On The Use And Abuse Of Rage For Life

“Will we stand idly by, cynical and apathetic, while what’s left of society is dismantled, piece by piece, as a sacrificial offering to the great god Mammon? Or will we, fueled by sheer rage, stand up as one to the orgiastic misanthropy of our “leaders” and smash their petty little self-aggrandizing ambitions into dust?”

From Chris Wright

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“These are the times that try men’s souls.” How much truer is that statement now than in 1776! We’re poised on the precipice, peering over into the crocodile pit below, where fascists swarm and writhe in sanguinary anticipation. Humanity is on the verge of losing its footing and plunging headfirst into the open maw of reptilian sadism. Where you stand, in this climactic moment of history, determines whether you are reptile or hominid.

We know where the majority of the ruling class stands, in their contempt for the poor, for the future, for democracy, the working class, the natural environment, the impartial rule of law, social cooperation, community, and a rational public discourse: they’re on the side of the reptiles. Whether it’s the boorish, amoral mediocrity of a Brett Kavanaugh, the rank hypocrisy of a Lindsey Graham or a Susan Collins, the naked cupidity of a Jeff Bezos, the proud Israel-fascism of a Chuck Schumer, the unfettered evil of a Mitch McConnell, or the undisguised corporatism of a Nancy Pelosi, a Barack Obama, and virtually every other politician on the national stage, the ruling class despises morality and law as an insolent threat to its unchecked power. Almost as offensive as these people’s lack of all principles besides unwavering loyalty to the rich is their aggressive mediocrity, their transparent conformism and cowardice. One is stunned at the gall of such insipid nonentities to believe themselves superior to the rest of us.

Even from the perspective of their intelligence, these elitists don’t exactly distinguish themselves. Consider one of the more honored and allegedly intellectual specimens: Anthony Kennedy. In what I suppose constituted an attempt at self-criticism, he recently offered the following rueful analysis of the state of the nation: “Perhaps we didn’t do too good a job teaching the importance of preserving democracy by an enlightened civic discourse. In the first part of this century we’re seeing the death and decline of democracy.” The lack of self-awareness takes your breath away. The man responsible for the supremely anti-democratic decisions in Bush v. Gore, Citizens United v. FEC, Shelby County v. Holder (which gutted voting protections for minorities), and Janus v. AFSCME (which by harming unions harms democracy), and who vacated his seat during the term of a president who prides himself on his authoritarianism and disrespect for the rule of law, is chagrined and apparently puzzled that democracy is declining.

Evidently the man is an imbecile, devoid of the capacity for self-critical reflection and empathic understanding of opposing arguments. And yet he’s an esteemed member of the ruling elite. (Precisely because, one might maliciously suggest, of his incapacity for critical thought.)

How maddening it is that such indoctrinated fools have power! It’s the blind leading the sighted!

Anyway, it’s for the rest of us to decide where we stand. Will we stand idly by, cynical and apathetic, while what’s left of society is dismantled, piece by piece, as a sacrificial offering to the great god Mammon? Or will we, fueled by sheer rage, stand up as one to the orgiastic misanthropy of our “leaders” and smash their petty little self-aggrandizing ambitions into dust? Will we march in the streets, occupy offices, organize mass strikes, take over workplaces, and confront our political “representatives” wherever they turn and wherever they are at every moment of the day? Or will we remain the domesticated dogs we’ve become under the long-term impact of corporatization, bureaucratization, and privatization?

In a time of universal atomization and a zombified-consumerist public life, the redemptive power of collective rage shouldn’t be scoffed at. It is in fact key to the recovery of our humanity, our de-robotization, and to the very survival of humanity itself. We should embrace our rage, cultivate it as though it were the tree of life, cherish it, for its power of both motivation and social transformation is prodigious.

The plaintive cries of establishmentarians to restore “civility” in the public sphere are laughably self-serving and shouldn’t be taken seriously. “You don’t call for incivility,” Megyn Kelly says in response to Representative Maxine Waters’ call for exactly that. Angry left-wing responses to Trumpism are “unacceptable,” according to Nancy Pelosi. “We’ve got to get to a point in our country,” says Cory Booker, “where we can talk to each other, where we are all seeking a more beloved community. And some of those tactics that people are advocating for, to me, don’t reflect that spirit.” And poor, long-suffering Sarah Sanders sent out a tweet of Solomonic wisdom after the owner of a restaurant had asked her to leave because of her noxious politics: “[The owner’s] actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

In short: let institutions operate as they’re supposed to, and don’t enforce accountability on public officials outside the electoral process. By all means vote us out of office if you don’t like our policies, but don’t make life uncomfortable for us.

