Why I'm Optimistic About the Future

Paul Krassner

Every act of love is a change in the universe.
--Aleister Crowley

Recently, on a beautiful, serene afternoon, I was strolling along thecrowded Venice boardwalk, playing my part in God's ant farm. A commonspirit seemed to transcend age, gender, appearance, vocation, ethnicity,language, religion. It was like a mobile oasis; as if a truce had beendeclared, where inhumanity was replaced by empathy. Despite my awareness ofunspeakable anguish
occurring around the world, a feeling of hope surgedthrough my body. That kind of epiphany had
occurred many times before.

The first time it happened, I was seven years old. A fellow studentstood in front of the class, unzipped his fly, and exposed his penis. Hewas sent to reform school. Without having the vocabulary
to express it,I thought that the punishment didn't fit the crime. The next morning,I walked to school with a mission. I stood in front of the class, unzipped myfly, and exposed a portrait of my penis that I had drawn the previousevening. While carrying out that self-assigned art homework, I had becomeengulfed by a blast of pure optimism--I was totally confident that I wouldnot get in trouble for what I planned to do. My parents were called toschool and were advised to take me to a psychiatrist, but they knew better.In retrospect, though, I still have to wonder, What the fuck ever made medo that!
If it were to happen now, I would undoubtedly be force-fedRitalin through a Pez dispenser.

I never knew when I would experience these flashes of optimism. InDecember 1960, when I traveled to Cuba, the State Department was financingcounterrevolutionary broadcasts from a radio station on Swan Island inHonduras. Program content ranged from telling Cubans that their childrenwould be taken away, to warning them that a Russian drug was being added totheir food and milk which would automatically turn them into Communists. Inthe Sierra Maestra, where battles once raged, there were now underconstruction schools and dormitories for 20,000 children--to match the20,000 Cubans who lost their lives, many after torture, under theU.S.-spported Batista regime At one of these educational communities, someyoung students removed the string that been set up by a landscaping crew tomark off a cement foundtion. Next morning, the school director lecturedthem about such immorality. Even a little thing like that, he explained,does harm to the revolution. The children of Cuba were being programmedfor cooperation rather than competition, and it made me quiver withhopefulness.

A recent study concluded that human beings are mentally wired tocooperate, and I witnessed that concept in action at the shadow conventionsin Philadelphia and Los Angeles during the 2000 presidential campaign.Once, at a benefit, I met songwriter/troubadour Harry Chapin backstage, andI'll never forget his words: If you don't act like there's hope, there isno hope. Placebos do work, after all. And yet, I in retrospect, I realizethat I often acted as if there were no hope. During the 60s, when abortionwas illegal, I served as an underground referral service, but I neverdreamed that it would become legal in my lifetime. I didn't like to eat inrestaurants or fly in planes because of cigarette smoking, but I neverthought it would become illegal in my lifetime. I joined protestdemonstrations against the Vietnam War and for civil rights, againstcircumcision and for an end to nuclear testing, never speculating as to howeffective we were, but always knowing that the option was to do nothing.

I became obsessed with investigating a government plot to neutralize thecountercultural threat to control-freaks and economic-forecasters--the FBIhad a special Hippie Squad where they were taught how to roll joints, thebetter to infiltrate--and I eventually freaked out from informationoverload. A turning point in this psychotic episode came late one nightwhile talking with an old friend. As we spoke, we were rolling billiardballs back and forth across a pool table in the living room, pushing andcatching them with our hands rather than hitting them with a cue-stick andwaking up our hosts.

How long is it gonna go on? I asked -
How long is *what* gonna go on?
You know, the battle between good and evil, when is it gonna *end*?

Maybe never.

Suddenly I felt a wave of relief. So it *wasn't* all my responsibility.Such a heavy burden had been lifted from my soul. I understood that I couldparticipate in the process of change without becoming attached to it. ThatI could maintain sanity in the midst of insanity by developing the abilityto be a passionate activist and an objective observer simultaneously. ThatI needn't take myself as seriously as my causes.

Recently, I asked High Times editor Steve Hager, who is deep intoconspiracy research, how he remains optimistic. He replied, My rule is:Forget about tearing down the establishment (it'll never happen, the Octopusis too powerful). Instead, concentrate on building an alternative cultureand passing it down to anyone who cares. Real ceremonies create positiveenergy, but when you focus solely on exposing Nazis, you are living in theirtwisted world.

Or, as Ram Dass said at the Oregon Country Fair in July, The greatestsocial action is the individual heart...heart to heart resuscitation.Hanging around with him renewed my sense of optimism, but of course that maymerely be a result of my damaged chromosomes from taking too many acidtrips.

Paul Krassner is the author of Murder At the Conspiracy Convention andOther American Absurdities (Barricade Books)
his stand-up satire album is Irony Lives! (Artemis Records); Paul's web site is paulkrassner.com

(C) 2003 - Paul Krassner