Something that happens more and more as Wicca moves into the mainstream are instances of "activism." It usually starts when a Wiccan, on their own initiative, goes and volunteers their services, or requests an accommodation for themselves, and is rebuffed. Instead of seeking redress, or clarification, they go to the media. That is when the problem of not "staying in your lane" comes into play. Some head of a national Wiccan organization makes a phone call and sends out an e-mail. This triggers a snowball effect on the Internet where thousands of people recall how the same thing happened to them, how unfair it all was, etc. Now the organization/agency that rebuffed the well intentioned Wiccan to start with is bombarded with letters, e-mails and phone calls explaining to them (with varying levels of literacy) the how and why of their error and what they need to do to fix it. In effect, one person's personal mission got picked up and turned into a national, and sometimes international, crusade.
Some would say that this showing of unity is a good thing, a thing that needs to happen more and more. The point that I am trying to make is that, when dealing with any organizational structure, especially government ones, problems and conflicts need to be resolved at the lowest level possible. When you go for the head, you get sweeping unilateral change, but it is change that is forced by outside pressure. This can and does cause resentment to build inside of the organization. What results from that is a flawed system of conflict resolution. From the point of change forward, any problem presented will be handled in one of two ways.
1) A media/exposure focused showing of accommodation that serves to jade the public over time.
2) A quiet "sweeping under the rug" approach where the absolute minimum amount of support is given with a "take this and be happy or else" undertone.
One of the underlining concepts of a bureaucracy is that it has built in redundancies. It has systems in place to codify and handle almost any situation that comes to bear. The reason that none of these systems seem to be able to address Wicca is that we don't let them. We argue that, "Wicca is a religion like any other and entitled to all the same rights, etc, etc," while at the same time trying to make the case that we are in a special class due to past discrimination. When this is done, you have effectively jammed the redundant system of address/redress and correction and forced the issue to a higher level. This can be expressed by the so-called "1000 pound gorilla rule."
"Where does a 1000 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants to. What does a 1000-pound gorilla eat? Anything he wants to. What does a 1000-pound gorilla think? Who knows?"
What this means is that the people who head a bureaucracy enjoy considerable power. The boundaries to this power are 1) they do not pay too much attention to what the built in systems are supposed to handle, and 2) any issue that comes to them is enforced by their power, shaped by public opinion and rolls down hill to affect the people who run the systems that are supposed to keep it from the person on top.
The reason that you do not hear about the situations that are resolved by the bureaucratic method is that they remain inside the system. That means no national press, no e-mail firestorms and no letter writing campaigns. Another side effect of this is, since it was handled by using the system, it can be repeated within similar systems. If you address an issue with the military chaplaincy, it will give you a precedent to use when addressing a prison chaplaincy. So what is the least invasive, low profile of approaches, is also produces the most effective, long-term results.
Deacon Adams is a former Chaplain's Assistant in the US Army. He has also authored a comprehensive "Introduction to Wicca" briefing for Chaplains, Commanders and supervisors who may not be familiar with Wicca. If you would like to know more about this briefing, contact our Director of Military Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.