“Just When You Thought It was Safe to Go Back in the Water…”

Note: The title a quote from Jaws by Peter Benchley.

While I will tell anyone who asks – and those who don’t – that my favorite horror movie is The Thing, circa 1982, I have quite a few that I can classify easily as “my favorite.” One of the top contenders that has to fight with Kurt Russell, aliens, and the Antartic is the summer thriller, Jaws. It came out eight years before I was born and it would be another twelve years before I saw it for the first time. I read the book first before renting it – because I’m a snob like that – and while I still have moments where I try to point out items in the book that were not in the movie to the television screen, I still really enjoy the movie. It scares me still – unlike The Thing, unfortunately – because there is just that primal fear of not knowing what will get you if you’re swimming in the ocean. And the best part is that they hardly, if ever, show the fucking shark so it’s that much scarier.

So, what the hell does this movie have to do with anything? Why am I writing about this?

I rented the movie for three bucks last night and started watching it. I was mulling over all the various community posts going around (links below) and I was watching the movie, looking for mindless oblivion before I went to sleep. And you know what I realized? The whole fucking movie is an excellent metaphor for this community shit. If you haven’t watched the movie, then you really aren’t going to understand what I’m talking about, but I’m going to go ahead and explain it anyway… and hope someone has seen the movie and understands where I’m coming from.

The movie is about this giant shark – a great white – that starts to terrorize a small island community. There’s no telling where it came from or why it chose the water of Amity Island, Massachusetts. The feeding grounds were plenty, it being high summer and the islanders’ main income in the form of tourist dollars added to the feeding frenzy. In the movie, technically, only a few people die. However, that’s still more than your average shark since, you know, statistics show that there’s an average of 78 unprovoked shark attacks a year. And the worst is that the knowledge base of sharks is still fledgling so how do you kill an ancient killing machine? The heroes manage, of course, because books and movies aren’t very good if you don’t have heroes. There are three heroes in this movie and while those three heroes were more anti-hero in the book, they’re still pretty fucking heroic.

And I’m watching this movie, getting cold chills up and down my spine from the excellent orchestral notes we all associate with Jaws just as much as I’m getting them from realizing the metaphor for the pagan community at large, the polytheist community at minor, and the Kemetic community at clique. And that’s what really threw me last night before my mind decided it had too much thinking going on. I was watching a cult classic and its association with my religious life was horrifically accurate. No one should be able to watch any kind of movie, classic or otherwise, and find out that it has any parallel on your life. I think it may even be worse if you realize that this prolific horror movie mirrors your religious life. Your religious life shouldn’t mirror anything, but for some fucking reason, paganism has decided it’s going to do this thing anyway.

Look at my excellent text-based paint skills in action.

Look at my excellent text-based paint skills in action.

I think the movie poster, as seen above with a few additions, can greatly surmise what I’m getting at for those not quite aware. This movie poster is about as iconic as they come and just about everyone has seen it at some point or another. (Or else, I’m a really great, huge nerd and never realized how big of a nerd I was for knowing what iconic movie posters look like.)

At the top, we have the innocent victim, swimming happily in the ocean. She is completely unaware of what lurks beneath her. And while most of us “boat paddlers” are usually in a boat, maybe we want to take a dip to cool off from all of the hard work we’ve been busy doing. (My job isn’t so much to just paddle, but to also man the coconut missiles when my fellow boat paddlers are under siege) So, there we are doing our boat paddling best to forge a community amid a bunch of over-defended (read: highly sarcastic) people and lurking beneath is the mob mentality of the pagan community. And that mob mentality is getting ready to shoot through the water, black eyes rolled back in its head. And then, the feeding frenzy on those of us trying, trying, trying so damn hard with tears in our eyes amid the stone wall defenses of our “fellow man” can begin.

The thing about this mob mentality is that most people don’t seem to realize how very detrimental it can be. They claim that those of us who are so busy paddling our boats and calling for reason are “tone policing.” As my mother used to say when I was a child, modulate your tones. While this link is specific to Feminism, it pretty much correlates entirely with what people are complaining about us boat paddlers. “You want us to express ourselves in a pleasant manner? Fuck that!” That’s really not what we’re talking about, in its entirety. Yes, we would like it if people paid more attention to all of their heka, which includes what the fuck you’re saying on the Internet. But, I’m not just discussing this from a Kemetic perspective; I’m also looking at this from a pagan and polytheist generalized community perspective, so I know that my discussion of heka may fly over some people’s head.

It’s not so much that we want you to push your volume button down a few notches; we’d prefer it if you did that with your vitriol. Tone arguments aside, the point is not so much that you’re fucking yourself over by being the loudest asshole out there – and one day, people will realize what a fucking asshole you are with your petty Internet flame wars – but that you are fucking all of us over with your hate speech. And really? By attacking a neophyte for making a mistake, by turning to personal attacks when someone comments on a theological essay that no longer works for her, by degrading the conversation into a huge fucking feeding frenzy (KILL ALL THE NEWBS), you are fucking everyone over in the community. When we petition others to take us seriously, all they’ll see is the in-fighting and angst between all of us and say, “Pffft. You’re not a real religion; you are nothing but petty teenagers in a clique, looking to bully everyone who doesn’t believe as you.”

And where will we be?

As Sard pointed out in her post, we’ll be dead.

But let’s back up because we’re not all dead, yet. Let’s get back to tone policing.

