Breaking the Spell

In 1999, the WTO protests in Seattle sparked a whole new wave of mass demonstrations and radical activism in the U.S. Really, the anti-globalization movement had been on the rise for years in other countries around the globe. But on those fateful days in Seattle, the slumbering giant of radical action was reawakened on the streets of America.

In the ensuing months and years, many different commentaries and documentaries emerged about the significance of those events in Seattle. One of these was a cult classic called “Break the Spell” that was embraced by many militant young dissidents for its focus on themes such as police violence and property destructions as a means of insurgent revolutionary action.

I’m not going to examine the movie itself. That would be too easy… 🙂 Instead, I’m going to examine the overall theme of “breaking the spell” – its strengths, its failures, and the future as I see it.

A lot of people who see property destruction at demonstrations don’t understand it. What’s the point of smashing a window, or setting a dumpster on fire? In some cases, these are purely tactical actions that are meant to interfere with police efforts at crowd control, or cause financial harm to an offensive organization. But in other cases, they are attempts at communication – what some would call propaganda of the deed, or what others might call militant performance art.

What are such people trying to communicate? Well, since I’ve never smashed a Starbucks window, I can’t answer this question with any certainty. But since I’ve often contemplated smashing a Starbucks window, and since I’ve spoken with people who have engaged in political property destruction, I feel pretty confident speaking on the subject.

One of the primary goals of such actions may be to “break the spell.” What spell, you ask? The spell of whatever the person is opposing – Capitalism, or Corporate Dominance, or Western Imperialism, or Babylon, or Consensus Reality, or the Matrix. Whatever language you may use to describe the world today, it’s clear that some people have much more power than others, and it’s clear that certain institutions are used to serve that imbalance of power. Especially in “post-industrial” societies such as our own, the people in power create an elaborate façade that holds this power in place.

There’s tremendous inequity and injustice in the world, and tremendous physical, social, economic, psychological, and ecological violence occurring all around us. And yet, the people in power “cast a spell” to conceal this violence. They make flashy TV shows for us to watch, shiny toys for us to play with, and dazzling storefronts for us to shop in, all as a distraction from the harm that is often perpetuated by those very same media conglomerates, manufacturers, and merchants. Since everything looks so nice and shiny, the casual observer walking into a Wal-Mart, or a McDonald’s, or a Starbucks has no way of knowing that anything is wrong. They walk in, get their products, and walk back out in perfect peace and comfort. This allows them to remain either completely oblivious to the harm of the system, or at least completely at ease in pretending that the violence in the world is far removed from their lives.

This façade of corporate beauty and tranquility is a spell – a conscious effort to create an illusion that manipulates the hearts and minds of the people shopping there. The goal of property destruction, then, is often to “break the spell” – to shatter that illusion of comfort and tranquility – as a way of communicating to the people that something is deeply and inherently wrong with the system.

Sometimes this “break the spell” approach works. Corporations work very hard to create a sense of “brand identity” in our minds, so much so that we see their corporation as having a personality and identity of its own. Since that personality exists in many places simultaneously, it seems so powerful and enduring – perhaps even more real to us than our own personalities, or the personalities of the people we know and love. It all seems so spectacular – and then, a black-clad figure emerges from a haze of teargas and lobs a brick at the face of the corporation. That single brick tumbles through air, as if in slow motion, and kisses the glass. The corporate logo shatters with a shrill squeal of breaking glass, tumbling to the concrete as the brick knocks the products on display into disarray. If only for a moment, the spell has been broken. The supposed “brand identity” of the corporation dissolves into a pile of broken glass, and people come to question the underlying system that is no longer hidden behind a shiny corporate logo.

That’s the theory, anyway – and I must admit that it has a certain aesthetic appeal to me. For the right audience, it works brilliantly, demonstrating that the corporation’s brand identity is a façade that often masks very harmful business practices and contributes to the overall inequity of our society and planet.

