Economic Egregores: How Belief Drives the Power of Money and What We Can Do About It

“[S]ince it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?”

From Sable Aradia

dollar-bills-dawn-hudson
Dollar Bills by Dawn Hudson. Courtesy Publicdomainimages.net.

A thoughtform is a semi-autonomous manifestation created when someone — or several someones — will it, or believe it, into being. As of that point, it is no longer entirely subject to the will of its creator(s), but in essence, acts and reacts in its own way. It has no physical reality as we understand it, but it has a virtual reality; it might as well be real because we engage with it as if it is. Which, in a sense, makes it real.

An egregore is a thoughtform that has been created by a group, and it influences the thoughts and actions of the group that engages with it. But it is also influenced by the thoughts and actions of these same people.

This is not a unique concept to the occult: William Gibson wrote about what he called “semiotic ghosts” in popular culture. To me, it was evident he was talking about egregores. I wrote an article about this recently at Between the Shadows.

The examples of a corporation and a meme are probably excellent ones for a modern reader. A corporation exists independently of its creators. The Board of Directors, the shareholders, and the employees who work for it, can change completely — leave, die, or be replaced — and yet the corporation continues.

In our modern age, money is also an egregore, and this is why it has no physical value (after all, money is no longer backed by a gold standard.) Its perceived value governs its real value on the world market. The two are effectively one and the same.

It’s extremely difficult for one person to significantly alter the nature of an egregore. A person who wants to will such a change would have to convince a majority of the other people who engage with the egregore that its nature has already changed. For example, these major brands either started their lives as Nazi corroborators, or developed significantly as corporations while doing so, but of course we no longer make these associations with them.

There was an excellent object lesson in the transformation of an egregore in the 1990s in Brazil. Plagued by runaway inflation, Brazil embraced a daring plan; they created a new currency to restore people’s faith in money. They called it the Unit of Real Value (Unidade real de valor)(1). And it was entirely fake. No bills or coins were ever printed. It was intended to absorb the effects of hyperinflation and was set at a fixed value of parity to the U.S. dollar.

Instead, people developed more confidence in the URV than in the cruzeiro real, which was the legal-tender Brazilian currency, and it replaced Brazil’s legal currency. Officially it was “extinguished” and replaced with a legal-tender currency called the real on July 1, 1994.

A semi-virtual currency exists in Canada in the form of Canadian Tire money. This is effectively Monopoly money that is given out by Canadian Tire as a reward for shopping at their stores. It’s a fraction of the value of what you bought; a very early loyalty program.

But many places in Canada began accepting Canadian Tire money as well as real money, because why not? Canadian Tire doesn’t really care where it came from, because at one point or another it came from their store, and you can still exchange it there for real goods.

Unfortunately Canadian Tire is now trying to force their clientele to go to a card system instead, citing a risk of criminal enterprises making use of their alternate currency as an excuse. I’m sure that’s a real threat: criminal enterprises profit enormously from the existence of shadow economies that don’t depend upon the whim of the World Bank. But then again, so would we.

One might also consider the bitcoin bubble. Bitcoin is an entirely virtual currency that has a certain perceived value; and it has that value because of that perception.

That’s not a new concept either. Stock values are also entirely influenced by perceived values. One of the flaws in our current economic system that is coming to a point of reckoning is that stock values can plummet, not because a company has lost money, but because it has not gained as much as people thought it would. Twitter and Facebook both recently bore a significant loss of stock value because their growth, falsely projected on false identities and bot accounts which political pressure has forced them to limit, was not as great as those false projections had assumed it would be.

insecurity-dollar-symbol-john-hain
Insecurity Dollar Symbol by John Hain. Courtesy Publicdomainimages.net.

What this tells us is that any free market theory is fatally flawed. It is assumed in the study of free market economics that stock value changes based on information. Traders become aware of trends, new technology, expansions, etc. which will increase the income-making potential of a corporation.

But since it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?

The question then becomes for the magician: how can we best utilize egregores? Can we make significant changes to the harmful effects of existing egregores, such as the value of currency and how it is determined?

Marx said that in order to address income inequality, workers must control the means of production. But he failed to visualize the development of technology and the value of virtual goods. How do you control the means of production when all the production is virtual?

I think the answer is that the common people must direct the egregores instead. Right now, we have been absorbed by the semiotic ghosts of futility, apathy, and the inequalities of capitalism. And Money has become a god in and of itself. To combat this, we must embrace new egregores, and helpful, older egregores, like the Enlightened Rebel and the Will of the People.

