Sunday, 13 August 2017

Illegitimi non carborundum.

With all that's happening in the world right now, I wanted to take a moment to talk about racism and discrimination in the general pagan community.

I know a lot of people see pagans and witches as a loving, hippie-dippy, group who couldn't possibly contribute to such a hateful thing. It almost makes me want to laugh. Not only does the pagan community contain racism, parts of it actively enable and perpetuate it.

I have written extensively about my own experiences in my own community 2 years ago, when a local white supremacist was harassing me online, attempting to defame me, and attacking and slandering members of the community who are people of colour (POC).  I cannot speak for any of those POC, I do not know their experience. I can only speak for myself and what I saw happen. I saw members of my own community, members and organizations that I have worked with and that I have trusted, back up a known white supremacist with 'they're just proud of their heritage' and a refusal to do anything to protect other members and potential members of the community, even with proof. I still see people that I know and used to respect attend their events or promote their events.  Our community here is so steeped in racism, and it is enabled by the people who have the power to prevent it.

I can't even imagine what it would be like to walk in the shoes of a POC here, seeing a whole mess of white folks who claim to be welcoming and accepting, sheltering a known neo-nazi. It must be so uncomfortable. It must be so infuriating.

Unfortunately, you see a lot of prevalence of neo-nazi beliefs and behaviours in the Heathen and Asatru community. Our gods have been co-opted by the jack-booted masses, looking to perpetuate their ideals of a pure race (which, newsflash, doesn't actually exist), white is right, and hatred of the other, searching for ways to twist the words of the gods to justify their tirade of fear and hatred. You have groups like the Wotan network, Asatru Folk Assembly (which is officially classified by the US government as a hate group), and the Thulean Perspective. You have the Heathen Harvest, the Soldiers of Odin, the Wolves of Vinland. People take the beliefs of the Thule Society and the pro-Germanic beliefs of the Nazi party during WWII, and mix it with good old fashioned fear. Presto, welcome to the new nationalist kindred: whites only, please.

You run into a lot of issues with any POC who dares to work with gods from any of the northern European pantheons: it's as though they feel that anyone who isn't lily fucking white has no business working with their gods. Oh, did you buy them? Do you have a fucking deed of sale? I mean, try not to mention that northern Europe has never been 100% white, what with all the Romans and Moors who travelled there long before and long after they were Christianized. You think they didn't intermarry? Don't dare mention that most of the population of northern Europe is Christian, and they are praying to a brown, middle eastern Jew. Don't mention that their gods were queer and sometimes brown. Like, get the fuck over yourselves.

Don't even get me started on the racist practice of cultural appropriation, or the claim from some groups that are clearly not closed cultures (cough NAZI HEATHENS cough) that POC are stealing their beliefs. The POC have no right to the Germanic/Norse gods (what are you, their fucking keeper?), that they should (and this is a quote I have see many times) just stick with their own African gods, or go back to Africa where they belong.

Heathenry is not closed culture; it is in no way under threat of extinction, and it's practitioners were not subject to genocide or mistreatment. So yeah. How about no. How about this: we all should just listen to our POC and listen to what they say about their cultures and their practices. We white folks have no business telling them what we can steal from them; we've done quite enough of that, thanks.

As much as we claim that 'hate is not a pagan value', to some it is. A belief they hold deep in their very souls. It starts, insidious at first,  as a belief in pro-nationalistic, pro-tradition rhetoric. It speaks of bringing together the 'disenfranchised', whose culture is being threatened by the cries of diversity. It slowly turns into anti-immigration, anti-islam, anti-feminism. Then it turns into marches and gatherings to 'preserve their culture'. Then it turns to violence. Then murder.

Example? Varg Vikernes. Super racist metal musician, confirmed northern practitioner, convicted arsonist who burned down churches, and convicted murderer. Now that he's out of jail, he preaches intolerance and violence through the Thulean Perspective. The man is so full of hatred, and because he was a popular musician, he commands a large audience.

Tackling the utter mess of the racist pagan community is not an easy task. I have no easy answers. All I know is that in times like this, there are 2 quotes I live by:

“Where you recognize evil, speak out against it, and give no truces to your enemies”
-Havamal, stanza 127

and the always quoted:

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
- Edmund Burke (often misquoted as 'all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.')

The most important thing to do in times like this is not not be silent. We need to stand up against racism whenever and wherever we see it. We need to own our own racist shit, and strive to be better. We need to listen to the folks who are suffering the most, and do what we can to make sure their voices are heard - and we need to let our voices rise up to combat the hatred.

We can't literal nazi fucks continue to co-opt what we have tried to build. Been there. Done that. Pretty sure we fought wars about it. It means making hard choices. It means removing people from your life who have decided, for whatever reason, that there are numerous people who do not deserve basic human rights. It will likely mean ending decades-long friendships, or family. It will mean standing up for what is right, even if it is what is hard to do.

We have to look at what these communities have become, and be absolutely disgusted at the state of them. We need to be the helpers. We need to be the ones to push to create change.

If we want this community to survive, we need to fight for it. If we can't save it, we need to burn it down to kill the disease, and start again.

At my desk at work, I have 2 yellow sticky notes on my wall. The first says "Illegitimi non carborundum." Don't let the bastards get you down. The second is the lyrics from a song that was covered by The Barenaked Ladies:

Let's kick at the darkness together, shall we?