Four Brief Reflections on Politics, Consumerism, and Religion

I.

Have you ever seen a holiday card for a polytheistic holiday (or even the Solstices or Equinoxes, if we want to keep it polytheist-ecumenical) outside of niche online stores, a pagan store in the physical world, or Etsy?

What about polytheistic cards directed at people celebrating major life events, like weddings or new children?

Bereavement cards?

My guess is not, at least if you’re living in the USA. My hypothesis is that you could tell the religiosity and persistence of a movement by how many people adopt the religious rituals and how much of a groundswell there is for products related to holidays and major life events. Kids who grow up and stay in the religion will one day need to bury our parents.

II.

The New York Times article in late October 2019 about America reaching “peak witchcraft” was interesting, and the example of being invited to a New Moon ritual for career success was hilarious.

I’m less worried about the New Moon rituals and the spaces for people to come together than I am about spiritual materialism and product placement.

Even with this, though, New Moon rituals are a good thing — even secular celebrations and non-religious witchcraft rituals bring people together. I have been to a secular Full Moon circle once or twice, and it was a beautiful event — darkness, candles, people (mostly women) sharing stories and being in emotional space with one another. Very powerful. It doesn’t replace the other lunar rituals I do, which focus on the Gods through sacrifice and prayer, but it was a nice, human-centric supplement.

I think one of the places where we misstep is in treating self-care like it’s the endgame. Self-care is the latticework that holds us together and keeps us resilient. True happiness comes from the Gods, and it comes from the well-worn path of devotion and steady religious practice. One needs to take care of limself to do good things, and recharging is always the first step, not the last one. Meditation is not necessarily religious, but it’s a good preparation for the focus that sustained devotional activities require. An eating regimen that meets one’s nutritional needs isn’t religious, but it helps with focus, energy levels, and health. You go slow now to go fast later.

Late stage capitalism and the breakdown of state infrastructure in the United States make this hard to achieve. Universal basic income could help. Widespread mass transit can help. Health care access does help. Raising taxes on the wealthy will help. If the wealthy are proud of their money, their names can go on the train cars and school buildings. Like vanity plates, but for taxes.

We don’t get to take success and material possessions with us, but we do need a small number of good things in our lives to get out of our own way and live up to our potential.

III.

It’s easy for things to get excessive and for inequality to happen. Money changes things, and it changes them a lot. Influencer culture changes things, and it ripples out so, so fast.

Even in modern philosophies of life like minimalism, people have to aggressively negotiate their relationship with consumerism, and consumerism is trying to turn minimalism into yet another thing to market to people to get them to buy more things. Are these articles about witchcraft the same — they take something neutral, something that puts most people in touch with being more sustainable and less mindlessly acquisitive, and then construct a materialist story around it? Most witches I know care about the world, and they don’t buy the expensive water bottles with the energy healing crystals in them. Most minimalists don’t live out of a single bag with 15 items or in white-walled apartments with gray, black, and white clothes from name brands. Yet these are the consumer blueprints we’re sold. It’s only a matter of time before there’s one for NRM polytheists.

It’s a relentless push, a toxic one — look at what we have done to the planet’s ability to support us and how few companies and governments are willing to do what it takes to undo the damage. Consumerism and out-of-control acquisitiveness are a maw that does not cease sucking us in, and the void needs to be filled in at its root.

The laptop I’m writing on — purchased in 2015 — was created from materials mined in similar conditions to New Age crystals, just like the phone I’ve had since 2017. Just like the device you’re reading this on. There are no healing spells or cleansing herbs that can make that exploited labor un-happen. I do not wantonly replace my tech because I know about those sacrifices.

What kind of energy does crystal-purified water have if the rock was broken out of the earth in strife?

IV.

Having boundaries and sticking to them is radical in a society that encourages each of us to expand out and devour everything we can.

2 thoughts on “Four Brief Reflections on Politics, Consumerism, and Religion

  1. I find your first point to be a really interesting one- one that bears a lot of reflection. Much of the disease in the other points has roots that at least partially explain the first.

    Namely, one of the major failings of modern “Capitalism” is that it is actually a form of the Mercantilism that Capitalism idealistically thought it could replace. By this, I mean that our economy is about controlling oligarchs’ risk, not competition. It’s all about scale- economies of scale, size dominance, outgrowing competitors, bigger, faster, more… without end. It is about shielding those with money from threats to their wealth and the comfort and power it represents.

    They can only continue that by getting us to buy into their narratives at scale. Investing in niche products like polytheistic birthday cards presents too much perceived risk to the oligarch.

    But small-scale producers serving a community have the potential to thrive while being both conscientious and profitable. The trick is scaling up our communities to a sustainable size without getting so large that the oligarchs decide we’re large enough niche to need owning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t studied economics in detail, so I can’t speak to the theory as well as I can talk about the impacts I see in the day-to-day. However, it sounds like there have been some pivotal inflection points in recent decades that have driven much of the toxicity, and we’re not fixing the mistakes that were made because so many interests are invested in the status quo.

      Interesting thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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