Saturday, July 21, 2007
Maybe in 18 months, we can catch up with India:
"Symbolically, this election matters a lot. It will impact the common woman's mindset when she sees the three chiefs of army, navy and air force greeting a woman as their leader," said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. "It will instill confidence. However, we are still a long way off from the true representation of women in all forms."
From America, America
translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa
I too love jeans and jazz and Treasure Island
and John Silver's parrot and the balconies of New Orleans.
I love Mark Twain and the Mississippi steamboats and Abraham Lincoln's dogs.
I love the fields of wheat and corn and the smell of Virginia tobacco.
But I am not American.
Is that enough for the Phantom pilot to turn me back to the stone age?
. . .
let's exchange gifts. Take your smuggled cigarettes
and give us potatoes.
Take James Bond's golden pistol
and give us Marilyn Monroe's giggle.
Take the heroin syringe under the tree
and give us vaccines.
Take your blueprints for model penitentiaries
and give us village homes.
Take the books of your missionaries
and give us paper for poems to defame you.
Take what you do not have
and give us what we have.
Take the stripes of your flag
and give us the stars.
Take the Afghani Mujahideen beard
and give us Walt Whitman's beard filled with
Take Saddam Hussein
and give us Abraham Lincoln
or give us no one.
. . .
We are not hostages, America
and your soldiers are not God's soldiers ...
We are the poor ones, ours is the earth of the drowned gods,
the gods of bulls
the gods of fires
the gods of sorrows that intertwine clay and
blood in a song...
We are the poor, ours is the god of the poor
who emerges out of farmers' ribs
and raises heads up high...
America, we are the dead.
Let your soldiers come.
Whoever kills a man, let him resurrect him.
We are the drowned ones, dear lady.
We are the drowned.
Let the water come.
Eris and Discordia
These are the Goddesses who've been ruling my life this week, so I thought that I ought to blog about them.
The Discordians were the ones who first taught me to honor these Goddesses.
Hail Eris! Hail Discordia!
In all seriousness, I do honor these Goddesses. In the middle of chaos and discord is where new things happen. Ceridwen's cauldron, where she stirs all things and creates everything anew, is fulll of chaos and discord. Shit goes in, gets broken down, bubbles up to the top, gets stirred next to something else, is transformed by heat. Pop! Three drops splatter out onto a bard's tongue! Poetry ensues. Chaos and discord are liminal states; Hecate is a Goddess of liminal spaces, including, especially crossroads. Thus, I honor Eris and Discordia.
You've got to have them. You've got to have those spaces in which all the possibilities are present, chaos mixes everything up, so that new ingredients can come in contact, within Cerridwen's cauldron, with old ingredients, re-combine and make something new: proteins that make life, music, fusion cooking, new religions, new political movements, new ways to view your own life that suddenly let you move foreward.
And, when you've had all the Eris and Discordia that you can absorb, you can always wish their blessings and attention upon, um, your co-counsel. Who's obviously one of their most intent devotees, anyway, if actions are any sign. Not that I'm bitter.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
--From Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
I'm less of an Olberman fan than many in the liberal blogosphere. But he's damn good tonight and worthy of your time. You can like her or not like her. But, may the Goddess guard Hillary Clinton for stepping into this breach. The women who come after her will find footholds upon the steps that she's carving on the cliffs of patriarchy.
~by Robert Bly
We drive between lakes just turning green;
Late June. The white turkeys have been moved
A second time to new grass.
How long the seconds are in great pain!
Terror just before death,
Shoulders torn, shot
From helicopters. “I saw the boy
being tortured with a telephone generator,”
The sergeant said.
“I felt sorry for him
And blew his head off with a shotgun.”
These instants become crystals,
The grass cannot dissolve. Our own gaiety
Will end up
In Asia, and you will look down in your cup
Our own cities were the ones we wanted to bomb!
Therefore we will have to
Go far away
For the suffering of the stringy-chested
And the short rice-fed ones, quivering
In the helicopter like wild animals,
Shot in the chest, taken back to be questioned.