The truth is that, from more than one perspective, the decline of civility or politeness in the “political dialogue” is a sign of progress, not retrogression. Politeness upholds the politics of “respectability,” which is the politics of conservatism, hierarchy, and the status quo. It coddles the powerful, even as they’re enacting substantively uncivil, which is to say destructive, policies aimed at everyone who lacks the money to buy influence. The essence of politics, which is but war by other means, has always been “incivility”—struggle over resources, competing agendas, bribery, corruption, the defense of privilege against the unprivileged and the latter’s struggle to wrest power from the former. There is a “beloved community” only in the milquetoast liberal imagination of a Cory Booker. The task for actual democrats is to bring the war to the doorstep of the privileged, to make them viscerally aware of the stakes involved, even if it means directly acquainting them with the wrath of the dispossessed. They’ve been sheltered far too long.

Even from the other side, the side of the reptiles, there is something to be said for Trumpian insult-flinging and demagoguery. At least it serves to take the fig leaf of high principles and public-spiritedness off the reactionary policies of almost fifty years. When Obama deported millions of immigrants and separated tens of thousands of families, it seemed as if no one cared. Now that Trump is doing it (arguably in even more sadistic ways), even the establishment media expresses outrage. The vulgarity and blatant evil, in short, tend to radicalize everyone who still has a vestige of moral consciousness in him. That’s useful.

Ultimately, though, it hardly needs arguing that Trumpian “incivility” is disastrous, e.g., in its promotion of white rage and white supremacy. But this is exactly why the time has come for the politics of extreme disruption, as expounded and defended in that classic of sociology Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward.

THE USEFULNESS OF VIOLENCE

As Piven and Cloward show, mass social disruption and civil disobedience were essential to the victories of several major popular movements in the twentieth century: the 1930s’ unemployed workers movement (which indirectly brought forth the modern welfare state), the industrial workers movement that unionized the core of the economy, the civil rights movement, and the welfare rights movement of the 1960s that forced huge expansions of welfare programs. Even the scores of urban riots between 1964 and 1968 had a partially constructive impact. In the violent summer of 1967, for example, the Pentagon established a Civil Disturbance Task Force and the president established a Riot Commission. Seven months later, the commission called for “a massive and sustained commitment to action” to end poverty and racial discrimination. “Only days before,” the authors note, “in the State of the Union message, the president had announced legislative proposals for programs to train and hire the hardcore unemployed and to rebuild the cities.”

Without going into further detail, the lesson is already clear: not only “disruption” but even rioting can, potentially, be constructive, given the right political environment. This doesn’t mean riots ought to be encouraged or fomented, of course; they should be avoided at almost all costs. But when conditions become so desperate that waves of riots begin to break out, we shouldn’t too quickly condemn them (or the rioters) as hopelessly irresponsible, self-defeating, primitive, immoral, etc. The state’s immediate response might be repression, but its longer-term response might well be reform.

Other scholars go further than Piven and Cloward. Lance Hill, for instance, argues in The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement that the tactic of nonviolence wasn’t particularly successful in the civil rights movement. SNCC’s peaceful local organizing in the early 1960s didn’t bring about many real, tangible gains: months-long campaigns succeeded in registering minuscule numbers of voters. White power-structures, racism, and Klan violence were just too formidable. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “moral suasion,” his hope to shame Southern whites out of racism, failed utterly. So the strategy shifted to provoking white violence in the full view of television cameras—and, as with the Deacons for Defense in Louisiana, inflicting violence as well (mostly in self-defense). By 1964 things were threatening to get out of control, with riots and some white deaths, so the government was able to pass the Civil Rights Act—which it proceeded to enforce only sporadically, usually when compelled to by violence or its threat.

