Monday, August 30, 2010

The Importance of Grassroots Heathenry

As Asatru matures into a more established faith in society sooner or later the question is going to emerge of how exactly should Asatru as a faith and culture handle its affairs. There has been a lot of discussion flying around about how, where, and what form it should take as well as the issue of Universalist vs Folkish and all the shades of grey on that topic. With our festivals growing larger, kindreds sprouting up around the world, and awareness of Asatru steadily growing in society this question will likely need an answer some time soon before we're forced to come up with one on the spot.

This is not to say that the organizations that exist for Heathens in this day and age are unimportant or useless, far from it. They serve an invaluable function of forming bonds between Heathens and building the foundations of our community, without them we likely wouldn't be anywhere near where we stand now. That said, just as a child's clothes no longer serve the needs of a growing adolescent our organizations and community will have to adapt to what best serves the interests of the Folk. The best way to do that is to keep the center of balance in Asatru with the Kindreds and local groups ensuring that it is the needs of the Folk that are served first. Thankfully many of the national organizations active in the United States remember that without the Kindreds there is no foundation for the Folk to stand on. It is from the kindreds, study groups, and pub nights that new Heathens come into the fold and from there that our best emerge. This is why matters that as the number of Kindreds grows they continue to be the center of autonomy in Asatru.

Some would argue that the best way to advance the interests of Asatru and the Folk is to work through a strong, centralized hierarchy with an Asa-Pope or something similar setting the agenda and standards for all the rest. Those in favor would argue that in our current situation we need decisive, singular leadership. We need to define what Asatru REALLY means, and therefore the best way to do this is with a centralized authority. Unfortunately this argument shortchanges the needs of the future for the desires of those in the present. For the Folk to be led in such a fashion runs directly counter to the Lore, the ways of our ancestors, and what are the best working practices to prevent an unhealthy concentration of religious authority in one place. We have seen from the history of Christianity what came of having a strong, centralized ecclestiastical government and the fallout which echoes to this day. Why repeat an example we know would lead to the needs of the Folk being subordinated or ignored by those in the hierarchy in favor of what works best for that hierarchy? Putting all power in the hands of a central authority is a road that is certain to see our Folkway be twisted by others to their own purposes instead of keeping to that which makes Asatru what it is: a faith of strong, independent people who write their names with the deeds of their lives.

The best way to ensure Asatru stays true to itself is to put the power in the hands of the Kindreds, local and regional clans and tribes, and the Folk themselves first with larger organizations responding to the will of the Folk from the bottom up, not the top down especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Like in the old days, we should follow the example of our ancestors and keep the power and decision-making in the hands of the people who will be most impacted by the decisions made. While this may seem unwiedly we are not talking about building a government or a country. A system built on local autonomy and democratic rule is one that is often far more capable of acting on local or regional problems quickly especially compared to more centralized organizations where approval is often needed from somewhere in the hierarchy which can lead to delay or confusion. Not only does it best serve the Folk to keep the proverbial spiritual center of gravity at the bottom it also works more efficiently in dealing with day to day problems.

We must remember above all else that the decisions we make now are not just ones we must make for ourselves, but all those who follow in our footsteps. We have a duty to leave them the best possible situation we can give them. No matter what form Asatru takes we must be sure it is one that serves the Folk first.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Terrorists are Not Going to Take Over the Country

There's a particular line of thinking I've been seeing a lot more lately, and considering how much terrorism was brought up by the last administration this is saying something, that is ripped right out of Joe McCarthy's playbook. It is this whole notion that somehow, some way, Muslim terrorists are going to take over our country and impose Sharia law on everyone creating a tyrannical totalitarian state. I think this has really come to the forefront because of the recent New York City Park51 controversy bringing those very primal fears to the fore. The fear of invasion and loss of self-determination is a very basic one that goes back as far as the invention of writing and likely further than that. The idea of all of that happening in the dark of night is one that is especially potent by adding in the even more ancient fear of the unknown.

This is not to downplay the horror, tragedy, and loss that terrorists seek to sow in their wake, far from it. Such people who deal in fear and violence deserve to rot in a cold, dark cell for the rest of their lives while worrying about dropping the soap in the shower. People who seek to usurp our Constitution, civil liberties, and way of life need to be opposed in every legal way possible. That said the plausibility, even possibility, of terrorists "taking over" the United States of America when you really look at the ideas and arguments a step removed from the savagery and brutality is somewhere in the same neighborhood as me reaching the moon by flapping my arms really hard. When you look at the most plausible means the terrorists would exercise to take over the country the entire line of reasoning falls apart pretty quickly.

The first, and most obvious would be military takeover. This one is laughable on its face, simple as that. Yes, there are over a billion Muslims in the world and growing. Quite a few of the more fundamentalist Muslim nations also sit on a lot of oil giving them quite a bit of money. That said how exactly are jihadi terrorists, a movement that to this date has yet to actually successfully overthrow a working government anywhere in the world or launch a successful terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11, going to pull that off? We have the most heavily funded, technologically sophisticated, and powerful military machine in the history of the human race. We have a navy that is virtually impossible to challenge. Our army is the best in the world. We have enough nuclear warheads to destroy the planet many times over. How would a group that has to run and hide in caves when American troops show up and can't fight a pitched battle possibly pull that off? The possibility of jihadi radicals actually beating all of that in an open invasion is somewhere near zero. It simply would not happen.

