Posts filed under ‘Politics/Culture’

Regional/Cultural Divisions in North America

There are various ways people have tried to divide North America based on cultural settlement, economic activity, etc. Though really, the biggest division tends to be between the urban and rural areas! But if you’re curious here are some books, they are in reverse chronological order. I have only read the 9 Nations one. I think what is a lot more useful, would be to research the history and culture of the particular area you live in. (Above link compares these various books)

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (2011) This sounds like it oversimplifies and leaves out a lot about later immigration.

American Colonies: the Settling of North America by Alan Taylor (2001) This one covers all the European colonial powers, so- Dutch, British, French, Spanish. Might be of interest.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (1989) This one really goes into cultural differences between early British settlements, and is definitely on my to-read list!

The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau (1981) I think this has similar problems to the Eleven Nations book

Immigration & Assimilation from European Ethnic to “Whiteness”

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev (this one I have actually read- very good, though depressing!)

Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Special Sorrows: the Diasporic Imaginations of Irish, Polish & Jewish Immigrants in the United States by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants & the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White by David Roediger

**Good White People: the Problem with Middle Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan (this sounds very good!)

After reading  reviews I would NOT recommend these-

Are Italians White? How Race is Made in America- the reviewer notes that the authors only compare Italian-Americans with African-Americans, not with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Latinos or other groups that might have more similarities. It does not take into consideration discrimination that did take place against Italians, and especially Sicilians.

How Jews Became White Folks by Karen Brodkin- apparently the problem with this one is that it does not discuss the background of anti-Semitism in Europe much, and is better at discussing gender issues than racial issues. There are plenty of other books about Jewish American identity & assimilation, so I would look elsewhere.

Note

Please share if you have any opinions on these books or additional ones that may be of interest. There is most certainly *much more* out there to read about various cultural influences in the U.S. and Canada- I am sorting through stuff about European immigration due to my own interests and focus, so this is not to exclude anyone else!

I have started reading “A Different Mirror- A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki which is quite good so far.

Warning- For anyone who reads this, and decides I am “anti-white people”, “racist against white people”, “anti-American” etc. and feels the need to trumpet this, your comments will be deleted.

August 11, 2015 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

I’ll Take Liberal Christians/Jews over Conservative Pagans

One aspect of the “We’re all one Big Happy Pagan Umbrella Community” mentality is that somehow, I’m supposed to feel like I have more in common with conservative-minded Pagans/Heathens/polytheists than with people who share my values but follow other religions.  Here and there I’ve heard of Pagans running for office, and everyone gets all excited. But oh, wait they share none of my values. There was a Pagan in the Tea Party movement who was interviewed a while back. *Shudder*  So then why should I support them? I’m sure the fact that they have minority religious views will all get swept under the rug when its convenient anyway. Pagans of all socio-political stripes have to keep their religion quiet sometimes, but I notice the people who push back the most about promoting “coming out of the broom closet” often make a big deal about how its private, the personal is most certainly not political, and ewww I don’t want to be publicly associated with all those deviant hippie polyamorous Ren-fest dorks! They remind me so much of Andrew Sullivan and other gay conservatives. Be quiet, be discreet, be personal. Don’t scare the straights!

I do try to make friends with or at least be friendly and civil with people whose politics differ from mine. But it seems increasingly difficult as I can’t quite squelch the feeling some people give me that, while they act all nice and polite, it’s nothing personal but yeah, people like me deserve “what we get”, we’re not working hard enough, or acting normal enough, and asking for more is just class warfare, or a way of inconveniencing business owners/employers by demanding “unreasonable” accommodations.  Now I appear white, cisgendered and heterosexual and at least culturally middle class, so they can show me all their true colors while talking about Those Other Scary Poor Brown Queer People/Crazy Feminists/Communists etc.

