Considerations

This past week has brought many curious and provocative changes to the way I’m travelling. For a while now I’ve been aware that the whole psycho-spiritual crisis kicked off by my rejection of xianity had left me in a bit of a vaccuum, meaning wise. I needed a format in which to hang my self and understand where I fit in the universe. I’m happy with the scientific rationalist explanations of the evolution of humans as a species and possible origins of the Universe(s), but what I need is a working mythology.

It was with some enthusiasm that I began exploring Heathenism and Asatru, as it is a pretty comprehensive world view. Asatru or Heathenism incorporates mythology, cosmology, magic, divination, ritual… And I’m finding that everything I’ve intuitively collected in my electic solitary life is porting over with in most cases simply a change of name. The most amazing coincidences are occurring. Yesterday I was given a set of runes hand made by a friend.

There’s been a real issue however with finding others with whom to discuss this experience. Apparently Asatru in Australia has a bad reputation for being connected with white supremacy. I have a little Thor’s hammer charm that I’d like to wear along with my pentagram. (And the way I came across the hammer is very special!) The pentagram’s okay as a symbol of where I’ve come from. I don’t mind if people see me as connected with weird arsed stories about eating babies, Satanic worship or sex with animals, but I will not be associated with racists. Having initially encountered attitudes that I thought belonged in Alabama in the 50’s, I find myself quite suspicious and critical when researching new contacts and sources.

I had a read of Henry’s article on masculinity and Australian culture, and I find that I agree with most of what he’s saying there. That the socially enforced gender roles are potentially harmful and can keep people from really developing themselves. Being stuck to having to be seen as tough or aggressive and so forth prevents a valuable integration and self-knowledge. It also totally screws up your idea of personal boundaries. Building on that I’m trying to understand why people see a need to be so exclusivist and nasty about “who can share our faith”. As if it were a human’s job to defend the gods… As if the gods weren’t able to draw people into spiritual understanding and experience without needing to get the all clear from a self-important gang leader.

We live in the midst of global monoculture, which is admittedly pretty awful and treats humans as mere grist for the mill. Another consumer unit to be manipulated by advertising and the mass media into buying, voting and hating according to the will of the publishers. It’s difficult, even if you are consciously aware of it, to filter out all the overlearned stereotypes and emotional triggers in the sea of information we’re constantly bombarded with. And the enforcement of social constructs is absolutely brutal.

As an animal, the human species evolved in groups. Over 6 million odd years we didn’t survive because we were smarter, stronger or faster. We prospered because, in spite of what corporate culture would tell us about competition, we co-operate. We are a group animal. And acceptance within our group is one of the strongest motivators for us. We need to be needed. We need to belong.

On a tangent, the human species evolved in Africa. White skin is a very late evolutionary mutation. If you’re seriously going to search back for the common spirituality of “our ancestors” you ain’t going back to anything white, baby, you’re going back to black. And it can’t be that different from other indigenous spiritualities since a pentecostal minister was able to port demon exorcisms and trance states from his experience in Africa in the 70’s back into churches in the US without anyone blinking an eye. Except the psychologists on the fringes trying not to wet themselves laughing.

Over the years the influence of puritan religion and the lingering after effects of the Greco-Roman purity codes, not to mention the idea of humans as sinful, tainted creatures, has led to a distorted understanding of ourselves. The things we don’t like about ourselves or percieve as “bad” according to those religious codes, are repressed. The shadow side of our nature, everything we don’t like or consider unworthy, still remains as part of us even if we don’t integrate it. And in this repressed state, we tend to project our shortcomings onto others. For example, rather than seeing myself as short tempered and trying to find healthy ways of dealing with that, I see anger in others and am critical of it. Homophobia works in a similar way. Rather than having a good, honest open look at my sexuality, I direct all manner of hatred, abuse and discrimination against “poofters”. All of this also screws up our personal boundaries and concept of self-control or autonomy. If we’re “broken” how can we trust ourselves to develop morally? How can we learn to understand our own limits and let others be responsible for theirs?

I think that’s where the racist attitudes are stemming from. This combination of an unyielding, abusive monoculture and the lack of permission to journey within and know thy self in wisdom. How often have you heard “new agers” described as selfish or self absorbed? How often have you heard people in the midst of personal crisis told to “get over it”? Our culture does not encourage personal development. That would make us all wiser about what we think and buy and we can’t be having with any of that! ;-)

So here we have a situation in which people are feeling alienated and manipulated. We’re stuck in the suburban siege and we’re in pain.

