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The Myth of the Pagan Passcard

By Pegi Eyers

(As a “manifesto” addressed to white folks in Pagan Community, my sincere apologies to people of colour or mixed heritage who may feel excluded.)


The diversity in Pagan Community in the Americas is astounding, and as a much-needed alternative to outdated religions in decline, an ongoing source of wonder for our collective re-enchantment and inspiration. Every conceivable genre of paganism is thriving, and this healthy diversity has meant the suspension of “togetherness” or “unity” narratives in recent times (which is probably a good thing). As with all human societies, the idea that we need to be homogenous or come to any kind of agreement as a movement or a subculture is not a realistic expectation. Yet there are some social dynamics that transcend mere “opinion” or “belief” such as the consequences we live with from historical actions, and the overarching truth of our own positionality. “Who am I? Why am I here? What do I remember? Where am I going?” These timeless questions continue to underscore our complex lives here in at the end of Empire, and we encounter a similar self-searching at the heart of Pagan Community.

Moving past the brilliance, innovation and miraculous achievements of leaders, groups and solitaries alike, we come to a dire and complete disconnect between those who are schooled in social justice and those who are not. Delving into this great divide there is one question that immediately comes to mind. “Are Pagans progressive, or are we stuck in the webs of our own conditioning?” If the answer is the former, there are a few simple (and relatively painless) adjustments that we can make on how we understand reality. After all, a wider circle of wisdom can change our worldview forever!

Like so many who have been the frequencies holders (or vicious derailers) in the recent public debates on issues of white supremacy and racism, we have been shocked to witness the dialogue having real consequences in terms of personal identity, well-being and finances (not to mention ideological platforms). The initial flares have settled into a somewhat more nuanced conversation, yet blind spots remain, and these glossed-over themes are still being justified in a thousand inventive ways. By far the greatest mistake and major sidestep from accepting the truth about our own positionality, has been the ever-popular “Pagan Passcard.”

Like the One Ring of hobbit fame, or Excalibur the legendary sword of King Arthur, the schooled activist can’t help but feel an obligation to present “the click” that would right the wrongs of this erroneous thinking. So in the spirit of mutual understanding, activating a personal and collective moral compass, and initiating the equity that could lead to equality in our time, here are a few basic points on positionality (with key resources) that Pagan Community needs to know.

(1) If your ancestors are from Europe you are white. Yes, we know that the theory of “race” is a complete fabrication, and “whiteness” and the Caucasian myth need to be dismantled along with the appellations of “black” “brown” “red” and “yellow.” But until all people of colour are free from discrimination based on skin colour in a post-racial world, we who fit the “white” bill have no right to reject the term. After all, that would make us “exceptional” once again, and our cultural group has already tried that, what with dominating, oppressing and trying to get rid of people of colour through white supremacy. (Key resource ~ “The History of White People” by Nell Irvin Painter)

(2) If your ancestors are from Europe, you belong to the colonizer class. If you have Anglophone roots your people believed themselves to be “the masters of the universe” and if you are Scottish, Irish, Welsh, French, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, Nordic or another European ethnicity (which evolved into “nation-states” yes we know), then your parents, grandparents and other Settlers (if applicable) joined the “white club.” Except for a few isolated groups such as Amish, Mennonites, Pennsylvania Dutch or Doukhobors, without exception all light-skinned Europeans jumped on the irresistible bandwagon of building Empire as governed by Anglophone worldviews, beliefs, memes, and lust for profit. (Key resource ~ “The History of White People” by Nell Irvin Painter)

(3) Therefore, if you are part of the colonizer class, to this day you benefit from the subjugation of the colonized. All the amenities, luxuries and benefits you receive and enjoy today come directly from the enslavement of people of colour who provided the labour to build Empire in the Americas, and from the theft of indigenous lands. If not subjected to genocide, people of colour on Turtle Island were colonized, and in these post-colonial times, we who are the descendants of the colonizers should accept the responsibility to right this wrong. (Key resource ~ “The Colonizer and the Colonized” by Albert Memmi)

