What’s In A Name?
There are people in society who need scapegoats and fallguys. Whoever they are, social conservatives or religious fundamentalists, they create enemies out of minority groups in order to maintain the illusion that there is some kind of threat against their continued position of privilege in society and maintain the status quo. This illusion inspires fear and fervor and from it, action against the perceived threat and consequently, unity and growth in the group.
Forty years ago this cohesion and its premise was based on racial segregation, then when that wouldn’t fly anymore, after the Holocaust made it abundantly obvious where that road leads, it became based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with virtually similar results. Today however, the LGBT minority has won equality by leaps and bounds – but in some places they are still attacked, marginalized and persecuted by these same protagonists.
What about us? Where do we stand as Vampyres? As some point out – usually those in first-world countries – we’re not exactly hiding anymore – and anyone who looks can find us online or in havens and clubs – but many people still don’t know, or even take us seriously. Groups, especially religious fundamentalists, are already aware of us. With the gradually increasing number of articles in the news and online focusing on real vamps – and the sensationalist articles focusing on crimes seemingly committed by vampires, these groups are already sitting up and taking notice. They have started compiling reports on the VC – biased and full of misconceptions – but full of information gleaned from our websites and forums – nuances of the subculture, an incomplete and otherwise flawed lexicon, definitions etc. By means of a lopsided and warped image, which suits them only too well, they are already portraying us as evil abominations, as is to be expected. After all, we flout their generational religious-based taboos on blood consumption, energy-work and magick. How could they ever come to terms with that?
Often these same protagonists will condemn an entire community if one individual commits a crime which brings the community into disrepute, but more often that not, they will not make any comment when one individual of this community falls victim to a religious zealot who commits cold-blooded murder because they believe they they have just killed a “vampire”. And often, when they do comment, it is made out to be the victim’s fault for dressing a certain way, or listening to a certain kind of music different to their own. It is blatant xenophobia – an irrational fear of diversity, or difference from oneself – moreover, a fear brought about by ignorance – and also most often, willful ignorance.
I feel it is only a matter of time before their focus shifts onto Vampyres as their next target, after they realize their campaign against the human rights of LGBT people has failed and is unworkable, and they need another, more appropriate target – and what could be easier to paint as a religious enemy, than one which openly takes unto itself the image of things which they have decided fit into their view of what is “evil” and a threat.
At present, while we may argue against them in good sense, that hasn’t stopped them demonizing and even conspiring to commit genocide against other minority groups – who already have sound science and medical backing (which we currently lack btw). Clearly, they don’t care for facts in any case – they have their rule books.
The point I’m trying to make is, that 1) the secret is already out. 2) It’s inevitable that we will come under increased organized concerted attack on social, religious and political fronts sooner rather than later. 3) The best response is to anticipate and to prepare awareness and educational programs – including the collection of usable medical and scientific evidence that can be used in our defense. Every little bit helps I think. The more curious we can make the folks in lab-coats, the more they will want to know about us, the more we stand to gain.
I’m all for working on global human rights and equal civil rights for all people, and especially for us as a community – but the trick is to make sure these rights apply to us as well, whether on religious grounds, or whatever way best keeps us protected and equal to the rest of society. Focusing just on specifics in some kind of rights movement would result in losing a grip on the bigger picture. But at the same time we need to guarantee that the specific needs of the VC, at least in terms of freedom of expression/religion/non-discrimination etc are kept and honored – perhaps without drawing wider attention to this cause? Obviously there has to be a balance.
But let’s look at it from the point of view of the LGBT community again. They are the current target of choice of the anti human rights pundits. A lot of LGBT people today aren’t obvious about being LGBT either – and yet they are still discriminated against. This is done by means of laws, social conventions and other means, cruel jokes, prejudices etc. You might think that because they are hidden, they do not experience discrimination. While like us, many of them would say that what they are is nobody else’s business, I would say instead that it is the opposite. It is the fear of discrimination that keeps them hidden – and while they may try to conduct their affairs privately, there is still the risk of discovery and its consequences. In short, the fear of discovery and its consequences IS the persecution.
Working on the premise that being Vampyre is a private issue, yes I suppose some of us can exist that way – after all, nobody can openly accuse a PSI of feeding off someone, because they could deliver no proof. At least, these are times of modern law, unlike the days of the Holy Inquisition, where a mere whisper of suspicion or accusation was enough to deliver someone into the tender mercies of the Church and to be burned alive. Quite rightly, a Sang even today has concerns about being sued by a disgruntled donor, or arrested for breaking some or other arcane law on blood or human tissues, or as Joseph Laycock in his book on the real Vampire Community pointed out – losing their children to Child Protection Services etc. As it is, many today fear losing their jobs. Then there is the possibility that in future, laws could be passed making sanguine exploits and feeding illegal and punishable by law. As it is the laws in South Africa are rather sketchy on this issue.
In some places today – and particularly in Africa, people are persecuted and even killed just for being accused of being witches or vampires, without even the burden of proof. This sort of witch hunt continues in rural Africa today, perpetuating the persecution of the mythical Lamia – witches, werewolves and vampires, described in the arcane witch-hunting manual of the RCC, the “Malleus Maleficarum”, and in countless African legends – as one and the same. In most cases, the victims of these hunts are innocent, or have fallen foul of some unsavory part of their communities – but in a lot of cases, it is us they are looking for, us they pretend to be killing.
I think you can see where this line of thought is heading. Secrecy up to a point is good for us, yes – but at the end of the day it will mean living in fear of being discovered – fear of losing our jobs our homes or our freedom, or lives – and I don’t do the living in fear gig very well.
For some reason our modern community adopted the term “vampire” – who knows why? It’s strange that we call ourselves after the fictional stereotype and then protest while explaining to outsiders what we are, that it doesn’t describe us. It makes no sense – except when we consider the stereotype and our general fascination with it – and our commonalities with it. A rose by any other name, is still a rose… and “it is what it does”. We call ourselves Vampyres because we are dependent on the life force of others, and some of us consume blood. We use the name “vampire” because it is the myth and legend that describes what we do, what we experience, and how we feel.
Even were we to call ourselves something else, we would still do these things. Even if we avoided the use of the “v” word entirely, we would still be accused of witchcraft, sorcery or of devil worship and breaking archaic religious commandments on the consumption of blood by those who cannot discern public law from religion.
It seems that the name we go by matters little, because no matter how we look at it, we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.