What id Belief? – Infamous Gonzo journalist, James Campion comes clean.

Aquarian Weekly 8/8/01 REALITY CHECK


Hello Mr. Campion,

I’m a faithful reader of your column and I’m impressed by your political sensibilities. However, I do believe that your nihilistic approach to politics can sometimes be off-putting. Do you have any beliefs at all, other than professional cynicism?


Dearest Michelle,

It is rare that I respond in print to a letter or note, not because I don’t appreciate the mail or the responses, but more often than not they do not warrant a direct answer. Opinions, like rectums, are a key part of everyone’s make-up. The only difference between myself and a great many of my readers is that I’m paid to put my opinions onto paper once a week in some sort of coherent fashion, which is not always the parameters for those we confront daily on our highways, at our jobs, visits to market or late at night in our favorite watering holes.

Yet, each of them has an equal right to their own truths. Some even change or reform them with age and experience. A great deal us with credos and haircuts in our youth begin to redefine the world we’d pigeonholed years before when faced with the inevitable nagging pains of loneliness, poverty or ridicule. Age has a way of filling our heads with contradictions. Black becomes white with the passage of time. That is if we choose to accept this new reality, which a good portion of society refuses to do, regardless of the heaping evidence to the contrary.

Oh, how boring this planet would be if all of us just stuck to our guns and forged ahead regardless of the consequences, to which there are many and varied. But these roadblocks can spur on serious contemplation, leading to a more evolved thought process, which may or may not elevate us to an almost pristine level of understanding.

We are nothing more than fragile creatures possessing the audacity to convince ourselves of invincibility.

It is in that seminal moment when maturity gives birth to clarity, which allows us to fully realize our flaws. We are nothing more than fragile creatures possessing the audacity to convince ourselves of invincibility. We nurture this insatiable need to fool ourselves into thinking we can exist without forgiveness, love and guidance, and that although we’re yanked from the womb kicking and screaming alone and end up in the ground in the same fashion, we’re still all finally measured by those who’ve benefited from our empathy.

A teacher friend of mine once mused that it is easy to have a philosophy, the difficulty lies in living it. Concepts and ideas can sometimes define people when they’re often unsure what they believed in the first place. Cradling strong beliefs over a few drinks with a woman we’re trying to impress or a professor we hope to influence is far different than wrestling with the results of them. That is why most of us shy from offering our true beliefs out loud or even allowing them a prominent place in our conscience.

This brings me to your question of my beliefs.

I have ignored many, if not all, of the scenarios presented quite adroitly in the previous paragraphs. It has never been particularly important for me to have anything resembling a strong philosophy or belief. Those things are transient, like standing at a railway station and hoping to get to Detroit by taking the nonstop to Philadelphia. I want the next train that pulls in to head in my direction, but no matter what I believe, the damn thing is going to Philly. It’s a train all right, but not the one I hope it will be.

Let me get more confusing.

You mentioned politics in your question. And as much as I appreciate the plaudits regarding my sensibilities to the political culture, I cannot admit to the label of cynic. I am intrigued, even at times mesmerized, by politics and the people who inhabit its rocky terrain, but I have no real use for it as a solution for anything binding or true. Looking for truth in politics is boarding that train to Philly and expecting to end up at the Union Depot in downtown Detroit.

The word cynic denotes an air of skepticism. Contrarily, I strongly believe that human beings, especially male ones, have shown time and again, an amazingly consistent inability to govern themselves. This comes from a narcotic known as power, which has a debilitating symptom called money. Sometimes these gory stimuli work in reverse order. But inevitably, these drugs and its fallout fell the best and brightest, and those who were barely qualified for dogcatcher find themselves with money and power and the rest of us are forced to pay attention to them.

Ah, but I spent far too much space on politics and sociality and avoided the key question: What do I believe?

I believe in Friday conversations with my father and Saturday morning calls from my brother, and when the shit storm swirls there is no one I want in my foxhole other than Phyllis Mary Campion. I believe in the possibilities behind my wife’s eyes and her laughter when I’m pissed. I believe in 2:00 a.m. on Bleeker Street with a good cigar and a frozen Margarita. I believe in The Simpsons. I believe the rock song hasn’t been improved since the Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized”. I believe the ’78 Yankees was the best sports team ever. I believe in those incredibly inspiring, chaotic run-on Jack Kerouac sentences. I believe God is more easily defined by infants and cats.

And I believe I’m done.

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