I don't trust movements.
This isn't because I'm not a joiner, though I'm not. This isn't just because I have strong anarchist tendencies, though that's more to the point. It may be about edge cases and being keenly aware of them. This is actually a keenly held and intensely political position.
I got me a bunch of adjectives, and every so often someone will refer to one or another of the loose adjective-based communities I poke around in as a part of 'The Adjective Movement'. And I always wind up feeling grindingly uncomfortable with these people and their ideas.
Often, they start out with assumptions that aren't the case -- I had a spectacular go-around a year or two back with someone who was convinced that being polyamorous was some sort of Movement involving certain political mindsets and goals. That there was some deep groundswell of wingnuts who just needed One Person's Vision or something, I'm not entirely sure what, but people like that drive me utterly batshit. I'm not a part of some grand world-tranforming movement, and frankly I find people who think that having more than one partner will bring about world peace or save us all from global warming a little frightening.
But I argued with this guy for ages, because he was Saving The World and he wanted to claim to speak for polyamorous people everywhere, and was royally offended that I wasn't interested in my personal being used for his political, and that I expected people who claim to speak for me to get my consent first. He wasn't pleased that I pointed out that the overwhelming majority of my poly-related activism was cleaning up after Movement people who either got so gung-ho about What It's All About that they wind up misrepresenting normal people or who scared people off with their big fat 'this is the way it is' rhetoric and don't allow for, y'know, people being different.
Or there was the guy who was all about The Pagan Movement who sanctimoniously informed a number of people that real pagans didn't ever worship male gods. Apparently pagans fear and loathe the penis. (The pagans who insist that the Abrahamic penis is unacceptable -- no Hashem, Jesus, or Satan in their definition of pagan worship, but Lilith is okay, and Cernunnos is jes' fine -- look sane by comparison.) Or the nitwits who think that pagan communities are the right place to post their political spam supporting certain candidates or (perhaps less egregious but still annoying) their particular political causes.
Or the one I saw earlier today which came across to me as "How am I supposed to keep working for women's choices when these kids wear clothes like that? Can't they tell that's against what we're working for?" Or the people who are concerned with gay rights issues who assume that everyone is in favor of the abolition of marriage too.
Or the people who were all twitchy after PantheaCon 'cause some of the people there weren't mainstream-news values of family friendly, who were bothered by the existence of partying (at a con, for chrissakes) or people getting drunk and having perhaps ill-advised sex (at a con), or people wearing bizarre, revealing, or exotic clothing (at a ... you get the idea). These people will give the wrong idea about our religions, because religion is serious business. Or something. Let's be nice and family-friendly and not include the cross-dresser with the best damn fashion sense I have ever seen (and I'm not just saying that 'cause I got a shirt at the place he got a full outfit from last year), or the woman with the stunning velvet cloak (because those are weird -- I'm pretty sure that's part of why I had abuse shouted out of a car at me once when I was walking to the doctors, but fuck it, it was cold), or the woman with the stompy boots and the wolf tail, or anyone with dyed colour in their hair, or anyone whose religion embraces and expresses sexuality (never mind that the Pomba Gira ritual is consistently one of the most popular parts of the con), shut down access to the booth that sells legal mind-altering plant products, make sure nobody sees anything weird. (At a con!)
Or whatever else.
When Movements get involved in things, everything gets charged. Nothing can be itself. Everything is evaluated by whether or not it transgresses either the social norm the Movement wants to change or the norms of the Movement itself. Nothing has the space to be on its own -- it's either in service to the Movement or a problem to the Movement.
Back to not being the dancing monkey -- my religion, my sexuality, my family, aren't about politics. To the extent that I have to work politics to be able to do them, this is a problem, not something to be celebrated because "the personal is political". I'm not interested in trading my birthright for a pot of message. I'm not giving a message to the world by having two closely committed partners other than "I love these men", and I don't take kindly to having it treated as such. I'm not part of a vast return to the Old Ways Of Teh Gawdess by serving the gods of Egypt; these are my gods, and this is my faith, and I don't claim some vast superior knowledge of the state of the Earth because of it. My sexuality and employment preferences are not a commentary on the freakin' feminist movement. When I take an action, it does not necessarily fit into someone's preformulated morass of political meanings for that action; when I take a political action, it does not necessarily make a statement about my personal life.
I just want to let things be what they are. Not live my life as an exemplar of some particular Movement, whichever one is daft enough to think it wants the like of me at the moment. Because if the personal is political, like so many people want to argue, then I have to evaluate my personal life for political correctness according to someone else's standards of how I should be playing the game. Too closeted, too uncloseted, too conformist, too extreme, warp your life to fit what the Party wants, comrade.
Someone I know has an approach to politics that I attempt to emulate: acknowledge the way the world fails to match up to the ideal, work to correct its failings, and do one's best to live as if the world is, in fact, the way it should be. That's my politics. I don't go in for double meanings -- I want a world where faith and family mean faith and family, not The Cause, so I don't go grafting Causes onto them; I want a world where existence is the birthright it should be, not a statement of defiance, so I simply continue with I Am and work to clear a little space where that isn't noteworthy. And maybe I'll work with some people on that, and maybe I'll work against some people on that, and maybe some people who want to speak for me are in truth my deadly enemies, and maybe some people who think we're in opposition are actually doing the right thing by me -- it's happened more than once -- but I'm not calling it a Movement.
And there will be folk who say I'm blind, that their Movement has done so much for people like me, that I don't appreciate all the work that this, that, or the other Movement has done to make it possible for me to say I may be hiking alongside for a bit, but I'm not climbing up on that wagon. I've heard it all before. And maybe if I'd heard it more from people whose Movements didn't, in some way, throw folks like me under the bus (a phrase I never heard until a couple of years ago, and now it's everywhere) I'd be more sympathetic, but for now, I've got my hiking stick, there's a rock up there I can sit on when my feet get to hurting, and reality doesn't care whether or not I'm wearing your badge when I haul on that there lever.
27 February, 2007
I don't trust movements.