Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 9. 1971
All God's Children Got de Clap
All God's Children Got de Clap
The following articles describe the hypocracy that has grown out of the idealism of the generation which hip capitalists now call the counter-culture. The first is by Richard Neville, author of "Play Power" and editor of the British underground paper "Oz" from which the article is reprinted.
The second, a subsequent commentary and extension to Neville's article, is by John Snelling, and is reprinted from the British Anarchist weekly "Freedom."
The flower-child that OZ urged readers to plant back in '67 has grown up into Bernadine Dohrn; for Timothy Leary, happiness has become a warm gun, Charles Manson soars to the top of the pops and everyone hip is making war and loving Ft. Movement sophists can easily reel off the oppressive chain of events which has propelled us from dropped-out euphoric gregariousness to the contemporary gunslinging gang bang. It's a logical hop from Kent State to the trendy genocide of, "to kill a policeman is a sacred act". (Leary).
But I cannot pull the trigger. Indeed, sometimes I suspect that a more appropriate target would be my fellow marksmen. Such despondent scepticism in the fortunes of the Movement seems confirmed, if not articulated, in the actions of those around me. Some of my best friends are going straight — cutting hair, wearing suits, seeking respectable jobs. These are the same people who were freaking out at the first UFOs while I still lurched home from gambling clubs, who were plugged into the Pink Floyd while I breathlessly awaited the verdicts of Juke Box Jury, who were mastering chillums while I still thought Panama Red was a Hollywood bit player. Appalled at the profusion of meaningless, mediocre and repetitive pop these friends seek refuge in the music of the twenties and thirties (Jack Hylton, the Best of Ambrose and his Orchestra, Al Bowly, Hutch, The Golden Age of British Dance Bands etc) and have drastically reduced their drug intake. John Peel wanders London a pop undertaker, sickened by the preponderence of pseudo stoned 'Underground' groups who flash V signs while flattering their audiences with: "peace" and "remember Woodstock, man". Martin Sharp, responsible for much of the best psychedelic' artwork (in early OZes, Cream sleeves and Dylan, Donovan, Van Gogh and Legalise Pot Rally posters) now always carries an indiginous musical instrument from Zambia as an anti-pop device and spends most of his time in the front stalls of Noel Coward revivals. Such reactions are more than the result of a cultural overdose. It is surely the tough realisation that today's heads treat each other no less savagely than the grey flannel skinheads of Whitehall; only without the latters' courtesy.
Anyone who disagrees with a viewpoint is a pig. Anyone who disagrees from a position of economic or intellectual strength is a superpig. Machievellian intrigues, ego explosions and power tussles have always been rife within the Underground and can Often be rationalised as a sign of growth. Nowadays, however, the backstabbings are no longer metaphorical. A typical example of a contemporary dialogue occurred during the recent making of the Warner Brothers film, Medicine Ball. Throughout the progress of this film, the caravan of 'hippie stars' was trailed by a cadillac of militant politicos protesting Warner Bros' cultural exploitation. At one college campus the two groups collided in open debate with the students, and discussion ended when one of the cast almost succeeded in knifing one of the protesters. An unobtrusive paragraph in this morning's Times tells of students who, when refused admission to a local dance, returned home to get their guns for a shoot out. One of them died.
It is not only the escalating instances of brutality that are so discouraging. The social style of the head scene has become pretentious and anti-communicative. At a recent party to celebrate the demise of Nell Gwynne's historic playground. The Pheasantry, the cream of Kings Road stood around staring dumbly at each other — a dank Chelsea remake of La Dolce Vita without even a false sense of gaiety. One couple of my acquaintance who have now dropped out of dropping out, first discovered the hypocrises of the head scene when they were compelled to clean up to enter Morocco. They found themselves ostracised by local longhairs. All efforts to communicate floundered because they looked straight.
One of the promises of the new lifestyle was the abolition of flase criteria for judging human beings. Today, hip symbols and fashionable rituals count for more man ever. Dishonestly doubling travellers cheques earns the required A-levels, familiarity with a super group's pedigree outmatches Allen Brien's literary snobbery and a replay of last week's bad trip is flaunted like a duelling scar. Even the legitimate new freedoms are being bankrupted through criminal selfishness. Venereal disease may even be a new now status symbol, but the gonococcus germ unfortunately hasn't heard of women's lib — its effects on females is more damaging and less easy to detect. An alarming number of friendly young girls are collapsing of salpingites, which involves a gruesome operation, because liberated men are not bothering to mention they might be harbouring the clap. Another groovy affliction, hepatitus, is carried around proudly, like a public school boater, by people indifferent to its infectious consequences.
