Nine Noble Virtues
I’ve been seeing a lot of push back lately on the nine noble virtues including dismissals that they are Nazi-ish, racist, homophobic, etc. etc (insert buzzword of the year). I remain confused by the pushback. (There are blogs both pro and con here). It’s as though having any ethical guidelines at all offends some people. Note, they’re not trying to replace them with a different set of values, but rather to negate any values that might in any way constrain or shape their character.(1)
For my readers who aren’t familiar with them, here is the list of the commonly accepted NNV:
Shocking, aren’t they?
These are very Protestant virtues, but examples of them can easily be found in the Havamal and Sagas too. I think they are fitting exemplars for a society in which existence was a constant struggle. If you think that isn’t applicable today, try living below the poverty line. These guidelines are meant to develop a strong character. None of these virtues are objectionable to a reasonable person. Do you really want to be the kind of person without honor? Without courage? Who is incapable of hospitality or personal discipline? The kind of person who lacks fidelity in relationships, or who is incapable of telling the truth or holding to his or her word? The NNV may be simplistic, but they are meant as touchstones to aid in the development of character. Note that they do not tell you how to be courageous, or how to be truthful but one is encouraged to be introspective in discovering this for oneself. I rather like that. It’s not the end of the conversation, but the very beginning. What is truth? What does it mean to me as a devotee of Deity X? How can I cultivate that in my life? Yet, those throwing out these virtues without consideration or without providing an alternative don’t want to have that conversation. To hell with the Socratic method. We don’t need no stinkin’ philosophy here. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Everybody needs philosophy).
Of course, given how pervasive the NNV are within Heathen traditions, it is inevitable that someone holding alt right views will subscribe to them. So do many people holding the opposite. To say that they are racist, is to say that there is something inherently racist about the concept, the abstract ideal of truth or fidelity or hospitality, etc. It also implies that people who are not white, are incapable of upholding these ideals, which is utter nonsense.
Yes, they were created by (depending on your source) the AFA or Odinic Rite. So what? We have space travel because of the work of Nazi scientists. I remember when I found out as a seventh grader, that the US imported Nazi scientists to work on its Manhattan project and later the space program and I was ashamed, horrified, and appalled. I still wrestle with the ethics involved in such a thing. Can good come from evil? Is necessity motivation and justification enough? And that opens up a whole other ethical can of worms. We still use Volkswagens though, and they were made by Nazis too. Same with Hugo Boss and Ford, who was a rampant anti-Semite. By the standards of some of these people, we should be eschewing birth control too because Margaret Sanger was pro eugenics. Strange how the same logic that allows for the dismissal of fairly common virtues doesn’t apply to our technologies. Yet I’ll bet more blood was spilled with the latter.(2) Hell, the internet was made by the US military. Are you cool with the hundreds of thousands of people who have died because of the military industrial complex? If this is a problem, why are you online? Oh wait, I guess one only objects when such things are inconvenient. Convenience allows for a great deal of overlooking I suppose.
I’ve also often seen the NNV condemned as ablest. As someone with physical disability, let me tell you, you need a metric fuck-ton of courage to get through life. Those disabled in some way can fulfill every one of these virtues, otherwise what the detractors of the NNV are actually saying is that disabled people are disabled not only in body but in mind, heart, and character. That’s pretty foul. It’s infantilizing and really quite disrespectful to the struggle of differently abled people in our communities.
We should be encouraged to define the NNV for ourselves in our own lives, with respect to our own relationships with the powers. Or we should be encouraged to come up with our own system and values sustainably within and coherent with our traditions. Either way, character matters and it’s often difficult for people coming from monotheisms where they’re told what to believe and how to act, to encounter a system of ethics that encourages self-reflection and independence. I’d love to see discussions of other philosophies and ethical guidelines but it’s a whole lot easier to criticize and condemn than to create something positive. The NNV are situational guidelines and principles. I would love to see discussions on what it means to have courage in the modern world, what it means with respect to each person’s individual circumstances, what it means to have hospitality, to show hospitality, especially when one is impoverished or in the midst of scarcity. How does the hospitality shown to one’s Gods differ from what one shows to one’s friends or to strangers? Where are those philosophical conversations? Maybe we should all go back to Plato.(3)
- What amuses me the most is the people protesting the NNV often do so on the grounds (in part) that’s not ancient and yet, these are often pop culture pagans. So either antiquity is a valid criterion across the board, or this particular objection is bullshit.
