"Wars Against Other Freedoms": Chapter Six from The Message of Rainsnow

Other Freedoms:  The Poem

Donna, Bohemian Beauty of The March of the Eccentrics

Herbert Marcuse and the Liberation of Humanity

Mr. Tambourine Man

Moses and the Counterculture


"Wars Against Other Freedoms":  Chapter Six from The Message of Rainsnow

Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at the grave of Jack Kerouac, 1975.  Cultural icons of the movement to reach new levels of freedom. 

In my cultural/philosophical study entitled THE MESSAGE OF RAINSNOW, written in the late 1990s and published in 2002, I began by analyzing many of the perils threatening our human future, and then proposed a general strategy for taking them on (centered on the need to create a movement & organization focused on the transformation of our culture, and the psychological healing/recalibration of our civilization, as a prerequisite for successfully launching the indispensable political, economic and social changes we all know must occur if our species is to survive).  Influenced by sources as diverse as Freud, Jung, Mumford, Marcuse, Heilbroner, Campbell, JFC Fuller, Daisetz Suzuki, Nietzsche, the great poets and novelists of history, 60s musicians, Beatniks, anthropology, sociology, sociobiology (oh! oh!), world history, and Native American traditions, I created an idiosyncratic blueprint for approaching this objective.  Elements of the work, inspired by my spiritual journeys of the 1990s, made the larger work very unusual, to say the least, and not readily connectible with standard, cautious, progressive-liberal circles interested in many of the same ideas, but without the mystical inspirations and without some of the more 'ancient', 'primal', and even 'sci-fi' tendencies...  In the MESSAGE OF RAINSNOW'S opening chapters, I ran through the perils of warfare, inflated by our deadly technology; the dangers of environmental abuse and ecological overload; the cultural and psychological dynamics which could lead to the erosion of political liberty in our country, and to the shredding of the American Constitution; and finally reached the point of the freedoms beyond the walls of the fortress of the law:  the ones which are not yet respected by custom, business, or legal code; the ones which are violated and starved every day, under the nose of the police, behind  the backs of armies, and in the shadow of the word 'Liberty', which has not yet accepted their right to have a home.  One of the main drives of the 1960s counterculture, which influenced me so greatly, was to put these freedoms on the map, to get them recognized and win them their due, even as we fought to change more drastic wrongs, such as misguided wars, global repression and poverty, racism and hunger.  The scales of life which cannot measure the clamoring of our souls, but only the height of our buildings and the weight of our bombs, are not yet scales fit for our use.


Chapter 6          Wars Against Other Freedoms 


The threat of apocalyptic wars; the threat of environmental collapse; the threat of massive wounds to our society, which might twist it out of shape, and crush our freedom forever within the wreckage.  This is what I have talked about till now.

But there are other freedoms, freedoms we must think of saving if our world is to be saved, freedoms that do not have to do with voting for a president, or simply knowing that there is no Gestapo to kick down our door at night.  There is the freedom to go beyond mere living, to a life with meaning; the freedom to feel that we are engaged in something beautiful and truly useful, not just useful to hands, but useful to hearts…  There is the freedom to feel our spirits soaring and the world opening up like a jewel to our understanding.  There is the freedom to fall in love, and not have it poisoned by debts.  There is the freedom to revel in the struggle of carrying a dream up a mountain, instead of dragging a barren stone down into a pit.  There is the freedom to feel respected and welcome, without the cuts of eyes that have no need of who we truly are.  There is the freedom to be human; to be trusted to live outside the narrow house of fears where we have driven all life.

It is hard to explain this to many, who are too numb and distracted to notice their real hunger and loneliness; and yet there are many others who know what I am talking about.  How many happy faces do I see on the way to work?  How many more do I see, swallowed up from happiness in the night of trains, whose eyes show the pain of being vivisected, of being stolen from everything that matters, people with tears not deep below the surface, people with beauty that will be stepped on, and dreams that sputter, dying inside them, like candles without air?  Stampedes of promises pound by on the pavement, like the wild horses inside Caligula’s head that drove him mad, but there is no peace, no light.  We are dying, dying…  Paying for everything between the teeth, we are forced to live with spikes inside of us.  We pull the levers in voting booths, and call ourselves masters of our land, but in the countries called jobs we are slaves.  One wrong move, and we are in the desert.  After several years of working for one Lord, such a slip could be fatal, for without his reference, without his stamp of approval to move on, where will one go, what will one do?  No one will take a man with missing time, except for the grinning jobs at the bottom that swallow up the strangers and the nomads, that take the faceless ones and use them for a day.  So to protect ourselves from that dismal fate, we must bend every day to the power of a king in a land that says it has no kings.

What of all these freedoms, I say?  These freedoms that are not the crown of life, but its beating heart?

I think that poetry and song describe this landscape better than any scholarly discourse, because it is a landscape of pain and hope beating its wings against closed doors; it is a truth that comes out best in the cry of the poet, in naked feeling, which does not seek to be anything more than the howl of a wounded soul that cannot be contained. 

The brilliant Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, saw it when he came to New York City in 1929, and captured the pain of a powerful but despairing city whose soul has not changed much in all this time [1]                                                                                  

The dawn of New York has

four columns of mud                                                                                               

and a hurricane of black pigeons                                                                              

which peck at the dirty puddles.


The dawn of New York groans                                                                            

along immense stairways                                                                                 

searching among the ledges                                                                                   

for flowers of anguish drawn by a human being.


