The Jewish Brazilian Thing

Stories of the Jewish Diaspora, on being young and out of place within the Christian status quo.

From Adassa Kapolnai

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Identity is:
Noun
The fact of being who or what a person or thing is. (Oxford online dictionary)

As a broader political term, it seems to me that Identity is a tad harder to define than that definition may lead one to believe, and even harder to talk about, since by its own nature it is a term prone to individual interpretations. So, if I can’t write on identity itself, I guess I can write on the subject of my identity, which is one I know far better. But even far better is not completely better, because, even on my own identity there are things that are still quite muddy. How would I define my identity, you might be wondering. Jewish Brazilian? Jewish bisexual Brazilian? (Maybe it is noteworthy that somehow I seem to put “Brazilian” last every time, but then again I live in Brazil and that’s a perk of not being a minority label: you don’t actually have to emphasize it as much).

My grandparents where Jewish European, from Italy and Hungary, and they both came to Brazil during the Second World War. For my grandmother specially, that meant trying to became as Brazilian as possible, to the extent that she, to this day, refuses to speak Italian. So they brought my mom and aunt up to blend as well as they could into the gentile culture of the country that had welcomed them. That meant that, even though I always knew we were Jewish, we never did celebrate the holidays or made any big fuss about it. But the thing is: identity is not something one can erase like that. So we ate matzah bread on Pesach, not because it was Pesach but because that’s the time of the year that stores sell it and my mom supposedly loves it’s taste (if you never had any matzah, it’s hardly something one would call delicious, so I have a hard time believing that particular bit of my family’s folklore).

The word Midrash means, in Hebrew, to extract knowledge. It refers to a literature genre that seeks to elucidate passages of the Torah and Talmud. This is done, among other ways, through retelling traditional stories that relate a greater meaning than what one may expect at first glance. Maybe because of this tradition, Jews tend to tell stories in order to convey a point. So let me tell you a couple stories to illustrate further what is like being Jewish Brazilian in my particular case, and maybe they can serve to shed some light on the difficult subject that is identity.

When I was in my early twenties I got in a car accident. It was an ugly one and the car was totally wrecked. But somehow I was ok, and so was everyone else in the vehicle. A thing like that can mess with one’s head. So the next week I decided that, since G’d seemed to have protected me, I would try and learn a bit more about Him. I bought a couple of books for the task: “Christianity for dummies”, “Islam for dummies”, “Buddhism for dummies” and “Judaism for dummies”. After reading them all, what I discovered was that all my beliefs, everything I held dear to my heart and thought of as moral and generally good where in fact Jewish principles. Because you see, even if you don’t celebrate Rosh Ha Shana, or don’t have a mezuzah at the entrance of the house you grew up in, that doesn’t mean you stop “thinking Jewish”, or that you don’t teach your children to do just that. So I bought a Star of David necklace and went on with my life. Now the flip side of being Jewish, especially diaspora Jewish, is the war. My grandmother’s reaction to my big Jewish discovery was that she bought me a new star of David, made of gold (which at the time I couldn’t have afforded on my own), and a photography book full of images of the holocaust. Not bloody images, but strong powerful images that depicted piles of children’s shoes, of eyeglasses, of violins, that used to belong to Jews murdered during the war. She told me that if I wanted to own my identity she would support me, but that I should be prepared for whatever was to come.

I met my husband when I was 11 years old. I came home and told my mom we would be married someday because I had fallen for him right then and there (she laughed it off as just one more crazy thing children sometimes say. Nevertheless, we did become great friends first, then boyfriend and girlfriend, then husband and wife). He is an intelligent and sweet man, who loves me wholeheartedly and has always treated me with kindness and respect. He is also not Jewish. We were 25 at the wedding, so by that time he had already met all my family years ago. My grandmother, specially, was always fond of him, because he reminds her of my late grandfather: they are both distracted brilliant intellectual types. But when I told her that we were to get married her first response was to ask me: “If they start persecuting us again, are you sure he will protect you? Are you sure he won’t turn his back on you?”. She didn’t ask because of mistrusting him in particular. She asked because she lost count of how many Jewish wives were delivered to the Nazis by their gentile husbands.

