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Open Letter of Resignation?

Maybe it won't mean as much because for an alleged "Big Name Pagan / BNP", my name is pretty small outside a relatively tiny circle of Hellenists and other traditional polytheists, and it's not like I've moved my spiritual blogging to mostly over here... hell, I can barely keep to the minimum of a single post here a month, but I've researched some recent drama, weighed the words and intent (or at least likely intent) of all sides, and I've decided to step down from PaganSquare.

Racism is the gigantic elephant in the room for traditional polytheism -- too many use their religious practises as an excuse for racism and vice-versa.  While, true, Heathenry has the biggest reputation for racism, here's the thing:  There is not a single recon religion without its racist baggage in some form.  I've met Neonazi Celtic Recons passing out literature at the Celtic Festival in Saline, Michigan, back when I was in high school.  In more recent years, I've seen Hellenists in North America describe Hellenismos as "kinda like Asatru, but for the Greek pantheon and, best of all -- no Nazis! ^_^" and then ten minutes later encounter Hellenic polytheists from all over the globe say some of the most appallingly racist filth.  Hell, at least the LaVeyans and Boyd Rice fanboys I used to hang with during my misspent youth had the decency to try and hide it.

This is an issue that is a HUGE deal to me, for lots of reasons.

My father was no more casually racist than most people his age; remember that old Chris Rock joke about the differences between Black People and "The Big N"?  Yeah, my father grew up IN Detroit, not metro-Detroit, DETROIT-Detroit, and I heard that from him, first, and he was a squirrley little white boy.  My mother was VERY anti-racist, and I clearly remember a fight that erupted when my father took my younger sister and I to the cinema to see Song of the South the last time it ever had a cinematic release.  Between the two of them, plus the predominantly Black neighbourhood I grew up in, I learned real quickly that certain behaviours are not to be tolerated, and when those things DO happen, call it out.

I'm a Mod and Ska DJ, and I've been involved with a couple S.H.A.R.P. protests -- no-one calls out racism like a skinhead, le me tell you (no, really, follow that link), and we called it out.

That's the ideology I've maintained, even when i couldn't do much else:  When bad things happen, call it out.  Call it out repeatedly, if you need to.  If you did it, learn and change.  If some-one you care about does it, help them to learn and change.

But some people don't change, and like calls to like.  Now, when I say like calls to like, I'm speaking of a certain mindset --or rather, the part of the human psyche that is drawn to forming communities and special interest groups.  Just look at the website for any night club, and you'll find at least three or four themed nights, and at least one of them is likely to focus on one subculture or another -- cos like calls to like.  Hell, this community blogging project wouldn't exist if like didn't call to like.  And this is really the sort of place where I would hope that things could get called out in an effort to foster growth in the good, commendable qualities in ourselves, our smaller religious communities, and the wider pagan community as a whole.

Unfortunately, for reasons I've taken note of and further speculated on, and thought deeply about, that doesn't happen here.  Now, I'm not faulting Anne Newkirk Niven or any of the other editorial staff.  As I understand it, the ultimate desire was to avoid any potential trouble that could come from naming names in the desire to call out bad behaviour.  Times are lean in the publishing world, and I can understand that -- I was the music editor for a magazine that folded with barely the first issue completed, cos we just had the damnedest time securing advertisers.  Unfortunately, I'm a loudmouth on the Internet, and that may prove a liability for PaganSquare.

I do fault those who've fostered a culture of fear.  I fault those who use double-speak to hide their true feelings and make things harder to call out.

So, I don't know -- maybe I'll be back, if it ever becomes safe for bloggers at PaganSquare to name names rather than feel forced to dance around the elephant in the room.  I may be queer, but I dance like any other white boy, and making me do that around the elephant in the room is going to be torturous.  For all of us.  No, really, I'm terrible at dancing, and you don't want to see me try.  I still have a handful of PaganSquare blogs on my feeds, and will keep reading and commenting as I feel the need to, but I cannot stay on as a blogger.

The editors can keep my current contributions up in archive, if they like, or not --all I ask for is 24hour advance warning, so I can finish the copy-pasta and keep the entries and drafts I was working on.

If you have any interest in my blogging after this, my religious blogging is at Of Thespiae; it's a bit more personal than I've been here, and the main foci tend to be Eros worship, traditional Hellenism, Queer spirituality, and Classical Hedonist philosophy and the reconstruction of said.

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Ruadhán J McElroy is a Helenic polytheist recon (Boeotian traditions) currently living in Lansing, MI, and maintains a blog focused on Boeotian religion and his own Neo-Cyrenaic Pluralism philosophy that blends the fragments of Cyrenaic Hedonism, the pluralistic philosophy of Empedocles, and some proto-Hedonism from Democritus. He also writes a series of fiction focused on the Mod subculture, has a shop on Etsy, and occasionally works as a DJ of Mod Revival and Ska music.