To change the perceived value of money, and who has it, we need to re-think what we’re basing that value on. Right now, the world thinks of money in terms of national currencies, so the perceived economic well-being of nations is what drives the world economy. This creates haves and have-nots by nature. It’s dependent on the idea that some nations have more economic value than others.

It’s also, in part, determined by corporations. The more big corporations a country is perceived to have, and the bigger their stock values, the more valuable their currency is perceived to be.

Canadian Tire money erodes that economy just a little bit, because it takes a small fraction of the value of currency out of the hands of governments and stock traders, and puts it into the hands of consumers. Still not great; still capitalism, but a more decentralized capitalism.

Bitcoin is an early attempt to rethink the way we value currency. It has established a currency value on information. Bits of data are what form the essential unit of a bitcoin. But the flaw of this approach is that those who control information can control the value of a bitcoin, which is why it has already achieved a speculation bubble that makes it completely unattainable for regular people.

Perhaps we should come back to Marx. Perhaps we should be basing the value of currency on labour-units. One hour of labour might equal one credit, which could buy one full meal. Think of how wealthy artists would be! Of course I can’t think of a way to track that which wouldn’t risk intense violations of privacy. No change of this nature would be quick or easy, and each would have its own drawbacks and unintended consequences that we would have to consider, and deal with.

The question for us is: what do we consider to be of real value? And what would we like the economy of the future to look like? Which egregores should we give power to?


  1. I think it’s worth noting just how difficult this reference was to find. I remembered hearing something on a YouTube video about this and I went searching for a reference to write this article. I typed “South American country that created an alternate currency” into Google. This yielded an article called “How Fake Money Saved Brazil,” which originally came from the NPR website. It’s referenced by a plethora of other blogs and articles, but you can’t get access to that article anymore; just a couple of forums where people sneer at the idea, despite the fact that it demonstrably worked. I finally found the name of the currency — “Unit of Real Value” — in a snippet from a site that might be an archive of the Wayback Machine from a site called Neatorama.com. I searched this on Google and finally found the Wikipedia entry, listed only under its Portuguese name. Now why was this so hard to find? The most benign answer I can come up with is racism. I suspect it’s a lot more complex.

Sable Aradia

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


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Trump: The Living Corporation

Part I: Origo ad feces

What do such [thinking] machines really do? They increase the number of things we can do without thinking. Things we do without thinking — there’s the real danger. ~ Leto II, “God Emperor of Dune” by Frank Herbert

TWO THOUSAND SEVENTEEN was a historic year. But not the historic year everyone thought they would get. It was not the historic year that the first woman was inaugurated president of the United States. Although, some do joke that Ivanka might actually be our first woman president, considering how much Trump relies on her. But if that counts for shit, then Nancy Reagan was actually our first woman president.

No, the first that we are enjoying here is of a different variety. In talking about it, I feel as if I’m living in a very strange dystopian cyberpunk novel, minus the cheesy 80’s VR they were so sure would be wedded to the internet before it was called the internet. It is surreal, like some alien species obsessed with comedy is manipulating world politics to troll the people of Earth. But the reality is actually beyond surreal, it is Patæconomical.

The person occupying the White House is not human, but is in fact a corporation. A living corporation, The Trump Organization has found itself a body and is living almost as if it was fully human.

But that was my first clue that is was not fully human: how it lives, or imitates living. What he eats is a steady diet of fast food interrupted occasionally by meatloaf. The Trump Organization eats like a garbage disposal doing double duty. This would be startlingly, almost comically unhealthy, if one didn’t realize that The Trump Organization doesn’t actually need food to live, or at least very much. Like every corporation, it needs money to live. The fast food and junk food being eaten is probably a marketing tie-in deal, with the cooked meat slurry in a loaf there to keep the body standing. I have visions of the cooks being directed to put ground-up Centrum Silver pills in the food by The Trump Organizations loyal aides, since a corporation probably doesn’t realize a body needs vitamins and minerals along with basic protein.

It’s hard to say when The Trump Organization got a hold of the body. It is older than the-what-was-once human Donald Trump, and certainly Donald Trump was born human; certainly. One then has to ask, how did it happen? How did one of these vampire egregores grab hold of a real living body and start using it like a swim suit? Was it all at once? Did it happen slowly over time?