So yeah serve the gods of capitalism, Ronald Reagan, the Patron Saint of trickle-down economics, the Goddess Ayn Rand and so forth and so on. But when it comes to pick teams, I’m joining up with the people of Sojourners and Tikkun and such. Sadly liberal Christianity and Judaism are in decline- at least institutionally. I’m concerned that non-affiliated liberals may be harder to organize. Pagans sure as hell are!

October 2, 2014 at 12:37 am 5 comments

Remembering Columbine

(This post was going to be about Goth culture, but then it turned into being about Columbine. Well stay tuned for the next post!) I remember when I was in high school, when the Columbine shooting happened. Afterwards there were many panicked attempts to blame various “bad influences” on the teenagers who committed the crimes. Video games! (this is is invoked every time there’s a shooting) Goth culture! Drugs! The Occult! At various schools across the country, dress codes were tightened, specifically targeting “deviant” clothing, make-up, jewelry and accessories.

Rather than urging protection for students against bullying, bullied students were looked upon with suspicion. They must be depressed, troubled youth barely stifling homicidal urges! people thought. So it was one big fun batch of scary things society doesn’t understand and likes to sweep under the rug, all in one! Mental illness! Guns! Odd youth subculture! Misfit teenagers! My high school was mostly Black, in a “bad neighborhood”, full of “bad kids” with “bad parents”. At least, that’s how it would all be portrayed if a shooting had happened there. It would be in the news, but not like Columbine. Besides, my school always had at least one cop stationed there, and constant paranoia about guns being brought in to the school. Columbine shocked not just due to the number of students shot, but also because it was in a Nice Innocent Middle/Upper Class Suburban White town. These were “good kids” from “good families”. Why and How could this have happened?!!!

Newsflash: White people own guns at twice the rates as Blacks and Latinos (granted the shooting happened in 1999, this data is from 2013, but if anything I bet the rates have gone up since then. OMG! Obama’s been elected! Must buy guns!

Also see this helpful graphic of mass shootings: notice almost all are white dudes. Frankly, I suspect in some cases their white privilege (i.e. lack of suspicion towards them compared to co-workers/other students/bystanders of other cultural background) may have actually helped them in carrying out the crimes.  

My point here is not that “white people all suck” (while of course claiming that I’m the exceptionally enlightened white activist hipster that you should totes invite when you re-form the Black Panther Party or something) This is WordPress- not Tumblr, folks!

But I am pointing out the absurdity of lumping everyone with a vaguely similar skin tone together as a monolithic group that all thinks and acts alike. 

 

September 3, 2014 at 1:33 am Leave a comment

Smoking as a Class Issue

Among the conversations I got into with my family while on vacation was some of my relatives expressing befuddlement as they traveled across Montana and Wyoming that OMG, There are Still All These People who smoke? How strange, I mean, *I don’t know anyone who smokes* What decade is this anyway? sorta comments. At some point I pointed out that these days, smoking is something of a class difference. It used to be that smoking was pretty evenly common among every class of people. The smoking rate has gone way down with rising awareness of health risks, social pressure and anti-smoking laws. But it tends to still be higher among working-class and poor people, at least in the U.S. This may seem counter-intuitive considering how expensive smokes can be, but consider this: nicotine is a stimulant- many of these folks are on their feet all day, and smoking gives them a little extra energy. Smoking can relieve stress, and many of them are very over-stressed. Yes middle class people are also often very stressed, but have more options for stress-relieving techniques. They also are more likely to be able to access smoke-quitting programs, alternatives like e-cigs (which have a high upfront cost) therapy etc. Many people who are recovering from alcoholism, addiction or mental illness smoke as a stress reliever. Once again low income= less access to recovery programs/therapy etc. A smoke, a drink or a favorite food that might be seen as comparatively bad uses of money and unhealthy choices are simple pleasures low-income people can access after a hard day (or night). I suspect that if my one uncle who lives on an Indian reservation was present, he probably would’ve backed up some of my reasons. Some of them seem to be acknowledged, but mostly my view was overpowered by White Middle-Class Liberals Know Best self-righteousness.

