« on: March 31, 2007, 04:06:58 pm »
In many ways, the best way to understand something is by watching and noting the effect it has on other agents and institutions. The best and most obvious example of this in modern history is Discordian interaction with contemporary Paganism. Whatever our reasons at the time for seeking the contact with a large and apparently disparate community, it can serve as a useful lesson for future encounters é─ý as well as prepare new Discordians for the harsh and often inflammatory reactions to their presence.
Obviously, there were some positive gains from the encounter. However the negative ones are of more interest, because there is so much more to be learned. Often from those who opposed us, we were the victim of slander campaigns and relegated to a lesser status in religious standing (and while avoiding contamination from the majority of Grey and Cabbage religions is hardly a bad thing, there was a notable lack of logic to their reasoning as to why this was done), not to mention falsely ascribed certain motives and opinions which were taken from a purposefully incorrect understanding of Discordianism. These reactions and other related observations will be noted below.
A notable and common reaction is that many will seek to downplay or ignore your contributions. To accept the opinion or help or argument of a known Discordian is to acknowledge validity to the irreligion and its beliefs. Since your very values are set up to mock their own systems of implausible and unsustainable belief, it implicitly implies their own incorrectness (ignoring for now the admirable é─˙quantum agnosticismé─¨ of many Discordians, such as RAW, in this regard) and questioning their faith. Obviously this only applies to those who have a superficial understanding and reading of Discordianism. As your status becomes better known, this reaction will become more common.
However, the most common reaction was to simply treat Discordianism as a parody religion that only a fool would believe in. If it was treated as a purely artistic project that only a simpleton could mistake for a real religion, its proponents are at once are sidelined. Of course, this is to totally ignore several points for similar reasons to above, but it also fails to draw a distinction between religion, spirituality and irreligion. The foremost is what the vast majority of Pagans take part in, the second some Pagans and Discordians both take from the form of their belief system and the final is a purposeful creation of a spiritual system that undermines religion instead of meekly being alternative to it. The Church of the Subgenius would probably be the only other example of this and it is rooted in Discordianism anyway. Because of its hostility to mainstream religion, irreligions must be denied validity.
Of course, the next major avenue of attack is to seize upon the word é─˙chaosé─¨ while gripped with a primordial fear of anarchy, the collapse of civilization, the permission of everything and all the other desperate fantasies of intellectually stunted and repressed demagogues. Of course, because reading a book is too much hassle when deciding to condemn something, the clarified Discordian definition of the word is overlooked, as well as the dialectic between Disorder and Order that is expressed. To accept that chaos is the synthesis of these two notions, that allows evolution, creation, possibility and chance, as well as understand the Discordian position of supporting one extreme to aim for the synthesis, well would require a knowledge of Western philosophy beyond that of most Pagans (while that the last statement was meant to be purposefully insulting, it is true that many are very unaware of developments outside mainstream Christianity and their own faith é─ý over the last 2,400 years in some cases). Among the more intelligent and intellectual, the tendency is therefore to think of Discordians as abstract theorists, whose support for their position is intellectually based, either in a Hegelian system or philosophical anarchism. In short, because we apparently exist in a world of abstraction and theory, our activities and forms of dissent and attack against regimented society, authoritarian institutions and individuals are denied coverage.
This is of course to set up the next denial, which is also another form of attack. A contradiction in the reasoning is obvious. This claim is fairly familiar, that Discordians are active, but only within the student movement and among certain ageing Yippies and other counter-culture movements of the 60s and 70s who é─˙ought to know betteré─¨. In short, we are a contemporary form of Dadaists, who run amok performing street theatre, practical jokes and constitute a lunatic fringe of activists who oppose current society and certain individuals. Here of course, we are given more credit, but who has heard of Yippies being despised by a broad section of the Pagan movement? Much less while being philosophical anarchists? This criticism often comes from the politically left inclining Pagans, for a very simple reason. In effect we are their bad conscience, who unlike them, are able and willing to act on the physical level to achieve our goals. In short, we do not make recourse to é─˙magicé─¨ to disappear our problems, nor do we hide our timidity under a religious cloak of universal law.
