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The Duggars Scandal: A Lesson Wiccans Can Learn from This
What Wiccans Can Learn from The Duggars Scandal
I'm not a big fan of reality TV. Well, I do like documentaries and cooking competitions and such, but as for the whole branch of shows that let people into the lives of random people just so you can see how they live doesn't interest me. I don't want to watch people because they are rich, poor, a current celebrity, a washed-up celebrity, single, married, pregnant, and I still have no idea who the Kardashians are or what they ever did that made people want to keep up with them in the first place.
I have seen the Duggars show occasionally because my husband used to watch it on Netflix and I've occasionally been in the room when it was on, half-paying attention. I've also read a couple of articles on them in regards to parenting and homeschooling when the headlines caught my eye.
So why am I bringing this up? Because the big scandal with the Duggars right now – or more accurately, the reaction people are having to the Duggars – is a perfect example of the problems of polarization. I actually began writing this a week ago as a blog post, but the more I wrote about it the more I found something else to say. As it continued to grow I realized it would do better as a hub than a blog entry.
This scandal illustrates perfectly a lesson I’ve had to learn in my life, and one I strive to teach my Wicca students.
Exploring Polarity in Current Events
What’s Up With the Duggars?
Just to help catch everyone up to what I’m talking about, let’s start with the basics. The Duggars are a family—a big family. They have long had a reality show on TLC, most recently called 19 Kids and Counting (I think there were 14 or 15 kids when the show started). Basically, they’re a very clean-cut, old-fashioned, traditional family, they practice a very conservative fundamentalist Christian religion, and they are very politically conservative as well. Their show is basically about how they live their lives with all these kids and don’t lose their sanity, but bits about their politics, religion and unusual lifestyle choices tend to seep in.
The Duggars have always drawn both praise and criticism for their lifestyle. I guess that’s how you get to be a reality TV star—you push people’s buttons. The star either validates the things the audience already believes and garners support, or contradicts the things the audience already believes and pisses everyone off. A really good reality star can apparently do both simultaneously.
The Duggar family has been in hot water recently because it came out that their oldest son Josh Duggar, now 27, had sexually assaulted at least five young girls when he was a teenager—four of them were his sisters.
If you’re not familiar with the case you can read the pertinent details here.
It's a Game No One Can Win
The Lesson I’m Talking About
As I’ve said, this article is not really about Josh Duggar, or his family, or how his parents handled the situation. It’s the public reaction that illustrates a lesson. The lesson is polarity.
Look how polarized people are lining up on one side or the other of this issue. On the one side, you have the Duggar’s bigger supporters. They say things like:
- It’s not that bad; it’s not like he raped them.
- The Duggars took care of it and tried to help Josh.
- They turned to God, and he helped them through, and made it all better.
On the other side, you have the Duggar’s harsher critics, who say things like:
- The Duggar parents hid this and just let this pervert abuse their daughters.
- The Duggars act like they’re perfect but they’re hypocrites.
- Josh Duggar is a pedophile and a rapist who shouldn’t be allowed access to his siblings or children.
So what is the difference between these two sides? Would you believe me if I said ‘there is no real difference’? If not, I bet you dollars to donuts that you're polarized.
The Polarity of It All
One side underplays the whole thing; they trivialize it, brush it off, try to justify it, rationalize it, makes excuses for it, or even to deflect by pointing to other cases (such as the Lena Dunham sibling sex abuse debacle).
The other side over-exaggerates; they leap to conclusions and jump on hype bandwagons. They dehumanize and demonize Josh, his parents, and even his wife. They give the family no sympathy, no credit for overcoming the problem, and even seem to revel gleefully in the family’s downfall.
Somewhere in the middle lies the truth; but polarized people will never be able to see it.
This whole scandal illustrates perfectly the issue of polarity, and why it’s a problem. Just look at the way politicians are chiming in; look at the way the media won’t let it rest; look at the way people are going at it on internet message boards. There are far worse sex crimes committed and reported every single day, and yet the masses seem to be stuck on this one family, this one issue, even though it was resolved for them a decade ago and both victims and abuser have moved past it.
It’s not just about a family anymore, their mistakes or their trouble. It’s become a game of both political and religious dodge ball. The Duggars are just the field the polarization game is being played on right now.
The Principle of Polarity
The fourth Hermetic principle is the Principle of Polarity:
Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.— The Kybalion.
While Hermetic philosophy is not Wicca, Wicca is influenced by Ceremonial Magic, of which the Hermetic principles are a large part. Hermetic teachings demonstrate that things that seem to be polar opposites are actually the same—they’re on the same spectrum, they’re just different degrees.
Let's take stress for example: there's eustress and distress. Eustress is good; it's what keeps us from being lazy lumps who don't do anything. Eustress is the type of stress that motivates us to get up, to work and pay the bills, to take our medicines and brush our teeth and want to keep a certain standard of living. Distress, however, is not as good. It's what gives people high blood pressure and heart attacks. It results in fear, paralyzation, problems and such.
