may well be hopeless. Cornwolf refused to live a life yielding to despair, and letting that despair lead him to wrongdoing and cowardice.
He died, killing the dragon. His people were indeed left to fend for themselves, but their worries, had they lived his example, would have been unnecessary. However, Cornwolf’s people were conquered in his absence. Instead of living a truth that he showed them, they mourned the loss of his person.
I often feel it now. I see the world to come, and the despair laps at the edges of my consciousness. The apathy, threatening to sap every activity of vitality and meaning. This is the danger inherent in Capitalist thought, meaning, and ideas. That if it can’t go on perpetually, that it doesn’t mean anything. That it has no purpose. It betrays how deep seated, in me at least, of how far the Capitalist indoctrination goes. Buddhism helps, as long as we’re talking the real deal, and not the “Boomer Buddhism” that Mark Chapman goes on about at length. But the ultimate truths of Sunyata can be difficult to integrate living in this world, in the day to day flow. I find a much more immediate antidote in the inspiration of our ancestors. In the heroes who understood what was required, what was needed of them. Above is a part of the final act of Beowulf. The old wizened king, rides out to slay a dragon. Modern interpreters point to this and say it is a cautionary tale, of a king casting aside his cares for his responsibility to his people, and tries to recapture his youth. Because of course they would; hollow scholars dreaming of recapturing their youth with some adventure, projecting that internal reality onto the material.
So I offer you instead another interpretation. Maybe this too is a projection. I leave it to you to decide if that matters. My interpretation of this portion of the tale is a hero, knowing the truth of his life, stepping up to do what is necessary. He gladly goes to give his life, knowing that for it to be any other way would be a lie, and bring nothing but personal misery, and misery for his people. The world burns, blasted by metaphorical poison fire, our due for the theft of riches from the Earth, from the burial mounds of long dead things, our ancestors. Indeed, our doom is pronounced, why fight it? Our rulers know what is going on. As they pronounce the devastation as a hoax, they build infrastructure to face the world to come. From the sea walls around Trumps golf resorts, to doubling down on coal, to hoarding resources, selling weapons, and building walls to keep refugees out; make no mistake, if that wall happens, it will be to fight off throngs of displaced people, hungry and violent like the ancient sea peoples, themselves displaced by disaster. Why fight climate change, environmental disaster, and the ultimate venusing of our planet? It is a hopeless fight, our doom, as I said, already pronounced.
It is a mystery to anyone who hasn’t touched mystery. It is a puzzle for those who live in a puzzle. Why do the Aesir and Vanir fight at Ragnarok? Why do the einherjar and the Ljosalfar fight? They know they will lose. And yet, when the blessed Queen of the Dead, in her guise as Hel comes to claim her due, they fight all the same. When the lies, broken oaths, and betrayals of Odin can no longer save the gods and delay Ragnarok, why does he still fight? Why do they all fight? The answer is simple for anyone to see, yet so hard to see in our modern times.
The environment can’t fight for itself. It is trying, the hurricanes in the years to come may destroy much carbon generating infrastructure, but this dragon is no mortal thing. It is the karma of Capitalism. The cause of our effect. Is it not heroism to defend the defenseless? Is it not heroism to fight for what is right, despite the outcome being known to end in failure? To use your gifts to help defend those who held you up when you were defenseless, who fed you when you hungered, and watered your thirst, who taught you and loved you. To not defend them is worse than cowardice. It is villainy. Capitalists are the worst sorts of villain. Their community holds them up, only to have them take a big ol’ shit on that community. “Why should I have to pay taxes, I only use the roads, public services, public resources, etc etc.” They paint themselves as heroes, but have nothing to offer that cannot be provided by a thief in a barrow. And you see them now, they don’t even think they need to lie effectively now. Show them real courage and they melt. They are heartless and soulless. They are dead already.
I offer you a different reason to fight, beyond hope and despair, beyond a hollow victory that only restores Status Q. A reason that can exist regardless of the chances of victory, regardless of the size of that dragon. That reason is: because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do even though you will likely, at a 99.9999% chance, fail. It is the right thing to do, even though you might die. You were going to die anyway, the coward gains nothing in his cowardice, but loses his chance to die a hero. I’m not saying you have to run out and die today. I’m not saying you should be reckless, or ready to throw your life away. I’m not saying your life is cheap, to be traded for a small victory. But as things “heat up”, I think you will all find your moments, where you must face death and choose your path. You won’t know your heart until truly until you meet that moment. If you understand your obligations, you who are noble of spirit, then you will know what to do, and why you are doing it. And your courage and strength will not have its foundation in hope or despair. It will have its foundation in the truth of your soul, in doing what is right, of living the life of a hero. Be more like Cornwolf.
A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.
No really-existing fascism has arisen within humanity that was not industrialist. This then begs an obvious question–why do those of us who oppose industrialization find ourselves being accused of being fascist?
From Ramon Elani & Rhyd Wildermuth
“It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless…I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else……
Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition it? Alas! we shall not get one — not yet, anyway. To say why would take too long, but basically it is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, nor the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make.”
–George Orwell, “What is Fascism?”
Those of us who criticize civilization, industrial capitalism, and the delusion of the Modern invariably encounter accusations that our critiques somehow link us to Nazism or fascism. Because we are not Nazis nor fascists, and perhaps because we mistake the mauvaise foi of our critics as honest confusion, we too often accept a mysterious sense and moral duty to respond. But is it not strange that we automatically accept our interlocutor’s premise that the rejection of civilization, industrialism, and modernity implies Nazism or fascism? Worse, is it not strange we feel obligated to provide a defense to such a false accusation?
Most us of who accede to the demands of our accusers that we must differentiate ourselves from those odious ideologies find ourselves drowning in the morass of contemporary political discourse. No amount of evidence is enough, no amount of repeated statements that we hate fascism ever suffices. Such a situation is akin to the anti-capitalist asked their opinions about gulags or Stalin, or the gay person forced to assure people that they don’t rape children. As in those situations, the critic who stands in opposition to modern, industrial, capitalist civilization—with its regimes of authority, its hierarchies of divided race and labor, its vapid and alienating aesthetic, and all the forms of its civic religion worshiping progress and destructive technology—is somehow to be held account for abhorrent political constellations to which none of us ascribe.
To fail to answer to is to be deemed guilty. Yet worse: to give answer is to assume the premise of the accuser and the moral authority to deem what is and is not an acceptable critique. Let this essay be our final answer.
We are neither fascists nor Nazis. But now that we have said this, we must now go further, because the question itself is wrong in its false constellation of fascism as anti-civilizationist, anti-modernist, or anti-industrial. The truth is quite the opposite. Except by the most inverted of logics, neither the 20th century Nazis and fascists, nor their 21st century counterparts, can possibly be seen as anything but fanatic devotees of the Modern, evangelists of industrialization, and fundamentalist defenders of civilization.
Consider the National Socialists. For all their deployment of romantic aesthetics and traditionalist rhetoric, Nazism was both essentially industrialist and modernist. The management logic of the early English industrialists, Fordism, and the “scientific management” of Taylorism found their full consummation in the pristine efficiency of the concentration camp: facilities in which humans were classified, examined, methodically tortured, “scientifically” vivisected, and then killed. Further, the transformation of the German population’s labor power towards the production of war machines—as well as the organization of German society and economic activity along avowedly Fordist lines—was explicitly industrialist and modern.
Nor were the Nazis anti-civilizationist by any means. Hitler’s fantasy of a Neuordnung Europas (“New European Order”) was a detailed plan to save civilization from what the Nazis saw as the barbaric, degenerate, inferior races by bringing all of Europe under their own enlightened civil order.
Neither can the organization of Italian and Spanish society under the fascism of Mussolini and Franco be painted as anti-modern, anti-industrialist, or anti-civilization. While neither reached the same levels of Fordist industrial efficiency that German society under the Nazis attained, industrial efficiency was a core aspect of fascist propaganda. “At least Mussolini made the trains run on time,” regardless of the fact it was unlikely true, is hardly a mantra that would appeal to someone who hates trains or the Modern religion of time-management. And as regards Spain, General Franco is even now still praised as a “modernizer,” and it was his industrialist economic policies which kept supposedly “anti-fascist” states such as the US on neutral terms with his regime.
