Words for Protest

Everything we do is an expression of ourselves, and by extension, our spirituality. As I’ve commented before, being a Druid in times of ease and calm is not challenging. When we’re angry, frustrated or otherwise struggling, holding true to values and speaking in ways that express those values, is harder work, and critically important. It is not always ok to be peaceable and inoffensive in response to the words and deeds of others. Sometimes we must speak out, but we can do that without compromising ourselves.

I was inspired to write this by a response on facebook to yesterday’s blog, in which I was roundly insulted by someone who felt I was compromising the image of Druidry as peaceful and compassionate. It is no good using aggressive language to try and support an image of peaceful compassion. I am proud to say that I did not respond in kind, although I did take the piss out of a few people who commented here, because I really felt they needed it. For me, satire and mockery are reasonable responses to people behaving in ways I find problematic. There’s a very fine line to tread there, however.

I care about peace. I believe that means we must speak and write carefully in times of anger and conflict. What good is our Druidry to us, or anyone else if we flail and rant at the least sign of difficulty? But at the same time, we absolutely must not work in ways that escalate conflict, cause unnecessary pain, and worsen the problem nor should we act in ways that betray our own principles.

It pays to stop and draw breath. Just taking a moment to centre before responding can make all the difference between lashing out in anger, and saying something reasonable. The angry response tends to beget more anger, it does not create solutions. People feel justified in doing as they have been done by. Usually, there’s more mileage to be got from a calm response than a shouty one. Plus, in staying calm you stand a chance of keeping the moral high ground. In terms of how you represent Druidry or Paganism to others, this is hugely important.

If you find yourself obliged to criticise, then go for the action, not the person. There is a whole world of difference between describing an action as stupid, and calling a person stupid. A stupid action is fair game for naming as such, but it does not mean you should denigrate the person. On the whole, less emotive language works better. Sure, by hurling insults you can upset and anger the target, but that will likely entrench them in their position and make them resent you. Start down a line that goes ‘I disagree with this because…” and there’s a chance they will listen. They might even grasp what you mean and respond to it in a productive way.

Be clear and be specific. Pinpointing the exact problem and speaking against it is far more powerful than random flailing. Comment on the exact words or action you have a problem with. For example, I am irate about the hypocrisy of a person who speaks of peace and compassion in one breath and hurls totally un-pc terms of abuse in the next. I am offended and disgusted by the specific language use, please note, I am not expressing a value judgement on the person who made it. I don’t need to – their words speak for them and it is enough to highlight the offence. Where possible it’s preferable to tackle a person head on, and privately, but that isn’t always an option – in the incident that inspired me, the criticism was public and not direct, which makes this all the trickier. But, this has been an inspiring experience. I was angry, but I’ve been provoked into thinking, and for that I am, actually, grateful.

Mockery and satire are good ways of highlighting poor behaviour, of challenging hypocrisy, flagging up lies and other such failings. These are tools to handle with care, and to use when needed. They are not weapons to use against innocent bystanders or people with less power than you. And again, it is the wrong-action and wrong-speech that should primarily be assaulted with comedy, not the human being who has erred. There is no honour in taking someone apart.