The Basic Karmic Rule

Allen, caught on camera in media res,  reading from the poem, “Cosmopolitan Greetings”

The occasion is New York, 1989, on the anniversary of the Tompkins Square Riots.
He then breaks off from the poem to what he describes elsewhere as “the basic karmic rule” (pertinent, he feels, to the occasion)

from “Cosmopolitan Greetings”:

“…Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions/ Observe what’s vivid/  Notice what you notice/ Catch yourself thinking/ Vividness is self-selecting /Remember the future/ Freedom costs little in the United States/ Advise only myself/ Don’t drink yourself to death/  Two molecules clanking against each other require an observer to become scientific data/ The measuring instrument determines the appearance of the phenomenal world after Einstein (therefore) The universe is subjective/ Walt Whitman celebrated Person/ We all are observers measuring instrument, eye, subject Person /   Universe is Person/ Inside skull is vast as outside skull/ Mind is outer space/ What do we say to ourselves in bed at night, making no sound?/ “First thought best thought”…

“Any gesture taken in anxiety creates more anxiety any gesture made in gentility creates more gentility any sensitive gesture creates more sensitivity any insensitive gesture creates and spreads more insensitivity  any gesture taken in calm creates calm and thoughtfulness, any gesture taken in irritation creates and spreads more irritation any bottle thrown at the feet of the police  creates feeds police violence any police whistles blown in the middle of the riot  create a further riot which causes other people than the whistler to be hurt. A whistler and a bottle-thrower are equally police,  police to themselves and police to others and would, if in poewer, do the same thing as the Chinese are doing in power now with their populace. trying to manipulate them. Any gesture made in anger creates more anger, Any triumphant fist raised like this in anger just creates more anger and dies not create community, any speech given with hysterical strangled voice off this platform creates more hysterical strangled voices. It does not lead to clarity and communication between those who want to protect the squatters and those who have long lived here and have grey hair. If you want to have a large mass meeting you have to bring out the grandmothers, grandfathers, the middle class. “Kill The Yuppies!” ? –  Who’s a Yuppie? Who is a Yuppie?  It’s an undefined term. It only creates paranoia..It’s a gesture of aggression. It destroys any kind of community in the neighborhood. Who is a Yuppie?  I’ve lived here since 1953, I have a tie. Am I a Yuppie?    Kill The Yuppies? Who is shouting with a strangled voice to Kill the Yuppies?  It only creates a dissension among the people who have interests in common.Any gesture taken in heat against authority.. So, I’ll sing a song  (Allen sings (for the rest of the tape) a version of his “CIA Dope Calypso” – “Richard Secord and Oliver North/ hated Sandinistas whatever they were worth…”..   “It was buried in the papers only yesterday….of the USA”)

“Allen Ginsberg is God”, declares one (overly-?) enthusiastic attendee, “He’s been up, down, he’s cool, he’s hip, he’s been around. Peace. Love”

from the William Ney interview (August/September 1988, one month after the riots):

“I think you have to follow the basic karmic rule, that any action taken in anxiety creates more anxiety. Any action taken in anger spreads anger. Any action taken in violence spreads violence. Any action taken in calm spreads calm. Any action taken in equanimity spreads equanimity. Any action taken gently spreads gentility…”

For a contemporaneous account of the Tompkins Square Park riots (in the New York Times) – see here  

Some of Clayton Patterson‘s historic and pivotal, important footage can be viewed – here      (Patterson himself is interviewed about his documentation of the riots and his memories of those times – here)

We will be featuring William Ney’s interview with Allen (originally on this site but no longer available) in its entirety in the months ahead.

See also an earlier posting on The Allen Ginsberg Project – Allen on anger –  “Anger Advice”

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