All Our Relations: Pagans and the more-than-human world.

For aware Pagans the Sacred encompasses us all, rivers and mountains, oceans and deserts, grasses and trees, fish and fungi, birds and animals. Understanding the implications of what this means, and how to experience it first hand, involves our growing individually and as a community well beyond the limits of this world-pathic civilization. All Our Relations exists to help fertilize this transition.

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Gus diZerega

Gus diZerega

Gus diZerega DiZerega combines a formal academic training in Political Science with decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing. He is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca, studied closely with Timothy White who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and also studied Brazilian Umbanda  for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva.

DiZerega holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley, has taught and lectured in the US and internationally, and has organized international academic meetings.

His newest book is "Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine (Quest, 2013) received a 'silver' award by the Association of Independent Publishers for 2014. It puts both modern Pagan religion and the current cultural and political crisis in the US into historical context, and shows how they are connected.

His first book on Pagan subjects, "Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience," won the Best Nonfiction of 2001 award from  The Coalition of Visionary Resources. 

His second,"Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and a Christian in Dialogue" is what it sounds like. He coauthored it with Philip Johnson. DiZerega particularly like his discussion of polytheism in Burning Times, which in his view is an advance over the discussion in Pagans and Christians.

His pen and ink artwork supported his academic research in graduate school and frequently appeared in Shaman’s Drum, and the ecological journals Wild Earth, and The Trumpeter. It now occasionally appears in this blog.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Deeper Meaning of “#MeToo”

 

Accounts of men of power harassing women are as old as history.  Aristotle describes Greek rulers getting into trouble for abusing women, but in terms of invading already existing male dominated relationships. The women are booty. The Old Testament was no better, and I would argue, worse. 

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    Thesseli says #
    Excellent, excellent article!

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Samhain 2017

Whatever Samhain’s personal impact has been on our lives this year, rarely has its power and symbolism been greater for us as a people. Samhain honors the power and meaning of death, and death comes as inevitably to political orders and societies as it does to people and to the rest of life. As our Wheel of the Year reminds us, death is followed by a new beginning.  However, today new beginnings are but faint hints extending in different directions, some better than others. What seems clear to me is that the political and cultural order long taken for granted by Americans, is passing.

At the most visible level, we see cultural divisions and political conflicts destroying our constitutional order.  While there are many causes, one central one is the Republican Party. The Trump presidency is ‘simply’ another step along a path it has followed for decades.

Regardless of who wins in 2018, the Republican Party’s slide into right wing authoritarianism with a Mussolini wannabe at its head marks the end of our traditional constitutional order. Its survival depended on enough shared agreement among the major players for compromises to serve the general well-being. There is no compromise possible when some people seek to destroy what they cannot rule.

There are many possible outcomes to this destruction. Trump and his strongest supporters would like a dictatorship. However, in his effort to subvert the constitutional and legal order, he has broken laws and violated traditions necessary for its survival, but still having legal weight. Two days before Samhain the first charges and confessions of guilt by his apparatchiks have been made. The struggle between an American fascism and a freer society has crossed a crucial line. I am heartened by the symbolism.

If dictatorship is avoided, the old order will not re-emerge. It is dead.  We might see emergence of a multi-party system if electoral rules are changed to allow ranked choice voting. This would end a two-party monopoly controlled by corporations and vulnerable to capture by authoritarian movements.  This relatively gentle change might make a huge difference.

We might see the weakening of national power if states as different as California and Alabama increasingly go their own way.  We might end up governed more like the Articles of Confederation  than our more centralized constitutional system.  This decoupling might lead to what I call “divorce over irreconcilable differences.”

Or the worst possibility of civil conflict might take place, as the ‘altright’ obviously wishes to happen. Whatever emerges from this conflict, it will not be a return to the old order. Its days are done.

Unless…

Unless the even more deeply rooted culture of patriarchy, social and corporate domination, and ‘Biblical’ religion comes to a well-deserved end. And it might. These people now control all branches of government.  Try as they will, they cannot blame their failures on anyone else but themselves.  And, so far, we have seen little but failures, as we might expect from a group that rejects science, rejects any regard for truth, rejects collaboration with opponents, cannot look ahead, and seeks only power and domination over all unlike themselves.  They represent a culture long past its time to die, a gangrenous culture poisoning healthy societies all around them. Perhaps their obvious failure will trigger a deep rejection, to be replaced by something better.

But there is still more bringing the old order to an end.

