Oh Woe is Me
We Pagans are a discriminated against group - it's true. But why do we whine about it so much? It's almost like some badge of honour to be able to one up on who was most insulted or belittled - or even threatened. But what do we actually do about it? I've been thinking about this a bit with the whole discrimination train of this column - and I've begun to realise how angry I get about whining Pagans. We all know at least one right up there with the fluffy bunny.
And part of the reason it angers me so greatly is the connection between "discrimination" and lack of personal responsibility. None of the whiners I know actually take any responsibility for themselves or their faith.
I'll bet the following comments will sound familiar - we've all heard them, maybe even used them on occasion. But have we actually thought about what they mean? My personal favourites would have to be:
"It's not my fault..." and "Where do I find the answers?"
quickly followed by:
"Why does everyone hate me?" and "No one understands my faith and my struggle".
When I hear these words I become angry and less empathic, because I've been there and what I learnt is that the only person who can keep me there is me. The more I resist oppression or discrimination, the freer I become, even in a society that fails to recognise me. My mind is unfettered and that enables me to reach for equality. But if I sit around moaning I stay sitting there, doing nothing. So for all those out there who want to whine about how discriminated against they are, here's my response...
"It's not my fault..." Really? Well, whose fault is it and how did you come to be connected then? Why are you involved - doesn't that tell you something? Is it "not your fault" only because you didn't actually do anything? You sat back and let events unfold without trying to affect them?
Well, sorry, but in that case it is your fault. Failure to act is as much an action as stepping up and doing something. You made a choice and now you are reaping the consequences.
"Where do I find the answers?" As for the answers...what answers? How about the questions? Do you actually know what they are? If you do then why are you sitting here trying to get someone else to do the work? Get off your butt and go do something. Suprisingly enough you'll find that your understanding of the topic will expand exponentially to the amount you study - as will your ability to make interpretive leaps and figure out answers without needing to read 1,000 books. Besides - how do you know my answers are right? Or what you need?
"Why does everyone hate me?" Hatred is a simple thing, even when it seems complex - so often it is born of fear and lack of understanding. You know what tends to defeat those things? A little bit of knowledge and a willingness to get involved with people. Rarely do we hate the person - more often it's what s/he represents. And with us Pagans what we represent is often a big pile of nothing.
How many of us are active members of our communities? Compare that percentage-wise with how many Christians are.... We sit here and criticise those same Christians because they are creating a Christian society. The only reason they are so successful is that people like us aren't out there working alongside them. They have an open playing field to create in their image - and if we sit here bemoaning our discriminated sorry behinds, we will find ourselves firmly entrenched in that society without the right to complain. Complacency and silence condone activities.
And don't tell me how it's too hard - they've had 2,000 years and millions of people, and blah blah blah. Look at the military - one of the most rigid, patriarchal, homophobic, Christian groups in existence. Opposed to change on all levels. Yet not only do women play a role, but the homophobic nature is gradually being broken down and discriminatory practices being legislated against and the legislation being enforced.
And then there are the Pagan military people. In the States their right is not only upheld through law, but inter-faith ministers are taking courses to enable them to help our Pagan military on a religious level. Pagan rituals and observances are allowed.
Oh, I know there is still a very long way to go. There is still a lot of discrimination - both subtle and obvious - and many failures of the administration. But the fact is, the military - that dinosaur of white, Christian, heterosexual, male chauvinism - has made an effort to fight discriminaton.
If they can do it, anyone can with the right encouragement and perserverance.
Getting active in our society not only lets us help mould the shape of society - it reveals us to society. We are people, parents, children, teachers, workers, students...just like "them". We have hopes and fears, ethics and morals, and religious beliefs that aren't so very different. But "they" don't know this. They have little to go on, and like the reclusive old lady who secretes herself away in her run down house at the end of the street, we are an unknown quality. This is why we are hated.
It also reveals "them" to us. It's a lot harder to hate the seemingly bigoted woman down the road when you know how hard she works to raise her kids right and through school. And it's harder for her to hate you when she realises you're doing the same thing. You become the exception for each other. Now she's bigoted against all Pagans except you...and soon her knowledge of you creates weakness in her hatred of other Pagans. She's more open to liking "us".
"No one understands my faith and my struggle." Don't sit there whining about being mistreated because of your faith. Don't claim you're misunderstood and unappreciated. Get out there and make a difference. Educate people. Get involved in your community.
Discrimination and hatred come from not knowing - people, ideas, places, things. Lack of knowledge.
You might find in the process that there are people out there who understand your struggle - or are willing to try. People who can look past the differences to find the similarities. And in the end you may discover there isn't a struggle after all...
Or is that what you are afraid of?