Friday, June 10, 2016

Your religion doesn't follow my politics, making it objectively evil

So, having been thoroughly spanked across the Internet with their initial salvos against Neopaganism at large, all but accusing everyone who isn't a Marxist-Anarchist first, and a pagan second, of being some sort of New Right crypto-fascist, the good folks at Gods & Radicals seem to have regrouped and have honed their message of hate. Yes, folks, welcome to part II of "Anyone who isn't with us is a fascist."

Today's entry is by Yvonne Aburrow (entirely coincidentally, I'm sure, also a blogger over at Pathetic Pagan and an editor at the Wild Hunt; Galina Krasskova's observation that a certain cabal seems to be taking over all the major neopagan media outlets online can't be right, can it?) entitled With our thoughts we make the world.

I'm going to skip over the gobbledegook at the beginning and go straight to the meat of the argument, where she attempts to take down three things that some Heathens and neopagans do that she just seems to hate; sacral kingship, messages from deities, and folkish tendencies.

Sacral Kingship

Why don't the lefties ever bitch and moan about Central
American monarchy and human sacrifice?
Afraid La Raza might start to get ideas and start with them?
Although she uses the term sacral kingship, sacral leadership is probably more correct given the realities of the modern usage. I'm really not sure why this is such a bugaboo for these people on a practical level. Of the few groups I know that actually practice it (Theodish Belief, Kemetic Orthodoxy, and Northern Tradition Paganism), none is particularly numerous, one is led by a woman, one is led by a trans, and one doesn't even have a currently-serving sacral king, although it does have various lesser leaders in the role, without the title (there have been two Theodish kings of whom I am aware, in two different groups, and both stepped down from the position eventually). Two oppressed minorities and a no-show; that really sounds like an existential threat to the neopagan community, right there!

It's almost like they're picking on them because they know they're so small and won't fight back. Let's see what she has to say.
Apparently some people are rather fascinated by sacral kingship and aristocracy. I think I can safely say that such notions are not very popular in England, where we still experience the inequalities of the class system, the monarchy that sits on top of the pinnacle like the visible part of a pimple, and where a study of our history reveals the disastrous instability introduced by the vagaries of succession in a hereditary monarchy (I am referring to the war of Stephen and Maud, the Wars of the Roses, the English Civil War, the “Glorious Revolution”, and so on).
Woah, girly. I'm gonna have to stop you there. While the monarchy might not be particularly popular among your ultra-lefty friends, a poll by British pollster YouGov last year found 68% of people in the UK saying that the monarchy is good for Britain:

So, you know, numbers. That's one of the many blinders you folks on the ultra left have; you literally cannot believe that everyone doesn't believe like you do. But pray continue.
That’s why you don’t get Wiccans in the UK adopting titles like Lord this and Lady that. And people with pretensions to be a reincarnated Dark Age king are not taken particularly seriously by most people either.
I'm going to guess that's a reference to King Arthur Pendragon, a prominent Druid leader over in the UK, and a very prominent environmental activist (among other forms of liberal activism). Oh, and he thinks he's the reincarnation of the real King Arthur. For someone who "isn't taken particularly seriously by most people", he sure has a lot of followers, and most of his events seem pretty well-attended.

"Most" people don't take him seriously? Sure. But then again, "most" people don't take any neopagans seriously, much less Marxist-Anarchist-SJW neopagans, so it's a pretty low bar you've set. And he actually got over 700 votes when he ran for Parliament last year, which seems pretty darned good for a self-professed eccentric wearing a robe.

I wouldn't take him very seriously, either, but that has more to
do with his politics than his title.
And if you don't think other British Druids take high-falutin' titles, and go around doing all sorts of fur-wearing, woad-painting Iron Age rituals, you'd be wrong.
The idea of the sacral king was popularised in the early 20th century by Margaret Murray, who wrote that William Rufus (famously killed by an arrow in the New Forest) may have been England’s last sacral king, and that his death was a sacrifice. Apparently there are people who are regarded as monarchs in their particular spiritual tradition. I’m fine with that, as long as we get to revive the tradition of sacral kingship in its full form: where the sacred monarch gets sacrificed after their year in office. I somehow think the whole idea would suddenly be a lot less popular if it was revived in its full form.
Really? That's all you've got? Some half-baked notion of sacral kingship as a fertility cult, with little or no basis in reality? If anything, there are a lot more signs that point to Germanic kings being sacrificed in times of trouble (bad harvests, plague, defeat in war, etc.) than some rote John Barleycorn type ritual. If you're going to be snarky, at least get your facts straight.
But really, honestly, the whole notion of kingship just doesn’t work. This should be completely obvious to anyone who has studied the history of monarchy wherever it has been tried.
Which is pretty much everywhere prior to the 20th century. Kingship is, historically, the most common form of government in human history. Whether it's the majority of Greek city-states, ancient Egypt or Persia, Israel, Europe, Rome (kings before the Republic, emperors afterwards), China and Japan (surely emperors count), the various Muslim caliphates, and on and on and on. Liberal democracy with universal suffrage and defined rights is so new on the scene of human history as to be regarded as an anomaly.
The only time monarchy worked was when the king was elected (and nowadays we call that office a president). The only way that an absolute ruler can maintain their authority is through fear, as Machiavelli pointed out.
Hey, now, where did "absolute ruler" come into all this? Notice how slyly she just slides that in there? In her mind, "monarch" means "absolute ruler", whereas in reality, and especially in the use of sacral leadership in modern Heathenry and neopaganism, the breaks on the power of the sacral leader are many. There are things called "constitutional monarchies" out there, you know. With rights, and voting, and all the rest.

