What’s Pan-africanism got to do with Marxism?

“The fight against Eurocentrism, a thing which does not allow for a life with dignity, is a struggle against the naturalization of racial oppression in the social condition of the worker. For this reason, Pan-Africanism is a necessary understanding of class struggle.”

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Texto em Português (BR) aqui.

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A wall with all white male presidents of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), and the day’s lecturer Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida.

In the second to last week of August, the Faculty of Law of the Federal University of Bahia, in Salvador, hosted the first cycle of a course on Marxism and Pan-Africanism. This course will be a recurring initiative to discuss concepts and disseminate knowledge not only for law students in the university. From the 20th to the 23rd, the doors of the main auditorium were open to everyone with an interest in the event, free of charge. It was not just a lecture on the perspective of black women, on the history of white supremacy and capitalism, or on the meaning of Pan-Africanism. It was a meeting of exchange that brought together speakers, teachers, poets, students, writers, artists and more, many of whom were not always welcome in that space. Due value must be given to the initiative to address anti-capitalist and anti-racist issues and practices in the academic environment where Brazilian Law is researched and enforced.

On the first day of the course, before the lecture of Dr. Lindinalva de Paula, there was a warm welcome from the table and exciting performances of theater and poetry. The topic of the lecture, the perspective of black women on Pan-Africanism, was fully expressed in everyone’s chest when Sophia Araujo stepped on stage and presented her poetry- in the presence of her daughter named Dandara (also the name of a notorious enslaved woman of the 17th century). The bridge between the reality of the streets today, and the theoretical debate of centenary ideologies, has materialized in an environment that has been historically hostile against both.

One of the participants at the beginning of the event stated not only the relevance of us being there, but the obligation we have to occupy that space. She reports that in that same room she has been booed for defending affirmative action, and many have been booed for trying to address anti-racism. Combating institutional racism needs the production of anti-racist knowledge, bringing other non-European rationalities to the academic environment. This means not only studying, but transforming.

“Until the lions have their own historians, hunting stories will continue to glorify the hunter.” (Eduardo Galeano)

Leno Sacramento, from the Olodum Theater, presented a shocking performance on police oppression, addressing the psychological and physical violence that compose our incessant denunciations against the genocide of black people. Nor can we forget the invisibilisation and ideological silencing of black and indigenous peoples, reinforced by epistemic-genocide, which brings us the famous phrase “death begins before the shot” (Pedro Borges).

The event was not restricted to the urban context, a link between the rural area and the urban area was also forged. There was a representative affirmation of Union power in contrast to the corporate one. And the presence of members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) brought to the table the struggle of black peasants. Therefore the symbiosis of land, class, and race was demonstrated in theoretical and practical ways.

“I am landless / I am poor / I am black / I am a revolution” (Raumi Souza, musician and MST member)

Dr. Lindinalva de Paula’s talk had a simple and indispensable message: Together, black women go further. Alone they may walk fast, but even with all their titles, it is a trap. “Our steps come from afar,” she said, referring to all the black women who came before us, and made our way possible today. They were part of a feminism that was not Eurocentric, that burned no bras, and was not ignorant of Africa. They had different guidelines; for example, daycare, which was not a white feminist agenda because they had access to basic health, and when they got pregnant they could hire a black woman to help. In the periphery, and before, black women were already feminists.

“We did not become feminists, we did not know we were doing feminism all along.” (Dr. Lindinalva de Paula)

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The following day, the lecture by Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira also addressed the issue of the black movement’s dialogue with whiteness, only from a more Marxist perspective. In contrast to the previous speaker, who at no point demonstrated any value in the political collaboration between black women and white feminists, he argued that despite the position of undeniable whiteness from which Marx and Engels spoke, they did not reproduce the racism of their time. At least not after a certain point in their careers. Therefore, for him, there is no contradiction in adopting the philosophies of these thinkers in the anti-racist or Pan-Africanist struggle.

Before the course began, attendees received an email with a video of a debate that clearly shows the tense divergence within the Pan-africanist movement between Afrocentric and Marxist thinkers. Eurocentrism, as a worldview where racism is put into practice, has no place in Pan-africanist doctrine. While Afrocentrics believe that adopting Marxism means giving space to a Eurocentric doctrine, Marxists such as Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira believe that Marx and Engels overcame their inherited Eurocentrism and fought against racism.

“Were Marx and Engels racist?” To the lecturer, no. They undoubtedly studied the texts of people contaminated by ‘ethnocentrism’, such as Hegel, who believed that world history was an evolutionary process from the East to the West, concluding that Africa, having a stateless people, had no history. They were not only European intellectuals, but they were German, in a colonial and enslaver period that oppressed even the peripheries of their own continent (the Slavs), but eventually they joined the struggle against slavery and against colonialism.

If Marx and Engels’ struggle against slavery and colonialism was indeed an anti-racist act, it remained open. They stood in favor of anti-colonial revolts in India and China, defending them as strategies proportional to the violence of capitalism and colonialism. They also defended the North in the U.S. civil war, denouncing biased journalism in Britain that had economic interests in cotton production in the South. Marx even “let” his daughter marry a Haitian of Afro-descent. That is what it means to be anti-racist in the 19th century, even if these are no longer our standards for determining whether someone is racist or not today. Unfortunately, the lecturer hinted that racism was once more palpable back then, and that our criteria for categorizing racism today is subjective; it is enough to say that African paganism is “of the devil”.

This reading does not work for everyone. A member of the audience questioned whether these arguments are enough to determine whether or not someone was racist. Being abolitionist, at that time, was a position held by many who had interests far from being the destruction of white supremacy. Having a black relative also means nothing, since even Bolsonaro tried to use this argument to reassure that he is not racist. Others have brought the question of how racism persisted after socialist revolutions in Cuba and Russia. And the Afrocentric Pan-africanist organization React or Die asked to have their flag removed from the event, but maintaining cordial relations and organizers of the course demonstrating full support for their VI International March Against the Genocide of the Black People that happened 4 days later, August 25th, and to the “Don’t Vote, React!” campaign.

Since the 19th century, racism has not ceased to be palpable and real. From medical genocide, necropolitics, mass incarceration, to police violence, our criteria for denouncing racism still holds immense weight on the bodies of black people in Brazil. A Marxism that is not anti-racist is possible, but for the speaker, being a Marxist without being anti-racist is an appropriation of the term. An anti-racism that is not Marxist is unquestionably embraced, since our goal is human emancipation and we fight against all forms of oppression. We do not have to be Marxist to be anti-capitalist. Other anti-capitalist guidelines are more than welcome.

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Soviet Poster (1960)

Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, the speaker the following 3 days of the course, presented a different perspective on the relationship between Eurocentrism and Marxism. What Marxism and Pan-Africanism have in common is that they are effective ideologies in dealing with historical moments of conflict. It’s not possible to essentialize the two ideologies. There is no homogeneity, there is history. The movement of history is one of transformation and conflict.

Some say they don’t want to read white writers, but those who kill us have only what to gain from that. “They are horrible indeed,” he said, but it is not consistent to read Fanon without reading Hegel, for example. Even though Hegel had extremely ethno / Eurocentric rhetoric, and undeniably racist stances, he also introduced us to the dialectic between the master and the enslaved.

W.e.b. Du Bois was the first black man with a Harvard doctorate. Without theory, practice submits itself to the immediate. But Marxism has nothing to teach the worker. “Theory of the Strike?” Uniting theory and practice, intellectuals and politicians, means joining the agenda of thought with political practice, since the transformation of the world depends on us understanding the world.

