Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Disposable People

So guess who's bringing the polemic again?

Over the past few weeks, I've been musing over the nature of community, and more specifically how modern Heathen communities function.

Even *more* specifically, I've been paying special attention to how communities deal with those among their number that are different, or contrary to the general sidu of the community.

Generally speaking, most Heathen communities strive to work on the basis that they're a group of people who are vaguely co-religionists, that also share common values. We often talk about only allowing 'people of quality' into the community, like the community we're talking about is some fancy schmancy gated community in some posh into which no riff-raff shall be admitted.

The reality is that we're actually many separate individuals, couples and groups that are separated by distance. We generally spend more time with those closest to us geographically, but our interactions with the rest of the community are far fewer; perhaps a yearly Thing.

But then there's the internet..

Oh boy, and does it cause trouble!

In person, we can see the person we're talking to, we can see their facial expressions, and body language. We can't just pretend that it's a name on a screen and 'not a real person'. In other words we're far less likely to be dicks to each other, because in person, the consequences for being dicks are far more immediate (not to mention unpleasant!).

But the majority of Heathen interaction - even among established communities - tends to take place online.

This isn't automatically a bad thing, but I think it's been harmful in some ways.

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the concept of the 'Disposable Person'.

So what is the 'Disposable Person'?

We Heathens are community animals, we're also animals to whom reputation and worth mean so much. This isn't a bad thing - after all, it's our way of protecting ourselves against people coming in that would harm the wider community - our way of weeding out the monstrous.

However, have we lost sight of what 'monstrous' really is? Moreover, is this causing us more damage in the long run?

If you spend time around any community, you'll find that some people seem to have far more of a leeway than others, and that a trait that's considered to be far too negative for inclusion in the community in one person is completely overlooked in another. Communities are full of contradictions like that - it's only natural - we're humans, we network, and we're always more likely to overlook when our friends fuck up than people we barely know.

Two traits in particular, which seem to make a person more likely to become one of these 'disposable' people are being anything resembling a Seidr-worker, or being a 'Lokean'.

People that first come to a community claiming to be Seidr workers or discussing related topics tend to be treated in a far more guarded way than those that don't, and will probably find it much harder to even get into a community in the long run. I get it, it can be annoying being told how someone can do all this magic woo woo when you haven't even got a clue what type of person they are in more concrete terms. But often times, people that do this are just *so* damn excited to come across others that might have even the slightest idea of what they're on about. We all want to belong, we all want community, and if people can't find that community with decent folk, then sooner or later the chances are that they'll find it with folk considered to be far less scrupulous and become part of a larger problem. Ironically, more often than not, in the communities that hold the reputations for being more against Seidr, some of the most prominent members are Seidr workers themselves! So what gives? Is it a case of 'Witch Positions Filled: currently not accepting applications from newcomers!'? Or is it just that those people became a part of the community in a time when the pendulum of opinion was slightly less on the 'anti' side of things?

Even worse than being a Seidrworker though, is being a 'Lokean'.

The more I think about the term 'Lokean', the more it annoys the shit out of me. It's an almost henotheistic term (putting aside debates about Loki's alleged godhood for a moment), it implies that Loki is your personal Jesus as opposed to a god you also offer to, or even predominantly offer to. It's like drawing a big fat line between yourself and everyone else, then putting up neon lights with 'LOOK AT ME, I'M DIFFERENT' on them.

Now I'm not saying that if you worship Loki, that you should hide it, that you should crawl into a hole and just disappear - not at all. It's just...is that the entire point of your Heathenry; being a 'Lokean'?

And this is a great point, all of us, both in community and out, 'Lokean' or not, focus on the point of difference rather than commonalities.

Common ground is a great thing, common ground can be built upon, whereas just drawing some big-ass dividing line between two camps does nothing but cause trouble and eventually persecution complexes among the smaller of the two groups. Sooner or later that persecution almost becomes the identifier of the smaller group, their rallying cry, and the romance of the underdog is gained.

When we deal with people that say that they offer to Loki, the instant reactions ranging from long explanations of why people shouldn't offer to Loki, to expletives, are really not helpful. They do nothing for any of us. It is not the place for us to tell others what they do in their own homes. At Things we host, yes, we can stipulate which deities and practices are within keeping with the sidu of the Thing, but we can't tell others what they do in their own halls.

And really, when it comes down to it, should we judge them for their Loki worship before their deeds?

I know a few people that offer to Loki back in Europe, they're friends, and I daresay some of you reading this blog will know some of them too. You'd also probably stand at blot with them and may even call them 'kin'. You know them to be good people, you know that their deeds speak for themselves.

I would love to see a day when the 'Loki thing' is a non-issue. I would love to see someone introduce themselves either in meatspace or online as someone that offers to Loki, and it to be met with something as casual as 'yeah Loki? Not my thing, dude...now kite flying, now you're talking!' . I would love to see those that offer to Loki accepting when it's not someone else's thing and I would love to see people looking for common ground and getting to know each other as people. Mostly, I would love to see certain groups that exploit the lack of acceptance of those that worship Loki lose members, eventually lose popularity and that underdog martyr mystique, and eventually disappear - no longer relevant to anything or anyone.

I would love to see us stop treating others as 'Disposable People'.


An Cúglas Hiberniæ said...

More than a week and no comments?! That's ridiculous. Then let me be the first to thank you for writing this.

You are absolutely right. The community's knee-jerk reactions and quick condemnations have rendered us unable to effectively respond to genuine threats.

I've seen just as much vitriol in the past weeks directed towards Halloran as towards some nameless teenagers hailing Loki in their backyard. The same accusations, the same assertions that "these aren't REAL heathens".

But which of these two situations is actually illegal? Which of these casts all of heathenry in an awful light for the public? Which of these is a genuine threat to our reputation as a whole?

Someone needed to say it, and I'm glad that you did.

Birka said...

I was hoping to provoke at least a dialogue about this, but sadly that wasn't to be.

I'm not angry that people haven't really discussed this post so much, people will do what people will do, but at least I put my position out there. After all, we can only do what's best for ourselves and our families. My husband is of the same mind as I on this, and so that's all there is to it. Hopefully, more people will choose not to participate in the vitriol and maybe look to trying to find more common ground. I'm not saying we'll all join hands and sing Kumbayahs, but if it turns to poo, we can at least say that we'd have given that person a fair shot instead of judging them for one thing about them that we happen not to like.

Steve Conway said...

Great post, Cat.

I have seen way too many discussion threads immediately degenerate into nastiness over the question of Loki.

Many people refuse to participate in online discussions once Loki comes into the conversation. It's easy to see why. Too much drama, too many hard feelings. This one piece of a very large puzzle becomes the only thing that matters to some folks.

As one new to the religion, I am -very- reluctant to jump in. Give me a couple more years of reading and talking about it.