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November 18, 1962 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1962-11-18
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In the United States and Britain

The Beat ,Generation and



Eastern essence.

FIVE OR SIX years ago, a new term
entered the American vocabulary of
"isms" and has since been misused as
glibly and indiscriminately as "Commun-
ism," "Fascism" and "atheism" although
up until recently it was more fashionable
than all the other three together. The
term is "beatism" or, as it is more com-
monly known, "Beat," and its followers
are known as "the Beat Generation."
To the popular mind, Beat calls up a
picture of a bohemian dressed in black
with an unshaved face and uncombed hair
who takes dope, indulges in an incredible
lamount of illicit sex, writes obscene
poetry, uses such words as "hip", "cool,"
"dig" and "man," almost exclusively and
begins every sentence with, "like."
These bohemians are referred to as
Beatniks, Beats or Hipsters and allegedly
frequent coffee shops specializing in
strong expresso coffee drunk to a back-'
ground of progressive jazz and poetry.
Most people know nothing deeper about
Beat than this arty surface and have
spent much time damning or praising it
without ever trying to find out what it
really is,
At about the same time as Beat ap-
peared on the scene a group of authors
evolved in England popularly known as
the Angry Young Men. The mention of
these gentlemen also conjures up a cari-
cature, this one being a young man like
Jimmy Porter, the hero of John Osborne's
play "Look Back in Anger," who mopes
around a grimy apartment, refuses to
work ,abuses his wife and orates passion-
ately against every phase of life. Because
they are social critics, the Angry Young
Men are often considered "British Beat-
niks" and both groups are widely dis-
cussed and seldom understood.
The key to the philosophy of the Beat
Generation is the equation E-MC2. Gene
Feldman and Max Gartenberg, co-editors
of a book entitled The Beat Generation
and the Angry Young Men, say, "Man
having found the means to release the
natural force imprisoned in matter and
thereby to obliterate himself, has creat-
ed the most pervasive fact in his history;

one must learn to breathe, eat, make love
in its presence; it is a part of every living
BUT THE H-bomb threat seldom ob-
trudes on daily activities. For most
people life goes on from week to week in
home and office because there is really
nothing else for anyone to do but con-
tinue living life as it has always been
lived and hope that the explosion will
not come. Yet the Beat knows this de-
liberate unawareness cannot last for-
ever. Feldman and Gartenberg comment,
"He glimpses the portent of chaos every-
where and correspondingly grows aware
of his own nakedness and impotence -
his nothingness." His fate depends less
on his own character and morals than on
the "scarcely audible assents and dissents
of power figures almost too fear-stricken
to make decisions."
"Everybody's radioactive!" cries Beat
novelist Jack Kerouac. "Our sickness has
a very contemporary name, and the name
is E-MC2." Searching for the cause of
the uncertainty of the time, poet Allen
Ginsberg finds the same answer:
Moloch the vast stone of war!
Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure ma-
chinery . . . Moloch whose fingers
are ten armies!
Moloch whose breast is a cannibal
Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sex-
less hydrogen!
Moloch whose name is the mind!
Since the Beats cannot choose to ig-
nore the constant threat of instantaneous
annihilation hanging over the world, they
cannot live a "square's" existence and
place value on suburban homes with pic-
ture windows and flower gardens. It seems
absurd to them to save money for a
home, a car, new appliances or clothing.
Marriage, established and perpetuated to
assure continuation of the race and the
family seems utterly illogical as does any-
thing else which assumes predictability
and stability as the future of the world.
Why plan for the future when each
morning is more likely than the last to
see the inevitable mushroom cloud bil-
lowing on the horizon and the extinction
of humanity?, Feldman and Gargenberg
W HAT IS the other alternative? The
Hipsters feel that man must forget
the future and live for the moment. Since
man has less and less control over the
future, and only the present seems to
hold the possibility of meaningful par-
ticipation, he must at any cost possess
the moment. He must live as though
every second will be his last, and rush
through whatever life is left him in a
panicked attempt to find meaning by ex-
periencing to the full every possible physi-
cal and mental sensation.
This is the philosophy of the Hipster,
and, once analyzed, it appears that if it

