Posts tagged ‘poverty’

More Solstice Shopping Ideas, and a Rant

My fellow bloggers have come out with some of their own shopping guides here’s a list-

Of Thespiae- Solstice/Boeotian New Year Shopping Guide

Serpent’s Labyrinth- Independent Store Recs

Raise the Horns- Pagan Things Made by Pagans for Pagans

In addition to Ruadhan’s Boeotian calendar- here’s an Anglo-Saxon one

Wild Hunt- Winter Solstice Gift Guide

Several people have given Cara Schulz crap for writing this on Black Friday or criticized it having too much mainstream stuff on it. Still I thought it was a pretty good list, even if I’m not spending much myself this year or any year- how many Pagans do I need to buy gifts for? Not very many! Mainly what I will be probably doing this year is making copies of family photos to distribute. Not sure what to get the in-laws- they have 2 of everything they could possibly need.

I don’t need any more freaking lectures about the Evils of Consumerism & Capitalism. I was raised by hippies- I knew about Buy Nothing Day before Black Friday. My UU church even has a Black Friday service protesting consumerism. I’ve worked retail in the past, hoping I won’t have to in the future, and am definitely on board with the movements to unionize/raise wages and just generally treat the peasants of Walmart, McDonald’s et al. like real human beings. I am trying to get over depression, which I’ve been struggling with for the past year, and get my butt in gear to look for job, and finish learning to drive so I can get my license. My fiance bought a second car, thereby freeing up the old one for me. Those are our Yule presents this year. Before you call us wicked planet destroyers, remember I’ve been a non-driver all this time (age 32)  and while the public transit system is pretty good in the Twin Cities, it does create major barriers to employment. It’s my stubborn streak of left-wing idealism & counterculturalism that holds me back from achieving my goals, and this is continually reinforced by hanging around Pagans. Doesn’t mean I’ll give up on hanging with Pagans but I am trying to fend off the toxic messages. The ghetto mentality. The stick it to the Man mentality. I don’t judge other Pagans who live in poverty, esp. due to disability etc. While I disagree about Sam Webster about many things, I do agree that yes, we need more folks in our community who can support themselves financially and their community– but to do so we need a community has its act together enough to be worth supporting. We should not be making people feel bad for working a job that might not be for a company that meets your political/ethical approval, or for having kids (which capitalism actually *discourages* contrary to what the militant childfree types claim) or for owning a car, when you cannot get by in 90% of this country without a car. Doing those sorts of things does not automatically make you an evil sell-out, claiming that it does not build community.

November 30, 2014 at 8:07 am Leave a comment

Chalica & Charity

I found a different approach to Chalica that I liked. It’s the newly invented UU holiday, consisting of lighting a chalice (or 7 chalices) for 7 nights in the first week of December in honor of each of the 7 Principles of UUism– in case you just “tuned in” to my blog. This Mom shares many different holiday traditions with her kids, and often will acknowledge the first day of a multi-day observance (Chalica, Hannukah, Las Posadas) and discuss it with them over a special meal. I’ve seen various suggestions of simple things to do that tie in with the 7 principles, but if you are trying to do actual volunteer work that would be tricky to schedule all in one week! So instead she suggests spreading Chalica out– doing four different acts of charity that relate to the First Principle- “We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” in December, and then continuing to do that for the other principles in the following months from January thru June.

Since I have a lot more free time than money, I was already thinking of trying to do some volunteer work during December as gifts to my communities. Many charities and non-profits also get frustrated that the Thanksgiving & Yuletide generosity burst peters out, meaning very lean times in summer for many families. After you go thru the 7 principles in whatever manner you choose, you can do more stuff and relate to other values you find meaningful- the Kwanzaa principles, the Beatitudes, the Quaker Testimonies, polytheist virtues and so forth. It’s important to clarify that while the 7 principles are guide us, but they are not a creed or an entire system of ethics. Maybe this isn’t really Chalica so much as a plan for how live out your Unitarian Universalist values!

