Pilgrimage Journal #8, RennesContinue Reading...
Archives For Anarchy
Second installation of my Pilgrimage journals (Dublin, Dec 12th-14th)Continue Reading...
Part two of my fiction series for A Sense of Place was just posted.
“I first heard of them from a witch. Her cards had said she should help the Muslims, and she hadn’t believed it at first. But her coven had heard the same thing, and had heard of Animists dreaming of animals speaking of the same matter. There were several shrines in this city, and their priests had heard a new demand from their god. Ceremonial mages had heard from their spirits, Shamans and spirit-workers from the land and the dead. They all heard the same thing: we should stop the violence against the followers of the Prophet.
Also, I just found work in Eugene, which is good. I fell in love with this place two days ago after walking outside the city (a very short walk, happily) by following a creek into a vast, quiet, and numinous stretch of wetlands. Work means I’ll be able to stay and do so again.
I’d sort of been keeping myself on hold a bit until finding work, finding myself unable to focus on things too deeply. I don’t own a pillow yet, as I’d been waiting for work, now have I had anything approximating good tea. Likewise, I don’t have a library card, because I figured it’d be a disappointment to have access to what, on all accounts, is an incredibly good library system and then have to leave. And most of all, attempting to work on a book about Capitalism while looking for work? Not as easy as it sounds. Each application to someone who might agree to purchase (exploit) my labor felt a little…tragic.
But that’s settled now. Also, I recently started reading David Graeber. I’ve been out of direct study of anarchism and critical theory for the last year and a half, and I somehow missed him during that time. Reading him I discovered a funny thing I’d forgotten–we, Pagans, with our general Naturalist bent (Naturalism the way it’s defined by others, not theologically), aren’t reading much Kropotkin. He’s responsible, more than any other, for critiquing evolutionary theory by presenting an alternative, non-Capitalist thread into it, suggesting that co-operation rather than competition is a primary influence on the development of species. Of course, he was an Anarchist, so there’s a reason most people haven’t heard of him.
If you’ve the time, I highly suggest this essay by Graeber: Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit. He does an excellent job at one of the things I’ll have to do in my book: showing that Capitalism is not responsible for technological “advance,” but is rather a hindrance to it. I’m hardly a futurist, but it’s something I’ve noticed significantly–what we see as “progress” (new information technology, new medicines) is often mere re-working of older forms in a way which presents an illusion that we are “advancing” as a civilization. Each new iPhone is merely a slightly better version of the one before, presented as a “revolution” when all it often ends up being is a reason to throw something away and consume something else remarkably like the thing that was just tossed.
I’m gonna write a book on Capitalism.
Or, more specifically, I’m starting to write a book that will function as a primer on Capitalism for Pagans.
There are multiple reasons for such a project, and various sentiments which have made me suspect this sort of thing is not just desired, but probably desperately needed. For instance, in several of my A Sense of Place posts, I’ve noted that I’ve needed to describe the specific functioning of Capitalism in comments because of a general mistake which occurs when anyone attempts to speak of Capitalism’s effects: that is, many people do not seem to understand Capitalism at all.
This is both quite common and highly excusable, as one of the more insidious aspects of Capitalism is to re-inscribe itself into the functioning of other systems so that “Capitalism” has come to many to mean technological advance, human rights, social progress, and even the very human (and ancient) act of economic exchange itself. Worse, it’s quite difficult to think of Capitalism as something not always-already there, particularly because of the omnipresence of the Progress Narrative and Capitalism’s functional ability to de-historicize itself so that it seems somehow universal and inevitable.
One of the more common definitions of Paganism includes the notion that it is an “earth-based” or “nature-derived” spirituality. Though this definition is sometimes problematic, it fits many of the traditions within Paganism quite well, particularly the one to which I’m most aligned: Druidry. And as such, any arrangement of human activity which damages the earth should be critiqued by Paganism (I’d actually say “opposed”), and this leads to one of the reasons why I’d be writing it specifically from a Pagan perspective. Paganism, whether or not it intends to be, functions as a political critique of society in the same way many indigenous religions do. And that critique is largely anti-Capitalist, even when unstated or acknowledged.
