Purity is for losers
The Church of Euthanasia and Chris Korda
by Chad Parenteau
"The Church of Euthanasia was inspired by a dream, in which Rev. Chris Korda
confronted an alien intelligence known as The Being who speaks for the inhabitants
of Earth in other dimensions. The Being warned that our planet's ecosystem
is failing, and that our leaders deny this. The Being asked why our leaders
lie to us, and why so many of us believe these lies. Rev. Korda awoke from
the dream moaning the Church's infamous slogan, Save the Planet - Kill Yourself."
--From The Church of Euthanasia web site.
Headed by Korda, who resides in Somerville, MA, the Church of Euthanasia,
a federally recognized and therefore tax-exempt educational group, preaches
biodiversity and the willful depopulation of the Earth in order to save its
many species from extinction. They have one commandment, "Thou Shalt Not
Procreate," and four pillars: suicide, abortion, cannibalism, and sodomy
(which they define as any nonreproductive sex). Potential "Euthanists" only
have to adhere to the COE commandment, adopting if children are later desired.
Members with children are excommunicated only if they give birth to more
Actions have included counterattacking an abortion clinic protest with signs
that say "Eat a Queer Fetus For Jesus" and "Pedophile Priests For Life,"
to holding blind flesh taste tests outside a supermarket (They profess to
be vegetarians, and suggest the eating of already deceased humans for those
who insist on eating flesh). Their comparatively subtler efforts that have
more entertainment value receive more mainstream coverage than their demonstrations.
These include Korda's techno CD's and their print/E-journal, Snuff It, hailed
by Time magazine in 1995 as one of the "Hot 'zines on the web."
All press to the COE is good press. A part of their web site lists all the
articles ever written about the church, whether they are objective or with
a negative bent. Korda told me he has nothing to hide and even challenged
others to dig dirt up on him. It isn't easy tracking down information; and
when you find it, there isn't much his web site doesn't already tell you.
He is the son of Simon & Schuster editor-in-chief Michael Korda, whose own
father helped to establish the British film industry. He started experimenting
with gender roles less than ten years ago. For those who have encountered
Korda, all this seems to be common knowledge; you just won't get it directly
out of his mouth--not if you're writing about him, at least.
Some might say it was his father's lawyer that stopped him from talking (as
claimed in a gossip column of a 1996 issue of New York magazine). A year
after, however, Korda--who was "Chrissy" Korda at the time, and asked writers
to refer to him as a her--talked at length in Boston magazine about his family
and his past with no apparent reluctance. Recently, he informed Mark Dery,
who interviewed him for the online magazine GettingIt that he is both Chris
and Chrissy. Despite this, the Korda I've witnessed these past few months
has seemed decisively male and gave me no requests to refer to him as a her.
What happened between then and now (to me at least) is a mystery. According
to Korda, his past is not as important as his self-anointed mission.
Korda expressed disappointment that when the COE is given any significant
space in a periodical, it's done with an A&E slant. An ideal situation, said
Korda, would be a trial over a suicide inspired by the church, something
the area's premiere paper and other mainstream press would have no choice
but to report. Their web site not only offers advice, but sainthood to anyone
who commits suicide and mentions the COE, be it in a positive or negative
light. "Provided they don't do it for some really asinine reason," added
"It's been a disappointment to me that no one's actually killed themselves
and then had their parents sue us," Korda told me in the course of our interviews.
"That would actually punch through the media shield."
An intended visualization for this piece came after my interviews with Korda.
After he sent me a taped copy, I sat down to watch the episode of The Jerry
Springer Show that he and other members appeared in over two years ago under
the title "I Want To Join A Suicide Cult." The guest roster included a woman
named Grace, who said she wished to join, and an ex-boyfriend, Chuck, who
wanted to stop her.
As they reported on their web-site, one of the main goals was to attack Neal
Horsley, head of the Creator Rights Party, whose own web-site, which applauded
the persecution and murder of doctors who perform abortions, was shut down
earlier this year. Watching this, I felt it was an even bigger set-up then
they let on. Chuck, who said he split with Grace over her refusal to have
children and didn't want to wear condoms because they were monogamous, was
too perfect a foil. Grace's decision and Chuck's struggle to win her back
both seemed non-existent except through Springer's monologue.
The kicker was when Springer gave what I thought was the answer to his own
question of why they acted the way they did.