Comments

  • Kveldrefr
    Kveldrefr Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Are you actually saying that it's the anti-folkish people who were being censored?

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Yes. And I think the following bloggers, who were all watching it unfold, one of whom was was censored out of this fear to name names, explain it all fairly well.

    Banshee Arts: Follow Up on "Whose Ancestors?": http://bansheearts.com/2013/09/follow-up-whose-ancestors/
    Sam Webster: Religious Biological Determinism is Racism: http://witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Studies-Blogs/religious-biological-determinism-is-racism.html
    Galina Krasskova: Monday Roundup of Links: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2013/09/monday-roundup-of-links.html
    and lest I be accused of being unfair, Jon Upsal's pity party: http://jonupsalsgarden.blogspot.com/2013/08/why-i-am-no-longer-blogging-at-witches.html?m=1

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Gandhi observed that we have to be the change we want to see in the world, because noboy else is going to be it for us. He managed to achieve independence for India without losing the respect and friendship of Great Britain. He did it not by insulting the British and calling them names (though in many ways they richly deserved it), but by simply speaking his own truth - over and over and over again - and organizing lots of other people who spoke it also.

    I'm guessing that his elephant was a bit bigger than yours. But I respect your right to make your best decision in this case.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    I don't know about you, but from where I come from, the line between "name-calling" and simply calling a spade a spade isn't thin, it's pretty clear.
    You're free to disagree, and that's certainly fair --but the thing about free speech is that I'm no more compelled to agree with you than you are with me, we need only to let each-other speak our piece.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Ruadhan,

    I enjoyed your stuff, for what it's worth. I should check out your blog more.

    It's too bad that it has to be this way. I may not agree with you all the time, but silencing yourself only ensures that important aspects of the discussion go unnoticed and undebated.

    Meanwhile, those who disagree with you simply go on spreading the word.

    Your life, your choice, and I totally respect that.

    May the Goddesses and Gods bless you and yours.

    Aetius

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    but silencing yourself only ensures that important aspects of the discussion go unnoticed and undebated.

    Well, that's certainly true for this avenue, but unfortunately, sometimes when things need called out, names have to be named, and it's clear that latter part can't happen here --and I'm of the opinion that, until it can, the issues will always be skirted around out of various fears, most of which plainly amount to "please don't rock the boat". And like I said, I'm a loudmouth with Internet access, and that'd be a liability, in the long run.

  • Crystal Blanton
    Crystal Blanton Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    I am not a believer in the importance of a label like BNP. I think all people have something valuable to say, and whether I agree or not, status should not mean importance. I think your statement is an honorable one of standing up to what feels right individually, speaking for your values on this and making a stand is very important.

    Race is a huge issue that we have such a hard time talking about in our society at large, and especially within Paganism. it is the dirty little secret of our society, and therefore we continue to perpetuate the same framework within our spiritual community that allows this kind of thing to fester. And we can't talk about it. We can't say that is not ok, and we cannot have boundaries that facilitate clear boundaries for what is accepted in our general community.

    This is the continuous wall we will hit if we are not willing to speak up and speak out. It is not about Anne... it is about a problem that has continued to exists and will continue if we don't do something different.

    In Respect,
    Crystal

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    This is the continuous wall we will hit if we are not willing to speak up and speak out. It is not about Anne... it is about a problem that has continued to exists and will continue if we don't do something different.

    Exactly.

    And I want to make it clear again: I find no real fault with herself, and i understand why she may have felt her actions appropriate. Her actions were but a symptom of a bigger problem. Sometimes it's best to go after the symptom, like when the cause is unknown and one is trying to eliminate possibilities for he cause --works great for writing an episode of House MD. This is one of those issues where the cause is more important than the symptom, and it's known, and thus can be treated.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Ruadhan,

    Sorry to see you go, coming to me back channel with your concerns might have given me the opportunity to give my side of things and perhaps you wouldn't have felt like the need to resign.

    Whether we keep your blog archived or not is entirely up to you. Please *do* archive your work off our site, since you will no longer be posting new material your blog will be taken off the active roll, and, as our bandwidth requirements continue to increase, will probably be mothballed at some future date.

    Perhaps you'd prefer Patheos, as a larger, more well-funded organization they may offer a better outlet for your work. I'd be happy to give a letter of recommendation to the editor of the Pagan channel there if you so desire.

    Most sincerely yours,

    Anne Newkirk Niven

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    While I generally respect the work of the Patheos Pagan Channel, and have immense personal respect for some of the individual bloggers there, I have found myself at odds with the Patheos Pagan management a few too many times to pursue that just yet. Maybe next time JP-W is taking on new writers at The Wild Hunt, or one of his other community projects, I'll apply and will probably take up your offer for a letter of recommendation.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Choosing to support "MY" family, clan, tribe, people, against "those" family, clan, tribe, people, is an evolutionary success strategy that predates the human species by millions of years. Although there is a very modern philosophical belief that "racism" is wrong, it can be observed that most of its proponents have only changed the flavor of their racism. Failing to support "MY" family, clan, tribe, or people is probably an evolutionary disaster for all your ancestors. Maybe we need to come to terms with millions of years of what succeeds, and which was a basis in every known historic pagan culture.

