Pagan Privilege and the Dinosaur

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“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?

The meme that caused a flip out.

The meme that caused a flip out.

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. [1]

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.

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I am a dinosaur.

Stay warm.  Tell the truth.  Love someone.  Fight privilege.  Forge something worthy of blood and bone.

BB, Seba

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.

About Southern Fried Witch

Deep-fried magic tastes better with ranch dressing.
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27 Responses to Pagan Privilege and the Dinosaur

  1. Vickie says:

    Either you have been in my head again or I have been projecting to you. These thoughts are much like what I have been wrestling with for a while now. Thank you dearest Sister for giving voice to the thoughts many of us have been having…

  2. Charlotte Undery says:

    I think the main problem with the asshats of the world is that they confuse ‘privilege’ and ‘right’. Whilst it’s my privilege to be able to comment on your blog, your FB etc, it’s not my right. Many forget that we as bloggers and FBers have the right to post what we wish, when we wish; particularly if it matches our opinions, makes us think, encourages discussion/rational debate or simply makes us chuckle. It’s then our right to tell asshats to blow it out their ear when they get all butt-hurt about something they obviously don’t fully understand or have taken at face-value. Nine out of ten times, those same asshats are people that barely know us as people; the ones who lurk in the background, waiting for that moment to rise up in internet-fuelled indignation/offence. They type statements they’d never say to our faces, and often leave us wondering “do they kiss their children/lover with that mouth?!” secure in the relative anonymity of the internet and the ‘user name’ they’ve created for themselves.

    It’s those same nitwits that are the folks the meme creator was aiming it at. It’s our right to share it on, and it’s our privilege to be aware and educated (lived life?) enough to understand the point of it. All problems are our problems, all hurts are our hurts, and the sooner we all work as a team to solve and heal the better the world will get. :)

  3. Tammy May says:

    Seba, I agree with you! I guess that would make me a dinosaur too! We have to stick together! Build trust and nurture that bond! It is a sacred bond! Nothing to take lightly! You just let me know if you need something. You got it! I got your back, Guh!

  4. Stacy G says:

    As usual, you’re the one saying the things that need to be said. I love you for it, sister. <3

  5. S.C. Tanner says:

    This Yankee would take his hat off to you, if he wore a hat. I agree with you entirely, except that this appears to be a general trend everywhere I look. Of course, like yourself, I know exceptions to this trend in which I hold hope. Nevertheless, there are days when it seems like the currents of human drama are a force greater than any individual or group, and it sweep us along to some destiny regardless of our resistance. I hope that perception is merely a product of my own frustration.

    My own frustration has been ameliorated a bit by learning that Mars has moved into Libra. I do not know your inclination concerning astrology, but I offer this link as a possible explanation for what we are currently observing: http://witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Culture-Blogs/taking-offense.html

    I do not offer this as an excuse for anyone’s lack of manners. Instead, I offer it as a reason why we are not likely to make much progress in this important concern that you have voiced… at this time. On the other hand, the ill-mannered often scoff when their lack of civility is remarked upon, so I really do not know if there is such a thing as a “good time” to raise such issues. However, as you have made me feel better reading this, may your blessings be returned to you.

    • This comment is the kind of open, civil and supportive commentary and discussion that warms my heart. As always, blessings to you for your honesty and your energy. Because of folks like you, we all hold hope. Seba

  6. Brooke says:

    Can I get a heall yeah?! I have had several “discussions” regarding priveledge recently. One with family on a drunken night (bad move) me defending those on government assistance. I was a bartender! Why didn’t I know better?! The second was on a site claiming that porn should be banned because it insights rape. I got banned for saying “when you remove ones right to choose, you become an opressor.” Also, ever hear of ac countability? I felt that the opinions expressed in both arguments came from privledge but why do I keep trying to change people whose minds are CLOSED? Is it a losing battle?!

  7. slystephy says:

    The other day I was looking at a post on FB where someone stated they were a natural born witch and they were wanting to connect with others of our type to learn how best to continue their path. What I saw was simply horrifying, the following posts to her plea were not of support and guidance, but condemnation that she would even think a natural born witch was a possibility. All I could think was “you mean little bullies”!!!!! So I jumped in the fray and befriended the woman with some simple advise and told her yes there are natural born witches, I have been one for all of my 49 years alive. Then I was tromped on! Really???? So I just stated all I was seeing was a bunch of little girl bullies. Boy that really set them off!!! The moderator had already given them several warnings and then pulled the thread, however it should never had gone on as long as it did, there were already well over 175 posts when I jumped on the bandwagon! We in the Pagan community are unfortunately experiencing what the early Christians must have experienced. Even though we follow the old ways which are in our bones, you have the power grabbers that want it their way, the Priests and Priestesses who make money from their umpteenth book, and the ones who want conformity! Maybe it is just a human condition, one we can fight and win but it will take time! Keep up the good fight, my sister from a past life!!!! Love and light!

    • Wow. This is the crud that breaks my heart. But: not all of us are not pathologically bound to beat others down in order to build ourselves up. Keep up the good fight, my dear one! Love all over and back!

