Outlaw Women

The following article contains descriptions of severe abuse. I do not take the decision to publish this information lightly. The woman who shared her story want’s to denounce the system and believes that exposing this reality is the best way to ensure this abuse ends once and for all. On the other hand, I understand that this information can be emotionally unhealthy for some of our readers, so please consider this trigger warning before continuing, or consider skipping the signaled paragraph.

“if Rights were ensured to everyone, the Government would have to become something else entirely. It would have to cease to be.”

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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Sunday afternoon, 6 people, some of which had never met each other before, are at the beach drinking beer, playing Frescobol and talking. One of the women starts talking about how annoying it is when her neighbors blast music, and how the Law that forbids this behavior should be enough to have these people behave respectfully. A whiter tattooed woman disagrees, saying that the Law isn’t necessary in these situations and does more damage than good. She recites Anarchist slogans comfortably: “The Law does not protect people, it oppresses the vast majority, and is imposed unequally on the population. The Law is only there to protect the interests of the Elite!”. Then a young factory worker, with militant communist affiliations and a cigarette, responds by saying that some laws are important to protect the rights of workers like him.

Then Nina speaks. The more words come out, the more intense her trembling becomes, and the bigger the tears rolling down her face.

The following paragraph bears a Trigger Warning: sexual abuse.

Nina is a mother of three, but her petite young body does not show it. She was 2 months pregnant when she was arrested and raped by police officers. She gave birth in prison and witnessed the abuse of many other women. Every night they worried about who would be next. Some cases were even worse than hers, such as the woman violated with a broom handle who came back bleeding. Even after reporting the incident to the judge and being sent to the doctor for tests, her abusers remain unpunished.

“I feel dirty, like I’m garbage” she said while hugging herself. There are not enough blankets, hugs, and words like “No, they are garbage. They are filthy garbage, not you” to make this trembling go away. She knows all of their names and is not afraid to report it, even if it means putting her life at risk.

She had tuberculosis, and ate horribly: Frozen meat, spoiled food, and lack of water. Officers claimed their budget was 2 thousand Reais per inmate, and Nina affirms that there is absolutely no way this money was actually getting to them. Reporting corruption is important, but it’s also important to stress that focusing on improving the system is pointless. There is no use in asking to be protected by a system that is created and sustained by people whose interests depend on keeping women like her dehumanized and with the lowest level of self-esteem.

When her daughter was molested, she took the law into her own hands, because she knew that the judicial system is not there to protect her rights. It is there to criminalize dissent likely to undermine the Government’s ability to function. Operating outside of the law is the way to combat the injustices perpetrated by the rule of law, to undermine the government’s ability to function (in the interests of the few), and to seize control of our own lives.

There is no better way to sustain rule of law, and the government’s ability to function, than to convince poor people they don’t deserve rights, that they don’t deserve protection. That’s because if rights were ensured to everyone, the Government would have to become something else entirely. It would have to cease to be.

For example, the right wing founder of the NGO Turning Point USA said: “You really think Rosa Parks was a hero? I guess you forgot that she is famous for breaking the law.” You would think that this proud white U.S. American reveres the constitution to such an extent that he believes there is no excuse to break the law, even when for a righteous cause. That’s not the case, because even he broke the law when his NGO endorsed republican politicians and shared personal information of its members with conservative campaigners.

What is the fundamental difference between Rosa Parks breaking the law, and this generic conservative white guy breaking the law? One broke the law in an attempt to undermine the government’s ability to function, and the other broke the law to protect the government’s ability to function. Institutional racism is an indispensable tool to make government function feasible. How? Borders, economic exploitation of “Developing” non-white countries, the for-profit prison system, the unpunished liquidation of the marginalized contingent of the population, and so on. This is the distinction between crimes you can get away with, and crimes you cannot.

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The crime women are most arrested for is drug trafficking. First of all, in Brazil, the line between a user and a trafficker is determined by judges, not by quantity. They claim that otherwise dealers will use this “ceiling” to skirt the law. In practice, this is used to criminalize people who they don’t believe can afford to use without selling: a criminalization of poverty. Our previous Minister of Justice has even admitted that distinguishing between a potential criminal and an innocent citizen is done by “looking at the person’s eyes“, which basically means a wide range of potential for discrimination based on race, class and gender.

Second of all, let’s ask ourselves why trafficking drugs is illegal in the first place. Drug trafficking is considered a danger to public health, like toxic chemicals in food, cosmetics, or air and water pollution. While some industries destroy the planet and our bodies with impunity, “drug” users and low level distributors are doing time in double digits (in a judicial system that not for a moment questions what really leads to addiction).

Volkswagen can cheat on their emission tests and get away with it with a relative slap on the wrist. Why? Because their crime was an attempt to sustain the fragile capitalist economy, which is crucial in keeping the government’s engine running smoothly. A Volkswagen executive has spent less time behind bars than a protester arrested for carrying two bottles of cleaning products (Schmidt got 40 months of supervised release while Rafael Braga got a proper 5 years, and a month in solitary confinement). Drug trafficking, much like protesting, is not there to benefit the government. It is an industry that sustains the sovereignty of the community the government treats as excess contingent.

The sovereignty of the ghetto is a massive threat to the status quo- to the state. Organized crime might be big enough to negotiate with the state, but the massive numbers of people doing time are those who benefit the least from being on either side of the negotiating table.

Nina’s battered self esteem is in the best interest of the government, because were she to have the will and resources to build sovereignty, she would use it to make the system that sought to destroy her and her family obsolete. Does anyone really think that if she suggests ways for the system to improve and says “please” that anyone will comply? Expecting her to beg is only a perpetuation of the abuse. We must cheer her courage to rise and resist, and never again demand obedience.

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Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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Letters from a Human Being in a Cage

Aaron was only 17 when he entered the prison system. He turned 30 last December. His release date is not until 2037.

Aaron is not the person he was 13 years go. In spite of that, Aaron has no opportunity to show that he has changed. The system, and those who maintain it, simply do not care whether or not Aaron is reformed.

What follows are Aaron’s words. Only minor editorial changes have been made for readability.


Stranded

The feeling of being stranded, As if I was abducted by aliens and woke up to a deserted island, has unfortunately somehow become my life. Scratching my head, trying to recall the answers, hopefully I can find one that would resolve my anger of my new reality.

I scream for help in all directions, until my voice dies in the raspy chord. I shoot a flare, start a fire and spin my T-shirt over my head like a helicopter. Nothing, no help, no rescue, no solution, no second half of the movie hero comeback. Is that a ship I see? As rescuers gather me together, wrap me in one of those cool space blankets, one of them turns to me and says, “We’ve been looking …” Cut short midsentence and I’m jolted back into real life from the dreamworld I prefer to attend. I’m still stranded.

I reach into my right pocket in search of hope, or is the word “help”?My heart skips a beat and the feeling of joy flutters over me. My hands send a message to my head saying it recognizes the object it beholds. A phone and a couple of watermelon flavored gum wrappers appear in my hand before me. Eyes wide as saucers as I gaze upon items as if they were treasures lost from the holy Ark.

Power-on the object that beholds endless possibilities, new meaningful connections, and open world conversations. With hope I dial this number, then that number, and the results are both the same. Not permitted. Not allowed. Cut off  and closed off to the people of the world. Restricted. The numbers to my mother are punched in as quickly as they flash in my memory. The excitement jumps through me as I hear the phone ring. The sweetest sound of my beloved mother saying “Hello”, as she answers the call. Without hesitation, I say “Hello” back, only to be cut off by a robotic recording telling my mother that this call is from a stranded person on an island, that this call is being recorded, and last but not least will be charged $8 for 30 minutes. Then with an upbeat, sweetest robotic tone, asks if she will except the call.

My stomach growls in protest over the absence of real food substance. The watermelon flavored gum scent snakes itself from the empty wrappers, twirling, dancing and swirling into my hungry nose. In that moment, I’m transported to a time much simpler and joyous. Funny how one moment a piece of wrapper is just an object of trash, and now it has become my beloved machine of time transportation. To fill my guts, I know eat handfuls of dirt and chunks of tree bark. It’s gritty and nasty, and you never “get used to it”, but what are you going to doing when there’s no other option?

I seek out the unknown items that my left pocket might possess. Surprising enough, I find a radio with a pair of earbuds. Feeling uplifted and happy at the mere possibility that this might bring a new experience into my life, or at the least an old familiar sense of normality for a bit. Cross my fingers as I flip the on switch. Static. Nothing but static flows from the only working earbud. Sadly enough, I rock the solo earbud in my ear sitting, listening to the static, as if getting reacquainted with an old friend, not daring to turn it off. Static, the wish-wash white noise has become my sanctuary of solace. It is the only real thing to me at this point.

The loneliness is the worst part. Wishing someone, from somewhere, will break through the static and just speak. Speak tales of hope, something, anything that I can hold onto, a hope in the knowledge that we are going through this together, that everything will be okay. But nothing. No rainbows or streets paved in gold. Memories of girlfriends passed attack my conscious like antibodies to a flu virus, leaving me sick with regrets of not doing more, being more. What wouldn’t I give for one more hug from Amanda, a kiss from Valaria, or an “I love you” from Kristen.

The realization that is just me now on the island comes falling down on my head, squashing my alternate reality I could cartoon anvil. I’m broke down, beat up, and wore out, destined to live out my life stranded to a place they can only ruin me. No help is coming and holding hope will only make you drown in this sea of life.

F.M.L.

Peace + Love

Aaron


The U.S. imprisons more of our citizens than any other country in the world. We have 25% of the world’s prisoners, even though we have only 5% of the world’s population. The U.S. keeps over 2.4 million people behind bars. The percentage of imprisoned U.S. citizens has increased by 500% in the last 30 years.

