Sunday, 27 September 2009

Doors closing

It is a time of change. I have just finished my final weekend teaching on the Priest/ess of Danu training course here in Budapest. I have been doing this for three years, helping a very wonderful woman, Kriszta Veres, develop a group of women and men devoted to the indigenous goddesses of the Carpathian Basin and the River Danube which runs through it. It has been highly rewarding - watching as people grow in their knowledge and experience of Goddess- finding their innate power and learning how to express it. It has been, literally, a labour of love.

But now it is time to move on. For six years, first in Glastonbury/Avalon and now in Budapest, I have been co-teaching - following to a certain degree the visions of others. I have also, to be frank, had certain reservations and fears concerning my suitability as a heterosexual man to be teaching people who would be predominantly female. I was worried about many things - not least the issue of power. I feared that I would be replicating the old story of men talking and women having to listen. I feared my own desire - that I would misuse this power - sexually and emotionally. There have been all too many precedents for this, including from myself. So I sat in a secondary sort of role - supporting but not really leading - deferring often to my co-teacher. I do not regret this. It has taught me a lot. It has been a very good apprenticeship.

However, over the past year or so, I have felt an ever-strengthening call to teach according to the vision and the call I have received from Inanna. To address directly those issues of power and desire and use them to explore how sexuality can develop in a spirituality centred on the Goddess. I am aware of my own desire and am no longer ashamed of it and am no longer frightened that I will allow it to dominate how I interact with students. I know that there are dangers - I have been burnt before - but also know that this is the work I am called to do. I am called to confront the old morality, based as it is upon power and property right, and explore a new morality based on the simple premise of the equality of all human beings and their right to decide what they do with their bodies.

I do not know what form this morality will take. I do not believe that it can be captured in any collection of words- engraved in stone or otherwise. I doubt, in fact, that I will be able to live by it - conditioned as I am by the Abrahamic nightmare from which we are only now emerging. But that does not matter. I am now approaching my third 21st birthday and facing the real possibility that sexual misconduct may well become physically problematic in the foreseeable future (which I hope is long delayed). I am, in any case, entering the final phase of my life. The changes that need to happen will probably take far longer than I can realistically expect to live.

The work, however, must begin now. I believe that the perversion of the beauty and power of sexuality we now call morality lies at the very base of the problems of our civilisation. If we are to have any hope of survival then there is no time to lose. Freedom and autonomy are the rewards ahead. Subjection and slavery are the reality now - however they are currently dressed in democratic clothes.

So doors close. I cannot go back. I must go forward and trust that other doors will open.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

scripts, scripts, scripts

The last few weeks have been very difficult. It had been building up for a long time. Someone i love very much was getting married in the UK and I really wanted to be there. My life choice, however, has resulted in my living here and surviving on an income far below the poverty level in Britain. I am not complaining about this. After three years of preparation things here are opening up for me and I know why I came.

This opening up - to my regret- came too late for the wedding. The very successful workshop that I ran in August gave me just enough to cover outstanding utility bills. No more. But a beginning. The workshop was wonderful - I cannot express how I felt when the participants fed back their experiences. And, for me, it was a confirmation that I am on the right path and that doors are opening. Inanna is guiding me.

When, however, my elation started to subside and I looked at the financial impossibility of my flying to Britain I began to move into a state of despair. And, more importantly, shame. I was ashamed that I was poor. I became aware that, no matter how much I may have intellectually and, perhaps, spiritually accepted my path that I was still ashamed of my failure to be a success in the only way that my parents knew. Financially. The old script was activated and completely overwhelmed me. I used my old tactics of evasion and denial, hoping against hope that some sort of intervention would come that would enable me to attend. And then a family member offered to pay my fare. I felt great. I would be able to go! I then started planning my trip. Unfortunately, I had ignored one important issue. Where would I sleep? I thought it was a minor problem but it turned out that there was no room for me.

I was hurt. I was angry. But most of all I was bitterly disappointed. Crushed. My pride then kicked in. I did not want to trumpet my, to British eyes, extreme poverty. I did not want to sleep in a bus station without enough to buy a cup of tea. Neither did I want to say "Hey, you know, I will arrive with nothing in my pocket. Can you help me out? Lend me the money for a place for the nights? Spare change?"

