Thursday, April 3, 2014

DeFrosting FPG

I live in Florida, and have been a frequent attendee of the Florida Pagan Gathering for many years now – since the festival moved to the Ocala National Forest site in Beltane of 2006. I love the festival, and have had great experiences. But there was always a sour taste when dealing with staff...but I put it off to stressed-out people trying to manage 600+ attendees in 5 days.

I looked forward to attending the next one at the end of this month, but something has changed. Precisely Gavin and Yvonne Frost will be attending and giving workshops. In the past few festivales, no few would have cared, but now things are different.

Kenny Klein happened to get caught trafficking child porn. He admitted to it.

For those that may not know, the Frosts published a book about 30 years ago detailing ritual, incestuous sexual contact with minors as part of a “coming of age” for a girl's first menstrual cycle, of the appearance of sex characteristics.

Involving dildoes.

And her male relatives. And there's an equally disgusting “ritual” for boys too

Now I'm not shy about sex, or dildoes, but I draw the line at anything involving minors. It's illegal and wrong because they cannot give consent to any kind of sex at the age of 10-12. And the Frosts advocated it and taught it, and have never retracted it. Now back aboutn 2007, A J Drew became aware of this and very vocal about it. He admittedly may have a screw loose or two, and decided one way to do this was to publicly burn the Frosts in effigy. Now by all appearances they are a sweet old couple in their 80's and nobody thinks they would realistically prey upon the children at any event, so a lot of big name Pagans rushed to their defense over the effigy thing. They felt it was bad magick, looked terrible for the community, and roundly criticized Drew for it. And then the allegations sorta went away...

I have to admit, that I looked at a later edition of the material, and thought it pervy and weird but didn't really think they could have actually done such a thing. I dismissed know, there were Witches who were claimed to eat babies and curse cattle and stuff like that.. But most importantly, I didn't really want to believe what I read. And when I'd met them they seemed harmless, so I dismissed it too. I became complicit.

Then Klein happened, only two weeks ago. And the stories started coming out. He'd been abusive to his family, he'd been pervy at festivals, he'd volunteered to watch children. Fact is we don't know what Klein did outside of the child porn, but what we do know is there was a cirlcle of silence around the whole thing prior to his arrest.

Don't make the community look bad...

Don't draw undue attention...

It can't be as bad as all that...

So recently, I find out that a man I respect well who was a division coordinator at FPG resigned over the Frosts. They apparently were scheduled to be headliners and teach workshops and attend the festival for free. And many of his concerns were dismissed as above. And it all came back to me. I'd been complicit in something I chose not to follow closely because FPG meant so much to me. I had the same gut check, the same “shame on us” moment many in the community had. I had to act.

I realized there was a rot in the heart of it, so I began writing to them through Facebook, and to my Pagan friends. We contacted the FPG coordinators through Facebook and Yahoo Groups, and we eamiled...and silence. Our posts were removed from Yahoo and Facebook, and we were told to only email privately to the organizers. Those who got replies (I did not) were told that there was nothing wrong with the Frosts, they were guests of the founder, and the show would go on.

And then there was a second round of post removal from Facebook and Yahoo groups.

So here I sit, as a Pagan man who worships the Warrior Sovereign Queen, helping to craft a boycott that potentially can take down a festival I love deeply. I've been vocal in my contacts with FPG, supportive of those who were unsure, helped craft the Joint Resolution, all the while wishing I never had to do this.

Can we kill FPG, we Florida Pagans? Yes, because we understand that our money is the lifeblood of the event. We understand that our support keeps it alive. I don't want to, but I am pushed to go as far as the stubborness of the Board of Directors forces us to.

Because it's a fundamental question of right and wrong. It is wrong to abuse children, always and forever. It is wrong to condone sexual abuse of children. It is wrong to provide a forum for sexual abusers to preach, and to treat them as Elders of our community and with deference- because they are unrepentant,and proud of it.

The demands were simple: they may go as guests, but not teach workshops, not be treated as Elders and not do any vending. They are to neither peddle their wares or ideas as long as they refuse to renounce and disclaim any of the child sex material they published. If they did retract it, they would be welcomed back as full members and Elders.