No really-existing fascism has arisen within humanity that was not industrialist. This then begs an obvious question–why do those of us who oppose industrialization find ourselves being accused of being fascist? As George Orwell noted in his short essay, “What Is Fascism,” to get at a real definition of fascism would require even admissions others (including fascists) are not eager to make. That is, the answer is not a comfortable one for our critics, because fascism is hardly the only modern political ideology for which industrial production is a core, foundational value.
Take for example the majority of “Leftist” political ideologies born from European industrial civilization. The Authoritarian Communism of the USSR and China, which morphed later into State-Capitalism in both places, similarly organized the labor power of the people over which those ideologies ruled into wide-scale industrial production. In both iterations, rural populations which had lived in relatively static technological states for thousands of years were industrialized within mere decades, all in the name of making them more “modern.”
But lest we lay blame only at the feet of Marx, many anarchists too embraced the logic of industrialism. One need consider one of Kropotkin’s many glowing paens regarding the conquest of nature by machine, reproduced later in Bookchinite worship of technology:
With the introduction of machinery into economy, wings are given to liberty. The machine is the symbol of human liberty, the sign of our domination over nature, the attribute of our power, the expression of our right, the emblem of our personality.
While the actually-existing iterations of both Fascism and Authoritarian Communism organized the societies over which they ruled along industrialized principles, and many anarchist tendencies likewise fantasize about such arrangements, none of these political systems can claim to have birthed industrialism. That honor instead goes to the ideological system which founded Modernity and still dominates the world: Liberal Democratic Capitalism.
Industrialism started in England in the early 18th century with the birth and quick spread of textile mills, midwifed by the imperative of modernization articulated by Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, and other Enlightenment philosophers. These philosophers were not merely the ideological architects of industralisation, however—they also formulated the “modern” and its civilizational structure itself. Nation-states ruled by representative government, individual rights granted by sovereign charter, enclosure, displacement, and private ownership of land, divisions of people through artificial racial categories, and the juridical, bureaucratic, administrative, and penal institutions required to implement and sustain this modern, “civilized” order: all this arose from the very same ideology which ushered in industrialised capitalism into the history of humanity.
Even Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto recognized the oppressive, authoritarian nature of this modernizing, “civilizing” drive:
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
That all the aspects of what even Marx recognised as “civilization” arose from the very same classes which created industrialised capitalism is no accident. Civilization, Modernity, and Industrialization are all part of the same delusion, a forced imposition of mechanistic logic upon the rest of life. Along with this logic comes all our other “modern” ideas of what a state is and should do, as well as what rights it must provide and what freedoms we humans are due. These are rights inextricable from industrialisation, the energy which propels it, and the damage it does to the earth. As post-colonialist historian Dispesh Chakrabarty noted in his essay, “The Climate of History,”
In no discussion of freedom in the period since the Enlightenment was there ever any awareness of the geological agency that human beings were acquiring at the same time as and through processes closely linked to their acquisition of freedom. Philosophers of freedom were mainly, and understandably, concerned with how humans would escape the injustice, oppression, inequality, or even uniformity foisted on them by other humans or human-made systems… The period I have mentioned, from 1750 to now, is also the time when human beings switched from wood and other renewable fuels to large-scale use of fossil fuel—ﬁrst coal and then oil and gas. The mansion of modern freedoms stands on an ever-expanding base of fossil-fuel use.
Of what value, we ask, is that freedom if it comes at the cost of the earth’s ability to sustain human life?
But we must go even further, because the rights offered by Liberal Democratic Capitalist (Modern, Industrial) civilization are themselves only an offer after conquest. As many contemporary critics of human rights discourse from India and Africa, including Makau Mutua, have observed, the concept of rights is inextricable from the existence of a state which defines to whom those rights extend (and do not extend) and enforces and exports those rights.
Let us be clear: the Modern idea of freedom and the equally modern reality of colonialism and slavery go hand in hand. The promises of an order in which humanity is entitled to peace, prosperity, and happiness and that human life must be preserved at all costs are not only false but are bound up in the logic that reduces the earth to ashes, purges the gods from the wild hills and deep forests, all while poisoning the very humanity that it claims to deify.
The gifts of modernity were never offered in good faith. Expand the length of life, but reduce the quality of that life. Kill the gods and worship humanity, but destroy and degrade human life like never before. Create technology that will remake the earth to serve us, but turn the earth into a barren wasteland that will literally boil us alive. Banish superstition and the irrational, but be governed by faith in technological progress and the market, neither of which you may question.
But let us entertain, briefly, the miracles modernity claims to have birthed into the world: medicine, rights, peace. These are the sacred proofs to the worshippers of the Modern, evidence that what the Modern has wrought in the world is Good and Just. Yet rarely is it mentioned how these things have been gotten. Much of modern medicine requires first the torture of some other living thing to give it its efficacy. We can cure syphilis thanks to experimentation on poor Black men, we can treat mental disorders thanks to the lobotomization of women diagnosed with hysteria.
When they speak of peace, they do not speak of the barrel of the gun and the threat of nuclear annihilation which gives the great modern civilizations their serene placidity. Peace means “peacekeepers,” military occupations, covert subversions and overthrows of governments elected by the same “democratic means” such violence is meant to protect. Civil order and peace within the cities are maintained by armed gangs called police, and it certainly appears to take quite a few prisons to ensure modern “freedom.”
And of rights? The right to property comes through the slaughter of indigenous peoples through colonial conquest. The right to wealth and even access to social safety nets both are funded through the exploitation of the poor outside the modern construct of Nation. Freedom to communicate through technological wonders built by near-slave labor from materials mined by actual slave-labor. And all the rest of these rights derive, as Chakrabarty notes, “from an ever-expanding base of fossil-fuel use.”
The Enlightenment claimed to banish the darkness within humanity and raise humans above the rest of nature. In so doing, it conjured a new darkness into the world, the Modern. Perhaps numbered among its chief conjurers were those who truly believed that science and technics could make the world a paradise for all. It has done nothing of the sort, but rather scorched the skies, melted the glaciers, poisoned the air, and further yoked nature–including the human–to the capitalists and their machine logic.
Indeed, the most delusional aspect of modern Liberal Democratic civilization is its claim to do all this in the name of the “human.” Human rights, human advancement, human wealth, human freedom, all this promised to us as benefits of civilization’s destruction of the rest of nature through factories, the assembly lines, the pipeline, the automobile, the urban, and the internet server. Yet even humans are ground up into bone and dust to feed the machines of progress, their lungs blackened, fingers broken, bodies crippled, minds subjugated, environments ruined, souls destroyed. How much more the myriad other parts of nature? The extinctions speak for themselves.
More probably, the Modern was yet another mere trick to consolidate power. Promises that humanity could be perfected, sorrow and suffering eradicated, inequality eliminated–all by men who themselves owned slaves, spread war and rape, and subjugated all that lives to their dominance. Upon the ancient shrines of forsaken gods of nature they placed the human, then proceeded to sacrifice not just the natural world but other humans themselves to their vain worship of the modern.
Let us make the admission the fascists, the socialists, and the liberal democrats refuse to make. Fascism could not have been possible without the worship of the Modern the Enlightenment birthed. Nazi doctors and scientists vivisecting and dissecting humans to find in their entrails the cause of their behavior merely continued the work begun by the Enlightenment. The efficiency of their war machine was only possible thanks to the humanist search in centuries past to perfect the movement of human in industry. And what else could we make of the Nazi organization of human society into taxonomies of race and degeneracy, but a mere perfection of the Enlightenment’s desire to discover and then make the world run according to “natural laws?”
Let us say yet more: to be against the modern is to be also against the fascist. But to be against the modern is also to be against the fascist’s twin, the State-Communist, and against the patriarch which birthed them both, the Capitalist-Democratic neueordnung. As with the three monotheist religions which together inform them, they each worship the Modern and merely disagree on how to implement Its will.
