8/30/06

An argument with Carla O'Harris (5)

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Originally Posted by Carla O'Harris View Post
[snipped links to books]

Thank you. I will be review them and resume the discussion upon those points upon completion.

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[link to definition]

Thank you for providing this, it helps me understand how you are using the term. I greatly appreciate it.

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You're using outdated ideas about Gardner. Gardner received his rituals, initiation, and ideas about the cult from the coven that initiated him that predated him. He had all kinds of ideas about witchcraft from wide reading, but the ideas about not causing harm came from the actual witches with whom he was in contact who initiated him. He was not arguing from other sources here. He was speaking from the tradition into which he was initiated.

The works of Ms. Murray were not primarily "unsupported conjecture", but fairly good conjecture at the time, and productive hypotheses that inspired important work such as Ginzburg's. What you may not be aware of is that I am working on a book which will champion the Neo-Murrayite viewpoint, which is a modification of Murray's work, demonstrating the important core of validity within it.

I am sorry that ten years of research has been so unfruitful for you. The research I have done over a smaller period of time has proven far more fruitful, and demonstrates that there is indeed a powerful historical precedent for the tradition into which Gardner was initiated. That tradition predates Gardner, and while we do not yet know how far back it stretched, there are precedents in the record for practices and ideas very similar which were practiced in Europe.

I propose that the discussion of the works of Gardner and Murray be held in a different thread. As I think it will be moving away from the primary theme of this one.

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I have already stated some of those : malice, resentment, envy, psychopathy, and vengeance.

I was not sure if this comprised your entire list.

I ask you, Ms. O'Harris, with the exception of psychopathy, would you agree that the stated attributes are emotions and not actions?

My next question for you, madam, is: is it the emotion that you object to or actions motivated from the emotion?

If the emotion is what you object to, I ask are you proposing regulation of emotion? I think that would be most impossible to achieve, as emotions are rather ephemeral things and more likely to change then the direction of the wind.

If it is the actions motivated by the emotion; I would know, Ms. O'Harris, who ultimately decides what actions are appropriate? What of the actions motivated by distressing emotions not listed, such as anger or deep grief?

On the matter of psychopathy, I think we can agree that this is a psychological illness. Individuals who are suffering from this are in need of care and help dealing with the problems that result from it. Unless you are working from a stand point that defines psychopathy differently then how it is defined within the psychological community, am I correct in understanding that is indeed the context you are working from with respect to this term?

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If someone is harmed and they file complaint under law against an assault and press charges, the burden of proof of self-defense as defense against the charge of assault, etc., is upon the defendant once the facts of the case have been established. As a procedure of evidence, indeed one is innocent until proven guilty ; however, that was not my point. Once the facts of the crime are established, the burden of proof is upon the person who committed the act of force.

Again, I contend that you are incorrect. I fear, however, that this is a point that I will be unable to persuade you upon. For it appears that this is an opinon that you are most fixed upon and I must respectfully disagree with you upon this. My disagreement is upon the grounds that such a stance "Once the facts of the crime are established, the burden of proof is upon the person who committed the act of force." is in direct opposition to the principles upon which our legal system is supposed to operate.

I will, however, admit that this has become the stance of the legal system du jour. As such, I would argue that our legal system has become corrupt and is now a tool primed for the abuse of the citizenry. That, however, is a topic for the Political Pagan forum.

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I think this is a ridiculously stated position. It already exists. It is called "the legal system". It exists as a set of institutions which may quite readily be drawn upon.

I contend that this is not irrelevant. Just as the legal system is the institution that is in play to regulate the society at large, within religions and various organized social groups, there is often an organized portion (that may or may not be a separate body) that is responsible for the establishment of norms, monitoring adherance to these norms, and the subsequent enforcement of them.

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These points are completely irrelevant. Maleficia was a crime in Germanic, Roman, and then later Christian law, when it was still believed to be an effective use of force. If it is not an effective use of force and only psychodrama, it is irrelevant to regulate it. But to the degree that it is accepted as an effective use of force, it is logical to regulate it.

Citizens have both a right and a duty to defend other citizens from harm. Such a legal place can be served by the old Anglo-Saxon custom of "hue and cry".

I do not aruge that citizens don't have a right and duty to do so. I apologize that I phrased my point so poorly. I ask, however, that you refer to my earlier point about the establishment and enforcement of norms within a group or organization.

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As successful as the maleficia in the first place. But there are all kinds of ways of discouraging anti-social acts, the most important of which begin in the social rather than legal realm. When everyday people discourage each other from anti-social acts, engaging in fierce reasoning, shaming, ostracizing, and even blocking, it becomes much more effective. That is why it is logical for a witch community to engage in such actions, and move on to magical-legal actions if necessary.

