Pagan Apathy?

For a while now, I’ve noticed that on some official and public pagan groups there seems to be a lack of input from members – a lack of contribution, as it were.  It often makes me wonder why people take the time to become a member of something and then sit back and not want to participate in any shape or form.  I also fully understand those who are quietly learning, putting out feelers and coming to an understanding of their path, and thereby don’t feel that they can or should contribute.

What I have believed for a long time now is that everyone should have their say.  As in my previous post about honour, everyone has an inherent value.  What seems to be growing, however, in the pagan community is apathy when it comes to contributing to the whole.

Take for example The Druid Network. When I first joined many, many years ago it was a burgeoning place filled with new ideas and articles being contributed by people following every imaginable Druidic path. It was a veritable goldmine of information, and I spent weeks and months going through it, learning from it, reading new articles.  I was inspired, fully charged and wrote many articles for TDN myself return. Nowadays, I haven’t noticed any new articles at all – over the last couple of years the input seems to have dramatically decreased.  Why should this be?

With the collapse of the economy, I can understand that many people have to work harder just to keep their head above water. Then there is also the increase in social media, where information is being exchanged via Facebook and Twitter rather than in people taking the time to write their own articles about an issue.  I believe that the increase in passive screen entertainment as well has a lot to do with it – we are waiting for others to wow and dazzle us with their insights.  We have become a passive culture, in cushy armchairs or sacked out on the sofa waiting for life to come to us.

I also believe that more and more people are wanting to get something in return.  Membership to TDN, having access to their social media site and getting quarterly newsletters isn’t enough for some people.  A lot of people, when asking about membership for TDN, say “What’s in it for me?”  This is something that I think really needs to be addressed in paganism today.  We already live in a world full of me, me, me, I, I, I – we are already taking more than we need and giving very little in return.  We need to look at the bigger picture, and see Druidry and Paganism for what it is, and not for what it can give us.

Is it the introspective nature of Neo-Paganism that is causing this?  We must first heal ourselves before we can heal the world? We must look within before we look to others? I don’t believe this for a second, but this is just my personal opinion. Having been blessed with the curse of self-awareness, humans tend to forget that there is a much bigger world out there, and that they often don’t see the big picture.  The may believe that they see more than other creatures around them with this heightened sense of self-awareness, where in fact they have put on blinkers to everything by being so darned self-aware. If you are self-aware, how aware can you be of others and the world around you? How can you look outwards if you are always looking inwards?

I had to take a step back from TDN a few years ago, and retire as Trustee due to lack of time. I had just started my own dance company, and began writing again.  I currently have three jobs.  I haven’t been able to contribute to the newsletter, or offer any articles lately, but that is something which I aim to redress very shortly.  My giving back to the community comes in many shapes and forms, and I hope that I can offer TDN some of that again(in some shape or form), as well as what I currently do for Moon Books, SageWoman, my own personal practice and priestly duties.  I’ve never really thought about “what can this do for me” – I’m always wondering “what can I do for it?” and, though this sometimes makes me run ragged, I think is still a better way of being in the world, of contributing to it in a positive way.

Much as in group ritual, sometimes it is an absolute joy for a fellow priest to take a step back and simply enjoy the ceremony. However, to do this all the time is selfish.  We must find a balance between give and take. We must also realise that everything we do can be a participatory act, and not simply a passive one.  From ritual to prayer to memberships, what we do is more important that who we are.

Let us break the chains of apathy within the pagan community. Let us give of our inspiration, to inspire others, to share in the awen.  Contribute to your local moot, or pagan newsletter, or website.  Offer songs back to the land at twilight, and dance with the gods around the fire.  Know that you matter, that you have a say in your religion, your path or your philosophy.  Don’t sit back and watch it happen around you. Get up and turn the screen off, and get out there.  We are human beings – let’s bring the being back into it.  Shake off the shackles of passiveness and know that you can make a difference, in whatever form you may.  And most important of all, don’t let others do it for you.

23 thoughts on “Pagan Apathy?

  1. I think facebook and twitter really killed some great online communities of all types, pagan communities being no exception.

    Outside of that, I can only speak for myself here, but I go really quiet for periods of time. Mostly because I am exploring something spiritual, and sharing what I am exploring before I understand it seems, to me, to take away from the intensity of it sometimes. Or sometimes it just takes time to wrap your head around it.

