Finding The Real

“Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, this is truly the time to get yourselves out of doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.”

From Emma Kathryn

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‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’

~ Albert Einstein

The the darker months are almost upon us, and as you know, it is my favourite time. Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, now is truly the time to get yourselves out-of-doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.

Even for witches, there is always something new to be discovered. Perhaps that is the truest definition of what witchcraft is – uncovering the secrets of nature.

Sunday just past, this witch went walking, looking for those magical plants that can unlock the secrets of soul flight. And though none could be found, there were other hidden delights that set the soul ablaze.

It was my partner’s idea to go out early that morning. He’s an angler, a fisherman, and the river is his stomping ground.

The river is about a ten minute walk from my home. It’s one of those places that is split in two, a liminal space, if you will. If you head towards the retail park and just along the side of it, you can get to the Riverside Walk. It is nice there, if you like your nature a little more tamed, a little more controlled. The tarmacked path cuts through trees and bushes, but then opens on one side to reveal the river. There are benches that overlook the marina, and then you can cross the bridge and head into town towards the castle and the Riverside Park.

But for those of us who prefer the wild, there is a different side to the river.

You used to be able to go under the road bridge and across the train tracks to get to the river, but the gates there are welded shut now – closed for safety reasons we are told, but I’m guessing the real reason is money related. Anyway, you can still get to the wild river, you just have to cross the scrapyard now.

If you head away from the town centre, following the flow of the river, you go under a rail bridge and come to a small stream that joins the river. There’s a bridge across the stream, but nowadays it is blocked off in the middle, for the land on the other side is owned by British Sugar and we are not allowed there.

But for those of us who have grown up here, especially those who grew up on the council estates, the river was our playground as youngsters. We went where we pleased. Some of us still do. Nowadays though, we tell our children to stay away from the river, for I feel there is much lost, from one generation to the next and some of that, heck, most of that is knowledge. That’s progress for you I suppose, but when we were kids, we spent those lazy summer days at the river. The braver ones amongst us, usually the lads, would jump into the cold waters, usually from off one of the bridges, but us others would paddle. Most if not all of our parents were poor, the working kind of poor, and back then it was normal to be left alone or with an older sibling while they went out to work. That’s why we got away with so much more in those days.

However on this day, my partner and I didn’t cross the stream here. He knows another way for he knows this place better than I. So we made our way alongside the stream, pushing through brambles and thistles and nettles, the paths of his youth long overgrown and little used, if at all, now. More than once thorns, wickedly sharp, would scratch me, even through denim, and the nettles were higher than my waist, but still we pushed on.

Everything requires a sacrifice.

Of some sort at least, and in any case, the discomfort was momentary and soon forgotten. There’s a disused bridge, crumbling and overgrown and we crossed the stream this way. It was almost like being in a fairy tale, what with the crumbling brickwork and concrete, bindweed, brambles and hawthorn and the  grey sky above us.

I can’t really describe where we came out. There were enclosed meadows, and smaller areas of thick grass as well as marshy areas. The only way to tell where those boggy patches are is by the grass that grows in such places. Here thick green reeds shoot up, and it would be easy for those not used to such areas to end up muddy and wet.

As we walked, in the distance I spotted the unmistakable lope of a fox. He was some way off, but still, I pointed him out and we watched it for a few seconds before moving on. We walked on for a while until, about fifty metres in front we spotted another. We were down wind of it, and it and so remained undetected.

It was hunting. We watched as it would leap into the air, coming down hard with its front paws. Then it would stand still, it’s big bushy tail, red with a white tip, swaying, almost cat-like as it listened to where it’s prey hid. Then all of a sudden it would leap into the air again. Either it grew bored or its prey had managed to escape because after around five minutes the fox stopped for a scratch and a lie down. When it finally saw us, it turned and disappeared through the trees.

Watching that, the world of the everyday seemed a million miles away. It was a profound, sacred experience. Perhaps this is magic itself, that connection to the land, to nature. To the real. Sometimes in modern Paganism, I find this experience is what is lacking.

‘You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage.’

~ Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

In the last couple of weeks, the hot topic in the Pagan and witchcraft sphere has been the Witch Starter Kits, produced by the fragrance brand Primrose, which were going to be sold by Sephora. Well, the Witch community was divided., and after a lot of backlash, the product has been scrapped. Some were appalled that a company were appropriating their religion, their spirituality, whilst others saw the kits as a good thing,  a way to reach those who might have no other option open to them.

I’m not even going to get started on what I think of the situation, though I will say that I think the discussions on both sides misses the point.

Whether or not the makers were appropriating witchcraft is neither here nor there, at least that’s how I see it. After all, that’s what the Capitalist State does. Everything is a commodity, everything is for sale. Nothing is sacred.

Witchcraft is already appropriated and sold. Look at all of the mass-produced tat, probably made somewhere by brown people with little or no worker rights. I went to my local Pagan Pride this year, and whilst I had a great time and bought a print from a local artist, there were so many stalls flogging cheap resin statues made in China, or the obligatory tumbled stone, or cheap and perfumed incense, stuff you could buy at any New Age shop.

The point is, none of that shit is real. Not really. We don’t need it for our witchcraft practise. We only need ourselves and, of course nature. Those experiences out by the river were real. It is difficult to describe, that feeling that you are home, that you could indeed spend hour upon hour out there. Time seems to move differently there. It seeps and pools here and stretches out there, so that you lose all sense of time. You think an hours passed and really, it’s been two or three.

That is real.

And everyday, our access to these areas are restricted. When all the land is lost, how will we connect to what is real? Then, all of the ‘things’ in the world will not help our crafts. When you have found that, what is real, what speaks to our souls, then you will know what it is I speak of here. And if you already have that connection, then you already know.

As the northern hemisphere begins its descent into the darker months, go out and connect with the land where you live. Find the Real where you are, wherever that may be.


Emma Kathryn

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.


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When They Bought Us Out

“[W]hite supremacy exists not external to the class, but as a perversion of its own interests.”

From Shane Burley

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Based on a speech delivered at The Potter’s House in Washington D.C. on June 19th, 2017.

The days that followed Donald Trump’s unlikely election were a red-carpet moment for Twitter nationalists.

Richard Spencer made his fame in the wake of Trump’s run, as the Alt Right rose in public recognition as the new leadership for a fascist movement made visible. Spencer was the President of the National Policy Institute; a white nationalist think tank that built up an intellectual underpinning to a self-conscious fascist movement. It knew what it was, and it didn’t lie.

He had been holding posh conferences in the heart of Washington D.C. for years, and he planned his November 2016 conference just after the election. It was going to be a celebration or a recommital to accelerationism, whatever worked. In front of a crowd of suits and MAGA hats Spencer berated the press and gave a raucous speech, going fully explicit with the language with which he saw his movement.

“To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer, and a conqueror. We build, we produce, we go upward. And we recognize the central lie of American race relations. We don’t exploit other groups. We don’t gain anything from their presence. They need us, and not the other way around. Whiteness, or rather identity, is being forced on the deracinated, consumerist “last man” that is European America. No one is going to be permitted to escape this process. Great historical changes are imminent when people are forced into a binary choice, fight or flee, join or die, resist or cuck. That is the position of white people right now.”

That speech finished with an explosion from the crowd when Spencer yelled “Hail Trump! Hail Our People! Hail Victory.” The Roman Salutes that dotted the audience made sense, and the liberal media loved it.

One year later, at the November 2017 NPI conference, things had changed. The infighting in the Alt Right began almost immediately, with the revolutionary white nationalists separating from the Trump Republicans. Antifascist mass actions began to disrupt any functioning event the Alt Right had, from Spencer’s campus appearances to Identity Evropa’s brief attempts at anti-immigrant rallies. Then there was Charlottesville, a window into the reality of what the white nationalist movement is capable of, and the mass media platform denial that came as a result. Social media, podcast hosting, YouTube, and almost all venues for their expression were halted; their message, and money, began to flounder in the wake.

This year, they were no longer allowed the Ronald Reagan building in D.C.’s City Center, but instead had to rent an unheated barn in rural Pennsylvania. They could not secure another venue, no one would rent to them: it simply wasn’t worth it. During the event Spencer did an interview with author Angela Nagle for a documentary on the Alt Right, discussing the state of their movement and Spencer’s vision for a great white empire.

When Nagle asked what he would do with the American whites who did not want the vision he promised, he had a binary choice. “Then we will force them to be free.”

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Fascism is not just a system of obtuse and indecipherable totalitarianism. It is not simply the decisive rule from the top. It is populist: meaning, in a sense, it is popular. It is a movement that has to be rooted in the people. Fascism was not popular in an era before mass politics, when aristocratic elites ruled by decry without the charade of mass democracy. Fascism rises and rules by the mass participation of segments of the working class, a point which many have tried to ignore. It is the flaws in democracy it hopes to exploit, to expose the lies of extra-judicial violence and control that allow the system to continue.

As a revolutionary movement which seeks to undermine some of the basic assumptions of Western liberalism, fascism rises from the same conditions that the radical left does: economic strife, dehumanizing living conditions, racial conflict, state repression, and the range of violence marked by modern capitalist society. This creates the turmoil, a revolutionary spirit that can tip over into a number of directions. The rage of the marginalized classes is always sincere and valid, yet its purity guarantees nothing about outcomes.

One element that can pivot and distort class rebellion is the meager benefits that a privileged class of workers have. This is to say, the more white, male, or otherwise marginally-benefited workers have, the more advantages they see above their counterparts. A reactionary privileged class, desperate to hold on to those privileges in a world of uncertainty and competition, have the longest tradition of patented self-destruction. The inability of white workers to see the benefits of anti-racist solidarity, the strength that comes from class unity only possible through a revolutionary refusal of white supremacy, has been the bargain made for decades in an attempt to grasp at that privilege.

This choice has been the Achilles Heel of the worker’s movement, and largely all left mass movements, and enacts arson on liberation. The push in the labor movement to bait out immigrants, including demonizing immigrant labor, was a bid to raise wages for domestic workers. However, it ignored the fact that those meager wage gains were nothing compared to what could have been achieved if a true internationalism was embedded. The benefits of male social caste came at the cost of crushing patriarchy, the kind of rigid gender roles that have cost men the ability to hold relationships and live with themselves as they are. The exchange has been made, and for pennies now they lost thousands.

The mass politics of fascism is built on the white working class, it cannot exist without it. They are what gives it strength, people, anger. They are the enforcers, even the vanguards, even if they are not the beneficiaries. This reality has to be confronted: white supremacy exists not external to the class, but as a perversion of its own interests. But whose fault is it? As the left recedes into urban college campuses, internalize jargon, and failed liberal movements, where is the white working class? Is it organizing?

No one needs to tell us to organize, to survive. We do it every day, and we do it without the organized left. There is no reason to believe, however, that this is always in a direction we could celebrate, or even accept. The old IWW slogan of “if you aren’t talking to your co-worker, someone else is” with the silhouette of a Klansman rings true, and the anger of the white worker class has nowhere to go but down. Their energy, built on de-industrialization, falling real wages, and the true reality of working life rises; it has been effectively turned upon itself and on immigrants, women, queers, and people of color.

This is not eternal, it has not always been this way. While the shift has taken place, the left has always been there, a step away to mock, criticize, and remain insular, losing popularity as it loses the class.

This is a call to engage all members of the working class in fundamental change, but it is not a declaration to ignore the reality of violent white supremacy coming from people with similar paychecks to our own. We have to prioritize defense in times of repression and supremacist insurrection, including building networks of community protection against white nationalist attacks and the growing infrastructure of genocide in the state. While white workers have not largely sided with movements like the project to Abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcment (ICE) system, we push ahead without apology.

Regardless, white workers benefit from a deeply revolutionary antiracist movement, one that drives out divisions in the working class. Such a movement can do so only by uprooting actual inequality and destroying racism, both interpersonal and institutional. When white workers give up privilege by undoing the system of institutionalized white supremacy, they will get solidarity in return. This provides real power, not just the illusion of freedom so many cling to.

A movement like that can destroy all borders, wages, bosses, and states. And to do that we need everyone together, with foundations that were built consciously. A working class movement does not abandon the work at road blocks, or offense, or even trauma; instead, it sees the reclamation of the class as inherent to a revolutionary process. This doesn’t stop the work: there are two projects ahead, revolution against the top and the rebuilding of the class. This is a permanent work in progress, a permanent revolution.

This doesn’t mean every white worker will read your pamphlet, hear your speech, and join your movement. And why would they? Organizing rests on more than that: the legitimacy of shared class identification and matching of idealism with material conditions. It won’t work universally, and the “false consciousness,” or even parallel consciousness, lingers in huge swaths of people whose mythology of self is cemented in the whiteness offered as a consolation prize. That doesn’t matter, though: they benefit from the destruction of whiteness just the same.

So that means going forward. And if they tell you they don’t want it, then we will give them a binary choice. We will force them to be free.


