There’s a very interesting post by J. Michael Greer here. Apparently he recognizes the destructiveness of our little self appointed witchfinder general (aka Rhyd) and the damage this shit is doing to our polytheisms. What a delightfully refreshing read.
Our polytheisms will endure. I think this is just a time of separating the wheat from the chaff. #mypolytheism is about adoration of the Gods and the Gods are ever greater than we. They will not be cowed to our smallness. What a glorious time to be a polytheist: we can step up and shape the future of our traditions and make them fertile ground for veneration. Ever and always it will endure.
Edit: There is also a good post from Arch Druid Ian Corrigan here touching on similar themes.
I never, ever thought I’d be writing something supporting the AFA. I’m not a member and I’m not folkish but over the last couple of weeks as more and more people in our communities dogpile on them, I’ve been watching from the side lines growing more and more concerned. Then yesterday, I saw this article and that the not so aptly named Camp Courage had, at the last minute, caved to pressure from HUAR and others who were calling in and refused to honor their contract to host an AFA harvest gathering. The AFA was left scrambling to find a new venue, which I’m told they did. That’s when I decided I had to say something.
Why are more people not up in arms about this? Seriously. Do you not see what is going on?
A group made a statement articulating its values. They never said that they spoke for all of Asatru or Heathenry. They specifically said they don’t monitor what their own members do or how well they adhere to these values. They made a statement about their core values on their own facebook page, to their own members. Whether or not you agree with that statement is beside the point. They have both freedom to speak and freedom to assemble in this country. Moreover, groups and traditions have the right to make decisions about their values and membership. If one doesn’t like the result, well the adult thing to do is to find a group or tradition more suited to one’s own values. That of course, predictably, is not what happened here.
Now, I rather expected the Troth to take a run at them. There’s been long standing tensions between the folkish and universalist camps within Heathenry and they are after all competing for the same demographic. There was never any expectation that the Troth would take the high road. (For the record, I am most adamantly NOT a member of either the Troth or the AFA. I have theological issues with them both). As you can see from the link, they’re not even responding to what the AFA actually said; they’re responding to what they would like us all to believe they said. What I didn’t expect was for everyone else to unthinkingly jump on the outrage brigade with them.
No one seems to have given a thought that this is polytheists attacking another group of polytheists – and not just verbally but with real world consequences; or more troubling, to the long term effects of such behaviors. I am old enough and have been a polytheist long enough to remember when gatherings were kept secret, when groups didn’t post about things, when there was a veil of secrecy over who was doing what and where, and on the way this stifled the growth of our traditions. Is that what we want to go back to?
Those attacking the AFA are doing so thinking that they are perfectly justified in doing so, and may even think they are doing a good thing. After all, these people think differently. They don’t tow the leftist party line. They don’t give a rat’s ass about what HUAR, Rhyd, G&R, tumblr or any other group of people might think. They have to be brought down. Well, it’s the AFA today but I think HUAR and co. are testing the waters, just as they were doing when they tried to brand me a racist for posting a video critical of rape gangs (really people, read my blog and make up your own mind there). They’re doing this to see A) how people react and B) if they can whip the communities up into a frenzy and take down this organization. What’s next? Are they going to go after John Michael Greer because he disagrees with Rhyd? Or will it be some poor group of Dianics who just want to be left to practice their tradition in peace? (I happen to think Dianics are ludicrous but you know what my response is to that? I don’t try to attend their gatherings). Whose livelihood are they going to destroy next? They’ve already managed to get a teacher at Cherry Hill to resign. It’s no longer enough to say “I disagree with their position on X and here’s why,” now the opposition has to be demonized (regardless of what their position actually is, mind you. Let’s call them far right, fascist, racist, homophobic, transphobic insert charged term du jour here). It’s no long enough to have one’s own space, now opposition must be silenced and brought to heel until they confirm ideologically.
Think about that. While you’re patting yourself on the back for protecting diversity, think really hard about that.