Here at the Patæconomical Institute for Sociological Study, we have been pursuing the latter hypothesis with vigor, and we are keen to getting this figured out. This development does not bode well for the human race. It was one thing for the corporations to devour our time and use us for distributed computing hardware, but to occupy a body and to get that body elected to the office of the President of the United States? This is an unprecedented development, and troubling. Troubling because, in case you’ve missed what I’ve said about it before, there is a fucking war on, and we the humans are losing that war. Clearly and certainly, a corporation has attained unto the power of Nuclear Weapons and the presidential twitter account. Gods and ancestors help us all.

However, let us get back to the matter of when The Trump Organization seized the body. Though it is possible that the takeover began as Trump was conceived — explaining both his narcissism and sociopathy, traits that the healthy corporation has, as well as traits that would leave the future meat puppet with little soul to compete with — it was probably after he had started to market himself as both brand and brand mascot that the takeover was accelerated and accomplished.

Could it have been in 1988 that The Trump Organization began to affect Donald Trump’s judgment? In 1988 he purchased the Plaza Hotel, at a price that he himself claims,

I haven’t purchased a building, I have purchased a masterpiece — the Mona Lisa. For the first time in my life, I have knowingly made a deal that was not economic — for I can never justify the price I paid, no matter how successful the Plaza becomes.

In fact, it was not successful while his wife, who he put into place as the hotel’s president, ran it. It made enough to pay for operations, but not enough to pay the debt he owed on it. Trump was always a sleaze, but it was in the early 90’s that he went from being a “normal” sleazy New York developer to something else entirely.

home-alone-2-the-plaza-hotel-ny-4

IF YOU’RE WONDERING what the Plaza Hotel looks like, or perhaps have an itch in the back of your brain like you may have heard or seen it before, that is because you likely have, if you’ve ever seen Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The hotel where little Kevin stays is the Plaza. And it is one of the first appearances of Trump, not Donald, but Mascot Trump, The Trump Organization’s corporate mascot, usually known as Trump.

So to be clear here, when I say Donald Trump, I mean the human that likely doesn’t exist anymore. When I say The Trump Organization, I mean the corporation that is the real subject of this article. When I say Trump, I mean Mascot Trump, the corporate mascot and marketable property of The Trump Organization.

Everybody got that? Good!

We shouldn’t forget the Trump game that sold poorly, due in part to it being a shitty game apparently. Trump’s movie appearance was perhaps not the first, but at the time definitely the most widespread appearance of Trump, and not Donald Trump. In a product placement deal (no doubt including outrageous charges for rent during the filming) that could not save his hotel from being partially sold to his creditors in exchange for debt forgiveness, Home Alone 2 was filmed at the Plaza, and Trump got a cameo appearance.

The Trump Organization had made its first move, and Donald Trump the man was just starting to feel the water swirl as his soul slowly started circling the toilet bowl of the astral. Where does narcissism end and being ridden by a vampire egregore begin? It begins here. A hotel bought for a stupid amount of money by Donald Trump’s own admission, and the use of it by The Trump Organization to begin Donald Trump’s final transformation into mascot and meat-puppet.

By 2004 the Trump brand/mascot was ready to grow some more, and why not build the brand while simultaneously looking for more victims/employees? The Apprentice aired that year, and with it, the solidification of the identity of its fictional mascot. Trump crystallized during the run of The Apprentice. Everything The Trump Organization wanted you to believe about Trump was projected onto the brains of millions. Every TV show has fans, and this was the ultimate coup for The Trump Organization. Eliminate Donald Trump’s soul, get out of real estate development which has a lot of risk, and just license the brand and its mascot.

Trump also appeared during the run of The Apprentice on WWE. What transpired isn’t important because it’s the WWE. It was all scripted. And that is what’s important: at no time did Donald Trump appear on screen. Trump was on screen in a completely scripted role made just for Trump. This was the time when people looked upon what ostensibly is a real person, but was swiftly becoming entirely fiction. Donald Trump made several appearances on WWE, each one expanding and building the brand for The Trump Organization, expanding and building the brand mascot narrative character, and slowly eating away at Donald Trump.

Remember this! When not scripted, The Apprentice was edited to paint a completely different picture than what happened. All reality TV is. WWE is completely scripted. This is the essence of magic. The rituals are fiction but the magic is real. The Trump Organization ritually repeated the Trump mythos, like a product placement (oh my, are you wondering if advertising is magic now? Well why not!), until enough people believed Trump was what The Trump Organization said it was.

The year 1988 was also the year that Trump, or maybe at the time it was Donald Trump, started playing with the idea of running for office. Trump has had many political ambitions and affiliations over the years. Most of them all have one thing in common: it was big talk from a man with a tiny dick.

