Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Strong and the Weak

Heathenism is a religion of the strong against the weak. Now when I say that, "the strong against the weak", that should get your hackles up. It smacks of Social Darwinism and the Nazis, and I have nothing but contempt for the lot of them --- because they are weak, and as weaklings, they invert and pervert the true meanings of strength and weakness. You will not find pitiful Social Darwinist fascism on this site. All that constitutes is overcompensation for severe inferiority-complexes --- again, the domain of the weak.

The weak are not those with less strength or fortune. Not all are equal in strength or fortune, and advantages are not excuses to lord it over anyone. It's weaklings who try to lord it over others --- because they are weak in their souls, and try to drag down their betters out of envy and inability or unwillingness to do the work to strengthen themselves. By "betters", I do not mean those who without merit presume to be better, but those who have bettered themselves through their own might and main (and I do not mean here through force-and-fraud).

It is, in fact, the expectation and privilege for the fortunate to share their fortune, in good exchange, with the less fortunate, to the best of their ability, within reason, without impoverishing or enslaving themselves. This is a good and full thing -- but it must be exercised, as with all things religious or otherwise, with common sense. It is common sense that is most needed in such matters. Within these good bounds, the fortunate are expected to be generous, which is why leaders were called "ring-givers". They are to share out the bounty with their kith and kin.

Here we have two sets of contrasting oppositions : the Strong and the Weak, and the Fortunate and Unfortunate. These oppositions are not equivalent. Within good measure, compassion and encouragement for the unfortunate is a worthy part of becoming fortunate. Simply being unfortunate doesn't make one weak. No one chooses their wyrd, even if we are responsible for making the best of it. Because of this, the good heathen realizes that there but for the grace of Wyrd goes I, and many things come down to luck.

Weakness is not the same thing as misfortune. The word "weak" comes from a root which implies over-pliant ; in other words, without backbone, unable to hold one's own. Now the phrase "to hold one's own" is very exact. Whatever your lot is, if you can hold it, you may be able to get more, but you are not required to hold more than your lot. But what you have been dealt you are expected to hold. This is not to say in ordinary terms that we don't all have our weak moments. Of course we do. Almost nothing in this mortal Midgard stands completely strong 100% of the time. But that is not the point. The point is whether one has through laziness allowed weakness to become such a force of habit that it becomes a character trait. That is the danger of weakness, because when inability to hold one's own and to stand strong become character traits, one will inevitably begin to want to tear others down out of malicious envy. There is a big difference between standing on your rights and stepping on others'. Let us be clear, against the reactionary sentiments of Social Darwinists, that rebellion and revolution is often a legitimate process of folk standing on their rights, and standing up against those who have overstepped and stepped upon the rights of others. The idea that all impulses of rebellion and revolution stem from malicious envy and weakness is hogwash. It all depends upon the circumstances. The point is that those who cannot hold their own may soon wish to hold that which belongs to others. And here, often the faux-nobility and upper class of a nation, where that wealth and position have not been built upon noble and worthy deeds, but, all-too-often, upon the depredation of others' rights, are themselves weak, and represent the weak trying to put down the strong.

Generally speaking, the weak do always try to put the strong down. In fact, that is one of their defining characteristics. When they see something good, noble, and strong, they want to tear it down. This is a completely different impulse than the unfortunate getting angry at those whose fortunes have been earned through fraud or force, and who have therefore deprived others of the opportunity to come into their own fortunes. Again, the impulse or habit of deriving one's fortune through depriving others of the opportunity to come into their own fortunes might be considered a defining mark of weakness.

Weakness, being a lack of backbone, is cowardly, and drives cowardly acts of malice and crime. In other words, the weakling becomes a niding. I must underline again, lest anyone misunderstand me, that mere misfortune, on its own, never makes one a niding. Being sick, and therefore waning in strength, so long as it is not the result of one's own cowardice, does not constitute weakness, not in the sense I am using it here. Strength-levels differ and are in flux, both across people, and within the same person over time. Variable strength, even when that strength varies to a low point, is not weakness. Cowardly irresponsibility, emerging out of worthlessness, is. The word "worthless" has been bandied about in a judgemental, rigidly moralistic manner for far too long. Everyone --- everyone without exception --- has potential worth. Worth is simply that which we can become. It is the value we can bring to the world. The strength of that value may differ from person to person, but everyone, regardless of their lot, has some value and some good to bring to the world, if only they will do the work to develop their strengths.

A weak person is someone who refuses to do the work to develop their own strengths. This is the highest form of irresponsibility, and it insults the gods and the norns who have infolded into us their gifts and opportunities. When one refuses to develop one’s strengths, in other words, to grow into all that one can be, one deprives not only oneself, but the world, of all the value one had to bring into the world. That is worthlessness.

Weakness, therefore, is worthlessness, irresponsibility, and niding-work. The term “niding” is often translated as “coward”, which is correct, for what it is worth, but this is not the ordinary lack of courage that can strike any of us. This is cowardice when it comes to life and to the important things in life. Having a mere failing does not a niding make. Courage, although it is a faculty that can be developed, is also a factor that varies and fluctuates across people and within the same person across time. The niding is one who commits a cowardly act of wanton cruelty, or one who betrays everything he or she should stand for. If you don’t stand up for yourself, you may very well end up stepping on others, or you will end up betraying your own to those who step on others. To step on others, or to betray one’s own to those who step on others, is an act of cowardice, cruelty, and treason. Such acts make one a niding.

So the “strong against the weak”, as you can see, does not mean the rule of bullies. Bullies are weaklings, who use force against their betters --- again, those who have bettered themselves. “Strong against the weak” is not the healthy versus the infirm, the bodybuilders against the handicapped, the rich against the poor. Strength seeks its own, but does not begrudge the strength of others, and even, when it can, lends a hand to help pull up. Strength pulls up. It does not pull down. Or more accurately, strength does not pull down strength, but strength pulls down the weak, in other words, those who pull down. We don’t have to be compassionate to nidings ; in fact, contempt is the appropriate shame for such cowardice. One should not let one’s heart bleed for the worthless, for that only encourages and enables their weakness. “Strong against the weak” means tough, resolute, even scornful zero-tolerance for such weakness.

The strong are those who let life surge through them, who develop their talents, who develop the strength to not begrudge the strong, but rather to learn from them how to be strong in one’s own way. The strong live life with backbone. They stand up for their rights and the rights of others. Strength does not necessitate the blustering of machismo. It may be soft-spoken and full of moderation. Strength is about bringing fullness to life, in all of its varied dimensions, with the ultimate goal of everyone holding their own and standing up for themselves. Those who are less fortunate receive support to help them develop their strengths. Strength will distribute extra fish, but it more readily teaches how to fish.

There is no room in strength for the disdain of those who are less fortunate, for our strengths have been wyrded to help compensate for those less fortunate in our kith and kin. Together we stand strong and tall, when all throw their strengths together, and those strengths can compensate for each other. Kith and kin care for each other. That is a good and strong thing. Infirmity is not weakness. What many call “disdain for weakness” is in fact itself the greatest weakness.

The weak are those who, as a habit of life, sap the strength of others. On these terms, the strong are never under any obligation to tolerate the weak. In fact, on these terms, the ultimate goal of strength is to eliminate weakness altogether. Infirmity, variable fortune, fallibility --- all of these a folk can weather, and still get through fairly prosperous, the gods willing, if they throw their strengths together. But weakness only weakens everyone.

That is why I say that heathenism is a religion of the strong against the weak. May weaklings who would misread these words to bolster their own niding attitudes and actions be shamed into developing their own strengths.


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