Tag Archives: law

If Druidry ruled the world

While the likelihood of us ever again having a culture that is governed by Druid principles is small, I think it’s still worth considering what that would look like. Would it even be viable to have a culture where Druid ideas underpin government, law and so forth? I think one of the measures of any idea’s usefulness is whether it would work to have everyone adopt it, or what the consequences of universal uptake would be. Foolish things which cause no problem in the hands of a few lone idiots can turn into nightmares if they get a widespread hold. We could compare atheism and fascism on this score, the first has contributed to improving the human condition, the second becomes murderous once it has power. What would Druidry become, if universal?

The next question is, whose Druidry are we talking about here? My brand of liberal, inclusive, non-dogmatic Druidry, or something more controlling? Something more about titles and people who want to feel important? I think as soon as Druidry becomes dictatorial and authoritative, it’s no different from any other kind of self serving tyranny. If Druidry was universal, it would acquire all of the self serving tyrants, and I am not confident that all of them would become liberal, benevolent Druids. What this mostly suggests to me is that it probably isn’t in our interests, or the interests of Druidry, to have Druidry be universal. I can’t help but feel the anti-materialist, liberal healer and pacifist from the desert wouldn’t be at all happy about the wars and oppression rich men have undertaken in his name. I have no desire to see that happen to us.

One of the things Druidry has in common with other faiths, is the aspect that, if everyone took it up and practiced it with integrity, we wouldn’t need much in terms of systems and mediations. The reality tends to be, in any religious climate, that most people do not go deeply into spiritual practice. There are plenty of people in the UK who call themselves Christian but only turn up for rites of passage and show no discernible Christian influences in their daily life. Plenty of people who call themselves pagan are no different, wanting to learn a bit of magic, acquire a bit of glamour, turn up in their best cloaks for the odd ritual, but not really change their lives. So far, history suggests that this is what the majority do with all religions – surface, recreation, power base, ego boost, social engagement; the non-spiritual aspects of religion tend to dominate, while the majority resent being expected to put any ideas into practice.

It is, for example, one of my most certain beliefs that a person following a spiritual path should begin by putting aside their television. TVs take too much time and energy from us, and feed us wrong ideas, wrong beliefs, wrong desires. Every time I say this there are squeals of protest from people who have so many reasons why their television is good, helpful, contributing and needed. They like it, they want it, need it, consider that it benefits them. I can call it spiritual poison until I’m blue in the face, it will make no odds. Except with those who have come to the same conclusions for the same reasons and made the jump already.

A society run on superficially druid principles would, I anticipate, be hardly any different from what we’ve got. We’d change the language a bit, we’d drape beards and robes over a few things, dangle some conceptual mistletoe and get back to business as usual. Superficial religion only has the power to change surfaces. Again, look at the kind of right wing ‘Christian’ business in America, and what you’ll see is the demand and aggression of greed, trying to use God for its own ends, wearing a mask of belief behind which behaviours utterly at odds with the essence of the faith, continue unchecked. At least being a minority faith, we don’t have to watch Druidry being perverted in the same way.

If everyone followed a spiritual path deeply, the differences in what we practice would not be that important. The heart of every major faith involves peace and harmony. The essence of every deeply observed spiritual path, is spirituality. Along with that, are versions of virtue. While understandings of virtue vary between faiths, acting with responsibility and compassion are frequent themes. In a world in which everybody made it their job, in all their waking hours, to undertake everything they did with care and respect, with compassion and honour, we wouldn’t need any systems. We would not need the police, judges, courts of law. We might need people to help facilitate mediation and figure out best solutions, but that would be it. Government would only exist as a way of facilitating bigger projects and things we couldn’t manage at a more local and personal level. We would not need much in the way of laws, we would tackle each situation as it came, seeking the best for everyone and able to trust that everyone else was also committed to finding the best for everyone. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? But the reason we don’t have that, is because most of us, as individuals, have chosen not to do it. And when you stop to think about it, that’s pretty shocking.

Living dangerously

I’m going to be talking broadly and generally today, but there are some very specific things underlying my thoughts. There are also legal implications to these issues, which is why I’m going to talk obliquely.

In the UK, it is understood that we are policed by consent. There are a lot of people, the police do not carry guns and so viable policing depends on public co-operation. When people riot, as they did last summer, that relationship has broken down, and it is very difficult to fix. We can only be policed by consent if we agree with the laws and the methods of the police. In a healthy, and functional State, the police themselves are governed by the rule of law and answerable to the politicians, who in turn are answerable to the electorate. Policing by consent works because there is a degree of scope for response when things go wrong. We have a police complaints commission. We take death in custody seriously. I have no doubt we could do better on that score, because there is always scope to do better in all things.

It’s not just the police who have the right to police us, though. To a certain extent we are also policed by the inland revenue, customs and excise, border control, the TV licensing people, the car tax people, we have council tax, VAT… all kinds of situations in which all kinds of people in official places are empowered to make us do certain things. The systems we have as a country require this, the raising of revenue for government depends upon it. Most of these structures are reasonably fair, reasonably transparent, and reasonably possible to work with. There are also systems in place for complaints, and a limit on exactly how much damage any one of these outfits can do to you if you fall foul of them. The vast majority of government run policing outfits do not have the power to entirely destroy your life, and this is as it should be.

I am very glad to say that there are laws in this country governing what any person or organisation with power, is able to do to an individual who does not have power. I think one of the most important things laws can do is give protection to the weak and vulnerable from those with the power and influence to just crush them on a whim. The measure of a country is its treatment of its poorest and most vulnerable people. We could do better. There is always scope to do better.

However, all of these checks and balances depend on a number of things. If an individual does not know their rights, and does not know the law, they cannot call on it anything like as effectively. If a person believes that the system is bound to be hostile to them, the odds are they won’t even take the risk of seeking justice. We are getting better, the ordeal of taking a man to court for rape is not as hideous as it was. It’s still pretty awful. We are not quite so institutionally prejudiced against people for reasons of race, affluence, gender, sexuality or religion. But it is also fair to say that we are not entirely free from prejudice either. There are biases and assumptions. That we can still even ask what a rape victim was wearing suggests we assume a person can bring rape upon themselves. We still blame the victims, we still look far too kindly on money, we still make it hard for poorer people to access justice. We also have a legal system so vast and convoluted that a normal person cannot hope to know all of the law. Not knowing the law as it pertains to you, is not a legal defence. This is a breeding ground for injustice. It disadvantages the less literate, the less mentally astute, the less educated and those who cannot afford to buy advice at every turn. We cannot uphold the law, unless we have a fighting chance of knowing and understanding the law.

And so it is that there are people, and organisations, who are successfully abusing power, using the language of law to threaten and intimidate, and manipulating a flawed, but well meaning system, in order to persecute people. But they’ve got lawyers, and I have not. They can afford to sue me into the ground if I speak out. They know where I live.

I believe that laws should protect the weak and vulnerable from those who are already too powerful. I believe in freedom of speech and I am utterly opposed to abuses of power. And I have absolutely no idea what could happen to me, here in England, were I to go public about what I think is happening. I could just sit on it, and hope that none of the bad stuff happens to me, and try to ignore the people I know who are suffering. But I won’t. I also know there’s at least one journalist subscribed to this blog. I’m open to suggestions.