Posts filed under ‘Sociology’

The Online People’s Front of Judea

I’ve been attempting to learn more about various social justice issues by reading about them both with books and online communities. Over the years, since Livejournal, on thru Facebook and Tumblr, I’ve seen an ongoing downward spiral of discourse. While certainly there have long been problems, there’s an increasing amount of nasty games I’ve come to question some of the basic theories and ideologies that I’ve long believed in, such as Critical Race Theory and intersectionality- while still supporting certain aspects such as- yes oppression is bad, human rights are good, oppressions and identities are inter-related and so forth. Reading Will Shetterly’s blog has been very eye-opening. (He’s a science fiction author, a socialist & a Unitarian who’s also wondering what the heck happened to fandom…) I haven’t been following the various sagas with Hugos, Sad Puppies, Gamergate, avoiding them as much as I’ve been able to avoid the Ferguson/Black Lives Matter saga. Maybe I’ll just read an actual Icelandic saga…

Fortunately I have Monty Python to help me make “sense” of human absurdity…

The People’s Front of Judea

What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? (also a good one to post in Pagan groups when someone is complaining about teh Eevil Romans)

The Social Consequences of Everything

Bullshit Privilege Checklists

These are commented on by someone who *actually does think sexism, racism, homophobia etc are Real Things, but points out the problems with some of these checklists. But people still don’t understand irony and sarcasm. It’s also hard to tell, because some people are kind of walking parodies. I came across “bathing privilege” I thought at first this meant to point out that some people have access to running water and baths/showers and some don’t- fair enough, but it was just someone who *chooses to not bathe* whining about how oppressed he was by Western culture. I couldn’t tell it was for real or not. He also mentioned being on the autism spectrum, and I know sensory issues and executive functioning (i.e. Getting Stuff Done/Organized) can often be barriers for many of us when it comes to personal hygiene, but we can learn to work around those problems (sometimes with help) I’m also well aware that American and Japanese culture in particular, have higher standards of personal hygiene than much of the rest of the world (in part due to wealth) and I think a broader range of cleanliness can be reasonable, depending on your social environment.

Someone else has claimed “non-incest privilege” is a thing (you can’t help who you’re attracted to!) for what the .01% of cases in which it’s not abusive? Also the person that informed us all that homophobia and transphobia are ableist terms because clinical phobias are a Real Thing! Now there’s always going to be someone in every movement doing or saying ridiculous things, it’s just way more visible now. Yay internets!

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September 16, 2015 at 2:38 am 1 comment

Pagan/Queer Community comparison

One important thing to remember about the word Pagan is that it’s based on self-identity. Personally I am a supporter of Project Pagan Enough, even at the risk of implying a “Pagan means whatever you want it to mean” stance. My stance is- let’s quit wasting time and energy arguing over who “counts” as Pagan or not.

This reminds me over some of the “who counts and is included?” struggles we’ve had in another of my communities- the GLBTQIA+ which is really a cluster of overlapping communities who work together (or don’t) with varying degrees of success. Gays and lesbians are typically at the center, just as Wiccans and religions that somewhat resemble it tend to be fit the general public’s idea of what “Pagan” means (if they are aware at all!) Likewise, how much a bisexual, and/or a trans person identifies with “GLBT” may depend on how the B and T are actually included. Do asexuals “count”? Are heterosexual cross-dressers, kinky and polyamorous people part of a broader definition of queer? Those are questions that keep arising.

As a board member of a bisexual organization I ask the question- who is it that needs access to our community and movement? The answer is, people with an attraction to more than one gender, regardless of what label they may or may not use. In the broader GLBT community we can ask similar questions- who is being excluded from dominant social norms of sexuality & gender? Whether they have so-called “passing” privilege or not is irrelevant, so are Oppression Olympics.

It is likewise with the loose association of minority religions that band together under the label “Pagan” to gain inclusion in the military, in public schools, prisons, and generally protect their religious rights. Socially and spiritually, we might not have that much in common but we face prejudices in majority Christian, Jewish, Muslim or secular countries. (OK so there’s only one majority Jewish state, but still my point stands!)