And let us say yet one more thing: it is not we who oppose the Modern, or industrialism, or civilization, who must answer our critics, but our critics who must answer us. Those who praise the Modern for its medicine must answer first for the Black and Indigenous people experimented upon to bring it forth into the world. Those who defend the Modern for its rights and freedoms must first answer for the colonial rape and slaughter which brings those rights and freedoms. Those who celebrate the Modern for the peace and prosperity of its cities must first answer for the homeless, the displaced, and the murdered. Those who sing paens to the Modern for its technological progress must first answer for the children mining the minerals to make computers and smartphones.
And especially, those who would call the anti-modern “fascist” must answer us. It is we who accuse you, defenders of the Modern and its industrial, humanistic delusions. It is you who must answer for the very reason we rage against the Modern, with its machine logic that mobilized entire populations to eradicate what once connected humans to nature and its gods. It is you who must answer for the Modern industrial camps in which humans were dissected, dismembered, and killed in the name of saving civilization from barbarism. It is not us but you who must account for the latest technology that sorted the deported and damned, for the most scientifically advanced chemicals which choked out their lives.
We have seen what your civilization and your progress really means. We have seen what your technology, your government, your orders of discipline and your machines are really for. In the slums, the prisons, the gutters, and the factories we have seen how fascistic your vision of humanity actually is, and in the dying forests, the rising seas, and the darkened skies we see what comes of people that forget its gods to become Modern.
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 here. You can also support him on Patreon.
“[S]ince it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?”
From Sable Aradia
A thoughtform is a semi-autonomous manifestation created when someone — or several someones — will it, or believe it, into being. As of that point, it is no longer entirely subject to the will of its creator(s), but in essence, acts and reacts in its own way. It has no physical reality as we understand it, but it has a virtual reality; it might as well be real because we engage with it as if it is. Which, in a sense, makes it real.
An egregore is a thoughtform that has been created by a group, and it influences the thoughts and actions of the group that engages with it. But it is also influenced by the thoughts and actions of these same people.
This is not a unique concept to the occult: William Gibson wrote about what he called “semiotic ghosts” in popular culture. To me, it was evident he was talking about egregores. I wrote an article about this recently at Between the Shadows.
The examples of a corporation and a meme are probably excellent ones for a modern reader. A corporation exists independently of its creators. The Board of Directors, the shareholders, and the employees who work for it, can change completely — leave, die, or be replaced — and yet the corporation continues.
In our modern age, money is also an egregore, and this is why it has no physical value (after all, money is no longer backed by a gold standard.) Its perceived value governs its real value on the world market. The two are effectively one and the same.
It’s extremely difficult for one person to significantly alter the nature of an egregore. A person who wants to will such a change would have to convince a majority of the other people who engage with the egregore that its nature has already changed. For example, these major brands either started their lives as Nazi corroborators, or developed significantly as corporations while doing so, but of course we no longer make these associations with them.
There was an excellent object lesson in the transformation of an egregore in the 1990s in Brazil. Plagued by runaway inflation, Brazil embraced a daring plan; they created a new currency to restore people’s faith in money. They called it the Unit of Real Value (Unidade real de valor)(1). And it was entirely fake. No bills or coins were ever printed. It was intended to absorb the effects of hyperinflation and was set at a fixed value of parity to the U.S. dollar.
Instead, people developed more confidence in the URV than in the cruzeiro real, which was the legal-tender Brazilian currency, and it replaced Brazil’s legal currency. Officially it was “extinguished” and replaced with a legal-tender currency called the real on July 1, 1994.
A semi-virtual currency exists in Canada in the form of Canadian Tire money. This is effectively Monopoly money that is given out by Canadian Tire as a reward for shopping at their stores. It’s a fraction of the value of what you bought; a very early loyalty program.
But many places in Canada began accepting Canadian Tire money as well as real money, because why not? Canadian Tire doesn’t really care where it came from, because at one point or another it came from their store, and you can still exchange it there for real goods.
Unfortunately Canadian Tire is now trying to force their clientele to go to a card system instead, citing a risk of criminal enterprises making use of their alternate currency as an excuse. I’m sure that’s a real threat: criminal enterprises profit enormously from the existence of shadow economies that don’t depend upon the whim of the World Bank. But then again, so would we.
One might also consider the bitcoin bubble. Bitcoin is an entirely virtual currency that has a certain perceived value; and it has that value because of that perception.
That’s not a new concept either. Stock values are also entirely influenced by perceived values. One of the flaws in our current economic system that is coming to a point of reckoning is that stock values can plummet, not because a company has lost money, but because it has not gained as much as people thought it would. Twitter and Facebook both recently bore a significant loss of stock value because their growth, falsely projected on false identities and bot accounts which political pressure has forced them to limit, was not as great as those false projections had assumed it would be.
What this tells us is that any free market theory is fatally flawed. It is assumed in the study of free market economics that stock value changes based on information. Traders become aware of trends, new technology, expansions, etc. which will increase the income-making potential of a corporation.
But since it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?
The question then becomes for the magician: how can we best utilize egregores? Can we make significant changes to the harmful effects of existing egregores, such as the value of currency and how it is determined?
Marx said that in order to address income inequality, workers must control the means of production. But he failed to visualize the development of technology and the value of virtual goods. How do you control the means of production when all the production is virtual?
I think the answer is that the common people must direct the egregores instead. Right now, we have been absorbed by the semiotic ghosts of futility, apathy, and the inequalities of capitalism. And Money has become a god in and of itself. To combat this, we must embrace new egregores, and helpful, older egregores, like the Enlightened Rebel and the Will of the People.
To change the perceived value of money, and who has it, we need to re-think what we’re basing that value on. Right now, the world thinks of money in terms of national currencies, so the perceived economic well-being of nations is what drives the world economy. This creates haves and have-nots by nature. It’s dependent on the idea that some nations have more economic value than others.
It’s also, in part, determined by corporations. The more big corporations a country is perceived to have, and the bigger their stock values, the more valuable their currency is perceived to be.
Canadian Tire money erodes that economy just a little bit, because it takes a small fraction of the value of currency out of the hands of governments and stock traders, and puts it into the hands of consumers. Still not great; still capitalism, but a more decentralized capitalism.
Bitcoin is an early attempt to rethink the way we value currency. It has established a currency value on information. Bits of data are what form the essential unit of a bitcoin. But the flaw of this approach is that those who control information can control the value of a bitcoin, which is why it has already achieved a speculation bubble that makes it completely unattainable for regular people.
Perhaps we should come back to Marx. Perhaps we should be basing the value of currency on labour-units. One hour of labour might equal one credit, which could buy one full meal. Think of how wealthy artists would be! Of course I can’t think of a way to track that which wouldn’t risk intense violations of privacy. No change of this nature would be quick or easy, and each would have its own drawbacks and unintended consequences that we would have to consider, and deal with.
The question for us is: what do we consider to be of real value? And what would we like the economy of the future to look like? Which egregores should we give power to?
I think it’s worth noting just how difficult this reference was to find. I remembered hearing something on a YouTube video about this and I went searching for a reference to write this article. I typed “South American country that created an alternate currency” into Google. This yielded an article called “How Fake Money Saved Brazil,” which originally came from the NPR website. It’s referenced by a plethora of other blogs and articles, but you can’t get access to that article anymore; just a couple of forums where people sneer at the idea, despite the fact that it demonstrably worked. I finally found the name of the currency — “Unit of Real Value” — in a snippet from a site that might be an archive of the Wayback Machine from a site called Neatorama.com. I searched this on Google and finally found the Wikipedia entry, listed only under its Portuguese name. Now why was this so hard to find? The most benign answer I can come up with is racism. I suspect it’s a lot more complex.
I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I owned a dog, whom I still miss very much, and am still owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.
Hey! We pay Sable and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂
… first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small.
From Emma Kathryn
The world’s going to pot.