is hideous, it is also practical. Bernard
Wolf explains, "Faced with the horror of
annihilation . . . only the Hipster, that
sexual outlaw with his morality of the
bottom, can survive in the contradictory
and unbearable society which first created
his neurosis."
In his struggle'to find reality, the Beat
must be constantly moving. Ralph Gleason
says, "As he was the illegitimate son of
the Lost Generation, the Hipster was
really nowhere, and, just as amputees
often seem to localize their strongest
sensations in the missing limb, so the
Hipster longed, from the very beginning to
be somewhere."
This ceaseless chase to get somewhere
(somewhere apparently being absolute
reality) is what causes the Hipster in
Kerouac's novels to take dope, dash off
violent poetry, run from one love affair
to the next and go wild listening to pro-
gressive jazz which is in itself a sensa-
tion purely of the moment.
"We gotta go and never stop going till
we get there," declares one character in
On the Road.
"Where we going, man?"
THIS AMOUNTS to a restatement of
the core principle of the Beatniks and
accounts for their wild enthusiasm for
living. Kerouac says, "We love every-
thing, Billy Graham, the Big Ten, Rock
and Roll, Zen, apple pie, Eisenhower -
we dig it all. We're the vanguard of the
new religion."
Many of the Beats do claim that their
search for reality is also a search for
God. They are seeking God in Yoga, Zen,
or vague deism, according to Basil Ross.
"I want God to show me his face," says
Kerouac, yet his novels preach "Seek ye
first the kingdom of kicks, e.g., drinks,
drugs, jazz and chicks." - all of which
provide great momentary intensity and
seldom much more.
This seems to be the essence of Beat,
then, and it has aroused a tidal wave of
poets who feel that the Beat verdict of
society is trenchent and on the button.
Stephen Spender says the Beats are
running from the "sham pageant of liv-
ing" and the "social lie" (these being the
square's suburban existence and naive
faith in the future). They are "part an-
gel, part demon, busy with a laboratory
experiment in total sincerity," he says.
Kenneth Rexroth sympathizes with them
because they are "appalled by the ruin
and disorder of the world," making their
"diagnosis of absolute corruption."
. .utterly disillusioned, this new
breed of experimenter (the Hipster)
is resolutely turning his back on all
he once held true and viable, and is
making a valiant effort to start anew.
For this type, starting anew means
leading a vagrant's life, tackling
anything, clinging to nothing, re-
ducing one's needs and one's desires,
and, eventually, out of a wisdom born
of desperation - leading the life of
the artist ... one who is indifferent

to reward, success, fame . .. who is
reconciled from the outset to the fact
that the better he is the less chance
he has of being accepted at face
value. These young men .. . are now
roaming around in our midst like
anonymous visitors from another
planet ... when the smashup comes,
as now seems inevitable, they are
more likely to survive the catastro-
phe than the rest of us. At least they
will know how to get along without
cars, without refrigerators, without
vacuum cleaners, without electric
razors and all the other "indispens-
Bruce Bliven comments. Other writers,
such as Paul O'Neil, look with scorn on
the Beatniks:
.th Beat generation is a cult of
the Pariah. . . The bulk of Beat
writers are undisciplined and slovenly
amateurs who have deluded them-
selves into believing their lugubrious
absurdities are art simply because
they have rejected the form, style and
attitudes of previous generations and
have seized upon obscenity as an ex-
pression of "total personality." They
insist that poetry, until they leapt
upon the scene, was written simply
for other poets and "not for the
people," but most of them not only
write for but about each other and
regard the "people" as residents of
Herbert Gold feels that writers like
Kerouac and Ginsberg whom O'Neil criti-
cizes in the excerpt above are not really
Beats. The true Beat, he feels, is the
Hipster who is on the move without
realizing why. The writers who expound
the Beat philosophy, he says, care too
much and too loudly to be really Beat,
and they are phony to the extent that
they are literary. The Hipster-writer is
only pretending to be Beat and is "like
the perennial perverse Bar Mitzvah boy,
proudly announcing: 'Today I am a mad-
man, now give me the fountain pen.' "
NOT ALL THE Beats express the same
outlook all the time. Some of the
early writing of the new Beat leaders is
not wild and frantic, but only sad and
wistful. An early poem of Ginsberg's
points out the elementary need for free-
dom of sympathy, generous exploration
of thought, and the open response of
man to man:
The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden m
of solitude
Under the burden of dissatisfaction
The weight.
The weight we carry
is love.
Win Wells is a Beat poet who once readx
his works at The Hungry I and The Tan-
trum, two Beat nightclubs in downtown
Wells does not believe that there is any