Shane Burley

12375190_1270053539678590_6582607531732468985_oShane Burley is a writer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon.  He is the author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How We Stop It (Forthcoming 2017, AK Press). His work has been featured in places like In These Times, ThinkProgress, Roar Magazine, Labor Notes, Make/Shift, Upping the Ante, and Waging Nonviolence. He can be found at ShaneBurley.net, and on Twitter @Shane_Burley1


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“Die Early and Often”: Being Attis in the Anthropocene

“We are not going to be saved.”

From John Halstead

“The Awakening” by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. (National Harbor, Maryland)

In yesterday’s post, “‘What If It’s Already Too Late?’: Being an Activist in the Anthropocene”, I faced the fact that we are … well, f**ked.  Our civilization is rushing toward its inevitable end.  And it’s going to take out a big part of the biosphere with it.

Cap and trade is not going to save us.  Renewable energy is not going to save us.  Nuclear energy is not going to save us.  Carbon capture is not going to save use.  The politicians are not going to save us.  The scientists are not going to save us.  The activists are not going to save us.

We are not going to be saved.

For so many reasons, we are going to fail … and fail badly.

Once we come to terms with that fact, the question becomes …

So What Do We Do Now?

“The real question is what is the social role of one who understands that all this will end?”

— Vinay Gupta, “Death and the Human Condition” in Walking on Lava: Selected Works for Uncivilised Times

What does socially responsible acceptance look like?

Well, let’s start with what it doesn’t look like …

I know it doesn’t look like throwing up our hands and doing nothing.

But I also don’t think it looks like more “expressive hobbyists” marching on weekends, rallying in front of empty government buildings with the hope of influencing lawmakers, and getting arrested for blocking traffic hundreds of miles away from the thing being protested–what Sophia Burns calls “catharsis politics”. (Been there, done that!)

I also don’t think it looks like more of the circle-jerk that is activist networking, where people from one activist organization agree to attend the events of another group with the expectation that the latter will reciprocate by attending the events of the former, thus creating the “comical scenario [where] 20 different organizations ‘endorse’ an event at which only 40 people show up”. (Been there, done that too!)

But I don’t think it looks like communist “base-building” either, at least not if it’s done with the ulterior motive of fostering an increasingly improbable proletariat revolution.  Even if the revolution were going to happen, it would be too little too late.

And I’m sure it doesn’t looks like endless quibbling over trivial details of Leftist political theory with online frenemies, alienating naïve progressives with superior cynicism, or sending passionate manifestos, heavy laden with Marxist jargon, into the etheric echo chamber. (See “Your Politics Are Boring as Fuck” by Nadia C.)

I think maybe it does look like building what Dr. Bones calls a “leftism with benefits”, acquiring land, skills, and resources to improve the lives of the exploited and oppressed in the here and now, while also creating spaces to which people can retreat to when as the shit hits the fan.  I think maybe it does look like building refuges, as Peter Kingsnorth suggests, for human and other-than-human life:

“Maybe you can buy up some land and rewild it; maybe you can let your garden run free; maybe you can work for a conservation group or set one up yourself; maybe you can put your body in the way of a bulldozer; maybe you can use your skills to prevent the destruction of yet another wild place …

“Ask yourself: what power do you have to preserve what is of value—creatures, skills, things, places? Can you work, with others or alone, to create places or networks that act as refuges from the unfolding storm?”

— Paul Kingsnorth, “Dark Ecology”

This is a rational response to impending disaster.  A compassionate response.  A good response.  One that has the virtue of at least reducing some of the suffering that will attend the end of the world.

But I’ll be honest.  I want something more than pragmatism.  It’s not enough to keep me going.  I want something more from the end of the world.

I want transformation.

And for that, I have to turn to religion.

We Are the Dying God

“Isis and Osiris” by Susan Seddon-Boulet

“I will go down to self-annihilation and Eternal Death;
Lest the Last Judgement come and find me unannihilate,
And I be seiz’d and giv’n into the hands of my own Selfhood.”

— William Blake, “Milton’s Journey to Eternal Death”

One of the things that drew me to Neo-Paganism was the myth of the Dying God.  There are several examples of dying gods in ancient pagan sources: Egyptian Osiris, Canaanite Ba’al, Babylonian Tammuz, Greek Dionysus … and Phrygian Attis, who sacrificed himself to the Great Mother goddess Cybele and was reborn as a pine tree.

“They say that the Mother of the Gods seeing Attis lying by the river Gallus fell in love with him, took him, crowned him with her cap of stars … He fell in love with a nymph and left the mother to live with her. For this, the Mother of the Gods made Attis go mad and cut off his genital organs … and then return to dwell with her.

“Now the Mother of the Gods is the principle that generates life; that is why she is called Mother.  Attis is the creator of all things which are born and die … For Gallus signifies the … Milky Way, the point at which body subject to passion begins. … Attis loved a nymph: the nymphs preside over generation … But since the process of generation must be stopped somewhere … the creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into creation and is joined to the Gods again.  Now these things never happened, but always are. … Thus, as the myth is in accord with the cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the cosmos, for how could we obtain a higher order?”

— Sallustius, “On the Gods and The World”, IV

In the rites of Attis, celebrated the week of the spring equinox, a pine tree was cut down and carried in a procession to the temple with lamentations.  His devotees would whip themselves and sprinkle the altars and effigy of Attis with their own blood. Those who were to be dedicated as priests of the Cybele performed self-castrations.  And on the third day, the equinox, the people celebrated the Hilaria (Rejoicing), when Attis is reborn–to begin the cycle all over again.

The details of the Dying God myth very with time and place, but the Dying God archetype transcends the local instances of the myth. James Frazer and Robert Graves articulated the outline of the archetype in modern times.  From these classicists, contemporary Neo-Paganism adopted the myth of the Dying God and gave it religious expression in the form of the Wheel of the Year.

The Wheel can be understood as the life cycle of the Dying God mapped onto the solar year.  Not just the life of the Dying God, though. The Wheel of the Year represents the cycle of his relationship to the undying Goddess in her triune form of mother-lover-slayer.  (Note: The genders of these deities can be interchangeable or altogether optional.) Starhawk explains the relationship of the Dying God and the Goddess in this way:

“The Goddess is the Encircler, the Ground of Being; the God is That-Which-Is-Brought-Forth, her mirror image, her other pole. She is the earth; He is the grain. She is the all encompassing sky; He is the sun, her fireball. She is the Wheel; He is the traveler. He is the sacrifice of life to death that life may go on. She is the Mother and Destroyer; He is all that is born and is destroyed.”

— Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

The myth of the Dying God teaches us about the meaning of death and the power of surrender.  It’s natural to want to live forever, but we are destined to die.  Death is part of the cycle of life, and nothing dies in vain. No matter or energy is lost. The movement of the Wheel–the Spiral Dance of the Goddess–sanctifies death, making it holy.

The myth of the Dying God and its embodiment in Neo-Pagan ritual has the potential to foster a transformation of consciousness toward death.  In Neo-Pagan ritual, we become the Dying God and symbolically enact a voluntary offering of our transient self to the Goddess who is the Great Cosmic Round.

“Ritualistic and mythical identification with the sacrificing God honors the life spark, even in death, and prepares to give way gracefully to new life, when the time comes for each of us to die. Waxing and waning, birth and death, take place within the human psyche and life cycle. Each is to be welcomed in its proper time and season, because life is a process of constant change. … The God is that force within us that chooses to surrender itself to the cycle, to ride the Wheel.”

— Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

By identifying with the Dying God, we renounce the need for control and permanence, for the sake of meaning and transformation.  As Joseph Campbell explained,

“When the will of the individual to his own immortality has been extinguished—as it is in rites such as these—through an effective realization of the immortality of being itself and of its play through all things, he is united with that being, in experience, in a stunning crisis of release from the psychology of … mortality.”

— Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology

This means more than merely accepting our fate.  It means shifting from an egocentric perspective, in which death is the ultimate evil, to a cosmic perspective, in which death is part of the cycle of life.  Rather than raging against the dying of the light, we surrender to the Wheel, and in surrendering, we are transformed.  This transformation brings no apotheosis, no individual immortality, but it enables us to realize the meaning of our lives as part of a greater whole which transcends us.

“The whole point of these esoteric ceremonies, rituals, prayers, etc., was to accept the death of the separate-self sense and thus rise to an identity or communion with the Great Goddess. This was a self-sacrifice, which allowed the individual to transcend the self.”

— Ken Wilber, Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution

Learning How to Die

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Illustration by Kent Williams, for the graphic novel, The Fountain, by Darren Aronofsky

“The ceaseless labour of your life is to build the house of death.”

— Michel de Montaigne

If we are to be the Dying God, then our job is to die.  According to Joseph Campbell,

“When our day is come for the victory of death, death closes in; there is nothing we can do, except be crucified–and resurrected; dismembered totally, and then reborn.”

— Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

But we actually do have a choice.  We can accept our fate and be willing sacrifices.  Or we can rage against the dying of the light and go out in a blaze of glory.  But there are costs if we choose the latter course.  As Starhawk explains,

“The God chooses to sacrifice [Himself] in order to remain within the orbit of the Goddess, within the cycle of the natural world, and within the ecstatic, primal union that creates the world. Were He to cling to any point on the wheel and refuse to give way to change, the cycle would stop; He would fall out of orbit and lose all. Harmony would be destroyed; union would be broken. He would not be preserving Himself; He would be denying his true self. His deepest passion, his very nature.”

— Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

Collectively, our society is in denial, and the costs of our denial are all around us: in the wrecking of the biosphere, in the extinction of millions of other species, in the poisoning of the soil, the water, and the air.

How do we return to the orbit of the Goddess?  How do we surrender to the Wheel?

Roy Scranton, author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization, writes that, if we want to know how to live in the Anthropocene, we need to “learn how to die”.  We need to find what Isabella Stengers and Phillipe Pignarre call “a modus moriendi“.  We need to learn how to die well.

Scranton’s suggestion for dying well is reinvesting in the humanities, relearning the art of bookmaking, and trying to preserve the best of our cultural heritage:

“If being human is to mean anything at all in the Anthropocene, if we are going to refuse to let ourselves sink into the futility of life without memory, then we must not lose our few thousand years of hard-won knowledge, accumulated at great cost and against great odds.”

— Roy Scranton, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization

But how do we choose?  How do we decide what to preserve?  What if we end up preserving the very parts of our civilization which caused all of this to happen in the first place?

And isn’t Scranton’s prescription just another “immortality project”.  Are we really embracing the death of civilization if we are still trying to preserve its best parts for posterity?

Becoming Compost

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by Em Strang

Donna Haraway, author of Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, has a different idea:

Be compost.

Rather than humanities, Haraway writes of “humusities” or the “human as humus”.  Rather than humanism (or post-humanism), she advocates a multi-species “compostism”:

“Critters are at stake in each other in every mixing and turning of the terran compost pile. We are compost, not posthuman; we inhabit the humusities, not the humanities. Philosophically and materially, I am a compostist, not a posthumanist. Critters—human and not—become-with each other, compose and decompose each other, in every scale and register of time and stuff in sympoietic tangling, in ecological evolutionary developmental earthly worlding and unworlding.”

This kind of cryptic language is characteristic of Haraway.  (She calls it “tentacular” thinking.  Imagine literary tentacles reaching everywhere, grasping here and there, creating temporary webs of significance.)  Haraway experiments with words and phrases as a way of grasping at a different mode of being (or “worlding”), one which de-centers the human.  (This de-centering is reflected in Haraway’s substitution of the term “Chthulucene” for “Anthropocene”.)

Haraway calls this new mode of being “sympoiesis”, which means “making with”, as in making our world with other species:

“Nothing makes itself; nothing is really autopoietic or self-organizing. … earthlings are never alone. That is the radical implication of sympoiesis. Sympoiesis is a word proper to complex, dynamic, responsive, situated, historical systems. It is a word for worlding-with, in company.”

“The more one looks, the more the name of the game of living and dying on earth is a convoluted multispecies affair that goes by the name of symbiosis, the yoking together of companion species, at table together.”

In the face of civilizational collapse and mass extinction, Haraway rejects both hope in “technotheocratic geoengineering fixes” and “wallowing in despair”.  Instead, she urges us to “stay with the trouble”, to

“collect up the trash of the Anthropocene, the exterminism of the Capitalocene, and chipping and shredding and layering like a mad gardener, make a much hotter compost pile for still possible pasts, presents, and futures.”

One way to do this, according to Haraway, is to “make kin” with the other-than-human beings with whom we constitute the compost piles of the earth.

