racist cake (politics, art, anthroposophy)

Can I buy a book? Read it? Enjoy it? Can I like an object? Can I eat what I like? Can I fancy an idea? A thought? An image? That is: can I do this without betraying political interests — my own or those of other people?

I’m not so worried about betraying my own; it is more that I feel others may have an expectation. Predominantly an expectation on my taking political standpoints even when there are none to take in any meaningful way. (As far as I’m concerned. That may be my stupidity or ignorance, for which I’m certainly responsible. Be that as it may.) Recently, in Sweden, I’ve seen people call for boycotts of anthroposophical products (food) because of the current measles outbreak in Järna, caused by the low vaccine coverage in the anthroposophical community there. That, too, is a call to take stand — and often, it seems, people assume what mine is. What isn’t actually the case seems to be self-evidently the case, apparently. I haven’t taken a stand. This is perhaps not about political principles as much as it is about immediate anger at the situation, the ignorance, the recklessness, the contempt for others who live in the same society. But still — it is a call to take stands. To show concrete support, in everyday choices, for the ‘right’ side. (But I feel I’ve done other things; I’ve done a great deal to inform about why anthroposophists don’t vaccinate, for example. I may be justifying myself now, but there are different ways to act… and I don’t know which is the most effective in the end or even if I want to spend much time pondering that rather than write, write, and write! I simply can’t do everything people want me to do. It has to do with time, energy — and sanity.) And then there’s the more important issue of the racist strands in anthroposophy.

There’s that idea that everything you do, in life or in art, is political — it’s all about taking some kind of political stand, even going so far as to show support or solidarity with one cause or another, and that nothing can be allowed to exist for its own, unpolitical sake. There’s the idea that what you do should be in support of something bigger than itself and its own beauty. This necessity sometimes seems to me a needless illusion to fall prey to. Also, it is exactly what plagues anthroposophical expressions — the assumption that virtually everything has to serve higher purposes, albeit for them these are spiritual not political. Almost never, it appears, is something there for its own sake; or for beauty, enjoyment, pleasure. Individuality is erased for this higher purpose, for meaning defined by others or by loftier aims derived from spiritual decrees. Insisting that all life and all art is in the service of political debate makes us fall into the same bottomless pit, where things are usually unbearably black and white (and this without the nuances and the light of a black and white photo, mind you), the same way as when everything is seen in the perspective of spiritual progress.

Either you show solidarity with the ‘good cause’ — or you don’t. Supposedly. And you can’t avoid making the choice, because if you avoid making it, you end up making it anyway. In the eyes of others, I guess, every move (or non-move) can be construed as political action. (It’s tricky navigating in this world. Without hurting sensibilities.) But just as little as I write this blog to help or inform — no matter how readers interpret it; damn is this the thousandth time I repeat this? — do I write it to show political solidarity. That would be as tedious as cleaning toilets to me, and I would be writing nothing at all, thus not making myself very useful anyway (as if the point was usefulness; it’s not — oh, damn, again!). The risk is I’d be showing political solidarity with the wrong causes. (I’m not against state-funded free schools, just said by the way…)

Sure, one can be interested in a phenomenon and nonetheless reject it; it’s perfectly possible. It’s pretty easy with crime and murder. It’s less easy with Rudolf Steiner. It’s no longer so simple. Maybe I’ve been hanging around with old Rudi for too long a time. Because that’s what I do; I don’t do politics much, I hang around with ghosts. I guess that’s my weakness: my fondness for mad, dead men. I like their company. They’re extremely funny and loveable, and have lost all interest in the politics of earthly life. They’re distant enough to fall in love with. And still they’re close enough; closer than anybody.

Not that I would characterize my blog as art; to make art is a grand aspiration, possibly too grand for me. But the political shit fucks up art all too often and too much. It claims a right to take precedence over everything else. It wants to eat your life. It wants to consume your artistic freedom and parasitize your organism for its aims. And it always claims the moral upper hand — because these political goals are always ‘self-evidently’ good. How can you not…? You will have to show solidarity, or be an enemy of ‘the good’. Whatever it is. But, then, remember: anthroposophists also think their values and aims are self-evidently good, and justified spiritually. The only obstacle to success is that the world does not yet understand. Not making comparisons in any other regard. I agree that Steiner’s ideas on race are idiotic; I think he’s spouting crap. What else is there to say? (I read a brilliant quote by Nabokov the other day: ‘A work of art has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual, and only the individual reader is important to me. I don’t give a damn for the group, the community, the masses, and so forth.’)

It might be worth adding that I came upon these topics — waldorf, Steiner and anthroposophy — for completely different reasons: racism, no matter how important an aspect of Steiner’s work it is to others, was not my reason. I was driven to do this by my own experiences, in which racism was not a component. It had to do with being a child in a waldorf school. That’s what I had to find out about; it’s what I had to deal with. Not the racism some adults may have experienced. I guess it may be the naïvety of a small white blue-eyed child, but I never saw racism. I still live in Europe. I’m still a white european in a northern european country. Racism was not what made me want to make sense of my experiences. It played no role whatsoever. My focus was, in this regard, a wholly different one. But, yes, I know what’s in Steiner; I know about the racial hierarchies, about the idiotic statements he made. That was not what drove me to find things out though. It’s not what’s driving me now. Steiner’s racist ideas don’t dictate my choices today. When I despised everything anthroposophical it was not for political reasons related to racism it was for purely personal reasons — call them childish if you like. But they were not about political antipathy or solidarity. And I don’t have these feelings anymore. Thank Dog I don’t. They would suffocate me.

Does knowing about it (it being Steiner’s less acceptable ideas) put an obligation — of any kind — on anyone to reject everything coming from the same source (ie, Steiner and anthroposophy)? Does not doing so amount to inadvertently taking a political position? 