Fortunately there are many systems around that have helped humans throughout the ages to journey through this stuff. We may have to dig for it now and be brave in stepping out into that exploration, but it is available. One of the great things about Paganism and Heathenism is that they incorporate many of the best tools for self-development from ancient and recent sources. That the tools seem so similar in so many different religions and spiritualities is testament to the need humans have had for them throughout our evolution.

While I’m pretty unhappy with the idea that the spirituality I want to devote myself to is associated with white supremacists, as a bit of a compensation there is within the faith plenty of avenues for people caught up in that sort of repression and hatred to deal with it and develop more healthy wholeness. Unless they’re simply using Asatru or Heathenism as a pathetic excuse to cover their racist attitudes, if they’re following the gods at all, eventually they’re going to be led to confront the anger and inner turmoil.

The journey of discovery, dealing with issues like sexuality and social roles is one of the most painful and difficult, and one of the most valuable, that any person can undertake. That’s why the metaphor of Odin hanging on the world tree in search of wisdom can be so powerful for us now. We need it more than ever.

Although I despise the racist elements in Odinism and Asatru, it isn’t my job to defend or protect the faith. The gods can look after themselves. If a person is drawn to a spiritual practise it’s for a reason. If they need to travel that inner path dealing with inner hurt, emotional conditioning, past memories and present fears, as many of us do myself included, then good luck to them.

It’s just a bit ironic that I threw off xianity because of all the harm I’ve seen done in that system, to find this one similarly beset by problems. I guess it’s all human behaviour. The gregarious animal, in possession of a frontal lobe…

Which leaves me with my little Thor’s hammer, wearing it inside my clothing where it can remain personal. And I remain, for now, the solitary eclectic.

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Panic stations

Yes, you could be forgiven for thinking things have changed in Australian politics recently… until you notice the distinct aroma of desperation.

Rather than call an election, our PM has begun making noises about indigenous rights, gay equality and Tony Abbott has started dog whistling the religious right to improve his chances for re-election or leadership.

The thing that is probably most offensive about this turn of events is the fact that John Howard openly admits that he’s been struggling with the idea of offering Indigenous Australians a little dignity. Something that ought to be absolutely obvious and necessary, the acknowledgement of past abuses and a decision to do something constructive, let alone an apology, has taken ten years to sink in to his self-absorbed and greedy little mind. What an insult. This really gives the lie to the idea of having new Australian citizens take a citizenship test and agree to embrace “Australian values”. What values might they be? Turning a blind eye to racism and genocide? Allowing a proportion of our population, by virtue of their ethnic heritage, to live in appalling poverty and disease? To refuse to acknowledge the abuses Indigenous Australians have suffered for over 200 years? And that’s before we get to things like lying in Parliament to start a war, lying about knowledge of bribes and arms trading with malignant dictators, fabricating stories about children being thrown overboard by refugees in a re-election attempt…. Yanno, it might be better if prospective citizens took an oath to categorically reject these values exemplified by our Prime Minister and his ruling elite.

And not only is he not doing anything constructive, the discussion regarding Indigenous Australians is merely the suggestion of a referendum, some 18 months on, that an alteration be made to the Australian Constitution. Well, it would be nice if something were put in writing, like “sorry”, but this is so patently and transparently a pathetic suck up, it’s insulting.

What is equally insulting is the coalition’s noises about offering some semblance of equality to gay Australians. Like Africans, Asians and the unemployed, homosexuals have been a favourite scape goat of conservative politicians in Australia for years now. Note that the potential is only a rumour as yet, and it’s all about money, not approving same sex marriages. The author of the linked article notes that this could be a prop for Malcolm Turnbull, who looks pretty deservedly set to get his arse kicked otherwise.

Tony Abbott is making a play that is nauseatingly transparent and equally obnoxious.

Catholic social justice groups have expressed fears that the Government’s WorkChoices legislation unfairly affects the vulnerable and cuts the time families can spend together.

But Mr Abbott this week denied there were moral problems with the IR laws saying, “a political argument is not transformed into a moral argument simply because it’s delivered with an enormous dollop of sanctimony”.

The man who once wanted to enter the priesthood himself said in comments to the Institute of Public Affairs that were reported by the ABC: “I do think that if church men spent more time encouraging virtue in people and less time demanding virtue from governments we would have ultimately a better society”.

An interesting reply came from Tim Costello… btw, if you see Tim Costello and Peter Jensen agreeing on something, it’s worth having a closer look at!