Making kin means seeing our kind “as humus, rather than as human or nonhuman”.  It means recognizing that “all earthlings are kin in the deepest sense … All critters share a common ‘flesh'”.  It means

“learning again, or for the first time, how to become less deadly, more response-able, more attuned, more capable of surprise, more able to practice the arts of living and dying well in multispecies symbiosis, sympoiesis, and symanimagenesis on a damaged planet …”

Roy Scranton seems to come to the same conclusion at the end of his second book We’re Doomed. Now What?:

“The dire and seemingly unsolvable fact of climate change—just like the unsolvable fact of our own morality—doesn’t signify the end of ethical thought but its beginning, for it’s only in recognizing the fact that our lives are limited, complicit, imperfect, and interdependent that we begin to understand what it means to live together in this world.”

— Roy Scranton, “Raising a Daughter in a Doomed World”

Haraway admits this won’t be easy.  Multi-species sympoiesis isn’t something that can be “donned like a magic cape”, she says.

But we can begin by thinking ourselves beyond our egocentricism and anthropocentricism and into relationship with the more-than-human world.  Haraway calls this “thinking with”.  Other writers have attempted to think-with the other-than-human.  Aldo Leopold’s “thinking like a mountain”, comes to mind, as does Robinson Jeffers “inhumanism”:

We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

— Robinson Jeffers, “Carmel Point”

Writing more prosaically, Roy Scranton explains what we need is a radical shift of perspective:

“We need to learn to see not just with Western eyes but with Islamic eyes and Inuit eyes, not just with human eyes but with golden-cheeked warbler eyes, coho salmon eyes, and polar bear eyes, and not even just with eyes at all but with the wild, barely articulate being of clouds and seas and rocks and trees and stars.”

— Roy Scranton, “We’re Doomed. Now What?”, New York Times, Dec. 21, 2015

Science Fiction or Speculative Fabulation?

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Make Kin, Not Babies

“It is through stories that we weave reality.”

“Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto”

I began this essay with references to contemporary apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction, weaved in the ancient/modern myth of Attis/the Dying God, and now I return to science fiction, or what filmmaker Fabrizio Terranova calls “speculative fabulation”:

“A type of narration that enables one to unfold new worlds through arousing an appetite for what’s possible (what could or could have taken place). It is not just about understanding a totally new creation. The remarkable difference is that it is about placing lures susceptible of bringing forth today possibilities that were already in situations.”

Haraway’s “Camille Stories: Children of Compost” is an example of this kind of writing.  It tells the story of people living in a time of ongoing extinction due to climate change, the effects of which last for centuries.  The Children of Compost form communities of a few hundred people who migrate to damaged places and develop transformative practices for intentional kin making and work sympoietically to heal (and be healed by) kin in those places. This means intentionally reducing human numbers, while increasing the flourishing of all the species who inhabit a place.

In the Compost communities, children are rare, but precious.  When a decision is made to bring a new human infant into being, an other-than-human animal or plant symbiont is chosen for the child from among species who are threatened with extinction.  At birth, a few genes and a few microorganisms of the symbiont are added to the human child’s body.  The human child’s formative years are spent learning how to nurture the symbiont species, as well as the other species on whom the symbiont depends.

This commitment to symbiosis binds five generations of humans.  The Camille Stories relate the stories of five generations of Camilles, living between 2025 and 2425 in a part of West Virginia devastated by mountaintop removal. The Camilles are bound symbiotically to the Monarch butterflies, who migrate between Mexico and Canada, and work sympoietically to promote their flourishing. Storytelling is central to this work, as Haraway explains:

“compostists soon found that storytelling was the most powerful practice for comforting, inspiring, remembering, warning, nurturing compassion, mourning, and becoming-with each other in their differences, hopes, and terrors.”

But despite the deepening of the symbiotic bond and sympoietic practices over three generations, the fourth Camille is faced with the loss of monarch migrations, along with the loss of 50 percent of all species planet-wide.  Camille 4 must prepare Camille 5 for a new role, as a “Speaker for the Dead”, one who will remember, mourn, and “represence” the monarch, as a form of sympoeisis with the dead (what Haraway calls “symanimagenesis”).  Haraway leaves undetermined the question of the future of the Children of Compost and the possibility of a multi-species flourishing.  Rather than imagining a utopia, she “stays with the trouble”.

Haraway’s Children of Compost remind me of the resistance community at the end of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, living in the ashes of nuclear holocaust.  Except instead of preserving books, the literary legacy of humanity (like Roy Scranton suggests), the Children of Compost preserve the Book of Nature and the genetic legacy of the more-than-human biosphere. Instead of individuals passively memorizing stories from books, the compostists engage in storytelling, an active and communal process in which the “text” is always evolving.  Instead of preservation being solely a matter of the mind, the Children of Compost do the work of healing with their bodies and with their hearts, as well as their minds.  And instead of the image of the phoenix, which concludes Fahrenheit 451, Haraway offers the model of compost.

Last Words: “Die Early and Often”

How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
is
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?

— Galway Kinnell, “Another Night in the Ruins”

“‘Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once did worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour I bear the scar … Thou canst blind; but I can then grope. Thou canst consume; but I can then be ashes.'”

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

At the end of the world, we are called be the flames … to be the ashes … to be compost … to be the Dying God.

This isn’t a very hopeful response, I know.  But as Robinson Jeffers wrote,

“Hope is not for the wise.”

It’s not exactly a hopeless response either, though.  It’s a kind of hopeful hopelessness or hopeless hopefulness.

“Hopelessness is the limit and beginning of a new kind of hope. You have to keep going–not to achieve dreams of beautiful mountaintop forests, but because life is more powerful than death. Hopelessness makes possible new hope, a faith in the basic tissue of life that is stronger than any disaster.”

— poet and Radio Free Iraq host, Naseer Hassan, as quoted by Roy Scranton in “Back to Baghdad: Life in the City of Doom”

If we are doomed–and we are–we must find a way between hope and despair.  Both hope and despair are products of our belief in the myth of progress and the myth of the individual.

We need different stories, different myths.

The Dark Mountain Project is one group of artists and storytellers who are trying to tell different stories,

“to paint a picture of homo sapiens which a being from another world or, better, a being from our own–a blue whale, an albatross, a mountain hare–might recognise as something approaching a truth. It sets out to tug our attention away from ourselves and turn it outwards; to uncentre our minds. It is writing, in short, which puts civilisation–and us–into perspective.”

“Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto”

Others are doing this as well. Haraway’s “Children of Compost” is one example.  The Neo-Pagan myth of the Dying God, as told by Miles Batty and others, is another.  And it’s not just writers who participate in storytelling, though.  Poets, musicians, filmmakers and other artists also contribute.  Examples of contemporary kin-making and dying-well include:

Haraway herself draws from a multiplicity of media beyond books, including music, anime, and even video games.  For example, she writes about her experience playing Never Alone, a video game created in collaboration Alaska Native community members.  In the game, the player moves between Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion as they leave Nuna’s home village to discover the source of an unprecedented blizzard and restore balance to nature.

Haraway writes that she “dies early and often” in the game.  I don’t think I’m reading too much into Haraway’s phrasing (is such a thing even possible?) to hear an echo of the political slogan “vote early and often”.  To “die early and often” echoes the advice of religious sages from many different religions to “die before you die”.  To “die early and often” means to walk the path of the Dying God.

To “die early” means to face our death, both personal and collective, the death of the myth of individuality and the death of the myth of human progress. It means to face our fate before it arrives on our doorstep.

Vinay Gupta is a contributor to the Dark Mountain Project and a kapalika, a member of the ascetic sect of Shiva devotees who traditionally carried empty human skulls as begging bowls. Gupta writes that one of the functions of the kapalika:

“is to strip away the lies about death, the mythology and the avoidance, and to spread hope by a simple fact: the avoidance of the truth of death is worse than death itself. Death cannot be avoided, but its avoidance can be avoided.”

— Vinay Gupta, “Death and the Human Condition” in Walking on Lava: Selected Works for Uncivilised Times

To “die often” means creating “new practices of imagination, resistance, revolt, repair, and mourning, and of living and dying well” (Haraway) and creative rituals of kin-making to embody our new stories and myths. John Seed and Joanna Macy’s “Council of All Beings” might be one example of such practices and rituals. There is much work to be done to translate these new stories and myths into practices of living and dying well in the Anthropocene.

I imagine such practices would yield practical goods, much like a “leftism with benefits”, but in a more-than-human dimension: multispecies mutual aid, if you will.  (Not a new idea, actually. Kropotkin’s conception of mutual aid was inspired by interspecies cooperation.)

Since we must walk the Dying God’s path, we should do so together, sympoietically, with our human-kin, yes, but also with all the other earth-kin with whom we are doomed to die.  “Living-with was the only possible way to live-well,” writes Haraway.  So too, dying-with is the only possible way to die well.

Sometimes this seems like an inadequate response, too little too late, and I have to remind myself that I’m not trying to save the world anymore–I’m trying to “stay with the trouble.”

We are doomed to walk the path of the Dying God.  We must do so not in the hope of survival or salvation.  Our job is not to survive … or even to birth a new world.  Our job is to die … to die well, to die-with, to die early and often, to die in such a way that the “ash heap of history” might become the compost pile of the Goddess.


Selected Readings

Bill McKIbben, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012

Brad Werner, “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”, presented at American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2012

The Dark Mountain Project, Walking on Lava: Selected Works for Uncivilized Times (2017)

David Wallace-Wells, “The Uninhabitable Earth”, New York Magazine, July 9, 2017

Donna Haraway, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene”

–, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016)

Erza Klein, “7 reasons America will fail on climate change”, Vox, June 5, 2014

John Michael Greer, Dark Age America: Climate Change, Cultural Collapse, and the Hard Future Ahead (2016)

–, The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (2008)

Jonathan Mingle, “Scientists Ask Blunt Question on Everyone’s Mind”Slate, Dec. 7, 2012

Nafeez Ahmed, “Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise”, Motherboard, August 27, 2018

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2008)

–, “How science is telling us all to revolt”, New Statesman, Oct. 29, 2013

Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, “Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto”, 2009

Paul Kingsnorth, “Dark Ecology”, Orion Magazine

–, “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist”, Orion Magazine

–, “Why I stopped believing in environmentalism and started the Dark Mountain Project”, The Guardian, Apr. 29, 2010

Robert Puckett, “Plucking the Golden Bough: James Frazer’s Metamyth in Modern Neopaganism”

Roy Scranton, Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene”, New York Times, Nov. 10, 2013

–, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization (2015)

–, “Anthropocene City: Houston as Hyperobject”, Mustarinda Magazine

–, We’re Doomed. Now What?: Essays on War and Climate Change (2018)

Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess (1979/1999)


John Halstead

halsteadJohn Halstead is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is one of the founders of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which works to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”. He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and here at Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also edited the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. He is also a Shaper of the Earthseed community which can be found at GodisChange.org.


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“What If It’s Already Too Late?”: Being an Activist in the Anthropocene

“We’re f**ked. Now what?”

From John Halstead

I had a terrible thought recently …

“What if it’s already too late?”

Actually, this idea has been haunting me, hovering on the boundary between my conscious and unconscious mind, for some time.

In 2016, Bill McKibben, founder of the climate activist organization 350.org, came to speak at a rally at the BP tar sands refinery in my “backyard” in the highly industrialized northwest corner Indiana.  The occasion was a series of coordinated direct actions around the world against the fossil fuel industry, collectively hailed as the largest direct action in the history of the environmental movement.

What struck me about McKibben’s speech, though, was its tone of … well, hopelessness. Here’s how he concluded his 10 minute speech:

“I wish that I could guarantee you that we’re all going to win in the end, the whole thing. And I can’t, because we don’t know. The physics of climate change is pretty daunting at this point. The momentum of it is pretty big. We’re not going to win everything. We’re not going to stop global climate change. It’s too late for that.

“But the work you’re doing literally couldn’t be more important. There’s not many people who get to say in their lives, ‘I’m doing the most important thing I could be doing.’ But that’s what you guys are doing today. I can’t guarantee you’re going to win. But I can guarantee you in every corner of the world that we’re going to fight. And that’s going to be enough for now, just knowing that we are taking it on.”

That’s pretty sobering material for a speech at an environmental activist rally, not to mention a speech by one of the leaders of the climate movement:

“We’re not going to stop global climate change. It’s too late for that.”

At the time, I was caught up in the enthusiasm of participating in my first act of civil disobedience, so I didn’t think much about McKibben’s words.

But they kept coming back to me.

“What Did He Just Say?”

“A person has already been born who will die due to catastrophic failure of the planet.”

I remembered McKibben’s words later, as I was watching Aaron Sorkin’s HBO TV series, The Newsroom.  In one scene, a high ranking scientist in the EPA is being interviewed by the show’s lead, a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels. The scientist explains that the latest measurements of atmospheric CO2 had passed the point of 400 ppm (parts per million) and what this means for humans:

EPA scientist: The last time there was this much CO2 in the air, the oceans were 80 feet higher than they are now. Two things you should know: Half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of an ocean.

News anchor: And the other?

EPA: Humans can’t breathe under water.

The anchor then asks the scientist what his “prognosis” for humanity is, “A thousand years, two thousand years?”  The scientist’s response was bone chilling:

“A person has already been born who will die due to catastrophic failure of the planet.”

After a pause to get his bearings, the anchor resumes:

News anchor: You’re saying the situation is dire?

EPA scientist: Not exactly. Your house is burning to the ground, the situation is dire. Your house has already burned to the ground, the situation is over.

News: So what can we do to reverse this?

EPA: Well there’s a lot we could do…

News: Good…

EPA: …20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. But now, no.

News: Can you make an analogy that might help us understand?

EPA: Sure. It’s as if you’re sitting in your car, in your garage, with the engine running and the door closed, and you’ve slipped into unconsciousness. And that’s it.

News: What if someone comes and opens the door?

EPA: You’re already dead.

News: What if the person got there in time?

EPA: Then you’d be saved.

News: OK. So now what’s the CO2 equivalent of the getting there on time?

EPA: Shutting off the car 20 years ago.

News: You sound like you’re saying it’s hopeless.

EPA: Yeah.

(You can watch the full clip below.)

 

The first time I saw this, I felt a flood of conflicting emotions: a combination of sinking horror and an absurd desire to laugh. I recognize it now as gallows humor.

Now, this was a television show, but it’s not fiction.  In the real world, we passed 400 ppm not long after the episode aired. And the fatalism of Sorkin’s EPA scientist makes sense when we understand what 400 ppm really means.

Remember Bill McKibben’s organization, 350.org?  It takes its name from the research of James Hansen, the scientist​ who drew the public’s attention to climate change when he testified before Congress in 1988.  In 2007, Hansen told the world that 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe upper limit to avoid a climate tipping point.

But we passed that point in 1988–30 years ago!

At time of my writing this, we have already seen CO2 levels as high as 412 ppm, and we are permanently over 400 ppm.  And we’re already feeling the effects: As of 2015, the planet is warmer than it has ever been in the last 11,000 years!

No wonder McKibben was fatalistic when I heard him speak in 2016.  When he organized 350.org, in 2007, it was already two decades after we had passed the safe threshold.  Now we’re in our third decade, and CO2 level had only continued to rise, with no sign of abating.  More carbon has been released into the atmosphere since Hansen’s 1988 congressional testimony than has been released in the entire history of civilization before that!

Science Fiction?

“Who killed the world?!” — Mad Max: Fury Road

“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”

— Emerson

Back on the TV show, the Jeff Daniels’ character asks the scientist to explain what all this would look like:

EPA scientist: Well, mass migrations, food and water shortages, spread of deadly disease, endless wildfires. Way too many to keep under control. Storms that have the power to level cities, blacken out the sky, and create permanent darkness.

In this hopes that this was hyperbole, I started researching.  The math is right on,  and according a Mother Jones article which fact checked the script, the predictions are pretty reasonable. Even the part about blackening out the sky might come true if the “geoengineers” have their way and start sending sulfur into the atmosphere, Matrix-like, in the hopes of reducing global warming.

In 2014, just as I was starting to wake up to climate change, the New York Times reported that a large body of research indicates that it is “inevitable” that the planetary temperature will rise by 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) and that we are “locked into” a future of drought, food and water shortages, and rising sea levels.  And that’s the optimistic estimate!  In fact, we’re on track for more than 4°C of warmingThat’s the temperature difference between the last Ice Age and the world now!  So it’s reasonable to expect the world of the near future to be as different from today as today is from the Ice Age.  According to the Times, that kind of change might render the planet “uninhabitable” to human beings.

Reports like this have become part of our daily news diet.  It’s shocking that they don’t trigger a revolution.  But as Steven Yeun’s character says in the recently released movie, Sorry to Bother You, when people see a problem that they don’t know how to solve, their response is to get used to it.

Archdruid John Michael Greer, author of Dark Age America agrees with Sorkin’s prognosis.  From Greer’s vantage point, this bleak prediction is only notable for what it leaves out:

  • expanding war and ethnic conflict
  • increasingly frequent environmental disasters
  • a return to a subsistence economy even in first world countries
  • the collapse of governmental institutions
  • the rise of charismatic authoritarian strongmen
  • and drastically declining human population–

anywhere from a 70% reduction (from 7.5 billion to 2 billion), which would bring the population to a sustainable level, to complete human extinction.

Does this sound like science fiction?  If it does, it’s not surprising, since these themes are increasingly common in our entertainment.  There’s the food shortages, the police state, and the walled off cities depicted in USA’s Colony (minus the aliens). There’s the government-endorsed religious fundamentalism and regressive sexual politics in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  There’s the crop failures, resource depletion, and declining population in the movie Interstellar.  There’s the collapse of governments, the rise of walled-off corporate states, and the sprawling climate refugee encampments, in the SyFy series Incorporated (more on that later).  And let’s not forget the rise of feudal warlords like Negan, the villain in AMC’s The Walking Dead (which became bigger than Monday night football).  Each and every one of these fictional scenarios is likely to be a part of humanity’s reality in the not-so-distant future.

The decline has already begun.  Its effects can be seen everywhere, but we barely notice it because the change is usually incremental, rather than sudden.  If we step back a minute from the daily barrage of news, we can see it:

This was the stuff of science fiction not too long ago.  Today, it’s our reality–and our entertainment.  While shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Colony have the potential to numb us to our present reality, sometimes science fiction can help us see our present more clearly. Watching one of these shows not too long ago, I had another terrible thought …

What if none of this is an accident?

“Everything is Going According to Plan”

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SyFy’s “Incorporated”

“Everything is going according to plan. I don’t know whose plan it is, and I think that it’s a really stupid plan, but everything is going according to it anyway.”

—  Dmitry Orlov

I had always thought racism was a glitch in America’s social system, something that could be overcome with time and education. Recently, however, I’ve begun to see how racism is actually a function of a capitalist system.  It keeps the poor and working class divided along race lines, to the benefit of the rich. As Malcolm X succinctly put it, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”

What if, like racism, biosphere-wrecking climate change is not an accidental byproduct of our capitalist system?  What if it isn’t a bug, but a feature?  What if the system isn’t broken, as progressives claim?  What if the system is functioning exactly as it is supposed to?

It was another television show that got me thinking about this, a series called Incorporated, which premiered on SyFy in 2016.  The premise of the show was that world governments had gone bankrupt and had been effectively replaced by large corporations.  These corporations functioned in walled-off cities, called “Green Zones”, outside of which was a sea of displaced people living in “Red Zones”, which included refugee camps overflowing with people having fled coastal cities flooded due to climate change.

In the show, there is virtually no mobility between the residents of the Green Zone, the corporate class, and the residents of the Red Zone, the unincorporated.  There are no checks on the corporations, other than the threat of violence from other corporations.  Although they live very privileged lives by comparison, those living within the corporate walls are virtual slaves to the corporation.

As I watched this, I was struck by two thoughts.  The first was the close similarity between Incorporated‘s dystopic future to our present reality.

The second thought was: “What if this the goal?”  What if this is the desired outcome for some of the corporate class?  Zero government regulation.  Anything can be bought for a price.  Extremely exclusive social status.  Technological wonders for the few who can afford them. In short …

What if everything is going according to plan?

It doesn’t require believing in a conspiracy to see that our capitalist system is driving us toward the future depicted in Incorporated, and that it isn’t by accident.

For it to function, capitalism depends on growth.  Without growth, the incentive for capital investment disappears and the system breaks down.  In an ideal capitalist system, there are no limits to growth.  In order to grow without limit, capitalism needs two things: unlimited demand and unlimited supply.  On the demand side, this means conspicuous consumption, socially manufactured needs, and disposable goods.  On the supply side, this means access to cheap and abundant energy, i.e., fossil fuels.  Without these conditions, the system cannot produce the kinds of surpluses which motivate the capital investment that perpetuates the system.  But these conditions–unchecked consumption and the burning of fossil fuels–inevitably lead to disasters, both economic and environmental.

It turns out, that’s part of the system too.

In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007), Naomi Klein describes how the corporate class has learned to profit from natural and economic disasters, by pushing through policies of deregulation and privatization while the impacted citizenry is too distracted and disorganized by the disaster to notice.  Examples include Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf War, and 9/11, to name just a few of the many.  The corporate class benefits from these policies, while the rest of the population is left with collapsing public infrastructure, declining incomes and increasing unemployment.

“An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial. The appetite for easy, short-term profits offered by purely speculative investment has turned the stock, currency and real estate markets into crisis-creation machines …. Our common addition to dirty, non-renewable energy sources keeps other kinds of emergencies coming: natural disasters … and wars waged over scarce resources …, which in turn create terrorist blowback …”

“Given the boiling temperatures, both climatic and political, future disasters need not be cooked up in dark conspiracies. All indications that simply by staying the current course, they will keep coming with ever more ferocious intensity. Disaster generation can therefore be left to the market’s invisible hand.

“While the disaster capitalism complex does not deliberately scheme to create the cataclysms on which it feeds (though Iraq may be a notable exception), there is plenty of evidence that its component industries work very hard indeed to make sure the current disastrous trends continue unchallenged.”

— Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine

According to Klein, this leads to an increasingly divided world.  Whether it is post-Gulf War Iraq or post-Katrina New Orleans, everything is divided between “Green Zones” and “Red Zones”, stark partitions between the privileged and the precariat. In the Red Zones, infrastructure is left to decay and social services are stripped of resources, while the privileged withdraw to the gated Green Zones, which are protected by the police/military. In many places, this is the present day reality, and it’s not so far removed from the future depicted in Incorporated.

We’re F**ked.

ozymandias2
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

“There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew
that cultures decay, and life’s end is death.”

— Robinson Jeffers, “The Purse-Seine”

Of course, the world of Incorporated isn’t the end of the story either; it’s just a chapter in the story of civilizational decline.  And we know how that story ends: death.

Our civilization is going to die.

If you’re like me, you need to sit with that last sentence for a while.

Of course, there’s plenty of people out there saying otherwise.  I could pick different sources to believe.  With the World Wide Web at our fingertips, it’s quite easy nowadays to choose the answers you like.  I could choose more comforting answers.

But it was a question, not an answer, that really devastated me.  Radical environmentalist, Derrick Jensen, asks this question of his audiences, and it’s one which I think every environmental activist should ask themselves:

“Do you think this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of life?”

That question is what convinced me that the world as we know it is going to end, sooner rather than later.

And more and more experts are coming to the same conclusion.

Like Brad Werner, a pink-haired complex systems researcher who, in 2012, presented a provocatively titled paper to thousands of scientists at the Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, titled “Is Earth F**ked?”

Werner’s answer: “More or less”.

Or like Daniel Kahneman, the cognitive psychologist who won a Nobel prize for his studies of how irrationally humans respond to problems which require immediate personal sacrifices now to avoid uncertain collective losses.  When asked to assess humanity’s chances for survival, Kahneman responded, “This is not what you might want to hear. I am very sorry, but I am deeply pessimistic. I really see no path to success on climate change.”

Or like Mayer Hillman, a social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute who has spent the last 20 years writing and speaking about climate change policy, and who, in 2017, announced his withdrawal from speaking and writing on climate change, declaring

“We’re doomed.”

Hillman raised the same question as Jensen: Do we really think human beings will move to zero global emissions in the near future? More specifically, Hillman asks,

“Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying? Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan? Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families?”

Hillman can’t.  Jensen can’t.  And I can’t either.

That’s the point that is glossed by so many evangelists of renewable energy: renewable energy can’t “replace” fossil fuels.1

About two hundred years and fifty ago, human beings started using fossil fuels–first coal, then oil–to power civilization.  What followed was unprecedented explosion of growth.  The civilizational “progress” which we take for granted is result of the burning of fossil fuels.  But the fossil fuels are a finite resource, and when they are gone, that will be the end of growth and progress too.

Renewable energy sources cannot produce as much energy as fossil fuels.  And transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy only addresses the supply side of the equation. A renewable energy economy would only work if we simultaneously reduced our consumption.  I’m not talking about people taking shorter showers and turning off the lights when they leave the room.  I’m talking about a contraction of the economy which would crash the global capitalist system.

We simply can’t transition to a 100% renewable energy economy without also ending capitalism.  Nothing short of a global socialist revolution is going to be enough (and I’m using “revolution” quite literally here).  But capitalism has proven so adept at adapting to challenges and absorbing dissent, nothing short of the end the world is likely to bring it about.

“Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.”

— Fredric Jameson, “Future City”

While it’s easy for most people in developed countries to look around and think that all is well, the fact is we are living in what Roy Scranton calls the gap between sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.  We are like the patient goes to the doctor for a routine checkup.  They feel fine, but the doctor returns looking grim.

The prognosis is terminal.

For some, this might actually be welcome news. I have communist friends who have been waiting a long time for the collapse of capitalism.  And I have anarchist friends for whom the collapse of civilization is good tidings of great joy.  “Everything is going according to plan,” indeed.  (There’s even some people who are trying to accelerate the collapse by undermining any attempt to reform capitalism which might prolong its demise.)

It turns out that the Marxist are partially right: Capitalism is going to collapse, but it won’t require the revolution of the working class. It’s going to happen through the natural process of capitalism doing what capitalism does: consuming forests, species, and human potential and excreting carbon dioxide, toxic chemicals, and radioactive waste–in short, eating everything in sight and shitting where it eats.

Even if climate change were not a reality, our civilization would still die.  Capitalism is just not sustainable.  The combination of overconsumption (only partially the result of overpopulation) and overpollution will lead inevitably to civilizational collapse.  Considering the damage capitalism is doing to the planet, that might not be such a bad thing.  But unfortunately, our civilization is going to take a good part of the biosphere down with it.

The Stages of Grieving for a Civilization

“When you become a parent, one thing becomes really clear. And that is that you want to make sure your children feel safe. And it rules out telling a ten year old that the world’s ending.”

Insterstellar (film)

When my son was 13, he went through an existential crisis. He was losing his faith in the religion he had been raised in, including the belief in an afterlife. The thought of personal extinction terrified him.  Over the next several years, he made peace with his own mortality.  He did so, at least in part, by taking refuge in a new faith, the faith in human progress.  He could accept the fact that he will die one day, but at least the accumulated knowledge of humanity would survive.

I felt the same way.  And I know many atheists and religious naturalists who do as well.  We accept our own mortality, while we cling to faith in the immortality of civilization.

But I don’t believe that anymore … and I don’t know what to say to my son.

It turns out, it’s not just individuals who die.  So do civilizations.  As Archdruid John Michael Greer, explains in Dark Age America, the last 5,000 years of human history have not been a straight line.  There have been many dark ages.  Europe in the early Middle Ages is only the most recent example in the West.  There was also the collapse of Mediterranean and Near Eastern civilization in the Bronze Age.  There were three separate Egyptian dark ages.  And there have been others, in both the West and the East.

The causes of these prior dark ages are familiar: climate change, population growth, soil degradation, and widening social inequality.

“Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilisation, what there is particularly immortal about yours?”

— G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill

Our present situation is unique, however.  Those civilizations before us exceeded the carrying capacity of their land bases, but we are connected to a global economy.  We are facing collapse, not just on a regional level, but on a planetary scale. And while civilizational decline is not uncommon, the speed at which we are rushing toward ours is.  The reason why we are so rapidly rushing toward this end is because we have a terminal case of denial.

In The Denial of Death (1974), Ernest Becker theorized that the basic motivation for human behavior is the desire, in fact the need, to deny the reality of our own deaths.  According to Becker, we engage in “immortality projects” in an attempt to create something that will transcend death.  But these immortality projects are maladaptive, because they sever us from the flow of life–of which death is a part.

We do this on an individual level, but also on a collective level. Western civilization itself can be understood as a collective immortality project–one giant, complex attempt to deny our connection to nature, to the Goddess, and hence to deny our mortality.  Climate change denial is just a special case of a much broader and deeper denial–a denial of our limits.

And it’s not just climate change deniers who are in denial.  Many activists on the other side of the spectrum, like me, are in denial as well.  I wasn’t denying that climate change is happening, but I was denying what it meant.  “I believe that we will win!” I chanted along with my fellow activists.  I was in denial.  And the origin of that denial, a faith in human progress, is what got us into this mess.

Looking back, a lot of my environmental activism looks like the stages of grief: denial, anger, and bargaining.  I moved into the depression phase recently.  The good thing about the depression is that it allows me to recognize this process for what it is:

I am grieving for the death of human civilization. 

The last stage of grief, I am told, is acceptance.  But what does that look like?  Do we go on protesting?  Do we go on fighting, like Bill McKibben says, because fighting is better than doing nothing?

To be continued tomorrow in “‘Die Early and Often’: Being Attis in the Anthropocene”.


Notes

Nor is nuclear energy the panacea that many techno-wizards hope it is, due to insurmountable problems of scale, waste, and energy-return-on-investment.


John Halstead

halsteadJohn Halstead is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is one of the founders of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which works to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”. He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and here at Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also edited the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. He is also a Shaper of the Earthseed community which can be found at GodisChange.org.


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Sometimes Coordinated, Always Authentic: Terrorism prevention efforts apply to G&R

Facebook’s efforts to detect and eradicate “coordinated inauthentic behavior” by Russian meddlers is a pretext to suppress political activism and counter-hegemonic initiatives.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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In the beginning of August, 2018, we tried to boost an article about climate change on Facebook, and we got this message:

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We looked up what the authorization process entailed, and didn’t even consider going through with it when we learned that:

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Let’s begin by clarifying why we are buying Facebook adds to begin with:

“Facebook already determines what posts you see and which you do not, both from friends and pages. Pages in particular are throttled heavily. For instance, Gods&Radicals has 10,000 followers but often our posts are only seen by 500-1000 people.

The only way that Facebook would allow a post to be seen by more followers is if you paid. It’s about 1 dollar per 100 people.”

-Rhyd Wildermuth, G&R’s Managing Editor

Regardless of whether you think we should be paying for adds or using Facebook at all as a platform, we need to discuss what it means for Governments and Corporations to have this kind of control over the dissemination of information and ideas, and the personal information and location of the people spreading them.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “was founded 15 years ago to prevent another 9/11, but today I believe the next major attack is more likely to reach us online than on an airplane.”

Kirstjen Nielsen

This FB-DHS twosome isn’t surprising, but it’s alarming. It means giving carte blanche to request and store names, locations/IP-addresses, and photos of anyone they want, and use that information who knows how. Treating political activism as a terrorist activity is a deliberate effort to intimidate activists, while at the same time manufacturing public support for fascist policies. When the State defines what “terrorism” is, it not only does that to justify unacceptable actions (military violence, censorship, etc…), it does that to ensure that label is never used against them.

Both editors of G&R are not currently residing in the U.S.A., and we are not interested in advertising our locations. Does that mean what we write and share is “meddling”? The U.S.A. has financed a military dictatorship in the country where I live, and controls essentially every aspect of our economy and of our electoral process. But we are not allowed to boost an article about how banning plastic straws doesn’t actually reverse Climate Change or even significantly reduces the amount of plastic dumped into the ocean… (Do I need to affirm that the oceans and Climate Change are not issues important only in U.S. American politics?)

This new policy doesn’t only affect foreigners or people outside the U.S., it affects everyone everywhere. If you’re on a U.S. IP-address but have your language set to Russian, or if you’re a regular English speaking American trying to increase attendance to a meeting, it’ll apply to you too. Eric O. Scott, a Pagan writer and labor organizer, was unable to publicize a meeting for the Democratic Socialists of America in Columbia, Missouri. He said that, even though he already is a public political figure, with class, gender and race privileges, he still chose not to complete the authorization process:

“it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which a state demands Facebook turn over all the registration information for anyone associated with a leftist page. […] And of course if promoting any kind of writing that could be considered ‘political’ requires registration, that’s requiring that anybody who wants to publicize writing that has actual substance will have to register. The chilling effects are huge.”

This policy is not an actual effort to promote media literacy. Identifying authenticity is something we indeed should focus on. But this Capitalist Democracy relies on the population’s inability to discern between authentic and inauthentic information. This policy is simply an attempt to keep the ability to manipulate “authentic passability” exclusive. Much like banning plastic straws, it is not something that will do what it claims to set out to do.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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Against All Oppression

Gods & Radicals supports the right for All to live peacefully, without harm from those in power. There are no ifs and buts nor exceptions to the rule.

From Emma Kathryn

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‘Yeah, they split up. She called the police on him.’
‘Fucking hell, what for?’
‘He gave her a slap.’
‘What, so she called the police?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Well, to be honest, I’m surprised he didn’t hit her sooner.’

* * * * *

I grew up on the very same street where I live now, just a couple of doors away from my childhood home in fact. When I was around ten, my parents split up, and from then on there was just my mum, myself and my three sisters living at home. My dad didn’t go far and was always there for us, but at home it was just us females. One day, my little sister, who had been out playing on the front (she was only around seven or eight and so was confined to the pavement outside our house), came running in crying. It turns out that some late teen / early twenty-something man had told her to get out-of-the-way, calling her a ‘little black bitch’. Well, you didn’t mess with my mum and she went straight over to where he was and slapped him hard across the face, all the while giving him a piece of her mind. Even now, I look back on that day with pride at a mother looking out for her child, but at the same time, I marvel at the conditions that allowed a person old enough to know better to think that he had the right to say such a thing to a child.

* * * * *

The conversation at the beginning is one I actually heard. It was a group of men discussing the break up of another friends relationship due to domestic violence. The second story is one of the best memories I have of my mum! But I always find myself thinking about those situations, and countless others like them. I think about the kinds of environment that creates, encourages or turns a blind eye to such behaviour. What gives someone the idea that they can abuse others, simply for existing? What makes the men from the conversation think that it’s okay to talk so openly about domestic abuse, and in defence of such actions too? What allows people to think that such behaviour is okay? Do they think that it is actually okay? Or has it become the norm, conditioned and reinforced? Was it the norm to begin with? What kind of person racially abuses a kid? And what conditions created such a person?

The Capitalist State divides all people into colours, caste, class, gender, and in doing so creates enemies out of them, but not as in enemies towards the state, which would be a good thing, but rather against one another. It keeps them blind so that they miss the forest for the trees. We talk about feminism and about gender equality, race equality and so on as if they are all separate things, when really there are no distinctions within equality. How can equality be equality if not all people share in it? If you look at the Suffragette movement, it was recently celebrated here in the UK on the anniversary of some women winning the right to vote. Some women. Was this a victory? Some would say yes because it paved the way for the vote for all, but I can’t help but see it as a way for the State to weaken the case for equality. No doubt the women who were given the vote were ‘upstanding members of the community’, code for had rich husbands or fathers.

I think infighting between groups each fighting for their own rights comes about because of fear. Why do some men, even now, fear equality with women? Does it threaten them in some way? Perhaps they think it lessens them somehow. And it doesn’t stop there either. Why do some feminist women oppose the rights of trans women so vehemently, or some white people deny the rights for those not sharing the same skin tone? I think it stems from fear, that in some way they think that if those groups gain equality, then it takes something from them.

It doesn’t.

Equality isn’t equality if it doesn’t apply to all, equally. And when I speak of equality, I’m really speaking about freedom, after all, I don’t want us to be equally oppressed now, do I. I’ve never understood why some get so eat up by what another person is doing. All living beings just want to live their lives without harm. In my own personal opinion, everyone can do whatever they want if they are a consenting adult who isn’t causing harm to another – it’s all good.

I’ve written for this platform for over a year now, and in that time I have received help, support and friendship from many involved with it. One of the reasons as to why I absolutely love writing here is because of their stance on oppression – in all of its forms, and I am proud to carry on writing for them. I, as a hard-nosed, working class, mixed race Obeah woman, would never sell myself out for anything I didn’t believe in, and so I hope that you too, dear reader, will continue to support that message, and that is we are against all forms of oppression, regardless of who is perpetrating it. Let’s fight the good fight folks, and that’s the fight against the colossus of Capitalism. If Capitalism should fall tomorrow, then the problems I’ve written about will surely still exist, but it’s important to understand that the Capitalist State sponsors the issues that continue to divide us. We must look past those superficial differences and unite to fight and only then will we truly be free. Gods & Radicals supports the right for All to live peacefully, without harm from those in power. There are no ifs and buts nor exceptions to the rule.


Emma Kathryn

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.

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On Plastic Straws and the Coming Collapse

When you look at what is needed to slow down or stop Climate Change and the destruction of the environment that sustains human life, you get confronted with an awful reality. That reality? There is literally no significant change that will not also deeply harm vulnerable people or infringe upon some modern freedom we now conceive as vital, inherent, and inalienable.

An editorial, from Rhyd Wildermuth

Recently, the city of Seattle in the United States became the first US city to fully ban single-use plastic straws, utensils, and cocktail picks in restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops. The ban was heralded as an environmentalist victory by marine conservationist groups and fiercely fought by restaurant associations, plastics manufacturers, and some activists for the disabled.

You may have encountered news about the ban specifically because of the opposition of some activists for the disabled. Though the Seattle ban allows restaurants to provide flexible single-use plastic straws for people who medically need them, restaurants, bars, and cafes aren’t required to keep such straws on hand. Thus, a disabled person who cannot drink without a straw might find themselves needing to provide their own in order to consume a beverage they’ve purchased. Activists for disabled people point out that this situation creates an accessibility barrier for a minority of people who already face countless other such barriers.

