Dear fellow Trent activists,
It’s as if sometimes the only thing we are aware of is oppression.
When I was studying at Trent, every week, my peers and I in Arthur fiercely resisted oppression. Issues we wrote about ranged from environmental racism and Islamophobia, to Bonnie Patterson’s agenda and neo-liberal structural adjustment programs.
It is still quite disorienting for me as an alumnus today to read the online edition of Arthur, whether the topic is Aramark’s unfair and unaccountable monopoly on food services, or a city council that doesn’t listen to its citizens. And we’re not alone. Similar morality runs thick in Occupy Wall Street memes on Facebook and Reddit, too.
My question then, is this: Is the prospect of transcending the bi-directional war between the queen moralist and her ensemble of slaves worth entertaining?
The most effective response to oppression is to remove the metaphorical mask of the slave and instead wear the mask of the warrior-hero. According to renowned mythologist and scholar Joseph Campbell, all myths of heroism are marked with certain shared features or qualities. A hero typically starts out as an individual emerging from the ordinary world who is called to adventure, and who refuses the call initially, but, nevertheless, meets his or her mentors.
From that point on, heroes and heroines in many ancient myths establish alliances and challenge enemies, have their skills tested, and ultimately return to their homeland with an elixir or boon. This is the sweeping pattern, termed the “Monomyth” by Campbell, and is applicable to the Buddha of East Asia, to Moses of the Torah, to Muhammad of Islam, to the gods of Ancient Greek mythology, and to every cultural legend of indigenous peoples native to every continent around the globe.
Of the thousands of Native American myths available to analyze, to make my point in this article, I am selecting the tale of The Battle of Son of Light and Eagle-Man. The hero in this myth is the Son of Light, who emerges from the Hopi people and is called to rescue his beloved wife who was kidnapped by the villainous Man-Eagle. Embarking on his journey, the hero gains the aid of mythical figures.
The Pino Maidens weave an arrow-proof vest for the Son of Light, Spider Woman uses her magic, and Mole burrows a tunnel up through the mountain upon which the evil Man-Eagle dwells. Man-Eagle awakens upon arrival of the hero, and challenges the Son of Light to a smoking and eating contest. With the help of Mole, the Son of Light successfully reduces Man-Eagle to ashes. Spider Woman resurrects Man-Eagle, who promises to reconcile his evil ways. The Son of Light returns home with his wife.
In this tale, the forces of light overcome the forces of destruction through trickery and human ingenuity. The hero defeats the oppressor with the help of the animal and spirit world. The myth calls for audiences to reconcile the dark sides of our nature.
The sense of transcendence and inspiration felt while holding the Native American trickster close to your heart is not exclusive to scholars on Trent campus. Anyone can be a True Believer in the hero of their choosing.
What’s interesting is that Campbell’s Monomyth is also applicable also to Dorothy Gale of The Wizard of Oz, Frodo of The Hobbit, Simba of The Lion King, and Neo of The Matrix. Now, I’m not suggesting that four of the most elite activists among us dress up as ninjas, don bandanas, and wield swords and nunchucks. Myth isn’t supposed to be taken literally.
What I’m saying instead is that we need to look to myth to inspire us to be heroes in our own mission, in our own historical and political context.
The underdog software freedom social movement of the early 1980s was initially crushed by the beginnings of the Microsoft Empire. Coercion of software monopolies was all-pervasive for decades. However, over time with the rise of the Google search engine and social media syndicates, the balance of power shifted in a revolutionary way.
Today, Google’s Android operating system, which is based on Linux, runs some 70 percent of smartphones globally. Apple’s Macintosh computers, iPhones, and iPads have open source components baked right into their core. Facebook is built on an open-source software stack of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sergey Brin have mounted a heroic assault—much like Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance against Darth Vader and Darth Sidious—to overthrow the villainous monopolistic forces of Microsoft led by Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates.
Invoking Campbell like this, my main point is that, without even realizing it, legions of computer scientists and software engineers, whose job is to do mathematics and program machines all day, are actually participating in the most epic mystical space opera that happens to be unfolding right here on planet Earth.
At Trent, I was taught by some radical professors to see my peers and I as trapped in a claustrophobic cage, caught in a losing class war being waged by an overwhelming constellation of social forces and collective actors. There is indeed an element of truth to these arguments, but as activists, I think we should rid ourselves of our perverse fascination with oppression, and instead, fall in love with the heroes and heroines of our rich mythical traditions.
Now is the perfect opportunity to shed our temporary amnesia and remember what it was like growing up as children being True Believers in the Native American trickster and Luke Skywalker. In doing so, we shall restore a Magickal spiritual order of bliss and paradise.
So be it Jedi scum!