The next example, essentially trivial, is worth recording because its sheer banality renders it so typical of the prevailing morality. One night, on arriving at Newcastle station to catch a London train, I noticed two dishevelled, artsy laby types surrounded by British Rail authorities and policemen. The uncomfortable pair caught my eye and asked for help. They desperately sought to get to London that evening but British Rail were refusing to honour their proferred cheque. Naturally I accepted it and purchased tickets on their behalf. A few days later I realised my misjudgement when the cheque was returned. I would not have cared particularly, if only the signatory, one Anthony Rye, had since made a token, apologetic contact.
In the formative stages of the counter culture it was possible to draw inspiration from the open behaviour of Albion's children. It was tempting, if naive, to hope that with the intake of id liberating rock, lateralising dope, the emerging group tenderness, communal living style and an intuitive political radicalism... that from all this a qualitative change in the conduct of human relationships might develop. But now, as the Movement's utterings reach fever pitch, as the rhetoric becomes more frenziedly fascist, affectation suffocates reason and arguments lose their conviction, one's bursts of depression become elongated into a melancholy permanence. The advertising campaign is an abounding triumph, but there is nothing inside the wrapping paper. When I think of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, whose spirits had been identified with the generational outburst against inhumanity, I wonder whether their apparent despair was purely personal or whether they too somehow sensed the revolution might be going sour. If the Underground press is the voice of the new movement, then it is a choir of soloists, each member singing a different tune. When I travelled through California recently, it was unnerving to be caught in the flak of exchanged animosity. The dedicated, amiable Max Scheer, founder of the Berkeley Barb, had been branded a pig by his one time employees, who were now publishing the Berkeley Tribe. Scheer does not deny his former mistakes, but while the Movement does not forgive, it does forget — his pioneering contribution to the growth of the Alternative Press has gained him no credit. The Barb still struggles out single handed against raging prejudices and destructive sorties by Womens Lib (Scheer runs sex ads).
Across the Bay is Rolling Stone. Its editor, Jann Wenner, is a tirelessly sincere exponent of rock culture and a personal friend; but the offices of his paper are as icily functional as IBM and his workers moved more by mammon than by music. Jann himself becomes at times so engrossed by the battle of being a Success, that the battle of being human is ignored. (One result being that many of his ex staff are bitterly forming rival publishing cells.) Of minor cheer is that one of the better papers in the area. Good Times, produced collectively from a house, exists first as a commune and second as an editorial board. Although, its staff identify so heavily with the role of being revolutionaries that all events are immediately programmed into a dishonest Us/Them dichotomy. Eg Charles Manson is a hero because he sabotages the system. London's first 'Underground distributor' has just collapsed. A few hours before the liquidators arrived he ordered 8,000 copies of OZ. These could never be paid for, so, even by City standards, the ethics of such a transaction are, to say the least, dubious.
"I declare that World War III is now being waged by short haired robots whose deliberate aim is to destroy the complex web of free wild life..." (Leary)
But those who burn you with bad drop, jump your bail if you happen to stand surety and - when you've made your house available as a BIT crashpad - steal what little you own, do not have short hair.
Mick Jagger was in television here the other night and said he was an anarchist. An anarchist? Mick Jagger is staying at the Georges Cinq hotel. If he wants caviare, the head waiter says yes sir Mr. Jagger and sends someone off to Russia. Now I love and need Mick Jagger, but he has totally lost touch with the people...and the people meanwhile are being conned into paying for something they shouldn't have to. We can't rely on the stars to change the system for us anymore. I used to believe Ginsberg when he said that war would end if we put Kennedy and Krushev into the same room without any clothes on. But leaders don't identify with the people anymore, they get used to the caviare... The kids at the Isle of Wight were being totally controlled and manipulated by superpigs. They had to pay exorbitantly for their own music and they became completely exhausted, sleeping in the lavatories, hungry, so weary they were pissing over each other, completely fucked up... Those kids were worse than the jews... the jews at least didn't pay to go to Auschwitz... (Nor to be burnt to death in a French provincial dance hall.)