(4) White privilege is not a figment of a crazy SJW’s imagination. Even if you have been raised by those at the very bottom of the economic, gender, sexual orientation or disability ladder(s), by virtue of your white skin you have huge privileges as compared to a person of colour. Do you see your own ethnicity reflected in the majority of media programming, advertising and publishing that surrounds you? Do you have any other barriers (other than economic) to renting in any neighbourhood you chose? Do you have relative freedom when going about your daily business? Do you have to worry about your teenage son being killed when he goes off to the store? In every single one of your activities or ambitions, your whiteness puts you ahead of people of colour. (Key resource ~ “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh)

(5) Newsflash! Self-identifying as Pagan, Neo-Pagan, Eco-Pagan, Devotional Polytheist, Anderson Feri, Eclectic, Kemetic, Faerie, Wiccan, Feminist Witch, Goddessian, Thelema, Hellenismos, New Orleans Vodoun, Shamanic, Neo-Shamanic, Druid, Neo-Druid, Sinnsreachd, Avalonian, Reconstructionist, Restorationist, Traditionalist, Norse Heathen, Forn Siðr, Ásatrú, European Indigenous or Animist does not give you a passcard from being a member of the colonizer class. The reason that so many in Pagan, Transformational and New Age Community are mainstream, non-liberal and non-radical folks in the first place is that they are the generational inheritors of the predominantly WASP suburban middle class. (Boom.) Also, i.e. being a good and caring person, participating in the paradigm shift, living in alternative community, belonging to the “Rainbow Tribe,” mastering oracles and magick, having an intimate connection with a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, dwelling in an animist universe, recovering the Bard Tradition, doing community service, building a Wiccan Church, learning to speak Gaelic, or creating Pagan curriculum in school systems where none existed before – all these and other “spiritually awake and aware” activities and belief systems also do not give you a passcard from being a member of the colonizer class. (Key resource ~ “Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community” by Pegi Eyers)

(6) Being marginalized, shamed or persecuted for being a Pagan does not give you a passcard from being a member of the colonizer class. Certainly as a new religion in the Americas, Pagans are extremely familiar with oppression along religious lines and the struggle to claim equal rights and civil liberties. But even as we celebrate and honor the freedom fighters among us, we still have white privilege, and belong to the colonizer class (see points 2, 3, 4 and 5). Without learning the truth about our own positionality and the intersectionality of oppressions, we may continue to perpetuate white supremacy and racism. (Key resource ~ “What Does it Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy” by Robin DiAngelo)

(7) White guilt is not necessary (well, maybe for a couple of days). Instead of white fragility and an endless array of inventive justifications, the best response to all this challenging new information is to take responsibility to right the wrongs of history, and to correct the horror show created by white supremacy here on Turtle Island. Good examples of this work would be activism and allyship for the rights of POC, LGBT and other marginalized groups, undoing the implicit bias or explicit racism in ourselves, and the abolition of white supremacy. (Key resource ~ “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son” by Tim Wise)

(8) And last but not least, our final point is the one most likely to enrage. To be extremely clear about history in the Americas, the memes and methods of Empire were created and enacted by European patriarchs, the rich, rapacious, entitled, racist, privileged, greedy, misogynist, bloodthirsty, warlord, bible-thumping, immoral, power-mad and dysfunctional white men who imposed their will on our bodies, minds and souls, and dictated the destruction of our world. White men – not any other group – have monopolized the reality of our ecosphere and ethnosphere for centuries with their manipulation, lies, justifications, fear-mongering, economic traps, silencing, peer pressure, brainwashing and lateral violence. Unfortunately, even as a subordinate group white women are not off the hook, as in the total supremacy of a “man’s world” we were the supporting cast and game players who internalized the values of the patriarchy, and were complicit with the Settler-Colonial directive. And as much as white women have achieved emancipation and empowerment today, we need to realize that the benefits and privileges we experience are the direct result of Euro-supremacy, and the near-annihilation of both indigenous cultures and the land. Both white men and white women hold equal responsibility to dismantle the systems of oppression. Simply put, with their humancentric worldview of entitlement, dominance and psychopathy the patriarchal founders and robber barons of Empire were wrong. (Key resource ~ “The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege” by Robert Jensen)

“In addition to the movements of the soul, deep group loyalty is actually what many human beings have used as their barometer for good and evil, and this group census and support actually serves as a collective conscience. Many of the horrible (and heroic) acts of humanity have been supported by some form of this group conscience. The genocide of Native Americans in the United States, and the slave trade, were both approved within a group.”