Three years ago I went to New York, to visit a close friend who lives there. One day he decided to introduce me to his American friends, so we went out for a beer. When I got there, one of them asked me “So, John tells me you are Brazilian and Jewish. Is that a thing?” I answered that we make up about 0,06% of Brazilian population and about 3% of Rio de Janeiro’s population (in case you are wondering, that means 120 000 Jews in Brazil, 22 000 in Rio. Quite a lot of people), so it must be a thing. But what I guess he meant is that the mental image of a neurotic Woody Allen doesn’t really go together with the hot Latin image of say, Jennifer Lopez. And, even though I look nothing like Jennifer, I understand his bafflement as identities become more complex and nuanced. Because I am not only Jewish, just as much as I am not only Brazilian. So yes, Jewish Brazilian is a thing.


Adassa Kapolnai


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We Are All Bears

From Judith O’Grady: “Rather than ‘correctness’ we have to cultivate ‘mindfulness'”.

Referencing the story of Goldilocks we, in my family, refer to the making of some kind of people into not-people by some other kind of people (poor people into not-people by rich people, drop-outs into not-people by university attendees, women into not-people by men) as “they are just bears”. The bears do not actually own their possessions and so Goldilocks can freely eat and break them.

The first step in hating someone is to declare them to be a bear. Once they are bears you can discredit their opinions and beliefs, take away their possessions and homeland, refuse them the right of consent and enslave or rape them, believe that they do not feel pain as you would in their position…….

Historically, in general the ‘people’ have been those in power and the ‘bears’ have been the powerless. In my lifetime (I am old but not yet history), the Evil Bear-makers (those who think of themselves as ‘people’) have been the Conservatives, the Men in Charge, the Old Guard, the Privileged. Let us call them ‘The Exclusionists’; their mantra is that they and they alone have the right to govern, to possess, to be wealthy because they have always been the ones who have done it in the past, they alone have the necessary qualifications and experience to do these things, and that those things cannot effectively be done by Bears. They exclude everyone but those exactly like themselves from power and ownership.

My political self came of age in the era of civil rights demonstrations in the American South. The people (older than myself but not much older) who marched and died for those rights can, I believe, be typified as ‘The Inclusionists’. Their mantra was that there was commonality between white, young-adult, college student Northerners and black, older, share-cropper farmer Southerners; that they were all just people who should be able to vote, to go to school together, to be included in the same legal system. Those beliefs were idealistic and without great success (largely leading to covert replacing overt) but correct—- those peoples do have commonality.

Fast-forward to present day. Unlike the civil rights activists, many of whom were inclusive of not only all the people demonstrating with them but also the antagonists, current activists often demonize the people who are on ‘the same side’ but with differing beliefs or actions or goals as well as their antagonists. This is a terrible skew all down the line because then the torch-y white supremacists are primarily, but not the only wrong-headed bears. Their primal nature must be growling and hitting because they are not people like the good, non-violent, black-inclusive allies. So that dialogue changes from ‘you are wrong in your beliefs’ to ‘you are bad bears and must be outed, punished, shamed’. Even more troublesome is the othering of the people on the same side of the line who differ in belief. ‘Those black-wearing, face-hiding protestors use violence. They are bears’.

The Black Bloc have thought it over and have decided to stand between the defenceless and the aggressive, while also messing with Power-Holders’ structures on the route. Perhaps you feel that torching cop cars doesn’t advance your agenda, but they may also feel that wearing cute pink vagina hats doesn’t advance theirs. But you can agree on the bits of agenda that you agree on and both groups can act to stop hate speech. Or you can have an endless and useless argument about correct action, correct wording, correct stance. Every moment you spend fighting over minute ideology or word usage some fucktard is yelling about hatred unopposed.

But in reality none of any people are bears. The argument that any people are bears is specious because they are all people, just like anyone. That argument not only others them but others you as well. The people on the perceived moral high ground believe that they would not do whatever the non-people are doing— burning cop cars or fomenting hate. But it’s not that simple. To use a less-loaded example; most first-world people don’t eat insects or grubs (except escargot, the outlier). But it’s just culture; if you grew up in a culture in which rotten-log grubs were prized and eaten at festivals they would be like those chocolate eggs filled with sugary goo that only are available at Easter. If you grew up in a culture where women are sexualized and demeaned it would make perfect sense that they would be paid less than men.


Unless (here’s the catch) for some unprecedented reason you thought about it really hard. Out of the blue, you say to yourself, “Why IS it bad and embarrassing to have Dandelions in your yard? I like Dandelions.” That seems easy but the splash-back comes with culture. The across-the-street neighbour comes over to lecture you about “infecting the neighbourhood with Dandelions and driving down the housing values” (true story, actually) and suddenly you’re not discussing yellow Spring flowers but as a short traditionally-raised woman you’re having to mouth back to an elderly man who (20+ years in the military) is dripping with privilege and the implied threat of violence. It’s a lot harder than you envisioned.

