Heathens, Anarchists, and Muslims

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.

6 thoughts on “Heathens, Anarchists, and Muslims

  1. You are a lovely writer and I am so happy I took the time to really look into your posts today! I wish you the best on your new journey in Eugene!…and all your writing adventures. I really appreciate the way you think, or at least how you compose your thoughts with words! You are an exciting and inspiring find for me today! thank you so much for sharing all that you have here.

  2. I think that this one of the things that Pagans really need to address, actually. When many of us are reliant on high tech devices just to function in our community, what are our responsibilities by way of that technology? Our computers are full of really nasty things that often require very careful and complex methods of disposal. You don’t just throw a computer away, there are heavy metals in it that are quite toxic. Further, the manufacture of our computers and our smartphones is also very resource intensive, and the processes are hardly “green.” Speaking for myself, the manufacture of what should be one of the most harmless components of the machine that I am currently typing on, the brushed aluminum case, has caused numerous deadly accidents because of the extreme flammability of airborne aluminum dust. Obviously, I don’t know what the answer is, our culture is increasingly dependent upon these technological devices, but I do think that if we are going to pretend to have some level of “earth consciousness” then we need to examine the way that we use and relate to our technology as well.

    1. I had the privilege and shock of seeing a rarity yesterday at work–a 40 year old food processor made of steel. One of the truisms of kitchen work is that food processors last only about 6 months under regular use, and here I was staring at one made decades ago which is still around.

      When people say “they don’t make things like they used to,” there’s some truth to it. “Engineered obsolesence” certainly exists in some cases (my laptop’s fan is pretty much guaranteed to fail at 2 years, despite the fact that fans are simple machines that can easily be made to last decades), but more interesting to me is the drive within industrial capitalism to make things cheaply which will not last, stemming I think more from its imperative to reduce cost and labor in production. The fact that we’re very good at displacing human and environmental costs in our consumerism (throw something away and it “disappears”) is part of the problem, but another issue is certainly that we collectively accept that something will only last a couple of years and we can “always” get another one (or a newer version, etc.) as somehow normal.

      And our communication on the internet really terrifies me, but not as a mere emotional reaction. It scares me the same way that using a credit card scares me, the quickness of one part of me to accept that what I do now will have to be accounted for later and I may not understand the full extent of those costs. I can’t even see what went into making this laptop I’m writing on, nor the conditions of the people who made it, nor the physical and mental damage they may have experienced in order to build it, and the fact that I “have to” accept that in order to use the thing (in that way you “have to” accept the risk of death whenever you get in a car or take a flight, more an internal shorthand than a stated consent) and keep such questions in the realm of the theoretical really, really bothers me.

      It’s gotten worse for me living in Eugene, by the way. I am, after all, living in the same town as famous eco-activists such as John Zerzan and Jeff Lauer (whom I saw at a city council meeting!), and I’m afraid my lack of internal moral consistency is laid bare in the strange spirits of this land.

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