Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On Reason

Dear reader,

I was having an interesting conversation with someone who asserted that the idea of faith was ridiculous and that reason was the only rational foundation for a worldview. Being a pagan and thus believing, on faith, in powers greater than myself I asserted the opposite and I thought I'd share my thoughts with you all.

One might assert that faith is a ridiculous concept but before that one must examine the question of basic assumptions. To have any sort of sense-based reason one must have faith that ones rationality and the evidence of ones senses are accurate and useful. So in a sense (heh) without faith in ones own rationality one couldn't have reason. One could certainly assert if we don't believe in what others have usefully termed scientific materialism (the rational building of a reasoned worldview on the basis of what one's senses tell them) one must then embrace solipsism (the belief that only one's mind is sure to exist and everything outside could be an illusion) or even nihilism (the idea that nothing at all exists) but these extremes are not really the what I had in mind. This is an old trap of dualism in which people in our culture tend to get caught i.e. "If it isn't one thing then it must be the polar opposite and since I find the polar opposite ridiculous then what I believe must be true". Fundamentally, at the basis of any assertion one makes, there must be a basic assumption that can (and for a true rational thinker should) be questioned but there are more options than polar opposite extremes to examine, some may fall on a continuum between the two and some may even go in a completely different direction. A more useful direction to take this line of reasoning is that since ons rationality is based on the evidences of ones senses and everyone's perception of reality is slightly different since everyone's brain is slightly different then the reality one inhabits may not be the reality others inhabit. This is complicated by the ways that nurture aka enculturation change our perceptions of reality by adding or subtracting value and meaning to/from experiences and even this is further complicated by those of us who question our own enculturation and ask hard questions about what we believe about reality. The extremes of solipsism/nihilism and scientific materialism are not the only useful outcomes of questioning the basic assumption of trusting our senses. One could for example embrace a sort of metaphysical pluralism or any other shade in between those extremes some of which may include faith in forces that our senses cannot comprehend, or even something completely different. Ultimately my point is one cannot and should not try to force one's own belief on others because the reality they inhabit may be vastly different from yours! Heh I love metaphysics.

Feel free to comment or argue with me I love debate! It is the way we hone our own beliefs and learn from what others believe. Until we meet again,

Yours, in service to the Morrigan

Achija Branvin Sionnach

Friday, March 13, 2015

On Ferguson

Dear reader,

I've always found that structuring a post like a letter allows me to be at once more formal and more familiar in tone. I also find that it helps me organize my thoughts more effectively. Tonight I want to talk a little about what's going on in Ferguson, MO and explore the implications thereof to any thinking pagan in this country.

First let me put one of my less popular opinions out there so there is no misunderstanding. I do not condemn violent protesting as a matter of course. In point of fact I think that there are times that it is the only recourse left to citizens. As Thomas Jefferson once said "...what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." The violation of the rights of our citizens has continued for so long by the police forces of this country is it any wonder that the people are fighting back? 

Let me ask you something truly dearest reader: unless you have members of your family in the police force when was the last time you felt the police force existed to serve and protect you personally? When you drive by a squad car even if you are doing nothing wrong does not your heart skip a beat, afraid to see those lights swing in behind you? Shows such as Law and Order and CSI serve as propaganda, making light of the rights of citizens when the protagonists barge into houses on a sliver of probable cause. In our day and age the police are not keepers of the peace they are instigators of violence, violators of civil rights (especially though not only for people of colour), and the clenched fist of a government that has become afraid of the rights of its citizens. When citizens cannot call on our constabulary without fear of being implicated what recourse do we have? Hell two years ago I helped stop the home invasion of someone in my neighborhood. I helped subdue one of the assailants and stood guard over him until the police arrived.  When the Cops pulled up the guy bolted before they could have seen which way he ran, so I ran after him making as much noise as possible to lead the authorities to him. When the police caught up to us, however, they cuffed me just as roughly as the invader and were more concerned about what I had been smoking in the tobacco pipe in my pocket than figuring out whether I deserved to be cuffed. When they throw tear gas (a chemical weapon banned in warfare since the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, shoot rubber bullets, and spray jets of pepper spray at protestors, often for little more reason than that they are protesting, what do we do? When they can all but ignore the 4th amendment and search the houses and seize the persons of innocent people for their witch.. I mean... manhunt following the shootings Wednesday night ( what is left to us? It is the governments job to deescalate the situation and acquiesce to the will of the people during protests not the other way around. True these shootings were a blow to a resolution in Ferguson as well as Oakland and New York, but is a resolution wherein the citizens are appeased for a short time before the cops go back to business as usual really what we want? Sure one guy stepped down yesterday but was that an actual step towards real change or a PR stunt to attempt to mollify the protesters? Considering the brutal police tactics I have been seeing over the past year I lean strongly towards the latter. 

If you are law enforcement reading this or a supporter thereof I would like you to consider this: I understand that cops are all individuals and not all of them are bad, so those officers who really wish to serve and protect should stand up to their supervisors when they are told to violate the rights of citizens, even if it means facing punishment from those superiors. Do not violate the 1st and 4th amendment rights of citizens for the sake of the expediency of an investigation. Quit acting like soldiers at war; we are not your enemy we are your charges and all of us, yes even the criminals, other races, and immigrants among us, deserve your protection.

If you ever wondered what side you'd be on during the race riots of the 60's here is your chance to find out. Take a stand! Even if you are far from the front line as I am in my little Appalachian home you can still make a difference! Attend local protests and be active on social media; don't just re-tweet or share the latest hilarious cat photo re-tweet or share the latest news articles on these issues and keep informed.

Yours in service to the Morrigan,

Achija Branvin Sionnach

Attempting a new format!

It has come to my attention that perhaps I am a better writer than producer of quality youtube or podcast content. My mind is more nimble in print and the feeling of the keys flowing beneath my fingers gives me great comfort, especially on nights like these when I cannot sleep. Hell the majority of the content I've produced thus far has been taken from discussions I've had on facebook that were typed first so perhaps I should stick to my more familiar medium and use my channel for sword videos and cover uploads. Anyhoo I know I don't have many (if any) readers right now but I'm hoping to change that soon!

In service to the Queen
Achija Branvin Sionnach