Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sex, Ethics, and Paganism

4487248_xl–By Shauna Aura Knight

I believe in being sex positive. Not just in the Pagan community–I’d like to see more positive, healthy behaviors across the world. I hear Pagans talking about wanting that too, but there’s a few elephants in the room. And until we acknowledge some of them, we aren’t going to have a healthy sex dynamic in our community.

First, what does “Sex positive” mean? Continue reading

Activism, Acceptance and Approval

By Peter Dybing

It is a normal human desire to seek acceptance, approval and understanding from those with who with we participate with in community. After all, this is where we nurture our sense of collective identity, connection to divinity and place among peers.

What presents a struggle for Pagan activists within our ever more diverse community is when our efforts place us squarely in the bulls eye of criticism from our spiritual cousins.

Many individuals in our community seek to expand their practice and network of contacts by sticking exclusively to theological pursuits ignoring the connections our beliefs have with the environmental, political and social issues of the day. Such an approach, while minimizing the potential for discord, leads to a “Pagan light” approach to daily practice.

For an activist, the spiritual is political, personal and weaved fully into our understanding of our path. If this is so, how do we avoid the many conflicts that arise from our activities? The simple answer is we don’t. If our beliefs and actions lead to strife among our co-religionists, it is a reflection of our effectiveness in pursuing our deity inspired concepts of social justice.

At the center of this divergence is the ability to hold those within our circles with whom we disagree in what I term “Sacred Regard” as teachers, clarifiers of our path and respected seekers on their own journey.

As a very left leaning activist I have encountered Tea Party Pagans, extreme conservatives and our ever present group of trolls who wish to engage in escalatory debate. Each of these groups serves a critical purpose within our community, insuring that concepts, actions and events within our community are inclusive, discrimination free and transparent.

It is incumbent on all of us to respect the diversity with our community and respect differences and to apply the ethic that our actions be ethical and well intended; others who oppose action do not necessarily reflect a nefarious intent or inherent “wrongness”.

boundaries.wiki.

If you’re an activist, you’re going to take some arrows, hurtful speech and disrespect within the community. Those who engage in environmental, social and racial justice issues are fighting the good fight. It is not a popularity contest and it insures that you will never become a “BNP” with wide respect within the community. For us activists, the greatest compliment is when we are controversial. We push boundaries, call on others to examine their own internal attitudes and generally support the recognition of cognitive dissonance that is so healthy for growth within our community.

Service, inherently rewarding, is not easy!

With deep respect to those making a difference in the world!

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On Disagreement and Discrimination

I’m cheating a bit this month.  I also blog at the Wild Garden, the interfaith blog on the Pagan channel at Patheos.com and because I’m actually on vacation this weekend, I’ve decided to re-post my most recent article there on this site as well.  Here’s an excerpt:

I think we’ve begun to lose the distinction between disagreement and discrimination.  What I mean is this:  just because I disagree with a law neither makes that law discriminatory toward me nor toward people like me.  Noise ordinances, for example, are pretty commonly used in residential areas to help cut down on the decibels after a certain point in the evening.  If you’re throwing a party, you might disagree with your neighbors if they call the cops on you, but your neighbors aren’t discriminating against you by trying to get you to lower the volume a bit.

Sound intriguing?  Check out the full post here and we’ll be back with our normal, long-form articles next weekend!

Dietary Tribalism

1360016977Recently I attended a multiday event which included a lot of physical activity and required endurance. Knowing the participants would need to be fed, the organizers sent an email a few weeks prior asking participants about diet restrictions and food allergies. I responded with “paleo” then listed my food allergies and what happens to my body when I eat the foods I’m allergic to.

The midday meal consisted rice and bean burritos with some tofu wrapped in wheat tortillas or peanut butter and jelly on either wheat bread or “gluten free” bread. Dinner was rice and beans, chili made of beans and corn, lettuce with apples, and bread. I can eat none of these foods yet because these were the only meals offered I ate what I knew my body would negatively respond to.

By this time I was very worried about the days to follow. I went to bed yet found myself unable to sleep due to frequent trips to the bathroom. When morning came I was not only completely exhausted from not sleeping and all the physical activity of the day before but I was also extremely hungry. I had to make the decision as to stay with the group or travel home. Not only was my body undernourished my brain didn’t have the fuel it needed so decision making wasn’t easy.