The dawn arrives and nobody receives it in his mouth

because here, morning and hope are not possible.                                                   

At times, furious swarms of coins                                                                         

pierce and devour abandoned children.


The first who come out understand in their bones

that there will be no paradise or loves picked like flowers off of a tree;                   

they know that they’ll be going into the mud of numbers and laws,                         

to games without art, to struggles without fruit.


The light is buried by chains, and by sounds

which come from the reckless attack of a science that has no roots.                

Sleepless people wander aimlessly about the neighborhoods as though they had

recently emerged from a bloody shipwreck. 


This is it!  The disaster of not living.  Pale, like someone who has just witnessed a murder.  How can we be so great at inventing sedatives, and so incompetent at letting the flowers open?

According to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, “…we’re all beautiful golden sunflowers inside.”  And yet, what has become of us?  Finding a sunflower ruined in the polluted shadow of an industrial wasteland, Ginsberg saw it:  “gray…poised against the sunset, crackly bleak and dusty with the smut of smog and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye”, its “corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be toothless mouth of sunny air, sun rays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spider web, leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear… all that dress of dust… all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown…unholy battered old thing,” exclaimed the hammered poet, “you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!” [2]

Of course, the dirt and pollution in our skies is only the dirt and pollution of what we have done to our souls, reflected above us; what we see plunging upwards in sick gray plumes from the open wounds of smokestacks, is but a small hint of what we have done to ourselves, of the choking cloud inside us.  Can we ever be free of this?  Truly free?

I have already talked a great deal about this kind of freedom in my discussion on Nazi Germany [3]:  the freedom of the spirit, the freedom of the heart, that no kingdom can replace.  The need is deep, it is like the longing to fly buried in the heart of a bird, who will never truly be a bird until he leaves the ground.  The denial of these freedoms frustrates the soul, enrages it with its own death, even if the rage lurks below the vision of the distracted eye, tricked by jugglers and dancers as the heart it guards is stolen.  Time passes - the wound deepens, and one learns to hate everyone and everything, all the walls around the desperate longing to live.  The frustration builds like a dammed-up river, waiting to break through, to throw its own death back at anything else that moves, at all the hands that did not reach out to it when it was in need, at all the world that just walked by.  In the blind fury to kill death, all is killed, the last traces of life torn to shreds like love letters that let you down, that left you waiting alone in a dark room for someone who never came.  Let the emptiness within be extended into the world by bombs, let everything, inner and outer, merge into one great wasteland, let nothing be left to feel pain.

I have talked about the danger that arises when these freedoms we do not even dare to call freedom, are denied.  The people become a weapon, and he who needs a weapon seeks them out, and finds them.  Hitler did so in 1930s Germany.  I saw it and felt it, though you still do not believe it:  I saw the tears harnessed and turned into the blood of a world.

But even aside from such functional considerations - the need to care for the soul and recognize its definition of freedom lest its bondage explode in our faces - we have one last powerful incentive to reshape our civilization into something fitting for the human heart.  And that is the simple fact that even should we save the world from floods and earthquakes, from comets and bombs, from plagues and pollution, from famine and drought, from dictators and concentration camps, it will all have been in vain if death has infiltrated our very vision of life, if the lives we save have no meaning, no purpose; if they are like sweet fruit spilled onto the road and left to rot in the sun:  sweet fruits, fallen off of a speeding truck which will go on driving forever with nothing in it.


[1] "La Aurora", from POET IN NEW YORK.

[2]  From 'Sunflower Sutra', 1956.

[3]  Referring to Chapter 25, from 'The Journey of Rainsnow', a mystic exploration of past-life memories or parables.


For those interested to read more from THE MESSAGE OF RAINSNOW, the work, as a whole, is available through its publisher, iUniverse, and from Amazon.  Though I may need to come at some of the things I wrote there from different angles in the future, there is still a lot of worthwhile material in it; and the basic thrust of what I proposed there remains my priority today:  to make a real-world impact, led by my art, and followed by my life.

-  JRS, July/August 2016. 

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936 ) by Fabrizio Cassetta.

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Other Freedoms:  The Poem, by J Rainsnow

In case the previous entry was not convincing enough, try this:  the same idea, as a poem:

I just want to love you, I don't want to work.

I just want to spend all day with you, naked with my guitar, my pen, my paper,

and a table full of fruits.  I want to sing you songs that make your body

vibrate like an instrument, I want you and me to become pure music, I want our minds to fly out of our parents' home and land in the tree of our own eyes.

I want to feel without being afraid I won't be able to put it all back in

before I have to get on the train to nowhere.

I want my face to spill my secrets everywhere I go

and not get beaten up for it,

I don't want a face of stone, I don't want to have to sit on the lid

of laughter that wants to come out at the wrong time.

I don't want to be carved up by the serious faces,

I don't want joy and love and imagination to have a muzzle put on them

before they'll take me out for a walk to the money.

I don't want to be put against the wall in front of a firing squad of clocks

or donate blood to the dynamo that tears up villages,

I don't want to build for the sake of building

or to labor just so they'll know where I am.

I don't want to leave a trail of gold from my dripping soul

between the sacrificial altar of someone else's wealth and your yearning bed,

to come to you with nothing left and go to sleep by your disappointment

engulfed by the sound of breathing that has nothing in its hands.

I don't want to step on the budding flower because I am looking at a gray sky.

I don't want to pass by the gesticulating rose without seeing it because I am crying,

without smelling it because I have turned myself off to get rid of the pain.

