The Caricature of Discomfort

A powerful and painful declaration of the reality of living with disability.

From Azuos Naej

English Translation below.

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A Caricatura Do Incômodo

Incomodo: ligeira alteração de saúde; mal-estar, indisposição, não é cômodo, confortável ou aconchegante.

Instintivamente sabemos o que fazer com um incomodo, e na maioria das vezes é muito simples: é só virar a cara e elevar o coração e a vontade para as belas paisagens que criamos em nossa mente. Sim, o escapismo é nossa principal ferramenta de defesa, e com ela nos elevamos ao patamar de humanos, pessoas, indivíduos, cidadãos… Nossa mentalidade é formada pela classe média, que o ideal está em toda parte dizendo o que devemos ser e fazer, eliminado o imperfeito. Nascemos marcados em um tipo de predestinação, não no sentido místico, mas pela probabilidade social muito bem ordenada apesar de parecer um caos. De onde viemos diz muito de nós e impregna na carne, nervos, tecidos e órgãos. A adoração do belo é dos melhores escapismos que a humanidade inventou e nesse mundo que vivemos isso é o mais importante, apesar de o discurso dizer a mesma merda moralista que tem uma palavra tão linda que dá vontade de tatuar na testa- igualdade.

Quantos incômodos por dia evitamos indo para aquele paraíso em que somos os vencedores? Mas pra vencer tem que ter o belo, vivenciá-lo e fazer parte dos belos. O feio só tem valor se se submete a alguma norma, se tornando uma caricatura, e estamos nessa época. Desgastamos a beleza com nossos discursos, o feio cotidiano as vezes é colocado em certos lugares para observarmos uma beleza inexistente, que só usando a força do cinismo dá para suportar o ideal decadente jogado na cara.

O feio está em toda parte, de certa forma somos feios, mas as inúmeras maquiagens nos dão a sensação de conforto.

Não superamos nossos corpos, eles ditam a essência do ser, talvez porque somos viciados apenas em ver. Parece o único sentido que possuímos, apesar de usarmos as palavras elas pouco importam em comparação a essas duas bolas que temos em baixo da testa, bolas que lacrimejam e que não queremos muito esse líquido salgado saindo delas. O que você quer ver, o que procura no espelho, encontrou? Se não encontrar é só não olhar e desviar os olhos. Tarefa fácil, mas as vezes o medo vai se acumulando até virar um esgoto pronto para estourar, quando não somos capazes de suportar o peso de ser caricatura e não nos deixam estar entre os eleitos (olha que são muitos) só nos resta a tarefa mais difícil que é abandonar os olhos e fazer uma imersão introspectiva, e aí vem as malditas perguntas, tu se pergunta porque é o que é, e porque não faz parte, aí tu descobre que é proposital pessoas como você estar onde estar e ter que conviver com a solidão, aí tu se olha no espelho, são tantas coisas que não deveriam estar nesse lugar, os olhos não são claros, a boca e o nariz não são como você se imaginava, a imersão no corpo não para ainda mais que a todo momento você é lembrado que tem um e precisa de manutenção sempre no ideal do belo. Mas e quando a caricatura é ainda mais borrada ao ponto de nem se parecer com algo humano? Você pode falar como os eleitos, se vestir igual e ser tão capaz quanto eles, mas seu lugar de origem e seu corpo vão te empurrar para fora do paraíso, a termos muito claros para a exclusão e uma lista enorme, a caricatura humanoide é rotulada de deficiente físico, e seu corpo não é atlético e sexy como milhões de propagandas despejadas toda hora, você usa alguma prótese ou tutor numa das mãos ou pernas ou nas duas, tu não anda direito se arrastando por aí e há várias formas de se arrastar de joelhos, arrastando a bunda, de quatro… inúmeras posições que marcam o corpo, é uma vida de cicatrizes diversas. A vida passa a ser uma tentativa de se curar, pois quando você se arrasta arrasta os olhos e as bocas para si, a boca entortando de risadas ou nojo, arraste-se todo dia e todo dia as mesmas bocas e olhos. A sua forma de andar diz qual porta ou escada você pode usar, se você depende de uma cadeira de rodas sabe o que estou dizendo, mas ser cadeirante tem suas vantagens se seu problema é só as pernas atrofiadas. Você já reparou naquelas crianças dementes que babam e tem mal formação congênita, ou aquele vizinho que tem uma enorme cabeça por causa de hidrocefalia? Em que lugar eles estão na sua imaginação?