"Grace, in fairness, if [don't populate the planet] is all you guys were
saying, you wouldn't even be on the show because that wouldn't be a major
issue and people would be agreeing with you."
Korda chimed in: "That's right, and isn't that interesting, Jerry?"
Grace got up from chair and walked to the edge of the stage, sounding charged
up: "Wait. You got it. Jerry, that's exactly it, Jerry!"
It was then that I remembered "A Modest Proposal," the satirical essay written
by Jonathan Swift in 1729, often evoked in articles about the COE. In it,
Swift, with statistics and cold logic, proposes that Ireland (his homeland)
cure it's famine simply by eating their infants. This essay, when read in
a teacher's class I was in, sparked such debate that one of my fellow students
even said she didn't think it was satire at all, and that Swift was dead
Good God, that's it. This is what the church is about. They have the modest
proposal for the upcoming twenty-first century. At least, that's what I thought
to myself. Being able to view the COE material in a certain context, I had
at least a clearer vision of how the article would end.
By July, I found a newly posted letter from someone who announced a pending
suicide. The letter closed with the following: "Thanks for the support, not
that you convinced me, but I appreciate the camaraderie."
I had no proof of its authenticity when I discovered it. Still, it floored
me, witnessing satire becoming dogma, if it hadn't been already.
When I first heard of them, it was through writer and 'zine publisher Reverend
Richard J. Mackin, who described them to me as a "street theater group."
The Jerry Springer Show described them as a suicide cult, much to the objections
of fellow-guest Grace, who was inducted after the show. "You called it, 'I
Want to Join a Suicide Cult,'" she told Springer. "I'm joining an educational
group that's talking about overpopulation."
Korda's response when I asked him about it: "Of course we're a suicide cult."
Throughout our talks, Korda made it clear that he and the COE strive, among
everything else, towards ambiguity, and to not be defined as any one thing.
As of this writing, Korda has accomplished that much.
A Day In The Life
April 24, 1999. The Boston light radio station, WBOS, held another "Earthfest"
at Boston's Esplanade near the Charles River, featuring an unexciting array
of musicians. I hadn't come for any of this, but in fact was searching for
the familiar banners of the COE, who were ejected from last year's Earthfest.
After breezing past the various environmental booths, I headed down towards
the River's edge and the concert stage, which the various concession stands
(serving hot dogs, doughboys and other foods questionable by environmental
and vegetarian standards) were next to. The tables stacked with environmental
literature were a considerable distance away from the musical hoopla and
placed under large tents that had all the visual allure of the hospital tents
you see in war movies.
Down by the river, I found the first vestiges of the COE gathering. Young
men and women by or on the docks, sporting signs with such sayings as NO
ONE REALLY CARES, THANK YOU FOR NOT BREEDING and MAKE LOVE NOT BABIES.
One the water, a women rode on a kayak with the sign, LOVE THE EARTH TIE
YOUR TUBES. At one point a family walked up to the docks. A little girl in
a pink- hooded jacket was in tow. One of the women, presumably the mother,
pointed to it.
"See the sign?" she asked the child, presumably not being able to read it
herself. The family moved away soon after I heard her say that.
More children were to come at the docks, a couple even getting close enough
to one member who sported a respirator mask and the sign FEELING MATERNAL?
ADOPT! I walked ahead to the loosely boarded edge to better watch and film
Korda and others assemble their trademark SAVE THE PLANET KILL YOURSELF banner
on their makeshift raft.
"How is that saving the planet?" a kid asked me, pointing to the banner.
I said he'd have to ask them.
"He's never coming back to shore ever again," one member joked. "He's becoming
When Korda finally arrived, it was not by land but by the river, as he had
promised in a press release. The attack was two-pronged. From the raft, which
swayed heavily from the strong winds, the church used their sound system
to voice out such mantras as "Buy. Buy. Buy. Consume," while other members
and supporters stirred things up on land.
Among the supporters on land: activist Ian MacKanon, preaching free radio
and passing out information on Liberation Day; COE member and self-styled
clown Vermin Supreme, who sported instead of makeup, a megaphone to go with
his mocking voice, taunting passerby to eat more hot dogs; and Mackin, passing
out free copies of his Earthfest "Litter A Park for the Earth" issue of his
'zine Protests Are Your Best Entertainment Value (PAYBEV).
