Roman imperialisms pushed historical Druidry underground a few thousand years ago, and changed it at the very least, perhaps destroyed it. I’m no historian. Modern druids do not find themselves battling the armed forced of an expansionist state. We belong to no specific country, and can find ourselves on both sides, and none, in all manner of political arguments. It doesn’t look like anyone will be marching on us any time soon. When enmity is that clear cut, working out how to respond may be easier. Fight or acquiesce. You also know who to fight, and to whom you might surrender. These days we’re not in the same fights and there is much less clarity.
Modern Druids do not tend to fight such battles. Our enmity may be private. We may have taken up pens, rather than swords, to fight human rights abuses, animal cruelty, environmental vandalism or any one of the many issues besetting modern culture. When we do this, in practice what it means is that we are fighting a lot of the people around us. I talk about television dependence, battery raised children, car impact, consumerism. I’m not talking about a distant foe, I’m talking about the people in my village. These are not people I want to start a fight with. They are often people I like.
And then other times I’m talking about banks, politicians, corporations, government bodies, laws, habits of culture and systems. Trying to fight that is not unlike trying to fight fog. It’s there, I can see it, but it offers me very few actual targets I can hit. And again, all these things are made up of people, and many of them are going to be basically decent people who are only doing their job, or who have a different value system to me, or who have just never considered the consequences.
Now and then there’s a genuine nasty, some individual whose behaviour, actions, words make it clear they aren’t basically a nice person with whom I might not see eye to eye. Those who use and abuse, those who are deliberately cruel for their own amusement or gain and who do not care who they trample on during their struggle for success.
Even if I could go out with a sword and twat them, I wouldn’t, because that’s a response that reinforces the idea that might is right, and that’s not the culture I want to live in. I find myself banging my head against unfair systems, closed minded officials, and the general apathy of people who don’t want to know, on quite a regular basis. Truth be told, I anticipate this will be the way of it for the rest of my life, because it’s something I’m choosing to do.
There are times when offering a different example, responding with compassion and patience, or just working it through logically will shift something that had been a problem into something that can be worked with. It’s great when that happens, and if there’s just the faintest suggestion it can, then I don’t mind putting in the time. But there are plenty of people and structures that refuse to listen, much less see. There are places where the ‘norm’ is unassailable, to deviate is to be wrong, and there is no room for discussion. There are minds where only one explanation can exist, and there is no room to consider others. This is where the biggest, and the most interesting challenges lie. The measure of our Druidry is not what we do on the good days when all is happy and straightforward. The true measure of our ethics, our values, or characters even, is what we do when we’re up to the eyeballs in crap, with nowhere to go, no one who will listen, no obvious way to fight… then you see what a person is made of.
I’ve met some immovable objects in my time. Some instances that sounded a lot like ‘you can’t get there from here.’ I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing to do is totally refuse to accept this. There is always another way, so long as you’re breathing. Always another button to push, ear to bend, letter to write. Always a way to protest and raise awareness. And it is possible to go after the wrong without trying to destroy the people involved in it. That’s a tricky one, and there are going to be exceptions (I think I’ve found one, but, who knows?) It’s not what we achieve that defines us as Druids, it’s how we go about it. Doing the right things, for the right reasons. Not the expedient things. Not the things that serve us, but the things that need doing. All of us, in our lives, will find battles we can’t win, enemies we cannot talk round. But merely the trying can create change, and the more people are out there living their druidry, and trying, the more difference it’s going to make.