Date of Interview: June 4, 2016
Name: Kenneth Clayton Martel
Location: Washington, DC
Is having the freedom to do what you want important to you in life?
Umm yeah, Yeah, I’m not good at motivating myself if it’s something I don’t really want to do.
What are you passionate about?
That’s a good question. I’m passionate about, like, people being able to live meaningful lives. And destroying the structures that make people’s lives harder than they need to be.
Do you think you’re able to incorporate that into your daily life?
Umm… not as much as I’d like to. But that is one of the biggest things about organizing. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Do you know the word missional? It comes out of radical priests who were trying to reform the Catholic church, or something, and thought that, like, the church should be the hand of God. And when you go to church, you should see God, and the church should be showing God. So it’s that your work and your vision are the same thing. So every time you’re doing work you can see what you’re doing in it. So I think organizing is like that. Or, it CAN be. It’s kind of hard to sustain. You’re just like… trudging towards a vision. It’s contexualized more than a lot of other work. Right? You are… or I’m trudging towards the vision of Democracy, but everyone is contexualizing it and the decision could end with a totally different world.
Are you religious?
No. ::laughs:: No. I did go to a Unitarian church for more than a few years, when I was a little kid. My parents were Unitarians for a little while. My mom was raised a Methodist and my grandfather was a Methodist preacher. And my dad was not really raised religious, and I think that when they had kids, my mom wanted the same type of community that she had growing up. But there was nothing that they could get down with other than Unitarianism. So they became members of the Unitarian church. They sort of became leaders within the church too. My dad was on a bunch of boards and my mom was like, the sex education teacher for Unitarians and they did that together or something. And it was great for a while, but then this new preacher came in, and my dad is very… umm… very missional and had no tolerance for anything that’s kind of shady or shitty. And so the new preacher was trying to get health insurance, and my dad was saying, “Great! You should have health insurance, but if we are going to offer YOU health insurance, than we will have to offer all the other employees health insurance.” And the preacher wasn’t down with that, and the treasury committee wasn’t down with that, like… It just blew up into this whole thing. And my dad was very much trying to follow correct procedures and everyone else was talking about how he was a “rebel rouser” and kicked him out of the church. It was crazy.
Do you have a Utopia?
Noooo… I don’t. I think I’m more like, in some ways more motivated by righteousness and anger towards all of the systems and infrastructures and people behind the shittiness of the world. And that’s what motivates me. It motivates me to fix things. Like, knowing it can be better than how it is now. It enables me to work to make things better when that’s the motivation, instead of trying to make something different that’s perfect, it’s different and better. That to me, is a little bit more pure. ‘Cause, you’re not trying to say that one specific vision is right. I can’t think of what could work for everyone. What that world would look like. But I know some things that I’m working for, that the world could include. And some things that wouldn’t work, that I’m trying to eliminate.
What do you think of death?
I think about it… I have thoughts on it… I dunno. I’m not sure… One thing that sort of like… titillates me is… Have you ever watched that documentary on DMT? You know what DMT is, obviously. Yeah, so DMT is called the spirit molecule, and it’s in ayahuasca, which is traditional medicine. They say that DMT is the thing that is released in your brain when you’re first born, and then when you die. It’s an experience that apparently takes you outside of your consciousness and it dissolves your understanding of self. Or can. So in this documentary, someone is describing how DMT could theoretically be the way the universe exists. Like, there are all these different frequencies, and radio waves, and your brain, and consciousness, and existence tunes into one frequency. And articulates it as life. So I think that this is one possibility. Yeah, it’s the one that makes sense to me.
What do you think of romantic love?
What do I think of it… What do I think of it… Umm… ::whistling:: I think I have… I think everyone has an interest in romantic love. I think I have an interest in romantic love. I have used it often to help me conceptualize myself. Sort of help myself be missional. I have had an urgency to conceptualize my life and to understand my life and my role and feel like I’m living a missional life. And romantic love sort of allows you to do that. Like, it gives you a role. You know? It’s like, here you are, walking through life and then ‘AHH, I’m this person in this giant ether and feel like I’m useless’ and then you get in a relationship, and then you’re so and so’s boyfriend. Perfect. Just like, do that! That’s your life! It’s horrible and shitty. And if it’s not what you intentionally construct what you want from your mind, into what it will be, you can fuck everything up and be horrible and fuck other people up. You can also fuck yourself over. Yeah, that’s what I think of romantic love.
What do you think is your biggest accomplishment?
Hmm… I don’t think it’s MY accomplishment, but something that I feel most proud of is… This one kid I supported at Perkins, who is amazing. Super nice, gentle, and sweet, and goofy. And would give high fives and hugs. And at the same time, very self interest. Like, not being able to do tasks that were even remotely frustrating without breaking down. Like, even getting off the computer and going to the bathroom without injuring himself. And when I started working with him, we did a new behavior plan. Which was kind of this amazing thing, mainly because he was unable to do anything without breaking down. The idea was to get him to do the smallest things possible. And also use, sort of like, a de-escalation practice. Like when you get upset, what you can do. Staying calm. He had his computer, which he LOVES. He would watch these YouTube videos, and literally right next to it at an angle, was his work desk. So 5 minutes on his computer, then he would get a little warning. And he would walk two steps, sit in this other chair, and do one simple task. Like putting blocks in a cup. Like, five of them. Then he would get up and go back, and have two more minutes of computer time. All day. Slowly standing up, doing self interest, and getting back in his chair and slowly counting to ten, then getting back to his task. And just slowly building up tolerance, and being able to do things that were frustrating. And it fucking WORKED. It was amazing. Over the course of eight months, he went from… he cut his self interest in more than half. He probably went from 60 or 70 meltdowns a day, to maybe 10 or less. It was WACK. And really awesome.