While poking around old Pagan/polytheist posts about Yule vs. Consumermas- I found this very insightful comment from PSVL (Lupus for short) “One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

I do think children need toys- but frankly throughout history, most of the time non-aristocratic children just made their own toys. Toymaking as a craft or industry is pretty recent. Heck, so is the concept of childhood! What is important though, is that children have safe items to play with that stimulate their imagination, creativity and help them learn about and explore our world in a developmentally appropriate way (based on individual child, not the age of the child). Often-times low-tech *and durable* is better. Building toys. Dolls & action figures (for all genders) that don’t need batteries, the kid gets to imagine what they can do *without* batteries.  One of the funnest “toys” when I was a kid was a big refrigerator box! This makes me sound like a mean grown-up, but buying kids what they say they want isn’t necessarily the greatest idea. Is it really what they will spend a lot of time enjoying and get a lot out of? Or is it just the most advertised toy that all their peers seemingly have, so they have to have it!

Unity Unitarian Church has a “Mitten Tree” each year, that people can add articles of warm clothing to (including our Uknitarian club!) We also collect- not just in winter but throughout the year, personal care items (small shampoo bottles) clothing, money for bus passes and other things to help people who are coming out of prison and returning to society to help them out as part of the Amicus Reconnect program. Many other places of worship, schools, non-profits (both religious & secular) have similar programs.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21 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

Cultural Appropriation Has Lost Its Meaning

Once upon a time, though maybe it was an imaginary time in my head- the term cultural appropriation meant something- even if there wasn’t one totally precise definition, basically it meant ripping off pieces of a historically colonized culture, taking them out of context and playing with them for fun and profit, and publicly misrepresenting the culture. Now I feel like the term is so carelessly thrown around that it has lost its meaning and as a result people don’t take it seriously.

I suspect part of the issue is that this discussion began more within an academic context and has filtered into the rest of society, including many people who don’t have a systemic understanding of oppression, racism, colonialism etc. Granted, there are definitely people within academia who don’t get it, and people outside of it, including folks with high school or even less education that do get it, and have a very sophisticated understanding of systemic oppression, because they’ve lived it! 

Cultural appropriation is still a real problem but it’s in danger of being obscured by being misunderstood any kind of cultural borrowing. Indians wearing business suits in Mumbai is not the same as non-Indians wearing saris. There are certainly examples that we can easily place in the cultural appropriation/exploitation box, like New Age cult leaders charging lots of money to participated in a Native American sweat lodge.

But for the most part I would suggest instead of accusing people of cultural appropriation, we practice mindful cultural borrowing, and ask questions of ourselves and others when we try out things from other cultures. To return to my earlier example-

Is it always wrong for a non-Indian to wear a sari? There are billions of different opinions on that! (Here’s one) Do you know any Indians who you can talk to about this? What connection do you have to Indian cultures? What do you know about issues surrounding being a woman in Indian or in the Indian diaspora? Is it a special kind of sari, designed for someone of a particular status, or for a ceremony? Are you wearing it as a Halloween costume? Is this your SCA or LARP or cosplay persona? Tomorrow when you wear other clothes, are you going to make fun of people with “foreign” sounding accents, customs, other religions as not “properly” American, modern, Western etc.? If an Indian woman wearing a sari came to your company to be interviewed, how would she be treated, compared to a similarly qualified woman wearing a more standard dress of a similar formality level?

Are you an ordinary person or are you Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry and the sari is part of a music video inspired by Bollywood, the idea that Hinduism is All About Tantra & Sex and random pieces of Thai and Cambodian culture thrown in, cuz Asian Culture is All One Thing, right?

So maybe wearing a non-Indian wearing a sari is OK in some contexts, or maybe not. It might depend on how you answered those questions. And ultimately, I’m not Indian so it’s not my job to judge that.

