8 The Hippie and The Negro
Hippie culture is international; the argot, way of dress, faste in music, interest in the occult, pattern of drug use, attitudes to conventional employment, philosophy of life, have adherents in all of the advanced Western countries. This is simply because it represents a common response to the problems of work and leisure which have arisen in post-industrial societies. As Fred Davis puts it:
The hippies, in their collective yet radical breaks with the constraints of our present society, are — whether they know it or not (some clearly do intuit a connection) — already rehearsing in vivo a number of possible cultural solutions to central life problems posed by the emerging society of the future.1
These life problems centre around the premise that massive increases in productivity have opened the possibility for leisure on a totally different scale and nature. The hippies have discovered that, as middle-class young people — which they largely are — it is possible for them to forego the ethos of productivity. They can both disdain work and reject school. They can criticize 'leisure' as an outpost of work and demand that authentic 'play', the free expression of subterranean values, be the major focus of man's existence. The price they pay for this is in their eyes small, because not only are the material possessions which society has to offer not worth working for, but they are able through handouts from parents, working friends, national assistance, and part-time hustling, to remain well above the starvation line.
However, by rejecting the work ethic's dictate that leisure is a credit which is earned and deserved by prior diligence and hard work, they expose themselves to a hostile onslaught from the mass of society. For as Paul Goodman has indicated, those who argue:
that the State can tolerate the hippies because they are no threat to the structure, are misinformed. Proportionate to its numbers, this group is by far the most harassed, beat up, and jailed by the police. Negroes go scot free in comparison. The social response to the demonstrating Negroes is, primarily, 'Why don't they go away?' It is at the point of riot that deep anxiety begins to be aroused. But with the hippies there is a gut reaction from the beginning — they are dirty, indecent, shiftless; they threaten the self-justification of the system.2
The hippies are a ready target for moral indignation: fascinating because they act out in an uninhibited fashion the subterranean goals which the rest of the population desires, immediately condemnable because they do not deserve any of these rewards. They are a new leisured class; they exist in a limbo which is outside the workaday world of the mass of people. Moreover, they are particularly notorious because they espouse the use of drugs to achieve subterranean goals. And it is on hippie drug use that social reaction focuses: humanitarian motives providing an additional and overt justification for repressive measures against them.
It is the central thesis of this book that it is not psychotropic drugs per se that evoke condemnation, but their use for unreservedly hedonistic and expressive ends. Society reacts, then, not to the use of drugs but to the type of people who use drugs; it reacts against the subterranean values of hippies and the use of drugs to attain these goals. It is groups and their values which must be our fundamental concern, not merely drug use considered in isolation.
What is the precise nature of the subterranean values which hippies uphold? It is important to note that although there are many groups which accentuate the subterranean values of hedonism, expressivity, spontaneity, etc., the precise way in which they realize these values differs with their cultural backgrounds and present social environment. Thus the lower-working-class Irish, the Puerto Rican delinquent, the ghetto Negro and the middle-class hippie all embrace subterranean values, but the specific form of their expression varies widely. I wish, therefore, to examine the particular fashion in which these values manifest themselves in hippie culture, and then proceed to analyse the role of drugs in the realization of subterranean goals.3
Time and Pleasure
Hippie culture is a Dionysian culture: it puts extreme emphasis on sexual pleasure, physical euphoria and enjoyment. Moreover, it demands this pleasure now. It does not find the notion of pleasure in the future, deferred gratification, as being a worth-while goal. This involves not only an emphasis on pleasure, but a totally different conception of time. For time is a subjective experience rather than an objective reality. As John Horton puts it:
Time in industrial society is clock time. It seems to be an external, objective regulator of human activities. But for the sociologist, time is not an object existing independent of man dividing his day into precise units. Time is diverse; it is always social and subjective. A man's sense of time derives from his place in the social structure and his lived experience.4
Western man has evolved an industrial society which is based on a strong orientation to the future; it has demanded planning, the rational linking of complex tasks over time, and the deferment of present gratification for future success. But, as Davis has pointed out:
paradoxically, it is the advanced technology of computers and servo-mechanisms, not to overlook nuclear warfare, that industrial civilization has carried us to that is raising grave doubts concerning this temporal ordering of affairs, this optimistic, pleasure-deferring, and magically rationalistic faith in converting present effort to future payoff. Why prepare, if there will be so few satisfying jobs to prepare for? Why defer, if there will be a superabundance of inexpensively-produced goods to choose from? Why plan, if all plans can disintegrate into nuclear dust?
