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Seattle Bulletin # 2

mardi 22 avril 2014, par ps

The “Folk Rock and All Cause Protest Music Festival” held at Civic Center Arena on October 1st was a commercial venture conceived by professional entertainers to make a fast buck. The social force, the political need, that made this venture profitably possible is a crisis of paramount import to the radical position of both right and left.

A fundamental socio-political axiom is “The mass base of any radical (i. e., oriented toward changing the existing order) political solution must be established among those dispossessed by the old establishment”. The accomplished bourgeoisification of the proletariat raises the need to evaluate and understand the potential of the currently dispossessed sectors of the population.

Understanding and winning the support of the “adolescent” is critical not only because it is adolescents who have the historic dynamic exuberance of youth. Nor because members of all other dispossessed sectors enter their political life as “adolescents”. The main attraction of the radical to studying the mores and institutions of adolescents lies in that these kids are the victims of the most advanced sophistications of scientific oppression.

Adolescence may be defined as the age between natural maturity and legal emancipation, during which our culture imposes a special dehumanizing regimen upon most youth.

Historically, this period in life has in all urban cultures been an open-ended apprenticeship in living. The developing child began a process of supervised participation in community socio-economic life from which he passed into acceptance in the adult community as soon as he displayed a capacity to make his own way, quite independent of chronological consideration. The fact is that most of the world’s truly great people made their most significant contributions either during or shortly after the age at which we trap our youth in adolescence.

Actually, this traumatic experience begins with the child’s entrance into the new public school, but we are here specifically concerned with the decade from the eleventh to the twenty-first year. Already the more independent-minded child has been singled out and been broken by “special” classes, or is still incarcerated in them. The child’s early confidence in his own senses has been replaced by respect for “authoritative” guidance by a host of demigods called “experts”. Significantly, the first school-valued achievement is no longer the skill of reading but is the “kindergarten position” — square in seat, hands folded on desk, eyes front.

With his personality thus undercut, the child tumbles without warning into an uncontrollable, unfeeling sociological tumbler manipulated by a distant and unreachable establishment that has already made robots of the faculty. His heretofore natural curiosity becomes “lack of respect” ; former “personality development” becomes “marked lack of discipline” ; heretofore “childish exuberance” becomes “juvenile delinquency”. Every social force becomes a grating, grinding shove to the hapless adolescent ; his every effort to fend one harassment brings a multiplicity of new pressures to bear on his defenseless person. There is no apparent escape, hence the rising rate of insanity and suicide in this age group.

Upon those who shatter under this experience society places the label of “juvenile delinquent” and commences a process of patching and repairing, the climax of which is found in the sadistic Pavlovian conditioning center Buckley, the operation of which was recently brazenly reported.

The survivors of this traumatic cauldron emerge as adjusted ticky-tacky, equally suited for use by the Expert Society as a “piece” in the social mosaic or as the Universal Soldier ; but warped and deformed to where they have little chance of living truly human lives.

Above the lowest levels of poverty the physical needs of our young are probably better provided for than in any previous society. The mores of our culture actively work at conditioning the young to expect physical security divorced from any responsibility on their part. This is done as a means of destroying any development of their personal sense of responsibility, and as a means of inducting them into the world of conditioned consumerism. Indeed, the first concern of the “Great Society” is that such conditioning shall not be negated by poverty.

The real evil of institutionalized adolescence lie not in its physical but in its psychological effects. It produces, with disastrous uniformity, a number of characteristics :

Foremost, by destroying self-reliance or control over one’s future it produces a state of hopeless fatalism. Since planning is futile, it is “square” — to be shunned because efforts to implement one’s plans may bring bruises, and because the disappointment of failure can best be avoided by not hoping for success. Hence comes the privatization of such ideas as there are, because one’s thoughts are free only so long as they are one’s own.

Because planned effort is futile, it is better to seek immediate gratification within the prescribed limits. The product of this view is a narrow hedonistic behavior pattern that abhors commitment.

Corollary to this rejection of reason is the tendency to evaluate in absolutes — to consider everything as all right or all wrong.

Since these kids are in the main healthy, exuberant young animals, the constant and meticulous repression produces a characteristic state of near-hysteria. The phenomenon is perhaps more commonly associated with the “giggling female” in cultures where the woman’s world is similarly constrained. More ominously, it leads to the “lashing out” tendency which produces the constant rise in the rate of irrational crime, so deplored by the police because of its unpredictability.

The constant hazing inflicted on adolescents produces a state wherein the whole adult world seems to be against them, which manifests itself in the familiar withdrawn pose these kids assume in the presence of adults — which becomes an “idiot act” when pressed. The whole performance closely parallels the characteristic pose of minority peoples held in permanent servile suppression.

