An Interview with Abbie Hoffman
Yes. We know. Abbie Hoffman died in 1989.
But we actually met him. We talked to him – in person and on the phone. We even attended a party he threw in Pacific Palisades. And, although he called our work “scatological,” he invited us to submit a graphic for use in his then up-coming book Steal This Urine Test.
We miss the guy (except at meal times – he was a bit of a messy eater) and thought it would be fun to imagine what it would be like to talk to him now about recent events and the political climate. So we pulled together some of the better-known quotes attributed to him (in blue text), and this is what we came up with.
Poligags: The 2012 election cycle was the most acrimonious in our memory. What’s your take?
Abbie: You’ve got to resist oppression as you feel it. Don’t vote in a jackass – elephant – cracker circus. Let’s vote for ourselves. Everyone becomes a life actor of the street doing his thing, making the revolution by freeing himself and fucking up the system.
Poligags: What did you think of the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, specifically?
Abbie: I used to say “avoid all needle drugs; the only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon.” Add Romney to the list! I mean, if this guy is God, then this is the God that the United States of America deserves. Look at his big accomplishment, Bain Capital. People had no alternative than to make war on machines. And, in particular, the sterile machines of corporate death and the robots that guard them.
Poligags: Since the election, the Republicans have realized that their “messaging” was not well-received by certain demographics.
Abbie (big laugh): Never impose your language on people you wish to reach.
Poligags: And, leading up to the election, the Occupy movement was very active. You must’ve found it gratifying to see people so engaged.
Abbie: Yeah. What young people have that’s vitally needed to make social change is impatience. You want it to happen now. There have to be enough people that say, “We want it now, in our lifetime.” We want to see banksters in jail right now. We want to see marriage equality right now. We want to see the war in Afghanistan stop right now. We want the CIA off our campus right now. We want an end to sexual harassment in our communities right now. Be adventurists in the sense of being bold and daring. Be opportunists and seize this opportunity, this moment in history, to go out and save our country. It’s your turn now.
Poligags: Were you surprised by – or would you have expected – the level of push-back the protesters got from the authorities?
Abbie: You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists. When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out. Expedience, not justice, is the rule of contemporary American law. Same old story, different decade!
Poligags: Even since the election, there’s been a lot of dissatisfaction with the direction the country is taking. Do you have any advice?
Abbie: The key to organizing an alternative society is to organize people around what they can do, and more importantly, what they want to do. The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.
Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit. And you’ve got to be truly committed. Smoking dope and hanging up Che’s picture is no more a commitment than drinking milk and collecting postage stamps.
The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it. Understand that legal and illegal are political, and often arbitrary, categorizations. Structure is more important than content in the transmission of information. A modern revolutionary…heads for the television station. Or Twitter…
Look: the ‘60s are gone, dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free, and the rock ‘n’ roll never as great. But there is absolutely no greater high than challenging the power structure as a ‘nobody’, giving it your all and winning! Just remember that it’s embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Seller’s List.
© 2013 Poligags