At the same time, the act of transformation transforms the practitioner: Praxis. The future must be built and can be transformed. In the midst of many fantastic examples and analyzes, perhaps the most striking example of the union of theory and practice, praxis, and transformation, was the presentation of the concept of naturalization of the condition of exploitation.

Naturalizing the social condition of the worker happens through the Capitalist ideology. Their condition is naturalized within the system by the social division of labor, which depends on race and gender. These social relations are concrete. They are social relations that give meaning to things. Therefore, the relationship between Africa, race, slavery, and blackness is a socialization. Race itself is a historical creation. Racism created the black, and created its antithesis, the white. The fight against Eurocentrism, a thing which does not allow for a life with dignity, is a struggle against the naturalization of racial oppression in the social condition of the worker. For this reason, Pan-Africanism is a necessary understanding of class struggle.

Jal Souza, one of the attendees, explains this phenomenon wonderfully from his personal perspective:

“While the children of the elite study to develop critical thinking, young working-class people are committed to increasing the small profit of the family, and thus are not allowed intellectual development. I remember a youth, poor financially, where to open a book was seen as an act of pure entertainment and laziness, for there is no value recognized in those words but rather contempt. Time spent reading should be employed in paid work. The irrelevance of the study and relevance of basic manual labor makes it difficult for boys and girls from the peripheries to see themselves in educational institutions. Therefore, they occupy the positions of worse remuneration and greater physical effort, without representation in political organizations, and without knowing how to claim and conquer rights. Rich and white men, those who are most interested in keeping the mechanisms of the system in place, decide the future of all.” (Jal Souza)

While Marxism makes contact with reality by piercing to ideology, structural racism is the social fabric that sustains institutions. We can advance in isolated institutional contexts, without even beginning to change this structure. Racism consists not only of conscious actions, but also of the unconscious ones, those in the economic, political, and subjective level. In fact, the “demonization” of African cultures leads black people to lose identity and to accept the structure as natural and immutable.

The last day of the lecture took place in the Brazilian Bar Association, the institution where the abolition of slavery was discussed in Brazil. Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida again shared a moving and inspiring speech, this time on the legacy of the thinker, artist, and now officially lawyer, Luiz Gama.

Slavery has different moments, and Luis Gama lived during the most brutal of them. He was a lawyer for enslaved people, and accused the public power, the empire, putting it in the press and using public opinion in his favor. In 1881 there was a lynching of 4 enslaved whom he considered heroes. Those people were lynched because they killed their “lord.” Luis Gama boldly stated publicly that it is important to be radical against an evil that is even more radical, and that these enslaved men killed in self-defense. Killing the master is self-defense. This led him to be persecuted. His story is active resistance.

Luiz Gama is an idea. An idea that materialized there at that moment, in that room in the Brazilian Bar Association. “His story is in each one of us.” (Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida)


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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Para Além dos Muros: A Academia e o Debate Antirracista

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Na penúltima semana de Agosto, a Faculdade de Direito da UFBA hospedou o primeiro ciclo de formação do curso de Marxismo e Pan-Africanismo. Esse curso será uma iniciativa recorrente de debater e disseminar conhecimento, não só para alunos(as) de direito na universidade. Do dia 20 a 23, as portas do principal auditório estavam abertas para todos e todas com interesse no evento, gratuitamente. Não foi apenas uma palestra sobre a perspectiva de mulheres negras, sobre a historia da supremacia branca e do capitalismo, ou sobre o significado de Pan-africanismo. Foi um encontro de aprendizado e troca que reuniu palestrantes, professores(as), poetas, alunos(as), escritores(as), artistas e mais, muitos dos quais nem sempre foram bem-vindos naquele espaço. Devido valor deve ser dado à iniciativa de abordar os temas e práticas anti-capitalistas e antirracistas no ambiente acadêmico onde pesquisa-se e aplica-se a Lei.

No primeiro dia de curso, antes da palestra da Dr. Lindinalva de Paula, houve um caloroso bem vindo da mesa e apresentações emocionantes de teatro e poesia. O tópico da palestra, a perspectiva das mulheres negras sobre o Pan-africanismo, foi expresso em completo no peito de todos e todas quando Sophia Araújo subiu no palco e apresentou suas poesias- na presença de sua filha chamada Dandara. A ponte entre a realidade das ruas hoje, e o debate teórico de ideologias centenárias, se concretizou em um ambiente que foi historicamente hostil contra os dois.

Uma das participantes da mesa no inicio do evento afirmou não só a relevância de estarmos ali, mas a obrigação que temos de ocupar aquele espaço. Ela relata que naquela mesma sala ela ja foi vaiada por falar de cotas, e muitos já foram vaiados por tentar abordar o tema de antirracismo. Combater o racismo institucional demanda a produção de conhecimento antirracista, trazendo outras racionalidades não européias pra conjuntura acadêmica. Isso significa não só estudar, mas transformar.

“Até que os leões tenham seus próprios historiadores, as histórias de caçadas continuarão glorificando o caçador.” (Eduardo Galeano)

Leno Sacramento, do Teatro do Olodum, apresentou uma peça impactante sobre opressão policial, abordando a violência psicológica e física que compõe nossas incessantes denúncias contra o genocídio do povo negro. Também não podemos esquecer da invisibilisação e silenciamento ideológico de povos negros e indígenas, reforçado pelo epistemicídio, que nos traz a famosa frase “a morte começa antes do tiro” (Pedro Borges).

O evento não se restringiu ao contexto urbano, um vinculo entre a zona rural e a zona urbana também foi forjado. Houve afirmação representativa do poder sindical em contraste ao corporativo. E a presença de membros do MST trouxe à mesa a luta de camponeses e camponesas negras. Portanto a simbiose de terra, classe e raça foi demonstrada de forma teórica e prática.

“Sou sem terra / sou pobre / sou negão / sou revolução” (Raumi Souza, músico e membro do MST)

A palestra da Dr. Lindinalva de Paula teve uma simples e indispensável mensagem: Juntas, as mulheres negras andam mais longe. Sozinhas talvez andam rápido, mas mesmo com todos os seus títulos, é cilada. “Seus passos vem de longe”, ela falou, referindo-se a todas as mulheres negras que vieram antes de nós, e possibilitaram esse caminho hoje. Winnie Mandela, Amy Jacques Garvey, Lélia Gonzalez, Assata Shakur, Anna Júlia cooper são algumas delas. Unir mulher e raça significa reconhecer que existem feminismos (em plural). Existe um feminismo que não era branco eurocentrado e que queimava sutiã, já que haviam mulheres que nem usavam sutiã. Esse feminismo completamente desconhece a África, e não tem as mesmas pautas. Creche, por exemplo, não é pauta da feminista branca porque que ela tem acesso à saude básica, e quando engravidava tinha como contratar uma negra pra ajudar. Na periferia e antes, as mulheres negras já eram feministas.

“Não nos tornamos feministas, não sabíamos que estávamos fazendo feminismo o tempo todo”. (Dr. Lindinalva de Paula)

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No dia seguinte, a palestra do Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira também abordou a questão do diálogo do movimento negro com a branquitude, só que de uma perspectiva mais propriamente Marxista. Em contraste com a palestrante anterior, que em momento algum demonstrou valor na colaboração politica entre mulheres negras e feministas brancas, ele argumentou que apesar da posição de inegável branquidade da qual Marx e Engels falavam, eles não reproduziam o racismo de seu tempo. Pelo menos não depois de um certo período de suas carreiras. Portanto, pra ele, não ha contradição alguma em adotar as filosofias desses pensadores na luta antirracista, ou Pan-Africanista.