But for the wrong audience – which is the majority of the U.S. population – this form of action does absolutely nothing to break the spell. In fact, it can be turned around into a means of reinforcing the spell! The glass is broken – and yet, it is quickly replaced. The corporation has been publicly shamed – and yet, the people doing the shaming are painted as violent and irrational. In the end, the corporation may be elevated several notches – its enduring power proven by its quick recovery from such vandalism, and its status as innocent victim proclaimed by all of its supporters (and a few moderate opponents as well).

Property destruction, then, is not a terribly effective means of “breaking the spell.” Non-violent mass demonstrations are significantly more effective – but even they have not yet captured the imagination of the majority of the population in the U.S. How, then can we break the spell in a way that is both in harmony with our goals and strategically effective in achieving them?

I was hoping you’d ask me that!

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers. In fact, I don’t think that anyone has all of the answers. But what I do have is questions – the very questions that may help us to develop more effective means of breaking the spell.

My first question is this: who is our target audience?

Really, I feel that WE are our first and foremost target audience. The people in power have spent trillions of dollars to control us psychologically, socially, economically, and ecologically. How much of that control do we still have internalized in our psyches and our relationships? Before we go around trying to liberate other people from the controlling effects of our society, we first need to liberate ourselves. How do we do this? That’s a good question! I think it varies for each individual and group that’s asking the question. But really, it involves using a combination of consciousness-raising, narrative storytelling, group brainstorming, and direct action. These and other related tactics can cleanse our consciousness of any lingering baggage and demonstrate to us in a very real and compelling way that another world is indeed possible, right here and right now.

Once we’ve started on that, though, we can’t stop there. So who’s next? Ideally, I would see this as our allies in our community – the more moderate individuals who sympathize with some of our critiques, but disagree with others, or are too wrapped up in their own concerns and obligations to focus on taking their own radical action. In order to help them to “break the spell,” we need to understand their perspective and supply them with the tools for changing that perspective. What cultural symbols or ideas speak most powerfully to them? How are these symbols tied into the existing system? How could they possibly be tied into a more equitable, just, peace-loving, and ecologically harmonious system? Maybe for them, our tremendous passion for revolutionary change can only be conveyed on a sleek new website, with shiny pastel colors and flashing “green consumerism” banner ads, coded in the language of flowers, and butterflies, and rainbows, and maybe occasional snippets of slightly dark humor. It may or may not be our first choice in aesthetics – but as long as we’re “breaking the spell” of domination and manipulation by the people in power, do the aesthetic details really matter?

Eventually, we really will have to reach out to people whose perspectives are very different from ours – the people we may currently see as opponents. We’ll have to find ways to “break the spell” for them too. I have ideas about how to do that – but there’ll be plenty of time for that later. In the meantime, our focus is on ourselves and our allies.

How do we go about this work? How do we shift our own consciousness, and the consciousness of our allies, away from the controlling influences of the people in power, and into the new creative expressions of our own reclaimed power?

Good question! To be honest, I don’t really have any answers yet. But at least I’ve raised the right questions, eh? My only suggestion on this final parting point is that we gather together, in groups large and small, to discuss and act on this question. Really, I feel that it’s going to take a combination of many strategies and tactics, including but not limited to street theatre, radical study groups, creative arts, media activism, and beyond. The goal is not only to expel the unwanted influence in our lives, but also to create positive and independent alternatives. Because really, if our thoughts are dominated by fears of black-clad storm troopers and corporate tycoons walking the halls of power, and that’s what all of our songs and stories and dances and actions are about, then we are simply lending power to those archetypes. Instead – once we’ve taken fair time to call out and critique what we oppose – it is essential that we focus as much of our attention and energy as possible on the world that we long to create. Only then, with our heart’s positive visions held clearly in our minds, will be finally be able to take action to “break the spell.”

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Samhain Approaches

As Samhain approaches, I can feel the veil between the worlds thinning…

So what is this “Samhain,” and what does it mean?