Premature or exaggerated as these questions may seem they are being asked, especially by young people. And merely to ask them is to prompt a radical shift in time-perspective — from what will be to what is, from future promise to present fulfilment, from the mundane discounting of present feeling and mood to a sharpened awareness of their contours and the possibilities for instant alteration. Broadly, it is to invest present experience with a new cognitive status and importance: a lust to extract from the living moment its full sensory and emotional potential. For if the present is no longer held hostage to the future, what other course than to ravish it at the very instance of its apprehension.'5
Spontaneity, Expressivity and Doing Your Own Thing
Hippie philosophy would argue that action should be spontaneous and not planned in bureaucratic detail. The happening is the institutionalized form of this, and doing your own thing its argot expression. Hippies argue that a great deal of modern man's activities are mere games which the participants play whilst all the time feeling alienated from the sequence of action: they are actors in a play which does not express their own inner feelings. Work is seen as by definition alienating, leisure as a mere consumption game which satisfies no one. Both are hang-ups which are seen to impede the individual from having a groovy time, from playing in an uninhibited fashion.
The most elaborate attempt to set up a community on a no-game basis was that of Timothy Leary and his disciples in Zihuatenejo in Mexico, where LSD was taken regularly by participants and attempts were made to eliminate relationships based on stereotyped and false-consciousness patterns. Game-playing in itself was considered as part and parcel of social relationships, and therefore impossible to eradicate; what was aimed at was making this conscious and voluntary.6
As a source of expressivity hippie culture excels itself. As Fred Davis put it:
One has only to encounter the lurid art nouveau contortions of the hippie posters and their Beardsleyan exoticism, or the mad melange of hippie street costume — Greek sandaled feet peeking beneath harem pantaloons encased in a fringed American Indian suede jacket, topped by pastel floral decorations about the face — or the sitar-whining cacophony of the folk-rock band, to know immediately that one is in the presence of expressiveness for its own sake7
The workaday world demands that the majority of male employees wear a standard mass-produced suit. In itself this epitomizes the formal values of the large corporate bureaucracies: the individual dresses like others, he presents himself as one reliable unit in a conforming machine. Hippie dress, in contrast, is strikingly expressive; there are, it is true, fashions of hairlength, shirts, trousers, etc., but the range of choices is immeasurably larger, and innovation is encouraged rather than ridiculed. Moreover, like the dress of the leisure classes described by Veblen, it is manifestly disfunctional for work. Both clothes and appearance are visible signs of adherence to subterranean values. It is this manner of dress which is instantly recognizable to people outside the culture and which forms the immediate stigmata on which rejection is based.
Creativity is stressed as a paramount goal; man is seen as realizing himself through spontaneous, expressive activities. A major goal must be to develop his awareness of himself and the universe — a process which is hindered by the routine of work as we know it.
Hippies, then, desire to change the orthodox future-oriented conception of time and pleasure. They seek creativity, spontaneity and self-insight. How then are they to achieve such subterranean goals in a world where pleasure is viewed ambivalently, conformity and 'other-direction' insisted upon, and where lack of 'future-orientation' is regarded as indicative of psychopathy? They are faced with the problem not only of combating a social order which would variously describe their ideals as wicked, sick and ridiculous, but with overcoming their own socialization into the ethos of productivity.