Nonviolence was a useful tactic for getting white liberal support, but without the threat of black violence always lurking in the background it would have accomplished little. “One of the great ironies of the civil rights movement,” Hill says, “was that black collective force did not simply enhance the bargaining power of the moderates; it was the very source of their power.”

In general, the point is that people have to act in such a way that authorities will feel compelled to give them concessions lest social hierarchies be threatened. In the long run, needless to say, the goal is to replace the authorities, to empower people who actually care about people. But in the meantime it’s necessary to extract concessions—by putting the fear of God, or, far more frighteningly, of revolution, into the heads of the thugs at the top. The credible threat of violence can, then, bring results, as history shows.

One last example, perhaps most apposite of all, is the near-chaos that engulfed the nation in the early 1930s, as unemployed workers took to the streets and violated the “rights of property” on an epic continental scale. As I’ve related elsewhere, the epidemic of protest, “eviction riots,” and thefts in, e.g., Chicago between 1930 and 1932 impelled Mayor Anton Cermak to repeatedly appeal in desperation to the federal government. “It would be cheaper,” he told Congress in early 1932, “to provide a loan of $152,000,000 to the City of Chicago, than to pay for the services of federal troops at a future date.” Because of the panic that widespread theft and violence induced in businessmen and government officials like Cermak, Herbert Hoover’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation began that summer to give loans to states for providing relief to the unemployed. A year later, Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration started distributing $500 million worth of grants to the states, followed by massive jobs programs, and the New Deal proceeded to alleviate the misery of tens of millions of Americans. All because of the power of collective rage and defiance.

In 2018, after the consolidation of a reactionary regime on the Supreme Court, it is long past the time for organized collective violations of “law and order” and “property rights.” It’s time to badger elected officials at every moment of every day, and to foster political polarization so that the ground caves in beneath the feet of the “centrists.” Conditions aren’t yet desperate enough for collective looting and rioting—since, after all, the economy is booming! (right?)—but it’s necessary at least, in the coming years, to stoke such fears in the minds of the rich. Monolithic, sustained, savage repression cannot work for long in a nominally democratic country like the U.S. Radical reforms are inevitable—if, that is, we rise up en masse.

A “CRISIS OF LEGITIMACY”

The one good thing about Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is that it completes the delegitimization of the most undemocratic and typically reactionary institution at the federal level. Having an obvious perjurer, sexual harasser, overgrown frat boy, and overtly partisan hack on the Court strips away whatever patina of honor and impartial dignity that farcical institution still had. It has now lost all pretense of representing not only the will of the people but even the rule of law. This fact, too, will facilitate radicalization.

The entire political economy, and the august institutions that protect it, are being thrown into question.

The whiff of revolution is in the air, just starting to float, here and there, on the breezes blown back from the future into the present. The scent is positively revivifying.

It’s a good time to be angry. And to translate your anger into action.


Chris Wright

Chris Wright has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the author of Notes of an Underground HumanistWorker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States, and Finding Our Compass: Reflections on a World in Crisis. His website is www.wrightswriting.com.”

Abuse Within Paganism – A Taboo Topic?

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions.

From Emma Kathryn

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If you are a member of the Pagan community (whatever that means to you – we’ll discuss community later), then you may well remember when a well know witch published a blog post that talked about the abuse she’d suffered from within the Pagan community. The post did cause a little bit of a stir. It made the snippets of the popular Pagan outlets, and aside from a few private blog posts from other Pagans and witches, not much more was said.

That woman was Sarah Anne Lawless, and you can read that particular blog post here.

Sarah’s story kind of touched a cord with me. You see, many years ago, a close family member of mine was herself in an abusive relationship, and I guess I saw a few similarities between Sarah and my family member. Both are strong, fierce women. Fiery and quick to speak their minds. I would hear people question why my family member would stay with the woman beater? She’s a strong woman, why did she put up with it? Why try to hide it? Maybe they like it, you would hear people say, even other women. And so when I saw those same things said or implied about Sarah, it made me realise, though I suppose I already knew it anyway, that this topic is one that spans all divides.

Curious to discover how things had turned out for her, I recently called Sarah, and we had a chat about what’s been done since first airing her experiences.

And the truth is, disappointingly little.