Just look around you. Literally, stop. For just a moment and take a look at everything that’s kicking off, all around the world.
Some problems are more dire than others, some more urgent, but it doesn’t really matter because everywhere your glance may fall, there is some shit going down, some suffering or other, and then, to top it all off, is the destruction of the planet, of nature. Nobody can escape that!
And nobody really knows what to do. Governments don’t care. They may claim to, but every action they do shows the lie of their words. And what about the everyday person? What can one person do? Sometimes it feels like there is nothing we can do, not individually, and I fear that any efforts made now may be too little too late, though that’s not to say we shouldn’t make those efforts. We should definitely make those efforts, but small gestures are no longer enough. Drastic action is needed.
So what can we do as individuals in the face of all of the problems before us? What can I do in the face of these colossal problems? What can you do? How can our little efforts make any kind of difference?
No wonder humanity has fallen into a kind of hopeless apathy. And yet all hope is not lost, for are we not hopeful things? Even when the odds are stacked against us and failure is all but promised some small glimmer of hope remains. Is there any power, no matter how small, that we may claim for ourselves?
Perhaps there is, but first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small. And for those that would comment saying things like ‘Well, too little too late’, or ‘it’s not enough’, you may very well be correct. But whatever happens, the skills I speak about here will become increasingly important.
I know, I know, here I go again, banging on about connecting to the land, but I only mention it here because everything comes from that connection. You all know how I feel about that! But seriously though, get to know the lay of the land where you live. Make yourself familiar with the local plants and fauna. This is something that takes time, months, years, indeed there is always more to learn.
Food & Cooking
Learning to cook from scratch is a vital skill for anybody to learn at any time. I include cooking here because so many do not know how to cook from scratch, hence why kitchen witchery has become a thing (I mean no disrespect either, but I see so many kitchen witchery articles that are just recipes). Indeed cooking is a kind of alchemy all by itself.
So why is cooking so important? I think it is one of the major ways in which we have lost some control over our lives. We’ve become reliant on cheap prepackaged food and in doing so we’ve forgotten the basics. So learn to cook from scratch. Learn how to make stocks, learn which ingredients can be substituted for others. Find out what’s in season, because food that’s in season will be cheaper to buy.
A word on sourcing food. There is a common misconception, here in the UK at least, that if you’re on a low-income, you can’t afford to eat well. Whilst I always say buy the best you can afford, organic fruit and veg is great, but it is often too pricey for those on tight budgets, so buying regular fruit and veg is more than fine. Check out local markets and if you go later in the day then there’s a good chance that their goods will be reduced, but still in perfect condition. Also check out discount stores. If you’re in the UK then retailers such as Aldi and Lidl are great for fresh and affordable food.
Foraging is another way to increase your food supplies. I know the idea seems pretty out there (who’d of thought it eh, foraging radical?), but there is so much that is edible. Nuts are good round about now. Sweet chestnuts, cob nuts and walnuts are just some that I forage for. Mushrooms are also good now, though I do urge anyone interested in finding wild mushrooms to learn to identify them properly! But there are so many foods that can be foraged, more than I have space to write here! This is where your knowledge of the local landscape becomes important.
Medicine is another area in which we have become dependent on capitalism. Now, when I talk about medicine in this instant, please do not think that I’m advocating self diagnoses, or that the remedies I might include here are for serious conditions. But, when it comes to those minor illnesses, coughs and colds and what not, well, pharmaceutical companies make a killing on selling us useless medicines. This part leads naturally on from food, because so much of what we might call natural medicine is also food.
I live in England, and for us, autumn and winter mean an increase in all of those annoying illnesses that whilst not fatal, are annoying and uncomfortable and generally make life that little bit harder. Learning to make your own natural remedies is a way in which you can ease the symptoms of whatever ails you and at the same time save some cash.
Coughs are annoying as hell and can be painful. When you buy cough medicine from the pharmacy, all you’re really doing is buying something that doesn’t cure the cough nor the cause of it (the cough does that itself) but only soothes the symptoms. Cough medicine is basically sugar syrup. That’s it. So making your own is cheaper and better for you. Simply layer lemon and garlic (you can leave out the garlic if the taste isn’t for you, but garlic is such a potent ingredient it is well worth adding) in a jar and pour honey over until it covers, and that’s it! Keep it in the fridge. I always like to make two batches so that way I can add a shot or two of brandy or rum to one of the jars. This I’ll take in the evening or if I know I haven’t got to drive.
Colds are a pain too, especially the ones where you feel like you can’t breathe. Like coughs, the medicine you buy for colds only eases the symptoms. For colds, eucalyptus and peppermint are your friends. Make a chest rub by blending equal amounts of beeswax and coconut oil and adding drops of essential oil. Now, I do like mine quite strong, but add the oils drop by drop until you are happy with the scent. I make candles using eucalyptus oil and let them burn. Ginger is good for colds too and you can make a syrup just like the honey and lemon one, only including ginger. Make ginger tea, and if you like the taste, then candied ginger makes the perfect lozenge to eat when suffering from a cold.
But it’s not just illnesses where home medicines can be useful. There are no end of minor accidents that occur in everyday life, and for a lot of those, our response is to put on a cream, or pop some pain killers. Mugwort ointment is great for skin complaints from eczema to burns. Mugwort grows as a weed and is real easy to use. I use it in ointment form (you can watch my video here) and I drink it as a tea to ease menstrual pain. It is an abortive herb so it does cause the uterus to contract, bringing on menstrual bleeding, so take care if you’re pregnant or trying.
There is so much information available nowadays in this area, too much to write about here, but my point in writing is this. Let’s try to become less reliant on the system that we find ourselves trapped within. There’s nothing radical about the information here, nothing new. But it is these mundane efforts, combined and multiplied that will help wean us off the system that is Capitalism. It is by starting small and working upwards that we progress, in all things. In martial arts, you don’t get into the ring for a fight on your first day. No. You start with learning where to put your feet. Basic, so small a detail that you’d think it would be so insignificant, but footwork is the bread and butter of fighting and is the difference between hitting and getting hit. And so learning, or rather re-learning the basics, those forgotten skills like feeding and healing ourselves is a small step on the path to reclaiming ourselves.
My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.
Hey! We pay Emma and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂
“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”
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.
Editora/produtora independente e selo de divulgação/distribuição de material subterrâneo e libertário.
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.
Is it crass to reduce a religious practice to $40 of mass-manufactured perfumes and Tarot cards? Probably, but haven’t Pagans been debating “pay-to-pray” back and forth for years? Sure, an independent Etsy artisan needs to make a living. But doesn’t Sephora also have to tap new markets to survive? The scale’s different, but what about the essence?
Is the mall any worse than the metaphysical shop?
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.
It takes parts of you and makes commodities out of them. Your time, your physical activity, and your mental energy all get sold on the labor market like Tarot decks and perfume. Your body contains more than itself – it carries your community, the work and care of your loved ones, everything they do to keep you physically and psychologically functional. Without all that, how would you make it out of your door every morning with enough resiliency to work? After all, capital is hungry. A business needs to grow, or else other companies out-compete it in the market and force it into bankruptcy. The ones that can grow, survive. The ones that find more ways and things to eat, grow. They need your ability to work, to produce goods and services they can sell. All of the ingredients that go into your work, they consume.
Capital imposes its needs onto the dispossessed, the ones who don’t own businesses or rental properties and so have nothing to live on but their ability to work. The whole community depends on the money its wage-workers earn, so it has to organize its collective life in whatever way maximizes their employability. Wage-workers are exploited, and they incarnate entire communities of labor, exploited alongside and through them.
Religion is one way the dispossessed survive. Capitalism cuts you off from your basic nature: your capacity to flourish, to form relationships as a free being. It demoralizes in both the current and the older sense: the mindlessness and futility of wage-work, housewifery, and unemployment teach despair and induce depression, but when capital reduces you to an instrument, it de-moralizes you in a larger sense. The more of you that goes to satisfy capital’s hunger, the less of you is left for self-cultivation, creativity, and relationship-building. You are alienated from yourself.
