Druidry and diplomacy

The Romans gave us the tale of Druids going out onto battlefields and ending the fight. Far too many modern Druids, especially those arguing with each other in social media spaces, manifestly lack for diplomatic skills. Further, there doesn’t seem to be much inclination to foster them, either. Online debate is all too often about point scoring, hammering your opponent and showing off how clever you are. I’ve dabbled in at as well, although most of the time I try not to. I just can’t resist piling in when someone gets sanctimonious, smug and self important because usually such people spout a lot of nonsense. Still, it’s not something I’m proud of, but its important to flag that I’m a work in progress on this issue.

For Druidry to grow we need to be able to flag up what is bloody stupid, inside our own community and beyond it. We need to be able to challenge each other, and everyone else. We need room to disagree and even to argue. However, too aggressive and abrasive a culture will wound and discourage. It favours the loud and smug, and is more likely to harm the gentler, more reflective person – to my mind that’s the exact opposite of what we need. Draw battle lines and people will dig in, and cling harder to their opinion and be less open to your reasoned explanation of why, exactly, it sucks. It takes diplomacy, and more surreptitious approaches to engage people with ideas that they do not initially accept. We could use more diplomacy.

Diplomacy is not tacit support of wrong things. It’s not appeasement, or taking the easy option. Diplomacy is not refusal to challenge or peace at all costs, but it is a quest for the smoothest, gentlest and at the same time most effective way through issues of conflict.

There are two critical balancing acts around diplomacy, where too much and too little are equally counter-productive.

The first is around truth. Too much truth can turn into a form of psychological violence. The internet has too many folk who use ‘brutal honesty’ as a thin veneer to mask cruelty and sadism. We need to be honest about the right things – identifying facts from opinions, recognising dogma, recognising that others are entitled to different opinions and beliefs when the foundations are as good as anyone else’s. The thing to avoid, and to refuse to co-operate with is the ‘brutal honesty’ that abuses the person as a person. ‘I’m just being honest by pointing out that you are stupid and worthless’ is not the kind of honesty we need, and probably lacks for truth anyway. Insufficient truth obviously doesn’t work either. Somewhere in the middle is useful truth.

The second critical balancing act is around kindness. On the whole the world needs more kindness in it, not less. Learner Druids will learn more from kindness than from being humiliated and put down. People who make honest mistakes or have been misinformed will be more likely to recognise that if the transition is handled with kindness. On the other hand, too much kindness doesn’t challenge people at all and lets them stay where they are, no matter how toxic where they are is for them. It is not ultimately kind to let a person carry on harming themselves, but it is easy.

Balancing truth and kindness in our interactions is a moment to moment, word to word sort of enterprise. It is not easy. It requires a lot of attention to detail and nuance, and to the language and responses of the intended recipient. Diplomacy does not give the practitioner as many opportunities to be publically smug and self important – and while that’s a good thing, it’s also a tough thing for the fragile human ego that craves attention. Diplomacy isn’t any easy path, but we could use a good deal more of it within Druidry, and a great deal more of it in the wider world.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Druidry and diplomacy

  • Ryan

    Agreed. It seems too often that “normal person + internet anonymity = rage monster troll”. I’ve been dragged in myself too many times, either by hardcore literalist pagans who rant about “world-destroying” atheists like little old me, or by the amount of new-age quantum woo/indigo child/fairy sparkles nonsense that seems to ride on the coat-tails of pagan discussion.

    I almost packed the whole druid thing in until I decided not to let some aggressive people on the web to spoil my personal spirituality. So I removed myself from the groups, and stopped subscribing to the blogs that housed such opinions. Which is a shame, since it means that the loudest angriest voices continue to dominate the discussion, but I’d rather not have the stress.

    I would like to think that people would be more diplomatic in face-to-face discussion, but I know that isn’t always possible. Longer blog posts like this one do allow for more nuance than brief comments, though.

  • mabhsavage

    Reblogged this on Sounds of Time and commented:
    The balance of truth and kindness…

  • corvusrouge

    Just like with a lot of life, it’s about learning to ride the wave and unfortunately, if that wave is diplomacy, too many people fall off or jump.

  • Jools

    Unfortunately the media likes to portray Druids as odd balls so they home in on the most outrageous thing any one of us says or does. You rarely see PCG on the TV or in the tabloids, far too sensible and measured.
    I do cringe on occasions and think that some of the spats and trolling on the internet could do us huge disservice.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    The greatest and most dangerous to any community is never the ones outside of a community, but the enemy within. For a person in the community can divide the county against itself.

  • Toby

    I see too much of myself in this…

  • Selene

    Featured this as Blog of the Month on the OBOD website for January (http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/resources/druid-blogs/blog-month). Thanks, Nimue. This is a good one.

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