Sunday, October 30, 2011

Even more Redux on the Lilith Rite at Pantheacon 2011

The comments keep coming, yrs. truly keeps on responding. Chas Clifton commented on my post concerning hate speech:
Somewhere under all of this there is — or used to be — religion and magical practice. But people would rather score points arguing about (a) history, (b) gender issues, or (c) lineage issues.
I can understand why Chas wearies of these arguments.  On the other hand, I'm not sure if "we should ignore these problems" is a useful response.  It's clear that all of the issues Chas has mentioned are contentious ones which evoke strong feelings amongst the various participants. To that end, I might suggest that we as a community need to set out boundaries as to what forms of discourse are acceptable and when "heated discussion" devolves into name-calling and hate speech.  And we need to make it clear that those who refuse to accept those boundaries are not representative of our community and that we do not support them.  Otherwise our silence becomes consent to and collusion in bullying and abuse.

Wade Long noted on G+:
First of all, if it was in fact true that it was a closed event with a private group then it shouldn't have been announced on the schedule as an open event. If they really had such issues with Teh Penus being present then they should have just made it invitation-only instead of putting it on the open schedule. 
Secondly, what kind of damage does a person have to HAVE in their soul that they have to focus on a person's junk instead of their magic? That's the pathetic part. Not only would I not even consider trying to crash a No Penis Allowed event, I wouldn't consider attending a No Vagina Allowed event either. It's pathetic. 
It reduces the full sum total of a person's spiritual experience and potential to what's between their legs instead of what's between their ears. And the after-the-fact apologetics aren't helping - having her post her new "Some of my best friends are penises!!!!!" blog entry was just sad.
I agree that a "cisgendered women only" event should have been invitation only if it were held at all.  But while I don't get the "admission based on genitalia" stuff, I figure everyone has a right to experience the Divine however they see fit.  Since a number of women have chimed in with testimonials about how Dianic Witchcraft has had a positive effect on them, I presume at least some people are getting something out of it.  It's not my thing, but it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg if a bunch of people want to get together for dick-swinging or Yoni-worshipping.  

What I find truly sad is that the Amazon Priestess Tribe still appears to have missed the point entirely, at least if Yeshe Rabbit's blog entry is to be believed:
So, where am I now, and where is CAYA now? CAYA proposed three rituals for PantheaCon 2012: one all-inclusive and two for self-identified men and women, respectively. The Amazons proposed one ritual: a naked ritual for women.
It has long been clear that the whole "womyn-born-womyn" issue is a major flashpoint for transgender women and trans allies. If it wasn't, I would think that the whole experience surrounding the PCon 2011 rite would have made it clear to the members of the Amazon Priestess tribe. Yet it appears that they still think the major problem lies with those damn "transgender activists" and that their right to hold a ritual to celebrate their bleeding vulvas trumps the feelings of those people who are being shut out.

I've found that one classic response to being called out on privilege is "I have a right to..."  I have a right to dress up like an "Indian buck" or a "Chinaman"; I have a right to tell offensive jokes; I have a right to call the waitress "honey" and "sweetheart" even if it clearly makes her uncomfortable.  And it's true that one has a right to do all these things and more.  But one also has a responsibility to accept the consequences of one's actions.  As I'm fond of putting it, "You have a right to take a steaming shit in the middle of your dining room table.  But if you do, don't be surprised if people start declining invitations to your candlelight suppers."

The Amazon Priestess Tribe appears to have no concern for the feelings of transgender attendees to Pantheacon, or about the hassles which their exclusionary ritual has caused and will cause for the organizers at Pantheacon.  Instead, they have chosen to assert their rights - from their position of privilege as cisgendered, college-educated, middle-class white women - against a disempowered minority and everyone else attending a popular convention. For all their talk about "patriarchal oppression," it seems they're quite happy to take the "I got mine: screw you all" approach when it suits their purposes.

Which brings us to a quote by Katie LBT in the comments to my first Redux post:
I'm really, REALLY uncomfortable with the comment about patriarchal domination. That's an accusation that is entirely too often thrown at trans women who are doing nothing more than refusing to back down from our own needs at the first moment a cissexual decides that (even phantom) dick is enough of a reason to kick the altogether too often lone transsexual out of the room. 
There's also the lack of distinction between the power of patriarchal dominance and the fear/anger response of someone who has had her back pushed so hard up against the wall that her only recourse is to lash out to get the people wielding power over her to back up and let her breathe. It's not acceptable, but it CAN be understood without resorting to accusations that implicitly center resistance and anger in masculine privilege.
I find it interesting how much gender-essentialist feminism plays into the commonly-held patriarchal stereotypes.  Fratboys and the gatekeepers at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival both reduce feminine identity to a warm wet hole between one's legs.  Evangelical preachers and "Amazon Priestesses" both appear to think that anger, resistance and standing up for one's rights are "unfeminine" and should be reserved for male-bodied types.  In their desire to escape the patriarchy, it seems many of these feminists have recreated it and bought in wholesale to many of its ugliest preconceptions.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Lilith Rite Redux, Reduxed: Responding to Hate Speech

Like the Energizer Bunny, this particular issue just keeps going and going and going. In the comments to Anya Kless's post on the topic, Califried said:
I spent quite a lot of time arguing with various Dianic Wiccans in the aftermath of CAYA’s Lilith ritual. My point was (broadly) that Dianic perpetuation of the narratives that underlie cisgender privilege (the main one being that transwomen are not women) is experienced by transwomen as oppression. As such, my view is that critique of their choice to exclude transwomen from Dianic circles is warranted and necessary.
Having said that, I’m not sure I’m prepared to insist that all event organizers exclude Z, Ruth Barrett, Wendy Griffin, Amadea and others. As I wrote in response to Amadea several times, pluralism does not demand silence when worldviews conflict. Having said that, I also don’t believe that insisting on their exclusion from broadly inclusive events is necessarily the best policy. To be perfectly clear, I believe that the divide between women and transwomen claimed by some Dianic circles as “authentic” elides and erases the very real differences between the formative experiences of cisgendered women based on class, race, creed, geographic location, and immigration status (among others). I also believe that insisting on the authenticity of this divide is experienced by transwomen as oppression. Event organizers, however, should be free to invite (or not) presenters as they see fit. On the flip side, event organizers cannot be expected to enforce restrictions that are simply unenforceable – anyone expecting to hold a public cisgendered women-only ritual needs to be aware that there is literally no way to enforce that restriction. In my view, that’s the best balance we can reasonably expect to strike for the moment.
I think the issue here is not so much about free speech as about taking responsibility for hate speech.  There is controversy about whether the "womyn-born-womyn" circles are inherently oppressive toward transgendered people.  I would hope there is no controversy about the need to treat fellow human beings with respect and to avoid hateful epithets like "transies."

There are (or were) Traditional Witchcraft circles which were only open to heterosexuals:  they feel/felt theirs was a fertility religion, and homosexual sex doesn't lead to babies.  While I might disagree with these taboos and question the reasoning behind them,  I accept their right to follow their religion.  I would even be happy to attend a workshop given by members of these traditions and listen respectfully to what they had to say.  

