Anarchy 84/Fake revolt and mystic double-think

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Fake revolt
and mystic double-think


THE FAKE REVOLT by G. Legman (New York, Breaking Point, 1967)

This most sarcas­tic but overdue tract rips apart phoney youth revolt in psycho­pathic America, and by exten­sion, “her cheap imita­tors”. The Fake Revolt was pub­lished this year. The author, G. Legman, is not of the age group he says has had it. I detect nos­tal­gia for the sim­plici­ties of so­cial­ist revo­lu­tion­aries in the 30’s and ratio­nali­sa­tion of rile at missing out. Under the flash viciouis style lies a pessi­mist and a puritan, some­times under­esti­ma­ting, always stimu­la­ting. He takes the Bomb as the supreme fact hanging over the world, fact making non­sense of all revolts stop­ping short of tearing down State and capi­tal­ism.


  Legman picks on three blind alleys down which the rebel­lious have been led; ges­tures that merely raise the ante, e.g. sloga­ni­sing, hitting cops; the cult of cool; and “perver­sion”, sexual and chemi­cal, e.g. sadism (“The Atom Bomb is nothing but the Marquis de Sade on a govern­ment grant”) and LSD culture. He re­serves his har­shest tirades for youth’s mis­leaders—the camp con­trol­lers of fashion, the psy­chede­lic busi­ness­men, media-men and acade­mics; these last, the poten­tial critics of the system, si­lenced by their share in the national lolly.


  Increasingly big busi­ness makes equally mea­ning­less the idea­list’s desire to improve the world and the dis­illu­sioned’s desire to escape its decay. Money and Power between them buy up most threats to the status quo. Sell out is the way out. Legman cites girls leaving their lovers for money bags, boys shed­ding commu­nist skins when McCarthy turned on the heat, and worse still those who are waiting in the wings with ready made excuses for their tardi­ness in promo­ting revo­lu­tion. “Every­body wants to be your bed­fel­low, the whole scene trem­bles con­tinu­ously on the para­noid edge of vio­lence.” Revolt is mea­ning­less when consu­mer-orien­ted; revo­lu­tion­ary, no, deli­cious­ly revol­ting, yes.


  Camp is apo­liti­cal, con­cerned with style not content. The daring pose or “revo­lu­tion in dress” tends to dis­guise the reac­tion­ary vacuum in the mod psyche. Camp pleases the eye when you are out of your mind. Where else can one be when analy­sis of soci­ety’s dyna­mics reveal no easy poli­tical “way out”? So let’s be beau­tiful people.


  After the sell out what’s left of revolt? Legman dis­mis­ses the civil rights workers for a start. “Getting bashed by the cops or by Southern sher­iffs makes them feel in­volved.” Vio­lence is impli­cit in revolt. He accuses the non-violent of shying from the guilt that attends the use of vio­lence, sett­ling for ges­tures instead of revolt leading to revo­lu­tion.


  He dis­mis­ses provo­ca­tion likewise, without gran­ting that to provoke is a way of trying out one’s strength by setting autho­rity against people until people take sides or suffer. The Diggers he writes off as mock-pious fake Utopi­ans. He ignores their en­tire­ly volun­tary base: “How exactly is it a revolt against muddled middle class parents to try and crowd the govern­ment into beco­ming a parental welfare state com­posed of nothing but a mam­moth Food and Drug connec­tion.”


  He points out that a drug scene is nothing new—the poet Theophile Gautier was turning Paris on to pot and long hair in the 1830’s, and nothing revo­lu­tion­ary—your parents booze them­selves silly. He prefers to ignore that some drugs are more illu­mina­ting than others. Use these if you will. But don’t pretend to being revo­lu­tion­ary while laid up in your pad out of your skull, unfit for mis­lea­ding even the thick­est of fuzz, now bat­ter­ing your door down.


  Curiously, with its tone of com­pre­hen­ding every­thing, The Fake Revolt omits mention of the ghetto riots, the Vietnam War and “The Resis­tance”. Events have over­taken the author, words like these no longer stand. “It cannot come out for any­thing radical without going to gaol so it has come out for nothing.” Other judge­ments are still sharp. “A hippie or a beatnik is a fran­ti­cally self-adver­ti­sing coward and para­site, all tired and beaten by a strug­gle in which he somehow never engaged” and “The revolt against punc­tua­tion, art anatomy and sexual nor­mali­ty replaces any revolt against the Atom Bomb and the profit system whose swan­song it is”.


