Thursday, October 20, 2011

She's a Witch!

Monty Python's Holy Grail Mocks Declarations of Witchcraft

Growing up at the tail end of the 20th century I believed that accusations of people being a witch was something that was far in our past. Growing up just a few hours north of Salem Massachusetts I was aware of our sorted past of punishing people for absurd crimes that it was not even possible for them to have committed. Then while in my first year of college I attended a Christian school (it's a long story) and around Halloween I was informed that there would be prayer vigils to help protect people's souls from witchcraft. I thought I had landed on another planet. Really? As we prepared to enter the 21st century there were people in the industrialized world who thought there were people consorting with magic and demons? Yes, in fact there were. 

Aside from this being slightly absurd and reducing the stock I took in humanity as a whole, it wasn't like these people were burning people at the stake. As misguided as it might have been at least they were just praying for them, which aside from stunting logical thought seemed rather harmless. Although I had heard stories coming out of Africa about people being accused of witchcraft on occasion, I thought that this was really the limit of where this kind of absurd behavior stopped. Then I moved to Nepal.

Every few months I come across a story that reports about some woman being declared a witch out in some village and it generally leads to her being attacked by at least a portion of the community. The latest example can be read HERE in Republica, of what is maybe just a slightly more severe case than normal. As usual the accused is an older woman who is isolated from family that could protect her (in this case the male members were all working in Gulf states) and the accusers are upset with the death of a family member. This seems to be a recurring theme that some grieving family blames another woman for the death of their loved one and takes out their bereavement on the accused. These are just the cases that get reported, I can only imagine how often this actually happens and due to fear or shame does not get reported at all.

While believing in the magical and the supernatural is often treated in the west as up there with hope and child like innocence it's time that the human race grew up a little bit. I mean, even as someone who grew up playing fantasy games I knew it was all just make believe, can we please reach a level of discourse where we are not accusing people of consorting with dark forces or casting spells and curses on each other. Lets cut to the chase, believing in magic and the supernatural is kind of absurd- in fact it's stupid. This is the kind of behavior it creates. It's not that unrelated to the beliefs that allow grown men fly airplanes into tall buildings. 

I really have no patience for the kind of people that are accusing this woman and proceeded to assault and torture her. These people should be in jail, plain and simple. While local belief systems are often romanticized by the West, these traditions also lead to belief in magic, and oppressive social rules like the caste system. While the same group of people who often time give religious groups in the West a hard time they often become very soft on groups in the East. To me the belief in unsubstantiated silly things is damaging to any culture, not just ours. The continued belief that people can affect other people through magic and witchcraft, apart from being absurd, is also leading to vulnerable woman in society to be brutalized for no good reason. Can we all please stop this nonsense? 

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