As I say, pride. One of the seven deadly sins, I am told by the ever-proud and arrogant who preach from gilded thrones in the cathedrals of self-indulgence. Maybe so. Maybe it is deadly. I must confess that I felt it so. My heart yearned to be somewhere but my pride prevented me from asking for the degree of help I needed.

So I decided not to try further. And immediately my mood changed. Relief took the place of desperation and helplessness. Deep sorrow remained. But I felt better. That is the only way to describe it. I accepted myself and my own fallibility - my own incompetence in some areas of life. I stopped tormenting myself with the scripts of old. I accepted that I could not go

On my facebook page I wrote of this feeling of relief. That was unwise. It was misinterpreted as an expression of relief that I was not going. That is not what I meant, but that is the way it was taken. A very abusive email came immediately to me from someone and I replied equally angrily. For which I wish to make no apology. I expressed an anger rooted deep in the past that I had suppressed for over three decades. And it was an anger that would have been better expressed at the time. Whatever the rights and wrongs from an outside objective viewpoint, I felt that I had been injured by this person and had suppressed that feeling - through fear that it might lead to further injury. In two sentences I said what I had then feared to say. I felt, and still feel, cleansed. Purged of past scripts. Free of a bully, within and without.

I wondered for a long time why all this was happening. I was very angry at Inanna for putting me in this situation - for leading me here and leaving me adrift. I was also very angry at myself. And this is perhaps at the root of it all. For most of my life I have avoided confrontation with what I believe to be wrong, I have taken the line of least resistance. I have been, in short, a coward. In the process, I have hurt those who loved me and those whom I loved. I have not stood and said "This is me - and I will not compromise myself to fit an image of how I (or you) think I should be". This was the realisation that came to me with a terrifying clarity not so long ago. I have only recently begun to be authentic.

And at the age of 62, this is rather late. It is only in recent years that I have become aware of how much shame has ruled me. Shame about my sexuality - my very being - my right to walk on this planet, free and joyful. So, painful as it has been, for me and, perhaps, others, I am glad that I have been given this insight. As I start to be a teacher - whatever that might mean - it is vital that I am made aware of my own fallibility. My own deep hurts and wounds. My own sources of rage. I knew when Inanna called me that She was not calling me to an easy primrose path but one that would force me to confront those things I most feared about myself.

And now, I have felt the fear of pressing "PUBLISH POST". I fear your judgement. But I will do it just the same.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Budapest Pride 2009

Yesterday, I went on my second Gay Pride Parade in Budapest. Whereas last year this was an experience which I found very strong. For almost the entire walk we were pelted with eggs, tomatoes and a few stones from those to whom the whole thing was an affront to what they believed was the nature of being "Hungarian". I was physically frightened for much of the time, knowing that, had the protesters succeeded in bypassing the very tight cordon of riot police then serious injury was a real possibility. This did not happen - although there were running fights between right wing crazies and police, tear gas, and a few petrol bombs at places outside the line of the march. Most shattering of all for me, however, was the sheer irrational hatred of those who protested. I could not comprehend their motivation - for how could the expression of love between human beings possibly be a threat to them? But clearly it was.

This year, however, passed without such incidents. Last year, only the direct route of the march was cordoned off but this year the cordon was extended to city blocks. In fact, much of the centre of Pest was a no-go zone for anyone apart from police. Metro lines were closed and dedicated trains provided to transport the people on the parade. Nowhere we went were there any protesters to be seen or heard - apart from a few token ones at the beginning of the march. These latter were, perhaps, allowed in order to give the ex-prime minister Gyurcsany a chance for a good photo-op as he strode up to them, smiling, stood for a while accepting their abuse and then disappeared as fast as he had come, surrounded by a bevy of bodyguards. (I may be overly-cynical here but I think not. During his time in office Gyurcsany took full advantage of the threat of rising neo-nazism in order to maintain his own authority.)

Well, the parade took place in empty streets - the only witnesses being the police, press and television, and a few waiters and other employees whose fashionable places of business had been temporarily closed.

