It’s a popular sport in certain British newspapers. I won’t name them, they do not deserve any more attention than they already get. Paganism has become an emblem of ‘political correctness gone mad’ taking it seriously in any way is seen as the government bowing ot the loony fringe, upholding the rights of a few superstitious and misguided idiots. Then a few spurious and usually inaccurate ‘facts’ are chucked in as proof, feet are stomped, self righteousness expressed.
I think what infuriates me most is that these reporters aren’t stupid, just prejudiced. They cannot see beyond their own very narrow and frightened world views to consider anything else at all. Which is not healthy. We live in an age where the dominant philosophy is that there is one true way – which is ’rational’, consumerist, middle class, conformist, a bit like how we imagine the nineteen fifties might have been. We live with a consensus that trumpets the superior, rational, reasoned and scientific nature of its own thinking. The trouble is, it doesn’t bother to check the facts. I’ve read enough science to know that once you get past school-level content, science is big, scary, and often a bit insane. We’ve taken apart atoms enough to know that most of reality is made up of nothing in particular. Hard facts are never as hard as people want to believe they are.
Pagans are still an easy target for anger and resentment. Not least I suspect because we don’t tend to produce the kind of fanatics who may kill a person whose words they do not like. That’s very much to our credit. We will fight stupid writing by trying to offer something better, or by ignoring it. I’m not ashamed to be seen as a ‘soft’ target in that context.
It tickles me that people still default to the assumption that paganism equates to an irrational, superstitious belief in impossible things. The majority of pagans I’ve met are far less interested in belief than they are with engaging with the world in a meaningful way. The one we live in. The one our species seems hell bent on destroying. Given the choice between a pro-planet movement and a mindset that say ‘no, we can use all of this with impunity’ I know what looks like irrational belief to me. We have solid science for the existence of the placebo effect. What is placebo but the power of positive thought and belief? We know that the single biggest indicator of survival in life threatening situations, is belief. There are plenty of logical reasons to assert that belief, is not inherently irrational, it is a very powerful survival skill. Not necessarily belief in a deity, but belief in self, in ideas and ideals, in possibility. There’s not a huge practical difference between belief and hope.
There are tones that are easily audible in the articles that mock pagans. Resentment is there by the bucket load. There’s also a lot of fear, because any suggestion the world is not as you believed it to be, threatens many people. I suppose if it’s in your nature to mock, persecute, harass, denigrate and otherwise abuse, then not being on the side of the powerful is going to be a terrifying prospect. What if paganism took over? What if all those snide and cynical journalists found themselves in the vulnerable minority? They believe in tormenting vulnerable minorities, and they’ve seen The Wicker Man, so of course they’re worried.
The other thing I frequently hear in the words of people who live by mockery, is loneliness. I get a real sense that these are folk who don’t have a great deal of warmth and joy in their lives. The trouble with being cynical, is that it limits your scope for enjoying anything. You can’t celebrate, or cherish in the same way with a cynical heart. If you look at the world through cynical glasses, its very hard to form deep, trusting and emotionally satisfying relationships. The urge to mock and pick, the urge to put down in order to bolster up your fragile ego, is a ticket to sure fired loneliness. Human relationship calls for a bit more… well… humanity.
And of course when they publish the anti-pagan tripe, we roll in, we argue with them, we talk to them, we pay them attention. I fear it feeds the monster, and when you’re talking to someone who is selectively deaf, you can be sure they will only pick out the couple of things they wanted to hear. I don’t think there’s much to gain by arguing with them directly. It’s not what we say to these people that will change their minds, if anything can, it’s what we do. I have a great deal of faith in what the pagan community can, and will do into the future.
And no, I neither danced naked for Beltain, nor sacrificed any virgins.