Another Thread Alone In a Tapestry of Bullshit -or- LOLbertarians and Rampant Classism on Patheos

So, I get back from Convergence XX in Chicago, and what the hell do I get? Well, OK, I got a massive allergy attack after an extended weekend away from these blasted pollens, a sore throat that I may or may not have gotten from a friend who turned out to have viral laryngitis, and three loads of laundry whilst being out of fabric softener –but that’s just the pedantic bastard hat talking. So what the hell else did I get? Another fucking stupid Patheos Pagan post that can’t even make the point it alleges to. If I had selective amnesia, I’d start waxing nostalgic about the days of Star Foster in charge, cos well, she may have sipped from the LOLbertarian Kool-Aid when alleging that people on disability get thousands of dollars a month, but at least she understood that words mean things, and if you’re going to claim discrimination, back it up with more than AynRandian double-speak and circular reasoning.

Let’s start by making one thing quite clear: To “discriminate” against a population or demographic of people is to treat them with prejudice. If La’Keisha has gobs of cash and wants to hold a free event so that even people with very little money can attend, you may believe that is misguided, you may think that’s creating an unfair power dynamic, or you may even think that’s just stupid all you like, but if you’re going to claim that La’Keisha is “discriminating against the poor” you really have to illustrate how, exactly, that is an action of prejudice against those with less money than her. if you cannot illustrate how that is a decision of prejudice, and thus discrimination, then it’d do you well to not call it discrimination.

Next off, why I think this is just LOLbertarian nonsense.

Now let me make another thing very clear: While I think even the better-educated Libertarian is still wrong-headed (I’ve even met a few who regard income taxes and social safety nets as “necessary to keep society functioning”, imagine that), I watch The Hobbesian on Teh FarceBorg, where the term “LOLbertarian” seems reserved for the kind of Libertarian he likes to troll –the pot heads who defend child porn, tax-dodging professional whiners, and the sorts who read Atlas Shrugged and masturbate until they’ve got sores (I knew someone who did that —not to Atlas Shrugged, I hope, but what the hell, dude, break out the Lubriderm); wannabe-political gadflies who’ve never had an original thought in their heads and prove this repeatedly by only really parroting Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and other nonsense factories lampooned on The Daily Colbert.

In other words, LOLbertarian is less about your politics and more about whether or not you’re an idiot. But I digress….

So basically this strikes me as LOLbertarian nonsense because it’s an argument that rests entirely on the notion that pagan events will only be “equal” if everyone pitches in an equal amount of cash, and that this can empower the poor to put on events that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

That’s a cute idea, but it just isn’t true.

See, events are more than just a stack of bills. They’re all manner of public drama, behind-the-scenes drama, sweat and blood and tears and fucking WORK. If you paid $10 or even $100 for admission to an event, you did fucking NOTHING in comparison to those who secured the event space(s), booked the speakers and entertainment (if applicable), did the advertising necessary to populate said event, made the party favours (if applicable), and volunteered their time to help keep things running smoothly as they tend to (having worked and volunteered at many events, I can tell you that there’s always something that goes wrong, ALWAYS, but at the best events, this is usually inconsequential when weighed against everything else that went right).

Furthermore, depending on the scope of the event, your admission price, in the most likely scenario, only deferred costs to those who threw it together —they most likely put it all together at a loss, even if only a small loss (something the truly poor [and not just the "struggling to stay in a middle-class income" who tend to fancy themselves impoverished] just cannot afford to do, especially those of us who have children or at least furbabies). Most “successful” events are lucky to break even, and they rarely turn a profit, yes, even —nay, especially those events that charge admission.

So now that we’ve established that it’s actually very hard for someone with very little to throw an event by simply making it something people have to pay to attend, let’s look at the false notion of egalitarianism at events:

Not only is this is entirely based on disregarding the ancient virtue of hospitality, but it’s just unrealistic nonsense, if you really look at the reality of the situation with regards to throwing events. There is someone, or more often a small committee of people, who do the organising, and then there are those who speak and entertain, and those who volunteer their time so that most people can just goof off and enjoy themselves in the most carefree manner possible. If you’re not doing any of those things at an event, newsflash, Spanky: Paying an admission fee will not make you equal to those who do shit, and until you actually do something besides throwing money at it, you will NEVER be equal to those who do shit.

