Essays, Organizations

Pagan Community Failures

A recent post on a local Pagan Yahoo group, and the feedback that came from it underlines a lot of the problems with Pagan organizations in general, and the community as a whole.

The short story:

One person suggests combining a bunch of different groups into a one-stop-shop website. People say yes, great idea. The website gets started, and then no one helps or participates, and the original person is going broke maintaining it. The OP is also upset that no one is using the wonderful site she’s created.

There are a couple things here I ought to touch on, but here’s the big one: Money.
This particular person was willing to sacrifice to make this site happen, and expected others, in a community notorious for members who don’t pay their own way, to follow suit. Furthermore, she took on a large expense to do so.

A half hour or so of investigation (thanks to my spouse) suggests that her hosting plan, which includes the website software, is running her around $300 a month…a totally bogus number, since the software is priced at about $5000 and the web host the software developers are reselling through costs only $10/month. The software is nothing special, and in just over a year, she’ll have paid for an entire copy of the software.

In the end, the stress of trying to pay the bills won out, and she’s scaling back her vision for the site, because the site as-is was simply not maintainable.

This is true of a lot in the Pagan community. People say they want libraries and ritual space and shops, but they’re not willing to pay to rent the space, or to frequent the shops enough to keep them open.

It’s been a big contributor to recent changes in the Dianic coven I belong to – the whole shift from open group to closed group came about because of the number of people who wouldn’t even contribute food for after-ritual.

It was a contributor to the end of Prism Temple (hell, the OP mentioned above was one of those people who was disappointed when we quit, because she thought it was a great idea, but she never got around to contributing).

Here’s the thing:
There’s a difference between a low impact lifestyle, being poor, and being a leach.
Choosing to live on less, being frugal on purpose…that’s something I could see as a result of a Pagan worldview. Less impact on the land, choosing the job that you love even if it doesn’t pay all that much…these are things that are good. And most folks who do this are willing to find ways to participate and add to the communities they’re a part of – it may be time or food or something else instead of money, but they *choose* which things are important to them, and make those things happen.

Being poor is something that is not necessarily a choice, but which can be influenced by choice. And again, for most folks who are truely poor, it’s a matter of priorities, but the first priority is meeting one’s basic needs: food, clothing, shelter. Truthfully, most of these folks *also* are more than willing to chip in to help make things happen that are important to them, are willing to find ways to get the things that are important to them.

Being a leach? That seems to be the biggest part of the community these days. It’s not that these folks couldn’t change something to have the money, but that they won’t. These are the folks that complain about the cost of the festival, spend next month’s rent on pretty new sparkly things, and then beg for gas money to get home. These are the folks that buy books online and candles at Walmart, and then get upset when the local Pagan shop that they never shop at closes. These are the people who complain about the same shop owners charging for meeting rooms, and then are upset when there’s no space to meet. These are the “I spent $30 on a prosperity kit and I’m still broke, what did I do wrong?” people.

So, what’s the solution?
I think that *any* Pagan organization, no matter what its purpose, needs to be founded on the idea that new content and activities will happen as someone steps forward to lead it, and as the money to pay for it becomes available. I think a small (but not too small) committed group has to head up any organization.

And I think that groups that start out expecting contributions need to enforce it – if you don’t contribute to the group, you don’t benefit from the group. Draw the types of people who contribute by eliminating those who don’t – you’ll have a stronger organization on the whole, and you’ll make a name by being the folks who don’t put up with bullshit.

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