  The best part of The Fake Revolt is the analy­sis of “Cool” as leading to total affect­less­ness or the inabi­lity to feel and the fear of touch. Time will show whether <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Love-Ins">Love-Ins and Flower Power have in the least checked the “new vene­real disease”. Legman rightly diag­noses cool’s sur­vival value or more than a matter of fa­shion­able accep­tance by Madison Avenue. “Keep Cool”, common in­junc­tive among the hip, has two dis­junc­tive senses; don’t lose your head and/or stay out of trouble. In the latter and preva­lent sense, cool smoothes over the wide­spread
failure of nerve out­si­ders com­plain of. Cool is then “a let-out for every af­fect­less person to do any and every rotten thing he or she is called upon to do by the Job”. Af­fect­less persons deny to them­selves that they are res­pon­sible for any­thing or can even touch any­thing and that any­thing can touch them. Cool des­troys the indi­vidu­al’s inner world of feel­ings and sexual potency just as surely as it subsi­dises global world de­struc­tion. Save Earth Now.


  Some hippies speak truer than they realise when refer­ring to their “bro­thers” in adver­ti­sing and the mili­tary; common to both sides is this af­fect­less­ness which does not pre­clude hate. Love-ins are the in-turned con­fir­ma­tion of exclu­ded ones, those exclu­ded from real overall control of their lives. Try loving adverts off the bill­boards, war­heads off mis­siles; we can only tear them down. The cool types resist the loving types like con­serva­tives resist change, afraid to take risks. As Legman sug­gests, what other release can cool people share but apoca­lyp­tic belief in the end of the world; quite feasi­ble with the Penta­gon and Kremlin plan­ning plane­tary suicide. There is an alar­ming simi­lar­ity between the con­tempo­rary revolté and the orga­niza­tion man when both crave a moral blowout, con­scious­ly or other­wise.


  The sexual byways he dep­lores so self-indul­gent­ly I don’t know about, not having been to the States. Every man to his own taste, pro­vi­ded he des­troys himself only. Legman’s anxiety for good clean fun is rather taste­less (would he be more at home with a mar­riage cano­nised by the State in Moscow’s Hall of Wed­dings than with Cali­for­nian rites by surf and moon­light?) and a trifle para­noid (he waxes quite hys­teri­cal over kinks and orgi­asts). But he’s right in this, the newsy inter­est in freaked out orgies and cool sex points back to wide­spread dis­satis­faction—failure in more normal terms; that disap­point­ment having its roots in autho­rita­rian sup­pres­sion (the family as proto­type of the State) and com­mer­cial ex­ploi­ta­tion. Genuine sexual freedom depends not on explo­ring side­lines in sensa­tion but on a social revo­lu­tion.


The Fake Revolt relates the Hell’s Angels’ cele­bra­ted cool to the cool of the so-called trans­cen­denta­lists. Both are en route to an iden­tical no­thing­ness. One through body smash­ing vio­lence, usually indis­crimi­nate, the other via mind-blowing drugs, again with few re­deem­ing excep­tions. Modern ex­peri­ence is chaotic, every­one being subject to a con­stant flood of stimuli, nearly impos­sible to eval­uate it all for the purpose of action. Hell’s Angels and trans­cen­denta­lists react iden­tical­ly to this chaos. In trying to short­cut the route to salva­tion they abdi­cate their chances of freedom. They decline the long and hard road of self-discip­line only to be discip­lined by the machi­nery of the state or the vaga­ries of their ma­chines; or to be dis­solved in an imper­sonal Nirvana, perhaps finally a person­less mush­room cloud.

  The flir­ta­tion with Nazi gear and the fasci­nation of the Hell’s Angels betray the hippies’ rep­ressed dream of vio­lence. If they live such symbols, only to provoke, as some will say, why isn’t provo­ca­tion more
the mode of these new quie­tists? No, the average hippy is in a double bind. If hippies really under­stood the violent society against which they have reacted they would have the grace to admit that their pro­fessed non-vio­lence can only be skin deep unless vio­lence be exor­cised by a serious discip­line.