Samhain [usually pronounced “sow-in”, with “sow” rhyming with “cow”] is a word that means “end of summer.” The ancient Celts celebrated this time with bonfires and reverence for ancestors, who were believed to be especially present as the final harvest was taken and the land fell into winter. Nowadays, Neo-Pagans and others celebrate it with their own rituals and practices inspired in part by the ancient Celtic observances.

If you want a fuller description of Samhain, though, that’s been done by other people in other places. [such as] In the meantime, though, I’m going to jump straight into my own recent experiences and how I tie them to the themes of Samhain.

In a lot of ways, I’d say that the past several weeks have been utterly crazy. To some extent, that’s the story of my whole life… 🙂 But I think that the most recent wave of intensity arrived when I set out on my journey to Missouri at the end of August.

The Earth Activist Training was an incredible experience for me! I wrote about it a bit on here, but words can’t even begin to describe the significance of that time in my life. I feel very strongly that I’ve been guided on a series of “field trips”… on the one hand, I’ve certainly had my fair share of quirky adventures right here in Southern Illinois, and this place seems to be at the heart of my revolutionary inspiration. But on the other hand, I feel like I’ve been lead by that same intuition to go out into the world on a series of “field trips” or “epic journeys” where I would make specific connections and learn specific information to bring back to my community.

Southern Illinois has a special magic to it that always launches me out into the world only to bring me back home with new experiences under my belt. At first, I was simply following my intuition blindly, not knowing where it would take me. For example, there was what probably qualifies as the first such journey… what sort of madness would lead an extremely socially anxious young man to travel alone to Idaho, meet up with a group of total strangers, and spend the summer in the woods doing forest defense? That’s exactly what I did… and even though it may have seemed strange to an outsider, my intuition on the matter was simply irresistable. I was driven… I knew that I had a place to be, a role to play, and a lesson to bring back home.

Now, even as these field trips have become less frequent, their meaning has become more clear… as more and more of the individual strands fall into place, the tapestry that they’re weaving becomes more clear. It’s a tapestry of love… a tapestry of life… a tapestry of learning… a tapestry of struggle… a tapestry of revolution.

The trip to Missouri was, in a way, the thread that finally pulled the rest together into a tapestry. It happened shortly after the first harvest of the year — and in a way, it was a great harvest of all that I’ve been seeking since this journey began. There were personal components… there were political components… there were ecological components… there were spiritual components… and together, in the space between the worlds, it all started making even more sense than before.

Then, after this massive influx of revolutionary inspiration, I returned to Carbondale just in time for another harvest: my second book. This, too, was a long time in coming, with many threads that had appeared in my life suddenly pulling together. I worked at an almost feverish pace, trying to put all of that inspiration down on paper even as the ideas for my future writings competed for my attention.

After this second harvest, though, I felt a shift in my life once again. It was the coming of Samhain… and even though the days were still warm then, I could already feel the chill setting into my bones.

I feel that this Samhain — perhaps like most Samhains — is a test of my resolve… my faith… my trust in the Earth and its ability to provide for me as I do the work that I need to do. In my latest book, Earth Conscious Revolution, I talk a lot about Shadow work… discovering and facing that inner portion of yourself that you may not currently be comfortable with. This writing is by no means an abstraction on my part… I’ve faced my Shadow on many occassions, and come to know it better than most people know the mask that they wear in their daily lives. I’ve done a lot to let go of my internalized repression… and now that I’ve reawakened some of the parts of myself that have been lost in the Shadows so long, I want to reclaim their power.

But am I ready?

That’s the test of this Samhain for me. I can feel the long-lost power of my repressed vitality returning to me. I feel a tremendous passion… an almost feverish drive to live, to act, to do, to be, to experience, to discover all of the joys and pleasure that have been denied to me by forces internal and external. Some people think of me as the Green Man because of my love of the Earth and my tendency towards forest activism and advocacy… but now, I can show them the full power of the Green Man — gentle, yes, and loving, yes, but also completely and irresistably wild, running naked among the trees and the faeries, filled with love and passion beyond measure, bursting forth with dandelions and moss in every parking lot that would dare restrain his sacred delight and blessed sorrow.