Antes do curso começar, inscritos e inscritas receberam um email com o video de um debate que mostra claramente a tensa divergência dentro do movimento Pan-africanista entre Afrocêntricos e Marxistas. O Eurocentrismo, como uma visão do mundo onde o racismo é colocado em prática, não tem espaço na doutrina pan-africanista. Enquanto Afrocêntricos acreditam que se reivindicar Marxista significa dar esse espaço para uma doutrina Eurocentrica, Marxistas como Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira acreditam que Marx e Engels superaram seu Eurocentrismo herdado, e lutaram contra o racismo.

“Marx e Engels eram racistas?”, pra o Dr. não. Sem duvida eles estudavam textos de pessoas contaminadas pelo “etnocentrismo”; como Hegel, que acreditada que a história mundial era um processo evolutivo do oriente em direção ao ocidente, concluindo que a Africa, por ter um povo sem estado/civilização, não tinha historia. Eles eram dois intelectuais não só europeus, mas alemães, em um período colonial e escravagista que oprimia até as periferias de seu próprio continente (os eslavos). Mas eventualmente eles se uniram à luta contra a escravidão, e contra o colonialismo.

Se a luta de Marx e Engels contra a escravidão e o colonialismo foi de fato um ato antirracista ficou em aberto. Eles se posicionaram a favor de revoltas anti-coloniais na India e na China, as defendendo como estratégias proporcionais a violência do capitalismo e do colonialismo. Também defenderam o Norte na guerra civil Norte Americana, denunciando o jornalismo tendencioso na Inglaterra que tinham interesses econômicos na produção de algodão no Sul. Marx até “deixou” sua filha casar com um afro-descendente haitiano. Isso é o que significa ser antirracista no século 19, mesmo que esses não sejam mais nossos padrões para determinar se alguém é racista ou não hoje. Infelizmente, ele insinuou que o racismo antigamente era mais palpável, e que nosso critério pra categorizar racismo hoje em dia é subjetivo; basta falar que “o Candomblé é do diabo”.

Essa leitura não funciona pra todos. Um membro da audiência questionou no bloco de perguntas se esses argumentos são o suficiente pra determinar se alguém era ou não era racista. Ser abolicionista, naquela época, era um posicionamento mantido por muitos que tinham interesses longe de ser a destruição da supremacia branca. Ter um familiar negro também não significa nada, já que até Bolsonaro tentou usar esse argumento pra afirmar que não é racista. Outros trouxeram a questão do racismo que persistiu após revoluções socialistas em Cuba e na Russia. E a organização Pan-africanista Afrocêntrica Reaja ou será Mortx pediu para ter sua bandeira removida do evento, mas mantendo relações cordiais e organizadores do curso demonstrando completo apoio à VI Marcha Internacional Contra o Genocídio do Povo Negro que aconteceu 4 dias depois, dia 25 de Agosto, e à campanha “Não Vote, Reaja!”.

Dês do século 19, o racismo não deixou de ser palpável. Do genocídio hospitalar, necropolítica, encarceramento em massa, à violência policial, nossos critérios para denunciar racismo ainda segura um peso imenso nos corpos de negros e negras no nosso país. Um Marxismo que não seja antirracista é possível, mas para o palestrante, ser marxista sem ser antirracista é uma apropriação do termo. Um antirracismo que não seja Marxista é inquestionavelmente abraçado, já que o nosso objetivo é a emancipação humana e lutar contra todas as formas de opressão. Não precisamos ser Marxistas pra ser anti-capitalistas. Outras pautas anti-capitalistas são bem vindas.

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Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, o palestrante não só do dia seguinte mas dos 3 dias seguintes do curso, apresentou uma perspectiva diferenciada sobre a relação do Eurocentrismo com o Marxismo. O que o Marxismo e o Pan-africanismo tem em comum é que são ideologias eficazes ao lidar com momentos históricos de conflito. Não é possível essencializar as duas ideologias. Não existe homogeneidade, existe história. O movimento da História é de transformação e conflito.

Alguns falam que não querem ler autores brancos, mas “quem nos mata só tem a ganhar com isso”. “Eles são horrorosos mesmo”, ele disse, mas não é coerente ler Fanon sem ler Hegel, por exemplo. Mesmo Hegel tendo seus posicionamentos extremamente etno/euro-cêntricos e inegavelmente racistas, foi ele também que nos apresentou a dialética entre mestre e escravizado.

W.e.b. Du Bois foi o primeiro negro com doutorado de Harvard. Sem a teoria, a prática se submete ao imediato. Mas o Marxismo não tem nada a ensinar ao trabalhador. “Teoria da Greve?” Unir teoria e prática, intelectuais e políticos, significa unir a pauta de compreensão com a prática política, já que a transformação do mundo depende de nós entendermos o mundo.

Ao mesmo tempo, a ação transformadora transforma o praticante: Praxis. O futuro deve ser construído e pode ser transformado. Em meio de muitos fantásticos exemplos e analises, talvez o mais impactante exemplo de união de teoria e pratica, práxis, e transformação, foi a apresentação do conceito de naturalização da condição de explorado.

Naturalizar a condição social do trabalhador acontece pela ideologia Capitalista. Naturaliza-se sua condição dentro do sistema pela divisão social do trabalho, que depende da raça e do gênero. Essas relações sociais são concretas. São relações sociais que dão sentido para as coisas. A relação entre África, raça, escravidão, e negro, portanto, é uma socialização. Raça em si é uma criação histórica. O racismo criou o negro, e criou sua antítese, o branco. A luta contra o Eurocentrismo, uma coisa que não viabiliza uma vida com dignidade, é uma luta contra a naturalização da opressão racial na condição social do trabalhador. Por isso, o Pan-africanismo é uma compreensão necessária da luta de classe.

Jal Souza, um dos ouvintes da palestra, explica esse fenômeno maravilhosamente a partir de sua perspectiva pessoal:

“Enquanto os filhos da elite e dos pequenos burgueses estudam para elevar o pensamento crítico, os jovens da classe trabalhadora estão empenhados em aumentar o pequeno lucro da família, e portanto, não se permitem ao desenvolvimento intelectual. Recordo de uma juventude, pobre financeiramente, onde abrir um livro era visto como um ato de puro entretenimento e preguiça, pois, não ha valor reconhecido naquelas palavras, mas sim desprezo. Aquele tempo gasto com leitura deveria ser empregado em um trabalho remunerado. A medição da sabedoria é medida pela capacidade de ganhar dinheiro, não pelo conhecimento. A irrelevância do estudo e valorização do trabalho básico e braçal faz com que os meninos e meninas das periferias não se enxerguem em instituições de ensino. Portanto, ocupam os postos de trabalhos de pior remuneração e maior esforço físico, sem representação nas organizações políticas, e sem saber reivindicar e conquistar direitos. Permitindo assim, que os homens brancos e ricos, os maiores interessados em manter os mecanismos do sistema vigente, decidam o futuro de todos.” (Jal Souza)

Dia 23 de Agosto foi o lançamento do livro O Que é Racismo Estrutural? do Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, na Senzala do Barro Preto.

