Once More, With Feeling.

Anon, I say; to the shenans!

Anon, I say; to the shenans!

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.

The pagan community is not allowed to have nice things.

The pagan community is not allowed to have nice things.

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.

Justice must be done!

Justice must be done!

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.

29 thoughts on “Once More, With Feeling.

  1. We are also giving yet more fodder for the larger religions to continue to treat open pagan practitioners with contempt and bigotry.

    I don’t see the connection at all. While I can certainly understand the desire, even need, to make it clear who is and is not a part of the communities you choose to participate in, when I see sentiments like this, I can’t help but recall old bears and “straight acting” GBQ men whinging about how drag queens and club twinks “make all queer men look bad”. The thing is, there are always going to be people who refuse to see the trees for the forest, but in my experiences, most people can and will learn. On a large scale, it can be a slow process, but I don’t see a huge difference between what you’re right now advocating and what you accuse others of. But I prefer the wisdom of “be the change you want to become”.

  2. Aubs I can agree with almost everything you ranted about (and can certainly understand the need to rant) but I think Sannion got you on that one. That bit of madness is how he makes his best points. I’m of the opinion that the large part of the pagan community is already a community and doesn’t need the help or hindrance of a few dozen opinionated people with access to the internet. The groups of folks that I spend amazing days with celebrating in whatever generic (or more focused, depending on the specific individuals present, because that’s how flexibility works) fashion we choose don’t really care that much about the opinions flying about the internet. Our community is out there already and it’s waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

    • Well said. And generally agreed. Especially about Sannion –in simplest terms, his goal is along the lines of “trolling with a purpose”. That’s not everyone’s cuppa, which is fair enough, since he’s kind of misanthropic, but if you dig Laibach or Andy Kaufman, you can easily learn to read between the lines and see what he’s up to. Some people find that annoying and obnoxious. Oh well.

        • Reasonable is not deciding that two bloggers need to be placed in an Internet sudden death moment based on entries that don’t even remotely have anything in common. Reasonable would have been asking both bloggers’ permission before they were sent the E-mail notification of a pingback from you. Reasonable would have, probably (and call me crazy here), choosing a real subject matter to discuss.

      • “Trolling with a purpose” = “you can’t call me out for shitty behavior”

        If someone makes their best points by ripping others down, they should be painted as the sad excuse of air they are.

          • Then, I’m going to have to inform you that I’m calling you out on yet more shitty behavior.

            On June 6th, when you remarked, “Something else that you’d do well to keep in mind – this better not happen a second time. Because if I catch you spreading shit about the people I care for again, I won’t be laughing it off like I did here. This satyr has teeth and enjoys using them. And to make things perfectly clear, that was a threat in every conceivable way,” to someone who apologized for misrepresenting your personal relationships.

            While I can understand the ire that went into such a statement, this is a faux pas on numerous levels. According to this article on the four parts that make up an effective apology, the person in question hit on each point. The explanation could have, quite possibly, been a little bit more in-depth, but above all, each point was hit.

            Instead of either completely accepting the apology provided – and allowing the indignity you suffered to be rectifiied – you then went on the offensive. And what makes it even worse is that you did acknowledge the apology and while maybe not provide forthright forgiveness, you at least had begun the proper process. However, you finished the whole fun bit off with the above not-so-veiled threat.

            Just so you know what you did does qualify as cyberbullying. And while you were the initial target of said cyberbullying, when someone tried to make amends, you went way into left field. Two wrongs do not make a right.

            • And now this person is going to think twice before dragging people’s irrelevant personal details into a theological debate. And maybe so will everyone else who reads that. I’m okay with people thinking I’m dangerously unhinged as long as they observe proper etiquette as a result.

        • You can call it out, sometimes the charade fails for good reasons.

          On the other hand, while I agree with your latter statement, I don’t see anyone being “ripped down”. I see this “fight night” spectacle as completely random posts picked out. No-one is made out as more or less “correct” than the other, nor are they portrayed as more or less “correct” than the blogger himself. It’s an Internet “gurilla street theatre”, and no less absurdist than any stunt the Yippies concocted.

          • So, instead of filling his blog with actual content, he was bored and decided to do a sort of impromptu fireworks show? Considering how often he posts daily, I find this logic circumspect.