 

(Francesca Mason Boring, Connecting to Our Ancestral Past: Healing Through Family Constellations, Ceremony, and Ritual, North Atlantic Books, 2012)

Subtle and systemic, the racist values, stereotypes and microaggressions of the white patriarchy have been part of the education of every person born in the Americas, and it is this web of conditioning we need to unpack in our adult lives. Even as members of Pagan subculture(s) and communities, the inconvenient truth is that we benefit from being members of the dominant white supremacist society. Coming to terms with this fact is definitely a turning point, and staying grounded can be hard when the world we thought was real turns out to be an elaborate sham. Yet absorbing this new information takes absolutely nothing away from our self-identity or ongoing life purpose, but adds another layer of meaningful engagement with the world. In addition to our ongoing work in the realms of magic, spirit and culture, the best response is to shift to a social justice awareness, as every action (whatever the scale) can add to the impact of anti-oppression. With all the connective and educational tools available to us today, there is no shortage of information on engaging with protest, grassroots organizing, solidarity with marginalized groups, and effective allyship.

As Pagans we want to live in a world that reflects our egalitarian values, a world free of racial stratification, and where everyone has the right to realize their potential. And we want to believe that this equality will happen in our lifetime. There is a very real possibility that it is our generation – the most privileged and wealthy in human history – that has the most work to do in dismantling the systems that oppress both humanity and the earth. Trying to make amends is part of our own search for wholeness, and together we can co-create solidarity cultures of love and mutuality. To support and nurture each other across cultural or color lines, we need to be tough on issues yet compassionate with people. And as dismantling the toxicity of racism may take a long time, we need to celebrate our successes, value our contributions along the way, and be nurtured by our own earth-connected and Pagan spiritual practices.

Walking the labyrinth of personal introspection and interracial competency can be painful and convoluted at times, but based on a diversity of social justice paths there is one overwhelming guideline we all share. Regardless of lingering questions, the amount of “inner work” we have done, or the lack of approval from our peers, community, the wider world or people of color themselves (!) we perform the work on principle, with the profound belief that racism is wrong. The false system of racial hierarchy imposed in the Americas is deadly to all who are not white, yet the criminality of this legacy affects us all. For those of us who belong to the dominant society and benefit from the historic subjugation of POC every day of our lives, taking responsibility means speaking “truth to power” until the day when racism is reversed. Silence is no longer an option. If we reject the ethics of white supremacy, we must believe that at some point in the future a determined collective force will undo the intersectional oppressions. And in collaboration with all those who have resisted injustice in the past, present and future, we find ourselves committed to that struggle!

Key Resources

  • DiAngelo, Robin, What Does it Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy, Peter Lang, 2012
  • DiAngelo, Robin, “White Fragility,” The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2011
  • http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ index.php/ijcp/article/view/249/116
  • Eyers, Pegi, Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community , Stone Circle Press, 2016 http://www.stonecirclepress.com
  • Jensen, Robert, The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, City Lights Publishers, 2005
  • McIntosh, Peggy, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Beyond Whiteness, 2015
  • http://www.beyondwhiteness.com
  • Memmi, Albert, The Colonizer and the Colonized, Plunkett Lake Press, 2013
  • Painter, Nell Irvin, The History of White People, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010
  • Wise, Tim, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, Soft Scull Press, 2011

Pegi Eyers

Author of Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community, Pegi Eyers is a Celtic Animist who sees the world through a spiritual lens, and is a devotee of nature-based culture and all that is sacred to the Earth. She is an advocate for the recovery of our authentic ancestral traditions, and lives near Nogojiwanong in Mississauga Anishnaabe territory.