(A quick aside: Supreme is possibly the second most recognizable member of
the COE and has been with them almost since the beginning. "People on the
street totally believe that it's real," he said, adding that he attempts
to give an element of humor to the COE demonstrations for those who watch,
"trying to diffuse their anger."
"Of course we are real," asserted Supreme, who also does his "political clown
shtick" during elections, running for tittles he invents himself. He ran
during the 1996 presidential elections for "Mayor of The Entire United States
of America." He plans to run in 2000 for "Emperor for a New Millennium,"
pushing for mandatory tooth brushing.
"More fun than any cult you can imagine," is how he described the COE. "They
just want your time.")
"The Church of Euthanasia" blared an electronic-friendly voice from the raft's
speakers. "Information so powerful, you actually use less."
"They're so bad," chuckled Supreme, as he walked further away from the main
body of protesters and lost himself in the crowd.
It was hard not to laugh. Especially when a powerboat started circling violently
around their raft, its driver protesting the noise. This was followed by
a playing of the mantra found on their dance single "Fleshdance": "Cow, Chicken,
Pig, Human, What's the difference?"
The following quotes are excerpted from Korda's address from the raft to
the Earthfest goers, taken from both our recordings, as Korda told me he
spoke from no script.
"Let me ask you something. What does the Sheraton Hotel chain have to do
with saving the earth? What does Royal Sonesta have to do with saving the
earth. I know: Not much. And guess what? Royal Sonesta and Sheraton are the
two biggest sponsors of the WBOS Earthfest. This has got nothing to do with
the earth. This is hot dogs. This is pushing baby strollers. This is littering
a park for the earth. That's stupid, and that's why we're here. We're here
to tell you that the earth is dying. The planet is in trouble. This is not
a joke. We don't do this because it's fun. We do this because it's real.
This is what Earth Day was supposed to be about."
"They don't like to hear what we're trying to say over at WBOS. They don't
like to hear it because it might interfere with business as usual. That's
what this is all about, is business as usual. Buy. Sell. Buy. Sell. More
stuff. More consuming. More babies. More stuff. More production. More consumption.
Well, not for us. We're drawing a line. We're saying it's got to stop at
some point. It's humans versus the earth. Humans may have evolved on the
Earth, but they are no longer of the earth. They draw a distinction between
themselves and every other species on Earth, and that's not going to work.
It's not a good strategy."
"We're here to talk to you today about the bombing of Yugoslavia. Yeah! What's
that go to do with the Earth? Huh?"
"You bet it does. That's right, because Milosevic is doing his ethnic cleansing,
and we're doing ours. We're cleansing species. He may kill Albanians, but
we kill species."
"Make no mistake. Humans are tough. Humans are very tough. Humans are like
rats, like roaches, like weeds, and that's what we're going to have if we
keep on down the path we're on. We're going to have a weed planet, a depleted
planet on which there is no real world left with real wealth anymore. Wealth
is not measured in dollars. Wealth is not measured in office parks. Wealth
is in biological diversity. We're offering biological diversity. That's what
we're here for. We're standing up for biological diversity. We're standing
up for the diversity of species on the Earth."
"Shut the fuck up!" yelled a passer by from the shore, once Korda finished.
"You're beautiful, dude, you're beautiful," replied Supreme, who chimed in
with his megaphone once Korda finished. "Save the planet, kill yourself ...
Those misguided youths in Colorado? They had half the right idea. Unfortunately,
they did it in the wrong order. They should have killed themselves first.
Those people in Colorado would've killed themselves first, there would have
been no problem now, would there?"
I arranged to meet with Korda before I could dive into the COE web site and
its information, tracing from Korda's speech some paraphrasing of the Gaia
Liberation Front (an organization the COE quotes but does not support because
of their proposal to use involuntary virus warfare to depopulate the planet)
and David Quammen's "Planet of Weeds," its full text also available through
the web site. The COE dogma, however, was not what I was primarily interested
in. That information was and still is readily available. I wanted to look
into their strategy for spreading that information, which has received very
little print in comparison to Korda's constant elaboration of the Church's
commandment and four pillars.
I remembered Supreme's words about Littleton as Korda stepped in the Middle
East, maybe a month after the Littleton massacre, wearing black shorts and
shirt, and a long black coat, displaying his normal, unapologetic stance
on issues for all to see, though we were the only two eating at a table.
When he ordered his vegetarian dish, I simply had a Coke, just to stay safe.