***

I guess the following replies to comments have been superceded by more recent comments. I guess maybe what I blurted out was stupid, but I have never intentionally given anyone the impression that I avoid everything anthroposophical. On the contrary; there are many posts suggesting otherwise, I would say. I do things like that, I’ve never lied about it: I buy my biodynamic bread, my biodynamic fruit (anytime I can get it), I get my plants from anthroposophists, I use some Weleda products (despite their history! oh dear!). I buy books from anthroposophical publishers (so do many critics, I’ve heard…). Hell, even Sune has a post about my biodynamic pizza. Perhaps you’ve all thought I’ve been joking? But let’s move on. Consider this extra material. It explains the cake in the title.

***

Nick suggested that my choice could mean putting my own interests above political solidarity. In a certain sense, it is indeed so — right or wrong, to be able to write about these topics, my interests are more important. In my life and in my personal choices, they are more important. What I read for my enjoyment, is what I read for my enjoyment. I don’t intend to start reading or doing (or eating) boring things because that would be more supportive of some cause or other. My life is not a cause. It’s the life I have at my disposal and I intend to live it as fully as I can. Yes, I am ‘a white person living in [a] predominantly white societ[y ]‘. But I figure other people, who are not white europeans, also live for things like joy, art, love, et c — if they don’t, they should (I say, naïvely, nobody needs to listen). Nobody lives only for ‘good’ causes either. Not everything everyone does in life is dictated by a political choice. If it were, life would be utterly complicated. Not to say utterly tedious. You’d risk ending up in all sorts of extreme places.

And, no, not everything is political. If there’s something that makes art, literature (et c) boring, it is the expectation, so prevalent nowadays, that everything be political. That everything is done in the favour of a cause or some supposedly good value to benefit society (and, then, people are pretty darn eager to prescribe what that political cause or evaluation ought to be). I don’t blog to show what values I support. I gather what I believe shows anyway, sometimes intentionally, but it’s not my aim, it’s not my reason for doing it. I don’t blog to show solidarity with anything either. I say as I say when people say it’s to inform or to help: no, it’s not for those purposes. If it happens, it happens. Purpose is something else.

I see Steiner as an interesting person who created a fascinating body of work during his life. Much like any author or any artist. Some of it isn’t appealing, but that’s not unusual. And, then, anthroposophy being a continuation, an extension of what he created. I feel I’d be in some ethical trouble if I really thought he had access to higher truths. But I see it as the product of his mind, his inspirations and his imagination. Maybe I could imagine the same things myself — but I would still find taking part of his imaginations interesting. I don’t accept the anthroposophical worldview as provider of truth about the world, so I just don’t believe the stuff. I don’t reject fiction either.

Certainly, there’s nothing stopping Falk from dancing any other dance or dancing the same dance but calling it something else. But he doesn’t want just any dance; he doesn’t want to rename it; he doesn’t want to erase what eurythmy is about. There’s nothing stopping me from buying non-biodynamic fruit instead of biodynamic fruit (oh! the rare pleasure of finding biodynamic pears!). But I eat food for taste, not for political reasons. Unless staying alive is political action, which perhaps it is. If you want to have it that way. It could also be about: enjoying what’s there to enjoy.

I’m not sure if ‘democracy is not about each individual clamouring for their own desires to be accommodated’, but I sure know that my life is about my desires. As are everyone else’s lives, it seems to me, whether they admit it or not.

Maybe just I don’t see what a total rejection would accomplish. Either for me or for anyone else. It seems only like a word, if what I continue to do are the same things as before. So why are people requiring it? I’m not prepared to decry biodynamics publicly in order to continue to consume the products privately. I simply don’t see the point of such actions, even though I realize I, and everyone else, is at liberty to act that way. It just seems weird and unnecessary to me.

What would be the point of me publicly rejecting everything Steiner — just because it would presumably be the ‘more right’ thing to publicly make a statement of support for something, a decision to show solidarity, whatever –, while continuing to feel the way I feel in private? This would make my blog into something it isn’t. There are thousands of causes in the world. I would be doing nothing else, and then bore myself crazy with it. I wouldn’t be writing anything useful, because I would be bored. This is a pastime. To some extent the whole darn point is to accommodate my mad desires. Someone on twitter (@SimonMcPherson) asked something waldorf school fans ask occasionally — what’s my mission? (What’s their mission?) It’s writing, for the hell of it, I said. Why is the assumption that one needs to have a mission? Do we all need to save the world with every statement we make?

Helen asked what bits of Steiner I don’t reject. I don’t know. I just don’t see any point in wholesale rejection. Perhaps it’s more that he fascinates me. But reading him is reading lots of things — it’s page after page after page of everything between heaven and earth (and beyond). Rejecting every word, even when he’s making sense, would be nonsense. Should one reject his jokes? His pontificating over mental/spiritual states? His art? His architecture? Every statement he made — even if he happened to be right (if only by pure chance)? And so forth. What would be the point?

But I do agree that the pretty face of waldorf needs to be seen for what it is, a pretty face. And that anthroposophy needs to be debated because it does have an influence and people don’t know enough about it.

***

Interestingly, three years ago, I could write posts like this one and nobody paid much attention. Now, I am sure, somebody would call me out for supporting anthroposophy. Because, bascially, that’s what I do, isn’t it? It’s a damn silly post, so don’t read it. It’s three years old. It’s confused. It’s much easier for me to say, today, that I’m not signing up for any cause. Neither to bring waldorf or anthroposophy down, nor to rescue it or build it up. None of it is my task.

tulips in biodynamic gardens

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80 comments

  1. You have been very honest, Alicia, thank you.

    I am glad you write ‘for the hell of it’. I think we all benefit from that whether it is to learn, to ponder or to be entertained.

  2. I bought the Waldorf teachers handbook and I did worry about supporting the movement by doing so!

    But it is worth it to be more informed about their practices. Even working in a Waldorf school left me ignorant about them so this is the way to find out.

    But talking of cake…the thing that struck me most about the school at the time was the food. The lovely food. All the strange goings on were pushed to the back of my memory by the food, until I read the post about the handbook.

