"Rather than waiting for pie in the future…" (EMMETT GROGAN)


From a piece by San Francisco Digger Emmett Grogan, as printed in the August 1968 issue of The Realist:

[T]he 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 mimeograph and print the daily news for the people so they get it fast, etc.

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.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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