Here’s another example. Back when I was firming up my beliefs by argument, I so so often heard the ‘family’ stance. Now, I believe in meeting violence with violence and have for quite some time. Right up there with the Prime Law for humans, ‘Everybeing has Free Will’, is the Prime Law for countries, ‘Don’t March Down Other People’s Streets’. Freedom Fighters (or terrorists, depending which side the speaker is on) have my respect. But many of the conventional Liberals saw violence as marking one out as ‘bad’ (infected with Dandelions) and described themselves as ‘non-violent’. But with a caveat, “If someone threatened my FAMILY then no holds barred!” But if some Evangelical started yelling at their teen-aged daughter on the bus about her hubcap-sized Pentacle, wouldn’t they want someone to step up for her even though she isn’t THEIR daughter? Of course.

People like to define themselves as Warriors, even when their lives do not routinely include violent confrontation. They’re waiting for the definitive moment when they can stand up in confrontation to the Blond Burly Guy in a flash uniform that mis-uses Runes. Not only will that likely not happen but if it did they would suddenly find that risking your life for belief is quite a bit more difficult than they envisioned.

What does happen, over and over, is that they don’t make a small gesture when they could. They know that if they confront privileged people irl, those people will use their privilege against them. They don’t step up to the trash-talking men and call them out; they don’t even go and sit with the clearly uncomfortable young woman. They collect their lunch and sit somewhere else. But, yo! With LOOKS OF SCORN.

Bringing up one example, I don’t shop at Walmart. I buy a lot of things at second-hand stores, so the argument (which I have heard numberless times) that I am making a privileged person’s choice is actually bullshit. When I had small children (that time of life when you need larger clothes every week) I mended my children’s play clothes and belonged to a clothes-exchange group of mothers. I remember the day when my friend heaved a sigh and said, “I can’t buy non-slave labour underwear anywhere and I really would like new underpants; I’m going to have to make an exception.”

Or the time that I mentioned in discussion that all of my family picked up trash wherever they were. One of the impassioned young men in the group turned on me and said that I was having no effect on the global trash load by that ineffectual action. “So you just let the trash lie?” I countered. He didn’t see my point. He was waiting until the Ocean Warrior sailed up to his land-locked door with a personalized invitation to board and until then he wasn’t putting any trash in the pockets of his natty coat, tyvm.

On the one hand, we are all faced with small decisions time after time, day after day. We must train ourselves to see the tiny crux and sometimes make a non-cultural choice. We have to live in the moment and in that moment see what is really happening. Rather than ‘correctness’ we have to cultivate ‘mindfulness’. We must look at that bear and see a person. What if I had been exposed to that wrong-minded culture in my childhood? What if my friendship group all decided on an action that I was uncomfortable with?

What would work? Screaming out,

“You are a POS Bear!!”

No. Somehow both antagonists must perceive what Right Action is:

“I am not a bear, nor are you.”

Again falling back on the small example, I had a brother-in-law. His mother had ‘never worked’ (ie held a paying job) and when he married he decreed that his wife would not ‘work’ either. She could grow and preserve a large vegetable garden, she could mind in-home day care toddlers, she could manage a difficult budget, but she could no longer be an executive secretary. After having two sons (“I want them to be tough”) he had a daughter. Suddenly, the world changed:

she must learn self-defence, she must play with blocks, she could not have a pretend kitchen for Christmass, she must excel at school (“I don’t want her dependant on some man for income!”). Why? The best of all reasons, love. Suddenly women were no longer bears; they could want for themselves what he wanted (“If she doesn’t want to wear the frilly dress she doesn’t have to!”)

On the other hand, violence should be met with violence. If you incite violence towards a wrong-thinking POS, then you should expect violence to be offered to yourself. If you step up and deny the threat of violence by force of will you may find that the Gods favour Right Action. If a person can stop a tank by force of will than a person can stop another person. Of course that confrontation may go badly, the aftermath of Right Action may not be happy, but someone’s point of view may change as a result. And, gradually, change will infect a culture. Like Dandelions, which are now ubiquitous because my province has banned poison herbicides. Like drunk driving, which has now become a crime rather than a juvenile expression of high spirits.