  3. I think you make some good points. I see Nick’s side of it, too, and I think these things look quite different to someone who is not a member of the dominant ethnic group.

    I, too, however, find it hard to find moral absolutes here. I have definitely felt that I should not buy anthroposophical products, and the exception I make is books, since it would be quite a hindrance to criticizing them if I didn’t own any of them. OTOH most anthroposophical products don’t really hold much appeal for me, and even if they did, unlike you I do not live in a place where an anthroposophical subculture is historically very entrenched, i.e., I don’t live where I could easily get biodynamic vegetables etc. in the local market. (I could get them, but it would take some effort; they are not on sale down the street.) So it is much easier for me to say, “I don’t buy anthroposophical products.”

    One night recently we were out to dinner and perusing the wine list I found (wasn’t looking for it, just noticed) one wine labeled biodynamic. Unfortunately it was only available by the bottle, not by the glass (interestingly), and we weren’t about to drink a whole bottle. I would have ordered it, otherwise, mainly out of curiosity, ‘cus so many people apparently think they are very good, and I don’t think I’ve ever had one, at least knowingly. I didn’t feel any moral qualm about buying a glass of biodynamic wine out of curiosity; OTOH, if I had really liked it, I would then have given some thought to whether I could justify buying it regularly, and I think I would have concluded no.

    But you make a lot of good points, that there are many ways to act or take a stand, and as a victim/survivor of anthroposophy yourself I’m not sure you are under any obligation to “act” anyway.

    He is surely right, though, that one way to call attention to the racist Steiner is to publicly refuse to buy the movement’s products until they are willing or able to address Steiner’s racism and publicly, proactively (institutionally) renounce the racist statements he made, do a thorough housekeeping in terms of purging such material from teacher training etc. To try to force this by boycotting the products would need to be a very organized campaign, clear in its purposes and public statements, to have any effect.
    Just my .02.

  4. Helen — thank you very much.

    It can be a real revelation to find these things out, especially if you’ve been in a waldorf school and noticed there is *something* odd but difficult to pin down… The booklet is one such thing. Steiner’s own work another. (One must appreciate that so much of it actually is available for free through Steiner books and the RS archive.) It’s much easier to find out today than it used to be 20 years ago.

    They’re very good with food. Very seductive…! The everyday food for the kids was rather bland though. And lots of porridge (I hate porridge). The biodynamic cafés I’ve been to here in Stockholm and in Järna (the anthro center south of Stockholm) are simply excellent though.

    Diana — thank you too.

    I understand that things look different from that perspective. I feel a bit defensive though; perhaps I’m stuck in my thinking, and in the segregated part of the world I live in, but it’s not just me. I was raised with european culture around me, not african, not asian. Yes, culture and race are two different things. But discussion is similar.

    We always continued to have biodynamic products at home, even after we left the school. At times I was very angry about it. I hated it all. Didn’t want to see it.

    But that wasn’t about the anthroposophical race teachings; I had no idea they existed. It was my own unhappiness. Clearly there are several different reasons people might have for wanting to boycott. Race is but one. And I wouldn’t have known it was an issue at all if it wasn’t constantly discussed in connection with Steiner these days. From my perspective it was never the important thing. I sometimes even feel it’s unfortunate that these discussions overshadow and drown other angles and viewpoints. There are lots of important criticisms against waldorf education that has absolutely nothing to do with racism. I’d say most of it has absolutely nothing to do with racism.

    And, of course, if I go to the local supermarket and buy ordinary oranges I can’t know if they weren’t farmed by a rabidly christian farmer. I have no idea about the philosophical, political or religious views of the local supermarket owner either for that matter. Perhaps he prays to god or sacrifice sheep to ensure good sale results.

    The BD wine I’ve tried has been very good, but then wine in that price range is often good… not always, but often.

  5. I am afraid for me biodynamics looks remarkably like witches with a couldron. I think the products are sold at a premium, presumably the producers want to be paid for the extra time they spend working out the phases of the moon etc.
    I do buy organic food sometimes, but because I think it does not have those horrid pesticides sprayed on to it, not because it tastes better, it doesn’t.

  6. Well, it is — at least it requires the collaboration of gnomes and cosmic forces ;-)

    The organic food in the supermarket is usually not that good, unless they manage to get stuff from some local producer (sometimes in the summer). In speciality stores, it’s different, at least here. Very good stuff. Much better fruit and veg. An organic store close to here had these biodynamic pears around a year ago… I still dream of them, they were magnificent. I’ve never taste pears like that.

    And then there’s a biodynamic garden almost in the center of Stockholm. They have great fruit and veg in the summer/autumn. Some of it is down to the type of fruits they have — it’s an old orchard, many of the trees predate the anthros presence there with a hundred years or more… These old sorts of fruit taste splendidly, but you don’t get them in the supermarket. It’s an entirely different thing. It doesn’t have to do with biodynamics. The anthroposophists were lucky to be able to take over the garden, but I’m not sure anybody else was prepared to do it* — in that way. So maybe I have to be happy they’re there and doing a great job with this great place (it truly is great > http://zooey.wordpress.com/tag/rosendals-tradgard/). Witchcraft and cauldrons aside!

    *back then. It was very run down. They got the lease contract in the early 80s. It’s a success now.

  7. Well, like I say, I do understand Nick’s view. And I do think we of the pearly white complexion have to understand that things that don’t look like big issues to us ARE big issues to peoples historically subjugated by whites, i.e., much of the world. Cake isn’t just cake. But it isn’t just cake to you either, so you can understand that, it has lots of associations, many of them bitter. But you also make a good point that making political statements around food gets very, very complicated, and it isn’t a simple matter to say “I’m not eating this because I want to make a statement of x y z.” To be morally beyond reproach in this area would probably mean starving, or compromising health, and well meaning people can argue for days about the morality of eating various foods. I am not going to tell someone, “Eat this” or “Don’t eat this” because it violates some principle of mine or I can’t be your friend anymore … that’s just a route to crazy. We are all doing the best we can, and none of us are doing nine thousand percent of what we could theoretically do to advocate all the worthwhile causes out there. We all have personal associations to food that are highly likely to trump political motivations in the end, and I’d be the last to judge someone else on the basis of their food choices.

