Shortly before 5:00 A.M., on Thursday, May 16, a motley group of about fifty hippies and “street-people” were huddled together on a lot 270 x 450 feet in Berkeley. The lot was owned by the Regents of the University of California and located a few blocks south of the Berkeley campus. Since mid-April this lot had been taken over and transformed into a “People’s Park” by scores of people, most of whom had no connection with the university. Now the university was determined to reassert its legal rights of ownership. A police officer approached the group and announced that it must leave or face charges of trespassing. Except for three persons, the group left and the area was immediately occupied and surrounded by about 200 police from Berkeley, Alameda county, and the campus. The police were equipped with flak jackets, tear gas launchers shotguns, and telescopic rifles. At 6:00 A.M. a construction crew arrived and by mid-afternoon an eight-foot steel fence encircled the lot.
At noon a rally was convened on campus and about 3,000 people gathered. The president-elect of the student body spoke. He started to suggest various courses of action that might be considered. The crowd responded to the first of these by spontaneously marching toward the lot guarded by the police. (For this speech, the speaker was charged a few days later with violating numerous campus rules, and, on the initiative of University officials, indicated for incitement to riot.) The crowd was blocked by a drawn police line. Rocks and bottles were thrown at the police, and the police loosed a tear gas barrage, scattering the crowd. Elsewhere, a car belonging to the city was burned. Meanwhile, police reinforcements poured in, soon reaching around 600. A rock was thrown from a roof-top and, without warning, police fired into a group on the roof of an adjacent building. Two persons were struck in the face by the police fire, another was blinded, probably permanently, and a fourth, twenty-five-year-old James Rector, later died. Before the day was over, at least thirty others were wounded by police gunfire, and many more by clubs. One policeman received a minor stab wound and six more were reported as having been treated for minor cuts and bruises.
Meanwhile, action shifted to the campus itself, where police had herded a large crowd into Sproul Plaza by shooting tear gas along the bordering streets. The police then formed small detachments which continuously swept across the campus, breaking up groups of all sizes. Tear gas enfolded the main part of the campus and drifted into many of its buildings, as well as into the surrounding city. Nearby streets were littered with broken glass and rubble. At least six buckshot slugs entered the main library and three 38 calibre bullets lodged in the wall of a reference room in the same building. Before the day ended, more than ninety people had been injured by police guns and clubs.
Under a “State of Extreme Emergency” proclamation issued by Governor Reagan on February 5th in connection with the “Third World Strike” at Berkeley late last winter and never rescinded, a curfew was imposed on the city. Strict security measures were enforced on campus and in the nearby business districts, and all assemblies and rallies were prohibited. The proclamation also centralized control of the police under the command of Sheriff Frank Madigan of Alameda County.
Roger Heyns, the Chancellor of the University, saw none of this, for he had left the previous day for a meeting in Washington. His principal Vice-Chancellor had gone to the Regents meeting in Los Angeles. The Regents took notice of the events by declaring, “It is of paramount importance that law and order be upheld.” The Governor said that the lot had been seized by the street-people “as an excuse for a riot.” A Berkeley councilman called the previous use of the lot a “Hippie Disneyland freak show.”
The next day, May 17, 2,000 National Guardsmen appeared in full battle dress, armed with rifles, bayonets, and tear gas. They were called into action by the Governor, but apparently the initiative came from local authorities acting in consultation with University administrators. Helicopters weaved back and forth over the campus and city. Berkeley was occupied. (The next day one helicopter landed on campus and an officer came out to ask that students stop flying their kites because the strings might foul his rotors. A collection was promptly taken and the sky was soon full of brightly colored kites.)
During the next few days a pattern emerged. Each day began quietly, almost like any other day, except that people awoke to the roar of helicopters and the rumble of transports. As University classes began (they have never been officially cancelled), the Guardsmen formed a line along the south boundary of the campus. The Guard and the police would cordon off the main plaza and station smaller detachments at various points around the campus. Gradually the students crowded together, staring curiously at the Guardsmen and occasionally taunting them. The Guard stood ready with bayonets pointed directly at the crowd. This standoff would continue for an hour or two, and then the police would charge the crowd with clubs and tear gas. The crowd would scatter, the police would give chase, the students and street-people would curse and sometimes hurl rocks or return the tear gas canisters, and the police would beat or arrest some of them.
