The Politics of Nihilism at the Denver Art Museum - by EL MARCO
Driving through downtown Denver the other day I spotted a number of Denver Art Museum banners like the one above. I recognized this style of art. It appeared to be a major effort by the Museum and I wondered from which angle they were approaching the subject. The banners prompted me to recall my own experiences of the late 60’s and 1970’s.
In the fall of 68, I entered Grade Six back in my small-town school in Alberta. There was a new children’s rhyme circulating on the playground. It went “Marijuana Marijuana, LSD LSD, teachers make it, Trudeau takes it, why can’t we, why can’t we”. This meant very little to me until a couple of years later when my family moved to Toronto. My new suburban junior high school was something of a psychedelic drugs supermarket. LSD, peyote, mescaline, MDA and hashish available in the hallways. The hippies, the speed freaks and the boozing drug thugs, gravitated to separate cliques.
The small hippy group passed around copies of Dr. Timothy Leary’s book The Politics of Ecstasy. Many regarded it as their Bible.
I read the book slowly as it was difficult to grasp the odd mix of new ideas from India and Tibet and Harvard. It prompted me to study far eastern religions. I quickly found that Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism would specifically condemn hedonism and drug taking as promoted by Leary.
Some of my friends took it much too seriously. They shaved their heads, (3 boys 2 girls) dropped out of school. They joined the downtown Hare Krishna temple. I tried to reason with them. I thought we were so lucky to be Canadians living in a democracy with complete freedom. How could they throw it all away because of some crazy American professor ?
They wanted total liberation of their souls and the death the “self “. LSD was not enough, it was only the key that opened their minds. Only a complete break from the material world would do. Timothy Leary’s philosophy caused them to break all contact with their families and friends. Their “Psychedelic Experience” was everyone else’s loss.
Concerned by what I feared was promotion of those same bad ideas, I decided to investigate online. I followed up by visiting the Denver Art Museum Psychedelic Experience exhibit. Here is what I found.
” TAKE A TRIP “
“Exhibition tours are one hour long. Tours are free for teachers and adult chaperones.
Up to 60 students per hour
Explore the vibrant and energetic rock poster designs from the 1960s and ’70s. Consider how the social and political upheaval during this period set the stage for a new wave of expression resulting in a lively music and dance scene and an innovative psychedelic style. On you tour, soak up the pulsating colors, swirling forms, and out of this world lettering while having fun identifying some of the most famous rock concerts of all time.” - DAM website text
“Conversation Lounge Series…Tune in and turn on! Chat with people whose knowledge and experience of the psychedelic ‘60s brings you to Haight-Ashbury.” – DAM website text.
” just take a pinch of psychedelic”
The San Francisco Mime Troupe?
By exhorting his theatrical ensemble to become a Marxian cadre, or at very least a catalyst for social change, Davis committed the Mime Troupe to serve as a Movement vanguard in the nascent cultural revolution. ” The cultural revolutionary, just as the armed guerrilla, must want and be capable of taking power.”
“This is our society,” he intoned, uttering the last lines of the Mime Troupe’s recent antiwar play L’ Amant Miltaire; “if we don’t like it, it’s our duty to change it; if we can’t change it, we must destroy it.” - diggers.org
These people regard art as a weapon?
DAM Psychedelic Experience exhibit sign
”Diggers were…members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. They began to expand the concept of their theatrical events “outside the walls of traditional theatre.” Affiliated with a group known as the Artists Liberation Front, they sought to include poets, performers, and musicians in their events and provide for the greater participation of the audience.”
“Here we come to the rise of legendary concert promoter Billy Graham. Graham was the business manager for the Mime Troupe in 1965 when they held two benefit events that created a new genre of performance entertainment.” – diggers.org
The “new genre” was, A: book rock bands, attempt to indoctrinate them and influence their artistic message. B: attract youngsters with colorful posters. C: make sure LSD is available.
The Artists Liberation Front consisted of two groups, Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance.
“The Troupe’s business manager invited several of the new music groups to perform. No one foresaw the huge crowds they would attract. Lines of…young people stood outside waiting hours to gain admission…. Thrilled by their success, the Mime Troupe located another, larger building for a second benefit… the Fillmore Auditorium.” – Eric Noble,The Artists Liberation Front And The Formation of the Sixties Counterculture
“Theatre is territory. A space for existing outside padded walls. Setting down a stage declares a universal pardon for imagination.”