One of the things I learned about from Aaron was prison lockdowns. If a prisoner kills themselves–not a rare thing apparently–the prison is locked down for weeks. This is the worst time for prisoners. They have to spend 24 hours a day in their cell, and they are only allowed one shower every three days. The following was written by Aaron after one such lockdown.


They Always Ask Why

During the first minutes of being able to breathe the first breath of fresh air coming off a 16 day lockdown, some said, “We were on lockdown because they are tired of the incidents. And they want to know why?” So this intrigued me. How could I ever express something so deep on paper?

How can I express the reason why people kill themselves, OD, stab, fight, use drugs? How can I tell you we are in pain that you feel nothing but indifference towards us. It’s human as well as animal nature to relieve the pain one is feeling. A wolf will chew off its own leg to escape the pain of being confined and trapped in the snare.

How can I express in words the emotion that one feels when he tells his mother and other loved ones that they will die when the last place seeing them alive is in a prison visiting room?

What words can I use to describe the emotion of neverending loss and desertion and expanding separation from our loved ones, when this is the time we need to stay connected with them the most?

How can I express the feelings of strangers looking at you but not seeing you? Like you have become something less than human, not even worthy of eye contact. As others watch us gobble down vending machine gas station food like it is a four-star plate in shock.

How can one dictate to another the death of hopelessness of gaining a second chance? No matter how much I progress, change and accomplish set goals, I will always be judged on my past. No matter how much I change, I will never be able to change the past.

How do you put into words to explain the mixture of rage and despair when one sees a huge sign saying “Grand Opening” on the new building that is used to kill us?

How do you describe the frustration of wanting to do good, but are rarely given the opportunities. Or the anxiety that transforms into anger from dealing with psych patients and those who have yet to become conscious enough to change themselves?

My only true question that I seek to find the knowledge to understand is this: How do you justify putting another human being in a cage with no real intentions or efforts to try to help reform them, but simply left to their own devices, full of false hope, slim future prospect and told to navigate through a psych ward daily, while expecting us not to do bad?

F.M.L.

Aaron


I admit, when I first heard about Aaron, I wondered what he had done to be in prison. For some reason, this seemed like the most important question. I think I needed some justification for Aaron’s imprisonment, so I could go back to not thinking about it. I even went so far as to look up what Aaron had done. But it didn’t make me feel any better, because I couldn’t reconcile my image of the person who committed that crime with the image of Aaron which was forming in my mind as I read his words.

The more I read what Aaron wrote, the more I realized that “What did he do?” is the wrong question. The right question is “Who is he?” Who is Aaron? Not who was he 13 years ago? Who is he now? If we are going to try to justify someone being locked in a cage, shouldn’t that be the question? Not what did they do in the past? But who are they today? 


My Cage

Cages come in all different sizes. Some are big and hold tigers. Others are small and stop birds from flying. My cage is built from three concrete walls and a set of steel bars. It’s the size of someone’s small bathroom, and like all cages, it has a slot for food.

Some people say that the mind can be free while the body is locked away. Hold on while I pick up my imaginary phone and call bullshit. I believe that is just a human method and way of dealing with being trapped in a cage. Let’s face it, your mind can drift away to dreamland as much as it wants. When you blink and come back to your physical self, it’s still behind bars.

People claim there is a lower self and a higher self, a battle between good and bad on the moral scale of standards. I believe they overlooked or forgot to add the category of the animal self. I can understand why they made this mistake. One has to live a life in a cage to get it.

As a dog confined in a cage will bark fiercely when they see a person and then whimper and cry when they go out of sight, I have become that animal, for I now know what they are going through. The wide range of the emotional kaleidoscope: hell’s rage to the sadness of a broken heart, the loneliness of complete isolation to the thoughts of suicide, from the deepest despair. A pit of endless hopelessness that swallows men whole like a sinkhole, placed upon the shoulders of broken humans to bear. Human dignity stripped away and lost like smoke in the air.

Is a human being meant to be placed in the cage, locked away day upon days? Have I been downgraded and reclassed to some sort of weird animal status? Or has this cage brought the animal to the surface, with the rage I now feel? Has my cage transformed my humanity to animality, or is that a story they spin to justify the means to the action? When I flip on Animal Planet, will I see myself in caged habitat? Or will I flip on MSNBC’s”lockup” to compare another caged life with my own.

The new exhibit and slideshow. Come see the tactics to break the human. Push-Paul-Bend-Snap. Minds break and the animal self flows. Tiers upon tiers of cages filled with damaged human souls, transforming into animals as a prison industry growth. No reform for us. Just time in our cage to reflect and grow into our new animal ways.

Don’t get me wrong. Some truly belong here. But what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. True testament from myself: time in a cage can help transform and change a life. But there is a truth of too much of something can be a bad thing. Harm comes after the help of a changed life, once self reformed and reborn into a new person. The end result is still the same: locked away and endless time in my cage.

Some people question then what’s the point, and end up taking own life. Where is the second chance, the fruit of my labor of change? The raw truth is nobody cares and I have become that dog placed back into the cage.

F.M.L.


The prison administrators have recently changed how the prisoners receive their mail. When they receive a letter for a prisoner, the prison now copies the letter and gives the copy, not the original, to the prisoner. This might seem like an insignificant thing, but it’s not. Because they only get a photocopy, the prisoners can no longer feel the paper that their loves one’s touched, no longer trace the penstrokes their parents or their children made. They can no longer smell an old familiar smell from an aunt or grandmother’s house or the perfume sprayed on the paper by a girlfriend or a wife.  It’s just one more barrier placed between them and the rest of us.

If you would like to write a letter to Aaron, you can scan it and email to me at allergicpagan@gmail.com and I will see that it is delivered to Aaron.

My gratitude to Pete O’Day, who shared Aaron’s letters with me. Pete helps facilitate a Buddhist mediation group at a prison where he met Aaron.


John Halstead

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


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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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Note on Violations of Prisoners’ Rights

Fighting “against the genocide of black people, and its derivations, such as the prison enterprise which drives forward the process of African enslavement; outstanding in memory, history and in the bodies of black people in Brazil.”

From the political organization React or Die

English Translation Here

penitenciaria_almiro

Nota da ASFAP/BA sobre as recentes violações aos direitos dos presos.

Governo e agentes penitenciários devem resolver suas questões sem penalizar prisioneiras, prisioneiros e seus familiares.

“Art. 10. A assistência ao preso e ao internado é dever do Estado, objetivando prevenir o crime e orientar o retorno à convivência em sociedade.”

“Art. 12. A assistência material ao preso e ao internado consistirá no fornecimento de alimentação, vestuário e instalações higiênicas.”

“Art. 13. O estabelecimento disporá de instalações e serviços que atendam aos presos nas suas necessidades pessoais, além de locais destinados à venda de produtos e objetos permitidos e não fornecidos pela Administração.”

(Lei de Execução Penal, Lei 7.210/1984)

A Associação de Familiares e Amigos de Presos e Presas do Estado da Bahia (ASFAP/BA) atua desde 2006 no interior do sistema prisional baiano, amparando e apoiando prisioneiros, egressos e seus familiares. A ASFAP/BA é um núcleo avançado de lutas da Reaja Organização política e tem como objetivo lutar contra o genocídio do povo negro e suas derivações, a exemplo do empreendimento carcerário que tem como grande impulsionador o processo de escravização africana, marcante na memória, história e nos corpos de negros e negras no Brasil.

Este documento tem o objetivo de chamar a atenção de militantes do movimento negro e pan-africanistas, ativistas de direitos humanos, instituições de defesa de direitos humanos e demais cidadãos e cidadãs para o grave quadro de violação aos direitos das pessoas privadas de liberdade que vem ocorrendo no estado da Bahia.

Passado o Fórum Social Mundial com toda pirotecnia de intermináveis debates e até reprodução em 3D de uma cela de cadeia, apresentamos o drama real que precisa de uma ação prática para que os prisioneiros e as prisioneiras e os seus familiares não sofram violências e violações atualmente tão criticadas por instituições e mentes democráticas diante da prisão de uma personalidade muito conhecida no Brasil.

Mais uma vez, o Governo do estado da Bahia através de sua Secretaria de Administração Penitenciária, a SEAP, em desacordo trabalhista com o sindicato dos agentes penitenciários impõem uma série de limitações as pessoas presas e seus familiares. Vemos nitidamente , que além da pena estabelecida a cada uma das pessoas que se encontram presas, pratica-se a dupla punição e desvio de pena quando da negação de direitos garantidos pela Lei de Execução Penal, a LEP. Para além das restrições do que os parentes podem ou não levar para os detentos, permanecem e se agravam violações aos direitos dos apenados, incluindo-se aí abusos cometidos durante as visitas.

A Associação de Familiares e Amigos de Prisioneiros e Prisioneiras do Estado da Bahia, analisando a situação das unidades prisionais da Bahia, tem forte convicção que os poderes de Estado não cumprem suas responsabilidades previstas na LEP e ignoram também o documento da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) que trata das prisões e estabelece as Regras Mínimas para o Tratamento de Reclusos, da qual o Brasil é signatário. No item 20 do documento está expresso que a “administração deve fornecer a cada recluso, em horas determinadas, alimentação de valor nutritivo adequado à saúde e à robustez física, de qualidade e bem preparada e servida”. E ressalta que “todos os reclusos devem ter a possibilidade de se prover com água potável sempre que necessário”.

A qualidade da alimentação – constata-se inclusive comida em decomposição, além de carnes servidas cruas – é uma reclamação comum e permanente nas manifestações de parentes, tanto de unidades prisionais da capital, como do interior.

A possibilidade dos familiares prepararem e levarem refeições para seus entes queridos durante os dias de visita deve ser encarado como uma concessão estatal que ajuda a ressocialização do apenado, já que essa ressocialização como preconizado por lei é dever do Estado e da sociedade, sendo a família parte fundamental desse vínculo, além de levar em conta os hábitos culturais, das quais a alimentação é parte.