The debates around the plastic straw ban unfortunately obscured several much larger issues around environmental destruction, Climate Change, and disability. More unfortunately, the way the plastic straw ban was debated across social media reduced the question to a false polarity: save the turtles and oceans, or keep disabled people from aspirating their liquids and dying of pneumonia.

The problem with all these debates was that there were deeper topics which were never up for debate. For instance, can laws designed by technocrats to change consumer behavior actually stop environmental destruction? Can capitalist nations fix the problems they’ve caused by replacing one product with another? And what about the vulnerable people who rely on capitalist-created products that destroy the environment?

One can detect in the ban on plastic straws by Seattle (a city in which I lived for 16 years) a smug and fully unmerited sense of humanitarian “progress.” Much of it is hypocrisy: Seattle is longtime home to some of the most environmentally-destructive corporations in the world, such as Boeing and Amazon (which will sell you 100 plastic single-use straws for $5.99, straw ban be damned). Seattle relies heavily on those corporations and their workers for its tax revenue. Also, Seattle’s carbon output, while low compared to many cities of its size, is only so low because of its geographical proximity to hydro-electric power plants, not from efforts to conserve energy.

Like many “progressive” European nations and other cities, Seattle obscures its own contributions to the destruction of the environment while implementing laws and policies which only alter the aesthetics of its damage. This same hypocritical stance can be seen in Seattle’s treatment of homeless people. The Seattle King County metropolitan area has the fourth largest homeless population in the United States (12,500, the same size as South Korea’s homeless population), yet prides itself on its Liberal/progressive policies and is also the first large US city to have elected a Socialist to city council.

Seattle is the perfect example of the self-congratulatory, hypocritical Liberal Democratic (that is, capitalist) order, but it is hardly alone. This same duplicity can be found throughout the Western world. For a case in point, we need only look at Germany, usually touted as a paragon of green policies even under a conservative government. Angela Merkel announced the closure of all nuclear power plants by 2022; but Germany purchases and will continue to purchase and transport nuclear energy from its neighbors, particularly France. In addition, half of its timber production is burned to create electricity.

Almost all of the shifts that Liberal Democratic (capitalist) nations in the world have made towards reducing the destruction of the climate follow a similar pattern. Reductions in one destructive behavior are replaced by increases in another, and each switch is mere aesthetic. This pattern is nothing new: consider how most of the policies of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act in the United States focused entirely on aesthetic changes. Reductions of emissions into the air from factories and coal-fired power plants, as well as from automobiles, never significantly reduced CO2 in the atmosphere; instead, they reduced particulates which were causing asthma, smog, and “acid rain.”

The problem here should be obvious. While no one wants to choke on automobile exhaust and industrial pollutants, and reducing these particulates absolutely decreased cancer rates and helped asthmatics, these policies only made the larger problem invisible. C02, the primary agent of Climate Change, doesn’t leave a stain on the sky or cause immediate health problems. Instead, it increases the temperature of the entire earth by trapping heat, thereby melting glaciers, shifting ocean currents, and initiating wide-scale droughts, floods, crop failures, extinction events, and eventually societal collapse.

See No Evil

With this in mind we can return for a moment to the plastic straw ban. 9 million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans every year; of that pollution 2000 tons are single-use plastic straws: 0.025% of the total (though 4% by volume). Beyond pointing out the unnoticeable change in the oceans even the eradication of all plastic straws in the world would affect, we also need to remember that consumer bans like this are not actually targeting CO2 emissions.

Single-use plastic straws are visible waste. We can point to the images of sea turtles and marine birds choked to death on a piece of plastic and say, “look–we did this.” Larger-scale pollution such as trash dumping or oil spills likewise provide visible signs of the damage our modern way of life causes to the environment. Gulls and seals covered in petroleum or whales and dolphins killed by plastics make us feel bad. Our immediate response is guilt and some anger: we didn’t want to kill those things, and we want whomever did to take responsibility immediately, clean up the mess, and hopefully pay some sort of fine.

This is a deeply Liberal/capitalist sense of guilt, one that feels quite sorry for things and hopes everything can go back to normal once all the apologies are repeated and the perpetrator has learned their lesson. This guilt wants its feelings smoothed over and the ugliness taken away, along with re-assurances that all is forgiven. And most of all, this guilt just wants the crisis to be over so capitalism can continue.

The real crisis, however, is only just beginning. The destruction industrialized capitalist society has caused to the entire biosphere has been mostly invisible for the last two centuries; it has now made itself visible and becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. But unlike an oil spill or a sea-turtle suffocated by a plastic straw, the visible manifestations cannot be traced directly to individual actors, and creates a crisis for the model of Liberal guilt and responsibility.

Who is most responsible for the C02 emissions of automobiles? Is it the manufacturers who made the cars, the millions of people who bought and drove them, the governments which built the roads and defunded public transit, or the petroleum companies who delivered the gasoline to the consumers? Is it the people who profited off of all this most, or the people whose demand and consumption enabled that profit? And even if we decide that it is the corporations and politicians who are most responsible, the billions of people in the world such as myself who have never owned nor driven a car could just as easily say that those who do–even if they needed it because they are disabled–are also guilty and responsible.

The Coming Collapse

Extinction Symbol

The problem remains that guilt doesn’t actually change anything, and these questions–just like the debates around the straw ban–obscure the much more terrifying issues.

When you look at what is needed to slow down or stop Climate Change and the destruction of the environment that sustains human life, you get confronted with an awful reality. That reality? There is literally no significant change that will not also deeply harm vulnerable people or infringe upon some modern freedom we now conceive as vital, inherent, and inalienable.

Consider the automobile question posed above. Ending automobile use and manufacturing of automobiles would drastically reduce the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere, as well as the destruction of land and habitat caused by roads and petroleum extraction. Also, it would re-green a lot of space quickly: think all of those parking lots and highways no longer used. But if you have a car right now you’re probably thinking about how put out you’d be, especially if you live in a rural or suburban area. That goes doubly for someone in that situation who is disabled.

This problem repeats itself in every possible scenario. Jet travel, international shipping, personal energy consumption: vastly curtailing or even ending any of these things would actually make a difference and possibly stop climate collapse, but in each case most humans would lose something they count as a freedom, while a few would also lose their ability to survive.

Unfortunately, this is the future for industrial civilization whether we want it or not. Doing absolutely nothing will still kill the most vulnerable, while a small minority will get to keep all the technological splendor of late-capitalism. The biosphere will wither, civilization will self-destruct, and the rest of the human and non-human populations of the earth will suffer a slow, agonizing genocide.

A scenario already playing itself out in many places helps to explain the really awful crisis we are in. Increased temperatures increase demand for air-conditioning and other CO2-producing cooling technologies. Brownouts (when power-plants cannot provide enough electricity to meet demand) already occur and will increase as the earth warms. Such events will disproportionately affect vulnerable populations (the elderly) who may die during heat waves. So even all our efforts to transition to renewable and less-destructive energy sources will not fix the problem: the extra energy creation will merely go into mitigating these disasters.

There is currently no political or social mechanism to decide how to distribute energy to protect vulnerable people while reducing energy consumption by those who need it less. The best the technocrats in whom we are told to put our faith have come up with are aesthetic changes which feel good but change nothing. More so, even these toothless policy changes rarely ever take effect.

No government has banned personal automobile use, nor petroleum extraction, nor the vast networks of server farms or industrial manufacturing and distribution upon which our modern existence relies. Nor can we ever expect to see governments do this without revolutionary pressure.

So the current state of affairs–in which humanity continues to produce and consume its way to its eventual demise–will continue unabated. People living in wealthy capitalist nations will continue to debate aesthetic changes to their way of life and argue endlessly about who precisely is most to blame. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable beings–human and especially other-than-humans–will continue to suffer more and more from industrial civilization as the glaciers melt, the forests burn, the deserts spread, and the oceans rise.

Until our debates about environmental damage and Climate Change take this reality as their starting point, we will all suffer this collective fate, whether we ever use a straw or not.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is the co-founder and a co-editor of Gods&Radicals. His latest book, Witches in a Crumbling Empire, is now available at our online bookstore in print or digital.


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The Common Ground Between Anarchists and Maoists

“Brazilian Anarchists and Maoists are both being criminalized for dissent that could undermine the government’s ability to function.”

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

English Translation Here

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Credito: ExNEPe

O Terreno Comum Entre Anarquistas e Maoistas

A Copa do Mundo terminou, depois de termos politicado incessantemente os atletas e os países que essas equipes representavam. Havia algo suspeitamente conveniente em lembrar do colonialismo francês agora, mas esquecer da corrupção e da opressão da FIFA. Desta forma, podemos ficar colados na T.V. sem perder “pontos de militância”.

O movimento de resistência contra a FIFA em 2013 e 2014 não é coisa do passado. Os pretextos que transformaram movimentos sociais em organizações terroristas são, até hoje, responsáveis ​​pela criminalização do ativismo político no nosso pais. Isso resultou em 23 presos políticos com sentenças entre 5 e 13 anos, alguns ainda sendo processados ​​agora. Pessoas morreram e muitas mais perderam suas casas. Mas o que discutimos é como torcer para o México é uma mensagem anti-Trump, e como a equipe alemã está de alguma forma (simbolicamente) relacionada com a política sobre refugiados de Merkel.

Estamos testemunhando a fachada do estilo estadouniense de Democracia se desintegrando, revelando o fascismo de um Estado Imperializado que encarcera em massa e mata pessoas pobres, negras, trans e mulheres. Além disso, um Estado que usa uma corporação para distrair as massas com esportes nacionalistas, enquanto criminaliza dissidência política.

Anarquistas e Maoistas estão sendo igualmente criminalizados por dissidência capaz de prejudicar a capacidade do governo de funcionar. A OATL (Organização Anarquista Terra e Liberdade) e o MEPR (Movimento Estudantil Popular Revolucionário) foram recentemente colocados como frentes de iniciativas de atos violentos em 2013.

“Membros da OATL e MEPR planejavam lançar coquetéis molotovs e rojões contra a policia durante passeatas contra a copa do mundo” (Folha de Sāo Paulo, 17 de Julho 2018)

Mesmo com todas as nossas divergências ideológicas; particularmente em relação ao uso idolátrico de liderança, e o interesse na reconstrução de um Estado que sustentará a ditadura do proletariado; concordamos que o Estado em qual vivemos agora, e seu sistema eleitoral, deve ser derrubado. A re-centralização de poder econômico e estrutural num Governo comunista não é nem um pouco atraente pra nós anarquistas. E vemos que, apesar de eficiente em curto prazo, o culto de personalidade de líderes não é só contraditório aos nossos princípios de horizontalidade. É também insustentável, já que até agora revoluções morreram com seus lideres.

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Nosso terreno comum é a ideia de que a dicotomia entre esquerda e direita no campo eleitoral é reformista/reacionária, e não revolucionária, já que visa representação em, e consequentemente validação do, sistema partidário. Até os candidatos de mais extrema esquerda como Boulos, mesmo com sua retórica de defesa do povo pobre por políticas contra a especulação imobiliária e etc., visa a reconstrução da fé do povo Brasileiro no sistema. Isso só atrasa a revolução. Sabemos que o candidato não vai ganhar, se ganhar não vai fazer o que fala, e se tentar fazer o que fala vai ser impeached, preso, ou morto (como já vimos acontecer tantas vezes antes).

A estratégia de usar a plataforma partidária sustentada pela “Democracia” (Estilo estadounidense) pra divulgar ideias revolucionárias é como transar pela virgindade, validando no processo a própria coisa que estamos tentando invalidar. A necessidade imediata do povo que mais precisa dessa revolução não pode ser saciada com migalhas. É nossa responsabilidade como militantes não criar dependência do próprio Governo que visamos derrubar, e lutar para suprir essas necessidades imediatas como uma comunidade; um Movimento.

“Há apenas a preocupação de se jogar migalha na boca escancarada da fome, talvez para que nos deixem em paz…” – Maria Lacerda de Moura

Do dia 11 a 15 de Julho, estudantes de pedagogia de todo o Brasil se encontraram em União dos Palmares, Alagoas, para discutir métodos de combate aos ataques do Estado contra a educação e os direitos do povo dentro e fora da esfera acadêmica no nosso pais.

Este foi o 38o ENEPe (Encontro Nacional de Estudantes de Pedagogia), e sua 1a edição Marxista-Leninista-Maoista.

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A realização deste evento marcante na história da ENEPe não foi possível sem a superação de sérios obstáculos. Houve um rompimento entre estudantes de esquerda, resultando em dois eventos diferentes sendo realizados: este organizado pela ExNEPe (Executiva Nacional de Estudantes de Pedagogia) com presença predominante do MEPR, e outro evento com presença predominante do MEPe (Movimento Estudantil de Pedagogia) e movimentos estundatis ligados à UNE (União Nacional dos Estudantes).

