Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Come Follow the One True _________."

Blame my parents for my raging skeptical streak. My father the physicist insisted that my brother and I learn all we could about science, while my mother took a more Socratic approach to cultivate both critical thinking and a respect for clarity of language.

And the one thing they succeeded in teaching us? Be wary of anyone offering the "one true way" of doing something.

From college to adult life, whenever I encountered "one-true-wayers" of any kind -- fundamentalists, Trotskyists, Ayn Rand devotees -- I quickly became the bane of their existence. My parents trained me to openly question their claims, and often they were not prepared for those questions. Pretty soon they would lose their cool and attach some conveniently dismissive label on me. And with that, the so-called discussion ended.

When I came into the BDSM Scene, I quickly learned that we had our own category of "one-true-wayers," mostly supposed dominants who prescribe a narrow idea of being a "real dom" or "true Master." Uh huh. And I suppose there's an infallible scripture to go along with that?

It doesn't stop there, however. Here in Boston, there appears to be a class of people who believe a particular organization is the "one true way." Their answer to every question regarding kink and our community is to come to the group's board meetings, or attend one of the group's classes, or help the group raise money for some cause (usually the same one every time). But I also notice another similarity with other "true believers": A lack of imagination and creativity, and a blindness -- sometimes even hostility -- to any other approach.

This group, under the direction of an unelected board which fills vacancies by a mysterious process of appointment, just seems to do the same things over and over again. Their "open board meetings" have strict rules about who can speak, and about what. And just how is this board held accountable? Well, don't you dare raise such questions, or you'll be branded as a troublemaker who is "hurting the community."

Perhaps my parents trained me too well, because I really don't see the attraction of belonging to such a closed group. When you have no elections, no accountability, and very little transparency, how can you be sure the leaders do their jobs? And without open and honest discussion, how do you come up with the creative solutions needed for the group to adapt to change?

Whether it's personality, ideology or loyalty, I've come to see overzealous belief in a "one true way" as a form of idolatry. The traditional definition of idolatry is "worshipping a creation as the Creator." I would rephrase it as transposing means and ends. It means that the original vision and core values of the community are subsumed into glorifying a leader, upholding a dogma, or simply defending the group itself for its own sake.

Worst of all, it means that the real needs of real people must take a backseat to the demands of blind faith. And whether those needs are the basics of food and shelter, the comforts of companionship, the fruits of freedom, or the ability to imagine a better future for ourselves and bring that vision to reality, I'd rather be branded a troublemaker for keeping those goals in sight.

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