FPG said no. They were rather condescending, refusing to address the actual writings of the Frosts, or the requests of those on the Joint Statement. They reaffirmed they are opposed to any misbehavior on site, and said they'd not ban anyone who was involved in the protest.

They just don't get it, which is the kernel of the problem in the first place. You see, Klein taught us that silence and deference and playing along doesn't work to keep us safe. We have to draw a line somewhere, and if not here then we are worse than a laughingstock as a commnunity. We can't even protect our own children if we don't stand up to what we all know is wrong.

And if our leaders won't do the right thing, they will no longer be our leaders.

If you are one who was planning to attend FPG this Beltaine, please join me and scores of others who have signed on to this Joint Resolution. And if you share our concerns, sign as well. Email, write, speak.

If FPG sees reason and agrees to the terms, then go spend money with them and have a great time. I'll be there, and we can meet up and have fun.

If FPG refuses to budge, please do not go. Do not give them money, time, or your participation. Tell them what the costs of silence are to a commnunity who is done being silent about abuse.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On the death of Fred Phelps

A collective sigh was let out as the unctious Fred Phelps' death was announced this day, and I'm sure plans for an epic funeral protest are in the works to give the Westboro Baptist Church a taste of it's own medicine. I'd love to be in attendance to see the parade of drag queens lining the route and sashaying their way to his grave. But is it something to celebrate, and what can someone as vile as Phelps teach us?

There's a saying that goes something like “We should be grateful for our enemies, they keep us honest”. I agree wholeheartedly, what few enemies I still have in life have taught me well that keeping to my principles is the source of true honor. I've weathered the kind of insult and innuendo that is often reserved for rock stars, and have come out stronger for it. I'm oddly grateful for the backstabbings I've received, that sort of thing winnows out who are true friends and who are not. And it teaches you how to better evaluate people, and where to put your trusts.

So when I look at Phelps, part of me wants to thank him.

WBC managed to bring gay rights and homophobia to a national spotlight in a way that couldn't be better. They showed us real pockets of ignorance and homophobia still exist, and they shroud their ignorance in religion.

They weren't satisfied to pick on the outliers in the population, but then began to picket soldiers' funerals in some weird interpretation of war protest and believing the line soldier advocated gay and lesbian relationships. And at that point, I believe, they crossed a line that made their argument not only unpopular, but insulting to the general public. You may not support gay marriage, but by God, the troops who died in an unjust war didn't deserve that kind of disrespect.

In doing this, WBC showed the monster White middle America fed by their own silence. Now they were faced with dealing with the disgusting side of Christianity, something the Nazarean would never have tolerated. So WBC was marginalized, but I believe added to the sea-change of public opinion that has led to the general acceptance of gay marriage and normalcy of homosexuality in society, and the rejection of this kind of evil.

So Phelps and the WBC ought be thanked in a strange way for helping to kill the dinosaur of homophobia. I've often said that the GBLT community need not do much more in the way of activism – their enemies will complete the job for them. Sure, there's more work to be done, but the battle has turned and in no small measure thanks to the rabid nature of the WBC and their kin.

But I don't think they get off lightly. There should be a protest, but a dignified one. No chanting, no desecration. Just being GBLT and proud in the face of it all, but being there. Silently carrying flags or couples holding hands... I'd love it if every day there were pansies placed on his grave. By drag queens. Or married same-sex couples. Reverently, in a dignified manner. Telling him how despite his hate, they are still there and growing stronger every day, while he and his ideals rot in the ground of history. And respecting the fact that if it were not for his hatred and indecency, their battle would be longer and more difficult.

In a way Phelps helped free GBLTs from willful ignorance of mainstream America.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On hospitality


Rarely do I get into pissing contests with anyone, and I do my best to avoid those who like to. My approach is instead to take the principle that I want to argue and expand on it. Case in point is a recent development within the Morriganic community on the subject of hospitality.

Recently on the Wild Hunt, Rynn Fox wrote an article regarding hospitality as a foundation to her group's devotional relationship to the Morrigan. As such, she presented certain practices as offerings to Her; that charity work, blood drives, etc. constitute an offering or “sacrifice” the Queen would find pleasing. On the face of it, I have no quarrel with the notion that I can do certain difficult things, e.g. donating to those less fortunate when I'd rather go shopping, and that “sacrifice” is given as an homage to Her.