In fact, that wouldn’t be the worst of it. Not only has Sarah been all but shunned by those communities she thought she was a member of but her businesses have been attacked, with anonymous reports to various agencies about the products she makes and sells. The platforms which enable her to sell those items have also received anonymous reports and have even been suspended in some cases.

And all because she dared to highlight her instances of abuse within the Pagan community, by some of those within it.

I asked her what kind of reaction had she gotten from others, generally speaking. She replied:

“It’s been a bit of  a mixed bag. Some have been sympathetic. And from others, mostly men, I’ve either had complete denial or a misunderstanding.”

I also asked if other victims had reached out to her.

“Yeah, many have, sharing their stories with me. Only one other came forward to the police though, but here that’s not enough to carry forward an investigation. But I also get why others didn’t come forward. And who am I or anyone else to try to force these women to do something they don’t want to, especially after the trauma they’ve  already faced. If it helps them, sharing their stories with me, then that’s a good thing.”

And she’s been all but ignored by Pagan media outlets.

”I’ve been in touch with a couple of different places, but after initial contact, I haven’t really heard back from any of them.”

Indeed, here in the UK, it’s not been much of a story. It’s almost like there’s a wall of silence, or perhaps a wall of ignorance around the whole affair, and for me, this must lead us to question why.

IS THERE A PROBLEM? WHAT CAN WE DO?

So is there a problem with Paganism and how we respond to abuse claims? I think there is, and there certainly seems to have been in Sarah’s case.

I find the biggest problem is that Paganism seems to operate in its own atmosphere, away from the general rules we might ordinarily apply in real life. So, in the everyday world, if a woman, or anyone else for that matter, came forward with claims of abuse, those claims would be investigated. We would expect them to be.

I also think the fact that the word ‘community’ doesn’t really cover what it actually means to be a Pagan. The draw for many is the lack of uniformity, the freedom and independence to believe and worship however they see fit.

Take a moment to consider the many differing forms of Paganism, and then all the subsets and categories and regional differences and that’s without considering those who might be solitary or eclectic. When we consider Paganism in this way, it becomes understandable as to why defining a Pagan community becomes difficult. There is no one set of beliefs. There is no right or wrong way to worship.

And so if there is no community, how then can we begin to tackle the issue of abuse? By calling it out, whenever we witness it or are made aware of it. And from that call out, investigations must occur, and then the appropriate action taken. We must not close ranks, afraid that any truth may corrupt our beliefs. Instead we should root it out so it doesn’t corrupt or spoil the hard work and dedication that others have put in. We should expel it like the pestilence it is.

And abuse can be insidious. It can be incorporated into the very foundations of an order or tradition. There’s nothing stopping anyone from setting up any kind of group, and I really do cherish that freedom, but with it comes the responsiblity to call out and report abusers. If an abuser happens to be an elder or someone with a respected position within a tradition, this shouldn’t exclude them from any investigation or punishment if necessary. They should not be allowed to slip off the grid and start up elsewhere.

We should not excuse shitty behaviour because the one being a shit also happens to be some sort of leader, or someone with that kind of power, or has followers who look up to them. If anything, it is imperative that such types are called out and reported. We should call out fakelore where we see it, and let’s be honest, you come across it quite often in the Pagan sphere.

We also need our Pagan writers and journalists to not fear tackling such subjects. Of course there is that line, that is to not portray someone as guilty when they have not been convicted and all of that, but we must also tackle those stories and bring those issues to the fore. We need writers and journalists who are unbiased and tell the truth. We need publications to talk about these claims when they arise, and also about the issues that may arise because of them.

I will take a moment to just say a word or two about those accusations that are false, that are made out of malice and badness, that are untrue and told to inflict damage. As damaging as they may be, those false reports do not detract from the truth of most claims. Those who make those false claims should also be held to account, but then it all comes back to taking the time to investigate thoroughly all abuse claims.

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions. Doing so will only strengthen them. Doing nothing will lead to their fall.

We are witches and occultists and brujas and so much more. We have the power to make our crafts and traditions what we want them to be. Let them be places where abusers find no solace. Let’s do ourselves justice.


Emma Kathryn

epMy name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook.

Projections of the Powerful

Oppressing White People: No. But the Right sure likes oppressing non-white people.