Pegi Eyers was featured in both the first and second issue of A Beautiful Resistance. Digital versions of both issues are now available for $4 each!

31 Comments »

  1. Deutsche, Pennsylvania Deutsche. They were originally from Deutschland, not Nederlands where one will find “the Dutch”. And as for content, it may be just as inappropriate to make stereotypes and generalizations about Pagans as it is to do so with any other group. The key to what you seek may not be viewing ourselves as either White or Pagan (with egalitarian values) and thus feeding into the separatist paradigm, but to learn to hold all facets of identity as loosely as one holds, say… a hairstyle or how one likes coffee prepared. Assuming all Pagans are egalitarian is as divisive as assuming all Jews are…. or all Muslims are…

    Even assuming allyship is an earmark of patriarchal noblesse oblige. The idea that I, or you, know what is best for another person, such as “let’s make the world safe for democracy” or in your stated case “egalitarianism”, is just as obnoxiously colonial in its thinking as preparing coffee for someone without asking how they like it.

    The act of rallying “my people” to the cause of “those people” is just more of the same supremacist model. Most supremacists act from love, not hate, flying the standard of “I’ve got this cool thing so you must want it too”. If democracy, agriculture, medicine, and weaponry shoved down the throats of other people and cultures is rapey then perhaps all this social justice warriorship is more of that same assumption of privilege.

    If your parents don’t know what is “best for you” now that you are an autonomous adult how can you possibly know what is best for me or know what is best for the person of color down the street or across the world without acting in the role of the meddlesome parent? For me, the more peaceful path is to stop viewing myself as someone who has all the cool stuff, the best ideas, the most power. Perhaps just ceasing to identify as a group – be it Pagan or White – is the only, literally ONLY, truly loving act I can perform. The interesting thing about that inaction – it’s also the most loving act I can do for myself. When I am clear of all that Faustian angst of always trying to “make things better” I pay closer attention to my surroundings and am better able to give all those other individuals in my immediate environment the space they need to live their lives their way.

    The path out of power and privilege is to stop exercising power and privilege, not to exercise it on the behalf of others.

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    • More derailments to avoid taking responsibility for white privilege, sorry. Did you miss my disclaimer at the beginning? The essay is directed to white Pagans, meaning those of European descent. You are either trying to wiggle out of whiteness or have never been called “white” before. (I know, it’s shocking in the beginning.) And positionality is not the same as stereotypes and generalizations. If we who are the white sons and daughters of the European Settler-Colonial class have somehow miraculously liberated ourselves from our intergenerational inheritance I would very much like to hear about it! And how funny that you would say “assuming all Pagans are egalitarian is divisive.” Do you mean to say that Pagans want to see racism and oppression toward people of color continue? The situation must be worse than I thought!

      “No one is free until we are all free.” Dr. Martin Luther King

      This essay is about working to end racism directed toward people of colour in the Americas, and the way out of power and privilege is to educate our own white cohort. There is no way to sugar-coat these harsh realities to make them more palatable – and it is an error to consider raw honesty another exercise of power & privilege.

      Thank you for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pegi – Absolutely riveting and pretty much spot on. I am a little puzzled by utilizing the terms leftist and/ or radical positionings as being part of the problem of utilizing ‘ the pass ‘. I would take issue with making a flat out statement that the majority of Pagans are mainstream. Yes, we of white european ancestors DO benifit from patriarchal priviliage. Absolutly. Still, i find no indication that most pagans are content with the status quo. If that were the case, i doubt any of the hundreds of blogs, articles such as this or dynamic activist groups and/or movements would be as vigorous as modern Paganism.

    I wish to share this article, with credits, on our Temple website. It is a wonderful, challenging and deeply rendered statement.

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    • Wonderful B.B. ~ I very much appreciate the share! Of course there are a minority of Pagans deeply engaged with social justice and anti-racism work, and more are learning and taking on this work all the time. Yet even those in the “left” or “radical” subcultures can still have blind spots when it comes to positionality. What I was noticing was the way so-called alternative groups can still hold mainstream values, and this essay is an attempt to close that gap. Thank you for your kind words!

