Heathen Ethics, Part 9: Accountability

Talking about how things went down at HUAR, as well as how things are going forward with HfSJ, made me reflective about something that’s a cornerstone of Heathen ethics, but rarely gets brought up as such.   You see, there are many important keystones in Heathen ethics, and many of us have a great degree of familiarity with a vast assortment of them; we know about how upholding your word is important, how one needs to have a strong understanding of honor, “we are our deeds”, and so forth.

Critical to these, however, is accountability; the ability to be responsible to and for the consequences of your actions.

That it’s rarely talked about in Heathen circles is rather bizarre, because it ends up being the philosophical cement that holds many of our other ethical bricks together.  It’s within the sentiment behind the “Cattle Die, Kinsmen Die” stanza, because how well can our triumphs be remember after our death if we couldn’t also take responsibility for our mistakes in life?  It drips from the “Lay of Loddfafnir”*, for every piece of advice that directly speaks to consequence is indirectly speaking about accountability as well.  It can be found in the margins of the Nine Noble Virtues (both versions), the Nine Charges, the Six Fold Goal, and in the Ten Guiding Tempers that I wrote myself.

Of course, one way to not need to have to account for yourself is to not be a jackass in the first place.

Of course, one way to not need to have to account for yourself is to not be a jackass in the first place.

Did I intend it to be there?  Honestly, no…but that’s sort of a demonstration of how fundamental it is; an ethical perspective which does not, by accident or design, consider accounting for one’s self simply cannot function.  At such a point, it can no longer even be considered ethics; it’s just long-winded braggadocio with a pretension towards moralizing.

Now, accountability is one of those things that’s pretty easy to explain, but understanding it isn’t the problem or how it’s determined; it’s having the strength of character to act upon it that’s key.  In many ways it is the shadow that is cast by the light of honor, and it is just as ineffable as it’s counterpart.  Perhaps more so: while it can be hard to figure out the right action is in a given situation, figuring out how to repair things after you’ve already messed up can feel absolutely impossible.

Surprisingly, accountability can be hard for us, as Heathens, to deal with.  While we have strong, ethical obligations in matters regarding honor and frith, we also regard the recognition of an individual and their accomplishments as a healthy thing.  Additionally, many of us have an excessive amount of Christian baggage, which can lead to some very dour ideas about how shame interacts with consequence.  All of this is to the side of simple lapses in judgement, and incorrect assumptions about who or what is to blame.

Regardless of what gets in the way, however, there are times where the onus will be on us to make amends for the actions we have taken.  It’s about as certain as death and taxes.

Accountability is, by it’s nature, a personal thing, and how each person goes about it needs to be something they determine for themselves.  The only thing that I will say I feel is ironclad, from a Heathen perspective, is that accountability cannot be practiced exclusively towards other Heathens.  If one gives only Heathens the respect afforded by accountability, then we are not truly accounting for ourselves; we are accounting for the perceptions of others and making sure our little club stays well attended to.  It becomes a situation devoid of meaningful morality, turning instead into a game of perception and public relations.

That’s not laying the foundation for good ethics, and it’s certain not honorable.

Again, this is a personal thing; it is up to each individual person, Heathen or otherwise, to decide how they account for themselves in social situations.**


*Stanzas 111 to 137 of the Havamal.
**I’m intending to revisit this topic again later; for the moment, I’m putting this out there in the hope of encouraging discussion.

Advertisements

Heathens for Social Justice

HfSJAs some of you may or may not know, I used to be an administrator over at Heathens United Against Racism.  I am no longer there, because the powers that remain there have decided to stop practicing what they preach.

On the fan page, they’re terming it a “internal restructuring“.  This is an understatement akin to calling a raging inferno a “sudden reaction to molecular agitation”.

You all know me; I’m not prone to name calling, but I don’t shy away from demanding accountability either.  On that note, the people who are currently running HUAR are people who are refusing any sort of meaningful accountability or transparency when it comes to their actions.  Not to the bylaws they helped write and voted in.  Not to the communities that they claimed to care about.  Not to the religion that claim to practice.  Nothing.

What you, the reader, do with my opinion regarding HUAR is completely up to you.  For those curious?  It is my strong and firm suggestion that anyone who believes in social justice in any meaningful way, shape, or form shoukd have nothing to do with HUAR whatsoever.  They’re not interested in fighting the good fight; they just interested in talking about how racists are bad, without actually having to involve themselves in any meaningful way.

HUAR has gone from being a force trying to make positive, social change within the broader Heathen community as well as the world at large…to a social club for people who wish to voice toothless complaints about bigotry.

The truth is they aren’t what they say they are.  Not anymore, at least.  I was the only cisgendered, heterosexual, white male removed from my position.  Of the nine people kicked out, eight of them were either apart of the GLBTQ+ community, ethnically non-white, or both.  Make of that what you will…but I will tell you that I find it incredibly telling of HUAR’s current motivations and priorities.

If that sounds like something you want to deal with?  More power to you.  However, it’s important that everyone gets a fully informed perspective about the organizations they’re looking to align themselves with…and you’re not going to get an honest discussion about HUAR from the people who currently run it*.

The administrators kicked to the curb over this ordeal have started new projects, to pick up and continue to carry the torch that HUAR once held.  Loosing HUAR hasn’t destroyed us; it is out belief that the lack of us has destroyed HUAR.  In either case, look us up under “Heathens for Social Justice” and “The Yggdrasil Assembly“.

In either case, that’s it for HUAR.  Feel free to ask any (constructive) questions below that you may have regarding the matter; I’ll answer anything asked to the best of my ability.


*But don’t take my word for it!  If you want to know why HUAR does not deserve your trust, look to documentation that showcases the words of the current administration for yourself!