The problem which the bohemian faces is similar to that faced by industrial man in general. He, too, wishes to override his socialization into the work ethic, to step out of the workaday world into the ecstasy of play. He too feels that his work role is of insufficient coherence and meaningfulness to provide a sense of identity. But whereas the average citizen wants balance (leisure at the right time and place, moderate at all times and commensurate with his productive capacity and status, and an identity, leisure-centred yet underscored by commitment to the work ethic), the hippie wants none of this. He seeks an undiluted subterranean experience and he wants it now. He believes that man is in essence a creative, expressive and hedonistic creature and, because of this, it is only in the realm of subterranean values that his true identity can be realized. Therefore, like the rest of society, he turns to psycho-tropic drugs to facilitate his emergence out of workaday reality, but the specific drugs used differ precisely because the problem is experienced as more severe, the solution envisaged more radical and its implications pursued with greater zeal and commitment.
THE DRUGS CHOSEN
The major drug used by hippie communities all over the world is undoubtedly marihuana. Far behind this in frequency of use, but of almost equal importance in the pharmacopoeia of bohemia, is LSD. In Chapter 4 I suggested that to solve a particular problem by using drugs one would expect them:
I. to have properties which are roughly pharmacologically related to the problem;
2. to be accessible;
3. to be in turn shaped to fit these problems by the culture of the group. -
Pharmacological Properties of Marihuana and LSD
Marihuana is a mild and LSD an exceedingly strong hallucinogen. Despite a wide cross-cultural variation in the subjective effects of such changes three-core themes are encountered well-nigh invariably; namely, a lengthening of the experience of time, a disjunction between concepts and 'reality', and an increased awareness of the tenuous nature of the self.
William Braden writing about LSD notes: 'Time stops. Or, in any case; it ceases to be important. And perhaps it would be more accurate to say that memory and forethought stopped. The subject is content to exist in the moment — in the here and now."8 Concepts and objects seem oddly and arbitrarily related. Objects are re-experienced in a new and more immediate fashion. 'Words lose all meaning. In the here and now there are no abstractions. An object represents only that which it is.'9 The personal world undergoes an even more radical transformation. 'The sense of self or personal ego is utterly lost. Awareness of individual identity evaporates. "I" and "me" are no more. Subject—object relationships dissolve, and the world no longer ends at one's fingertips: the world is simply an extension of the body, or the mind. . . . As for identity, it is not really lost. On the contrary, it is expanded to include all that is seen and all that is not seen. What occurs is simply depersonalization:10 These are extreme examples (remember they refer to LSD) of recurrent themes in the accounts of hallucinogen-induced experiences. Sense of time alters and profound epistemological and ontological disjunctions ensue.
What is the physiological basis of these subjective experiences? Peter Laurie, summarizing recent research, tentatively suggests that the effect of LSD is: 'to break down the processes that limit and channel sense impressions in the deeper interpretative layers of the brain, allowing neuronal excitation to spread indiscriminately sideways.' He compares the brain: 'to an office organization that handles vast quantities of small pieces of information, at each level summarizing, correlating and passing on this material to the next level for action and further condensation. Finally, the head of the organization — or the consciousness — is presented with one simple image. But LSD disrupts this delicate process; the millions of small messages pour straight through and completely swamp interpretation.'l1
Robert Ornstein has cogently argued that our sense of time is best understood in terms of a 'storage size' metaphor. The sense of duration of an interval is proportional to the input or information stored by the brain over that interval. Awareness-increasing drugs, such as marihuana and LSD, by increasing the input into the brain, enlarge the storage over an interval, and lengthen the duration experience.12
The physical world around us is categorized and made meaningful, templated in its infinity by the human beings who populate it. Social psychological studies of selective perception have shown how the external world is shaped and organized by man. When, however, the selective filter of the mind is short-circuited by hallucinogens the individual becomes aware of the creative nature of human perception: of the gap between concepts and input, subject and object. If this is true of the physical world, it is even more valid of society. To elucidate man's relationship to the social world I could not do better than quote from Peter Berger's The Sacred Canopy:
Society is a dialectic phenomenon in that it is a human product, and nothing but a human product, that yet continuously acts back upon its producer. Society is a product of man. It has no other being except that which is bestowed upon it by human activity and consciousness. There can be no social reality apart from man. Yet it may also be stated that man is a product of society . . . it is within society, and as a result of social processes, that theindividual becomes a person, that he attains and holds on to an identity. . .13
Man creates social reality and his own identity is formed and maintained by that reality. His sense of identity is contingent, therefore, on the constant reaffirmation by significant others in the world around him; they must agree to play a game which includes the individual in the role which he sees himself in. He must use available socially created cues to indicate to others that he is the sort of person that he believes himself to be. In turn, the social world out of which identities are created is a creation of man, it takes on an appearance of autonomous solidity, yet it depends completely on men playing the game in socially acceptable ways.
