The “Pagan Community” still has a lot of maturing to do…

The “Pagan Community” still has a lot of maturing to do…  (imho)

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about community. The other day, someone I know posted an interesting topic about “How do you know someone’s a friend?” and “What has to happen next for you to move the person from the “acquaintance” category to really start thinking of them as a friend?” I’m not referencing them directly because I don’t know if their post was restricted and I don’t know if the people responded want to be public. However, it’s good topic.

It got me thinking in broader terms about community and the different types of community and the different levels of involvement in community. I am part of many different communities both secular and spiritual and my involvement ranges from “by default” to actively contributing. The sizes range from relatively few members (coven, Tradition) to quite a large number of folks (SF/F) and everywhere in between. I don’t necessarily get along or like everyone in every community but I can generally be polite and get along with most people.

Ideally, a community is a group of like minded individuals with common interests who can interact in a mature and pleasant way. If I choose to be a member of a community, one of the most important things for me is how the people treat each other, how they handle conflict, and how they respond to someone with a genuine concern. Lately, I’ve been very disappointed with the “Pagan Community” on several fronts as well as with several sub-communities within the greater Pagan Community.

I went through a similar time in regards to the greater SF/F community where the issue was excusing bad behavior – letting people get away with crap because, well, they’ve always done it and they volunteer so don’t make waves. Generally, something like that is something that I can devote time and skill to helping resolve. However, if I honestly feel that there is nothing I am reasonably able to do to assist the issue in a positive way I usually vote with my feet.

For instance, I enjoy attending SF/F conventions. However, there are certain authors that I feel that I can not support. I don’t buy their books, I don’t recommend them, and I remove myself from situations where my attendance would be supporting them.

If I really wanted to attend a convention (let’s take DragonCon as a random example), my decision would be partially based on who are the official speakers and representatives endorsed by the con. For example, personally, I have issues with Orson Scott Card. I’m aware that others don’t and that’s fine. However, if I was to attend a con, I’d want to know if he was going to be an official presenter so I could decide whether or not I would want to attend.

Knowing that organizers are often behind schedule and often crazy busy, I’d most likely ask people in the SF/F community if they knew if there were any plans to have him as a speaker because I have a personal issue(s) – especially if I needed to make plans months in advance and the “official schedule” still wasn’t published by the time I needed to begin making those plans.

Yes, the chances of me running into him at a con and being forced to socialize with him are slight – especially with so many people in attendance and other events being presented. For me, it’s not about “if I’d have to see or interact with him”. For me, it’s about whether I would feel that my attendance (where he was an official speaker) would feel as if I were supporting him. If he were the official guest of honor at a con that I wished to attend, I would probably choose to NOT attend. My choice, my reasons. That in no way obligates anyone wishing to attend to do otherwise. I likewise don’t feel that I should have to apologize for my choice in not attending. I feel that it is very important to walk my talk. To do less is not in my nature.

I have never once had anyone in the SF/F community attack me for saying that I had an personal or ethical issue with OSC and wished to know if he was an official presenter before making the decision to attend or not. Unlike in the Pagan Community, I am sad to say.

In the past several weeks, I have been disappointed with 2 Pagan communities that I thought I could count on for maturity, compassion, and understanding. Yet in both instances, when I brought up that I had a personal concern (different issues, different communities), my question was met aggressively and defensively. In one case, with an outright attack where I was assigned a motivation that was pure fabrication by someone who doesn’t even know me. Unfortunately, rather than becoming familiar with my original concern and asking for clarification, others only heard the other person’s misinterpretation of my words and jumped on the bandwagon. I always expected more from that particular community, which over the last 24 hours led me to believe that it’s not the same community that I’ve been an active part of for the last 15+ years and made my question whether is was one that I really wanted to continue with.

Several friends read over the posts (it was on a social network) and assured me that: my original post wasn’t accusatory, my post only raised my concern and didn’t try to get others involved, that it clearly stated it was a personal issue, and that I was asking if someone was going to attend as a presenter so *I* could decided if I would still be willing to go or not. I was reminded that I shouldn’t let one or two “bad apples” spoil the bushel and that the community was bigger and better than that.

Even so, I have to wonder… When someone raises a personal concern and the initial response is to be met with an attack where false motivation is place on the concern raised, then is it really a healthy community? Is it possible to stay an active member in that community but choose to NOT interact with sub groups within it? Is it worth it? I think that has to be a personal choice.

I support the idea of attempting to make a community healthier when conflict happens, especially when there have been years of investment put in. However, sometimes, it might be better to vote with your feet. For me, the deciding factor of whether I want to continue to participate in a community or not hinges on how people treat each other. Time will tell.

I’m not making any definite choices yet but I am keeping my eyes open for other festivals for future attendance.



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