I have a habit of starting my day slowly, by reading the news with a couple cups of coffee. An op-ed piece I just read about the culture war has got me thinking this morning. I think the piece is a great example of the failure of both of the dominant sides in the culture war, as well as the media, to understand the actual issues at stake, and the actual processes at work. I think that modern heathenry actually has a lot to say on the matter too, so I am going to lay out my thoughts here. After all, I’ll never become Most Hated Person in Modern Heathenry unless I talk about politics.
The opinion piece I read was by a social-conservative Republican, admonishing his fellow social conservatives to admit that they have lost the culture war, and that this is the real reason behind their string of electoral losses. The author believes this has happened because modern culture has become coarse, no longer values the family, and glorifies sex and violence. To this list other conservative pundits usually add the idea that most of America has come to depend on government handouts.
The flip side of this argument, which I have also seen a lot of recently in op-ed pieces, is that the social conservatives have lost the culture wars because America has come to endorse the social-liberal Democratic vision, which is supposedly based on inclusiveness and includes the notion that the government can improve society through legislation and massive social programs.
Actually, they’re both wrong.
Oh, the social conservatives have indeed lost the culture war, although it will take some time yet to make this obvious to everyone. Just not for the reasons that either they or the liberals think. To explain why they lost, let me offer a heathen perspective on the culture war. It has been presented to us as a battle of liberal versus conservative for so long that many people have forgotten that they are actually but two sides of many. To the heathen mind, however, there is little enough difference between social conservatives and social liberals. Both seem to be little more than different flavors of tyranny. To the heathen mind, the battle between social conservatives and liberals seems to be almost irrelevant. Many of us recognize that both are our enemies, politically speaking.
The heathen ideal has always been that of a society made strong because it is formed of powerful individuals. Observe the typical heathen heroes: powerful fighters and adventurers with great personal destinies. Observe the nature of interpersonal interactions through much of heathen history: every person is held to be personally responsible for their own actions. Disputes are resolved, as much as possible, between individuals, privately. While the individual was expected to have a regard for the social bond, and to have a sense of responsibility to others, the ideal of heathenry has always been individual liberty. The heathen mind is naturally prone to valuing freedom, I believe.
We well recognize the hazard that social conservatives present to us. They believe in a totalitarian form of social engineering that forces all individuals to conform to their particular interpretation of conservative Christian values. We remember their attempts in the nineties to unconstitutionally strip neo-pagan groups of their tax-exempt status under the grounds that they weren’t real religions. We remember the government supporting Christian churches financially, under Bush, while heathen Kindreds who applied for the same grants were categorically denied. We are aware that the military has forbidden the use of heathen religious symbols on military graves. We have grown familiar with all the dog whistles and code words that the social conservatives use, how “family values” usually means “hang the freaks” and that if these people had their way, they would outlaw our very existence at best and actually arrest or kill us at worst.
For many decades the social conservative tyrant has cloaked his speech, and made a pass at hiding his intentions. He passes laws that harm families, and the poor, and uses doublespeak to make it seem as if he is doing something noble and idealistic. He gives power to the wealthy, to big corporations, and made it easy for them to indulge any kind of discriminatory behavior that they want. He has set up an Old Boy’s Network that keeps people like him in powerful positions in society, while people like us are marginalized.
I remember a time after the Ice Storm of ’98, in Maine, where the massive power outages made a lot of refugees from devastated rural communities flock to the cities. I was one of them. I managed to find a room in a flop house, run by a nice old Christian lady and her family. One day, while I was out at work, she decided to use her master key to go into my room, ostensibly for some cleaning or something. She saw my heathen altar. She was waiting for me when I got back home. She let me know that she and her family were good salt of the earth Christian types, and that “your kind isn’t welcome here.” She admitted that I could theoretically try to fight the eviction, but that as we both well knew, those laws were meaningless, and written in such a way as to be unenforceable in almost all circumstances. She was right. So there I was, out on the street in the middle of the disaster.
Don’t get me wrong. This kind of thing is rare for heathens, and even more so for me. I’m white. I’m male. I have it pretty easy in this society. But I’m also not stupid. I can look around, and see plenty of others worse off than me, for much the same reasons. I see the raw deal that non-white people get in this country. Yeah, it’s better than it used to be in some ways. But it’s still bad. The same hatred of The Other Tribes that put me out on the street works against them, on a much larger scale, and all the time. I see the same is true for homosexuals, bisexuals, and the transgendered. FFS, the same is still true for women as well.
