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13 July, 2012

N is for Nice

You're so nice.
You're not good,
You're not bad,
You're just nice.
I'm not good,
I'm not nice,
I'm just right.
I'm the Witch.
You're the world.

"Last Midnight," from Into the Woods

I am not sure if Graydon would mind me quoting something he said years ago in another internet universe, so I will paraphrase instead:

"Nice" is behaviour which is socially unobjectionable.  It does not have to intersect with truth, and thus it cannot be a virtue.

I commented earlier in the PBP about one form of expectation of 'niceness', but that's far from the only form that ever puts in an appearance.  It's not even the first one I've talked about in this project thing.

It bothers me a good bit when people try to nice up paganism.  (This came up in a discussion, mostly in referring to dealing with deities.)

Let's get real.

One of my patron deities is best known for fratricidal murder.  This is not nice.

One of my religious paths is unabashedly and unashamedly sexual.  This is not nice.  (The fact that there is social objection to eroticism is a whole other barrel of rant, but it's still undeniably true.)

I have a religious obligation to the development of personal power.  This is not nice.  (The fact that there is social objection to genuine power, also.)

I don't even have a clue whether or not I'm technically a fucking Satanist, but regardless this is not commonly considered nice either.

(And that's not getting into the fact that polytheism itself is a matter of the socially objectionable, because that's a level of social objection that I don't generally grant the legitimacy of addressing.  But nonetheless, this is a genuine factor: being pagan, itself, in some environments, will be taken as being not-nice.  This is why people hang out in the broom closet.)

You know?  I could go on.

It does no good to not acknowledge these things.  Deities, for the most part, are not nice, though some may be more often than not pleasant, at least so long as you don't call upon them in one of their epithets that specifically isn't.  The natural world is certainly not nice; that charging bull will not respond to a citation from Miss Manners about how goring people is indecent behaviour, and aconite will stop your heart even if you ask nicely if you can pick its flowers.  A spirit doesn't have your best interests in mind just because it's not got a body.  Being socially unobjectionable can be useful - in certain social situations, so long as you can achieve your goals that way.  In non-social situations, or social situations in which it's impossible to get what you need by being nice?  Nice and five bucks will get you a latte.

There's a bit in Terry Pratchett's Maskerade where Granny Weatherwax draws a hatpin from her witch's hat, grins the sort of ferally savage grin that rather suggests that she is enjoying herself profoundly, and declares, "Let's do some good."

Granny: not nice.

Damn good witch, though.

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