Now let's suppose a well-known member of one of those traditions went on an online rant about "disgusting faggots," suggesting they were sick and perverse and ending with an observation that AIDS was the Goddess's punishment for their "unnatural behavior."  What about a practitioner of Slavic Paganism who referred to Starhawk, Margot Adler, Judy Harrow and other Jewish witches as "a cancer on our native religion" and "Zionists trying to profit from our culture." Would these people be welcome to present at Pantheacon?  And would they be welcome to hold a rite wherein they announced ahead of time that only heterosexuals were welcome or that only those of European and non-Semitic descent should attend?

To put this in a personal perspective: several of my good friends are scratched (initiated) in Palo Mayombe and other Reglas de Congo (Kongo-influenced Cuban religions).  I'm far too queer ever to be initiated in Las Reglas de Congo - the taboo against initiating homosexual or bisexual men is universal within those traditions. Yet I remain friends with these people, respect their devotion, and even go to them on occasion with questions on Kongo culture and practices.  They are not homophobes by any useful definition of the word: they are just following the tradition as it was passed down to them.  

(And I should add that none of them would be so foolish as to try holding an exclusionary ritual at a public forum. They would recognize immediately the potential for ill feelings and misunderstanding and choose to avoid the issue rather than presenting themselves as victims of "gay activists" spoiling for a fight).

So no, I'm not saying that Dianics should be shunned from all public events.  I'm saying that people who make hateful statements should be shunned.  Z Budapest not only refuses to recognize transwomen as women but to acknowledge them as human beings deserving of respect.  Until she is willing to apologize to those she has harmed, I see no reason why right-thinking people should give her a forum.  This is not about her sincerely-held religious beliefs - we can disagree on those as siblings.  This is about her vile words aimed at a disempowered minority.  In attending Budapest's events, or in allowing her to present at ours, we give our approval to those words - or at the very least say that they are not so wrong that we actually need to do anything against them.

Friday, October 28, 2011

More on Cultural Appropriation: Responding to Matt Deos

In response to my earlier post, Matt Deos commented:
The thing is I dont think there's a specifically sharp line so much as a shift of area; (and its funny, I had this very conversation last night with a student asking about Hoodoo and when is it no longer considered Hoodoo)
I think as people add more and more to their practices there is certainly a potential for greater strength and technique that will work well for the person performing it (no prob there; we know from Hoodoo, just for example, that there's a fine history of if it works, do it, and if it doesnt, chuck it). After a while, though, what happens when the person's practice is no longer even resembling the initial techniques they were taught, if it happens that all of their additions work better for them?
Can it still be called Hoodoo when it no longer contains hoodoo? And is the person "wrong" to still use the name?
What you then have is a new spiritual practice -- and the question of "what then should you call it?" is an open and long-standing one.  Do Ahmidayya Muslims have the right to call themselves Islamic? Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a Christian organization?  Perhaps the best answer to this would be "depends on whom you ask."

As far as "can it still be called Hoodoo," let's explore this argument from a different angle:

Betsy Conjurewoman (formerly Moonshadow Starlight) wants to call her practice Hoodoo despite jettisoning all the biblical magic for goddess chants, replacing the saints with European "godforms" and using the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram instead of praying the Psalms.  Her shop which sells "Hoodoo candles" of the Great Goddess and Horned God and refuses to do any work which would violate  the "an it harm none" rule.

Obviously her practices diverge significantly from what is commonly recognized as Hoodoo - so far, in fact, that most would say she isn't doing Hoodoo at all. So let's say that she decides to make her shop more "authentic." At what point would her practices qualify as Hoodoo? How much would she have to take from Hyatt, Gamache, and Yronwode before we could say "yep, that looks like Hoodoo?" And when would the "authenticity" of her practices outweigh the issue that Hoodoo was traditionally practiced by and for a largely poor and African-American clientele, not by and for middle-class college-educated white Pagans?
I thought Eli's responses fleshed out my own idea behind mine rather well; my original point was that Ben's questions all led to a single yes or no question that, to answer, would have been to either flat out declare *all* religion wrong, or to support fully the idea that anything can be added anywhere... the way he phrased it didnt leave room for the grayscale between the two poles of his final question.
I might take a postmodern approach: Ben was pointing out the inherent contradictions within the idea. More precisely, he was pointing out that one person's "cultural appropriation" is another person's "eclecticism." From there we could (OK, I could) note that "cultural appropriation" has not infrequently been used as a club with which one privileged white practitioner bashed another competing white practitioner.  Almost invariably it has been defined as "that which we do not do" - in other words, it is more often a label applied to demonize others than a tool by which one may weigh and measure their own actions.

Given that, I think it is worthwhile to clarify the meaning of the phrase and to note its misuses and misapplications.  It's pretty clear that we will never come up with a solid, universally recognized definition of "cultural appropriation." But that doesn't mean it is not a useful concept which can serve as a guideline for what is and is not an acceptable approach to someone else's religion.
Personally, I stand by traditions that, when they have a barrier such as cultural background or initiatory veils, feel that THEY have the rights to call the shots as far as use of their name is concerned.... eg I support a Gardnerian or Alexandrian who may express uneasiness about ecclectic pagans coopting the word 'Wicca', which those traditions feel entitled to as they not only created the word but also the legacy of secrets and requirements for access that the word rightfully implies... same for us as Vodouisants and the titles of our priesthoods (and why I praise Priestess Miriam for being *Priestess* and not *Manbo*.)
I agree with you, with the same caveat I mentioned earlier: there is often disagreement within the tradition itself as to what should or should not be shared.

For the sake of this discussion, let us assume that most Native Americans want to keep their tribal ceremonies within the tribe; some will happily sell "pipe ceremonies" and "vision quests" to outsiders, while a few others honestly believe that their tribal wisdom should be shared with sincere non-natives.  Should a non-native who feels called to "walk the red road" honor the will of the majority? Or should sie seek out a Native teacher? And how are we to distinguish between a seeker who has been accepted by an honest elder and one who has purchased a fake ceremony from a huckster?
Who knows? Our two personal feelings aside about the idea of where Kanzo can be performed, we are still in a tradition that across the board agrees that certain things are never done, like presenting Damballah or Freda with black candles or black (not skin color) based imagery; Ive personally seen for sale in a friends store a rattle made from a dog's skull, black leather, and black paint that had Freda's veve painted on it accompanied by a card "explaining" how to use it in her service... and you can bet I had a heart attack; we both know there's so much wrong to that that there's simply no way it contains a shred of authenticity or respectful sincerity. A line was crossed, but I fear that line is always going to be variable based on circumstance and opinion... even if the other side of it is clear in its effects.
The problem here isn't cultural appropriation so much as self-preservation.  Simply put, the spirits can wreak havoc in the lives of those who offended them, even unwittingly.  And while I love Maitresse Freda, she is one of the easiest lwa to offend and the hardest to propitiate once you're on her bad side. This isn't so much an issue for those who don't actually believe in the tradition or who just want to affect the trappings of a suitably exotic culture - at least not until they learn that belief or disbelief has little effect on the various misfortunes which can come crashing down on your head.