I see the folks who privately practice magic & other esoteric practices and identify religiously as Christian, Jewish or secular as being somewhat equivalent to the heterosexual kinky, cross-dressing or poly folks in relation to the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas respectively. Folks in both of these groups tend to face less discrimination than others in the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas, and maybe more prone to identify as allies or not associate at all. Religion and sexual behavior, of course can be totally private things, but in particular situations a person may find their personal practices held against them in a custody battle or a political smear campaign in a way that others may not. On the other hand, if you are a Catholic that practices folk magic & BDSM, you probably will not need to debate over whether to “come out” about these practices to your relatives before your wedding. Yes, some people have BDSM-themed weddings, and some people go around introducing their partners as their masters or bottoms. But this is generally going to be kept more private, as compared with telling people about your partner of the same gender.

Questions to Explore:

What determines whether a person belongs to a minority community? Their self-identity? Their behavior? Their access to privileges or experiences of oppression/discrimination?

How might membership in a religious or sexual minority community differ from that of an ethnic/racial minority community?

Is it easier for some people to reclaim & identify with words with derogatory connotations like queer and pagan?

May 27, 2015 at 2:12 am 4 comments

Cultural Diversity thru Autistic Eyes

One of the reasons I, as a person with white-skin privilege, enjoy and prefer being in culturally diverse environments is because I’m autistic. One of the reasons for this is that, when you are in a culturally diverse setting, everyone’s a little more autistic! That is, since people are coming from different backgrounds, with different social norms and expectations, everyone is going to feel a little awkward, and the shared culture that develops has to be more flexible by necessity in its expectations. I find the diversity functions as a slight “camouflage” to my social oddities. I’m a bit of a “foreigner” within my own culture.

The problem is when teachers and other professionals are teaching socially “normal” behavior, that using eye contact, body language, tones of voice, small talk and so forth are default neurotypical universal human behavior, when in fact they are specifically teaching *white middle class American* neurotypical behavior. When I go to autism conferences and organizations, this is very much the dominant cultural viewpoint, from both teachers, therapists and parents alike. Autism groups are typically about as white (racially & culturally) as the cast of Friends. In terms of training of professionals and education of parents on how to deal with autistic students and adults, this creates a very troubling paradigm for children and adults on the spectrum  and their families who come from other cultural and class backgrounds. Being “color-blind” and “culturally neutral” is a giant joke when the population of special ed teachers and autism therapists is overwhelmingly white (and female for that matter). I strongly support making an active effort to recruit people of diverse cultures into special education, therapy, social work and other professions that work with people with disabilities, not just for shallow skin-deep diversity points, but to actually include and integrate different cultural ways of thinking, learning and ways of being into these very culturally white professions. I also figure families and communities of color care just as much about their disabled members as white folks do, but we don’t hear from their voices enough in the mainstream media or disability-focused media and organizations. That really needs to change!

*There are also differences in how Black, Latino and Native children are labelled and treated, as compared with white and Asian children- I will discuss that further in another post.

December 1, 2014 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment

Wandervogels

Your favorite Pagan social science nerd here enjoys finding political, social, artistic as well as spiritual movements and currents to trace and connect (though sometimes rather tangentially) to modern Paganism. One such that I’ve come across is the Wandervogels (meaning wandering bird) a movement of German youth starting in 1896 that branched off into several organizations that emphasized a return to nature, freedom, independence and adventure and activities such as hiking and camping. Youth of varying political attitudes were involved- some emphasized freedom and individualism, others German national identity, and there were also Jewish youth groups that later developed into Zionist movements. In the wake of the 1929 crash, many youth were jobless and homeless, and some formed gangs for survival. They sported bowler hats with ostentatious ostrich feathers, and had sexual initiation rituals for entering into the gang. (Apparently sometimes homoerotic in nature) After the Third Reich arose, all youth groups outside of Hitler Youth or church-affiliated groups were banned. After World War II ended, some of the organized youth groups were revived, and there is a Wandervogel student group in Japan as well that engages in outdoor activities.

While It is speculated that this may have been an influence on the hippie movement in the United States. My mother-in-law grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota and there they even called hippies wandervogels!

References:

Wikipedia entry (linked above)

Remembering the Wandervogels

November 15, 2014 at 9:29 am 1 comment

A Montana Girl’s Thoughts on Animal Sacrifice

I was born in Montana, and only lived there til I was three, but still have relatives who live out there, as well as in Wyoming. In both Montana & Wyoming, there’s a lot more cattle than humans, and its dry and scrubby out there, so they are beef cattle. Some of these cattle are lucky and get better treatment in how they are raised and slaughtered, others aren’t so lucky and go through great suffering before they end up on your plate.

