Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


2nd thoughts


InOurSpectacularSociety3In January of 2007 I began work on a much too large and too undefined writing project. I called it ‘Peregrinations’ because I needed to begin without a set a path and with the intention that the journey to figuring out what I was on about would be part of the story and the most important part of the experience personally.

I kept a  journal listing all of my reference works and all those I hoped to delve into along with notes and random thoughts I had along the way. The whole thing was pretty short lived by almost any estimation, (I added to that journal only until the Spring of 2007), especially given the grand ambitions that motivated me. Freelance projects and money needs interceded and my time was quickly not my own. I’m hesitant to say the project died. I see my current day job and most everything I read as part of the project.

You see, for all my willingness to wander, I was and still am in pursuit of answers to one central line of questioning: What makes true believers – especially political believers – believe? How do people like Che and Mao get from making rational arguments about poverty and land reform to waging wars and rationing food based on political affiliation? In the absence of coherent religious and political articles of faith how do true believing leaders know how to act? What compels them? Just how are their monkey brains wired differently than my monkey brain? Is it in the water? Is it nature or nurture or some other thing?

Working for a ‘mission-driven’ organization whose mission includes (depending on who and when you ask) social justice, conflict transformation, promotion of peace, intercultural understanding, etc. I get to see and interact with a fair number of true believers first hand. I have compared the place to a religious mission school sans the metaphysical pursuits of religion, though to claim that there is no religion here would be to hold to a fairly narrow definition of the idea. There are articles of faith, a moral code, and even some dogma. I think a clever soul with more time than I have now might be able to parse out some metaphysics too. Suffice to say, I get through the rough and boring days here by thinking of it as primary research into the way true believers work.

I am perfectly aware that I am headed down well-trodden territory, but as someone once numbered among the born-again Christians, the thoroughly convinced agnostic/atheistic Anarchists, as well as someone perennially projected upon by the white male establishment types, liberal types, tree huggers, animal lovers, and ‘realistic moderates’ I feel the need to examine this stuff from the inside out as much as from the outside in.

As an aside here, someday I’m going to write a long piece about what it’s like to be a well spoken, white guy with a fairly neat haircut and how everyone thinks they know who you are before you even open your mouth. But that’s not what my peregrinations are about. They’re about figuring out what we’re all on about as a species and just what I’m on about too.

I’ll be posting bits and pieces of the project here. Read ’em and weep, laugh, or smirk as you will.

One Response to “Peregrinations”

  1. real name jim utz » August 21st, 2009

    I would never have characterized your haircut as “fairly neat,” but I will give you “well spoken white guy” and concede that before you even opened your mouth I knew who you were–a fiercely intelligent badass and a good candidate for friendship.

    In this “Aesthetics & Criticism” class I teach we cover the Italian Futurists and their loose, often-misunderstood connections to fascism, and also the Nazi response to the Expressionists. We grapple with some of the same questions you raise here.

    Hooray for yr blog (I’ll keep watching) & happy birthday (in advance, for once).

    ps did you know my dissertation was about the SI & theatre?
    pps listening to PIL, “album,” lately–reminds me of a post-rehearsal party back in the 95616 days.
    pps sorry if this comment sounds like a mancrush but I’s drunk. It’s friday night. yeah, I’m on your website. No, I don’t have a life.