AND IT IS SAID that sometime in the
future an angel of God appeared over
the United States, and the curious mul-
titudes gathered round. Many were the
questions asked of the angel of the pur-
pose of life and the nature of heaven
and hell, but the angel would not a'nswer.
Finally one of the curious gathered his
courage and asked in a tremulous voice,
"Tell us, o angel, of the nature of God."
And the angel spoke to the multitudes,
"I have not answered your questions
because God has directed me to tell
you nothing pertaining to life and di-
vinity. Of the last question I am allowed
to tell you a little. I can tell you: SHE
is Black."
So we laugh, because psychology tells
us that we laugh at things that are in-
congruous, and this is incongruous to the
extreme. We all know that there is not
one human race of the idealists or the
three biological races of the anthropolo-
gists, but only two-the white and the
non-white. If the white were not "His
chosen children," they would not have
progressed the way they have.
And who can doubt that the white
man has progressed? Admittedly he is
a minority race, most chosen races are.
Yet wherever in the world he has spread
out from his European base, he has
brought the indigenous natives of the
America's, Africa, Asia and Australasia
the twin blessings of civilization and
Christianity. He has created nations
where no nations stood before, and he has
brought the light of redemption 'to mil-
lions of heathens. His agricultural and -
medical techniques have saved millions
from starvation and disease. Surely the
white man is. wonderful.
"What's that? Do I hear a voice from
the rear? Oh, yes, I recognize the dark
gentleman in the back of the bus. Do
you have a comment to make, sir?"
"I agree, the white man is wonderful.
Who else could go to a South Pacific
island where there is no starvation, no
war, no unemployment and no poverty
and call it primitive?"
HIS NAME is Dick Gregory, and we sit
in a nightclub and laugh at his jokes.
It is good laughter and yet is somewhat
guilty, because it is weighed down by his-
tory. While throughout history both races
have gained temporary ascendency, the
past 300 years has seen the numerically
inferior white man establish himself as
the dominant force in the human world.
Before that, things had see-sawed. The
Egyptians held sway over their neigh-
boring Negro populations extending down
into the present day Sudan. The Mesopo-
tamians, the Greeks and the Romans
contented themselves by and large with
fighting other whites, although the latter
two did skirmish with non-whites around
the periphery of their domains. (The
term white includes -Arabs and Persians
but excludes Indians, although they are
regarded as members of the Caucasian
After the fall of Rome, the white race
quieted down until the middle of the 6th
century when it suddenly found itself in
a fratricidal fight due to the eruption of
the Arabs from the peninsula and their
territorial designs on Europe. In the 12th
century, however, things changed dras-
tically when Genghis Khan led his Mon-
gol hordes out of the steppes of Central
Asia almost to the Danube, while the
rest of Europe expected to be next. After
Genghis' death his empire stopped ex-
panding, but Europe's breath of relief
was short lived, as two centuries later
Tamerlane basically repeated the feat.
This was the hour of the non-white race,
of the nomadic society based on the
horde over civilization based on the settle-
ment. But the horde depends on the
leader of a kingpin, and when Tamerlane
died, it signalled the end of the non-white
nomadic supremacy.
WITH THE COMING of the 16th cen-
tury the white race began to gather its
strength and assert itself. In the Amer-
icas the Spanish, aided by their gun-
powder and transportation methods
overthrew the Aztec and Incan civiliza-

tions. The Portugese found a new route
to India -by sailing around Africa and
on their trips stopped at that continent

long enough to pick off the choicest'
members of the population as slaves. The
Russians took advantage of the disin-1
tegration of the Mongol empire and by.
the end of the 18th century had drivenI
westward to the Pacific,
In the 19th century the whites really
outdid themselves. The white Americans
drove across the North American con-
tinent, destroying the indigenous Indian
social organizations in their wake. The
British finally, gained effective control
of the Indian sub-continent and in con-
cert with other European powers es-
tablished economic control over China.+
The dark continent of Africa suddenly
didn't seem so dark in 1878, so the Euro-
pean powers got together and parceled
it up amongst themselves. The Maoris and
bushmen of New Zealand and Australia
were subjugated by the British settlers.
About the only safe non-whites in the
world were the Eskimoes.
How can we account for this success,
the success of a minority race in es-
tablishing its hegemony over so much
of the world? The answer can probably
be summed up by one word-technology.

