This is my paraphrasing/understanding of the chapter “The Great Caliban” The struggle against the Rebel Body” from Caliban and The Witch; Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici – in the context of Addictions an Alwareness topic
Addictions are a natural and normal part of being human, every individual has addictions. Most of our addictions, especially the ones we see as a problem, take us out of our daily lives and into another space/mind set.
Some are not termed addictions because they forward the aims of capitalist society – like our addictions to oranges, tea, sugar, coffee and chocolate – those particularly because they are based on slave labour. Slavery is OK if it is to provide the cherry on the top of an excellent life style for us in Europe and The States but it is not OK when it is your body fighting against your rational mind.
I believe that the reason we are alive is to learn (how to make ourselves happy) and grow (through learning how), to experience, to be (happy). Learning requires access to knowledge and an awareness of what went before to avoid repeatedly inventing the wheel!
In having an ‘awareness’ of went before, it is important to understand that history is written by the winners. It is in truth HIS story there is no placement of HER within it.
Capitalist society can only exist by exploitation, A capitalist society can never be humanistic. There is room for an adapted form of capitalism within a humanistic society. Because the desire to make profit and be one up or better than ones fellows is also an inherent human trait.
By creating a hierarchical relation between the mind and body 16th and 17th century philosophers developed the theoretical basis for the ‘Mechanical body’ philosophy. “The human body … was (therefore) the first machine developed by capitalism.” The mind must exert will over the machine to focus on serving god and the state. This brilliant idea was formulated by men like Descartes, who for a start firmly believed that the first woman was created from the rib of a man!
This notion of the body as an engine that needs to subdued, controlled, constrained ordered and subjugated to the will is very new. It took over three hundred years battling with words, concepts and the gratuitous use of violence to embed this idea into our psyche. The war began in philosophical texts at end of the 15th century “but only in the second half of the 19th century can we glimpse the (ideal) …worker that personifies the capitalist utopia.
The hatred across Europe in the 16th and 17th century for wage labour, with the notable exceptions of the NL and Sweden was so intense that most preferred to risk the gallows rather than submit. This is marked by the intensification of penalties, particularly those punishing crimes again property, the introduction of bloody laws against vagabonds and huge numbers of executions. In England alone 72,000 people were hung by Henry VIII in the 38 years of his reign.
Before then the body was seen as a receptacle of magical powers. “Nature was viewed as a universe of signs that had to be deciphered, every element – herbs, plants, metals and most of all the human body hid virtues and powers…. a variety of practices were designed to appropriate and bend the secrets and powers of nature to the human will.”
Whether magic is real is immaterial. Magic is a form of power ‘to obtain what is wanted without labouring’. Magic rested upon a concept of space and time totally incompatible with the capitalist work/discipline paradigm. All pre capitalist societies have the same beliefs. Eradicating these practises/beliefs was essential.
As the late British politician Tony Benn reportedly said: “I don’t think people realise how the establishment became established. It simply stole the land and property off the poor, surrounded themselves with weak minded sycophants for protection, gave themselves titles and have been wielding power ever since.” The fathers of capitalism ie the State went to war against the common folk, taking all the common lands into their possession, murdering all and any who went against them, changing laws and all practises that disputed their will and all this with the very willing support of the church.
If this war had never taken place we would see our bodies as magical vessels imbued with wonder.
If we hadn’t completely taken on board the de-consecration, alienation and mechanisation of our body, how would we view the calling of a magical vessel towards an altered state.
Heli St Luce