Tirade – Everyone But Me is Wrong

Illustration from Jehovah’s Witness literature, copyright JW.org

Written & edited by Adam Holzrichter.

Everyone but me is wrong. It’s easily the most common underlying sentiment shared in my direct associations with subculture, counter-culture, religion, and junkies. The only other constant which remains – as a person who has regularly abandoned their station of Dutiful Follower – is that no group can stand a noncommittal outsider for very long.

When I left the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses I was sixteen. That group taught me a great deal about how to observe the world as if from behind a pane of bulletproof glass. I turned their teachings into: How to be a Narcissistic, Manipulative, Proselytizing Outcast. A lot of people were hurt by these character traits, as I shed the juvenile qualities through a series of self-induced social maturation processes. My journey out into a society I once perceived as being driven by wicked desires was equal parts traumatic and illuminating.

Goths taught me how to seek out community through overt displays of self destructiveness. Hair color, piercings, tattoos, black wardrobe, chains, spiked jewelry and accessories intended to intimidate were some of the tools with which I assaulted the senses of “normal people”. I swore allegiance to no one and nurtured an obsession with controlling strangers’ perception of me. In reality I was utterly defenseless. Goth subculture gets due credit in shaping my perception of the overwhelmingly hostile marketplace of ideas. There is unity in its divisiveness.

Junkie culture showed me that life cannot possibly feel as good as fantasy. In time I came to believe my biggest drug problem was not being able to afford drugs. The baked-in community resembled any other consumer driven hierarchy. The person who wants drugs, the person with drugs, the dealer, and the person whose facilities you were using the drugs inside – or outside – of. Come downs, neurological peaks and valleys. Growing dependence upon wild characters to create stimulations in environments you couldn’t possibly gain access to while sober. 

My time with the Nerdrum clan taught me how to elevate my logic, dignity, and reasoning capabilities through philosophy. Here is where my life completely turned around… again. I had read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and The Poetics, upon recommendation from my master, Odd Nerdrum. My daily practice of painting, journaling, and studying created a sense of identity which put me back into a pursuit of knowledge as the primary driving force. We talked about the problems of the art world – often the dominant marketplace’s seeming contempt for, and attempts to silence or destroy people like us. It felt all too familiar. A persecuted community always does. It feels like a warm home, worth fighting for. Until it doesn’t. I owe Odd Nerdrum my life today. His family and personal insights inspired me far more than I will mention in this short text. That doesn’t mean I don’t think his ideas attract fanatics. They do.

The common thread I run into with every single fanatic I have encountered is that each is at the center of their universe. Everyone but them is wrong. And despite their claims of validation by means of being persecuted, this perception ultimately enlivens them. It sometimes causes them to find purpose through leadership roles, where there was once simply a desire to fit into some niche that felt uniquely their own. My advice: Don’t condemn someone for their fanaticism until you’ve gone all-in once or twice. Join a cult. Get high on ideological superiority. Maybe then you might understand what everyone is after in the first place; the capital T, “Truth”.

I’ll leave with a quote by Odd Nerdrum, which was quickly jotted down during one of our conversations, “Fight for your life, don’t fight for the truth. Because the truth doesn’t exist.”

“Cannibals” oil painting by Odd Nerdrum

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