Intermission: The Machine Stops?

We’re introducing this piece by Paul Kingsnorth because it goes into depth on some of the themes we’re trying to address on this blog and in our ‘zines and papers. Namely that the system we’re living under is heading for a major rupture and we need to start thinking about, working towards, and fighting for the better world that we want.

“The Machine,” they exclaimed, “feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine.”

– E. M. Forster, The Machine Stops, 1909

Samhain, in old Ireland, was one of two annual festivals (the other was Beltaine, in May) in which the veil between the world of humans and the otherworld of the Aos sí – the ‘fairies’ in modern parlance – was said to be thin. Fires were lit, and the burial mounds were opened to allow the dead to move freely between the worlds. Some of the neolithic tombs here have portals which are aligned with the rising of the sun on the eve of Samhain – the 31st of October.

Neopagans still take Samhain fairly seriously, but in today’s Ireland the tradition has been almost entirely subsumed by the modern American festival of Halloween. As across much of the Western world, Halloween has moved far from its origins in either Samhain or the Christian festival of All Hallows, and has mutated into a month-long deluge of consumer crap, built around a few Hollywood horror franchises and aimed at getting children to buy as many sweets, pumpkins, plastic witches’ hats, Harry Potter Quidditch broomsticks, inflatable ghost toys and zombie-themed biscuit selections as humanly possible.

Not this year, though. This year, you couldn’t find a cheap, Chinese-made plastic vampire mask in the shops around here for love or money. You couldn’t find much at all, in fact. Usually whole supermarket aisles are decked out with disposable junk destined for the North Pacific gyre, but this year it was mostly noticeable by its absence. This was both strange and uplifting, as if the old spirits had come back to breathe some sanity into what we have made of ourselves.

You can read the rest of this piece by Paul Kingsnorth here

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