The difference now is that in our most recent election, talk translated to action and then accomplishment. This accomplishment caught many by surprise. “What?! How?!” was basically the reactions of many, even people that hated Hillary. Everyone that was surprised — everyone — had a deep unfamiliarity with the value of brand marketing. Trump did not win on class, eloquence, looks, policy, integrity, morality, basic human decency, or any of that other crap that politicians try to trick you into believing that they have. He won on brand recognition and brand loyalty.

TO BE CLEAR, Trump won the election because he, as a brand, goes back to 1988. He had 12 more years to work on selling that brand, in any way he chose, to whomever would buy it. Hillary, on the other hand, officially started her political career and her political “brand” in her 2000 run for Senate. During the time she served in office, she sponsored 31 pieces of legislation, 3 of which became law: a law that, in Troy, New York, establishes the Kate Mullany National Historic Site; a law that names a post office after Major George Quamo; a law that renames a U.S. Route Highway after late journalist Tim Russert.

Serving on the budget, Armed Services, Environment and Public works, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Special Committee on Aging, and those laws were the length and breadth of what Hillary had accomplished as far as actual legislation. Not hard to see why so many, even though they hated Trump, saw her as being fake.

People will actually accept any amount of fake if you market it right. Just look at Trump: he doesn’t even have a soul or a mind independent from the vampire egregore of The Trump Organization; he’s so fake that he isn’t even human anymore, but because of brand marketing he seemed more real than Hillary.

Trump is then the natural evolutionary flow of the original marketing techniques created by Edward Bernays. Fast Eddy thought people were stupid and that you could say anything to them and they’d just eat it up. Fast Eddy started his career as a press agent in 1913, and more than 100 years later we live in his world. The things he created rule that world, sit in the offices of power, and devour the days of our lives, feeding off our lives to fuel the parasitic unlife that is their own.

Bernays is perhaps one of the most powerful sorcerers of the 20th century, if not ever. Forget Crowley, that hack only ever accomplished starting a religion as pathetic as he was. Bernays spawned a legion of monsters, like a real life Sutter Cane from John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness he opened up our world to a Lovecraftian nightmare. Legions of priest-like advertisers pour over reams of electronic marketing data, serving his creations and deepening their hold on us, their sustenance.


Patacelsus

mal1A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.


Gods&Radicals has hosted some amazing release parties for A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred. Our final one is in Baltimore on 19 March, 2017.

The Pharmakon of The Millennial

A poison grows within the social landscape. Once it was a simple thought form, a name, a hope. With time that thought form has become imbued with fear and anger, engorged by our collective shadow, and become a parasitic egregore, fed by our media. So large and contentious has this egregore grown, such a target of collective consternation, that it may well be expanding into more numinous territory.

Archetypal psychologist James Hillman once said that the best way to access an archetypal energy is to capitalize a noun. Thus we can name this poison for what it is.

I speak, of course, of The Millennial.

The coddled one. The one who does not have enough sex or kids, lives with its parent, doesn’t buy a house, demands political correctness. The one who is deeply sensitive and easily offended yet simultaneously greatly powerful in its influence, able to censor any and all dissenting opinions. The one who received a trophy just for showing up. The one who ruins credit, democracy, technology. The entitled one. The narcissistic one. The one who is many, a whole generation.

I was born in 1982, which puts me at the older end of the various timelines set for when The Millennial crawled onto this plane from the dark womb of Lilith. In elementary school, I remember hearing a teacher explain that, since my class would graduate high school in the year 2000, we were the generation of the next millennium. It seemed so hopeful! We didn’t even know about the Y2K bug then. The millennium wasn’t terrifying; it shimmered with promise and brightness. No one told us we were entitled and lazy. If we dreamed big and worked hard, we were told, we’d take up our parents’ fire and build a greater future.

Some say The Millennial rose from the fetid swamp of middle class hopes and fears. Parents with the time and resources to be available and invested in their children’s development enthusiastically pushed their kids to sports games and school events, made sure they got internships, helped them fill out college applications, called their bosses, imbued their children with the hope and promise of better things to come. Beneath that, of course, was the constant terror of the middle class—the essential instability of their position, just one unstrategic choice or medical emergency away from financial collapse and loss of class privilege. Hence the need for so many extracurriculars, to make their Millennial darling distinct enough to move forward.

