Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On the Matter of Big Name Pagans

My friend Peter Dybing has posted this blog, "Killing the Big Name Pagans," at Pagan in Paradise.  I tend to get more inspired when writing something responsive to the ideas of others, which often means I just post a long response.  When I do that, my thoughts don't make it beyond that feedback form.  So today I've decided to post my full response here:

I agree with the opinions expressed in earlier feedback at Pagan in Paradise by Thorn, Peg and Elizabeth. Here are few factoids that inform my opinion:

*  How one conducts oneself is more important to me than how high one's public profile is.

*  Leaders happen. Some people have leadership qualities, like initiative, and others have less or none at all. And just because someone takes on a leadership role doesn't mean that others have to follow. With no followers, one is not leading anything or anyone. But the emergence of more informed and/or influential and/or accomplished individuals is natural. Nature, is Nature not our teacher?

*  There is a big difference between those who see an opportunity to be of service, to do something worthwhile and that probably benefits many, and those who are building a career out of being some 'Pagan personage.'  Whether it's selling books, acquiring teaching gigs for money, whatever, that's somewhat different from leadership, per se. Which is not to say that one cannot be and do both -- be of service and sell books. My point is that motivations may be different. If you have to make some money to pay the rent and what you do to earn money is sell books and give workshops, you have a different motivation from someone who's just doing some kind of labor-intensive and responsibility-laden Pagan-oriented work (like organizing a festival or keeping the account books) that I would also view as a leadership role.

*  Lastly, we live in a culture of celebrity. No matter how 'different' and unaffected by mainstream mores we may claim to be, every one of us lives within, and is affected and informed by, the overculture.

Having said all that, I will conclude by mentioning that when you see Pagans doing work you consider beneficial or worthwhile, it's nice to give them some word of appreciation. As a sometime-recipient of words of encouragement, I can tell you it really feels good. Conversely, it doesn't feel so good to be overlooked.

By the same token, if someone is doing something publicly on behalf of Paganism and you think what they're doing is not good, it's appropriate to address the things you think are problematic or those with which you don't agree. To hold that person accountable, at least to the community/organization on whose behalf that person acts. That does not mean trashing the person. It only means speaking to specific issues.

And if you really hate what someone is doing in the public forum, you really disagree, well, jump into that sandbox and build your own castle; put your own ideas in motion.


Pagan In Paradise said...

As Always, love your thoughts Macha,

Prmarly, my not so well stated point is there are all kinds of Pagans doing great work in the community and that we as a Pagan community need to respect that they are making just as meaningful contributions as those in the public eye.

I also feel the term is used in many diferent ways, as evidenced by the many opinions this post generated. It is just not a term that serves the community. I would offer "respected author, learer, activist, speaker as a realistic alternitive that focuses on the contribution specificly.

Love and blessings to you!

Phaedra Bonewits said...

"Which is not to say that one cannot be and do both -- be of service and sell books."

I'd like to see that in bigger letters, for without a doubt they are not mutually exclusive. There are a heck of a lot of "BNPs," whether you call them that or not, who do both, and work their butts off at both. Maybe it's the paid workshops and books that have the highest profile, but that doesn't mean they haven't paid their dues working for the community, too. Perhaps the best books and workshops come from those who do both.

Barbara said...

Macha: This is very well said. Overall, I am glad to see that very few commenting on the topic have bought into the community divide that the topic itself suggests was caused by the BNP title -- a title that appears to be one the Pagan media has used without intending any particular division, but just as a way to recognize that someone has taken a leadership role and has been recognized for it. Perhaps the BNP title isn't a great one, but to imply that it is a problem Pagan leaders have created, which then results in a danger of separating the community -- well I just don't see that that is what is happening. I think that the discussion itself had much more potential for division than the benign use of a term that was clearly intended by media to find a quick way to say something that would take a lot more explanation in, for example, a blog post. Fortunately, the community comments (at least the ones I have seen so far) have not taken the bait. As I commented on Crystal's post (url below), I think this is a discussion in search of a problem -- that doesn't exist. I think you, Macha, made much the same point, but more beautifully and with wise council. Crystal's post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daughtersofeve/2013/03/sensationalizing-pagan-leaders-the-damaging-social-structure-behind-bnp-status/