19 September 2023

Hungry spirit

A word of advice from joint chiefs of stuff <@heyMAKWA>, transcribed against the possible Twitterpocalypse.

hey settlers there's an anishinaabe spirit you regard as a cryptid, you think of it as antlered and very hungry

don't use the name. don't star out the name. don't use the imagery. don't talk about it. nobody can stop you thinking about it, but don't even ask questions about it.

you can sometimes find anishinaabek talking about it or drawing or painting it online. we're not supposed to, traditionally, but there's always someone willing to Go There if it'll upset someone else. we're people.

you can find out a lot if you are critical in how you search, to see who says what, under what circumstances. you can paint a complete mental picture of the nature of it and why we don't talk about it if you strictly avoid settler campfire and cryptid stories.

also i have seen various art created of it, by us, and it is always always reflective of the colonial trauma inflicted on the artist, as they experience it, externalised

to call it a cryptid is a cultural misunderstanding by people fundamentally unwilling to understand it

i'm sitting here trying to figure out a way to talk about not talking about something i am unwilling to and should not describe, like someone attempting to create a shape in the air around an object

there are some things ignorance IS preferable to.

"well why do you all know about it then" because there are modes of thought that need to be ingrained in you, an understanding of your place in the world, social reflexes that need to be understood and internalised, before you can properly understand the horror of their absence.

so pretty please, with a cherry on top, stop using that goddamned word

yes, this IS a sub tweet thread related to a popular settler making a thread about an "Antler Guy" and not deleting it.

if that seemed fun or clever to you it's because you were raised to think of natives as your mascots, and our existence is a theme park for you to play in.

it isn't ill-wishing to tell you there is no amount of stolen sage that can fix that shit, and salt, iron, and hazel will not help you

the curse is coming from inside you and the only safeguard is a set of cultural values you self-evidently do not possess and have no interest in

i am Big Mad about this, cos authors are supposed to check their damn sources, and the only reason for a settler thinking they're an idle expert on this is white supremacy and colonial entitlement.

"ok but you're basically leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for settlers to learn about it by reading anishinaabek accounts" yes, and by urging you to do it with your mouth shut i'm hoping you will absorb just enough ojibwe worldview to understand that we are real and this matters.

this isn't superstition, this is foundational cultural ethics that play out in real and existential ways. there are solid, material reasons for why we treat it like this.

for folks who don't understand how Indigenous ways of knowing are modern: from a sociological perspective, the naming taboo functions as an intensifier on the inhumanity of the act. there is no opportunity to become comfortable with the ideas, so it functions as prophylaxis.

this is not a greater or lesser understanding of community health than talking about spiritual contagion. we still do not have all the answers, but after tens of thousands of years of living here with each other, we have practical solutions for community safety.

it frankly isn't your fuckin business whether we see it as a spirit or a decision, individually or collectively, particularly when you treat it with contempt while letting it run unchecked

"well EYE don't believe in—" ok. i don't care.

"but SUPERSTITION" big talk from someone afraid to look in the mirror after you close your medicine cabinet in case someone appears behind you, clownshoes

12 September 2023

Aziraphale, Crowley, and politics

Spoilers for the streaming series adaptation of Good Omens, and the Sandman storyline A Game Of You

There is a meme image making the rounds showing Aziraphale with the caption “the system is broken and must be fixed” and Crowley with the caption “the system is working exactly as intended and must be dismantled”. In my cultural politics and politics politics, I side with Meme Crowley. But I think the meme badly misunderstands the story of Good Omens and the political questions it raises.

Crowley just does not hold the position attributed to him in the meme. Though we see his stance change over time, he always acts on the assumption that The System cannot be disrupted. In the “present day” of GO2 he wants to personally stand outside The System and pursue what joy and love he can in his own life, and this is integral to the ending.