Deprived of opportunity to develop reasoning power, these kids too often develop the desired total response to the conditioning of the mass-communication media. Probably more significant in the long view is the tendency to rely more and more heavily on the tag-end residue of humanity’s instinct-controlled past, the emotions. Then forced to live an existence totally divorced from the culture’s productive activities, more and more emotional gratification becomes the goal of actions. The widespread experimentation with mystical and mechanical manipulation of emotion flows from this need. It seems quite probable that this field contains the means of developing an auxiliary communication method, but at the moment it principally adds to the already too-abundant confusion.

The quest for emotional understanding should not be abandoned, for development of the communication potential is I believe an essential step in the imminent human revolution. Yet we cannot allow ourselves to be blinded to the pitfall so vividly demonstrated by the affair under review.

This school of professional entertainers, with their substance of half-articulated suggestion for lyrics and with melody carried upon an emotional response to rhythm, is highly susceptible to producing a blind followership. The dangerous potential exists for harnessing the group’s emotions to conditioned associations of the manipulator’s choosing.

It is in this light that the highlight of the event gains its political significance. The evening was moving along in an air of ersatz reality typical of the artificial sub-culture — hinting at true aspirations, no war, no police harassment, a vague hope for independence skillfully blending with an adequate dosage of meaningless superficiality, in just the right balance to confuse the matter into inaction — to provide a safe and harmless blowing of steam.

Four skillfully prepared signs wielded correctly within the previously advertised scope of the affair threw the whole symphony into confusion. How great was the threat can be measured by the prompt and decisive appearance of the power structure, i.e., mass police. The correctness of such a tactic of exposure was attested to by the cordon of police cars surrounding the whole area as the “festival” broke up.

The younger generation will make its rapprochement with the social environment we have stuck it with. The “Old Left” must face up to the fact that, flushed with the successes of New Deal, the CIO, United Fronts, and the greater “Victory” over fascism, we smothered into subordinated oblivion the post-WWII generation of youth. Our callous “firm guidance” made a major contribution toward creating the Beat generation post Korean War. We must accept the real basis behind the new generation’s folk wisdom of “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”. The break in continuity to streams of radical thought cannot be accepted, because to do so would leave a catastrophic breach in the body of radical knowledge. The “Old Left” must utilize the vaunted “wisdom” of our august “maturity” to learn the aspirations and ways of the new generation so this continuity may be reestablished in reality. No longer is it possible to regard this New Left as an amorphic aggregation of directionless activists. The decades-long rebellion in the Civil Rights field, the growing experience of the resisters against militarism and (more embryonically) the student movement have already developed a core of veterans whose “rich experience” is every bit as great as that upon which we a generation and more ago staked out our claim to leadership. We must find ways to meet the New Left with the same open-minded peer-ship that our generation received from our own Wobbly-oriented elders.

The younger people will bring the pragmatic orientations of their special causes with them just as surely as we will retain our own different schools of emphasis. Many of the views will be obsolete, some will even be wrong ; so be it. Together we can build a cosmopolitan viewpoint broad enough to provide a political starting point.

These adolescents and pre-adolescents are a different breed of cats. Their undirected protest covers a much broader canvas than the left of the recent past. A few short months from now their voices and actions will be felt.

If we today heed their cries of outraged distress — if we now build the kind of open radical community to which they can turn for assistance without fear of being compressed into causes not their own — then we may turn toward the future with a renewed confidence in a better tomorrow. This can not happen unless we beat back, today, the violence-in-the-street propaganda that would crush these kids before they find their direction — toward anarchy we hope but do not insist.

G. C.

A Bulletin appears whenever anyone in the group writes one ; so far, that’s been about every two weeks. We don’t expect any consistency of line in the Bulletins, so each is initialed by its writer, who alone is responsible for it — the group providing the media and the milieu. Correspondence for any of us may be sent c/o The Seattle Group [address withheld by transcriber] Seattle, Washington. If you would like to receive future Bulletins, please let us know and we’ll send them as our haphazard finances allow.

Back issues of any particular Bulletin are another matter — some we have, some we don’t. We’ll fill requests while the supply holds out ; but with this compilation, the stencils for the first eight Bulletins are expended. We’ll probably follow a similar procedure with future issues.

[The Bulletin was typewritten on a standard typewriter on stencils and then mimeographed on white 8 ½ x 14 inch mimeograph paper. The additions added for the compilation were handwritten onto the stencil before mimeographing again by Louise Crowley. Transcribed September 28, 2011 by Dotty DeCoster.]