I don't want to miss the moon because I am lying in a battered heap

with my back turned to the window,

curtains pulled to blot out the monster.

I don't want to hate the sun because I don't own the day,

because it means I must leave you

and walk into the jaws of a lost world away from your arms. 

I know I must walk, I know I must work, I know I must fight.

But here, there is no river to rest by, no tree to rest under, no chance

to say when, to say where, to say I have done it for now, to say I will do it again

when it needs to be done.  It is endless,

not tied to the seasons, not following anything ; it never reaches its goal, because its goal is to run forever, away from the heart, away from people who matter more than the engines that won't turn off, than the lights that won't stop shining in deserts,

than the doors to wastelands that have to be kept open,

than the marches no kiss must interrupt, and no poem jar. 

What are we, fragile naked things with traces of fire sputtering about us, next

to the mighty God Pot we are flung into, to be melted into the divine force of forward motion pitted against embraces and lips,

ripping down the sides of mountains to get the rubble to bury hearts?

Sweet, sweet love, I wish more of a man were left for you today.

But slowly, I am fading into my aches, disappearing into what they have made me, here, in this public square of freedom and liberty, filled with statues of justice and laws which hold their shield above me,

this freedom without freedom where I blow away like sand,

less of me left each night to crawl  into your bed,

climbing into memories with broken wheels and trying to drive them to yesterday,

trying to make you happy,

giving you trinkets from the edges of who we are, above the dried-out essences,

peering into your sleeping face, at your shut dead-angel eyes and rough cheeks

weathered by the winds of neglect.

Do you remember the Garden of Eden, the way it was before the brilliant wrong-turn, before the apple of the Steam Engine and the Promise,

before the Iron Miracle hooked into our soul skin, like cat's claws into a mouse

and dragged us from each other and from the singing of the earth

into the new forever of otherworldly pistons, endlessly drumming the rhythm of our demise?

Awake, my love!  One last dawn!  Let us rise for each other one last time, by the light of the true sun within, and love each other with the fire of knowing we are more than what they let us be.

 J Rainsnow, July 31, 2016.

Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden.  We desperately miss the possibility of the Paradise our instincts have longed for since the beginning of time, but which our societies have routinely squashed in the effort to build a poison penthouse for the few.  Somehow, as our technology empowered us to create new realms of freedom, we missed the turn and kept on driving down the highway of frustrations, amplifying our pain and its capacity to punish us  for  lingering thoughts of liberty.  Donna, let's go back home!  (See next entry.)

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Donna, Bohemian Beauty of The March of the Eccentrics

Donna Baum, Your Hippie Majesty, as expertly depicted by artist Katalina Gutierrez for the MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS novel.

While on the subject of the counterculture (see previous entries on this blog page), let's go straight to Donna, the bohemian Muse of my alternative-reality 1980s New York.  She was the embodiment of the artist-rebel's ideal partner, queen of the new, non-material, love-based world we were trying to make from within the belly of the Giant Cash Register.  Perhaps we could describe her as a combination of Van Morrison's 'Brown-Eyed Girl' & Sophocles' Antigone:  a guitar-playing, photoshooting, alternative-theatre-acting, nurse-of-the rejected/ artist Boudicca, distributing no-nukes pamphlets in the rain, healing tenderly the bruises of nonconformity and raging fiercely on behalf of the damned.  She was, as Freddy Wells might have said, 'the reason I fight and protest... what I want to come home to at night, and why I didn't sell out... She is what I long for, and why I hate the slabs of concrete I lie under, the useless loads I carry, the material gun pointed at our heads that steals pieces of our life together, robbing the choice hours of our intersection and leaving us the scraps...'     Inspiration, Guide, Shaper of Bohemia through the warmth she gave to those who didn't join the lemmings, she was the beacon of the world-changers, the light of the protest march, the comrade of the oversensitive and the wounded, the female Walt Whitman/ euphoric champion of the diverse and the banished, the Leonardo Da Vinci of new social designs: fixer of broken wings and sorceress of the justice avalanche.  Inspired by the countercultural Atlantis of the 1960s, she sought to raise it from the bottom of the sea in a more sustainable and effective form for the 1980s, where it was to be characterized by 'Hipness without Drugs' (meaning an end to the self-obliterating hard-drug culture), and by more long-term and developed links than the chance-meetings and transitory bondings at rock concerts or alt-site pilgrimages:   experiences that turned into vapor, and left no lasting mark on the landscape of sin.    In THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS novel, both Donna and Georgie (the Rasta boyfriend of Donna's friend Marcia), take up the cause of a new form of sustainable counterculture to advance the human future:  a network of alternative communities or groupings of people that is to serve as the foundation for the genesis of a new culture, manifesting all the solidarity of the pre-industrial 'tribe', and which is to avoid the flaws which sank the previous version.  (Chapter 15, 'Flashbacks of Boho Town', pp. 1169-1174.  On pp. 1239-1241, a music group, the True Believers, adds to the analysis of what went wrong in the 1960s and what must be done to get the 'revolution back on track.')  In THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS screenplay (Film 1), not yet at your favorite movie theater, Donna expresses it in this way:


 We've got to fight to save the world,

Freddy! We can do it! Politics

won't do it, voting - 'vote for me,

I'll set you free!', 'I am the mighty

Oz!' Change comes from culture, and

culture comes from us! Once we create

a new culture, the politicians will

have no choice but to follow, we'll

be the rock on which everything

stands. It's in our hands, Freddy!

