It would not be too hyperbolic to say at this point that there is a “war” coming to determine the future of Paganism. Don’t get me wrong, Paganism has always had its squabbles in the modern era, but as time has passed these squabbles have grown larger and more important. What is Paganism now, and what will it be, are the primary (but not the only) questions.
Rhyd’s recent blog post is the most recent example of this, but perhaps the most prominent one that I got started with was the “Halsteadian War” as I like to describe it, in which there came a very large discussion about which would have the equal to greater voice in Paganism: Atheists or Polytheists. I think in some ways that Rhyd’s post was an inevitable follow up to the Halsteadian debate, both due to the nature of our larger national debates in America and Elsewhere, as well as within Paganism itself.
One of the things I find interesting though is that the original post by Rhyd had no author listed. There is to me, only one logical reason for this. The post was meant to represent the site Gods & Radicals as a whole, with no one voice or person being given supremacy. It was a unified statement, attributed to them all. It even says as much in the post itself. It was only later, as the post got much hatred in response, that Rhyd announced himself as the writer.
This tells me a couple things. 1) The site Gods & Radicals fully supports the position of the post in their own personal views. 2) Rhyd (who I suspect did in fact write it) was placed at the forefront to draw all attention to him, and in the case things go really south, allow him to be the scapegoat and allow Gods & Radicals to gently brush everything off on him and keep going. Then those opposed can feel that they’ve accomplished something should Rhyd fall, while G&R is allowed to carry on with what is nothing less than a mission statement with complete deniability. And a lack of examination of their ideology(s).
Now, as far as I am concerned, that post was an open declaration of war. And if it wasn’t, the follow up certainly was. Indeed, by the rules of Roman Bellum Iustum I can by rights wage a just war against Rhyd and G&R for their open declaration of war against my cultus practices and for their vilification of Roman culture, religion, and values. However, despite the very great desire to answer Bellona’s call and do so, I realize that in what they did G&R and Rhyd did more than merely insult Roman Gods and Culture. They insulted a lot of Pagan paths beyond that. Meaning this isn’t simply something for me to take offense at and fight as a heathen or cultus would.
The other reason I am not declaring full on Bellum Iustum is because after a bit more research (and perhaps Divine placement of things in my youtube recommends) I have pinpointed something about the G&R post that had me…cautious. Namely The Passive Aggression Strategy as detailed by Robert Greene’s 33 Strategies of War. It’s a long video but you can get the gist of it in the first 10 minutes. To narrow it down even further though, the idea is basically that one acts, and when met with aggressive response, responds with the appearance of weakness. This makes one’s foes appear as bullies and give you the “moral high-ground.” It’s also a very common form of abusive behavior. By inspiring guilt in one’s foe, one then gains the upper hand as it weakens their will to act in what they feel is an “immoral manner.”
Rhyd’s “fascism” post was designed to create an aggressive response against said post. The language is cunning, calling out many things as fascism while leaving plenty of open ground for “retreat” and saying that “well I wasn’t talking about you,” while at the same time creating the visual that those who are protesting are being aggressively pro fascism as they are aggressive towards the non-fascists rather than towards the fascists. It’s a brilliant strategy, to be expected of a man of Rhyd’s intelligence. Indeed, there is the very great possibility that it could work as he and G&R hope it will. Except for a few minor problems.
The first of these problems is of course, the nature of morality. The Passive Aggression strategy (as described in the 33SoW) works best in a moral situation where violent aggression is as a rule automatically bad and a violation of the individual/groups morals. This is very much the case in Christian moralities, and those derived from Christian moralities (more on that later). However, Pagan moralities work on different values. While I cannot speak for all paths, I can speak to my experience with the two of the most highly effected by G&R’s position, Heathenism and the Cultus Deorum.