    At this restaurant, I asked if this wine was very popular there, but the waitress was new and didn’t know, offered to go ask her boss etc. but my husband said – go figure – he didn’t want to spend the evening talking about biodynamic wine.

  8. And as I have expressed on the critics list before, I personally think there’s a huge element of BOGUS in all the biodynamic claims. I absolutely do not believe that all these magical rituals have been carried out – it is just marketing copy. It is completely impossible to believe that one could make a business success while actually compensating employees to do things like bury cow horns at midnight. No one is out there burying cow horns at midnight, this just isn’t happening, unless it is a few isolated anthro wackos. More likely, someone owns the right to sell something labeled “cow horn goop” that contains some kind of homeopathic quantity of cow horn goop from some cow from about 1950, and is just still packaging the stuff up and making a profit off this in this weird little niche – supplier to the BD wine industry. If you analyzed the supposed Special Cow Glop in the lab you’d find it is dirt from the backyard. So even if you believe all this mumbo jumbo I still think if the truth were known the products are largely fraudulent; they likely don’t contain the ingredients that are claimed and surely are not made by the batshit crazy processes that are claimed.

    I believe the same regarding a lot of the herbal and homeopathic concoctions that one can buy in the health food store. The homeopathic remedies are expensive little bottles of sugar water. I sincerely doubt there’s even a showing made of doing the whole silly “succussing” ritual. Who would ever know? It is totally not necessary to sell the products, and that’s what it’s about.

  9. Diana – that’s what my brother says, he lives in California, and used to work in the wine industry.

    to quote him
    ” A great many people fall for this guff, I find they are made of Steiner stuff”

  10. Wrote something evil and deleted it.

    I’m not trying to be morally beyond reproach and am certainly not doing my best. That sums it up.

    Actually, more and more, cake is becoming just cake for me. And I’m talking about a kind of sponge cake, not the birthday cake type of cake. It’s divine. Unpoliticized cake.

  11. I am inclined to think anthroposophists lie about a lot of things, just because I’ve known so many who lied about so many things. OTOH, I was just reading an article in The Atlantic about the supposed benefits of fasting (I’m not sure how scientifically valid this is, but it’s interesting), and apparently people can and do fast much longer than I had ever realized was possible – causing me to wonder if perhaps we have misjudged Judith von Halle (the anthro lady who claims not to eat). It may be that she is very occasionally nibbling a small morsel of something but in fact eating virtually nothing for prolonged periods. I thought this was impossible but apparently it’s not as long as you drink plenty of fluids.

  12. But she doesn’t drink either. And the stigmata are less easy to explain (unless you explain them rationally, in which case it’s no problem…).

    I’m quite sure they lie about a lot of things. To others and to themselves.

  13. I hope I am not ticking you off, Alicia, I have given a lot of thought to such things and I am basically sympathetic to your view here. When I was much younger and much more political, I used to get myself tied up in crazy knots trying to figure out what was politically correct in these matters (and many others). I eventually realized these anguished arguments with myself and others were basically narcissistic little navel-gazing rituals. We have far less effect than we think we have in all these issues. At the very least one has to pick one’s battles, and not be guilt tripped every time someone else thinks we should be fighting some other battle. I have a neighbor who is president of the local neighborhood association and she is always going off on rants about how anyone who doesn’t pick up every stray piece of paper or junk that floats into their yard is culpable in the decline of the neighborhood – if someone tosses a bottle out their car window and it lands in your yard, and you are too tired or busy to pick it up right away when you see it and you let it sit there for a day, you are responsible if crime goes up in the neighborhood. I just smile and nod because I could just as well say, Don’t you realize there are a thousand other issues YOU aren’t taking part in? I have gotten involved at the local animal shelter and I could just as well say that everyone who isn’t out all day, every day trying to help the four million needy, hungry animals wandering around this city is guilty of contributing to the problem of animal abuse etc. But there are only 24 hours in a day – and we also have a right to live our lives.

    The saying goes, try to remember that everyone you meet is fighting an enormous, desperate, quiet battle, you just can’t see it. I think that’s largely true, and we have to forgive most of them if they don’t vote right, can’t remember what is going on in the Sudan, don’t try to reduce their carbon footprint, continue to eat meat or wear fur or whatever it is …

  14. Does she claim to be taking no fluids, too? I couldn’t remember. I’m pretty sure that is truly impossible.
    I don’t think there is really any kind of monitoring of her claims, is there?

  15. ‘I hope I am not ticking you off, Alicia …

    Never! Will return soon. Mr Dog is in love with at least three fur girls at the same time, and he’s ticking me off royally at the moment, so I’m taking him out. He needs to walk until he doesn’t smell so much romance in the air anymore.

    I’ve read she’s not drinking either, but don’t know if that was a reliable report of her own claims. Monitoring the claims would surely break the illusion so I’m sure nobody wants that except the evil skeptics!

  16. Diana — I was never very political, not when I was younger either. It’s not that I don’t have political opinions or don’t vote, I definitely do. But writing about politics or, even more so, having a political blog wouldn’t occur to me. Of course, sometimes there are political issues involved; that’s as it is and should be. But I don’t care to blog for political reasons, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have when I was younger either, had blogging existed.

    And yes — that’s the problem, there are so many battles. And everyone who’s fighting one believes it’s the most important one, the one that will save the world. Every (or at least most) decisions dictated by this battle, by this cause. It is perhaps not so easy to grasp that other people simply go on with their lives, partly or wholly oblivious to the importance of this cause. Just not paying enough attention. Just not making the all important decisions. And so forth.