The purpose of ritual is to change the mind of the human being. It's a sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant, and the purpose of it is to activate parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity. We are talking about the parts of the mind that produce psychokinetic, telekinetic power, whatever you want to call it -- the connection between the eternal power and yourself. As for why ritual, I think that human beings have a need for art and [that] art is ritual [and ritual is art]. . . . It has seemed to me that much of the modern Craft and the Neo-Pagan movement lacks real music and real dance, in comparison to indigeneous Pagan religious movements. . . . I attribute this [lack of authentic experience] to our loss of skill in the use of music, rhythm, dance, and psychogenetic drugs. In the Irish tradition, music was essential to the success of the rites. . . . Another thing that was essential to the rites in ancient times was ritual drunkenness and sex. And I find this also lacking. We have to create those ecstatic states again. We have to offer people an energy source and a theological alternative, and we can only do this by offering real experience. We have to introduce real sacraments. . . . Much of Neo-Paganism lacks the same content [that] I've described before. The raising of power is an accidental occurrence among most of us at the present time. I find that difficult for my own self-esteem. It makes it difficult to work with people. I don't like going through empty ritual with anybody, especially my closest friends. [A]nyone who calls themselves a Witch should have the capability to deal with different ecstatic states.
Sharon Devlin, as quoted in~Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
I had to go pull Adler's book off the shelf and re-read this interview because so much of what I've been reading in Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Dancing in the Streets, reminds me of points that Devlin makes in this interview. It also hinges on an issue that we work on in my own circle: doing magic, rather than just doing ritual. As Devlin says, the purpose of doing ritual (by which I think she means doing magic) is to change the mind of the human being. That's more commonly expressed in the definition of magic as the ability to change consciousness at will.
It seems to me that one of the largest barriers to the sort of sacrament that Devlin describes is the lack of time set aside for holiday and ecstacy in our modern lives. Ehrenreich makes the point that, prior to the Industrial Revolution, people worked hard, but they also had many more days out of the year set aside for holidays. It would be easier to have truly ecstatic rituals if you had three days, for example, around Samhein. A day to prepare, looking forward and beginning to focus on your ritual intent. A day for the holiday, including the ritual itself, but also time to put aside the concerns of day-to-day life, to relax into a magical state, to spend real time listening to music, dancing, etc. in order to be able to induce ecstatic states. And, a day to recover, clean up, gently pick back up the other threads of your life, although hopefully somewhat transformed.
Recovery from magic is important and I think it's one of the main reasons that we sometimes don't drink as deeply as we'd like from magic's well. Many of the most effective methods for raising ecstasy take a toll on the physical body, at the same time that they can be quite useful for overall health. Staying up all night dancing and drumming to raise real energy means that you need to sleep in the next day. (At least, it does at my age!) But far too often -- far, far, far too often -- the Sabbat or Moon falls on a week night; preparation for it is squeezed into already overbooked lives; the ritual and accompanying meal have to be over in time for people to get up in the morning and head for work, where they need to be able to function at the top of their game. Even weekends don't really provide adequate time; for most of us, they also serve as the only real time that we have to spend time with family, go to the grocery store, do other chores, pursue other interests.
I don't have an answer to this problem. Capitalism, and its demon-child, Corporate Globalization, are the cause of this problem and neither of them is likely going to go away very soon. Being conscious of the issue can help to some degree, as can a spiritual practice that is difficult for many Pagans: learning to say no. By this I mean that making room in your life for serious participation in a Pagan community, for working magic, means that you are probably going to have to say no to other things. You may not be able to do everything else that interests you. You may have to use a chunk of your vacation time for Sabbats and Moons rather than a trip to Aruba. You may have to not go out with friends the night before ritual in order to cabin your energy for the ritual. Somehow, we wouldn't find it odd for someone who was, for example, training for a marathon or working on a second degree to make those kind of sacrifices, but we imagine that we shouldn't have to do so in order to be practice witchcraft. But the lack of time for holiday and ritual in our culture remains the real problem.
How do you address this problem?
Update: Pagan Godspell explains what I'm talking about when I say that we need more time than we have.
In spite of all that Christians say to the contrary, they conceive of deity as male. They will protest that they do not believe in anthropomorphism, that God is spirit, etc. But these protestations do not completely dispose of the above contention.
~W. Holman Keith, as quoted in Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
Western women have been excluded from the deity quest for thousands of years, since the end of Goddess worship in the West. . . . So if one purpose of deity is to give us an image [that] we can become, it is obvious that women have been left out of the quest, or at least have been forced to strive for an oppressive and unobtainable masculine image. [Upon experiencing deity as feminine, one woman wrote,] "I could actually feel my last prejudice against my own female mind and body falling away."
~Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Here's a nice story about some Pagans using the occasion of their annual picnic to raise money to plant trees in a park that has recently lost a lot of its trees. The article does a good job of: (1) not getting a comment from a xian to "balance" the story; (2) not feeling required to say that Pagans don't worship the devil; and (3) explaining Paganism:
The term pagan usually describes a person who does not acknowledge the Jewish, Christian or Muslim god and believes in a polytheistic religion. Many modern pagans follow a nature religion, and they embrace the term once used to denigrate them.
Points off, though, for describing the organizer as a a self-described Wiccan priest and herbalist from Benton Park . This is the 15th year that these Pagans have been having an annual picnic, and they expect 3,000 people to attend, so this is hardly some fly-by-night group that deserves to have its clergy diminished in that manner. In fact, as the article acknowledges, Brown is a leader of the Yarrow Coven of North American Eclectic Wicca, [and] sees the pagan effort to replant trees in the park as a long-term campaign that could last several years. Unless you're going to describe the head of the local synagogue as a self-described rabbi, the head of the catholic church as a self-proclaimed pope, and the man who runs the Lutheran church as a self-described minister, lay off the "self-described Wiccan priest" bullshit.
We Carried These Loosely-Woven, Rectangular Bags With Bi-Colored, Braided Sholder Straps And They Perfectly Accommodated Buttons
Somewhere, there's a picture of me, at 13 or 14, at my second protest march. I went w/ my dad and my sister, Lorraine, to protest the Viet Nam war. I had granny glasses, my hair pulled back into a loose ponytail, an Irish fisherman's sweater, and a wooden peace sign on a leather thong around my neck. I'm carrying one of those rectangular, woven bags that we all carried that year, with horoscope signs woven into the fabric, and long shoulder straps. I wish, tonight, that I could find it, for auld lang syne.
Today, I'm 51, a grandmother, a priestess, a lawyer, an ecofeminist, a witch, and a blogger, and I cabbed alone from my law firm over to demonstrate against this latest war. I wore an Hermes scarf and carried Michael Kors. I stopped at Capitol Grille on my way home and had oysters and a martini in honor of my dad, who taught me to exercise my right to "peacefully assemble."
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
I was one of a thousand folks who showed up at the behest of MoveOn and VoteVets to support the Dems as they forced the Republicans to fillibuster an attempt to end the Iraq war. Yeah, it's gotten way more kabuki since I was a babe with a wooden peace sign.
I remember a third march against the Viet Nam war that I went to with my dad. That one, I think, was on the west (water, emotion, intuition, change, liminal spaces) side of the Capitol. Things had gotten more tense. There were policemen way up above us, with guns, walking back and forth. My dad pointed them out to me and told me not to forget this moment, when my own government turned its guns on me, when the government of Richard Nixon wanted to intimidate me. It was a seminal moment in my young life. My dad was granting me adult status, in a weird way. He wasn't convinced that they weren't going to open fire on us. And he was allowing me to stay there with him; he wasn't insisting that we leave right then. He knew, and I knew, that ending the Viet Nam war was the second most important work of my generation. He knew, and I knew, that if the war didn't end within a few months, my brother, Joe, was going to have to go to Canada. He knew, and I knew, that there are times when it's more important to remind them that we are many, they are few, than it is to protect yourself. I'm grateful for the lesson.
I thought of that night this evening.
With about a thousand others, I went to the east side (air, communication, thought, new beginnings, swords) of the Capitol. It was dark, and that gorgeous wedding cake of a building was illuminated. The statue on top was encased in wire. I invoked Hecate, Goddess of liminal spaces, to inhabit it. May this be a time of change, a time of new paths on the crossroads.
This time, the Capitol police made us all move off of the concrete onto the grass so that they could "perform security." The MoveOn organizers asked us to cooperate with them, to move away and let them bring in the drug-sniffing, bomb-sniffing, people-intimidating dogs. One of the Capitol policemen brought his dog over to sniff me and my Hermes scarf. I looked into his eyes and said, "Son. I'm a gradmother. I have a boy your age. Do I look like a terrorist?" He had the decency to blush and to say, "Sorry, Mam. Orders." Finally, the theatre was over and they let us resume our positions. (I use those words advisedly.)
