“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Even in the face of powerful structures of domination, it remains possible for each of us, especially those of us who are members of oppressed and/or exploited groups as well as those radical visionaries who may have race, class, and sex privilege, to define and determine alternative standards, to decide on the nature and extent of compromise.”
bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black
“It took him a long time, and a great many more parties, to realize that they didn’t live that way, that it was all strangely unreal, a kind of beautiful dream the white folks were having, a lie they were telling themselves: that goodness can come from badness, that it’s possible to be civilized with one another without treating as human beings those whose blood, sweat, and mother’s milk made possible the life of privilege they led.”
Alex Haley, Roots
No matter how long I hang around, I am always stunned at the bad manners and shoddy home training of the general population. I’d like to attribute this phenomena to un-Southern-ness, but truth be known, I have some down-home Northern, Western and non-American brothers and sisters who would never consider rudeness/crassness as an alternative to productive conversation. I reckon, the only Southern element gnawing here is: my hurt-ass feelings at human cruelty. But even that can be attributed to the condition of being human.
Today I put up a meme. As usual, I assumed that the overall message was one of ponderment: does privilege denote separateness from human despair?
Now, I suppose (if yor’ panties were ripe for wadding, if yor’ conscience was twisted, if argument for argument’s sake is yor’ digs) this was a little more of a landmine than I had weighed. To me, it held racial connotations. Sexual orientation connotations. Poverty connotations. But to others? I received the following commentary:
“Privelage [sic] does not come into this……are you saying only privileged people can make a problem not a problem. If so, you must be the dumbest person I know. Anyone can make a problem not a problem, simply by leaving the problem or *sliding* [my emphasis] away from it.”
(Good “slide,” my brother. Excellent work at evading the real issue.) I banned the asshat (primarily because of his verbal *assault* and refusal to be civil), but am left with a bad taste in my mouth. How, as pagans/witches, have we come to the point of nitpicking/mudslinging as a substitute of investigative conversation? Again and again, I see articles that pit Wiccans against Heathens, family trad against papers, race against race and gender against gender within our own beloved community and my hands are up. Seriously??? We don’t have to fight enough? We don’t have enough working against us in 2014? Then, what hope do we have??
Privilege. Lessee. I pass as white on the daily. I am not afraid, nor too politically nervous, to admit this fact. I am educated. While in the poverty range, I hold (at least for now in this economy) a job while others starve. I am (somewhat) straight. I am married. Do I have privilege? Why, HELL YEAH I DO. Do I feel guilty? NO. Am I on point, listening, learning, watching, adapting to a world that suddenly questions the guarded silence of privilege?
What do you think?
Why we are so unwilling to look at the places within our lives that we hold privilege, I do not understand. For when they are located, they may be examined. Shared. Reshifted. What are we protecting? And, much worse: why?
I have watched as my “good liberal friends” bemoan racism, homophobia and economic stratification while refusing to condone their daughters marrying black men, disowning their gay children and then giving their maid a raise a Christmas while patting themselves on the back. And I fear we are not willing to do the work of change. As long as it doesn’t affect us, we lament the ills of our world . . . but do very little of the footwork. We give to the local food bank at Christmas, fly our FB status equality signs, but rarely show up to a soup kitchen or a gay pride parade. My heart is sick at the lack.
But then, to see my brethren rip each other to shreds in public forums, a brethren born of olden ways and respect and oathes and honor, I am broken. We are infected, at our arterial core, with drama and backstabbing and power-grabbing. (I know, I know. No one wants to look at this. I am not afraid of examining; I am, however, terrified at the prospect of refusing to do so.) Whose papers trace back the farthest, whose coven holds court with the most notable, whose tradition is most honored by the Universe has replaced conversations about kinship, equality and nobility. Pagan privilege has usurped Pagan ethics on too many sacred grounds. 
And we cannot afford it. It’s too expensive. Perhaps the most horrendous of ironies for the privileged is that: the tables can turn. But when they do? We have already made our stand. We were right, we were more pagan, we were more witchy. And now . . .
We are more humbled.
I stand by that meme. I can’t afford *not* to do so. As a pagan, as a witch, and as a sacred being: my brethren’s problems ARE my problems. Good gravy grief, I thought that was clear. Why, even my enemy’s problems are mine, in certain circumstances. When did we become so uppity that we forgot the tapestry of energy? The primacy of Universal Law? Worse, when did we forget that privilege always costs us something?
Mayhap we all just want to be the next Supreme. Ahem. And WTF.
I pull away, more and more, from public life. I have seen my spells (fewer cast than one might think) come to fruition. I know my life and my being to be magical. Yet, I await a world in which we can be the great teachers, the levelers, refusing ego and rank for something more tangible. More lasting. More real. More sacred than privilege.
All that energy we spin . . . can you imagine if we used it to win against pain? Poverty? And if this is the world I have joined, thinking that I had sisters and brothers, perhaps I shall go back to my woods. I have bigger, more worthy battles to fight than ego-driven “witch wars” and first-world-drama. Little lives are being born into this. What will they find?
If we could start fresh, sit at a round table, and fashion a world for them: I would hope that it could be livable. Honest, even if it smelled funny. Noble. A world in which we tell the truth of our human condition and ask our children to do the same. A place where shame couldn’t find root, where codes and honor held the value of money and where telling the truth was the most beautiful, sacred act one could give or receive. The world that was before, that we swore to nourish, that we are vested to repair. But . . . that’s just me. Horribly idealistic, I suppose.
I am a dinosaur.
Stay warm. Tell the truth. Love someone. Fight privilege. Forge something worthy of blood and bone.
1. I am certainly not saying that we should hold court with folks who break the law, hurt each other, enact asshattery or the like. I’m sure you all remember my refusal to attend PPD last year. I am, however, saying that our community needs some common ground that would not even hold court with such unsacral energy and work towards encouraging others to hold to a higher ethical ground. Pissing on already urine soaked dirt is redundant. We need to grow something. Hold the bar higher. Remember who WE ARE. And hold our brethren up to the light so that they must do the same.