  What worries Legman most, to quote him at length, is “the at­temp­ted gather­ing of this proudly self-styled ‘under­ground’ brew of lumpen ele­ments, under the rio­tously phoney leader­ship of lunatic promo­ters and pub­lish­ers, and the pent­house direc­tion of the wilier New Left waiting for the day it can sell out its noisily Fake Revolt”. Who to? “It is pre­cise­ly this angry grum­bling wildcat hosti­lity to every­thing that will make the Fake Revolt the chosen vehicle of the next Hitler” … “the New Left is essen­tial­ly a front operation or Social Demo­cra­tic Trojan horse inten­ded to set up cadres to welcome the new Hitler when he comes”. Who’s plot­ting what? I feel Legman’s extreme sug­ges­tibi­lity, which has yielded this explo­sive tract, has here got the better of him; and that there is no such total con­spi­racy because there is no one with the neces­sary world view to launch and main­tain it.


  The lash of all his whip­words leaves one smar­ting. Cle­verly Legman never reveals from what supe­rior stand­point he judges the Fake Revolt. Is he a lone figure crying out for a move­ment to share his atti­tude with? Is he trying to tell people how to make a revo­lu­tion? If so, then take this; “the new revolt nowa­days con­sists there­fore of a bunch of inar­ticu­late long-haired ado­les­cents without lea­der­ship and without a pro­gramme”. Never mind the autho­rita­rian tone, he is trying to say why we all cheat our­selves of revo­lu­tion. Total revolt is needed. Partial revolt is easily recu­per­ated by estab­lish­ments and con­tained as a pro­fita­ble side­show or safety valve.


  Legman, I repeat, is not of the gene­ra­tion he writes of, broadly those now between 15 and 25. Thus his de­tached fury and total lack of sym­pa­thy. Previ­ous gene­ra­tions have be­queathed this one a fouled-up world. The best of the present gene­ra­tion, Legman warns, are now des­troy­ing them­selves in search of kicks, rather than get down to des­troy­ing that lousy world of their parents. I would add we will not destroy that world until one and all have working know­ledge of the power struc­tures that daily divert and sup­press our right­ful rage; mean­while con­scious people cannot live such know­ledge without diver­sion.


  Revo­lu­tion in your own soul is the hippy recipe to save the world. Forget the dead and dying else­where on whom your econo­mic freedom is predi­cated. Such a revo­lu­tion does not touch the modern state and its sup­por­ters. To believe other­wise is gross bad faith or mere trans­cen­dental naivety. Why under­esti­mate the enemy or deny him exis­tence? This hippy half revolt is inhe­rent­ly élitist, unsym­pathe­tic in prac­tice to the wage slaved prole­ta­riat, bour­geois in its econo­mic base, and
riddled with mys­tical ini­tia­tions. All the wishful clap about turning on straight people one by one cannot dis­guise the hippies’ basic treason to their fellow men (sorry, beings), their other­world­ly denial of the glaring social and econo­mic prob­lems beyond those that affect them indi­vidu­ally this week or next. Cool it baby, what bag are you in, I’m an indi­vi­dual.

  When it suits them the tota­lita­rians of busi­ness, poli­tics and culture can trade in such a move­ment for a new one more along their lines. The German State changed the far-out “Wan­der­vogel” of the 20’s into the “Hitler Jugend” of the 30’s. From 2 Balfour Place, here in London, “The Process” (symbol Process.png), in true élitest style, calls the young and con­fused to re­nounce the dif­ficul­ties of living-in-the-world in favour of joining their spiri­tual storm­troo­pers of Mayfair, <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Greece">Greece and Xtul, Mexico.

  Innocent mystics capi­tu­late to dia­bolic mysti­cisms. Like “the natio­nal inter­est”. The missing ele­ment—social per­spec­tive.

  May I leave you with the expen­sive double­think of the Maha­rishi Mahesh Yogi, spea­king to stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Cali­for­nia, Los Angeles.

  “Is it true that you told the Beatles that the Ban the Bomb move­ment was silly?”

  “Yes, I told them that. We must concern our­selves with medi­ta­tion. Besides if one country bans the bomb, it will then be help­less and de­fence­less.”

  “Maha­rishi, there is a great deal of oppo­si­tion to the Vietnam War, many students are under the threat of the draft. Should we resist?”

  “We should obey the elected leaders of this country. They are repre­senta­tives of the people. …”