The nice people from MoveOn and VoteVets must have sensed something, because they started in right away asking us not to hold our signs too high, not to block the path of the generator-powered kleig lights, to be very, very respectful. It's so different now from the sixties. People find each other with cell phones and blackberries. They take pictures with their cell phones and call thieir friends: "Do you hear that? I'm at a demonstration." The nice man walking around handing out information about a roundtable on impeachment gives you a computer disk instead of a mimeographed flyer. The speaker from VoteVets says, "I was too young to remember Viet Nam. I trusted my leaders." Fuck you, Sonny. Fuck you. Those who don't learn any history are condemended to repeat it. You think you're the first human with a penis to come home from a war and go "Fuck. They lied to me"????? Hint: You're not.
Before Reid and Pelosi and Shumer and all the other Dems showed up, people were yelling "Impeach!" and "Bring the troops home NOW! Action, not talk." Reid stepped up to the podium and said, "Friends, give me your attention." A woman yelled out, "No. You give us your attention. Impeach!" Reid had to pause a moment and reorient himself. For the rest of the night, calls for impeachment continued to ring out. Pelosi had a difficult time delivering her remarks. The Senators and Congresscritters were obviously nonplussed. They'd shown up for a pep rally, expecting to be cheered. Every time that they said that Bush led the country to war based on lies, someone would yell out that they shouldn't have authorized the use of force in the first place. Every time that they complained about how we needed to be unified, someone would yell out that they needed to quit caving to the Republicans. Everytime that they mentioned how much Bush's war is costing, someone would yell out, "Quit funding the war!" Pelosi said that the problem with sending the bill to Bush over and over and over again (she's obviously heard the suggestion) was that the Repukes keep using parlimentary procedures to prevent that.
I've been -- on my own, with friends, with my brilliant Son and heroic D-i-L -- to lots of demonstratios since the ones that I went to with my dad. I've never been to a demonstration where we talked back like this. And, in the end, I thnk it was a good thing. MoveOn and VoteVets won't like it. The establishement Dems will be far less willing to show up for them since they can no longer deliver nice, supportive crowds. But I think that the Dems need to understand, as Carl Levin acknowledged, that the people are way out ahead of Congress and that Congress needs to hustle to keep up. We want an end to the Dems acting undisciplined. Don't tell me that you need nine Republicans when you can't get Liberman and Mary Landrieu and other Democrats to vote as they should. We want an end to this illegal, immoral war. If these Dems can't do it, the netroots can fund and elect, as Atrios says, more and better Dems.
Boxer got it. She said, "You've got a lot that you want to say, and I want to hear it." Mikulski got it. She said, "Tonight, we're voting to end the war. You know, and I know, that there are other votes that we need to have." John Lewis got it. Mendez got it. Barbara Lee got it. There were a lot of Dems who got it.
But there was a sea change tonight. Tonight was the night that the base spoke back. Tonight was a different kind of demonstration. I couldn't help but think that tonight was the night that the blogs stirred the pot. People in the crowd said, "Yeah, they'e been building permanent bases. The Dems aren't doing anything about that." They said, "We should never have picked 'I hate women's rights' Reid." They said, "Wake up, Pelois!" They said, "It's not enough to just stand there, Webb!" They said, "Here comes Fox News, Schumer."
Doods. We are in ur base, stirring up ur peeps. I am just saying.
Here's an early am toast to my dad. Fathers, take your daughters to a protest.
I was there and will have more to say in the morning. Suffice it to say, establishment Dems got an earful.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
What Digby Said:
I don't think the Democrats have fully internalized what is going on yet. As I wrote the other day, we are dealing with a political party that is employing a strategy of anarchy in which incoherence is used to flummox the opposition and confuse the media. They are confident (and likely right to be so) that this will never catch up to them because the media has ADD and today's political atrocity is forgotten by the next news cycle. By running circles around the Dems with obnoxious disregard for the congress and gleefully flouting their own precedents and rhetoric, the president and the Republican minority are almost daring the Democrats to try and stop them. Which is the point. They are going for the big narrative, which is the old stand-by that the Democrats are too soft to run the country: "If they can't stop Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham, how can we trust them to stop Osama bin Laden?"
