Timothy Leary’s 1987 rant against Reaganism and the Drug War

Eldridge, Tim & Abbie — Old friends

Timothy Leary ranted to Lord Nose and myself for High Frontiers at his Hollywood home in 1987.  In honor of our new president and his death penalty schtick, I now present the part where he goes off on Ronald Reagan and the War On Drugs, which the Reagan’s really started (you could say they escalated it, since Nixon announced the War on Drugs.  It really became a well-funded “war” under Reagan.)

There are some obviously flaws. It was spontaneous, and of its time. Still… I love this rant.

 

The Reagan administration is an extraordinary recurrence, or flare-up, of the basic American disease, which is the Protestant ethic, the original Massachusetts Bay Puritan notion of predestinarianism. The idea that there are the elect and the damned. Naturally, white Protestants are the elect and everyone who’s not a white Protestant Puritan is damned. Therefore they have no rights, can be offed, enslaved, can be treated basically as in the service of the Devil.

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People like Reagan because he’s got enthusiasm, energy, charisma. He smiles and feels good about himself. My god, if your president doesn’t feel good about himself, if he’s dragging his ass around like Mondale, what message is he sending to the herd or to the tribe. But I think everyone would agree that at the level of creativity, open-mindedness, tolerance — the basic intellectual virtues — Reagan is a 1 on a scale of 1 to 8.

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I don’t think that being illegal is going to stop people from taking ecstasy. America’s going through a hysterical fanatic paroxysm of religious intolerance. These Protestant types truly believe they have to have an enemy to be against… it was the Soviet Union. For the last twenty years we’ve been at war with Central America, Nicaragua, Cuba. We have to have colored people, or different language people, or different religions as scapegoats.  These South Americans are obviously dirty sinful people because they don’t sing Protestant hymns. So the American government has to have an outside enemy to whip up the military fervor, and it also has to have an internal domestic civil war going on at all times. So that we started with the Civil War 100 years ago, which was a total disaster; an unnecessary war, whipped up by this insane Protestant desire, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and then, just in the last century, the scapegoating of Wobblies and trade union people, then the Jews have always been scapegoats of the Protestant ruling class, and then the Japanese for awhile during World War II.  And then after World War II it became reds and communists and pinkos. If you were not a total rightwing republican, you were a communist. Because it’s either/or. There’s no shade. You’re either a god or a devil. So they had to have a new domestic enemy and, of course, drugs are the perfect scapegoat. People that use drugs are young and they tend to be dissident. They don’t tend to be Born Again Christians. They tend to be everything that’s sinful and horrible to a Protestant ethic predestinarian. So the war on drugs is a religious war, and in a religious war there’s no pretense at honesty or clarity or tolerance — anything goes, propaganda, lies, persecution. That’ll end, hopefully, by 1988.

Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement

“I noticed that all but one of them did a version of ‘White Rabbit.’  Jeff Mark

by Jeff Mark & R.U. Sirius

While I am currently working on a book about MONDO 2000 that will be primarily about the ideas that drove the magazine, I have a lot of memoir-ish materials collected from my own writings and interviews with — or writings by — various participants in the project. Jeff Mark was the first person I met through ads in local newsweeklies in 1983 looking for project participants… albeit I wasn’t sure what the project was yet. Just that you should dig RA Wilson, Leary and Bill Burroughs to join in.

These notes — a fragment from the original planned book — from myself and Jeff Mark are about a trip to L.A. to cement our friendship with neopsychedelic movement fellow travelers there. At the time, our magazine was called High Frontiers.

R.U. Sirius

 

R.U. The “Neopsychedelic renaissance” continued apace, with major features in High Times, as well as several long forgotten zines, radio interviews and so on — usually with High Frontiers touted as the reigning representation. It seemed that I was blabbing to someone in the media about it at least a couple of times a month. Soon word hit us that people on the L.A. garage psychedelic scene were being drenched in high quality LSD and diggin’ High Frontiers. Greg Shaw’s Bomp Magazine was at the center of that scene and he sent us his back issues (which we were already buying, anyway) and suggested we come for a visit. Jeff Mark and I arranged to go down there

Jeff Mark: Winter Solstice 1985, R.U. and I took a trip to Los Angeles. The “Neopsychedelic Revival” was by then a real phenomenon. Newsweek had even done a feature piece on the L.A. manifestation, focusing on Greg Shaw who was putting together some L.A. neopsychedelic ‘zine. R.U.’s intention was to make contact and build a bridge. We hung out for a while with Greg. I think we did a little sightseeing, and then that night we went to see some bands being promoted by him.

The space the bands would play in, around the corner from Hollywood & Vine… well, you couldn’t call it a club. It was just… a room. The entrance was at the top of an external staircase, from which I could see underneath the building, noting with some trepidation that the second floor was supported by a bunch of those steel jacks that builders use to keep a weak ceiling from collapsing. And this would be holding up a couple of hundred dancing humans.

There were maybe four or five different bands, each doing 30-45 minutes or so, and I noticed that all but one of them did a version of “White Rabbit.” I also noticed was that the bands each seemed to be made up of the same seven or eight people in varying combinations of four or five.

Anyway, the building didn’t collapse, and we retired after to some other location lost to history for a party. Everyone was high on MDMA, of course. As the evening progressed, I engaged in conversation with several very nice people, and by way of introducing each other, the usual “so what do you do?” kinds of questions arose. Now, I had a straight job at the time; civil service, thoroughly boring. But the people I spoke with described themselves as “make-up artists” or “costumers” or writers or artists of one flavor or another. I began to realize that vocationally, each of these people depended on all the others, networking (another not-yet-coined-term) to get to work on someone’s project about something; their livelihood depended on their social contacts.

Now, when you think about it, this was Hollywood; that’s how Hollywood works, that’s how creative communities, particularly those in collaborative crafts, operate. That’s how they produce. Obvious to many, but news to me. The pattern-recognition subsystems of my mind began to assemble what I would come to call my “Theory of Scenes”.

A few months later, we returned with (High Frontiers Art Director) Lord Nose to participate in an event that featured a couple of local bands, and somebody wheeling out Sky Saxon  from the Seeds (“Pushing Too Hard”). And it struck me that the 200 or so people at that event, which included almost everyone we’d met in December, comprised the whole of the “neopsychedelic scene” in L.A. That was it. 250 people tops; and they were getting all this media attention. And I realized that’s how it probably was in ’65 as well. There was the Whiskey á Go-Go scene; one or two other places; a dozen or so bands with some duplication among their personnel, various friends and hangers on. In the Haight, the same thing. There was the Fillmore and the Matrix, the Diggers, the Oracle, and it was all the same… what, 300 people? It applies elsewhere also. There’s the NYC comedy scene (which in the 70s gave us SNL, and is now focused around The Daily Show), the Boston Harvard/National Lampoon scene, the L.A. Conception Corporation scene (whence came Spinal Tap). All of these basically, at least in the beginning, were not much more than groups of friends. Even in politics. One of my disappointments as I’ve gotten more sophisticated about politics is the realization that so much of what happens in a place like Washington D.C. takes place in what appears to be a social environment, which is why it reminds us so much of high school. And this was, largely, how MONDO functioned within the context of the Berkeley “scene.” Read more “Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement”