F.A.Q.

How long have you been a Hellenist?
I first had a sense that the gods of Hellas were real when i was about seven or eight and got a copy of the D’Aulaire book of Greek Myths from a nun at my old Catholic school, but I’ve been actively practising Hellenismos since 2006. You do the maths for how long that’s been.

You say you’re a Mod in some entries but in others you’re a Goth?
I have been active in both subcultures, to some extent or another, for about twenty years. For a few years, i felt the need to distance myself from Goth, but I never stopped wearing dark clothes, or coloured hair, and I really never completely stopped listening to the music.

Hey, you said this messed-up thing in this one entry!
You know what? We all do. I’m sure you even have, on occasion. I try a little bit harder every day to be more sensitive to issues such as race, visible disabilities, and, well, the few other privileges I seem to possess, but it’s not easy. I’m also queer, trans (FTM spectrum), effeminate male (which barely gets any of the privileges afforded to people of butch-presenting male genders), under five feet tall, fat, disabled in ways that aren’t necessarily visible (chronic pain, high anxiety disorder, seasonal depression, adult-onset ADHD, borderline low-vision and functionally blind without my glasses…), and if that weren’t enough, I practise an alternative religion and am very “out” about it. Now, that doesn’t mean I know everything about being any of those things any more than the next person, but it means if I’m saying something about being any one of those things, and you are NOT one of those things, then I probably have more room to talk than you do –your friend who shares that thing in common with me may have a different opinion than mine, but I’m sure if they cared enough about it to argue with me, they can put on their big kid pants and tell me themselves, and they don’t need you to tell me for them.

Now, that said, not everyone is going to be immediately familiar with how being one of my things affects the life of some-one who is one of those things –like being trans or certain flavours of pagan– and it’s easy to make comparisons to, say, racism or sexism. I think it’s tacky to do this, and I don’t always do it well, either, but most of the time, I can get my point across with minimal offense to those who are affected by racism or more-affected by sexism than myself.

I also take a stance that is somewhat controversial in Social Justice circles: As justified as one’s anger might be, that does not necessarily give one the right to shut down dialogue. You may not owe it to me to be a bare minimum of civil, but if you want me to have a better understanding of why I messed up, it doesn’t do anyone any good to say so in a manner that will shut down dialogue. Maybe it’s my privilege to think this, I honestly don’t know anymore, nor do I really know when it became OK to throw all manner of social graces out the window because someone’s anger is very understandably justified. Maybe I was just raised too hard by old British people (my maternal grandparents) who, despite their proletariat backgrounds, valued education and etiquette, to understand why it’s somehow OK to pull the e-quivalent of screaming people down on the Internet because someone said something that offended you. That shit doesn’t even fly at high-school level debate team, and I don’t appreciate it, either. Thre’s also a big difference between criticising the behaviour and insulting the person.

So you expect me to just take your crap with a smile on my face? That’s busted, bro!
OK, aside from the fact that I wince at the mere idea of being called “bro”, no, I don’t expect you to just take any busted things I may say (or already have said) with a smile. Tell me it angered you! If you feel so inclined, I welcome any helpful hints at improving myself about that thing I clearly didn’t understand. Just keep in mind that there’s a HUGE difference between saying “You said X and that angers me as a [type] person,” and saying “What the FRACK is wrong with you, you racist cracker douchebag!?!” The former criticises the thing said, gives the benefit of the doubt (which can easily be discontinued, if one continues to say messed-up things), and encourages continued dialogue on how one might be able to improve oneself. The latter is barely more than a schoolyard insult that is justified far less often than you’d think –I mean, it’s not like I’m telling Holocaust jokes, it should be obvious that I’m trying to be a better person– and when that sort of statement happens among intelligent, capable people, it serves no other purpose than as an attempt to shut down any and all dialogue.

I can certainly try harder, but the thing is, just saying “try harder” can only go so car. Did you ever that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Ted reveals that he used to think “chameleon” was pronounced “chamm-a-lee-awn”? He said he learned the word by reading it, and yeah, if one only has the most rudimentary knowledge of English language phonics, one might look at that word and think that pronunciation makes sense –one needs to be taught specifically that “chameleon” is pronounced “kah-meel-yun” (added bonus if one is also taught that it’s cos of a direct pull from French with a root in Greek). Some people aren’t always going to look at the pronunciation key in the dictionary, or even how to use the pronunciation key. Basically, not everyone is going to have an intuitive knowledge of how to better themselves; if they did, there wouldn’t even be half the problems going on today, I bet.

That said, I myself refer back to these pages a lot[1], [2], but even that isn’t everything (one was even sub-titled “A Non-Comprehensive List”), and it sure doesn’t give me some magical intuition on how to be better about things. It’s a reference to go back to so I can self-examine. The saying that we’re our own worst critics is true on all senses –we’re often harsher on ourselves in the areas that don’t need it, and we’re often too soft on ourselves in the areas where we need to be more critical.

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