- Not that I expect logical coherence from the pop culture crowd.
- Ironically, I’ve never been a fan of the NNV, because they are simplistic. One has to start somewhere though and it was only after reading The Six Questions of Socrates, that I began to look at them as more than formulaic.
Posted on December 16, 2017, in Heathenry, theology, Uncategorized and tagged Asatru, ethics, Heathenry, Nine Noble Virtues, NNV, Northern tradition, Philosophy, Plato, Socrates, theology, Values, virtue. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.
I have a ritual for gaining insight into the NNV. I write the virtue name on the outside of a tea light and ask ask Tyr to guide my understanding of each. (One a night.). It is my UPG that virtues like this make up the Irminsul, so making Tyr (And Lady Vor And Lady Var) our guides in this.
I despise the Hollywood Viking Heathen view of Courage. It’s so limiting and fake. I also believe Perserverance should be the first virtue we strive to understand, followed by Industriousness, but YMMV.
As for ableism…does no-one read Havamal? Seriously?
So much to unpack here, but forgive me, my hands are still injured.
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Well said. Thank you for calling attention to one of our society’s most deep and dangerous problems- not the NNV specifically, but the rampant anti-values streak in modern society. It’s like some folks definitively eschew defined values as being morally relative until someone does something they don’t like, then they get practically fundamentalist about the few unwritten and unspoken “values” they hold most dear.
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Everyone has ethics and values. Romans have 33 of them – public and private. I fail to understand why this is an issue.
The people who decry Nazis and ablests have ethics and values. They certainly apply these to their work. They are industrious in rooting out Nazis, etc, and persevere in making lists of what blogs to avoid since these blogs promote fascism, racism, etc. They believe they have courage to call out you and others whom they disagree with. They are promoting what they see is the Truth and they are honorable in doing so. They practice self-discipline in doing this. Well, I suppose I could go on.
My point being is that I have no idea what drives these folks to do what they do in pronouncing things fascist, racist, etc. I have a brain injury and believe in being as independent as possible. In fact, in brain rehab, you are encouraged to be as independent as possible. Self-reliance as much as possible. I need assistance in things and cannot be independent in living alone. However, I can solve problems and figure out what I can do, and do it.
I guess there is a lot I don’t understand. But I do understand Romanitas, and practice it daily.
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I clicked on your link. It would appear that one individual seems to be particularly upset with you and your ideas and the whole Heathen approach in general. I have problems with such monomania since it tends to crowd out everything else. I see monomania with the media and various friends over Trump, and don’t see how hyperfocusing on an individual changes anything.
In reading this I am reminded of the Christian homily “God helps those who help themselves.” This is in no way a biblical teaching, yet it is embedded in Christian theology. Why? Because it was a teaching that came from our pre-Christian ancestors. I find much to support the unspoken importance of those NNV in the sagas and lore, not to mention the Havamal. I find little to nothing to discourage the importance of those virtues, only items that might cause a re-arrangement of them in order of relative importance. Those who scoff at these virtues, in my personal real life experience, are also those who fail to live up to those virtues on a regular basis.
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Reading the link it seems that people in the tumblr echo chamber are saying that the NNV are used to justify racist behavior etc… which isn’t quite the same as saying they’re racist values, but a pretty silly assertion nonetheless.
If one is to go down that road, absolutely anything can be used to justify whatever prejudice one may have if they look hard enough.
Another interesting thing is that in said tumblr echo chamber, the same people who get upset that their pop culture UPG isn’t accepted blindly by all who cry about why not accept more modern ideals, then turn around and say that these are too modern. So which is it then??
Basically it’s all about agreeing with them and they’ll twist anything to make it about what suits them.
To be sure, I think that the open prejudices in organizations like the AFA are despicable and there is indeed plenty of racism in the heathen world – but that being said, the NNV in and of themselves are not inherently racist unless someone deliberately interprets it that way – much the same as xtians with their bible.