If tone policing was the only thing we wanted people to do, then we’d be no better than the concern trolls mentioned in the Feminism link I provided. But, we’re not just concern trolls. We are people who are legitimately worried by the in-fighting and hatred we see on a daily basis. Community is something that people have to work at. Everyone seems fully cognizant of this fact, but no one seems to realize that petty flame wars, personal attacks, and degrading relationships aren’t going to do a fucking thing to help the community. It will only make it worse. The other problem is that, obviously, people aren’t really paying attention to anything that we say. We have entire listed explanations, possibilities, answers, and thoughts on the topic, but they take the most minute point that we have made and blow it out of proportion.

That way, they can deflect our finger pointing and attack us with our pants down, so to speak.

And in those moments, those people so worried about our tone policing may swell their ranks a little. They may even have a valid point with some of us. I mean, not every boat paddler is as altruistic as we make ourselves out to be. (Shit. I’ve said, as linked below, that I don’t need a fucking community before, but I’ve been roped into this after realizing that I’m an idiot and actually do need one.) But they forget that one day, they’ll have to look at themselves and realize what a miserable fucking human being they are.

And as my metaphor clearly indicates (going back to Jaws now for those who I’ve lost), I don’t, frankly, consider them human beings any more. They are a creature; a thing. They are a conglomerate collection of self-righteous asstwats who think that their ego is only there to be stroked. Well, you know what? My ego is large, too, and I think I’m just the most greatest thing since sliced bread. You can ask anyone who is friends with me on Facebook; I talk about how awesome I am about once a week. But, I don’t go around requiring that my ego be stroked on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute fucking basis. I can stroke my own ego – and do – and I don’t need a horde of children to make me feel good about myself.

But all of those in this mob mentality so obviously do.

Is it because they are young? Is it because they are really insecure? Is it because they have nothing better to do with their time?

I honestly don’t know, or care, about the reasons behind their actions.

All I fucking care about is that they stop it.

If you’re so busy pointing out our flaws, then stop trying to be a part of our community. Ignore us boat paddlers – those Kemetic and non-Kemetic – and ignore what we are trying to build in our little cliques. Ignore out “tone policing” blog posts. Ignore our very fucking existence. We’re not going to stop, no matter how much you may want us to, no matter how much sabotage you may try. We’ll still be here, paddling our boats and forging our community because we know that, to survive, it’s what must be done.

While writing this, I was re-watching Jaws and I’m towards the end now. And I stopped while the heroes are busy battling for their lives with the shark, but I mostly stopped because the iciest, most chilling part is Clint’s monologue. His soliloquy is incredibly apt for the movie, but for this entry as well. As found here, Clint’s monologue,

Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. It was comin’ back, from the island of Tinian to Laytee, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know… was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Huh huh. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it’s… kinda like ol’ squares in battle like a, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark comes to the nearest man and that man, he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got…lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.

Y’know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men! I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand! I don’t know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He’s a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

And for those of you who don’t know the history behind this monologue, here’s some facts.

So, there I am, re-watching the movie because I have it for two days and I want to get my three bucks worth. And I’m watching the face of that venerable Robert Shaw with horror and pain and awe and chills. And he’s telling his story and I realize that it’s not so much that this community shit… those people who point their fingers at us and turn the argument back at us boat paddlers are the shark but more like all of the sharks that attacked those men on the U.S.S. Indianapolis. And everyone who has made a mistake and been at the end of the vitriolic hatred via Tumblr, forums, or blog entries are those manned groups, hollerin’ and poundin’ away, hoping for survival. There were 1,196 men on that boat that sank so long ago and about 860 went into the water with only 321 surviving those five days in the water, lost, alone, and praying to a deity who may or may not have been listening.

We boat paddlers are those tough-as-nails men and women whom survived the sinking of the ship and survived the shark attacks for days, with no food and no water. We are those people who others may sing about. We know what’s at stake here and we know how, at least in part, to fix it. And we’ll keep going, keep paddling, and I’ll fling my coconuts at asshats and fuckwads when I’m asked to. And I’ll get attacked and my boat will get swamped and someone will pull me out of the water before the shark attacks begin.

But we’ll survive and maybe, even, forge a community.

And assholes?

Need not apply.

Related Posts

  1. The Logistics of Running a Kemetic Anything by Devo.
  2. An Open Letter to the Kemetic Community by Fanny Fae.
  3. Loneliness, or Community Iz Hurd by Shine.
  4. Dear Pagan Community by Dusken.
  5. A Ray of Light by Kallista.
  6. Freedom Isn’t Free, And Neither is Community by Sard.
  7. G is For Group, I.E. Why Your Words Matter (PBP) by Nellethiel.
  8. G Is For Giving Back to the Community (PBP) by Iretenra.

Related Posts By Me

  1. Where Fellowship Has a Place in My Practice.
  2. If The Gods Created Man, Then Why Are We So Hot To Not Support Each Other?
  3. Nazis In Paganism (PBP).
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9 thoughts on ““Just When You Thought It was Safe to Go Back in the Water…”

  1. Nice one. Well thought out and explained without loosing the original thread.
    Huh. My daughter, the blogger.

    “Modulate your tones.” Good one!

    Actually, I did say that. But I heard it first from MY mother.

  2. The thing is… that giant shark is really a guppy. A long-finned guppy that can barely swim. Because when it gets down to it, who is really attacking you? It’s not the prime minister or president, not a pope. Not even your academic advisor who can make your thesis-writing a living hell, and not your boss.
    Usually it’s not even anyone you respect. Because they don’t deserve respect.

  3. I will now hear the Jaws theme in my head any time I come across community-based drama llamas. It will things better.

    (No but seriously, thanks for another take on this issue. It seems to be on many of our minds of late, and that’s a damn good thing. Get people talking and you start making change happen.)

  4. Pingback: A Ray of Light… | For The Netjer

  5. Pingback: Once More, With Feeling. | Mystical Bewilderment

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