On Tuesday, May 20, the pattern and tempo changed. Previously the police had sought to break up gatherings on the campus, so now the protesters left the campus and began a peaceful march through the city. This was promptly stopped by the police. The marchers then filtered back to campus and a crowd of about 3,000 assembled. The group was pressed toward the Plaza by the police and Guardsmen and, when solidly hemmed in, was attacked by tear gas. A little later a helicopter flew low over the center of the campus and spewed gas over a wide area, even though the crowd had been thoroughly scattered. Panic broke out and people fled, weeping, choking, vomiting. Gas penetrated the University hospital, imperiling patients and interrupting hospital routines. It caused another panic at the University recreation area, nearly a mile from the center of campus, where many people, including mothers and children, were swimming. The police also threw gas into a student snack bar and into an office and classroom building.
The next day, May 21, was a turning point. More than 200 faculty members announced their refusal to teach; a local labor council condemned the police action; some church groups protested; and the newspapers and television stations began to express some criticism. Controversy arose over the ammunition which the police had used the previous Thursday. Sheriff Madigan was evasive about the size of birdshot issued, but the evidence was clear that buckshot had killed James Rector. The tear gas was first identified as the normal variety (CN) for crowd disturbances, but later it was officially acknowledged that a more dangerous gas (CS) was also used. The American army uses CS gas to flush out guerrillas in Vietnam. It can cause projectile vomiting, instant diarrhea, and skin blisters, and even death, as it has to the VC, when the victim is tubercular. The Geneva Conventions outlaw the use of CS in warfare.
On the same day the Chancellor issued his first statement. He deplored the death which had occurred, as well as “the senseless violence.” He warned that attempts were being made “to polarize the community and prevent rational solutions,” and he stated that a university has a responsibility to follow “civilized procedures.” Heyns made no criticism of the police or National Guard tactics: that same day a Guardsman had thrown down his helmet, dropped his rifle, and reportedly shouted, “I can’t stand this any more.” He was handcuffed, taken away for a physical examination, and then rushed off to a psychiatric examination. He was diagnosed as suffering from “suppressed aggressions.”
In Sacramento, where a deputation of Berkeley faculty members was meeting with the Governor, aggression was more open. The Governor conceded that the helicopter attack might have been a “tactical mistake,” but he also insisted that “once the dogs of war are unleashed, you must expect things will happen….” Meantime, the statewide commander of the Guards defended the gas attack on the grounds that his troops were threatened. He noted that the general who ordered the attack had said, “It was a Godsend that it was done at that time.” The commander regretted the “discomfort and inconvenience to innocent bystanders,” but added: “It is an inescapable by-product of combatting terrorists, anarchists, and hard-core militants on the streets and on the campus.”
The next day, May 22, a peaceful march and flower planting procession began in downtown Berkeley. With little warning, police and Guardsmen converged on the unsuspecting participants and swept them, along with a number of shoppers, newsmen, people at lunch, and a mailman, into a parking lot, where 482 were arrested, bringing the week’s total near 800. As those arrested were released on bail, disturbing stories began to circulate concerning the special treatment accorded “Berkeley types” in Santa Rita prison.
These stories, supported by numerous affidavits and news accounts submitted by journalists who had been bagged in the mass arrest, told of beatings, verbal abuse, and humiliation, physical deprivations, and refusal of permission to contact counsel. Male prisoners told of being marched into the prison yard and forced to lie face down, absolutely motionless, on gravel and concrete for several hours. The slightest shift in posture, except for a head movement permitted once every half hour, was met with a blow to the kidneys or testicles. On May 24th a District Court judge issued an order restraining Sheriff Madigan’s subordinates from beating and otherwise mistreating the arrestees taken to Santa Rita prison.
Despite all the arrests, the shotguns, gas, and clubs, the protesters have thus far shown remarkable restraint. Although both police and Guards have been targets of much foul language and some hard objects, nothing remotely resembling sustained violence has been employed against the police; and the Guard has been spared from all except verbal abuse. At this writing, the only damage to campus property, other than that caused by the police, has been two broken windows and one flooded floor.