From Sable Aradia

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I am beginning to see a pattern in the ways of the New Right. I am sure I’m not alone. They level some wild accusation towards the Left. “They want to put all men in concentration camps.” “They want to oppress white people.” “They want to limit free speech.” “They’re operating a child sex ring out of a pizza parlour.”

The Left snorts at the ridiculousness of the accusation. What preposterous ideas! Obviously nobody wants to do that …

… and then it comes out that whatever the Left has recently been accused of, the Right is actively doing.

Let me break down some examples.

“I Know You Are, but What Am I?”

Putting All Men in Concentration Camps: Well, no. But the Trump administration has been putting immigrants and Latinos in concentration camps, haven’t they? The border scandal is an international disgrace.

Oppressing White People: No. But the Right sure likes oppressing non-white people. Police have been shooting people driving, walking, shoppingin public parks, in their grandmothers’ backyards, and in their own homes for the crime of being black. And not one of these cops has been brought to justice.

Limiting Free Speech: Apparently they object when white supremacists are asked not to speak at universities that disagree with their “ideas.” But gods forbid you should want to make queer kids’ books accessible in your public library.

Creating a Totalitarian State: A totalitarian state is when one person has the power to do whatever they want. And they’re sure trying to push the idea that an elected President is above the rule of law, aren’t they?

Forcing People to Use Pronouns They Don’t Approve Of: Um … aren’t the Right the ones who are fighting to deny people access to changing their pronouns, or opting for something non-binary? Jordan Peterson has made his career on that. Who’s forcing whom to do what again?

Forcing People to Believe What They Believe: The American Right Wing consistently has taken a stand that they are a “Christian nation” and everyone should adhere to Christian values, so ….

Manipulating the Vote: Some Republican senators have gerrymandered so many voting districts that they were actually ordered to fix one of the more flagrant examples by the U.S. Supreme Court. Twice. The GOP have continuously used gerrymandering, deliberately restrictive voter ID laws that are punitive against groups that traditionally oppose them, and dark campaign finance money, continue to manipulate voting conditions in their favour, as this exposé from Rolling Stone demonstrates.

Bringing Down the Government: Libertarians and those influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy are the ones currently looking to derail government agencies. Prime Minister Harper appointed a bunch of his cronies to the board of the CBC right before he lost the last Canadian election — and you can tell. The repair job is going to take years. The Trump administration appointed a person who bases her business on pushing private education as the head of the public education ministry, and a person who actively fights environmental regulations as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. This looks a lot like deliberate sabotage to me.

Operating a Child Sex Ring: I thought for sure this had to be Alex Jones tabloid material. But apparently, a dozen immigrant children were placed with traffickers in the absence of background checks on their sponsors, and with anywhere from 1500 to 6000 children still missing, one wonders how much more of this will come out?

Makes you wonder if some New Right group is trading in baby parts somewhere …

Projection

Projection is a term used in clinical psychology to describe how people tend to visualize that their own biggest sins, and deepest fears, are being engaged in by other people, especially people they don’t feel comfortable around. They “deny their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.” Examples include victim blaming, projection of guilt, and bullying.

It seems to me that the New Right is motivated by this phenomenon, which is a method of ego-protection. Because they are feeling threatened, they see bogeymen in every dark, female, or non-binary face, and hear threats in the reasoning of any progressive intellectual. It’s pathological, unjust, and dangerous.

And it’s nothing new. People in any unbalanced power dynamic — parent/child, boss/employee, ruler/ruled — have been doing it as long as civilization has existed. The Babylonian Talmud (500 BCE) notes the human tendency toward projection and warns against it: “Do not taunt your neighbour with the blemish you yourself have.” Or as the Christian Bible said, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Projection as Propaganda

It’s also right out of the fascist political playbook. A 2001 paper examines the use of projection as a tactic of Nazi political manipulation, and points out that it is not strictly used by Nazis. And it often is somewhat successful. It certainly muddies the waters.

Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf about the Big Lie theory. He believed that if you lied as preposterously as possible, and kept repeating it, eventually people would believe it, on the grounds that no one could make up something that crazy. He also counseled that one should never admit to wrongdoing, blame one’s enemy for everything that goes wrong, and never turn down an opportunity to create “a political whirlwind.” And he justified his use of this technique with his opinion that it was used by Jews to blame Germany’s loss in World War I on German general Erich Ludendorff, who was a prominent nationalist and antisemitic political leader in the Weimar Republic.