A restrição da entrada de alimentos associada as várias queixas quanto a qualidade das refeições fornecidas pelas unidades prisionais, o não fornecimento de água potável, a restrição a saída para atendimentos médico, odontológico, realização de exames e procedimentos, a opressão praticada por agentes penitenciários contra os familiares, articulado pelo sindicato que de forma justa busca do governo a ampliação de seus quadros e condições adequadas de trabalho, torna presas e presos o lado mais fraco da corda nesta luta por direitos. Isto não deveria ser feito retirando os direitos das pessoas presas e apostando no sofrimento de prisioneiros e na humilhação de familiares, mas numa mesa de negociação trabalhista com o próprio governador. Tudo isso, juntando-se as péssimas condições das prisões – celas superlotadas, unidades com limitações estruturais, falta de fornecimento regular de material de higiene e farda, falta de dentista e outros profissionais, falta de medicações, entrada de guarnição militar fortemente armada com brucutus e cachorros treinados para a abertura e fechamento de unidades prisionais, disparando balas de borracha contra os internos, além de spray de pimenta em celas já fechadas, entre outros – gera um ambiente explosivo fundamental para um projeto em curso de militarização ou privatização do sistema. O governo anuncia agora a militarização da educação em todo Estado, essa militarização já existe no sistema prisional sob o silêncio das instituições que deveriam zelar pelas instituições democráticas. Se ninguém se manifesta, nós falaremos e chamaremos a atenção para ver se a luta dos oprimidos terá tantos recursos como a prisão de quem dispõem de milhões em recursos para advogados defenderem seus interesses.

Em audiência pública organizada pela ASFAP-BA no mês de maio de 2016 familiares já pontuavam problemas com alimentação que agora se repetem. Diziam:

“Se antes essa situação era amenizada com mantimentos levados pela família em dias de visita, agora nem isso. A gente podia levar arroz, óleo, outras coisas que matavam a fome de nossos maridos e filhos. Desde o final de março, só deixam entrar três pacotes de biscoito por semana, uma garrafa de suco, ou refrigerante, uma carteira de cigarros por dia de visita, dois rolos de papel higiênico a cada duas semanas, lençol estampado (não há explicação do motivo de não aceitação de roupas de cama lisas), sabonete (desde que não sejam branco e amarelo – restrição igualmente sem explicação plausível) e duas garrafas de água”.

É importante frisar que esse quadro veio se agravando de 2016 para cá. O que agrava o quadro de violação a direitos básicos de prisioneiros.

Repete-se em 2018 as mesmas denúncias formuladas em 2016, com agravos de desrespeito, violência psicológica contra familiares, uso desproporcional da força policial e uma tática violenta dos agentes penitenciários de criar uma suposta operação de legalidade para disfarçar uma ação calculada de pressão contra prisioneiros e seus familiares, chamando a atenção do governo para seus interesses trabalhistas.

“Na revista, jogam fora nossa comida, ou nos obrigam a colocar num saco plástico, tudo misturado. Nos tratam como bichos e mesmo o que entra, não é suficiente para o almoço com nossos maridos e filhos”.

“Como eu vou comer e deixar ele (preso) com fome, ainda mais sabendo de toda a situação lá dentro?”

A preocupação dos familiares e de defensores de direitos humanos é com a saúde dos detentos, que recebem uma refeição contaminada.

Igualmente preocupante é o armazenamento de água da torneira em baldes – usada para banho e consumo. Como faltam água e luz com frequência nas unidades, os presos guardam água em recipientes abertos, favorecendo, inclusive a proliferação de mosquitos do Aedes Aegypti. Interessante ressaltar que dos 417 municípios da Bahia, apenas um (Mucugê) ainda não tinha registrado casos de dengue, chikungunya ou zika em 2016. Além disso, mais da metade das prisões baianas (no total 22) são antigas, têm mais de 10 anos de construção. A estrutura precária, a infestação de ratos e baratas, como relatado por familiares e a falta de higienização de caixas d’água só aumentam o risco de epidemias.

A saúde dos detentos é motivo de grave preocupação. Detentos com tuberculose e outras doenças infecciosas dividem cela com outros, ampliando o risco de contaminação. Demoram para receber atendimento adequado e quando são atendidos nem sempre tem as medicações que são prescritas. Os familiares tem que se desdobrar para comprar os remédios que garantam o tratamento dos presos. Muitos quando chegam ao atendimento tem que ser internados em hospitais em estado grave.

“O atendimento é precário. Antes, a gente podia levar remédio. Agora, até paracetamol tem que ter receita. Se alguém passar mal na sexta-feira, não levam para atendimento porque é dia de visita. Já vi presos vomitando sangue, outros urinando sangue, agentes carregando um detento que estava passando mal num carrinho de mão e também um outro morrer após uma convulsão no pátio”, relatou outra mulher.

Segundo ela, pelo menos dois cadeirantes estavam nesse presídio e dependiam dos companheiros de cela para tudo, como sair da cama e tomar banho, pegar as refeições. As direções das unidades, sem nenhuma base legal, também proibiram a entrada de adoçantes e outros alimentos para pessoas com diabetes e enfermidades similares. Para dificultar o ingresso desses produtos importantes para os portadores de doenças crônicas, só com receita médica, embora não exista nenhuma determinação no Brasil que exija receituário para venda de adoçantes em farmácias ou supermercados, por exemplo.

Um familiar de cadeirante relata que tem sido proibido de levar remédios e dietas, mesmo tendo relatório médico dispondo o contrário.

Há muito tempo a ASFAP/BA vem denunciando a precariedade no atendimento a saúde e nada muda, não existe uma base razoável de atendimento a saúde dentro dos princípios do SUS ou das diretrizes e protocolos do Plano Nacional de Saúde do Sistema Penitenciário.

Assim, estamos iniciando uma jornada de lutas por justiça e pelos direitos básicos de nossos familiares encarcerados e nossos próprios direitos violados uma vez que não somos criminosas e nem sentenciadas. As penas de nossos cônjuges e familiares não podem nos alcançar, estamos exercendo um direito de lutar pelos interesses de sujeitos cuja voz não tem sido ouvida e que vem enfrentando toda sorte de violações aos seus direitos.

Exigimos das instâncias do governo que tratam dos direitos humanos e da administração prisional que mais uma vez nos receba para tratarmos de assunto de nosso total interesse.

Solicitamos a Secretaria Estadual de Administração Penitenciária e Ressocialização, a Excelentíssima Juíza da Vara de Execução Penal, a Defensoria Pública, a Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil e a Superintendência de Direitos Humanos uma reunião conosco, familiares de presas e presos, para abrir este processo de escuta e participação que é princípio do governo do Estado da Bahia e estabeleçamos um diálogo.

Solicitamos aos movimentos sociais, acadêmicos, personalidades das redes sociais e organizações de direitos humanos solidariedade a uma luta justa que travamos.

Salvador, Abril de 2018.


ASFAP- BA/ Reaja Organização Política

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ENGLISH TRANSLATION

penitenciaria_almiro

Note from ASFAP-Bahia on recent violations of prisoners’ rights.

Government and penitentiary agents should resolve their issues without penalizing prisoners and their families.

“Article 10. Assistance to the inmate and the internee is the duty of the State, with the purpose of preventing crime and guiding the return to coexistence in society.”

“Article 12. Physical assistance to the inmate and the internee shall consist of the provision of food, clothing and hygienic facilities.”

“Article 13. The establishment shall have facilities and services that meet the prisoners in their personal needs, as well as places destined to the sale of products and objects permitted and not provided by the Administration.”

(Criminal Enforcement Law, Law 7,210 / 1984)

The Association of Relatives and Friends of Prisoners of the State of Bahia (ASFAP-Bahia) has been working inside the Bahia State prison system since 2006, protecting and supporting prisoners, detainees and their families. The ASFAP-Bahia is an advanced nucleus of the Political Organization Reaja ou Será Morta (React or Die) and aims to fight against the genocide of black people, and its derivations, such as the prison enterprise which drives forward the process of African enslavement; outstanding in memory, history and in the bodies of black people in Brazil.

This document aims to bring to the attention of black and pan-Africanist activists, human rights activists, human rights institutions and other citizens, the serious violation of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty in the state of Bahia [1].

After the Fórum Social Mundial (World Social Forum) with all the pyrotechnics of endless debates and even a 3D reproduction of a jail cell, we present the real drama that requires practical action so that prisoners and their families do not suffer from the violence and violations currently criticized by institutions and democratic minds in sight of the arrest of a very well-known personality in Brazil [2].

Once again, the Government of the State of Bahia, through its Secretariat of Penitentiary Administration, SEAP, in a labor dispute with the union of prison agents, impose a series of limitations on prisoners and their families. We clearly see that in addition to the punishment established for each one of the people who are imprisoned, the double punishment and deviation of sentence is practiced when denying the rights guaranteed by the Penal Execution Law, the LEP. In addition to the restrictions of what relatives may or may not bring to the detainees, violations of the rights of the prisoners remain, including abuses committed during visits.

The Association of Relatives and Friends of Prisoners of the State of Bahia, in analyzing the situation of the prison units in Bahia, is strongly convinced that State powers do not fulfill their responsibilities under the LEP and also ignore the United Nations document (UN) which deals with prisons and establishes the Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, to which Brazil is a signatory. Section 20 of the document states that “management shall provide each prisoner, at specified times, with nutritional value adequate to health and physical strength, of quality, and well prepared and served”. It emphasizes that “all prisoners should be able to provide themselves with clean water whenever necessary.”

The quality of food – including rotten food, as well as raw meat served – is a common and permanent complaint in the demonstrations of relatives at prison units in the capital and in the inland of the State.

The possibility for family members to prepare and take meals to their loved ones during the visiting days should be considered a state concession that helps the re-socialization of the confined person, since this re-socialization is put forward by law as a duty of the State and of society, the family being a fundamental part of this bond, in addition to taking into account the cultural habits which food is a part of.