The part about “existing outside padded walls” at first suggests the power of theatre to display all of human experience in its raw form. But psychedelic veterans know that the Diggers were referring to the padded walls of normal consciousness which break down under the influence of drugs like LSD. And when these psychological walls come down, the tripper experiences the Theatre of Life, wherein art and reality share a symbiotic relationship” - diggers.org
TRIVIA ALERT! : The hip term “dig it” as in “dig it man” or “do you dig the groovy colors?” has its origin with this group. The Diggers are also credited with re-popularizing and altering the meaning of Churchill’s trademark V for victory hand gesture. Now most people know it as the Diggers formulation “peace sign”.
Also on DAM”s website I found “The Wayback Machine”.
It’s a phone booth inside the “Psychedelic Side Trip” exhibit at DAM. The booth is equipped with a video camera that records “a secret you never told your parents”. The confessions are then made available on U-tube. One young lady confesses to murder. I found some chilling examples of kids who appear to be as young as twelve years old speaking of drug use. The screenshots below are photographs of my computer screen. The text is transcribed from the DAM videos on Youtube. All of these videos are products of the Psychedelic Experience, “Wayback Machine” .
The Wayback Machine
“What does the spirit of the ’60s mean to you? Got a secret you never told your parents (or kids)? Visit our Psychedelic Side Trip, step into the Wayback Machine, and tell us about it. You can watch your video here the next day.” - DAM exhibit sign text
“An alien secretly landed in the U.S.A. and he implanted everybody with mind control…(inaudible)…the hippies. They also told people about pot… and they made us feel really special about ourselves so we smoke pot.” youtube.com/watch
Girl says: I did crack. Guy says: And cocaine. and LSD and meth and angel dust, acid, whatever you want, pills, we’ve got everything. youtube.com/watch
Central Park and there’s this man who came out of the shadows and Central Park wasn’t all that safe then and the homeless man came up and we killed him. You know we all had knives and anyway…so I guess that’s it …we killed a man… youtube.com/watch
“…a lot…but I’m not addicted, so that’s good. And um my parents think I haven’t because um I told them that I did once and they were like ooooh and I was like (told them) I hated it and I never done it again so everyone thinks that I don’t do it. But I do it with my friends: Abby and Cassidy and Jimmy Lu and Heloe and Annie sometimes – Annie’s like weird though — she’s like I wanna be a stoner but she’s not very good at it so it doesn’t really matter. Um yeah I can’t believe this is going on Youtube but yeah. ” youtube.com/watch
“If someone’s coming around saying “my heart is a feather”, there’s clearly something wrong with them because they’re clearly: A) tripping on acid, B) just really mentally ill, or C) they don’t really…they, they have no morals. Anyway, what I got to say is people in the 1960′s, they loved peace, happiness, smokin’ gettin’ high, and they’ll preach it like that and what I got to say is don’t do drugs, don’t be stupid, go to college, go to school, because you are the teacher, not the people who are smoking the blunts. Don’t do that, OK? I’m going to close with just a little bit of song from my own personal favorites: I want to kiss you all over and over and again I want to kiss you…” youtube.com/watch
Nice to know there are still heroes in the world, even in ”The Wayback Machine”.
Next I paid the $15.00 to visit the DAM Psychedelic Experience. Below is the entrance to the “Psychedelic Side Trip”. Inside a light machine splashes color on a tie-dyed peace sign. To the left is a Hippie living room with dilapidated sofas and an old black and white TV. A PBS documentary “The summer of Love” plays on the television.
A mans voice says ”Minds are up for grabs. It’s all up for grabs. Civilization is up for grabs. I think everybody knows it.”