While on the general subject of politics, it was important to note the many criticisms and confusion that occurred in this area. Discordianism is of course not a political philosophy, though many of its followers take an interest in it and apply certain Discordian ideas to the practice and proper conduct of government. Pagans surprisingly have some very broad and often contradictory political positions in relation to their religious beliefs. Most interesting was the emergence of é─˙Conservo-Paganismé─¨ which is neither conservative as Burke or Oakshotte would understand the term, nor particularly Pagan. Instead, it seems to be an attempt by conservative and free market ideologues to create a new market while splitting the usual left-environmental concerns of most Pagan groups. In addition, it is only comprehensible through the distortions of the US political system, where the meanings of political science terms have been so corrupted by populist discourse they barely resemble reality. In this case, to be a Conservative is to support the Republican party, despite its hijacking by Dominionist and Evangelical groups who would gladly see most Pagans denied constitutional rights and freedoms. Naturally, the centrist and neo-liberal Democratic Party is considered é─˙left wingé─¨, a vague and some would say meaningless term in a country with no history of a popular socialist party.
In other words, debate was framed under the US model, with all its misunderstandings and rhetoric. Naturally, there was disagreement with virtually every established position. We were considered anarchists because we criticized Marxism, right wingers for criticizing liberals, liberal radicals for criticizing Marx and conservatism (of the new and old varieties), socialists by the libertarians, technocrats by the primitivists and vice versa. In short, no one person could actually define our political thinking and so create false theories with which to contrast with their own beliefs. We would then be berated for not acting as a é─˙liberalé─¨ or é─˙socialisté─¨ or whichever chosen theory should, in the mind of the attacker, be our system. Naturally, we were more liked by certain liberal sections, but mainly because we concentrated on NeoConservatvism for our attacks. Our reasons for this should be obvious, namely at the time this was the dominant force among both Congress and the Executive and allied states often fell into line regardless of their own political ideology (the UK, Israel, Australia). Attacking a group that essentially had no current power is pretty worthless, hence our sidelining of Democratic policy up until the point of our departure before the 2006 elections.
As I'm sure none of you need telling, the idea of a unified Discordian viewpoint on virtually anything is nonsense in itself, but it did not stop certain factions from seeking one, in some cases explicitly. Naturally, the complaint from this that arose was that Discordian thought was é─˙too complexé─¨ or é─˙contradictoryé─¨ for people to understand and thus should either be abandoned or simplified. What was actually meant was that the person in question did not like Discordianism because it did not place demands on them like other religions, did not require slavish devotion to a single or two mythical characters and in short did not give them a step by step guide in how to deal with life without recourse to their own brains. Rather than admit this, they transfer their confusion and dislike onto the masses.
Finally, the reaction of authority figures to the presence of Discordians is fascinating. Putting aside concerns previous to our arrival involving favourites of the leaders and economic concerns that directed interest in certain ways, it was a most enlightening experience. Quite obvious attempts were made to intimidate and reduce the influence of the Discordians through various tactics of removing writings from their proper place and sidelining our theories to only those who sought them out knowingly. In addition, we were placed under additional scrutiny and surveillance. More often than not an authority figure would deal with a Discordian in a far stricter manner than other members, simply because of their recognition that we were their natural enemies. Reasons beyond this were not needed, since we were able to accurately critique their systems of control and coercion while at the same time making fun of them and refusing to be intimidated. In addition, several Discordians had a sizeable if superficial following among the forum members (a common reaction of Pinks when confronted with more Subgenius like Discordians with some charisma) and there was a very real threat of the place of the leaders as the centre for authority being undermined. Of course, this reached a breaking point where we were expelled or otherwise coerced into passiveness so that we could no longer counteract their leadership. What was most interesting was this was framed as a Discordian problem and they and their allies were the only targets, yet it was denied because of the retaining of a couple of token dissenters, normally the more mystically inclined or those who had not yet given sufficient grounds, in terms of threat to authority, for their removal. In short, an attempt at a moral split between Discordian factions.
I know this has been longwinded and verbose to say the least, but I felt some sort of analysis of the events of MysticWicks, taken from a less personal and more abstract perspective would be of use. Not least for understanding how Cabbages will react in other settings, although it is in itself a damning indictment of the current state of the Pagan community (although not all Pagans). I hope this can be of considerable use for those considering future actions along similar lines.