The restriction of food intake associated with the various complaints regarding the quality of meals provided by the prison units; the non-provision of drinking water; the restriction of exits for medical and dental examinations and procedures; the oppression practiced by penitentiary agents against the family members, as articulated by the union that in a fair search for the government to expand their cadres and ensure adequate working conditions; makes prisoners the weaker side of the fight in this struggle for rights. This should not be done by withdrawing the rights of prisoners, betting on the suffering of prisoners, and the humiliation of family members, but instead at a negotiating table with the governor himself.

All this, together with the poor conditions of the prisons – overcrowded cells; units with structural limitations; lack of regular supply of hygiene materials and uniforms; lack of dentists and other professionals; lack of medications; entrance of heavily armed military force with brutality and trained dogs for the opening and closing of prison units; firing rubber bullets at inmates, and pepper spray in closed cells; among others things – create a fundamentally explosive environment as an ongoing project of militarization or privatization of the system. The government now announces the militarization of education in every state, this militarization already exists in the prison system under the silence of the institutions that should care for democratic institutions. If nobody speaks up, we will speak and call attention to see if the struggle of the oppressed will have as many resources as the arrest of those who have millions in resources for lawyers to defend their interests.

In a public hearing organized by ASFAP-Bahia in May 2016, family members already reported problems with food that are now repeating themselves. They said:

“If before this situation was mitigated with food brought by the family on visiting days, now we don’t even have that. We could carry rice, oil, other things that would satisfy the hunger of our husbands and children. Since the end of March, only three packets of biscuits per week, a bottle of juice, or soda, a pack of cigarettes per day of visit, two rolls of toilet paper every two weeks, printed sheets (there is no explanation for why not accept plain bed linen), soap (provided they are not white and yellow – a restriction also without plausible explanation) and two bottles of water.”

It is important to emphasize that this situation has worsened from 2016 to now, which aggravates the framework of violation of basic prisoners’ rights.

The same denunciations made in 2016 are repeated in 2018, about disrespect, psychological violence against family members, disproportionate use of the police force and violent tactics by prison agents to create a supposed legality operation to disguise a calculated action of pressure against prisoners and their families, drawing government attention to their labor interests.

“In the search, they throw away our food, or we are forced to put it in a plastic bag, everything mixed together. They treat us like animals and even what comes in is not enough for lunch with our husbands and children.”

“How am I going to eat and leave him (stuck) hungry, especially knowing of the whole situation in there?”

The concern of family members and human rights defenders is with the health of detainees who receive a contaminated meal.

Equally troubling is the storage of tap water in buckets – used for bathing and drinking. As water and light are often lacking in the units, prisoners store water in open containers, favoring the proliferation of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. It’s interesting to note that of the 417 municipalities in Bahia, only one (Mucugê) had not yet registered cases of dengue, chikungunya or zika in 2016. In addition, more than half of prisons in Bahia (22 in all) are old: built more than 10 years ago. The precarious structure, infestation of rats and cockroaches, as reported by relatives, and the lack of sanitation of water boxes only increase the risk of epidemics.

The health of detainees is a matter of grave concern. Detainees with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases share cells with others, increasing the risk of contamination. They receive delayed adequate care and when they are attended to they do not always have the medications that must be prescribed. Relatives have to work together to buy the medicines that will guarantee the treatment of prisoners. Many people who arrive at the hospital are admitted in serious condition.

“The service is precarious. Before, we could take medicine. Even paracetamol (aspirin) has to have a prescription. If someone gets sick on Friday, they do not take them to customer service because it is visiting day. I have seen prisoners vomiting blood, others urinating blood, officers carrying a detainee who was completely sick in a wheelbarrow and also another dying after a seizure in the yard.”

(As reports another woman.)

According to her, at least two wheelchair users were in this prison and depended on their cellmates for everything, such as getting out of bed and taking a shower, to eat their meals. The directions of the units, without any legal basis, also prohibited the entry of sweeteners and other foods for people with diabetes and similar diseases. Making things even more difficult, the entry of these important products for those with chronic diseases requires a prescription, although there is no requirement in Brazil for prescription for the sale of sweeteners in pharmacies or supermarkets, for example.

A family member of a wheelchair user reports that he has been banned from taking medicines and diets, even though he has a medical report stating otherwise.

The ASFAP-Bahia has long denounced the precariousness of health care and nothing changes, there is no reasonable basis for health care within the principles of SUS (Medicare) or the guidelines and protocols of the National Health Plan of the Penitentiary System.

Thus, we are starting a journey of justice struggles and the basic rights of our incarcerated family members, and our own violated rights since we are neither criminals nor sentenced. The sentences of our spouses and relatives can not reach us, we are exercising a right to fight for the interests of subjects whose voice has not been heard and who have been facing all kinds of violations of their rights.

We demand from the government action that deals with human rights and the prison administration to once again receive us to deal with matters of our complete interest.

We request the State Secretariat for Penitentiary Administration and Re-socialization, the Honorable Judge of the Criminal Execution Court, the Public Defender’s Office, the Brazilian Bar Association, and the Human Rights Superintendency a meeting with us, relatives of prisoners, to open this process of listening and participation that is the principle of the government of the State of Bahia and to establish a dialogue.

We call on social movements, academics, social network personalities and human rights organizations to stand up for a fair fight.

Salvador, Brazil – April 2018.


[1] Bahia:

was the first point of contact the Portuguese had with what became the Brazilian colony. Its capital, Salvador, was Brazil’s first capital. It’s now the city with the most African descendants outside of Africa (an estimated 80% of the population). Though difficult to cite precisely, Salvador’s port was one to receive the most enslaved Africans (Rio de Janeiro being second). Only in the second half of the 1700’s, almost one million Africans came to Brazil, half of which came to Salvador (the others to Rio and other parts of the coast). Of the almost 5 million total enslaved Africans that came to Brazil during the nearly 500 years of Colonialism, Salvador is undoubtedly the city most affected by this horrific event in history, a legacy and a reality that is still very much alive today.

The Northeast region in Brazil and the rural areas of Bahia are also known for severe droughts that lead to crippling poverty in the agricultural community and mass migration. Because of this, people from there suffer classist discrimination in the Southeast region of Brazil (Rio/São Paulo) when they go south looking for new opportunities. This drought is believed to be a result of an ecosystem destabilization caused by the deforestation of the Amazon forest (in the North of the country).

Bahia is incredibly culturally relevant to Brazil, as the birthplace of much of the cultural and spiritual practices that defines Brazilian identity today. It represents a large portion of the Brazilian population although it’s overshadowed by the Southeast due to their western influence and appeal (which is a blatant example of Imperialistic forces in the country).

[2] Lula:

A presidential candidate, Lula, that is certain to win if he runs for office this year, is to be arrested just before he gets a chance to be on the ballot. To many Brazilians this is representative of the failure of the Democratic system and evidence of a coup. To make matters worse, right-wing politicians and generals are publicly stating that if Lula somehow runs from behind bars there will be no choice but to issue military intervention.


ASFAP-Bahia / Reaja Organização Política (React or Die)

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Ode to America

On the delusions of American exceptionalism.

From William Hawes

rob-walsh-542241-unsplash.jpg

My own little world
Is what I deserve
‘Cause I am the only child there is.
A king of it all
The belle of the ball
I promise I’ve always been like this.
Forever the first
My bubble can’t burst
It’s almost like only I exist.
Where everything’s mine
If I can keep my mouth shut tight, tight, tight.

-Guster, “Center of Attention”

So much for the city on the hill. Narcissism has changed to nihilism and solipsism: “climate change isn’t real”, and the ravages of history continue down the rabbit hole of memory.

Take another look. Genocide and chattel slavery. The war against Mexico, the quite uncivil war, the Spanish-American war, the massacres in the Philippines, the two World Wars. Dust off a book and check out the post-WWII carnage. Three million dead in Korea, three to five million dead in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. A million or more in Indonesia where our CIA handed out kill lists to Suharto’s regime. Untold atrocities in Nicaragua. Juntas and death squads covering South and Central America, trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Hundreds of thousands dead in Afghanistan, a million or more in Iraq. Refugees numbered 65 million last year, with 20 million worldwide at risk of starvation.

Welcome to America, where minorities are killed for loose cigarettes or burned-out taillights. Where kids are shot up in school after warning of the madman dozens of times. Where we are chided to “support our troops” as they massacre, where we’re told “blue lives matter” as black men are murdered in cold blood.

The only solution is to abolish the military and the police. There is no reforming to be done. Likewise the nation-state and the corporation must be banned as well. Banish capitalism to the dustbin of history. The neoliberal globalizers (yes, Trump, that means you too) have got to go.

This is the fourth world war, as Subcomandante Marcos explained brilliantly. Billions of people now are no longer needed in the global economy and form the reserve army of temporary, part-time, and seasonal laborers. This is the new precariat, which along with the ever exploited proles constructs and maintains the property of the oligarchs in our new gilded age.

The risks from global warming, nuclear war, industrial pollulants, new pandemics, and food and water shortages from drought, floods, and extreme weather all should remind us that we are constructing our very own abattoir as well. Seven and a half billion of us fighting and scrambling over the scraps and dregs of our fossil fuel age doesn’t paint a pretty picture when you step back and look at things with a global perspective.

There is an absolute nothing at the heart of Western life. This gets touched up in media and the arts, when terms like “Spaceship Earth”, “The Big Empty”, and “Lonely Planet” are used in a playful way, masking our sorrow. Projecting our own isolation and alienation onto the world, we anthropomorphize features and creatures around us and thus imagine that everyone and everything else must be feeling as helpless, bleak, and disturbed as we are.

Yet, it is just not so. Just because the universe is kind of a lonely and scary place does not give us the right to destroy the planet out of fear of our own mortality, our own sense of meaninglessness.