For most of us, as we grow up, and learn to live in society, its forms take on an appearance of structures as self-evident and as solid as those of the natural cosmos. Very likely society could not exist otherwise. . . . Yet this consciousness of what Alfred Schutz has called the 'world taken for granted' is not of such solidity that it cannot be breached. 'When such a breach occurs the world is transformed, takes on new dimensions and colors. If the breach occurs suddenly it marks the day after which life will never be the same again.14
Berger details how the monolithic certainties of what I have termed absolutism can be undermined by sudden culture shock, change in life style, natural disaster and even, hopefully, the honest pursuit of sociological insight. In such circumstances the relative nature of both social reality and self-identity becomes apparent, and man becomes aware of the precarious nature of the universe he inhabits. It is my contention that the hallucinogens, by profoundly disturbing the ability of the individual to organize the social world into customary patterns and meanings, make evident the creative role of man in sustaining the taken-for-granted universe of social reality. He becomes aware too of the other moment of the dialectic: that his identity is not separate and atomistic but a product of the society he lives in.
The Fit between Pharmacology and Culture
The bohemian seeks his identity through the pursuit of subterranean values. He is intent on creating a culture which is short-term hedonistic, spontaneous, expressive, exciting and unalienated. Hallucinogen drugs facilitate such aims admirably. The lengthening of the time experience allows minute examination of the moment and a sensation of directness and immediacy. Thus:
Marihuana consciousness is one that, ever so gently, shifts the center of attention from habitual shallow purely verbal guidelines and repetive secondhand ideological interpretations of experience to more direct, slower, absorbing, occasionally microscopically minute, engaging with sensing phenomena during the high moments or hours after one has smoked. . . the vast majority all over the world, who have smoked the several breaths necessary to feel the effect, adjust to the strangely familiar sensation of Time slow-down and explore this new space thru' natural curiosity. ..15
This aids hedonistic involvement:
Experts agree that marihuana has no aphrodisiac effect, and in this as in a large percentage of their judgements they are entirely wrong. If one is sexually bent, if it occurs to one that it would be pleasant to make love, the judicious use of the drug will stimulate the desire and heighten the pleasure immeasurably, for it is perhaps the principal effect of marihuana to take one more intensely into whatever experience. . It provokes a more sensual (or aesthetic) kind of concentration, a detailed articulation of minute areas, an ability to adopt play postures. What can be more relevant in the act of love?16
The manner in which the hallucinogens make transparent the relative nature of seemingly absolute standards of conduct make them attractive to a culture which views contemporary man as alienated and social mores as mere games to be played. Culture is a game because it consists of rules created by man, and sustained only by his adherence. It is alienating because these rules are thought of as existing apart from and super-ordinate to, individual desires for self-expression. Identity is therefore sought in a subterranean reality. Moreover, the drugs which are vehicles to this realm promise insight into the social basis of identity; they invite an exciting exploration, a trip through the esoteric pathways of the psyche.