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      • Marxists – Dialectical materialism, dictatorship of the proletariat, seizing the means of production.
        Neo-Marxists – Just like that BUT WITH RAVE MUSIC THIS TIME OMG

        Liked by 1 person

      • Neo-Marxism has been around since the early 20th century, and if you’re on board with Critical Theory, which forms the philosophical groundwork for this entire article, then you are on board with Neo-Marxism. The kind of economic Marxism you’re talking about is not what this article
        is talking about.

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      • It is not very often the author of a white-nationalist blog who claims to be rescuing the new age from cultural marxism stops by to explain marxism to us. You’re like a unicorn, except a racist, fascist, and delusional unicorn. We might have to keep you around!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes, we white people benefit from having the world destroyed in the pursuit of profit…I feel SO fucking lucky now… I feel so godsdamned lucky that I get to see a white weatherman tell me all about the hurricanes and floods and droughts and whatnot. That’s the fucking height of privilege- he’s the same color as me! YAY!

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    • I’m guessing you don’t live in Nauru, or any of the Pacific Islands currently flooding and about to disappear because of centuries of western (white) industrialised pollution…
      …the same industrialised pollution that gives us these computers, and has made the western world (that is, the white world) the wealthiest people on earth.

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  4. So, why exactly do the Amish and Mennonites get a pass on the settler situation? The Mennonite Church is both a white ethnic group AND a religion that anyone can convert to. Additionally, I’m really baffled about the discussion of the PA Dutch who have a pretty powerful settler history in both Pennsylvania and throughout Appalachia (and beyond).

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    • You’re right Chase – the Amish, Mennonites, Pennsylvania Dutch and Doukhobors were all Settler-Colonizers on stolen land. All re-created their own societies in the Americas, and many did adopt expansionist agendas. I should have only mentioned the Amish, who have really kept their culture low-tech, pre-colonial (mostly) and free of capitalist ambitions. I will make these changes to my original essay, thanks for the correction.

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  5. Sorry, but the entire history of the world is people “stealing land” from others. Just like slavery, It is not something unique to Europeans at all whatsoever. Again, this is more Neo-Marxist historical revisionism.

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  6. I’m Armenian; my people have been colonized by Romans, Persians, Mongolians, Arabs, and Turks over the centuries, and had a genocide committed against them in 1915 by the Ottoman Turks, and are still subjected to discrimination in Turkey and some other countries. But, in the US, they’re technically considered white. Some have darker skin than others of course, but they’re culturally European, and are historically Christian (though I’m a pagan). So I’ve always kind of wondered where they fall on this whole white privilege thing, being quite possibly the only European Christians to be on the receiving end of colonization and genocide.

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    • Actually, the Irish have a long history of colonial oppression and genocide. Various Slavic groups can attest to the same. They’re often less-discussed, but they’re still very real histories.

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      • Thank you, Chase! I thought that same thing, “wait, what about the Irish?”
        Colonial oppression, genocide, and slavery.

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    • Believe it or not Suren, you may still receive some white privileges in the Americas that POC do not, such as racial profiling in public spaces. To be honest “white-passing” has always held an allure for immigrants and other newcomers wanting to “fit in” with the dominant society. But that’s why it’s so important to tell your story. Those whose cultural group experienced colonization and genocide makes one more empathic to colonization and genocide levelled at other groups. That’s why we see a public outcry right now from Holocaust survivors aimed at the human rights violations happening in Syria. I used to think that nature trumped nurture – that human beings still had an innate ability for peaceful co-existence, but these days I’m beginning to wonder. Is it the patriarchy that causes dominance and genocide? The warrior cycle? Hierarchy? The cult of hero worship? Greed? The type of political system? Claiming more territory? Monolithic religious control or the imperative for religious freedom? Has dominance & violence become so ingrained, that it now defines us as a species? All I know is that (the majority of) human groups have been wearing this tattered cloak of rot and destruction for eons now, and it doesn’t seem to be going away.