While our foreign wars mutate and mushroom out of control, domestically, America today is increasingly provincial and insular. Like many subcultures, the political realm is dominated by nostalgia, a return to a so-called Golden Age. From “Make America Great Again” to Bernie Sanders’ New Deal/Keynesian/Social Democratic promises, they are all based on delusions. These are delusions of isolationism, delusions that we can use a Scandinavian blueprint onto a population of 320 million, delusions of American exceptionalism, being the indispensable nation.

There is also a delusion regarding the “living wage”. There can only be a living wage coinciding with a radical restructuring of the economy towards sustainability and ecological living. Without this, what would happen? A wage hike to $15/hour would encourage everyone to spend more, consume more, go on more trips and use more fossil fuels. This would not help any single living thing on the planet, as our economy is built to destroy and degrade the Earth’s natural resources and ecosystems.

Comments on US Left Radicals, with Respect

I also sense a split between two strains of Leftist radical thought in the US: the activist/socialist Left and what one might call the counter-culture/spiritual Left. Turns out, each has much to offer the other.

The activists/Marxists will be instrumental in breaking the passivity, new-age hedonism, and tendency to harp on conspiracy theory of the spiritualists. Organization and discipline on the strategic and tactical levels are in short supply, and here socialists have a lot to contribute to the conversation.

As for the counter-culture/spiritual types, they have much to teach the social justice activists and socialist/communist organizers and academics as well. In a very practical sense, those in the counterculture who have “dropped out” are doing a great service by not contributing tax money to our war machine. Those who squat and occupy public land responsibly should also be applauded, not ignored, by the academic Left. The growing movement in permaculture and homesteading also is uniquely absent even in alternative media (is too much patchouli and yoga a repellant for otherwise intrepid journalists?).

There is also an idea as old as time, summed up by the saying “Man does not live by bread alone”. The constant focus of some on the socialist Left on only materialistic problems and solutions (exemplified by some Marxist and lefty economists, among others) and inequality does not give enough weight to questions of inner life in modern society.

Many of the activist/socialists cannot even be counted on to support full drug legalization. Additionally, many ignore the issue of, or are scared at speaking out in favor of, the responsible use of cannabis and psychedelics, even though study after study confirms their beneficial effects. Of course I’m not trying to inflate the heads of the credentialed experts, as any hippie on Haight-Ashbury or Rasta in Kingston could have confirmed this 50 years ago.

Speaking of the 60s, 50 years ago the French managed to scare De Gaulle out of the country, with an alliance of students, workers, feminists, artists, Leftists, and citizen protestors. Union workers in the US should be supporting high school students’ calls increased legislation to halt gun violence, as well as college students’ call to end student debt, creating free higher education for universities and community colleges, etc.

Then there are people who fit neither category, including environmentalists, peace activists, anti-nuke and GMO protestors, dissidents, anarchists, etc. For many here, the Greens are simply not anti-capitalist enough, and the socialists do not put enough emphasis on environmental concerns and ecology.

I have offered a respectful critique of one of the main Left parties, Socialist Alternative, in a previous piece, especially their call to “democratize the Fortune 500 companies”, instead of breaking them down to human-scale anarchic cooperatives and inherently questioning the nature of the consumer goods and production model, which contribute to pollution, misery, disease, alienation, and global warming. Also, their call for a living wage without structural transformation of the industrial system falls flat, for reasons mentioned above.

Last year, Alan Jones wrote a pretty epic essay dismantling the faulty thinking going on in the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in an essay here.

What is needed among radicals is more guts, and more imagination. We need more people like SPUSA 2016 presidential candidate Mimi Soltysik who called for the military and the police to be disbanded in the LA Times.

What is necessary is to become more grounded in speech and action. Technological utopianism has to be replaced by scale-appropriate bioregional and eco-centric Earth-based production techniques. To accomplish this, we will need to reorient our culture and pay respects to the main keepers of this wisdom, the First Nations of Turtle Island, the land we know as North America.

Visioning

What anyone with a heart wants is a rainbow nation, not in terms of a country or nation-state with borders, but groups of interdependent communities, aka intercommunalism as the Black Panthers called it, where our brown, black, white, yellow, and red sisters and brothers can live and thrive in a veritable kaleidoscope, a mosaic of multicultural and intergenerational cooperation and beauty. To live in cooperation with each other and live close to the Earth, we will have to learn from and adopt the rejuvenating and conflict-avoidant cultural practices of indigenous communities.

Land and property reform are at the center of this agenda, as is instituting a universal basic income. We must utilize the burgeoning fields of communal farming, permaculture, and agroforestry to feed ourselves. We must decentralize…Small Is Beautiful, as Schumacher explained.

Over the course of human history, the village was the central unit of society, where bioregional production, markets, and trading dominated. This is how unique culture is formed, where syncretism and blending is encouraged, not denigrated by xenophobic bigots.

The modern city is completely unsustainable as well as uniquely alienating as it divides citizens by class, race, as well as in the more subtle realms of social and cultural capital, as Bourdieu foresaw.

Holistic, ethical science can be used in tandem with decentralizing farming practices and renewable energy infrastructure. The dream of the primitivist, anti-civ, and “green anarchists” (funny how some have tried to appropriate this term, which can apply to a wide spectrum of theory) to go without any modern technology is ridiculous. Sustainably made labor-saving devises should be encouraged, not denigrated, and applied science based on the precautionary principle must be upheld.

Also necessary will be deliberative councils based on merit, publicly broadcast to stimulate citizen input and education, where scientists can openly debate and plan for strategies to mitigate global warming, industrial pollution, medical and psychological epidemics of suffering (drug abuse is rampant in this country and largely attributable to loneliness and alienation, as the Rat Park study showed), etc. Imagine how much more enlightening and interesting watching the top researchers in their fields resolve crises would be, compared to the absolute shit on CNN, CSPAN, FOX, or MSNBC.

Meritocracies are not utopian, and flourish in scientific research, in spontaneous social situations, as well as for open-source coders, engineers, and technologists. Arthur Koestler sketched this idea out a bit in his book Janus, dubbing it “holarchy”.

Global warming continues to be the number one threat to the planet. By opting out of the Paris Accords (a pitiful excuse for a climate agreement, but better than nothing), the US government has very clearly shown itself to be very clearly at war with the world.

Yet “America” does not exist. Borders do not exist. We must become ungovernable, semi-nomadic if need be, like many of our multicultural, cosmopolitan ancestors were. We should re-wild and reinvigorate our natural surroundings through sustainable communal-based agriculture.

This does not mean consigning every family to peasant-level subsistence farming, as likely only 10-15% of the population would need to work in a food-production based capacity and would be compensated for their hard work and dedication compared to our mass society, compared to the 1-3% in our mechanized agro-business model where laborers and seasonal workers are ruthlessly exploited. There must be a mind-shift from a culture based on scarcity to a culture based on natural abundance.

More and more people are waking up to the ever-increasing dangers of runaway climate change and nuclear war. If the Left does not unify and form a cohesive, coherent strategy that speaks to ordinary people, the proto-fascists in Washington as well as the alt-right will continue to scapegoat minorities for capitalisms’ failures in pursuit of their goal of a tyrannical white-supremacist state.

Possibly the most feasible solution to our interlocking crises is to address the elephant in the room: overpopulation. Instituting a global program promoting woman’s education, safe sex, and birth control, and redistribution of wealth to the Global South could help tremendously.

The fragmentation of the Western Left continues because ultimately it is rooted in Eurocentrism, in a Baconian/Cartesian/Newtonian view of science and the universe. The advent of capitalism as well as the cementing of the Westphalian ideology of the nation-state ultimately leads to oligarchy, fascism, and the destruction of the biosphere and natural resources. Revolutionizing the system of global capital and abolishing the nation-state cannot be delayed for reforms that seem more realistic. Our time is running out.


William Hawes

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is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared online at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents(.org), Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and many more outlets. You can email him at wilhawes@gmail.com. Visit his website williamhawes.wordpress.com.


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Uber Alles

A poem about (sub)urban youth, political carelessness, contradictions and the criminal justice system.

From Rex Butters

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we share an Uber
me to work
Miles to the train
old guy driver
(younger than me)
says both his sons live
in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
“my Mom came from Sioux Falls,” I say
“they hate it,” he says
but they graduate soon
they’re both majoring in
Criminal Justice.”
“everyone’s majoring in
Criminal Justice,”
Miles mutters from the back seat

I wonder
is it everywhere?
is it our right leaning local landscape?
over saturation of propaganda
good cop movies and tv shows?
relentless retelling tales
of non-existent imminent threats?
fear for the inevitable rise
of stomped down
ignored hungry
powerless people
fighting back?

or as Fascism goes mainstream
job security in a growing job market?
authoritarian assimilation?
this oxy-
moronically titled
career opportunity
monetizing anger and insecurity
the sickening hole
of powerless rage
weaponized

cop, probation officer, correctional officer, security guard, state trooper, crime scene investigator, fbi agent, cia agent, postal inspector, immigration agent, dea agent, us marshal, secret service agent, customs agent, criminal profiler

when the only doors open
turn us on each other
the new slave patrol
recruiting workers for the private prison
plantations

later at work
on break
lounging at outdoor table
next to table two
late teen girls
discuss their futures

the dark haired white girl says,
“I think I’m going to major
in Criminal Justice.”
her fair haired friend
rolls her eyes
says, “everyone’s
majoring in Criminal Justice.”

the first girl pauses
looks toward the horizon
“I don’t know,” she says
“It’s that
or Cosmetology.”


Rex Butters

Rex foto

Rolling hills and wheeling crows, a voluptuous valley under sunset bloody clouds, night coyote pup trots, mouth full of rabbit or cat, pollinators buzz the trumpet creeper, windy, cold.

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An Authentic Soul

Rudely disobeying the fuck out of all that seeks to control.