So what about using violence in some other fashion like a ticking time bomb scenario of some kind like nuclear blackmail or something similar that could have been pulled from the pages of Tom Clancy or James Bond. Again, nothing like that has ever happened. For all our stories of supervillains and masterminds holding a country or the world at ransom with some kind of doomsday device such plots remain exactly what they are: stories. There has never been a single incident in the history of the world of a group actually coming close to pulling off such a plot. And again such a plan also would run headlong into the aforementioned most powerful military machine on the planet. Within five minutes of getting a feed of terrorists threatening to blow up DC with a nuke unless we surrender or something there would be Navy SEALS breaking in doors and taking out the would-be conquerors in less time than it would take for me to make a sandwich. Simple as that.

Even assuming somehow, some way, the terrorists are able to take over the country at gunpoint even considering how incredibly unlikely that would be they would not hold on to it for long. At most the American Muslim population is 8 million people in a nation whose population is in excess of 300 million people. That's barely more than 2% of the population and the bulk of the growth of the Muslim population comes through immigration, not conversion. I'm also willing to bet that, since people don't work in monolithic blocs, that most of said population are not necessarily supporters of jihadi terrorists. The terrorists would be working with a very tiny minority population as their potential base of support with another 300 million some odd people who would vary from apathy to hating their guts. This is also in the fourth largest country on the planet. A country where, not counting military and police hardware, there are more personal firearms than there are people. How exactly would a rag-tag group of terrorists who need years of planning to engage in ONE major attack occupy all of that? How would they keep a population and country that huge, armed, and hostile in line? Sooner or later such a regime would collapse and probably much sooner than later.

Now granted overt take over by force is not the only way that a secret invasion could happen but the other main method such a takeover could possibly happen is just as far-fetched. To legally remove the Constitution, religious liberty, and impose requirements to follow specific religious laws on the people of the United States would take a Constitutional amendment. To successfully amend the Constitution you would need either for two thirds of both chambers of Congress to vote for the amendment or two third of all state legislatures to pass resolutions calling for a Constitutional convention. After that you would need 3/4ths of the states either to have their legislatures approve the new amendment or have ratifying conventions in 3/4ths of the states approve the new amendment. Now look at those numbers. It would take a pretty huge shift in public opinion to elect enough politicians who all are in favor of such a change to the US government. Definitely far more than a group that is at most 2% of the US population could possibly swing in any situation.

Now some would argue that somehow, some way, enough radical Muslims are going to come to the United States, have more babies than everyone else, and become the new majority. This line of thought assumes that all Muslims are radical terrorists and that somehow a group that is only 2% of the population is going to have so many babies that they overwhelm the other 98% in a tide of jihadi babies. For that to happen you would need that 2% of the population to be dosed up on enough fertility drugs to pump out litters of kids at a time and for the other 98% to voluntarily neuter themselves. Even if the American Muslim birthrate were triple the birthrate of the rest of the country it would take at least a hundred years, if not longer, to even approach the numbers needed to pull off such a coup. This also assumes that over the course of this highly implausible demographic invasion the ideology is going to remain cohesive and the group remain in lock step and not assimilate into American culture. In fact more often than not the second and third generation children of immigrants in the United States tend to identify much more heavily with the ideas, culture, and beliefs of their new nation than that of their parents' homeland. For such a demographic and ideological shift to take place in our country would require a series of events, decisions, and actions that go completely counter to known human behavior.

This is not to say there is no threat of extremist groups taking over the country. This is always that possibility in a democracy. But there is such a thing as a plausible extremist threat and an implausible one. Ironically enough the groups shouting the loudest about Muslim takeovers often tend to be ones with close ties to Christian fundamentalists in the US. The same fundamentalists who have successfully written a specific tenet of their belief system into the Constitutions of 25 states by popular vote. The same movement that was able to bend President George W. Bush to interrupting his vacation to intervene in a family medical matter at a hospice in Florida. The same movement that regularly rails against the immorality, vice, and corruption of the country in a manner not all that dissimilar in nature than the rantings of Osama bin Laden and his cohorts. The very same movement that has been able to derail the careers of aspiring politicians and play kingmaker in elections across the country. A movement that, if they were given their way, would impose Old Testament Biblical laws on the country and throw out the bulk of the US Constitution. A movement that has inspired radicals to bomb abortion clinics, shoot doctors, and call for the death of Supreme Court justices on national television while claiming to be the ultimate example of patriotism.

There are groups that have plans that are definitely a threat to liberty in the United States. Now I'm not so sure about other people, but I know for me I prefer to keep my eye on groups that are capable of and have in some places made their authoritarian ideas the law of the land and not groups that would require a series of lucky breaks that defy all sense. There is no use in jumping at shadows cast by trees when the real monsters are already inside the front door.