You know what empowers people, even the poor? Doing shit. People who do shit don’t have to pretend that throwing a little money around empowers them or makes for an egalitarian situation. Doing shit is more powerful and far more empowering than a stack of increasingly worthless linen paper ever will be (thanks, inflation rate!), because doing shit is more valuable to the outcome of an event than the money charged for tickets to defray the costs to the organisers. You know what an event with an egalitarian spirit would look like? An event where everyone had to pitch in some actual time and effort, and not just money, to make it happen —but that’s never going to happen, because some people will insist that they can’t pitch in time and actual work due to their schedules, or abilities, and so on (which is fair enough, and I can’t really fault anyone on), and then there are going to be those who’ll just complain because it’ll feel less like a “fun event” and more like “actual work” (cos I guess they think that the people, like myself, who actually do shit think that spending hours on phones to secure a venue, or make the arrangements to ensure the speakers and/or entertainers’ needs are met, or spend over seven hours on their feet folding and passing out t-shirts at the registration desk, think all of that that is just funner than pooping…).

So what now? After all, if egalitarianism in our events is an impossibility due to that pesky reality, why not just give up? I mean, if there’s going to be an unequal relationship where the event organisers are top-teir, followed by speakers and entertainment, then volunteers, and everyone who just paid for a ticket is now “just the guests” of the top-teir and their speakers, entertainment, and volunteers, then what good could that possibly be for pagans as a whole?

You know, I wonder if, since the idea that a power structure existing is somehow equal to “discrimination” and stigmatisation against the poor in Ms Aradia’s eyes, if she’s a fan of parents or if she thinks that teacher/student and other such unequal relationships are at all akin to “discrimination” in her eyes? Does she only stay at hotels when she travels, or does she couch surf with friends (or even strangers from couchsurfing.com)? The world is full of situations where there are going to be power exchanges –sometimes you’ll be mid- or top-tier in the situation, but sometimes you’ll just be there, and of no especial consequence to the situation, you’ll just be there for the experience of being there –and that is perfectly fine.

I always make an effort to volunteer for events when I can –I don’t always get an assignment, but I genuinely love it when I do, because even though it’s work, it’s work I’m glad to contribute. That’s not everyone’s cuppa, and I don’t fault anyone who would rather not do the all-too-often thankless work that is necessary to keep things running smoothly. but what I find ridiculous is anyone who entertains the cockamamie notion that throwing around a little money is at all an equalising action in the face of actually doing shit. it’s a perfectly valid pursuit to only seek the experience of event with the least amount of effort on your own part, I’ve done that plenty of times, myself, but don’t insult my intelligence.

Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to pretty up your LOLbertarian nonsense as a way to stick up for the impoverished. The poor know well enough that sometimes costs need to be defrayed, and tickeg prices are the most reliable way to do that.

Don’t insult my intelligence by equating the power structure of an event with being discriminated against, especially if you can’t even kinda-/sorta explain how that shit’s supposed to fly.

Most importantly, don’t insult my intelligence by insisting that paying an admission price puts you on a closer-to-level playing field of those who do shit.

If a party organising the event can afford to make it free, all the better. It harms no-one, it exercises no prejudice to do so, and it especially highlights the expectation of hospitality that guests can measure the organisers by –an expectation even ticket-holding guests would have, regardless of the illusion of “egalitarianism” afforded by a stack of worthless linen papers. if the organising party breaches that hospitality, then people who were once guests still have the power to react. Considering all this, I’m even further failing to see the alleged “discrimination against the poor” by hosting free events versus charging admission –the rights and expectations of the guests are still in place, only this time, they get to keep their money and the hosting party is arguably at a greater social and even SPIRITUAL obligation to hospitality –if the bonds of xenia are not upheld, then the host party is not only offending their guests, but even the gods.