As such, we’ve got more in common with Queer- and Liberation- theologians, First Nations resistance movements, Anarchists, Socialists, and many other “leftist” movements than we’re always aware of, even if any particular person within Paganism might identify instead with pro-Capitalist economic stances (I’ve noted that a visible minority of ADF-aligned Druids, CR folks and Heathens identify as Libertarians, or
“Anarcho-Capitalists,” at least on-line).
Part of my intention will be not just to present a primer to the function (and damage) of Capitalism, then, but to draw out the threads of anti-Capitalist critique within Pagan-aligned traditions, both current and historical. And I’m hoping to do so along the same lines of my critiques of Capitalism and Disenchantment for A Sense of Place. Beyond helping Pagans understand Capitalism, I’m hoping it will help allies in leftist traditions (political or religious) understand what Paganism offers the world.
The Brilliant Art of Self-Sabotage
The book isn’t finished. Actually, I’m just starting it today. So, why announce this now?
I proclaim things well ahead of their actual completion quite often. I declared my intention to go on Pilgrimage to Bretagne months before purchasing a ticket to do so. My declaration that I’d be moving back to the Northwest was likewise done before any arrangements were made (and got picked up by The Wild Hunt). Similar to the way many traditions go about enacting magic or public rituals by stating intentions, I’ve found the best way to accomplish something is to tell other people I’ll be doing it, because the one thing I dislike more than my own procrastination is failing to keep my word.
That is, this is self-sabotage of the most helpful sort.
Also, well. It’s a book. Writing is a bit isolating, and writing something long that won’t get immediate feedback is quite alienating. This is the problem I run into when attempting to edit my fiction manuscripts (which will be finished in a few months): writing requires becoming a bit of a hermit from the world, and I’m incorrigibly addicted to people and the dance of ideas between them. Blogs are great for this, as one gets quick feedback on how words are received and understood. But blogs are also impermanent, less useful for ideas and discussions which requires many many words rather than a few thousand.
So, writing this will mean a bit more isolation than what I’d prefer (which is one of the reasons I decided to move to Eugene–there are people there, and sidewalks rather than highways between them), and probably fewer posts here, and likely fewer related to whichever new controversy internet Pagandom comes up with each week.
And I’ll also need some help. While I’ve spent most of my life studying critical theory, Marxism, and radical movements, I haven’t spent as much time studying the various traditions within Paganism. My knowledge of Heathenism, for instance, is frustratingly limited, as is my understanding of Kemetic traditions or Feri. I’m better at the history of modern Paganism (which I extend back much further than those who count Wicca as the defining moment of these movements) and European political thought than I am knowing how particular traditions relate to industrialization. I’m greatly inspired by some of the work people like Starhawk, T. Thorn Coyle, and other anarcho-leaning folks have done (including Christopher Scott Thompson, whose discussion of Brighid and how she relates to social justice really excites me), and I’m sure there’s more out there that I haven’t encountered.
So. I’m hoping others reading this might be willing to share their knowledge with me regarding these matters. For those who lean anti-capitalist, stories and myths of the gods and goddesses who have inspired you to do so would be incredibly helpful, as would accounts of others who’ve worked with land spirits on the matter. And I’m not fully committed to the book being only my writing (that might bore the hell out of some folks, I realize)–if others are willing to contribute, I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments or by email (aulnaissance [at] gmail). Collections of short essays or even a fully-committed collaborator would be welcomed.
And finally, depending on how the rest of my life goes, I may find myself soliciting funding for this project. I’m wretchedly horrible at asking for money (you should see my pathetic attempts to negotiate wages with bosses…), so doing so would be a strange thing for me, and something I’d really need to consider for a long time before doing. I’m also not at the stage where that’s quite even a question yet. Those with experience doing such things and would be willing to advise me on such matters would find themselves quite welcomed.