Magical politics, a first attempt.

I’ve been hunting around for radical political magic. I ran into this pretty great book review by a druid, The Spells We Are Under, because it popped up somewhere under the site title “Healing Whiteness.”

[Van] Jones was astonished to find that the vast corporate structures against which he and many other progressives had been campaigning so hard— the WTO, the World Bank, and so on— were treated, by the people who run them, as mere tools to be used or tossed aside at will. The elite see themselves personally as the holders of power, and institutions as their means and modes of power. The activists outside the police barricades, by contrast, see the institutions themselves as the problem. The scene from “The Wizard of Oz” comes forcefully to mind; Dorothy and her friends try to figure out some way to deal with the terrifying apparition of Oz, the Great and Powerful, but never notice the little man behind the curtain.

Juxtaposed with:

Consider George Lakey’s fascinating account of the Otpor movement against Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic… One of the tactics Otpor members used to halt police violence against them was to take photos of their wounded and make sure the family members, neighbors, and children of the police got to see them. This was a brilliant bit of magic. The individual human beings who made up that reified abstraction, “the police,” were stripped of that identity by a spell of unnaming, and turned back into neighbors, husbands, children, parents: people who were part of civil society, and subject to its standards and social pressures. That couldn’t have been achieved if Otpor had reified and protested “police brutality,” since that act would have strengthened the reification of police as something other than ordinary members of society.

I know this idea from non-magical people too. (“Those big, powerful corporations have offices and CEOs with addresses.”) But I like having a name for this shift in perspective, and I think I like having a name that triggers dork associations about hobbits and +5 strength against goblins.

Good spells, burning buildings, Alan Moore, Leslie Feinberg.

Alan Moore

I ingested a lot of Alan Moore media when The Watchmen movie came out this month, and I really loved his take on magic (in the sense of spells and incantations, not card tricks) in a interview with Stewart Lee. The magic topic starts at about 5:30 of part three. (Part 1, and part 2 if you want them.)

I suppose the thing with magic is that a lot of it is about writing anyway. “To cast a spell.” That’s a fancy way of saying spelling. Grimoire, the big book of magical secrets. That’s a French way of saying ‘grammar.’ It’s all about language and writing. It’s all about incantation. It’s all about all these things. And so magic, really, it turns out to just be a continuation of the stuff I’ve been doing anyway. Using certain arrangements of words or images to affect people’s consciousness.

I decided to keep that for my multi-year quest about how to communicate. Magick and neo-paganism is a minefield of gender terrorism and cultural appropriation, a bring your own analysis situation. But still, folks who are into magical spells do have a lot of ideas and practice related to speaking intentionally.

After keeping it on my (giant) reading list for years, I finally read Stone Butch Blues recently, and I saved this quote about semi-applicable resources.

I felt as though I was rushing into a burning building to rescue the ideas I needed in my own life.

It’s been a pretty good spell so far— I say it a lot when I’m getting inspired by a book that has a lot of problems and maybe embarrasses or enrages me. It’s good for books written by druids.