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David: Does it seem to you that something is accelerating in the evolutionary or historical process? What do you think it is that’s accelerating?
Paul: Yeah, inevitability. The sad thing is that there’s so much human suffering because of America’s national karma. But when they say, well, why do they hate us? It comes out that it’s not because they resent our freedom, or McDonalds, so much as that they saw on their own T.V.’s, Palestinians who had been bombed by Israelis–and they’re holding fragments of the bomb, in effect saying, “made in USA”. So that’s what I mean by inevitability.
But it seems to be accelerating, and it is getting weirder and weirder–because of the kind paranoia that makes people accept invasions upon their freedoms, and, in some cases, even welcome it. So I just see all kinds of scenarios, and they’re not all as optimistic as I would like them to be. This is why you have to make a separation between what you see is happening, and how you live your own life. Harry Chapin–the late singer and songwriter–and I were once talking about hope, and he said to me, “If you don’t act like there’s hope, there is no hope.” So even if it’s a placebo–placebo’s work!
David: Are you optimistic about the future? Do you think that the human species will survive the next hundred years?
Paul: Your guess is as good as mine. When I think about this question my thoughts immediately go to my daughter, in terms of her reality, and also as a symbol of the future. But then I think, even if I didn’t have a daughter, there are the children of the world, and whatever the human race is, it’s amazing. I mean, we went from living in caves to talking on telephones without wires that take photos–it’s just bizarre.
So I’ve become as much in awe of technology as I am in awe of nature. And I don’t know. There are people like Ted Turner say they give humanity a fifty-fifty chance of surviving. I see all the things–about the hole in the ozone, global warming and all. I get a lot more email than I can handle physically, but even just scanning, you can see what’s happening with the water around the world, and child slavery still going on in Haiti. But, at the same time, I see a kind of mass awakening, now, the way it happened in the Sixties. So that gives me hope, even in the face of all of that pessimism.
David: How do you envision the future of the human race?
Paul: At one end of the spectrum is total control, a fascist state. Just because the year 1984 is over doesn’t mean the concept is. The other end of the spectrum is a bursting of freedom. But I don’t know how you get from one to the other.
I used to live in La Selva Beach, by Monterey in central California. I lived right on a cliff, overlooking the ocean, and I would just see everything in metaphors of waves. I would think that there are people who are on the crest of a wave. But you can’t have a crest without a wave that follows it. So I began to apply that metaphor to many things, like say feminism. At a time when they’re still performing involuntary clitorectomies on the other side of the globe, here it’s just a matter of getting equal pay, among other causes. So I think of the people on the front lines of feminism as being on the crest of that wave, and another wave will follow sooner or later. That’s the vision, and that wave metaphor applies to everything. Feminism is just one example.
But my epiphany occurred when I was researching conspiracies from political assassinations to the Manson murders and went nuts from information overload. I came out of it with the understanding that I couldn’t save the world, that I had to start with myself–which is what John Lilly implied. So I just had to get some elbow room, work my way out, and realize that I wasn’t the only one. If I was the only one, then there would be no hope. But there are people all around doing that, although it doesn’t make the news. So people could begin to get despairing over just seeing the–I hate to sound like George Bush–but just seeing the bad things that make the news.
So I don’t know. I try to think, well, what will be different about our future generations? Will they have computer chips in their foreheads? And if they did, what would those computer chips do? Would they be like, instead of taking pills, you just press an area to change your mood? I think that, because everybody has their own vision, what results is an amalgam of all those visions–competing with each other, complementing each other. So that’s why I love the unknown–even if I’m afraid of it.
David: What are you currently working on?
Paul: My main obsession is a novel. It was inspired by Lenny Bruce, and it’s dedicated to him. Lenny always wanted to do his act before the Supreme Court, so this is about that. It started partly because, after Lenny died, I kept thinking about him, and reacting to reality by saying, wow, what would Lenny think about this? What would Lenny be saying about this? And, not that I was channeling him, but our point of view was very similar–even though he had theatrical talents that I didn’t have.
So I started out in my performances, not to make albums, but to just perform consciously, developing material that my protagonist would say on stage in the book. And I integrated this with the whole story of the novel. Then there were moments when I began to–not really, but on a certain level–experience the possibility of resenting this imaginary character for stealing my material.
I enjoy the schizophrenia of that process, of turning what is, on a certain level, autobiographical, into fiction. And it’s true about Lenny, because I edited his autobiography, and there are aspects of him that could probably be revealed better in fiction. I’m learning that actually. After Watergate, all of the books that were supposed to be nonfiction were really just self-serving, and the novels had truth in them–metaphorical truths, if not literal truths. So maybe in the future the labels of fiction and nonfiction will no longer be permitted in libraries.
To find out more about Paul Krassner’s work, visit his website: www.paulkrassner.com