After the mass arrests, the Governor lifted the curfew and the ban on assemblies, saying “a more controlled situation” existed. But he warned that no solution was likely until the trouble-making faculty and students were separated from the University. “A professional revolutionary group,” he said, was behind it all. Charles Hitch, the President of the University of California, issued his first statement. (Much earlier, his own staff issued a statement protesting campus conditions of “intolerable stress” and physical danger.) The President ventured to criticize “certain tactics” of the police, but noted that these “were not the responsibility of university authorities.”
In a television interview, the Chancellor agreed with the President, but added that negotiations were still possible because “we haven’t stopped the rational process.” A published interview (May 22) with the principal Vice-Chancellor found him saying, “Our strategy was to act with humor and sensitivity. For instance, we offered to roll up the sod in the park and return it to the people…. We had no reason to believe there would be trouble.” Meanwhile the Governor was saying, “The police didn’t kill the young man. He was killed by the first college administrator who said some time ago it was all right to break laws in the name of dissent.”
The Governor also accused the President of the University, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and RANDsman, of “trying to weasel” to the side of the street-people. Two days later the Governor refused the request of the Berkeley City Council to end the state of emergency and recall the Guard-requests, it might be added, that the University itself has not yet made. At this time the Mayor of Berkeley suggested that police tactics had been “clumsy and not efficient,” to which Sheriff Madigan retorted: “If the Mayor was capable of running the city so well without problems we wouldn’t be here. I advise the Mayor to take his umbrella and go to Berkeley’s Munich….”
On Friday, May 23, the Faculty Senate met. It listened first to a speech by the Chancellor in which he defined the occupation of the lot as an act of “unjustified aggression” against the University, and declared that the “avoidance of confrontations cannot be the absolute value.” He said that the fence would remain as long as the issue was one of possession and control, and, pleading for more “elbow room,” he asserted that the faculty should support or at least not oppose an administrative decision once it had been made. The faculty then defeated a motion calling for the Chancellor’s removal (94 voted for, 737 against, and 99 abstained). It approved, by a vote of 737 to 94, a series of resolutions which condemned what was called “as irresponsible a police and military reaction to a civic disturbance as this country has seen in recent times.”
The resolutions demanded withdrawal of “the massive police and military presence on campus”; the “cessation of all acts of belligerency and provocation by demonstrators”; an investigation by the Attorney General of California and the Department of Justice; and the prompt implementation of a plan whereby part of the lot would become “an experimental community-generated park” and the fence would be simultaneously removed. The faculty also resolved to reconvene in a few days to reassess the situation.
There is where events now stand (May 26). But pressures from all sides are increasing. A student referendum, which saw the heaviest turnout in the history of student voting, found 85 percent of the nearly 15,000 who voted favoring the use of the lot as it had been before the occupation. The students also voted to assess themselves $1.50 each quarter to help finance an ethnic studies department previously accepted by the University but now foundering. As of this writing, college students from all over the state are planning direct protests to Governor Reagan. Leaders of the protesters are preparing for a huge march against the fence on Memorial Day. The Governor remains committed to a hard line. All the issues remain unsettled.
What brought on this crisis? Like many of its sister institutions, the Berkeley campus has been steadily advancing its boundaries into the city. Back in 1956 it had announced its intention to purchase property in the area which includes the present disputed lot. Owing to lack of funds, very little land was actually purchased. Finally, in June, 1967, the monies were allocated and the University announced that ultimately dormitories would be built on the land, but that in the interim it would be used for recreation.
The lot itself was purchased in 1968, but no funds were then available for development. Undoubtedly the University was aware of the disastrous experience of other academic institutions which had attempted to “redevelop” surrounding areas. In fact, a short time ago the University announced, with much fanfare, its intention to mount a major attack on the problems of the cities. Despite these professions, the University’s treatment of its own urban neighbors has consisted of a mixture of middle-class prejudice, aesthetic blindness, and bureaucratic callousness.