"The fine print is that they lied to us, as they could have been expected
to do," started Korda, referring to the police. "Lieutenant Bearfield, who
was the commanding officer that day told us that we had every right to do
what we were doing, and that we could continue to use our sound system ...
to address the crowd but that we would have to do it at the docks for our
own safety because they weren't confident of the construction of our boat."
"In any case," he said, "they moved us off to one side. They towed us off
to the dock, and then when we'd been on the dock for maybe ten fifteen minutes
maximum--by that time the big heavyweight cops had already gone, which is
stupid on our part. If we'd have been smart, we would have started broadcasting
immediately, just to test their mettle."
Coincidentally, police sirens wailed past us somewhere in the background
as he finished berating his own actions. "But instead we waited, just to
socialize for a few minutes, cranked the sound system back up and within
seconds, we had two very big state police cops on us, informing us that if
we didn't turn off the sound system that they would arrest us and confiscate
the sound system."
The Massachusetts Police's public relations office, who I had contacted to
reach this Lt. Bearfield or anyone else who would speak on this, never got
back to me.
"So there you have it," Korda began again. "It's a classic cop trick. We
spent the rest of the afternoon--or I spent the rest of the afternoon--chasing
down various officers, including Lt. Bearfield. I got Lt. Bearfield to reconfirm
that we did have every right to use the sound system, then I tried to explain
that to the officer who shut us down, but he wouldn't talk to me. Basically
we had a kind of tense standoff, where the officer who wouldn't talk to me
was saying, 'Lt. Bearfield's in charge. Whatever he says goes. Your issue
is with him, not with me. I'm not going to talk to you.' So in effect, by
not giving me any assurance that he wouldn't arrest me, they were leaving
open a situation where we would turn the sound system back on, they would
arrest me, I would say, 'Well, hey, you can't arrest me because Lt. Bearfield
said that we could do this.' They would call up Lt. Bearfield, and Lt. Bearfield
would say 'I never said that,' and we'd be arrested."
Korda said he wasn't interested in this scenario, so the matter was dropped
and he and the COE left the grounds with no further problems. "All throughout
the standard Church of Euthanasia policy is in effect: no one's ever been
arrested at a Church of Euthanasia action, and I have no intention of starting
now. Once you get arrested, the police can seriously curtail your freedom
to do these things in the future."
"But on the other side of that," Korda added, "we've got real trouble with
First Amendment rights in Boston and everywhere in the United States." He
brought up the (selectively enforced) Park Department ordinance requiring
a permit for any gathering of more than two people. "Even on the public sidewalks,
where they can't get away with that, they can make you keep moving; and they
can get you for you obstructing traffic."
"So we've been," he explained, "in some cases, been forced to march around
in circles. If we try and attach ourselves to someone else's event, for instance,
like the Right to Lifers ... They can get us for interfering with the Right
to Lifers' permit, or they can get us for obstructing a parade."
Although Korda conceded the futility of requesting a permit to obstruct someone
else's demonstration, he said the COE plans to apply for a permit for their
own parade, which is still in the planning phase. "The basic theme would
be a parade to stop traffic," he said. "Of course we wouldn't advertise it
as a parade to stop traffic. The city would never allow that. We would advertise
it as a diversity parade, and under the banner of diversity we would try
to recruit as many diverse organizations as possible, probably under some
type of cover organization."
According to Korda, there's good reason for such secrecy. "I don't think
there's any organizations in Boston that wholeheartedly supports us, but
that's part of our position. Of course we're unpopular. What we're saying
is fundamentally antisocial and antihuman. We're campaigning against five
thousand years of industrialism and globalism. We're attempting to interrupt
the normal flow of economics. We're against business as usual. We're against
production. We're against mass society. And above all, we're against technology."
"You know, I suspect most of us think this is all crazy, that these are all
a bunch of loonies playing with something short of a full deck. Clearly,
to the extent that these folks can influence vulnerable and impressionable
minds to do destructive and harmful things, they are, of course, dangerous."
--From Jerry Springer's closing statement on the COE appearance.
"First of all, it was offered to us," said Chris, after I asked him why he
appeared on Jerry Springer, of all places. "Second of all, it does reach,
predominantly, poor black women who are at home and were likely--very likely--extremely
likely--to have children, so that's an important target audience for us.
