All community is conditional

Yesterday I found I’d been thrown out of a large Pagan facebook group (Pagans and Witches of the UK). It was a sobering reminder that all communities are conditional and that any community is perfectly entitled to evict me at any time and for any reason. It’s not the first time I’ve been kicked out of something and I’m sure it won’t be the last – the other two occasions were far more upsetting. There is no point protesting innocence, or appealing, getting angry or objecting, because in any community, the people who hold the boundaries have the power, and person evicted has none, and thus endeth the issue.

I wasn’t rude to anyone. I wasn’t trolling. I thought I wasn’t spamming, but four posts in eleven days is just too much, it turns out. Let me be clear, I failed to pay enough attention and I broke their rules and for this reason they are perfectly entitled to close the door on me. I don’t recall exactly what the posts were – proof enough that I wasn’t careful enough about this group. They will have been, for the greater part, me sharing things I thought were good and interesting that other people have done. It’s what I do, and on that score I remain unrepentant. Most Pagan organisers and creators have little or no budget for promoting their work. I will give shout outs, and share on things I think are good, things I’m asked to share – and yes sometimes things I’m paid to share (but I still have to think those things are good to take them on!). Feel free to ask me, or to make use of the spaces I hold.

I try to make sure that, in any space I’m in, I give enough of value to offset any short comings or mistakes on my part. I do my best to make sure I’m putting things in the hat that have at least the same value as anything I might benefit from. I had been an active participant in this ‘community’ but with thousands of people involved, what I give has little value, while my mistakes (largely that my understanding of ‘advertising’ is not theirs) are noticed.

I’m probably not alone in craving community spaces where I don’t feel this pressing sense of conditionality. Spaces it might be safe to turn up in need, and places where saying ‘hey look, a book!’ would not likely get me thrown out. Places where my value as a human being is good enough to offset my sometimes poor concentration, and my getting things wrong. Also spaces where I can champion other people’s projects and help them along.

On which subject, lovely Laura Perry has an online course running in Minoan spirituality – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/#!online-classes/cmyn

Gods and Radicals is looking for submissions for its online site and twice yearly publication A beautiful Resistance http://godsandradicals.org/never-submit/   (forest-edged words, I love this so much).

You may not have seen the new online shrine to Rhiannon, which is also open to contributions. http://www.churchofasphodel.org/shrines/rhiannon/welcome.html

Of course it flows both ways, because my participation in any group is also conditional. Why would I want to be part of a Pagan group that wants to limit the sharing of Pagan creativity, events, courses and so forth? This is not somewhere I could ever call home. For me, one of the fundamental aspects of community is mutual support, and another is taking an interest in what each other are doing. I don’t know what you have if you take those two things out, but I do know its somewhere I wouldn’t choose to spend any time at all. You can’t have real world action if you can’t talk about things that are happening outside of facebook.

There is an enormous sense of power in being able to reject – especially the power to throw people out of spaces that mattered to them. The power to hurt and to deny can be a massive ego trip. On the whole I prefer the kinds of communities where every effort is made to include and support, they’re just nicer places to be. I’d rather be in communities where the conditions are very unlikely to force out anyone who really wanted to be there.

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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

14 responses to “All community is conditional

  • Scott Tizzard

    Wisdom can only exist when people share ideas. Chin up! Keep going. After reading your blogs, I think you are a wonderfully eclectic and interesting person. The outside of their circle is the intersection point of many many more circles. You are not isolated. They are diminished.

  • Karlesha

    This is such an important topic, and you have touched on many significant issues. I think it is especially important for pagans/heathens to feel included because many of us have had the situation in our lives where we have either purposefully rejected the religion of our families, or been pushed out of that religion. So we need to feel included. Yes, some of that strokes are Ego, and I agree with you that the power to include or exclude is a massive Ego trip. We should seek to find groups that do their best to include, but in the same vein we also need to set some sort of boundaries to a group, and those boundaries need to be clearly communicated. It’s a very fine line I think, and one that moves very quickly depending on the situation. And that makes things even more complicated!

    • Nimue Brown

      This is a really important point and thank you for raising it – I wonder to what degree the experience of being pushed out can be something people end up re-enacting, as well. In much the same way that victims can become bullies, the feeling safe by doing to others before they can do unto you… it would not hurt me to take into account that people who reject others may do so because they in turn fear rejection.

