If I am greedy, envious, violent, merely having an ideal of non-violence, of non-greed, is of little value.
Free your mind, and your ass will follow.
Here’s me, saying peace, love, and…you get the rest, somewhere around 1986, in a dorm hallway at Boston University…a professed pacifist, actively opposed to apartheid in South Africa, Contra death squads in Nicaragua, Jose Napolean Duarte’s bombing in El Salvador,destruction of the world’s rain forests, and, in general, sincerely dedicated to working for peace, justice, equality, and looooove between my brothers and my sisters aaaaaaall over this laaaaaaaand, ooooohhhh…
…as well as intent on making sure nobody fucked with me like they did in high school…though nonetheless seemingly fated to being an outsider…and hating the insiders, anyway. Finding solace in casual acts of vandalism that ended up costing everybody on my floor their damage deposits,* as well as honing verbal skills to shred anybody who pissed me off…or was simply irritating.
(The key, in college, particularly for those of an intellectual and socially-conscious bent was to be mean in a way that was socially respectable…clever and funny, so it seemed more like repartee than bullying. In junior high there’s no need for subtlety—no violation of precious social norms in calling an unpopular kid a faggot while shoving him into a locker. In college, you’ve gotta turn agression into more of an art…especially if you want to be taken seriously as an activist for social justice. Though, of course, in the end, it’s all the same endless, endlessly hurtful, and pointless battle.)
Shadowboxing the apocalypse within…
John Perry Barlow
After a while, I left there…dropped out…went to San Francisco to follow the Grateful Dead, wandered around Europe, worked for Greenpeace in various places, had a couple minor run-ins with the law before ending up back in school in Olympia, Washington…the Evergreen State college, where those who were weird in other places were pretty much the norm, and those who were still weird would most likely have been committed anywhere else.
I’d rather stay here, with all the madmen
than perish with the sad men roaming free….
Here’s the thing about the late ‘80’s: in most of the country, Reaganism had quite handily finished of what the punk reformation started in stomping out any idealistic vestiges of the ‘60’s still smoking behind the bushes. And, it should be mentioned, such efforts got no end of immoral support from ‘60’s idealists whose concern for peace and justice ended with their draft eligibility, voting for the ex-governor who’d shot at them in People’s Park when they realized he’d be good for their stock portfolios. Fom Santa Cruz to Seattle, however, where grunge and Microsoft were both still in their nascent stages, those organic roots sunk deep, with counterculture growing conventional in its own ways, paranoia striking deep before growing comfortable and old as latter-day hippie activists became what I affectionately came to call granola fascists, overflowing with love and compassion for almost all sentient beings…the only notable exceptions being fellow humans who failed to live and think exactly as they did. (In that, s0me of the activist-hippies I knew were strangely reminiscent of the Christian fundamentalists I grew up around…and, no doubt, that some of them grew up around, as well…rebelling until they mirrored what they hated most about their parents…if with better taste in music…and, certainly, cooler attitudes about partying and sex…though at least with the fundiecrowd you can drink a Pepsi or fail to say “wonderful” when someone asks how you’re doing without automatically being subjected to a potpourri of passive-aggressive “constructive criticism”).** After a while, I got sick and tired of peace and love…and, as it turned out, gradually became a much nicer person (though not, it must be admitted, without rough edges remaining).
Which is not to say that major social and political change isn’t necessary or important. We’re probably in the biggest trouble ever if a whole lot of big time change doesn’t happen on the largest of scales awfully soon. But, if we’re not going to end up a parody of our own most treasured values, the work that needs to be done needs to be focused at least as much on the internal as external…since, in the end, peace, love, and fuck off really doesn’t get you anywhere.
* note to any former dorm-mates, or administrators at Boston University, who might be reading this: that was, of course, a joke; the author would never have considered such destructive and antisocial actions.
** please note: the author quit drinking Pepsi a while ago.
*revised from an earlier version at Yoga for Cynics*