Those who want to mix and match from other cultures would do well to assume that the elders of said culture are telling the truth when they describe various taboos and the dangers associated with breaking them.  Ignoring them may not just be imperialist, arrogant and colonialist behavior - it could be hazardous to your health.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Lilith Rite at Pantheacon 2011 Redux

At Pantheacon 2011,  there was a controversial "Lilith Rite" which turned away several men, transfolk and anyone who wasn't "woman born woman." Recently Yeshe Rabbit, High Priestess and founder of the CAYA (Come As You Are) Coven, posted her take on that rite and on the kerfluffle which ensued afterwards. In that post Rabbit discusses her affiliation with Dianic Witchcraft:
In 2007, I was ordained by Z Budapest in the Dianic Tradition. I have been, within my eclectic practice, engaged in Dianic circles since 2005, and I have been a feminist witch for my entire adult life. When I found my Dianic practice, it offered me a great deal of personal healing from past experiences, from body shame, from shame in my menstrual blood, and from fear of my power as a woman in a society that subtly and overtly conditions women to be fearful of power. The Dianic Tradition offered me a version of the Divine that looked like me, smelled like me, bled like me, and understood my worldview. I am deeply grateful for this work, as it helped me to grow in my confidence and personal sense of authority over my own life.
I am glad that Rabbit found a coven which helped her to deal with body shame and offered her healing from past experiences. I also think that most transgender women are quite familiar with body shame and have had to find healing from some pretty nasty past experiences.  They might not bleed like her, but  that doesn't mean that transwomen have not bled for their femininity.  (And if you think this society subtly and overtly demeans and disempowers women, you ought to get a load of what it does to male-bodied people who are too "feminine." Your trans-sisters might just teach the Dianics a thing or two about the ways one survives, or fails to survive, in a culture which wants to reduce you to your genitals).
Within CAYA, there are also small, closed, invite-only affinity groups for the sake of specific personal work. These groups perform rituals and activities that they may or may not share with the public, as the groups see fit. These groups vary in theme. Some are gender-related, some are focused on other areas of personal development. One of these "inner court" groups is my Dianic lineage, the Amazon Priestess Tribe. This lineage is focused on the mysteries of the yoni, the woman's menstrual cycle as a lens for the life cycle, birth, croning, and personal healing. This Dianic group is a closed, safe, intimate place for the women in my Clergy to find, as I did, empowerment in our bodies just as they are. And it is/has been good work.
I would think that there would be no shortage of opportunities for women to be identified by their genitals: as a drunk fratboy once laughingly told me: "What do you call the useless skin around a pussy? A woman." I was even under the impression that one of the great achievements of feminism was the way in which it opened doors for female-bodied people to be accepted as leaders outside the traditional genital-centered roles of concubine, wife and mother.  But if the Amazon Priestess Tribe wishes to reclaim this and contemplate the "mysteries of the yoni," who am I to argue? I am not part of their target market and I've always accepted the need for private "safe spaces" where people of an affinity group can seek healing and empowerment.  (I am less comfortable with these private spaces being advertised as part of the public offerings at an open convention, but more on that later).
One key component of all the rituals the Amazons offer at PCon, and indeed all the rituals we do anytime, is that they are completely skyclad. We do not require all attendees to be entirely nude for our rites, but our priestesses are and it is strongly encouraged, as we feel there is a primal power in the naked female body that can be seen, heard, smelled, and felt in a visceral way when we gather to practice. We do not purport to be fully inclusive; we are not. However, we have chosen to share our rituals at places like PantheaCon in a spirit of generosity, without presumption. We do not think of our way as the only way nor even the best way. We are just sharing what we do with what we hope to be an enthusiastic population of fellow Dianic travelers at a large event where many different groups offer their practices to one another.
I can appreciate Rabbit's sentiments here: I can even appreciate how a room full of naked women might not feel comfortable with a male-bodied person leering at the naked boobies. But if you are going to share "in a spirit of generosity, without presumption," you're going to have to share with anyone who wants to come in.  If you wish to restrict entry to an official event offered as a public Pantheacon ritual, you are putting the organizers in a most uncomfortable position.

As I said before, I firmly respect the rights of an affinity group to create "safe space."  I'd never dream of trying to force my way into "People of Color Space," nor would I think that the organizers of said event were racists because they were discriminating against whites. But I can imagine an event where a very light-skinned person of color was turned away from that space and then went to the organizers to air hir grievances.  Should the volunteers running Pantheacon be tasked with judging who is or is not a PoC? And should they be faced with the legal liability which they might incur for taking on that role? (CAYA might get a lawsuit dismissed on the grounds of "Freedom of Religion:" the organizers of a 4,000+ person interfaith convention would have a much harder and more expensive time proving that trans-exclusion, white-exclusion, gay-exclusion, etc. was a core part of their spiritual beliefs).

Let's bring another factor to the table: in our society, cisgendered women have more power and cultural capital than transgendered women.  They have an easier time finding employment; they are less subject to random acts of violence from strangers; they are less likely to lose families and friends in their quest to live in accordance with their gender.  In excluding transgendered women from this ritual, the Amazon Priestess Tribe isn't acting like the PoC Space asking white folks not to attend: they're acting like the European Traditionalist Pagan group telling Jews and blacks that they are unwelcome.  If Dianics want to accept their power, they might want to start by acknowledging their privileged position in this particular argument.
Unbeknownst to me, several gender equality activists had pre-planned a protest at PantheaCon regarding the issue of gender-and-sex-exclusive spaces. Unbeknownst to me, this group had already contacted the Pagan Newswire Collective letting them know that they planned this action. Unbeknownst to me, they were outside protesting our ritual while we were figuring out our technical difficulties, and saying that we excluded trans women. THE AMAZONS HAVE NEVER TURNED A TRANS WOMAN AWAY AT THE DOOR OF ANY OUR RITUALS. We believe in personal integrity. We believe that in women's culture, if a woman sets a boundary about her preferences, other women will honor that boundary. We believe that if any woman is in need of healing and is prepared to participate respectfully, lovingly and kindly in a ritual for such, she should have it. We do not do penis-checks or pat-downs. WE DO ASK THAT ALL PARTICIPANTS AT AMAZON RITUALS BE ABLE TO BE NAKED AND ALLOW THEIR YONIS TO BE PRESENT IN THE RITUAL SPACE for the purpose of a particular type of visceral experience, much the same way others hearken to the witches rune and gather naked at their own rites for their own purposes. 
I wonder why Rabbit did not make this clear until now.  In CAYA's March 2011 "Response to the topic of PCon, Gender, & the Amazon Rite of Lilith"
Under the umbrella of CAYA, the Amazon Priestess Tribe is a private Tradition that offers public and private rituals and ceremonies based on the menstrual lifecycle of female-born-women in order to meet that particular need in our community. Not all women of CAYA participate in the Amazon Priestess Tribe, which formed as a result of a shared affinity between several female-born-women with the goal of creating healing and personal empowerment through the lens of the menstrual lifecycle.
Dagda, another attendee at Pantheacon, who did not attend the ritual but who was one of the "gender equality activists"whom Rabbit mentioned, said at the time:
We did find out second-hand on Sunday that at a particular ritual on Saturday (that had not been billed as a women-born-women only ritual in the program) several transgendered women and a man were asked to leave by the organizers of the event. Another woman went to complain to the con-ops about it, and this group was then told that for their next even, they had to allow anyone who identifies as a woman in. We weren’t sure what sparked it, but it was another act by individuals that really just made us feel awed and amazed.
At present the circumstances surrounding this event remain unclear (and I'd welcome comments from attendees who could shed some more light on the subject).  That being said, I must admit that I am uncomfortable with what looks very much like an attempt to foist blame off on the rabble-rousers who came in spoiling for a fight.  It looks uncomfortably like comments from well-meaning southern folks about the outsiders who came to their peaceful towns to stir up trouble amongst folks who got along just fine with their own water fountains and lunch counters.
Unbeknownst to me, at the same PantheaCon where we hosted our controversial ritual in a small, back-corner meeting room, there was a ritual happening upstairs in a main ballroom where any woman who was currently menstruating was not allowed to attend. Has that been mentioned, protested against, pointed out as cruel, violent, hateful, or unfair as often as our ritual has? No. In fact, it has barely come up. Apparently, it is not considered violent to make a woman stand aside due to her menstruation. Apparently, it is allowable to delineate space on the basis of biology if one practices some Traditions, but not others. Apparently, it is less offensive to exclude a bleeding woman than to celebrate her. Mind you, I respect this group's right to host a ritual that is authentic to their Tradition, even if it appears to be in direct conflict with one of my core spiritual beliefs in celebrating a woman's blood. I trust that there are many paths through this forest, and some of them are meant to remain Mysteries to me. However, I object to the disparity in public outrage that feels symptomatic of misogyny. [Editorial note: see comments section for an expanded view on this topic, thanks to Geoffrey.]
Others within the comments clarified that the rite in question was a Vodou ceremony dedicated to Damballah, a lwa who does not like the smell of blood. Menstruating women should not salute Damballah because of that: neither should anybody with an open sore or bleeding wound. This does not mean that those people cannot attend a fet - or even officiate at one.  It merely means that they cannot salute Damballah while they are bleeding.  Speaking as someone with a bit of knowledge on the topic, I can assure you that this has nothing to do with misogyny or with menstruating women being "unclean."
And into this, Z arrived, and she came swinging. While I honor Z's many, many contributions to women's culture and feminine spirituality, I cannot condone speech that is filled with hate, neither against me nor on my behalf. I would not and have not communicated my opinions in those terms. I respect Z's right to hold whatever opinions, thoughts, and practices she chooses, and my expectation is that we are all given that freedom to do, think, speak, or feel as we choose.
Budapest certainly has the right to speak her mind or to hold whatever opinions she may wish. But others have the right to hold her accountable for statements like
This struggle has been going since the Women’s Mysteries first appeared. These individuals selfishly never think about the following: if women allow men to be incorporated into Dianic Mysteries,What will women own on their own? Nothing! Again! Transies who attack us only care about themselves.
But if you claim to be one of us, you have to have sometimes in your life a womb, and overies and MOON bleed and not die.
Women are born not made by men on operating tables.
Until such time as Budapest offers an apology for her hurtful comments - or at least shows some sign that she thinks of transwomen as human beings worthy of the respect given to any other human being - I would not speak at any event where she was also presenting: I would also encourage organizers to shun her as they would shun anyone else given to intemperate, hateful speech about disempowered minorities.  I recognize her contributions to Paganism and to feminism, but would add that they only serve to make her descent into hate mongering more profound and more tragic. Rather than serving as an excuse for her misstatements, they only serve to highlight their ugliness and bigotry.
Of course, no one can please everyone, and both before and after CAYA issued our statement we received backlash. In the past year I have fielded dozens of e-mails calling me names, making wide assumptions of our practices or intent (often from people who know nothing about us and had not read our statement.) In one case, we were told we were "a bunch of self-righteous breeders who worship our wombs." In two incidences, I was sent death threats and in others, threats of violence, a la "one of these days we'll cross paths and then you'll get what's coming to you." It was really painful and disconcerting to be threatened with death and violence as someone's idea of justice for a situation that did not actually occur the way it was reported. It bespoke, to me, a massive appropriation of the violent rhetoric of patriarchal domination. "If you don't give me what I want, I'll hurt or kill you." Isn't that the battle cry of the rapist, the colonizer? This has no place in the kind of civil discourse I strive for, teach, and pray for on a regular basis.
Let me make it clear that while Budapest's words were hurtful, they didn't descend to this level.  If the people sending these threats and insults are reading this, do me a favor and find another cause, since you're making mine look bad.  What's more, I would urge Rabbit to name names and show emails with headers, so the community at large knows exactly who is responsible for this and can protect themselves accordingly.  This kind of rhetoric is not OK no matter what the individual sending it has contributed to the community in the past or how well-regarded they are.  I'm critical of the way this was handled, but I'm far more critical of people who think this kind of happy horseshit is an appropriate response.
So, where am I now, and where is CAYA now? CAYA proposed three rituals for PantheaCon 2012: one all-inclusive and two for self-identified men and women, respectively. The Amazons proposed one ritual: a naked ritual for women. I proposed one on my own: a devotional to Yeshe Tsogyal, one of the ancestresses in my personal pantheaon. I also proposed, along with Devin Hunter,a pan-Dianic, all-inclusive ritual for anyone who wants to experience the Dianic perspective of Goddess-as-Whole-and-Complete-Unto-Herself. I feel like we flung a bunch of possibilities toward the staff of PCon for the sake of greatest diversity, and I trust that they will figure out what fits best into mix, if any of them at all. If you plan to be there, and we have been accepted, consider giving CAYA rites a try even if you've been mad at us this whole time. You really stand to lose nothing by coming to see for yourself who we are and what we do.
I bear no personal grudge against CAYA: while I doubt that I will be making Pantheacon 2012 I'd have no objection to attending a CAYA event.  (As a third-gendered person I'd feel out of place at an event dedicated solely to men or women, but that's neither here nor there).  I would suggest that the Amazon Priestess Tribe think long and hard about what they gain from offering at Pantheacon a ritual which is open only to cisgendered women - and about the pain, resentment and misunderstanding this ritual is likely to cause, be it a public or a private event.

Cultural Appropriation or, "Not This $#!+ again... "

It all started on Facebook, when I posted a link to this photo from F.A.I.R. Media (For Accurate Indigenous Representation).   F.A.I.R. takes issue - and rightly so - with non-indigenous people dressing up as "Indians."

As is often the case when these issues come up, a fair amount of commentary ensued.  Thankfully, none of my Facebook friends rose to the defense of those who wanted to dress up like cigar store Injuns.  Nobody felt that it's OK to name your team the "Washington Redskins" or "Atlanta Braves" even though it wouldn't be all right to call them the "San Francisco Chinks," "Texas Wetbacks" or "New York Christkillers."  But then that old, old issue raised its head -- cultural appropriation, or, more precisely, what is or is not cultural appropriation.  Ben Gruagach chimed in with these observations:
This discussion makes me uneasy because it leads to the question of when is it appropriate or inappropriate to borrow from outside one's genetic heritage? And what about the vast majority of us who are a mix of cultural backgrounds?
Eli -- I understand the feelings and statements about misappropriation but have to wonder where the line is drawn? It could be argued that Voudou misappropriates, converts, perverts, twists, changes, mutates and otherwise subverts Catholicism. And Wicca misappropriates all sorts of stuff, mixing it up and presenting it in ways foreign to the origins of the things borrowed. And Christianity twists and changes not only Judaism but all sorts of pre-existing Pagan ideas, practices, etc. Is all religion wrong then?
Ben's questions raised several important points.  At what point does the mixing and matching of imagery, practices, and beliefs cross the line between eclecticism and cultural appropriation? And who gets to make that call?  We all appear to agree that dressing up as Tonto or Tiger Lily for Halloween is in poor taste.  Once we go beyond that we find ourselves in some very muddy waters.