O espaço cultural Senzala do Barro Preto é sede do bloco afro Ilê Ayiê, “uma entidade carnavalesca que funciona como centro cultural no bairro do Curuzú, ensinando e difundindo entre os moradores da localidade e regiões próximas à identidade africana, mostrando com orgulho o poder da ancestralidade, religiosidade e construção dos negros no Brasil e internacionalmente.” (Jal Souza)

Enquanto o Marxismo faz contato com a realidade furando a ideologia, o racismo estrutural é o tecido social que sustenta instituições. Podemos avançar em contextos isolados institucionais, sem nem começar a mudar essa estrutura. O racismo não constitui apenas de ações conscientes, mas também das inconscientes, as do nível econômico, político e subjetivo. Aliás, a “demonizaçāo” das culturas africanas leva o negro perder sua identidade e a aceitar a estrutura como natural e imutável.

A performance do grupo indígena Ybytu Emi trouxe a pauta artística, musical, e teatral como expressão das raizes entrelaçadas da comunidade indígena e negra brasileira. Nítido ficou o entrelaço dos índios na vanguarda da proteção da cultura africana no Brasil, no passado, e das religiões afros preservando a cultura indígena, no presente.

E por fim, o ultimo dia de palestra aconteceu na Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, uma instituição onde discutia-se a abolição da escravatura no Brasil. Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida novamente compartilhou um discurso comovente e inspirador, dessa vez sobre o legado do pensador, artista, e agora oficialmente advogado, Luiz Gama.

A escravidão tem momentos diferentes, e Luis Gama viveu durante o mais brutal deles. Ele era advogado pra pessoas escravizadas, e acusava o poder público, o império, colocando na imprensa e usando a opinião pública no seu interesse. Em 1881 houve um linchamento de 4 escravizados que ele considerava heróis. Aquelas pessoas foram linchadas porque mataram o “senhor”. Luis Gama corajosamente afirmou publicamente que é importante ser radical contra um mal que é mais radical ainda, e que esses escravizados mataram em legítima defesa. Matar senhor de engenho é legítima defesa. Isso o levou a ser perseguido. Sua historia é uma resistência ativa.

Luiz Gama é uma idéia. Uma idéia que se materializou ali naquele momento, naquela mesa na AOB. “A história dele esta em cada um e uma de nós.” (Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida)


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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é militante anti-fascista/decolonial, e feminista interseccional. Ela edita o site Gods and Radicals.

The Tragedy of Brazil’s National Museum Started Much Before the Fire

If we’re gonna talk about the carelessness with which we deal with valuable artifacts, we must also talk about how we attach value to those artifacts, and the undeniable Ethno/euro-centrism involved in that process.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Texto em Português (BR) aqui.

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“It’s a National duty to rebuild it from the ashes, even if it is not the original it will forever be a memory of the royal family that gave us our independence.” (Marcelo Crivella, Rio de Janeiro’s Governor)

It’s safe to say the whole country of Brazil was dumbfounded watching the National Museum literally go up in flames, as if it was our turn to be destroyed by the aliens from Independence Day. When it was over, we were all left oscillating in the range of emotions between rage and sorrow, mourning the loss of irreplaceable objects, and 200 years worth of people’s work.

We’ve been careless with our material History and irresponsible in preserving memory for as long as this Museum existed, why are we so upset now? Our indignation seems to come from shame for not living up to an European standard of possessing History.

Ten years ago there was a criminal fire that destroyed an indigenous community not far from where the Museum is, and virtually no one took to the streets. We talk about all the records of Indigenous languages that were lost inside this Colonial building, but what are we doing to the Indigenous people alive here now? We don’t see them as having history, we see them as obstacles for development. This is what truly makes me oscillate in the range of emotions between rage and sorrow, year after year.

Part of the fascination we had with that Museum wasn’t necessarily all the valuable objects that were inside, it’s about who attaches value to these things. The royal atmosphere of the space comes from it being one of the few places with authentic European style architecture in our country. One of the people in their fundraising video from last year said that when you walk up the stairs of the museum you can easily imagine walking into a Gala from the Royal Family, which is why she fell in love with the place.

The National Museum is the oldest scientific institution of Brazil. Let that sink in. Academia, alongside the Monarchy, and the Catholic Church, were Medieval institutions introduced to us hundreds of years ago, that today we still feel the desperate need to preserve without properly accessing the genocidal role they’ve played in our lives. While I see the tragedy of the event and feel the horror of the loss, I think it’s important to address our internalized Eurocentric views that lead us to believe Europe and European institutions are the havers and holders of History.

The concept of what it means to be a Human being, as developed in Western Europe in the 16th century, was very much tied to the idea of Having history, and therefore of being civilized. The loss of this “History”, these artifacts, brings up from our colonized idiosyncrasies the feeling of being less human. Tragic is how we still treat our Indigenous and Quilombist communities as less human, as not really having History, or not worthy of having their land and their homes preserved.

Haven’t we seen what happens when we leave History in the hands of European Institutions? They steal, then whitewash, distort or destroy. Egypt, for instance, has wanted its treasures back for years. They were colonized and Europe has profited from what they stole ever since. We as a society are still struggling to unlearn the teachings of an ethnocentric campaign that created the idea that Africa has no History. We learned that the evolution of humanity has been Northwards and Westwards, and we conveniently forgot that Egypt is black and African, not white and Northern Mediterranean like Greece.

Brazil also had its memory distorted, and we go along with it. Indigenous peoples were massacred and portrayed in Europe as savage animals. To this day European museums proudly display the works of white men who painted naked Indigenous women alongside made-up animals and plants. Here we internalize that rhetoric, we whiten ourselves, and reject all other ancestry.

If we’re gonna talk about the carelessness with which we deal with valuable artifacts, we must also talk about how we attach value to those artifacts, and the undeniable Ethno/euro-centrism involved in that process. As, if not more, important than rebuilding this institution is combating epistemic-genocide which has been annihilating our people and our History for hundreds of years.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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TRADUÇÃO PORTUGUÊS

A tragédia do Museu Nacional começou muito antes do incêndio

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O país inteiro ficou perplexo ao ver o Museu Nacional literalmente em chamas, como se fosse nossa vez de ser destruídos pelos alienígenas do Independence Day. Quando acabou, oscilamos entre emoções de raiva e tristeza, lamentando a perda de objetos insubstituíveis e 200 anos de trabalho de muitas pessoas.

Fomos descuidados com nossa história material e irresponsáveis com a preservação de nossa memória desde sempre que este museu existe, por que estamos chateados agora? Nossa indignação parece vir da vergonha de ter falhado em alcançar um padrão europeu de possuir História.

Dez anos atrás, houve um incêndio criminoso que destruiu uma comunidade indígena não muito distante do Museu (em Camboinhas), e praticamente ninguém foi às ruas. Nós falamos sobre todos os registros de línguas indígenas que foram perdidos dentro deste edifício colonial, mas o que estamos fazendo para proteger os povos indígenas vivos aqui agora? Nós não os vemos como tendo história, nós os vemos como obstáculos para o desenvolvimento. Isso é o que realmente me faz oscilar entre emoções de raiva e tristeza, ano após ano.

Parte do fascínio que temos com o Museu não é necessariamente todos os objetos valiosos que estavam ali dentro, é sobre quem atribui valor à essas coisas. A atmosfera Real do espaço vem do fato de que é um dos poucos lugares com arquitetura de estilo europeu autêntico em nosso país. Uma das pessoas no vídeo de “Campanha para a requalificação do Museu Nacional” do ano passado disse que quando você sobe as escadas do museu pode-se facilmente imaginar um baile da família real, e é por isso que ela se apaixonou pelo local.