The Cultural Structuring of Drug Effects
The pharmacological substratum on which behaviour is based and meanings evolved is more highly structured in the case of the hallucinogens than it is with mental stimulants or depressants. For the latter are simply blank cheques upon which are writ large the norms of the group, whilst the hallucinogens direct and affect the cultures of users to a much greater extent. This said, however, it must be noted that the culture structures the effects of marihuana and LSD, as with any other drug.
The content of the culture determines the direction to which the time-lengthening experience is put and the meaning given to the epistemological and ontological disjunctions experienced. Richard Blum 17 in his study of LSD users has shown how various groups differentially interpret the effects of the drug. Thus psychologists claim interpersonal insight, patients under therapy increased self-knowledge, and religious groups greater awareness of their relationship to God.
There are five ways in which a culture can fashion pharmacological effects:
1. Interpretation and Direction
Physiological effects are interpreted in terms of the values and beliefs of the culture. For example, bohemians will interpret the scrambling and disorganization of stimuli as indicative of the precarious nature of social reality, the more sophisticated moving from there to comment on the taken-for-granted game-playing of their fellow men or evolving transcendental philosophies concerning the insubstantial nature of the ego. Such interpreted effects are directed to achieve, as far as possible, the aims of the culture. Time lengthening is utilized, as we have seen, to enhance sexual enjoyment (and hence the marihuana comes to be seen as a catalyst of sexual enjoyment), and LSD is purposely used to gain self-insight (and is seen as a drug of discovery in these terms). Cultures give meaning then to the physiological effects that drugs induce.
2. Learning and Teasing Out
The dialectic between drug and culture is more intimate than mere interpretation of physiological changes. For, as I argued in Chapter 2, certain drug-induced effects deemed irrelevant by the culture are ignored, whereas others are teased out, brought into the foreground, and defined as of paramount importance. Moreover, this ordering of possible effects has repercussions on the physiological level. For individuals who seek after certain effects will enhance and increase the actual physiological concomitants within their bodies.18
The role of head is learned in the context of the most central grouping in hippie culture, the circle of experienced heads sitting passing a joint from one to the other. He learns in these circumstances not only how to interpret, direct and tease out the physiological effects of the drug 19 but the perspectives and values of a whole culture which in turn determine the effects of the drug and methods of drug use. For such groups discuss not only drug use per se but also a gamut of experiences as regards perception of objects, people, sensations of time and orientation to the outside world.
3. Structural Position
The structural position of the drug-using group gives rise to problems which in turn demand solutions, the content of which determines the interpretation, direction and teasing out process to which the pharmacological substratum is subject. In a more formal sense, however, the positions in which bohemian groups find themselves influence the effects of the drugs used. Thus the degree to which they are isolated and subject to a hostile onslaught has important repercussions. Marginality in itself, as Berger has indicated, creates an awareness of the relativity of cultural standards. Thus the de-reifying effect which hallucinogens have is reinforced and confirmed by the 'outsider' perspective held by the drug-using group. Similarly, the suggestions of paranoia implicit in any drug-induced experience involving a slackening in the organization of incoming stimuli is nourished by the very real need of such illicit groups to be secretive and suspicious of outsiders.
Marihuana is smoked and LSD dropped in the social milieu of bohemia. The tight-knit group of smokers allow the subterranean definitions of reality to be maintained and survive unchallenged.
Other aids are sometimes used to support the transition in consciousness. Music is the prime adjunct, although strobic lights have also been utilized at dances.
The lore of drug use prescribes the correct dosage and mode of administration necessary to achieve the results valued by the culture. Thus, for example, marihuana is eaten rather than smoked on those special occasions where very strong hallucinogenic experiences are desired. Heavy smoking of marihuana tends to have a sedative rather than a hallucinogenic effect. Therefore, smokers usually limit themselves to enough to get high rather than that requisite to be smashed. For this reason grass is often preferred to hash.