On the gripping hand, I am not a follower of that guy who mandated that we should love our enemies. But, unless we are being stalked by a coyote pack (happened to my son— he went back into the house without finishing his end-of-day cigarette), our enemies aren’t not-people either. We have some commonality and, standing on that island of commonality, we can struggle to explicate our disagreement. Not only should we give out what we want back, but if our cause/belief/reality is actually right then it must be able to be elucidated without the screaming of epithets. Mere explanation must be enough to carry the point. When I had small children to enculturate I had a rule about fighting,

“No hitting. No hitting back.”

So I never had to listen to endless sobbing stories about justification; all play stopped and everyone went off to think it over.

How might you carry your point without screaming and throwing plastic action figures?


Judith O’Grady

image1is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).


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Book Review: Like Water

by James Lindenschmidt

I love the idea: souls travel in packs. It works on several levels, and can describe the peculiar bonds souls form with one another, in countless different ways and contexts. Everyone has the experience of meeting someone for the first time, with immediate rapport, a feeling of connection, where the souls effortlessly fit together like long-lost pack-companions. Packs mean that you depend on one another, you protect one another, and you look out for one another. T. Thorn Coyle’s Like Water is a story of such a pack of souls.

Like Water is set in “in-between Oakland.” I don’t have much personal connection to Oakland, but the setting of the novel is nonetheless quite familiar to me, being situated in the post-Occupy radical community, in academia, in paganism, & in the polyamory community. These are my people. So the story’s context got my attention right away.

As did the event that drives the course of the novel. This event occurs before the novel begins, so I don’t need spoilers to say that Alex, one of the main characters in the story, is killed when a police officer hits him with a taser and it disrupts his heart. Much of the story revolves around people coming to terms with Alex’s death, moving on from it, and using it as fuel for their own inner fires. Jonah, Alex’s best friend, in particular has difficulty adapting to the world without Alex, and much of the story revolves around his particular struggle doing so. And of course, we hear quite a bit about Alex’s struggle adapting to death.

There are many things to like about Coyle’s first novel. First of all, I dig the writing style. I’ve read a fair amount of her stuff over the years, but this is the first time I’ve read her fiction (and I believe this is her first published novel). It can be a challenge for a nonfiction writer to enter the realm of fiction, but Coyle does so seamlessly. We do hear a lot of the character’s inner thoughts, almost nonfiction contained within the fiction, with some nice philosophizing in the “thought bubbles” each character has. For instance, in one passage, Alex is reminiscing about when he was alive, thinking about his lover, Amber:

Nothing wrong with sex. Most art required it. The best art grabbed us kicking and screaming and wrestled us down to look something in the face. To feel something, once and for all. That impulse was the power of life. The power of life was sex. People mistook this all the time. Even the gentlest art — the paintings of sunrise over water, the love songs that were filled with sweetness — if it was good, it tapped that primal life connection. Picasso? Tupac? Zora? ‘Yonce? They ripped your guts out. Great art requires us to confront life. To confront ourselves. That’s why it’s so painful sometimes (71).

I also liked the metaphysics of the book. The fact that Alex is the speaker in several chapters (each chapter has its own speaker) despite being dead is a nice touch, as are Coyle’s insights of the dead. They have no sense of smell, for instance, and that’s the biggest jolt of novelty they must grow accustomed to. In addition to the dead themselves, Calliah, Jonah’s partner, has the ability sometimes to see the dead:

I don’t see ghosts all the time, thank goodness. I seem to see them only when there is some trauma, or a message to be passed along. Mostly my ghostly encounters are just about having a sense of something “other” hanging around. It’s not like suddenly there are figures with gold teeth floating around me… It’s gone. Although I hadn’t really seen Alex yet, I knew when he was around. And not just when I was picking up on the sense of him (81).

By focusing on several consciousnesses, alive and dead, having their experiences, Coyle weaves fertile ground to tell a good story. And tell a good story she does.

I loved “the Moms,” or Alex and Jonah’s Marxist & Anarchist mothers. These matriarchs raised their children together in radical, intentional communities, still working together even after their children are grown. I got a chuckle out of Kate, the token polyamorous witch; it seemed like Coyle had fun with her character and the insights she provides. I liked the rapping in the novel, which is strange because reading rap lyrics is a vastly different experience than listening to music. Coyle credits MC Do D.A.T for “lending Alex his rhymes,” and they are good. I’m not sure how Coyle managed to convey the energy of a live performance with music into text, but she did.

Despite the 3000 miles between me and Oakland, I feel that Like Water is a story about my tribe, my comrades. The reality of police brutality, violence, and murder of civilians on the streets is foregrounded in the story, but the novel never comes across as preachy or even judgmental. The fact is, these characters must endure, each in their own way, in the aftermath of state-sanctioned murder. This is the story of Like Water.

