Indifference of Convenience? Pagan Community Silence on Mauna Kea
Posted on July 21, 2019
When it comes to protesting development over sacred sites, the wider Pagan community (online as it is) tends to be relatively vociferous. With the Dakota Access Pipeline and the conflict which erupted at Standing Rock over that situation, writers of Paganism unleashed a flurry of information, coordination, and protests. A search of the “Dakota Access Pipeline” in the archives of the Wild Hunt reveals (as of 7.21.19) eighteen distinct post hits, from link roundups, to editorials and columns of Pagan involvement, or otherwise community notes. On Patheos Pagan, numerous known bloggers wrote about the fight over the sacred space which the oil robber barons would bulldoze through, pollute, and tarnish with their unmitigated and unnecessary (scientifically and morally) project. Witches & Pagans has a clear seven hits, if one were to utilize Google’s algorithm to do a cursory search, writers invoking the Cailleach to protest, advocating solidarity with Standing Rock, and other such acts.
Peter Dybing said it was one of those moments that “demand we stand for what is right”.
Perhaps fueled by the coverage the nation had on the protests, Contemporary Pagans were likewise enamored, willing to take up metaphorical (and often metaphysical) arms in order to support what they believed was right. In this, it was morally and ethically clear for Pagans to take a stand: Radical Pagans could say that this was a feature, not a bug, of the system of economics we’re smothered under, Environmentalist Pagans or Nature Worshiping Pagans could clearly argue that this was a violation of the sanctity of the Earth, and Polytheistic Pagans of every stripe could stand behind the indigenous tribal peoples who were struggling under another, continuing, form of colonization.
Three years later, another planned defilement and desecration of sacred land is playing out, with protests erupting, government overreach in the establishment of states of emergency and the deployment of militarized police, SWAT, and (probably) eventual National Guard deployment. Native voices are being run roughshod over, just as they were at Standing Rock. Peaceful Protestors are being arrested, just as they were at Standing Rock. Sacred land is being purposefully stolen by Western interests, just as they were at Standing Rock.
Except this time, the wider Pagan community is all but silent.
There is a fight going on for the holy mountain of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i, already desecrated by the establishment of several observatories, given the conditions which make it ideal (although not by much) for the observation of the night sky. For the past five years, arguments, protests, and lawsuits have been levied to try to stop the construction of a new, thirty meter telescope which would necessitate removing literal stories worth of dirt and mountain for its construction, located right in the heart of indigenous, sacred, conservation land. This is the site for the honored dead, a site of sanctity and worship, and spiritual well-being.
The wider Pagan news networks or active blogging sites have not reported on this, in any great capacity. The Wild Hunt, Contemporary Paganism’s largest news outlet, has not reported on this since 2014. Witches and Pagans, likewise, has not mentioned it since then. No blogger or author on Patheos has reported on this since 2017. There is no word of this on Pagan Bloggers. No word on this on Gods & Radicals. The so-called Humanistic Pagans are, perhaps predictably, silent.
Independent practitioners that fall under Contemporary Paganism are only just finding out about this struggle, through Twitter, or tumblr, or other social media sites. There are no calls to action from the Pagan bloggers with large followings, no drives to join in the protests or to assist by signal boosting, donating, or offering long-distance support. It takes accounts like @lakotalaw to get the information out.
Why? Where are the cries of outrage? Of solidarity? How is it that there is little enough being said among Pagan circles?
Distance, perhaps. Hawai’i is a lot further away than North and South Dakota, and a lot more isolated. With the lack of news coverage, people may not even be aware.
Efficiency, maybe. Social media networks like Facebook groups and pages, Twitter accounts, tumblr notes and reblogs, all enable people to reach more, faster, than contemporary static blog posts.
Convenience? Conviction? Intent? There is the concern.
With DAPL there was a clear “enemy”, something that all but a minority of Pagan voices can point to: Corporate depredations attacking a marginalized group of people for clear financial gain, utilizing an extension of the United States Army, a 21st century variant of 19th century ‘solutions’.
A telescope being erected on a mountain top, half a world away, ostensibly capable of ushering in new cosmic insights and scientific knowledge, with the majority of Contemporary Paganism being educated and supportive of secular education over faith-based denials?
The choice here should be clear.
Instead, the silence in this case is deafening. And it is, perhaps, ultimately damning, in its hypocrisy.
With their silence, Pagans are showing themselves to be just as hypocritical, and as colonial, as the people they’ve previously raised their voices against – willing to look the other way when the auspices of “progress” and “scientific merit” appear, regardless of that selfsame progress trampling over the rights of people. There is no natural dovetail of political or practical views here, as there was with DAPL, where the support for these indigenous rights and beliefs and their right of self-determination enabled them to express their anti-corporate, anti-big business, anti-oil views.
The silence for Mauna Kea shows that their support was seemingly as a thin veneer with no backing, as morally and ethically repugnant as the shovels that would continue to pierce the holy ground of these native people for “progress”, bereft of virtue of conviction. The silence shows that these people stand with those who would view indigenous beliefs as superstition, unworthy of survival in the modern age, dragged forcibly under the wheels of progress, or otherwise swatted aside as an annoyance. That their beliefs are inconsequential.
This is a moment that demands we stand for what is right, just as much as it was three years ago.
Donate to the bail fund, if you can.
Donate the Mauna Medic Healers HUI, if you can.
Share these links. Talk about it. Bring awareness to this. Don’t be silent, even if you cannot do anything else. Sending a Tweet costs nothing.
Stand with Mauna Kea.
“If evil thou knowest, as evil proclaim it,
And make no friendship with foes.”
Havamal 127, Bellows Translation