I think one of the hardest and most common of things that pagan bloggers discuss is the community thing. These entries are difficult because we’re trying to throw items out there to a wide, non-inclusive environment to get the community ball rolling. And this topic comes up about once a month in the pagan blogosphere, making it probably one of the hottest topics out there. I’m not joking when I say that I’ve harped on this topic quite a few times and so have numerous others of my friends on their blogs. Frankly, I think we all get tired of writing about it and I bet that the readers get tired of hearing about it. The problem with this attitude, from both perspectives, is the fact that we need to discuss these items as often as we do because, more and more, we are hearing and reading of other pagans’ deep held desire for a community feel to their practices. But, unfortunately, just as often, we end up hearing and reading attitudes, platitudes, and regurgitated word vomit from others, whether they be a Big Name Pagan or otherwise, that denote just how low on the priority list fostering a community is.
And this is a problem for myself and for all of the members in my integral, core community.This morning, I woke up to a blog entry that was making the rounds because my friend, Devo, was featured in it. The title immediately put me off, though there are probably people out there who would or will get a kick out of it. “Saturday is Now Pagan Fight Night” by Sannion is an attempt at either trying to commute the hot-headed debates that went around because of his commentary on pop culture paganism or to continue to get hits on the blog without original content. In either case, this is yet another sterling example of just the type of over-the-top, childish, and ridiculous behavior people like Devo fight against when they start fostering community. On a more personal opinion regarding this debacle, I find this on the same level as my five-year-old son’s attempt at misbehaving to garner attention. In my son’s case, however, I know he will learn a lesson, but in this case… maybe not.
The actual point here is that Sannion is a bad cookie and as a supposed Big Name Pagan should be held accountable for his behavior. However, maybe he shouldn’t be. In response to ginandjack‘s comments on that iconic PCP morass of his, Sannion straightforwardly explains, “I think I’ve made it pretty clear over the years that I don’t consider most pagans to be my co-religionists.” This is borne out in his “what’s the point” entry, in which he states, “I mentioned that I am a fundamentalist in that I believe that the gods exist and they are many and anyone who believes otherwise is wrong. End of debate.” By his own words, he is not a part of our community. And as I’ve mentioned here, assholes need not apply to my community.
I think on occasions like this, of which more will come down the turnpike, we need to all re-think what our responses will be. I’m sure that, in this particular childish moment of Sannion’s, more and more bloggers will begin to comment as it hits the pagan gossip trail and more people decide how they feel about this particular instance. And while I think being honest about your opinions and feelings is important and necessary, I think that the bloggers in question need to be held accountable for their actions. I think they should be shamed and humiliated for seeking the lowest common denominators and jumping on that particular raft of ridiculous wholeheartedly.Instead of staying up and requesting clarification to posts that are pretty obvious in their content, I.E. the “I’m right and you’re wrong” variety, we need to explain to them that we will not stand for such behavior from people who are touted as “hot shit” in the community. Just as we hold our children accountable for misbehaving, so too should we do so from people who would paint us all with a bad name. We need to make it quite clear that they will not receive any sort of positive reviews from us, that we will not send practitioners with questions in their direction, that we will not assist or foster “debates” with them regarding whatever subject matter, and that we will not tolerate gross behavior from people who will be lumped within the same pagan category as us [by outsiders].
I think we all need to pay attention to behaviors like this as a kind of telltale sign of what not to do when you want to foster a community, but I also don’t think we should allow such ridiculous behavior to continue unchecked. By allowing such things, we are complete misrepresenting what the pagan umbrella is about and what it is that we want from our religion. We are also giving yet more fodder for the larger religions to continue to treat open pagan practitioners with contempt and bigotry. And at the very, very least, we are teaching future generations of pagans and polytheists that it is quite all right to be a dick.
So, to review, being a jerk is not okay. We need to make it quite clear that this behavior will not be tolerated. Also, behaving like you’re some pagan version of a reality television show is not okay. And treating people like they’re fodder for your personal amusement is not okay. As a group of people who have our own demons to fight on a daily basis, it is perfectly okay to call someone out on their monstrous ego and explain to them that this is not okay, will not be tolerated, and should be frowned upon by the larger community.