    I’m not sure it’s that personal associations are what trumps political motivation in this case, though (getting back to your previous comment); I’m not sure I have that many political motivations re anthroposophy. (Do I? I ask myself. I don’t know. Don’t think so.)

  17. Re. Judith von Halle. I believe she takes water.

    Re. biodynamic methods. I believe that most bio-dynamic producers do follow the prescribed methods, in my experience they do so in England.
    All bio-dynamic farmers in England struggle to survive financially. They are only sticking with BD because they believe that what they do is healing for the earth. They often rely on voluntary help from people in the anthro. community, students etc., – people who are committed to BD practices. Many people who take part have seen the cow-horns being buried and retrieved. There are public invitations to ‘501’ stirring sessions.
    In short it all arises out of idealism – why would anyone cheat seeing as following the rituals is what is important to both the farmers and the volunteers? They love what they are doing. No-one gets rich out of it.

    Re. Choice
    For me there is civic virtue and there is politics. Civic virtue is being mindful of my neighbour’s needs as well as my own – neighbours meaning those with whom I share a civic life.
    Politics is what I do when I vote in the elections at local and national level, i.e, where policy is potentially made into law.
    Otherwise what I do with my life is up to me.

    By the way, I also do something called ‘Circle Dance’. It’s great fun. We all dance together, so its good for people who don’t have a partner. Mr Dog would undoubtedly enjoy it as it involves going round and round in circles, something dogs seem to love – they often do it several times before lying down.

  18. That anonymous was me, Falk.

  19. I edited the signature, falk!

    ‘Re. Judith von Halle. I believe she takes water.’

    I believe so to, the question is whether she admits it… I saw a claim somewhere that she doesn’t drink water, but people claim all kinds of things about her, so I would take it with a grain of salt. (I personally think she eats a bit too, not much perhaps, but something.)

    ‘All bio-dynamic farmers in England struggle to survive financially.’

    I can see the allure of making BD wine. Better profit than with onions and carrots.

    ‘There are public invitations to ’501′ stirring sessions.’

    The thought makes me smile. Rosendal never invites to stirring sessions, perhaps I should suggest it. It would be exotic.

    ‘No-one gets rich out of it.’

    In the wine business I suspect this might be different, with the hype about BD wines.

    ‘Mr Dog would undoubtedly enjoy it as it involves going round and round in circles, something dogs seem to love – they often do it several times before lying down.’

    And before they do other business too! They also like to run in circles, unless they’re chasing after a bunny. Going round in circles probably has some profound canineosophical meaning!

  20. I forgot to say that one of the things I really appreciate about Alicia’s blog is her honesty about her feelings and her openness about her reasons for blogging. When anyone really speaks truthfully it is a blessing.

    “Woof – I agree says Mr Dog, especially when she gets out the BD chew-bones”

  21. thank you very much, falk!

    Yes, he would say that, normally. Today, however, all I hear is: ‘You destroy my life! I hate you! Hate you! You awful 2-legged obstacle!’ — you see, he’s met some cute girls in fur, and is a bit too distracted to notice if the chew-bones are BD or plain and ordinary or if he’s chewing at all… He just thinks I’m standing in the way of his very important romantic pursuits. I’m praying to Dog that it will be over in a day or two.

  22. Alicia, like Falk, I enjoy your writing and opinions even though I might not agree with all of them. I find your ability to get people talking is really interesting. Don’t change what you do, or it’s not you is it. Far from destroying my life, you enhance my day. Keep it going, never be bullied into changing what you think, who you are, or what you do.

  23. Thank you!!

    *drinking my morning coffee while humming happily*

  24. It could be more zingy, I probably need a better coffee machine… But it was good anyway.

  25. Melanie · ·

    A personal blog is a particular phenomenon, it isn’t a newspaper, its writer can please herself. Most blogs are only read by the writer’s friends, Alicia has an unusually wide audience. With this small success in the blogosphere, it might appear that certain obligations have to be met – but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this is, after all, still a personal blog. There is no campaign. We’re very lucky in my view that Alicia finds it interesting to analyse Steiner Waldorf in England, she provides a venue well-stocked with talented visitors, including Nick, who is also a very honest and interesting writer. But we rarely have to ask her to do so, and there’s no obligation on her to be some kind of activist.

    Just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog recently, Shane.

    The race issue is very real for us here, especially if there is to be a Steiner Academy in a culturally diverse city like Leeds. I don’t think our government should have allowed such projects to progress, and that there’s a great deal more this movement needs to address before they should even be contemplating public funding. I agree that there are other issues which should preclude Steiner Free schools, and that these should be enough without the distress and offence caused by potential state-funded institutionalised ‘spiritual’ racism. As the SWSF pointed out in that famous ‘special seminar’ before the last election: the biggest problem in that regard is that (however many disclaimers the PR team plaster on various sites) many teachers believe that Steiner was infallible.

    These questions about the movement are being ably dissected on Waldorf Critics and also now by Shane, and they can be discussed here too. But if Alicia wasn’t interested in anthroposophy (as others are, without believing it is ‘true’) it would be hard to sustain the kind of personal interest which creates thought-provoking posts and encourages diverse visitors.

  26. Melanie · ·

    .. and also on the UK Anthroposophy site.

