I’ve been a contrarian most of my life opposing stupidity, bigotry, racism, gender issues (under whatever banner), and oppression across the board never giving a shit who it was I was speaking against, but always specific and true to the people I sought to speak with not for, people who could not speak up for themselves and those who could. Having left university early on I lived in the streets, working odd-jobs throughout my young life from carpentry, cooking, mining, long shoreman, pipelines, etc. I needed to live among working class people. The notion of being an academic just seemed mad to me during the sixties. Maybe it was the dissenter in me, since I’d early on turned against my forbears faith having realized that for the most part it seemed a collective fantasy that instilled fear and terror in the hearts of its members rather than peace and freedom, justice and equanimity.
Most of all was this deep knowing that I must go my own way, contrary to all that was dear to my people, and against the powers of church, state, and history. Something was driving to understand and know what it is that makes us so fucked up. Maybe that’s been my mission all along, to understand why humanity – this animal of planet earth is the only animal who could not accept its place in the order of things. We’ve always sought more, something else, to transcend our place in the natural order.
The love of my life died in 89′. She was truly my helpmeet, as I was hers. Yet, she had that independent spirit of her people, the Lakota (Oglala Sioux). She was an activist within her own community helping women to not only survive but to thrive and educate themselves, overcome much of the crap that had forced her people onto reservations and allowed them to become passive recipients of alcohol and government checks. She’d been raped when a young girl by many of her own kin, something that took her years to overcome (if she ever did). I stood by her at every point of her life, as she did mine. Maybe it’s this that most irks me when someone attributes to my stance the label misogynist from statements on FB.
Sadly, we live in a moment when feminism seems to have become something other than it once was during the sixties, seventies and eighties… something I have a difficulty sometimes recognizing. Maybe it’s this same feeling that goes for the Party I once actually fought for, the Democrats. They too have changed, and not for the better. There’s a stench of religious orthodoxy in the land, not of Christian but of Secularism; and, not the variety I live, atheism with a Marxist heritage. It’s something else… moneyed and power based, a shadow world of shifting alliances, warring groups, and anathema. If one does not speak the language of the in group or hold the value systems of its orthodoxy then one is labeled this or that… accused, and pronounced guilty before one has a chance to defend oneself.
As an outsider it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter at all, as a contrarian I’ve always adjusted to the doggedness of oppositional thinking blasting any and all who were failing the test of dissidence, whether of the Right or Left it does not matter. No longer affiliated to the political I can stand outside its fractious squabbles and bickering’s, saying plainly what is on my mind. Both the Left and Right have become puppets of ideologies that subvert any actual communication. It’s just that in our time one does not know anymore who one’s friends are nor who one’s enemies have become. Sometimes I think the poles are reversing as in the I Ching, slipping from male to female and back again: a rotary world of energetic powers and dispositions unleashing strange new zones of being. Things have become topsy-turvy and chaotic, the extremes meeting in unlikely zones of affiliation and disaffiliation.
Having been part of the sixties generation my thought and philosophy are no longer it seems acceptable in some quarters. So be it. I suppose it’s a phase shift in thought, value, and our mode of being in the world. Being pragmatic about it I shall as always adapt, and yet continue to be the oppositional contrarian I’ve always been. What else could I be?
As Christopher Hitchens in his Letters to a Young Contrarian put it: “To be in opposition is not to be a nihilist. And there is no decent or charted way of making a living at it. It is something you are, and not something you do.”1
- Hitchens, Christopher. Letters to a Young Contrarian (Art of Mentoring) (p. 12). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.