We're all so much closer than we

think... I've got this idea about

forming a network of urban communities -

inspired by artists, as tight as

families, helping each other out in

every possible way, listening to

each other, really listening, not

just 'Yeah, yeah, uh-huh, uh-huh.'

Abandoning no one, filling in the

void of loneliness from which monsters

come, with love, beating the tyrants

of the world to the lever that can

move the earth. It's all about what

the void gets filled by; who gets

there first, and with what.


Who couldn't love this girl, so human and flawed, yet so passionate in her desire to save the earth and to encourage those who share her beliefs ('please help me do it!'), as well as to nurture anyone who has been battered and beat up by the unchanged world ('I'm so sorry I haven't fixed it yet')?  Is she ingenuous, or merely the typical pioneer standing at the beginning of the road, where the first step always seems like a long shot?  Her friends weigh in in THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS screenplay:



The whole Bohemian world has a crush

on Donna.


She's the patron-saint of



The Florence Nightingale of tortured

artists... and scientists...


The savior of extraordinary penniless


Sarah, imitating the 'Irish Spring' commercial.


I like her, too!


She has x-ray vision that sees through

to the heart. All the walls, the

dreadful walls that obscure the vision

of the rest... her soul is like the

trumpets at Jericho... Crumble walls,

crumble, reveal the beauty of the

man never before seen! To be seen

by Donna is to live again! Tear up

the death certificates!


Wow, I want whatever you're on!


Food of the Gods.


Sure ain't whiskey.


'Burp' is to 'erupting volcano' as

'cocaine' is to 'whatever the ****

this guy's doing.'


Nothing, not even a new culture that could save the earth, would be capable of commanding our loyalty and interest were it not imbedded with beautiful people we wished to know and live beside.  In THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS, Donna is the human face of the resurrected Sixties Dream, just as Graciela is the human face of the Latin American Revolution.  She continues to work with me today (as do all my fictional creations, or 'the voices in my head'), filling up the disheartening emptiness of my literary isolation with a sense of the real life that teems outside my mind, poised to change the world.  Somehow, by means of my characters, I know I have drawn a map of the real people who exist beyond my desk, who I can connect with on the projects that propel my fiction.  (They may live well within the glamorous borders of the archetypes I have drawn, but they are robust in their reality, and I hunger for their company; to stand beside them in the ranks of history as we overturn the engines of the lie and break the power of the insidious repetitions.)

Peace & Love to Planet Earth, and to its hurting but still unvanquished residents!  

JRS, August 2016.

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Herbert Marcuse and the Liberation of Humanity

Of course - Dr. Herbert Marcuse!

Herbert Marcuse (1898 - 1979) was one of the big heroes of the 1960s Counterculture, the movement/ethos/milieu/aura which so influenced my writing of THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS novel.  This German philosopher/political-thinker was most famous for creating an engaging synthesis of Marxism and Freudian psychology which, rather than emphasizing violence and a predominantly material view of history and change (seize the factories, take control of the machines!), dealt with the psychological dynamics of constructing civilization, the mental aspects of subjugation, and the possibility of the liberation of the human body from unfair dynamics of labor and the human psyche from  false and energy-stealing concepts imbedded into it by powerful forces of manipulation. 

From Marx, Marcuse derived a basic critique of capitalist society, and a sense that the economic exploitation of the working class by the owners of capital was an injustice that ought to end (let the workers reap the fruits of their labor, not see it siphoned away by wealthy bosses while they remained in poverty or constant insecurity).  He also strongly connected with Marx's discussions on 'alienation':  the phenomenon whereby workers in an industrial society (characterized by 'division of labor') - now producers of mere components of a whole - had lost the pride and the solidity of identity which the 'craftsmen' of old had experienced whenever they completed an entire project, which they could then truly say was 'their creation' (and an extension of their self).  Having lost that sense of pride and usefulness or artistry, an inner vacuum was created, and Marcuse believed that the capitalist society had stepped into that vacuum with consumerism, replacing creation & production as sources of the sense of self-worth, with consumption and possession of material goods as new measures of human value.  Production, robbed of its dignity, now became a means (within the system of wage-labor), of earning the income which would allow one to 'buy' one's value back from the capitalist class, through the attainment and presentation of material goods which would represent one's worth to others (reflecting back upon oneself).  The vast business (you could say 'propaganda machine') of advertising, furthered this process by pumping out images of the successful life, and embedding specific virtues, triumph-associations, and sublimated experiences into specific products, to turn them into 'substitutes' for 'real life' which had been stolen through the vast loss of energy, the control of one's time by others, and the emasculating workplace submission entailed by the productive process in the capitalist society.   

Now, turning to Freud,  Marcuse went over the psychological theory that the construction of civilization depends upon 'repression' - the partial repression of one's own desires and instant-pleasure-gratification in order to create a manageable harmony with others (whose feet your unbridled desires might otherwise stomp on).  It was also necessary to appropriate and harness a portion of the biological creative/life force - to take it away from pure pleasure, love, and self-determined creativity - to channel into the construction of civilization... to transform (sublimate) into work which would expand the human condition materially and facilitate the survival of all.  The erotic and personal energy of the individual was sublimated, and poured into the immense social project of the group.

