This is a still-developing story out of Florida, news of which appeared on the public Red Tent Temple Movement Facebook page from whence it was referred to me. It begins with a Delray Beach woman who runs a business called “The Red Tent”, a women’s wellness center offering a range of services, many of which are geared toward pregnant women. This woman and her business are facing the possibility of eviction due to her choice to feed a colony of upwards of 17 feral cats on the property and created a public event page to garner support for this.
Now, I have been involved with the RTT movement for almost four years and while for personal reasons I haven’t been as actively involved as I once was, I still respect the movement very much and think that it has some admirable goals. I understand that we are not a very uniform movement which may be a benefit or a detriment depending on the situation but the overarching idea is the same, right?
I saw this story and very nearly threw my hands up and said “Nope! Red Tent? I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know these people! Never been to one! Don’t wanna go!”
After calming down and realizing that I am in fact not personally associated with a bubbling swamp of insanity, I went from horrible embarrassment at this display to a more manageable frustration and disappointment. Some of this is indeed personal as I quite literally could not wait to shout from the mountaintops how much I do not, not, NOT endorse this crap. I can only speak for myself as I have no meaningful information or guesses as to who else endorses what, but I do NOT endorse THIS. As outsize and glaring as this incident may be in its absurdity, this would not be the first time I had seen small degrees of this sort of behavior in the context of this movement and I did and still somewhat do fear that such nonsense has officially gotten out of control or will soon. This brings me to the first thing in this instance that is destructive to the movement especially if replicated elsewhere:
1. Inappropriately tying causes and values to unrelated things.
The first issue at work in this is using one’s cause to support or excuse irresponsible behavior. Some of the logic that comes up here is that since this woman is providing all these wonderful services to women in the name of this grand virtuous cause of supporting women, any resistance to anything else she may do is an attack on this cause and an attack on women. Doing women’s wellness work in the same space as your festering health hazard doesn’t make that health hazard more dangerous but apparently justifies the health hazard…somehow. Any negative consequences to her behavior may now be written off as conspiracy and male backlash (and conveniently enough, her landlord is a man…COINCIDENCE???!!!). Does this logic sound too convoluted and disjointed to be for real? The event page, aptly entitled “Modern Day Witch Hunt, Evicted for Feeding Pooties, Seriously?” (no really, that’s the title. Go look.) contains a survey asking “What is this REALLY about?”. Available options to vote for currently include:
“Money” with 14 votes
“Woman haters” with 4 votes
“Animal haters” with 4 votes
“Fear” with 3 votes
“Ignorance” with 2 votes
“Major Intimacy issues” with 1 vote
and “The shift”, whatever that is, with 1 vote
I am by no means saying that this type of defense, no matter how fallacious, is unique to this case or to the RTT movement. It’s not even unique to New Age. I’ve seen it happen in all kinds of situations in which people align themselves with a cause. One example of this would be an incident involving my city’s chapter of the Occupy movement, which came to an awkward start with one of its first occupations taking place on the public city common; a place where unbeknownst to the Occupiers, a permit was required to be there past 10pm. Despite simply doing their job of enforcing local laws and ordinances by asking them to leave, this did not stop people from viewing this incident as a grave and intentional injustice by the hands of the police. To many in the movement, this was a sign that the humble Worcester Police Department; an agency laden with more pressing concerns in this not-so-big but troubled city; was really a gang of Wall Street cronies looking to dissolve opposition to big banks and corporations.
This is one of the hazards of identifying oneself with a cause. In response to being called on acting ignorantly, irresponsibly and/or in violation of laws, the defense by some is that because they are aligned with what they believe to be a higher cause, the rules should either not apply to them or should be thrown out entirely. If you support the cause, you need to support these people in ALL they do, no matter how stupid or unrelated to the cause it is, else you’re a defector. It is unlawful to feed colonies of stray animals in Palm Beach County, FL where this incident took place. The animals’ presence was creating a nuisance to other tenants and placed the landlord at risk of penalty for this illegal activity. In an interview of the woman in question in this news clip, she tearfully laments that her “life’s work” is in jeopardy now. Well, she shouldn’t have bet that life’s work on whether she could get away with illegally harboring a huge colony of feral cats. To hide this reckless behavior behind a women’s cause and call this man a “woman hater” because he doesn’t want crazy- cat-lady numbers of stray felines on his property is as wise as strapping your newborn to your chest to make sure cars will stop for you as you play hopscotch in the middle of the freeway.
