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Ahir Traajijazeri, or, Skyrim Accidentally Taught me How to Find Joy in Protest · 10:20pm Jun 7th, 2020

About a year ago I left my fimfiction account behind, partially because I was burned out after a less-than-fun response to a particular blog post I'd helped workshop but mostly because it had been a long time coming. I haven't really been following MLP since season five so between the show no longer holding my interest and the general trend of the fan community toward tolerating reactionaries, it felt like it was time to go. I don't regret that decision, but I realized about a year in that I did miss writing for my little audience, even if I'm horribly off-brand for this site. Before, though, I didn't have good enough reason to justify breaking my silence.

Something very exciting happened yesterday, however. Something that made me decide that now, I kind of do.

I went to my first protest yesterday, and it was joyful. And I wanted to talk about that. And to do it, I need to talk about a stupid one-off piece of flavor text from Skyrim.

Yes. Really.

So, the disclaimers first. When I say I was at a protest, I mean I was at an organized march, not at a spontaneous gathering. The march was organized by Black Lives Matter and took place in Jackson, Mississippi. At three PM, we gathered in a large crowd in front of the governor's mansion in downtown Jackson. Once assembled, we marched around the city for a few blocks before circling back and ending where we started, massed in front of the governor's mansion. There were no incidents of police violence against protestors and the most dangerous thing that happened to anyone was that it was 86 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade and that's some hot weather to march in.

I was there with a small group of people, including my partner Cynewulf and some of our mutual friends from the area. We literally passed through a local coffee shop and got smoothies on our way home to cool off. This is the most chill resistance to police brutality I can imagine.

I'm not saying this to condemn riots or violent resistance to police actions, and I'm especially not writing this post to serve as a Bible of "how to do protests right". I am one person who happened to be at one march organized in my local community. I am not here to tell anyone, particularly the people of New York City, Chicago, LA, or Minnesota, how to resist police violence. I am fortunate enough to both be white and to be protesting in a city where it was shockingly unlikely that the police would do anything to nonviolent protestors. Not everyone is that lucky. If you want to show up in my comments today and talk about how violence is always bad mmkay, just don't. I will scrub comments if I have to.

What I want to talk about instead is the surprise of finding joy amidst tragedy through protest.

Right now the the mainstream news coverage of current events can't help but focus on the tragedy and anger of the latest wave of large-scale protests against police brutality. And those are good things to focus on. Anger is a powerful tool in protest. The world is not just, and correcting that injustice sometimes requires that people band together and collectively tell those in power just how angry we are. This is true of the police brutality that black Americans face today, and it was true years ago when a black trans woman violently resisted when police attempted to shut down and dragnet a local gay bar. Stonewall was a riot.

But anger is not all that exists in a protest. Anger is the fuel on the fire, the screaming voice in the back of your head, the thing that motivates you to stand up and begin marching. But anger can just as easily give way to despair. If you lash out against those in power in anger and then are ignored again and again, the experience is demoralizing. Anger is good, but anger is a tool, and not every problem can be solved with one tool.

So instead I want to focus on a moment that happened toward the end of Saturday's rally, when the loudspeakers organizers were addressing the crowd with flipped over to dance music, and, as a crowd of what felt like thousands dispersed slowly back down to a few hundred, dozens of people began dancing in unison.

Yesterday in MIssissippi, in the middle of everything else happening to the world - a pandemic exacerbated by the repeated failures of the Chinese and US governments to address it, the continued allowance in our country for armed policemen to murder citizens with little accountability or oversight, the looming possibility of environmental disaster brought on by climate change, despite everything - people found joy.

You're probably wondering what any of this has to do with Skyrim.

Skyrim is a pretty janky video game, but it's precisely because of its jank that I love it. It's a mish-mash of parts that only barely fit together and occasionally work to create something beautiful never intended by the developers. Among its lavish features are several in-universe novels which can be found and read by the player. Some of these are very good. Most are not. My favorite is the Ahir Traajijazeri, a book that serves no in-game purpose and which in fact was brought over from a previous Elder Scrolls title.