Marcuse, as an observer and thinker of his own times, stumbling upon life as it was in wealthy/consumerist post-war America of the 1950s and 1960s,  came to believe that the 'necessary psychological repression' described by Freud, was now being vastly exceeded by what he called 'surplus repression.'  The great age of the economic and psychological exploitation of Man by capitalism (1700s - his time), had constructed a tremendously effective productive base, characterized by spectacular technology and well-developed industrial and agricultural techniques, which Marcuse judged so capable of satisfying people's material wants, that it ought to be possible for people to now partially withdraw their energy from the labor system, and to spend more of it on themselves in the form of love, play, recreation, and engagement with the imagination.  In other words, the captivity of the worker within a demanding, grinding economic system (9-5, day-in, day-out, year after year) should no longer be necessary, and significant new tracts of personal freedom should be opening up for people to develop and enjoy.  But, said Marcuse, this wasn't happening.  Why not?  Because, he said, the capitalist system, abetted by the culture which it had created through its organization of life (centered around the need to survive through wage-labor) and especially by its endless cannonades of advertising and aspiration-indoctrination, was dedicated to creating wealth for those on top, not distributing surplus wealth in such a way as to release workers from their bonds.  On the contrary, the system was committed to keeping workers locked into place, by means of a hierarchically manipulated scarcity (no longer genuine environmental scarcity), produced by diverting surplus wealth (the potential basis for economic liberation) away from the workers and back into the hands of the dominant class, so that worker insecurity, economic stress and tension could all be maintained as goads to keep them from 'wandering off.'  Abundance was being deflected from the masses and its liberating potential therefore thwarted.  At the same time, the power of manipulating psychologically-energized commodities against the people (imbedding pieces of the workers' stolen lives within things that could be bought, thus binding them to the system) was in full swing.   Essentially, a society of individuals with a dulled sense of freedom (infiltrated into their psyches by those who wish to control them), conditioned to judge the meaning of life in terms of commodities (whether bought objects or experiences), to experience joy and success in the shadow of products they have to work for others for, and to assign self-value according to how well they conform with a manipulated image that can only be constructed through servitude, is enslaved from within.  Thus, said Marcuse, true liberation could only come via a change in consciousness.  (A classic old-school revolution of such people, nearly impossible to imagine in the first place, would, if it succeeded, only reproduce the internalized repressive structure which now ruled them from the inside.) 

For Marcuse, fantasies, art, and utopian visions - products of the imagination - remained as sanctuaries of the embattled life force, which was otherwise kidnapped by labor and jailed within commodities.  Here, in these unconquered realms, within the hearts and minds of the freest members of society not yet captured by the dominant mindset, often because they were on the fringes of the system, not successfully-imbedded in it, or else rejected by it (subaltern ethnic groups, outcasts or culture rebels),  the movement towards liberation might begin.  And it would not simply be a matter of proselytization via pamphlets or soapboxes.  Art, for example, might project new aesthetic ideals and goals for society, as the visions of free minds, turned loose on the streets of the brainwashed and the damned, might strike chords of recognition and create new poles of hope, breaking the materialist trance of the deceived and opening up the gates to vast & fruitful worlds that had been hidden by the imposed perception, and left off of all official maps.  The object of this movement, in the end, would be nothing less than the transformation of the human being, centered on the recovery of the human heart, mind and soul from the mental bondage inflicted upon us by the dominant system, and on the extraction of the false values generated by that system which obstruct our full expression and realization of life. Once awakened, the light bulb in the prison cell would be seen to be no match for the sun.  With liberated minds, the people would go on to transform the economic system in order to insure a fairer distribution of its wealth, and facilitate the dismantlement of 'engineered scarcity', thus enabling the abundance at hand to serve the purpose of a general redirection of human energy towards the sensual, the artistic, the pleasurable, and the life-enhancing, rather than the excessive sacrifice, self-denial and existential waste characterizing our own times.

Marcuse's philosophy was very popular with the 'Youth Movement' of the 1960s, which gravitated towards its seeming emphasis on consciousness over violence, and related to its goal of escaping from oppressive imposed patterns of life that maimed happiness, unless one bought into the zombie-life of consumerism, and accepted the aim of becoming a ghost adorned with jewels.   This was a generation not only frightened by war and the presumed dangers of the military-industrial complex, and, likewise, ashamed of programs of domination emanating from our country (in the 3rd World), it was also a generation desperate to find the meaning of life, and to fuse with life in its most passionate, adventurous and spiritual expressions - not to be swallowed up by corporations, factories, suburbia and shopping malls, or, on the contrary, slums.  It had an instinct for the beauty of life, and didn't want to sink into the quicksand, to become 'like everyone else':  the ruined and the wrecked and the lost.  For this generation, the ideas of Marcuse were like manna...  At the same time as they were reveled in by some, Marcuse's ideas received their fair share of criticism, not only from the usual angles (Daddy's mad), but also from many somewhat compatible thinkers who, nonetheless, did not feel he had identified a truly viable source of revolutionary change, or agency, capable of engaging his interesting ideals - so appealing to some - in an effective discourse with the mainstream.   There were also critics wondering how the scheme to redirect (and at the same time maintain/enhance) the abundance of Western societies was to work in a global system consisting of both wealthy and impoverished nations, strained by exponential population growth, and divided by serious cultural differences...  Perhaps it is best to think of Marcuse's work as a spectacular suggestion, with many vital details still to be worked out.   

In THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS novel (as in THE MESSAGE OF RAINSNOW), the spirit of Marcuse's fascinating critique and exhortation find a place, as yet another inspiration and building-block of my own commitment to promoting a transformation of our culture capable of liberating the full beauty and potential of our lives.  We must fight not only to become masters of the circumference of the circle in which we live, but to fill that circle with genuine meaning and with authentic humanness. 



