Thursday, October 02, 2014

October ranting.

It's been a while since I posted in here. I've been busy working on novels. (I finished one last week and started another. I'm up to book 4 in the series! w00t!) I've also been busy with the kid's school stuff. When I am not dealing with all of that, I have been working on my series of letters to Loki on Triond and the novel that is in progress there. (Honestly, given how much trouble Triond has become over the last few months, I think I'm going to withdraw my work and post it elsewhere, perhaps on here. I don't know.)

All of that said, I just have a few things I need to get off my proverbial chest. It's October and it means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some people, October is one of the best times of year because of football and bonfires. For others, they're excited for things like the fact that it is National American Cheese month or Bat Appreciation Month. And, let us not forget, Holloween is at the end of the month which I think 95% of the population of children in the country all anticipate with glee. Sugar rushes are always loved by the young 'uns.

I am, however, sick of seeing a few things. I get that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. I even get that they want to raise awareness and research funds. It's the 'pinkwashing' of everything that makes me furious. Lazy activism by way of purchasing the latest gadget with the trademarked pink ribbon on it makes me want to scream. A miniscule portion of the funds raised by those damned pink ribbon products actually goes to research. Most of it funds, get this, the product line and promotion of the products with that damned ribbon. If you want to do something about breast cancer, go donate directly to research funds. Make things for people who are afflicted, like hats to help the people who lost their hair due to chemotherapy stay warm. Get to know somebody with cancer and help them directly.

Aside from the commercialism aspect of the pinkwashing campaign, I hate how it presents this false image that breast cancer is the number one cancer killer. The top three killer cancers world wide are: lung, stomach, and liver cancer. Yes, breast cancer is towards the top of the list of lethal cancers (coming in at no.5 in the list) but if you go by all the advertisement and 'awareness' activities that you spot, you'd assume it was number one. By the way, the pinkwashing campaign has put breast cancer research funding at the top of the list followed by colorectal cancer.

I'm not saying that we should stop raising money for breast cancer research. I'm saying that all forms of cancer deserve as much attention as breast cancer. Imagine the strides that could be made if all forms of cancer were getting as much in funds as breast cancer. Further more, imagine the strides that would be made with out people skimming money off to fund their pink ribbon products. As someone who has lost a grandparent to cancer and had another one deal with it and survive, I may be taking this whole pinkwashing thing a bit harder then most people.

Long story short, the pinkwashing campaigns are disgusting for two reasons. First, it implants the false image that other cancers are less severe. This costs lives because people will be reluctant to get diagnosed for that lump they feel until it is too late. Secondly, too many people are lining their pockets with money that could be used to save lives. I recognize that medicine is an industry and that people are in it to make a buck. That doesn't change the fact that they have a responsibility due to the social contract made between them and their patrons to actively advocate and work to assist people with their health. It has been this way since antiquity. Allowing greed to get in the way of that is shameful and it makes me want to start an angry mob with pitchforks and torches.

And then there's this other little matter that has me madder then a hornet trapped under glass. I'm a pagan and I'm proud of it. Beloved and I are raising our children as pagans as well. We are doing our best to educate them to have a sense of wonder for the world and compassion for all life. We are also striving to encourage them to be respectful of the beliefs of others, regardless of the fact they disagree with us. All of these efforts, however, don't feel like they're enough when people are out there lampooning the pagan belief systems.

I get that people want to dress up as a witch for holloween because that is a character from folklore and has a role within our collective unconscious. Dress up is fun. But when someone takes the pagan belief systems and turns them into a marketing scheme, I get angry. Vikings or their descendants are not some prop to be slung up in a shop window to draw customers, for example. Holding them up as tawdry marketing ploys is as reprehensible as doing the same with people of African American descent or Native Americans. As much as people want to say that these kinds of things are 'harmless' they really are not.

There are people who practice the beliefs that are lampooned by those measures. They struggle to be treated as legitimate by the rest of the people around them. One may argue that they're not being denied their First Amendment rights but I would argue that creating a culture where one is mocked and reviled for not being part of the dominant religious sect is worse. Pagans in the western cultures face steep opposition. It ranges from regular harassment to outright violence to legislation that has been made to limit their ability to practice their religion.

Demeaning another person's religion because it isn't yours is disgusting. It also lays the groundwork for your religion to be demeaned by someone else. Freedom of religion means freedom for all religions. That freedom includes freedom to practice it with out harassment or punishment. And freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion. The plastic concept of 'witches' and other non-mainstream religious groups as something to be the butt of jokes, marketing ploys, and scorned because someone deems them 'evil' manifests differently everywhere in the USA. But it is still there, just as vicious and insidious as it always has been.

Sure, no one is burning witches at the stake today. I suppose this is an improvement, but there are states with laws on the books that make religious practices like divination illegal. There are laws on the books that state that someone who is not of a certain belief system can not hold public office. (Yes, these laws are real and have the threat of being enforced. Don't believe me, look up discrimination against atheists. A lot of those laws get applied against people who are not of the dominant religious belief system as well.)

Those laws and the attitudes that lead to their development are dangerous to a free republic. They are a short step away from punishing political dissidents and people who say things that you don't like. These are not fantasy scenarios. If you look into the rise of despotic states, you will find that persecution of people who are not of the approved social sect is amongst the first of a long string of events that lead to their development. Mockery and harassment of pagans tends to peak around holloween because of the cultural association of this time of year with 'dark' things and for some reason paganism has been deemed 'dark'. That has to stop.

Now, my rant about pagans being viewed in askance during this time of year doesn't just point at the non-pagans and the people who are quick to turn us into marketing ploys. I also am looking at you people in the pagan communities who seem to feel that the month of October is the time to crow loudest about your beliefs and treat it as though it is somehow the time of year that we must claim as our own. If you're pagan only one month of the year, you're as bad as the christians who are christian only for Advent and Easter seasons.

You're not pagan just in October and a shoe salesman (or whatever else you are) the rest of the year. If you're a pagan, you are a pagan 365 days a year. You live your religion. You incorporate your religious practices into your life and have them present at all times. They inform and color your actions. As trite as it may be, to quote the christian Bible "by their fruits, ye shall know them."

If you're one of those cockamamie pagans who only do it in October because that's when it feels right, go away. Your behavior is part of the problem. Flooding social media with 'witchy' things and black cats in October is not being pagan. It's being a living, breathing version of that plastic image they sell you. Knock it off and be yourself, for gods' sake. I know you're more then that. And if you think that plastic image is all that there is to you, then, for the love of everything holy, get some help. Because that's not healthy.

You want to celebrate your paganism. Go ahead and do it, but do it all year long. Sure, it's great to celebrate your way of life. I think the gods want us to be happy and celebrate living because living is a glorious thing (for the most part). Putting it on and taking it off like some kind of mass produced flimsy costume off the discount rack of Walmart is not only disrespectful to the religions you claim to practice but to yourself. If you can't bring yourself to respect the religions, then stop it for the sake of your self respect. Because the person you are in the deepest depths is not some vain weathercock that whirls around after the latest fashions unless you are sick and have no center of being.

There's my two rants. Or is it three? I can't tell. I almost made it four, but I'll save my griping about Triond for another time.

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