My previous post has been well-received, though I still second-guess myself and wonder if it’s too “Oh, poor me, rootless, guilt-ridden white American”. It does seem I’m not totally seeing eye-to-eye with my Anglo-Irish friend about these issues. I have pretty limited opportunities to speak with British, Irish and Scottish people directly and in person. Online communication is never quite the same. I admit, my connection to my Irish and Scottish heritage is tenuous at best, I do not really have any more “right” to it than any other human being raised outside of Irish or Scottish culture.  While I make an effort to learn about Irish and Scottish culture, and I study the Irish language, I do wonder if I’m trying to plant a seed in foreign soil where it might not thrive. When discussing Celtic cultures, I get reminded constantly by various people (Americans and Europeans alike) that I’ve never traveled to the British Isles. Thanks for the “you’re poor” reminder, it’s really helpful! I know people don’t “mean it that way”, then again I don’t mean whatever cluelessly classist, racially insensitive or arrogantly American-centric things I’m sure I have said on countless occasions, in spite of my attempts to educate myself. We all need to be patient with one another, and admit when we’re wrong.  I realize how hard this is!

Acronyms: SCA- Society for Creative Anachronism- organization in which members create a fictional persona from the Renaissance era (mostly Europeans but there are growing number of non-European personae)

LARP: Live Action Role Playing

Cosplay- costume play, wearing a costume at a science fiction/fantasy/comic/anime convention or other fan event.

Resources about Cultural Appropriation/Borrowing in a UU context.

Articles from different viewpoints-

What Tiger Lily Can Teach Us About Cultural Appropriation– Very helpful advice from Kenzie Allen, an Oneida lady about how to respectfully borrow from other cultures.

Appropriate Cultural Appropriation– discussion of borrowers as “Invaders, Tourists and Guests” Reminds me of a talk a Hindu UU minister gave at my church in which he talked about the difference between being a Spiritual Pilgrim and a Spiritual Tourist.

Hey, grievance mongers, lighten up on ‘cultural appropriation’ complaints– this does show how broadly C.A. is getting used but I think author is too dismissive of real problems

You can’t ‘steal’ a culture– some good points, but doesn’t seem to get that for example, white people have profited from Black people’s music while the same Black folks didn’t benefit.

August 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm 5 comments

Who’s With Me?

In our very divided world, that’s the question that is always asked. Man or Woman? Gay or Straight? Black or White? Liberal or Conservative? Christian or Atheist? There is almost always only two options, nothing in between can be a trustworthy position. That person is light-skinned- are they “really” Black or white? We can’t trust the bisexuals, or the trans*, or genderqueer folks- they have to pick a side. You’re too moderate, you can’t caucus with us.

For some time now, a religious division has been arising, in small subset of the population- Pagans vs. Polytheists. Some “hard”- (the gods are totally separate) polytheists argue that the Pagan subculture emphasizes an all-Gods-are one theology,  a secularized hippie culture that doesn’t fit with their values, and has a bias towards Wicca, and religions that resemble it. There was conference last weekend, the Polytheist Leadership Conference in Fishkill, New York that discussed many of these issues. I’m glad to hear of its success- many thoughtful, talented and dedicated people were involved in it, and plans are being made for another one next year. I’m glad to see polytheist traditions grow and develop spiritually and intellectually. I’ll talk more about that in another post. But for now I will put this into perspective in my own life.

As I’ve discussed before, I’ve tried to do what I can for my local Pagan community. I’ve served in a couple of leadership positions, I’ve tried started groves that haven’t gotten off the ground due to different scheduling and commitment issues. Other people have planted groves in places I couldn’t get to by bus. I’ve accepted that. I was in a cult-like Celtic group at one point. I moved on from that, and in keep with the subcultures code of silence regarding abuse, I even kept my experiences to myself. (A decision that I am not proud of)

One of the things that has kept me going, in the Neo-Pagan subculture is, as an autistic person, and one who suffers from depression & anxiety, it was one of the few places I could feel truly accepted. I rarely had to explain myself, my quirks, my difficulties. No matter what, there was always someone at a Pagan gathering who was weirder than me. Some of them are autistic or neurodiverse- wired to be weird. Some of them just had a goofy personality.

But acceptance isn’t enough. I’m very fortunate, for an adult on the autism spectrum. I was identified at an early age. I had the opportunity to go to college, and one with a great learning disability program to boot. I completed my degree. I live in a community with many social services for people with disabilities, and a fairly good awareness of autism. I’ve never been homeless, I’ve for the most part avoided the abuse folks with disabilities so often receive from various “loved ones”. I’ve met many others who weren’t so lucky. I can do a lot to help these other people, but I need to help myself first. But I can’t do it all alone.