Matt Deos responded with:
Ben, just so you know you've set up a straw man.... appropriation is something *other* than going through the traditions the way they're made to be worked; stealing is different than earning it (which is the very point many try to hammer home all the time)
While I understand where Matt is coming from, I'm not entirely sure the issue can be dismissed that easily.  A few points which may be grounds for further thought:

There are many devout Haitian and Cuban Catholics who are utterly horrified to see saint and madonna statues used for sorcery and idol worship.  Should we take their opinions into consideration when we are making offerings to Ogou Sen Jak (otherwise known as St. James the Greater, or St. Jacques Majeur) or placing a statute of Our Lady of Fatima on our Obatala shrine? Or it it only cultural appropriation when those offended are of a suitably low cultural and social caste -- in other words, when they are brown enough and poor enough to deserve our sympathy and when their religion is exotic enough to deserve preservation?

There are many "plastic shamans" who are not Native American: there are also a fair number who have at least some Indigenous ancestry and who have figured out that they can make a living selling "Indian ceremonies" to gullible non-Natives.  (Given the rates of poverty and unemployment among Native Americans, who can blame them?)  And there is not always consensus within a community as to what should and should not be shared with outsiders.  There are certainly Haitians who will not initiate non-Haitians into Vodou. Do their opinions matter, or should we only listen to those Haitians who are willing to teach us their secrets?

What constitutes "going through the traditions the way they're meant to be worked?" Who gets to decide what is or is not "the way they're meant to be worked?"Ask a random sampling of Haitian Houngans and Mambos whether or not initiations can be performed outside Haiti.  You will find some who will tell you that no initiation can be performed; you'll find others who will tell you that initiations up to Si Pwen level can be done; still others will tell you that you can make Asogwe in the United States if the proper preparations are made. There's no small amount of controversy about these issues. (And because Vodou is a money-making endeavor, there's also no small amount of "Listen... she says you can only do initiations in Haiti but that's because her cousin is a travel agent who sells you the plane tickets" or "he says you can do initiations here, but you should go to Haiti with me instead..."

And what about practices like New Orleans Voodoo? The Crescent City's spiritual practices have long mixed, matched, blended, and stir-fried traditions from all over the place: many of the "roots" of New Orleans Voodoo go no deeper than the mid-20th century with most dating back to the swinging 70s and Charles "Voodoo Charlie" Gandolfo.  Orisha and lwa are served alongside Catholic saints, Pagan gods and spoon dolls imported from China. And yet despite all that New Orleans Voodoo has become, for many people, a vital and enduring spiritual tradition.  These people may not have been "properly initiated" into the mysteries of Haitian Vodou - yet the lwa seem perfectly happy to answer their petitions.

I don't see any easy answers to these conundrums. But I think it's important that we keep asking ourselves these questions, even if we don't always come to the same conclusions.  I have no doubts about Matt's sincerity, nor do I question the bona fides of Mambo Maude Evans, his initiatory mother. If we disagree here, we do so as fellow Vodouisants, not sworn enemies. (I'll grant you that if you peruse a few Vodou forums it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference... ). 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Evola, Heidegger, Sartre and Fascism

In response to several comments in the ongoing debate about Henry Ford, international bankers and anti-Semitism the name "Julius Evola" kept coming up.  I've been meaning to read Evola for some time and so this inspired me to check out his study of Buddhism, The Doctrine of Awakening.  While I'm still reading that book - and will probably have to reread it again to make sure I don't miss anything - I will definitely say that so far I am quite impressed by Evola's thought.  I note particularly that Evola's description of the descending chain of twelve nidāna which take the individual into the plane of samsāric existence.  It reminds me a great deal of Martin Heidegger's descriptions of Geworfenheit, or "thrownness." As Roy Hornsby describes it:
To Heidegger this concept is a primordial banality which had long been overlooked by metaphysical conjecture. Humans beings are thrown with neither prior knowledge nor individual option into a world that was there before and will remain there after they are gone (Steiner 1978). Heidegger wrote;
“This characteristic of Dasein’s Being – this ‘that it is’ – is veiled in its ‘whence’ and ‘whither’, yet disclosed in itself all the more unveiledly; we call it the ‘thrownness’ of this entity into its ‘there’; indeed, it is thrown in such a way that, as Being-in-the-world, it is the ‘there’. The expression ‘thrownness’ is meant to suggest the facticity of its being delivered over.”
Evola's descriptions of the life of the unenlightened versus enlightened mind also reminded me of Heidegger's authentic and inauthentic modes of Dasein (being-there). And when I read his description of the Buddha's highest attainment - the recognition of non-existence:
This summit must be apprehended by the "noble son," it must be his purpose. The strength and sureness of those who know no more anguish or fear is described as something that has a vertiginous and fearful effect on others, both human and superhuman; when they are faced by those who have conquered, and when they hear their truth, they become aware of their own unsuspected contingency, and the primordial anguish bursts forth unchecked. They see the abyss.
I was reminded of Heidegger's comments on the "fundamental experience of the oblivion of Being."  These ideas were later expanded (Martin H. would have said "misunderstood") by a chain-smoking Frenchman named Jean-Paul Sartre, who named his magnum opus L'etre et le neant or, in English, Being and Nothingness. According to Sartre, man was "condemned to be free" - forced to make arbitrary choices in a meaningless world into which he came ab nihilo, ex nihilo. Writing in early to midcentury 20th century Europe, all three of these visionaries found themselves staring into a void.

Another thing which all three had in common was a taste for dubious politics.  Evola's close if sometime contentious relationship with Mussolini and Italian fascism, Heidegger's affiliation with the Nazi party, and Sartre's apologetics for Stalinism are all well-documented.  Were these intellectual missteps by otherwise brilliant men? Were they irredeemable sins which taint everything they publish? Or is there another, and far more disquieting possibility - that they were visionaries who saw the cracks in the underpinnings of our modern idols, "Freedom" and "Democracy?"

Over the past two centuries, America has extended suffrage to landless peasants, women, blacks and other once-disenfranchised groups.  Yet today many Americans don't bother to vote: of those who do, how many are actually qualified to make an informed decision on their political future? Do you honestly think that "freedom" and "democracy" are served by giving the trolls who comment on most news stories a voice at the voting booth?  As we learn more about the science of mass psychology, it becomes easier to treat our audience like a target market: instead of battles between aristocratic factions, we have competing businesses selling politicians as products.  And instead of arguing one's case to an elite and educated few, we get demagogues and appeals to the mob instinct.