    I have also noticed that the pagan community can be super hyper critical. It can be a scary place to share your thoughts and experiences.

    • Hi James,
      I know exactly what you mean, that is the reason I keep away from forums. There are too many pagans out there who trample all over newbies with their know it all attitude, which is a shame as this can put other people off responding to any future articles. They forget how insecure some people are when they lay their soul’s bare.

      • People should not be allowed to do this, or get away with it. Perhaps more controlled groups – I know I’ve left a few Facebook groups because of bullying… and from the moderators, no less!

  2. I may be totally out in left field with this query, but do you think that some people are hesitant to contribute or comment because of the amount of abuse that’s slung around online these days? I’m an editor for a couple of environmental websites and part of my responsibility includes moderating comments, and my gods, it’s downright shocking to see how many nasty, cruel, vicious, abusive comments are made on the most neutral articles… never mind the controversial ones.

    • Yes, I think that’s a large part of it, but on, say, The Druid Network website, there isn’t a comment box or option. If you want to respond to the article, you have to write your own to present your own version. And if it isn’t done honourably or respectfully, then it won’t be put up. But yes, online there is a huge troll factor, and a huge loss of respect for discussion of ideas. sometimes even in person at moots and the like. it’s such a damned shame, really… but in letting that happen, are we contributing to the problem, I wonder? what do you think?

      • I’m inclined to agree with you. I think it’s up to us to curb such behaviour, even call it out and bring people’s attention to it in the hope that it will lessen in time.

        I haven’t spent as much time on The Druid Network site as I should, but as I’ve read through the other comments on here, I can certainly relate to the idea that Facebook and Twitter have taken over as the social network of choice for many people. For those who are pressed for time, a quick two-line snippet seems to be far more easily digestible than a 1500-word article, and people’s attention spans have certainly diminished with these edible info bites as well.

        You’ve given me some intense food for thought, Joanna. Thank you.

  3. I agree with all that you say Joanna but you are also right about all the other media out there. What with forums, membership and different social sites, by the time you read some of the posts and some are excellent by the way. I’m to darned tired to respond after reading from a computer screen, this is my own personal point of view of course. The best way to participate in a discussion is to limit yourself to some of the sites. I may sound a bit of a turn coat but I tend not to use the OBOD forums anymore but rather use a space similar to this one.
    Autumn blessings to you /l\

  4. OK……feet first here….I have been a pagan in spirit and personal habits for about 40 years, I started actively contacting other pagans via social sites about 3 years ago. The individuals I have met in person from ADO and via Cat Treadwell have been lovely people. What I have found on line so far has been very disappointing. A thread will start and degenerate rapidly into very bitter comments or vague cliquey references. The current trend seems to be to try and standardize our beliefs….sorry but that is what I am escaping from! Growing popularity is always a difficult phase, cliques will either develop into sub groups or go into another branch. Those of us who want to learn want to expand our vision , not learn a confining idea of someone else’s idea of what is right.So if you are an old hand at this, help us by sharing what you have learned in a positive way x

    • It really does depend on which online group you are a part of – there are some brilliant ones out there, like TDN Social Druid site, where respect for others is of utmost importance. I was more referring to the contribution of articles and links to TDN’s website, which is what TDN is all about – a collection of information for people to use as a blessed resource, from Druids all over the world. The membership has increased drastically since the charity commission’s decision three year ago, but the actual contribution has declined by members – articles for the website, for the newsletter, etc. Perhaps it is the nature of impermanence, perhaps it is apathy. A lot of people have responded that it is due to judgement and criticism when dipping the toes into the online forums and such, which I can fully understand – I’ve been there myself. I’m not sure what you mean by the growing trend to standardize beliefs, however – I have not come across that…

  5. What an interesting and insightful piece. I’ve been considering the same thing myself recently with the demise of several online communities. I noticed the comment the other day about the feeling of helplessness with all the conflict in the world and the fact that nothing the ordinary individual can do can be seen to influence it. With the running of the 24 hour news channels it’s easy to get depressed and dis-empowered. For me, therein lies the problem. A lot of the modern films and some TV programs portray the “individual against the system” scenario and with these programs being mostly fantasy, the individual wins. In real life however… we all know the how it usually turns out. I think therefore, the problems may lie with the expectations built up through exposure to this sort of entertainment and the self perception such things may inspire (or not as the case may be). Modern society appears to me to be super judgemental, especially with the popularity of such programs as “strictly” et al and whether we consider these to be entertainment, I can’t help but wonder about the consequences of seeing people being constantly judged, be that light hearted or not. We are not super-humans, most of us have many frailties we would rather not confront and the internet allows people a “curtain” from which to replicate this judgemental behaviour without the real life consequences of such actions.