O ideal de belo hierarquiza qualquer realidade entre os não eleitos há eleitos, ainda mais se conseguir disfarçar sua caricatura, alguns como eu usa calça e evita ir em lugares que precise estar com menos roupa, temos a vantagem de nos integrarmos a sociedade fazendo tarefas idiotas, entrando em algum sistema de emprego que dará 10% de isenção a uma empresa fingir que tem preocupação social, mas na peneira só a caricatura menos borrada terá essa chance.

Você está só e sempre estará, mas a solidão é muito mais cruel se tu não tem atrativos para alguém, aí as bolas que estão abaixo da testa não param de lacrimejar, e na maioria das vezes que expressa descontentamento em público, ou tem a sorte grande de ter alguém escutando você, e você ouve que não tem problema, que a merda do mundo é assim mesmo, e que você é uma boa pessoa, e o que importa é o que você tem dentro, e é para parar de reclamar tanto porque você tem uma bela vida e tem piores. Você se pergunta se tem piores e imagina o que dizem para os piores. Os piores podem ser caricatura, eles tem esse direito?

Não ame ninguém porque não será correspondido, sempre vai existir uma barreira, ainda mais se estiver se arrastando. Mate a imaginação, sonhar apenas trás dor e sofrimento, no máximo você terá um quase, quem quer se relacionar com uma caricatura, quem sentirá compaixão ou desejará estar ao lado de um reptil humano? A solidão é a única companheira e ela é ciumenta e sorrirá na sua cara a cada tentativa frustrada ou sonho desfeito l. Acostume-se a estar só mesmo que venha a dor no peito te torturando, mesmo que a cabeça doa todos os dias e sua coluna se desfaça, a maior dor não é estar num ciclo de eleitos e sim de não ser amado, não possuir o respeito comum. A dor é outra companheira, essa é mais perversa, ela gargalha alto te apertando e moendo seus ossos, por mais esforço que faça não será humano, e você verá todos que conhece com suas vidas, tendo seus amores, lutas e desafios, mas você ainda está no mesmo lugar sendo infantilizado por não estar conformado, e será julgado, sendo rotulado de arrogante, anti-social (hoje em dia temos a vantagem de termos amigos imaginários nas redes sociais que é o ápice do anti-socialismo disfarçado em integração social), de não ver as coisas belas da vida, é esse belo que todos enxergam que está em tudo menos em você.


Azuos Naej

É um poeta, músico e cuidador de gatos de Salvador.


Apoie nosso trabalho aqui.


English Translation

The Caricature of Discomfort

Discomfort: slight alteration of health; malaise, indisposition, not comfortable, pleasant or cozy.

Instinctively we know what to do with discomfort, and most of the time it’s very simple: just turn your face away, elevate your heart and will to the beautiful landscapes that we create in our minds. Yes, escapism is our main defense mechanism, and with it we rise to the level of human, people, individuals, citizens… Our mentality is formed by the middle class, that the ideal is everywhere, saying what we should be and do, eliminating the imperfect. We are born marked in a type of predestination, not in the mystical sense, but by the very well ordered social probability, although it seems a chaos. Where we come from says a lot about us and permeates the flesh, nerves, tissues and organs. The adoration of the beautiful is one of the best escapisms that mankind has invented, and in this world we live in, it is the most important, although the discourse says the same moralistic shit that has such a beautiful word that makes you want to tattoo on the forehead- equality.

How many troubles a day do we avoid by going to that paradise where we are the victors? But to win you have to have the beautiful, experience it and be part of the beautiful. The ugly only has value if it is submitted to some norm, becoming a caricature, and we are in that time. We wear beauty with our speeches, the ugly everyday is sometimes placed in certain places to observe a nonexistent beauty, that only using the force of cynicism can support the decadent ideal thrown in the face.

The ugly is everywhere, in a way we are ugly, but the volumous makeup gives us the feeling of comfort.