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The critique’s I come across are often more based on redundancy (how important is it to differentiate between honor and respect, and would’t hospitality be a part of it, things like that) and such. I personally see no added value in this list. The fact that it comes from racialist/racialist friendly sources is troublesome, because it gives credence to the notion that their Heathenry is more original and authentic and that the rest of us are essentially an heresy. Personally, my issue is that its artificial and not Heathen specific (everyone consideres themselves to be honorable for instance) and that, in and of its own, the list simply gives no information on the meaning behind true virtues and their value in real life. An understanding of Wyrd and Orlog helps me a lot more in explaining what is morally just and what not. Doing ”bad” things, even witouth obvious repurcussions, changes (ever so slightly) what kind of person you are, and by extention the nature of whatever groups you are a part off.
I find Honor to be the hardest Virtue to personally define. My only examples are drawn from the Abrahamic faiths (I’m blessed to have the 3A in all branches of my family), or the code of conduct of USAA, USMC, and USN, along with the Janteloven. Tur and the Handmaids have been my lights in the shadow—yet I *still* can’t articulate ‘Honor’ to my hearth-Kin beyond, “Speak loudly against injustice. Don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t give your word (or tie your Wyrd) if you know you can’t meet the challenge—but push against your comfort zone.”
The leader of my Disir Court is blunt on the matter: “Will they kill/enslave/imprison you? Will they unlawfully take your children? If yes, anything goes.”
Most Revered Grandmother is…pragmatic against evil. Surviving both WWs does that. V(Bless and praise her.)
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One enjoyable (though simplistic) way of considering honour for me was ”make sure you are right to be pleased when you look in the mirror”. I do think it is tightly interwoven with reputation.
This may explain some of what is going on with the tmblr people:
http://www.vulture.com/2017/08/the-toxic-drama-of-ya-twitter.html?utm_source=kw&utm_medium=p2&utm_campaign=kw_y_111517_fb7_ad9&kwp_0=605217&kwp_4=2136168&kwp_1=892200 The link is to http://www.vulture.com/2017/08/the-toxic-drame-of-ya-twitter.html.
The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social-media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons — sometimes before anybody’s even read them.
By Kat Rosenfield
Mimi” (not her real name), a teen book blogger with a follower count in the thousands and who describes herself as “a huge fantasy reader,” was among those who had been looking forward to The Black Witch — and she was initially thrilled to see Sinyard, an influential voice in the community, pick up the book. “I was really excited for what she was going to say about it. I thought it was going to be 600 pages of epic-ness,” she says. But her excitement soured when she caught wind of the book’s issues; just reading the sentences collected in Sinyard’s review and Twitter threads was painful, she says: “It hit me really hard. I’m so upset about it. It was very hurtful, and very, like, just harmful and triggering.”
The harm Mimi describes is central to campaigns like the one against The Black Witch, which are almost always waged in the name of protecting vulnerable teens from dangerous ideas. These books, it’s claimed, are hurting children.
Many members of YA Book Twitter have become culture cops, monitoring their peers across multiple platforms for violations. The result is a jumble of dogpiling and dragging, subtweeting and screenshotting, vote-brigading and flagging wars, with accusations of white supremacy on one side and charges of thought-policing moral authoritarianism on the other.
That sort of says it all.
this is such nonsense. makes me want to go out and buy a dozen copies of “the Black Witch” on principle.
It’s interesting that some people think these virtues are classist, considering they have a very working-class feel to them. Meanwhile dominant values in Pagan & related U.S. subcultures tend to be a rebellion against middle-class Protestant style values without replacing them with not much beyond “don’t harm/hurt/oppress” while vaguely defining it and “Thou shalt not judge” Except of course for Those People Over There that don’t follow hippie values. Most values & virtues can be potentially taken to extreme or misused, but that is why they inter-relate with other values/virtues that balance them out, and individuals & communities need to keep working on how to interpret and live by them instead of just reacting against their upbringings. This is why I still read your blog, in spite of many of my fellows. You are thought-provoking and challenge many of my assumptions & beliefs, even if I disagree, I think about *why* I disagree and where my assumptions come from.
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