Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NeoPagan Netiquette, or the Painful Lack Thereof

After a few glorious months of civil niceties on the Houston-area e-mail lists, we had ourselves an old-fashioned, rip-snorting, hair-pulling flame war. It was a doozy, reminiscent of the archetypical bar fight in every Western ever filmed: One guy throws a punch, and then everyone in the room automatically starts breaking chairs over each other's heads.

There's debate over who lobbed the first piece of furniture in this particular debacle, although two list members stand out as the most likely suspects. Let's give them nifty Pagan names--I'm thinking Laocoön and Chutzpah. I'm not sure if our protagonists know each other in real life and cooked up a Cunning Plan, or if stuff just randomly set them off at the same time, but if we were in kindergarten (and sometimes I wonder...), they would most certainly need to be placed in separate play groups.

Here's how the whole thing went down. Facing a financial quagmire, a local occult shop/religious non-profit decided to hold a fundraiser, and posted announcements on all the listservs. Fun! Fellowship! Volunteer! Pledge! And the initial response was fairly encouraging. Sure we'll help! We love you guys! You do good work!

Suddenly, Laocoön appeared (in a puff of smoke, with the appropriate thunderclap) to issue a dire warning. There is a very good chance that the shop is doing poorly because of *gasp* Bad Karma! If the owners are dealing with the effects of *gasp* Bad Karma, then we mustn't do anything to assist them, or else we'll take that *gasp* Bad Karma onto ourselves!

Okay, yeah, personally? Not a big fan of the Karmic Boogeyman. I know he lives under a lot of Pagan beds, grabbing ankles and scaring people into idleness. But honestly, all you have to do to vanquish him is take responsibility for your words and your actions. Own what you do, accept the positive and/or negative consequences, The End. Not the most popular metaphysical point of view in this day and age, but there you go.

Now, in this instance, and fortunately for me (may the Gods be ever favorable), several list members felt the same way--including the moderator, who wrote a well-crafted essay on how the current unstable economy is hitting small, independent businesses harder than anyone else. The conversation almost, almost got itself back on track when Laocoön threw what can only be described as a Victorian hissy fit, expressing wide-eyed disbelief that the rest of us weren't fleeing from the shop at top speed, screaming in terror and flinging holy water behind us. This drew the ire of the shop's manager, who shared some brief but eloquent thoughts on karma and what Laocoön could go do with it.

It was then that Chutzpah entered the fray. Not the brightest bulb in the Pagan Parade of Lights, Chutzpah gleefully clamored aboard the Bad Karma Float. She'd never been to the shop, never met the owners, wasn't quite sure what day it was, but she took on the ambitious task of uncovering the supernatural causes of the shop's misfortune, accomplishing her mission by repeating every unfounded, malicious rumor she'd ever heard about the shop and its proprietors. After all, one of the rumors might turn out to be true, which would reveal the source of the karmic retribution. Elementary!

Loyal Strifemongers will not be surprised at the response she received, but Chutzpah sure as hell was. Reeling from the revelation that the blithe spreading of low-minded gossip does not the reincarnation of Agatha Christie make, and buffeted by the ensuing invective, she sang like a canary, dutifully listing the names of the various acquaintances who had passed the lurid hearsay to her in the first place.

Any hope of peace talks devolved after that, with all sides indulging liberally in the kind of language you'd normally only hear at a Merchant Marine stag party. Last time I checked, Chutzpah was cowering amidst the rubble of her credibility and whining that she didn't do anything, and Laocoön was making cryptic, Lovecraftian comments about what happens to infidels who dare not bow their heads in the presence of the Old Ones.

Ah, my people. Flame on, brethren, while I type "Unitarian" into a search engine and dream about what could have been.

18 comments:

Angela-Eloise said...

Why are so many Pagans such drama queens? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Evn said...

Honestly, I wish I knew. I suspect it has something to do with people desperate to feel Special and In Control, but that's just a hypothesis.

Other than that, all I can say is the local listservs totally make up for my recent loss of HBO.

Angela-Eloise said...

I've been entertaining myself with the comments on articles at SFGate.com. They're hilarious.

People have way too much time on their hands. Oh wait . . .

Evn said...

People have way too much time on their hands. Oh wait . . .

You're on sabbatical. That's different.

wendy said...

Wonder which one's having trouble?-I'm stuck out in the boonies and never find these things out until later...
Hope it's not Lucia's; I've heard good things about it

Evn said...

Lucia's is doing fine. Elemental Magick out in Webster has encountered some obstacles, but they will, with community support and a little ol' fashioned luck, be fine, too.

Thalia said...

Hmmmm. I thought Laocoön was right, about the Trojan horse being, you know, a bad idea; kind of like Kassandra was right about the whole shebang. Hmmm. Just odd, is all.

But yeah, that whole "bad karma" crap; not only is it no one's business to make judgments on concerning anyone but themselves, but it's a real misuse of Paganism, I'd say. Sounds like you've got yourself a putz, there.

Rottie_mom said...

Oh for crying out loud, will people stop with the bad karma already. And isnt it always someone that has to go out and be an ass about stuff.

Ok enough of that. Must say your description of the events were hilarious LOL!

Bo said...

Oh God - *Pagans*. It never changes! sigh

Mertseger said...

I love the smell of witch war in the morning. It smells like ... well, your kindergarten metaphor is probably most apt.

I would not ever want to speak in favor of the usual level of witchly paranoid attribution of intensional malignancy to every single bad thing that happens, and, clearly, sitting over here on the left coast I have no additional knowledge of this particular situation. But I must note that some occult shops are notoriously bad at cleansing their facilities. I remember once stepping into a shop in Long Beach, CA, and getting such a psychic smash in the face that I scurried right back out again.

You can still be a Unitarian if you really want. Vows, Shmows: not even the Gods can expect someone to herd the Pagan kittens when there's a big ball of entanglement around.

Lisa Adams said...

*laugh* That was the best description of the "fluff flying" yet.

I have to admit, if it weren't for the fact I promised myself I'd be "fair" I was tempted to write some rather not nice things myself.

Lisa Adams said...

By the way, I had to link to you because this was gold hon.

Evn said...

Link away, sweetie. :)

Matt Gerlach said...

Omg, I think that's one of the most well written pieces of online literature that I've read in quite a while. To be both entertained and inspired to stop and look at the sheer craftsmanship or it, all in one piece of rant. Beautiful.

Evn said...

Matt, Wow. I'm appreciative of the compliments, but a bit overwhelmed.

Seriously, though, thanks.

Lisa Adams said...

Done and thanks for allowing it.

HR Mitchell said...

"It's a bad car, ma!"

"Then take it a mechanic, child."

Times like this I don't miss the pagan community at all.

(btw, I just followed Lisa's breadcrumbs...)

Pom said...

The real reason Pagans will never unite under anything. We seem to be perfectly happy if not giddy to knock the crap outta one another. Who needs persecution from the other religions? We seem do just fine persecuting ourselves and one another. Strikes me as contradictory and counterproductive, but I suppose it's also why I prefer to remain solitary - VERY solitary!

Blessings