A woman’s voice says “We really thought that drugs were going to change the world. We really did. We thought if you turned on, if you took acid, you would really change, because we had changed from those experiences. Experiences of cosmic oneness, where I truly felt I was no different than you, I was no different than my black friends; I was no different than anyone who lived in any other part of the world, nor was I that different from my dog. God lived inside all of us is a cliched way of putting it.” (PBS Transcript)
To the right of the entrance I found the Wayback Machine. Two booths with 60′s style graffiti inside. “GOD USES LSD”, “FREE LOVE”, and “LUCY IN THE SKY” are phrases that can be seen in this photo. The latter is a reference to the Beatles song. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1967 it signaled to Beatles fans worldwide that the band was tripping on LSD. The song was widely understood as an endorsement of the drug and caused a surge in its use. For millions of youngsters who grew up eagerly awaiting the next Beatles hit on the radio it was a confusing and inviting message.
Picture yourself in a boat on a river, With tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
John Lennon was introduced to heroin by Yoko Ono, daughter of a leading family of japanese bankers. They were arrested in London for heroin possession. The couple remained users/addicts for decades.
In 1969 I went to see Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto at an outdoor performance. It was awful and the crowd booed a bit at Ono’s screeching, and then actually ignored the band and proceeded to smoke dope and party as if the concert was irrelevant. Eric Clapton played guitar for the Plastic Ono band. He was also a heroin user for decades and by his own account a quart a day vodka alcoholic. It was the worst performance I’d seen to that date. The following month, Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band released “Cold Turkey,” which was about struggling with heroin addiction.
In 1977 Clapton had a huge hit with “Cocaine”. At concerts after each refrain the crowd shouted COCAINE!! Eric Clapton’s personal story is one of the most horrifying, and inspiring, in Rock history. Luckily he survives clean and sober and helping others fight addiction. He’s stopped playing Cocaine at concerts, and has played free concerts at Narcotics Anonymous members only events.
Also to the right of the entrance is the hippie dining room. Looks like a little more than peace and love going on here. Che Guevara was, and is, worshiped like a god on the left. A study of attitudes towards Che reveals the success of modern myth-making employed by the left in popular culture. The truth is Che hated hippies.
Che Guevara hated rock music himself and persecuted Cubans who were caught listening to it. Che made sure Rock music was made illegal in Cuba as it was in Russia and other communist countries. Many rockers were beaten and imprisoned in Cuba including Che’s own grandson. Canek Guevara tried to played rock in his homeland and was tear gassed and beaten in the street by the police force that Che had trained. Canek was born in Cuba in 1974 and adorned his guitar with a large decal of a U.S. dollar bill. Canek now lives in exile in Mexico.
In a January 10, 1959 law, Habeus Corpus was abolished and the death penalty introduced in Cuba. Che created and headed the “Commission Puradora” or Cleansing Commission. He was the Director of Cuba’s, La Cabaña Prison. Che was also head of the “Prosecuting Tribunals”.
On December 11, 1964 in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Che shouted, “Executions? Certainly, we execute. And we will continue executing as long as it is necessary! This is a war to the death with the revolution’s enemies.” The Black Book of Communism credits Che and Castro with executing by firing squad 14,000 people by 1970.
Che sometimes signed death warrants as well as personal letters, Stalin II.
Immediately to the right of Che Guevara’s poster youngsters are trained to “create” revolutionary posters in the 60″s style of featured artists. DAM staffers (left) supervise activities. Of the hundreds of posters in the Psychedelic Experience exhibit, the Che poster is by far the largest.
This is another example of the seemingly schizophrenic mindset of the American left. On the one hand the claim to be “pacifist” while at the same time they worship a gun-totting stalinist. George Orwell faced these same types in his time and in May 1945 described them clearly in his Notes on Nationalism.
“The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …”
I do not use the term schizophrenia lightly. From the greek root “to split” the word “describes a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. Distortions in perception may affect all five senses, including sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, but most commonly manifest as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction.” This definition from wikipedia describes perfectly the LSD experience as well as the “bizarre delusions” that typify left-wing pacifism. Thus a person can speak against “war” in general, and at the same time support regimes and parties that have exterminated vastly greater numbers of people than Hitler’s germany.
The Denver Art Museum is teaching kids to be the “younger intellectual pacifists” that Orwell was up against in WW II. At the same time they are propogating the myth that if one takes LSD, unique spiritual insight can be gained. Here we see the radical left reviving the effort to promote Marxism using LSD and pop-culture. Both Orwell and Guevara would be fascinated although for different reasons.