Because that’s the true core message of the social conservative movement: Destroy the Outsider! For generations they have whipped their people into a frenzy of fear and hatred with this cry in its many forms. And guess what? They’ve been reaping what they’ve sown. Because I’m not the only one who has seen that snarling hatred, both out in the open and hidden behind a false smile. I’m not the only one who has realized that there are a great many other subcultures and small groups out there who are also considered foes by the social conservative. For generations the social conservative has grown complacent in his power. He has become indolent and weak. We, on the other hand, have been growing strong. Our communities have been growing. Where once a heathen might go decades without meeting another heathen, today we have whole communities, children raised from birth in heathenry who now have children of their own. We have come to hate tyranny, and to value above all things the right to do with our own lives as we please.
And we have come to recognize our fraternity with others in the same position. I recognize that I have more in common with a poor Hispanic immigrant, or a drag queen, or an atheist, than I do with those social conservatives. And I have started to vote like it. Like a lot of other heathens have. Like a lot of other minorities have. We were never one group, you see, until the social conservatives made us one group. And THAT is why they have lost the culture war. They defined themselves as the enemies of all that is not like them. They gave us a group identity, and a common foe. Oh, they try to pass it off now as the ridiculous claim that American culture has collapsed, or that Americans have become economically dependent on government handouts, but that’s just a load of BS. Anything to avoid facing reality, or taking any responsibility for their own decisions. No, the truth is that they are simply going the way of all tyrants. They achieved social dominance through a ruthless program of eliminating all competition, they got lazy and blind, and their more vigorous oppressed foes have now become too strong for them. Nothing more complex than that.
The social conservatives are doomed. Every year that passes sees their numbers get fewer, as old age claims more of them. Every year that passes sees us Other Tribes grow in number. They have no real message other than hate, and they will disappear in a few decades more, though they will undoubtedly try to do as much damage as possible before passing away. However, this does NOT mean that their enemies, the liberals, should start declaring victory.
You see, the division between social conservative and social liberal is pretty irrelevant to many of us in this new social alliance. Many of us consider the differences to be little more than window dressing. To US, the most significant part of the culture war is the struggle between those who think that people should be controlled like dogs and those who value individual liberty. In watching the Republican Party, the most public face of social conservatism, go down in flames, we understand that the culture war is far from over. All we have accomplished is a victory over the first of our biggest foes. And to do it, we had to ally with another enemy. But many of us see that the liberal agenda is every bit as tyrannical as the conservative one. It is based in unwarranted government interference in almost every area of personal life. It places FAR too much power into the hands of a central authority. Where the core message of the conservatives was Destroy the Outsider, the core message of the liberals is Take Advantage of the Outsider. Not really an improvement. We still lose our freedom with them. We still are subject to the prejudices of the common culture with them.
Who knows if this new alliance of the Other Tribes will last? Beyond having some common enemies, there is little that binds us. However, the important point that liberals, conservatives, and the profit-driven media all miss is that the newly awakened political power is an ideology that is foreign to all three of them. It has beliefs that are conservative in some respects, liberal in others. It has many passionately held beliefs that are neither liberal nor conservative. One of its distinctive features is a David complex. You see, unlike conservatives or liberals, we do not much believe in rigid ideologies. We see them as prone to corruption. We do not have a vision for government or society that goes much beyond “people should be pretty much left to do as they wish.” We are therefore prone to seeing government as a tool, something that can change its form depending on the needs of the moment. Many of us in the Other Tribes have been voting together, lately. We have often voted Democrat. But don’t get cocky, Democrats. Let me use Godzilla as an example. You see, we see ourselves as Davids, tiny mortals living in a world of giant monsters. So we do what we can to get by. For too long the Godzilla that the social conservative movement has been has torn around flattening our cities and irradiating us with its Atomic Bad Breath. So when we saw a moment of weakness we allied with King Gidorah to take him down. But King Gidorah is also a giant monster. And now that Godzilla’s sinking beneath the waves, he’ll be our next biggest danger. The social conservatives have indeed lost the culture war, but the war continues.
Don’t let your guard down.