THE DRUG USE EFFECTS THE CULTURE
The dialectic between bohemian culture and hallucinogen use is such that the drugs have important effects on the culture. Social reaction against marihuana smoking increases the marginality of hippie groups. Drug use becomes the major accusation levelled at them. But, more profoundly, the use of LSD to produce hallucinogenic experiences acts as a catalyst to the bohemian exploration of identity and subterranean values. New aesthetic perspectives are developed (consider the emergence of psychedelic-influenced art and music) and transcendental experiences lead to an interest in Eastern mysticism.
Escalation to Heroin
Escalation from marihuana to heroin (or other 'hard' drugs) will occur where:
either (a) the customary use of heroin is compatible with the values of the culture of marihuana smokers,
or (b) where the problems of some marihuana smokers change so that they are more easily solved by the customary use of heroin. In this light, escalation can only be analysed in terms of particular cultures. This is the basic premise of the socio-pharmacological approach to drug dependency.
The customary definition of heroin dependency held by British bohemians is that of a sick role, where the user is enslaved by the drug. To this extent escalation is incompatible with hippie values. It is a comparatively rare phenomenon. In certain circumstances, however, contradictions within bohemian cuhurc lead to the emergence of new problems more commensurate with heroin dependency. Chief of these is the yawning gap between the lofty goals of subterranean reality and the — in many cases — completely inadequate economic base of the culture. Some individuals pilloried by society, eking out a miserable living on National Assistance, guilty about their own 'irresponsible' hedonism, may welcome the psychiatrically-buttressed identity, the blameless hedonism of heroin 'sickness'. The unsettling goals of expressivity, spontaneity, pleasure and immediacy untainted by work are renounced; the ideological position of bohemia is surrendered.
The moral opposition between hedonism and hard work that is the core of the Ethos of Productivity is either solved by the notion of earned pleasure or by the exception of oneself through embracing a sick role. The heroin addict takes the latter course; he retains his hedonism at the price of admitting his deviancy. The world, in turn, grants him leave of absence because of his sickness.
THE NEGRO AND SUBTERRANEAN VALUES
The American ghetto Negro is cut off from legitimate means of obtaining the material goods and status deemed desirable in the wider society and — unlike some other immigrant groups in this position — he is also denied access to the illegitimate means that organized crime so ably provides. Like bohemian youth, then, he is outside the aegis of the work ethic but more out of necessity than direct choosing. Moreover, the identity bestowed upon the Negro is subterranean. Both youth and the negro being viewed with the same ambivalence: happy-go-lucky and lazy, hedonistic and dangerous. Neil Friedman well sums up the identity problem of the Negro when he writes:
In the United States — in the (to be Baldwinesque) antisexual, Anglo-Saxon, 'civilized', future-oriented, Puritan, work-oriented United States — the Negro is defined by whites as possessing all the traits which run counter to the dominant mythology of the country. For example, he is variously seen as licentious, violent, living for the present, shiftless, primitive, instinctual, and so forth. But the Negro has sometimes accepted the dominant judgements of the society about what constitutes good and evil and has accepted the white man's version of him. Hence his own negative identity becomes: Don't act like a nigger.'20
The subterranean image and consequent social ambivalence are common to both Negro and youth. The difference in their position lies in the voluntarism of bohemian youth and the temporary nature of much youthful rebellion. For the Negro is placed permanently in the world of subterranean values. Forced poverty and inferior status are much more difficult to bear than voluntary disdain for wealth and pariah identification.
In response to his position the ghetto Negro has several possible paths:
(i) Acceptance of inferior position: the 'respectable' Negro working class.
(ii) Attempts to raise position by identifying with the work ethic, e.g., Black Muslims.
(iii) Rebellion and politicization, e.g., Black Panthers.
(iv) Acceptance of subterranean position but viewing its values as superior to those of the workaday world.