I will concede that the methods that you present are effective. Their effectiveness, however, is limited by the rather broad spectrum of points that frequently proves self-conflicting. Much like in our debate, it is difficult to hold a discussion when does not know the way all the terms are used. Each of the sub-cultures and religions that make up the witch, pagan and occultist community all have very specific terms. In many situations, these terms will be shared in the different groups. Unfortunately, they will not be used the same way and it makes for the discussion to be most difficult when each person approaching it have two different understandings of the word used and assumes that the other shares their own view.

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This is an extremist libertarian position that will never be held by the majority of this country or likely any other country. Why don't you go supply gangs with nukes while you're at it?

The idea that violence should be regulated is at the heart of any social community.

I shall presume that your sarcasm was said from fustration, as I occasionally do the same. As such, I restrain my sarcastic reply and will respond. You argue that my position will never be held by the majority of this country or of any other country. I will agree that as the world stands today, at the time of my typing this, you are most likely correct. This stance, however, was once held in this very nation. If you look at the political climate of the nation at the time of the Revolutionary War, you find that precise position.

As for your statement "The idea that violence should be regulated is at the heart of any social community." I would argue that you are incorrect. This, I argue, is not the heart of any social community or government for it does not address the primary motivation of said group. The primary motivation of any social community (and government) is the perpetuation of the community, the preservation of the community, and the accomplishment of the community's collective interests.

Furthermore, the regulation of violence is a secondary concern, falling as part of the preservation of the community. I am inclined to argue that the regulation of violence within the community is secondary to preserving the community from hostile external influences. My stances on these matters, Ms. O'Harris, are not extreme. I may sound extreme compared to others, but I assure you that I am not. The position I hold is grounded in the philosophical ideals that lead to the Revolutionary War and the rise of our form of government. If you would like to debate or contrast our views (as I see that yours is clearly dramatically different from mine.) I think it would be an excellent debate for Political Pagan.

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Freedom is not the freedom to violate, or engage in violence. Someone who refuses to abide by principles of law can be made an outlaw and live with the wolves. I am absolutely for wide and spacious freedom. But freedom is not freedom to violate.

If you claim that witches (and occultists, who I do not consider the same thing at all) are operating under the same common law principles that were behind the Revolutionary War, then it makes sense to have juries of witches to investigate and prosecute violations of rights.

I argue that freedom is indeed the freedom to engage in any act you so choose. You are responsible, however, not to enage in violations of the rights of others, including but not limited to violence against their person, interests, and dependants. You are also responsible for the defense of your freedoms, which may possibly include the defense of the freedoms of others. Thus, I argue that we have the right to yell "fire" in any setting we choose to but we have the responciblity not to do so in a crowded theater or otherwise incite a general panic.

If we engage in such an irresponcible act, we are then responcible for the payment of resitution to all whom are injured by it. This may be via fines, replacing destroyed property, or other socially agreed upon forms of compensation. I can not argue that the establishment of juries of witches and occultists would be a poor way to ensure that resitution is paid. I do argue, however, that until the specific questions of what consitutes harm and the mode of committing it are answered, such juries are useless.

When you consider this in the light of the earlier stated problem of ill defined terms in the discussion of these questions, it leaves the problem rather unresolvable. Much like the lack of a clearly defined and accepted definition for when life begins has hindered any and all reasonable legislation on the matter of abortion, contraceptives, and the rights of infants and parents.

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Ummmmm .... maleficia by definition is molesting the business of others. The right to self-defense is not the right to self-prosecute. I have made it clear that binding -- ie., limiting spells that are purely for self-defense and which preclude any harm to the object of the spell -- are fine forms of self-defense encouraged by Gardner in the appropriate circumstances. But people becoming judge, jury, and executioner and setting out on punitive actions is not a right held within the principles just stated. In fact, part of the limitations of our activities that you mention are limiting ourselves from punitive action, said action only allowed within the limits of due process of law.

I will agree with you that we choose to limit our actions to operate within the scope of due process of law. I argue, however, that in areas which are not the current purview of the law (such as occultism, which I use to include any and all forms of magic and spiritual practices that may be used to enact harm to others) we are forced to act on our own. We do not have the recourse of the law or of a governing/regulating body within the community (due to the lack of organization).


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I didn't say that Christian laws about maleficia should be enacted. I referred mainly to Roman and Germanic laws against maleficia, which were strictly defined as acts of harm, not the Christian expansion and distortion which used this as laws of religious persecution. As a supporter of religious freedom and paganism especially, I am obviously not suggesting laws against the practice of paganism -- within the law, of course.

If you are referring to the Roman laws against maleficia, I then ask what period of Rome's history? Or, if I may extend this some, if you are referring to the laws of antiquity from any of the cultures of the pre-Christian era, what of the laws prohibiting the practice of religions not of the State religion?