Projection at its most classic. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

What to Do About it

I don’t really have any clear answers here. I find that direct and aggressive confrontation of people spouting the propaganda lies, with links that disprove their claims, is effective in dealing with particular situations. But it’s nerve-wracking and it’s something not everyone is equipped to do. Some of us are not in a position of health or safety to allow us to do that. Of course you should protect yourself first.

I find that just saying, “No, that’s not how it is,” is not effective because it’s almost impossible to prove a negative. But I do find that as soon as one of these preposterous claims appears, it’s worth my time to ask myself, “What is the New Right trying to deflect attention from now?”

History usually reveals the truth, but that may not help people caught in the situation right now. History has come down hard in favour of the Jewish people in the Holocaust, but that didn’t save six million of them.

So my counsel is to support one another. Stand up in protest whenever you see one of these ridiculous claims peddled. If possible, mock the accusers mercilessly until they realize you are not an easy mark. Do not allow them to manipulate you through your ego: let their judgments of your intelligence and your open-mindedness slide off you like water off a duck’s back. That can be really hard to do, but another page in their playbook advises them to do this in order to get you to back down through real or perceived social pressure. Don’t do it. And if the confrontation occurs in social media, report and block whenever you have the option of doing so.


Sable Aradia

I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I owned a dog, whom I still miss very much, and am still owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.


Gods&Radicals would like to know how we’re doing. Mind taking a four-minute survey?

Urbancentrism

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

From InfoGuerra

English Translation here.

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Urbanocentrismo

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

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

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

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

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

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


ZAT Cinzenta

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


Translation

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Urbancentrism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


InfoGuerra


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When They Bought Us Out

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

From Shane Burley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shane Burley

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


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Why Do You Care About Alex Jones?

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Source

Should Alex Jones be on Facebook?

Last week, the company announced that it’s taking down his pages. The reading public will have to go elsewhere to learn about the perils of routine vaccinations and the undoubtedly-many uses of a “latent iodine survival shield.” Now, given his conspiracy theories, homophobia, and more-or-less explicit white nationalism, Jones does not cut a sympathetic figure. But should the Left support his free speech rights anyway, because the same mechanisms that removed Alex Jones are also turned against leftists? Or should anti-fascists rejoice that a hard-right demagogue has lost a platform?

Leftist and social-justice social media’s been arguing the case all week. But, while the debate’s touched on free speech, no-platforming, and the power of tech companies, one question’s been lost in the shuffle:

Why does it matter?

Should we support Facebook’s action? What does “support” even mean? Will commenting on Facebook about the company’s decision change its policies, towards Alex Jones or anyone else? Facebook does as it pleases. The Left can’t change that any more than it can convince Alex Jones that floods aren’t caused by the Air Force.

So, is the issue important? The question’s empty. There are no stakes. There’s no political practice involved other than the discourse itself. It’s isolated from any kind of social power. Does it feel meaningful? Sure, but the feeling is fake – simulated politics. It’s catharsis without the trouble of leaving your front door.


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Ideas are not political.

Politics is power. It’s about deciding the shape of collective life. Talking about how things should be isn’t political if it’s outside the context of organizing for power. So, neither side of the Jones debate has a political position. After all, is there anything at stake besides whether to type “this is good” or “this is bad” into a comments thread?

Social media platforms seek to maximize their own economic good as individual businesses (by engaging more people for longer, they increase the number of eyes on each ad they sell). Every post you make about whether Facebook should have deleted Alex Jones increases Facebook’s user engagement and, therefore, its profitability. But as they compete for ad revenue, social media companies also maximize the political good of the entire capitalist class: if you scratch your political itch by liking and sharing, you’re that much less likely to feel the need to stir up real-life trouble.

But why should it be either/or? Why not do politics both in person and on social media – can’t you walk and chew gum at the same time?

Well, social media “politics” isn’t zero-impact. The cost goes deeper than emotional exhaustion and wasted time – social media rewards certain styles of interaction. Controversy and hostility lead to more attention and engagement (not to mention favorable treatment from the algorithm!). It’s easy to form endlessly-specific insider cliques, and drama within them just pushes user engagement even higher. So, companies deliberately design their platforms to encourage all that.