Now I’m not saying smoking is this great habit that we should all take up. I’m saying that think before you swoop down and condemn “Those People” for being foolish, short-sighted, selfish or whatever for smoking. I was reminded of all this while reading Nornoriel’s post in which he points out that as a coping/stress release technique smoking a couple times a week is not as bad as many people claim. “Vice” taxes on tobacco and liquor don’t really work, and essentially function as regressive taxes that have more of an impact on poor people. Which I suspect, is exactly what they’re intended to do. I wonder what would happen if someone were to propose a special tax on coffee. Everyone would pitch a fit. That’s the “acceptable” vice that people of all classes partake in. Both sleep-deprived office workers and truck drivers alike are dependent on caffeine. It’s a drug that makes you a good productive capitalist worker. Unlike say, marijuana…

 

August 28, 2014 at 2:50 am 2 comments

Gods of Hollywood vs. Gods of Asgard

I wrote the previous post to survey what all is included in the large umbrella category of “Pop Culture Paganism” and what within it I personally find to be of interest. That does not mean I am giving my stamp of approval on every type of PCP-ism that exists and everything that each PC Pagan says or does. That would silly. Heck, even in more specific traditions/organizations I belong to like ADF, I certainly don’t agree with all of my co-religionists on everything and share all their individual beliefs and practices. 

Anyway, Lovemydane brought up an issue that is a major point of contention among the Asatru/Heathen community- the depiction of Thor, Loki, Odin et al. in Marvel comics.  I haven’t read any of the Thor comics or seen any of the movies so I can’t comment on them too directly. However, I do enjoy watching Oh My Goddess! an anime series (based on manga) that draws inspiration from Norse mythology. The main character, Belldandy (Japanese rendering of Verdandi) works for a “Goddess Help Line” which is accidently dialed by Keiichi Morisato, a shy college student. Belldandy appears in his dorm room and tells him that she will grant him any wish he makes. Befuddled by this gorgeous woman claiming to be a goddess, he thinks it’s a joke and wishes that she will stay be his side forever. She stays on Earth, realizing that she has created a contract with him that she is bound to fulfill. Later her sisters, Urd and Skuld show up.

Those of you who are familiar with Norse mythology know these three sisters as the Norns, the powerful Goddesses who decide the fates and  of humans by measuring and cutting the thread of life- and Wyrd. The cosmology of Oh My Goddess! is very different from Norse cosmology, and bears an obvious influence from Christianity- the universe is divided into Heaven, Earth and Hell, Verdandi, Skuld and Urd and others are under the authority of the Allmighty One (Odin- with some Jehovah influences) whereas in Norse myth, there are 9 worlds, and Odin, while powerful cannot determine Wyrd as the Norns can. Likewise, in Greek mythology Zeus is subject to the power of the Fates/Moirae. Watching this anime is just a form of entertainment, a purely secular activity though I find it interesting and fun to compare with what I know of Norse mythology. 

So, what if someone were to watch Oh My Goddess! and decide that they want to worship Belldandy, the character as a goddess. Would that be a problem? Well that depends. If they decided to completely base a religious practice off of the show and manga, it could be a rather unbalanced and shallow practice, because the media are designed to entertain, not to do all the things religions are intended to do. But that would be a problem for that one individual and would not really be anyone else’s business. Now if this person decided that Belldandy was the same as Norse myth Verdandi, and Oh My Goddess! cosmology/laws of the universe trumped Norse mythology, and was more “real”, “valid” and called themselves a Heathen/Asatruar and came into a Heathen forum, or offline in-person blot with all of these ideas, or tried to explain to the public (or just their friends/family) that what they’re doing is actual Heathenry, then yeah. Those would all be major ethical violations of Heathen community norms of piety and hospitality and we would be right to be offended. 