O Museu Nacional é a instituição científica mais antiga do Brasil. A Academia, juntamente com a Monarquia, e a Igreja Católica, foram instituições medievais introduzidas aqui centenas de anos atrás, e que hoje ainda sentimos a necessidade de preservar sem analisar adequadamente o papel genocida que elas tiveram em nossas vidas. Embora eu veja a tragédia do evento e sinta o horror da perda, acho importante abordar nossas visões subconscientemente eurocêntricas que nos levam a acreditar que a Europa e as instituições européias são detentoras da História.

O conceito de o que significa ser humano, desenvolvido na Europa Ocidental no século XVI, estava muito ligado à idéia de ter história e, portanto, de ser civilizado. A perda desta “História”, esses artefatos, traz de nossas idiossincrasias colonizadas a sensação de sermos menos humanos. Trágico é como ainda tratamos nossas comunidades indígenas e quilombolas como menos humanas, como não tendo realmente história, ou não dignas de ter suas terras e seus lares preservados.

Não vemos o que acontece quando deixamos a História nas mãos de instituições europeias? Roubam, depois embranquecem, distorcem ou destroem. O Egito, por exemplo, quer seus tesouros de volta há anos. Eles foram colonizados e a Europa lucrou com o que eles roubaram desde então. Nós, como sociedade, ainda estamos lutando para desaprender os ensinamentos de uma campanha etnocêntrica que criou a idéia de que a África não tem História. Aprendemos que a evolução da humanidade foi em direção ao norte e ao oeste, e convenientemente esquecemos de que o Egito é negro e africano, não branco e do norte do Mediterrâneo como a Grécia.

O Brasil também teve sua memória distorcida, e aceitamos. Os povos indígenas foram massacrados e retratados na Europa como animais selvagens. Até hoje, os museus europeus exibem com orgulho as obras de homens brancos que pintaram mulheres nativas nuas ao lado de animais e plantas inventados. Internalizamos essa retórica, nos embranquecemos, e rejeitamos nossas outras ancestralidades.

Se vamos falar sobre o descuido com qual lidamos com artefatos valiosos, devemos também falar sobre como atribuímos valor a esses artefatos, e o inegável Etno / eurocentrismo envolvido nesse processo. Tão importante quanto, se não mais do que, reconstruir esta instituição é combater o epistemicidio que tem aniquilado nosso povo e nossa história por centenas de anos.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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é militante anti-fascista/decolonial, e feminista interseccional. Edita o site de Gods and Radicals, é filósofa e professora.

Place of Discourse and Folklore of the African Diaspora

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

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Place of Discourse

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

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

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

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


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

23844610_10155972276622372_5754996345436383112_n

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


We now have t-shirts! Sales directly support our work. Order by clicking the image below.

 

Dreams in Fire

“What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.”

From Ramon Elani

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We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, but who is the other that hides in me?

-Arthur Machen

I awoke from dreams of fire. Dark hills loom on the horizon. Thin clouds drift through golden light. The hour is late in the day, later than we have thought by far. How have we come to this place? Where is this desert? A world burning and gods fled. How did we get here? We threw down the gods and worshiped ourselves. We loved ourselves too much. And what have we received for five hundred years of self-love? Ruin. No justice, no freedom. We sought to make the world a paradise for humanity. All the world brothers and sisters. Not a mouth hungry, not a body sick without a cure. Peace and abundance. There have been no greater crimes than the ones done in the names of these dreams. To paraphrase Robinson Jeffers, would that we were never anything more than worms and our lot would have been a kinder, more fortunate one. The crimes of the beast are nothing compared to the crimes of man. We are faced with the death of the world and it was done by our hands. We will burn a star right out of the sky. Says the Seeress: Would you yet know more? An acid ocean, a desert world, air we cannot breathe, water we cannot drink, life gone. By all of the gods, it makes the cruelty of barbarism seem kind and merciful. What a heaven we inhabited before we thought to cure ourselves of our darkness! This I swear, there is no crime done by the bestial part of man that can touch what has been wrought by the cold and rational heart of the machine. I spit endless curses, until I bleed from the mouth, upon those that seek to put the world and the gods beneath man, to put the pettiness of man’s society above life.

But can we not order things just so? Can we not remove the fetters and throw down the tyrants that oppress us? Can we not bring the light of truth and love to those ignorant and misled who torment us? The engineer comes with his technics and seeks to put it all to rights. And yet, and yet. Our lives are not our own. Humanity declares its independence and in so doing, brings hell to the world.

Made from stones and stars, we are. A glittering galaxy in a drop of dew, fading fast before the dawn. All the same, when the power to move things came into our hands, how quick we were to discard our true kin, the stars and moon. With what enthusiasm did we cast aside thousands of years of muck and blood and song in favor of this thing we called ‘society’ and ‘humanity.’ Consumed with human dreams, we closed the door within our souls to the dreams of the world. And so the light passed away from us.

To truly dehumanize our perspective means changing our response to the sufferings of humanity. If we truly seek to renounce an anthropocentric view of the world, we must unfortunately recognize that equality, justice, and freedom are unknown to the spirit of the cosmos. They are ideas that were banished from our lives forever when we named them. The engineer, the scientist, the statist, the capitalist gave us these words, and thereafter forever held their power. Now we beg them to give us what every pebble and drifting speck of dust could not possibly be separated from.

Reason, rationality, and the others are not to be found on earth, other than in the dreams of the same modern, Enlightened consciousness that enslaved and massacred the half the world. The same consciousness that gave birth to industrialism. To deny the existence of a world without suffering, exploitation, and cruelty is not the same thing as sanctioning, promoting, or celebrating the horror and vileness of the current state of humanity. We may be able to trade certain types of suffering for others. And doing so may constitute more than a quantitative difference. But as long as solving human problems, whether disguised or not beneath layers of superficial variation, remains our primary orientation, we will continue to maintain and reinforce an anthropocentric consciousness. Regretfully, we would be better off sitting on the mountaintop and dedicating our lives to prayer than trying to fight the battles that so many are preoccupied with. In the words of Dogen: “The imperial power has no authority over the wise people in the mountains.” These are understandable battles, perhaps. Worthy battles, perhaps. But nonetheless, battles which will bring us no closer to what we claim to seek. Perhaps with prayer and meditation we can return to the spirit of the world: “knowing that nothing need be done, is where we begin to move from.” There is no doubt that we stand in the midst of the Kali Yuga, the age of vice, of quarrel and contention, and the bull of dharma stands upon one leg alone.

We know that the spirit world exists, because we see it in our dreams. Our hidden parts, the parts that have been sealed shut by techno-industrial society like an oyster protecting the pearl within, remain connected with the spiritual nature of the world. It is within the unconscious, within the world of dreams that we confront the self that is beyond the self. And is this not ultimately the lesson of spiritual and mystical traditions? That all is one, all is not human. For that matter, human is not human. We are in the rock, tree, beast, and insect. And they are in us. For all is one, and that one is the spirit. Gary Snyder, once called the ‘poet laureate of deep ecology,’ puts it thus:

the world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us. There are more things in the mind, in the imagination than “you” can keep track of—thoughts, memories, images, angers, delights rise unbidden. The depths of mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now. I do not mean personal bobcats in personal psyches, but the bobcat that roams from dream to dream.