In-universe the Ahir is a manifesto for a revolutionary militia operating in Elsweyr, the home of the sentient cat-people known as khajit. It describes the group's motivations, military doctrines, ultimate goals, and philosophy. And if you know anything about Skyrim's lore, you can probably sympathize a little with them - I won't go into the details because they're not important, but suffice to say if you're a khajit who happens to know anything about astronomy, you probably aren't a big fan of either the Empire of Cyrodil or the Altmeri Dominion, and we'll leave it at that.

The bit that always got me in this book is the fourth precept of this sect:

3. "Fusozay Var Var": "Enjoy Life"

Life is short. If you have not made love recently, please, put down this book, and take care of that with all haste. Find a wanton lass or a frisky lad, or several, in whatever combination your wise loins direct, and do not under any circumstances play hard to get. Our struggle against the colossal forces of oppression can wait.

Good. Welcome back.

We Renrijra Krin live and fight together, and know that Leyawiin and the Empire will not give way very soon, likely not in our lifetimes. In the time we have, we do not want our closest comrades to be dour, dull, colorless, sober, and virginal. If we did, we would have joined the Emperor's Blades.

Do not begrudge us our lewd jokes, our bawdy, drunken nights, our moonsugar. They are the pleasures that Leyawiin denies us, and so we take our good humor very seriously.

Ignoring the rest of the manifesto, something always struck me about these lines. The fictional author of Ahir is presenting the simple act of taking pleasure in living your life as being, in a sense, an act of revolution. Your time is short, and your enemy is powerful, and you may not win today or even in your lifetime. But instead of giving up, the solution presented is to take joy in living, to not forsake pleasure but to turn your pleasure into one more act of rebellion.

Until yesterday, I had never been at a large-scale protest before in my life. The Ahir - and I really doubt the author of this weird flavor text book about revolutionary cat-people intended this - made me want to. It's so easy to let yourself be overwhelmed with the thought of whether this or that change can ever be accomplished in your lifetime, whether this or that victory will be rolled back. But if you can find joy even in the middle of that struggle, it won't matter. Even if future generations have to complete the work you start, your life won't have been meaningless or dull. You will have felt joy in the middle of awfulness.

When I was a kid, my mental image of socialist protests felt a bit like old black and white photographs - sad, angry white people, probably Russians, standing in a straight line. I was taught to think of leftist protest as being either an act of extreme and impotent violence, or an act of extreme mundanity and sorrow. Socialist revolution as either violent authoritarian bloodbath or as soul-destroying banality.

As I got older I learned that my mental image of such movements may or may not have been dictated by my upbringing. After all, i did learn about history in one of the largest and most culturally dominant capitalist economies in the world. And while I'm still not a big fan of the old Soviet Union - tankies please check yourselves at the door - I realized that the narrative I'd internalized was still a bit skewed.

But it's one thing to realize on an intellectual level that something isn't true, and another to realize it on an emotional level.

Sometimes good praxis as a leftie, or even as a person who just happens to believe that the police shouldn't be allowed to kill people without repercussions, is going to be to burn down the police station. It might suck that people are pushed to these extremes but hey, slavery sucked a hell of a lot harder and we didn't stop doing that until it became politically convenient to emancipate a bunch of slaves during the last days of a civil war. Welcome to the real world, historical trauma doesn't just undo itself without time and effort to wash away the blood, and we are a long way off from that final reconciliation.

But sometimes good praxis is smiling in the sunshine of a ninety-degree day in MIssissippi as a crowd of black, brown, and white people dance to hip-hop music in front of the governor's mansion.

One final note - a long time ago, one of my fans asked me if I had a patreon. I don't, and I'm not about to start one now given I don't know how long I'll be back for, or in what capacity. But given I've never asked for money for myself, I feel like now's also a great time to ask for money for other people.

First, I want to talk about Cooperation Jackson. They're a local leftist group dedicated to getting people food, housing, and jobs that don't suck by helping people - particularly black and Latino communities - to start sustainable worker-owned democratic businesses. I want to encourage people to send funding their way for two reasons. The first is that Tate Reeves, governor of Mississippi, recently complained about "outside anarchist agitators" causing violence at protests, and I wanted to point out that him doing that is particularly hilarious given most of the anarchists at yesterday's event were 1) local and 2) committed to nonviolent social programs that probably help more people than Reeves ever has. The second is that Co-Op Jackson are super fucking cool and more people should know about them. Click here to donate.