Terrifying as the last event had been for me there was, at least, a sense of reality to it. This year simply felt very strange. It was like walking through a ghost city, guarded by faceless and silent phantoms in riot gear. After the parade finished we entered the major metro station in Pest past lines of these phantoms and boarded the train to the place where we could disperse safely and merge into the general population. Anti -climax does not fully express what I felt. It was eerie - like being in a zombie movie of some sort.

However, the fact is that the authorities were in a dilemma. They had to guarantee the safety of the participants. But what it meant, in practice, was that in order to protect the freedom of assembly of a comparative few they had to curtail the freedom of movement of a substantially greater number of others. They were under, furthermore, international scrutiny - many embassies of major countries, including the US, having pledged support for the parade. My worry about all this, and it was expressed by others, is that the net result could present the rabid right with a major propaganda opportunity. Discontent here has led to the electoral success in the EU elections for a far-right party dedicated to restoring their particular vision of Hungarian identity. On the other hand, to have disallowed the parade would have given a green light to the bullies and bigots.

Others felt the parade to have been a complete success. The fact that it happened at all being the main thing. Those people whose sexuality is unacceptable to a vocal and violent minority have asserted their right to full and equal citizenship and had this right defended, at great financial cost, by the state of which they are citizens. That, however strange and slightly unsettling the parade was to me, is the most important fact.

Photos from where a further report can be read

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When I was in school in sleepy and complacent old England - back in the days when the world seemed simpler - with Nazism and fascism having been defeated and a neat cold war divide imposed - my history teacher asked us to memorise the American Declaration of Independence. I did so willingly for it encapsulated so much of what I already believed. I will quote it here before I get down to the substance of this post.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

My history teacher, although I did not know it then,, was clearly a radical. We were still children of the British Empire - stuffed with the sterile and out-dated ideas of the Victorian age. This was, to me, a call to action. I now know how much of this declaration was due to the thinking of Tom Paine - the apostle of liberty against tyranny. Be that as it may, I was and remained inspired by the words therein enshrined. Later, as I became more aware, i felt uneasy about the exclusion of women from this vision and the realisation that Jefferson, among others among the signatories, was a slave owner and that they saw no problem with this. The words, however, remained and served as a founding statement of my own beliefs. I can still recite them.

Which makes the recent history of the US deeply painful to me. It was founded on the principle of the equality of all human beings. The fact that the blindness of the time and privilege of the founders denied some human beings those rights is, in fact, irrelevant. The document remains. And yet, so many in the US seem to be unaware of its implications. Nowhere does it say that US citizens have more rights than any other human beings. Nowhere does it say that some people are less worthy to pursue happiness and enjoy life and liberty than others. And yet, both within and without the territory of the US this declaration is more honoured in the breach than the observance. Imperial wars - of the kind that Tom Paine condemned so fiercely are now - and arguably have been since the settlement of the West - being openly fought. From a fierce resistance to tyranny, the USA has evolved to become the tyrant most of the world fears. George III could only have dreamed of the imperial dominance now exercised, arbitrarily and brazenly, by the descendants of those who fought for liberty from him.

I was reminded of this on a recent youtube video of protesters accusing Obama of defying the US Constitution with his proposed health care reforms - none of which seem to me to be highly radical. Many of the protesters and commenters talked of property rights and said that a democratically elected government had no business levying taxes in order to provide health care for those who could not provide it for themselves. These people accused Obama of being fascist, Nazi, communist and muslim.

The thing is, the declaration says that the sole purpose of government is to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the statement of principle with which the USA declared itself to be a new thing in the world. But none of the principles declared to self -evident can apply when - according to the US census bureau 15.8% of American citizens are uninsured and therefore not eligible for full health care. All three principles are violated here. It is a scandal. It must be addressed.

And yet the rhetoric of the US proclaims itself as the champion of human rights around the world. This is the justification for the terror it has created in so many regions. And, at the same time, it is violating the very principles on which it was founded. As far as I can read, Obama's reform is not that radical. And yet it has provoked such bile and hatred that I have begun to despair of the USA.

