As a blogger, I owe it to potential readers to introduce myself and explain my reasons for clogging up cyberspace. The short version is that I’m Pagan and I’m into politics and I feel a need to sound off on how the two interact.
The long version follows.
I’ve the time to do a blog because I recently retired. Formerly, I was a political science instructor at a community college located in the Inland Empire, which is the part of Southern California that’s most like Texas. Besides paying the bills, my job gave me the chance to pontificate on the passing political scene and I’m restless without that outlet. There are some things I really want to be saying right now.
First, I want to be venting about the truly terrible things happening politically in this country nowadays. The United States has been fracturing along ideological lines for decades, and the rise of our so-called President and what he stands for has basically broken our country apart. Half of America isn’t on speaking terms with the other half. I don’t see how we can go on like this much longer.
With a radical right-wing national regime in cahoots with a foreign despot, and committed to deportations, border walls, assaults on the free press, and mugging the environment on a daily basis, facing an opposition primed to object, obstruct, and take to the streets, the future looks ominous. Survival of our democratic system, our nation, even the global biosphere, can’t be guaranteed.
I’m old and I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve never seen it this bad. I can’t just nap quietly while a political train wreck happens around me.
Second, I think my country, and the world, could benefit from a dose of Pagan political philosophy, and I’ll be providing my version of it.
I encountered Pagan politics long before I knew anything about Paganism per se. As a teenager – seemingly by chance – I encountered Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. It was a mind-bending experience for me.
Plutarch’s heroes certainly weren’t saints. They openly sought fame, dominance, and glory, and they were as brave, cunning, and ruthless as they had to be to attain their objectives. Yet private enrichment wasn’t their goal. When Themistocles declared that the trophy of Miltiades was keeping him awake, and Julius Caesar said he’d rather be the first man in a remote Alpine village than the second man in Rome, they revealed their ruling ambition to be to shine in the eyes of their country – either by performing some notable public service, or imposing their will on their fellow citizens, or preferably both. Politics is my passion, and I found this attitude authentic and very cool.
Something was a little puzzling, however. As a political junkie, I faithfully read the daily newspaper along with books and articles on current affairs. Yet most of these modern productions – even stuff I agreed with – struck me as contrived and dishonest compared to Plutarch. It seemed odd for me to find an archaic sage discussing politics with a clarity and candor that contemporary writers couldn’t match.
It was only years later that I understood: Plutarch, and the other classical Greco-Roman political critics, were more insightful than their modern counterparts precisely because they were Pagans. Let me explain.
Broadly speaking, present day pundits – even those of a wholly secular outlook – are persons whose thinking habits formed in a Judeo-Christian culture. They’ve been conditioned to see social issues in terms of the war between God and Satan – Absolute Good versus Pure Evil. They believe in One (and only One) Truth, and once they think they’ve got it, they choose their facts and twist their analyses accordingly. They divide politicians into cardboard saints and sinners, based on ideology. We Pagans have our preferences and biases, but we’re more aware of complexity and more willing to see the world as it really is.
Pagans are polytheists, and we know the Gods and Goddesses don’t always get along with each other. We’re forced to embrace diversity and forget about uniformity. We recognize many contrasting truths and we tend to consider virtue a mean between excessive extremes. We don’t make good fanatics. We don’t believe any sect has a monopoly on righteousness. We know good and evil are sometimes bound up with one another and must stand or fall together.
We aren’t bothered if our neighbors differ with us on some topic – say, religion – and we don’t see why they should be bothered by us.
A consistent Pagan attitude won’t exactly match any of the presently dominant categories of political discourse. Leftist ideas like environmentalism, feminism, and a respect for diversity grow naturally from a Pagan sensibility, but so do a warrior ethos, ethnic pridefulness, and a reverence for traditional morality, values no true Marxist will approve. I’ll be finding both laissez-faire conservatism and the more idealistic kinds of liberalism incompatible with ancient Pagan sagacity, which tends to be communitarian, traditionalist, and brutally realistic. I’ll be slamming Trump for his quasi-Fascist bent, but I don’t otherwise promise to be politically correct.
I expect everyone will be angry with me at some point or other.
If you feel like commenting on this, have at it. I’ll be thankful for encouragement and amused by ill-mannered hostility. I’ll do my best to have something meaningful to say every Monday and Thursday.
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