  On the other hand, there some people who initially come across Norse or Greek mythology references in pop culture and get interested in learning about the originals. It might just remain an intellectual/aesthetic interest for them or it might develop into a religious practice. If they come into a forum and mention that their interest was piqued by Hercules, Xena or Marvel comics, we shouldn’t attack them for it, but we should check to make sure they understand the difference. In works of fiction that draw on history, people will often put in a disclaimer that this is a work of fiction and not historically accurate. However they do not have that responsibility with mythology. (This movie not approved by Homer or Snorri Sturlson!) We can be offended when they get our mythology “wrong” but I think it’s better to just see as a different, alternate mythology. 

So if you want to worship a pop culture version of a deity, do you have ethical responsibilities to a community that worships a more traditional form of the deity? (Which you may or may not see as the same being, but they probably don’t) Yes, you do. You have the responsibility to not misrepresent yourself or your religious practice to the general public, the Pagan public and that specific community. As long as you do that, the more traditionally-minded polytheists ought to leave you alone. 

For more on the Marvel Thor issue:

Worse than Breasts & Melanin by Kvasir amongst the Gods

August 15, 2014 at 9:42 pm 1 comment

Looking at Pop Culture Paganism

After writing about how non-traditional deities and spirits may or may not fit within my concept of polytheism, I was curious to learn more about the ways it manifests. Plus as I confront the truth, that really I am not all that culturally Celtic, I need to ask the question what is my culture, and how might I draw from it? 

Myriad Ways of Pop Culture Paganism– Answers from Vanaheim blog-

Pop Culture Paganism may include any of the following:

(I’ve bolded items that I feel open to exploring)

  • Using words and phrases from pop culture in ritual (for instance, “So say we all” instead of “So mote it be”, calling the quarters using Hogwarts Houses, etc.)
  • Using a picture or other representation of a character to represent a traditional deity (ie. using a picture of Yue from CardCaptor Sakura to represent Mani or another moon god, in this case, it was because the character looked like how I pictured Mani)
  • Using fairy tales, Arthurian legends or participating in the Hail Columbia! project in ritual and/or magic (all of these examples are examples of popular culture that is very old being used by modern people)
  • Related to the first, but practicing pop culture magick (as in Taylor Ellwood’s book on the subject, Pop Culture Magick)
  • Creating tools based on pop culture artifacts for use in ritual and/or magick (designing a tarot spread based on a character in a book)
  • Participating in and creating religious organizations/ritual and/or a sacred calendar based on works of fiction (Church of All Worlds, Storm Constantine’s Grimoire Dehara)
  • Traditional deities using pop culture entities in order to communicate with followers
  • Seeing a pop culture entity as an aspect of a traditional deity
  • Working with pop culture entities as archetypes
  • Working with pop culture spirits as egregori or constructs
  • Honouring pop culture entities as deities and/or spirits in their own right (this includes from one’s own work, although some prefer the term “modern culture Paganism” for this practice (Jack of Dreams uses “fictional reconstructionism” for this)

This feels silly but also fun. I feel like I’m taking off the corset of reconstructionism, and I can finally breathe. One of the things I love about paganism is the role that imagination can play in our faith.  

Ideas to explore:

*Jack from English folklore, the Fool as archetype in general (I see Fool distinct from Trickster) Robin Hood (I see him as a folkloric cousin to Fionn Mac Cumhal)

*Finding depictions of deity in pop culture- either explicit or ones that I associate- one idea I saw suggested (in a Llewellyn Witches’ Calendar from the earlier 2000s that I haven’t been able to find since) was Brighid linked with Rosie the Riveter in her blacksmith aspect, and I also thought of Betty Crocker as the hearth aspect. Any ideas for the poet?

*Using a story (from modern fiction, fairy tale, film etc) as a ritual narrative, psychological healing tool (particularly “Girls Underground” stories)

*Research local folklore/history (I’ve been talking about doing that for how long?)