I talked with a volunteer, a lovely young woman in her senior year of college, who said “meat was never going to be provided. The majority of people here are vegetarian.” I asked her “if you were the only vegan with a bunch of paleos wouldn’t you expect to be fed?” She responded with “Oh, I didn’t think of that.” She also stated the volunteers and organizers had seen my diet requirements when I emailed the form to the organization. However, no one made any attempts to communicate with me. I was informed by the volunteer “it was on the website.” Prior to leaving my home I saw the menu on the website. I wrongly assumed* my dietary needs would be met.

I then went to the organizer, a young woman in her early twenties, who said to me “buy your own food.” When I explained I had only enough money to get back home via public transportation she shrugged and walked away. My tired, hungry brain bubbled over into emotional tears. I felt devalued, unwanted, poor, and so … dismissed. That’s when I decided to return home.

It took almost four hours for me to get home via public transportation. During that time I got some animal protein in my body and was able to nap on the bus. I started to feel better but knew I wouldn’t return to myself until I slept in my own bed and ate food my body is accustomed to.

Food Tribes

More people are realizing the Standard American Diet of highly processed, refined foods is not “healthy”, thus creating dietary tribalism: paleos, vegan, and everyone in between. Whether intentional or not, food tribe members are imposing their personal morality and individualistic dietary requirements on others and it’s causing conflict and, worse, exclusion. After the 24 hours I spent eating vegan I felt so marginalized that my trust in the group deteriorated to zero. Thankfully, after my belly was filled and my body rested I was able to think rationally and realized this was a time for non-accusatory dialogue. But I’m still struggling with that.

Events designed to bring people together can, and do, have the opposite effect. One can bring their own food but doing so can insult the hostess which leads to more conflict. What one person eats as a staple may cause anaphylactic shock in another. Gone are the days when a BBQ of dogs and burgers, slaw and salad feeds 100 people. Family functions have become fraught with peril. The dietary needs of paleos and vegans — not to mention the multitudes with severe food allergies — are often left out at large functions when providing an abundance of food as cheaply as possible is the goal.

Economics

The Second Great Depression is making it tough for everyone. Personally I’ve been affected by an inability to find gainful employment. My fulltime job is looking for a fulltime job. The lack of employment has effected every single aspect of my life. Most discussions start and end with “I don’t have the money.” There are lots of events I don’t attend, conference calls I can’t join, and spend much of my time home alone, isolated away from the population because of the economy. Even my familial relationships have been affected. One member of my family will no longer talk to me because I could not afford to attend her wedding last year.

Because money is so finite, I pick and choose what I will spend greenbacks on. I have to weigh the options carefully: is what I want to do financially feasible? Will it throw my budget completely out of whack? How long will it take my bank account to recover from spending money on _____.

I planned to attend the event for months. All I needed was a small amount of cash to get to the departure point and home from the end point.  I decided the cost of the bus tickets was worth the event. I knew my meals would be provided so that was something I didn’t need to worry about.

I was very wrong.

Planning for a large group of people on a finite budget isn’t easy. Choices have to be made as to what is economically feasible for the group. Budgets have to cover the plan and if the budget does not, the plan has to be reworked. As someone who has done a multitude of event planning I understand this fully.

The group didn’t get the funding they were anticipating so cuts had to be made. But as the volunteer said “we were never planning on providing meat”. So even if the food budget had been slashed, my meals were never going to made available to me. And that was never directly communicated to me.

Solutions

There just doesn’t seem to be a happy medium in which everyone’s dietary needs are satisfied. A vegan may not want to watch a paleo eat chicken. Individuals allergic to nuts may not be able to attend public events where nuts may be in attendance. A celiac can not eat anything with grains in it, often excluding that person from eating grainy salads on the table. Bringing ones own food may insult Grandma who spent hours planning, shopping, and preparing a meal.

So what’s the solution?

Not imposing dietary tribalism of one group onto another.

Just as a group of paleos wouldn’t consider forcing vegans to eat meat, vegans should not force paleos into eating grains.  To look down one’s nose at someone who is eating as their body calls for is silently imposing dietary tribalism. The last thing I want when I’m eating lamb is for snide, rude comments, dirty looks, and a holy-than-thou attitude from someone sitting across from me. It’s just as easy for me to make disrespectful comments in attempts to shame someone into eating the way I want them to. For instance, I could say “Grains are converted into sugar and we know there’s nothing cancer cells love more than sugar!” just like someone could say “That lamb had a face! Meat is murder!” Neither attitude is appetizing. Leave your inner Judge Judy at home.

Finding Commonalities

There are lots of commonalities between paleos and vegans. Both tribes, generally, want to avoid processed foods, artificial ingredients, false sugars and genetically modified organisms and other forms of chemical engineered food. Both want organic, nutrient dense, low carbon footprint foods grown locally. Both groups focus on their health and feel, as individuals, they are feeding their bodies the best possible diet for optimal health. Focus on those commonalities instead of the differences.