Think about who might be next. Think about your own gatherings disrupted because someone doesn’t find you ideologically pure enough. Think about the phone call to your boss outing you as Pagan, Heathen, pseudo fascist (even if you’re not). Rhyd is going around (most recently on John Beckett’s patheos column) talking about how there is no witch hunt from the anarcho-Marxist left. He’ll still be saying that I’m sure, when they come for you
Since this latest imbroglio started with Rhyd and the G&R crowd, I’ve noticed that the terms ‘racist,’ [and ‘fascist’] are being thrown around with less and less care. What started out with Rhyd’s underhanded rhetorical free-for-all is turning into (just as many of us predicted) a witch-hunt. Now, it seems one is a “racist” if one doesn’t agree with Rhyd and his supporters. That is apparently all it takes. Racial bias need play no actual part.
In addition to crying “bullshit,” I want to parse that out a little bit because it’s an incredibly damaging trend, and not particularly damaging to our traditions, mind you, but damaging to the very work of social justice that Rhyd and his buddies purport to want to do. How?
Well, to go back to an argument that we’ve had ad nauseum: words mean things. If we start accusing everyone of being racist (or fascist, or sexist, or any other –ist) every time they disagree with our positions on other matters, those words are going to lose their meaning. When that happens, we will be numb and blind to actual incidents of racism and violence that very much deserve our attention and action. Language shapes our ability to perceive our world accurately. What they’re doing with their unfounded accusations (or founded on nothing save that the person disagrees with them on some other topic) is eliding the meaning of these words and that elision has the power to damage our long term ability to participate in recognizing the types of system inequalities and institutional biases that are so at work in our country and that so make up the fabric of racism in America today.
Basically if everything is racist than nothing is.
Here’s an exemplum to help you: It’s like the incident a few weeks back when college students supposedly got “traumatized” by pro-Trump graffiti. This isn’t trauma. Trauma is having a student suddenly have an abreaction wherein they viscerally relive childhood abuse right in front of you; trauma is a veteran crippled by PTSD, trauma is a survivor of domestic abuse unable to get close to anyone romantically out of fear, trauma is a survivor of rape who wakes up every night screaming, trauma is the mother of a young black child who has to worry about whether or not her kid is going to get shot on the way to school simply because he’s black, trauma is a lot of things larger and smaller in emotional scope than this but what trauma isn’t? Seeing Trump 2016 written in chalk and having a melt down over it. Trauma does not mean seeing something you don’t like and personally disagree with and choosing not to handle it like an adult. That’s not trauma. It’s also not racism. (And before the Rhyd brigade can accuse me of it, let me be clear: I’m in no way a Trump supporter. I find the man vile).
Let me let you in on a little secret: we can have different political beliefs and still behave like decent human beings. Disagreeing does not make us racist. Disagreement in the instances with which we’ve been dealing lately in our communities means that we’ve considered the same material that another person has and we’ve come to a different opinion about the way we’re going to practice our religion and live our life.
Go here and read the comments. This is thoughtful and thought provoking discussion happening. For instance in the comments Eric S. asks a question that I think is quite salient to this current argument:
“That leaves me wondering: how safe will the coming decades be for polytheists, druids, hermeticists, etc.? Is there a possibility that, say, an act of domestic terrorism could get tied to some odinist skinhead group and lead to a crackdown on potential sites of radicalization, and that essays like the one on G&R could inform who winds up on watchlists? Or that, in the event widespread radicalization in the community, the entire occult scene, whether political or not starts looking to outsiders like a hotbed of sedition? One advantage of the pagan community since I’ve been involved has been the fact that the it’s been safe to be public and open, to hold rituals in parks, have public clergy, and so on without worrying about much more than being called silly or getting witnessed to. Do you see it as a possibility that within the next decade or so, we might have to learn to return to the same sort of cultural marginalization and tight-lipped discretion of the ‘60s and ‘70s?”
and likewise commenter “Kevin” notes:
“I’ve read Wildermuth’s article closely, and concur with your assessment. At one point he explicitly endorses the notion of guilt by association, actually using that word as he exhorts the reader to pin the tail on those secret persecutors who have ever read or discussed the works of Julius Evola. It all sounds to me like a game of Spot The Evil Space Lizard.
Even worse than the dubious slipshod logic, there’s something off about his tone, an unpleasant fusion of aggression with paranoia. I hope it doesn’t spread, but fear that your prognostication may prove well-founded.”