  27. I’m not sure about the cultural diversity arguments. Other schools aren’t culturally diverse either. It mostly depends on where you live. In immigrant neighbourhoods, there aren’t any swedes in the schools. The primary schools where I live have virtually only swedish and european kids, by the looks of it (as you know, I don’t have kids so I don’t really know and don’t have to make choices). Sure, there’s choice involved with steiner schools but which parents will send their children to steiner? Regardless of Steiner’s race teachings, which most parents don’t know exist, it will be a certain category of parents and it will (in sweden) be swedish/european parents — state funding cannot change this. Who thinks these schools will be diverse? They won’t. Much like other schools won’t be diverse. We don’t even need to look at anthroposophy to get a clue. People may speak in favour of cultural diversity, but few — I say provocatively — want to send their kids to one of these more diverse schools. (Which are only diverse in that there are few europeans there… because no europeans live in these areas anymore.) Come on. This is the truth, isn’t it? People speak nicely about cultural diversity, but few want it; deep down, they can’t be bothered and they want their kids to be safely in a good school where they learn the swedish language and all that. I bet it’s the same thing in england. Lot’s of people make such choices, but they don’t want to name the true reasons. Religious crap makes things even worse. Leeds may very well be a ‘culturally diverse’ city — but what does this mean? Cultures existing in isolation side by side, sending their kids to different schools, celebrating different holidays, oblivious of eacher other… Am I not right? I don’t know Leeds of course. I’m just guessing.

    Thank you for the kind words about the blog and me! Many many many thanks.

  28. Is there anyone who believes that waldorf schools lack cultural diversity because Steiner taught about spiritual-racial hierarchies? I wonder…

  29. Melanie · ·

    it’s more that the community around the school is culturally diverse – I agree that Steiner schools themselves tend not to be. The school can’t exist in a vacuum if funds are being diverted (by whatever mechanism) from other schools to fund it. A school in a village in Hereford is a different prospect to one in a large British city.

    It is the truth that parents often do want their children segregated from others, even if they won’t admit it – although that’s often class-based, particularly here. And most parents who choose Steiner don’t know about the spiritual racial hierarchies. But in British cities there is diversity within community schools, that’s desirable, far more so than splitting children up because of the religion followed by their parents, for example.

    Further problems arise if greater ‘choice’ actually limits provision for certain children, as in the case of the child ending up at a scientology school because there weren’t any places anywhere else. Admissions policy will be a bit of a headache for Steiner schools.

  30. ‘it’s more that the community around the school is culturally diverse’

    Ok, so it’s culturally diverse — but this means nothing. Is it really not numerous parallel communities rather than *one* diverse community? People live in different areas. People hang around with their own crowd. That’s what I mean. Stockholm isn’t a village. Did you notice any cultural diversity here? There are parallel communities. Certainly. People call that ‘diversity’. (I think.) There are suburbs where virtually all women wear head-scarfs. Where most — if not all — people have their origin outside europe. I had figured Leeds is not that different from Stockholm — with parallel communities that do not mix. Ok, in high school, some motivated kids from the suburbs elect schools in the city — understandable if they have the grades. But I guess that since you write this…

    ‘But in British cities there is diversity within community schools, that’s desirable, far more so than splitting children up because of the religion followed by their parents, for example.’

    …British cities must be a lot less segregated than Stockholm. Here people really do live in different areas and kids going to the local schools where they live is the main rule.

  31. … I don’t have a clue what it looks like in other swedish cities and small towns. It may be different.

  32. But we don’t want to encourage Steiner schools to become more culturally or racially diverse anyway! We don’t really want to sic these people on racial minorities anyway! Why in the world would they want to send their children somewhere where 1) the education is poor and 2) the teachers may at some point – if not in their training, later during Steiner study or just in contact with zealous fellow anthros – be exposed to the notion that these children are part of a spiritually “less evolved” race.

    The issue has always been this belief system that may sometimes be a part of the teacher’s tool box. The issue has never been recruitment of a particular number of minorities.

    Where we live, the Waldorf school, at the time we were there anyway, had a problem recruiting minorities because they tended to take a look at the touchy-feely crunchy granola thing going on and be very turned off. They tended to be ambitious for their kids and wanted solid academics, not knitting and lentil weaving.

  33. ‘It is the truth that parents often do want their children segregated from others, even if they won’t admit it – although that’s often class-based, particularly here.’

    Basically it amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it? (Maybe not. But I suspect it does in sweden; as immigration from countries outside europe is relatively new. In the 60s Finns and Greek lived in these underprivileged areas. Now they’ve moved on.) It determines where you live. It determines where you send your kids to school.

    All you have to do is live in the right area. And everyone makes sure they do, if they can. I don’t know why people don’t want to admit that.

    This is why waldorf schools don’t do worse than they do. It’s why schools in certain areas don’t do worse than they do. Parents are well-off or they’re academics. Or both.

    Why is there some kind of outrage at this deeply human behaviour? (Or am I just thinking there is? But there must be, if people can’t admit to it?) You want your child to grow up with what you know, people you know, cultural expressions you know… Predictability, safety. That’s why communities evolve around common values and goals and beliefs and… isn’t it?

  34. Melanie · ·

    I do think there’s a big difference between Britain and Sweden, and you could have a long discussion about multiculturalism here. I know more about London than other British cities because I lived there, and because my friends’ children still go to school there.

    The part of Stockholm we were in was very different to central London, certainly, and I make no judgement about that. I’m sure there are parallel communities that don’t mix in Leeds, and that creating more faith schools (and other niche schools) might well exacerbate already existing tensions.

  35. Melanie · ·

    ‘They tended to be ambitious for their kids and wanted solid academics, not knitting and lentil weaving.’

    Yes!

  36. ‘But we don’t want to encourage Steiner schools to become more culturally or racially diverse anyway! We don’t really want to sic these people on racial minorities anyway! Why in the world would they want to send their children somewhere where 1) the education is poor and 2) the teachers may at some point – if not in their training, later during Steiner study or just in contact with zealous fellow anthros – be exposed to the notion that these children are part of a spiritually “less evolved” race.’

    No, I don’t actually know why they would want that. One thing possibly: if you live in an area where the local school is crap and nobody speaks swedish, and you realize that learning swedish would benefit your child… and waldorf was the only other option? Luckily, this isn’t the case anymore for ambitious parents in such neighbourhoods in sweden — there are other free schools. But still. The education (and the language acquistion) may not actually be poorer in waldorf than in the poorest local schools in some communities. Sadly. If you knew better and could send your child out of such area, perhaps waldorf is not so bad? Despite everything.

