Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My view on the AFA/Troth feud

Before I start this piece I have to say I know good people in both organizations.  Nothing I say here is a judgement of my friends.  I also have friends who are Heathen, liberal and universalist, while I consider myself Folkish.

Heathens of course have always sought blood feuds to defend their honor.  This time is perhaps no difference.  I will give the Troth the benefit of the doubt and assume that what really bothers them is that statements by the AFA could be taken out of context by a wider society and bring dishonor on all Heathenry. Maybe the organization is deserving of this and maybe it is not (in which case it is reading another group through a lens of a view of how all groups should act).  If the shoe fits wear it, but for the rest of this I will give the Troth every benefit I can including that one.
However, one serious concern I have is with ideological and political litmus tests for membership in any organization, particularly communities where we should be, in my humble opinion, trying to cultivate shared economic and social interests and a joint search for the past.  Ideological and political litmus tests effectively shut down the search and risk libeling the ancestors and the past.  In the end, Heathenry is orthoprax, and while it is clearly political in that to some degree it is a revolt against the modern notion of progress, that degree varies quite a bit both by organization and by member.  The Troth is, as far as I can tell, committed to being non-radical, non-revolutionary, pro-progressive-Protestant values, and modernist while the AFA is committed to an attempt to cultivating a radical alternative to progressive Protestant values in a relationship with the past.  As pioneers, they will make mistakes and it will be up to all of us that believe in that to take it further.

My wife is not European or white.  My kids are of mixed heritage.  But my wife is closer to the women of the Sagas in action than most modern Asatruar are (if I ever fail to defend the family honor, the gods themselves will be unable to lend a hand to help), and I have learned a whole lot about our tradition through my marriage.  I have known many people in the AFA who know this about me.  Not *one* of them has ever issued a harsh or disparaging word or racist comment to me about this or about my Jewish heritage (I cannot say this about a number of other Heathen organizations not in this picture however).  Members of the AFA that I have known have been, without fail, unquestionably supportive of my search for the past and the wisdom I have gained.  None have been the least bit disrespectful of my family for any reason.

While members of the Troth have not explicitly been disrespectful, the fact that politically it is centered on a view of social progress and equality that comes out of early modern Europe and which white countries seek to push on the rest of the world is implicitly quite disrespectful.  Of course that view of equality is usually a cover for centralized governments and corporate economies, which is lost on most Americans today, so they can be pardoned for not grasping the depths of their paternalistic racism on this regard.  Concepts like gender roles, sexuality, and marriage are deeply cultural and any organization which thinks that culture should be abandoned so lightly aids and abets the racist imperialism of the West over the rest of the word.

My view on gender roles

Unlike McNallen I think that gender roles are socially constructed.  It would be impossible for these to be gifts of our ancestors if they were not.  But if we value culture as valuable, then social constructs given by our ancestors are valuable too and we throw them away with great cost.  Gender roles are also constructed due to biological and social imperatives and so, although they form a greater part of the warp and weft of society, they are not merely discretionary.  Men and women are not situated in the same way regarding reproduction and gender roles arise to address that.

Whether this can be said to be divinely ordained depends on what one believes the role of the gods in shaping the body and reproduction is.  I would just as soon leave that up to the practitioner.

My view on the queer statement

I think Flavel's concern about outside agendas being forced on the community is valid, but I think the focus on a specific label is problematic because it closes off things ideologically rather than relationally.  The problem is not how a particular person sees himself or herself, or how he or she sees sexuality, but how the individual might insist that the community change to accommodate him or her.  That, in my view, is the line that should be drawn, not on the basis of a specific identity or way of making sense of things.

In every community there is an ideal of the good life.  In a traditional family-business economy that includes getting married, having kids who can take over your trade or business, and eventually retiring with those children.  That will be the normative (and normal) model.

But not everyone will follow such a model.  And those that don't are in a position to offer critique.  That critique is not just when it is a demand that everyone else, say, sacrifice human contact in retirement so nobody gets ahead.  But what it is made of is up to the community.

This question of how the liminal figures on the margins of the community interact with the rest is an important question.  It implicates guests of a kindred (and by extension views on refugees etc in the political realm), those who for whatever reason do not fit into the community's view of best family models, etc.

In summary

I find myself far more sympathetic to the AFA than their critics in this regard.  I have seen no reason to see the AFA from my experience as a racist organization.  I am sure they have their racists, but I would rather tolerate racists than kick out others just for being outside of a political orthodoxy, and the fact is that every organization (heathen or not) has its racists.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A quick response to McNallen's "No More Mutts"

Steve McNallen at the AFA has put together a piece where he argues that Americans whose ancestors are mostly from Europe should start seeing themselves as ethnic Europeans instead of Mutts.  This view, I think, comes out of his support for a view of metagenetics, the idea that cultural patterns are passed genetically in a similar way to something like hair color.

I disagree with McNallen for a number of reasons, but there are a number of deeper points where we agree.  I agree with him that the national divisions of Europe are somewhat arbitrary.  And I agree that seeing oneself as mixed culture just because of where one's ancestors come from has some problems.  Asatru includes ancestor worship and this means all ancestors.

I am Folkish.  And I think that membership in the Folk requires shared heritage.  But heritage isn't necessarily only biological.  Connections by marriage or adoption surely count as well and there may be others -- in the end being a part of the folk requires adopting the same cultural framework and that doesn't happen by accident (or by pure biology either).  And I disagree with metagenetics as a hypothesis because I haven't seen any real evidence for it.  Cultural patterns shift quite a bit over not too much time.  I do think people naturally form hierarchies.  Genetics might even play a role in that. But I cannot get very far beyond that.

Suppose you are full-blooded French.  That means your ancestors came from three groups:  Roman, Frankish, and Gaulish.  The Gaulish ancestors would have been partly Celtic and partly whoever was there first.  Gaul, Roman Gaul, and the Frankish kingdom all had very different social and cultural orders, and none of them bear much resemblance to France today.

Instead of seeing ourselves as mutts, we should see ourselves as a part of groups to which we currently belong and liminally a part of those we strive to join.  This is distinct from the sum of our ancestors.  We are the sum of our ancestors and we are more than that.

However, I think the source of my disagreement is that I am, in terms of political theory, to the *right* of McNallen.  Over the last few decades there has been an effort to forge a pan-European identity and that hasn't worked so well, nor has it benefited the small businesses and the masses in the ways expected.

Europeans today tend to identify much more with their home towns than with their nations and that's a good thing.  We should, in my view, embrace a local identity, not one even as cosmopolitan as "European."  Europe is not a city state but a thriving and very diverse mix of cultures.  And a just society in my view starts with the local and builds outward until international space is reached and there groups should deal with eachother as equals.

But one thing that still binds most of Europe (not the UK or France though) together is the idea that society really should be local and that national units exist to serve local units.  The Folk is not a continent.  It is not even a modern nation-state.  It is a community and a local one at that.