In the field, though, that sort of behavior wrecks a fledgling project faster than you can realize it’s happening. I know a self-defense instructor who won’t let trainees directly hand each other the fake gun prop after they practice disarming a shooter – if you do it in practice, you’ll find yourself doing it in real life. The same goes for how you approach other people and form relationships. If you keep handing the algorithm the inflammatory statements and flame wars it loves, you’ll find yourself acting that way when you organize in real life. Social media takes your organizing skills and makes them worse.

You don’t have to take part. You’ll be a better organizer if you don’t.

Talk to your co-workers, your fellow-renters, your co-religionists, and your neighbors. What communities of interest are you part of? Anyone can organize their community but if you don’t do it, how will it happen? Reach out. Find your common interests. Get organized. Take collective action. Serve the people.

And then, when you’re doing real politics, it won’t matter what Facebook thinks.

 


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism


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Lessons From Martial Arts – Part Two

“Fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes.”

From Emma Kathryn

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As many of you may well know, I am a fighter. An actual fighter. I’ve trained in boxing, kickboxing, muay thai with a dash of grappling thrown in for good measure and I’ve had many fights. The truth is I like a good tear up. I know, it’s strange, well, to most people at least, but what can I say other than I’m a strange kind of woman!

I have written on this topic before for this site and you can read that article, the part 1 to this part two here.

So why a part two, you may well ask. As with most topics of interest, they become even more so when discussing them with others (that’s why I think community, or rather solidarity within communities is a good thing, and also why I like the open and honest discourse between people). So I was talking with an occultist friend of mine the other week, and the topic of fighting came up. I think I mentioned how fighting can have practical lessons in witchcraft as well as in life. Anyway, he asked me what it’s like to get hit in the face.

It’s a common question to those who don’t fight, even to those who might train but don’t spar or fight. The idea of putting yourself in that situation, with the full knowledge that the person standing in the opposite corner is going to try to hit you, to hurt you even, is so alien to people. It is a weird scenario to put yourself through, and no matter how well I might try here to explain it, unless you’ve gone through it yourself, it really is hard to comprehend.

I think he was quite surprised with my response, because I told him that getting hit in the head, or even the face doesn’t really hurt. Yes, you might get rocked, or even knocked out, but the actual blow usually doesn’t hurt all that much at the time, thanks to our amazing bodies and adrenaline. The real pain comes when you take a body shot, a punch, or worse, a kick, to the liver or to the floating rib. Oh my goodness that pain!

So why a part two? Well, the answer is that fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places  left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes. I honestly believe that my training (over ten years!) and my fighting have given me good insight and experience to extend that fight into other areas.

Stepping into the ring, or even the gym might not suit everyone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share those lessons I’ve learned in there with others who might put them to good use. I often like to say that we should never choose to stop learning, to stagnate and that there are always new lessons to be learnt.

Start Small

Within the fighting world, when reputable fights are held, opponents are always closely matched where ever possible, including aspects like weight and experience. You’d never put your first time fighter in with a world champion. Why would you? It doesn’t make sense, after all, the aim of the game, or the fight rather, is to win, and it’s the same in real life when it comes to fighting, to resisting, to building that solidarity within your community, whether that’s the physical community where you live, or one you belong to because of some other shared feature.

It’s okay to start small. In fact, you have to.

I’ve written here before about how the state undermines communities so that people become disassociated with those others who are like themselves in some way, and how when that happens, the common feature they share, in this case, the land, is then attacked, usually for profit that will disappear never to be seen by anyone in the community.

In instances such as this, the first step is to get together with your neighbours. Talk and discuss but also laugh, have fun and build those connections, those links, friendships even. That is where true resistance starts, because it won’t work if we don’t stand together.

Just this evening, as the last of the open green community spaces is about to be stolen from this already poor estate where I live, I was talking to my neighbour, laying plans of attack. Attack isn’t always physical, at least not at first. It must start somewhere.