  8. chef ette says:

    I’m not sure how to word this. I’m sure you aren’t old enough to remember the Hippie movement. unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I am old enough and I do remember. I’m so glad to see that there are some (you for example) that are willing to pick up that baton that seemed to have been dropped soooo many years ago and carry it again. I’m not talking about the drugs and the “free love”. Whatever happened to helping your fellow man, kindness and compassion towards the less fortunate? I hope the “asshats” comment will make your other readers see him for what he really is. What a attitude: “Anyone can make a problem not a problem, simply by leaving the problem or *sliding* [my emphasis] away from it.” In other words if his backside was on fire/in trouble, he would want one of us to do what he says? slide away from him, not try to help? Someone once said “if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem”…aren’t we all supposed to be part of the solution? Isn’t that what being part of the human race is all about? As I said I hope your other readers took this persons comments and saw him for what he is. It’s a shame, a down right shame. (and I have meant no disrespect comparing your comments to the hippie movement) Peace, love and blessed be.

    • Good grief, I am honored to be compared to it! I am almost forty-eight, so I had older cousins who were all about it. Peace signs were still on my baby t-shirts in the sixties. And, I am with you on the commentary: first of all, he assumes the “privilege” of demeaning me on my page and then he goes on to suggest that when we simply walk away, societal problems disappear! Maybe for the walker! (I suddenly had a Walking Dead image.) This is the kind of thinking that terrifies me for the next generation of us. Peace, back atcha my dear.

  9. erinsinclairwriter says:

    Eh, the older I get, the more I recognize these types of complications as ego and I have no time for it. The only person I have control over is me and the efforts I need to make toward honor, oath, learning, love and life. Sometimes it’s a healthy thing to walk away. Family first, yourself included in those two words. Just a thought and just an opinion and you know what they say about those. :-)

  10. I think the issue may be a general misunderstanding of the nature of and need for gratitude. A failure to understand what a miracle it is to be living HERE and living NOW, much less living WELL. It can be difficult for hardworking and generally honorable people to see how–even with all of their hard work and boot-strap pulling–gratitude is called for. Because there are gifts that make it possible to work hard and reach that brass ring called “entitled.” Some children don’t have families that encourage education or a work ethic or even love-thy-fellow-as-thy-self. If your family did, you’ve received a gift. We aren’t all born with the same ability to thrive. Some of us need help–whether it be of the warm-and-fluffy or the kick-in-the-pants variety.

    On the esoteric level, this means making even personal workings in some way a working for the greater good. On a practical level, it is accepting that to feed the hungry or house the poor, we might be fooled by some who are not truly in need or “could do for themselves if they wanted.”

    Life can turn for any one of us in a flash. What can we do but approach life with lots of mercy and offering as much benefit-of-the-doubt as we can? Is to do otherwise any life at all?

  11. Gina Morley says:

    As the soil needs to be disturbed so the poppy seed can germinate..may your words stir the hearts of others, that the seeds of mutual respect can grow. Blessed Be XXX

  12. Autumn Pulstar says:

    It is so unfortunate that the wise ones, the ones who could care less about power and witch wars and all that are retreating from the public light, running back into the woods as you mentioned. Please, let not the crazies be the public face of Paganism!

  13. j says:

    sometimes the only thing one can do is to stand…the problem with some of the folks you describe is the fact that they never or at the minimum is to turn and look inward…they are not comfortable in their own skins so they need to get recognition/affirmation anywhere/way they can… its always easier to point out of the window than point in the mirror at the one looking back at you to find fault…change begins within ones self and the only person we can truly change is ourselves…the rest will have to sort it out for themselves…so be strong and stand…

  14. Suzanne Walker says:

    Seba –
    I’ve just now taken the time to read your latest – and then the comments. As always, you have a wonderful way of getting your point across. Thank you.
    (I think I know the same *asshat* and it’s name was deleted from my FB a long time ago for the same damn reason)
    love-
    ~slw

  15. Lizbet says:

    (I can’t believe I’m just now reading this one…I guess timing is everything)

    I used to ask my mom why I couldn’t receive communion at the Baptist church with my friends at Easter service…she always said it was simply because I wasn’t raised Baptist. It wasn’t until years later I found out the Catholics teach that the bread and wine transubstantiates and literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. She wasn’t grateful that I was receiving grace any way I could from an other Christian organization, she was concerned that I’d miss out on what I was meant for. We forget to recognize that with which we’re privileged, we take it all for granted…unless we’re poor or close to the Earth in some manner. I believe that. I don’t think it’s always a conscious choice…it’s just human nature. We live in a relatively free society, there is a rising number of New Age/Pagan/Wiccan/Spiritualists here…and we are able to practice as we will. How long will that continue to be the case? It has happened repeatedly over the decades, religious warfare and persecution. Why bicker….why not find common ground and be grateful that there are others who “get it”. It’s true, the art of privilege belongs to those who have no reason to doubt their place in their world.

    ps, love the crap outta you. xxoo

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