Last week, Angharad wrote a really challenging and brilliant post about the language of tribe and othering. It is not an easy read. It is easy to look at something like this and say, ‘ah yes, other people are getting it wrong again,’ and to assume that I am ok. I admit my first response was to assume it wasn’t about me. On reflection, it is at least as much me as anyone else. You can read the original post here – https://incidentaldruidry.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/belonging/
I know why it happens. Anger and frustration at what the mainstream does, this sleepwalking into environmental disaster, this system that favours the rich and punishes the vulnerable, these habits of ever greater consumption… There have been plenty of times when talking about greener living and cultural change, when I have clearly made people who don’t agree with me very uncomfortable indeed.
Is that acceptable, given what I understand to be at stake here? On my good days, I try to do it more gently, with alternatives and examples rather than howling. But how does that read? A bit smug, possibly. A bit ‘see what a good Druid I am.’ If the affect of any post of mine is just to persuade people that I am better than them, then I have failed.
The uncomfortable truth is, that I do want to put some people firmly outside my tribe. The exploiters, the frackers, the pro-austerity and anyone else using their wealth and power to beat up someone who has less wealth and power. This is not my tribe, and I want to draw a ring around it, and if I could literally will the worst offending planet killers out of existence, I would do so without hesitation.
I’m conscious of how Cat Treadwell has been posting about her chaplaincy work, and not giving up on people, and I admire her courage and generosity. I don’t think I could do that. I recognise that I can be quite a judgemental person, and that I am capable of considerable anger. I acknowledge that I would not put so much effort into living the way I do, if I did not consider those choices to be in some way superior to other choices. That has implications for how I think about other people. Whether I assume social conditioning, lack of care, personal greed or lack of understanding informs what they do, I still judge.
We are killing the planet, and so many people who could do differently carry on seeking their own amusement and will not change in any way because their ‘in the moment’ happiness is held as more important than the consequences. I don’t know how to be anything other than judgemental in face of that – silence, seems to be about the best there is. I don’t know how not to feel angry, and afraid of what is happening to our world. There are plenty of days when any disrespectful name for the wilfully oblivious seems tempting. Aware also that I justify my own less than perfectly green choices, the computer, the shortcomings in my shopping, the many, many things I do not do well, and do not do better. If I criticise behaviour – and I often do – then more often than not I cause hurt and offence to someone, based on the feedback I get. While I might separate behaviour from personhood, the person hearing me cannot be assumed to be so cool about the distinctions.
The conclusion that I am coming to, is that I certainly have no right to other anyone else, no right to exclude, and that I need to watch myself for overtly offensive language. I will stand outside of the mainstream, not by trying to exclude anything too mainstream from an imaginary and non-existent ‘tribe’ but by recognising that I am the one stood on the outside, shouting into the wind, for whatever good that might do anyone.