From Rude Dao

Authenticity is all too rare these days. The individual becomes conquered by society. Hobbies give way to labor. Individual thought becomes entangled with the beast we know as ‘society,’ and is processed into simple-minded, compliant drudgery. Love becomes more of a social norm; almost mandatory. The cliché maintains. Get a job. Contribute to society. Get married. Get a home. Continue societal contribution. Teach offspring the typical, societally accepted path of modernity. Die. This is the reality of most who live in any industrialized society. And it’s oddly accepted.

First, I’d like to give a little background on myself so that my direction can be more personally understood by readers. I lived a relatively sheltered life. I didn’t live in poverty (although my family struggled). I went to school like all the other kids. I was intimidated into christianity because, you know, burning for eternity didn’t sound too enticing. And family is always right, right?

I was taught to always respect authority- without question. If they demand it, you do it. I was told that I was to always be honest, regardless of circumstances. I basically ratted myself out to my mom any time I thought I was doing something ‘wrong.’ And having a very Christian mother, as some can surely testify, almost everything besides worship is wrong.

Then, came highschool. The clusterfuck of institutional learning. At first, I was bullied. I was anti-social. I did not fit in. The clique culture was rather drab to me. So, I continued on the usual path. Comply, ‘learn’, go home, sleep, repeat. Eventually, I met some people who did things differently. Skip school, party, adventure, whatever. The people I started to associate with, although they were sketchy and ultimately awful friends, had one thing in common: they lived as they wished. While I now resent all these people as they’ve turned out to be nothing more than a pack of manipulators, cowards, and traitorous snitches, I can say that I learned a lot. I began doing as I wished. I started slacking in school. I had no personal dilemma in dodging class. In hitting up parties. In avoiding that scary, scary curfew. The time for being manipulated by family, school, religion, and society in general, had ended.

I found myself- as in, I became unique and rebellious. Even though I generally had an issue with any authority as a child, I came to absolutely loathe it as a teen. I started getting arrested. Getting into fights. Expelled from school.

Finally, I found myself in prison. My rebelliousness did not recognize the conventional morality, or legality, of society. I was released. Everything rebellious had been destroyed institutionally (also backed by Christian rhetoric). I became remolded into that un-genuine, monotonous being. Not long had passed before I became fed-up with being used by the system for community service, court fees, and whatever else they could suck out of me. The rebelliousness and pursuit of individual desire, regardless of what authority told me, re-booted.

Since then, I have been in and out of jail and once again, to prison. I’ve had all too many run-ins with cops, judges, and probation officers. Yet, here I am. Still alive. Still unique.

The reason I tell my story is to hopefully provide some level of inspiration for the disenfranchised. The repressed. Those whose individual autonomy and will is repressed by the institutions and regulations of society. Compared to others I have met, my life has been a cake walk. But regardless of background, I would wager a bet that most can relate on some level. We all have felt that sting of having our dreams shot down. Being told that conformity to the current model is the only way. That our aspirations are nothing more than pipe dreams, and that we need to continue down the boring path that society dictates. To society, I can whole-heartedly and passionately say this: Go Fuck Yourself.

Let’s talk about labor. Can we discuss that crazy shit? I get the most boring, drone-minded responses to labor. “You have to,” or “That’s the way it is.” And then, of course, those who pretend to love their work or use some other excuse to write off being used for profit while receiving pennies on the dollar. Aren’t you glad bosses can give us some work so that they, I mean we, can make money? I’d hardly call the ‘free time’ that we receive between work days to be free when you know full well you have to adjust your sleep, personal, and social schedule based around that job. I see jobs take precedence over personal leisure, love, and hobbies almost ten times out of ten. And people are okay with that. If you are okay with being somebody’s wage slave and making minimal to make sure they make optimal, then have at it. Some of us prefer not to be submissive to a system that clearly does nothing but serve everyone but US.

Now, what would labor be without proper education? I sure as hell didn’t learn to paint with 12 years of my life spent in school. It’s quite obvious that public schooling simply serves as another source of indoctrination and submission to authority. Having to sit, against our will, and learn things that will likely never serve us to benefit us, ever. Learning over and over again how to repeat national anthems. How to properly ask authority (teachers) if we can use the bathroom. Or having to raise our hand to insert any opinion in a matter. My favorite was being reprimanded by the big bad principal for breaking rules that I never consensually agreed to obey in the first place (as if I would).

And for most, it doesn’t end at school. The same indoctrination, or justification of such indoctrination, is continued at home, church, etc. Shit, I’ve done martial arts most of my life and the majority of the places maintain that institutional mindset. The “do good and obey” mindset. Ironic, really. All-in-all, school is just a way to maintain the status quo. To turn out more societally compliant individuals. To mold them to society’s needs. To maintain the supposed authenticity of authority. To kill authenticity.

Something else I often critique is etiquette, or niceism. Think about it. Think about how often you say ‘thank you’ without meaning it. Or how we may even apologize for someone else bumping into us. Think about how we blatantly follow etiquette. While it obviously differs culturally and regionally, much of it remains the same in modern society. Cashiers, angry at their jobs, dish out niceties without thought or genuine meaning. Servers bite their tongues when dealing with shitty customers.

We interact based on what we are told is to be civil, nice, or based on proper etiquette. Hell, I enjoy going out of my way at times to be nice and make someone’s day better. But that’s because I chose to. I didn’t do it because it’s a societal norm that has been ingrained into my being since birth. Remember being forced to apologize for things you weren’t sorry for as a child? Etiquette simply serves as a rather superficial way to grease the wheels of society.

If everyone actually said what was on their mind without fear of social repercussions or being outcasted because of a lack of empty-minded etiquette, what would happen to the way things ran? It makes confrontation less likely, sure. But perhaps living in a society that enjoys bubble wrapping social interactions is more of an issue. To make this clear: I’m not talking about just being a random asshole. But I’d rather someone be real with me and say what is on their mind than simply throw me some artificial line that is said more or less impulsively, without character.

Now, on to legality. I frequently see radicals and free thinkers fall into the tragedy of legality. That because, in their mind, some laws are just simply because it covers their personal principle(s)- failing to recognize that legality is a major tool in maintaining this social order. To legitimize legality in any capacity is to give some legitimacy to the state’s ruling and therefore, their methods of handling those who break the law which include (using legal terms): kidnapping, extortion, imprisonment, murder, etc. While I’m not a moralist, I often find myself having to speak from a morally acceptable standpoint just to even get a few words in.

Laws, backed by the judicial system and its goons, the police, serve as a disciplinary measure for the authentic. For those who would seek to live a different, genuine lifestyle. Simply put, they ensure that society stays nice and clean with little hiccups. And those who disobey will be made an example of. Thrown in a pen and mentally (often physically) abused to the point of submission. Laws are the master’s tools used to breed Fear and compliance.

Now that I’ve ranted on about only a few (certainly not all, and not to be dismissive of other issues) of the things that grease the wheels of the monolithic individual killer, what about us? What about those who wish to escape this? This expected lifestyle of monotony, compliance, artificial relations and interactions, repression, and degradation?

I’m not an optimist. I’ve seen too much and felt too much to sit here and lie and say that we can change all this. We won’t undo thousands of years of social conditioning beyond perhaps and individual level. I can’t write an essay and expect to create some free ass rainbow community, all happiness-inclusive. Personally, as far as I’m concerned, this is entirely an individualistic journey. Not to deny the obvious benefits of having comradery and real community. Having love and brother (or sister)hood is an amazing feeling. But I feel that the changes must take place within, initially. It’s not practical to simply withdraw or walk away. The system has done a damn good job of ensuring that we remain meek and domesticated. That we are reliant on the system that enslaves us.

That being said, that doesn’t mean we can’t fight. Maybe it will change something. Maybe it won’t. But damn, I sure as hell feel good after telling a boss off. Or screwing over the system at any chance I get. Nothing beats the feeling of standing up. Now, cursing out a cop isn’t going to destroy the judicial system. Flipping off the boss won’t crush capitalism. But to me, it’s about one thing: RISK. And that’s scary. It’s put me behind bars. In bad situations with sketchy people. But the feeling of freedom in making your own choices, regardless of what you are told, is the most freeing feeling I can imagine. We can sit around and talk all day about how we’d like to act but if you give it a shot, you might find it’s more fathomable than imagined.

The systems won’t collapse because you take a stand for yourself… but you, as an individual, can rise. Once you’ve deconstructed and cast aside all the shit stains of modernity and are able to live an authentic life, the external becomes more easily approachable. There is power in individuality. In genuine, individual authenticity. In being what you want. In doing what you want. You might have to play the game. Escape isn’t always so practical or even rational depending on circumstances. But YOU are what matters, if you declare so to yourself and decide to live for yourself and not the whims of others. Disobedience itself is an amazing act of rebellion against conformity.

It needs no ideology or fixed goal. It need not be rooted in optimism. It simply is. It is choosing self over the society that presumptuously dictated its desires to you. Authenticity shall, and always will, trump conformity and then the Authentic Soul shall be revealed.


Rudester

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I live in the blue ridge mountains and have for the majority of my life. I’m heavily involved in martial arts and enjoy freedom in the wilderness. I enjoy getting Dionysian in the woods while deconstructing notions of civility and ‘proper’ behavior while pissing on normality.


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Child Soldier

From Sable Aradia


 

A boy’s father has spent his life fighting for a cause he believes in.  Despite the fact that he lives far away in another country, he sends aid in the form of money to the cause overseas.  Eventually the father packs up the whole family and moves back to his homeland to fight for that cause.

The boy, eight years old, has never once seen that homeland, though he’s been told about it his whole life.  Once he gets there he is forced to live a life in hiding, moving from place to place.  At one point he is required to disguise himself as a girl in a culture that is repressive to women.  He sees his father intermittently, if at all, but is desperate to make a connection with him.