Leaving the Psychedelic Side Trip, I entered the Psychedelic Experience, the main exhibit. At the entrance a giant photograph of Gerry Garcia, leader of the Grateful Dead with band member Phil Lesh. Garcia was a long term heroin addict who was first hospitalized in 1985 for drug use complications, coupled with diabetes and morbid obesity. It happened again in 1992, when he slipped into a coma and nearly died. While in the coma he hallucinated that his bloodstream was made of cockroaches. “That was my image of my physical self and this particular feeling lasted a long time.” In 1995 after relapsing into heroin addiction he died. Band-member “Pigpen” McKernan died of liver failure in 73 followed by keyboardist Brent Mydland of a drug overdose in 1990.
The other heroic sized photo shows Janis Joplin. Janis was a crystal meth user or “speed freak” as well as an alcoholic. She was a frequent LSD and heroin user. She died of a heroin overdose while drinking heavily in 1970.
Gerry Garcia, Phil Lesh Photo of PBS documentary “The summer of Love”
Garcia: What we’re thinking about is a peaceful planet, we’re not thinking of anything else. We’re not thinking about any kind of power. We’re not thinking about any of those kinds of struggles. We’re not thinking about revolution or war or any of that. We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life, a simple life, a good life and think about moving the whole human race ahead a step. (PBS Transcript)
Lesh: And one of the ways of achieving that being is through drugs. I think personally, the more people that turn on, the better world it’s going to be. (PBS Transcript)
Garcia’s “not thinking about revolution or war” statement is a clear indication of a rift between the R. G. Davis Marxists and the Timothy Leary Drug Utopians. Although the Communist Party (CPUSA) had made a great effort to formulate the 60′s “youth revolution” the drugs and hip philosophy was diverting their efforts in an unforeseen way. CPUSA had used folk music as a tool to attract followers to their labor movement in the 30′s 40′s and 50′s. Now they were continuing that strategy in the 60′s by attracting talented musicians with gigs and then attempting to indoctrinate them and influence the content of their material. Unlike the earlier “folk movement” the “drugs, sex, rock” combination was proving impossible for them to control. These weren’t after all tired depression era workers and unemployed, but young spoiled baby boomers who didn’t want to work at all.
In the early part of the century CPUSA attracted tired workers to union hall dances with “folk” music and ” ladies” who were often party members. It’s no coincidence that the the three-day Trips Festival of January 1966 was held in the Longshoremen’s Hall in San Francisco.
Text of DAM Psychedelic Experience exhibit sign. (above)
“I selected my colors from my visual experiences with LSD, along with what I’d learned as a printer.” – WES WILSON
DAM Psychedelic Experience exhibit sign.
“Griffin’s lettering style became increasingly decorative throughout his career, and in later works like this he condensed the lettering into an almost unreadable band. He also explored 3-D by adding a slight shadow to the lettering in and by creating a window into a psychedelic world, out of which a winged eyeball jumps.“ Text from DAM sign
This is considered one of the “classic” posters of the genre, done by the undisputed ”master” of the craft, Rick Griffin.
DAM Psychedelic Experience exhibit sign
The left new-speak in this sign would take a lot of blog-space to translate. The “kids reeling from LSD” part is what I’ll focus on. Elements in the Bay Area were distributing free LSD to kids since Dr. Timothy Leary started handing it out in Berkeley.
”He became an assistant professor at Berkeley (1950–1955), director of psychiatric research at the Kaiser Family Foundation (1955–1958), and a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University (1959–1963). He was fired from Harvard for failing to conduct his scheduled class lectures…
During late 1966 and early 1967, Leary toured college campuses presenting a multi-media performance “The Death of the Mind”, which attempted to artistically replicate the LSD experience. Leary said the League for Spiritual Discovery was limited to 360 members and was already at its membership limit, but he encouraged others to form their own psychedelic religions. He published a pamphlet in 1967 called Start Your Own Religion.” Wikipedia
Below are photos of “Blotter LSD”. Ordinary blotter paper is soaked with LSD and then printed with cartoon designs attractive to youngsters. The first one features the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.