            • Why do you assume it has to be an either or scenario? I can post meaningful content and point out how absurd and inconsiderate you people are being.

              And that’s all I’m saying about this here. I don’t want to hijack this person’s blog. You want to attack me you know where my blog can be found. I can also be reached at sannion@gmail.com if you want to carry out your attack in private. Let’s stop pestering these nice people though.

            • So, then, a honest question:

              Who are you to determine what “actual content” is on someone’s personal blog?

              • It’s particularly funny that they’re attacking someone who has published at least 1,700 pages of content in various books, most of which were first posted on his blogs or websites – but that’s not enough I guess. If you’re labeled a Big Name Pagan, you must publish only what other people consider proper “content” on your own blog, because what you do for free with your own time is now their business.

                • Like, I could see if the House of Vines was really the First Institutionalized Temple of Dionysus, WhereverTheHellSannion Lives, 501(c) Tax Exempt Status and instead of posting about UBERDYONISIANFESTIVAL//2014, he’s posting random things that have no bearing on the organization. That could be “lack of actual content”.

                  But on a personal blog? That’s kind of presumptuous and arrogant to think that one is entitled to determine what someone else’s “actual content” is.

      • It’s about a 4 hour drive to get to that community. I have access to them because I get up and make it happen. I have since run across a few folks who- like me originally- thought they had to travel long distances to find these other active groups. Turns out we didn’t, but now we all get along so well that we don’t mind driving sometimes and staying closer other times. And they really don’t pay attention to internet happenings, which was my point.

        • To be fair, though, that’s still no guarantee that others can “get up and make it happen”. Yeah, I’m lucky, and I’ve lived in towns this last ten years where I can, at the very least, take a quick bus ride down to the local pagan/occult/new age book store and post a notice to meet people. But I’m too blind to drive; if I lived in, say, the Western Australia desert, through no fault of my own, I might not have the option to hop a bus or even make a weekend trip out of hanging out with co-religionists –and note I said “might not”, cos I don’t know what living in the Western Territory is like, and it was just the most remote place I could think of. Yeah, one could argue that, if I lived there, and meeting up with other people really was that lacking, I could move —but that requires a number of things, like money and shit. Sure, I could still make that move, but I think Aubs Tea’s point was that some people wouldn’t see the point in trying to contact other pagans/polytheists/etc…, if the only others they encountered on-line seemed kinda jerky. Now, I think AT is generally wrong about that, at least for all practical interpretations (as a quick example: if someone has social anxieties, that was in all likelihood pre-existing and some curt people on the Internet didn’t cause that, so blaming a few jerks on-line for why the anxious person avoids other pagans is confusing correlation with causation), but I do think I understand what they’re saying, and turning back around to say what amounts to “if you want community off-line, then make it happen” is to ignore the very real factors they’re alluding to.

  3. Pingback: I have a modest proposal | The House of Vines

  4. “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.”

    “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.”

    I am getting really sick of other people deciding someone is a BNP or a “leader” and then over-reacting to everything they say on that basis. I have been called both of these things lately in an attempt to somehow hold me to some imaginary standard, that I should not be able to say what I want, how I want, on my own blog because I am vaguely more well-known than another random polytheist blogger, and all the people who read me will get their feelings hurt and abandon their practice because I’m so damn intimidating, or some such nonsense. Most of us labeled in this way have never sought to be BNPs – nor are we in actuality, as I guarantee you that outside of our tiny Recon-derived polytheist internet circles, no one has probably heard of us. If I was such a BNP, my books would certainly be selling better, I’d be getting invitations to speak at conventions, I’d have a group of students eagerly attending my every word, etc. None of this is true. Conveniently, those bloggers “on the other side” of the issue are complete unknowns (and usually anonymous, as in no one knows their real identities, only screen names), so apparently they don’t have to conform to any standard in their posts, as they have been personally, individually attacking us and that’s just fine behavior that doesn’t need to be “called out.”

      • Be careful, it’s not necessarily something you can control. I thought that by stepping down – years ago – from any position of leadership, and not participating in any groups, teaching any classes, speaking at any conferences, or promoting myself in any way, I was in the clear, but apparently I am still being considered a BNP regardless (because I wrote two books? because my blog has a few hundred followers? I don’t know). It would be flattering, I guess, if it wasn’t being used to insist that I conform my personal blog posts to other people’s expectations.

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