Third of all, I personally prefer tabloid media to so-called respectable,
conventional media because tabloid media is less censored. With tabloid media,
you can basically say whatever you want. The only restriction is that you
can't be boring."
I brought up the fact that the "Suicide Cult" theme of the show may have
distilled any environmental messages they were there to convey. For Korda,
this didn't seem a concern. "We're not any one thing. We're a propaganda
ministry. We do whatever is going to be the most effective [thing] at any
one time. The essence of Situationism--and we are situationists after all
... is perceiving the right place and the right time in which what would
otherwise be a useless or ineffective action suddenly becomes very effective
because it unleashes a much larger force."
"In the case of The Jerry Springer Show," he said, "we were able to manipulate
a situation to our advantage. Jerry Springer wasn't expecting to have intelligent
guests. He's never had intelligent guests before, and he's never had them
Reason Vs. ...
Not having seen the show yet, I asked Korda what reactions he received after
the show. "Outrage and confusion, of course."
Is this what he wants all the time? I related to him something that happened
on the Esplanade during the Earthfest protest, when a conversation was had
between a normal bystander and one of the COE signholders. There was a relatively
rational exchange of opinions without the cursing and lashing out other onlookers
demonstrated. (I hadn't mentioned, because he probably already knew, that
Mackin was also talking to others, using the COE as a draw, as Mackin said
he has in the past.)
"Well, that's fine," said Korda, almost flatly. "I'm not opposed to reason
.... I think that that's not really my area of expertise. I make plenty of
rational arguments, of course, all day long; but the [core] of the Church
of Euthanasia is that we're not bound by the limits of rationality or the
limits of good taste."
"'Eat A Queer Fetus For Jesus' is a profoundly offensive statement to most
people, and that's very positive." Korda's positive feeling stems from his
view on how the exchanging of information is hindered today. "I think that
we live in an age when almost no meaningful communication is taking place
because people have been trained to separate everything, every piece of information
they encounter, into neat categories, so it can be assimilated and essentially
ignored. Most of the time when we're dealing with people, we're not dealing
with them at all. We're dealing with their secretaries, their mental secretaries,
filing, categorizing, sorting into neat dualisms of right and wrong and good
"My object," continued Korda, "is to destroy those categories as much as
possible, to present people with information that can't be assimilated and
that doesn't fit into their categories. The best possible response to a Church
of Euthanasia action is, 'What the fuck are you guys doing? I don't understand.
Explain this to me.' That's an ideal reaction, because then we can step in
and actually get people to think for themselves, and say 'Well, what do you
think it means? What do these words say? Do they have any resonance at all?'
And then people are forced to say, 'Well, geez, never really thought about
"That's the kind of reaction we're looking for. We're looking for, in a sense,
a form of deprogramming."
It was my turn to sail into troubled waters. I asked Korda to go a little
into his own life. He steadfastly refused to go into family. "It's not relevant,"
was his only reply. Only when I awkwardly persisted for more did he shoot
me down in more detail and in the process turn the metaphorical camera away
from him. "What kind of interview is this really? If this is an interview
primarily about me, then I'm less enthusiastic. As you can imagine, I'm a
missionary of a sort. I'm a person with a mission. My goal is to communicate
ideas which are profoundly subversive and antisocial, to as large a group
of people as possible .... It can only be done by using the tools of Mass
Society, okay? The tools of mass society are television, radio, newspapers,
all of that."
Then he made the camera do a 180-degree turn. "So you are part of that apparatus,
to a certain extent. In a way, my goal is to persuade you of the righteousness
of this cause. To persuade you sufficiently so that you are willing to put
yourself on the line, and make some of these ideas available to a larger
percentage of the public. To the extent that I succeed in persuading you
of the rightness of this cause, I have succeeded in my strategy. If I fail,
and I convince you that I am either a crackpot or perhaps some subject for
entertainment, or that it would be useful to dig up dirt on my family, then
I've failed in my cause. Do you see the problem?"
After a little more banter, we focused less on his past experiences and more
on his past attitudes before his vision. He brought me back to 1991, the
year, Korda said, he started crossdressing. "In retrospect, I feel that crossdressing
was the beginning of an attempt to restore balance within myself, in a psychological
sense, specifically between my male and female polar opposites, but also
between other aspects of myself."