Whenever I look for work, I rarely think of asking other Pagans for help. It always seems like they’re struggling to keep afloat. The economy sucks, and some of them have disabilities too. Maybe the more well-off and well-adjusted Pagans keep to themselves. Besides, it always seems like much like when I go to one of my sci-fi or gamer-geek events, people come to Pagan events to escape their “mundane lives”. To reconnect with the past, their ancestors, their gods. Their cultural roots. All the things they feel the need to deny and bury and hide when they go back to work. They don’t want to talk about that stuff. It’s just too depressing. I don’t blame them. Many Pagans have strong political opinions, but I rarely see them at the political events I attend. Maybe they’re too busy with their religious activities- or geeky activities. Maybe they are more involved in radical anarchist type groups. I don’t know.

I go to Unity, and sometimes I feel as if everyone there has their lives together- at least if they don’t, they don’t seem to advertise it as much as Pagans do. Sometimes maybe Unitarians are a little out of touch in some ways. Maybe a little too privileged, or idealistic or optimistic. Most of them don’t know a lot about Paganism beyond Wicca or feminist Goddess worship 101. But it still seems they are a lot more in touch with reality than most Pagans I meet. Certainly I go to church in part to relax, to find support and community, but the Unitarians very much ground themselves in the issues that are happening in the community- locally and globally. I wasn’t sure how to ask them for help either. I went to their “career transitions” support group, which mostly was populated by middle-aged job seekers who didn’t seem to know what advice to give me.

So look folks- I know we want to talk theology, or ritual design, or spirit work. Or sometimes things like should we raise funds for a building, or what the role(s) of clergy should be. We’re a religious community those things should naturally be our focus. What about people in small town and rural areas? Many of them just one understanding person to talk to them about their religion, in their town, regardless of their personal beliefs. What about people who are getting out of prison (or are currently there) whom society rarely gives second chances to?

Some folks involved in the conference are primarily spirit-workers, they have stated, and I understand this- that their primary calling is serving the spirits and the gods, rather than the community- or that they serve the community by serving the gods. That’s fine. I can respect that. I feel called to serve the gods by serving community. I’d just like to remind you of something. Yes the gods have been neglected for thousands of years, and they want our attention. But the gods are not going to starve if you don’t feed them, or freeze on the streets if you don’t house them. They will not commit suicide if they feel alone, abused by their families or spiritual leaders, abandoned by the American Dream.

So I ask you, are you with me?

July 17, 2014 at 12:57 am 2 comments

116 Followers!

Wow! I am at 116 followers now! I was going to mention this when I got to 100 but forgot! I would like to thank folks for your interest and support. I am intrigued by the variety of subjects and viewpoints that my different followers cover. All too often we only stick to talking with, and reading viewpoints we agree with, it’s nice to see some folks branching out, and I like to do the same.

Cassandra Rose Arthur– among those classified as “conservative” I tend to get along better with libertarians- they tend to be more well-read, have better critical thinking skills and a unique view, even if I disagree. Cassandra writes about a variety of topics from politics to music.

Disciple’s Perspective– Looks like he has a series about explaining why women should not serve in the military or in the police force, (he is a police officer) based on Biblical principles. While I’ve heard of verses being used to support women not taking leadership positions (etc.) I haven’t heard arguments for combat exclusion from a Biblical standpoint.

“The objection that women are essential to the police force is false. The men get the job done very well. The areas where it seems that female officers are vital can be outsourced to civilians. There is no excuse; so why are we sending our daughter’s into combat like a bunch of pagans and misogynists? Policewomen are never ‘needed’ in society.” Whoa, dude slow down, say what? Well, I’ll leave that to the Christian feminists!

To balance this out, we have Hessian with Teeth going thru the Bible, chapter by chapter and explaining how they (2 writers) disagree with it.

Better Not Broken– a survivor of domestic abuse discusses her experiences and advocates for women’s rights and education about abuse.

Let Yourself Learn– Katie Spero, writes inspirational self-help posts with it looks like A Course in Miracles and other influences- and feminism!

