Tag Archives: parties

Two Party Politics

The UK and the US both suffer from having political systems dominated by two parties. There are a number of reasons why this doesn’t lead to good democratic outcomes.

Firstly it gives us something adversarial in nature. Us versus them. Polarised tribal politics with little room for co-operation. We’d be better served by compromise.

Secondly, most issues have more than two sides to them. If you aren’t represented by the two sides in an argument, you’re stuck.  More parties means more breadth, depth and diversity.

Thirdly, if you then feel unrepresented you may well see no point voting. This is part of a narrowing down, as the two parties go after the people who do vote, they may move closer together, representing fewer people.

Fourthly, it is difficult to shift back and forth between two parties. If they are at all different and you agreed with one, the odds of that changing at the next election aren’t that high. Democracy works better when we’re offered a range of options that might be relevant to us and we get to decide what we think is best.

When there’s a bit more diversity, there’s more room to look at the individual qualities of candidates. How honourable they are, whether they keep their election promises, how they treat people, what kind of results they get and so forth. If you’re stuck with two viable candidates and one of them is unthinkably awful, you may feel moved to vote for someone who is simply less bad. More options tend to improve quality.

Unfortunately, the two party system serves the people who are in the two parties – the only people with any real power to change that system and open it up. So, little wonder that they don’t, usually.

The Pagan Party

It’s not a political post today nor is it about dancing naked! Having been a bit grumpy in my Druids New Year blog, I thought it made sense to follow through with a much more positive post about how to have a good party, pagan style. Experience to date inclines me to feel that pagans often have the best parties. Here’s some key ingredients.

Setting: A party doesn’t have to be a late night drunken affair. I’ve been to some great afternoon musters – picnics especially – light on alcohol, high on social engagement, good food, and good entertainment.

Food: I’ve been to parties where people would only eat familiar looking things out of packets. Shop-bought party food tends to be heavy on the packaging waste, as well as being a bit bland and familiar. Back when I was doing a folk club and a bardic circle, we had a developing culture of making, and bringing food. It became normal to see homemade and strange innovations in ritual as well as at picnics and parties. Good food can be the making of a gathering. Warm food, nourishing, surprising food. I used to do a Halloween gathering with homemade soup. The year of the blood and eyeballs with worms soup was particularly good. (Beetroot, tiny onions, noodles). It does take a culture shift away from what partiers are used to, but is worth it, and tends to result in real food, and salvageable leftovers rather than a well stuffed bin.

Mood: Not having an enforced mood for a party helps. Multiple spaces so that people can step away, chill out, having meaningful conversations, play their own music etc, really works. Parties where everyone has been rounded up and required to conform to a ‘norm’ – no matter what it is – are not as much fun. Trust the event to find its own shape. Sometimes the best parties are the quiet ones.

Drinks: I’ve been to some great gatherings that involved no alcohol at all. I like alcohol, but there’s no need to assume it’s an essential for a good muster. Having plenty of good non-alcoholic drinks is always a good idea, means the designated non-drinkers don’t feel so awkward, and you aren’t creating a ‘must get rat arsed’ atmosphere. Again, diversity and creativity are good.

Entertainment: Sometimes it helps to have some kind of focus, it depends a lot on your people. Space for people to get some music going is usually good. Often though, it’s the things that aren’t planned that can be the most memorable. I still recall a party from years ago when we all ended up lying on the drive, in the dark, watching a meteor shower. Spontaneous late night drunken walks are also a long standing favourite of mine. Not being afraid to go with the flow can be the
making of a good night, while rigidly adhering to the plan, no matter what, is often less fun.

What makes a pagan party work, is the people. Having a good crowd of creative, like minded folk who will roll in with guitars, cakes, homemade wine and an open mind is the best bet for a great night. If you know how to have fun and don’t therefore need to get sloshed in order to relax a bit, it’s much easier to party. If you feel comfortable with your companions, that’s also a real plus. Where people are obsessed with image, reputation, self importance and the like, they don’t tend to have so much fun. The right social circle for a great party is the hardest thing to get in place, the most time consuming to establish. It takes work to build a strong community, time to forge deep friendships, support to help people more used to the real world to feel at home, but it can be done.

I noticed, reading Kevan Manwaring’s Turning the Wheel, that his idea of how to party and mine are very much the same. Soulful party, real things happening, real sharing, and good tipple. If you want some ideas, his is a good book to look over. It’s not just a party book, but it is very much about how to celebrate life as we encounter it, and the fine art of making it up as you go along!