Now I don’t agree with everything Greer posited, not even close, (his lumping of polytheisms under the neo-pagan umbrella being first and foremost on that list) but I don’t have to in order to engage with his ideas and in order to appreciate the conversation that it has provoked. Ideas are being discussed and in some cases (thank you Eric S. whoever you are) taken to their most disturbing conclusions, a type of forethinking that seems to be perilously lacking at times in our communities (a failure of fortitude or one of imagination, I don’t know).
and yet if you go here, the second commenter, C. Thompson, says the following
“Now, they’re not even pretending that anymore and are just openly taking racist and right-wing stances along with the most dishonest forms of character assassination I’ve seen in a long time.”
Obliquely (or maybe not so obliquely) accusing Greer (and the rest of us in case you missed it) of being racists. That’s not thought provoking. That’s obscuring the discussion. Show me where that’s happening that doesn’t involve merely disagreeing with Rhyd. I’ve gone over Greer’s article closely and this is a laughable assertion.
[EDIT: C. Thompson has clarified his racist comments here.]
Rhyd and his supporters are attempting to hammer home one narrative of what it means to be a polytheist, devotionally inclined, of what it means to be anything other than aligned with his version of the radical left. They are giving us one narrative into which we must of needs be pressed ,a narrative that, when we attempt to speak for ourselves, says “toe this ideological line or you’re racist, you’re a fascist, you’re a monster.” It no longer matters if any of it is true.
So let me be quite clear: they’re using obfuscation and insinuation (without ever providing examples) to shut down discourse, distract when they’re losing an argument, and besmirch reputations. That is the very definition of a McCarthyite witch-hunt.
Enough of these foofaraws. Stop trying to colonize our religious communities with your oppressive and dictatorial politics. Stop trying to get co-religionists to be suspicious of and hateful towards one another. Stop attacking our traditions and our Gods. Stop making a power and money grab by stirring up endless controversy. Or know that we’ll be here to stop you. And we Heathens don’t back down.
Druid elder and respected environmental activist John Michael Greer has provided some reasoned and well balanced commentary on the situation with G&R and Rhyd:
History shows that when a religion discards its deities, politics fills the void that the gods leave behind. The result does not keep well. Liberal Christianity in the United States made that choice in the 1960s, discarding its faith in the Risen Christ in favor of agnosticism and social-justice activism, which is why churches that dominated the American religious scene in the middle of the 20th century are now selling their buildings, going to part-time unpaid clergy, and facing extinction once the remaining parishioners die off or get bored and wander away. That’s beginning to happen to eclectic Paganism right now.
Read the full article here.
Lucius Helson has a final solution for our Pagan Problems here.
They’re going to have to go to the elders who have so long been abused, get down on their knees and say “I’m sorry for what has happened. I am sorry I didn’t do enough to stop it. But let us try again, together, the right way. With respect for you, and knowledge for me.” And elders are going to have to understand that the days of fame and fortune are over…for now. Their best gifts will not earn them money, but can earn the respect and honor, places of privilege within their own religions traditions. And then, down the line, fortunes may come, because people want solidity in their religions, something unique, fulfilling, and immutable. Practice that, preach that, enforce that, and you will find people come to you much more than they ever have to something homogeneous.
Gods and Radicals blogger C. S. Thompson and his comrades perpetuate racist stereotypes about African Traditional Religions here:
As we were making our introductions, another protester walked by carrying an effigy of Donald Trump, filled with needles and pins like a so-called “voodoo doll.” Surprisingly enough, this led to a debate between two of my comrades over the relative merits of Vodou and Santeria! (Neither of which actually uses this type of magic, but that’s beside the point.) I turned to them and said “whatever gets the job done” and they burst out laughing. That was the end of the debate.
and finally, on account of this and more, Hellenic polytheist Julia Ergane is calling for a boycott of Many Gods West here. I think we can all see why.
I am urging that people of good will and ethics to BOYCOTT the Many Gods West conference. In addition, I also do not TRUST the bona fides of the organizers for this conference. If you already have reservations — cancel them. If you are a presenter — cancel your appearance. People who are enmired in the amount of miasma that these organizers have perpetuated will imbue the conference with it. Do Not be a party to it!
That is all for now, folks.