I have had this article in the making for years now, though I only committed to writing it very recently. Finding the right words to express my feelings was incredibly difficult, and it took an even longer time to figure out what my feelings even were in the first place.
Disagreements and conflict are inevitable in any religion, and Heathenry is no exception. Sometimes, these catalytic offenses are some sort of unacceptable behavior or action. At other times, the issue is that someone had the shamelessness to call someone else Heathen when that person has the lack of respect to have melanin in their skin. * Regardless of how reasonable or idiotic the issues are, it seems that most people believe that the go to reaction is to pronounce some sort of social boycott. The lengths to which this boycott should go vary greatly between groups, but it is typically as the defining method by which Heathens seem to enforce social consequence.
It’s also bloody fucking stupid. **
The Heathen faith is small; tiny, honestly. We are also a religion with a certain amount of attachment to social structure. This leads to tightly-knit, and heavily inter woven group of people. Simply put, any sort of shunning of any sort throws this dynamic into chaos and damages everyone involved. I have seen three different arguments occur that I would classify as major enough to warrant discussion. In two of them, I was a close observer. One of them I was an unfortunate participant.
In the two cases that didn’t involve my person, I saw a variety of ‘consequences’ enacted by one side against the other. In both cases I saw more damage come from this social boycott than I ever saw come from the catalyst itself, and befell the observers just as much as it did the “guilty” . People weren’t able to invite both parties to the same event without causing more drama. These actions brought third parties into an argument that they did not belong in, and that they didn’t want to be a part of.
Our entire community weakened, and for what? So an individual or small group could feel better about themselves. Madness. I am to understand that there are people that mock “Internet Heathenry”, saying that online interactions could never carry the weight of real life actions. Anyone who says this with room for exceptions or irony really ought to get out more; things look pretty similar to me.
If you are willing to weaken the entire strength of a community for the sake of your own ego? You shouldn’t belong to a community. You can be Heathen, Asatru, or whatever; these aren’t terms that any one person gets to bestow upon or remove from another person. A community, however, requires a certain amount of sacrifice for the greater good. We are part of a proud faith, that champions accomplishment…but without some consideration for our brothers and sisters? There is no community. As soon as your pampered little ego matters more than the greater good? You disrespect every Heathen you know, and every Heathen they know in turn.
My falling out with a friend was bitter, harsh, and filled with unkind words. It is highly probably that the two of us will never speak again on friendly terms, if we ever speak to each other at all. Yet, I still speak to this person’s husband. We speak often, and we speak freely. Our respective families don’t attend the same social gatherings by coincidence, not be prearrangement. If we were to attend the same function, I can honestly say I expect that we’d both put on our big boy pants, and act like civilized adults.
There is no use for a social boycott here; all it would do is drag our mutual friends into the crossfire and show both of both as petty and foolish. Those who are my friends aren’t thought of as lesser or disloyal for sharing frith with her, and I am to understand the same basic courtesy is extended in return. We can’t stand each other, but that is both where it begins and ends; our disagreement is not something that community as a whole needs to be involved with. In does not even so much as extended to our spouses. That is a good and noble thing, and that is how it should work.
The only difference between our argument and those I have seen? Neither person forced everyone to choose a side. Both of us, individually, decided that our egos were less important than our friends and our faith. I am angry at my former friend. I am hurt beyond words, and it took me months to get to a point where I could refer to her in anything but anger. I’ll say this, however; in one action, she showed more frith and concern for consequence than I’ve seen displayed by entire kindreds. **
I’m not saying there is no reason to shun someone; if someone tried to assault my wife and/or stepdaughter, steal from us on a scale that prevents us from feeding ourselves, or something similar? Yes, they’re getting shunned…and than I’m calling the authorities. However, I am firmly of the opinion that a majority of such social boycotts are idiotic, ego feeding power trips, designed only to heighten one person’s perception of their own awesomeness.
If you couldn’t file a police report about it? Chances are you are being a cry baby, and you need to get over yourself.
* This is sarcasm.
** This is not sarcasm.