I came of age in the early 1990’s, which means I’m in Generation X, and we have the special distinction of straddling the hinge between the pre-internet and post-internet world. My whole childhood happened before the internet, before the average citizen had “email” and only the privileged few had a home computer. So, my generation is the last to grow up in the bubble of not knowing so much all the time. It was also more isolating. I emerged into adulthood with a robust and youthful idealism forged through propaganda and privilege.
I was already an adult, 21 and a sophomore in college, when I was given my first email account, but I had to go to a computer lab to check it. I was there the first time I ever heard of a “search engine” called “yahoo,” which sounded ridiculous, but that day it yielded wonders the likes of which I’d never previously considered. The theme of my generation was all about “getting outside the box” and these new tools made that profoundly possible.
Once we got “outside” and looked back on the world into which our “Baby Boomer” forebears had delivered us, we had to come to terms with some atrocious bullshit. In college, we were bombarded by the message that success would be found by analyzing what didn’t work, and then solve those problems in innovative ways…oh, and then market that salvation to the woebegone masses for a profit, because capitalism. Unfortunate for the Baby Boomers who taught us, we Gen X’ers figured out that the problem was Capitalism itself. The solution would be an end to Capitalism. Getting rich off of selling salvation from a dying world is morally icky, not to mention a hard sell.
But I get ahead of myself…that realization came later on.
Armed with my Bachelor of Science Degree, trained in Sustainable and Universal Interior Design, knowing way more about Toxicity and Air Pollution than anyone should want to know, I set out to build a more responsible world. Like the Fool Card in the Tarot, I was hopeful, clueless, and so full of gusto that I couldn’t see the cliff right in front of me. I think back to how naive and idealistic I was in the “good old days” of 1997, during the shady-as-hell economic bubble of the Clinton Era, and I laugh at myself. I assumed a lot of things back then, and you know what they say about assuming? It makes an ass of u and me. For starters, I actually trusted that my elected officials, my military, my judicial system, and the licensed professionals who were sworn to protect the public, were actually trying to protect the public.
Worst of all, I assumed that my people, my beloved pagans, witches and magickal folks, were the good guys, doing the progressive work in all the trenches of society. To my wee witchling mind, Pagans were the exception to the religious rule; we were enlightened, evolved, intelligent beings of exceptional conscience. That was the secret society of cool kids I wanted to join.
At 23 years old, I went to work in a commercial Architecture firm, and the struggle was real from the jump. “Green” and “Universal” are too expensive, my Boomer bosses said. Who needs safe, durable and accessible buildings if it costs the big corporate boss a bit more on the front end? They’ll never go for it, so don’t even try. Sit down, shut up, never you mind those regulations. Just do what I tell you to do.
I’d only been banging my head against the forces of old-fashioned complacency for less than a year before I was told by an older female architect: “Don’t worry, your youthful idealism will eventually die, just like it did for the rest of us. Then it will get easier to just do what you have to do to get paid, then go home at the end of the day and not think about it.” I tendered my resignation on the spot. I told them exactly why: I would not allow willful harm to be done on my watch.
I am now older than the architect was when she said that pitiful thing to me. While I understand why she felt that way a little better now, I am proud to report that I’ve evolved into “mature idealism.” This impulse to live more responsibly did not end with my care for the built environment. This is also why I cast off the religion of my upbringing–Evangelical Christianity–which I found to be morally bankrupt. This is why I ultimately chose not to go back into the architecture business after only 5 dissatisfying years, but to stay home to nurture my young children for as long as I could. Then I chose to invest everything I’ve earned and learned into promoting a better way of life, when I opened my witchy shop, The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions.
The tendency to give in to the corruption and malaise in this society is strong. It is hard to keep giving a damn about children in concentration camps, or plastics in the ocean, or poisoned crops, when just about everyone you know have instead chosen greed or laziness. Or worse, they’ve succumbed to anxiety and depression over the tsunami of horror each day’s news cycle reveals. We are all suffering for it.
The generations to follow mine were all robbed of their time of hopeful, “youthful idealism.” There was no golden bubble. No illusion of fairness or safety…no fairness or safety at all, not at school, not where they worship, not even in routine traffic stops. I’ve taken my turns through shock, and hard ebbs of depression that followed. Sometime you have to just maintain a bare stasis for a while. Every day I make a conscious choice not to slip over the razor’s edge. So I completely understand the feeling of hopelessness expressed by the younger people I know.
In my youthful idealism, I didn’t believe in the “forces of evil.” I really didn’t. I chalked that myth up as propaganda from the fear-mongering Evangelical machine. But in my mature idealism, I recognize its hideous face of unnatural greed and selfish disregard when I see it – and it spreads like a cancer infecting all sectors. It metastasized into the highest ranks of this country, and at the moment, appears to be winning. Alas.
The Big Tent of Paganism has this cancer, too. Ever noticed how the comments sections of the Patheos Blogs – and the wider pagan blogophere in general – are littered with increasingly racist, sexist, Trumpist, fascist, climate-change-denying, and exclusionary ideologies? I could understand it when Evangelicals touted ignorant blather, but I can’t understand it coming from self-professed “conservative pagans.” Not at all surprising is that they’re often from the Baby Boomer generation. I do not excuse them: there is no age limit on compassion. Still, I’m disheartened to know this black rot eats at the very heartwood of our Pagan World Tree.
Which is why I need those of you **who DO know better** to help me to keep holding the line of decency. We can’t let the forces of racism and oppression, of exploitation and domination, or even complacency and “that’s how its always been” to live in our tree. SHAKE THE TREE! Just like the English witches in 1940’s whose “Operation Cone of Power” is fabled to have repelled the Nazi army, please keep showing up with our Mature Idealism to do and say the courageous and compassionate things? Not just with magick, but real-life, face-to-face, showing up to confront wrong-doing in person stuff. If we’re to survive on this planet we have to keep trying to heal us all, change the systems that polluted the world in the first place, and then clean up. No biggie, right? If witches can’t do it, who can?
Keep pure your highest ideals, strive ever towards them. Let naught stop you or turn you aside. -Charge of the Goddess
Lubricant or Glue?
Wherever there is toxicity, injustice, or malevolence in this world, we each have a choice: be part of the problem, or part of the solution. In every situation, we each have to judge which words and actions would be an improvement for all involved, harming none. There are no absolutes to these questions, only degrees along a scale of relativity. Does this situation require lubricant, or glue?