That’s the test, then. Now that my passion is reawakening… now that the power is returning to my body… how am I going to use it? Am I going to truly become the Green Man in the flesh, a loving child of the Earth who serves the Earth Conscious Revolution… or am I going to let it be twisted by my surroundings, turning it into an egoistic desire for more money, more power, more pleasure, regardless of the consequences?

That may seem like a silly question to people who know me well.. EVERYONE knows how peaceful, how gentle, how loving of a soul I am. But if that’s all that you know of me… then how well do you really know me?

We all have a Shadow… each and every one of us, whether or not we choose to recognize it. If we embrace it, it becomes a resource… an old friend, a hidden helper who lends us great strength and inspiration from unseen places. If we deny it… well then, like all things that we ignore, it controls us.

I’ve seen things, both with my own eyes and with my mind’s eye, that no human mind can ever fully comprehend without going mad… in my personal life, and especially in my political work, I’ve caught glimpses of unimagineable horrors. War… genocide… ecocide… torture. Luckily, in my personal life, I’ve managed to keep these things to a minimum. But the empath in me — and the revolutionary in me — has seen so deeply into these places of torment that I’ve felt something deep inside of myself twist and writhe in response to them.

Of course, in the past few years, I’ve learned how to feel empathy for others without letting their suffering or malevolence twist my psyche any further than it has already been twisted. But now that some of the feelings that I’ve suppressed are rising within me, a natural question also arises… which is stronger in me? The will to heal myself and the planet? Or its cruel distortion — the will to seek power for its own sake, and to dish back the anger and hatred that the world has poured into my soul?

In my heart of hearts, I know which will is stronger. I love the Earth without question, without restraint, with a love that no words can describe. But since there is the anger, and the bitterness, and the despair, and the rage, and the hunger for power… the time has come to be tested. The time has come for me to face these issues out in the world rather than in the comfort of my home sanctuary. The time has come for me to pursue my chosen path of Earth activism and advocacy with relentless passion… with tireless inspiration… with an unswerving dedication, no matter what circumstances the world may throw my way.

And so, we come back to the theme of Samhain, the Final Harvest.

After so many years lost in the Fog, it’s finally time for me to harvest what I’ve been dreaming of. It’s finally time for me to live the dream… to devote my entire life to the ecological and social causes that I support. Everything in my life that serves this revolutionary journey is being harvested as we speak, filling my life with renewed inspiration! I feel a strong connection to several friends, and new connections with other kindred spirits are forming… new ideas for my writings, my website, and my public speaking are blossoming… new possibilities are glimmering in a community that has so often felt stagnant and limiting… and in the end, I know in my heart that this new wave of inspiration is what will shine through during the coming new year.

But in the meantime… Samhain approaches, and the Final Harvest is a time of letting go. Letting go of my old fears… my old comforts… my old identities… even some of my old sources of inspiration and hope. The scythe slices, and slices, and slices… cutting away the old year, with many long, cold nights looming between now and the first stirrings of the new year.

So for a while, life will be challenging, especially for a Taurus like me who craves stability and creature comforts. I’m going to have to be creative just to get by… but isn’t that the point?

At around this time last year, I performed what was perhaps the most powerful and most spontaneous ritual of my entire life. I stood at the edge of a cliff — a literal cliff, on a ridgetop here in Southern Illinois — and I felt my own power over my own life. It was very liberating… and in that moment, I knew that deep down, I truly wanted to live as I had never lived before. So I took a big log, channelled all of my life-fearing and life-suppressing energies into it, and hurled it over the edge to its death.