  • Susan Dougill Crochet Addict UK

    Why don’t you start your own? It can be amazing starting a group with your rules that everyone comes and enjoys.
    You will however find that all groups end up needing rules. You end up with trolls, selling of products (sunglasses etc), etc.
    I found similar problems as I design crochet items. I started my own group up and now have over 66,000 members.

    • Nimue Brown

      Awesome achievement on the crochet front! I have thought about this but, all respect to people who run groups, it takes time an energy to do that well and I don’t believe I have the resources to hold a good online space at present. Plus I get upset and stressed over dramas, in a way that means I need an option of fleeing if I am to cope, and these are not qualities that make for a good moderator. I’ve found today that there have been invitations to a host of other, smaller groups run by people I know, and I feel really touched by that, and by the offering of space and opportunity. I’ve made the mistake of being attracted to big groups because size makes them seem important, and I need to start thinking in terms of quality of interactions. It’s a learning curve…

  • Sue Marsh

    This certainly brought up old memories for me – having been dumped from a pagan group and a choral group. I do see it as a bit of “power play”…..”I run the group, thus I can kick out anyone who doesn’t agree with my way”. I understand that in no two people think exactly alike, which sometimes can bring on unrepairable differences, but the dumping still hurts. I accept that I am often idealistic and can see the world through rose-coloured glasses, which means I sometimes get hurt and disillusioned. But as you say, it is all a learning curve…and I’ve learned that my ideals are worth fighting for, just for me. Thanks for this message Nimue – it made me realize how far I’ve come since the “dumpings” and to know that my journey is the right one…..for me! Hang in there and you’ll find what’s right for you too!

    • Nimue Brown

      Glad that its proved useful! Of course the more invested you are the worse it is, and I’ve been pushed out where I really cared – on this instance it wasn’t that important and took me about a day to get over it.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Something else I ran across that some might find interesting is a book first published back in 363 CE by Emperor Julian

    Emperor Julian’s argument against Christianity

    Once Julian became Emperor, he tried to turn back the tide of Christianity as the official Empire religion. Once they got rid of him this books was heavily censored and banned, but here is what we have of it and what can be pieced together from the Christian theologian arguments against it. Julian was a philosopher and writer in his own right as a well educated Roman. I think man Pagans would find it of interest. I just ordered a copy from my local bookstore.

    Against the Galilaeans: Roman Paganism’s Champion argues against Christianity Paperback – November 13, 2013
    by Julian the Apostate (Author)

    Paper back $6.95

    Paperback: 58 pages
    Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Second Edition edition (November 13, 2013)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1493773739
    ISBN-13: 978-1493773732

  • Christopher Blackwell

    It never hurts to have a good comeback if you get harassed from a Christian fanatic. [Grin]

  • lornasmithers

    Yeah… I was a member of a couple of pagan federation groups where you were only allowed to publicise stuff once a week – the rest was conversation only. Membership of such groups can be fickle and transient and everyone isn’t always there for mutual support. Thanks for the G & R shout out 🙂

  • spiritkidnetwork

    I’ve been kicked out of a community before for expressing my own personal doubt about something, followed by an email detailing how insidious they found it and “why would you even do that?” It was in my early 20s and really taught me that communities can be very single-minded and focus on just one aspect or interpretation of things rather than the whole picture. I think what hurt me the most was the fact that there was no conversation about it, no real desire to discuss what had happened. One moment I said the wrong thing and the next thing I was facing accusations and a complete shut out. It was the complete opposite of an online community I had once helped to run, where the “rules” were simply based on The Four Agreements and when a couple of members really clashed and the whole community started to call out for one member to leave our response was along the lines of “you have the right to respond or not to this situation, if you don’t like it don’t fuel it with more arguments, unless someone starts outright bullying nobody will be removed from the group”. Only now do I realise how special that community was, how few conditions it had compared to many others. As I set out to start my new blog and launch a place of sharing and community I find myself paralysed sometimes by fear of getting it wrong… I want it to be open and inclusive of all but realise that any project needs to have some kind of guidelines and boundaries. As you say, conditions exist in all communities! It’s a tough balance, isn’t it? Personally, I am so happy to have found your blog as I love finding out about other people and so your desire to share and showcase the work of others is exactly what excites me. So thank you for sharing so openly!

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for sharing this. Yes, it does sound like you had a remarkable space there, and that you will again. it is tricky with boundaries, because if someone becomes destructive to a group you can lose the whole thing by trying to hold space for them – balance all the way. All we can do is care enough to try.

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