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  7. A powerful post. I’d just like to add a note that ‘white’ isn’t a skin colour. It’s an attitude. Ancestry is also not a curse. It’s more like a visit from Janus. My ancestors did not come from the oppressed class in Europe, to say the least, and my path out of the oppressive attitudes of some of them (not all) is complex and comes from the earth, as stolen as it was, but it is a path, given partly by them. What’s more, it’s not ‘men’ who are the problem, and if it is ‘white men’ it would be best noted that by this term is not meant “caucasian men” but a certain class of bastard, people who have made a particular moral decision. The overlap is considerable, of course, but it’s not universal. There has been some great work done on white culture among the Canadian-Native families in Old Oregon, and the separation of the children (and wives) into white or native communities. Choosing to be ‘white’, when that was even possible, came with a price. Survival, or even the ability to have children, depended on the choice. It also divided on gender lines: the girls were immediately taken up by ‘white’ husbands, and became the matriarchs of ‘white’ families; the boys were largely forced to be native, even though their ancestry was identical to that of the girls. Many found themselves unwanted in native communities as well (especially the boys). A Secwepemc man gave me some good advice a quarter century ago: “you have aboriginal ancestors, too; we’re waiting for you to learn their language, so we can really talk.” I have found the advice invaluable. It cuts through the hurt, and the messy business of survival in often violent or oppressive circumstances, to a point of commonality. It comes, however, at a great price: when one finds those ancestors, there is no longer any whiteness, and contemporary north american culture becomes incredibly foreign. I continue to be amazed, however, at the commonality of culture within the community of my ancestors in Silesia (now western Poland), a culture in which Jewish, Polish and German families shared a culture, which was then dismantled, most notably by German Nationalism in the 20s, 30s and 40s, and, yes, partly by my family. Aside from the colonization of Poland that Silesia represented, the shared cultural material is enormous. The horrible murder of the Jews was not an inter-racial issue, in this context, but a kind of suicide or self-amputation. There was no ‘white’ race in Germany; there was a desire to create one. Breeding was the game. Himmler, after all, was trained as a chicken breeder. He didn’t treat people as individuals but as members of certain mystical classes which superseded individual identity. However, Hitler acted on the principle that immersing young men in war would turn their blood ‘white’. Horrible stuff. Large numbers of people took part. Smaller numbers, but still significant, did not. Those men and women matter, too. Their ethical choices matter, no matter what class they’re assigned to. An important thing to keep in mind is that a lot of these issues are the result of the gift of individual consciousness and destiny to a race of mammals with multiple forms of identity derived from environment and as much social as individual. It’s never simple. The American myth of individualism is as guilty as anything else, as is, no more or more less, Marx and Darwin. I always find it best to be specific: which person, in which circumstances, hurt whom and how; which person, in which circumstances, made what ethical decision to counter the hurt, and which personal and social decisions thereafter to further or betray that decision. I find it best to consider Marx in the broadest of contexts: as a man who saw patterns of behaviour created by economic circumstances instead of by individuals. In that sense, he didn’t talk about a white oppressor class; he talked about how the concentration of capital created bourgeois and proletariat classes. That a ‘white’ class was created in North America is a specific case. You’ve done some great work explaining the mechanism of that. I just wanted to point out that the boundary between class and individual in America is also part of the mechanism. Different terms might open new doors. I’d love to see which ones you could find.

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  8. All of human history is a story of one group of people “colonizing” another, and there are many, many non-European examples. The Hans, the Japanese, the Ottomans, the Mongols, the Persians, the Muslims. All of them are guilty of the same crimes you indict “whiteness” for in this article, and all have left indelible marks on civilization and culture. Europeans have also not escaped being subjugated by their own oppressors – not the least of which were people enslaved to a narrative that is chillingly similar to the one you are espousing now. You think you can “end” human history? You think that simply by rejecting the “whiteness” of the descendants of the Western empires you can end human conflict and strife on ANY level, be it ethnic, economical or ideological? Man is a tribal animal, as evidenced by the tribalism on display in your own ideas. To turn your rhetoric back on you, do you think that by being a leftist or a pagan you somehow absolve yourself of the flaws in human nature? In YOUR nature? What about the myth of the leftist passcard? When the tribe whose boundaries you are currently policing comes out of its nascence, whom will YOU oppress?

