The Digger Papers (August, 1968)
A Speech: Dialectics of
I think we've seen this year a magnification of all our own anxieties
and paranoia and terror under attack of conflicting image ideas on our
bodies, and the use of language patterns and their associational affects
almost scare us out of our bodies, white or black, finally.
Given this kind of awareness or consciousness, or this insight into our
own emotions, habit patterns, and our conditioning -- the conditioning
which everyone has complained of: Carmichael in his own way, complaining
of the white definitions of identity imposed on the black man as a form of
conditioning the consciousness of the blacks; the whites suffering their
own forms of conditioning, equally horrible -- we find ourselves all in
the same boat, in that sense.
This year I've been impressed by Gregory Bateson, talking about the
scientifical apocalyptic aspect of the anxiety syndrome that we're
suffering from. He said: Given the present rate of infusion of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere, the mammalian-human aspect of the planet had
a half-life of 10-30 years because in that time the carbon dioxide layer
over the atmosphere (which apparently is opaque) admits heat but doesn't
let it bounce out; so, given the present build-up of this gas over the
surface, a temperature rise of 5 degrees is possible.
Irreversibly after 30 years -- the 10 to 30 years therefore the half
life -- the polar ice caps melt and the continents become inundated with
400 feet of water, this being only one of the many threats to the
If there's 400 feet of water over the continents, that'll leave more
room for the porpoises who have nervous systems, brains, and a language
that is as complex as ours. So ultimately the universe doesn't need our
exorable yowling for the continuance of its own life.
So okay, but there's no purpose or reason for us to get off the earth,
if we can make a go of it. And as long as anybody's willing to make a go
of it . . . and this is "To be or not to be?" which is as deep a
question as ever, you know, do you want "to be" or not? I don't
know, sometimes I don't want to; I don't give a shit, I'm going to die
anyway. Which everybody feels occasionally, from Shakespeare on down to
the lowest chimney sweep in Blake.
So, assuming that we're willing to suffer more and continue our
existence on the planet, on to more pragmatic things, aside from the
methaphysical void -- getting out of the void, back into the illusion.
One aspect of the illusion, then, one of the sensory possibilities, one
thing we can see is a basic mood which most people have stumbled on at one
point or another: the aesthetic experience, the religious experience, the
peak experience, the mystical experience, the art experience, identity
experience, unitive experience -- an experience of One, of all of us being
one -- not only ourselves with varying color of skin and mysterious
ego-origin or whatever we are, also one with flowers, also the very trees
So we have a unitive experience, and my conception of, or my feeling
toward this fact that we are all one is that there are just many eyes
staring out. There are no hierarchies, there are no categories, there
are only many eyes staring out. Which is like a very mysterious
situation, constantly to be facing these many eyes, and it leads me to
imagine that this is where paranoia comes from originally.
So paranoia is probably good because it's the recognition that
everybody is part of a giant conspiracy; and possibly the paranoid has
recognized it, but thinks that he's the only one that has
recognized it, and he doesn't take signals from others that they also have
recognized it. So that once it's recognized mutually, it begets absolute
delight, as recognition builds up for me -- we're not the whites, we're
not the heroes, we're that same glimpse that everyone has -- and a glimpse
which can be the center of consciousness and also the center out of which
political activity begins.
Now, political activity linking up with social-construction activity --
there's the old tribal statement from China that Pound constantly quotes
from, I guess, Confucius: "To straighten out the nation, straighten
the provinces; to straighten the province, straighten the city; to
straighten the city, straighten households; straighten your household,
straighten your family, straighten yourself."
If there is a large group of younger people and older people working in
older traditions, who have come to some basic ground of consciousness
where they do all feel one, where they have glimpsed that, then we may
have possibly the beginning of a friendly communism, or communion, or
community, or friendly extension of self outward; if they have glimpsed
that and if they are willing to trust that.
But that trust has to be such a calm thing, and such an assured thing.
But the weird thing is that--tearfully so, almost--many younger kids have
that trust. It's the one thing that they have arrived at, I think, which
makes a possible, beautiful moment, then, for history -- or maybe, you
know, the last moment of recognition before the giant comedy ends with an
So, have we, or have they, that much care for ourselves and for each
other that we're willing to accept each other then, to work without fear,
without paranoia, and enjoy ourselves finally? Begin to play again, get
out of the system, not answer the machine back, not escalate the machine,
but actually join together and set a completely other pattern going, wipe
out the old -- simply wipe it out?