My experience didn’t match up to this template. My parents weren’t exactly the helicopter type. I was a latchkey kid for a while, more like the elder egregore of Generation X. When I was eleven, though, my parents brought the Internet home. This was back when the Internet was an amazing realm of occult knowledge, crackpot conspiracy theories, and profoundly accessible pornography. Back then, the Internet wasn’t a place to enshrine one’s self-obsession but rather to explore facets of one’s self through generating wholly autonomous identities. Eventually that road led to LiveJournal, Patient Zero of Millennial narcissism.

By my early twenties, I was well possessed by The Millennial. I graduated from college with a liberal arts degree into a sluggish economy. I did not feel adequately prepared for the white collar working world and my bosses sure gave me a lot of feedback that I needed. At one point, struggling to find anything but temp work standing at a photocopier making thousands of copies of documentation for a bank for low pay, I considered moving back home to live with my mother.

Around that time, the nascent archetype of The Millennial had taken shape in the collective consciousness. The confluence of entitlement, poor work ethic, and Internet-facilitated narcissism found an identity in the guy who was fired from his job when he called in sick and then posted pictures of himself at a party in a Tinkerbell costume, pictures his bosses saw. (Never ever friend your bosses on social media.) Non-Millennial folks rubbed their faces and wondered why The Millennial was so whiny when it had never gone through anything particularly difficult as a generation.

This story continues well after The Millennial lived through mass shootings, terrorism, wars based on fabrications and economic self-interest, a sluggish to failing economy that left it struggling to make enough money to survive, the reawakening of Fascism and white supremacy, the heartbreaking certainty that it’s too late to stop climate change, and the daily traumas of systemic racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration.

millenial-approvalThere’s no amount of suffering we can collectively experience that will legitimize The Millennial. Like all children, The Millennial needs to stop seeking parental approval and learn to legitimize itself and its own power.

When folks of my generation talk about these things, we get pushback that we’re insulting or delegitimizing the suffering and work of previous generations. The danger in talking about The Millennial is treating it like a real person rather than an amalgam that influences us. If we take The Millennial too seriously then we might find ourselves possessed by it, possessed by the generational politics that keep us divided instead of working together.

So it’s worth acknowledging that my generation did not create much of what we value and struggle with. We inherited the Internet, smartphones, queer theory, occultism, polytheism, environmentalism, postcolonialism, social justice, Marxism, and the concepts of safe spaces, microaggressions, and trigger warnings. Even the kind of absurdist humor most popular with The Millennial was originally made by Generation X; and Boomers created Monty Python and The Firesign Theatre. We are not the first to struggle and dream of a better society. Our dreams were fed by the activists, leaders, thinkers and creators that have come before us.

If we name The Millennial as the egregore it is, as magic workers and disruptors, we can befriend it and direct its power for transformation. In our cultural shadow the healing pharmakon grows. Let us look at those archetypal powers and flaws of The Millennial and see if it can offer medicine for our society:

The Helicopter Parent

The Helicopter Parent hovers ever over The Millennial, protecting them from danger and discomfort and drawing toward them resources and opportunities. At worst, The Helicopter Parent prevents The Millennial from experiencing the shocks and strivings that would grow their strength and capacity. The Helicopter Parent has evolved as The Millennial returns home after attempting to individuate. According to the overculture this is a sign of failure for both Parent and Millennial, their inability to make it in the economy. According to The Millennial, this is a sign of failure of the economy and society for making it impossible to survive.

millenial-helicopterAll of this points to toxified norms around class, family, and atomizing individualism. Moving away from one’s family of origin is not a universal sign of maturity and adulthood. Some families share the same house and land for generations, and maturity is learning to take one’s role in the interdependent, intergenerational fabric. Within The Helicopter Parent is an antidote to the “rugged individualism” myth that toxifies US culture. The Helicopter Parent reminds us that we affect each other, we can support each other, and no one makes it alone.

The Participation Trophy

These legendary items are touted as the symptom and cause of The Millennial’s fragility. These taught The Millennial they were a winner simply by showing up, regardless of their achievement. The overculture fears that this undermined an important lesson about winners and losers, about needing to struggle and compete hard for limited resources—in this case, status. This is the core lesson capitalism needs children to internalize so that we can perpetuate the system without question—Winners are better and if I don’t win it’s my fault.

millenial-trophyWhat if The Participation Trophy taught The Millennial that every person has worth, dignity, and value regardless of “winning” or “losing”? That we can compete, succeed, and fail, but we still deserve respect regardless of how well we do? The Millennial might start to think that everyone deserves healthcare and a living wage no matter what kind of job they work, or better, that we should have universal basic income. Indeed, it makes us a bit more skeptical of capitalism and all the Social Darwinist trappings we as a society still cling to to justify the existence of systemic oppression.