    This idea is no less morally repugnant to me than the idea that one can avoid responsibility for their actions in this life by securing some intercession on behalf of an unknown next life. And really, it’s no more scientific, rational, spiritually aware or well considered. The beating heart of paganism, and especially occultism, is the notion that the awareness and development of the self is the cornerstone of spiritual and moral strength. This is the notion which logically led to the conclusions of the Enlightenment; that each individual should be granted the liberty and agency to direct this process of self-refinement as best they can, without imposition from outside themselves. The application of this idea, imperfect as it has been, has led to the greatest expansion of wealth, medicine, knowledge and human rights in all of history. It is when people trade the responsibilities of the self for the authority of the tribe that they begin to justify subjugation, exploitation, oppression and murder. So forgive me for being wary of what, to me, is clearly another form of tribalism with ideological instead of ethnic boundaries.

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    • Throwing “all of human history” into the mix is just a derailment from the conversation, nice try. The lack of ability to perform self-analysis in this place and this time (the post-colonial Americas) as a white person runs deep, I understand. Do you even know where you are living? It sounds like your pride in the achievements of (so-called) western civilization far outweighs any notions on taking responsibility for the carnage that same civilization has caused. Which leads me to another article I must write, on why subscribers to the worst ideology that has ever happened on the planet – the cartesian mind/body split, scientific reductionism and the mechanistic worldview – are even appearing in Pagan Community, which at its root promotes animism, biophilia, intra-connection and all that is emergent from earth (what the uninformed call “tribalism”).

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      • I look forward to seeing your piece on the Cartesian mind/body split, reductionism and the mechanistic worldview, especially its roots in pagan thought and what forces forged it into its ‘modern’ forms.

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  9. Many “white” people tried to wipe my ancestors off the face of the earth for over 1500 years. The last of my “white” ancestors were deliberately starved off their lands and forced into slave labour (serfdom) under “white” Lords in England in C16th, where they were made to work, and die, in mines far from the sun – not for the wages they had been promised but merely for the privilege of living on the Lord’s land. On top of this work they had to grow enough food not only to feed themselves and their families but to give half of all produce to the Lord, even if there wasn’t enough. You might have heard of them, they were the Picts. Why do you exclude some white groups from your white = guilty thinking, is it because you belong to one of them? All the attempts at genocide on my ancestors by oppressive tyrants and the final deciamation of them with the eternal loss of their lands somehow isn’t good enough for your personal, guilt free exclusion list. Does only suffering in the last 300 years count?

    There is a myth widespread online that serfs could run away for a year and a day whereupon they would somehow magically become “free-men.” In actuality, if a serf ran away from his Lord then his name and description would be spread amongst Lords across the land so he could be captured and returned and/or never gain employment for the rest of his (now very short) life. If he took any food, water, colthing etc with him then he was legally a thief because the Lord owned everything that was on the land, and when caught his face would be branded with a large capital L, or he would be hanged. Even if he fled naked and carrying nothing the serf had “broken his promise” to his Lord and therefore was legally a Perjurer and, when caught, the centre of his forehead would be branded with a large capital P, or he would be hanged. A branded man was totally unemployable even by criminals becase he would bring unwanted scrutiny. Any wife and children he had would be turned out of their jobs, out of their home and driven (with violence, not by a horse-drawn cart) off the land because the husband had brought “shame” upon them, the entire community and the Lord. If they then starved to death or, more likely, were killed by the elements the husband would be tortured and then hanged for murder because under law they were his property and therefore his responsibility – a single mother could not gain employment anywhere except a brothel, and some Lords would even consider the run-away husband’s crimes as being those of the wife and children and they would be punished as if they had committed the crimes.

