Another Village Voice Clip Job – Congress Drops Acid with Allen Ginsberg

clip-jobThese “Village Voice ‘Clipjobs” posting are and endless source of entertainment these days, and a real reminder of how some things have changed, while others haven’t.

Don McNeil’s  notice – “Congress Drops Acid with Allen Ginsberg” covers Allen’s 1966 testimony to a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on his own experiences with LSD in an attempt to dispel government disinformation that was proliferating at the time.

The piece runs as follows:

Allen Ginsberg, lobbying for tenderness, bared a large part of his soul last week before a Senate subcommittee investigating the use of LSD.

“I’m here to tell you about my personal experiences,” he began softly, “and am worried that without sufficient understanding and sympathy for personal experience laws will be passed that are so rigid that they will cause more harm than the new LSD that they try to regulate.”

The atmosphere was neither hostile nor sympathetic, rather, curious as Ginsberg took the stand. He bowed, a small Buddhist bow, and tried to dispel some of the apprehension among the Senators, press, and spectators in the floodlit, marbled caucus room. “Whatever pre-judgment you have about me, or my bearded image, I hope you will suspend it so that we can talk together as fellow beings in the same room of Now, trying to come to some harmony and peacefulness between us.”

His efforts were first to establish a common blond with those listening. He noted the common frustration with the lack of a place for the human, personal, individual factor in our society. It is “a feeling of being caught in a bureaucratic machine which is not built to serve some of our deepest feelings…a machine which closes down our senses, reduces our language and thoughts to uniformity, reduces our sources of inspiration and fact to fewer channels — as TV does — and monopolizes our attention with second hand imagery — packaged news, as we’re having it packaged now” — and the network cameras whirred softly — “and doesn’t really satisfy our deeper needs — healthy personal adventure in environments where we are having living contact with each other in the flesh, the human universe we are built to enjoy and live in.”

“All this is inevitable,” he said, “especially since we have come to value material extensions of ourselves.” But he still emphasized the need for some respite. “Human contact is built into our nature as a material need as strong as food…We can’t treat each other only as objects — we can’t treat each other as Things lacking sympathy. Our humanity would atrophy crippled and die — WANT to die. Because life without feeling is just one more ‘Thing,’ an inhuman universe.”

…He told of how the night before the Vietnam Day march in Berkeley last fall he, the novelist Ken Kesey, the marchers, and the Hell’s Angels “all had a party at the Hell’s Angels house.”

…At the party, organized by Kesey, “most everybody took some LSD, and we settled down to discussing the situation and listening to Joan Baez on the phonograph and chanting Buddhist prayers. We were all awed by the communication possible — everybody able to drop their habitual Image for the night and feel more community than conflict. And the evening ended with the understanding that nobody really wanted violence; and there was none on the day of the march.”

…When he had finished his statement, Ginsberg was questioned by Senators Jacob Javits of New York and Quentin Burdick of North Dakota, who was acting chairman in Dodd’s absence. Many of the questions seemed to be the standard ones asked of the “pro-LSD” witnesses in these hearings — for instance, on the source of the drugs…Ginsberg replied that “in order to speak freely on the subject, I’ve had to stop my use. I have heard that the Narcotics Bureau has been trying to set me up for an arrest.” Burdick prodded: “You don’t know where it comes from?” “I literally do not know,” he replied…

Javits repeatedly reminded Ginsberg that he was not qualified to testify on any of the medical aspects of LSD. “Do you consider yourself qualified to give medical advice to my 16 1/2-year-old son?” Javits asked. Javits indicated that he was concerned about Ginsberg’s influence “among young people” and wanted to make it clear that the poet should not give “medical advice.”

As he concluded his statement, Ginsberg suggested that “if we want to discourage use of LSD for altering our attitudes, we’ll have to encourage such changes in our society that nobody will need to take it to break through to common sympathy.” He suggested that the new generation, many of whom have experienced this “new sense of openness,” will “push for an environment less rigid, mechanical, less dominated by automatic cold war habits. A new kind of light has rayed through our society — despite all the anxiety it has caused — maybe these hearings are a manifestation of that slightly changed awareness. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to speak like this a year ago. That we’re more open to each other is the new consciousness itself: to reveal one’s visions to a Congressional Committee!”

 

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