But here's where it gets confusing - Rynn seems to indicate the need for hospitality comes from her reconstructionist background. That ancient cultures practiced hospitality, and that the reason they did was out of concerns that the Gods walked among us and would bless or punish us based on our hospitality to them disguised as strangers. She also asserts that such hospitality is missing from our daily experience because we live in a jet-set age where travelling is easy and cheap.

Now, I'm a big fan of reconstructing old ways that work. I think that values that served us for millennia in tribal society still serve us because, although our technology has changed drastically in 150 years, our wetware – our brains and our psychology - have not. We still think as Pagans when we get down to the primal level. We choose tribes of like minded folks to associate with, only now the interwebs make that much easier to sort out and connect over distance. We view outsiders with suspicion, fetishize our own Gods and values, believe in our own superstitions and whatnot just the same as our “dumb” ancestors did.

But hospitality is still alive and well regardless of Fox's assertions. All you have to do is take a trip through the American South, or Hispanic America, or even Asian culture. Southern hospitality is legendary – you will be so well fed and comforted you can't stand up. Hispanics will take food off their child's plate to feed you, and Asians have a culture deeply rooted in being a gracious host. The key to discovering it is to set aside your prejudices and go exploring as the gracious guest.

Grace. That is the key that is missing from Fox's expression of values. It doesn't matter how much of a badass you are battlefield, wasted movement and wasted energy are indications that you don't know what you are doing. There is a saying in the martial arts/tactical training community : “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Smoothness is economy of force, lightness of mind, and quickness of attack and defense. What one develops is a sense of grace in movement, which belies power and skill.

That grace appears in other areas as well. Intellectually, it shows up as devastating arguments in debates, relevant insights in scientific work, deep understandings in poetry and art. And I would argue this arena is no less a place of warrior development than a battlefield; the field is different but the victory is the same.

In the home, grace is also a sign of power. The stranger's visit is an opportunity to express a kind of power, as a Southerner explained to me. It is an art form not only to make your guest feel comfortable and at ease, but to anticipate his needs and desires even before he is aware of them. It is the perfectly brewed cup of coffee, the light and flaky biscuit, the enlivening and amusing conversation.

There is a story of a tea master in Japan who went to visit a fellow tea master. They retired to the tea house and along the way, the host happened to stop by a lemon tree. He remarked it would be great to have with with a special rice he had acquired. He took a knife out, cut the lemon and took it along to the teahouse. The guest thought this charming and when they arrived at the teahouse the special rice was already on the table. The guest realized the “charming” spontenaity was planned. He was mortified, and excused himself from the host's house.

This is an example of how not to do hospitality. The tea master sought not to comfort his guest, but build his own reputation and in the process seemend artless. What could have been a wonderful evening seemed a farce, and was a hospitality failure.

“Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. A samurai therefore should neither be pompous nor arrogant” - Tsukahara Bokuden

So, why do hospitality if it's not for showing off? I disgree with Fox's as to why: I don't think we have to fear the punishment of the Gods for being inhospitable. One's reputation grows with word of graciousness getting around, as well as falls as that same lack of grace gets noticed. It seems to me hospitality on the face of it is a social game, but if we dig deeper, we find there are good reasons for it.

Another argument I've heard is it's a sort of paying-forward. If I'm a gracious host, I can expect that same level of treatment when I'm a guest in someone's home. Maybe this works, but I find it weak.

Since I'm the kind of person who likes to dig down to principles, I'll present an alternative reason based on my principles:

We are magical creatures shaping the world through our will and work. What kind of world do you want to live in?

I want to live in a world where visitors are valued, treated well because that's how I'd want to be treated. To be recognized as kin even in a foreign land, takes the fear of the strange away and opens me to the wonder of a new culture. I want the stranger to understand the value in my culture, and doing good hospitality is how I share that wonder and value.

This is a human concern for human scaled lives. I don't know if the Gods know or care. I don't know if the walk among us, nor am I concerned over it. As long as they are gracious and can appreciate what I'm doing for them, the Gods are as welcome as any guest.