The victims in this case, however, have not been so much the Blacks as another pariah group, one whose identity is profoundly influenced by the University itself. For many years, Telegraph Avenue and “the south campus area” have constituted a major irritant to the University, the City fathers, and the business interests. It is the Berkeley demi-monde, the place where students, hippies, drop-outs, radicals, and run-aways congregate. To the respectables, it is a haven for drug addicts, sex fiends, criminals, and revolutionaries. Until the University began its expansion, it was also an architectural preserve for fine old brown shingle houses and interesting shops. It is no secret that the University has long considered the acquisition of land as a means of ridding the area not of sub-standard housing, but of its human “blight.” The disputed lot was the perfect symbol of the University’s way of carrying out urban regeneration: first, raze the buildings; next let the land lay idle and uncared for; then permit it to be used as an unimproved parking lot, muddy and pitted; and finally, when the local people threaten to use and enjoy the land, throw a fence around it.
Around mid-April, a movement was begun by street-people, hippies, students, radicals, and a fair sprinkling of elderly free spirits to take over the parking lot and transform it. Many possibilities were discussed: a child care clinic; a crafts fair; a baseball diamond. Soon grass and shrubs were planted, playground equipment installed, benches built, and places made for eating, lounging, and occasional speechmaking. About 200 people were involved in the beginning, but soon the Park was intensively and lovingly used by children, the young, students and street-people, and the elderly. A week after the Park began, the University announced its intention to develop a playing field by July 1, and the Park people responded by saying that the University would have to fight for it. Discussions followed, but not much else. The University said, however, that no construction would be started without proper warning and that it was willing to discuss the future design of the field.
On May 8 the Chancellor agreed to form a committee representing those who were using the lot as well as the University. But he insisted as “an essential condition” of discussions about the future of the land that all work on the People’s Park cease. In addition he announced certain guidelines for his committee: University control and eventual use must be assured; the field must not produce “police and other control problems”; and no political or public meetings were to be held on the land. Suddenly, on May 13, he announced his decision to fence in the area as the first step toward developing the land for intramural recreation. “That’s a hard way to make a point,” he said, “but that’s the way it has to be…. The fence will also give us time to plan and consult. Regretfully, this is the only way the entire site can be surveyed, soil tested, and planned for development…hence the fence.”
Why did it have to be this way? Because, as the Chancellor explained, it was necessary to assert the University’s title to ownership. Concerning the apparent lack of consultation with his own committee, he said that a plan could not be worked out because the Park people had not only refused to stop cultivating and improving the land, but they had “refused to organize a responsible committee” for consultative purposes. In addition, he cited problems of health, safety, and legal liability, as well as complaints from local residents.
The first response came from the faculty chairman of the Chancellor’s committee. He declared that the Chancellor had allowed only two days (the weekend) for the committee to produce a plan and that the “University didn’t seem interested in negotiations.” On May 14 a protest rally was held and the anarchs of the Park, surprisingly, pulled themselves together and formed a negotiating committee. Although rumors of an impending fence were circulating, spokesmen for the Park people insisted that they wanted discussion, not confrontation.
On May 15, the day immediately preceding the early morning police action, the Chancellor placed an advertisement in the campus newspaper inviting students to draw up “ideas or designs” for the lot and to submit them by May 21. The ad was continued even after the military occupation. On May 18, three days after the occupation had begun, the Chancellor announced that there would be “no negotiations in regard to the land known as People’s Park,” although discussions might go on “while the fence is up anyway.” His principal Vice-Chancellor, in an interview reported on May 22, stated that the University had not turned down a negotiating committee.
He also noted—and this was after the helicopter attack—that “the fence was necessary to permit the kind of rational discussion and planning that wasn’t possible before.” Once more the faculty chairman had to protest that he had not been informed of meetings between the Administration and representatives of the People’s Park and that the Chancellor had consistently ignored the committee’s recommendations. However, the principal Vice-Chancellor had an explanation for this lack of consultation: “I guess that’s because the Chancellor didn’t want him to get chewed up by this thing.”
Why did the making of a park provoke such a desolating response? The bureaucratic nature of the multiversity and its disastrous consequences for education are by now familiar and beyond dispute. So, too, is the web of interdependence between it and the dominant military, industrial, and political institutions of our society. These explain much about the response of the University to the absurd, yet hopeful, experiment of People’s Park.
What needs further comment is the increasingly ineffectual quality of the University’s responses, particularly when its organizational apparatus attempts to cope with what is spontaneous, ambiguous, and disturbingly human. It is significant that the Berkeley administration repeatedly expressed irritation with the failure of the Park people to “organize” a “responsible committee” or to select “representatives” who might “negotiate.” The life-styles and values of the Park people were forever escaping the categories and procedures of those who administer the academic plant.