Although it is interesting to note that she doesn't say a peep about Communist dictators, who take the role of kings; Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Kim Jong Il, Castro, and the rest. Where are your fancy words against totalitarianism when it comes from the Left? Mm-hmmm...

It all boils down to the fact that some people want sacral leaders. They don't have a problem with investing an individual with a certain amount of responsibility, both sacral and temporal, and feel that their religion functions best with someone in that role, rather than a sort of mob-rule democracy, creepy decision-making by their version of consensus, or whatever else she wants. And that is their right, regardless of what the Marxist-Anarchist set thinks, or how shrilly they shout about it.

Messages from Deities

This section is aimed right at the devotional polytheists, who have the audacity to believe that the gods take precedence in their lives. What arrogance! What if the gods say something that's... gasp... counter-revolutionary? And therein lies the great fear, of course; it's the common thread that runs throughout her article. Anything that could potentially distract from, or even contradict, the Marxist message, is evil and must be excised.

Yvonne continues:
So you received a message from a deity. Great. That’s nice for you. But how do I know whether it was really a message from a deity, or just another aspect of your psyche trying to shore up your fragile ego? I would evaluate a purported revelation from a deity the way I would evaluate a purported message from anyone else, by asking questions:
  • is it consistent with what I know of reality?
  • is it consistent with what I know of that person/deity?
  • is it consistent with my ethics?
If the answer to any of these is no, then either I won’t believe that the message came from the deity, or I won’t believe that the message was intended for me.
Now, there are problems with all three of the criteria she lists here. First of all, part of the point of communicating with deities and other spiritual beings is to gain a greater understanding of reality. If a message from such a being comes in that contradicts the modern scientific view of reality (or, say, Marxist Historical Materialism), that's actually to be expected, because such beings aren't accounted for in that view of reality in the first place. Of course some of what they have to tell us is going to contradict what we know about the world. That's the point!

The second one is something that I can actually, on the whole, agree with, but as with everything these people on the Left say, it's such a sweeping and totalitarian statement that any sort of nuance is impossible. Our knowledge of the gods and land-spirits is imperfect and incomplete. There are absolutely aspects of the gods that can and do exist that might contradict some written source, and if those are communicated directly, then I'm not going to discard it out of hand (well, it depends; as I said, it's a much more complex and nuanced question than the sort of absolutist criterion above implies).

And wait a second, aren't these the same sort of people who keep telling us that the gods change over time, and don't necessarily want the same sorts of offerings today that they did a thousand years ago? I'm very sure I've heard that in arguments about animal sacrifice. Over, and over, and over.

But it's that last point that is the most odious. My personal ethics, or those of my in-group, ultimately derive from how my ancestors understood their relationship with the gods, and the world around them. My personal ethics do not take precedence over the ethics of beings that have existed for tens of thousands of years, and who have guided my ancestors in the development of their own ethical and social mores.

Although I must say that I can't help but read "politics" where she has "ethics" in the above. Perhaps that's the essential difference between us; my ethics derive from my gods, while hers derive from her politics.
"A deity told me to do it” is never a sufficient justification for any action. If a deity tells a group of people to slaughter another group of people, we rightly regard that deity as deeply immoral (or alternatively, we deny that the commandment came from that deity). All communications from deities have to be evaluated against common standards of ethical behaviour.
Actually, no, we don't. At least not universally. This betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the in-group and out-group dynamic that underlies much of human behavior, and which is exemplified in the Germanic concepts of inangard and utangard, and is the basis of the tribal and clan system of organization. If my gods tell me to fight a group of people who themselves pose a threat to me or mine, then I'm going to take that as a positive sign.

To do otherwise is to abdicate one's right of self-defense, and ultimately one's right of individual existence, in the name of some nebulous and mythical "world brotherhood" that Marxist dreamers have spouted for years. Of course that didn't stop them from slaughtering more than one hundred million members of the out-group for more than a century in the name of Marxism. But what's a few genocides every couple of years, as long as it helps the march towards the Socialist Utopia, amiright?