The paper is perforated forming 1000 squares per 8×11 inch sheet. Each tiny square of paper is a powerful dose of acid. When radical artists weren’t promoting concerts they sometimes moonlighted by producing acid blotter art. Often though the blotter only carried small images such as Felix the Cat above. This served also as “branding” to identify the product of each producer/chemist/radical.
In 1970, the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence of the United Kingdom Home Office reported: “Probably the bulk of British LSD is smuggled in from the USA. We are told that users preferred the American LSD and regarded the English product as inferior.” The LSD smuggled into Britain from the United States was originally “impregnated into innocent objects such as sugar cubes, sweets and blotting paper. More recently it has been coming in in tablet or capsule form under such exotic names as ‘cherry top,’ ‘purple haze,’ and ‘blue cheer.’ ” Canada’s Le Dain Commission similarly reported in 1970 that Canadian black-market LSD was coming “mainly from clandestine factories in the United States.” Since LSD is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, weighs only a trifle and occupies a negligible volume, few shipments are intercepted.
Ronald Reagan Governor of California (1967–1975) Photo of PBS documentary “The summer of Love”
Ronald Reagan: Well, I’m terribly frightened by the problem of LSD. I think there’s been a great deal of misinformation by those who seem to see no harm in it. I think our only hope lies in a concerted effort of education so that young people will be aware that there’s nothing smart, there’s nothing grown up or sophisticated in taking an LSD trip at all. They’re just being complete fools. (PBS Transcript)
In 1966 the California state attorney general stated that LSD and LSD-like drugs “present the most crucial drug problem which the U.S. has faced.” Governor Pat Brown, gubernatorial candidate Ronald Reagan, and other candidates for office announced that they favored the bill, and a Los Angeles Times editorial expressed amazement that the House committee was unaware of the LSD menace. The Grunsky bill became law in 1966.
DAM Psychedelic Experience exhibit sign
On October 06, 1966 one of the defining events of the new community in the Haight-Ashbury took place . The event marked the day that LSD became illegal under California law. It was called The Love Pageant Rally. This event set the stage and the tone for the Human Be-In three months later and the summer of love the following year. A crowd of approximately 1000 protested the banning of LSD.
The organizers press release stated the event’s aim was “to affirm our identity, community and innocence from influence of the fear of addiction of the general public as symbolized in this law”. Bring “the color gold… children… costumes (long list)… banners… photos of personal saints and gurus and heroes of the underground”, they urged in the press release. “The (Ramparts) reporter noted that all of these things were in evidence, including photos of Ho Chi Minh and Lenny Bruce.”
The Love Pageant Rally was organized by the Artists Liberation Front which was a “front” or creation of R. G. Davis and Stalinist, Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance. Within a few days of the Love Pageant, they also incited (organized) race riots at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco in response to a police shooting of a black teen. Violent revolution was their goal and if African-Americans were the available canon fodder, so be it. To the Marxists the decadent white youth were turning out to be quite a disappointment with their new drug and sex fueled spiritual revolution.
The cryptic phrase “philosophically opposed factions of the Bay Area counterculture: Berkeleys political activists and the Haights “spiritual generation”, refers to the hostility of the violent marxists to the emerging pacifist/hedonist drug “movement”. The druggies had co-opted the marxist terminology and were now demanding a “psychedelic revolution”. The marxists felt that they, the creators of the monster, should be able to dictate it’s behavior. But their creation was showing an unwanted “mind of it’s own”. Instead of preparing to do battle with “American Imperialism” in the streets, the monster wanted to put flowers in it’s hair, drop acid and do some Hindu chanting.
If the Human be-in was intended to “promote unity” in terms of marxists asserting leadership it failed. Leary seized the spotlight and staged a psychedelic coup and the “revolution” went careening out of control.
“They tell us to dwell together in unity and comradeship – but they are split into 20 obscure factions. They desire to reconstruct the world but they leave out human nature.” – Winston Churchill from a 1908 speech speaking about socialist utopians.
Photo of PBS documentary “The summer of Love”
“Turn on, tune in, drop out.