This is not to say that fascism is an answer; neither is it to minimize the very real excesses committed by each of these regimes. But it may be worthwhile to ask ourselves just what is meant by our chosen buzzwords "freedom" and "democracy," and in what ways they have improved our lives and the lives of those around us. It may also be worthwhile to consider to what extent our contemporary Western socialist/democratic political system is a product of the Enlightenment - and what political systems will take its place in a post-Enlightenment era.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Evola and Judaism: for Mad Fishmonger

Right after I posted my response to Mad Fishmonger, he went and posted a response to me.  Alas, his post has left me with more questions than answers.
Evola, while not convinced of their authenticity, made, amongst points, the extremely valid point that in many ways The Protocols do accurately reflect what many Jewish leaders do now or have in the past wished to bring about in the world.
Which contemporary and/or historical Jewish leaders are seeking world domination?  If you're going to make a statement as explosive as this, you will really need specific examples to back it up.  Who are these wannabe Elders of Zion and what has their influence been on world history and contemporary culture?  Without names, dates and places I'm going to have a hard time accepting that this statement is even slightly, never mind extremely, valid.  
Even a summary perusal of the canonical texts of Jewish law unambiguously supports his conclusion that Jewish law is based on a racial distinction between Jew and Goy, a distinction placing Goy at a lower level, no better than slaves and at times less than animals.
Which "canonical texts of Jewish law" are we talking about here? An English translation of The Babylonian Talmud runs to 22 volumes, while Penguin's selection of essential Talmudic texts is nearly 900 pages.  It could be that Mad Fishmonger has made a summary perusal of these works. It could also be that he is speaking of passages which were taken out of context by people who were searching for evidence of Jewish perfidy.  I would want to see the results of this summary perusal before I made any further comment. 
And, as I said in a previous paragraph, Zionism is not a special case in relation to religious triumphalism, i.e. the effort to install one's religion as the prevailing political power, and sometimes to spread the religion through conversion efforts, though modern Judaism specifically has little interest in conversion and some even actively doubt the possibility of conversion based on the legal distinction between Jew and Goy.
Mad Fishmonger is correct in stating that modern Judaism has little interest in conversion.  But I've never heard of any Jewish religious leader who doubted the possibility of giyur, or conversion.  As Lubavitcher Rabbi Tzvi Freeman says: "In short, a ger is an adopted member of the Jewish family. In the words of the paradigm of all gerim, Ruth the Moabite, 'Your people are my people; your G‑d is my G‑d.'"

As far as religious triumphalism goes, there is certainly a strong emphasis in Judaism upon the Holy Land, aka Zion. But while there is considerable quibbling over where the borders of that land should lie, I've not yet found any Jewish leaders who believe they should dominate the whole world.  One might argue that Zionism has led to a state of apartheid in the state of Israel: indeed, many have. But there's far less connection to Zionism and a call for world domination. 

Right now I'm inclined to think that Mad Fishmonger has fallen into the trap which led me to post my earlier message.  He is an intelligent and well-meaning guy who has bought into a line of toxic nonsense spun by people with unsavory agendas. Thankfully, he is smart enough to repudiate many of the most dangerous myths connected with these agendas.  He has repeatedly disavowed the existence of a shadowy Zionist conspiracy which controls Hollywood, Jerusalem, Washington and Wall Street.  What concerns me is the people who are reading this crap and buying into it wholesale. 

Truthiness in Anti-Zionist Country: Henry Ford and Julius Evola

Since the discussions on Henry Ford continue to garner interest, I thought I'd add yet another post to the subject.  As I promised earlier, here's more on Mad Fishmonger's original comment:

I generally agree with you. However, I think Julius Evola, who couldn't really be defined as an anti-Semite (he had issues with Judaism but nothing he didn't express similar issues about with virtually every other group and institution), made a point when he said that although the Protocols are a certain fraud (their certainty had not been established when he wrote this, but he strongly allowed the likelihood), it isn't entire off base about what certain elements of Judaism wish to have happen, i.e. the world bowing before Israel. They literally speak a prayer every year at Jubilee, sung by top Israeli leaders, for all nations and races to grobble on their knees at the feet of Israel and the Almighty Chosen People. The very fact that they call themselves Chosen People, and often literally believe this is so, should be reasonable ground to be concerned about the agenda of many of their leaders.
Here's what Julius Evola had to say in his preface for the Italian edition of the Protocols:
Here, as rightly pointed out by Guénon, lies the decisive point, which puts the question of 'authenticity' into perspective : the fact is that no truly and seriously secret organisation, whatever its nature, leaves behind written 'documents'. It is only by inductive processes that the importance of texts such as the 'Protocols' can be determined. This means that the problem of their 'authenticity' is secondary to the far more serious and essential problem of their 'veracity', as was already emphasised by Giovani Preziosi when he published them for the first time seventeen years ago. The serious and positive conclusion of the whole controversy which has developed since is that, even if we assume that the 'Protocols' are not 'authentic' in the narrow sense, it comes to the same thing as if they were, for two capital and decisive reasons : 
1) because the facts show that they describe the real state of affairs truthfully ;
2) because their correspondence with the governing ideas of both traditional and modern Judaism is indisputable.
What Evola is saying here is that even if the Protocols are a crude forgery, they should still be taken as authentic.  In this he echoes another great American philosopher, political pundit Stephen Colbert, who has advocated a "truthiness" which is more concerned with gut feelings than elitist facts.  Except, of course, that Stephen Colbert is a satirist and Evola appears to be deadly serious here.

Mad Fishmonger claims that Evola "couldn't really be defined as an anti-Semite." Putting aside the simple fact that he wrote an introduction to the Protocols, let's take a look at some of his comments in that preface:
As the Berne trial provoked by the 'Protocols' was widely talked about, we shall describe it here, so that the reader knows where he stands and does not let himself be influenced by tendentious reportage. The Berne trial was really just a manoeuvre on the part of international Judaism, which attempted to use Swiss justice, or, to put it better, Swiss marxist 'justice', to obtain a sort of official legal determination of the non-authenticity of the document which so troubles Israel.
Here another decisive proof of the veracity of the 'Protocols' as Jewish document becomes apparent, namely, that to draw from that Law all its logical consequences on the plane of action means, precisely, to arrive more or less at what is essential in the 'Protocols' : International Judaism has striven to prove that the 'Protocols' are 'false', while always taking great care to avoid the question of whether that document, true or false, corresponds to the Jewish spirit. And it is precisely that question which we would like to examine now. Jewish Law is based on the radical distinction between the Jew and the non-Jew, which is presented more or less in the same terms as that between human and animal, or that between élite and slaves ; from this is derived the promise that the universal Reign of Israel will come sooner or later, and that all peoples will have to submit to the sceptre of Judah ; it is the duty of the Jew to see only violence and injustice in any law which is not his Law, to manifest a torment, and a baseness, wherever his power is less than absolute ; from this is derived a double morality which limits solidarity to the Jewish race, while approving every form of lying, trickery, and treachery, in the relations between Jews and non-Jews, thus making the latter into outlaws ; finally we find the sanctification of gold and interest as instruments of the power of the Jew, to whom, by divine promise, all the wealth of the earth must peculiarly belong, and who must 'devour' any people that the Lord will give to him.
Given this example, it would appear that Evola can indeed be defined as an anti-Semite.  In fact, it would require some truly heroic sleight of mind not to define him thusly.  This may not invalidate all his   work: Henry Ford built some fine cars and Richard Wagner composed some top-notch operas. But it certainly calls into question his judgment, and makes his pronouncements on Jews and Jewish conspiracies useless as anything but a study in psychopathology.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More on Occupying Wall Street, Quoting Henry Ford

Since my previous post on Henry Ford's "banking and monetary system" quote has garnered a fair bit of attention, I thought I'd respond to some of the points made here.  (I've already answered a couple of these in the comments, but hope to go into a bit more detail for this post).