Because this is a story about my tribe, I really wanted to like the novel. I am happy to say I didn’t have to work very hard to do so. I recommend this novel, and I can’t wait to read more fiction from T. Thorn Coyle.

Debt, Stories, & The Violence Of Silence

by James Lindenschmidt

Lately, I’ve been reading Debt: The First 5000 Years by anthropologist David Graeber. I recommend the book wholeheartedly for anyone who wishes to understand the theory, history, psychology, and ethics of debt. This is not a review of the book, but look for a review by George Caffentzis coming soon to Gods & Radicals. Graeber’s book has been food for thought to say the least, and has me thinking about the function of debt under capitalism. It pervades the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, about not only our individual places in society but also the structure of society itself. One of the main themes of Graeber’s book is that debt functions as the primary arbiter of morality in society; many contemporary religions speak in terms of debt help & advice as well as repayment in their cosmologies, often in terms of the afterlife. Debt can also function as “fate,” in the sense that with debt, one can accumulate restrictions that limit the potentialities of one’s existence, further chaining us inside the capitalist workforce. As Graeber shows us, these stories about debt are worth further attention.

The Tiv Flesh-Debt & The Society of Witches

Graeber reminds us repeatedly that these questions of debt and economy are, above all, human stories, and as such are well served by his anthropological approach. One of the human stories he tells is of the Tiv flesh-debt and the society of witches, a story worth quoting at some length:

“The mbatsav, or society of witches, was always looking for new members, and the way to accomplish this was to trick people into eating human flesh. A witch would take a piece of the body of one of his own close relatives, who he had murdered, and place it in the victim’s food. If the man was foolish enough to eat it, he would contract a “flesh-debt,” and the society of witches ensured that flesh-debts are always paid.

Perhaps your friend, or some older man, has noticed that you have a large number of children, or brothers and sisters, and so tricks you into contracting the debt with him. He invites you to eat food in his house alone with him, and when you begin the meal he sets before you two dishes of sauce, one of which contains cooked human flesh….

If you eat from the wrong dish, but you do not have a “strong heart”—the potential to become a witch—you will become sick and flee from the house in terror. But if you have that hidden potential, the flesh will begin to work in you. That evening, you will find your house surrounded by screetching cats and owls. Strange noises will fill the air. Your new creditor will appear before you, backed by his confederates in evil. He will tell of how he killed his own brother so you two could dine together, and pretend to be tortured by the thought of having lost his own kin as you sit there, surrounded by your plump and healthy relatives. The other witches will concur, acting as if all this is your own fault. “You have sought for trouble, and trouble has come upon you. Come and lie down on the ground, that we may cut your throat.”

There’s only one way out, and that’s to pledge a member of your own family as substitute. This is possible, because you will find you have terrible new powers, but they must be used as the other witches demand. One by one, you must kill off your brothers, sisters, children; their bodies will be stolen from their graves by the college of witches, brought back to life just long enough to be properly fattened, tortured, killed again, then carved and roasted for yet another feast.

The flesh debt goes on and on. The creditor keeps on coming.”
–David Graeber, Debt: The First 5000 Years, emphasis added

Interesting, but more than a little morbid, right? This story of debt & cannibalism is useful precisely because it horrifies our western minds, and yet it reveals the arbitrary construct of the psychology of debt as it operates in our consciousnesses. A few points about the above passage:

Trickery & entrapment as foundational recruitment practice. The “society of witches” are “always looking for new members, and the way to accomplish this was to trick people.” This is a political organization, in the sense that they have a certain amount of power in the Tiv culture. This political organization reproduces itself through trickery, bonding its new members after the trick to use their “terrible new powers” in service to the group.

An ability to ignore one’s conscience and act in ways that are normally repugnant. New members of the society of witches must have “a strong heart,” which means that they are able to overcome their distaste and disgust for the group’s cannibalistic activities which are repugnant to the core. It is interesting that an ability to shut off one’s conscience is seen as “strength.”

Blame-shifting & corroboration of a lie benefiting the conspirators. The deceptive recruiter then confronts the new recruit: he “pretends to be tortured” which shifts the blame for murdering, cooking, and eating another human away from the very person responsible for the deed. Instead, everyone already invested in the society of witches pretends that there is nothing at all unusual about the arrangement, and that the flesh-debt is the fault and responsibility of the person tricked into cannibalism. They not only tell the story & believe it, but also behave as if the story is true. The society of witches, after all, ensures that “flesh debts are always paid.” As always, the repayment of debt is always seen as sacrosanct and legitimate, no matter how abhorrent the story of any specific debt might be.

