the four of pentacles - greed, blocked change, smallminded fear

the devil - pessimism, material bondage, hopelessness

the king of wands - creative enthusiasm, leadership, fearlessness

the star - hope, purpose, possibility, trust


in david graeber's 'debt', he suggests that a differentiating feature of european christianity in the middle ages, as opposed to for instance the muslim world, was that in the christian tradition a wealthy merchant could never be moral or truly admirable.

i feel echoes of this in my own life. the idea of an admirable manager, banker, executive, or politician, is completely foreign to my upbringing and culture. i dont know if its american liberalism, or agnostic protestant christianity, or what to call it, but its there in leftist circles as much as it was in my family life growing up. those people are Others who cannot be trusted and are basically doomed morally by their structural position. the only moral route is the abdication of authority.

when youre a member of a healthy community, that community's opinion of you matters. your self-respect and ability to live a happy life are connected directly with the communal good. if you act antisocially, you suffer direct interpersonal consequences.

when you have no community, and no route to moral self-respect, you're enabled to act antisocially. if everyone already hates you, it doesn't matter in the same way if you hurt them. if you've already distanced yourself from moral considerations because youre unable to attain self respect and happiness through that logic, the moral becomes immaterial to you.

i think to the degree that we need categories of people to exist, those people need to have communal respect, a happy, moral life, available to them.

'leadership' and 'management' are fundamentally about responsibility, for yourself and for others. holding responsibility is emotionally taxing work for any moral person. this work, done well, is care work, about taking care of others, about anticipating and attending to their needs.

but our culture masculinizes and depersonalizes this work, destroying the people who do the work while appearing to lift them up. bosses are meant to be cold, market-rational, self interested, unphased by sufferings incurred in the course of business.

more and more im realizing that good caretakers, leaders, producers, managers, politicians, whatever you call them and whatever their precise role, theyre essential parts of the community. the work that i do, historically out of begrudging necessity, to write contracts and bylaws, to chase people down to make sure those contracts and bylaws are things they actually agree with, to make plans, maintain licenses and registrations, handle and distribute finances, coordinate between people, all this work is work im doing so that other people i care about dont have to, and largely in order to make it possible for us to make art together in the way least likely to hurt any of us. im realizing that the people i work with actually appreciate and benefit from it.

i struggle with taking and wielding authority because of a fear of responsibility, of the ability to hurt others, but also because i want to be normal, to live in direct community with others, with mutual respect and love, and because i fear that having authority means being severed from that possibility. i think it might mean that in many circles, because of the culture i live in, but im starting to think it shouldnt mean that, and maybe doesnt have to. im starting to think that finding and maintaining community is a route to wielding authority responsibly.

November 6, 2021