The Real England– blog written by an American expat named Cassidy Clay related to a book called “Stuff They Won’t Include on Any Tourist Guide: the Real England” I feel like there is a lot of classism going on in this blog/book, needless shaming of people who were born into poverty that while they may not have made good choices (drugs, crime) may have a learned sense of helplessness and lack of hope. I am not entirely naive about this- I went to an inner city high school in the U.S.

Crafted in Carhartt– nifty crafting website

Attenti al Lupo– blog in Italian with some English about social justice issues.

Jen Keller– autism mom blog

Note: I am not going review every blog that follows me- there are some that seem like they are commercial/blog-promoting websites those I won’t bother with, I will have a couple other posts for pagany blogs and geeky blogs.

July 11, 2014 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

A Privileged Low-Income/Disabled Pagan’s Thoughts on Money

(90% of this is pretty relevant to non-Pagans)

The whole time I’ve been Pagan, I’ve been low-income- either a student (thus socially OK to be unemployed) unemployed (not so OK) or underemployed. I also have several learning disabilities that have made employment and everyday life harder for me. But I’m also comparatively privileged- I’m considered “white”, college-educated, from a college educated family. Though I’ve had money worries, I haven’t had to go without food, housing or other necessities. I get healthcare thru the state, and my parents who live out of state own a home, so I can live there rent-free and rent out rooms to tenants. My partner has a good job and he helps support me. I also don’t own a car or have children, so those are major expenses I don’t have. I am fortunate to live in a metropolitan area with a fairly decent public transit system, and many Pagan groups. So I have unique view of some of the articles I’ve been reading about the money should play in the Pagan community. I’m not even going to touch on the magical/metaphysical aspects of this, as I’ve never been a practitioner of magic, but I’m linking to articles about magic nonetheless.

I always donate at least a little something to Pagan events I attend. However this is something I’ve been able to do. I’m a fan of sliding scale fees and scholarships to make events more accessible. I’m a fan of carpooling and sharing rooms at conferences- and I will offer to chip in with people who give me rides. (Heck I don’t even mind sleeping on the floor- I’m young and able-bodied, have air mattress, will travel!) I try to volunteer when I can.

I’ve worked on weekends and evenings a lot at my current job, and I don’t think it’s an evil capitalist conspiracy that events are typically scheduled at those times. I’ve had trouble organizing Pagan groups before due to people’s conflicting work schedules. You need to have enough people that have a compatible enough schedules that they can work together. The person with the random, unpredictable work schedule may just have to show up when they are able. It would be great actually to have a coven or grove that specifically met at times compatible for people who work second or third shift. The people doing this would probably have to be less fussy about what specific type of Paganism it entailed, but it can get lonely having a schedule that is the opposite of most of your friends.

Having rituals is homes may be cheaper than renting space, but it often means they are not handicap accessible, or in places not accessible to public transit. It will also mean people will have less control over potential issues like chemical sensitivities, pet allergies etc.

There are people who choose jobs that give them more time than money- in order to focus on spiritual work, arts, family. We need to do more to support these folks.

I’ve also known people-both Pagan and not- whose lives constantly were in a state of chaos, or moving from crisis to crisis. It is true what Alley Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth say in the Patheos comments- chaos and poverty can be a self-perpetuating cycle. The essence of poverty, as I’ve learned is the lack of choices. We need to create environments where people can talk about the issues they face especially before they reach a crisis point. If they don’t feel ashamed, then we may be able to help them get a job (or one that pays better/has benefits/is more compatible for scheduling) or with transitional housing, or foster their dog so they can get a more affordable apartment, navigate social services, legal systems etc.

There are some people, however who do keep making the same Bad Decisions– over and over and over again. And we may try to help them, and realize after we rescue them from several crises, that we are encouraging them. But they are adults. We can’t force them to get mental health help, or treatment for their addictions, or learn to better manage their finances, or dump the abusive partner, or use birth control/condoms,or show up to their court date/case manager meeting/doctor appt/job interview etc.  And I believe in redemption, and second and third chances and trying not to judge people too harshly. But we also need to take care of ourselves, and our communities, and our leaders/clergy who can get overburdened easily. I will also use this opportunity to plug support for funding/volunteering for transitional programs that help people get out of poverty and give support to people who need it (recovering addicts, mentally ill, disabled folks etc) rather than the bare minimum emergency services that are often the only thing left after budget cuts.