Looking specifically at the Germanic laws, I ask you, Ms. O'Harris, are you supporting the revival of the practice of weirgeld? Or perhaps the Celtic digal? It is a risky thing to embrace the practices of the old religions for they are from a time where nations marched to war more frequently then they do today. Much of the old laws, I have found, tend to encourage the attitude that one does have the right to smite their foes with any and all means possible, limited only in your culture by the person at the top of the heap with more power then you have. In essence, they support a very different social structure then the one we operate in, or at least are supposed to operate in according to the principles our nation is founded upon.

In either situation, the modernization of Christian, Germanic, Roman, or other ancient laws can only result in a gross array of opportunities for all who practice magic to be oppressed. As such, I include witches, other pagans, and occultists in this discussion. To ignore them would be as foolish as it was of the Founding Fathers to ignore the people groaning in slavery at the time of writing the Declaration of Independence, indeed it would smack of hypocracsy.

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Let self-policing occur on the social level according to the principle of preventing maleficia, and this won't become an issue.

Please refer to my earlier statements with respect to self-policing. Thank you.

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I am not concerned with spiritual beings per se, but the ethics of the actions of human beings. Someone can love the most malevolent character in the history of villainry, and as long as their actions (and I include magical actions) cause no harm to others, I could care less what they do. It is when they cause harm that it becomes an issue.

Gardner's phrasing of his witch tradition's feelings about this is extremely libertarian : An' ye harm none, do what ye will. Do what you want, and the libertarian ethic applies, so long as none are harmed. Step over that line, and there's trouble.

I ask you, Ms. O'Harris, please confirm for me, you are not invalidating the right to self-defense or the defense of others, correct? I also ask, what of accidental harm?

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Opinion about this is divided. There is evidence for some sacrifice. How prevalent it was is a matter of debate. That the Druids provided solidarity for Gaulish resistance to Roman invasion was the key issue, just as the Imams providing solidarity for Iraqi resistance to American invasion has been of some concern. Of course, the Romans, like the Americans, were engaged in imperialistic adventures, but generally speaking, as long as a religion didn't oppose Roman supremacy, the Romans were surprisingly tolerant.

I can find other examples of cultures and religions oppressed via propaganda by the Romans, other cultures in antiquity, or even by the United States of America. I do see that you can see the parallel that I'm striving to draw here. I don't suspect, however, that my intentions in this illustration were as clear as I thought they were. I will try to rephrase it.

Propaganda is a powerful tool. Public opinion, is in many respects, the hive-mind of a nation and it's life-blood. It is also a very fickle thing and easily manipulated by propaganda. I am extremely apprehensive with the idea of regulating magic as it is an integral part of the religious practices of many individuals. (Depending upon your definition of magic, you could argue of all religions. That's a different discussion, however.) Regulation of the elements of a religion is the same as regulation of religion itself when you take one of the core elements of the religion in question.

It would be like telling a Catholic that they are not permitted to partake of the Eucharist because the communal sharing of the Blood of Christ is a violation of health codes. This is one of the foundational sacraments of Catholicism, take it away and you have a very different religion. In one fell swoop, you have just outlawed Catholicism in practical terms, even if you haven't done so by writing a law specifically naming the faith. You also have outlawed any and all other religions that engaged in the same practice.

The same risk is at play in the regulation of magic. If you do not permit a person to burn a woman shaped candle in the effort to curse a woman's ovaries to wither and make her unfertile, then you also do not permit a person to burn a woman shaped candle in the effort to assist in conception for a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome.

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And minimizing the violation of other beings is part of the social contract of being part of a community. While it may not be possible to eliminate all harm, that is a far cry from those who deliberately set out to cause harm in a punitive, malefic way, declaring themselves gods able to be judge, jury, and executioner.

I've addressed this point earlier in this post. Please refer to the discussion of the primary goals of a social group or government. Thank you.

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I consider anyone who cannot keep within non-injury of others, especially when it comes to dealing with the Shadow, to be riding a psychopathic edge that is very dangerous. Psychodrama is one thing. Illegal, intentional infliction of harm is imposing upon others and violating them.

I thank you for your honesty in expressing your opinion. Your statement, however, presents the impression that you are arguing against the defense of self, one's rights, and others.

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I don't. But maybe I'm a little sharp on the learning curve.

But even if you meant that sometimes suffering is a part of the equation of growth, "suffering" is a completely different category than "intentional harm". There is an overabundance of suffering in the world without human beings having to add to that equation.

I am glad that you were able to learn from and rise above oppressive situations that caused you suffering.

Again, I will with hold my sarcasm. Though, I must say, it is difficult for I see opportunities to jest here. I will not do so, and there by prevent the misinterpretation of my words in response to your initial statement here.

I will, however, put to you these questions: As you were learning to ride your bike as a child, did you fall off? Did it hurt? Would you agree that pain is suffering?