Because it's conditioning, and conditioning can be deconditioned. How,
is a miracle. It happens naturally sometimes; somebody wakes up on top of
Fern Hill, or hears Blake, or however you first got laid, or whatever the
catalyst is: it opens up the realization. Or, it is now as so often, the
precipitating chemical -- pot, grass or LSD.
So I would say that the privacy thing -- private? -- that we
don't know enough gossip, which is the actual history. From the mere
public image you cannot generally figure anything out.
J. Edgar Hoover wondering about little girls walking home from schools
and being attacked by the stranger outside the schoolhouse? He used to put
big pictures of that, signed by J. Edgar Hoover, showing little girls
walking past trees in America, telling them they should not go out on the
street during the day time, alone -- creating this anxiety all over --
preparing the children for Vietnam, actually, by that kind of traumatic
attack on their trust, that phantasy -- that's his phantasy.
Then what's his sex life, who was not married? He masturbates? No,
probably not. Makes it with men? Who knows -- his second in command,
maybe? Maybe he likes girls but he can't make it? He's not married, and
it's against the rules, in the FBI, for men who like to make it with
women, to make it with women; I think one FBI man got bounced for that
recently, for making it with a woman he wasn't married to. And Hoover
ain't married, that means he'd have to be chaste, probably, and if he's
chaste -- you know, you got to think about that.
What does he think about when he's naked, standing in front of a
mirror? That's something the citizen doesn't generally get to imagine.
Probably in phantasy also citizens do imagine that, but that
isn't public, that imagination.
So then finally we come to tactics of psycho-political action. The
private must be made public. The public hallucination -- which all along
was a hallucination -- history as it was known, the front symbolisms, the
speeches that I make or Stokely Carmichael or J. Edgar Hoover makes or Mao
tse-Tung makes, those speeches which are made to manipulate people's
consciousnesses, obviously don't represent the full spectrum of our
awareness and consciousnesses.
None of us public speakers who are the very form of a conference, since
it puts us up front as priest-hero-politician brains -- in front of you as
Gods -- and that immediately freezes us and our consciousness, and our
identity-role . . . and so we find ourselves sitting talking, and of
course like in order to maintain that identity-role we've got to stay
right here, frozen in this relationship instead of whatever other phantasy
we might have, like an orgy, or whatever else we would like to do.
So that everybody is forced into their different roles: spectators, the
conference participants, and the preachers. And that automatically altered
reality, altered any interpretation of reality, or conditioned any
interpretation of reality, or outer apparency. Well that's obvious,
everybody's known it and complained of it, all this problem of
loudspeakers and the conference and the format it should take.
Ian Sommerville, a friend of Burroughs and an electronics expert, said
that he tried to think of the model, an electronic model, for a totally
democratic conference and oddly enough it wound up resembling the UN -- in
the sense of the desks, and everybody earphone connected, everybody being
able to speak and be translated, and everybody talking at once. So we have
an overpopulation problem, obviously, that we've got to deal with.
I'm going to get on now to praxis -- practical plans. Social action and
plans have been cased in autonomy, it's a correct term -- in the sense of
correct in its power and literal as to some of the new activists'
techniques. And the original style seemed to rise up out of the streets:
"Standing on a street corner waiting for no one is power" --
along with the phrase: "Make San Francisco an electric Tibet."
The methods used, then, have been somewhat similar -- as you could
guess at from Burroughs' paradigm: Don't escalate the hostility, don't
escalate the anger, control your mind, watch what you're doing, be aware
It isn't love that's being sought here, it's not love that's being
offered -- it's awareness of what your own feelings are, and the
movements of your own mind, including the movements towards hysteria,
including the movements toward the acceptance of words that don't have any
reference -- acceptance because of affective reverberations of the tone of
voice (how they're pronounced) -- and also acceptance because of the fear
of opposing what seems to be inevitable, what you're told is inevitable,
either by Black Power or by Mao or by Johnson or by Burroughs or by
anybody -- or yourself or your brother.
Autonomy is Power! I mean you've got to make up your own mind!
