Thursday, June 13, 2013

Critique: Next Millennium's Newsletter

taken from the newsletter email
I forgot to unsubscribe from the Next Millennium newsletter that is sent out via email once a month. On June 2nd I saw it in my email inbox and out of curiosity decided to peruse it. Who knows? Maybe they made a mention of my petition and/or boycott.

While they didn't, I found more troubling misinformation being spread. I am spending this email, as well as emailing the store back, with why certain parts of the email are very, very concerning. Even if you are not a customer at Next Millennium, these are still problems to look out for at any other occult store you may shop at.

To start, there is a monthly section of the newsletter dedicated to "totem animals." The proper definition of "totem" is thus:
TOTEM: an object (as an animal or plant) serving as the emblem of a family or clan and often as a reminder of its ancestry; also : a usually carved or painted representation of such an object. [source]
And while this expanded definition is from Wikipedia, it serves as a source for a Native American blogger I follow who verifies the definition with her own family use of the word:
Totems support larger groups than the individual person. In kinship and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem. Normally this belief is accompanied by a totemic myth. 
Although the term is of Ojibwe origin in North America, totemistic beliefs are not limited to Native Americans. Similar totem-like beliefs have been historically present in societies throughout much of the world, including Africa, Arabia, Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and the Arctic polar region. 
Totemism (derived from the root -oode- in the Ojibwe language, which referred to something kinship-related, c.f. odoodem, “his totem”) is a religious belief that is frequently associated with shamanistic religions. The totem is usually an animal or other natural figure that spiritually represents a group of related people such as a clan. [source]
The article does not specify the other words from other cultures, but neither does the article claim that every culture uses the word "totem." In fact, that would be misusing the term as it is specifically traced back to the Ojibwe Tribe.

As for Next Millennium's newsletter, they describe a "totem animal" as such:
Animal totems offer spiritual guidance. To best understand the lessons conveyed by animals that show up in our lives, we must learn more of their instinctual behaviors, and natural habitats. 
This is wrong and a form of cultural appropriation. Instead, Next Millennium should call this section "Animal Symbolism" or even "Animal Spiritual Guidance."

Next up, the store advertises its new product: "Gypsy Garden." (Linked to the buying page for the item advertised.)

Gypsy is a racial and ethnic slur because it has, historically and contemporarily, been used to murder, enslave, rape, marginalize, and discriminate against Roma (and other - see below) people. 
There is much about the history of the Roma on my blog. This animated video from the Open Society Foundations covers some of our history [CLICK].

Linguistically, the word is an exonym - a name given to us by outsiders with no regard for our own preferences. It is a word that, at is very root is inaccurate (simply… wrong). It stems from the belief that we came from Egypt - because of our darker skin and different language (Indo-Aryan, unlike the Celtic, Germanic or Romance languages Europeans were familiar with). It later came to apply to anyone that white Europeans thought had a similar lifestyle to us - Kale/Kaale, Romany, Romanichal, Irish (Pavee) & Scottish Travellers, Jenische, Manouche, Sinte, and many others, some of whom are racially white (and these groups did not suffer the same during the Holocaust or in since). 
The word itself is hideous. 
A disgusting misnomer that has been stapled to our foreheads for generations. It has been burned into our skin before we were hung. It was tattooed on our arms before we were gassed. It has been whispered in the ears of mothers as they were forcibly sterilized. It has been screamed at fathers as their houses were set alight. It has been used to deny education, employment, healthcare, and housing. It has been used to pass laws banning our free movement, banning the owning of wagons, banning the selling of horses or other traditional trades, banning our languages. It has been used to send us to prison, to remove us from stores, restaurants, schools, libraries, buses - all because of our ethnicity. [source]
This blogger just posted what happened 75 years ago concerning Nazi Germany's violence towards "gypsy" people. Though, calling the actions described "violent" seem too light of a term for what was done.

Here is another blogger who describes an incident with a band using the word and the representation during the music video. 

Using this racial slur as a white person is offensive. I have nothing else to add. No questions to be asked of you, reader. Because these issues are not debatable.

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