In Heathenism, violence and the use of violence not only isn’t immoral, its use in many cases is the very foundation of morality. The ancient law (and this was actual law, not just custom) was that while two insults could be negotiated out of via geld or some other form, a third insult had to be repaid in blood. Failure to repay a third insult with blood was an immoral act. What this means is that from the Heathen end of things, any and all Heathens may respond aggressively to G&R and Rhyd’s statements implying their fall to fascism for following ancient traditions and “appropriating tribal languages” with any and all violence they feel is needed, and they not only will feel no moral qualms about the violence, they will feel entirely justified in the violence.
In the Cultus Deorum, while the use of violence was not itself a moral act, and in fact sometimes viewed as an immoral act, there were notable exceptions. For example, war was viewed as dangerous and immoral, capable of unleashing a spiritual pollution upon the populace and endangering Rome. However, as I mentioned, there was the idea of Bellum Iustum, “Just War.” If some people was a threat to Rome, its customs, its laws, religion, and its way of life, known as the Pax Romana (or Peace of Rome), then the war was Justified, and it was an act of Justice itself to wage that war. What Rhyd and G&R did in stating publicly that they see traditions, hierarchies, and other “systems” that create hierarchies as dangerous, fascist things that need to be destroyed, they declared that the entire traditions of Rome were to be destroyed. They attacked all that is Rome, all that is Cultus, and thus have created a situation of Bellum Iustum. And I will kindly point out that in the name of Bellum Iustum and restoring the Pax Romana, that things such as crucifying 3000 people in a day was viewed as completely morally acceptable and justified.
Having spoken with some Dionysians I can say that they too would consider many “aggressive” actions in response to G&R’s positions and actions fully justified as well. It would not surprise me if many other Pagan paths hold similar views. At which point the Passive Aggression strategy falls apart with nightmarish results.
Now, Rhyd and G&R would no doubt consider such views Fascist in nature and proof of the validity of their position against such things. But if history has taught me one thing, its that you can have all the moral high-ground you like against your opponent. That will not always translate into literal high-ground or victory for you over your opponent.
So while outside of Paganism, it might work to make Rhyd and G&R appear the righteous side of things, inside Paganism is going to be a much different story. Any paths that do respond aggressively are likely to be viewed with respect by many other paths, for standing in faith to the Gods and Their traditions. Rhyd may be expecting a Civil Rights movement where non-aggression wins. He’s more likely started a Crusade where non-aggression means you’re…removed. As stated earlier, misreading the battlefield could be what undoes G&R and Rhyd. This isn’t an “amoral” situation of political disagreement (anti-fascists vs fascists as they think it is), this is much more a moral disagreement (ideology vs theology).
But as I stated earlier, I’m not going to go full “Bellum Iustum” on Rhyd and G&R at this point. Mainly because of the other weakness of the PA strategy. It relies on your opponent being aggressive towards you to weaken them morally and to show case them as the bully. There is, however, another way around this. One easily missed in the events leading up to this post, but one for which we can thank the Dionysians for pointing out.
Humor and Satire.
As was pointed out in a now deleted post, if we compare the words of Rhyd and Osama Bin Laden in regards to western culture and capitalism, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference in their quotes. Indeed, the fact the Dionysians were driven underground in response to their satire of Many Gods West shows the power that humor has in the face of hegemony and totalitarianism (even the passive aggressive kind). The Radicals of Gods & Radicals cannot handle radical behavior. But G&R did reveal some sacred cows they hold in their calling out of fascists.
So I got to thinking. Why should I wage war, when instead I can wage religion? Especially if what is about to happen is a Religious War. In fact, G&R and Rhyd have handed me (and possibly others) some very perfect sacrifices to illustrate just how politically biased their Paganism is vs the more traditional and devoted Paganisms that they subtly hinted at being Fascists.
So then, if it is to be war, let us start war with the traditional method of making a sacrifice to the Gods. Let us sacrifice at least one of these sacred cows of Rhyd and G&R as an offering to the Gods, upon an alter of dank memes. Stay tuned