Most obviously, the old order will pass because its impact on our planet has become destructive. What emerges might be far worse, if the direst predictions of scientists studying global warming, (excuse me, ‘climate change,’) come to pass. On the other hand, to prevent that outcome, new technologies and attitudes will have to arise, and today we see them arising all around us, as with the amazing decline in the cost of solar energy. The alternative to global environmental catastrophe is a civilization relying on sustainable energy, and a changed cultural attitude that accepts this as obviously true and good. The seeds for this change are very much with us, but either way, the old order is finished.

The other challenge is the breakdown of capitalism as we know it. Inequality is rapidly growing, wages are sluggish for most, and social mobility is slowing. In the near future, we will see even more mainline jobs taken over by AI and robots   Yet capitalism depends on consumer spending.  When most have little, they cannot spend.

Equally significantly, unlike the captains of industry of the past, most of today’s ultra-rich have contributed nothing to society to remotely justify their wealth. For every Bill Gates or Elon Musk, there are innumerable bankers, hedge fund managers, and those who gain wealth from political deals. Had these latter individuals never existed little would be different. We would arguably be better off. We are witnessing the rise of a dominant parasite class that feeds off a culture it cannot sustain because, in their lust for wealth, they are undermining what supports them.

As with the ecological challenge, these economic challenges have attractive alternatives. One is the possibility of the nation emulating Alaska’s “Permanent Fund”  and requiring all who use our natural resources to bid for their use, with the proceeds returned to every person equally. Income from capital increasingly would go to all citizens rather than a few parasites.  Alaska’s many decades long successful experience proves this works.

There is no reason to despair. The old order generated changes it cannot handle, and it will die.  The jury is very much out as to how much damage it will do in its death throws. But in any Winter, however harsh, there are seeds that will come forth in the Spring. We can help that Spring to be a beautiful one if we not despair into a passivity that guarantees the worst will prevail.

There are signs of hope that this might happen. I think women and the feminine are at the heart of the most important. I am impressed how rapidly once inconceivable changes transformed marriage. Today the political and business world is in the midst of endless reports of sexual abuse by powerful men. This issue is now spreading to other countries as developed and free as the U.S. Some of the worst are paying a high price for their behavior. These events are part of a bigger picture. Women, women’s issues, and feminine values have dominated the opposition to Republican tyranny, from marches by millions when Trump took office, to ongoing struggles over abortion, birth control, and Planned Parenthood to radically different approaches to health. They are largely in harmony with ecological issues, which along with women, constitute the main domestic target of the Republican right and strongest reservoir of committed resistance to them.

We NeoPagans, most of us, represent these values perhaps better than any other spiritual force today. We and those who share these feminine and ecological values represent the growing tip of a culture that, if it establishes itself, can create a future we will be happy to leave to our descendants.

We are in a position to nourish the best seeds of the future during this dark time, and perhaps help keep the darkness to a minimum.

A blessed Samhain to you all.

 


 

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My complete argument criticizing 'cultural appropriation,' and offering a more interesting alternative, is now up.

For those of you interested in examining the complete argument criticizing the entire idea of 'cultural appropriation' and describing a far better, and much more interesting, alternative view, I have now posted it up on my web site.

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Bringing it All Together, Part VI: a better way to address exploitation, theft, and lack of respect

This is the final installment on why neither Pagans nor anyone else do themselves or humanity any favors by discussing inter-cultural issues in terms of ‘cultural appropriation.’ In earlier sections I demonstrated this view is deeply incoherent. I then offered a more ecological view of culture as consisting of humans and memes as a far better perspective, one in deep harmony with Pagan insights about a living world. 

But what of the actual problems that attract well-meaning people to thinking in terms of cultural appropriation?  I close by returning to these issues.

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A Living World: Language, Memes, and Thought Forms : Moving Beyond 'Cultural Appropriation' Part IV

 

Many memes are communicated through language, and, like any tool, language shapes how we look at the world when using it.  Language facilitates some memes’ replication and makes the survival of others more difficult by shaping what relations are easy to notice and what relations require more effort. Different languages have different biases in this regard. One linguistic feature is particularly relevant here: do we experience our world primarily as objects, or primarily as processes and relations?  Clearly there is value in both perspectives, but which gets emphasis is in no small part shaped by language.

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Moving Beyond 'Cultural Appropriation:' Part III: Memes as cultural organisms

 

Memes

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Moving Beyond Cultural Appropriation: Part II. Cultures as Ecosystems

Jarume Uwujare  argues cultures should relate as equals when they take something from another, and contribute something to the other in return. I think we all can agree people can and should relate as equals, but I argue this is a confused way to think about cultures.

If I have what you want, we are not equal unless you also have what I want, and want it with about the same intensity. We can easily have a formal equality to make an exchange or not, but this equality is modified, sometimes drastically, by the intensity each of us has to make the exchange. The more desperate one party is compared to the other, the greater an important kind of inequality.

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