World Vision head Tim Costello said Mr Abbott’s comments displayed a “fundamental misunderstanding” of Jesus and Catholic teaching. “Jesus didn’t get crucified because he just went around turning water into wine or wine into blood and saying ‘be good’. He got crucified because he asked questions about who really had power in the society and (talked about) how the kingdom of God includes the powerless and marginalised.”

The more conservative Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen sympathised with the difficulty of politicians making policy, but said “nor is it right to define virtue narrowly as though it is merely to do with personal morality”.

Archbishop Jensen said: “I have a problem with a society in which unionism is a dying phenomenon, because while unionism is not always effective or good, the capacity of being able to join with fellow workers to achieve results is a very good thing.”

Let’s leave aside the issue that the Kingdom of God might be a spiritual thing and not an excuse for Imperial agendas… And the fact that Jensen is one of those who supports the idea of female subordination, a concept that underlies the legislation of what is effectively financial abuse of single mothers and women in general through changes to taxation law, welfare law and industrial reforms… We’ll leave misogyny out of this and focus on the problems with separation of church and state.

Someone, somewhere thought it necessary to keep the two from getting into bed together, in order to avoid fundamentalist abuses, war mongering, an inherently heirarchical society in which many are excluded from power or an effective voice as participating citizens. In this debate and in the US in recent events such as those at Oral Roberts University, we see the lesson and explanation delivered in sharp relief.

Religion is *supposed* to be about supporting personal spirituality and individual lives, providing a structure and accountability for developing humanity. It is not about providing code word cover for legislating into effect blatant abuses and the creation of a class society. It is not about getting your conscience off the hook so you can keep on taking more than your share at the expense of others. It is not about, or should I say ought not be about, creating a political empire and attempting to legitimise its abuses with religious language.

Not that the Labor party is any better mind you. They’re simply biding their time after Rupert Murdoch decided that John Howard’s time is up and pandering to a middle class that have swallowed anti-intellectual resentment and religious white wash.

Just as the mass conversion to pentecostal and right-wing neo-puritan religion will eventually result in a mass exodus and rethinking of theology and spirituality in Australia, the end of the line for the Howard Government really ought to trigger some neck deep soul searching for all Australian citizens. It’s time to examine how this situation of exploitation, lies and damnable greed and hypocrisy came about. It’s time to alter the political system to prevent a single party holding control of both the House of Reps and the Senate. And it’s high time to educate ourselves regarding the use of lies and religious newspeak to cover for career politicians with narrow minds whose Government amounts to little more than theft and malice.

Deadly car culture

This little gem has annoyed me so much I’ve blogged about it twice now. Once on my cycling blog but now let’s get stuck into the misogyny inherent in the story.

A report this morning about a hit and run driving accident, in which a man hit a woman pushing a pram across a pedestrian crossing, appeared in the online paper. According to the article the man has been arrested and charged with “negligently causing serious injury”. Why not attempted murder? Did he think the pram was full of cans and therefore it was alright to drive right over the top of it and the woman pushing it? Did he not see the pedestrian crossing and think she was fair game?

Australia has been a very masculine oriented culture right from the beginning, when the white population was mostly male convicts. These days, as I blogged yesterday, there are more women than men, yet women still manage to be described in media and culture as somehow secondary to real humans, those being men. The male experience and perspective on life is still considered to be “normal” and of course much more important than “female” things like having babies, providing sex and looking like a blow up doll in order to appease the male populace.

For those men who think this is going too far in describing Aussie culture, consider the treatment of women who opt out. One of those idiot women’s magazines ran an article last year about gangs of men who rape lesbians to make them straight. Then there’s the cultural annihalation of females over 40, unless they reinvent themselves as desperate housewives.

In the case of car culture, things go even further. The car being naturally an extension of the male appendage, which is also used as a weapon to enforce masculine dominance, reporting of major accidents such as this one reveal a great deal about the attitudes inherent in Australian culture. First note the use of passive language.

Charlene Cavanagh, 31 was crossing a pedestrian crossing on the Princes Highway in Norlane with her two-year-old son when she was hit last Saturday.

Hit by what, I wonder? A gumnut? It’s almost as if she’s responsible for the accident by being on the pedestrian crossing, getting in the way of the driver.

While we’re on the subject of victim blaming, here’s some other stunning examples from recent reporting.

Assaulting a woman while she was breastfeeding her child in a shopping centre women’s lounge had this young man in court yesterday.