Just because everybody else is screaming the same thing, it doesn't
mean that you have to join in or be lost in the universe. You're still
there, in your belly -- unless you get out there in a phantasy, out of
your body, and you cling to that phantasy as being the only
answer -- as the man attacking you, the policeman or the capitalist who's
attacking you is attacking a phantasy of you, his phantasy, his
Because if you're there neutral, not intending him any particular harm,
actually, but trying to straighten him out and get him out of his bag, and
he projects on you a monster phantasy, say, like where you're going to
like rape his mind or destroy his entire universe in some way that'll
leave him without a universe, or without feeling good in the place where
he is -- in other words, if he feels threatened, and if you threaten
him, by God he's going to feel threatened and he's going to take the
appropriate action that any madman in a nuthouse will take when he feels
He'll strike back at you. So if you get into fights with people in the
madhouse, you're probably there as a patient, I would guess -- or a
doctor. You're in a madhouse, the world is a madhouse and everybody's
nuts, so what do you do in a madhouse when somebody says that you're a
spy? You internalize it and assume that it's so? Or you reject his charge
and hit him?
You realize that he's making a movie of you, he's projecting an image
on you, and if you accept his image you get trapped in his game and pretty
soon, bam! The two of you are up in this paranoid universe
battling it out -- for the language!
Who's going to control the language? You know, who's going to control
the microphone? As if anybody who controls the microphone controls the
language: all they can do is control the sounds that come over the
microphone, and they can condition you--but once yoll're deconditioned
then you know that you're just hearing sounds, and that those sounds are
And are they pretty sounds? Do they make you feel good? Do they lead to
any constructive action? Or are they sounds that give off bad vibrations?
And are they going to lead you to feel bad? And make other people feel
bad? And escalate the booby trap till "the whole fucking shithouse
goes up in chunks."
That's one view. There might be the other view that violence is
absolutely necessary as a means of therapy; a different form of therapy
than the one I've been proposing. That may be so, I'm not a psychiatrist.
That seems to be the psychiatric interpretation. Dr. Cooper said,
"Don't give Che Guevara LSD, he might stop fighting." So I said,
"Well, how do you know he won't fight more efficiently?" Of
course, that was my con man's answer, actually.
If one were to continue fighting after LSD it would probably mean that
the situation would require that. I suppose. All things being equal, which
is the safe place where we can be here together, not the unsafe place
where some of us have to be destroyed so that the others can be here. But
if we're going to have one place, if we're going to be here on this place
then we have to make place for people in bodies, for everybody that's got
Otherwise, you're going to have these bodies scared of being destroyed:
as has been projected by the white race, you know, the threat of
destruction of the yellow life form or the black life form. So they're
reacting obviously to the hypnotic threat of the whites, and the reaction
is completely a mirror image of the white presentation. Mirror
image, except that actually there's old tribal wisdom still operating,
with the blacks in America, that hasn't been presented either/or acounted
But what's necessary is active imagination, active Black Power, Digger
Autonomy -- active manifestation of the understanding, manifestation,
active things, not sitting around on your ass: active poetry, active use
of language, the first Boddhisatva's vow: "Sentient beings are
numberless, I vow to enlighten them all."
Because the whole universe can't make it, nor will happiness be
complete until we all enter Heaven. Othcrwise there's always
going to be the Hells to be aware of that we have created for others
to be in. So does somebody want to go to Heaven and leave the others in
Hell too? Big deal! Big deal! Jesus! Big deal! Well I guess maybe that
might lead to . . . like, you know, the porpoises. They'll go to
heaven and leave us out.
On the other hand the overactive search for Heaven and all
that energy gone into it is also a fuck-up. It gets in the way of
awareness of what's actually going on in the actual . . . sort of like
calm in the middle of all the violence and murder that's actually taking
place, that undertone of calm that's always there. As for Prince Bolkonsky
under Napoleon's boot, on the battleffeld as he lay there dying, in War
and Peace, looking up past General's horses' asses at Heaven,
indifferent to the whole fucking Franco-Russian war, looking in the sky .
. . amazing, like if you went out on the streets with a switchblade and
started the revolution, but then got shot down and you had 20 minutes to
realize where you were, and you dying! And the whole struggle faded out
into a totally other vision.
So from that level of consciousness that's where manifest action can
take place. Then finally we come to the fact that it's possible for gangs
of young people together to live communally, form their own organizations
and begin to address themselves to the anxiety-ridden outer world.
Where would you begin? Well, in San Francisco it began to some extent
with, say, the media people; which meant a tacit conspiracy of everybody
to take them all to bed, to turn them all on, to turn them into friends. I
mean, what's the point of having enemies when you can have friends? To
de-control them, de-hypnotize them. Deconditioning them -- sexual
deconditioning, music deconditioning, dance-hall-media-happening-deconditioning,
LSD deconditioning, orgy deconditioning.
