issue117

Berkeley bites

Conversational Tidbits from the Ave

By Wendy M.A.D. & the Lost Girl-Boys

So, when you need a Tarot reading bad and someone pulls out a Waite deck, and you’re all like, “Great, next are we going to put training wheels on my touring bike?” Like, seriously, get a Thoth deck or go home.

Pro tip: If a woman is cooking something, that does not mean she is cooking it for you.

Some folks are rocking the Jungian archetype thing. That’s cool. You’re channeling mythic figures as part of your performance art, which is also your life. Awesome. What’s not cool is if you’re a white dude and you start acting like Aunt Jemima came to town every time you encounter a black person and, to make matters worse, you loudly bully every black person that comes into your community space in ways that are clearly trying to push them to act like they are in some racist 1950s Disney cartoon. (I wish I was talking about nothing, but there are a couple folks on the scene who seriously do this). News flash: people of color are not your animus. Each one is on their own individual archetypal journey just like you, and pushing them into the role of nature/the familiar is fucked up. If it “seems like” someone keeps falling into that role when around you, try holding space for them to behave otherwise. Jeez!

Oh my god, are those freaking psychics having another conference at their institute downtown? Ugh. Watch out for self-proclaimed “professional psychics”–especially near Milvia Street. If one of them offers to “fix your aura,” what they mean is “Let me buzz around you interacting with my own imaginary constructs for a while until somebody gets hurt.” It’s better not to make eye contact with these folks–for their own protection. If any of them knew even half the real magic going down in Berkeley and the Hills, they’d crap their tighty-whities. After their conference ends, they’ll fly back to Omaha or wherever and pretend Berkeley gave them magic powers and start scamming people. Ugh.

Speaking of posers, am I the only one around here who’s not a huge fan of Starhawk? Sure, she wrote some neat books, but why does she have to piss on L.A.? We need to be doing ecological organizing in L.A., not dismissing them for being “unenlightened” or whatever. Fuck that! Plus, her ridiculous ego-stroking retreats tend to really mess up the organizers that go on them. Enough gurus already. Time for openhearted community connecting. Embrace the ambiguity!

Well okay, actually Thoth decks really aren’t that great for most people. Like, Waite decks (and the myriad of spin offs) are great for normative people with families, jobs, and consistent social lives. Thoth decks, on the other hand, are really only good if you’re doing a reading for a witch or a wizard.

Watch out for polite, inconsiderate people. If you let them into your home, they will trip you up constantly while making you feel guilty about calling their inconsiderate bullshit out. These people tend to think of emotional conflicts in terms of winning and losing, and they intend to win. Ugh. If someone says they excel in “non-violent communication” during a housemate interview, that’s a huge red flag.

Guys complain about getting cock-blocked, but women have to deal with being career-blocked. Queer people too. Like that moment when, in your ostensibly egalitarian co-op house, you realize there is a semi-secret “boy’s night” where all the cis-men go out and drink and ultimately create companies together and increase each other’s wealth, but the cis-ladies and queer folks are totally left out, and are even mansplained to over breakfast about how important it is for cis-men to have their “weekly bonding time” with other cis-men… #careerblocked.

The weird thing about going to Crowley Mass isn’t that you’re watching a naked man and woman having sex on stage. It’s the way you feel about sex afterwards… Almost as if sex isn’t a biggie after all. Almost as if there’s a giant conspiracy to lead everyone to chase after the idea of sex in this aggro/scarcity way, and the Crowley Mass, weirdly, is the one place in this society that isn’t part of a sex cult.

So, just because race doesn’t exist biologically (#RobertSussman) doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist as a cultural thing—which is to say, half the people you meet make weird arbitrary judgments about you based on what they perceive to be racial indicators. Some white people claim “I don’t see race” but that is actually called Colorblind Racism, and is a super racist way of trying to opt out of making changes to our hella racist culture.

So the thing about the Thoth and Waite Decks is they emerged from sexist, racist circumstances, and the material circumstances underlying those –isms are hella embedded in them. That’s the mixed blessing of a good oracle deck: it embeds the cultural milieu from which it arose. A good deck ties the patterns of possibility within the milieu to archetypal figures, so if your reality is consistently sexist and racist, your archetypes will be as well. And once they are established, those archetypes will continue to influence those who are rocking the subconscious flow: our storytellers and elders. It’s a vicious cycle in which our social order is embedded in our stories/magic, which gets embedded into our social order. But which one do you change first?