I mean drop out of high school, drop out of college, drop out of graduate school”. (PBS Transcript)
I had never seen the full text of Leary’s most famous words until I saw the original footage on the PBS documentary. In Leary’s books and in media reports it is always shown only as ”Turn on, tune in, drop out”. Leary, who had lost his job at Harvard in 1965, was now calling for kids to drop out of their schools, that Leary said were run by the “menopausal right”.
Leary was an alcoholic whose wife committed suicide in 1955. Shortly after he he started using psychedelics. He was left to raise his children with the help of friends. In 1989, his eldest, daughter Susan, committed suicide at the Sybil Brand Institute, where she was in custody after being judged mentally unfit to stand trial on a charge of shooting her boyfriend.
Text of DAM Psychedelic Experience exhibit sign. (above)
The Haight’s streets were crowded with runaways, riddled with heroin, and plagued by crime.
Well Duh! The scene shifted? Not at all, “the scene” had become the youth revolt against parental/societal norms just as promoted by the organizers. The damage done by these drugs were long known amongst hipsters of the radical left, but it was kept quiet as a kind of “family secret”. Now with the success of their “cultural revolution” the destruction was on display for all to see. One of the characteristics of the radical left is their inability to own up to their own failures. They are loathe to self-criticize always pointing their finger at “bourgeois society” but incapable of acknowledging the devastation they leave in their wake.
“The result is nothing less than parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it…. This has been achieved by an alliance between the strange young males (rock stars) who have the gift of divining the mob’s emergent wishes…and the record company executives, the new robber barons, who mine gold out of rock. Appealing to (children) over their parents’ heads creating a world of delight for them, constitutes one of the richest markets in the postwar world…it has all the moral dignity of drug trafficking - The Closing of the American Mind. 1987 by Allan Bloom
Sandi Stein: I was really part of a vagrant street crowd. And most of those people that were on the streets were under 17. They were my age. You know, people thought of college students. They didn’t realize how many young children, 13, 14, 15, 16, were out there. - (PBS Transcript)
Photo of PBS documentary “The summer of Love”
Sandra, runaway : No I’m not. I don’t consider myself a runaway at all.
Reporter : Where did you spend last night?
Sandra, runaway : That’s none of anybody’s business. And I won’t tell. I won’t tell where I’ve been for the past two weeks. Ever.
Reporter : How old are you Sandra?
Sandra, Runaway : Fourteen.
Narrator: Drug dealers took advantage of susceptible young kids and began pushing highly addictive drugs like speed, cocaine and heroin. - (PBS Transcript)
Notice how PBS puts “Drug dealers” in a separate class from the intellectual authors of the “youth movement”. Kids, hippies, rock roadies, radicals, college professors and bikers were all selling drugs. It was the stars of the new culture, rock promoters and poster artists, leftist radicals and musicians, hip philosophers and a fawning uncritical media that created the great demand for drugs. Joplin, Garcia, Hendrix, Lennon, Johnny Winter, Leary, The Stones and a multitude of other stars were the dealers’ best customers and advertisers. Their “message” had reached it’s intended targets with a level of success that Madison Avenue execs could only dream of.
“The Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, established at the beginning of summer by a group of young doctors, treated dozens of kids every day, kids suffering from malnutrition or hepatitis or drug overdoses.
Narrator: The Diggers offered new arrivals a “survival school,” teaching how to get decent nutrition, how to find a clean place to stay, how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
Narrator: LSD, the revered sacrament of the original hippies, was becoming a source of grave concern as more and more people experienced frightening bad trips”. (PBS Transcript)
Photo of PBS documentary “The summer of Love”
Above is a large sign from inside the “survival school”. This clearly shows how quickly the “free love” of the counterculture proved to be not a dream but a nightmare. The revolution was not at all as advertised, and the rape, VD , and violence of the Haight foreshadowed a tsunami of crime, and cultural and psychological destruction which has not yet crested.
In my high school when someone dropped out, became addicted or freaked out, it was common for hip kids to speak in terms like, he or she “couldn’t handle it”. I noticed that “recreational” users rarely blame the drug they love and instead resort to marginalizing individuals with drug problems as losers or weak. This all too common attitude has always struck me as callous and uncaring. This statement: “It could burn you out or light your way. For the strong and thoughtful it opened up new awareness” is a perfect example of this. – High Art by Ted Owen
This type of thinking is on full display at Denver Art Museum, in the PBS documentary “The Summer of Love”. “Some people just came for the drugs, concedes Mary Ellen Kasper, one of the “veterans” of the summer of love interviewed for the film.