It is the last option which interests us here. Harold Fine-stone in his excellent description of the Chicago 'cat' has well documented the world of play which is embraced in this case. For the subterranean values are held in high regard:
The main purpose of life for the cat is to experience the 'kick'. Just as every cat takes pride in his `hustle', so every cat cultivates his 'kick'. -A `kick' is any act tabooed by 'squares' that heightens and intensifies the present moment of experience and differentiates it as much as possible from the humdrum routine of daily life. . . . When asked for the reasons underlying his rejection of work the cat did not refer to the uncongenial and relatively unskilled and low-paid jobs which, in large part, were the sole types of employment available to him. He emphasized rather that the routine of a job and the demand that he should apply himself continuously to his work task were the features that made work intolerable for him. The self-constraint required by work was construed as an unwarranted damper upon his love of spontaneity.'21
He develops an expressive aesthetic of sharp clothes and cool jazz. He rejects work and lives by hustling. He creates a world of play divorced from the outside reality. But how to maintain this separation, how to maintain superiority whilst existing in a world which ubiquitously defines you and your activities as inferior? The answer is simple: heroin. Drugs of all sorts are used by the ghetto `cat'; they facilitate the transition to the world of play; but only heroin can create a for-thetime impenetrable citadel within which this world can exist. Here Finestone and LeRoi Jones concur:
It can be seen now why heroin use should make such a powerful appeal to the cat. It was the ultimate 'kick'. No substance was more profoundly tabooed by middle-class society. Regular heroin use provides a sense of maximal social differentiation from the 'square'. The cat was at last engaged, he felt, in an activity completely beyond the comprehension of the 'square'. No other 'kick' offered such an instantaneous intensification of the immediate moment of experience and set it apart from everyday experience in such spectacular fashion. Any words used by the cat to apply to the 'kick', the experience of 'being high', he applied to heroin in the superlative. It was the 'greatest kick of them all'.
It is this limited, esoteric character of heroin use which gives to the cat the feeling of belonging to an elite. It is the restricted extent of the distribution of drug use, the scheming and intrigue associated with underground 'connections' through which drugs are obtained, the secret lore of the appreciation of the drug's effects, which give the cat the exhilaration of participating in a conspiracy.22
Narcotic users, especially those addicted to heroin, isolate themselves and are an isolated group within the society. They are also the most securely self-assured in-group extant in the society, with the possible exception of homosexuals. Heroin is the most popular addictive drug used by Negroes because, it seems to me, the drug itself transforms the Negro's separation from the mainstream of the society into an advantage.. . . It is one-upmanship of the highest order. Many heroin addicts believe that no one can be knowledgeable or 'hip' unless he is an addict. The terms of value change radically, and no one can tell the 'nodding junkie' that employment or success are of any value at all. The most successful man in the addict's estimation is the man who has no trouble procuring his 'shit'.
. . . The 'secret' hopper's and [later] hipster's language was the essential part of a cult of redefinition, in terms closest to the initiated. The purpose was to isolate even more definitely a cult of protection and rebellion.'23
They have created a world of seemingly inviolate hedonism, which is in their own argot cool. They do not regard heroin use as a sickness, rather they are the righteous dope fiends whom Alan Sutter24 descibes as 'expert hustlers capable of maintaining a habit of the most expensive addictive drug available without working'. What is a sickness to the square world is to them a source of exotic pleasure and self-esteem.
The Collapse of the Cool World
This elite world of hedonism centring around heroin is seemingly impregnable. It provides a superior status, supported rather than corroded by the hostile responses of the wider world. But two forces conspire to subvert this fortress of hedonism. The economic base of the cat, like that of the hippie, is insecure and in contradiction with his subterranean ideals. Hustling depends on constant alertness and acumen. In association with the conspicuous consumption valued in the lifestyle, it means that no relaxation in effort is possible. Nor is there any easily accessible illicit heirarchy within which the successful can find the comparatively untroubled peace of the criminal bureaucrat. Inevitably, because of police pressure, or predatory companions, the hustler's luck will change. A series of reversals can lead to an ignominious withdrawal from the scene.