We do not overcome our bodies, they dictate the essence of being, perhaps because we are addicted only to seeing. It seems the only sense we have, although we use words they matter little in comparison to these two spheres that we have below the forehead, spheres that tear up and we don’t want much salty liquid coming out of them. What do you want to see, what do you look for in the mirror, did you find it? If you do not find it, just do not look, look away. Easy task, but sometimes the fear is accumulating and becoming a sewer ready to burst, when we can not bear the weight of being caricatures and not letting us be among the elected (see that there are many) we have only the most difficult task, which is to leave your eyes and do an introspective immersion, and here comes the damn questions, you wonder why it’s what it is, and why it’s not a part of life, then you discover that it’s purposeful for people like you to be where you are, to be lonely and have to live with loneliness. You look at yourself in the mirror, there are so many things that should not be there, the eyes are not light, mouth and nose are not as you imagined, immersion in the body does not stop even though every moment you are reminded that you have one body and it needs maintenance, always in the ideal of the beautiful.

But when is the caricature even more blurred, to the point that it does not even look like something human? You can talk like the elected, dress the same and be as capable as they are, but your place of origin and your body will push you out of paradise, to very clear terms for exclusion, and a huge list of them. The humanoid caricature is labeled physically disabled, and your body is not athletic and sexy like millions of advertisements dumped all the time, you wear some prosthesis or tutor on one or both hands or legs, you do not walk around right, dragging around, and there are several ways to crawl on the knees, dragging on the ass, on all fours… innumerable positions that mark the body, it’s a life of diverse scars.

Life becomes an attempt to heal itself, for when you drag your eyes and mouth towards you, your mouth twisting with laughter or disgust, crawl every day and every day the same mouths and eyes. The way you walk says which door or ladder you can use, if you depend on a wheelchair you know what I’m saying, but being in a wheelchair has its advantages if your problem is only the atrophied legs. Have you ever noticed those demented children who drool and have poor congenital formation, or that neighbor who has a huge head because of hydrocephalus? Where are they in your imagination?

The ideal of beauty hierarchizes any reality among the non-electable and the elected, even more if you can disguise their caricature. Some like me wear pants and avoid going places that requires wearing less clothing, we have the advantage of integrating society by doing stupid tasks, entering into some employment system that will give 10% exemption to a company pretending to have social concern, but in the sieve only the least blurred caricature will have that chance.

You are lonely and always will be, but loneliness is much more cruel if you have no attraction for someone, then the spheres that are below the brow do not stop watering, and most of the time expressing public discontent, or is lucky enough to have someone listening to you, and you hear that there’s no problem, that the world’s shit like that, and that you’re a good person, and what matters is what you have inside, and it’s for you to stop complaining so much because you have a beautiful life and some have worse. You wonder if you have worse and imagine what they say to the worst. The worst can be a caricature, do they have that right?

Do not love anyone because it will not be reciprocated, there will always be a barrier, especially if you are crawling. Kill the imagination, dreams only lead to pain and suffering, at most you will have almost. Who wants to relate to a caricature, who will feel compassion or will want to be next to a human reptile? Loneliness is the only companion and she is jealous and will smile in your face with every failed attempt or dream undone. Get accustomed to being alone even if the pain in the chest comes torturing you, even if your head hurts every day and your spine is undone, the greatest pain is not being in a cycle of electables but being unloved, not having the respect. The pain is another companion, this is more perverse, she laughs loudly squeezing and grinding your bones, no matter how much effort you make, you will not be human, and you will see everyone you know with their lives, having their loves, struggles and challenges, but you are still in the same place being infantilized for not rolling with the punches, and being judged, being labeled arrogant, antisocial (nowadays we have the advantage of having imaginary friends in social networks that is the apex of antisocialism disguised as social integration), of not seeing the beautiful things of life, it is this beauty that everyone sees that is in everything but in you.


Azuos Naej

Is a poet and a musician from Salvador, Brazil. He also takes care of cats.


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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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What’s A Nice Atheist Like Me Doing At Gods & Radicals?

“The Sources” by Emy Blesio (oil on canvas)

 

Recently, some criticisms of the Gods & Radicals community have included condemnation of the inclusion of a self-proclaimed atheist — me — among the contributors.1

What’s an atheist doing at Gods & Radicals?  It’s a fair question.