I do think if any blessing comes of it, it's because They want us to be good to each other as our default position. Grace born of power also brings a confidence that drives out fear. The stranger is no one to be feared, and I shall assume he is as good as I am, until or unless he shows me otherwise. If he is vile I shall crush him, but if he is respectfully curious, I can show him the beauty of my home and culture. Grace is the mark of mastery, so I shall always express my grace through hospitality.

And here is where I believe Fox has it backwards. My dedication is based around striving to be more than I am. I believe She calls us to be great, to be heroes and to stand against injustice. She wants us to be better, not because she said so, but because it rests in each dedicant's heart to be. Hospitality is the end of such a journey, not the beginning.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The problem with being as good as...

Years ago, when I was a baby Pagan living in the Big City, I was introduced to the local public coven. Every town above a certain size has one, that open its arms, welcomes everyone and dispels the myths about Witches coven. And they are usually run by the Media Witch, who gives interviews usually around Halloween. I've met the Media Witches in a couple of towns, and my local one was a real fluff bunny.

Not to say Media Witch was a bad person herself – her habitual pot use was legendary. Beyond that, she was pretty much Garden variety Wicca, which was handed down to her by her Grand Poobah, who became a Patron Saint after she died.

The coven had the typical politics and internal scandals present in any group of people, but overall was small potatoes. The interesting thing was watching the way she interacted with media any time she was Publicity Witch. One thing I consistently noticed, and has been repeated by several others I've seen, is the idea I call As Good As.

The comparison between Wicca and Christianity often came up, e.g. We don't believe in the devil, he's a Christian invention; We believe in a creator God; We have a Golden Rule; We believe in an afterlife; etc.

Later I happened to be at a meeting of a National Pagan Organization that will remained unnamed, where I heard much the same kind of discussion when it came to interdenominational work with the major religions. In this meeting they were discussing how effective it could be to have Pagan representatives on panels of many faiths. I couldn't take and stood up and addressed the group.

I have a habit of speaking my mind, and I have made some enemies. I'm not going to go into dialogue about what was said, rather I'm going to dispel some myths the Pagan community operates under, and hopefully make some salient points.

First point: You are not mainstream. You never will be. Make peace with it, because the rest of the world sees what you do as either a hobby, a pastime, a sin or foolishness. They generally don't believe in Witches or magic, and they certainly don't think there are any genuine witches left. What you are doing, in their minds, is a form of cosplay that the renaissance fair crowd is calling religion.

Second point: You are a minority religion. You will not have the clout or numbers that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists have. You are on the fringe, and you are not going to be anything but an oddity. Make peace with this point too.

Third point: You won't be taken seriously, at Your faith seems to be a joke – who would honestly adopt the word “witch” to describe themselves? That's like saying you are and assassin, a sorcerer, or an alien. You must eat babies or poison crops. And you must be very naiive.

I contend that trying to draw parallels with the Big Boy religions of the Book serves not only to confuse the audience (“So if you are so like Christianity, why not be Christian?”), but it seems obvious that the speaker is trying to ride on the coattails of those religions.

Which is exactly what is happening.

Another problem here has to do with language. Words can be weapons, and thinking tactically, you have to gain control of the intellectual high ground. Most people think of the mainstream religions as the definitions of right and wrong, virtue and values. To come in from another direction and say that one rejects these concepts creates a problem. If you refuse Christianity (or Islam or Buddha) then what's to stop you from being a child-molesting, axe-murderer? This kind of question shows how much people frame the idea of morality in the terms of religion.

This is an area where the modern Pagan movement often fails.

We agree certain things that are important in the discussion of virtue, e.g. compassion, charity, brotherly love, are important, but we fail to define these things differently than our counterparts in other faiths.

For example, as Pagans, why should we exercise charity? Why would I show compassion? The Christians are commanded to do so because of the love that Jesus showed by dying for their sins, so they “pay it forward”. We could argue about the form that charity takes, but ultimately the act of charity is rooted in a sense of debt for the charity they have received.

