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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Taking a Shit is a Political Act

Carol Brightman's Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure offers the thesis that Garcia and the Grateful Dead were "apolitical" and should be condemned to that extent, having failed to stand up (as the Berkeley radicals did) to the injustices and corruptions of American and international politics in the 60s and 70s. The GD/San Francisco/Merry Prankster thing was about sex, drugs and rock & roll, the denial of political responsibility, while the Berkeley thing was about politics first and foremost. She pursues a book-length exercise in head-scratching, asking herself and the reader how these people could have been so irresponsible while there was injustice in the world and while good radicals such as herself fought the good fight.

This is unadulterated bullshit. Wavy Gravy said on 2/9/73 at the Maples Pavilion (Stanford) that "taking a shit is a political act ... ", and he was dead right. Garcia's and the GD's politics weren't of the in-your-face-to-fight-injustice kind favored by the Berkeley radicals. But they were a politics nonetheless. Indeed, I think they were based on a coherent (if implicit) political philosophy in which living well (hedonism?) expresses an aspiration toward which we all (and society itself) might work.

These thoughts are obviously half-baked, and I am sure there are serious works of political philosophy which might articulate this kind of world view. I'd sure like to track them down and check them out.