followed that they had a license to spread
this, and they did. The people who have
been killed in the name of peace-loving
Christianity have never been numbered,-
but ever since Christ died, Christianity
has been giving nature a fairly good run.
for its money in the race to see who can
wreck the most destruction against hu-
manity. But, no matter how many died
in the process of conversion, there was
always the rationalization that others
were gaining the means of entering hea-
Thus, as was natural, the white man's
own belief system was'the judge by which
he determined his superiority over the
non-white peoples. It did not matter that
they may have had no starvation. no
unemployment, no weapons of mass des-
truction, the fact that they had no steam
ships, railroads nor telegraphs automati-
cally meant that they were ignorant. The
fact that. many non-white peoples had
belief systems just as Christian as the
one the whites professed to believe in
and lived by them much less hypocritically
was overlooked for the fact -that non-
whites believed in from one to a


suffered unde
necessity of lif
for the pious:
democracy am
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man did not.
that the pov
conditions aro
able because
was now rich e
So here we
races are caug
rising expectati
in the world i:
a minority in
wealth. The w
cal minority b
developed mat
Now it's p
to get anyw)
revolution in
future they a
economic aid f
have been rec
development :
with populatio
The cause o
They have be
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the United Sta
the one hand,
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upper hand i
both sides ha
white underd
get them to i
larger amount
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fact that the U
$50 million a
and about $4
A LOT of w
are agains
sent the spiri
They say too
the aid is ow
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fore they ar
properly recep
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war as said A
the cold war
can be fairly s
side or the o
But what wou
were to end; o
to some kind
All the deve
are white. If
tomorrow an
aggression pac
tensions of th
nations would
straits. For in
probably be no
suasion, which
to compel the
non-whites co
white man's :
they were blue
do them no go
ment. As a pr
ments it is ra
Also frighter
of continuing
taking over m
the whites no
ditional politic
subverted the m
the natives to
Christian con
things as femi
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stantially chai
horror and sa;
but when you
from him, yo
his ideological
pecially as ma

Ronald Wil
in political
editor on T

Before the industrial revolution the world1
was a very big place. There was no way F
for the Romans to transport a large army
to India except overland, and this would
have over-extended their lines of supplyI
and communication to the breaking c
point (as happened to Alexander). The t
mongol's did it only because their nomadic
form of society took its life essentialst
along with it when it moved. But with c
the industrial revolution and the develop-t
ments of swift communication methods1
and efficient naval units, combined witht
the growing explosive effects of gun- t
powder, the white man could mobilize t
his resources to an extent unmatched by
any other non-white people.f
BECAUSE his society was based on this1
technological progress it by necessityi
came to have an extremely positive valuet
in his ideological system and thus the
average white man came to associate pro-c
gress solely with the idea of technological
progress. Thus he could go into Africa t
oir Asia and look on the people as ignorant}
savages, not fit to rule themselves.i
The second impetus to the white man'st
push was the idea of his holy mission as
the bearer of Christianity. The white race
was the chosen people. (It does not mat-
ter that the white race itself was splitt
about just what segment of it was the t
real signers of the Covenant). Since theyt
had a monopoly on absolute truth itI

large number of gods and spirits, none of
approximation to the one and only Jesus
The native was told to become as
much like the whites as possible, so he
did. He learned how to lie, steal and com-
mit adultery. And don't be so quick to
slough off any twinge of guilt by asserting
that the native was that way before he
contacted the white man. At that time,
the natives in Africa and Australia were
living in closely knit tribal societies where'
the learned sins would not have been
tolerated even if they were known be-
cause of the disruptive influences they
would have had. The same could be said
for the tribal and semi-feudal societies
of Asia. As a matter of fact, Colin Turn-
bull in his book The Lonely African,
notes that many Europeans in Africa will
only hire non-Christian Africans as ser-
vants because they consider the converted
ones untrustworthy.
sO THE white man brought with him
civilization, christianity and superior-
ity; and included in the two former lie
the seeds of the destruction of the latter.
Because after World War II the non-
whites woke up. Not all of them, not the
tribesman in the African bush or the
Chinese peasant in his rice paddy, but
the small but growing middle classes be-
gan to see that the social and economic
and political discrimination that they

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