Historically, Pagans have been very bad at charity – despite some more recent, infrequent changes. They rarely can raise enough money to keep their own covens going, much less help out other Pagans or even strangers. There's resistance to chipping in is rooted deeply, and I'm not sure where it lies. Maybe a concern of seeming too like the mainstream churches that use charity as a way to prosleytize? I suspect that this probably the case...

So it's easier to claim poverty than butch up and give something to improve the community. It's easier to claim poverty than to put trust into self-appointed leaders to spend your money well. We let our Pagan kin starve or lose homes of suffer medical problems because we're broke, but buy statues and incense and jewelry that would make a whore blush.

And that's just ourselves. We can't be bothered to do anything for the larger, non-Pagan community we live in.

The ironic thing is that where it's useful to point at the major faiths, like trying to gain acceptance on their backs, the Pagan community has few problems with pointing to them as an example. When it comes to putting money where one's mouth is, they distance themselves from the Christians and generally look like a herd of selfish cats.

So here's a solution. Stop buying junk at the metaphysical shop, and feed a starving kid. Or donate to a medical group doing work in Central America. Or donate to a soup kitchen, give an hour of time at the hospital with crack babies. Help people, and yes, wear a pentacle while doing it. Don't make a fuss about your faith, just do good stuff, however you define it.

This is how you dispel the myth of witches being silly, self-centered people – by not ACTING like silly self-centered people. Because frankly, if we want to be taken seriously as a community, we need to start acting seriously as a community. We need to be engaged in making our world better, not because we have a mandate, but because we want to live in a better world.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Re: Polytheism: How hard do you like it?

In a recent entry on her blog, Morpheus Ravenna explores the question about hard polythesim and her answers to questions about it. This entry isn't designed to specifically critique her exposition, although I think it is lacking in depth at a few points, but rather to answer the question for myself.

I'd also like to point out that we Morriganists are not the only ones looking at this question, but Norse Heathens do too. Galina Krasskova comes to mind as one who also posits hard polytheism, and we might do well not to have to re-invent the wheel, but look at the work others have done as well, whether we agree with it all or not.

The problem isn't one of ontology, as Ravenna mentions, but one of epistemology. For the benefit of those just coming to these terms, ontology is the study of existence, what “is”; and epistemology is the study of knowledge – how do we know what “is”. To me the arguments about the Gods are something that logic and rhetoric are necessarily going to fail at. We can make analogies to ecology or physics in matters of scale, but ultimately the sciences are designed from the beginning to use objective evidence, or better empirical evidence, to study empirically verifiable facts of nature. Then lens of science is very good at the physical, tangible, repeatable and verifiable, but divinity stands apart from this. Likewise the experience of divinity stands apart from empirical testing.

The problem here is this: is an analogy from physics or ecology or whatever a good map to try to explore relationships between the divine and us? I propose the answer is no, because the “map” is drawn for different terrain than we are exploring. A topographical map of the Andes does not help me explore the sea bottom of the Atlantic. I might learn a little of mapmaking in the process, but ultimately the areas are too different to be of use.

Philosophy may help a little. Our question is an epistemological one: how do we “know” the nature of the Gods, and are they truly real, and are they truly singular agents? And much more importantly to this discussion, is personal gnosis a valid way of “knowing”?

Simple coincidence of experience, such as I see a tree with green leaves and white flowers, is usually good enough to establish agreement when dealing with the physical facts of nature, because we have inherent trust of our senses. We then verify with another agent who trusts his senses- you see the tree with green leaves and white flowers too, therefore it must be “real”. The basis of any claim is empirical, so the evidence for the claim is empirical. Easy.

With a gnostic experience, the entire event takes place within consciousness, and cannot be referred to outside of that consciousness except by analogy. Dreams are a good example – are dreams “real”? Well if we set our “real” threshold as “did the experience happen”, then yes. If we set the threshold to “is there physical evidence to support the claim of existence” then the question gets dicey – electromagnetic signals may be measured during the dream, but those signals are not going to verify the existence of talking caterpillars, no matter what the claimant says.