To be sure, when a person runs in a 'rat race' for several months or years, his morale is likely to sink, and his condition is likely to deteriorate. Periodically, the righteous dope fiend believes that his total existence is a 'bum kick'. He gets progressively 'strung out' behind the scene; his health deteriorates; he begins to look skinny, dirty, and hollow-faced, and his bones begin to 'ache'. In order to hustle well, a person must 'look sharp, feel sharp, and be sharp'. A ragged appearance is the first sign that a dope fiend is 'going down', and once he begins to slide, circumstances conspire against him.25
Interrelated to this are the exigencies of addiction to black-market heroin. Overdosage and infection are concomitants of adulterated heroin of unknown dosage. Tolerance regularly builds up and with it the size of the daily drugs bill. Moreover, a cure, the only way of eliminating tolerances, is painful and inconsistent with the hedonistic image of the righteous dope fiend.
Thus hustling is insufficient in the long-term to maintain subterranean goals and the crises of heroin addiction belie the security of such a reality. The road out of the rat race of hustling and the threatened cool of the effortless habit leads to the collapsed world of the sick addict. And he is the garbage junkie in the argot of the Negro ghetto.
1 F. Davis. 'Why All of Us May Be Hippies Someday', Transaction, no. 5, December 1967, pp. to-18.
2 P. Goodman, 'Objective Values', in The Dialectics of Liberation, (ed.) D. Cooper, Penguin, London, 1968, p. 123.
3 I have examined the contradictions in hippie culture and the conflict between different levels of the underground elsewhere. See 'The Hippie Solution: An Essay in the Politics of Leisure', in The Sociology of Leisure, vol. 1, (ed) M. Smith and S. Parker, Penguin, London, 1971.
4 J. Horton, 'Time and Cool People', Transaction, no. 4, April 1967, pp. 5-12.
5 F. Davis, 'Why All of Us May Be Hippies Someday', Transaction, no. 5, December 1967, pp. 14-15.
6 See J. J. Downing, 'An Experiment in Transpersonative Living', in Utopiates, (ed.) R. Blum et al., Tavistock, London, 1964.
7 F. Davis, 'Why All of Us May Be Hippies Someday', Transaction, no. 5, December 2967, p. 14.
8 W. Braden, The Private Sea: LSD and The Search for God, Bantam Books, New York, 1968, p. 16.
9 Ibid., p. 16.
10 'Ibid., p13- 14-15'
11 P. Laurie, Drugs: Medical, Psychological and Social Facts, second edition, Penguin, London, 1969, pp. 99-100.
12 R. Ornstein, On the Experience of Time, Penguin, London, 1969, Chapter 3.
13 P. Berger, The Sacred Canopy, Doubleday & Co., New York, 1969, P. 3.
14 P. Berger, The Precarious Vision, Doubleday & Co., New York, 1961, pp. zo--I 1.
15 Allen Ginsberg, 'First Manifesto to End The Bringdown', in The Marihuana Papers (ed.) D. Soloman, Signet, New York, 1966, pp.
16 A. Trocchi, Cain's Book, Calder & Boyars: Jupiter Books, London, 1966, 1). 95.
17 R. Blum (ed.) Utopiates, Tavistock, London, 1965.
18 See the experiment of Zinberg and Weil discussed in Chapter
19. 'As Becker has portrayed in Outsiders, The Free Press, Glencoe, 1963.
20 N. Freidman, `Africa and the Afro-American', Psychian y, no. 32, 1969, p. 129.
21 H. Finestone, 'Cats, Kicks, and Color', in The Other Side, (ed.) H. S. Becker, 1964, PP. 284 and 287.
22 Ibid., pp. 285-62 and pp. 292-3.
23 LeRoi Jones, Blues People, MacGibbon & Kee, London, 1965, p. 202.
24 A. Sutter, 'The World of the Righteous Dope Fiend', Issues in Criminology, no. 22 1966, pp. 177-222.
25 A. Sutter, 'The World of the Righteous Dope Fiend', Issues in Criminology, no. 2., 1966, p. 214.