The Problem with “Political Diversity”

In thinking about issues within the Pagan community, I often find myself frustrated by the number of rhetorical cul de sacs that we can lead ourselves into. Often a value, such as diversity, is taken to be such a determining factor that others, such as rational boundaries and critical thinking, get shunted into the background or tossed aside altogether. I do not think that this is due to stupidity. Very few Pagans, in my experience, are complete morons. It seems to me that the problem is misapplication of intelligence rather than a lack thereof.

I have noted that domesticated primates, Pagans included, employ a great deal of what I think of as “patterned thinking.” What I mean by this is the habit of responding to every discussion which falls into a certain class (“prosperity” or “politics” or “truth” etc.) with a set of pre-fabricated tropes. “Of course Pagans can do prosperity rituals. We believe that matter is sacred, not something to be transcended.” “That’s all well and good, but what about the children working in sweatshops to produce your wealth?” It’s intellectual laziness rather than deficiency.

One instance of this is the notion that a diversity of opinion naturally means that all opinions are equally valid. At a certain level, it makes sense to be flexible. “You’re either with us or against us,” is hardly either spiritually or intellectually satisfactory. But to admit and even give space for the expression of views that fly in the face of ones own values seems a bit self defeating. Especially if those views, if followed to their logical conclusion, would lead to exclusion of all perspectives other than that being advocated. One should never let oneself get tossed out of ones home by the guests.

In the instance of politics, we are dealing with two basic elements, values and truth claims. Values are generally dependent on truth claims, since ones view of the nature of things generally determines for them what is valuable. If a group of people think that the truth has been spelled out for all time in a book written by hundreds of people over the course of thousands of years, this will dictate a different value system than one born of the findings of modern science. These are just two opposing views. Obviously there are nuanced positions that have nothing to do with either of these.

Politics is really about power, and power is mostly a matter of agency. To what extent can an individual expect to have her values protected or projected by society? In our society, it tends to be the people with the greatest command of material resources that can expect their value system to be enacted by the lawmakers. The extent to which the very affluent (people who will always have a family fortune to fall back on) allow the rest of us to attach our own hopes and dreams to their wagon depends largely on how much they feel it will further their own ends.

Which is why I am somewhat skeptical about giving space to more right leaning Pagans in the interests of “diversity.” Quite frankly, if anyone adheres to an ideology promoted by a major political party or offshoot thereof, I tend to think they’re basically puppets. It is not so much that right wing ideas are wrong (I could make a good argument for this, but don’t think it worth the trouble). It’s that what comes from the mainstream of politics isn’t “diverse” in the first place. It’s the “Coke or Pepsi” that the ruling class serves us in place of real discussion, real thinking, and real power.

If we’re going to talk about diverse views within the Pagan community, I am all for it. But I think these should be real discussions of underlying values and assumptions about the truth, rather than simply allowing Pepsi to advertise on Coke’s website.

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