Ancients were less troubled by empirical data, and dreams and gnosis was a critical part of their approach to the world as one of meaningful relationships, and more importantly the value of meaning. The Gods spoke to us, even if none but us could hear, and we knew it was them because the message was meaningful. It didn't matter if it came from a bit of undigested meat, or a psychotropic drug, or the voice of Zeus, the meaning was what one held onto, was “proof”.

As modern primitives – folks who look back at ancient religion, our argument for gnosis can't be rooted in an epistemology that works for modern post industrial science. We chose this path because it has meaning, something outside of the “proof” based systems of most.

Parenthetically, I laugh at the fundamentalist Christians who hold up examples of miracles of Christ in modern days to testify the existence of their God and Savior. Faith is an internally transforming process, not a sideshow, and depends upon work and attention to one's internal world. The snake-oil salesmen notwithstanding, anyone who bases faith on parlor tricks is truly fooling himself, and I'm pretty sue the Nazarean didn't mean for that to be the basis of faith. I'm also pretty sure he didn't say he was Jehovah either.

Back to our discussion – we can also take a warning from the previous paragraph. Our gnosis is OUR OWN gnosis. No one can digest your dinner for you, or dream your dreams. We can discuss and share stories about the experience, but these are pale reflections in a dark mirror. And this is why we often hear “That's not MY experience with” fill in the blank. Of course not. What I prefer to hear is “This is what I took from the experience”, a more meaning-driven assessment of gnosis, and more like how our ancient ancestors looked at the world around them.

If we want to talk with the old Gods, we need to speak their language.

And back to polytheism. I don't really care how anyone in the soft poly, universalist, archetypicalist, or monist views address the Gods. Their gnosis has led them to that conclusion, mine has led me to mine. My Goddess is singular, conscious, full of agency, rooted in the land, and present in my life, because I have asked Her to be. I do not care if there's a model that matches the structure of the Gods, because I do not need it. I have been shown directly that She is not the same as any other Goddess, or God, now or throughout history. I have asked, and clearly had it explained to me.

So my advice is: ask your Gods. You might be surprised at the answer.

And in matters of contradiction; contradictions are signs of failing of logic in misapplication or misidentification. Since we are dealing not with things-as-they-are but the appearance of things i.e. we cannot directly share gnosis, only impressions drawn from gnosis that fit language well enough to share, then contradiction is inevitable. Call it the signature of the Gods – the experience defies language and in many ways is far deeper than anything you can package neatly with language.

To me, that is far more valuable.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


More than ten years ago I sat on a civil jury hearing a slip and fall case involving a little girl who was injured at a grocery store. The details of the case were in dispute, but everyone agreed that there was a broken baby food jar in the aisle, that the child asked her parents to go to the end of the aisle and look at something. She slipped and fell cutting herself in three places on her leg. The question was: who was responsible for her injuries and how can she be restored?

More recently, I witnessed another fall at a health club. A man spent way too much time in the sauna, over heated, passed out and hit his head on the concrete floor, chipping a tooth and getting a bloody mouth. Is he responsible for his misadventure?

In each case we can look at a situation where, for whatever reason, somebody decided not to exercise their responsibility for the safety of themselves or others, and the consequences involved blood. But what as warriors can we learn about the need for responsibility, and to whom are we responsible and to what degree?

To the general population, the term responsibility is often confabulated with punishment – the President vows to find the “responsible terrorists”, the police to find the “criminals responsible”, your teachers figuring out who is responsible for throwing a pencil in class, or parents assigning areas of responsibility for chores. These become buzz words for punishment or pain.

There are other kinds of responsibilities – ones that come with pride. Being responsible for the development of a child into a mature civil human being. For the success of a project. For the flawless performance of skill or talent. But these don't get the press that the negative associations do.

To non-warriors, pain is to be avoided, and that informs the choice of how to behave “responsibly”. I might get caught, sentenced and go to jail for taking money that's not mine. Since this involves pain, physical or psychological, I shall not do it. Likewise pleasure or praise is to be sought as a source of positive responsibility – I shall complete my assignments on time and on budget, and receive praise, possible rewards and advancements.