When you have a lot of people working together with the same insight,
that insight reinforces back and forth and is reflected back and forth and
grows deeper. Whereas one lone nut saying "I am the Lamb" and
"I am the Lion" can be clapped in jail, but one cat coming up
among 5,000 people dressed in caps and bells saying "I am the
Lamb" and "I am the Lion" and they all jump, and there are
a lot of people shouting "I am the Lamb" and "I am the
Lion" and acting on it because they're not afraid to be the
Lamb or the Lion because they know that everybody knows it already.
So you can begin operating in the external world on that basis, that you
are not alone. Because the insight is real. Because that is the
reality of the entire universe, that's the ground of nature, that's what
Being itself is, and if you ain't in Being where are you? Out in your head
in a phantasy of not being in Being but, you know, having lost out and
having to fight your way back into the material universe to gain
possession of it.
So, you already are the material universe. You want a better
relation with it. That means better relations, then with "the
Squares"; means then the bringing over of all consciousness, all
human consciousness into just one place where all consciousness can be one
and be, feel, safe there, being one with the other ones. Where it won't be
shut out and be the one lone consciousness while everybody over there in
the other dimensions is having a big ball together.
It means, then, inter-personal Boddhisatva conduct, infiltrating
outward on every occasion continously, through all strange forms of being,
all strangers, all other persons; treating a person as person and not as
role, not as uniform, not as cop, not as capitalist, not as communist, not
as Maoist, not as Allen Ginsberg, not as "self" -- recognition
of that One which extends outward from the bar and grill to the university
across the street, outward to everybody in America, obviously.
So then one would have to start making it -- or we got to
start making it -- or you got to start making it -- on that one
level where you do address others to their eyes, directly, without fear,
and with the realization that thtey [sic] are there. Well, now, a lot of
people are going to bust up and hit you on the nose -- though I think it
depends on the amount of anxiety you project whether or not they have a
You know, I think that's the big key: the amount of anxiety, fear,
trembling, nervousness that I put out, I know determines people's
reactions to me, whether it's trust, friendliness despite appearance.
So then, what if all the people who had that insight were able to begin
combining forces, totally neutralizing all negative affect, totally
letting it drop into the void, hence transforming all that energy into
conversion of consciousness to friendly nature -- you'd then have
autonomous communities rising as they do in San Francisco which involve
kids living together and inviting other people in to join them for an
evening or longer -- it means the amassing of people together as in giant
human Be-ins: not so much to demonstrate their force to others
but to demonstrate their tranquility and quietness and presence
to others, and to themselves; to reinforce the awareness, to exchange
Upaya, skillful means, trade secrets of communication-forming proposals --
proposition not opposition -- proposals for a new society based on new
consciousness, and then putting them into operation on a small scale,
mutually, into operation as an example, rather than waiting for
pie in the sky, rather than waiting for pie in the future, rather than
waiting for Utopia to come through revolution.
Practicing on the basis of what's known already, so we have the
development of free stores in San Francisco, free food in the parks, the
Diggers' extensions of energy, the anonymity of most of the Digger people,
the Communication Companies or the Free City news services which
miemograph [sic] and print the daily news for the people so they get it
Where there's going to be a rally, where there's going to be music,
where there's going to be free food, where you can get sleep, where you
can get jobs, where you can go out into the country free so you can
straighten your head out or freak out among true friends -- so you can
decontrol yourself of the city conditioning, calm yourself for a while and
return to tribal-mammal origins in the original ecology for which we are
fit, which is not the noisy, metallic city, as Leary has pointed out very
radically and wisely: "Put all the metal underground, back where it
belongs." If there's going to be bridges and buildings and machinery,
then don't let that displace the living, organic material which is our
natural friendly life form.
Obviously the surface of the planet has got to be replanted back to
some sort of living delight, instead of dead vibrations. Get to work. You
are the Free City planners.
So there is an autonomous idea of what Utopia is, ecologically, as
something to work for, and concretely possible toward that sense.
Goodman's suggestion: applying immediate social welfare ideals and
principles -- pay people to live in the country -- like people on
New York welfare. Give them the same money, and say: "You don't have
to live in New York, you can live out of New York." That'll
depopulate New York, remove the pressure on New York, straighten many
heads out, calm everybody down to some extent. Have a healthier life --
the "underprivileged," they'll get in the groove of being way
out in the country and walking with clouds and stars, and talking with
trees. And also save all the giant bureaucracy costs of the city.
But the only thing that will allow each of us to create his or her
Utopia is praxis -- and the pooling of our resources to free each of us to
pursue our individual activities and strengthen the autonomous boundaries
of our free cities of the now.