Considering the flashbacks presented in GO2, I read Crowley as having come to this position having actively rejected the attitude the meme misattributes to him. Maybe he fought in the War In Heaven to destroy The System … or maybe he supported the view often attributed to Satan that The System is fine, the problem is just that the wrong person holds authoritarian power. If the latter, he was on the wrong side; what we see of demons in Good Omens suggests that it is a very good thing that Satan lost the war.

Seeing Crowley as an agent of Hell in S1 and most of the S2 flashbacks, he operates within The System. He often does so by disrupting the exercise of power when that offends his fundamental kindness, yes, but he never disrupts the institutions themselves, even when he finds himself opposed to The System’s core project of The Apocalypse. The end of GO1 has Crowley content to leave Heaven and Hell in place, having successfully prevented them from destroying either the home he enjoys (Earth) or his relationship with Aziraphale.

His experiences trying to act kindly within The System, culminating in the crisis of trying to prevent The Apocalypse, give us the Crowley of the present-day plot of S2, so pessimistic about any complicity with The System that he would rather lose his beloved than enter into complicity again. That is a rejection of The System, yes, but not the same thing as working to alter — much less destroy — The System.

The story of GO2 offers a lot of reasons to think that Crowley is right to not challenge The System. The love between Gabriel & Beelzebub sets them out of The System rather than against it; them walking away without even attempting to alter The System which would keep them apart is our happy ending.

Indeed, the story of GO1&2 gives us a much stronger case for Aziraphale’s choice than one can make for it in our real world. The meme’s “the system is broken and must be fixed” is where he stands. Unlike in our world, in the world of Good Omens there has been one and only one effort to disrupt the cruel logics of The System, and that was through violence at the direction of a Satan whom we can only evaluate indirectly. Again, all of the indirect evidence we have — Hell and the work of the demons — tells us that the guy was a shithead.

Someone needs to take a crack at proper reform, at least once, before tearing everything down!

This grumbling about the meme wound up making me even more excited about the prospect of a GO3.

If we get the GO3 which Gaiman says GO2 was intended to set up, based on the idea he and Pratchett worked out, it seems unmistakable to me that the Gabriel & Beelzebub relationship foreshadows how the GO3 story will have love between Crowley & Aziraphale prove be stronger than The System separating them, just as it was in GO1. But it will have to deliver that differently from Gabriel & Beelzebub, else what’s the point?

GO’s cozy-ness makes it more a Pratchett story than a Gaiman story. Gaiman’s core theme of The World Is Beautiful And Terrible is blunted into Don’t Miss How Beautiful The World Is. That’s not a fault; we will get plenty of Scary Trousers Gaiman from the next season of the Sandman streaming series, if that’s what you want. I don’t know Pratchett as well as I know Gaiman, but I do know that his core theme is Kindness Is The Most Important Thing. It is deep kindness which draws Crowley and Aziraphale together, brings them to redeem each other, and enables them to save the world along the way.

I think this gives us at least three sides of Gaiman in competition with each other to shape whether the implication in GO2 that ending one’s complicity with The System is sufficient gets reïforced or countered.

  1. The Sandman takes the long way around the stories of Dream, Destruction, and countless minor characters to understand why sometimes we can and must just walk away, whatever the cost, to end our complicity with The System.
  2. Good Omens is one of many Gaiman riffs on Paradise Lost, and Gaiman likes to hint at what Milton tried to prove: The System is just beyond human ken, and Lucifer’s seeming rebellion against The System is the hidden truth of how The System is ultimately just … maybe.
  3. There is a thing about the Sandman arc A Game Of You which I think about a lot. There are things in the trans representation in Game which are A Problem, but there is one criticism of it which I flatly reject: when the Moon refuses to accept that Wanda is a woman, the story is not making Wanda’s womanhood incomplete, it is saying fuck The System, the Moon is wrong. To make sure we don’t miss that point it ends the whole story by bringing the wisest and most compassionate being in the Cosmos to ratify who Wanda is. So maybe in GO3 Crowley or Aziraphale or the two of them together will reach past the Moon and tear down Heaven itself.