Ginsberg 1993 Oslo Interview – 3 (Anger & Aggression)

Allen Ginsberg’s interview with Audun Engh, recorded in Oslo in 1993, continues from here 

AE: In the 1960s there was a mass movement in the United States of anti-war activities, so-called counter-cultural-activities, did you see this as a continuation of, or a mass spreading   in to a lot of people of what you in small groups had been doing for twenty years?

AG: Some aspects of it, you know, the anti-war pacifism (tho’ Kerouac thought that mass movements of that kind tended towards fascism or stupidity or repetitious sentimentality, although he was against the war himself, the Vietnam War), the experiments with psychedelics and marijuana were, I think, of course in the same line, but we were in a lineage going all the way back to Baudelaire and Rimbaud , as I said, and, but it seemed to me that we had a hand In encouraging people to go beyond the real death drugs, tobacco and alcohol, and trying to find alternatives  that had some information or subtlety in relation to the texture of the mind, that were educational. The excessive use of acid (like dropping acid a hundred times in high school or at parties was not our program – I used to get high on peyote or acid or whatever..grass  and go to the Museum of Modern Art and look at Cezanne’s watercolors. The development into rock n roll – from music, apparently, was an outgrowth of our own interest in poetry and music  (as Dylan says, he was inspired by Kerouac’s book of poems Mexico City Blues. When we were at Kerouac’s grave, filming Renaldo and Clara and I asked Dylan what he knew about Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues, he opened up the book and began reading from it over Kerouac’s gravestone, and he said, oh he knew it well, that was the first book of poetry that really spoke to him. Somebody had handed him a copy in St. Paul in 1958 or ’59. And I said, “Why did it strike you?  And he said ‘Well, it was the first book that talked to me in my own language”, first poetry, so he always described his inspiration as Kerouac, so I think that aspect of the poetry of rock ‘n roll, the examination of texts and people interpreting the texts (the Beatles or Dylan, or later) is a natural outgrowth of our own interests.  The tradition of going to India, or learning meditation, or Eastern thought was, I think, very much inspired by Kerouac’s Dharma Bums in 1957. And in the standard histories of the growth of Buddhism in America, Gary Snyder and Kerouac and even myself, and Philip Whalen are held up as precursors or innovators and encouragers of the importation of Buddhist ideas and the acclimatization to American style. So those aspects, yes. The political extremism of the Students For a Democratic Society, Red Brigade, the violence aspect, I think was quite alien to Kerouac’s lamb-like temperament and something that horrified him, because I think he realized very early that any gesture taken in paranoia creates more paranoia, any gesture taken in anger, (like, quote, “rising up angry” unquote), creates more anger and spreads anger, any gesture taken in resentment creates more resentment, any gesture taken in peacefulness creates more peacefulness, any gesture created in equanimity creates lucidity and equanimity.

AE. There was a demonstration in Oslo a few weeks ago against a racist politician from Denmark who was here at a nationalist conference  and these people, (who) came from maybe a punk background, they were spitting on him, in this film that was shown on tv, they were spitting in this old man’s face…

AG Any gesture of spitting creates more spitting. Of course the racAngst problem is associated (as it has been all along, since the ‘Forties and ‘Fifties racism), associated with police state, associated with secret police, associated with “ethnic cleansing”, associated with hypercritical Christianity, associated with Christian or Moslem fundamentalism, associated with ideological fundamentalism – like Maoists and people’s racial superiority over Tibet, or Russian racist superiority over Jews, or Nazi racist superiority over gypsies and homosexuals and Jews. There’s this resurgence of murderous nationalism all over Europe that has resulted in holocausts and ethnic cleansings now in Serbia [1993 sic] and elsewhere – or in Bosnia – all over Russia, and in Asia, so it is a big problem that violence and for young punks to react with violence is understandable but it sure is the wrong way of dealing with it .

So what I would recommend for young Mohawk punks is to learn basic Buddhist meditation practice and out of that will rise much more effective ways of pro-test (remembering that the word “protest” means “pro” – in favor of , “-test” – an attestation, a witness. You’ve got to witness in favor of what you want rather than attack, or just attack, what is negative.

AE: Is there a fine line between justified anger and aggression?

AG: I don’t think there’s much of a fine line between justified anger and aggression, no. I think the job really is to examine our own anger, examine our own aggression, A very simple way of doing it, that Kerouac described in the phrase “Anger doesn’t like to be reminded of fits” (because kids don’t like to see themselves spitting on television – or else they won’t in five years, once they cool their heads and realize that they’re doing damage to their own cause). But, to deal with anger, the interesting thing is you don’t have to stop your anger, you don’t have to denounce your anger, or push it away, all you have to do is notice it. The trick is noticing when you’re angry, detecting it as it rises, as it flowers  and as it declines, enduring the embarrassment of noticing your fit of anger (because once you notice anger it tends to dissolve, once you’re clear about what anger is). Anger is just basically a lot of chemical boiling-over and adrenaline that confuses the issue – like in martial arts, the Oriental martial arts, the person who’s angry becomes blind, he doesn’t see where he’s hitting, he becomes off-balance. The person who wins the battle Is the one who is calm and centered and observes what’s going on around him and simply moves to the left when a rush of anger comes by.

to be continued (tomorrow)

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