Labeling a woman as a witch is a common ploy to grab land, settle scores[,] or even to punish her for turning down sexual advances. Cases have also come up where a strong-willed woman is targeted because she is assertive and is seen as a threat. In a majority of the cases, it is difficult for the accused woman to reach out for help and she is forced to either abandon her home and family, commit suicide[,] or is brutally murdered.
No, this isn't a story about the middle ages. It's a report about what is happening today in India. The story of Khemi Balia is typical:
At midnight, inside her home in a remote village in India, 16-year-old Chaandi Balia started rolling on the floor, thrashing about violently while making strange sounds. As the entire village gathered to watch her "playing," as it's called in the local parlance, Chaandi Balia announced that a spirit had taken over her body and told her that Khemi Balia, her old aunt, was a witch and must be burned.
Led by Chaandi Balia and her family, the villagers worked themselves into a frenzy and started gathering sticks to prepare a funeral pyre. That night, knowing that her only chance of survival was escape, Khemi Balia silently slipped out of the village. The frail 60-year-old woman traveled barefoot through the cold fields; she did not know where she was going, and was not even sure if she would live to see the morning.
Balia safely reached a village strange to her where she did not know anyone. Reluctant to place her faith in the police, she befriended a local village woman who advised her to approach Tara Ahluwalia, a social worker in the nearby town of Bhilwara who helps victims of witch-hunting. From experience, Ahluwalia knew that Balia was being persecuted because of the one-acre farmland she owned, her only source of livelihood. By labeling her as a witch, Balia's accusers effectively removed her from the village and could now possess her land.
. . .
Most cases are not documented because it's difficult for women to travel from isolated regions to file reports, Ahluwalia says, and because the violence is largely directed toward women, the police often fail to take it seriously when they do.
"At best, they dismiss it as a social evil to be resolved within the community," she says. "In cases where the women do manage to reach the police station, the apathetic attitude of the police makes the process of lodging a complaint even more tedious."
Ahluwalia helped Balia not by going to the police station, but by leveraging the platform of a "jaati panchayat," a respected group of people from the community who hear disputes in front of the entire village and issue a decision. Social pressure ensures that the decisions are obeyed. Ahluwalia has used the system for the past 25 years to resolve disputes.
Ahluwalia gathered people from the entire village and threatened to expose the family and have them arrested. The accusers had not bargained for the intervention of a powerful outsider. Cowed down, they admitted the witch-hunt was a charade and publicly apologized to Balia. It was an exceptional case and she was able to return to her village.
Of course, most of the women accused of being witches have nothing to do with witchcraft. But witchhunts serve an additional purpose: The "ojha"--or witch doctor--in many rural communities serves as a powerful local figure in the absence of medical doctors and access to basic health care services. In news media reports of witch-hunt cases, police investigations have revealed that witch doctors often accept bribes to name a woman as a witch.
"Branding a woman as a witch not only exploits her economically, but also erodes her sense of confidence and self-esteem," Vyas says. "Even if she escapes with her life, she is always burdened with the distrust and hatred of her community, and sometimes, even of her own family.
Welcome to the twenty-first century.
Monday, July 16, 2007
1. One of my favorite things about Paganism is that we don't, generally, take ourselves too seriously. We can enjoy a laugh at our own expense.
2. If they erected a statue of Homer next to say, that big statue of Jebuz, the xians would go batshit.
3. What's wrong w/ England? First it's Trinny & Susannah and now it's the Homer Simpson people.
My brilliant friend, E., alerted me to this:
WITH CONDOMS IN PARTICULAR, LOCAL STATIONS CAN SAY NO
[SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: Andrew Adam Newman]
Controversy over a new advertising campaign by Trojan, the condom maker, has trickled down to the local level, with television stations in Pittsburgh roundly refusing to show it, and stations in Seattle giving it the green light. When Trojan introduced the condom commercial last month, it was rejected as national advertising by both CBS and Fox. Fox said it objected to the message that condoms can prevent pregnancy, while CBS said it was not "appropriate," drawing a firestorm of criticism from public health advocates and bloggers. But Trojan, which is owned by Church & Dwight and a private equity firm, Kelso & Company, was in for more unhappy surprises last week. Local affiliates in Pittsburgh for ABC and NBC, two networks that had agreed to run the ad nationally, also snubbed it. The odd effect of these decisions will be that viewers in the Pittsburgh area will be able to see the commercials during national advertising slots on ABC or NBC — if with less frequency. Stations sell their own commercial slots as well, to local and national advertisers, and the ads are subject to local review even if they pass muster with networks.