Gary Snyder offers us little as far as action and praxis. This is not a coincidence. The more we search for paths to follow, the further we are from the way of the world. We have only to effortlessly grasp the meaning of things and leave it at that. As it is written in the daodejing: “a path that can be followed is not a spiritual path.” Let us leave things to the spirit of the world. In the end, this is the way to ultimately renounce our anthropocentrism. If humanity is not the culmination of the natural world, then why should we assume that the world is ours to save. It will not be saved by us, no matter what path we try to follow. Our delusions of control will only become reinforced in the process. If we are gods, as techno-industrial society tries to convince us, then the world is ours to exploit or attempt to save. But if we reject the idea that humanity is the center of the universe then

it would be presumptuous to think that Gaia much needs our prayers of healing vibes. Human beings themselves are at risk—not just on some survival of civilization level but more basically on the level of heart and soul. We are in danger of losing our souls.

We don’t understand what we are, what we are made of. We don’t understand that this world we treat as the backdrop for our petty dramas and squabbles or as material for our conquests, is alive with spiritual energy and myriad entities and powers. We would not be able to ignore this fact if we threw ourselves into the fearsome and awe-inspiring heart of life. Once, we could perceive the leopard’s grammar. The law that says, ‘I will eat you. I will devour you. For you are weak and I am strong.’ Techno-industrial civilization denies the law of the world. The spiritual life of our ancestors taught us to honor the law. As Gary Snyder writes, “the archaic religion is to kill god and eat him. Or her. The shimmering food-chain, the food-web, is the scary, beautiful condition of the biosphere.” If we wish to recover what has been lost, what has been taken from us by techno-industrial society, we must look inward to find it. We must rediscover that we exist as spiritual beings in a living world that is simultaneously alive and divine. What is needed now is reconsecration, for there are no longer any paths for us to follow. Let us proudly declare to the mountains and the rivers: we renounce the cult of humanity, we renounce the world of techno-industrial society, and we bind ourselves in reverence and service to the living gods of earth and sky.


Ramon Elani

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

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


We now have t-shirts! Sales directly support our work. Order by clicking the image below.

This is America’s Enslaver Culture

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

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Land demarcation efforts by Quilombo Quingoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

23844610_10155972276622372_5754996345436383112_n

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


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It takes a village, not a European, to raise a child

“White people, through systematic oppression, actively create, profit from and maintain a market that institutionalises children throughout Africa.”

From Jacqueline Tizora

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Ethiopia announced earlier this year that it has decided to ban foreign adoption on its soil. This is a brazen move, especially because the country was the second most popular country, after China, for adoptions. This decision was prompted by a high-profile case of abuse in 2011 where an adoptee died of hypothermia after being left in the cold by their adoptive parents in Seattle. Ethiopia, following this incident, proceeded to make the adoption process more stringent, which has now ultimately culminated in the total ban we see today.

The government’s motivation for this bold decision is that it believes Ethiopians taking care care of their own as a valid possibility. Furthermore, policy makers are only now wary of the permanent psychological effects any trauma faced abroad could have on the children. Ethiopia’s stance on adoption shares parallels with Rwanda’s model on orphanages. African countries’ shift towards deinstitutionalising childcare is a welcome process as it is severs the parasitic colonial as well as neocolonial relationship Europe has with Africa. The process, however, is an intricate one that this article will be illuminating a small fraction of.

In 2012, Rwanda decided to close all its orphanages. After the 1994 genocide, the number of orphanages skyrocketed from four to well over thirty as more than 95 000 children were orphaned by the genocide. Foreign aid organisations in response to the devastation of the genocide, opened institutions across the country, institutionalising Rwandan childcare. However, Rwandan president Paul Kagame noticed that those orphaned by the genocide had ‘outgrown’ orphanages, yet they still existed. This is when Kagame initiated a rehoming process. This decision was based on the Swahili saying, ‘asiye funzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu’- a deinstitutionalised approach to childcare, which equates to the infamous proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

Rwanda’s rehoming process is now in full swing and the government aims to close all orphanages by 2020. Rwanda’s National Commission for Children’s director reported earlier this year that 3,323 children were in orphanages when the initiative took off in 2012, and now only 235 have yet to be rehomed with family, adopted or placed in foster families (unremunerated).

Then there are countries like Mauritania, Djibouti and South Sudan where in order to qualify to be a legal guardian of a minor, the applicant has to be a blood relative that is either Muslim and or lives in a Muslim environment. Prioritising the child’s religion here results in some preservation of the child’s culture. In addition, Mauritanian law prohibits non-family members from leaving Mauritania with adopted children. Similarly, in Djibouti, children with Djibouti citizenship are ineligible for adoption. Implying that transnational adoption from these two countries is not a possibility, even if one meets the first two criteria.

From the above examples, it is clear that many African countries are in fact deinstitutionalising childcare, a previously heavily institutionalised system and reverting to more culturally appropriate alternatives to child rearing. This, however, prompts one to question what in fact has changed along with the implementation of these new regulations and, ultimately, how this is affecting orphans in their respective countries. Coming from a family where the ‘village’ approach is adopted vastly, and also understanding that for most households, taking on an extra mouth to feed is no easy task. It also prompts one to enquire which changes need to be made that would effectively allow orphaned children to continue on to lead a normal life after losing one’s biological parents.

The first enquiry that comes to mind is the process of conception right to birth. We live in a patriarchal society that polices women’s bodies and also places value in women’s fertility. Rape culture is also ever pervasive; the fact that only in 1993 did the UN declare rape a war crime, demonstrates how deeply politicised women’s bodies are. Additionally, access to contraception in Africa, according to WHO in 2015, is only 33.4%. So almost 70% of the continent cannot implement effective family planning. The intersections of institutional restrictions that meet systematic poverty introduced by colonialism and maintained by neo-colonialism has rendered African women voiceless on issues regarding their own bodies!

In essence, policies that currently police and politicise women’s bodies and subjects them to systematic oppression and trauma has created irreparable damage and play a key role in the current vicious cycle of systematically creating orphans. Orphaned children, of course, come from somewhere. The responsibility or blame does not fall on the woman, but society has socialised us to internalise gender roles that further subjugate us. By politicising our bodies, even the unborn children our bodies can host preside over our bodies. The fact that approximately 93% of women of reproductive age in Africa live in countries with laws that in some way restrict abortion shed illuminate another way orphans are produced systematically. Additionally, even in countries where abortions may take place under special circumstances, very few women have access to a safe procedure and often seek out more clandestine methods that can be life-threatening.

The second enquiry regards the fact that the implicit and explicit bans disallowing women to have autonomy over their bodies have not been lifted. What then of the children that are born as as result? The inescapable reality of women being treated as chattel on one hand, and the rise of the white saviour industrial complex on the rise on the other, only means that there will always be orphans and therefore a market for foreign adoption and orphanages. An estimated 21.6 million unintended pregnancies occur each year in Africa, and of these, only 38% end in abortion. To white liberals all these statistics mean is that there is a market to exploit and therefore ceaseless giving back for them to do in Africa. This is a crass mentality and approach that does not even scratch the surface of the issue that they created. If only they could put two and two together, they would realise it equals white supremacist capitalist patriarchy- that they introduced to the continent and that has now politicised and othered the bodies of black women, giving birth to the issues we are faced with today.