For me, that’s what Samhain is all about — a harvest whose time has finally come. That which is alive is harvested to feed the living, and that which is dead is cut down without hesitation or remorse to make way for the living.

A year ago, I experienced a very powerful harvest on that ridgetop, and during that time in my life. But in a way, it was still largely internal and symbolic. Now, as the wheel makes another turn, the time has come for that harvest to become literal. All of those things in my life that no longer serve my passion for Earth Conscious Revolution will be torn to pieces all around me. It may seem brutal at times… but really, it’s all for the best. Because I can already feel what’s coming when the light returns… even as the nights grow longer, and the winds grow colder, and the Samhain rains sting my flesh, I feel a tremendous burning inside.

It’s the Samhain bonfire… a magical place between the worlds, where the ancestors walk with us, sharing their wisdom, urging us to cast everything that no longer serves us into the flames. And there are times when I resist these changes out of fear and misunderstanding… but in these times, on these long Samhain nights, I call out to Cerridwyn, asking her to chase me down and devour my ego. It’s time to let go of some aspects of life that aren’t working anymore so that I can seek out those that DO work… and if I won’t let go of what needs to be released, then may Cerridwyn chase me down relentlessly until the work is done…

These are challenging times, certainly… both for me, and for the planet as a whole. But our fear, our indecision, our complacency, our tendency to hold onto some last scrap of comfort that no longer serves us, will get us nowhere tonight. For tonight is the night when we must embrace the challenge… tonight is the night when we must actively cast that last scrap of comfort into the flames, knowing that it’s holding us back from the dawn of a new year.

On that note… since Samhain isn’t quite here until October 31, I’ve still got some gathering to do before the hour of the bonfire. I’ll be back again soon to let you know how that goes…

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New Gaia’s Orphans Merchandise

In preparation for the release of Gaia’s Orphans, I’ve created an online shop filled with GO merchandise. Be sure to check it out, and let me know if you have any suggestions or product requests. As the release date approaches, I’ll be adding more products.

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Bush and Hitler

Comparing Bush and Hitler

By, Chuck Jines

In order for someone to compare the policies of Bush to those of Hitler, something like this should be happening…….
September 11, 2001: Bush declares marshal law, and begins to have members of congress arrested and charged with treason.
Bush orders that all Muslims within the contential U.S. be rounded up and brought to designated locations. Trains shuffling past are seen with box cars packed with Muslim men, women and children, headed to a concentration camp just north of Memphis, Tennessee.
Bush takes full authority over the military and declares war against all nations that harbor Muslims. Also, Colin Powel announces to the United Nations that the U.S. intends to utilize the full extent of the Laws of War, by executing all unlawful combatants on sight.
Some special prisoners are taken to a classified locatation in Cuba, where Bush orders our greatest scientists to begin conducting experiments.
Bush wants to know if a human could live with a dogs’ head attached to their body. Scientists begin cutting people’s heads off and sewing dogs’ heads in their place.
Scientists begin to conduct experiments in order to advance interrogation techniques. Gasoline and other chemicals are injected into prisoner’s veins in order to extract information. Human skulls are cut opened on conscious prisoners, without anesthesia, and brain manipulations are applied. Eyes are poked out, tongues and fingers, arms and legs are cut off. Many die of starvation. Generals often come to watch through one-way mirrors.
After rounding up some twelve million Muslims worldwide, a full cabinet meeting is called. All those within the inner circle of the Bush Reich are present to discuss the most efficient process for the extermination of all Muslims. Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell offer a plan that General Tommy Franks has endorsed.
The plan calls for the building of gas chambers and large incinerators at all camps throughout the world. The largest would be constructed at the secret location in Cuba. Building materials would be taken from the countries under Bush’s control. The prisoners themselves would provide the labor for the construction of their own death machines. Bush smiles and orders the plan to be implemented at once.
Afterwards, down in the deepest tunnel of the Pentagon, a Pagan ceremony is held for all the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where they eat human pineal glands, in search of immortality…


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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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