"But I couldn't see that at the time," admitted Korda, who at that same time
made a journey to Provincetown and liked it enough to stay, working as a
female impersonator, experiencing house music for the first time, and entering
drag-queen competitions. "Second prize was as about the best I ever did,"
he said. "I couldn't win, because my competition consisted mostly of tough
street queens, who had nothing to fall back on except maybe hooking or drugs.
That gave their performances an edge that mine just didn't have."
Korda said he returned from Provincetown "still very rough, still a lot of
problems, but I built on that," ending his story with the dream about The
Being. "In that dream, I first became aware of the larger imbalances around
me. That awareness was expressed in the slogan 'Save The Planet Kill Yourself,'
and in the lyrics of the song itself."
That song can be found on the recently released Six Billion Humans Can't
Be Wrong. It's the third album CD Korda has put out to date which shows his
interest in house music has not diminished. "I like its soulful quality,"
said Korda, who, though his background is primarily jazz, finds little difference
between techno and other styles. "I think we're surrounded by a lot of really
bad electronic music, but we're surrounded by a lot of really bad non-electronic
"The Jews suffered terribly, but any sane person will admit that there are
still Jews in the world. The same can't be said for the millions of plant
and animal species that have become extinct as a result of the human population
explosion. Where are the symbols of this species holocaust?" --Chris Korda's
response to anti-Semitism charges from German magazine Beam Me Up. From The
Church of Euthanasia web site. Later removed.
At the time we talked, Korda hadn't even started to try to get radio play
here in America, though he made it clear that he expected the CD to do better
outside the country than inside. "Generally, Europeans are much more open-minded
about electronic music or about art in general. The United States tends to
be, by and large, a very close minded place. Even though it's very dynamic
and active in terms of being a source of mass culture, in my experience,
Americans tend to be much more patriotic, xenophobic, racist, homophobic,
and generally close-minded than their European counterparts."
Other topics, however, still hit hard in Catholic-influenced Germany. Topics
such as religion, abortion, and most notably, The Holocaust. This caused
Korda to change the cover of Six Billion Humans, originally a photo of Korda
in an oven of the Dachau German death camp of World War Two. "And yet Germany
would have been the one perfect place to release it," observed Korda. "Here,
in the United States, we'll release it with this photograph, and most people
won't get it, because they aren't well-educated enough to know that it's
Dachau. They'll think it's a pizza oven."
Korda called the need to create a Germany-approved album cover, "a tragedy,"
but deemed it necessary in order to have a distributor that can sell a substantial
number of copies. "It's all about tactics," Korda confessed, without me challenging
him to. "I'm a shrewd business person. I'm not into purity. Purity is for
losers. We're out to win this thing."
"Could humans choose to live in a sustainable way, at a greatly reduced population,
by rediscovering ancient wisdom, without abandoning their scientific advances?
Possibly, but only if the industrial nations set the example, by drastically
reducing both their populations and their consumption. This is why the Church
explicitly targets that tiny percentage of humanity who reap the dubious
material benefits of domestication: the technological elite, the users of
the internet--in short, your readers." --Out take of Mark Dery's e-mail discussion
with Chris Korda. From the Church of Euthanasia web site.
Though the parade was the first thing that comes to Korda's mind when he
discussed future events, he emphasized promoting the CD as a higher priority,
as it can draw attention better than other COE activities. "Mass media culture
is very well set up to promote events," he said, "I think that when we have
something like [the CD], we can use it as a battering ram, as a way of forcing
the press to cover us, even though they would rather not."
He also sees a video documentary the COE's activities as "an easy sell,"
and very likely in the future. It's possible the film will show various examples
of what they are against. In issue #4 of Snuff It, for example, Korda and
Eccles discuss a COE trip to Gary Indiana, describing the town as being right
out of the movie Eraserhead. Korda would prefer to focus on the unique footage
of the Church actions which the majority of people would otherwise never
see. "Novelty is definitely a factor in our calculations," said Korda. "Novelty
is part of what keeps people clicking on our web site."
He also felt there was enough footage of such places as Gary, Indiana. Too
much, in fact, that he felt such images were "in danger of becoming a cliche."
"People are constantly becoming desensitized in some way that we hadn't predicted
before," he said, "so we always have to come up with new and different tactics."
Supporting the Unabomber for President campaign through the COE would have
violated the its tax-exempt status. Korda therefore acted independently but
through the organization UNAPACK, founded by Lydia Eccles, who is also a
member of the Church.
