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From the Tribal Mind to the Wiccan Mind
Article ID: 13536
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,520
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Posted: January 10th. 2010
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“The essence of any prejudice is seeing all members of a group as the same and erasing the differences between them.” -Starhawk, from an article about prejudice written for the On Faith panel of the Washington Post.
When I first saw this quote embedded into an article Starhawk had written, I was quite astonished on how many levels it spoke to me. On my journey towards the Wiccan Path I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments to my lifestyle and general outlook on the world, and this quote seemed to sum up what I’d been doing wrong since my early teen years.
Two months after my thirteenth birthday I fell head over heels in love overnight with a young man on a reality television show (who I shall call K) . It was completely unplanned and unexpected and, unfortunately, on the day he left the show. For the following six weeks (most of which was the remainder of my summer holiday) , I was left feeling dizzy and disorientated, and all interests I’d previously had suddenly had no appeal anymore.
I spent almost all day every day bouncing a tennis ball against the wall of our house and then rushing to the TV to watch shows he appeared in (before the days of YouTube) . I’d spend some time every day hunting the Internet (which I’d barely ever used until this point) for a fan site, but to no avail. What I did find was a down the middle split of people who liked the guy and people who hungered to push him off the nearest cliff, posting on various forums on the reality show.
I began to list recurring names of people from either side on post-it notes, and was dismayed to see one name in particular crop up repeatedly on the hater side, spreading his homophobic and racist message of loathing on almost every forum I came across.
In mid-September that year I hit the jackpot. I found a forum devoted entirely to K, filled with girls about my age who all felt the same way, and I was overjoyed. But I was also quite nervous; I only just about knew how to use a computer let alone navigate a forum, and I didn’t know a soul. K was a controversial character, and true fans were rare, so it created for the forum (which I called DTC – ‘Devoted To- Club’, being too ashamed at the time to reveal his identity) , a very tight-knit community.
Because of this I was instantly sucked in and began making like-minded friends from all over the British Isles quite rapidly. Joining the DTC community was a steep learning curve for me; on the technical side, learning how to use a forum, and for the other members to introduce me to other related websites; and on the social side, making new friends from all different walks of life with such an unusual common bond.
We created for ourselves a little island, like a safe bubble from where we could look out at what K was doing, and his fellow contestants from the show. Latecomers, then, were viewed with suspicion, as so many of them eventually turned out to be haters in disguise. These haters, usually only a distant threat (apart from individuals who occasionally permeated our bubble) , were lumped into a single group that at the time I labeled ‘the Lakies’.
An ‘Us versus Them’ attitude was very quickly established among the group. The Lakies were the enemy, and every opportunity was taken to retaliate against them, since they never hesitated to attack K and us directly. They were very aggressive at times, and all too often the admin would angrily post us a link to some other forum where a group of Lakies, often led by the name I had seen crop up over and over again while I was looking for a forum, would post reams of hateful comments towards K and sometimes with a link to DTC, jeering at us and our values.
The admin’s intentions were good, but it only stirred up loathing and hatred among the group. I often felt intimidated and feared standing up to the snide and nasty comments made about K on larger forums, without the backup of the DTC crew. DTC was like my second home, and I loved the people there; I, like nearly everyone else there, was prepared to fight tooth and nail against anyone at all who had something unsavory to say about K or our group.
We worshipped K like a god, we really did, so in a strange way, it became like a religious war. Most of the Lakies we found supported the contestants on the reality show who had not got on at all with K, and those who in DTC’s view had bullied him.
Eventually the Lakies grew bored of tormenting us, and later our community grew bored of K as well and DTC disbanded (much to my dismay) , but I still loved him, and I found myself having to do all the things we used to do as a group on my own year after year. Now that the Lakies had no large target, they largely left individual followers of K alone.
Depression struck not long afterwards, (no longer having the only community I’d ever fit in with was a contributing factor) , and it stretched out for an agonizing year until it occurred to me to have another shot at Wicca. I’d first discovered it when I was ten, and was fascinated by it, but admittedly never fully understood it. It had held my interest up until that fateful summer when I was thirteen, when it was bulldozed, along with all my other interests, unceremoniously to one side. By age fifteen I had tried everything I could think of to break out of my depression and I was at my wit’s end.
I spontaneously dug out an old unread book I’d had since I was twelve on a practical guide to the basics of Wicca, and sat down and read it cover to cover. Given a more mature approach to Wicca, and since it handed me the lifeline I so desperately needed, I grabbed what it had to offer with both hands and used the tools it gave me to begin to help me out of my depression.
The only problem was that I had great difficulty adapting a well-hammered in negative view that made very quick, often irrational generalizations about people with an opposite viewpoint. I had to replace my learned ‘eye for an eye’ philosophy with ‘mind the threefold law ye should, three times bad and three times good’.