The truth is, while I am an atheist, I am also a non-theistic humanist, a Gaian pantheist, an archetypal polytheist, a naturalistic animist.  And which one I answer to really depends on how you ask the question or what aspect I am choosing to emphasize at the time.

I am but atheist north-north-west.

When the wind is southerly, I know a god from a geist.

My worldview does not accommodate supernatural beings that exist separately and independently of human beings — and in that sense I am an atheist.

And yet, my world is full of gods.  Let me give you an example …

Each morning, I wake up and greet the rising sun with arms upraised and an invocation of Indra, adapted from the Rig Veda, on my lips:

Scaling heaven, splendor encompasses you,

Chariot-Borne, sun-bright, and truly potent,

You pour forth, bursting the clouds,

Giving life to sun and dawn …

You say the sun is no god?  What is it else that rules outside our selves?

I saw that there are, first and above all,
The hidden forces, blind necessities,
Named Nature, but the thing’s self unconceived :
Then follow, — how dependent upon these,
We know not, how imposed above ourselves,
We well know, — what I name the gods, a power
Various or one: for great and strong and good
Is there, and little, weak and bad there too,
Wisdom and folly : say, these make no God, —
What is it else that rules outside man’s self?

— Robert Browning, “The Ring and the Book”

Do I believe the gods are real?  Of course!  What could be more real than the sun?

For ages, humankind, we’ve wanted to celebrate what brings us life. What is this thing that allowed us to emerge. …

The Sun. The Star.

That right there is the source of all of our myths and allegories and hopes and dreams. It gave life to the world; gave birth to life.

Its core burns at ten million degrees and it consumes millions of tons of matter per second – we ourselves are made of remnants of its fallen siblings.

The preconditions for our humanness, that, certainly, is what god is right? ‘Let there be light!’

— Jason Silva, “What is a God?”

But you say, it’s impossible to interact with this god?  Not so.  I interact with it every morning when I open my eyes to the growing light.  I interact with it every time I step outside and feel its warmth on my flesh, my cells absorbing  its rays.  I interact with it every time I take a breath of air which is warmed its radiation.  I interact with it every time I eat a vegetable which transformed its energy into life-sustaining matter.

True, the sun does not hear or respond to my prayers.  You might say it is indifferent to me.  And yet, in a sense, I am an extension of the sun.  I am its energy transformed into living matter.  I am the light of the sun made conscious, capable of reflecting back on itself, seeing and appreciating its own warmth and beauty.  “Indifference” does not seem a fitting word to describe this relationship.

“I want to know why beauty exists, why nature continues to contrive it, and what is the link between the life of a lightning storm with the feelings these things inspire in us? If God does not exist, if these things are not unified into one metaphorical system, then why do they retain for us such symbolic power?”

— Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

Why does the sun hold such beauty and power for us?  Because there is a sun within us too, an inner sun god.  Indra, to whom I call in my invocation, is just one of the names of this god.  He is the power of the sun personified.2  Indra is my internal sun — the part of me that is called forth by the sight of the rising sun.  The sun god without speaks to the sun god within, and the sun god within responds.

Have you ever felt the sun rise within you?  Words like “archetype” and “symbol” are inadequate to capture this experience.

You say this Indra is not real because he is “in my head”?  It’s true it is all in our heads, but if we think this makes them less real, then, as Lon Milo DuQuette has written, we have no idea how big our heads really are.

For the pioneers of modern psychology, Freud and Jung, the deepest levels of the psyche merged with the physical body and the physical stuff of the world.  Ecopsychologists like James Hillman and Theodore Roszak extend Freud’s id and Jung’s collective unconscious and draw the rational conclusion that what these terms imply is literally the world.

The most profoundly collective and unconscious self is the natural material world.

— James Hillman, “A Psyche the Size of

the Earth”

What meaning does the phrase “merely psychological” have if the psyche is “the size of the earth”, a literal anima mundi which suffused with subjectivity, interiority, intimacy, and reciprocity.

But you say this Indra is not real because he is not separate from me?  But if that’s the case, then you and I are not real either, because we are not separate:

We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Our interconnectedness makes us more, not less, real.  From this perspective, the more we emphasize the separateness of the gods, the less real they become.