Sephora sells to women.
The social base of religion (Pagan and otherwise) is not only the dispossessed in general, but specifically the specially-oppressed along racial, national, and gender lines. Even when the ministers and bishops are men, it’s women who cook meals for sick parishioners, clean up after services, teach Sunday school, and fill most of the pews. Capitalism, by definition, only pays for waged work. But, the health and functionality of wage-workers is costly; it takes a vast expenditure of unpaid work in the home and the community to feed and support wage-workers, take care of their kids and elders, and ease the emotional strain of their alienation. So, there’s a division of labor between paid and unpaid work, and it falls along the lines of gender. Culture, ideology, and discrimination harmonize with the pervasive reality of anti-woman and anti-LGBT violence, forming an elegantly self-reinforcing feedback loop; gender roles both flow from and reinforce the overall social system. Those who don’t fall in line get hurt.
Religion sits at a key point in the cycle. It allows the racially and nationally oppressed to rely on each other for support, fellowship, and existential meaning without their oppressors in the room for a few hours each week (is it a coincidence that in the US, Black people report being “absolutely certain” of God’s existence at a higher rate than self-identified Christians do?). Religion takes the edge off of alienation, offering a relationship with something bigger than you, your job, and your daily life – a bedrock of connections and values deeper and older than capitalism. At the same time, it transmits gender roles and racial social segregation from generation to generation, helps the dispossessed stay psychologically healthy enough to work, and gives bourgeois clergy a medium to preach patience and forbearance towards oppression rather than revolution and collective action. From time to time, though, it takes on an opposite role, providing mass movements with a moral language and the institutional infrastructure they need. Religion is politically contradictory. It keeps the dispossessed in line – except when it’s helping them liberate themselves.
Paganism has an even sharper gender skew than most religions. After all, it actively encourages women to take on sacerdotal and leadership roles (not to mention its historical ties to lesbian feminism and LGBT culture). Sephora sells to women, so selling women’s religion is an intuitive next step, especially given that pop culture is currently more infatuated with witchcraft than it has been since the 90s. When Sephora sells Paganism, it’s offering more than a deck of cards and some quartz. Sephora is no less responsible for capitalism’s crushing alienation than any other business. It helped create the ailment. Now, it’s promising a $40 cure.
Unlike most religions, modern Paganism’s basic institutional anchor isn’t the congregation. Rather, it’s the metaphysical shop. Jonathan Wooley explains:
The authors, makers and the shops that stock their wares could operate without moots and open rituals; but moots and open rituals – in their current form – could not exist without the “Pagan Business”.
The point here is not that those who make their living through Paganism are being greedy or venial. On the contrary, writing words, speaking spells, crafting holy things, and making ceremonies that heal, enlighten, and empower is important work, and those working in these ways cannot survive on mere air and good wishes. The problem arises from how we are currently supporting the work that they do, and the centrality of this (commercial) arrangement in our community. Before all else, you have to pay. By relying upon the Market to directly transmit our lore, to fund our gatherings, to supply our goods, we become complicit in it. It means the fortunes of our traditions turn not with the wheel of the year, but with the shifting fashions and stock prices of the global publishing and wellness industries. Our community is directed less by the will of the gods, and more by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. The heartbeat at the core of our living traditions becomes the ring of a cash register.
This dominance of the logic of the Market within Paganism is not surprising, even if it is disquieting. Paganism is one of the few religions to have arisen within the Modern Age, when Capitalism was in its ascendency. This has very real consequences for us all. Let us not forget the prototypical “gateway experience” for a seeker – traditionally – was buying a book from an occult book shop. The fact that the internet and Amazon have replaced the knowledgeable local bookseller is to be lamented; but it is not so meteoric shift as we might suppose. Whether your spirituality is expressed through buying knowledge from a kooky shop on Glastonbury High Street, or from Amazon, your spirituality is still being expressed through shopping. Equally, this shift demonstrates the extent to which our infrastructure is dependent upon the vagaries of the market to survive: the rise of the internet has caused many Pagan bookshops to close; depriving local communities of an invaluable opportunity to meet, learn, and socialise. Indeed, it is precisely because we have relied on the Market that this transition – from a friendly, in-community, low-profit enterprise, to a distant, global, high profit one – has taken place. The very means by which our lore is spread has been transformed for the worse by the dictat of the Market.
In other words, Sephora and a PantheaCon vendor don’t differ in essence – only in scale.
When Paganism is commercial, it’s filling religion’s conservative role, reconciling the dispossessed to their oppression. After all, if shopping is the way out of alienation, then capitalism, if not benevolent, is at least neutral. Collective action isn’t even on the radar.
But that’s not the only Paganism.
We’re all of us embedded in a living relational web – humans, the biosphere, the land and sea and sky, the gods and the dead. The nitrogen cycle and the water cycle have a sacredness. It’s holy when through death, an organism becomes food, transmuting into new life. The Sun is slowly spending itself. It feeds plants and algae with its energy, and that energy sustains the same animals who then nourish plants when they die and decompose. Gods are at once embodied in and emergent from each nexus of the process, standing at the fulcrums where nature moves humans and is itself moved. Paganism is what the mutually-conditioning cycles of ecology and evolution teach you when you pay attention to them, learn their rhythms, find where you are inside them. Prayer, devotion, myth, and ritual all orient you towards that ground of your being and make a sacrament of your participation in it. Reciprocity is cosmic, both an imperative and a fact. Do ut des, I give so that you may give, is at the heart of both polytheist sacrificial theology and the Mystery that governs the process of life.
You were born with a capacity for eudaimonia: balanced, all-sided human flourishing, the Greatest Good of ethics and philosophy. You can develop eudaimonia if you cultivate virtues: self-knowledge, self-control, justice, and right relationship. Capitalism is a social process that alienates you from that capacity, but it doesn’t destroy it. It does, however, determine the form that it needs to take.
Self-development, ritual and political practice, and reverence for the Gods, the dead, and the natural world are the foundation stones of revolutionary virtue. Paganism holds a radical seed: given the reality of capitalism and empire, the communist organizer, the Stoic sage, and the nature-mystic devotionalist must all become the same person. Each component of revolutionary virtue is incomplete by itself. They need each other, just like plants, decomposers, and nitrifying bacteria.
And it’s all unbuyable. The people trying to sell you Paganism are promising to cure your alienation with more alienation, only in disguise. They can sell you a Scott Cunningham book, a handmade pewter pendant, or a $40 “starter” box, but do those contain the Mystery? At best, they’re dispensable props. At worst, they’ll actively mislead you; like any religion, Paganism can teach you to accept your oppression or it can teach you to fight it.
If you really want to buy something, get Marcus Aurelius or an ecology textbook. Read myths. Go out and see how mosses and lichens grow on trees and how trees that die feed mushrooms and bacteria, fertilizing the soil. The relational web spreads out from there. It reaches to the sun, the atmosphere, the microorganisms, and the gods who take their embodiment in that dynamic interplay. Find your nature, your inborn potential for virtue, eudaimonia, and right relationship. You are in the web. Root yourself. Capitalism uproots you and disrupts your nature. It’s throwing the whole world’s processes so off-kilter that if it isn’t stopped, the ecosphere will endure – but it will be so changed that humans won’t be able to live in it.
Paganism lives in that knowledge. It’s a method – you learn the context of human life and you choose to act accordingly. Sephora can’t sell it to you, but neither can the vendors at Pagan Pride.
You can’t simply opt out of the alienation capitalism imposes. But, you can choose what to do about it; you are existentially free. Paganism can be a path to knowledge and revolutionary virtue, or it can be an “opiate of the masses.”
Sephora wants to sell you one of those. But you’re free to choose the other.
“The fight against Eurocentrism, a thing which does not allow for a life with dignity, is a struggle against the naturalization of racial oppression in the social condition of the worker. For this reason, Pan-Africanism is a necessary understanding of class struggle.”
