Just when you think you're the future of politics....

So yesterday was spent, as is becoming usual for a Saturday, in Springburn, helping with Willie Bains campaign. Yesterday however I took 4 members of the St Andrews uni Labour club with me.

Now I don't think for a minute that I'm going to change the world but I do think that being a real person, with real life experience's behind me makes me useful in the modern political sphere. But I'm beginning to think maybe I'm just being humoured and patronised and what we're really going to end up with are more of the kind of people I had to listen to between St Andrews and Glasgow yesterday (that's nearly a 2 hour journey by the way).

The young men in question were totally without malice and most of them were quite charming and I stress it is not my natural bent to character assassinate the young but.........

During a pit stop for McBreakfast during which I made the polite "what are you studying, where are you from, what do you want to do when you grow up?" type conversation I was met with questions about my personal ethics, attitude towards the environment and care for the health of our children. Not just my own children, as I'm not sure the questioner even bothered to ascertain that I had any, he meant the worlds children. All this for enjoying a hash brown, bacon McMuffin (no cheese) and a latte. I should have ran to the car and drive off alone then when I had my chance.

To be honest the conversation in the car was increasingly getting above my head and my poor knowledge of sustainable development and the political history of Sierra Leone was obvious. When the conversation did get so simple I could engage with it I was left questioning myself more than I normally care to.

A pertinent local issue, the University of St Andrews wish to replace what is currently the cheapest accommodation with what will be the most expensive. A student group (Fair Rents Now) are mounting a protest and they're quite typically young, studenty and maybe a teeny bit naive about it but at the same time- right. I fully support their call for the University to think again and to design facilities aimed at students and widening access as opposed to aiming development at the lucrative conference and tourist market.

One of my travel companions was disgusted by the work of this group and constantly referred to them as "the far left". Now forgive me for thinking (and saying) if students can't be left wing then who can? Apparently I'm "unrealistic" and I "should read more" (he even threw in a couple of recommendations).


My travel companions conversation then turned to climate change and how it was the most important thing in the world but people didn't seem particularly concerned. Now considering myself to be "people" or at least one of them, I tried to explain that it would actually be a bit of a luxury to spend a lot of time thinking about climate change. Again, this was the wrong answer and I was duly chastised. I was merely trying to explain if you're day to day is taken up with worries about school, your job, your mortgage, your elderly parents, your broken boiler then if the best you can do to address climate change is a spot of recycling and composting- who's to criticise?

So today as I reflect on yesterday I realise that my political future is probably going to be a lot shorter and a lot less influential than that of those I encountered yesterday. Sure I know my stuff and I can talk to anybody and a lot of the time "I've been there" but I don't do the theory and I think it's unfair to expect people to see the global picture if they're driven to distraction by toothache because they can't find an NHS dentist or they can't watch the news because they're short and can't top up the meter.

Perhaps people like me make good activists but I think you'll find it's people like them that make policy.

I have nothing in common with the young men I met yesterday. We all carry the same membership card and we all claim to subscribe to the same values but that's where it ends.

If it were not for party loyalty I'm not sure they'd vote for me when the time comes but, to be honest I'm not sure I could vote for any of them either.

I'm glad that the rest of my day was taken up with meeting people on the doorstep and talking to other members who are a bit less (*desperately searches for the right word*.....*tries not to use "wanky"*.....*almost writes "middle-class"*)....theoretical or I may have gone home and wept.

Ultimately it was a good day and I felt I'd done my little bit for the cause, even if I'm a little less clear as to what the cause really is.

Perhaps I just feel threatened by the young, even though I can drive, have regular sex and enjoy the X Factor in a non-ironic way. Perhaps I'm idealistic and uneducated and can't see the bigger picture?

I wonder if Amazon sell that book...........

Decision made

I'm going to go for it and attempt to maintain a fairly informative and hopefully entertaining blog.

I also hope at some point to be able to make it look...well....a bit less shit.

Today was a fairly uneventful day, had work which to be honest was a little bit pointless and soul destroying so I'll need to fix that.

The one good thing about work was escaping from the kids for a while- it's the October holidays and I was all parented out- especially as the non-political parent has been away darn sarf this week with work.

Glasgow North-East by-election is now official and I'm going back tomorrow to help with the campaign. I'm a bit excited as I'll be taking some local Labour Students with me. It's been a long hard slog convincing the local University Labour Club that they needed to do any actual work for the party and I got as far as threatening to tear up all the requests for work experience and jobs they submitted before I had a firm commitment to help in the by-election- I bet they love it.

Having horrible sad moments this week as I realise the eldest child is 15 and old enough to be Young Labour, sadly he's just a bit too autistic for all that. :-(

From Halloran to the Havamal

The Political Pagan blogmeister returns to the blog this week quite amazed at the vociferous response to last week's posting "In Defense of Dan Halloran." While he appreciates the commitment to moral integrity on the part of those who disagreed with the author about excusing Mr. Halloran for trimming around the topic of his religious identity in a newspaper interview for the sake of a political campaign, the author remains convinced of the validity and practicality of his original point of view.

