(If you’re going to read this, please read the whole thing before drawing your conclusions, some passages in this will make you angry, I accept and understand that, but context matters. Please note that I’m not my old self anymore, my old self is dead. )
I have a swallow (you know, the bird.) tattooed on my arm, this is an excellent conversation-starter these days, a lot of people have a tattoo, or multiple, and everyone likes talking about them, their meaning, and all things surrounding them.
Usually, the question is soon asked: “So, do you have any more tattoos?”. 4/5 years ago, I would’ve said: “Yeah!” and would’ve shown them, but these days, I’m too ashamed. (And not because I’ve put on a lot of weight and am ashamed of my body.).
I just say: “No, but I plan on getting more.”.
The reason for this is simple, I have an SS rune (a wolfsangel) on my left shoulder, and a large celtic cross on my chest. (you know, the thing that most people would call a “white power cross”)
Those two things, and the politics they represent, are the biggest shame I have, and probably the reason for all my subsequent troubles.
How, then, does a reasonably intelligent man, from a loving and caring family, with a very liberal and free upbringing, get to the point where he thinks it’s a good idea to have those things tattooed onto his body?
This is a question I’m still struggling to answer, honestly.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a flawed person, I like it when I make a remark that shocks people, I enjoy a rude joke, but that’s true for many people that do not do the things I did.
Another key thing about me is that I’ve always had a fascination with the extreme, in music, lifestyle, politics. I’m drawn like a moth to a flame when it comes to things that other people don’t understand, or find shocking. These things contributed to a very long, and quite shameful part of my life.
I think it’s important to note, before I start the actual story, that in grade school, my grades were all very good, my teachers thought I was intelligent, if a little rowdy, but I was convinced that I could stay in the same school, then go to a very good high-school, and then to university.
Then I got diagnosed with AD/HD, turfed off to special education, and the dream of university was dead. I believe, in retrospect, this was part of what fueled my anger towards the world for a long time. (But is clearly not an excuse.)
I think it all started in 2003 or something, I’m fuzzy on the exact chronology, I had just dropped out of an education, was living with my parents again, whilst all my friends were busy doing university, and getting their shit in order, I was doing the very opposite, I was on the internet, playing games, and talking on forums of all stripes. (Pretty harmless stuff, nothing fancy). As I said earlier, I’ve always been interested in radical politics, just after highschool, I dabbled in Communism for a bit, even tried running for local council. (Thank goodness, hardly anyone voted for me.). I eventually bored of Communism, mainly because they were all very old men that were trying to relive the USSR glory days, not a place for a young man, honestly.
It was around this time that I got talking to some fellow local metalheads (I did say I like extreme music, this has not changed) on a forum, we regularly met up for some beers, also went to some bigger meetups across the country, all very innocent stuff. Except for the little detail that one of the guys I really got along well with was a neo-nazi, which was shocking to me, at first. (HAD HE NEVER READ A HISTORY BOOK?!). It was clear to me, though, that this was no mindless thug, the portrayal you often see in films, this was clearly a man that had read a lot of stuff, knew his history, and had developed his own take on it.
Let’s not forget, I was a lonely and insecure lad in need of an identity, I made a friend, and then some more, and then you start blocking out the noises you don’t like.
Opinions that don’t mesh well with the stuff you’re getting into? Ignore ’em. People try to debate you? Shout ’em down, crush them with counterarguments. Shock them with outlandish remarks. I was developing an identity, mainly online, for now. And my parents didn’t know.
Until at one point, my cellphone (one of those big fridge-like things we had back then, fancy) rang: “Dude, we’re going to a meeting, dress sharp, polish your shoes, and get your hair done.”.
I did literally none of those things, as I was a still quite young, and had this weird worldview in which a metalhead should look unkempt.
So, on the train, I was made to smarten up, put some gel in my hair, and polish my boots.
I was aged 22’ish (As I said, I’m a tiny bit fuzzy on the timeline), and was on my way to a Blood & Honour remembrance of Adolf Hitler, yes, me, a white middle class dude from as liberal a household as you’ll find.
I would like to stress, at this point, that in no way ever was I forced to do anything, I made all the decisions on my own. My only defense is that I was extremely naieve, and did not think about the possible consequences of the decisions I made.
One positive thing happened, I got a job, for some reason, as a deckhand, and later able seaman, on a beautiful sailing ship, I got in shape, I also moved into my own place. So it wasn’t all ghastly.
However, I was still very much involved in radical politics, I went to rallies, concerts of all kinds of terrible bands, I stood in the crowd, my right arm raised, screaming ghastly things.
The weird thing about all of this is this: It gave me an identity, my ideology gave me confidence that I had never before had. On board the ship, I went through pains to hide my politics (as best as I could, anyway), there are some things you don’t talk about, after all.
For the first time in my life I had the confidence to interact with people, be social, tell jokes. Just feel…like an accepted person. (I was bullied a lot in high school, so this was new.).
I even met a girl that I really liked, and weirdly, she liked me too. Even though our political views could not have been different. She said she was mainly attracted to my sense of humour, and my confidence. (This was in around 2008).
Some things were happening on board, I was increasingly angry with the world, it was not going well at work, because my anger, and my racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, anti-feminism, and all those things were getting quite out of hand. And my rage at the world was influencing how well I did my job. It’s not that I was flaunting it, but I was dropping clear hints, and saying very extreme stuff indeed.
Weirdly, most of my shipmates never called me on it.
There was one, though, a woman named Rebecca, from the U.S.A.. She is a marvellous sailor, one of the best I’ve sailed with. She was also an American liberal, very tolerant, very into diversity, things I would these days say describe me as well. Back then, I hated that side of her.
We clashed, repeatedly, sometimes in very bad tempered exchanges. I had no interest in yielding, and neither did she.
I’m glad that she didn’t, because for the first time, I was forced to actually think, and have a rational discussion about things. This was difficult. Since you can understand my ideology did not stand up to scrutiny. As they say, the seeds of doubt were sown.
It’s weird, in retrospect, that me being a neo-nazi, and being proud of it lasted as long as it did. I was sailing all over the world for multiple years, came into contact with all sorts of cultures and people, and it took me until 2009 or so to display any signs of wavering.
I guess the way I rationalized it was as following: “People can be who the hell they want to be, as long as they stay away from my potentially utopian society.”.
Which is, whatever way you slice it, a pretty fucked up way of thinking.
In 2010 I finally stepped off the ship, intending to be back at some point. (I never did.)
I moved in with my girlfriend for a while. (It did not last very long, I was an awful boyfriend.)
My plan was to go to culinary school, I had promised our ship’s cook I’d call him when I became a cook. (I never called him.).
You see (and this is the one good thing to come out of this whole sordid saga), the seeds of doubt had been sown. Little by little, reality started to chip away at my so firmly held convictions.
The problem here is this, my entire identity and self-worth were tied into this ideology that I held on to, which is why I was so reluctant to let go. I’m very glad that I did let it go, though.
The world is so much nicer when you don’t have to be angry at people for crimes they did not commit.
The downside, of course, is that instead of being a confident, outspoken young man with a bright future, I’m now 32, uneducated, unemployed, and very alone indeed.
In conclusion: You know, I don’t really care about the fact that I’m quite depressed, have an anxiety disorder, and am very lonely.
Those are things I can work on, I can’t take back the fact that I’ve said horrible things to many people, and have alienated many. But I’m just very glad I’m not my old self anymore.
Thanks for listening, folks.
Stuff about Byzantium will soon be a thing again.