A Quick Visual Aid:
Evaluating the Curve
See how both extremes are on the same line? They're the same thing, just to different degrees. See how the more you are to one extreme or the other, your performance goes down? See how the more centered you are, the more performance goes up? The height of performance is dead center—the further you are from dead center, the more performance suffers.
How the Duggars Scandal Demonstrates Polarization
Who are the people who are mostly lining up to support the Duggars? The people most like them—Christians, religious conservatives and political conservatives; people who support the same traditional family and gender role values. What they’re really supporting is not the Duggars, not Josh’s behavior, but this entire world view that the Duggars represent. Celebrities (especially reality show ones) become more than just people; they become symbols of a certain perspective.
So to these people, to criticize the Duggars or say there is something deeply flawed in their family or lifestyle is like saying there is something deeply flawed in those who align themselves with the Duggars whole world view (religious, political, family, etc.). By standing up for the Duggars, they’re basically standing up for themselves.
And who is lining up to criticize the family? The people most unlike them—the liberal Christians or people of alternative (or no) religions, those with liberal political leanings; people whose values are more progressive about things like family, gender roles.
For these people, the scandal is good news. Sure, they feel bad for the victims, but the scandal is like a big old silver lining on a dark cloud. They are against the Duggars world view and what the Duggars represent; they don’t like that world view and they don’t want it. Because they’re polarized, they can’t live and let live. So this scandal can’t be put into perspective; it’s used as ammunition to try to shoot down that entire world view.
For polarized people on both ends of the spectrum, it’s not about what happened to the Duggar girls, what Josh did, or what kind of people the Duggars personally are. It’s about advocating or discouraging a particular world view that the Duggars represent. It’s about trying to villanize the people on the opposite side of the spectrum, the perceived ‘enemies’.
Let’s face it—the issue is not what either of the extremes will claim. Josh Duggar is neither a martyred victim whose innocent mistake has been exploited; nor is he a raving sex-crazed monster preying on children. The Duggar parents are not neglectful child abusers, nor are they saints beyond reproach. The truth lies somewhere in between, and the less polarized a person is the better they’ll see that.
Polarized People Close Themselves Off
The Problem with Polarized People
Polarized people fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are not different. They are the same, they are just at different degrees of that spectrum. Polarized people aren’t looking to resolve problems. They’re not looking to educate themselves. They don’t want facts, they don’t want fairness.
What polarized people want is a fight. They want to be right. They want validation. They want to ‘win’ what they see as a war. That is what they ultimately care about, and they’re even willing to sacrifice justice and intellectual honesty to achieve it.
Some polarized people are smart; they use incidents like the Duggar scandal to promote further polarization of others because they have something to gain from doing this. These are the people who love to start the arguments, who write the headlines and who try to put this scandal to use in their agenda. These people are often found working in the media, as politicians, as lobbyists, or as someone in a business that profits from a polarized viewpoint.
Some polarized people are just dupes who are manipulated by the smarter ones. They’ve aligned themselves with a side, even though they often don’t even fully understand the issues. They pick the side that has more in common with their values, that’s more attractive to them for whatever reason. The smart ones spoon-feed these opinions and arguments to them, and the dupes swallow it whole and regurgitate it. The dupes further the work of the smarter ones.
If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t solve the problems in the world today, it’s because of polarized people-- on both sides (because one can’t really exist without the other).
Example: The Duggar Polarity Curve
Balance is Key
So What Does this Have to Do With Wicca, Anyway?
Wicca does have a world view of polarity, but unlike some, we don’t see the two sides as distinct opposites; they are opposite sides of the same coin. The goal is not for one side to obliterate the other side, but for both sides to find that happy, more honest and productive medium. The polar opposites are complementary; they don’t have to work against each other, they need to work with each other for us to benefit from them.
It’s all about balance. That is a key tenet in Wicca—finding a healthy balance in all things.
The more polarized you are, the more your mind (and those who can infiltrate it) is controlled by outside influences. The more polarized you are, the more 'mental filters' you create that obscure your ability to see things clearly, or to express yourself clearly. The more you give up control of your own mind, the more filters you create for yourself, the more it serves to stunt your growth, spirituality and ability to perform magic.
You can see this in more than just the Duggars scandal—it’s quite rampant in the ‘information age’. The smart polarized people with agendas have more platforms to use, and the dupes are more exposed to these polarized viewpoints and persuaded – not through intelligent argument but through emotional appeals – to follow along with it.
Take just about any issue and draw it on a spectrum, and you'll be able to see why the more polarized viewpoints are generally the least productive or helpful. Something always suffers more the further you get to the extremes.
For students of Wicca, or just those interested, I urge you to step back out of the fight and just observe it. Watch the polarized extremes, watch the tactics they employ. You will see they have more in common than not.