In the second to last week of August, the Faculty of Law of the Federal University of Bahia, in Salvador, hosted the first cycle of a course on Marxism and Pan-Africanism. This course will be a recurring initiative to discuss concepts and disseminate knowledge not only for law students in the university. From the 20th to the 23rd, the doors of the main auditorium were open to everyone with an interest in the event, free of charge. It was not just a lecture on the perspective of black women, on the history of white supremacy and capitalism, or on the meaning of Pan-Africanism. It was a meeting of exchange that brought together speakers, teachers, poets, students, writers, artists and more, many of whom were not always welcome in that space. Due value must be given to the initiative to address anti-capitalist and anti-racist issues and practices in the academic environment where Brazilian Law is researched and enforced.
On the first day of the course, before the lecture of Dr. Lindinalva de Paula, there was a warm welcome from the table and exciting performances of theater and poetry. The topic of the lecture, the perspective of black women on Pan-Africanism, was fully expressed in everyone’s chest when Sophia Araujo stepped on stage and presented her poetry- in the presence of her daughter named Dandara (also the name of a notorious enslaved woman of the 17th century). The bridge between the reality of the streets today, and the theoretical debate of centenary ideologies, has materialized in an environment that has been historically hostile against both.
One of the participants at the beginning of the event stated not only the relevance of us being there, but the obligation we have to occupy that space. She reports that in that same room she has been booed for defending affirmative action, and many have been booed for trying to address anti-racism. Combating institutional racism needs the production of anti-racist knowledge, bringing other non-European rationalities to the academic environment. This means not only studying, but transforming.
“Until the lions have their own historians, hunting stories will continue to glorify the hunter.” (Eduardo Galeano)
Leno Sacramento, from the Olodum Theater, presented a shocking performance on police oppression, addressing the psychological and physical violence that compose our incessant denunciations against the genocide of black people. Nor can we forget the invisibilisation and ideological silencing of black and indigenous peoples, reinforced by epistemic-genocide, which brings us the famous phrase “death begins before the shot” (Pedro Borges).
The event was not restricted to the urban context, a link between the rural area and the urban area was also forged. There was a representative affirmation of Union power in contrast to the corporate one. And the presence of members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) brought to the table the struggle of black peasants. Therefore the symbiosis of land, class, and race was demonstrated in theoretical and practical ways.
“I am landless / I am poor / I am black / I am a revolution” (Raumi Souza, musician and MST member)
Dr. Lindinalva de Paula’s talk had a simple and indispensable message: Together, black women go further. Alone they may walk fast, but even with all their titles, it is a trap. “Our steps come from afar,” she said, referring to all the black women who came before us, and made our way possible today. They were part of a feminism that was not Eurocentric, that burned no bras, and was not ignorant of Africa. They had different guidelines; for example, daycare, which was not a white feminist agenda because they had access to basic health, and when they got pregnant they could hire a black woman to help. In the periphery, and before, black women were already feminists.
“We did not become feminists, we did not know we were doing feminism all along.” (Dr. Lindinalva de Paula)
The following day, the lecture by Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira also addressed the issue of the black movement’s dialogue with whiteness, only from a more Marxist perspective. In contrast to the previous speaker, who at no point demonstrated any value in the political collaboration between black women and white feminists, he argued that despite the position of undeniable whiteness from which Marx and Engels spoke, they did not reproduce the racism of their time. At least not after a certain point in their careers. Therefore, for him, there is no contradiction in adopting the philosophies of these thinkers in the anti-racist or Pan-Africanist struggle.
Before the course began, attendees received an email with a video of a debate that clearly shows the tense divergence within the Pan-africanist movement between Afrocentric and Marxist thinkers. Eurocentrism, as a worldview where racism is put into practice, has no place in Pan-africanist doctrine. While Afrocentrics believe that adopting Marxism means giving space to a Eurocentric doctrine, Marxists such as Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira believe that Marx and Engels overcame their inherited Eurocentrism and fought against racism.
“Were Marx and Engels racist?” To the lecturer, no. They undoubtedly studied the texts of people contaminated by ‘ethnocentrism’, such as Hegel, who believed that world history was an evolutionary process from the East to the West, concluding that Africa, having a stateless people, had no history. They were not only European intellectuals, but they were German, in a colonial and enslaver period that oppressed even the peripheries of their own continent (the Slavs), but eventually they joined the struggle against slavery and against colonialism.
If Marx and Engels’ struggle against slavery and colonialism was indeed an anti-racist act, it remained open. They stood in favor of anti-colonial revolts in India and China, defending them as strategies proportional to the violence of capitalism and colonialism. They also defended the North in the U.S. civil war, denouncing biased journalism in Britain that had economic interests in cotton production in the South. Marx even “let” his daughter marry a Haitian of Afro-descent. That is what it means to be anti-racist in the 19th century, even if these are no longer our standards for determining whether someone is racist or not today. Unfortunately, the lecturer hinted that racism was once more palpable back then, and that our criteria for categorizing racism today is subjective; it is enough to say that African paganism is “of the devil”.
This reading does not work for everyone. A member of the audience questioned whether these arguments are enough to determine whether or not someone was racist. Being abolitionist, at that time, was a position held by many who had interests far from being the destruction of white supremacy. Having a black relative also means nothing, since even Bolsonaro tried to use this argument to reassure that he is not racist. Others have brought the question of how racism persisted after socialist revolutions in Cuba and Russia. And the Afrocentric Pan-africanist organization React or Die asked to have their flag removed from the event, but maintaining cordial relations and organizers of the course demonstrating full support for their VI International March Against the Genocide of the Black People that happened 4 days later, August 25th, and to the “Don’t Vote, React!” campaign.
Since the 19th century, racism has not ceased to be palpable and real. From medical genocide, necropolitics, mass incarceration, to police violence, our criteria for denouncing racism still holds immense weight on the bodies of black people in Brazil. A Marxism that is not anti-racist is possible, but for the speaker, being a Marxist without being anti-racist is an appropriation of the term. An anti-racism that is not Marxist is unquestionably embraced, since our goal is human emancipation and we fight against all forms of oppression. We do not have to be Marxist to be anti-capitalist. Other anti-capitalist guidelines are more than welcome.
Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, the speaker the following 3 days of the course, presented a different perspective on the relationship between Eurocentrism and Marxism. What Marxism and Pan-Africanism have in common is that they are effective ideologies in dealing with historical moments of conflict. It’s not possible to essentialize the two ideologies. There is no homogeneity, there is history. The movement of history is one of transformation and conflict.
Some say they don’t want to read white writers, but those who kill us have only what to gain from that. “They are horrible indeed,” he said, but it is not consistent to read Fanon without reading Hegel, for example. Even though Hegel had extremely ethno / Eurocentric rhetoric, and undeniably racist stances, he also introduced us to the dialectic between the master and the enslaved.
W.e.b. Du Bois was the first black man with a Harvard doctorate. Without theory, practice submits itself to the immediate. But Marxism has nothing to teach the worker. “Theory of the Strike?” Uniting theory and practice, intellectuals and politicians, means joining the agenda of thought with political practice, since the transformation of the world depends on us understanding the world.
At the same time, the act of transformation transforms the practitioner: Praxis. The future must be built and can be transformed. In the midst of many fantastic examples and analyzes, perhaps the most striking example of the union of theory and practice, praxis, and transformation, was the presentation of the concept of naturalization of the condition of exploitation.
Naturalizing the social condition of the worker happens through the Capitalist ideology. Their condition is naturalized within the system by the social division of labor, which depends on race and gender. These social relations are concrete. They are social relations that give meaning to things. Therefore, the relationship between Africa, race, slavery, and blackness is a socialization. Race itself is a historical creation. Racism created the black, and created its antithesis, the white. The fight against Eurocentrism, a thing which does not allow for a life with dignity, is a struggle against the naturalization of racial oppression in the social condition of the worker. For this reason, Pan-Africanism is a necessary understanding of class struggle.