But maybe it's okay when a Marxist dictator tells a group of people to slaughter another group of people, rather than a deity? That seems to be what she's saying here.
That’s not to say that no-one ever receives valid and interesting messages from deities: of course they do. It just means that we need to be aware that messages from deities might just be our own ego talking, rather than a genuine divine communication.
Absolutely. And I've given my own criteria for judging such communications with discernment, as a matter of fact. Nobody is saying to just take such things credulously on faith. So why even try to pretend that people do?

Folkish Tendencies

Ah, here we go. The one they really love to hate. The left's criticisms of folkish Heathenry have been refuted so often that at this point I'm only looking for some new argument. Some new sort of criticism. Not the same exaggerations, misrepresentations, guilts-by-association, and outright lies that have been coming out of G&R and it's associated groups (all of which seem to be made up of the same handful of individuals, interestingly) over the years. I'm not optimistic that I'll see anything new, but what the heck. Let's give it a go.
Another disturbing tendency that has been rearing its head of late is the view that you can only work within your own culture, worshipping the gods of your ancestors. This ‘folkish’ view is being used to exclude people of colour from traditions based on European culture. It takes a monolithic and essentialist view of culture, regarding cultural themes as being predetermined by genetics.
Okay, nothing new here, just incorrect assertions. A review of Edred Thorsson's theory of Integral Culture is in order here. Here ya go.
For those of us who are of mixed descent (which is most people these days, especially in North America), this approach literally makes no sense. I’m an English person with some Cornish ancestry, and as I grew up in Hampshire, probably Saxon ancestry too – maybe even some Norman. Should my Paganism consist of Cornish practices, Saxon practices, or Norse practices according to this view?
If we had anywhere near a detailed enough view of the granularity of pre-Christian religion, and the particular variations between sub-regions, that might be applicable. But we don't, so as reconstructionists we must needs go "up" a level, from Cornwall and Hampshire in particular to England or even Germania as a whole, where we do have enough information to form a coherent whole. But again, nothing new. See the bulls-eye theory of reconstructionism. Here ya go.
This folkish/genetic essentialism uses the concept of cultural appropriation to justify its racist discourse, which is ironic as they are appropriating the real struggles of indigenous peoples to defend their culture and life-ways against the depredations of colonialism.
Okay, okay, okay... this is just great. Indigenous peoples (by which I am guessing she means non-white peoples, because whites are themselves as indigenous to Europe as Amerindians are to North America) somehow "own" the status of cultural appropriation victims, so if anyone else's culture is appropriated, they're just appropriating that appropriation status. "You can't appropriate me, I was appropriated first!" That's just twisted, because it assumes that race is the overriding determinant of power. That seems a bit... racist. You know, seeing race everywhere, and it being the most important thing in your world.
But resisting cultural appropriation is about resisting power; it is not about keeping culture ‘pure’.
Clearly a powerful white oppressor
there on the ground
Bullshit. It's not about some sort of abstracted socio-economic power.

That liberal weenie who got his head bashed in while a bunch of black kids ringed him and battered him within an inch of his life, only to have him turn around, proclaim himself to still be an "ally" of them, and ask them to "please stop punching white people in the head because it makes you look bad", is proof of that. This is just more "only whites can have power" even in places and situations where whites demonstrably do not have power. Culture is culture, and all cultures, be they white or not, deserve protection.

To think otherwise is racism, pure and simple.
Cultures and traditions are not monolithic and unchanging silos: they are discourses. You can’t just lift a practice from one culture to another in a superficial way without radically changing its meaning; but this does not mean that no-one can ever do anything inspired by another culture.
Straw man. No one ever said "cultures and traditions are monolithic and unchanging silos." You're arguing against a point that nobody made.
The problem with folkish views is that they assume that races and cultures are monolithic, unchanging, never influence each other, and that people from different ethnicities never intermarry. It constructs different cultures as different races, so it is certainly racialised, which in my book is basically racist.
Again, a fundamental misunderstanding of what the folkish point of view is. The folkish do not say that races and cultures never influence each other, or that ethnicities never breed with one another. Quite the contrary! We are keenly aware of those facts. We are also aware, however, on the impact those facts has on those races and cultures, and, being aware of it, act accordingly.

But that is in no way racist. What would be racist would be to treat one race differently than another, or all the others. For instance, singling out the white race for different treatment, as she has done throughout this section of her article, is racist.

Folkishness in a nutshell
Saying that Japanese people should be able to preserve Japanese culture, and Apache people should be able to preserve Apache culture, and Yoruba people should be able to preserve Yoruba culture, and Siamese people should be able to preserve Siamese culture, and Egyptian people should be able to preserve Egyptian culture, and Israeli people should be able to preserve Jewish culture, and Arab people should be able to preserve Arab culture, and Tutsi people should be able to preserve Tutsi culture, and German people should be able to preserve German culture, and French people should be able to preserve French culture, etc., is not racist. It is also the folkish view.

Saying that all races and ethnicities should be able to preserve their culture except the Germans, and the French, and other Europeans, is racist. It is also the SJW view, and specifically Yvonne Aburrow's view.

Who's the racist again?

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