  37. ‘‘They tended to be ambitious for their kids and wanted solid academics, not knitting and lentil weaving.’
    Yes!’

    Hm. I get the impression quite a large number of people are more eager for their kids to study the koran than for them to get solid academics. That, of course, has nothing to do with race. But with belief.

  38. Melanie · ·

    Alicia, you point out that in Sweden ‘immigration from countries outside europe is relatively new.’ That’s the difference.

    ‘Why is there some kind of outrage at this deeply human behaviour? (Or am I just thinking there is? But there must be, if people can’t admit to it?)’

    You’ve touched upon the sore spot of English education. There would be advocates for both side of this debate, both would have a point. Again, you’re too honest to be hypocritical.

  39. Melanie · ·

    There are undoubtedly worse places than a Waldorf school, in certain situations. But I do agree with Diana: I personally wouldn’t encourage greater diversity in Waldorf schools (including children with SEN).

    ‘I get the impression quite a large number of people are more eager for their kids to study the koran than for them to get solid academics.’

    You may well be right.

  40. ‘The part of Stockholm we were in was very different to central London, certainly, and I make no judgement about that. I’m sure there are parallel communities that don’t mix in Leeds, and that creating more faith schools (and other niche schools) might well exacerbate already existing tensions.’

    Absolutely. Very bad idea.

    But if you have an area where almost everyone is muslim and you have a local (state) school in that area… bad idea too. But what is there to do, who else would want to send their children there? (Yes, I know, everybody is supposed to say they would. But in reality they wouldn’t.)

    All of central stockholm looks the same. Some suburbs look like central stockholm in terms of population. Some look radically different. Maybe things are different in 20-30 years. I don’t know. It is for politicians to hope that people change their minds. I certainly don’t know. I think when religion — and especially religious fundamentalism — is concerned, it will be extremely difficult, because in this case there’s too little common ground.

  41. ‘Alicia, you point out that in Sweden ‘immigration from countries outside europe is relatively new.’ That’s the difference.’

    It’s a huge difference. (Although I can’t say I’m optimistic about future development.)

    ‘‘Why is there some kind of outrage at this deeply human behaviour? (Or am I just thinking there is? But there must be, if people can’t admit to it?)’
    You’ve touched upon the sore spot of English education.’

    It’s the sore spot not only of swedish education but of swedish society… (at least that’s my impression).

  42. Melanie · ·

    ‘I think when religion — and especially religious fundamentalism — is concerned, it will be extremely difficult,’

    That’s the great worry, and next to that the wackiness of Waldorf is a small problem.

  43. Agreed, Melanie. And too few who have grown up in liberal, secular societies understand how blessed they are.

    And… in case anyone wonders, I’m working on my bad reputation.

    As for that huge difference, one illusion I think migh be in common is that cultural diversity is supposed to be happy, nice and easy. It won’t be. The majority, no matter what politicians hope for, won’t flock to adopt or embrace those ‘new’ cultural and religious traditions. Moralizing about this unwillingness won’t make it go away.

  44. Melanie · ·

    I have a great deal of time for the work of Kenan Malik: http://www.kenanmalik.com/

    this essay about multiculturalism is interesting: http://www.kenanmalik.com/essays/nyt_mc.html

  45. I’ve read one of his books and I think I’ve read that essay some time ago last year. It was the essays that made me buy the book. He’s worth reading.

  46. Melanie · ·

    Good! And he writes about culture too. His work (amongst that of other essayists/writers) is one of the things that makes twitter worth using.

  47. Yep — I follow his account too.

  48. I just thought I’d post a picture of cow glop in a bag for Diana.
    [img]http://cdn.arbico-organics.com/images/uploads/1329001-m.jpg[/img]
    This is biodynamic compost starter… it comes pre-packaged and ready to use. Farmers can buy it like this and save themselves the effort of packing and planting their own cow horns. Just mix with water (using a figure 8 stirring method) and you’re all ready to go.

  49. Haha! Lovely. Lazy biodynamic farming! But didn’t Steiner say it should at least come from cows in the same area as the farm where it’s used? Allowing laziness to violate important principles, pfff…!

  50. … pfffffeiffer center…

  51. But, really, how culturally diverse is the population in Shepherd’s Bush? In Mayfair? On Manhattan? Am I not right in thinking that many of those non-white people who *live* there and send their children to school there are people who have more or less adopted majority culture? Can we even talk about cultural ‘diversity’ in such circumstances? But ok, we’ve moved away from race then.

    … edit: yes I know it’s extreme. But how many homogenous communities can we exclude and still claim society at large is culturally diverse?

  52. Thanks Pete :)
    And to Falk, who wrote that, yeah, they do bury cow horns at midnight … okay. I didn’t really doubt that somebody somewhere buries cow horns at midnight. I definitely doubt that when one buys something with the label “biodynamic,” that this is a given. I think it’s almost certain there’s fraud involved. Successful businesses rarely run on “volunteers,” or special parties where you invite your customers to do some of the labor? Maybe some deluded folks sometimes get together for these silly midnight sorcery fests, but seriously, there’s no way that accounts for the enormous success of biodynamics overall.

  53. Falk: “All bio-dynamic farmers in England struggle to survive financially. They are only sticking with BD because they believe that what they do is healing for the earth.”

    Basically, I don’t buy baloney like this.

  54. Take a look at Pete’s picture … what sells it is the phrase “healing the earth.” What’s in that bag is of no consequence to selling the bag.

  55. I think that for some bd farmers it is about the belief in anthroposophy, in which case the practices surely are supposed to be ‘healing’ (and more). I’m prepared to believe they actually think so. And there’s not much money in growing carrots for anyone, regardless of methods or beliefs.

    But for others, like many wineries, it’s a marketing gimmick that happens to be the hot thing right now.

