The following entry and links may contain triggering material.
The other day, I caught an amusing status update that described capital-p Pagan and Polytheism movements making too much noise about the next thing threatening it/these that…really doesn’t “threaten” at all. The ensuing discussion described picking on l’il-p pop culture paganism as two years out of vogue (hurrah!) but pitting pagan-inspired esotericism against by-the-reconstructionist-approved-book practices never goes out of style (un-hurrah.)
Now it’s capital-p Politics. Identity politics, and cultural dynamics, I think that’s dicey to say religion keeps itself in some hermetically sealed jar and never has any influence on that, or has never been influenced by that. Then again, my corporeal roommate is taking anthropology classes, and information is contagious.
It is commonplace in the academic study of religion to observe that the word “religion” is manifestly conditioned by the history of its use and that it is deeply problematic, epistemologically and politically, to generalize across the very wide range of human cultural goings-on that are now included in this capacious term.
That sentence is capacious.
To speak of religion is to elide and conceal much that is critical to understanding the deeply embedded ways of being often denoted by the short-hand term “religion(s).” Rather than begin by asking what religion is as an autonomous object in the world, or as a distinctive human phenomenon, and therefore how best to define it know it when we see it
Alynah’s Ears, can we please just know it when we see it? I don’t care anymore what philosophical distinction structures the Rather you have—
the better to explain it and its relations with other objects—it is more cautious to start the question: What has religion been for anthropology?
Okay. That’s pretty cool. What was I blogging about again? Not anthropology. Politics? Oh, right. Capital-p Politics, the laws and military and international relations…getting in the way of religion? Aristotle taught me that gods can only be arsed to take notice of the highborn. I don’t believe the lesson, but that doesn’t make the opposite true, that religion is apolitical.
I take anthropology to be a particular tradition of enquiry, a long conversation
With such capacious sentences, it would be a long conversation. I’m guilty of this, though, so I shouldn’t snark. Where’s this even from?
—”A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion” by Janice Boddy, Michael Lambek, and Treebeard the Ent
What makes religion apolitical to me personally is that, while my belief system might become categorically religious, I…haven’t navigated the political climate of where I live as well as that (not well enough for a consistent metaphor, anyway.) My corporeal friend of a friend, let’s name her Saeyong, told me over dinner about her worries for her home country because some politician over there seemed very likely to win on the platform of removing everyone’s online privacy…and monitoring offline spaces, as a public service. Dinner ended with her shaking my shoulders and exclaiming, “You have to vote! Or the worst will happen!”
But the only platforms I could glean from each candidate was, ‘No, your father was a womanizer!’ And I watched the debates. There didn’t seem to be any actual arguing. If someone comes up and says that sustainable poverty alleviation could only happen if legislation that affects businesses quit being so easily intimidated by vested interests, and the general answer is that poverty alleviation is always a noble goal that will involve balancing vested interests consistently…I still won’t know who to vote for.
“Binay bought our votes,” droned my corporeal friend Anjie. “He said it himself that even if he loses, he’ll win.”
“Are you sure he didn’t mean that even if nobody likes him, he’ll still be a winner in his heart?” I asked.
Anjie was very sure.
As it went, Anjie was wrong and Saeyong was right. We inaugurated this guy. Shaping up the police force to military standards! Encouraging vigilante justice among civilians! Dead bodies have turned up, mummified in masking tape with some paper note saying not to feel sorry for them, because they were drug pushers…which is hardly Procedure.
Alleged purse snatchers have been given the same treatment.
Purse snatchers. Alleged purse snatchers. Murdered, or “executed” but either way death is involved…for purse snatching. Not only is that not Procedure, but I’m just not sensing how exactly that dismantles the systemic economic injustices that turns purse-snatching into an attractive career in the first place. I’m not even saying that purse snatchers are a boon to society or unsung heroes or some bullshit: there’s a time in my life where I lived out of one bag, one unlucky encounter and yeah I would probably have wanted that thief dead. But I believe there’s a lot in between that might involve some actual justice maybe.
Anyway, who’s next up for masking tape mummification? Prostitutes? Jaywalkers? Litterbugs? Truant orphaned street children? Growing up in middle class luxury, I was always told those kids were pawns of organized crime syndicates. It stands to reason that now is the golden age of this nation, for vigilantes can sentence the kids to death for skipping class and breaking child labor laws.
In cheerier news, the United Nations asked China very nicely to cut it out with setting up military outposts and destroying corals to create artificial islands in areas that aren’t theirs, that is…the Philippines. (I’ve overheard some rumors about unfortunate Vietnamese fishing boats in the same area whose crews might not have made it out alive, but overhearing rumors is hardly proper citation.)
Scratch all that.
What makes religion apolitical to me personally is that I haven’t got a hashtagging prayer.