Add someone who made some public statements on accountability amongst polytheists and pagans, especially those who choose to participate in the Pagan Community, in the eagle of the Klein scandal –some statements easily found on this blog, some statements not-so-easily found in the comments on The Wild Hunt, Patheos, and PaganSquare– one might assume that something like this new PaganPro.com thing that launched in the last week is something that is welcome, but some of TWH’s commenters voiced some of my same concern. Possibly the best wad from one who identified themself as Wendy Wilkerson:
LinkedIn for Pagan Leaders? If a group lacks enough good sense not to accept any seemingly wise and practiced teacher as a group leader without so much as a FaceBook message or phone call to their former community, then it has big problems that even PaganPro can’t fix. If one is an ambitious, narcississtic, egomaniacal, abusive powermonger with a guru complex, academic acumen, glamourous charisma, and equally effed up people willing to vouch for their training, then PaganPro will do much to establish one’s reputation in the Pagan community that will be victimized by them. And if one is a Kenny Kline-type whose crimes are as-yet-undiscovered or are ignored because of their cult of personality, PaganPro isn’t going to be terribly helpful in saving innocents from them.
So what exactly will PaganPro accomplish? Ultimately, PaganPro is about brokering access to power and authority in ways that could be easily abused, and which may not be particularly effective. There is also the question of exactly how much right people have to invade your privacy in exchage for your advantageous participation in their “vetted” power structure.
It’s true that I am a PhD-holding ethnographer and Pagan scholar with a little research under my belt and no desire to participate in Pagan leadership, so my stake in this discussion isn’t tertibly high. But I am pretty concerned overall at the move towards institutionalization, professionalization, and academic/theological emphasis that is happening within Paganism. Primarily, I see PaganPro as part of the shift toward orthodoxy and institutionalization that is starting to happen. With this shift will inevitably come the silencing of voices deemed “undesirable”, many of whom may not have the “preferred credentials,” even if they were raised, initiated, and trained in an indigenous or traditional community that [couldn’t] care less about PaganPro, but whose perspective and experience the Pagan community sorely needs. Exactly this problem happens all the time in academia-the silencing of elders and activists from traditional and indigenous cultures who want to participate in the academic construction of how they are seen and understood.
If we weren’t still struggling to climb out from under the weight of institutionalized near-eastern monotheist orthodoxy, maybe I’d feel more optimistic. As it is, I fear we run the risk of inherting the bad habits of disenfranchisement, gaming the system, and Othering which characterize instirutionalized monotheist orthodoxy along with any of the benefits that come with it. PaganPro needs to tread very carefully.
Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this: on one hand, there are several instances where it has the potential to be far better than nothing (which is practically the system in play, now), but in other ways, it can be far worse. On one hand, yes, I tend to favour those who actually have the academic credentials they claim and also more than a modicum of intellectual interests, and the ability to verify this can be useful —but at the same time, all the schooling in the world cannot give one wisdom (which is why Athene, contrary to popular modern assumptions, doesn’t give a crap about libraries and other institutions of knowledge), and there are certainly valuable things one can teach that one simply cannot or at least does not teach in schools. Then there’s the fact that this won’t actually do anything about sexual predators who have managed to avoid conviction —which is most. And what does it plan to do about people who are registered as “sex offenders” in States that make no practical differentiation in the public record between rapists and someone caught urinating in a corner of a parking structure? Or an actual child molestor and a high school senior who got his sophomore girlfriend pregnant? In addition to the fact that sex offender registration doesn’t actually protect anyone, it is something that has been clearly established to create just as many, if not more problems than it aims to “solve”. Furthermore, the lack of legal savings for this project shows a clear lack of foresight, and the contradiction between the de facto “mission statement” on their site (“Making safe the Circle” — which alone denotes MASSIVE Wiccanate privileging), and their claim on Tumblr of being “not in the business of protecting the community,” strikes me as not only contradictory, but misleading and manipulative.
As a polytheist who is finding less and less value in the Pagan Community, as an entity that clearly exists on-line and off, I see this as a well-meaning project that, unfortunately, has the potential to create just as many problems, if not more, than it aims to resolve.
The road to Tartaros is too-often paved in good intentions, and this seems very clear to me to be something that can be abused in at least as many ways add it cam be genuinely useful.