The idea of honourable relationship as a key part of being a Druid is something that I came to through the Druid Network. It’s a tricky concept, because honour is by its very nature a personal thing, so where honour systems do not match up, it can be difficult to work out how to engage with each other. For me, clear communication, respecting difference and the right of other people to self determine, recognising as best I can where there might be issues of power imbalance, or privilege is the starting point.
When dealing with another well meaning, honourable person, even when things go wrong or someone messes up, it’s possible to find ways forward without aggression, point scoring or anything else toxic and misery inducing. However, there are times (especially online) when the other person is so offensive that gentle negotiation isn’t possible, and emotional responses to the offense are challenging to manage.
We all have our own rage-triggers, some of them more easily set off than others. Other people’s reasons for taking offence can seem unreasonable, ludicrous even. Our own are, of course, perfectly natural and the only thing a decent human being could be expected to feel in the circumstances. This of course doesn’t help in the slightest.
There is a school of thought that taking offence is meaningless and that a person who is offended has no right to expect anyone to do differently just to appease them. Stephen Fry has famously commented to this effect. There is a school of thought that the only good response to things that make us cross is to be patient and compassionate with the offending person. There are schools of thought that say we are only angry with other people when we see bits of ourselves that we do not like reflected in what they do or say. And you know, there are things about these arguments that make me really, really angry.
I pride myself on being a fairly tolerant person, but the ‘fairly’ aspect of that is becoming more important to me all the time. An it harm none, do what you will. It’s none of my business. The more harm you do, or support, the more entitled I think I am to take issue with that. So I’m not going to tolerate bullying behaviour. I’m also not going to tolerate lies and misinformation, manipulation, wilful cruelty, those who ‘have’ bashing those who do not have. I will not tolerate victim blaming, slut shaming, prejudice, bigotry and fundamentalism. I will not stand by quietly, or necessarily be very polite towards someone who is acting out, throwing their weight around, hurting something else or otherwise acting in a way I find totally unacceptable.
Where possible, I try to respond to things that make me angry with calm, clear, non-aggressive expressions of why there is a problem. When someone is determined to hate because they enjoy hating, when people use personal attacks and won’t talk in reasoned ways, I will not be tolerant. When the ideas involved have people’s lives at stake (racial hatred, fundamentalism, austerity) then I will set out to be an enemy to whoever is perpetrating that. Words are my weapons. I will use reason, and satire, and if needs be I will be rude and challenging if I think that might get a point across rather than entrenching the position.
When there are genuinely evil ideas in the mix, when there are lives at stake, when real people are really suffering, or real creatures, or ecosystems, then to be tolerant is to be complicit. It is not enough to be a well meaning person with a live and let live attitude. We have to look at what we tolerate, and why, and if we are angry, what we think that anger entitles us to do, and why. There’s a lot we need to be angry about right now, but to make anger part of the honourable response, part of how you function as a Druid, takes thought and attention.