At one point, Korda was able to bring up Unabomber Ted Kaczynski as an example
of his approach versus that of the COE. "The Unabomber published the whole
truth, the real unvarnished truth, at 30,000 words, in the world's most widely
read newspapers," said Korda, "and yet almost no one read him. Most of those
supplements wound up in the garbage, and the reason why is twofold. First
of all, he had zero entertainment value. We're talking about 30,000 words
in 10 point type. Most Americans are unlikely to read 30,000 words on any
subject, not even sports, never mind the future of industrial society."
"Second of all," continued Korda, "the Unabomber failed to recognize that
his audience had already been persuaded--before the Manifesto was even published--not
to read it, because he wasn't an expert. He wasn't an officially sanctioned
source. In fact the public had been persuaded that he was crank, a serial
killer, and that they could safely ignore anything he said."
"These are serious propaganda mistakes that we're not making," declared Korda.
Korda has never talked with Kaczynski, or for that matter Dr. Jack Kevorkian,
who Korda said, he would rather "admire from afar," due to the lack of admiration
Kevorkian would most likely have for the COE. Korda, however, still predicts
that no matter how or when he dies, "he will be the greatest saint of the
Church of Euthanasia ... and we will canonize him, but I don't think he needs
to know that."
There are figures that do support the work of Korda and the other COE members.
Among them, Korda lists Cartoonist Nina Paley, authors Poppy Z. Brite, author
and local 'zinester Pagan Kennedy, and 60's icon Paul Krassner. I pointed
out the parallels the COE is showing between itself and the church of Scientology:
logical arguments mixed with religious visions with celebrity (or pseudo-celebrity)
endorsements thrown in. I ask him if it worried him.
"Again, we're not obliged to be consistent," answered Korda, repeating himself
a little. "We're not obliged to make sense, and we frequently don't. What
we are obliged to do, again and again, is to punch through people's pervasive
sense that things can continue the way they are, that business as usual can
continue. That's what we're here to do. We're here to interrupt that flow,
and whatever tactic works well for that at any given time is what tactic
we'll use. If it helps to be rational, we'll be rational. If it helps to
be irrational, we'll be irrational."
The Follow Up
Looking over my interview with Chris Korda, there were one or two things
that I missed. I called him again, and we met up again. This time at a Bruegger's
"It's been a busy day," he assured me as he ordered a quick meal, with me
once again electing to only watch. This time, instead of basic black, he
sported dressier pants and a button down shirt. The only things that distinguished
him from the crowd were his glasses and a few fingernails painted light purple.
Walking to our table with his tray, it seemed he also pondered his clothing
selection. "Geez, wear a clean shirt, and everyone's nice to you."
We sat down and he went over what I thought would be three small issues.
Two were. The third one, however, gave him pause.
In the course of the first interview, he mentioned that he considered a transsexual
operation. I had asked him why he backed down.
"Again, a change of heart. That's another story. We'll get to that in a minute."
We never did.
When I asked Korda at Bruegger's to get the story, he took pause. "That's
really involved in personal history," he said, wanting once again to make
sure my article, "focuses on the ideas, and less on my personal life." I
said it would, which was the truth, since I only had his quotes to go on,
I had only brought it up because he mentioned it, and I'd accept however
he wanted to phrase it.
"With that in mind," he said, "I'll express it this way. I believe, personally,
that cross-dressing is the balancing of male and female aspects within a
person, within a person's psyche, within their soul, if you will. And everyone
has these male and female aspects. I mean, in most cases, they are grossly
out of balance due to the extreme gender socialization that we're exposed
to as children. Men are forced into extreme male gender roles, women are
forced into extreme female gender roles. Just look at the toy store, and
you'll see it in action."
"The fact that we survive our childhood conditioning with any of our integrity,
and compassion and ability to love intact, is a testimony to the strength
of human character. Most humans, of course, are severely damaged, and never
recover. That's how the proletarian technological society perpetuates itself."
"So I believe," he continued, "that it wasn't until I became aware of my,
what some people have called 'gender dysphoria,' or 'gender uncomfortableness,'
that I really began to make any progress in my life, towards a real kind
"And it wasn't until I began to balance myself, internally," he said, "that
I could have any hope of really becoming aware of the larger imbalances that
surround me, and do anything about them."
"There's a more technical answer to your question," he added, "and it's not
very personal, but I think it's the important answer, the logical answer."
