Back in the day, the primary exchange of information and ideas in the P-word Community was through magazines: hard-copy, printed paper publications that came out monthly, every other month, quarterly, or desperately maybe once a year if lucky. That meant it could take weeks or months for an article I wrote to get published, instead of being up a second after I click “publish” on this blog.
arguments discussions that happened in the letters sections would go back and forth over an extremely long time. Grandsire Sparklepants would have his say in one issue, and Archwitch de Cathair would respond with her say in the next. And it would go on and on, with other people joining in, until there was the next issue to argue discuss.
The pace was about as slow as a snail riding a turtle latched on the back of a narcoleptic sloth.
It’s pretty safe to say, the Internet sped the whole process up – by a LOT. Which is great for the spread of information and ideas. But in terms of actual communication, it has left a fair chunk of the general population in the dust and evolved other habits that appear to be communication, but fall short in actuality.
Communication (from Latin commūnicāre, meaning “to share”) is the act of conveying intended meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules. (source)
The key words in the above definition are “mutually understood…rules.” And when you’re dealing with a large group of people who may all be using the same tool, but are coming at it from difference points of familiarity, conflict is going to arise without the involvement of mutual understanding. I talked about the age/generation/experience gap here, and I firmly believe it’s something we ALL need to understand.
My parents in their late 60’s/early 70’s interact and understand the Internet differently than my generation does (late 30’s-early 40’s) who encountered it first in high school/college. And we’re interacting with it differently than those who were born
in the Matrix with the Internet as a part of daily life. From a group of people whose discussions happened either in person, or through a lengthy thought-out exchange through letters, to my generation of in-between’s, to the next generation for whom everything is instantaneous: these are all very different ways of communicating.
What I think is awesome and amazing about the younger generation is their ability to speak up and to speak out when they see something they believe is wrong. They are the generation raised in “if you see something, say something.” However, this is rarely an effective way of crossing generational communication gaps, especially when dealing with people who are used to having long, in-depth conversations via letter.
For those of you unfamiliar about how that worked, that format pretty much went like this: “Dear editor, Cauldron Cathy is incorrect in her use of the word “fairybite” because of X and Y, by way of source Z. It’s best interpreted this way to avoid total and utter chaos because….” and so forth for paragraphs. Cauldron Cathy then would reply in the next issue of the magazine, “Dear DruidyDan, actually my source for “fairybite” is correct because of A and B, by way of C, but I do understand where you are coming from” + 6 more paragraphs about how it doesn’t bring about total and utter chaos. Next issue: “Dear Cauldron Cathy, that’s fascinating and I wasn’t aware of that C material, thank you. I understand where you are coming from. I still think that in X situation that…” And so forth.
The time and place was very different versus the immediate interface of Facebook and similar social media. It’s very easy to type up a quick response to someone who has upset, angered, scared, or pissed you off in some way and BOOM it’s there. You can tell them they’re WRONG RIGHT THEN AND THERE! Wow, that’s amazing – and well, not exactly communicating with them in way that could cause more effective, lasting change. Then that exchange can be screenshot and shared with far more people than it was ever intended to seen by, for better or for worse. This is a major flaw in the Call-Out Culture, as there tends to be more focus on the calling out, versus taking the time to address the issue, in turn alienating the person you’re trying to make more aware.
In his very insightful article, Asam Ahmad talks about the problematic aspects of Call-Out Culture and makes a recommendation for what he describes as Call-In culture. I’m going to play the semantics game, and take it a little differently: I want to call it Come-To Culture. When I think of calling, I feel like it’s an attempt to connect via communication but neither party is quite exactly meeting in the middle. Think about cat-calls that are meant to be one-sided and other forms of shouting which talks about not wanting to get closer to talk for real. Also think about the cellular delay of phone calls which several studies have shown alter how we feel and talk with one another. (And personally, I am NOT a fan of phone calls). But if you COME to a meeting point, if you come to the table, you come together to both discuss in a respectful manner. (You may also think of it as a “Come-To Jesus” moment, but insert your favorite deity instead, the sentiment is right.)
Those letters in magazines were a meeting place – and because of the time involved in writing and printing, it gave us time to reflect, cool-off and think. And it was said in a community of our peers who enjoyed reading the debate and understood the context.
So, what does this have to do with P-wordism and Witchcraft? A LOT. I have talked about the importance of your word and the meaning in it. Before we fire off responses, we need to understand that our words have power. Are we using them as bullets or an offer of hands? Do we want to create and foster community through exchange and healing, or do we wish to alienate and shame? Should we be so quick to define the opposite as Other, or do we take a moment to look inside of us and ask how we would like to be addressed in that situation? We are not a community of one generation, one view, one color, one belief – we are beautiful, varied, multiple, and diverse.
We need to be willing to extend our compassion outside of ourselves and make connections in real time and space. We call ourselves the Weavers, the Cauldron-Born, the Wyrd – citing that we’re able to look beyond the face value of something or someone, and see/weave/do/be the extraordinary. Let’s try to remember that in all of our doings, not just those in which we deem sacred space or with those who are familiar.