As stated above, many critics find fault with Marcuse for not creating a truly clear or detailed blueprint for the revolution/liberation his fascinating theories point to.  In my book, THE MESSAGE OF RAINSNOW  ( ), I do attempt to provide concrete suggestions for the construction of a transformative apparatus by means of which this kind of consciousness might take fuller hold in the world.


Besides being an influence blended into the aura of my counterculturally infused novel, THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS, Dr. Herbert Marcuse is mentioned several times throughout the book (although, to be honest, almost everyone and everything is mentioned somewhere or sometime in my vast opus).  On one occasion (Chapter 15, 'Flashbacks of Boho Town', pp. 1242-1244, PDF version), protagonists of the New York bohemian scene, including Donna, Freddy, and Gary are watching a concert at the 14th St. Palladium, taking place in the context of a gigantic cultural rift between Left and Right, and in the shadow of the possibility of the total collapse of American democracy.  In this environment, proponents of democracy and social liberalism have gathered to take inspiration from their favorite musicians, while, unbeknownst to them, dangerous thugs hover outside in the adjoining streets, waiting to clash with them when they come out.  At one point during the concert, a band known as the True Believers comes out to perform, pumping out a particularly heady but interesting tune which refers to Marcuse.  Here is the (edited) scene relating to our philosopher of the moment:

The Palladium, one of New York City's most treasured (yet nonetheless demolished) concert venues of the 1970s and 1980s.

####The True Believers followed this number with another song about the deeper cultural context we live in:  "We row factory oars at ramming speed to our own sorrow; stuff our faces with the white bread of things that leave us hungry and wreck tomorrow; cover our arms with jewels that weigh a ton; and sink into the ocean of never living, and things left undone..."  And there was the refrain:  "Social, Political, and Economic excuses... why the hell didn't we listen to Dr. Marcuse?"  And a weird bit oozed out of the song structure here that seemed like sap coming out of a maple tree with an East Indian flavor, and we heard the singers half singing and half chanting to the accompaniment of the sitar and the tabla:  "The abundance has been stolen!  The freedom the machines put in reach, the sex and play, the art and love and dance of post-Dickens days, the morning after coal and sweat, the open door of time unburdened, the weight off the back; we've been gypped , and chained to the oars of the slave ship, tied to the rack! They stole the manna to keep us running to nowhere!  They hijacked the liberation to give us new loads to bear!  -- No more washing clothes in the river all day long, so why aren't we singing a song?  Ten times faster spinning jenny, now one man can do the work of ten, so where'd the time go, why is now like then?  They put a lid over history (not to grow), and under the Christmas tree put a lump of coal! Coal for you and coal for me, pointing us towards a useless goal!  ...Us making love and us singing songs in the garden will never come to pass... because they found a way to make the crime of history last... the crime of our lives not belonging to us...  because freedom is not a thing to trust... the crime of being able to reach the sun... yet bound to the satanic mills till Kingdom come..."  And then they went back to:  "Social, Political, and Economic excuses... why the hell didn't we listen to Dr. Marcuse?"

"Is Dr. Marcuse a relative of Dr. Frankenstein?" demanded Gary.

"He's a partly groovy psychologist," Donna replied, as the song headed towards its end, sort of flopping around with dwindling increments of energy every time it did. (Somehow, it seemed like a dying fish, but not in a bad way, if that makes any sense...) "He is sort of Marxist and Freudian," Donna continued; "but the good thing is he believes we should use our expanding technological capability for producing more in less time in order to create more freedom for ourselves  -  liberated spaces out from under the thumb of necessity in which we will be free to play, love, create art, enjoy life...  Unfortunately, the fetish nature of consumer goods and the whole impetus of the socioeconomic system has kept us locked into a situation in which we still work far too much and play far too little.  The possibility for liberation provided by technology's ability to accelerate and expand our ability to meet our basic material needs, is being squandered by the inertia and agenda of our society.  Like, dig, the guy was onto something..."

"So the True Believers expect us to know all this?" demanded Gary, extremely irritated yet amusing at the same time.  "Christ, they should hand out a syllabus six months before their concert, and the Tone Deafs, too; nothing like a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals who spend all day with either guitars or joints in their hands trying to come off like geniuses just because they skim a couple books by Hesse or Gibran, is that the one that all the mellow brunettes who will go to bed with almost anybody like? -  almost anybody," he muttered with disappointment in his voice, "and now there's Dr. Marcuse, and who else do I have to know to appreciate this concert, what about the guy who floats in the water tank and tries to talk with dolphins?" #####  (There's something to be said for the lyrics, 'Wild thing, you make my heart sing...')


Similar themes, dealing with the conflict between our love life/private life/creative life/true happiness and the oftentimes grinding/degrading work regimen we are subjected to, which erases so much of what we want to do and give to others, are reflected in many popular songs.  (You could call this musical back-up for Dr. Marcuse.)

In 'I Say A Little Prayer' (Bacharach/David), Aretha Franklin sings:  "I run for the bus, dear; while riding I think of us dear.  I say a little prayer for you.  At work I just take time, and all through my coffee break time, I say a little prayer for you..."  Work isn't the Joy of Life, our raison d'etre, it is the impediment, the torment we must endure to return to what we love...  