I also have several uncles who enjoy hunting- both birds, antelope and deer, and an aunt and uncle who were rangers in Yellowstone Park. Like many kids, I got the “oh no, hunting is bad, that mean hunter killed Bambi’s mom!” view, but that was soon corrected. Without hunters, the deer population would outgrow the available food and some of them would starve. Hunting (while following local hunting regulations) is a way to responsibly maintain the natural equilibrium.

I am putting all this personal back story in, because I understand many of my friends and colleagues having spent all their lives in the city or suburbs and their idea of “animals” is- my pet dog/cat/”fur-kid”, meat, milk and eggs that magically appear in the supermarket, and Romanticized Innocent Bambi in the woods threatened by Scary Rednecks. Well, to be fair most people I hang out with aren’t that clueless, but a few of them are. Like my vegetarian friend who refused to use wool, because shearing sheep “is cruel!”. Actually *not shearing sheep and making them suffer through summer heat* is cruel, and I also notice she has plenty of leather shoes and boots. Don’t get me wrong, there are many vegetarians, vegans and people who carefully choose meat that comes from humanely treated animals that think out their lifestyles a lot more carefully and consistently, and I greatly respect them for that. Not everyone is able to be that careful, due to their financial, time and sometimes geographic constraints, but I applaud the efforts of those who try.

Anyway, this is all a long lead-up to a controversy among some Pagans and polytheists over the issue of animal sacrifice. Some people have knee-jerk reactions to it, assuming that it must be cruel, is unnecessary because we can buy meat at the supermarket, and this isn’t the Bad Old Days, we’re modern, civilized people! There are even more messed-up ideas bound up with the assumptions of “civilized vs. savage” but I will set that aside for an additional post. OK so here we go:

1) If you’re vegetarian/vegan, for health, spiritual, bio-ethical and/or environmental reasons, that’s fine, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is people claiming that veg*ism is automatically more ecologically and economically sustainable when this is not always the case, or claiming that it is always ethically or spiritually superior lifestyle, along with sometimes implying that other religions and cultures are inferior to your own. (Likewise, the same sorts of arguments that Everyone Must Be Meat-Eaters, are just as wrong)

2) If you’re concerned about animals being raised and slaughtered humanely, great! So am I! Most meat that you can buy in America or Canada today comes from animals who were treated quite poorly. People who practice slaughter in a religious context should be trained to treat the animal humanely and do so in a way that is sanitary and does not threaten human and other animals’ health. Some polytheist religious leaders (Afro-Caribbean, Heathen, Hellenic), do indeed get this sort of training and insist that others who want to practice animal sacrifice do so as well. Though their worldviews/theologies are different, our Jewish and Muslim neighbors do this in kosher and halal slaughter as well, and have been doing so for thousands of years.

3) If you just don’t believe in the whole concept of sacrifice, that’s also fine- there are plenty of other religions that do not involve sacrifice! Feel free to join them!

4) If you think modern Western societies are not ready to culturally deal with the idea of ritual animal sacrifice taking place in public, you’re probably right! Most polytheists and followers of indigenous religions do not kill cows and chickens in the public square for this reason. There are indeed, many laws and regulations governing slaughter that we need to be aware of. In ADF, blood sacrifice is forbidden in *public rituals*, however this does not preclude what we do in private rituals where everyone understands the reasons and cultural/spiritual context. Similarly, I doubt animal sacrifice will be likely to take place anytime soon in a CUUPs or Unitarian Universalist setting.

5) Even in polytheistic religions that may include animal sacrifice, not everyone is going to feel called to practice it, or be in the right circumstances (city mouse vs. country mouse, issues of health/physical and mental) to practice it. That’s OK, there are plenty of other items we can offer to our Gods, Spirits and Ancestors! If some of our co-religionists are doing this practice with proper training, we can respect the skills and services that they offer to their Gods/Spirits and their community, even if we don’t want to attend their rituals or participate ourselves.

6) For polytheists, Pagans and others who practice hunting and or fishing, this can also take place within a spiritual context. Prayers for beginning the hunt, encountering the animal and killing it can be said, and thanks can be given to the spirit of the animal as well as the spirits and gods of the hunt.