  • Lupa
    Lupa Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    One of the benefits of being human is that we do not have to adhere to what is strictly "evolutionarily correct". And really, if you want to define "millions of years of what succeeds", what has succeeded over millions of years isn't adherence to the same thing, but adaptation to change. The world, and humanity included, is in an increasingly rapid state of change, and those who are able to adapt to changes--to include social changes--stand a better change of surviving than those who remain static.

    In other words, this is the 21st century AD, not BC. There's plenty to adapt to that wasn't around then, to include more options for expanding beyond what our ancestors did.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    [nods]

    And really, there's sufficient evidence via the Human Genome Project that Indo-European Neanderthals and Eurasian Denisovans interbred with the incoming African Homo sapiens sapiens subspecies, the latter commonly believed to be the only H.s. subspecies that survives today; that belief is technically incorrect, unless the definition of "survival" is to include only mDNA survival, as the only surviving Hominid mDNA is H.s. sapiens, most human sub-groups contain a portion of non-mitochondrial DNA left over from the H.s. neanderthalis and H.s. denisova subspecies. If you want to talk about our ancestors adapting to change, well, it's literally been going on for at least as long as H.s. sapiens has been around. The idea of some sort of ethnic-based cultural purity is entirely new, and while the desire to protect one's own is certainly a survival trait, the conditions that trait proves best adapted to are of little concern, if any (thus likely no concern at all), to the overwhelming majority of people in the developed world.

    I mean, it's great to be proud of the culture one comes from, but when that culture (which I shall treat as synonymous with "religion", for the remainder of the comment) is in no real danger of being eradicated (even if, as is clearly the case for reconstructed/revived polytheism, it's typically no longer in danger of eradication, if only thanks to Freedom of Religion laws that dominate most of Western society), then closing it off from those who would genuinely love and celebrate it alongside oneself just because they don't share traits X, Y, and Z --even when many of the cultures that are systematically trivialised, othered, discriminated against, and even endangered do have conversion ceremonies to build that "shared experience" of being from that culture-- is akin to cutting off the nose to spite the face, or rather, doing anything in spite of all evidence that it's a bad idea. Like inbreeding.

    And just cos a lot of "I'm not being racist but..." sorts like to bring it up: My first boyfriend was Native American --while his mother had issues with any of her children dating white people, her husband was half-Irish and grew up on the reservation with both of his parents. I was told that there are apparently plenty of Native/First Nations tribes that will gladly welcome those who are genuinely interested in assimilating into their culture, regardless of background or whether or not the US government will recognise them as indigenous Americans. Some tribes have ceremonies for it, even. While every tribe IS different, I'm under the impression that few are truly closed cultures, and most just want white people who have no interest in assimilation, or even learning about Native cultures from the Natives that have lived it for thousands of years, to stop running their festering gobs about what Natives do and do not do, say, believe, and so on with barely a superficial understanding of the cultures.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    And yet the basics of evolutionary science support the "liberal degenerates", like myself, and the evidence is tenfold that the genome of a species is strengthened by diversity rather than what amounts to inbreeding. If a culture is to be strengthened, then logically, it is necessary to have an open invite into the genepool in order to increase the liklihood of strong minds and bodies which grow stronger with each generation. Narrow genepools make for weaker bodies and minds, putting the entire culture at risk of disappearance by way of too few capable to keep it going.

    But then I'm sure your ilk tend to think the Hapsburg dynasty was really onto something and Charles II of Spain was evidence of some divine favour now lost since the bloodline started inviting in the dreaded "others".

    http://youtu.be/9BM_IJEo7Gw

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    "where I come from, the line between "name-calling" and simply calling a spade a spade isn't thin, it's pretty clear."

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Yes, exactly. Want a cookie? All I've got are black and white Amerikaners.

  • Candi
    Candi Wednesday, 18 September 2013

    I made my name here more by calling out unfair behavior than by writing articles. We are more than our interests. I will follow your blog. I believe it is important to call out those who are behaving irresponsibly, and I, like you, do not believe it fair or good to censor it. If someone doesn't want bad things said about them, they should not do bad things. Period.

  • Hester
    Hester Wednesday, 18 September 2013

    I'm sorry to hear it, I always enjoy reading your work. Thank you for posting the other places to find you!

  • Frith Wierdman
    Frith Wierdman Thursday, 19 September 2013

    I am likewise sorry to see you go. I look forward to reading you elsewhere.

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