Essa divergência ideológica entre os estudantes “de esquerda” é baseada no partidarismo. O MEPR reivindica a independência política, o boicote ao voto, e a completa rejeição da dependência financeira em, ou campanha de, partidos. Além disso, eles e elas também visam manter esse evento aberto a estudantes de outras áreas e a quem não é estudante.

Para muitos, o boicote ao voto significa uma brecha para a direita se fortalecer, ou até mesmo uma direita disfarçada. Os da MEPe, que não estavam a bordo com os posicionamentos da MEPR, não só fizeram seu próprio evento em outra data e local, mas também sabotaram a iniciativa de organização e promoção do evento de seus semelhantes. Cartazes promovendo a 38o ENEPe em União dos Palmares foram removidos ou danificados de alguma forma pelo país inteiro.

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Nos palcos do primeiro dia, 11 de Julho, houve uma fala de forte crítica Marxista ao PT, introduções das delegações de cada região, fala da LCP (Liga de Camponeses Pobres), apresentação de dança do Quilombo, poesia, teatro, e até rock. Os espaços entre cada foram preenchidos por palavras de ordem e punhos levantados. “Resistir, lutar, pra cultura popular”, entre muitas outras.

A grande maioria das aproximadamente 400 pessoas presentes, tiveram que superar múltiplos obstáculos financeiros e burocráticos, além da sabotagem de outros alunos, para comparecer no evento aquela semana. Portanto, a presença de cada um, de cada região, segurava o peso da dedicação à militância, e o entusiasmo de uma juventude com fé na revolução.

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Na mesa do 2o dia afirmaram que a independência do eleitoralismo é essencial na luta pela gratuidade educacional. A formação pedagógica ainda visa o treinamento de mão de obra barata, e Lula não foi melhor que FHC no combate a isso; cotas e bolsas só atrasam a revolução. Enquanto as reitorias agem como o Estado dentro da universidade, não ha como a universidade enfrentar o Estado. O papel do pedagogo e da pedagoga é fundamental pra formação da sociedade, e não deverá ser usado para servir um Estado.

A logística do evento foi discutida com todos e todas presentes. A comida, a limpeza, o transporte e a convivência em geral. Considerando que foi um evento realizado com completa autonomia financeira, sem apoio de partidos ou outras instituições, houve um processo de adaptação para os que não estavam acostumados.

Uma proposta essencial que foi aplicada durante o evento foi a criação de creches nas universidades. A creche representa a luta de inclusão da mulher na esfera política, acadêmica e profissional, com apoio da comunidade como um todo. Portando, a presença de crianças e bebês foi responsabilidade de todos e todas nós, e também simbólico para a estruturação de um movimento revolucionário onde esse papel não poderá ser só da mãe.

No último dia do encontro, o MFP (Movimento Feminino Popular) se apresentou como Marxista-Leninista-Maoista, abraçando a causa das mulheres que são alunas, professoras, operárias e camponesas, e afirmando que a mulher latifundiária é inimiga. O Movimento visa combater o trabalho doméstico não pago, a servitude de empregadas domesticas às suas empregadoras burguesas, e a ideia de que existe alguma diferença inata ente homens e mulheres.

A monogamia da família tradicional também deve ser combatida, pois nasceu com o conceito de propriedade privada para assegurar a transferência de bens por herança. Afirmaram também que não existe a cultura do estupro, existe o Patriarcado e o Capitalismo. Portanto, não se destrói a cultura do estupro com leis, se destrói o patriarcado capitalista com a revolução. O problema não é o homem, é o Estado. E acima de tudo, o propósito da organização é “despertar a fúria revolucionaria nas mulheres.”

Uma camarada da ExNEPe, Tarsila Pereira, foi proibida de comparecer a aulas como ouvinte na UFAL (Universidade Federal de Alagoas), por militar e promover este evento. A tentativa de abaixo assinado pra expulsar Tarsila acabou virando um abaixo assinado pra ela ficar, e o professor se recusou a expulsa-lá, falando que ele não é polícia, e na aula dele entra quem quer aprender. Felizmente, o processo que visava “restaurar a paz” nas salas de aula falhou, e hoje ela é uma aluna matriculada.

Sexta-feira, dia 13 de Julho, em Maceió, foi realizada uma manifestação em defesa de Tarsila na UFAL; contra o fascismo que infiltra a academia Brasileira; contra a intervenção militar e o oportunismo da Escola Sem Partido; contra a privatização das universidades e a regularização da profissão de pedagogos e pedagogas; e contra o imperialismo genocida no Oriente Médio.

Depois da manifestação, a organização do evento mostrou de forma impactante como a Cultura Popular é resistência. Uma apresentação de dança típica Alagoana abriu uma série de apresentações culturais de cada delegação presente. Ficou claro que “cada região é um País”, como falou uma das alunas assistindo. Foi emocionante presenciar como extrema diversidade pode sim significar uma completa união e solidariedade. Diversas danças, músicas, histórias, e linguagens foram apresentadas, destacando como a hegemonia violentamente invisibiliza expressões culturas belas e valiosas no Brasil.

Sábado, dia 14 de Julho, participantes foram divididos em três grupos, um deles destinado ao museu do Quilombo dos Palmares. A viajem no ônibus escolar amarelo foi uma celebração, ele ainda estava enfeitado da festa junina, e todos alternavam entre cantar techno brega e palavras de ordem. Na Serra da Barriga, região do Zumbi dos Palmares, chacoalhávamos na estrada de terra, subindo e descendo montanhas de mata baixa, com ocasionais coqueiros sendo saudados por urubus.

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Foi inevitável sentir o poder daquele espaço, mesmo que agora esteja estruturado um pouco como um parque temático. Cada passo parecia levantar uma memória centenária combativa, como se fosse uma poeira que ao invés de ofuscar, tornava ainda mais nítido nosso propósito politico. A vista do alto a serra chegava quase a nos colocar no corpo dos homens e mulheres que se estabeleceram lá 400 anos atras, e na consciência estratégica de poder ver inimigos de longe sem ser visto.

No fim da visita, muitos de nós até nadamos na pequena lagoa verde pastel onde quilombolas “alimentavam suas almas”.

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Quando voltamos pra universidade em União dos Palmares, assistimos apresentações de trabalhos, dos quais alguns seriam premiados. Um deles abordava a importância de educação sexual na escola, pra alunos entre 11 e 15 anos de idade. Interesses das crianças giravam em torno dos temas de masturbação, puberdade e menstruação. A apresentadora mostrou que sexo ainda é um tabu entre professores e reitorias, e a importância de derrubar esse tabu e abordar esse tema é de extrema urgência, quando se vê como é comum a gravidez de meninas de 13 a 15 anos e idade.

A importância da História foi enfatizada quando reconhecemos que o Brasil tem um problema de memória. Um trabalho sobre a Guerrilha do Araguaia trouxe pra mesa de debate a perpetuação da violência, décadas depois da batalha, quando crimes da resistência são judicialmente equiparados com os dos opressores. Trouxe também o tema das particularidades femininas na tortura durante a ditadura, e a questão do uso do termo “ditadura” em si, como um termo usado pela democracia burguesa pra defender suas políticas ditatoriais contemporâneas.

Em geral, houve muita repetição de termos como “pós-modernista”, “oportunista”, “imobilista” e Marxismo cientifico, sem finas definições e contextualizações. Isso alienou certos alunos que não se reivindicam Marxistas, e deu pouca abertura pra participantes apresentarem divergências. Até as votações finais foram bizarramente homogêneas, talvez não só porque houve consensus, mas também porque ir contra seria intimidador.

Para o burguês e pequeno burguês, a inacessibilidade é o charme. Com eles e elas não há diálogo, há combate. Combater a ideia de que ”uma mentira falada mil vezes vira verdade” (Goebbels) significa também reconhecer que existe diferentes perspectivas sobre a realidade, e não só uma verdade que pertence aos socialistas científicos. Ocasionais falhas em reconhecer isso resultou em certas infelizes falas, como uma sobre o misticismo de comunidades “primitivas”, e abordagens superficiais e desnecessárias do materialismo dialético.

Mesmo assim, foi afirmado que a ciência que vemos hoje na academia serve o Capital. O conhecimento científico do povo, seja ele indígena, negro ou camponês, é apropriado pelas classes dominantes e patenteado. Temos que trazer a ciência de volta para o povo, preservando a educação tradicional indígena, por exemplo. Para uma das palestrantes, o problema “do índio” é o problema de classe, e não da supremacia branca; É uma luta pela terra e pela sobrevivência. Seria interessante a presença de mais grupos Indígenas e Quilombolas nos próximos eventos, tanto que foi decidido que o tema do 23o FoNEPe (Fórum Nacional de Entidades de Pedagogia) será “educação que sirva o povo indígena, camponês e Quilombola”, ano que vem em Juazeiro.

No fim as despedidas foram calorosas, já que durante a semana cultivamos imenso carinho uns pelos outros. Havia espaço pra autocrítica e crescimento, e o potencial socio-politico do evento é inegável. Estamos todos e todas animadas pro próximo ENEPe (39o) que acontecerá em Guarulhos, com o tema de “defesa da escola pública, contra a privatização e fechamento de escolas públicas”.

“Se você paga,
não deveria,
educação
não é mercadoria”


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

editora do site Gods&Radicals, escritora e professora.

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English Translation
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Credit: ExNEPe

The Common Ground Between Anarchists and Maoists

The World Cup ended, after we incessantly politicized athletes and the countries those teams were representing. There was something suspiciously convenient about remembering French colonialism now, but forgetting FIFA’s corruption and oppression. This way we can stay glued to the T.V. without losing any “woke points”.

Brazil’s uprising against FIFA in 2013 and 2014 is not a thing of the past. The pretexts that turned social movements into terrorist organizations are to this day responsible for the criminalization of political activism. This resulted in 23 political prisoners with sentences between 5 and 13 years, some still being prosecuted now. People have died, and many more lost their homes. But what we talk about is how cheering for Mexico is an anti-Trump statement, and that the German team is somehow related (symbolically) to Merkel’s refugee policy.

We are witnessing the facade of U.S. American style Democracy crumbing down, revealing the Fascism of an Imperialized State that mass incarcerates and kills poor people of color, trans people, and women. Moreover, a State that uses a corporation to  distract the masses with nationalistic sports, while it criminalizes political dissent.

Brazilian Anarchists and Maoists are both being criminalized for dissent that could undermine the government’s ability to function. The OATL (Anarchist Organization of Land and Liberty) and the MEPR (Popular Revolutionary Student Movement) have recently been denominated initiators of violent protest acts in 2013.

“OATL and MEPR members planned to launch Molotov cocktails and other flaming objects at the police during marches against the world cup” – (Folha de São Paulo, July 17th 2018)

Even with all our ideological differences; particularly in relation to the idolatrous use of leadership, and the interest in rebuilding a state that will sustain the dictatorship of the proletariat; we agree that the state we live in now, and its electoral system, must be overthrown. The re-centralization of economic and structural power in a communist government is not at all attractive to us anarchists. And we see that, although efficient in the short run, the personality cult of leaders is not only contradictory to our principles of horizontality. It is also unsustainable, since up to now revolutions have died with their leaders.

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“Elections are a farce – don’t vote – long live the rural and anti imperialist democratic revolution! MEPR.”

Our common ground is the idea that the dichotomy between left and right in the electoral field is reformist / reactionary rather than revolutionary, since it seeks representation in, and consequently validation of, the system. Even the most far-left candidates like Guilherme Boulos (PSOL), with his rhetoric of defending the poor with policies against real estate speculation and so on, aim at rebuilding the faith of the Brazilian people in the system. This only slows down the revolution. We know that the candidate will not win, if he wins he will not do what he says, and if he tries to do what he says he will be impeached, imprisoned, or killed (as we have seen so many times before).

The strategy of using the partisan platform supported by the U.S. American Style Democracy to spread revolutionary ideas is like fucking for virginity, validating in the process the very thing we are trying to invalidate. The immediate needs of the people who most need this revolution can not be satiated with crumbs. It is our responsibility as militants to not create dependence on the very Government we aim to overthrow, and strive to meet these immediate needs as a community; a Movement.

“There is only the concern of throwing crumbs at the gaping mouth of hunger, perhaps so that they leave us alone …” (Maria Lacerda de Moura)

From 11 to 15 July, pedagogy students from all over Brazil met at União dos Palmares, Alagoas, to discuss methods of combating State attacks against education, and the rights of the people inside and outside the academic sphere in our country.

This was the 38th ENEPe (National Meeting of Students of Pedagogy), and its 1st Marxist-Leninist-Maoist edition.

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The realization of this groundbreaking event in the history of ENEPe was not possible without overcoming serious obstacles. There was a rupture between leftist students, resulting in two different events being held: this one organized by ExNEPe (National Executive of Students of Pedagogy) with predominant presence of the MEPR, and another event with predominant presence of MEPe (Student Movement of Pedagogy) and student movements linked to UNE (National Union of Students).