(See Rose’s post on Homelessness to better understand the need for transitional services, and the flaws in current shelter policies.)

Blog Posts on Paganism/Magic & Money

Why Free Events Discriminate Against the Pagan Poor by Sable Aradia

I wanted to like this article, I felt there were good intentions behind it but way too much sloppy political and economic thinking.

Ruadhan has a great response here: LOLbertarians & Rampant Classism on Patheos

A Poor Magician is a Poor Magician & Poor Magicians, Good Magicians by John Beckett

No One Will Be Turned Away for Lack of Funds, and Money is Bad, Right? by Pagan Activist

Some views from Atheists/Humanists:

How to Make Organized Atheism More Accessible to the Poor

June 26, 2014 at 1:34 am 4 comments

Go Get Help

Trigger warning: discussion of mental health & addiction

I’ll tell you a true story- I am a live-in caretaker for a house owned by my family, and I rent out rooms to people to help cover expenses. Last fall I took in a woman who was living in her car, and she indeed paid rent fair and square. But it became clear to me after a while that she was an alcoholic (not recovering as she’d claimed earlier) and had mental health problems that weren’t properly being treated (my psychiatrist fired me because I missed too many appointments!) and seemed to be cognitively impaired due to past drug use (I found out later she’d started using crack at age 14) So this is kind of a giant cautionary tale of Do Not Try to Be an Amateur Social Worker.

I felt compassion for this woman, and felt that if I didn’t try to help that no one else would. She’d hit bottom, and had no where else to go. The problem was, is that she would not help herself. She kept promising she’d go to treatment, talk to her sponsor, do this or that. I took bottles of vodka away from her, forbid others to give her alcohol, offered to help her organize her paperwork in order to help get her the services she needed. But it was always excuse after excuse. I was allowing myself to be manipulated. Finally she ended up in the mental hospital, and her family managed to have her committed. (Due to legal requirements this had never happened before) This finally meant that, in order to regain her freedom she would have to cooperate with proper treatment. I (and my partner) were incredibly relieved.

Now this is a pretty extreme scenario, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from it. From now on I will only help people who will help themselves. I’ve been in many situations among Pagans, in which I was trying to build community, but it couldn’t happen because the individual Pagans weren’t dealing effectively with issues in their own lives- like employment, housing, mental or physical health, or dysfunctional relationships. Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs– you need to make sure the things at the bottom of the pyramid are dealt with before you can make it up to the top. Systemic oppression can get in the way yes, but personal responsibility comes into play as well. If you have a problem, admit it and get help. Get treatment for your depression or addiction or eating disorder. Get therapy if you have emotional issues that are getting in your way.  Get identified and get appropriate services if needed if you or others suspect you may have a disability like autism, AD/HD, etc.

To get financial assistance, you will have to fill out paperwork in a proper, timely manner. And you will have to show up on time to various appointments and answer often intrusive and personal questions. It will probably be unpleasant. There might be a waiting list. The system will be rigid. You might also need to try religious-affiliated groups that might not be Pagan/GLBT/poly etc. friendly. (Though if their religious/ideological views are more of a hindrance to you getting help than avoid them) Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s not fair. But you can’t change society effectively until you get the help you need.

If you have friends and family members, clergy and co-religionists that are standing in the way of getting help, if they are abusive, use substances irresponsibly, blame you, re-evaluate those relationships. Find new friends and chosen family that will be supportive as you learn to take responsibility for your life. You may need to repair relationships with estranged love ones who have given up on you in the past. Talk with your therapist or someone else who is working with you to figure out that best way to develop these new relationships and when/how and if to repair old ones. Thank you for listening and best wishes on your journey to recovery, health and prosperity.