What does any of this have to do with being a “radical” or with anti-capitalism?

In order to answer that, I need to explain briefly the relationship between capitalism and the disenchantment of the world.

According to Morris Berman, “The story of the modern epoch, at least on the level of mind, is one of progressive disenchantment,” which Berman defines as “nonparticipation”  and “alienated consciousness.”  A disenchanted consciousness sees everything else, even living beings, as objects — objects to be bought and sold, in the case of the capitalist form of disenchantment.

Capitalism is one of the driving forces behind the disenchantment of the world.   It alienates workers from the products of their labor, but it also alienates us from the physical world, from nature (including our own bodies).  Capitalism disenchants the world by reducing everything to resource and commodity, fungible and without intrinsic meaning.

Nothing we come upon in the world can any longer speak to us in its own rights. Things, events, even the person of our fellow human beings have been deprived of the voice with which they once declared their mystery to men.

— Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counterculture

This disenchantment of the world happened, not when we stopped seeing gods and spirits in nature — gods and spirits can be objectified too — but when we stopped feeling our connection to nature, when we lost our sense of essential participation in the world.

The view of nature which predominated in the West down to the eve of the Scientific Revolution was that of an enchanted world. Rocks, trees, rivers, and clouds were all seen as wondrous, alive, and human beings felt at home in this environment. The cosmos, in short was a place of belonging. A member of the cosmos was not an alienated observer of it but a direct participant in its drama. His personal destiny was bound up with its destiny, and this relationship gave meaning to his life.

— Morris Berman, The Re-Enchantment of the World

The re-enchantment of nature, then, is a means overcoming capitalist alienation.  It means relating to nature once again as our home — in the deepest sense of that word.  (The prefix eco- means “house”.)  It means cultivating a profound awareness of our interconnectedness — our kinship  — with every other living being — and, yes, even with the rocks and other unconscious, yet animate, matter.

So let’s go back to my morning ritual …

When I raise my arms in greeting to the sun, I am re-storying myself to my proper place in the universe.  I am re-placing myself in the vast cosmic drama which began billions of years ago, when stars were born and died, and spread their life throughout the universe.  I am re-calling the time when the rays of the sun gave life to our first simple-celled ancestors.  I am re-membering how my body and yours evolved in response to the sun — how our sensory organs were shaped by a long and delicate process of interaction with the world around us, how our eyes were shaped by and then finely tuned by the light of the sun and its reflections off of the myriad surfaces of the natural world.

… when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big—but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive.

— Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I am also reviving the energetic process which sustains my life today.  I am re-cognizing my kinship with all other life — both human and other-than-human, both plant and animal — all life that depends on the energy from the sun — as well as to the winds and waters whose cycles are driven by the sun’s rays.  And I am re-connecting the experience of the light and warmth outside of me to the experience of psychological light and warmth inside of me — as above so below.

This simple gesture of greeting the sun is one way of re-enchanting the world.  Ritual gestures like these work together as an antidote against the disenchantment of capitalism …

… the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

— Rachel Carson, “The Sense of Wonder”

Doing this reminds me of my place in the cosmos — not a “stranger in a strange land”, not a exile from heaven, and not a mere consumer of widgets and producer of GDP — but a child of Sol and Terra, kin to wolf and salmon, redwood and moss, earthworm and parasitic wasp.  Knowing I am a part of this earth, and it me, and that my destiny in continuous with it, helps me see capitalist alienation for what it is.  It helps me find ways to resist that alienation and to imagine a different kind of life.

So am I an atheist?  Yes, but that’s not all I am.  I am also a worshiper of many gods … and a radical too.  And as surely as the earth is my home, so is Gods & Radicals.


With gratitude to Rhyd Wildermuth and others who have defended my participation in this community.


Endnotes:

1 I am not the only non-theistic writer at G&R.

2 Indra was a sun god in his earliest form in the Rig Veda. In later forms, he became a god associated with rain and lightning.