Yeah, some people don’t appreciate things unless they have to spread around a little worthless linen paper for it. Sometimes it’s necessary to charge a ticket price not just to ensure that the aforementioned handful appreciate it, but to ensure that the event’s bills get paid without bankrupting the organising party, and thus ensuring future events. These are both wonderful points to remember, but as witb Star Foster’s “Square Gods” post, that thread of decent point got lost in the tapestry of bullshit that Ms Sable Aradia wove it into –and bullshit, dare I say, that Ms Foster can only begin to dream of. This is bullshit that’s make P.T. Barnum wish he thought up bottling and selling –after all, there’s no discrimination, but she’s managed to get people to agree that there is; there is a power exchange in nearly every interaction in our lives, but she’s managed to get people to think that this one is “bad”; and throwing a little money at an event isn’t any more empowering than actually doing shit (especially when everyone else is giving the same amount), but if you want to turn your brain off before reading that LOLbertarian nonsense, you might just walk away thinking that it is.

[ETA 6 May 2014 @ 23:51EDT]
Another bit of nonsense that really bothers me about Ms Aradia’s piece is this quote:

Attempting to include everyone by making events free gives undue power and influence to those who can afford to front everyone else, and requires everyone to be their guests rather than their coreligionists[sic].

This bothers me because it’s kind of the epitome of the fallacious logic her entire piece employs: The False equivalence. In this passage, she is suggesting that being someone’s “guest” is somehow mutually exclusive of being their co-religionist. In the real world, this is easily demonstrated as false; a “guest” (rather than tithing member) of a particular Roman Catholic church (at least in the States, and depending on the particular church) may receive Communion on good faith —it will be accepted “on the honour system” that one is a Catholic and thus co-religionist of the host church to which one is a guest. Most Quaker meeting houses have no problem accepting that members in need (who cannot afford to make contributions to the maintenance of the meeting house) are also Quaker, even if by Ms Aradia’s logic they are “merely guests” without making a financial contribution. Non-denominational Protestant churches are even more relaxed about this sort of thing. I’ve also never met a Hare Krishna devotee or Buddhist who demanded that all co-religionists be dues-paying members of their temples.

Clearly it follows by basic logic that if a party is hosting a pagan and/or polytheist gathering, that the guests will largely be one’s co-religionists, as well. A status that is mutually exclusive of “guest” is “host” –not “co-religionist”. A status that is mutually exclusive of “co-religionist” is “non-co-religionist”, not “guest at an event for co-religionists”. The implication that one cannot be both “co-religionist” and “guest at an event for co-religionists” is a flimsy argument, at its very best, but for some dumb reason, some people are taking the paper cup of LOLbertarian Kool-Aid.
[/ETA]

So how does classism play into this?

Well, when you endorse the notion that free events discriminate against the poor, what about those poor who can’t even take in enough bottle returns to get their admission? Either they don’t attend or they’re forced to subject themselves to the kindness of others –by the very logic in Ms Aradia’s piece, charging admission doesn’t actually help those who are truly impoverished, but she’s clearly too pig-headed to see that; by making the event free (gods willing), no-one needs to worry about finding a patron to pay their admission, because “free to everyone” removes the restraints of economic class that will either put one in a truly subservient position, or artificially elevate their status by affording one the ability to throw extra money around and not actually do anything. if it’s bad to put one at the “mercy” of another one’s hospitality, then it logically follows that ticket prices reinforce the necessity of the hospitable nature of others and thus their “mercy”, which is bad. hrmmmm…. If the only people who can go are those who can afford to and those with friends who can afford to give or lend them the admission price, then clearly only a certain class of attendees are allowed, which logically makes it classist —which typically implies discrimination.

Basically this is trickle-down Reaganomic hogwash with a crescent moon tiara, as if that’s supposed to make it acceptable.

