Who's Going to Collect the Garbage?
by Marjorie Heins
"America is a nation so incredibly wealthy that all morality is based on EXCESS:
True American career counselors now ask only one question.
'Do you want to produce garbage or do you want to collect garbage?'
Industrialist or politician?
Fishfarm or junkyard?
The young people want no part of it, what with garbage their natural matrix and medium.
Produce it? Collect it? They want to fuck in it!
...It's just THINGS, it's garbage, it's overflow and the young people know it.
They throw the career counselor out the window.
Who's going to collect the garbage?
- The Digger Papers
"The telephone girl who lends her capacities during the greater part of the living day to the manipulation of a technical routine that has an eventually high efficiency value but that answers to no spiritual needs of her own is an appalling sacrifice to civilization. As a solution to the problem of culture she is a failure--the more dismal the greater her natural endowment...
"The American Indian who solves the economic problem with salmon spear and rabbit snare operates on a relatively low level of civilization, but he represents an incomparably higher solution than our telephone girl to the questions that culture has to ask of economics.
"There is no question here of the immediate utility...of economic effort, nor of any sentimentalizing regrets to the passing of the natural man. The Indian's salmon spearing is a culturally higher type of activity than that of the telephone girl simply because there is no sense of spiritual frustration during its prosecution, no feeling of subservience of tyrannous yet largely inchoate demands, because it works in naturally with all the rest of the Indian's activities inste"''' of standing out as a desert patch of merely economic effort in the whole of life."
- Edward Sapir, "Culture, Genuine & Spurious"
Telephone girl or Indian? The choice doesn't seem too appealing. But in America, the most sophisticated civilization history has ever known built on the most barbaric Culture, that's what the choice boils down to. The high and low status telephone girls of America are spiritual monsters. They have an astounding ability to consume the lies of media and politicians, to watch atrocities from Vietnam to Chicago, and make excuses; in short, to mold themselves into new kinds of organisms whose ordinary spiritual needs go unsatisfied, and whose resulting neuroses are kept in check by drugs, liquor, pornography, adultery, racism, war, sadism, perversity, bad movies and odd forms of religion.
The Indians, a tiny, splintered group, have varied roots. Some are young Black militants, some are white middle class rebels, some are people with 9-to-5 jobs, teetering on the brink. Some are real Indians. They are not Trots, they are usually not liberals. Often we get political and cultural radicals confused. Bob Dylan is more revolutionary than Fred Halstead, and you know it.
When I lived in New York, until six months ago, it was obvious that very few Blacks were Indians, cultural revolutionaries. These few were what the Panthers, in their recent falling out with SNCC, meant by black hippies.
They were common sights on St. Marks Place but rare on Brooklyn's Fulton Street.
When I got to San Francisco, I saw the difference at once. The Panthers had made their mark. Every Black person has heard of them, every young Black understands the challenge they present. At first, I thought the young Fillmore Blacks were tremendously arrogant. They were, compared to what I was used to. I could see in each one, whether he wore his hair Afro or not, the influence of the Black is Beautiful thing.
It's hard to say if the white Indians have made a comparable impact, As our Black brothers are fond of telling us, we can always cross back over, Dope may be liberating, but there are Potheads who are also bank presidents.
Generally, the new ways of living whites devise to avoid being telephone girls, are expressed by media, not by arrogance or manners.
"In San Francisco, it began to some extent with the media people, which meant a tacit conspiracy of everybody to take them all to bed, to turn them all on, to turn them into friends, I mean, what's the point of having enemies when you can have friends?" --The Digger Papers
The Digger Papers, published in San Francisco during the Free City movement a few months back, is an articulate expression of the white revolution. It makes distinctions between politicos, hippies and yippies quite irrelevant. Its concern is how to live; and that is culture. Free City was a very ambitious attempt to make new ways of living viable through communal food distribution, housing, garages, news services, stores and treasuries. These economic foundations were based on an updated Marxist dictum:
"Every brother should have what he needs to do his thing."
"We have kicked the habits of SUccess, Ambition, Cleanliness/GodlinesS, Duty, Purpose, Loyalty, Citizenship and in some rare and beautiful instances, as with Allen Ginsberg, the loss of the European sense of Self."
Scant months since the appearance of the Digger Papers, Free City has disappeared. In San Francisco, and everywhere white radical communities exist, the Revolution is a mess, The Movement is suffering under immense pressures of paranoia and persecution. The country-commune people criticize the city-politiCal people for not knowing about life processes. We're in limbo, and the dubious phenomena of Eye Magazine or hippie beads in Bergdorf's seem more depressing than encouraging.
In the Digger Papers is a piece called "The Birth of Digger Batman." It's a kitchen delivery, without anaesthetic or forceps. For a while, it looks like the kid's head is in the wrong position and it's going to be a disaster. Everyone sits around in a kind of communal agony. But at last the kid is born and, naturally, named Digger. There's a premonition in this story of the trouble white radicals are having, But at last the kid is born.
Finally, the Digger Papers offer some advice:
"There will be signs. We will know when to slip away and let those murderous fools rip themselves to pieces, "In the meantime, stay healthy. There are hundreds of miles of walk and lots of work to be done. Keep your mind. We will need it, Stake out a retreat. Learn berries and nuts and fruit and small animals and all the plants. Learn water,"
San Francisco Express Times Jan 1969