John Halstead

John Halstead is Editor-At-Large and a contributor at HumanisticPaganism.com. He blogs about Paganism generally at AllergicPagan.com (which is hosted by Patheos) and about Jungian Neo-Paganism at “Dreaming the Myth Onward” (which is hosted by Witches & Pagans). He is also an occasional contributor to GodsandRadicals.org and The Huffington Post and the administrator of the site Neo-Paganism.com. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment,” which can be found at ecopagan.com. He is a Shaper of the fledgling Earthseed community, which is described at GodisChange.org. John is also the editor of the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. To speak with John, contact him on Facebook.


Both issues of A Beautiful Resistance are available not just in print, but as digital downloads as well.  Follow these links for Everything We Already Are  and The Fire is Here.

 

The Revolutionary Dead: Karl Marx (part 2)

This is the second part in a series devoted to the ancestors of revolution.  The first part of this installment on Karl Marx is here.

When many think of economics, they might mostly think of the stark social-science full of numbers and quantities, figures and charts describing how much a product is worth, how much it costs to make something, how many workers are required to run a business, or how much profit can be derived from something.

That’s certainly what economics looks like now, less a social science and more a statistical description of esoteric processes in which we find ourselves mere abstracted numbers.   But that’s hardly Marx’s economics.

As mentioned in my last essay, Marx noticed that none of the resistance movements to capitalism quite seemed to understand how the system worked.  Already, people were making charts and graphs, crunching numbers to maximise profit and minimise cost–in fact, factory owners pioneered most of what we now think of as ‘economics.’  But what precisely capitalism was, what it meant, and what it did to human society? None really understood this.

Capitalism created multiple levels of complication to activities which were, pre-capitalist, quite simple.  You grew food, used what you needed, and sold the excess.  Or you made clothes, or beer, or tools and sold them in the markets, deriving profit directly from your work.  But in capitalism, you didn’t sell your excess at all–you sold your labour.  And this affects a lot more than just the individual’s means of survival.

The Worker and the Egregor

When you make dinner for friends, you probably don’t think much about the concept of labor.  Certainly, making dinner is work; it takes a lot of effort to prepare a good meal for several people, particularly if you’re doing most–or all–of it from scratch.  Rinsing and chopping ingredients, mixing them together to the right balance, spicing, applying heat, serving, cleaning up afterwards: this requires effort, time, skill, work.  But you don’t usually consider the act of making a meal for your friends or family labor, even though you’re doing all that for others.

But if you’re doing all the same things in a restaurant, for pay, all those activities seem to transform into an entirely different category of experience that we usually call work or labour.  Cooking for pay changes the conditions of the effort in several ways, not least of which that it tends to become a little less fun.  It changes the very meaning of the food you cook; it’s not yours to give any longer, nor is the meal (except in very intimate, small restaurants) you’ve made identified with you any longer.  You’ve become alienated from it, and it has become a product.

Marx called this Estranged Labor, and it has some profound implications for the way we see not just what we do for work, but how we see ourselves.

The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power on its own confronting him. It means that the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien.

–Karl Marx

The meaning that we derive from a meal made by a friend and one purchased at a restaurant is fundamentally different.  When a lover cooks you dinner, the food itself seems to contain their care for you–in fact, in an Animist view of the world, it does.  But when it’s been purchased, the meaning has transferred from the cook who made it to the restaurant itself which becomes, in occult terms, egregoric.  In the case of fast-food, the meal’s meaning contains nothing of the unnamed, faceless low-wage worker who made it but everything of the branding of that establishment.

This alienation from the person who cooked the food is actually quite uncomfortable for us, but marketers do plenty to make it more palatable.  Consider: a “Happy Meal” from McDonalds is happy only insofar as you’re told it is.  The poor person of color who cooked it for you may have been quite sad, actually, and it’s a bit sad when a child is fed low-quality food in the backseat of a car on their way home from child-care because their parents are too busy to cook for them because of capitalism.

Marx noticed that workers no longer experienced the work they performed as part of themselves, but rather an abstracted or objectified force.  Part of this was because people no longer derived profit from their work–you no longer made things for your own profit, you sold your time/labor to someone else who then profited from what you made.

The implications for Pagan thought should be quite obvious here.  Disenchantment is alienation from the magical world, yes, but it is also alienation from the places magic occurs, both the natural world and human interactions.  And more so, Capitalism has caused an alienation from our own bodies.  Says Silvia Federici, author of Caliban & The Witch:

“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.” 