Avoid Exclusion

“We were never going to provide meat” the volunteer said.
“Buy your own” said by the organizer.

Both statements made me feel other, marginalized, unwanted, and disrespected. Both reeked of economic privilege and offended me to my core.  Those two sentences made me not want to work with the groups who organized the event, nor with the two young women I spoke with. I realized the two women who spoke these words were young and what they need is education about privilege and how the choices they made as individuals and as a group affected me quite negatively.

What the organizers and volunteers planned to do about the exclusion of my dietary needs once it was pointed is the crux of the problem. Obviously they had no idea what to do so their response was to make what they overlooked into my problem. By shrugging off my concerns they dodged responsibility. This is not an acceptable solution. In short, their solution was exclusion.

Social movement want inclusion. In order to do so organizers must plan for all dietary and economic needs. Otherwise entire groups of people will be deliberate excluded to the detriment of the movement organizers are trying to recruit for. Basically: don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

Communicate

A few weeks before the event, I sent in the questionnaire regarding my dietary needs. The volunteer said “oh, we saw that” but the group never communicated to me their unwillingness to provide the requirements of my diet. The response I received when I brought this up was “it was on the website”. Putting something on a website is not the be all, end all in communication. By saying what she did, the organizer dodged responsibility essentially saying “it’s your fault. Go home.”  Being contacted when the organization first received my questionnaire should’ve occurred. At that point I would’ve been able to make a decision as to whether to attend, save money, prepare meals, and ask friends and colleagues for donations to help me procure appropriate food in order for me to succeed in completing the week long event — something I had looked forward to, and trained for, for months — was feasible.

What I learned from this experience was to be inclusive of all eaters. The next event I plan will either have food for all or require all to bring their own food. I do not want anyone to feel the way I did, not even for a second.

If you’re inclined, I often foodgram.

*Assumptions make an ASS out of U and ME.
**Emphasis mine

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Method in the Midst of Madness

By Kelley

My first blog post and I have been pondering this subject for a very long time. I am 53 years old, been politically charged since birth. I put my first seed in the ground when I was 5. My great grandmother fought very hard for and sacrificed greatly for a woman’s right to vote…so you are getting the picture. I met my husband when I was 17, we divorced 15 years ago and this will be the only time that I will quote him….

“Communication is the message received.”  Think about this statement. We can type, talk and text until we are exhausted. However, unless the person on the receiving end is open to the type of communication we are attempting, our message falls flat or worse is misinterpreted.  I challenge you…when in your lifetime has communication with all humans been more vital to our survival?

I recently borrowed a device that transfers old VHS video to disk. In a matter of hours 23 years of questions and uncertainty over reasons for the break down of our family unit where exposed.  The videos communicated to my sons 23, 19 and 17 what years of talk and their own experiences had not accomplished. They processed the break down of our family via family video. Why had I not done this before? I couldn’t bear to watch, so I let the tapes stay safely packed away. Some of us learn and process information best by watching.

Many readers of  this blog have the ability to know the thoughts of others, how blessed/cursed we are. But having this ability is critical as a tool to open minds at this very critical moment. We need every tool in the box. We need to employ the US Postal Service and Hallmark, if your aunt or mother are of the generation who would be open to a message from you in this form USE IT!

We need to use social media to reach our old college roommates.  We need to pick up the phone and call our grandparents. We have so many people out there who are becoming isolated and they are listening to the television. I know that I do not need to explain that any further. Pick your cause and reach out and touch someone, everyone who you can. A warm smile in the grocery store can unlock a conversation with a stranger and a discussion on GMOs could manifest. A accepting nod in a debate to an opponents point can break down a barrier.  It is comforting to associate with the people who we share the most viewpoints with, we need to bypass this comfort zone. We must reach out. We need all of our tools and we need them right now.

Our little town actually has a gun store next to the high school. The owner respected my positions on our town planning board. It was an in…I stop in all the time talk to the men hanging out there and offer my counter opinions, to guide the lost boys who are hanging there too.

We need to know that we, as Pagan activists, many of us hermits, are not alone. I say “just look up” look up at the sky when you feel that we are not making progress. Most of the world’s population has the ability to tilt their head to the sky. At that moment someone else is doing the same thing. Could you imagine the possibility of us all uniting by simply looking at the sky at the same time everyday and directing positive energy to each other? Magic is the best tool. It is free. We are all beacons of light and we need to light it up..for our Mother, our Earth is in dire need of our help.