No Fighter is Alone

Before a fight, unless it’s a last-minute replacement, usually due to injury, you have an eight week fight camp. Every fighter will train on a regular basis anyway, three, four, five times a week perhaps, but eight week fight camp is something else. It’s eight weeks of gruelling training, six days a week, sometimes twice a day if you’ve got weight to cut. You’ve got tough pad sessions, sparring, conditioning, road work. It’s not fun (only kinda, in a weird way).

But in all of that, you’ve got your coach. My coach is the best coach! He really is a great guy who goes way over and beyond what’s expected of him for his fighters. Weekends and holidays spent travelling around the country, unpaid, cornering fights (many amateur fights too, amateurs do it for fun, unless you’re really something else, there’s no money for the fighter, and thus, the coach. It is a labour of love!).

It’s your coach who has your back. My coach is one of the old school kinds, but he will beast you and tell you straight when he knows you are slacking or can do better, but he does it for your own good.

Then there’s your team mates, your fellow fighters, your squad. These guys go through it all with you, the pain, the hours in the gym, the strict diets and tight weight cuts. They get it, they understand, and on fight day, when it’s a lot of hanging around going through the weight checks and the medical and the waiting, they are there and you can talk to them knowing that they totally understand what you are going through at that exact moment in time. It’s a kind of solidarity in itself.

In resistance, we are not alone either. Community is the key. Solidarity with those who face the same threat. Building links within your community can start with something as simple as going for a drink with your neighbours (does anyone in the UK remember the time before all the local pubs were shut down? Is it just me wearing the rose glasses of nostalgia that seems to think that something has been lost in the closing of such places, places where people could meet and drink and talk about the shit that affected them?).

I was just talking to my sisters the other day about the games of rounders people from the estate would play on those long summer nights when we were kids. Sometimes they’d start just by a dad taking his kids and their friends on the field for a quick game, but before long there would be about twenty or thirty people , adults and kids, having a great time, all for free. Hopefully, we can revive such traditions, because community links are important.

Every Fighter is Alone

I know, I know. But it’s true as well. Because, as a fighter, no matter how good the team behind you, when you step into that ring, it’s all down to you. Yes, you have your coach in your corner and your friends and family in the crowd cheering you on, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, you’ve just got yourself to rely on.

In life, no matter the support systems we may have available to us, it is up to us as individuals to decide for ourselves the fight we want to fight. Physical fighting might not be for everyone, but there are other ways to join in the fight against empire, the capitalist empire that crushes all beneath it in the name of profit.

Last week, myself and around seventy others from the estate went to a meeting set up by the council regarding the proposed redevelopment of where I live (an excuse to build houses on the only bit of land left to the community). My neighbour, an elderly woman who’s lived on the estate for god knows how long, stood up to the council, and she uses her power and knowledge as a councilor to fight them wherever she can. Shes’ already responsible for making the council come out and say they will no longer look into the compulsory purchase of those privately owned houses, a minor victory in the scheme of things, but major to those who risked losing their homes.

Know your individual worth, develop your individual skill set, whatever that might be, because it is only by those individuals making those small lonesome acts that the community can then come together in a more organised way.

Keep Your Head

Finally, and perhaps most importantly is the very sound advice to keep your head. Don’t lose your cool because you have a set back, or even a loss. If you lose your head in a fight, it’s bad news. People who don’t fight think that anger in a fight helps, but it doesn’t really. It might spur you on to train harder, perhaps when you fail at something, that kind of anger makes you keep at it, but anger bordering on rage is not good. Once your head goes in a fight, everything goes out the window, the game plan, the advice from your coach, even your own common sense.

I’ve seen it happen, when fighters get so frustrated in a fight that they end up not fighting to the best of their ability and then lose.

The same is true in life, in every aspect of it. In the fight against empire, keep a cool and level head, even when things get hard. The opponent want’s you to get frustrated, to make a mistake , to lose pace and give them the lead.

How many uprisings never happen because those who would take part are too busy arguing amongst themselves on social media? You’ve seen it yourself, I’m sure, people arguing with those who really are not too far removed from themselves, over a word or phrase misused or misunderstood or some other minor miscommunication.

So there you have it, just this fighters tips she’s learnt in the ring and shared in the hope that they will help others too!

Resist beautifully people, in whatever way you can.


Emma Kathryn   

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.

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This is America’s Enslaver Culture

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

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Land demarcation efforts by Quilombo Quingoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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