yeloson: (Default)
Thinking a lot about this lately, between the racist Islamophobia, militant atheists, and, you know, assassination attempts.

Beliefs can be put on a scale. On one end, there's beliefs that have nearly zero effect on anyone else- like, "What's my favorite color?" They're pretty much harmless beliefs and no one gets into a fuss about them.

Then there's personal beliefs which, also, don't affect others much, really. You know, "I spend a few hours every week playing Ultimate Frisbee" is not much different than "I spend a few hours every week meditating" or "I spend a few hours every week at Church."

Though, this IS where people do start getting into each other's business.

There's a third step, and that's when it affects others- you have proselytizers coming to your door, you have people trying to push City Council to change a law or ordinance, you get socially ostracized...

This IS a place where we need to look at boundaries, and not have people inflicting their beliefs on each other. Of course, this ideal will never be achieved, but this is really the point where we need to focus and negotiate on, on a daily basis to keep a functional society.

The fourth step is when it actively and immediately harms others- shooting doctors, keeping other folks from getting medical treatment, marrying off children to people they don't want to marry, cleansing your nation of "those people"... etc.

That's pretty much the fucked up end of the scale, where human decency has broken down completely.

So, the thing I keep seeing? People keep arguing about the second (or even first) steps, instead of the third. That is, that somehow what people believe is actually harming you more than the actions taken by those beliefs and whether they affect you at all.

From a scientific standpoint- that's magical thinking. From a religious standpoint, that's denying your own faith. Either way, if you're correct, what other people think shouldn't be an issue compared to what they do and how it affects you and society.

And, it's not like any system, including science hasn't taken it to that last step on the scale in the past (Lobotomies to cure hysteria! Science! Tuskegee & Guatamala's syphilis murders experiements! Science!).

The crux of the problem is human rights and respect.

There's also a privilege aspect to it too- the least privileged are fighting to push the situation back from the 4th step, while the most privileged are worried about things on the 1st step... hence why it's really important for women and slaves to always smile- even thought of discontent could upset the system...

The folks most worried about what other people think, rather than what other people DO, aren't worried about protecting their own rights as much as taking away the rights of others.
yeloson: (pic#459017)
Reading about the most recent "Self Help/Men's Awareness" scandal, I'm thinking a bit about how much these things are like grotesque appropriations from traditional societies, and the results we keep seeing- cult behavior and straight up harm to people.

Traditional initiatory religious practices often use applied stressors as well as specific ritual action to disrupt a person's sense of self and re-arrange it. I suspect the big changes we've seen in modern society is this: you're not in a community where you have to live with this person around, for the rest of your life.

That's not to say there isn't room for abuse, or often enough, historical examples of abuse, but that at least, if nothing else, there is a motivation on your part and others around you to try to limit that stuff- because at the end of the day, you still need a functioning member of your community, and, hopefully one who won't flip out and leave your ass in a ravine with a broken leg.

I'm thinking the fact that nearly all of these modern groups are basically profit-driven enterprises, with attendees from around the country or larger area, but not in close community, means the incentive to actually give a damn about what happens to them drops, not to mention the ability to see what the long term outcomes of these practices are.

In many ways, the hard protocols and traditions of older societies involved with this stuff usually is based in the idea of trying to limit variables and results of what kind of people you "make" in the process.

(This isn't to say there isn't a lot of "traditional" groups now that have been modernized in the same way with the same issues. ATRs that demand $3000 for initiations or guru traditions in which adherents meet from around the country once a year... Again, though, I think the core issue is that it's no longer based in a small community setting.)

The sad thing is that this is pretty much the same problem we talk about when we talk about cultural appropriation - you can copy the obvious, but do you know the full context of what and why things are being done?

If we look at the benefits people are hoping to get out of sweat lodges, drumming, chanting, meditation, etc., it's a real question why they never bother to also consider that these activities are measured in years or decades of training and practice and not just a simple "How to" booklet.

The idea that there is anything in this world that can help without also containing the potential for harm is dangerous and foolish. It's like assuming every pill in the doctor's bag is good for you, so you can pop them at random to solve your problems.

Of course, it doesn't help that a lot of this is couched in terms of transactional thinking and privilege. "I paid this much money, THEREFORE what I receive must automatically be of value". Or, "I just started this thing, but I know BETTER than the people who've done it for thousands of years how to do it, and you don't REALLY need all those restrictions and rules."

I suppose I could just as well make money teaching people that repeatedly hitting themselves in the head with the Bible brings the Word of God directly into their brains, or something.
yeloson: (Magical Feeling)
From Don't Pay To Pray's Twitter, there's a good link on Meditation and insanity, and the dangers of what happens when people don't understand the exercises they're undertaking, try to do them before they're ready, and overdo exercises beyond what is called for.

All legitimate traditions understand that if something has the power to help you, it can also have the power to mess you up- you wouldn't randomly take medicine out of the cabinet imagining all of it is good for you in all situations. There's a lot of people looking for simple answers, simple methods, and a lot of people willing to sell it to them as well- would you believe you can solve all health issues if you did enough push-ups?

And, impatient people trying to start at the end. Detachment is an end result, not a beginning one. Attaching self-judgment is ridiculous- it's like teaching children to feel bad about themselves if they can't reach the kitchen counter yet- time and due course without frustration or impatience is what people need to learn instead.

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yeloson

November 2012

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