Thursday, July 10, 2008

Name calling and Bullying

I'd like to point out an important post over at the Official blog, by Andrea Rubenstein [tekanji], Feminists are fine with being bigots if it’s just ableism.

Her thoughts were inspired by a back-and-forth among bloggers, reacting to comments by a strident anti-choicer (Stanek). If you want to check out the nitty-gritty, it's explained in her post. But what struck Rubenstein was how frequently some posters rely on terms such as "crazy" or "insane", when discussing political aponants. She direclty addresses one commenter:

...I agree that what Stanek said was both ridiculous and vile, but the sheer number of times you casually threw around ableist slurs like “crazy” and “nutbag” really doesn’t sit right with me. Whether or not Stanek actually has a mental illness, it’s still not cool to use slurs degrading people with mental illnesses to attack her...

I have often called somebody I vehemently disagree with "insane", a "nutbag", or (my favorite), "bat shit crazy". Am I being ableist? Am I cheapening the suffering of those struggling with mental illness? In addition, I've felt very uncomfortable with the tone of some "A" blogs, in how people with spiritual concerns are framed as "ill", "crazy", or just simply "liars".

A post by Nicole Bell over at CrooksandLiars, "C&L Bookchat: Outright Barborous by Jeffery Feldmen", discusses a book which explores a similar topic:

...Jeffrey’s latest book, Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy, looks at something that we have had no little amount of experience with here at C&L. Who can forget Ann Coulter calling for John Murtha’s murder, Bill O’Reilly telling San Francisco that al Qaeda could attack them, Dinesh D’Souza suggesting that liberal weakness encouraged al Qaeda to attack us on 9/11, Tucker Carlson bragging about beating up a man he thought was hitting on him in a bathroom, Limbaugh encouraging riots, Michael Savage calling for the execution of Madeleine Albright...

People using language to demonize others or frame a debate have an agenda. But this issue cuts both ways. We in the Pagan community fancy ourselves to be open minded and tolerant. Yet, there's a number of times I've seen some severe incident's unfold.

Name calling and bullying can and does occur in our community, and this topic is explored in a post over at Deborah Oak's blog branchesup, "i feel pretty oh so pretty":

...I've been thinking a lot lately about narcissism and how my spiritual traditions seem to exacerbate and sometimes even create it...

She states how certain traditions are...

...fertile ground for extroverted narcissistic tendencies to blossom, what with easy access to being in the center of the circle, a focus on empowerment within a climate of no accountability... character assassination and female style bullying are rampant...

I use to think such behavior was more evident in Solitaries, but I'm finding among Coven oriented people as well. In fact, I've been member of a number of 'scenes', and all of them exhibited to varying degrees what Deborah is talking about. She asks:

...Is it possible to create spiritual community where healthy narcissism is encouraged, but not the disorder? In the over-culture ruthless self interest is encouraged above all else, and those who are narcissistic tend to be successful in business. Is it really that different in spiritual communities...?

I agree that a healthy ego and a touch of narcissism is a good thing. Those of great experience should be heard. It's beautiful when someone wants to share their knowledge and contribute. Every group has its host of dynamic people, those characters who rush to chime in and dominate discussions. I'm rather vocal and extroverted, but lately I've tried to hold my tongue and call on the quieter members of our group--purposefully making the 'loud mouths' (heh, guilty as charged) wait till the others have expressed their opinions. Is this helping? I don't know. But I guess one has to do something to fight being a slave of group dynamics. Deborah Oak continues:

...Fame can create pathological narcissism ...There is danger in being looked up to. Especially spiritually. We can start to expect this and see it as the natural order of things, creating grandiosity that is fed by adoration and that grows hungrier and hungrier instead of becoming satiated...

For those with big egos and in love with themselves, being looked up to is an endorphin rush. Conducting classes, giving lectures, and being a guest speaker on panels and at conventions can groom your cult of personality. (Related to this, in another interesting post, Deborah discusses the problems of the growing commercialization of our religion).

My HPS has a saying, "When in circle, check your ego at the door". That's a good place to start.

I remember watching an interview with the painter Salvador Dali, that occurred rather late in his life. The interview asked what contributions he thought he made to the Surrealist movement. The painter grew wide eyed, exclaiming, "NOTHING! I've contributed nothing." He then listed painters who he felt more significant than himself. What a beautiful outlook.


Anonymous said...

We all need to be reminded to respect each other's opinions. One reason I left the Christian faith is the tendency of the devout and church leaders to label anyone with differing opinions as "sinful" or, yes, even "crazy."

I, too, have noticed some supposedly open-minded atheist blogs can be quite narrow minded when it comes to spiritual things. I can't speak for them, but I know that in my own past, I have been the accuser, the name-caller, the one who knew it all (all with the love of Jesus, of course). So now that I've been humbled, shall we say, I try to keep that impulse in check.

genexs said...

Thanx for the thoughtfull comment.

I'm an ex-Xtain, as well, heh. But I think most of my angst came thru when I was an Atheist. I was rather snide and condescending. There's one time I think I really hurt someone (who was in a very bad point in her life) with my bluntness. I deeply regret it.

PZ Myers did a good job putting his foot in his mouth today, btw.


Anonymous said...

Finally caught up on the PZ Myers brouhaha. What was he thinking? Or was he actually thinking? I don't see the point of his diatribe, and that's what it was to me. Regardless of whether he believes in transubstantiation (oooh, big word) or not, he should have some grasp of why the people were upset over how the host was handled. True, it is just a cracker--but not to everyone. So savaging someone's belief system doesn't do any good. And I'm surprised it was posted on scienceblogs. I don't read it all the time, but most of the writing there has much more substance and less vitriol.

genexs said...

I agree.

The reaction in the "A" community has been interesting. A number of notable blogs posted knee-jerk msg's of support. Then again, a few have condemned it, or at least distanced themselves from it. But even weirder is that I've noticed a number of them have not mentioned it at all! PZM is one of the heroes of the NeoAtheist movement, and many parrot his snide snickerings. But I think some just wish this never happened.

Some are saying it's a matter of 'free speech'. Sure, I can see that. But just because you can say a certain thing, should you say it? I just feel it says something about the character of an individual, who gleefully crosses that line again and again.