References:

Thracian Exodus- Let us find a better way (or: “we are not the monsters under your bed, I promise”)

The Trouble with Bambi: Walt Disney’s Bambi and the American Vision of Nature

Review: American Dad: “Buck Wild”

October 22, 2014 at 10:26 pm 5 comments

Wait, Which Christianity?

One of the things that drives me nuts that Christians, atheists, Pagans and Pastafarians alike seem to do is to make statements like “Christians believe….”, “Christians think…” “X is a Christian movie/book/musical album/chicken restaurant” “That was very Christian (nice/generous/hospitable) of you” or conversely “Sheesh, now you sound like a Christian (mean, close-minded, prudish), eww”.

Take a step away from that, and remember you are talking about billions of people around the world, and hundreds (maybe thousands) of formal sects and churches, and well as individual people’s idiosyncratic theologies, ethics, and religious and ethical practices.

There is no Generic or Typical Christian, any more than there’s a Generic Human. There’s a huge spectrum of beliefs, practices, cultures, languages included here.  The problem is that everyone seems to have a pre-conceived archetypal “Christian” that they are imagining when they talk about Christianity, whatever form they happen to be most familiar with, raised with etc.

When I lived in Iowa, people who sometimes ask me, “Are you Christian or Catholic?” which I found rather baffling. “Uh, last time I checked Catholics were Christians. But I’m Protestant, Methodist to be specific to answer your question.” I later realized that these questioners were some variety of evangelical who didn’t view Roman Catholics as genuine Christians. Chances are, they didn’t consider me a legit Christian either. Oddly enough, the people who most often come to my door to tell me about God, Jesus and the Bible are either Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons, who often aren’t considered Christians because their beliefs aren’t in line with the Nicene Creed, or whatever other yardstick you’re using.

Since I’m not Christian, it’s not my job to worry about watering down the definition of Christian. To me it’s more of a cultural identifier than a matter of theology.  (Heck, I could say the same of “Pagan”!) What matters me to is determining whether they are the sort of Christian I can have a civil but honest discussion about religion, or the sort of Christian with which I have to keep myself on guard so I don’t set them off like a trigger-happy car alarm. Come to think of it, a lot of Christians actually have to deal with this as well, deciding whether it’s worth it to tell cousin Shelly that in fact, they are not Her Kind of Christian.  I also just can’t relate socially to, and frankly have a lot of trouble respecting on an intellectual level people who never question anything they are taught. Or heck, people who never read or seek out information since they graduated from high school. This is not a class thing- poor people can go to the library!  I politely tolerate them, but that’s as far as it can really go.

What I commonly do is what feels like coming halfway out of the “broom closet” by explaining that I’m Unitarian, without mentioning Paganism, and I talk about that if the person seems open-minded enough and has a long enough attention span (it’s already pushing it by explaining UUism!) Most people tend to think UUism is “Christian enough” for them to not be scared away (though they may not be aware that we let in riff-raff like atheists and pagans!) I wonder if it’s dishonest and cowardly, or if it’s just being pragmatic.

October 22, 2014 at 1:55 am 2 comments

We Need to Create Support for Disgruntled/Frustrated Pagans

I have come to realize that we really need to create support systems (lay-led) for disgruntled, disenchanted, frustrated, lapsed Pagans/polytheists/heathens, people who are considering leaving their religion, or perhaps already have.  We need to do this on a local level. I’ll bet there are *many* Pagans in the Twin Cities area who do not attend events for these sorts of reasons. Once again, though I’m not sure if I want to deal with the drama! I’m also not sure how to advertise such a group or run it. I’ve kept too much of my past bad experiences to myself, because of I’d internalized the “Must Not Make Community Look Bad to Outsiders” mentality which is very creepily cult-like when you think about it. I think the Pagan “community” makes itself look bad the most.
I have spent so much time trying to convince myself that I just need to find the right path, the right community, that I just had bad luck with the wrong people. I have wondered if I should bothering worshipping gods with such crappy followers.
I cannot join another pagan group, try to start one or even really have a healthy solitary practice without working thru these issues.
My partner wants to be supportive of me having a *healthy* spiritual life and community, but if it is mainly something that causes me worry and frustration and putting up with negative people who drag me down, he is discouraging that. Because he loves me.

October 4, 2014 at 12:57 am 1 comment

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