Second, the organization Cyne and I showed out to support yesterday. Black Lives Matter is one of the best-organized and most influential groups in America right now, and their continued struggle to end police brutality is something everyone, black, white, or otherwise, should care about. If you support not giving cops the right to kill unarmed citizens, please give them some money today and maybe consider showing up to a local demonstration the next time one is happening in your area.

Third, rather than requesting a donation, I'd like to ask folks to read over the website for 8 to Abolition, including their proposed eight steps to decrease the power of police and policing in America (and elsewhere). If you are curious right now about the motivation and goals of folks who want to abolish the police - including yours truly - 8 to Abolition provides crucial insight into both the ideological reasons to reduce or eliminate the police as well as a set of clear policy goals built to facilitate the process.

Anyway, um...

Hi, guess I'm back now? Thanks for reading. See you all on the flip side.

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Comments ( 22 )

This is good. (I do wish I could favorite or upvote blogs! But I guess the fact that I can't encourages me to comment instead.)

I have little money to spare, and given there has been police violence in response to protests in my city, I feel...a little too anxious, and a little too bound to my obligations (the goober child would miss me if I were in jail!) to be out in the streets. But small things help all the same.

And small joys help too. I have actually been, er, doing my part to lift spirits, or perhaps other body parts the last couple of days? By posting a gay smut book I'd formerly published for sale up everywhere for free. :3 I dunno if that's the right response to the moment, but it's the one I had. "My day sucks, the world sucks, something should not suck (or suck in the good way), let's post smut."

Human beings are odd creatures.

Wonderful to have you back for however long you want to stay. Thanks for the protest story and the inspirational bit of freedom-fighting cat person advice that led you to it. :twilightsmile:

They also serve who stay and smut

You helped me feel safer and more stable this week which helped me keep scarlet calm so that’s one thing you did. I’m not sure how good we woulda been that morning without our friends during the week!

It's great to see a blog post from you again. Fimfiction may not be the most savory environment, but your blogs were always a bright spot for me, and I always seem to find an idea or two to really ponder in them.

Thanks for the story, and especially the link to 8 to Abolition. There's been so much information to parse through this past week that that particular campaign slightly slipped past me. As someone who doesn't live in America and with some, but not much, money to donate, I really appreciate the amplification.

On a lighter note, the Elder Scrolls games are odd collections of writing. So much of what's in the foreground is cliche and boring while bits of background lore and flavour are imaginative and witty. I suppose that's true of most RPGs, but TES games are so vast that the contrast is starker than usual. It must be an interesting writing challenge, to effectively write a hundred or so short stories that each represent an entire book that all fit into the same fictional universe.

R5h #5 · Jun 8th, 2020 · · ·

This was an awesome post. I agree: protests can be incredibly joy inducing! And I'm grateful for your donation links.

Black lives matter, and fascism is for losers.

I also went to my first protest today, in the park near where I live. For Black Lives Matter, and the first speaker on the stage was actually a woman who runs a tea shop right next to my office.

It's good to hear from you, I'm glad you're doing well :twilightsmile:
Thanks for the reminder that I really need to play Skyrim one of these days.
While you're protesting, be careful of Covid. It hasn't gone away, and the Trump creature would love nothing more than a second outbreak among his political enemies. Also, whilst I'm here: fuck Trump.

Sure, Fimfiction might have far more shitty reactionaries than we like, but it also has beautiful people like you. Welcome back, comrade. Be gay, do crime, and let’s make this world a better place. :heart:

Look, I agree with you, but "abolish cops"??? I really don't know how society is going to live without cops.

I mean, sure, the one time I got mugged the cops blamed me for looking too much like a victim. And the time someone nearly murdered me, the guy who did it got off with a written apology. And sure, every time I'm in a car that gets pulled over and there's a handgun at eye level I wonder if this is how I die.