In the meantime his father, who is in prison for suspected activities with fringe radical groups, is hospitalized for a hunger strike.  Later he is released due to lack of evidence of wrongdoing.

Eventually the boy is old enough to join the cause.  Desperate to be noticed by his father, he is taken along by a militant group as a translator.  During that time he starts training in the use of firearms and other weaponry.  He is fourteen years old.

While he is in a house with several full-grown men, and at least one woman and a child, soldiers from a foreign country set up a perimeter.  It is part of a series of huts with a granary and a stone wall in the desert.  There are weapons on the property.  Is it a militant’s complex?  Perhaps it is.  The foreign soldiers seem to think so.

The soldiers bang on the door of the gate.  The men inside tell the soldiers that they are villagers, but the soldiers demand to search the house regardless of their affiliation.  They tell them to go away.

45 minutes later the support arrives.  Now the house is surrounded by fifty foreign soldiers and a hundred locals.  One goes to demand their surrender and is stopped by gunfire.  One of the men in the group that the boy is with opens fire.

The woman and the small child flee while the firestorm is going on.  The foreign soldiers are shooting at the people in the complex.  The people in the complex are shooting at the soldiers.  Now the boy, age fifteen, is caught in this conflict, and he knows that regardless of what the men he was with were doing or why they were there, now they are shooting at him.

The bloodbath is catastrophic.  The militants in the compound manage to wound some of the foreign soldiers with grenades, but the soldiers call for medevac.  Apaches show up and strafe the area, then take their wounded away.  Then a pair of Warthogs arrive and blast everything into glass with several 500 lb bombs.

More troops arrive.  Now there are a hundred foreign soldiers on the ground.  Everything is burning.  All the people the boy knows are screaming.  Some are on fire.  Some are watching their blood pour out onto the ground.  Some are missing limbs.  Some have no face left.  He is one of two survivors of the air strike.

The foreign soldiers come in.  A grenade is thrown.  Most duck, but it lands near the rear of the group and goes off.  A Special Operations soldier serving that day as an (armed) combat medic is fatally wounded in the explosion.

The troops move across the field and see a man with two chest wounds and a holstered pistol reaching for an AK-47.  A special forces soldier with a classified identity shoots him in the head and kills him.  When the dust clears, the special forces soldier sees the boy crouched, facing away from the action, and shoots him twice in the back.

He lives, and this is confirmed by the soldiers when they do their sweep.  He is given on site medical attention and flown out, though he begs the soldiers to finish the job.

The boy is allowed to recover.  They learn his identity, and that despite being attached to this militant group, he is a citizen of one of the foreign country’s most important allies.

In the meantime a garbled version of events begins to erupt.  Another soldier on the scene has a different story about shooting the boy three times in the chest, while he was reaching for a grenade.

This is almost certainly not an intentional falsehood.  Those who have been in a life-threatening situation know that under those conditions it is easy to make a mistake.  It is almost impossible to remember all the specific details when people are screaming and dying around you, especially if you have caused any of those wounds!  Humans are not designed to kill each other.  It messes us up.

But people are angry because a soldier died.  And so they believe one soldier’s version of events over the other’s, though medical evidence suggests otherwise.

The boy is denied important surgery for damage to his eyes in order to force him to confess information.  The allied government begins to get involved in his case.  They are put off, denied, and not informed of the information they request, because the foreign government has reason to believe that the boy knows quite a lot about the force they are fighting, and they mean to get that information by whatever means necessary.

Then members of his own government collude in the interrogation!  Theoretically there to defend him, his own government betrays him.  They work to coerce a confession. that he has murdered a soldier unlawfully, by promising to bring him home.

And when he has recovered in part from his wounds, they send him to a prison for terrorists that is notorious for torture and abuse of its prisoners, despite his government’s requests, first, that they not do so, and then, that they are told when it happens.  He is fifteen.

What happens to him there?  I have no urge to repeat it because it is horrific by anyone’s standards.  We can say three things for a fact:

One is that evidence is indeed found that show that the boy was actively involved in terrorist acts.  He wired a detonator cord.  He says at one point during his captivity that he intended to fight because he was told that the soldier were making a war to kill all the people of his faith.

The second is that the boy is tortured, repeatedly, and by a lot of different people.  The worst of them, the one that everyone claims he is lying about, is convicted of abusing detainees to extract confessions when another of his charges dies from the abuse.  I have no desire to repeat it, but because this, sadly, is a true story, you can read about it here.

The third thing we know is that he is told that if he confesses to throwing the grenade that killed the (armed) combat medic, he will get to go home.  Back to his original home, the allied nation of the foreign soldiers who have him, the place where he was born.  A place that by now must seem like a myth, or a distant dream.

He is lied to.  He does not get to go home.  When one member of the allied nation’s diplomatic efforts fail to return the boy, that member resigns in disgust.

A long saga begins.  More torture and deprivation in prison.  Legal challenges, lawsuits, demands for the right of habeas corpus.  There are even sham tribunals to rival the darkest horror story you’ve ever heard of a fascist dictatorship.  Nothing moves the foreign nation who has him, and nothing moves his home nation to intervene for him; not even Amnesty International and the UN Council on Human Rights.

At last he is sent back to a prison in his home country when he finally pleads guilty, after another year in this horrible prison.  There he is locked up in a maximum security prison.  It is a distinct improvement.

Pleas to treat him as a child soldier, or as a juvenile offender, fall on deaf ears, and he is forced to serve the totality of an adult’s sentence, though he was fifteen years old at the time of the battle, when he may (or may not have) thrown a grenade at a man trying to kill him who had just firebombed everyone and everything around him.

His case comes up for bail.  It is denied.  When it is granted two years later, the government of his own country appeals it.  Only an election, and a change of governmental party, prevents the second appeal from going through, because they drop it.  At last, though under tight supervision, a very damaged young man is finally free.

It has been thirteen years since the battle.  He is 31 years old.

This, my friends, is the true story of Omar Khadr.  This is not a leftist spin on the story; these are the absolute facts, as far as I was able to check, filtered through human decency and empathy.

You’re probably heard his name again in the news recently.  Canada’s Supreme Court found that the Canadian government, on helping to obtain his confession and being a party to the horrific events that befell this poor man, had violated his rights according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which we hold as sacred as America holds its Constitution.  They found that Canada had acted against the Geneva Convention and international law.  They granted a sum of money to Mr. Khadr for his suffering.

He has lost his eye and his childhood and gained decades of nightmares.  It is not enough.  It is not enough.

But even after all that, there are those who would deny him even this.  People are now trying to demand that they be allowed to sue him for that money that he was awarded as a (lame) apology for taking away the rights that EVERY HUMAN BEING is guaranteed in international law.

To those people I say: Shame on you!  Whether he was an “enemy combatant” or not, Omar Khadr has paid more than enough for the crime of throwing a grenade at someone who was trying to kill him.  And you conveniently forget, HE WAS FIFTEEN YEARS OLD.  He was a CHILD SOLDIER.

We rehabilitate child soldiers.  We don’t go on torturing them.  And because we have all so terribly failed this Canadian boy, who has become a man in a prison camp because of our callousness and neglect, I believe that anyone who wanted a piece of anything of his has absolutely forfeited the right.

Regardless of what he’s done, he’s one of ours.  What he was involved in was horrible; what happened to him proved that the other side wasn’t the “good guys” either.

He says he’s sorry.  I believe him.

The Canadian government has said that it is sorry in the only way it can.

Now the rest of you: if you can’t say you’re sorry, as you would if you had even a shred of human decency, then leave him alone and let him get on with what’s left of his life, as best he can.


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 own a dog and am 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.

 


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Solidarity Beyond Bars: Pagans in Prison

The United States has 22% of the world’s prisoners but only 4.4% of the world’s population. Solidarity has always been a primary focus of radical and religious groups, but little is spoken of efforts to provide spiritual solidarity for Pagans and Heathens. So, I spoke with Donna Donovan, the founder of Appalachian Pagan Ministry to find out about her work and how others can help.


RHYD: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to talk with us. Could you tell me about yourself, and the work you do with the Appalachian Prison Ministry?

DONNA DONOVAN: Thank you for having us! My name is Donna Donovan, and I am the founder of Appalachian Pagan Ministry. We are a pan-Pagan ministry devoted to building an engaged, passionate, and spiritually fulfilled community of people from all backgrounds and faiths. We are devoted to engaging and impacting one another and others, believing it is our responsibility to set an example of service. This is where we come to “walk our talk” and educate by example.

Our main focus is our pan-Pagan prison ministry developed to serve the spiritual needs of our fellow Pagans currently incarcerated. Currently, we are the only Pagan ministry allowed in to West Virginia state prisons, serving monthly on-site at 5 facilities, along with monthly on-site services at 5 facilities in Ohio, including Death Row. We also serve, via correspondence, to several Kindreds and Covens in facilities across the United States.

RHYD: I’d like to ask you about the specific sorts of difficulties and needs of prisoners, but before that, can you talk about the barriers groups hoping to help prisoners face? What is certification like, what sorts of restrictions are you under, and how difficult is it to convince prison officials and state bodies to grant you access?

DONNA DONOVAN:  Since the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, followed by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in 2000, inmates around the country of non-Abrahamic paths have been fighting to get their religious rights while incarcerated. The stigmas associated with the various “Pagan” groups in prison are really no different then the outside. Wiccans are considered evil, baby sacrificing, devil worshippers, and those of the Heathen paths are all a bunch of Nazi skinheads. As I tell the inmates I work with, many of these stigmas and attitudes did not just come out of thin air. There is a long history of violence perpetuated by various groups pushing their agendas through while trying to hide behind these religious paths. However, much like the outside, the fear is based on ignorance; a simple lack of understanding.

As with most States, in Ohio and West Virginia, volunteer programs such as ours, our what is considered “inmate driven” not “volunteer driven.” That means we have to be requested by the inmates. We can not solicit to go in. At that point, it is usually the prison Chaplain who contacts us. That’s when our battle begins.

