“It’s the Old Thoreau Tradition”

This morning I was reading a 1972 interview with poet Allen Ginsberg and came across the following exchange…

YLP: I was surprised to see the importance young Americans grant now to the Do It Yourself thing.
Ginsberg: It’s the old Thoreau tradition. The reason for that is that if you don’t do it yourself you are a prisoner of the robot state, the electric company the transportation company, the food monopolies and the chain stores. You live in a suspended state where you don’t even know where your power comes from, you leave the faucets running and the lights on all night just because you don’t even know that the water supplies are slowly diminishing and maybe we have only another twenty or thirty years of clean water before it all goes away. You live in a situation where you let people dump your garbage out in the Atlantic Ocean so that in the last twenty years 40 percent of the life of the oceans has been destroyed….
It’s impossible for French Parisian kids or New York kids to conceive of a blueprint for a new society if they don’t even know where water comes from, if they’ve never seen a tomato grow, if they’ve never milked a cow, if they don’t know how to dispose of their shit, how can they possibly program a human future? It would be all abstract in their heads, like a mathematical equation, and would produce a monstrosity.

–Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996, pages 299, 300.


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