So, if you are waiting around for someone specific in your life to give you some kind of emotional validation, you’re never going to get it. Your daughter is never going to apologize, your old friend is never going to reconcile about that thing that happened on that road trip. If you’re going to keep people in your life, you have to learn to deal with the fact they aren’t going to see things from your point of view—You’re the only person who lives in your head. Sometimes a conversation with a sparkly stranger can make you think your regular people are all a bunch of assholes, but just remember, that stranger has zero commitment to you, so they can say whatever the hell they want. Think about it.

Being “Up for Whatever” is generally a nice approach to life, but there’s this funny problem because when you tell a person “I’m up for whatever,” sometimes they interpret your words as, “I want to put your dick in my mouth.” Seriously, every community has at least a couple people like that—folks who perceive any ambiguity as an indictor you are flirting with them. **shudder** These people tend to also be serial non-consensual touchers and harassers. — There will always be a drove of bright-eyed new folks entering your space or movement, but if your new people don’t tend to stick around, someone in your group is probably touching, lurking, or stalking the bright-eyed newbs. The best way to judge whether this is happening is to look around at your core membership (people who have been continually on the scene for 3+ years) and if those people are 80% male or more, you’ve probably got a serial consent violator on your hands. It only takes one person like that to scare off (and hella traumatize) 20+ new people a year. Think about it. And when you’re done thinking, act like a real activist and do something about it.

Hey, so right after the election, union organizer Jane McAlevey came to town and gave this awesome talk about how the dude who just got elected President is a classic union buster. Like, everything he did on the campaign trail—pitting people against each other along the lines of race, gender, class, etc—is totally out of the “union busting firm playbook.” These are tried and true ways capitalists use to gain and keep power: get everyone to fight with each other while you take away their benefits and pad your pockets with the profit of their labor. Like, for example: if a group of nurses is trying to organize to demand better pay, the insurance company that runs the hospital will hire a public speaker to come say: “Women don’t need better pay—they need to take a step back and be at home.” A statement like this cleverly divides everyone immediately. Why? Because to some people it sounds like a mere opinion—meaning they feel it is okay to debate about it and discuss it abstractly. But to everyone else who is identified as a woman, a statement like that is not an opinion: it is a deep-seated threat to their autonomy and rights. So then, when the non-threatened party starts talking about the statement in a rapid, detached, abstract way, everyone else flips their shit. Jane’s advice: resolve union busting conflicts immediately. Get the two parties together, face to face, around a table, so they can talk it out and come to an understanding that day. Don’t let people brood, or have it blow it up on the internet. Also, when you hear someone acting as if immigrants and Mexican-Americans and Muslim-Americans are “all worked up over nothing,” seriously sit down and have a conversation with them. Their view is rooted in the fact that they get to have an opinion about certain statements of the administration, rather than have their very sovereignty targeted and threatened by those statements.

So, there is a Collective Tarot Deck that a bunch of folks made in 2012. It’s possible to find a copy if you look hard enough. The collective deck is great because it focuses on the energy that builds and sustains collectives, rather than the bigoted capitalist accumulation model that’s embedded in all that Golden Dawn stuff. The Collective Deck is great because it doesn’t make the mistake of pushing women into emotional labor and/or goddess roles, and men into detached and/or hyper-aggressive roles. And the deck also centers people of color, a lot like Rogue One. The collective deck also has a bunch of serious problems though, in terms of unresolved or over-resolved energy. Like it doesn’t give you a straight, homogenous path for interpretation the way the old racist, patriarchal decks do. Go figure. Maybe once collective culture stabilizes, we’ll see more solid lines of divination emerge.

I recently met someone who’s a professor at one of those new east coast magicscholas where they train people in the use of consensual magic and charms. He’s noted that in his spellcrafting courses, the incantations become more potent with repetition—like, there isn’t any right or wrong answer on the first day of class (he lets students make up all their spells from scratch) but the longer they go on exposing each other to the spells they came up with, the more potent certain spells become. It seems like the spells that become most potent has more to do with the crafter than any sort of authorial pre-ordained mumbo jumbo. But if we’re just drawing magic from anywhere, rather than some authoritative cannon, that would be anarchy!

The moral of the story is: of course magic is real. It’s just more boring than you think. And you still have to do your dishes and deal with creeps!