The author continues to believe that Pagans who operate in the public sphere should not be forced to sacrifice their chances for professional and personal fulfillment on the altar of public self-disclosure. The author wants to see more and more Pagans achieve great success in many professions and occupations, win the respect of their fellow citizens, and THEN "come out" with their Pagan identity at a time and place of their choosing if they judge that this will be a positive contribution to the overall cause of Paganism as well as their personal well-being. The author believes that in the long run, this approach will provide a solid foundation for the Pagans of the future to build upon. Premature self-disclosure in a hostile environment might only lead to self-destruction and public persecution.

Having struggled to build a career in the murky waters of higher education, the author is speaking from experience, and hopes that readers can respect that even if they disagree. Let those who are in a position to shout from the rooftops do so; not everyone is in such a situation. Some need to keep their religion private and out of public view, and they should not be looked down upon.

The ancient Norse text "Havamal" teaches the need to be careful and circumspect in potentially hostile situations, and not talk overmuch, because one never knows where enemies may be lurking. Until the day when Paganism is widely accepted in American or other societies, a bit of caution and restraint may be the path of greatest wisdom.

Of course, the person who loudly and proudly proclaims and defends his identity and dares anyone to oppose him, who is willing to fight to the death outnumbered by his enemies and eventually dies in a blaze of glory shouting "ODIN!!!" might make a better hero for a Hollywood action movie or Playstation video game, but to the author, this is just juvenile warrior-hero fantasy: great stuff for angry thirteen year-olds, but not real life and not real Paganism.

To blog or not to blog?

Well I can't decide.

I only remembered I had the blogspot as I had to sign in to comment on someone elses (much better) blog.

I Facebook (though am tiring of it) and tweet so not sure what's stopping me....

In Defense of Dan Halloran

The author of this blog would expect that many of his readers are aware that in the Queens area of New York City, there is a Heathen candidate for public office. Dan Halloran, a respected member of the Theodism variant of Heathenry/Asatru/Norse Paganism, is a Republican candidate for City Council in NYC. He recently got himself into some trouble with the media, with his chances for political victory, and his relations with fellow Pagans because of some newspaper stories about his Theodish affiliation.

The author had a mixed reaction to hearing about Halloran's candidacy. Though it is exciting that someone with a Pagan identity would run for such a position, Theodism is not the author's favorite flavor of Norse Paganism, as it is heavily involved with the idea of tribal identity that this writer has expressed discomfort with in the past. Furthermore, the Republican party in the USA is a political movement that the author finds extremely disagreeable, to put it mildly. For a liberal-progressive Pagan, there is not much to like about a right-wing political party that has often stood for racism and opposition to environmental protection efforts, to name just two items on what could be a very long list. So the author was struck with a dilemma: to cheer or to jeer at this Republican Heathen's run for office?

Certainly, Halloran's effort was groundbreaking, but the author would have much preferred that the first Norse Pagan to run for public office in the USA be a liberal Democratic candidate. That, however, is just a matter of personal taste, and it was mitigated by reading on various Asatru/Heathen forums about what a fine man and long-term supporter of Asatru and Theodism Halloran has been.

Something soon happened that caused the author to feel a rush of compassion for Halloran. Having been "outed" in a local newspaper about his involvement in Theodism, Halloran defended himself with an essay in which he spoke in very generic terms about being raised a Catholic and having belief in God. The author read this as a necessary political response, with a bit of understandable camouflage of religious identity, as the smartest possible way to deal with the political damage sure to follow from being associated with a religion that most Americans are likely to think badly of, out of ignorance, fear and the typical American distrust of non-Christian religiosity.

Then the author saw reactions from other Norse Pagans and Heathens on a variety of Heathen-related sites, and was quite shocked. Quite a few lashed out at Halloran in a brutal manner and condemned him for not making a more forthright public defense of his Heathenry. Several expressed pride in how they had been in tight spots themselves with job interviews and the like, and had openly proclaimed their Paganism despite the consequences. The author found this kind of reaction quite ironic, as it seemed as if what these critics really wanted was for Halloran to sacrifice his political aspirations and become a "martyr" for Heathenry, despite martyrdom being a rather Christian concept! The author feels that some expression of disappointment over Halloran's statements might have been fair game, but that this went over the line.

Worse, it suggested a very shortsighted and self-destructive view of how Heathens and Pagans should function in American society. There are few professions or lines of work where a person in America can really get away with being openly Pagan without paying some kind of cost in terms of lost respect, increased animosity, and decreased prospects for personal advancement, if not a quick loss of employment altogether. The insistence on Pagans or Heathens or Theodsmen proudly displaying their religious affiliation in very public ways even when in high-profile positions would, the author believes, probably confine Pagans to very low-level and marginal occupations. The author does not think that any Pagan should be forced to proclaim his or her religious identity when this might mean an end to their professional aspirations or a one-way road to public humiliation or persecution.

America is just not that tolerant, not yet. Let's be compassionate to those who need to cloak and conceal their Pagan identity at this point in time. After all, Odin, Thor and Loki all shifted shapes, lied and traveled in disguise when this was necessary to achieve their aims.

The author would be very curious to hear from readers in other countries about any similar or parallel situations of Pagans in politics in other lands.