“There were runaways taking drugs who really didn’t have the ego structure to deal with it. When you deconstruct your world, as many of us did with the stronger psychedelics, you have to build it back up again. And for some people they simply couldn’t build it back up again and got stuck in a very painful place and couldn’t see their way out of it.” Here this “veteran” employs typical 1960′s psycho-babble, speaking of “ego structure”, whatever that is. She speaks of human beings as if they are Lego sets which you can “deconstruct” and then you can “build it back up again”.
According to Ms. Kasper those who “didn’t have the ego structure to deal with it”, not the drugs, were to blame for whatever harm they suffered. She is typical of the new age leftist who never criticizes the beloved sacraments LSD, peyote, psylicibin, marijuana, etc. I imagine she was speaking mostly of white middle and upper class youngsters, but they weren’t the only ones impacted by the new drug culture.
“Turn on, tune in, drop out” was the slogan of the 60s counterculture, and the underclass duly turned on. As for dropping out: one student in three who entered such inner city high schools as Theodore Roosevelt in the Bronx, Thomas Jefferson in East New York, or Bushwick in Brooklyn in 1984 had managed to earn a diploma or G.E.D. certificate seven years later – and New York’s dropout rate is not as bad as those of Chicago and Los Angeles.” - The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties Legacy to the Underclass by Myron Magnet
Having had enough of the Denver Art Museum I went across the street to Civic Center Park. There I spoke to two crews of user/dealers. After the “Hey, nice camera” chit chat I told them what I was doing. When I pointed out the street banners and said I thought the museum was soft-selling LSD one of them responded “Man thats f#@*ed up”.
While I attempted to fram the capitol between two banners for the shot above something unanticipated took place. After the third frame I lowered my camera and noticed four men in the foreground seemed to be transacting a deal. In a flash they came and went in three different directions. It didn’t take a minute.
Directly in front of the Capitol, I encountered these parked buses. I could see a crowd at the steps to the building and asked yet another hard-bitten type what was going on. “It’s a recovery meeting” he replied. I’d never heard that term before, but I got the meaning. I hurried to the Capitol steps.
I found Samara Epstein being comforted as she cried for her brother who had recently died after 10 years of drug addiction.
These people are struggling with addiction. They have come with various organizations and from institutions to participate in a rally.
They are listening to Samaras father give a short speech about his son.
“Daniel Epstein, born January 26, 1979, died of an overdose March 24, 2009. A talented musician and DJ, Dan left behind a Mother, a Father, a Sister, a Nephew, friends, and fans.
Dan left a footprint that was deep but not as nearly as large as it might have been. He lost 10 years of his footprint to his addiction while he lived and 50 years of his footprint that he had yet to live. He let the siren song of addiction rob him of his dreams, talent, and promise.
Our son, brother, and uncle, with his premature death by overdose, robbed us of a once beautiful, intense, interesting, loving, joyful youngster, and young man. Dan’s death robbed his nephew Justin of his piano teacher and companion. In his death Dan robbed his sister, Samara, of a link to her youth and her future. In his death, Daniel Scott Epstein, known as Mello-D by some, robbed his parents, Joe & Susan Epstein, of their future, their hopes & dreams for him, and their peace in their old age.
Dan’s addiction robbed him of his courage. Damn, Dan was an extraordinary musical pioneer. Yet his addiction blinded him to the words of Victor Frankl : “Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
Our family hopes that all of those here who are in RECOVERY find the HOPE & CONFIDENCE that will take you from the killing fields of addiction to the peaceful shores of RECOVERY. G-d bless and take care.”
One must bear in mind, when looking at these dear people, that most started using drugs and or alcohol as children or teens.
Shedding tears and praying for Daniel, and themselves.
To embody the power of recovery, demonstrators surround the capitol hand in hand.
Leaving an open space in the chain as a reminder of those who have died from substance abuse
and to symbolize an open door to recovery for anyone who still suffers.