This ideological divergence among “leftist” students is based on partisanship. The MEPR claims political independence, a vote boycott, and a complete rejection of financial dependence on, or campaigning for, political parties. In addition, they also aim to keep this event open to students from other academic fields and to non-students.

For many, the boycott of the vote means a breach for the right to strengthen, or even a right in disguise (like blaming 3rd party voters for Trump). Those of the MEPe, who were not on board with MEPR rhetoric, not only made their own event at another date and place, but also sabotaged the initiative and promotion of their peers’ event. Posters promoting the 38th ENEPe in União dos Palmares were removed or damaged in some way throughout the country.

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The vast majority of the approximately 400 people present had to overcome multiple financial and bureaucratic obstacles, as well as the sabotage of other students, to attend the event that week. Therefore, the presence of each one, from each region, held the weight of dedication to militancy, and the enthusiasm of a youth with faith in the revolution.

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Delegations from each region, sleeping quarters.

On the last day of the meeting, the MFP (Popular Women’s Movement) presented itself as a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, embracing the cause of women who are students, teachers, workers and peasants, and stating that the landowning (bourgois) woman is an enemy. The Movement aims to combat unpaid domestic work, the servitude of maids to their bourgeois employers, and the idea that there is some innate difference between men and women.

We must also overcome the monogamy of traditional families, because it was born with the concept of private property to ensure the transfer of assets by inheritance. They also affirmed that there is no rape culture, there is the Patriarchy and Capitalism. Therefore, one does not destroy rape culture with laws, one destroys capitalist patriarchy with a revolution. The problem is not the man, it is the State. And above all, the purpose of the organization is “to awaken revolutionary fury in women.”

The event showed beautifully how Popular Culture is resistance. A typical Alagoan dance performance opened a series of cultural presentations of each delegation present. It became clear that “each Brazilian region is a Country”, as one of the students observed. It was exciting to witness how extreme diversity can mean full union and solidarity. Several dances, songs, stories, and languages were presented, highlighting how the hegemony violently invisibilizes valuable cultural expressions in Brazil (we are much more than just Rio and São Paulo).

On Saturday, July 14th, participants were divided into three groups, one of them destined to the historical site of Quilombo dos Palmares. This is the most famous settlement of runaway enslaved Africans in resistance to Portuguese and Dutch occupation. The trip in the yellow school bus was a celebration, everyone alternated between singing tacky songs and chanting political slogans. In Serra da Barriga, in the region of Zumbi dos Palmares (the a most famous abolitionist leader of the Quilombo), we rattled on the dirt road, up and down mountains of low vegetation, with occasional coconut trees being greeted by vultures.

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It was inevitable to feel the power of that land, even though it is now structured somewhat like a theme park. Each step seemed to lift a centuries-old combative memory, as if it were dust that instead of obfuscating, made our political purpose even clearer. The sight from above the mountain almost placed us in the bodies of the men and women who settled there 400 years ago, and in the strategic awareness of being able to see enemies from afar without being seen.

At the end of the visit, many of us swam in the small pastel green lagoon where Quilombolas “fed their souls”.

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When we returned to the university in União dos Palmares, we attended presentations of works, some of which would later be awarded. One of them addressed the importance of sex education in schools for students between 11 and 15 years of age. The interests of the children revolved around the themes of masturbation, puberty and menstruation. The presenter showed that sex is still a taboo between teachers and principals. When we see how common it is for 13 to 15 year old girls to become pregnant, the importance of overcoming this taboo and addressing this issue is revealed as undeniably urgent.

The importance of history was emphasized when we recognized that Brazil has a memory problem. A presentation on the Araguaia Guerrilla discussed the perpetuation of violence, decades after the battle, when the crimes of the resistance are judicially equated with those of the oppressors. She also brought up the subject of female particularities when it comes to the practice of torture during the Brazilian “dictatorship” (Military regime of 1964-1985), and the question of using the term “dictatorship” as it is used by the bourgeois democracy to defend its contemporary dictatorial policies.

In general, there was a lot of repetition of terms such as “postmodernist,” “opportunistic,” “immobilist,” and scientific Marxism, without refined definitions and contextualizations. This alienated certain students who did not identify as Marxist, and gave little opening for participants to disagree. Even the final votes were bizarrely homogeneous, perhaps not only because there was consensus, but also because going against the group would be intimidating.

For the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie, inaccessibility is the charm. With them there is no dialogue, there is combat. Fighting the idea that “a lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” (Goebbels) also means recognizing that there are different perspectives on reality, and not just a truth that belongs to scientific socialists. Occasional failures to recognize this have resulted in certain unfortunate affirmations, such as one on the mysticism of “primitive” communities, and superficial and unnecessary approaches towards dialectical materialism.

Even so, it was stated that the science we see today in the academy serves the Capital. Scientific knowledge of the people, be it indigenous, black or peasant, is appropriated by the ruling class and patented. We have to bring science back to the people, by preserving traditional indigenous education, for example. To one of the speakers, the “Indigenous problem” is a class problem, not a white supremacy problem; It is a struggle for land and survival. It would be interesting to have more Indigenous and Quilombola groups in the coming events, so much so that it was decided that the theme of the 23rd FoNEPe (National Forum of Pedagogical Entities) will be “education that serves indigenous, peasant and Quilombola communities”, next year in Juazeiro, Bahia.

At the end, the farewells were warm, since during the week we cultivated great affection for each other. There was room for self-criticism and growth, and the socio-political potential of the event is undeniable. We are all excited about the next ENEPe (39th) that will take place in Guarulhos, São Paulo, with the theme “defending the public school against privatization.”


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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Folk Magic and Freedom

“Folk magic belongs to the poor and dispossessed wherever that may be. It doesn’t belong to any one people, isn’t black magic or white magic. It’s magic for the everyday. It’s the magic of the people.”

From Emma Kathryn

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Folk magic is as old as time. Sometimes I wonder if magic is the right term, for the practises may not seem magical in themselves alone, and I suppose it depends on your own definition of what magic is. For example, is knowing where to find plants and their practical applications magic? I would say so, but you may not. But whether you believe in magic or not, these practises have their uses in everyday life.

Folk magic was often used by those who could not afford otherwise. When doctors were too expensive or too far away, it was the local wise woman who would be called upon for medicines made from local herbs, treating illness, unwanted pregnancy and what ever ailed the local community. People turned to folk magic when there was no one or nothing else that could help them.

Occultishly speaking, some might say that folk magic is simple, that it is low magic, and perhaps it is, but that does not take away its effectiveness.

Folk magic belongs to the poor and dispossessed wherever that may be. It doesn’t belong to any one people, isn’t black magic or white magic. It’s magic for the everyday. It’s the magic of the people.

I practise witchcraft and my particular flavour, as I’ve no doubt mentioned before, is a mixture of Traditional British witchcraft (non-Wiccan), Obeah and Vodou. A right mixture, I know, but as far apart as they may seem from one another, what makes them so compatible is that many of the practises from each tradition can be described as folk magic.

Each one of those practises, individually makes use of plant knowledge and lore, of connection to the land, of singing and chanting and the power of words, of actions and of nature.

Did you ever read American Gods by Neil Gaiman? Bloody great book, and the series was okay too, but I always thought, and think now, that the message might have been lost (or perhaps I read into it too deeply, or perhaps I just saw the truth in it, because the best stories are true, if only to themselves).

Throughout the book, the protagonist discovers the reality of the old Gods and comes to be involved with their struggle with the new, modern Gods. The one the protagonist doesn’t really get or understand is the buffalo that appears to him. Turns out the buffalo is The Land, or at least a physical representation of the land.

What I took from that novel, the truth I saw within it, is that the land is always there. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in many Gods, one God, none, or maybe you’re unsure, it doesn’t matter because the land is there. It is connection to the land at the very core of folk magic. It is changing with the seasons. It is knowing what plant is used for what. It’s about cooking from scratch with real food. It is about getting back to basics. And it doesn’t matter where in the world you are or where you are from, if the land is where your ancestors hail from or not, wherever you are, you can connect to the land beneath your feet.

I believe that we can incorporate and use folk magic practises in our everyday lives, and in doing so loosen the grip Capitalism has on us. Don’t think this is an outright attack, a fight to the end. Instead see it as becoming less reliant on the State. Think of it as chipping away. If it were a fight, then folk magic would be the equivalent of footwork and body movement rather than the knock out blow, but the footwork and the body movement put the fighter in the right place at the right moment to land that power punch.

Also, it’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean you must refrain from all aspects of modern life, but in learning these things, and learning them in a way that is relevant for today, it gives us those tools, the knowledge and skill set if you should ever need it in the future.

And maybe you might just find that you actually enjoy doing it.

So what is folk magic? What I’m going to share from here on out are all things that I myself do. Everything is from my own experiences and I offer them here to you, fellow seekers.

I love nothing more than to be out in nature and foraging is an excellent way to do just that. Working with plants is probably the core of my folk practise, and that’s solely because plants can be used for so many things.

But before working with plants, you need to be able to identify them properly. A good identification guide is a must, one that shows detailed pictures of the whole flower, the petal and the leaf. And then you’ll need to get out and about where you live. Look at what grows there. Identify it. Research its uses. Harvest it. Dry it. It is quite easy and extremely enjoyable when you get going, but you do have to make an effort to get out.

A couple of words on foraging responsibly: Firstly, never decimate an area, after all, it will be in your interest to make sure there will be a plentiful supply next year; also remember we don’t inhabit the land alone, so leave more than enough for the creatures that rely on it for food and shelter.

I’ve already hinted that plants can be used for medicine. Whenever I write about this, sometimes people think I’m saying very ill people should stop taking their medication – I’m not. But that said, for many common illnesses there are natural remedies. When you take cough medicine, or cold medicine, or headache tablets, these types of medication don’t actually make you better, but rather soothe the symptoms of whatever ails you. Big pharma is big business, and you can save your hard-earned cash by not buying these kinds of product, or relying on them less often.

The first thing is to learn of the medical applications of the trees and plants where you live, for example white willow is the precursor to aspirin and grows along rivers.

When it comes to a lot of plants, they are both medicine and food. Teas are a good way to hydrate and will have different properties depending on the plant used. Use dry or fresh flower heads or leaves and steep for a few minutes in hot water before straining and drinking.

Then there’s decoctions, which are made by adding plant matter to water, then boiling until only half of the liquid remains. Tinctures are made by steeping plant matter in alcohol such as vodka, rum, or my own particular favourite, brandy. Some of the plant oils are not water-soluble, however alcohol extracts them and so the plant’s goodness is drawn into the alcohol. Both tinctures and decoctions can be taken as medicines to ease symptoms including sore throats, coughs and colds. They can also be taken , a spoonful a day, as a health tonic.

Poultices can be used for a variety of minor ailments, including spots, aches and pains, eczema and so on. A poultice can contain so many things depending on what is needed, can be warm or cold, and are typical held against the skin , bandaged in placed and changed regularly.

Witchcraft and Paganism continue to become ever more commercialised, and in the process, causes harm to people, animals and the environment, like commercialisation of anything generally does.

Returning to folk magic means that we can resist, if only in some small part, that which goes against what we believe.

Right now where I live, so many of the plants I use in my own practise are ready to pick. Mugwort and wormwood are just beginning to bloom, and the Datura is flowering. I love datura. It is a night-blooming plant, and has large creamy trumpet-shaped flowers that smell better than roses. When the flowers die back, large spikey seed pods grow big and round, finally rupturing and spilling their seeds onto the ground below.

I make ointments with all of those plants and use them in meditation, to induce lucid dreaming and other such practises. But, used carefully and always with respect, these ointments can be used to ease muscular pain as well as arthritis and other conditions. When using such plants, you must always take into account your own health and any medical conditions you may have.

And it’s not just those exotic, almost stereotypical witches plants that can be used either. Flowers including honeysuckle, roses, marigolds, lavender, and so many other common plants can be used in many witchcraft and / or folk practices. Think about making your own incense blends instead of buying. Leave offerings of flowers and seeds instead of tying ribbons to trees or leaving resin statues and the like.

But folk magic is more than medicine and food, though these issues are very important. Folk magic is about connecting to and working with the land and the spirits that abide there. I am an animist and I see everything in the natural world as having a soul, a spirit. Connecting with that spirit is an important part of my practise, and all of the things described above, going out foraging and working with plants, adds to and builds upon that connection.

Folk magic is also about taking our cues from nature. Today we are so disconnected from the natural cycles and rhythms. We go to work all year round in climate controlled shops, offices and factories. We can eat whatever we like, no matter the season. We’ve lost touch with nature and folk magic is about getting that back.

So go out and connect with where you live. Whether you practise magic or not, whether you believe or not is irrelevant, for the benefits getting back to the land offer will be for all who make the effort. Rediscovering folk magic will give you another tool in your arsenal to use in your fight against the Capitalist State.


Emma Kathryn

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.

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