Likewise the issue itself: the occupants of the Park wanted to use the land for a variety of projects, strange but deeply natural, which defied customary forms and expectations, whereas, at worst, the University saw the land as something to be fenced, soil-tested, processed through a score of experts and a maze of committees, and finally encased in the tight and tidy form of a rational design. At best, the most imaginative use of the land which the University could contemplate was as a “field-experiment station” where faculty and graduate students could observe their fellow beings coping with their “environment.” In brief, the educational bureaucracy, like bureaucracies elsewhere, is experiencing increasing difficulty, because human life is manifesting itself in forms which are unrecognizable to the mentality of the technological age.
This suggests that part of the problem lies in the very way bureaucracies perceive the world and process information from it. It was this “bureaucratic epistemology” which largely determined how the University responded to the People’s Park. Bureaucracy is both an expression of the drive for rationality and predictability, and one of the chief agencies in making the world ever more rational and predictable, for the bureaucratic mode of knowing and behaving comes to constitute the things known and done themselves.
Now this rational form of organizing human efforts employs a conception of knowledge which is also rational in specific ways (cf. Kenneth Keniston’s analysis in The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society, 1967, pp. 253-272). The only legitimate instrument of knowledge is systematic cognition, and the only acceptable mode of discourse is the cognitive mode. Other paths to knowledge are suspect. Everything tainted with the personal, the subjective, and the passionate is suppressed, or dismissed as prejudice or pathology. A bureaucrat who based his decisions upon, say, intuition, dialectical reason, empathic awareness, or even common sense, would be guilty of misconduct.
The bureaucratic search for “understanding” does not begin in wonder, but in the reduction of the world to the ordinary and the manageable. In order to deal with the world in the cognitive mode, the world must first be approached as an exercise in “problem-solving.” To say there is a problem is to imply there is a solution; and finding the solution largely means devising the right technique. Since most problems are “complex,” they must be broken down by bureaucrats into their component parts before the right solution can be found. Reality is parsed into an ensemble of discrete though related parts, and each part is assigned to the expert specially qualified to deal with that part. Wholes can appear as nothing more than assemblages of parts, just as a whole automobile is an assemblage of parts. But in order for wholes to be broken into parts, things that are dissimilar in appearance and quality must be made similar.
This is done by abstracting from the objects dealt with those aspects as though they were the whole. Abstraction and grouping by common attributes require measuring tools that yield comparable units for analysis: favorite ones are units of money, time, space, and power; income, occupation, and party affiliation. All such measurements and comparisons subordinate qualitative dimensions, natural context, and unique and variable properties to the common, stable, external, and reproducible. This way of thinking becomes real when campus administrators define “recreation” in fixed and restrictive terms so that it may accord with the abstract demands of “leadtime.” In a way Hegel might barely recognize, the Rational becomes the Real and the Real the Rational.
When men treat themselves this way, they increasingly become this way, or they desperately try to escape the “mind-forged manacles,” as Blake called them, of the bureaucratic mentality and mode of conduct. In the broadest view, these two trends increasingly dominate the advanced states of our day. On the one side, we see the march toward uniformity, predictability, and the attempt to define all variety as dissent and then to force dissent into the “regular channels”—toward that state whose model citizen is Tocqueville’s “industrious sheep,” that state whose only greatness is its collective power.
On the other side we see an assertion of spontaneity, self-realization, and do-your-own-thing as the sum and substance of life and liberty. And this assertion, in its extreme form, does approach either madness or infantilism, for the only social institutions in which each member is really free to do his own thing are Bedlam and the nursery, where the condition may be tolerated because there is a keeper with ultimate control over the inmates. The opposing forces were not quite that pure in the confrontation over the People’s Park, but the University and public officials nearly managed to make them so. That they could not do so is a comforting measure of the basic vitality of those who built the Park and who have sacrificed to preserve it.
But this still does not account for the frenzy of violence which fell on Berkeley. To understand that, we must shift focus.