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Personally, I’m of the opinion that uprooting children from their home country, with the exception of abuse, is not in the child’s best interest as the grass is not actually greener in Europe. Uganda’s first lady, Janet Museveni, in a keynote address made her case regarding transnational adoption. Her stance is that transnational adoption, specifically the Africa to Europe pipeline, can be likened to the slave trade. To a large extent, I agree with this statement. Also interesting to note the countries from which most adoptions hail from have the biggest legacies of atrocities inflicted on African people. So, it would appear that white people employ the saviour complex and adopt African children to ease their white guilt. Not only do they rid themselves of dissonance permanently, adopted children ultimately serve as a trophy of their colourblindness and apparent non-racism. A buy-one-get-one-free coupon white people redeem when they engage in transnational adoption (read institutional abduction).

Realistically, if we are going to look after our own children, there is going to have to be reform. Expecting the burden to fall on family members or communities whose consumption increases exponentially the minute they agree to become a child’s guardian. Without assistance from government, this only translates itself into deeper poverty. Though orphanages and adoption organisations came into existence to alleviate the aftermath of centuries of dispossession, research has shown that growing up in orphanages can have lasting negative impact on children.

Through extensive research, risk patterns and vulnerabilities have been identified, now all that is lacking is their amelioration and this can be done through policy. Interventions need to happen on multiple levels, this includes and is not restricted to: the orphans, fostering households as well as their communities. Not all vulnerable children share the same history or even face the same issues despite sharing the same label: being orphan. These considerations all require differentiated policy responses. These then differ further, according to geography for example. Different regions are exposed to different forms of vulnerability. The AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa, Swaziland being the most hard-hit, requires a response that includes better access to ARVs and promotions aimed at deconstructing the stigma around the illness- another barrier that stops people from seeking treatment even when ARVs are made available. As a result of inadequate intervention, AIDS has become responsible for the swelling numbers of orphans in the region. The logical questions that then follow are the financing of such interventions as well as their rolling out: both of crucial importance.

A needs analysis needs to be conducted for all concerned parties: the orphan, the fostering household and communities, mapping out the levels on which the interventions need to take place within. Lastly, we need to consider how the intervention should play out and which funding channels are feasible. For example, whether a uniform/needs equivalent grant system needs to be introduced. Just by highlighting the first steps that need to be taken, one soon realises that differentiated policy responses required are dependent on so many factors that are, above all, culturally sensitive and appropriate.

White people, through systematic oppression, actively create, profit from and maintain a market that institutionalises children throughout Africa. They currently plunder Africa by opening NGOs, orphanages and, a personal favourite, voyeuristic volunteer agencies that we actually fund with photos they take of us for free to be used for their poverty porn PR strategies. Europe remains benefactors in this market with these photos, by reproducing the colonial narrative that any European can save this godforsaken continent. This is both short sighted and pompous. There is, however, a way Europe can acknowledge and settle their long outstanding debt to Africa and also upend their current and futile methods: reparations.

This is not even a foreign concept to Europeans, after all they paid slave owners out after the abolition of slavery. Slaves, like those in the Haitian Revolution, even had to pay for the inconvenience abolition caused.

Whilst no amount of financial compensation can ameliorate the impact of the violence inflicted on Africa. The institutionalisation abduction of children through transnational is a clear indication that Africans are still being removed from their country’s hundreds of years after the abolition of slavery, a symptom of neo-colonialism that continues to illicitly extract resources and abduct children for the enjoyment of the west. To sever this umbilical cord a fresh start is needed, which in this case would mean total economic freedom to enable Africa to restore its idiosyncratic deinstitutionalised approach to childcare.


Jacqueline Tizora

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Zimbabwean born and South African bred Black radical
feminist with a keen interest in African feminist thought and affairs.


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The Factory Floor & The Witch’s Stake

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

From Rhyd Wildermuth

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what is Empire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capitalism needs you to forget this.

Witchcraft tells you to remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We started to believe we cannot resist.

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

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

It is also collapsing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So is ours.


Rhyd Wildermuth

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


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

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

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

You can hear this article read by the author here:

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Cars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anti-development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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Ohitica and the Rez Dogs of Standing Rock

During the six months that I spent at Standing Rock, I learned about the life of the rez dogs and their relationship to the people they live with. It’s not the tidy house-dog life of city dog… Instead, the dogs of the reservation are their own people. They are relatives in their own right.

From Lisha Sterling

When I first arrived at the Water Protector camps in Standing Rock, I lived in the Sicangu camp on the south side of the Cannon Ball river, by highway 1806. My days were spent busy on Media Hill in the Indigenous Environmental Network’s media tent or talking to folks in the Legal tent, or else running back and forth between the different camps, the place we came to call “Hop Hill”, the Prairie Knights Casino, the town of Cannonball, and the town of Fort Yates. I’d often roll back into my home camp at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, exhausted. That didn’t leave much time for being social in a non-work atmosphere. But when I could, I’d sit by the sacred fire for a bit to listen to the elders talking.

One night, I rolled in late and parked my van near the kitchen tent. I could see that there were people inside, so I went in to join them. A large pot of chicken soup simmered on the fire. Two young men and one young woman were in there, talking and eating left over food from the evening’s dinner. They offered me some food, but I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted to listen in on the conversation.

After a little while, another young woman came into the kitchen. She had a baby sling across her body, and a couple of bottles in her hand. She asked if there were any measuring spoons in the kitchen. Her voice had a worried, nearly panicked tone to it, “I need to measure out a teaspoon of this medicine for the puppy!” She turned and we could see the limp German shepherd puppy in the baby sling, “He has worms really bad. The vet says he isn’t going to make it. She wanted to put him down, but I made her give me the medicine. But now I can’t find a measuring spoon!”

I noticed that one of the bottles in her hand was a prescription bottle and the other was an herbal tincture bottle, “You have something to measure with right there,” I told her. “One dropperful is ¼ teaspoon. Four dropperfuls is one dose of his medicine.”

She looked from me to the dog and then to the bottle in her hand, surprised, “Really?”

She put the bottles down and began to open them both. The other young woman jumped up to help her get the medicine measured and dropped into the dog’s mouth. The puppy barely moved.

The young woman with the puppy explained what her day had been like. She’d been at a friend’s house, and they had this puppy. It was the last of a litter but had never been picked by anyone who came by. It had started to get sick, and the family had just figured that it would probably die. She asked if she could have the dog. Her friend’s family said yes, and she immediately drove up to Bismarck to find a vet and see what she could do to help the dog. “But he hasn’t moved the whole time. He didn’t move when I picked him up. He won’t eat. He didn’t move when the doctor checked him. He’s just been like this all day.” By now she was at the edge of tears.

Now, let me take you on a tangent here for a moment to tell you that, under normal circumstances, it is said that you should never mix Lakhota medicine with any other kind of medicine. There have been some major exceptions made in terms of “Christian medicine” in the sense that these days even many čanupa (sacred pipe) carriers are also Christian, but on the whole the admonition not to mix Lakhota medicine with anything else still stands. However, we were in a different situation than usual. The elders and the holy people had specifically called on people of all nations and all religions to bring their prayers to Očeti Šakówiŋ camp. And with those prayers comes some of the other practices and medicine of those other nations. It was in that context that it seemed wholly appropriate for me to mention a bit of Jewish folklore to the young woman for the benefit of her puppy.

“In Jewish tradition, if someone is very sick and it looks like they are probably going to die, we sometimes change their name. It is said that changing their name can trick the angel of death. Other’s say that changing the name gives a person a new job to do in life. It’s common to rename a person in such a situation ‘Chaim’, which means ‘Life’, but sometimes the name is something else. It can be like a wish or a prayer for what you want in that person’s future.” I told her.

“I like that tradition. It sounds good. He doesn’t have a name yet.”