Nowhere in this logic does the necessity of principle come in, or values or any real higher reasoning or abstraction beyond that needed to imagine the direct consequences of the action. In fact, one needn't be a warrior to appreciate this system is morally empty. No better than B.F. Skinner's Operant Conditioning at work. Pull the lever, get the food. Pull the other lever to avoid the shock.

So the development of warriors requires something more deep and conscious than simply pain/pleasure paradigms. The reason is that warriors seek to serve things greater than simply themselves. Granted, they serve themselves too, but not at the expense of the greater service. It is more fulfilling to them to serve the larger ideal: Nation, God(s), Humanity, Posterity, Liberty, etc. than to merely avoid getting hurt. Their orientation, if you will, is to focus on the larger perspective. I will call this view Strategic.

Secondly, while they may have lofty motivations, their methodologies for getting those goals accomplished have to take into account the actual conditions of the space they find themselves in: thier own bodies, knowledge and will, the environment, their resources, the condition of allies and enemies, etc. This takes a no-nonsense appraisal, since lives can be lost on a bad appraisal. I will call this view Tactical.

The end is that a warrior has to hold both views to decide where he is responsible and where he isn't. He has to have a vision of the greater loyalty, and at the same time be ruthlessly evaluating the capabilities of those to which he is loyal, or the propriety of the loyalties he has sworn.

Unquestioning loyalty gets one unquestioningly dead.

So the warrior has more abstract responsibilities, which drive him to a more concrete analysis than non-warriors. That analysis is the most uncompromising part of warriorhood, and is honed and refined. I would submit that this is truly the ultimate weapon – the strategic/analytic mindset. It drives decisions that win conflicts, and ultimately power.

Pain becomes something that can be endured temporarily as a means to achieving a Tactical or Strategic goal. Pleasure is something that can be refused or delayed if it interferes with a Tactical or Strategic goal. It no longer forms the basis of decision making for a warrior,but becomes ancillary to it.

The second consequence of this mindset is how the warrior handles power as compared to non-warriors. Power is a lot like winning a lottery payout – is reveals character. To a person who has played the pain/pleasure game, it takes a lot of the responsibilities off his shoulders. Usually this person becomes what we would call irresponsible – inconsiderate of the consequences of his actions, to the point of harming his future. The basis of responsibility, the pain/pleasure matrix, is now wiped out, because he can pay to avoid pain and enhance pleasure. Power skews the pain/pleasure matrix too, making others responsible for intercepting pain on your behalf, and clearing the way for, or providing pleasure.

Contrast this with a warrior ethic that allows one to accept reasonable pain towards a goal, and delay pleasure to that goal as well. The decision matrix is still intact, even if power or money are present, since they depend on things more lasting and eternal than pain/pleasure. Corruption becomes less a problem for them, since transient wealth and power are used primarily towards their Strategic goals, not for temporary pain/pleasure mitigation.

And this is the foundation for what we call character and discipline. To be covered under a different blog entry.

So back to the original question: how does our ethos about Strategic and Tactical thinking inform the placing of responsibility in the court case I opened with? It should be no surprise Mom and Dad were suing the grocery store for having an unsafe environment. And there were falsified documents on the part of the store manager to indicate he was “pencil whipping” his forms and not actually doing safety checks as he claimed.

But in closing arguments, the defense attorney asked a simple question: What is your responsibility as a parent? Do you send your kid out as a scout, to see if the way is clear, or do you do what is inconvenient because parenting requires it?

And at the end, that's what I voted for in that jury room. The higher value was raising a child to be a good grown up, and protecting her until she could make those choices. The higher value was setting the responsibilities with the parents because the world could not be made safe for them by other people, even after the fact. They had failed at doing their job, which was to be warriors at heart in protecting their child, and gave in to the demands of a child and avoided the irritation of having to say no.

They then tried to shift that responsibility on to another party, and to a small degree the store was negligent, but the lion's share rested with the parents. We each have spheres of responsibility, and sometimes they overlap. Protecting your own child is not something you get to pawn off onto someone else.

It falls to each to decide what is a guiding set of values, and use that to define our success, failures and responsibilities. Rise above pain/pleasure, into the world of mature decision making.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Learn to hold your damnned gun properly. I'm so tired of watching wannabe gang-bangers tipping their handguns sideways at the range.