And, sure, maybe I have an austistic friend whose right collarbone is made of titanium now because he didn't understand how to follow orders and 'resisted arrest' when false charges were made against him.

But if we abolished cops in our lives, who would be the monsters in my horror stories for adults?

Protests are kind of like block parties except you don't have to stop when the cops show up

Thanks for the sage advice! Don't worry, literally everyone at the event had PPE and hand sanitizer and organizers were handing it out to anyone who didn't. There's no way to do a mass demonstration 100% safely, but some things are important enough to get out there and take risks for.

...Also it's disproportionately black folks dying right now from Covid-19 for a variety of reasons even before the protests and the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to use the fed's ability to requisition medical supplies to send awards to his cronies and deny them to states where he's unpopular, so yeah I think that outbreak's been happening this whole time. I don't wanna get too wrapped up in blaming Trump for problems that have been endemic to our country for a very long time, but he is a particularly petty sort of tyrant when it comes to this.

Look, pal, the cops are our best friends and social order needs 'em to survive, right? When a homeless guy falls asleep in a park someone needs to go out and kick his shit in and lock him in the drunk tank, going to prison is objectively safer than being in that park and anyway he needs the incentive to go out and make something of his life. And who else is going to literally illegally camp outside our neighborhood trying to dragnet everyone?


"Mum! The cops are hogging all the unions and they won't give it back!"

"Shut up, Labour, you had your turn!"

"No I didn't! Ow! Ow! Stop it!"

I'm glad to hear that you have found that joy in protesting. I cannot imagine going to a protest that is not full of hope and joy, from a simple thinglike a banner drop at 5 am on a bridge, to the more festive and colorful joy of dancing in the streets. There is a joy and a hope in a revolution.
Don't loose that flamme.

Also, violence IS bad, that's why we denounce it right? It's just that sadly, sometime it is a necessary tool.

Violence is never what we strive for. Violence is never and should never be the ends, it is a means at best and even then a means that should be applied surgically whenever possible. But I don't think I can really say that violence is always "bad". Violence with the aim of subjugation is bad. Violence without a cause is bad. But too many people have won their rights in riots and fire and blood for me to be comfortable saying that violence with the aim of liberation is bad. I'm not a particularly committed pacifist these days, even though I'm also aware that I'm incredibly unlikely to be called on to perform violence (and I find violence scary, like most people).

I'm not as familiar with the old guard of anarchist theory as I'd like to be - like, I do not have a coherent take on Proudhon - but Tolstoy's commitment to non-violent resistance, for instance, had a pragmatic dimension as well as a moral one. If you escalate violence, what will you do when your enemy - who is better armed and equipped - retaliates and escalates? It's a good question.

Of course, the opposite - nonviolent resistance - is not really effective if your enemy can continuously justify violence at you. And in circumstances like that, I can't blame anyone who decided about the time that cops started opening fire with rubber bullets and tear gas that if the police are going to treat people like a military enemy, we may as well start fighting back.


Obviously the police cannot continue as they are: if the past week has hammered home nothing else, it's that, when push comes to shove (sadly literally), the cops are little more than legally sanctioned thugs and toughs, happy to throw their weight around with little thought for legality, restraint or oversight, even when being filmed by multiple people.

They have a long history of abusing any new power given to them (the lockdown has been an extended Christmas for British cops, and they've been happily harassing BAME people to an even greater extent than usual; my Indian partner refuses to step out of door save for work), further, most reported crime goes uninvestigated. Ours are a step up from the Americans in that they don't generally carry guns. This makes it rather less likely, but not impossible, that they will murder someone in a fit of trigger-happy racism.

That said, the issue with removing the police is what to set up in their place. If one were to merely remove them, the resulting power vacuum would be rapidly filled by the private sector and organised crime in the form of private security firms, bodyguards and protection rackets, with little meaningful oversight. A wet dream if you're a rich libertarian in a gated community, but I wouldn't want to live in that world, and I doubt it would improve the lot BAME people.

