In 1940, Walter Benjamin wrote, “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ’emergency situation’ in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve.” (thesis 8) It’s a good thing that Pagans and Polytheists have been talking about strengthening their communities and developing defense and solidarity networks, but black and brown people in America have long been living in an “emergency situation.” Obama has deported over 2.5 million undocumented immigrants while in office.
I write this as a devotee of war gods with the purpose of examining various theories about the State’s monopoly of violence, counter-insurgency and warriorship. This essay is written in the aftermath of the killing five police officers during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas July 7 and the killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge July 17, the same city where Alton Sterling was killed July 5. These two targeted attacks have highlighted other incidents in which police officers have been shot. For instance, a man in Oakland is accused of shooting at a police officer July 23, “solely because she was a police sergeant in uniform.” Several law enforcement officers have also been shot and killed while attempting to transfer prisoners or detain individuals: for instance, two courthouse bailiffs in Michigan were killed by an inmate July 11, a Kansas City police captain was killed July 19, and a San Diego police officer was killed July 28.
“One day earlier Benjamin would have got through without any trouble; one day later the people in Marseille would have known that for the time being it was impossible to pass through Spain. Only on that particular day was the catastrophe possible.” – Hannah Arendt
The ‘catastrophe’ that Arendt refers to was the tragic and somewhat mysterious death of Walter Benjamin on the night of September 25, 1940, only hours after crossing the border into Spain in an attempt to escape the Nazis. Although there is some question as to how he actually died, the most accepted version of his death is that he committed suicide by overdosing on morphine in his room at the Francia Hotel in Portbou. At the time of his alleged suicide, Benjamin and his two companions were under police surveillance along with another group of refugees from France. They had arrived in Portbou earlier that evening after hiking over the Pyrenées from occupied France, only to learn that they were being denied entrance into Spain.
“All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.”
On Easter Monday (April 24) of 1916, the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizens’ Army and Cumann na mBan launched an armed insurrection against British rule, seized the General Post Office in Dublin and several other locations, and proclaimed the Irish Republic. The Easter Rising, as the rebellion is now known, was suppressed by the British Army and sixteen of its leaders were executed. One hundred years later, numerous commemorative events have been scheduled in Ireland for Easter Week (Easter Sunday falls on March 27 this year) and following months. I interviewed P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and Morpheus Ravenna, two Polytheists living in the United States who worship gods and heroes of Irish origin, to ask their thoughts about the centennial of the rising. I also contacted two Irish Pagans who I was told had expressed interest in participating in the interview, but as of time of publication, have not yet received responses to my questions.
Five people protesting the police killing of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man, are shot and injured by a group of white men in Minneapolis. A candidate for the United States Presidency says that a database for all Muslims is “certainly something we should start thinking about.” When asked the difference between such an idea and Nazi Germany’s registration of Jews and other minorities, his only reply was, “You tell me, you tell me. Why don’t you tell me.” The same candidate’s white supporters physically attack a black heckler at a rally; the candidate states in an interview, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” In Greece, the neo-fascist political party Golden Dawn, which has no relation to the occult organization, became the third leading party in the country by winning 7% of the vote in the elections this September, approximately 500,000 votes. What do Pagans and Polytheists see when they read the news; when they look at history? Do they see deviations from an inevitable progressive march from animism and polytheism to monotheism to atheism, from savagery to barbarism to civilization?