Lebel talked within the confines of one of the nastiest environments I have ever endured and one all to unhappily representative. The offending house belonged to Victor Herbert, who helped finance International Times, brought the Living Theatre to London, sponsored the roundhouse Chicago Benefit last year and so on. On top of this, he contributes to the Movement what he calls 'space', ie his enormous residence as a crashpad. Current guests include a poet who came for a weekend two years ago and won't budge, a pair of video heads, remnants from the Living Theatre and several nameless others. The atmosphere created by most of these supemip freeloaders manages to be simultaneously hostile, slovenly and as exclusive as Whites club. Membership to the inner sanctum revolves around facility with drugs and as the pleasant Victor himself is rather slow on the draw he is excluded, in spirit, from his own house. I regret to report that the presence of Abbie Hoffman, Jean-Jacques and the yippie entourage did little to improve the emanations. Like the pop stars Lebel so accurately berates, the American visitors were arcane, inaccessible, aloof... the tensions and awkwardness surrounding their presence must be reminiscent of a Royal Garden party; and the groupies uglier but no less protective than their pop counterparts.
I have an intense personal respect for Abbie Hoffman and consider his book. Revolution for the Hell of it, to be the first major literary/political document of the post-acid Underground. How disappointing to discover he converses almost exclusively through his lawyer and becomes animated only at talk of possible advances for his books in Britain. Wearied no doubt by the trial and obviously exhausted by his journey, it seems unfair of me to raise such niggardly considerations. However, many people have shared my disappointment, and in the context of Herbert's household, Lebel's anti-star declamations, the entrances and exits of yippie heavies drooling enthusiastically about Leary's fiftieth birthday present, a gun, lengthy endorsements of acid's ability to transform shits into (revolutionary) saints one must, to preserve a scrap of intellectual integrity, raise doubts.
Roaming Paris - a charming subplot to all this activity - was Jim Haynes, fearsomely unimpressed at the prospect of yip meeting Mao and carrying forth his own erotic brand of revolution in a thoroughly convincing union of his public policies and private life.
The above observations are not meant to imply a wholesale rejection of the counter culture or yippie left politics. Mass hysterical confrontation with the napalmers, arms bargainers, fascists and power flunkeys of every type are still valid, as are all experiments with new ways of living and caring about each other. (A message so innocuously limp in print that it makes that disgusting, simplistic and exploitive movie 'Getting Straight' fiercely iconoclastic by comparison.) I wish merely to record a few points of reservation a verbal safetycatch to Leary's birthday present.page break
"...and I came out from among a huddle of bushes to a long rocky beach, at the far end of which, against a solid wall of green, some spots of red attracted my eye. My first thought was that they must be blossoms of some kind that I had never seen before, but they were too much like solid balls, and they moved slightly, though there wasn't the slightest breeze. A few steps further on I frowned and shook my head, wondering even more what they could be and then it came over me in a shiver that these spots were faces, and they were all turned in my direction, all unmoving. Still closer, I made out a group of men, their bodies variously painted in black and red looking tiny against the gigantic backdrop of the jungle that stretched so high above them. No one moved; no one turned his eyes away or looked anywhere but straight at me. They were frozen in place. They were squatting tightly together, chins on knees, arms on one another's shoulders, leaning over resting heads upon another's knee, or thigh or flank. They continued to stare, moving neither a toe or an eyelash. Smiles were fixed upon their faces, mouths were closed, placid. Some had match-like sticks through their lower lips others had bone through their noses. Their feet and toes curled round stones and twigs in the same way that their hands held vertically bows and long arrows, and axes of stone tied to short pieces of bough. Long, well-combed bangs ran over their foreheads into the scarlet paint of their faces and hair and covered the length of their backs and shoulders. Masses of necklaces of seeds and huge animal teeth and small yellow and black birds hung from thick necks and almost touched the stones between their open thighs.... Still no one moved, still no one made a gesture of any kind, no gesture of hate or love, no gesture of curiosity or fear. My feet moved, my arm went out automatically and I put a hand easily upon the nearest shoulder, and I smiled. The head leaned over and briefly rested its cheek on my hand, almost caressing it. The body got up, straightened out, and the frozen smile split open and laughter came out, giggles at first, than great bellows that echoed back against the wall of trees. He threw his arms around me almost crushing with strength and pleasure, the laughter continuing, doubling, trebling, until I realised that all the men had got up and were laughing and embracing each other, holding their bellies as if in pain, rolling on the ground with feet kicking in me air. All weapons had been left lying on stones and we were Jumping up and down, and my arms went around body after body, and I felt myself getting hysterical, wildly ecstatic with love for all humanity, and I returned slaps on backs and bites on hard flesh, and small as they were, I twirled some round like children and wept away the world of my past."
If that is how the Akaramas greet strangers from another race, it almost gives them a right to gobble up their enemies. We, on the other hand, blithely declare World War Ml on our parents and yet have already forgotten how to smile at our friends.