E. adds: OK, the thing that's the WACKIEST here is that Fox objects to the ads because they claim "that condoms can prevent pregnancy" UM, EXCUSE ME, BUT WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, CONDOMS DO IN FACT PREVENT PREGNANCY YOU MORONS.
What E. said.
If you live in or around D.C., or if you can get to D.C. tomorrow, here's where you should be:
Candlelight call to action to support the Levin-Reed amendment to bring our troops home
Where: Upper Senate Park across from the U.S. Capitol
Constitution Ave NW, between New Jersey Ave and Delaware Ave
Washington, DC 20001
When: Tuesday, July 17th at 8:30 p.m.
From MoveOn's announcement:
It's pretty outrageous: Senate Republicans are blocking key votes to stop the war this week because they know they'll lose. With the Democratic majority, plus three key Republicans ready to vote for an exit strategy in Iraq, the Senate has enough votes to pass legislation that would force President Bush to bring most troops home by April. But the Republicans are trying to stop that vote.
We're fighting back—the voters aren't going to tolerate political games in Washington while our troops are dying in Iraq. There's going to be a big event in DC on Tuesday night and we could really use your help. A bunch of us—including Iraq war veterans, military families and several members of Congress—are going to join Senator Reid to call on Republicans to stop the stonewall on Iraq and start voting to bring our troops home.
All of the nation's media will be focused on Congress and on what the Republicans do Tuesday night—we need to show them that Americans want an end to these stalling tactics. Can you join us on Tuesday night to turn up the heat on Republicans for siding with President Bush over the people?
Writing about the Abrahamic cults' overwhelming opposition to "group ecstatic rights," Barbara Ehrenreich notes that the main explanation is a military one. Harassed by the Philistines from the west, Egyptians from the south, and Hittites and others from the north, the Hebrews could ill afford to lose themselves in collective rapture -- or so the reasoning goes. As Robert Graves put it: It became clear that if Judaea, a small buffer state between Egypt and Assyria, was to keep its political independence, a stronger religious discipline must be inculcated, and the people trained to arms. Hitherto most Israelites had clung to the orgiastic Cannanite cult in which goddesses played the leading role, with demigods as their consorts. This, though admirably suited to peaceful times, could not steel the Jews to resist the invading armies of Egypt and Assyria.
~From Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy
Sia has some additional thoughts on the shift from a Goddess-centric culture to patriarchy. Here's just a taste:
I am not one of those people who believes that humans once enjoyed a splendid, pacific matriarchy. In other words, I do not believe we ever had a civilization entirely run by women (although I'm perfectly willing to try it now). Nor do I believe that we have ever had a human civilization of any kind that was totally without violence or conflict, although the archaeological evidence from Thera (which may have been the origin for the myth of Atlantis) and the beautiful Catalhoyuk show that we came very close to that ideal. Even so, I've seen no scientific evidence to prove the Earthwise version of Eden, beloved by so many feminist and Neopagan writers, ever existed. Nor do I think that women are inherently better than men or that we could live and reign in perfect peace. The problem is partriarchial systems; this is not about that nice guy next door or the one in your bed. (Well, for your sake, I hope not). If history doesn't convince you that humans are bloody minded, just look around your family dinner table during the holidays, and then tell me that humans can live closely together without conflict. The trick is how we deal with it. I believe that the sacred feminine was once honored and that in that time women enjoyed respect, power, and freedom. I believe that we, as human beings, and especially our children and elders, were all the better for it. I believe that these cultural memories and strengths, and much of our personal power, was stripped from us long ago, and that we are now taking back Her gifts. Its important for us as individuals, for our spiritual growth as a culture, and quite possibly for our survival as a species, to reclaim the Sacred Feminine. In doing so we can also retrieve a positive, earthwise connection to Mother Earth and her creatures.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Although there will clearly some day be far fewer humans than there are at present, there are many ways [that] this reduction in population may occur (or be achieved, depending on the passivity or activity with which we choose to approach this transformation). Some [such ways would involve] extreme violence and privation: nuclear Armageddon, for example, would reduce both population and consumption, yet do so horrifically; the same would be true for a continuation of over-shoot, followed by a crash. Other ways could be characterized by less violence. . . . Personally and collectively we may be able to both reduce the amount and soften the character of violence that occurs during this ongoing and perhaps long-term shift. Or we may not. But this much is certain: if we do not approach it actively -- if we do not talk about our predicament, and what we are going to do about it -- the violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.