“In Praise of the Dancing Body” (A Beautiful Resistance–Everything We Already Are, page 84)

So, a materialist, anti-capitalist understanding of the world shows us what many Pagans already suspect: our alienation from our own bodies and the natural world is the source of our disenchantment.  And for Marx and those who recognise him, that alienation is caused by capitalism.

“Primitive” Accumulation and the Sorcery of Capital

Ever wonder why slaves were brought to North America to work the cotton fields? Your immediate answer is probably an understandable one: people are evil, greedy, and really awful.  But people are also good, generous, and really wonderful–discussions about ‘human nature’ never get us anywhere, as everything that a human does, from a Pagan perspective, is part of their nature and Nature itself.

The basic reason’s pretty obvious, though–slaves performed labour for their masters and were politically powerless to demand wages in return.  Their powerlessness came from the violence of their masters and the governments who supported slavery, as well as the social conditions which made it ‘okay’ for people to own other people.

Marx called slavery and other forms of violent ‘wealth-creation’ (such as colonialism) “Primitive Accumulation.”  Primitive in this case does not mean what it means now, doesn’t mean savage or stupid or backwards.  Rather, it means “original” or “first,” as in primary.  Primitive Accumulation, then, was the process by which the powerful accumulated wealth, and this was always by force.

db_cyril_mann__british_1911-1980__dark_satanic_mills__19251Force is hard to maintain, though.  Slaves run away or kill their masters, colonies revolt against the colonists, and ultimately people forced to work don’t actually produce as much wealth as those who aren’t in chains or have guns pointed at their heads.

The wealth that was gathered during slavery and colonization (and a little further back–the Crusades) was certainly nice for those who had it; by themselves, however, piles of gold don’t produce more gold.  Also, there’s only so many lands to plunder before all the wealth that can be gotten from them is exhausted, and slaves can only be worked so hard until they die.

Marx noticed, though, that the rich who used their (ill-gotten) wealth to make more money gained more economic power.  Their wealth became Capital once it was invested to create factories, from which they earned more profits.

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.

–Karl Marx

Marx saw not only that workers became alienated from their own work, but that Capital was the distillation or crystalisation of their labor, now in the hands of the rich.  The wealth derived from slavery was dead labor (truly–many, many slaves died in order to create that wealth), and that dead labor-as-wealth sucked more labour from workers who had (because of the destruction of the Commons) no other choice but to work for the Capitalists.

Capital, then, took on an almost necromantic power, increasing in proportion to how much more labor it could extract from workers.  The more Capital (dead labor) a person had, the more he could invest in factories to get more capital (dead labor) from workers.

Capitalism became a more efficient–and more profitable–method of becoming wealthy than slavery or colonial plunder, though the powerful often resorted to violent methods first in order to get Capital to start with.  It’s not much different from robbing people and then using their stolen money to start a business.

Against the Machine

In his writings, Marx uses quite a bit of esoteric, almost occult, language to describe the workings of Capital.  For a purely secular reader, his use of alchemical terms may seem mere metaphor, but for a Pagan or witch, one starts to see his true brilliance.

Capitalism seems to be a system not just of economics and political control, but also a system of magic.  Creating an egregoric (and alienated) conception of work, converting other peoples’ energy into Capital that can then convert other people’s energy ad infinitum.  It becomes almost Alchemical, as if Capital is the philosopher’s stone, changing the lead of dead-labor into gold.

We can see more of this magical understanding in The Communist Manifesto, where Marx & Engles speak to the social destruction caused by the capitalist class, the Bourgeoisie:

Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

–Marx&Engles, The Communist Manifesto

Capital becomes a magical engine transforming everything it touches.  It destroys social relations, it consumes natural resources, and it extracts our very work-essence (that is, the power of Manifestation) from the human body, leaving only death.  It is no wonder that all the environmental damage which now haunts our earth occurred since Capitalism, not before.

The question for us, the question Marx seems to ask, is what will we do about it?

Implementations of Marx’s ideas during the Russian revolution against the tyrannical and murderous aristocracy by men such as Lenin and Stalin caused even worse problems.  Both believed that Russia should industrialise first, go through a controlled-capitalist period before becoming Communist, and the result was something that looked precisely like Capitalism does, but with more direct violence rather than the hidden violence we face daily.  China, though Communist in name, is more accurately described as a State-Capitalist economy, and now produces most of the goods used to fuel the Western Capitalist world.