Jal Souza, one of the attendees, explains this phenomenon wonderfully from his personal perspective:
“While the children of the elite study to develop critical thinking, young working-class people are committed to increasing the small profit of the family, and thus are not allowed intellectual development. I remember a youth, poor financially, where to open a book was seen as an act of pure entertainment and laziness, for there is no value recognized in those words but rather contempt. Time spent reading should be employed in paid work. The irrelevance of the study and relevance of basic manual labor makes it difficult for boys and girls from the peripheries to see themselves in educational institutions. Therefore, they occupy the positions of worse remuneration and greater physical effort, without representation in political organizations, and without knowing how to claim and conquer rights. Rich and white men, those who are most interested in keeping the mechanisms of the system in place, decide the future of all.” (Jal Souza)
While Marxism makes contact with reality by piercing to ideology, structural racism is the social fabric that sustains institutions. We can advance in isolated institutional contexts, without even beginning to change this structure. Racism consists not only of conscious actions, but also of the unconscious ones, those in the economic, political, and subjective level. In fact, the “demonization” of African cultures leads black people to lose identity and to accept the structure as natural and immutable.
The last day of the lecture took place in the Brazilian Bar Association, the institution where the abolition of slavery was discussed in Brazil. Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida again shared a moving and inspiring speech, this time on the legacy of the thinker, artist, and now officially lawyer, Luiz Gama.
Slavery has different moments, and Luis Gama lived during the most brutal of them. He was a lawyer for enslaved people, and accused the public power, the empire, putting it in the press and using public opinion in his favor. In 1881 there was a lynching of 4 enslaved whom he considered heroes. Those people were lynched because they killed their “lord.” Luis Gama boldly stated publicly that it is important to be radical against an evil that is even more radical, and that these enslaved men killed in self-defense. Killing the master is self-defense. This led him to be persecuted. His story is active resistance.
Luiz Gama is an idea. An idea that materialized there at that moment, in that room in the Brazilian Bar Association. “His story is in each one of us.” (Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida)
is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.
Para Além dos Muros: A Academia e o Debate Antirracista
Na penúltima semana de Agosto, a Faculdade de Direito da UFBA hospedou o primeiro ciclo de formação do curso de Marxismo e Pan-Africanismo. Esse curso será uma iniciativa recorrente de debater e disseminar conhecimento, não só para alunos(as) de direito na universidade. Do dia 20 a 23, as portas do principal auditório estavam abertas para todos e todas com interesse no evento, gratuitamente. Não foi apenas uma palestra sobre a perspectiva de mulheres negras, sobre a historia da supremacia branca e do capitalismo, ou sobre o significado de Pan-africanismo. Foi um encontro de aprendizado e troca que reuniu palestrantes, professores(as), poetas, alunos(as), escritores(as), artistas e mais, muitos dos quais nem sempre foram bem-vindos naquele espaço. Devido valor deve ser dado à iniciativa de abordar os temas e práticas anti-capitalistas e antirracistas no ambiente acadêmico onde pesquisa-se e aplica-se a Lei.
No primeiro dia de curso, antes da palestra da Dr. Lindinalva de Paula, houve um caloroso bem vindo da mesa e apresentações emocionantes de teatro e poesia. O tópico da palestra, a perspectiva das mulheres negras sobre o Pan-africanismo, foi expresso em completo no peito de todos e todas quando Sophia Araújo subiu no palco e apresentou suas poesias- na presença de sua filha chamada Dandara. A ponte entre a realidade das ruas hoje, e o debate teórico de ideologias centenárias, se concretizou em um ambiente que foi historicamente hostil contra os dois.
Uma das participantes da mesa no inicio do evento afirmou não só a relevância de estarmos ali, mas a obrigação que temos de ocupar aquele espaço. Ela relata que naquela mesma sala ela ja foi vaiada por falar de cotas, e muitos já foram vaiados por tentar abordar o tema de antirracismo. Combater o racismo institucional demanda a produção de conhecimento antirracista, trazendo outras racionalidades não européias pra conjuntura acadêmica. Isso significa não só estudar, mas transformar.
“Até que os leões tenham seus próprios historiadores, as histórias de caçadas continuarão glorificando o caçador.” (Eduardo Galeano)
Leno Sacramento, do Teatro do Olodum, apresentou uma peça impactante sobre opressão policial, abordando a violência psicológica e física que compõe nossas incessantes denúncias contra o genocídio do povo negro. Também não podemos esquecer da invisibilisação e silenciamento ideológico de povos negros e indígenas, reforçado pelo epistemicídio, que nos traz a famosa frase “a morte começa antes do tiro” (Pedro Borges).
O evento não se restringiu ao contexto urbano, um vinculo entre a zona rural e a zona urbana também foi forjado. Houve afirmação representativa do poder sindical em contraste ao corporativo. E a presença de membros do MST trouxe à mesa a luta de camponeses e camponesas negras. Portanto a simbiose de terra, classe e raça foi demonstrada de forma teórica e prática.
“Sou sem terra / sou pobre / sou negão / sou revolução” (Raumi Souza, músico e membro do MST)
A palestra da Dr. Lindinalva de Paula teve uma simples e indispensável mensagem: Juntas, as mulheres negras andam mais longe. Sozinhas talvez andam rápido, mas mesmo com todos os seus títulos, é cilada. “Seus passos vem de longe”, ela falou, referindo-se a todas as mulheres negras que vieram antes de nós, e possibilitaram esse caminho hoje. Winnie Mandela, Amy Jacques Garvey, Lélia Gonzalez, Assata Shakur, Anna Júlia cooper são algumas delas. Unir mulher e raça significa reconhecer que existem feminismos (em plural). Existe um feminismo que não era branco eurocentrado e que queimava sutiã, já que haviam mulheres que nem usavam sutiã. Esse feminismo completamente desconhece a África, e não tem as mesmas pautas. Creche, por exemplo, não é pauta da feminista branca porque que ela tem acesso à saude básica, e quando engravidava tinha como contratar uma negra pra ajudar. Na periferia e antes, as mulheres negras já eram feministas.
“Não nos tornamos feministas, não sabíamos que estávamos fazendo feminismo o tempo todo”. (Dr. Lindinalva de Paula)
No dia seguinte, a palestra do Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira também abordou a questão do diálogo do movimento negro com a branquitude, só que de uma perspectiva mais propriamente Marxista. Em contraste com a palestrante anterior, que em momento algum demonstrou valor na colaboração politica entre mulheres negras e feministas brancas, ele argumentou que apesar da posição de inegável branquidade da qual Marx e Engels falavam, eles não reproduziam o racismo de seu tempo. Pelo menos não depois de um certo período de suas carreiras. Portanto, pra ele, não ha contradição alguma em adotar as filosofias desses pensadores na luta antirracista, ou Pan-Africanista.
Antes do curso começar, inscritos e inscritas receberam um email com o video de um debate que mostra claramente a tensa divergência dentro do movimento Pan-africanista entre Afrocêntricos e Marxistas. O Eurocentrismo, como uma visão do mundo onde o racismo é colocado em prática, não tem espaço na doutrina pan-africanista. Enquanto Afrocêntricos acreditam que se reivindicar Marxista significa dar esse espaço para uma doutrina Eurocentrica, Marxistas como Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira acreditam que Marx e Engels superaram seu Eurocentrismo herdado, e lutaram contra o racismo.
“Marx e Engels eram racistas?”, pra o Dr. não. Sem duvida eles estudavam textos de pessoas contaminadas pelo “etnocentrismo”; como Hegel, que acreditada que a história mundial era um processo evolutivo do oriente em direção ao ocidente, concluindo que a Africa, por ter um povo sem estado/civilização, não tinha historia. Eles eram dois intelectuais não só europeus, mas alemães, em um período colonial e escravagista que oprimia até as periferias de seu próprio continente (os eslavos). Mas eventualmente eles se uniram à luta contra a escravidão, e contra o colonialismo.
