Monthly Archives: February 2013

Boundaries as Activism

–By Shauna Aura Knight

A lot of the activism that I do is what I would call “everyday activism.” It’s things that you can do in your own life to begin to live in the world you want to be in, change the world around you, by first changing yourself and becoming the person you want to be. Some of this kind of personal transformation work can be very difficult. It’s often just as challenging, if not more challenging, than front-line activism at a protest.

One area that has taken a lot of personal work on my part is around personal boundaries. I’m not necessarily talking about energetic shielding, though that’s tangentially related; I see a lot of Pagans talk about magical shielding practices, but few Pagans who are actually doing the personal growth work to develop healthy boundaries.

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My Lost Art of Doing Things

I’m a homebody at heart.  I even telecommute to my job.  It’s fairly common for me to be inside for days on end and not just because winter storm Nemo dropped about 22 inches on me a week ago.  I also get fairly anxious when I step out of my comfortable home regardless of whether I choose to leave or if circumstances take me away from it.  I’ve even talked myself out of attending concerts for which I’ve already purchased tickets!

I’ve been watching PantheaCon from afar this weekend and envied the people in attendance for the experiences they’re having and questioning, as some at the convention have done as well, the importance of reaching out online to the greater Pagan community.  I’m never going to stop involving myself in the online community, in a lot of ways I consider you all to be my community, but I do question sometimes if there’s more that I could be doing.

We call this site Pagan Activist.  “Activist” implies action; implies doing.  But, too often I find that I feel like I’m not doing enough.  For months I’ve been working with members of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy on the formation of a Pagan chapter for it.  I’ve spoken with other Pagans on the topic as well, but things have stalled mostly due to my own resistance to doing things, toward acting.

To idle is to find an illusion of safety.  To be static is to find a subtle consistency that change, that action, foils.  To act opens us up to the possibility of failure, humiliation, ridicule.  To act seems so difficult, and the way I’ve found to make sure that I do so is to make it clear to others that I’m going to act or to involve others in the acting.

This past Wednesday was the first meeting of the Southeastern Massachusetts Pagan Night Out.  We met at a local bar and grill, the eight of us, and had good food, good drinks, and good conversation.  We left looking forward to the following month’s get-together.  I was nervous about setting the whole thing up, but various online social networks reduced the difficulty of action and made it more easy.  And, but creating a situation in which others relied on me to be a part of the action, I felt duty bound, for lack of a better term, to act.

And that’s part of why I mentioned the FRD above.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the process and my goals for it.  Perhaps motivating myself through a sense of obligation and the possibility of guilt if I don’t meet those obligations is not the best way to get myself going, but sometimes if I do go with what works, I worry that my art of doing things will be truly lost.

Internalizing the Economy

RR

The other day I wrote this as my status on Facebook: I spend hours and hours and hours sending out resumes only to be ignored. I volunteer my time hoping it’ll bring paid employment. I am asked over and over to give my labor away for free. I watch friends move in and out of jobs and wonder what they are doing that I am not. I read articles about how to find employment. I network, coordinate, and collaborate to no avail.

I AM VALUABLE. MY LABOR IS WORTH A PAYCHECK.

After I posted it, I could feel my mood plummet. I got so discouraged, so angry, so depressed. I started thinking to myself

You’re an idiot. This is what you get for thinking you had a right to an education.

You have done nothing but make bad choice after bad choice and now you’re living the consequences of those poor choices. It doesn’t matter how many resumes you send out, you’re stupid and you’ll never get anywhere. You’ll never be an employee of a nonprofit because no one wants you. You’ll never work up the ranks to Executive Director. You’ll never do anything of consequence because you have no value, no inherit worth. You, Michelle, are a fucking idiot who has no one to blame but yourself. You got too big for your britches thinking you had a right to an education and a right to a career, a job even.

Then I took to bed and cried myself to sleep.