For his logical answer, he brought up his issues with transexuality. "I backed
away from it because it's a typically western, patriarchal, interventionist,
invasive solution to a problem that could never be solved that way."
"You go to a doctor complaining that you feel trapped in an extreme gender
role, and the doctor says, 'Well, if you happen to have $30,000 ... and a
very, very high tolerance for pain, and personal suffering, and two or three
years to spend working on this, we will gradually fit you into an equally
extreme and ridiculous opposite gender role.'"
"I think it's a shame," said Korda, having taken himself almost completely
out of the picture again. " I think it's a tragedy that so many people succumb
to it when what they're really yearning for ... is ambivalence, is balance,
to be in a state between the genders, as we all should be, to renounce the
extreme and to embrace subtlety and ambiguity."
"To crossdress is to mimic the opposite gender, and that's a positive step."
"But the step beyond that is to gender-bend, to occupy the space in between
the genders all the time."
He spoke highly of Dennis Rodman. "Whatever else he may believe, which I
may or may not agree with, he had the guts to gender-bend while being part
of one of the most successful basketball teams in history. He went public
and said, 'Yes, I wear a dress, and what are you gonna fuckin' do about it?
You don't like that? You got a problem with that? You gonna fuck with me?'
Okay? That's pretty amazing."
Korda even considered other gender-bending heroes like Rupaul. "There's a
lot of gray areas. Nothing's all good or all bad."
"Remember," finished Korda. "That's one of the essential observations of
the church. Nothing is all good or all bad. Even though something may hurt
in some ways, it may help in others."
"I guess the thing I most wanted to say is that it doesn't have to be unpleasant
or sad, it can be a peaceful, happy leave taking."
Excerpt of the suicide note. From The Church of Euthanasia web site.
I first read the suicide note while Korda was touring Germany. When he came
back, he confirmed the validity of it. It was, he said, sent with a $150
donation in a envelope with no return address, so Korda saw little point
in searching for the full identity of M. Millis, whose qualifications for
sainthood were still being considered. Korda wished he had more to go on
with Millis, more than just an initial and a last name, but he didn't seem
overly concerned. "I guess we can probably let that slide."
Most recently, I was able to talk with Supreme at the 10th Annual Freedom
Rally held at the Boston Common. He hadn't heard of it yet prior to my telling
him there. I asked him on the spot if he thought it was possible that the
letter was fake. "It could be that," he mused. "I don't know, if it's real
and it's consensual ... that's fine." It took a few minutes before he put
it in a humorous context: "Hell, even if the guy didn't kill himself, if
he sent a good check, damn it, that deserves sainthood right there! Let me
tell you that!"
I also brought up to Supreme his prior comments of adding humor to the COE
activities, and asked how it conflicted with Korda's insistence that he and
the other members are serious. "Greatly, of course ... but the humor in the
Church is undeniable. I think the underpinning critique[s] of industrial
society are right on and are heartfelt and pretty damn serious; and the Church's
response to that is to create this in-your-face dada spectacle for the people
and actually take it to the streets."
"That's why they differ greatly from many, many cults," chuckled Supreme.
"There's so many cults to choose from. Which one are you going to pick?"
Before and after my calling Korda and talking with Supreme, I had of course
examined the letter. Millis, whether sincere or not, was very articulate
and given to theatrics: "I will enjoy the slow fade, and the long awaited
moment. (Bath water deep enough to suffocate me when I pass out)". By not
even listing a sex, Millis has achieved a sexual ambiguity Korda can never
achieve. Even beyond that, Millis is vague, identifiable only by his deed
and the opinion that led to it, identifying him or herself as part of a 'we'
collective, though I wouldn't be surprised if the writer was very much alone
in his or her thoughts--just as I found it almost inappropriate for Chris
to say "we" when he is obviously the COE's leader and its prime mover--if
not the only one.
The COE just might have found its perfect and ideal first Saint, perhaps
even more appropriate than Kevorkian. However, this brings them and their
viewpoints no closer to the spotlight. It's like someone bringing a shrouded
item to attention by putting another shroud on top of it.
I'm sure the chat area of the church is guns a-blazing with controversy even
now, with this and other topics, maybe wondering if it's all a joke (just
as I've wondered on and off while writing this piece whether I'm being put
on or not). However, as far as the rest of the world goes, news of the church's
potential first saint has fallen on deaf ears, the media shield firmly placed