First, Nutty Professor said:
I agree. But we don't need distractions and tribal bickering in these times. Press forward for others to remain focused. Use spiritual energy to raise the vibration. This is something that everyone can do, irrespective of what they think of Henry Ford or whomever-the-fuck.
I am not sure we should be ignoring this particular "distraction." Right now Occupy Wall Street is a nascent and nebulous movement. There are many voices striving to be heard. There are also many people seeking to reshape OWS and use it to their desired ends, and many others who would like to discredit the protestors altogether.  Ignoring or glossing over intolerable behavior for the cause is not a viable option: look how well it worked for the Communist Party in postwar Europe and the Roman Catholic Church in contemporary America.  

I appreciate that OWS is a decentralized movement which is united mainly by frustration with economic inequality in America. I realize that when nobody is in charge there's nobody to say what is and is not Official OWS doctrine.  But I also recognize that this means OWS protestors - and sympathizers - have the responsibility to stand up and speak out: this is a consensus movement and silence will be treated as consent.  

Then V.V.F. opined: 
I don't know what exactly has breathed new life into this pseudo-Illuminati anti-Zionist Satanic Conspiracy stuff, but for some reason it seems like it's hit fever pitch. People are spouting this stuff everywhere you look, and I find it pretty disturbing.
I think there are several factors at play. One is that people are presently not feeling particularly charitable toward corporations and plutocrats: they'll happily beat bankers with any stick they can find.  A second is that the Internet has provided us much greater access to data but has done very little to improve our critical faculties.  (Indeed, I'd argue that the "information wants to be free" ethos of many OWS protestors might make them more likely to take seriously long-discredited crapola like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Since people have censored it for decades, there must be some truth they are trying desperately to hide... or so the reasoning goes). 

A third, alas, is that for several decades Zionist organizations - real Zionist organizations like AIPAC and B'nai Brith, not the shadowy world leaders found in Nazi fapfest pamphlets - have equated criticism of Israeli foreign and domestic policy with anti-Semitism.  And while this has been an extremely effective political tool, it's also led to a great deal of skepticism about the term.  When you classify criticism of Israeli cluster bombs and Israeli settlements on Palestinian land as "anti-Semitism," you water down the term until it becomes meaningless.  

Because these are interesting times, many folks on the fringe are hoping to move closer to the center.  Their response to the current ill feeling about "international bankers" is a time-honored one. And because many Zionist and Jewish organizations have wasted moral capital attacking honest critics and defending the indefensible (remember what I said about the Catholic Church and the European communist party?), they are likely to have trouble getting many OWS protestors to take them seriously. 

Finally, Mad Fishmonger responded with several comments: I hope to respond to him in more detail in a future post (after I've done a bit more research), but I wanted to clarify one thing.  I have no problem with people quoting Henry Ford on automobile manufacture, on workplace conditions, or on just about any other topic.  I realize that genius and execrable politics are not mutually exclusive: given that I'm currently reading Martin Heidegger, I'd be hard-pressed to argue otherwise.  

My issue here is that, for Ford, the problems with "our banking and monetary system" could be laid squarely at the feet of the Jew: when he used the words "international banker," he meant "international Jew."  And so when it comes to quotes about banking Ford is not a reliable source for anyone who rejects his ideas about a powerful Jewish conspiracy seeking global domination. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monotheism Ethical and Otherwise IV: for Dennis Prager

I | II | III | IV

In earlier installments, I've explored some of the problematic presuppositions underlying Dennis Prager's conception of "Ethical Monotheism." This post explores one of monotheism's greatest weaknesses, one which Prager avoids mentioning but which can clearly be seen in his first premise:
There is one God from whom emanates one morality for all humanity.
Polytheistic cultures may react to their neighbors' gods in a number of different ways. They may incorporate them into their native pantheons, as the Greeks did with the Thracean Ares and the Romans did with the Olympian deities. They may claim those gods are merely their own deities under a different name: Tacitus considered Odin to be a Germanic Mercury. They may travel to become initiated in the mysteries of a deity's worship, as the ancients did at Eleusis: they might bring those deities home and found new cults, like the Mithraic mysteries.  As the cultures incorporate foreign gods, so too do they incorporate foreign philosophy and science. 

A monotheist culture, by contrast, begins with the assumption that it honors the One God and follows the One Truth. Those who think otherwise are misguided at best and actively evil at worst. If they cannot be converted by reason or by force, they must be exterminated. 
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah. and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.
No war ever undertaken by the Frank nation was carried on with such persistence and bitterness, or cost so much labour, because the Saxons, like almost all the tribes of Germany, were a fierce people, given to the worship of devils, and hostile to our religion, and did not consider it dishonourable to transgress and violate all law, human and divine.
This is not to say that the polytheistic worldview leads invariably to sunshine, rainbows and moral relativism. The Romans were horrified by the Carthaginian practice of child sacrifice:  Buddhists launched genocidal attacks against Mongolian shamans.  But there is far more room for commerce and cooperation amongst people who accept a multitude of deities than amongst people who divide the world into the faithful and the infidels. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupying Wall Street, Quoting Henry Ford

As I'm sure you've all heard, there's this little protest that started in New York and has recently spread to many other cities.  As a result of this popular uprising, a growing number of people are expressing their long-simmering anger with the power of the American plutocracy.  And we've seen a fair number of much-shared Facebook photos which have expressed their pro-populist sentiments, including this one.

That's a nice, inspiring quote from the founder of Ford Motor Company.  He had many other quotes about the banking and monetary system ... or, more precisely, the people who run it.
There is apparently in the world today a central financial force which is playing a vast and closely organized game, with the world for its table and universal control for its stakes. The people of civilized countries have lost all confidence in the explanation that "economic conditions" are responsible for all the changes that occur. Under the camouflage of "economic law" a great many phenomena have been accounted for which were not due to any law whatever except the law of the selfish human will as operated by a few men who have the purpose and the power to work on a wide scale with nations as their vassals.

Whatever else may be national, no one today believes that finance is national. Finance is international. Nobody today believes that international finance is in any way competitive. There are some independent banking houses, but few strong independent ones. The great masters, the few whose minds see clearly the entire play of the plan, control numerous banking houses and trust companies, and one is used for this while another is used for that, but there is no disharmony between them, no correction of each other's methods, no competition in the interests of the business world. There is as much unity of policy between the principal banking houses of every country as there is between the various branches of the United States Post Office — and for the same reason, namely, they are all operated from the same source and for the same purpose.
Ford even wrote a book about this "central financial force" and gave away copies in the hopes of warning the American populace about the danger.  You can find it online today with a simple Google search for The International Jew.   It's nearly as popular as another book which Ford recommended, and which he quotes frequently in his tome: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

Upon being informed of Ford's anti-Semitic streak, several people chimed in with their opinions. Some felt this was much ado about nothing.