Just then, one of the wise old ladies of camp walked into the kitchen tent. She’d barely stepped inside when she was asked by the woman with the puppy, “What should I name my dog?”

Theresa Black Oak looked at the puppy, a bit confused, and asked why she was naming the puppy. So, we explained the situation to her. Then she looked closely at the dog for a moment and thought about it.

“Ohitica. His name should be Ohitica, which means Brave.” Theresa announced.

The young woman repeated the name, “Ohitica. You are Ohitica!” She told the puppy.

As this interaction was going on, one of the young men prepared a bowl with a little bit of the chicken soup in it. He suggested that she should try feeding the dog some of it. She took the puppy and put him on the ground in front of the bowl. He stood up a little wobbly at first, but then he was stable on his feet. He sniffed the bowl and began to drink the broth. Then he ate the pieces of chicken. He finished the whole bowl of soup, and then he began to run in circles and bounce around like a puppy does.

Everyone’s eyes were wide with surprise, not least of all the woman who had brought the puppy in.

“Wait, he didn’t move all day?” Someone said in surprise.

“Not at all,” She answered with wonder.

“Well, a little bit of medicine and a brand new name, makes good medicine!” I laughed, so relieved.

About a month later, I drove up to Media Hill to meet with someone at the Indigenous Environmental Network tent. As I arrived at the fence around the IEN area, there was a German shepherd puppy tied up next to the entrance. I bent down to say hello, “Oh my goodness! You are so cute! You look just like Ohitica, only you are much bigger than him!”

Just then, the woman who had walked into the kitchen with a tiny, sick puppy in a baby sling walked up. I saw her feet first, but when I look up and saw her face I nearly whooped in joy, “You ARE Ohitica!”

And so he was, and that healthy young dog left Standing Rock a few days later to a new home far away.

Dakota and her puppies say,
Image by Kelly Kai Botak all rights reserved

In February 2017, amidst all the other indignities of the expulsion of the Water Protectors from the camps at Standing Rock, we had to see news reports about how the good people of Bismarck, North Dakota had to go down and rescue dogs that had been left behind by “protesters”. It was true that the people who came down from animal rescue agencies found dogs in and around the town of Cannonball, but it was absolute privileged, self-righteous, colonialist White ignorance to believe that these were dogs left behind by the Water Protectors. Like so much else that was reported by the White press in North Dakota about the camps and the people in them, the prejudice and refusal to acknowledge the people and culture of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was at the root of problems invented for the sake of the pro-pipeline narrative. Those “abandoned” dogs were, in fact, rez dogs who were moved off their rightful home just as their Native human companions had been before them.

During the six months that I spent at Standing Rock, I learned about the life of the rez dogs and their relationship to the people they live with. It’s not the tidy house-dog life of city dog who gets adopted into a quaint idea of a “forever home”. Instead, the dogs of the reservation are their own people. They are relatives in their own right.

Most of those dogs go inside when they want to and stay outside when they want to. Some never go inside at all, even in the coldest part of the winter. Some dogs have more than one family, and they travel between houses when they feel like it, spending a day or a week with one set of humans before visiting their other set of humans. Other dogs prefer to roam around most of the time in little packs, though they’ll show up on their family’s lawn when it’s time to eat.

In the autumn there were several litters of new puppies born in the vicinity of the Water Protector camps. When the puppies were old enough to be weaned, several families walked around the camps with their surplus puppies to see if anyone wanted one. Every puppy that came through camp in that way got adopted and went home with a new Water Protector family.

In the depths of the winter when the Cannonball recreation center became both the Očeti Šakówiŋ Camp Media headquarters and the Standing Rock emergency shelter, there were a number of local dogs who decided that all the bustle of the rec center was their preferred place to be. We let the dogs come and go for a while, and even fed them if they looked hungry, but then some of the elders of the tribe made it known that they didn’t want the dogs in there. “They have homes. If you feed them they won’t go back to their families and then we’ll have a pack of dogs who think that the Rec Center is their new home.”

So, we kept the rez dogs out of the Rec Center, and most of them went back to their normal routines. Most, but not all.

One big, fluffy white dog who was probably about four or five years old curled up outside the front door of the rec center for days. If you didn’t happen to come out when he got up to go find food elsewhere, and if you didn’t notice that he never had more than a few hours of snow over top of him, you might be forgiven for thinking he’d just frozen in place there.

A very sweet and gentle health care worker stood in the Rec Center in tears because she was afraid for this wonderful dog. I reminded her that this dog had obviously lived through other North Dakota winters. He knew how to survive out here. This was his home. He had long fur, so he probably wasn’t nearly as cold as she thought, and he knew how to snuggle into his own little shelter in the snow bank. I also showed her the signs that he had been moving around and wasn’t just frozen to the spot. She calmed down, but she was still concerned. A few days later she tracked down the family of that dog. He was fine.

Another large golden retriever mix kept insisting on coming into the Rec Center, long after he’d been officially kicked out. In January, his family showed up at the center when they’d heard that their dog was over there. We discovered the dog’s real name was Cinnamon, and that his family had thought he’d died since they hadn’t seen him in two weeks.

“Did you try to look for him?” someone asked.

“No. He’s old. If he felt he needed to go find a place away from here to die, that’s his right. If he was well, we knew he’d come home eventually.”

The folks running the Emergency Center insisted that the family needed to take Cinnamon home. They did, but two days later he was back at the Rec Center. This went back and forth a few times.

Another Water Protector who was getting ready to go home spoke with the family and asked to adopt their dog. They agreed. Cinnamon went off to a new city with a new name and a whole new human family.

In reality, quite a few rez dogs adopted humans from among the non-local Water Protector population. But many rez dogs stayed on the rez where they had always lived. Their lives are not the lives of city dogs, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad lives. They are just different lives.

And yes, many dogs came to Standing Rock with Water Protectors, too, but none of them was left behind. Once the population of the camps grew in late October, even the dogs who had previously been able to run free in the camps were required to stay on leash or in a tent or structure at all times. Any dog seen wandering without a human in camp would be taken to the sacred fire where an announcement would be made that the dog had gotten loose. If the dog’s owner did not agree to keep it under control, the camp security said that they would take the dog away and send it to a new home or an animal shelter. As far as I know, no dog was taken from its humans in that way. Instead, camp dwellers kept their dogs well under control, leashed or in their makeshift homes. And when they left camp, their dogs went with them.

After the camps were cleared, a bunch of White people who were full of their own certainties about the world went down to the reservation in search of the abandoned dogs that they “knew” Water Protectors would leave behind. Perhaps law enforcement had something to do with it. Maybe the many sheriff’s deputies and federal agents from across the country had seen the rez dogs in Cannonball and told people about them. Either way, they assumed that these dogs were homeless, and that irresponsible, dirty hippies and Indians who had spent as much as nine months living in tents through every kind of weather the prairie can dish out had just left without them. No one bothered to ask the people in the houses on the reservation about the dogs wandering around the area in packs or by themselves whose dogs these were. The White people “knew” and so they took the dogs to shelters and made a big deal about showing how righteous their cause was.

The difference between reality at Standing Rock and the ideas that White settler culture in Bismarck imagines is as stark today as it was a hundred fifty years ago.


Lisha Sterling

Lisha Sterling

Lisha Sterling is a crazy nomad woman who works on humanitarian technology, spending lots of time in low resource areas and disaster zones. She talks to plants, animals, gods and spirits. Some of them talk back.


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