We had damned them all as ‘stupid Lakies’, and while a fair few of them did fit the Lakie stereotype (a homophobic white male in his thirties who was a bully and probably a violent drunk) , many more of them I’m sure were very interesting and friendly people beneath this thin exterior.
Unfortunately, we only ever saw them within the context of when they gave their often very acidic opinions on K; deep down, that was all I ever wanted to see of them. That way I could condemn them all as a single, faceless body of racist and homophobic hatred, and it would be easy to hate those who came under a heading like that. At the time, this is what they all looked like, and it was how they seemed to want to present themselves.
Situations similar to this have been repeated throughout history. Take for example 1940s Britain, gripped with fear of a Nazi attack that could arrive at any moment. Anti-German propaganda posters were published that demonized the enemy nations, making it easier for the public to hate them, and therefore making it seem more justified to send their sons, brothers and fathers into war – far beyond simple patriotism.
Similarly, in my Psychology class we studied the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis in central Africa, and the brainwashing used by the local media to instigate and justify blind hatred against the other tribe based on very little information.
When I was introduced to the idea of interconnectedness, that all things vibrate with energy and all things are interdependent, it shook the philosophy that had been welded into my mind for so many years. Wicca, and no doubt most other Pagan traditions, promote freedom of speech, sexual orientation, gender, race – they encourage a global community.
Wicca is built largely upon the practices of the indigenous tribes of the Native Americans, the Celts and Asian traditions, when of-course there was an ‘Us versus Them’ lifestyle – it was a natural instinct imperative for the safety of the group.
But now that we live in a much more global community, connected by the Internet and quick and cheap travel, petty rivalries should no longer be necessary. In the face of climate change and economic crisis, I believe that this sustainable way of life is made all the more important.
So as you can see, my old lifestyle and way of thinking is polar opposite to my relatively new Wiccan way of thinking. Sometimes, when I see a venomous comment made about K on a website, or even have horrible comments made about him to my face (which I still do) , I automatically find myself muttering under my breath, “Stupid Lakie… oh, no, no I can’t think that, ” and I find myself having to stop myself from slipping into deeply embedded old habits.
I had to adapt very quickly to the tribal mindset of hating a group of people that posed a threat, and it’s been difficult to lose it. But now, instead of arguing pointlessly over strong differences of opinion that neither side obviously would change, I try to put differences aside and seek out the things that that person and I have in common, things that we agree about.
At DTC I had been trained to take a zero-tolerance approach to Lakies, and after arguing with them I would make a point of blanking them entirely. This happened with a friend from school, long after DTC had disbanded, but the attitude still remained. This girl, who I had been close friends with, set up a group on a social networking site proclaiming hatred for K, complete with a poll as to why we hated him, a rant filled with hurtful comments, and defaced pictures, and invited her friends enticing them to join the bandwagon (when she knew nothing about him; this was fuelled only by her irritation at my constant talking about him) .
I was mortified; after DTC shut down my only outlet of expressing adoration was to my friends, but unintentionally, they found it very grating. At the time, my personal definition of a Lakie was clear... not someone who disliked K, but someone who actively and maliciously expressed hatred for him. To me, it looked like suddenly one of my best friends fit the description of a Lakie, and I gave her the standard treatment I gave all the Lakies who crossed my path twice; total silent treatment.
She was confused at first, but she cottoned on after a couple of days, and we went to school together every day, some of the same classes together, ate lunch together in the same group for nearly ten months without saying hardly a word to each other. There were times when I wanted to talk to her and almost cracked, but how then would anyone take my zero-tolerance attitude seriously? I had to make my point clear, and stood firm despite another friend begging us to end it.
When rediscovering Wicca, I studied for a few months, and then dedicated the following Imbolc, and the very first working I did was to gather the courage to make the first move to heal the rift with my friend. I brought a peace offering (a chocolate bar) and had a nerve-wracking chat with her. It turned out she didn’t hate K, only hated my preaching about him, and she had wanted to make the peace as well.
It’s been a long and challenging, but fascinating journey for me, since that fateful summer just after my thirteenth birthday over four years ago, but I suppose rapidly changing attitudes during teen years is only a natural part of growing up.
Dropping the habit of automatically judging a person as soon as I found out they were a Lakie was only the most prominent of many conflicts I’ve come across in learning about Wicca; a conflict between an old love of modern technology and a new love of a simple Earth-based lifestyle, and a love of flying and cheap and fast travel in conflict with a new awareness of protecting the environment add to the list.
So I thank the people who went to DTC for all that they gave and taught me, and for the community we had, but also to the many Pagan writers and teachers who have made me realize that all being the children of the God and Goddess, from whatever background, who have whatever ideals and beliefs, who have whatever views on K (and yes, there are good people behind the ‘Lakie’ mask) , we’re all not so different after all.
Sophie Horrocks, Southeast England.
Quote taken from:
Starhawk, on Faith Panel of the Washington Post
"To be a true friend of the Jewish People", February 20, 2007
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