Clark Kerr was perceptive when he defined the multiversity as “a mechanism held together by administrative rules and powered by money.” But it is important to understand that the last few years in the University have seen more and more rules and less and less money. The money is drying up because the rules are being broken. The rules are being broken because University authorities, administrators and faculty alike, have lost the respect of very many of the students. When authority leaves, power enters—first in the form of more and tougher rules, then as sheer physical force, and finally as violence, which is force unrestrained by any thought of healing and saving, force whose aim is to cleanse by devastation.
Pressed from above by politicians and from below by students, the University Administration simultaneously imposes more rules and makes continual appeals to the faculty for more support in its efforts to cope with permanent emergency. It pleads with the faculty for more “elbow room,” more discretionary space in which to make the hard decisions needed when money runs short and students run amuck. That same Administration is right now conducting time-and-motion studies of faculty work and “productivity.” Simultaneously, both faculty and Administration make spasmodic efforts to give the students some voice in the governance of the institution. But those efforts are always too little, too late, too grudging.
Besides, as soon as the students get some power, unseemly things happen. Admit the Blacks on campus and they demand their own autonomous departments. Give the students limited power to initiate courses and they bring in Eldridge Cleaver and Tom Hayden. The faculty sees student initiative as a revolting mixture of Agitprop and denial of professional prerogatives. The Administration sees it as a deadly threat to its own precarious standing within the University and before the public. The politicians see it as concession to anarchy and revolution. The result is more rules and less trust all around—more centralization, bureaucratization, and force on one side, more despair and anger on the other.
Under these conditions, the organized system must strive to extend its control and reduce the space in which spontaneous and unpredictable actions are possible. The subjects, on the other hand, come to identify spontaneity and unpredictability with all that is human and alive, and rule and control with all that is inhuman and dead. Order and liberty stand in fatal opposition. No positive synthesis can emerge from this dialectic unless those who now feel themselves pushed out and put down are admitted as full participants. But that is not happening. More and more, we are seeing in this country a reappearance of that stage in the breakdown of political societies where one segment of the whole—in this case still the larger segment—determines to dominate by force and terror other segments which reject and challenge its legitimacy.
This dynamic largely accounts for the crushing violence and terror that hit Berkeley. When spontaneity appeared in People’s Park, it was first met by a re-statement of the rules governing possession and control of land. When that re-statement did not have the desired effect, the University failed to take the next step dictated by rule-governed behavior—seeking an injunction. Nor did it take the step which would have acknowledged itself as being in a political situation—talking on a plane of equality, and acting in a spirit of generosity, with the other parties. Instead, it regressed immediately to the use of physical measures. In the eyes of the Administration, the building of People’s Park was an “unjustified aggression,” and the right of self-defense was promptly invoked.
Once force was called into play, it quickly intensified, and the University cannot evade its share of responsibility for what followed. He who wills the end wills the means; and no University official could have been unaware of the means necessary to keep that fence standing. But the administrators did not quite understand that their chosen agents of force, the police, would not limit their attention only to the students and street-people, who were expendable, but would turn against the University and the city as well.
Ronald Reagan reached Sacramento through Berkeley because, in the eyes of his frightened and furious supporters, Berkeley is daily the scene of events that would have shocked Sodom and revolutionary Moscow. All this came into intense focus in the behavior of the cops who were on the scene.
The police were numerous and armed with all the weapons a fertile technology can provide and an increasingly frightened citizenry will permit. Their superiority of force is overwhelming, and they are convinced they could “solve the problem” overnight if they were permitted to do it their own way: one instant crushing blow, and then license for dealing with the remaining recalcitrants. All the trouble-makers are known to the police, either by dossier and record or by appearance and attitude. But the police are kept under some restraints, and those restraints produce greater and greater rage.
The rage comes from another source as well. Demands for a different future have been welling up in this society for some years now, and while those demands have not been unheard they have gone unheeded. Vietnam, racism, poverty, the degradation of the natural and manmade environment, the bureaucratization of the academy and its active collaboration with the military and industrial state, unrepresentative and unreachable structures of domination—all these grow apace. It seems increasingly clear to those who reject this American future that the forces of “law and order” intend to defend it by any means necessary. It becomes increasingly clear to the forces of law and order that extreme means will be necessary, and that the longer they are delayed the more extreme they will have to be.
Those two futures met at People’s Park. It should be clear that what is happening this time is qualitatively different from 1964 and the Free Speech Movement. The difference in the amount of violence is the most striking, but this is largely a symptom of underlying differences. In 1964, the issues centered around questions of civil liberties and due process within the University. The issues now are political in the largest sense.