April 7, 2014 at 9:50 pm 2 comments

The Irony of Imbolc

On the morning of Feb. 2nd Dan & I awoke and as we were making breakfast we noticed that the thermostat hadn’t kicked in as it normally would a little before we get up.

Yes, on the day of Brighid, goddess of the hearth, our boiler stopped working. On one of the coldest days of the year. Also we’d recently had a tenant move into the finished basement room.  So much for hospitality! We did provide him with a space heater, so I brought that upstairs, and another to the bedroom, which was even colder! So I spent the day huddling in front of the space heater, waiting for the fix-it guy to come.  I tried not to complain too much, though.  It reminds me how much I take something as basic as a heated home for granted, that I should be very thankful.  This winter has been nasty enough that the Salvation Army is raising money to help people with their heating bills. The counties (at least Hennepin & Ramsey) do provide emergency assistance but more help is always needed. That and with the recession the homeless shelters are packed to capacity- various churches around the metro (including Unity) have been taking in the people who are turned away at night. I know with all the struggles my family has gone thru homelessness doesn’t seem so distant.

Now it has been getting warmer this week, here and there. Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. Last year we had a mild winter with not much snow and an early spring. On the surface it  was nice, but in the long run a bad thing- the freezing & thawing cycle causes the running of the maple sap, so that it just going straight to thawing, much less syrup could be tapped.  Also the lack of snow (typically early in the winter, and early spring) and not much spring rain contributed greatly to the terrible drought last summer.  It just shows you how necessary winter is. (though I’m never sure what a “typical” MN winter is)

February 14, 2013 at 12:57 am Leave a comment

Poverty of the Mind

I am constantly hearing people say “Pagans are poor”. While I have known more than a few low-income Pagans, I am not sure how broadly true this is. It’s very difficult for us to have a accurate survey of the socio-economic status of Pagans in a given country, particularly most people are rather hesitant to identify both their religion and where they are financially.  But the impression I get at least, is that Pagans who are poor (or at least say they are) tend to be loud about it, and the Pagans who have more reliable sources of income are quieter about it. (See note below)

Many clergy, Tarot readers, astrologers, alternative health practitioners etc are often expected to offer their services for free, or for less than they can afford. Some claim this goes back to the Gardnerian taboo against teaching witchcraft for money. But that is a more specific situation: there is a rightful concern that people would pay to be initiated, who did not really merit it, and priest/esses would become too motivated by profit rather than spirituality. That is different than charging some money for a class that does not lead to initiation/dedication or for spiritual services. And no one gets wealthy from theses things, and most of these people need other jobs to support themselves. So what are the real reasons for this? Are we just stingy? Not exactly…

One Reiki practitioner I know says she often gets people coming in who are covered in jewelry, and whine about how they can’t pay her fees. It’s your money, but don’t use overspending on pagan-y or geeky toys to justify stiffing others who are offering quality goods & services.  Another factor is the counter-cultural ideas that many of us espouse. We reject the workaholic, keeping up with Joneses mentality, instead focusing on our spirituality. But sometimes we take that to the point where exchanging money at all isn’t spiritual, it’s unclean almost. But money at its most basic, with all is spiritual too. When you look at a dollar bill, forget the dead president on it, and visualize a loaf of bread. That’s what it really symbolizes- The words economy and ecology have a common root- the Greek ekos meaning house. Ecology is the science of how our house fits together, and economy is the science of how we manage (or are managed by) our households. So the problem isn’t the bread- it’s collecting bread for its own sake, or avoiding it as much as possible just because it is bread- and food is bad. We literally see the results of this in our society with obesity & eating disorders- which really are emblematic of how we relate to material things, including our bodies. The more we say “we’re poor” the more we psychologically reinforce this idea, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

(Note: in this post I am targeting mainly people who choose bad attitudes towards money & jobs, regardless of the options they may have (and often have a fair amount of privilege even if they’re “oppressed pagans”), not people who have very few opportunities based their backgrounds or difficult life experiences.)

The bottom line is, we really need to develop a healthier, more mature and balanced attitude towards money, that fits with our respective cultural & spiritual values, in order to be whole people and move forward together as a community (or rather overlapping communities)

July 7, 2012 at 1:30 am Leave a comment

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