I was born in Ukraine in 1979, and immigrated to the US in 1990 with my family. I was always encouraged in my doodling, and after arriving on the shores of the Great Satan, I took being an artist very seriously as my identity. Along with this, I accepted all the other stuff people seemed to believe in America: that originality and being individual mattered, that the capitalist countries of the West were democracies where a person who worked hard would succeed, that free speech was a thing, that the history of humanity was one of ongoing progress, that our ruling class was not a ruling class and our political leaders were merely public servants who represented us in the halls of power, presumably with no ambition to power of their own. I also retained many of the things people believed in the old country: that families took care of their own through thick and thin, that artists and poets mattered to someone—anyone, that there was inherent value in time you spent with other people. I was very confused.
After thirty years of beating my head against the wall, so to speak, in this, the free-est of all countries, I learned a number of things that I wish I knew earlier. Wendell Berry taught me that my place is in a community of people who care about me and whom I care about, rooted in a piece of geography. Fredy Perlman taught me that people whose goal is the accumulation of power over others have throughout the history of human civilization tried to limit everyone else’s ability to live in peace within their communities, in order to break our resistance to oppression. Eduard Limonov taught me that power and oppression are same in spirit but sometimes different in execution on both sides of the iron curtain and probably anywhere else, and that it (oppression) spreads, fractal like, from the petty acts of the lowest of the low to the highest levels of power, differing only in the magnitude of its effects.
Surprisingly or not, these things I learned from different people mostly unaware of each other agree on many key points. Some of the things I learned I think I learned myself, although I don’t think I’m the first to know them—it’s just that I haven’t read or heard someone smarter than me say them. For example, I learned that people mostly do what they see others doing, even as they believe they are making original decisions. This may seem like a relatively inconsequential thing, but it makes a difference if we are ourselves not aware of where our decisions come from—it means we are easier to manipulate.
And who cares what I learned, you may ask? I need to feel like I’m doing something besides just consuming and trudging towards death. I’m hoping to make human connections through these things. I also hope that what I learned can help other people have an easier time and do better in life than I have. I never had a mentor, and piecing together all these things from books and articles is inefficient and not as meaningful. I’m not so deluded as to think that I possess some great knowledge that the world can’t do without, but insofar as I am connected in a network of other humans, I think that I can steer people towards stuff that can help—that helped me. I’m neither smart enough nor talented enough on my own, and lazy besides. Paradoxically, one of the things I learned is that the exact content of the information we transfer from one to another is much less important than the relationship between the people involved, or lack thereof. But the lesson’s content itself isn’t completely unimportant, and in a world of alienated, lonely people, just hearing someone else say something that confirms you’re not alone or insane among the insanity can be life-saving.
To inquire about availability and rates, email at dmitrysm (at) hotmail (dot) com or send a message via the “contact” page, it goes to the same place.