The Selfie

The Millennial’s narcissism is unrivaled. They’re always taking pictures of themselves! They’re always documenting every activity and posting it online to see. If it’s not witnessed in virtual community, it never happened. Too busy documenting life to live it!

Within this tendency is also the brilliant potential for creativity and self-expression, supported by a dramatic shift in access. For relatively little overhead, I could start my own online photo gallery. I could make a song and send it out into the world. I can make art of my life. I can organize protests and boycotts.

millenial-selfieCapitalism is doing its best to take in this potential and sell it back to us, to help us forget that we are the creators of the content that they’re selling. We are the drivers and owners of the cars they’re paying us to drive. We are the owners and maintainers of the houses they are paying us to rent. Companies like UBER and AirBnB have done an astounding thing, outsourcing all of their labor and risk onto contractors while still reaping the profits from that labor.

With the power of The Selfie, may The Millennial remind us all that it is our own image that’s being sold to us. We are the originators, the creators, the laborers, the means of production.

The Safe Space/The Trigger Warning

According to the overculture, The Millennial is always getting triggered and demanding that professors, authors, and other influential cultural figures censor themselves for its delicate sensibility. The Millennial’s concern for “political correctness”—not perpetuating white supremacy, patriarchal sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism—goes too far toward silencing anyone who dares have a different opinion. The overculture suggests this exceeds the bounds of justice and comes from The Millennial’s sensitivity to contrary opinions and pathological need for safety.

On a personal level, I once had a conversation with a man older than I about homelessness. I disagreed with him about giving access to resources like housing and healthcare to the homeless, in that I was for it whereas he felt it was a misuse of “his” taxpayer money. He screamed in my face about this while I worked to keep an even tone. After ten minutes of this, though, he concluded that I was being an oversensitive Millennial. It is the person who disagrees, incidentally, that’s the sensitive one, not the person who angrily shuts down any disagreement because they can’t tolerate it. That’s how the fragility that comes from privilege masks itself.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate sensitivity. Sensitivity is a strength. Sensitivity helps us to get accurate information, to connect to nuance. The sensitivity of the thermometer determines its precision in giving an accurate reading of the temperature. People who are sensitive have the power to bring up unaddressed problems, to bring people together, to heal, to love deeply and profoundly.

The overculture teaches us to look down on sensitivity because it inconveniences the harsh, casual cruelty we inflict upon each other. I’m supposed to laugh at your homophobic joke to prove that I’m easygoing and rational, even though you’re joking about me and my friends. I’m supposed to chuckle at jokes about racism, sexual assault, and transphobia even though they make me think of my friends who’ve been victims of that kind of violence. Often the accusation is framed such that “you’re being too sensitive.” What this phrasing suggests is that the person saying it knows that you have a legitimate grievance, but in their opinion you’re supposed to be as insensitive to the grievance as they are.

Psychological trauma has real consequences. Being triggered is, by all accounts, a horrible situation. The veteran who asks people respect their PTSD by not setting off fireworks by their house is asking for a safe space with a trigger warning. What we often fail to understand is how profoundly widespread psychological trauma is, and how it gets inflicted upon us through all of interpersonal violence and systemic oppression. A trigger warning is simply that—a heads up that we’re about to wander into potentially upsetting territory, so folks can prepare themselves. In truth, triggers may be so particular and idiosyncratic that we cannot possibly warn against them all, but from a sensitive perspective, we can accomplish a lot by addressing the big ones. We already do it when we rate movies for sexual content, violence, and language.

millenial-safeThe Millennial cannot turn the world into a safe place, but we sure as hell need to wake up to how unsafe it is, particularly for those of us who are people of color, women, poor, queer, trans, indigenous, disabled, and immigrants.

The Millennial casts light on the violence done to these people on a daily basis, both the extreme personal violence and the more widespread “death by a thousand paper cuts” of systemic oppression. The Millennial names these as forms of violence no longer to be condoned or ignored, but violence with consequences, consequences that haunt the bodies and souls of those who endure them, consequences that follow these folks even into the academic spaces meant to help us expand our minds. This is The Millennial’s power, to name, to publicize, to shine light on the structures of oppression and the violence that maintains them. When the powerful and privileged respond with anger and dismissiveness, it is because they feel a moment in which their own safe space has been punctured, their own biases and unexamined assumptions called into question.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


Presale for Pagan Anarchism by Christopher Scott Thompson begins October 1st!

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