I’d argue Marx is not to blame for this.  But we also cannot take Marx by himself.  Subsequent Marxist thinkers, particularly Black and post-colonial theorists, have expanded heavily on his ideas.  Also, Marx needs a touch of the Paganism he inadvertently influenced.  Like any ancestor, his life and ideas haunt the present in ways he could never foresee, and it’s up to those who live to manifest the world he glimpsed.

Joy is Beautiful Resistance

Man_Alone_WTO1999_by_J.Narrin
Image from the WTO protests in Seattle, 1999. Massive political manifestations against trade organizations and treaties became a major tactic of the Anti-Globalization (or Altermondialist) movement.  Free-trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO’s enforcement of ‘balance-trade’ have destroyed the local economies of many poor countries, allowing corporations to ‘out-source’ work and environmental destruction to poorer peoples and undermining the sovereignty of communities. [image J.Narrin, GFDL, cc-by.3.0]

Welcome to our many new readers!

Interested in helping out?  We’re always looking for more writers, links to events or groups resisting Capitalism, and also very interested in your input!

Also, if you like what you’re reading here, could you tell others?  You can find our feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and G+.

Thanks!

Coming this week:

  • Monday: Linda Boeckhout–Paradise Lost
  • Tuesday: Kadmus–Paganism, Value, and Capitalist Leveling
  • Wednesday: Heathen Chinese–Review: Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
  • Thursday: Lorna Smithers–Lost Watercourses and Resacredization in Penwortham and Preston
  • Friday: Syren– Liberation Magic
  • Satyrday:  Jonathan Woolley– Never Shall Be Slaves II (Britain’s Colonial Past – Normans)

 Links

A damaging trade agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is being negotiated right now.  Most dangerous?  It will lower environmental regulations on fossil-fuel exploration.  Here’s more.

Also, in case you hadn’t heard, the data-collection by the US Government (catching many non-citizens, too), first revealed by fugitive/hero Edward Snowden, has been ruled illegal.

Want to keep up on the latest (tragic, sad) news about the destruction Capitalism’s doing to the inhabitants of the world?  Best source on the internet is Extinction Symbol’s twitter feed.

And need some hope to help with the despair?  Both Fjothr’s piece on Joy and Lia Hunter’s The Enchanted last week are quite inspiring.

Glossary

Alienation

In economic terms, Alienation describes Capitalism’s disconnection and distancing from the social relations that create a good or service.

Alienation occurs in many forms, and makes it difficult for a consumer to understand the human and non-human exploitation caused in the creation of a product.

For instance, while Apple is a US corporation, its manufacturing is elsewhere.  Someone who buys an iPhone has no relationship to the poorly-paid Asian workers assembling the item, lives far removed from the lakes of toxic waste created by cell-phone manufacture, and seems to relate only to Apple.  The consumer is alienated from the production of the iPhone, while the workers are alienated from the end use and profit derived from their work (few can afford an iPhone).

Alienation, also, allows a Western consumer to live in ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ neighborhoods while never confronting the slaughtered species, exploited humans, and razed forests which sustain their privileged position as conscientious consumers.

Paganism’s insistence on interconnectedness and interdependence, then, is a crucial antidote to alienation.  Exploring and insisting upon the connections between our actions and others helps reveal the horrors Capitalism actively hides from us.

Quote

“I have heard it said that a land wight does not care about the politics of who summons it.  This is a glib statement. It is politics which enables the destruction of the very land which the wight stands guard over.  Man is a political animal, those who say that they stand outside of, or above politics are the esotericists whose clean hands are washed in the blood of those who have no choice but to put their hands in the machinery .Politics is not optional for First Nations, women, queers, blacks or any of the other slave classes. Abstention is a position of privilege which aids the pattern of destruction, arguing only for our impotence. There is no left-right dichotomy, there are those who are destroying the body, and those who stand against them.  Economics is war by other means, and in this asymmetric war against life itself, you do not have the luxury of choice.”

–Peter Grey, Apocalyptic Witchcraft