I am not anti-American. I am, as Tom Paine, Washington, Jefferson and Adams, anti-imperialist and anti-injustice. The USA has lost its way. I pray to Inanna it will find it again.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Fear and love - a time for change.

My silence on this blog of late has, I've realised, not been because I have nothing to say but because I have wanted to say too much. Much as I delighted in the idea of blogging when I first started, I have now found it rather limiting. It has been good to react to items in the news and give my own personal take and also to reflect on my own journey with Inanna. I am glad to have had that opportunity.

Lately, however, I've found that whenever I sit to write here I do not know where to start. My personal journey is interesting to me but often repetitious. I go through the same old scripts and come up with insights which, although they have struck me with new force and clarity, appear very much the same as older ones. My life is not a linear thing but more of a spiral - ever returning to what appears from one viewpoint to be the same place but which to me is entirely new. Words are two dimensional - or at least my ability to use them is - and cannot adequately distinguish between one point on the spiral and a later point which, superficially, seems identical. It is thus that after my last posting, I have remained silent.

There is also the fact that world events, although appearing new and fresh when first seen on the news, are in fact no such thing. The crisis of gangster capitalism that has engulfed the world is not new. Such crises have happened in the past and will do so again. And the result of it will be that some will grow immensely richer but that innumerable others will sink into deep poverty. But this is of the nature of capitalism - it depends on the concentration of wealth in a very small elite class. In its mission to succeed in this task, however, it was previously constrained by an ideological struggle with its mirror image and bastard child, Soviet communism. With the fall of the Soviet Union fetters were removed and the vultures of the money markets free to circle the world identifying the vulnerable and then directing their energies - and their minions in politics and armies - into destroying economies and societies so that they can then land and devour the corpses.

Which they have done. Recently, there has been what at first glance seems to be a crisis in that capitalism. The world recession is not however the crisis it appears. It is a blip in which some bloated vultures have expired but most rescued by further infusions of blood from those on whom they prey. All the rest is spin.

Here, of course, I realise that I have been maligning vultures. In reality these birds fulfil the essential role of disposing of the dead. They have nothing to do with the creation of the situations that have caused those deaths. This is not the case with those who, by their deliberate policies, caused the banks to crash and have to be rescued with the use of tax raised from the people from whom they have plundered unhindered for decades. The very economists whose policies enabled the vast and unsustainable accumulation of personal debt are still in their positions of influence and thereby ensuring that only a select few of the wealthy who profited lose anything real apart from the minor inconvenience of public "mea culpas" followed by business as usual. The funds that enable this business not coming, of course, from their own large pockets but from the taxpayers.

It is a huge con job. Bernard Madoff goes to prison because his greed was more naked than most. Others, equally if not more corrupt, remain. Scapegoats are needed and they are found. The public is encouraged to celebrate their demise and then to go on its way reassured that its masters (and they are, mostly, men) have cleaned up their act and all will, eventually, be well. We all just have to weather the storm. The green shoots of the recovery, if not yet visible, are just about to break the surface. So we are told - and it may well be true. Until the next time.

For, after all, customers are needed - people who are willing to buy the unnecessities, as well as the essentials of food, clothing and housing, that we are told will fill the emptiness inside us. A form of prosperity will return but the numbers who appear to share in that prosperity will be fewer. There will be more who have been deprived of the essentials. More homeless people on the streets. More queuing for food from soup kitchens. More gated communities hiding from the mass of the dispossessed. More women and children forced into servicing the needs and desires of the wealthy in order that they may survive. More illegal immigrants - publicly condemned but privately welcomed - prepared to do the essential, but unpleasant, jobs for wages that resident populations would not accept. Such immigrants, moreover, provide convenient whipping boys whenever discontent may appear to threaten the interests of the powerful few. Here, in Hungary, that role is taken by the Roma - who, although they have been here for many generations, are seen as an alien and hostile presence, preying upon the law-abiding majority population. The venal and corrupt political class that, after enriching itself from the privatisation of state assets after the fall of communism, has been in control is only too happy that they have such a convenient target for the very justifiable anger of the general population - who see very many homeless, ethnically Hungarian, people rooting through their bins in search of food that is not too putrid and have parents and grandparents whose retirement - previously guaranteed to be sustainable if not luxurious - is now under threat of real privation. Many such people are, understandably if wrongly, angered when they see the very modest amounts of money and effort that are diverted to alleviate the deep poverty of the "gypsies".