In rhetoric like this, we the observers are not meant to see this eviction case as merely the unfortunate consequence of a bad idea. We aren’t even meant to see her as simply a good person who made a bad choice in the moment, which I believe to be true in the grand scheme of things. Instead, it appears we’re led to believe that the central issue is that this woman and all 17+ cats are being nailed to a cross in martyrdom for supporting a women’s cause…or something. While as I said, this tactic is not unique to this sort of situation, adding the New Age factor definitely makes things more….nebulous and…weird. Which brings me to the next movement destroying factor:
2. Attaching cosmic importance to minor events
This reveals itself first in this one dispute between a landlord and a tenant being referred to as a “Modern Day Witch Hunt”. Another blogger took it a step further citing this incident as “Old vs. New Consciousness; Happening Right Before Our Very Eyes!” implying that a conflict involving a problematic tenant and her landlord is an example of progress toward an enlightened, new way of thinking that all humankind must and will soon adopt once “the shift” is complete. This only serves to make this incident look exponentially more important than it actually is and to skew perceptions of the incident by associating it with a more dramatic narrative. This is no longer just a landlord/tenant dispute. Not because of the magnitude of the absurdity of it all but rather because this is a sign of the sweeping cosmic events to come in accordance with prophecy, thus sayeth the Lord….ess. Sadly, this is by no means unique to this one case. Many people in the RTT movement subscribe to some degree to the idea of now being the time were women rise up, taking back what they’ve been deprived of by centuries of patriarchy. This idea, in and of itself is fine. However, there are some who tie it inappropriately to things it really doesn’t apply to and/or who use it to justify having unrealistic and grandiose notions of what is at work in their personal difficulties and achievements. It works as an ideal but not as an excuse to maintain and encourage delusions of persecution or grandeur where they are absolutely not warranted. The event page is littered with references to this being an example of abuse of “male power” with those working with the landlord referred to as “henchmen” and “minions”. This is great for one’s sense of self importance but terrible for the credibility of any movement or the credibility of anything at all really. I understand the idea of small cumulative changes and the micro affecting the macro but sometimes a situation is just plain irrelevant to whatever bigger idea it’s being attached to. Which brings me to:
3. Supporting a point or cause with nonsense
When I say “nonsense” in this case I do not simply mean a case of mistaken or faulty logic. I don’t mean “nonsense” in the sense that the NRA calling for more access to guns everywhere to prevent mass shootings is nonsense. I mean NONSENSE. Nonsense quite nearly to the exclusion of all else. The issue is quite literally being supported with gibberish. Just check out this little gem from the event page:
“Stay posted here everyone on the case VERY important, when light shines darkness disappears . This video outlines my defenses for sad pathetic eviction case, I have compassion for the attorney/puppets in this case that have to go public with BS about about toxoplas…something. http://youtu.be/YsgP8LkEopM“
For those not interested in watching, what supposedly “outlines [her] defenses” for this case is a link to a hippy dippy new agey spiritually flavored song. I hope she played it or at least quoted lyrics in court. Can we PLEASE address this apparent war on rationality here? And the wacky conspiracy-theory logic illustrated by the fact that she openly and flippantly decides to maintain the ignorant stance that toxoplasmosis is just BS that lawyers/the government/the CDC came up with to persecute her and isn’t actually something very dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children. If I were pregnant, I’d pay money NOT to go to this place.
“this made me cry…she talks about the spiritual meaning of feral cats and people who don’t like cats or are allergic. 100% TRUE this is all displaced anger and emotions…I love you [landlord] I do. http://www.anaflora.com/articles/about/interv-sharon5.html ”
Again, for those too lazy or disinterested in what’s on the other side of this link, we are now invited to peer into the bruised psyche of this woman’s landlord. Apparently if you are allergic to cats or don’t like cats or aren’t willing to do everything short of hump cats out of your deep spiritual love for cats, you have a serious problem with intimacy and need to go fix that post haste so that innocent crazy cat ladies don’t have to suffer at your cold, brutish, overly masculine hands. Also if you fix your intimacy issues, your allergies go away. Think I’m kidding? Go read it.
So instead of the facts of the situation we are left to ponder the symbolism of stray cats and the landlord’s psychological traumas and emotional issues or disturbances in his energy body and chakras. We are left to ponder EVERYTHING except for the facts of the matter.
If we strip away all the new agey diversions and fog, we’re simply left with the fact that a guy didn’t want someone illegally harboring almost 20 stray cats on his property creating a public health hazard at a business serving pregnant women. Not so compelling and dramatic now is it? The situation almost seems simple and understandable.