From the moment I first saw Samara till this point was approximately 10 minutes. Things unfolded very quickly and in a few more minutes to my surprise everyone would be gone. I asked these men what the whole thing was all about. One told me it was to show lawmakers the need for more funds for recovery programs. I asked them if they were for legalization and one said “No way” forcefully “This is not about that“.
These ladies insisted I do a group photo, without even asking who I was.
“In my experience, students who have had a serious fling with drugs – and gotten over it – find it difficult to have enthusiasms or great expectations. It is as though the color has been drained out of their lives and they see everything in black and white. Their energy has been sapped and they do not expect their life’s activity to produce anything but a living. The issue here is its effect on education, and I believe it ruins the imagination of young people and makes it very difficult for them to have a passionate relationship to the art and thought that are the substance of liberal education.” - The Closing of the American Mind 1987 by Allan Bloom
PBS Narrator: In late May, (1967) Look Magazine sent a young writer to live undercover as a hippie in the Haight. Within hours of his arrival on Haight Street, William Hedgepeth had been offered free food, clothing, shelter and LSD.
Hedgepeth: It would have been completely phony to go out there and then be a total spy and just report on these people…. You know, I mean, this is participatory journalism, you know. …. So, I figured that I was taking these drugs on behalf of the American people, in order to tell them the truth. It seemed to me then that the new phenomenon of hippies was part of a religious movement. … I was so entranced with it that I thought, well, this is a perfectly good alternative universe to me. I mean, you don’t need money, you know, don’t need anything. It was as benign an expression of the finer angels of people’s nature than I have ever seen before.
Hedgepeth: Well, when it came time for me to leave and I got into a cab on Haight Street. And this one guy who was bidding me farewell said, “… Look, I’ll send you an envelope. There won’t be anything in the envelope, but I’ll soak the stamp in LSD. So you, when you get this, just lick the stamp and turn on.” And we were — the cab started moving down Haight Street, and this guy was still yelling, “Lick the stamp, turn on!”
Those are the last words of the PBS documentary “The Summer of Love” playing in a nonstop loop, every day, at The Denver Art Museum March 21 – July 19 2009.
The summer of 1967 in San Francisco has been referred to as a “cultural revolution” as well as a “social earthquake”. I think that the earthquake analogy is more honest as it speaks of an unexpected destructive force. Like an earthquake, the Summer of Love sent out a huge 360 degree wave throughout North America and the world. Carried in a sea of pop culture propaganda it flooded cities, and towns, and schools with drugs and fashionable discontent.
A worldwide drug abuse pandemic was started which is now destabilizing entire regions of the globe. One characteristic of the 60s leftist radicals is their unwillingness to see the damage and destruction they have a brought to the world. To hear them and the Denver Art Museum tell it, it’s a world of rock music, and rainbow posters, and hippie love spreading around the planet, and it’s “all good”. Yet to hundreds of millions around the world who are caught in the grip of addiction, or who have seen their loved ones and societies transformed its an entirely different reality.
These young women are patients and staff from Addiction and Research and Treatment Services, part of the University of Colorado Denver. . Rosalita Perez (center) is a Mental Health Clinician there. When I asked about the children I was told that their mothers were not yet well enough to participate in a field trip. Note the kids displaying Churchill’s V for Victory sign. Ooops, thats the Diggers sign.
I spoke with a group of these patients as they awaited the van that would take them back to the treatment center in Boulder. I pointed to the banners surrounding the Capitol and explained that the DAM exhibit glamorized LSD and the hippie lifestyle. I asked them what they thought about it. One said ” that makes me angry” another replied “ What’s wrong with them? How can they do that?” They confirmed my feelings the first moment I saw the banners.
………………..MORE PHOTO ESSAYS by El MARCO………………….
El MARCO’S GREATEST HITS
El Marco covers the Docs 4 Patients Care rally in D.C. Doctors Against Obamacare
NANCY and the ASTROTURFERS ”Denver photojournalist El Marco was at the event and has an amazing pictorial essay detailing how Pelo-cchio’s Astroturf brigade had to be coached by professional organizers — including several day laborers who didn’t speak English and couldn’t tell what the signs they were holding read. And they accuse Tea Party folks of being puppets?!” - **Michelle Malkin**
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