~Derrick Jensen, Endgame, Volume I: The Problem of Civilization
Jensen argues that: [P]opulation is by no means [the] primary [problem that we face today]. It's not even secondary or tertiary. First, there's the question of resource consumption. . . . Second is the failure to accept limits, of which overpopulation and overconsumption are merely two linked symptoms. Beneath that [are] our belief[s] [that] we're not animals, that we're separate from the rest of the world, that we're exempt from the negative consequences of our actions, and that we're exempt from death. Beneath these beliefs is a fear and loathing of the body, of the wild and uncontrollable nature of existence itself, and ultimately of death. These fears cause us to convince ourselves not only of the possibility but the desirability of not being animals, of separating ourselves from the world. These fears drive us crazy and lead us to create and implement insane and destructive economic and social systems.
I'd agree with Jensen that the beliefs that he describes are what have led to overpopulation. But I disagree with him that overpopulation isn't our primary problem at the moment. When a teenager is driving a speeding car straight into a ditch, stopping the car before the teenager drives it into the ditch IS your number one problem. Once you get the car stopped, you can work on the underlying beliefs that made the teenager think it would be ok to drink and drive and speed and joyride. And you do need to address those underlying beliefs. But, first, you need to stop the car. A dead teenager can't change her beliefs, can't adopt new ways of existing in the world.
I also agree with Jenses that the current level of population is completely unsustainable and will, one way or another, be reduced dramatically, I'd say over the course of the next century. We can do this the painful way or the really painful way. Change is often painful. I'd, however, prefer the merely painful to the really painful. I'd prefer a huge campaign to convince people to limit reproduction voluntarily, along with a huge emphasis on making birth control free, accessible, safe, and effective, along with a huge emphasis -- worldwide -- on education and equal rights for women (all of which have been shown to be able to reduce population), followed by increasingly severe taxes on those who still choose to burden the world with their unrealistic reproductive choices -- an internalization of the costs, if you will. I'd prefer even more restrictive measures to nuclear war or environmental Armageddon, which is where we're headed if we continue to ignore the population elephant in the living room. As Jensen says: [T]his much is certain: if we do not approach it actively -- if we do not talk about our predicament, and what we are going to do about it -- the violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.
Finally, I'll note that it was witchcraft's rejection of so many of the underlying beliefs that Jensen abhors -- that we're separate from nature, that women's bodies and the wild Earth are to be abhorred and controlled, that death isn't every much a part of this whole WHOLE as is life -- that led me to realize that I was a witch. Those beliefs spring from, sustain, and reinforce patriarchy. I'd call them the underlying problem and perhaps Jensen would agree.
This Cruel Age Has Deflected Me
This cruel age has deflected me,
like a river from its course.
Strayed from its familiar shores,
my changeling life has flowed
into a sister channel.
How many spectacles I've missed:
the curtain rising without me,
and falling too. How many friends
I never had the chance to meet.
Here in the only city I can claim,
where I could sleepwalk and not lose my way,
how many foreign skylines I can dream,
not to be witnessed through my tears.
And how many verses I have failed to write!
Their secret chorus stalks me
close behind. One day, perhaps,
they'll strangle me.
I know beginnings, I know endings, too,
and life-in-death, and something else
I'd rather not recall just now.
And a certain woman
has usurped my place
and bears my rightful name,
leaving a nickname for my use,
with which I've done the best I could.
The grave I go to will not be my own.
But if I could step outside myself
and contemplate the person that I am
I should know at last what envy is.
I've had this feeling, haven't you? The feeling that you've failed to do all that you could or should have done and, at the same time, the realization that, if you could look at your life as an objective observer, you'd probably realize that you were doing pretty well. Some of the best advice that I ever got was to, when considering what to do about something in your life that's bothering you, imagine the honest advice that you'd give to a dear, beloved friend in the same situation. Oddly, it's often different from what you'd say to yourself. It at least provides you with two perspectives, instead of just one.