This is a new post in this series.
So, I’ve written about Community, Skills, and Leadership/Acceptance. Now I think I’m going to put down what I think is the first step in where we can start with beginning this community idea. If there’s any questions, just ask, because I sometimes have trouble getting my ideas out.
I don’t know how many people who read this blog know this, but I’m a bit of a Dresden Files fan. Or fanatic. I’ve been told I have a serious Dresden complex. And one of the things that I find fascinating in the Dresden Files is the idea of Neutral Ground/Accorded Neutral Territory. The story behind this is that the various factions were brought together by Mab, Queen of the Winter Fae, and they laid down the LAW. All signatories would abide by the Laws, and one of these was that there would be Neutral Grounds where no violence between members could occur, at least not without terrible repercussions upon both the violators, and even the groups they belonged to.
I think this would be a good place to start. Pagans tend to be a fractious group. If the old Jewish joke about two jews and three opinions is true, then for us it would be two pagans, five opinions. We fracture worse than Southern Baptists, and as someone who lives in the south and has seen the literally near weekly asexual reproduction of SB churches as the members fight over the interpretation of the bible they want to go with, that’s saying something. And the worse part is that most of these factions aren’t split over faith, but political, either internal, or capital P political. People wanting to grab power, people looking down on others for being Woo (or in other words, Magical), sometimes over the whole right/left political spectrum, etc. And what makes it worse that we refuse to set these differences aside and try to find common ground in a world that outright hates Paganism.
A perfect example of this in my mind is the whole Dianics/Transgender issue that popped up for the last couple years at Pantheacon or whatever its called. The simple fact is that for whatever reason, most of it Political and not Religious, the majority of the Pagan community at the con ended up attacking the Dianics and a large number joined in. Why? Because the Dianics made a Religious distinction, that didn’t meet the Political Will of those who were Transgender, and those Pagans who hold to a…Progressive…Political leaning. So right there was a giant violation of the separation of Church and State.
I think Neutral Ground, as well as an Accords, would be a good place to start. To give an example of how such a thing could have solved/prevented with a NG or Accord is this. The Dianics and the Transgenders who started the issue would have both been kicked outside the con and told not to come back in until they had solved their issue. No One Else Gets Involved. Period. And they don’t drag the entire place down with them. No battle lines are drawn, no communities split apart. Either shut the fuck up, or go outside and fight, but leave the rest of us alone.
But this is going to take a lot of work on everyone’s part to hold to an Accord. We’re going to have to stop putting politics ahead of religion (which is going to be hard) and start putting faith, community, and kinship over the insistence that “I’m the one who is right.” That means falling back on what Kennedy said all those years ago: “As not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
We live in a world where the politics dictate “what can my country do for me.” And that’s sadly influenced us into an attitude of “What can my Pagan community do for me?” This, unfortunately, has led to a large amount of why our community is struggling for unity, elders, and even stores! Too often we get leaders out there who are in it for their own political power, and because they seek political power in the group, they will shut out their main threat Those with Religious Power. So we’ve got to deal with those people. Then of course, there’s the type of people who will go and wholesale outright steal materials in regards of religious or magical knowledge. I’ve lost count over the years of how many authors don’t want to put out knew stuff, or can’t put out knew stuff, because what they have put out has been outright stolen, plastered all over the net, and often enough with other people taking credit. We want people to write books, but we won’t even shell out $10-$15 dollars for it. We’ll go and download it, or find some other way to get it for free, but we won’t shell out even a bit of cash to help these people keep up their work. This isn’t the music industry people! This is tiny authors and tiny publishers who live or die by the sale of a few books. It’s been my own experience with my store. People would come in, talk about how wonderful it was, how great it was that we were here, how much the community needed us…
And then would walk out the door without even buying a single candle for $0.25. No joke. 20 minutes talking about how much a store like this is needed, and then doing Nothing To Support It!
And it’s an attitude that I see all to often. Yes, I know we’re all broke and have no money. But it would be as simple as picking up the loose change in your car and buying a small thing or two. It’s the small things people. Not great and massive deeds, but the little acts of kindness and support in life, that can make all the differences.
Neutral Ground is a part of this. It is the setting side the little things that we normally just blow all out of proportion. Our desire for power, our insistence that we be recognized as the big poomba or whatever you want. Do your part right, and that will happen naturally. This may be a weird thing for an individualist Heathen to say, but Put Aside The Egos!. If someone has real spiritual ability, let them move forwards. Put aside the Politics. I don’t care if you believe capitalism is the best thing ever, or the greatest evil since the Nazis. Shut up about it. We need to build communities that accept all our faiths, because it is only in these communities that we will be able to build a sustainable future for Paganism. Do we have to go all Amish and live in only Pagan areas? No, but we might like to, might find it useful and helpful.
But that’s in the future. In the now, we start by learning to get along. We start, with Neutral ground where all are welcome, strife is taken outside, and no one, and I mean no one, joins in with anyone else to gang up on a third because they think it will get them something. Because we’ll lose everything that way.