Again, don’t get me wrong, more often than not, a ticket price is necessary, or only the richest people would ever put on events, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that this reality actually empowers the truly impoverished. It’s just another one of the lies concocted by the status quo to allow people to feel good about the role they play in a shitty situation —like when a vegan turns a blind eye to the small animals killed in harvesting equipment (and not to mention on the roads as needed to ship fancy foodstuffs all over the world to accommodate a modern vegan diet), an estimated higher number per day than all cows and chickens and pigs killed each day in slaughterhouses, because it’s a necessary lie to cling to when one’s ideals are at odds with reality. Charging money for a ticket isn’t going to empower the poor in the pagan and polytheist communities –it’s just going to make sure the bills get paid on time.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

3 thoughts on “Another Thread Alone In a Tapestry of Bullshit -or- LOLbertarians and Rampant Classism on Patheos

  1. The comment I left on that post:

    “While I agree that people should be compensated for their time/effort, even if only to defray costs of putting on an event (which is a LOT of work), this “discriminates against the poor” argument is not a good one to hitch your wagon to, IMO. Power dynamics exist as a fact of life, and a little $$ doesn’t automatically make that disappear (in fact, insisting that everyone has to pay actually means poor pagans can’t participate, contrary to your “discrimination” argument).”

    IMO, everyone should give as they are able, of what they are able. Sometimes that’s money, sometimes not. That, also, is a part of hospitality–a gift for a gift.

  2. IMO, everyone should give as they are able, of what they are able. Sometimes that’s money, sometimes not. That, also, is a part of hospitality–a gift for a gift.

    Exactly! And sometimes you can’t afford to pay an admission price and can’t get someone to pay it for you —there is nothing wrong with that, clearly *at this hypothetical time*, it wasn’t meant to be, maybe next time. Or hell, when I lived in the Los Angeles area, I used to volunteer at events cos I couldn’t afford to go, otherwise, but the person or people organising were a friend-of-a-friend and knew I’d be up to just about any task I’m physically capable of —in lieu of paying to get in, I’ve done all manner of menial tasks from assembling vendor booths just past dawn after spending the night on the city trains to basically being someone’s minder (cos they were a little more ADHD than myself and was known for just wandering off when they were most needed). I don’t need to pretend that throwing around a little money is some “great equaliser” when I’ve pulled my own weight and then some to help out at all manner of events and the people who paid admission did little more than go to the jobs they would’ve gone to, anyway.

    I don’t need to throw a little cash at an event to know how valuable I was to it —yeah, paying an admission helps defray costs and gets the event’s bills paid on time, certainly not a completely worthless endeavour, but it’s certainly not an equal situation to being the event’s organisers, speakers/entertainers, or volunteers. It would be like saying that the audience had as much or more to do with James Cameron’s overall success as a filmmaker than James Cameron and his cast and crew on any one film –the audience helped his films become financial successes, so he and his backers could break even and turn a little profit, but the critical acclaim and development of filming techniques his films are known for had little, if anything to do with Joe Schmoe who paid $30 so he and his girlfriend could see Avatar for the second time. If you want to measure “successful” by finances, only, well, Adam Sandler’s films may arguably be making even more money, cos they have a lower production cost so wouldn’t Adam Sandler be the better filmmaker? We don’t do that, though; we measure an overall success in film by not just profits, but by peer-review and critical acclaim and the legacy it can leave in the history of the medium —thus Sandler churns out a lot of profitable crap, and James Cameron may be recycling Joseph Campbell “mythology” faster than George Lucas, but he can create a visually beautiful piece from it that advances technical effects by leaps and bounds. And it’s the *doing shit* part that essentially fuelled his financial successes, as well.

    This is where Capitalism proves worthless to the culture, because it measures worth and value by financial success before anything else —paradoxically, Ayn Rand, championing Capitalism as she collected Social Security in her later years, by the very tenants of her own “philosophy” was a failure who couldn’t afford to live by her own rules she laid out. This does not pare out with reality, where deeds are typically regarded as being of greater value than just throwing a little money around.

  3. Thanks for writing this. It’s nice–as an event organizer, and traveling teacher who has paid out of pocket more often than not–to read posts by folks who really get what it takes to throw an event.

    I suppose I get some of the intention of the original post…I have seen some of how the people with the money to put on an event (and then offer that event “for free) have an undue amount of influence…but, there’s also something about the article you reference that doesn’t sit right with me too, and you bring up a few of those points.

    However, I’ve been on the road teaching for the past weeks so I’m still trying to wrap my brain around articulating an actual comment on the original article, heh. I’ve written some of my own posts on Pagans, fundraising, and money, so maybe it’s time for another post on that. :)

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