A similar feeling is conveyed by the first verse of Victor Jara's 'Cuando voy al trabajo' (When I go to work):  "On my way to work I think of you, through the streets of the city I think of you. When I look at the faces through steamy windows, not knowing who they are, where they're going, I think of you, companion of my life and the future, of the bitter hours and the happiness of being alive, working at the beginning of a story without knowing the end.' (Translated by Joan Jara)

Eric Burdon and the Animals worked it harder in 'We Gotta Get Out of this Place' (Mann/Weil), as Burdon dwelled on the battering the callous working life had put on his father:  "Watch my daddy in bed, a-dying, watch his hair been turning gray, he's been working and slaving his life away..."  Then, after a passage that musically conveys that battering, Burdon, speaking to the girl he loves, sings:  "We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do; we gotta get out of this place... there's a better life for me and you."

Come to think of it, that's pretty much mirrored by Bruce Springsteen's 1975 classic, 'Born to Run', where he sings:  "Baby this town, it rips the bones from your back, it's a death trap, it's a suicide rap, We gotta get out while we're young, Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run!" 

Speaking of Bruce Springsteen, nothing does this theme any better than 'The River', whose somber, poignant tone of a life pulled away from its dreams and slowly beaten into numbness, briefly erupts with memories of the fire that first brought the two lovers together, before the heartless grinding life of work and struggle crushed the preciousness of their hope and passion, and left a wall between them.  "But I remember us riding in my brother's car, her body tan and wet at the reservoir.  At night on them banks I'd lie awake and pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take.  Those memories come back to haunt me, they haunt me like a curse...  Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse... that sends me down to the river, though I know the river is dry..."


And... that's it!  My little bit on Marcuse, and his still relevant warning that the Freedom we are taught to believe we enjoy here, is actually rife with unfreedoms... with powerful, life-altering expanses of coercion and territories of self-negation and soul-neglect where we spend years of our existence:  whitewashed zones of servitude and degradation which slowly erode the brilliant possibilities of our lives, compress our breadth and reel in our natural genius, channeling us towards minor roles in a mediocre vision that lets all of us down, even as we are trained to accept it, embrace it and defend it...

Through fiction (THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS novel), and philosophical/cultural analyses and exhortations (THE MESSAGE OF RAINSNOW), I take on this issue, along with the starker demons of extreme poverty, war, and ecological suicide; for true liberation can only take place on multiple levels. 

A special thanks to Dr. Marcuse for being one of my culture-mentors.  I remember the romantic days, years ago, when I carried around versions of Carlos Fuentes' 'Where the Air is Clear' and Marcuse's 'Essay on Liberation', while dating my first girlfriend and dreaming it would be easier to change the world than it is!  Still fighting on, in spite of the damage... and calling on all kindred souls to help!

- JRS, August 2016.

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Following are two articles originally intended for Facebook, which I decided to place here, instead, due to some FB posting problems in August, 2016 (especially of longer material).  The first describes one of my favorite Dylan songs, and is well-suited for this page!  The second links Moses and the Exodus to the 1960s counterculture... not too wild an analogy to make, when all is said and done!


Mr. Tambourine Man

MR. TAMBOURINE MAN: A version of Bob Dylan's classic song, which was also like a snapshot of the soul of the 1960s counterculture.  Dylan was, of course, one of the great icons of the culturally-transformative Sixties music scene, which propelled thousands on a journey of change which began with support for social justice and peace issues (civil rights, antiwar, antinuclear, etc.), often generated by the 'folk music scene', and which  led eventually to searches aiming for a complete metamorphosis of the individual mind and the nature of civilization, often carried on the shoulders of the rock scene (Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Youngbloods, Bob-Dylan-gone-electric, etc., etc.)  In this classic song, the discontent of a generation was embedded, and the longing for something magical and different to lead the discounted heart out of what seemed to be a vast trap, a mighty dead-end with no way out - a grinding, crushing, boring, spiritless place of routines, lies the size of mountains, and endless expanses of Captivity that one began to sense was not going to be easy to extricate oneself from.  So many times, the beautiful dreams that made life worthwhile were beaten up by this cold reality until they crawled back into the refuge of the imagination and accepted the name of 'fantasy', while the defeated took a number and walked through the gate of surrendering their soul, taking a dose of the numbness called 'maturity', and assuming their expected place beside the machine of self-obliteration.  "Another angel shot out of the sky."  And yet, the rebels of the times didn't give in easily, they fought on against the prejudice they had brought upon themselves by not being like their parents, by rejecting privilege (if they had it in the first place), by throwing away opportunities that didn't resonate with their hearts or with their conscience.  Battered socially and economically by an uncompromising society, they were not yet ready to quit as they put on this record, which told their story.  Tired and wearing out fast, with the price of their nonconformity already weighing heavily upon them, they sat in the silence between being free and being recaptured, and listened to this song, night after night...  "Though I know that evening's empire has vanished from my hand, left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping... My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet, I have no one to meet, and the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming."  And then, the cry for help:  "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me.  I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to. Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me.  In the jingle-jangle morning I'll come following you."  Whether it is the magic of mind-altering, dream-nurturing, or simply pain-suppressing drugs (unfortunately, often part of the burn-out formula), or whether it is the magic of music, itself, with its ability to transport us to new locations and to resurrect our broken spirits when they have been trampled on, a kind of invocation is being made:  an invocation to a healing, understanding force that can save our soul from the impending ingestion we seem to be on the brink of succumbing to; a miraculous rescuing force which can snatch the glowing vision of our heart's purest moments from the clutches of defeat.  We have to find our way out of the painful world they have made for us, go inside of ourselves to find the door, and then go through it... to a vision of freedom, beauty, and belonging, as majestic as a mighty seashore.  "Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind, down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves, the haunted frightened trees, out to the windy beach, far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow... yes to dance beneath the diamond sky with one  hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands, with all memory and fate, driven deep beneath the waves, let me forget about today until tomorrow..."  It's such a hard task, how could we ever do it?  'Don't know...  Listen to this song, just listen, put the needle on the track again [days of vinyl], keep listening over and over again till it's filled with scratches and crackling, give yourself a little more time, another day (can we pay the rent?) something will come to us... it's got to... keep listening.'  A gigantic war is wrapped up in the texture of this song: a war that many lost, a war that many are still fighting; a war whose catastrophes made fields bloom with seeds that didn't make it all the way to paradise; a war which, even when it was lost, for a time made dark places a little lighter, and cold places a little warmer...  a war against being misused and swallowed up that will never end as long as the yearning of the human heart for love, joy, and truth remains...  This version contains one noticeable glitch by Dylan, but it's live music, so, who cares?!   It also gives us a glimpse of one of the most powerful archetypes of musical culture - the lone music warrior, armed with harmonica, guitar, conscience & voice (any sincere voice will do), standing in front of the world, demanding to be heard - the super-individual (example of the power each one of us has to affect others), taking on the ills of the earth without an army - a one man world-changing weapon!  "Open the world-eye, throw the transformation match into the tinder of readiness."  It's a superhero concept (Guthrie-Dylan) which launched thousands of alt-culture singers into the world, many to crash and disintegrate at high altitudes, many others to persist and energize our knowledge of right and wrong, and our commitment to freedom, with their persistent presence on our street corners, in our clubs, at our social and political gatherings... In this way were born the troubadours of our times, flag-carriers of the new day we need music to convince us is in reach...  