So the first obstacle is approaching the administration and teaching them. Show them that we are not coming in there to start a race war, or to incite violence or anything else other than teaching folks about the faith of their choosing. Plain and simple. Wearing normal street clothes instead of prancing in there in festival garb and 10″ pentacles tends to help, too. [laughs] The point is that administration needs to understand that just because we do not worship the same does not mean we are not like them and everyone else walking.

Once you get past the door, then you have to fill out so much paperwork, you literally think you are buying a home. Background checks need to be done, recommendations sent, and so on. This process tends to take weeks, if not months. When you are finally approved, you then have to go through a volunteer training and orientation. All of this is for each and every facility. A few hours of videos and lectures, some questionnaires, tours, etc.. We then schedule a date to present to the inmates and go on to schedule our monthly meetings from there.

RHYD: Your prison work is in Appalachia, one of the poorest regions in the United States. And of course, poverty and incarceration are deeply linked in Capitalist societies: most crimes on the books are ‘property’ and economic crimes. From your vantage point, what are the struggles you see for the prisoners you work with? I’m wondering, also, about the matter of discrimination you encounter against prisoners by the rest of society.

DONNA DONOVAN: You are correct, this is one of the most poverty stricken areas, as well as being one of the hardest hit by the opiate epidemic. Huntington, WV, where APM is based, is the overdose capital per capita in the entire country.

donna-pullHowever, mass incarceration is a national problem, not just regional. Our “war on drugs” has obviously failed. The only success has been the profit margins of those in the privatized prisons business. Our nation’s prisons went from being rehabilitative to punitive in the late 80s/early 90s when private companies like CCA took over.

Which leads to the answer to your second question. When an inmate undergoes incarceration and spends that time doing absolutely nothing productive, nothing rehabilitative…of course they come out of prison with no skills, no socialization and they end up going right back to the lifestyle that led them there in the first place. 95% of those currently incarcerated WILL BE released. Within 3 years, 60-75% of those will re-offend. But that’s what these private prisons want; they want the recidivism rates to stay high so their profits stay up. Quite sad when you think about that. What people do not think about is where those profits come from. They come from you. They come from me. Your taxes pay so CCAs, CEOs, and managers can live their luxurious lifestyles. You’re also paying for all those families whose loved ones are incarcerated, as the majority end up being single parent households on welfare.

When I asked the inmates what could be done for them to help them before they were released, they overwhelmingly answered “programs that help us adapt into society, education, life skills, the ability to grow in body, mind and spirit.” Therapy through art is one program that has shown success, mentoring programs, and programs such as ours that help them to grow in the faith of their choosing.

What sort of discrimination do I encounter in regards to inmates? “They’re criminals, they’re degenerates, they don’t deserve help.” From the Heathen community I hear a great deal about dishonor. Really? These inmates, male and female alike, know the mistakes they have made in their lives. They are paying for those mistakes. Yet instead of wallowing in self-pity or continuing to blame outside sources for their current situation, they are holding themselves accountable and doing what they can to grow in body, mind and spirit to ensure they do not make those same mistakes again. Truly, how many of us really do that? These folks have made oaths to themselves, to their Gods, and to their ancestors to live honorably. They realize, and freely admit, they did not do so before…which is why they are in prison. How can we not help them be able to do that?

RHYD: It’s difficult to find current statistics on prison population, but the most recent I could find (2013) showed the US has 22% of the world’s inmates despite having only 4.4% of the world’s population. So there’s definitely something going on besides ‘dishonor’ and ‘degeneracy,’ and profit looks like a huge factor.

Moving away from the larger societal issues towards your work with prisoners themselves: what exactly does your work look like? Can you describe your on-site and correspondence work?

519px-thors_hammer_skaneDONNA DONOVAN: When we go into a facility for the first time, we hold a general presentation for all inmates of non-Abrahamic paths. Wiccans, Odinists, Druid, eclectic, and even Satanist/Luciferians. Whoever chooses to come. This has been quite historic, actually, as these groups in prison almost never mingle. At least not without violence. We have not had one incident occur. After the general presentation, which is basically an introduction to who we are, what we do, and what we hope to do, followed by a Q&A with the inmates, we then set schedules for the upcoming visits.

From then on when we go in, we normally separate in two groups. I take the Heathens and we basically hold a moot: small Blot, rune drawing and readings, study a lesson, read from the Lore, and discuss the Havamal a few stanzas at a time. The course I am working with them is the Elder Troth Lore Program. Teresa, my on-the-ground volunteer, takes the Wiccans and eclectics and works with them her own sort of Wicca 101 program. In WV, I am also working a program with the Satanists.

Our correspondence courses are handled by several volunteers. The courses we offer, on top of the ones we handle in the prisons (which are also done via correspondence) are Pagan Astrology, Chaos Magick, Developing Divine Relationships (a devotional polytheist course), and Perennial Lessons in Living–a Druidic course by Emma Restall-Orr reinterpreted by me (with her permission) to be a bit more generalized.

At this time there is about 20 Kindreds nationally doing courses with us.

RHYD: With the programs and courses that you present or develop, do you run into many problems with censorship? How helpful or difficult are the relationships with prison chaplains and supervisors?

Honestly I have not. Prior to going into facilities in either state, West Virginia and Ohio, I met with State Prison officials and submitted outlines of the courses we were offering. All were approved. Surprisingly we have had tremendous support from both chaplains and administrative staffing.

When I first formed APM, I sent an email to the Commissioner of the WV Dept of Corrections introducing us and explaining what we wanted to do. I honestly did not expect an answer. I received an email the very next day requesting to meet with us in Charleston. Two months later we were in our first facility.

I truly believe the tide is changing. People are starting to see that the status quo is not working, and seeking alternatives. Either that or I am just exceptionally charming, and I doubt that is it.

RHYD: Or perhaps both? [laughs]

I’m also curious about white nationalism within prisons. I wrote to queer prisoners 8 years ago, and started a correspondence with a gay Asatruar. Our conversations about race and Paganism seemed to be going well, but I stopped my correspondence with him after he sent me a shirtless photo of himself in front of a swastika. Basically, I freaked. I’m still uncertain that was the right decision, especially once I realised he had no other non-racist Pagan contacts.

So, I can see how your work is deeply important, especially since so many are quick to abandon Pagan and Heathen prisoners. How much influence have you seen on the Heathens you work with from more organised white nationalist groups?

DONNA DONOVAN: Oh my, that is a loaded question. [laughs.] There is a huge influence. Primarily because, up till now, those were, for the most part, the only folks willing to work with Heathens in prison. Just like the Christians who “find Jesus in jail,” it is no different with Pagans. Many come to their chosen faith after incarceration. And as there is such limited access and information, they learn from those already inside, who learned from those already inside, who learned from those (with agendas) willing to come inside. I’ve seen so-called leaders of Kindreds inside who can’t even name the Nine Worlds.

donna-pullThis is exactly what I say when I meet these inmates: “I personally do not care if you are the biggest racist homophobe walking the planet. Truly I don’t. Those are your personal beliefs; you have a right to them; own that shit. Hate everyone that is not a straight white male…fine by me. But do NOT come to me and say that hammer hanging around your neck is the reason why. Your personal biases have NOTHING to do with the religion you claim to follow, NOTHING to do with the Ancestors. And for the next however many months, I’m going to use your own myths, lores and history to show you that. “

There’s been a few death threats…not from inside the walls.

That’s why you’ve seen me all over Facebook saying, “If you’re so worried about the ‘alt-right’ and all the hate crimes, why don’t you all come out from behind your computers and help me in the trenches where this starts?” Stop talking and start doing.

RHYD: It strikes me that something significant changed in the last few decades around prison work. There was a long radical (anarchist, particularly) tradition of correspondence with inmates, but it has not been as strong as before. I have also seen some work to support queer and trans inmates. But it occurs to me that this is one place Christianity beats out all other religious or social groups: solidarity with prisoners is actually written into the Bible.

That brings me to probably the most important question of all: What is needed? Both for your particular work and the Appalachian Pagan Ministry, and also to build stronger networks of support for Pagan and Heathen prisoners from outside the prisons?

Bodies and money. Blunt enough? [laughs.] Truly, in all honesty, this is growing so fast, is such a need, and I have a hard time saying no. We are in ten facilities in two states, about to add four more facilities. There is only two of us going inside. We have another volunteer who, bless his heart, is our driver. We need people to help.

I understand this isn’t for everyone. I get that. I spent my own time behind those walls, so I know what to expect. But we truly do need folks to step up. This is not a volunteer job to take lightly. You have to be committed and consistent and able to follow through. And thick skinned along with compassionate. You have to leave your judgements at the gate.

Financially we need all the help we can get. This all comes strictly out of our pockets: the car rentals, fuel, printing costs, postage, etc.. It has been asked why I do not push for State funding to help with this ministry. The answer is a simple one: I did not apply for a position with the State. We are there to serve and minister to the inmates, not to receive a paycheck from the administration. We are there out of service, not for a job. I also feel that it would affect the trust between the inmates and our volunteers if they felt we were just another correctional employee.

We also feel the same as it comes to funding from organizations. We feel that the best way to keep from being linked to anyone’s ideologies is to not take funds from them. It is the same reason we do not sell advertising on our website. We serve the inmates we work with, not a state or federal entity, not any one group or organization.

I have a real problem with overextending because I can’t say no. When an inmate looks at me with tears in his eyes, literally sobbing, and thanking us for being there, saying, “We have fought for this for 20 years! Thank you so much for being here…” how can I not do this?

RHYD: How can people volunteer or financially support your work?

If they want to volunteer inside one or more of the facilities we go to, they can either contact me through the website at or on our Facebook page

Folks can also donate thru PayPal, purchase items from our online store or go to our “How You Can Help” for other ways to help.