His lawyer, Zarah Garde-Wilson, said her client had suffered a traumatic episode as a result of his partner’s abortion.
He made apologies for his conduct and had spent 27 days in pre-sentence detention.
Ms Garde-Wilson said her client had suffered “ridicule” in custody and notoriety in the community following media reports about his arrest.

Somehow all of a sudden this has centred on how he feels, how he has suffered and the time he has done. Well, at least he’s active in something in this story.

Here’s how the same incident was reported by a woman in a tabloid…

A TEENAGER has pleaded guilty to groping a breastfeeding mother at a shopping centre.

Groping??!!! But wait, there’s more!

Prosector Sgt Kevin Ellis told the court Mr Chkhaidem had “invaded what was an intimate moment between mother and child”.
He said security footage showed Mr Chkhaidem loitering outside the changing room before the assault.
“She was fearful and felt she may have contributed to the incident,” Sgt Ellis said.

I’m still googling to find the reporting on the original incident, but the searchwords keep finding me millions of articles on women’s breasts before and after feeding, and some idiot groping ‘fakes’ at a fashion show.

The young man hung around the mothers’ lounge, approached this woman while she was feeding her child then after harrassing her for some time, he physically sexually assaulted her. This is, in the Australian press, reduced to groping.

Naturally, being a good little fem bot, the mother concerned has internalised responsibility for the assault. “She felt she may have contributed”. How exactly? By being there? By being female? And this said by a police officer involved in prosecuting the offence. What hope does this woman have? What hope do any of us have, if we are still, in the 21st century, considered responsible for men violating our bodies simply because we’re female? Talk about convict culture.

Another interesting point is the manner in which men are blogging about this story. Do a search in technorati and have a look at the way the man’s ethinicity come into play. How dare some non-white boy touch our women! All the possessiveness of your average, garden variety neanderthal.

In the original report in the tabloids the ethnicity of the perpetrator was the focus of the story, and the mother was quoted as saying

In a feeding room doing something natural, feeding your own child, you should be able to do (it) in privacy and peace

The mother goes from being shaken and embarrassed to feeling responsible. Possibly because a prolonged assault was considered nothing more than a groping in the press? A breast grab…?

This is a perfect example of the way crimes against women are reported in a passive voice, so that men are not seen as being responsible for their own actions, and also the tone of the language might well be a script for a p0rno!

Tigtog has blogged a timely piece about passive/aggressive use of language in rape reporting.

But this accused rapist pleads guilty would have to take the cake for the latest piece of turning the male rapist criminal into a victim of the crime.

If a woman expresses feelings of humiliation or depression after she is raped by a man, she’s accused of playing the victim or told to get over it. It seems that even as victims, men are more legitimate human beings than women.

Some months ago Germaine Greer appeared in a tv show interview in which she commented on the way most women don’t realise how much men hate them. Do they really hate you? The interviewer questioned. These articles would be a fairly good depiction of the fact that if you’re an honest woman, you only have to open your eyes to see that men really do hate you.

I am so angry right now!

Doctor overboard.

Dr. Haneef has had the misfortune to be the scapegoat that brought the inhumane and illegitimate “anti-terror” laws into sharp relief. When these laws were passed, people were referring to them not as anti-terror but ante-terror, for precisely the reasons we’ve seen demonstrated.

Dr. Haneef was kept in custody without being charged for an unreasonably long period. After two weeks of searching through his home, place of work and belongings, no charge was laid other than the suggestion that he had given a SIM card to a relative some 8 months ago. The relative in question is facing his own charges but has in no way been proven guilty of any criminal act.

Australia’s Immigration Minister claims that Dr. Haneef’s rapid departure after his abuse by the Federal Government and AFP was “suspicious”. The only suspicious thing about this whole sordid affair is how exactly people who think this is all okay were elected to office in Australia.

The treatment of Dr. Haneef is a national scandal and the Australian people should have redress against those who have so terribly damaged our international image through a desperate and tyrannical grab for power.

It is the Howard Government and Minister Andrews who have failed the character test.

Citizens living in Australia are now in more danger from fascist politicians overriding the rule of law and detaining people for expedience in election years than from terrorists. Not that we had a terrorist problem before John Howard lied in Parliament and dragged us into the war in Iraq.

We frequently hear calls for George Bush to be impeached in the US. It is obviously high time John Howard and all of his supporters were called to account for their mismanagement and deceit in governing Australia.