Friday, August 17, 2012

My Quaker culture

Certain things are ingrained in me by my Quaker upbringing.  You could say it's Quaker values, but I'm inclined to call it Quaker culture.  Values are something that you believe in.  Culture is doing things a certain way because that's how you were brought up, and it just feels wrong when things are done differently.

So here are some things I've gotten from my Quaker culture:

  • Look for that of God in everyone.  Don't hate people.  Try to understand why they are behaving as they are.   
  • It is immoral to condemn anyone based on the gender or number of their sexual partners, their gender identity or expression, their religion, their intelligence, their apperance, etc.  The only measures of morality are whether people treat others with respect, kindness, and integrity.
  • Do not elevate certain people over other people.  People should not be distinguished by their status.  Instead of treating the college president with deference and behaving as if the janitor is invisibe, treat both as persons to be listened to and respected.  I was disgusted to see a high status person have an employee hold an umbrella over her, while he got wet.  In druidry, I'm okay with  the way you can progress through different levels as you study, but I'm not comfortable when this progress through the study program is used to determine things such as what part of the grove you can stand in, or which rituals you may witness.
  • Think more than you speak, rather than vice versa.
  • Do not exaggerate or boast.  Do not be loud or pushy.  Understatement is better than overstatement.  Calm is better than bluster.
  • When being funny, make fun of yourself, not of others.
  • Be truthful and be kind.  Some see these two things as being at odds with each other, but with the reserve and understatement that are ingrained as part of my Quaker culture, it is usually  not  so difficult to reconcile these things.  Being truthful does not mean saying everything you think.  It means being truthful in the things you do say. Often, if I don't like what other people are doing, I just go a different way, do my thing away from them.  If someone were to ask me, "Do you like my shirt?" I might  say, "It's not really my style," rather than, "It's appalling,"
  • The goal of a businessperson should be to meet the needs of the customer.  The goal of the customer should be to pay a fair price without fuss.  Sales, discounts, coupons, and bargaining are wrong, because they are an attempt by the businessperson to lure the customer into buying, and an attempt by the customer to get out of paying a fair price.  My Quaker great grandfather expressed his objection to aggressive sales policies by adopting a policy that if he saw a product advertised,  he would not buy that product.
  • Gambling, betting, or buying a lottery ticket is wrong because it's an attempt to get money without earning it.
  • We are pacifists.  Weapons have no place in our world.  When a friend inherited a pistol from his grandfather and applied for a permit to possess it, he asked me to be a reference for him.  I said I could not do it, despite the fact the he intended to keep it as a family heirloom, not to use it as a weapon.  Similarly, I am not comfortable with the use of swords and knives in druid rituals.
  • Sexuality is not immoral.  In fact, it can be sacred.  But it is private.  It is inappropriate to dress or conduct yourself in a way that publicly draws attention to your sexual attractiveness.  That's the way you behave in private with your sexual partner, not the way you behave in public.
  • Do not comment on a person's appearance, because that gives the impression that appearance matters. Especially, do not comment on the body.  Do not compliment someone on their weight loss.   It is not so bad to compliment their clothing or jewelry, because that is something that they chose, so it comes from who they are inside.
  • Mass produced culture -- chain restaurants, malls, TV, movies, etc. -- is disgusting.  Spend time outdoors.  Spend time with family and friends at their home or yours.  Shop locally.  Shop at the farmer's market.  Grow your own food.  Buy things made by hand.  Make things by hand.  Sing and play musical instruments.  
  • Soda, potato chips, candy bars, and French fries are disgusting.  Go for organic, locally grown foods. Go for whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and juices.  If you eat meat, go for free range.
  • Don't wear make-up and high heels.  Keep jewelry simple.  
  • We don't smoke or drink alcohol.  Some people may drink coffee or caffeine tea, but others don't.
  • We don't go out to bars late at night.  A late night is when you go to a singalong, contra dance, or folk concert that ends later than 9pm.
So that's what's ingrained in me from my Quaker upbringing.  Much of it I do believe in.  But in some cases, I think there's no good reason for it, it's just certain instincts I have about how things should or should not be.

And, this is what I learned from my Quaker upbringing.  Different Quakers will have had different things instilled in them.

When I was in my teens and twenties, I was learning about the world.  I tried new activities, new foods, new beliefs, new values.  But now the ones I grew up with are calling me home.

When I was in college, they told us about how we were too smart to be housewives.  They told us we should be successful career women.  I knew there was something wrong in that.  I did try to articulate it. I wrote about it for a college publication.  Yet I felt I couldn't fully articulate, couldn't fully put my finger on, what was so wrong about it.  Then a few years ago, I found Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  That said it.  

But there's more to be said.  The way I feel about the things I've described about Quaker culture is somewhat like the way I felt in college about homemakers -- that there's something there that's important to me, even though I can't fully articulate it and make sense of it.

I live in this mainstream world.  There are some things I do that everybody does and there doesn't really appear to be anything wrong with them, but I know that's not the life I want to live.  I want to find people who share the values I've described above, and I want to be part of a community based on those values.

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