Problems/Issues of Consideration:

*If it’s a live action TV show/movie, I have trouble mentally separating the character from the actor. Not as much of a problem with animation, unless it’s a celebrity voice actor whose character essentially embodies the celebrity. I was thinking about this in relation to Jareth, the Goblin King from Labyrinth, whom I’ve heard is popular with PCPs. Very cool character, easy to connect him up with older faerie lore, but yeah can’t separate him from David Bowie. 

*I’m more comfortable with older things that are out of copyright. It’s not so much concern for getting in trouble for infringement, though depending on what a person did (such as a public ritual) it could be a problem. It’s more that it’s something that exists primarily so some corporation can make money and it will change it as it sees fit.  So one’s personal vision will get screwed with. But with King Arthur & Robin Hood for example, people can do endless new creative things with, and there’s no one actor or depiction that necessarily sticks out in your mind in a way that’s distracting. 

*With stuff that is more recent, I’m more comfortable with things in books or static images than in TV/film. It’s easier to imagine it yourself rather than having the TV/movie version stuck in your head. 

Past posts that are related:

When the Gods Become Real,  Archetypes vs. “Real Gods” 

Snow Queen, Snow MaidenSpirits of WinterJack the English Trickster/Fool

August 15, 2014 at 3:42 am 11 comments

Myth of the Perfect Social Justice Ally

Thanks to the internet, there are lists of “How to Be a Good Ally” directed towards members of many different social advantaged groups: whites, heterosexuals, men, middle/upper class people, able-bodied, neurotypical, and cisgendered (that’s non-transgendered) people. While that’s fine and dandy and many of them do give good advice, I still don’t call myself an ally. There is way too much baggage attached to it, and activism is already hard enough!

There is myth of the perfect ally held among white & class privileged people, and its why I find white anti-racism groups to be hostile to newcomers, certain exceptionally enlightened white people think they can do no wrong and jump on other people when they mess up. Good intentions are no excuse for ignorance, prospective allies are told in every possible type of ism-fighting group. It’s not my responsibility to educate you, use Google if you have a question!

Now, I can understand impatience and distrust from people of various non-dominant groups. Many of them who have fought long and hard in the trenches know there is no magical exceptionally enlightened cadre of white folks, men, heterosexuals etc. I realize as a person with various privileges, I will have to prove myself again and again, and some people will never completely trust me. I don’t blame them. But it is extra hypocritical and annoying to get this from people who have the same privileges- and often more privilege than me. What’s so special about them? They went to the right grad school and studied with Cornell West or Judith Butler? They’re teaching in the South Side of Chicago? They’re good anarchist vegan Buddhists? They betrayed whatever dominant group they belong to, and have suffered mightily for it?  Please. Whatever they’ve done, they too are the product of a racist/classist/everything else-ist society, and they continually need to unlearn that. They’re only one slip-up away from losing that book contract or speaking gig about diversity issues. Gee, that sounded kind of bitter. Yes I admit that maybe I’m a little jealous of career activists. But my point stands- there is no perfect ally!

I suppose if I didn’t belong to any non-dominant/oppressed groups, this empathy would be a lot harder for me. But I know many times, reaching out to non-autistic people, and even autistic people who have a negative Autism Speaks view autism, is hard. I don’t have the luxury of brushing them off and telling them to “just Google it” when they ask me questions that seem ignorant. I try to meet people where they are. Sometimes I get frustrated with people who claim to support people with autism but go about it in (I think) the wrong way.  But I try to set aside my anger and explain how I feel.  And I have to deal with difficulties of communicating with a neurotypical each time I do that.

Every “ism” is different, every person who experiences and benefits in different way from each “ism” is different. We all have our journey we have to take in understanding that. Some people won’t get very far on those journeys, but they won’t even be able to start if we won’t talk to them.

August 8, 2014 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

Older Posts


Calendar

April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Posts by Month

Posts by Category