  56. Yes. This is a movement well known for its self-servingness and self-delusion, and for its extreme savvy and canniness in marketing, telling customers what they want to hear, and keeping the spotlight off of unsavory or ethically questionable practices. I simply don’t believe they could be as successful as they are if they were actually trying to base a business on chanting at the moon or planting according to astrological indications or other medieval rituals. I’m sure among BD farmers there are the very idealistic types, just scraping by, etc., but this doesn’t account for BD’s success overall. It just doesn’t add up.

    School is different. Schools you can run without aiming for profitability, and still survive. The wine business? not so much. It is competitive. They know how to compete. Competing is about marketing, it is definitely not about following astrological indications or mixing magic potions.

  57. “I think that for some bd farmers it is about the belief in anthroposophy, in which case the practices surely are supposed to be ‘healing’ (and more). I’m prepared to believe they actually think so. ”

    I’m quite sure my former father-in-law, who was a prominent BD farmer in his day, felt that he was doing all kinds of healing stuff… I’m sure he believed he was actually producing elemental beings in the soil.

  58. Diana — that’s why I singled out the wine business as different than much of the rest of BD. Many BD farmers don’t make wine. (Depending on climate, some can’t…)

    Pete — it wouldn’t surprise me…

  59. Wow! Interesting discussion.
    My view comes from personal experience. I have witnessed the racism, the total lack of awareness of my culture (an official culture of Aotearoa). I have watched my daughter being refused reading lessons because she is built like a model with pale skin and red hair. I have observed the same lessons rolled over for about three years.I have seen the hypercritical behaviour of staff and community.Especially regards computers and tv.
    I have watched as they rubbish a school (public) system which is the envy of the OECD. Behind Finland and China.
    Then there is the pedagogy. After observing my girls unqualified teacher (he is qualified in biodynamic farming not teaching) muddle his was through trying to teach (it still makes me shudder) it convinced me just how dangerous steiner education is.

  60. ‘(he is qualified in biodynamic farming not teaching)’

    this is… well, shocking, I would say, and it is, but not surprising. Same goes for the other things you wrote.

    There are too many unqualified teachers in steiner schools. And even if they have steiner teacher training, that’s not really enough, not by far. Ideally — if there’s to be a chance to improve — the teachers ought to have a regular teachers qualification as a basis and then added anthroposophy on top of that.

    A qualification in biodynamic farming is certainly not good enough. Unless the children are considered vegetables, in which case it may be nutty but perhaps not such a huge problem.

  61. Btw, I had to panic change the ‘theme’ of the blog. The one I had stopped displaying post author for posts about a month ago, and this made me look anonymous, which I don’t want, as I am not anonymous. So I hope you’ll be patient with me — this theme is not ideal, and further changes are probably to come. And excuse this crazy and sudden (and involuntary) make-over.

  62. margaret · ·

    about the changes…so far so good!

  63. thank you!

    am afraid people will wander around in confusion asking: where are the sofas? have you moved things around? especially Rudi. I’m afraid he’ll trip over something, for example those hideous black lines that seem to adorn my comments and nobody elses. He’s been dead for so long, after all.

  64. Sorry to derail my own post and thread (I tend to do this…): I couldn’t stand the way it looked and couldn’t sleep knowing that Rudi would trip and fall. I had to change it all back again. Will add an info-widget in the side-bar. Including the name that wordpress apparently doesn’t want to display on posts anymore. I hope that will make me appear less anonymous.

  65. I saw the new look briefly, now it is gone? I liked it. I particularly liked the new picture. Bring it back! For a few brief moments it was spring in the ethereal kiosk.

  66. The picture was ok; the theme was horrid. Ugly fonts all over the place. Too narrow text column. The only good thing was the name. I’m more and more tempted to leave wordpress, they come up with one stupid thing after another (like removing your name) and call it improvement. Plus there’s very little aesthetic freedom and everything costs extra.

  67. Melanie · ·

    I felt I was having some kind of brain-seizure last night, glancing into this blog. At one point it looked like Versailles, then a naiad appeared and dragged me underwater where I saw old comments drifting around, bumping into each other, and a post about eurythmy floating away downstream.

    Thank goodness order has been restored.

  68. That’s exactly what I felt too. The versailles picture was the default one from wp. It’s very annoying that you can’t try out changes without implementing them immediately. You have to have yet another fakeblog to try things out on and then try to remember exactly what you did and to the same very quickly to the real blog. Or else you have the disaster of yesterday.

    How is the situation with ads on the blog, btw? It worries me a lot.

  69. Melanie · ·

    the blog is advertising dog-chews and some pictures of rabbits. Is that what you’re getting your end?

  70. Melanie · ·

    joke

  71. Well, that would certainly be good ads! I’m worried about escort women with big boobs. Have no idea what wordpress is into.

  72. Oh, well, I agree it was disorienting to look at but I did like the fonts … I am weird that way. I like Garamond.

  73. Garamond is all right. I think the problem was: it was too much. With the italics, too.

    I’ll make the blog a bit more spring like though…!

    Still contemplating a move to google’s blogspot, but it’s not so easy after years here and all the people who know this blog and all the links (internal, external) and stuff. Plus it’s 30 times too big to be able to export and import to google. I would have to leave this as it is and start again. But would have a lot more freedom with colours, fonts, layout. It’s a difficult thing to decide. I would like my own domain with my self-hosted blog but I’m too incompetent. (And, I’ve realized, to uninterested in the details to learn them. Even though I know I should.)

  74. spring is here! but maybe the background is too purple? on the other hand, purple is very anthroposophically correct…

  75. Just happy to see tulips!

  76. I love tulips. In particular when there are lots of different colours and types of tulips mixed. These are from last spring of course. I’m longing for this year’s.

  77. Melanie · ·

    lovely header. Very cheering!

  78. Thank you! Lots of (biodynamic) colours ;-)

  79. … plus the titillium font (used by the Goetheanum — the magazine). It’s not ‘anthroposophical’ but it’s quite nice.

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