The appearance of People’s Park raised questions of property and the nature of meaningful work. It raised questions about how people can begin to make a livable environment for themselves; about why both the defenders and critics of established authority today agree that authority can be considered only in terms of repression, never in terms of genuine respect and affection. These questions cannot be evaded. Those who honestly and courageously ask them are not imperiling the general happiness but are working for the common redemption.
It is increasingly clear that legitimate authority is declining in the modern state. In a real sense, “law and order” is the basic question of our day. This crisis of legitimacy has been visible for some time in just about all of the non-political sectors of life—family, economy, religion, education—and is now spreading rapidly into the political realm. The gigantic and seemingly impregnable organizations that surround and dominate men in the modern states are seen by more and more people to have at their center not a vital principle of authority, but a hollow space, a moral vacuum. Increasingly, among the young and the rejected, obedience is mainly a matter of lingering habit, or expediency, or necessity, but not a matter of conviction and deepest sentiment.
The groups who are most persistently raising these questions are, of course, white middle-class youth and the racial and ethnic minorities. The origins of protest are different in the two cases: the former have largely seen through the American Dream of meaning in power and wealth and have found it a nightmare; the latter have been pushed aside and denied even the minimal goods of the Dream. But the ends of the protest are remarkably similar: both are fighting against distortions and denials of their humanity. Both reject the programmed future of an America whose only imperative now seems to be: more.
The people who built the Park (there will be more People’s Parks, more and more occasions for seemingly bizarre, perverse, and wild behavior) have pretty much seen through the collective ideals and disciplines that have bound this nation together in its conquest of nature and power. Having been victimized by the restraints and authorities of the past, these people are suspicious of all authorities and most collective ideals. Some of them seem ready to attempt a life built upon no other ideal than self-gratification. They sometimes talk as though they had found the secret which has lain hidden through all the past ages of man: that the individual can live fully and freely with no authority other than his desires, absorbed completely in the development of all his capacities except two—the capacity for memory and the capacity for faith.
No one can say where this will lead. Perhaps new prophets will appear. Perhaps the old faith will be reborn. Perhaps we really shall see the new technological Garden tended by children—kind, sincere innocents, barbarians with good hearts. The great danger at present is that the established and the respectable are more and more disposed to see all this as chaos and outrage. They seem prepared to follow the most profoundly nihilistic denial possible, which is the denial of the future through denial of their own children, the bearers of the future.
In such times as these, hope is not a luxury but a necessity. The hope which we see is in the revival of a sense of shared destiny, of some common fate which can bind us into a people we have never been. Even to sketch out that fate one must first decide that it does not lie with the power of technology or the stability of organizational society. It lies, instead, in something more elemental, in our common fears that scientific weapons may destroy all life; that technology will increasingly disfigure men who live in the city, just as it has already debased the earth and obscured the sky; that the “progress” of industry will destroy the possibility of interesting work; and that “communications” will obliterate the last traces of the varied cultures which have been the inheritance of all but the most benighted societies.
If hope is to be born of these despairs it must be given political direction, a new politics devoted to nurturing life and work. There can be no political direction without political education, yet America from its beginnings has never confronted the question of how to care for men’s souls while helping them to see the world politically. Seeing the world politically is preparatory to acting in it politically; and to act politically is not to be tempted by the puerile attraction of power or to be content with the formalism of a politics of compromise. It is, instead, a politics which seeks always to discover what men can share—and how what they share can be enlarged and yet rise beyond the banal.
People’s Park is not banal. If only the same could be said of those who build and guard the fences around all of us.
To the Editors:
…The repression unleashed at Berkeley has national implications. Officials around the nation are preparing to put an end to campus disturbance by any means necessary. They are testing their tactics here. Two days after the aerial gassing of the Berkeley campus, the campus of N.C. A & T in Greensboro was gassed by helicopter. The Berkeley campus is determined to resist such outrages against its basic liberties, but to continue we need help. Our local sources for bail money and legal and medical expenses are exhausted. Checks may be sent to: “The People’s Park Defense Fund,” c/o Free Church, 2200 Parker Street, Berkeley, California.
June 19, 1969