When I talk to people about how I am internalizing the economy I get the usual responses “you’re not stupid. You’re not an idiot. It’s the system. It’s the economy.” While I appreciate their effort, their words are hollow. Worse is when I look in their eyes and I see pity. Worse still is when they walk away knowing they have a job and I do not. Instead of getting angry I just work harder. I know the old saying “don’t work harder, work smarter” but it just doesn’t seem to apply. Try as I might (harder or smarter) I just cannot find work. I apply for positions but never receive a call for an interview or acknowledgement of my resume. Every position gets so many resumes I get lost in the shuffle. Since I know this is happening I did something I have never done before: I asked someone to drop a dime and put in a good word for me. Actually, I asked two people to do so. It’s my belief I should be interviewed and hired on my merits not on who I know. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Each time I send a resume to a potential employer there’s an upsurge in my body, like adrenaline being dumped. And as time goes on and I receive no response the despair is a little lower than the next time. If I do get an interview the upsurge increases substantially. But when I get that rejection (if I get one at all, usually silence is what follows) the despair is worse than the last time. Further and further I fall into that pit.

As the unemployment continues I try to keep myself busy. As I stated in my status on Facebook, I volunteer my time. But I found I’m being taking advantage of. Not on purpose but still it’s happening. The organizations I give my labor to are progressive and work hard for equality. I was contacted by one asking me to do something for them. At first I agreed. Then, remembering crying myself to sleep the night before, I asked how much I would be paid. The organizer said there was no budget for such. I responded with “My labor is not free. Just like you, I need a paycheck. If your organization is not going to pay me then I cannot accommodate their request.” Then I put this on my status: I did it! For the first time in my life I asked “and how much will you pay me” when I was asked to do something for an organization. It was scary to be that assertive but I will no longer be taken advantage of. If an organization wants something from me they will have to pay me. This is especially true if the organization has paid staff, staff paid well enough to buy a house. It was a terrifying moment for me. I like to feel needed and feel useful. I’ve always been afraid to say no because I want to be part of the solution not the problem. But I have a breaking point and it was reached.*

There is not much for me to do but continue doing what I have been: prowling the job websites, sending out resumes, trying to keep myself from slipping into the dungeon of depression, keeping back the hounds of envy when I look at friends and family being able to go on vacation, buy clothes, go out to eat, get a haircut, and trying really, really hard not to get angry and lash out.

*Now my fear is I won’t be called at all, that I will get a “reputation” as being difficult and I’ll be rejected and ostracized. It’s a lose-lose situation: I do what they ask and I’m left unpaid. I don’t do what they ask and I’m rejected.

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Boycott…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we have the power to take a stand with action or inaction, silence or raised voices, financial support or financial withholding. All of these are choices at our disposal when we are moved to do something.

The issue that has my most immediate attention and energy these days is the presence of GMO in our food supply. The levels on which this issue calls for action are multiple: community education, requiring labels on food packages so consumers know what they are buying and ultimately, eliminating GMO from our environment. I’ve discovered that “boycott” (my new favorite word) is possible in many forms and I want to share them here.

First, I’ve chosen to boycott products that contain GMO. Finding substitutes may take a little research but once that is accomplished, it’s easy as non-GMO pie! The next step is to contact the companies whose products I’m no longer buying, letting them know why I’m no longer a customer and that I’ll share my decision with other people who care about making healthy food choices. My favorite example of this is the time I was hoping to buy sun dried tomatoes but the label on the jar was unclear as to the purity of the ingredients. I called the company directly from the market and asked about GMO. When the company representative told me no guarantee could be made that the product is GMO free, I had the pleasure of telling her that I was placing the product back on the shelf and leaving the store without it. Financial withholding raised voice, action… all in one!

I’ve been fortunate to meet some very dedicated people here in CT who are working toward legislation that would require the labeling of all GMO foods in our state. Our efforts include the promotion of local farms, working with state legislators and community education events throughout the state. These efforts are boycotts of silence and inaction.

There is one last aspect to my boycott commitment that is personal and perhaps the most important. That is the boycott of fear – fear of public speaking, fear of rejection, fear of failure. When an issue becomes so important that we feel we must become involved in its resolution, believing in ourselves is vital. My own boycott of fear includes working with other people who are willing to share their experience and expertise. This has led me to a strong and determined community of activists who are teaching me and from whom I’m learning to teach others. This boycott is bolstered every day by the reminder that I am more afraid of doing nothing than I am of getting out there and making my voice heard.