Some might argue that allowing the wealthy and powerful to simply hire their own gangs of thugs with which to maintain the status quo and harass the lower classes into compliance would differ from the current situation only in terms of it's honesty. I however, believe we can do a lot better than that. I will be monitoring the situation in Minneapolis with interest.

Something has to change. The question is on the how's and whyfores.

I'm sadly not very familiar with the classics either, my anarchist education is mostly from book lent to me during my early college years and were all recent. But that point about escalation (and it's corolary, sometime de-escalation does work) is kind of why I am still a pacifist, although I also recognise that leaving the monopoly of violence to those who would abuse it is dangerous.
I don't have an easy answer to that, or even one at all.

In the end, one thing I was taught early on during the mass student protest we had here in 2012, is that you should respect the diversity of tactics in a movement: we all aim towards the same thing and you won't ear me condemn people for being angry at injustice. At worst I will be disapointed that they lashed out on people who did not deserve it, but condemn? I don't like violence, but I guess turning the other cheek has it's limit.
If some people decided to draw a line there, I will not say they are wrong to draw it there. I am lucky to be a white man in a relatively safe and peaceful country, I can understand where the anger is coming from, but I have not been in their shoes, who am I to judge?
It would take much much worse from protestor to see me not back them up. And much much better from the authorities.

I recommend reading 8 to Abolition's website if you're curious about what their idea of a post-policing world looks like. The tl;dr is that defunding the police doesn't just look like abolishing police forces, it looks like massively rolling back and limiting private security as well. Cops owned by an individual are still cops. 8 to Abolition recommends the total disarmament of all security, public or private, as well as strong investment in bodies of care.

It's hard to remember now, but police didn't always exist as an institution, and virtually everything that we now do with police has multiple other bodies of individuals who can do that job with less coercive violence.

Besides that, honestly, if you replaced police with private security then the biggest thing that happens in that switch is that suddenly the special bodies of armed men patrolling your community no longer have qualified immunity or sweeping legal protection and authority.

The fictional author of Ahir is presenting the simple act of taking pleasure in living your life as being, in a sense, an act of revolution. Your time is short, and your enemy is powerful, and you may not win today or even in your lifetime. But instead of giving up, the solution presented is to take joy in living, to not forsake pleasure but to turn your pleasure into one more act of rebellion.

This was literally the primary motivator for the Free Love movement back in the 1950s. (People tend to think it started with the 1960s with the hippies; but they came to it rather late. It's modern incarnation actually predated them by a decade or so, and was mostly started by the Beats; although technically its origins go back even farther than that, to the 18th and 19th century Utopian movements). Pleasure as an act of revolution against the sexually-repressive mainstream culture. Sex, Drugs, and Rock-and-Roll was a revolutionary slogan and lifestyle.

Also, welcome back (even if only temporarily). :pinkiehappy:

It's great to see you blogging on here again!

Yeah, it can absolutely feel shitty being a lefty if you're alone in it, but when you're out with others who share the shame belief in wanting to make the world a better place, it can feel liberating.

Over the past year I've been part of an anarcho-communist discord server that's actually made me feel good about my beliefs, and has made me feel like I could enjoy being who I am as opposed to constantly worrying if people would look down at me for being too 'extreme'.

If you lash out against those in power in anger and then are ignored again and again, the experience is demoralizing.

- yeah, THIS ...

It's so easy to let yourself be overwhelmed with the thought of whether this or that change can ever be accomplished in your lifetime, whether this or that victory will be rolled back.

- yeah, THIS ^2 ....

Well, thanks for writing this, I think I watched few videoclips lately {checked, it was at may, 7, 2020}, official promo videos about Overwatch, and was thinking 'Meh, IF ONLY all this scree-space heroism was able to infiltrate our real world - we already need more of it, not shooting thing, but doing some resisatnce to authority and resistance to those past/useful/familiar dogmas ...".

Nice to see it worked in your case.


doing my part to lift spirits, or perhaps other body parts the last couple of days?

- THIS definitely lifted my spirit for all this time I was walking with my dog Grey ... inbetween reading those blog/comments, of course

Author Interviewer

I'm glad I thought to come sniffing back around this page. Welcome back. :)

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