    You don’t seem to have any comprehension of how little rights, power, and protection were afforded to the poor – who made up more than 99.9% of the population. I don’t understand why so many people, when they imagine themsleves living in the past, believe they would have fallen into that less than 0.1% that made up the nobility. The rise of the middle class took place during the end of C19th and C20th. What exactly could these people do who couldn’t read or write, who had no access to education and no time for it because they started working a the age of 4-5 years so they didn’t starve to death, and never travelled more than 5 miles from their home in their entire life (all 36 years of it – this being the average life expectancy until C20th: 1- assuming you remove all the children who died before the age of 5 because almost two thirds did and if you leave them in when you work it out average life expectancy comes out at 9 years old, 2- using mostly men’s records because record keeping (especially deaths) for women were not legally required and are sparse). I suppose if these uneducated, desperate people had tried harder then the oppression you mentions wouldn’t have happened, right? After all, it went so well for them at Peterloo when they were protesting at the perverse price increase that was put on bread. They certainly weren’t hungry anymore after the cavelry charged the women and children there and beheaded them all, because they dared to protest greed-induced starvation.

    Also, you don’t seem to be aware that until the C20th women were considereded, in law, property of their father or husband with all of the same legal rights and protections as a teacup. Not immediately and unquestioningly obeying all commands no matter what she was doing, feeling or afflicted with – such as spreading her legs on command for her husband (or father) – could get a woman (any female 10 or over) declared legally insane and dumped in an asylum, which were also used as sex-slave brothels, hair suppliers for wig and doll makers, human traffickers for brothels and men with twisted tastes who needed someone who wouldn’t be missed, corpses for doctors to dissect, or living girls and women for vivisection, suppliers of fat for the tanners and tallow renderers (and much more), all perfectly legal ways for the so-called doctor to fill his pockets. Life expectancy was less than 10 months for women/girls who were institutionalised (5 years for men in case anyone is interested). They are routinely used by men-of-means as a way of trading in for a younger model because it only took her man saying she was insane to have her admitted, speaking to the woman was believed to be completely unnecessary..

    On to our current era, these alleged white privileges certainly don’t seem to exist for those who suffer from mental illness and/or are disabled. The current government has stated that disabled people should be required to work for half the minimum wage becasue they’re only worth half as much as the non-disabled, and also that those who are far too disabled to work like people with severe brain damage, terminal illness with over 6 months to live, uncontrollable epilepsy, MS, Huntingtons (etc) should be housed in camps (the government actually used the word “camps”) “where they will be forced to do as much work as they can.” What would happen if any other group were threatented with being put in work camps by a first-world government?
    You also state that “our generation” is “the most privileged and wealthy in human history” but this is only true if yoi ignore inflation and debt- which means it isn’t true at all. In our grandparents era a couple could get married, buy a house, build a decent pension, live well and raise 4 kids with only one of them working a non-professional job. Having one parent stay at home to raise a child (let alone 4) is no longer an option for most parents in professional jobs, and fewer people than ever can afford to buy a home to get on the property ladder. How is this better?

    Until everyone learns to acknowledge, accept and empathise with the suffering of everyone else, regrdless of not just colour but of religion, gender, age, health, accent, ancestors etc etc, then nothing will ever change. To put the spotlight on only one group (“whites”) without acknowledging or challenging the radical beliefs that can be found amongst all groups is useless fingerpointing.

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    • I’m not trying to “guilt” anybody SioSt – that’s your own baggage. Guilt is a useless emotion that only applies if one is directly responsible for harm, NOT by association (such as i.e. the genocidal attitudes of our ancestors). What my article points out is that regardless of how brutalized and marginalized white folks have been, we STILL have more privileges and advantages right now here, in this time and place – the Americas, than do people of color. The white cisheteropatriarchal Eurocentric capitalist founders of Empire put a trajectory in motion that we are still dealing with today. I urge all white folks, included those in alternative, progressive and “spiritual” communities, to take responsibility to correct these horrific inequalities, in our place and in our time, in what ever way(s) we are able.

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