Your earlier statements with respect to harm painted the incidental suffering that is a natural result of being alive on the same moral ground as intentionally inflicted harm. In your most recent statement about the "overabundance of suffering" in the world, this apparent stance is represented. I will assume, however, that it is due to my misinterpreting what you are saying.


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Acts of self-defense are legitimate justifications for the appropriate use of force proportional to warding off the threat. I never disagreed with the right of self-defense ; my point is that it, too, is regulated by law and the principle of proportionality.

Your arguments, Ms. O'Harris, presents at times the impression that you are arguing against acts of self-defense. I see quite clearly that you feel that there is a need to use force in appropriate proportionality to the force used against the person defending themselves. I question, madam, whom has the right to determine what is the correct amount of force to apply in defending yourself within the context of magic and what is the correct mode to be used?

I will agree that there is such a thing as excessive force in defending yourself. When you kill the mugger, and the situation was such that breaking their arm would have been most sufficent for preserving your life and liberty, I agree that there is a need for an inquiry into the situation. I do not believe, however, that the person defending themselves are to be assumed as in the wrong from the beginning of the inquiry.

In such a situation, the evidence must speak alone as to where the fault lies. For the initial situation may be such that your killing of the assailant looks to be an excessive response but the subsequent investigation may present that the party had threatened your life in a manner that necessitated your killing them. The impression you present, Ms. O'Harris, is that the assumption is made that the person who killed the mugger is initially at fault for the act of killing and that this assumption is made within the legal community in all acts of self-defense. I argue that this is not the case, as I have been personally informed by members of law enforcement, the military, and professionals that teach self-defense.

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I do not know what you did, but assuming it was entirely within a reasonable limitation of self-defense, if the other suffered consequences of their own criminal actions and your reasonable defense against them, the responsibility is theirs.

Continuing upon the assumptions presented above, I ask: If I had not given you all of the contextual information for the situation, would you have assumed that I was acting in the wrong?

As for what I did, I reported the person in question to the Board of Trustees and the President of the College for their actions. Failure on the part of the administration of the college and the Board of Trustees would have resulted in my making a public complaint via the local media and then initiating a class action lawsuit with other students who had been subjected to the misbehavior of the administrator in question. [shrugs] I ran the risk of getting thrown out of college for the sake of doing the right thing. It seems to be an unusual trait. It makes me feel sad about my generation, but that is a different topic. If you'd like, I would tell you the whole story about the incident at some point.

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And you are legally responsible for those actions. You are answerable to a community for them. And if your actions were reasonable and within the limits of law, you will have no reason to worry. But making a decision to harm someone in self defense in an emergency is a different thing altogether than an intentional invocation of magic, which can most certainly be more imaginative than someone caught in a moment of attack.

Madam, I content that every act of self defense is of equal nature. And the limit of your mode of self defense if that of your imagination, thus why there are sections of self defense classes devoted to the use of and identification of unconventional weaponry. Most people might beable to consider using a fork to defend them selves, but with the correct mindset, even a blanket or a peice of paper can be used. The question is to what extent are you willing to go to defend yourself.

All invocation of magic is intentional. It is simply how it works, you can not use it with out intention. Your intentions may not be clear or may not be well thought out, but you intend to use magic, thus you do so. And I have, as well as probably many others, used magic in emergency situations to defend myself. Sometimes, that is what it takes to give that little bit of "luck" you need to avoid grevious injury. I adamantly reject the contention that all magic requires a ritual. That, however, is based in my view of how magic works and functions, which is in a different thread.

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I am invoking important legal principles to provide perspective in this debate, and to demonstrate why the Gardnerian "harm none" doctrine is extremely important.

In fact, you are responsible to the community and the law for your actions.

I am truly sorry for the violations you have suffered, and without declaring you a victim in the larger connotation of the word, I recognize, at least according to the description you have given, that you were the victim of a series of violations, which, as a member of the human community, I am very sorry for, and embarassed by the actions of my fellow humans who have treated you so horrendously. I applaud your character and ability to rise above this history. (Not that you need any of that -- I'm not attempting to be patronizing -- but you did mention these incidents and I do not want to be cold to your history, as your rights have been violated.)

If you are engaging in actions governed by conscience, good judgement, and a consideration of principles of proportional justice, respect of rights, and self-defense, then you are engaging in ethical action. But this is a different thing altogether than perpetrating injurious actions upon others.

It is kind of you to offer your sympathy for the suffering that I've experienced at the hands of others. I also appreciate your recognition of my efforts to survive, heal and rectify the situations. I empathise with the embaressment and disappointment you feel for humanity at large, as these individuals reflect poorly on our species.

I, ask you, Ms. O'Harris, however, how can you tell that one is perpetrating injurious actions upon others with magic? And when those actions are or are not done in self-defense and in an ethical manner.

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