Debt is now a tool of capitalism

All Our Grievances Are Connected. Image from strikedebt.org
All Our Grievances Are Connected. Image from strikedebt.org.

These structures of the debt relationship repeat themselves through many of Graeber’s examples of how debt works. I invite the reader to take a look at how the above structures of debt relationship manifest in our culture, indeed in many of our lives, since the amount of debt people carry these days is greater than ever. Indeed, as Jacques Laroche pointed out at strikedebt.org, debt might be the single unifying factor in all the various struggles going on against capitalism.

Debt is arbitrary, and not always tied to the value of specific things that have been purchased. As an example, one needs only look at the story of student debt and the “deal” between the capitalists and the working class of my generation, growing up in the 80s. This deal was reinforced in our young minds, and continues to be reinforced in schools across the nation. The story is something like this: “hire education” is mandatory for those who wish to work at well-paying jobs. Those who don’t achieve this hire education are fated to mop floors or flip fast food burgers — a story accepted as axiomatic by millions despite the fact many successful capitalists are not college educated. Furthermore, even more so than debt in general, student debt is completely arbitrary. My wife and I have the exact same degree from the exact same educational institution. One of us managed to get this degree without incurring any debt, whereas the other one accrued tens of thousands of dollars in debt, again, for the same degree from the same institution. I will leave it to you students of kyriarchy to determine which of us was saddled with the debt (hint: it wasn’t the straight white male).

Debt is not the same thing as capitalism, having been around at least 10x longer than capitalism has. Debt is now a prime mechanism by which the working class is kept under control, giving millions of people no other choice but to sell the only thing they have left to sell: their labor power in order to survive. Debt underlies all aspects of class struggle. Since the destruction of the Commons, there is no other possibility for most people to subsist and reproduce their lives.

Robert Anton Wilson had a great thought-experiment, where instead of using the term “money” (which also is not the same as debt, by the way, despite their close relationship) he suggests using the term “survival tickets.” This thought-experiment shows that money and debt introduce an abstraction into the most basic survival impulses in the most primitive parts of our consciousness. We humans evolved with “fight or flight” instincts to protect us from imminent danger, such as being eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger. Now, few of us are in danger of being consumed by a wild animal, yet these instincts remain with us. The “survival ticket” concept illustrates this fear beautifully, as these completely arbitrary and abstract tickets are the way we survive, and the fear of their lack drives many of our actions.

Most of us, of course, don’t really have enough money, at least not to live the way we wish to live. Most of us will use our limited “survival tickets” to buy food and shelter, meeting our most basic needs for survival, while in the meantime the spectre of unpaid debt keeps growing in the back of our minds, gnawing at us, creating fear that eventually men with guns will come and take away our limited survival tickets and our home. This fear keeps us willing to engage the capitalist system, so that we can struggle for more survival tickets, showing how powerful this story of debt is in our culture.

The importance of stories & violence of silence

“When you begin to believe in your own B.S., you enter the state that I call self-hypnotic ideational trance, and pretty soon you’ve got a headful of S.H.I.T.”
Robert Anton Wilson

Wilson also had some other fabulous ideas about the ideas we hold in our minds. He warned us to be mindful of our B.S. (belief systems), and to make sure we don’t operate with destructive S.H.I.T. (self-hypnotic ideational trances) that we aren’t deliberately cultivating for ourselves. I would call this process decolonizing the mind. Graeber’s book can certainly help us see through some of the constructs lurking below our everyday awareness, that help push capitalism forward and reproduce itself. This leveling process of capitalism requires us to lose sight of stories, whether it be the debt-stricken person being thrown into the street, or the ecosystem being raped and its inhabitants destroyed, because capitalism cannot operate under the nuances of existence:

“To make a human being an object of exchange, one woman equivalent to another for example, requires first of all ripping her from her context; that is, tearing her away from that web of relations that makes her the unique conflux of relations that she is, and thus, into a generic value capable of being added and subtracted and used as a means to measure debt. This requires a certain violence.”
—David Graeber, from Debt: The First 5000 Years

We must refuse to be silent. We must insist on stories, both in telling our own and hearing those of others. Don’t believe the same old B.S. that capitalism sells, and get that S.H.I.T. out of your head. We are Pagans, and we are (or should be!) sensitive to the stories that lurk, undiscovered, in the corners of consciousness and the forest. It is these stories that will transform & re-enchant the world.


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