Se a luta de Marx e Engels contra a escravidão e o colonialismo foi de fato um ato antirracista ficou em aberto. Eles se posicionaram a favor de revoltas anti-coloniais na India e na China, as defendendo como estratégias proporcionais a violência do capitalismo e do colonialismo. Também defenderam o Norte na guerra civil Norte Americana, denunciando o jornalismo tendencioso na Inglaterra que tinham interesses econômicos na produção de algodão no Sul. Marx até “deixou” sua filha casar com um afro-descendente haitiano. Isso é o que significa ser antirracista no século 19, mesmo que esses não sejam mais nossos padrões para determinar se alguém é racista ou não hoje. Infelizmente, ele insinuou que o racismo antigamente era mais palpável, e que nosso critério pra categorizar racismo hoje em dia é subjetivo; basta falar que “o Candomblé é do diabo”.
Essa leitura não funciona pra todos. Um membro da audiência questionou no bloco de perguntas se esses argumentos são o suficiente pra determinar se alguém era ou não era racista. Ser abolicionista, naquela época, era um posicionamento mantido por muitos que tinham interesses longe de ser a destruição da supremacia branca. Ter um familiar negro também não significa nada, já que até Bolsonaro tentou usar esse argumento pra afirmar que não é racista. Outros trouxeram a questão do racismo que persistiu após revoluções socialistas em Cuba e na Russia. E a organização Pan-africanista Afrocêntrica Reaja ou será Mortx pediu para ter sua bandeira removida do evento, mas mantendo relações cordiais e organizadores do curso demonstrando completo apoio à VI Marcha Internacional Contra o Genocídio do Povo Negro que aconteceu 4 dias depois, dia 25 de Agosto, e à campanha “Não Vote, Reaja!”.
Dês do século 19, o racismo não deixou de ser palpável. Do genocídio hospitalar, necropolítica, encarceramento em massa, à violência policial, nossos critérios para denunciar racismo ainda segura um peso imenso nos corpos de negros e negras no nosso país. Um Marxismo que não seja antirracista é possível, mas para o palestrante, ser marxista sem ser antirracista é uma apropriação do termo. Um antirracismo que não seja Marxista é inquestionavelmente abraçado, já que o nosso objetivo é a emancipação humana e lutar contra todas as formas de opressão. Não precisamos ser Marxistas pra ser anti-capitalistas. Outras pautas anti-capitalistas são bem vindas.
Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, o palestrante não só do dia seguinte mas dos 3 dias seguintes do curso, apresentou uma perspectiva diferenciada sobre a relação do Eurocentrismo com o Marxismo. O que o Marxismo e o Pan-africanismo tem em comum é que são ideologias eficazes ao lidar com momentos históricos de conflito. Não é possível essencializar as duas ideologias. Não existe homogeneidade, existe história. O movimento da História é de transformação e conflito.
Alguns falam que não querem ler autores brancos, mas “quem nos mata só tem a ganhar com isso”. “Eles são horrorosos mesmo”, ele disse, mas não é coerente ler Fanon sem ler Hegel, por exemplo. Mesmo Hegel tendo seus posicionamentos extremamente etno/euro-cêntricos e inegavelmente racistas, foi ele também que nos apresentou a dialética entre mestre e escravizado.
W.e.b. Du Bois foi o primeiro negro com doutorado de Harvard. Sem a teoria, a prática se submete ao imediato. Mas o Marxismo não tem nada a ensinar ao trabalhador. “Teoria da Greve?” Unir teoria e prática, intelectuais e políticos, significa unir a pauta de compreensão com a prática política, já que a transformação do mundo depende de nós entendermos o mundo.
Ao mesmo tempo, a ação transformadora transforma o praticante: Praxis. O futuro deve ser construído e pode ser transformado. Em meio de muitos fantásticos exemplos e analises, talvez o mais impactante exemplo de união de teoria e pratica, práxis, e transformação, foi a apresentação do conceito de naturalização da condição de explorado.
Naturalizar a condição social do trabalhador acontece pela ideologia Capitalista. Naturaliza-se sua condição dentro do sistema pela divisão social do trabalho, que depende da raça e do gênero. Essas relações sociais são concretas. São relações sociais que dão sentido para as coisas. A relação entre África, raça, escravidão, e negro, portanto, é uma socialização. Raça em si é uma criação histórica. O racismo criou o negro, e criou sua antítese, o branco. A luta contra o Eurocentrismo, uma coisa que não viabiliza uma vida com dignidade, é uma luta contra a naturalização da opressão racial na condição social do trabalhador. Por isso, o Pan-africanismo é uma compreensão necessária da luta de classe.
Jal Souza, um dos ouvintes da palestra, explica esse fenômeno maravilhosamente a partir de sua perspectiva pessoal:
“Enquanto os filhos da elite e dos pequenos burgueses estudam para elevar o pensamento crítico, os jovens da classe trabalhadora estão empenhados em aumentar o pequeno lucro da família, e portanto, não se permitem ao desenvolvimento intelectual. Recordo de uma juventude, pobre financeiramente, onde abrir um livro era visto como um ato de puro entretenimento e preguiça, pois, não ha valor reconhecido naquelas palavras, mas sim desprezo. Aquele tempo gasto com leitura deveria ser empregado em um trabalho remunerado. A medição da sabedoria é medida pela capacidade de ganhar dinheiro, não pelo conhecimento. A irrelevância do estudo e valorização do trabalho básico e braçal faz com que os meninos e meninas das periferias não se enxerguem em instituições de ensino. Portanto, ocupam os postos de trabalhos de pior remuneração e maior esforço físico, sem representação nas organizações políticas, e sem saber reivindicar e conquistar direitos. Permitindo assim, que os homens brancos e ricos, os maiores interessados em manter os mecanismos do sistema vigente, decidam o futuro de todos.” (Jal Souza)
Dia 23 de Agosto foi o lançamento do livro O Que é Racismo Estrutural? do Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, na Senzala do Barro Preto.
O espaço cultural Senzala do Barro Preto é sede do bloco afro Ilê Ayiê, “uma entidade carnavalesca que funciona como centro cultural no bairro do Curuzú, ensinando e difundindo entre os moradores da localidade e regiões próximas à identidade africana, mostrando com orgulho o poder da ancestralidade, religiosidade e construção dos negros no Brasil e internacionalmente.” (Jal Souza)
Enquanto o Marxismo faz contato com a realidade furando a ideologia, o racismo estrutural é o tecido social que sustenta instituições. Podemos avançar em contextos isolados institucionais, sem nem começar a mudar essa estrutura. O racismo não constitui apenas de ações conscientes, mas também das inconscientes, as do nível econômico, político e subjetivo. Aliás, a “demonizaçāo” das culturas africanas leva o negro perder sua identidade e a aceitar a estrutura como natural e imutável.
A performance do grupo indígena Ybytu Emi trouxe a pauta artística, musical, e teatral como expressão das raizes entrelaçadas da comunidade indígena e negra brasileira. Nítido ficou o entrelaço dos índios na vanguarda da proteção da cultura africana no Brasil, no passado, e das religiões afros preservando a cultura indígena, no presente.
E por fim, o ultimo dia de palestra aconteceu na Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, uma instituição onde discutia-se a abolição da escravatura no Brasil. Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida novamente compartilhou um discurso comovente e inspirador, dessa vez sobre o legado do pensador, artista, e agora oficialmente advogado, Luiz Gama.
A escravidão tem momentos diferentes, e Luis Gama viveu durante o mais brutal deles. Ele era advogado pra pessoas escravizadas, e acusava o poder público, o império, colocando na imprensa e usando a opinião pública no seu interesse. Em 1881 houve um linchamento de 4 escravizados que ele considerava heróis. Aquelas pessoas foram linchadas porque mataram o “senhor”. Luis Gama corajosamente afirmou publicamente que é importante ser radical contra um mal que é mais radical ainda, e que esses escravizados mataram em legítima defesa. Matar senhor de engenho é legítima defesa. Isso o levou a ser perseguido. Sua historia é uma resistência ativa.
Luiz Gama é uma idéia. Uma idéia que se materializou ali naquele momento, naquela mesa na AOB. “A história dele esta em cada um e uma de nós.” (Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida)
é militante anti-fascista/decolonial, e feminista interseccional. Ela edita o site Gods and Radicals.