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Archives For Marxism
“Ridiculous the waste, sad time Stretching before and after” –T.S. Eliot
I don’t think I’ve ever written about being sad.
I write when sad, sure. Black ink scrawls on paper etch out melancholia across fields of white, staining the pristine with thin lines of morose sighs until some other mood is conjured from the sigils and glyphs on the page.
Certainly, I also type when sad. Crafting something of meaning through these blue-lit interfaces suffices enough to waken in the soul some glint of hope, and then the work is done.
Hope is what we live on, yes? I guess some live on money, or land, but I live on hope and dreams and love.
I’ve plenty of dreams, you know. Books half-written or all-written waiting for the time they can see the light, become glyphs on paper rather than shapes on a screen. Cobbled streets in the rain of memory of past and future, places I’ve left bits of my heart so to return for it, places I hope to leave other bits.
Love, too. Oh, yes. Quite a bit of it. I met a man before Beltaine, a man who lives elsewhere. Words over screens and speakers, weeks and weeks of nightly talks despite distance, and then a visit. Those things aren’t supposed to go well, and I don’t recommend them–a man you’ve never physically met arrives off a plane and spends the next 8 days with you. Typically only in films does such a thing go well.
My life is never a film, but that was fucking fantastic, what felt to be an entire lifetime over little more than a week. Nights around a fire, sweat and fur and flesh, mornings of contented and warm sighs and smiles, walks through forests, along river and stream, thoughts and words and two men striving to get at what precisely consists of the other in this realm and the other.
But he’s gone for now, and I shall soon be, too–at least from this town, until he and I can meet in another city.
Eugene is a strange land, deeply impoverished people living alongside obliviously opulent hippies. I’ve met almost no one without an alcohol or marijuana addiction in this town, and most of those I met without such problems were those I’d met through other means previously.
There’s an unemployed stoner alcoholic sitting in the dark in the living room as I write this, watching a television series and looking hurt whenever I ask if I can open a window to air out the pot smoke. This makes me sad, actually–not really for him (he’s in great company in this town), but for myself, because I find myself being the aggressor in happy-stoner-ville, the thuggish interloper in the isle of the lotos-eaters.
I used to live with similar folks, though the addictions were video games. Not the few hours a few nights a week sort of thing, but the “every moment you’re not shitting or sleeping” sort. When I was depressed, I’d fall into this trap, too. That is, when I was hopeless, I needed something to do with my time to endure its apparently endless march. Fortunately, I got myself out of such situations, but not everyone does, and it’s loathsome to see, even as they watch television too loud or their skin grows translucent from lack of sunlight.
I utterly acknowledge the existence of clinical depression; however, for me it’s always been circumstantial. I don’t suffer from chronic depression except when there’s a chronic condition in my life which is causing it. Those conditions are easily named: poverty and work.
For most of us, to gain the means of survival, we have only one thing to offer anyone in order to gain wealth: our labour, measured in time. I can sell my time to a restaurant as a cook, or to a social service agency as a low-level counselor, and in either case, they’ll compensate me for that time at the lowest rate that I’ll agree to, which in Eugene has been 9.40 per hour.
Had I other skills, my time would be worth more, or I could negotiate a higher wage. But time is time, regardless of what it’s worth to others, because it’s really all most of us have to sell, unless we’re artists or crafters. And if you’re really lucky and start out with money, you can be one of the sorts who buy other people’s time so they can make more money for you.
But most of us aren’t that lucky, and even a lot of us are not even lucky enough to get the chance to sell our time to anyone, though I’m not sure why we should consider that fortune at all. I’ve had bouts of unemployment that utterly wrecked my sense of self along with my body (eating cheap food is kinda bad for you), and so I find it utterly fascinating that we call economic downturns “depressions.”
And, of course, if you’re compensated less than others, you have to work harder to survive, scramble for what you need in order to maintain your ability to sell your time, and so much of the time you’re not selling is being “spent” on recovering from work and doing what you need in order to go to work the next day. I’m in the middle of ten days straight of work, trying to brace myself for a 12-hour shift tomorrow, and well–I’m a bit exhausted.
I’ve got three hours before I need to sleep in order to wake up rested enough to work those 12 hours tomorrow, and that’s not much time, and that makes me sad. I’ve got a tarot reading to do for a friend, I’ll be talking to my lover tonight, I want to watch the moon a bit, and I wouldn’t mind exploring my dreams some. But I really don’t have time for that, because I have to sell my time to someone else so I can feed myself.
And this makes me as sad as being poor.
But you know what else makes me really sad? I’m not just writing about myself, you know. I’m writing about you. You’re doing the same fucking thing I’m doing. You’re in the same situation, the same trap. Your time might be worth a little more than mine to others, and you might have better access to the things that you’ll need to recover from work. Or maybe you’re worse off. Or, you might have someone doing all of those survival things on your behalf, a mate or a family member so that selling your time doesn’t hurt so much. Or, you might be that person doing all that on behalf of someone else, choosing not to sell your time so that a mate can do so and not suffer so much from it.
But we’re all doing this, and this is ridiculous. It’s also really fucking sad. I’m writing while sad, because I’m actually exhausted and feeling a bit hopeless about this, and not just this-as-me but this-as-all-of-us, and I should really be cooking the last bit of my rice and sitting down to read Tarot and then call my lover, and I will, but really–
This is sad. And also one of the reasons I’m so fucking angry all the time, because one grows tired of being sad for lost time and very irritated by resigned assurances that this is the way it must be or has always been.
But I’m mostly just sad.
I hope you’re well. I will be. And hey–let’s stop doing this, yeah?
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.