Greg Foster Enough already with 1st and 2nd millennium tribal mentalities/identites. They're just about over and done with. Get with the 3rd millennium already.
Yesterday at 5:29pm ·  ·  4 people

Wayne Jones There is not a person on this page that does'nt have issues ford is a great founder of business in this country and still people discredit him get real folks move on in this world.
Yesterday at 10:34pm · 

And if some wanted to minimize Ford's Jew-hating, others reveled in it:

Ben Standard 
THe banking system IS jewish - its a fact and not just some wild claim. Henry Ford wasnt afraid to call a spade a spade. As for being anti - semitic .... Most jews have very little semitic heritage so to be against the evils of jewish elitism aka zionism doesnt make one semitic - jews arent semitic! However these white jewish racists are themselves anti semitic in their dealings with palestrinians and other arabs who ARE semites! Its time these elitists zionists stooges were exposed for their true colors and the fact that theyre imposters and are nothing more than anti semiticgentile swine themselves
Yesterday at 4:31pm ·  ·  5 people

Padraig Williams Rothchild zionists are not Jewish... that's just a facade. They are luciferians.
Yesterday at 5:06pm ·  ·  2 people
Padraig Williams True Jews are against Zionism.
Yesterday at 5:07pm ·  ·  1 person

Occupy Wall Street is presently following the Anonymous model of leaderless collective resistance. This means that anybody can join in the protests and offer their opinions.  And I recognize the strengths of that approach. On the other hand, I also remember when the Tea Party faithful claimed Barack Obama was a closet Muslim (with a phony birth certificate) who was going to introduce Sharia law.  And all that silliness wound up detracting from any substantive ideas they might have had. As it stands now, they're well on their way to the same irrelevance which has claimed other populist right-wing movements like the John Birch Society.  

If you want to criticize Israeli excesses against the Palestinians, there are plenty of people who agree with you, including many Israelis.  But spewing the old venom with "anti-Zionist" used as a polite euphemism for "anti-Semite" (which itself started out as a polite euphemism for "Jew-hater") serves nobody.  Nobody, that is, save the Jew-haters who would like to capitalize on our current mistrust of international banks for their own ends - and those who would like to discredit the movement by linking it to Nazism and anti-Semitism

Henry Ford is not a useful source of information on international banking. Quoting him on the subject suggests that you are grossly uninformed at best and a bigot at worst.   The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is not a thought-provoking exposé. It is a crude forgery which has cost many innocent people their lives.   Sooner or later somebody is going to have to stand up and say "this, ladies and gentlemen, is a steaming pile of horseshit and no amount of consensus, cooperation and open-mindedness is going to change that fact." And so, in that spirit, let me be the one to break out the shovel. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monotheism Ethical and Otherwise III: for Dennis Prager

I | II | III | IV

In his essay on Ethical Monotheism, Mr. Prager writes:
One morality also means one moral code for all humanity. "Thou shall not murder" means that murder is wrong for everyone, not just for one culture. It means that suttee, the now rare but once widespread Hindu practice of burning widows with their husband's body, is wrong. It means the killing of a daughter or sister who lost her virginity prior to marriage, practiced to this day in parts of the Arab world, is immoral. It means that clitoridectomies, the cutting off of a girl's clitoris (and sometimes more), a ritual practiced on almost one hundred million women living today mostly in Africa, is immoral. 
As I noted in my first post on ethical monotheism,  Prager's G-d, as set forth in Prager's Holy Scriptures, demands the murder by stoning of women who come to the bridal bed with ruptured hymens.  If anything, I would think that Prager would praise the Arabs who still practice "honor killings," as they are upholding the "one moral code for all humanity" more stringently than their secular cousins in Israel.  But as we see in this June 30, 2009 column at the conservative website, Mr. Prager has a serious problem with Muslims who stone adulteresses:
Yet, now, released as if by Providence the week after the fraudulent elections in Iran and the suppression and murder of Iranian dissidents, is a film about the nature of the radical Muslims who govern Iran. Titled "The Stoning of Soraya M.," the film depicts events based on the true story of a woman stoned to death in a rural village in Iran in 1986 for allegedly committing adultery. 
If you want to understand the type of people who run Iran, see this film. If you want to understand why men and women risk their lives to demonstrate against the fascist theocracy that rules Iran, see this film. The film is about the type of peoLple who become “supreme leader” (Ali Khamanei) or president of Iran (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). It is about their mendacity, their use of religion to commit barbarity, and, of course, their despicable treatment of women.
We should also note that Prager's distaste for murder does not include a distaste for capital punishment. In this December 12, 2006 column Prager claimed "It is a cosmic injustice to allow a murderer to keep his life" and noted:
The most common objection opponents offer against capital punishment is that innocents may be executed. 
My answer has always been that this is so rare (I do not know of a proved case of mistaken execution in America in the last 50 years) that society must be prepared to pay that terrible price. Why? Among other reasons, because more innocents will be killed by murderers who are not executed (in prison, or once released or if they escape) than will be killed by the state in erroneous executions. 
So, yes, I acknowledge the possibility of an innocent being killed by the state because of a mistaken murder conviction. But we often have the tragedy of innocents dying because of a social policy. I support higher speed limits even when shown that they lead to more traffic fatalities. I support the right of people to drink alcohol even though the amount of violence directly emanating from alcohol consumption -- from drunk drivers to spousal and child abuse -- is so high.
The Innocence Project might have something to say about Prager's contention concerning proved cases of execution in America.  So too might those wild-eyed left-wing radicals at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.  And the troubling issues of racism and classism in the death penalty's application have led many to compare it to lynching.  But Mr. Prager appears unconcerned by these nay-sayers.  He feels that the execution of murderers is a moral imperative, while the execution of adulteresses and whores is repugnant.  And yet the "one moral code" which he so zealously upholds is quite clear that adultery and wantonness is as deserving of death as willful murder.

But in case you might think I'm accusing Mr. Prager of being soft on sexual sin, let's look at his feelings on homosexuality:
Jews or Christians who take the Bible's views on homosexuality seriously are not obligated to prove that they are not fundamentalists or literalists, let alone bigots (though, of course, people have used the Bible to defend bigotry). Rather, those who claim homosexuality is compatible with Judaism or Christianity bear the burden of proof to reconcile this view with their Bible. Given the unambiguous nature of the biblical attitude toward homosexuality, however, such a reconciliation is not possible. All that is possible is to declare: "I am aware that the Bible condemns homosexuality, and I consider the Bible wrong." That would be an intellectually honest approach. But this approach leads to another problem. If one chooses which of the Bible's moral injunctions to take seriously (and the Bible states its prohibition of homosexuality not only as a law, but as a value --- "it is an abomination"), of what moral use is the Bible?
You might ask about those moral injunctions to stone harlots and homosexuals. Prager, one step ahead of you, follows up with these paragraphs:
Those who advocate religious acceptance of homosexuality also argue that the Bible prescribes the death penalty for a multitude of sins, including such seemingly inconsequential acts as gathering wood on the Sabbath. Thus, the fact that the Torah declares homosexuality a capital offense may mean that homosexuality is no more grave an offense than some violation of the Sabbath. And since we no longer condemn people who violate the Sabbath, why continue to condemn people who engage in homosexual acts?
The answer is that we do not derive our approach toward homosexuality from the fact that the Torah made it a capital offense. We learn it from the fact that the Bible makes a moral statement about homosexuality. It makes no statement about gathering wood on the Sabbath. The Torah uses its strongest term of censure --- "abomination" --- to describe homosexuality. It is the Bible's moral evaluation of homosexuality that distinguishes homosexuality from other offenses, capital or otherwise.  
This is fair enough. Yet among the other offenses which are condemned as toevot (abominations) are incest, child sacrifice, idolatry, usury... and, according to the Prophet Isaiah, adultery.  If it is a cosmic injustice to allow a murderer to keep his life, surely it's an even greater cosmic injustice to tolerate the continuing existence of a toe'vah.   And so our "one moral code for all humanity" brings us (and Mr.  Prager) back to the town square with a pile of rocks at our feet.