What underpins the present system is one emotion. Fear. Without fear it cannot operate. I was reminded of this the other day when watching a discussion about the US use of torture. The debate seemed to centre on whether any good and reliable intelligence had been obtained by these methods. Some say yes and some say no. I have no way of knowing which is right. Perhaps, as Cheney maintains, some people have given information they would not otherwise have done. Perhaps, as others maintain, none have done so. A former CIA field agent interviewed on the Rachel Maddow show said that such interrogations would be better performed by the FBI - the CIA's job being that of running field agents etc and not of obtaining intelligence from unwilling prisoners. I have been impressed by Rachel in the past and was surprised that she accepted this disingenuous argument. The CIA's use of torture is well documented and predates Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition and all the familiar litany of excess by many decades.

Moreover, the belief that torture is committed in order to gain information is naive. The purpose of torture is to break the spirit of the victims and thereby instil fear in the population from which the victims come. Any useful information obtained is a by-product of this. The real purpose of the Inquisition was not, in fact, to determine the real beliefs of those they tortured but to impose an outward conformity on the rest of the population. Similarly, the CIA trained torturers in Pinochet's Chile, the Junta's Argentina -and so ad nauseam - were engaged not in real intelligence gathering but in maintaining a climate of terror which would stifle internal dissent. No one would want to be next.

George W announced that he was declaring "A War on Terror". The military strategy used in the attack on Iraq was, quite accurately, called "Shock and Awe". I cannot think of a better definition of terror than those three words. In adopting terror as official policy, the US has, literally, declared itself to be a terrorist nation. Torture is simply own weapon in the arsenal of terror. The incessant bombardment of populations, the cutting off of essential services, the imprisonment of them as they shelter wherever they can, the constant awareness of the proximity of death by random and arbitrary acts of violence is torture at a macro level. It is designed to strip away all sense of identity, purpose and self-determination from a population just as the tortured prisoner loses hers or his.

Where they have, disastrously, miscalculated, however is that they have now used these tactics on populations for whom terror is nothing new. It has, in fact, been part of their lives for decades. They have learnt to cope and to fight back. And they have learnt from those who terrorised them how the dynamics of terror work. When Pinochet took control of Chile, he took over a nation with a democratic tradition - his targets were intellectuals, artists, workers - all of whom expected some rules of decent human conduct to be, generally, applicable. The people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran are under no such illusions. They had learned from experts that tyranny knows no such rules. Iraq and Iran learned their lessons from tyrants installed - and supported, with their secret police trained - by the US. In Afghanistan, they learned from the Russians. In order to maintain a sense of identity they have adopted a form of their religion in which their persecution is a test of their devotion and to fight back a divinely ordained duty.

The world is a mess of greed and corruption. On one level - and this is the level presented daily to the Western world by the media. Whether the media be governmentally or corporately controlled is irrelevant since there is little if no difference between them. Politicians move seamlessly into corporate posts when they leave office and business leaders are awarded governmental posts. The effect of the constant diet of fear is to cause the populations to be living in constant state of anxiety as they worry about jobs and mortgages and rising crime rates and the ever present, if remote, chance of death at the hands of an "Islamic terrorist". In the meantime, the corporate asset strippers continue unchecked in their depredations.

There is, however, more than a chink of light. An unprecedented 2,000,000 people marched in London to oppose the Iraq war. Schoolchildren spontaneously left their classrooms and marched in the street. People are growing ever more reluctant to cast their vote in favour of one gang of criminals against another, slightly more palatable, one. Obama's rhetoric - if not, so far, his actions - articulated this growing sense that there is something deeply rotten in the state of corporate affairs. Lies are now beginning to be seen for what they are. People are wanting a society ruled by love and not fear. They may not yet know how to get to there from here, but they are searching. In this there is great hope.