    • Yes, yes, yes! I’ve previously written about how our judgement culture has made us generally meaner than we used to be – we see it on any tv reality show such as Strictly and X Factor. It’s cool and funny to be mean, to be judgemental – and the viewers, for the most part, feel glad that they are not the ones being judged, and, sadly for some, can feel free to laugh at another’s expense. These shows and situations make me extremely uncomfortable, and just adds to the problem. Which reminds me, I’ve got to write to the BBC about Strictly this year, to tell them to watch the bullying on the show and the message that it sends to children. After all, proceeds are all for the kids, aren’t they? We have to think about the message it sends! x

  6. I’ve danced back and forth with TDN for some years now. Time, energy, relationships, inspiration… many facets in why I’ve been more active at some times than at others. I think one of the reasons I’ve stepped back is that I didn’t feel TDN had much need or use for me, beyond the book reviews, and I keep handing those in. Other places turned out to need me far more, and so I took my energy there. If I felt there was something I could give at TDN that made a real difference, I’d step up. I do my mentoring work through OBOD, my activism through the Green party, I share my ideas through my blog and I have a grove where I get to do the community stuff. What does TDN need from me? I have no sense of that, and too much else to do to be throwing things out there on the offchance something turns out to stick.

    • I would assume that TDN still need people to contribute articles, ideas, etc to the website – it’s growing stale, with no new input. Take the initiative, if it so calls you, and submit stuff. I’ve never had anything refused. They also need and environmental pages co-ordinator… x

  7. I’ve only been around this “social” internet a few years (before I retired I could never find the time!) but I have noticed a decline in the number of contributors to the two sites I visit (TDN and OBOD message board) during that time.

    One cause seems to be Facebook/Twitter. There are often passing references to conversations that are going on there and I get the impression (I’m not on either) that much more happens there. I joined a local pagan e-group about four years ago but they have stopped even advertising their events on it now- I gather there’s a Facebook version where it all happens. Having said that my impression is that the quality control on Facebook/Twitter may not be what it is on the two sites I continue to use.

    A second reason for the decline in activity, I think, may be the growth of the blog. It seems to me that there are a few members of TDN for example who write interesting blogs but contribute only occasionally to TDN. I appreciate that this may allow them to reach a larger audience with their views, although the few blogs I do follow seem to generate more “Great comments, I love your blog” responses rather than the reasoned and informative discussions that occur over on TDN for example. (Take the recent “talking stick” discussions on TDN as an example – I challenge you to find a more informative discussion on Facebook or in any blog comments.)

    Disclaimer – these are just my personal thoughts; I’m not on Facebook etc, don’t have a blog, wasn’t around in the “good old days” and still think TDN is a mine of wonderful information and discussion so you may wish to class me as both biased and uninformed!!

    • I think you’re right – Facebook is taking over, and isn’t a well moderated – behaviour can sometimes be less than polite in some groups. The Social Druid site is brilliant – but I’m sure that Facebook takes up some people’s time so much, they don’t have any spare time for another social networking site! Personally, I preferred the old forum setting, but that’s just me. And yes, with the rise of the personal blogs, people are turning to that – I know that I have, with my own blog, Moon Books’ blog and SageWoman blog, and now working on my third book, that has kind of taken over!

    • If you become a member of The Druid Network, you also gain membership to their own social network site, called Social Druid. It’s a great place to discuss all things Druidic, in peace and in respect for all beliefs. An absolutely great place – what social networking should all be like! 🙂

  8. My experience of the TDN social group has been nothing but positive. I have read some interesting blogs and incredible poetry, read and engaged in some fascinating and thought-provoking discussions in which people have shared ideas and personal experiences, made insightful comments and been respectful of other people’s contributions. Facebook is great for sharing pictures and short comments or observations about the world but it can be superficial and, therefore, a little tedious at times. The TDN forum is far better suited to meaningful discussion, creativity and interaction. It seems to me to be quite an active little community full of lots of people with stuff to say that’s well worth reading.

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