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Moses and the Counterculture

MOSES AND THE COUNTERCULTURE.  Not a good analogy, in some ways, as Moses was a tough, domineering, controlling figure with leadership based upon religious authority; while the 1960s counterculture was free, wild, often without a center, suspicious of coherence that was not based on the inspiration of the moment, and allergic to organization (though at other times it was vulnerable to charismatic charlatans and pied pipers).  Yet, in other ways, there was common ground with the Moses story, as large swaths of the 1960s rebels adopted an almost magical way of thinking about change.  ("Individual change produces world change... just be different, and let others be different, deny your heart and soul to the oppressive/materialist society and its social machinery, and the heartbreak regime will collapse and follow your inner world to a new place."  In some ways, a vague social theory was behind all this:  and in the grip of soul-nurturing drugs propagating warm illusions and giving glimpses of beautiful pathways; in the arms of supportive music, which built shining palaces of sound and thought for the restless and the dissatisfied, tired of the hovels of conformity; and in the company of fellow gypsies and bohemian soul mates, who encouraged each other with nights of passion & solidarity in the flesh, the whole project seemed not only plausible, but inevitable.  Charles Reich, author of THE GREENING OF AMERICA, said as much...  The Moses of our inner, freedom-seeking selves, would part the Red Sea of the world as it was with the power of our music, and the sincerity of our hope, leading to some kind of divine liberation.)  But harsh economic realities, social barriers and judgments, and large-scale cultural efforts to keep people on the mainstream path & powering the mainstream vision took their toll over time.  (People on the edges of society paid a very real price in the form of opportunity denied, marginality or outright poverty, discrimination as 'culture traitors', and relationship stress... always hard to make love work when the bombs of poverty are falling, especially when there seems to be another option... surrender.)  Whereas many of the issues which engaged the counterculture generated organizational capabilities (for example, the antiwar movement, environmentalism, women's rights, etc.) - capabilities which helped to give the movements formed around those issues direction and to sustain their activities -  the counterculture, itself, as a movement to awaken individual consciousness and transform the very nature of society in its deepest core, never developed that kind of organization or sustainable coherence.  Some rituals and gatherings were maintained, and some rather nebulous networks dedicated to promoting aspects of the dream, but the kind of unity, will, and awareness needed to resist the vast re-ingestion process which gained force in the 1970s and 1980s, was never truly developed, with the result that thousands of loosely connected, sometimes bonding and then separating, foci of individual revolt were forced to face, in fragile isolation, the full impact of a mighty social rebel-recovery mechanism.  For a moment, the Red Sea had parted.  (Haight Ashbury/Summer of Love, Greenwich Village dreams, temporary peace-and-love tribes, tight friends with momentary superpowers, dropout idealist kings, American palenques on the edge, the eruption of Woodstock.)  But the magic failed to organize and to develop concrete and sustainable forms of mutual support and viable long-term alternatives against recapture; the parted-sea walls fell back in upon the freedom-seekers, drowning their rebellion (as a major transformational phenomenon) while the Pharaoh's troops watched safely from the shore.  Although some especially powerful and fortunate figures managed to retain their countercultural lifestyle and independence in the midst of the rolling-back times ('look out, here comes Disco!'), many others experienced an emotionally brutal 'defeat' which hurts to this day...  My own heart, today, tells me that the Red Sea of blind materialism, unsympathetic conformity and institutionalized misuse of human life which defines and threatens our world, today, CAN be parted... but work must follow inspiration; a commitment to struggle must fill the lungs of the dream; and structure must complement spontaneity. Between Bob Dylan's 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and John Lennon's 'God' ('the dream is over'), there is the terrain of rolling up our sleeves, turning up our brains to the next setting, and recommitting ourselves to fight for something that is too beautiful and too necessary to write off as a failure.

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