rebellion (re-bel’yen), n. 1. an act or state of armed open resistance to authority, government, etc. 2. a defiance of or opposition to any control. 3. a rebelling.
SYN.—revolt stresses a casting off of allegiance or refusal to submit to established authority (the revolt of the angels led by Lucifer)
rebel (reb’l); n., a person who openly resists authority or opposes any control.
(Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1959)
You’re twenty years old and you think you’re free because you’re away from home for the first time and don’t know any better. Imperiled by the times, swept along by History, you’re inspired by the smell of Danger in the air that drifts across the Pacific from Vietnam, a dialectic that somehow connects strife to progress. You feel you’re a different person from the one you were a few years before. You feel immortal. You will be young forever. The teachers who spoon-fed you “The Red Badge of Courage” are in the past, society is fermenting and the summer cities are ablaze. Ivy League elites are bombing the Gooks back to the Stone Age while TV reports body counts and pacification. Millions of pounds of high explosives fall on the docks, canals and streets of Hanoi as American jets pour napalm and Agent Orange on the peasant villages, rice paddies and lush green jungles of South Vietnam. Black people are on the march. Asian children flee in terror, their skin burning. You draw 69 in the Draft Lottery. Many of your friends are luckier. Two hundred yards from your half-basement student hovel the Student Union burns. Students you drink with and street kids you smoke dope with hassle the police touching off fireworks as diversions and setting smaller blazes here and there to keep the Man busy and guessing. You build barricades to bar the National Guard from campus. Gunfire sounds in the night. You throw huge curfew parties, turn out the lights, drop Acid and listen to Jimmy Hendrix, Iron Butterfly and the Beatles while the revolution erupts on your street. There are many girls. They come and go. They are part of the movement. Two nurses live upstairs and take turns creeping down to your “pad” late at night or very early in the morning. Two of your closest pals are in the drug business. One imports hash and sells it on campus. The other runs hallucinogens coast to coast. Sometimes they crash at your place and sleep in the bathtub, wearing their paranoia like orange prison jumpsuits. You discover opium and listen to Firesign Theater. You make love with your college sweetheart’s girlfriend and together you drop Mescalin under what turns out to be a million flashing, interconnected stars. Friends rehearse their schizoid speeches for the Draft Board. You do crazy and illegal things. You drive blindfolded while drinking cheap champagne out of the bottle. Everybody wants to live outside the law, like Dylan.
In August 68 you head up to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention. You’re in Grant Park on Wednesday when the Police charge from all sides, some spilling out like Aliens from huge city buses parked on a viaduct while others emerge from a forest on the other side. Charging, swinging their clubs wildly, big burly men smash skulls and drag young people away to waiting black vans. You escort a Catholic nun across Michigan Avenue and you both cower in a shoe store storefront while cops charge howling by. Blood runs in the gutters. Kids fight back, smashing windows and burning cop cars. Outside the Hilton you see Peter, Paul and Mary. Dazed and frightened, you wander away to an off-block behind the Hotel in order to catch a breather from the teargas. A Lincoln Towncar containing two Japanese journalists crashes head-on into a steel El support. One journalist is thrown through the windshield at your feet, his head cracked open and bleeding. You run away that night, down alleys, across side streets, and wind up on a deserted avenue at midnight. A black gang comes around the corner and eyes you up and down. You’re just waiting for the Bus. The gang approaches and you sweat in the heat. A Bus arrives and its door opens. The driver screams, “Get on!” and you do. The gang peppers the bus with rocks and bottles, breaking out the back window. The next night, across from the Hilton in a haze of teargas, Eugene McCarthy, a United States Senator, emerges alone and walks across Michigan Avenue by himself. He climbs on a park bench and gives a speech to fifty or sixty kids. In the crowd you spot poet Alan Ginsberg. You raise your fist and shout, “Power to the People”. You feel involved, moved, anchored to an Ideal. Somehow you get back home safely. You drink a lot of wine and smoke pot. You drift into the formal study of philosophy. Your father is dying. Stray cats adopt you and you name one big gray male “Zarathustra”. You have many, many friends and you believe that you will always have many, many friends—you are sure that life will be communal, uplifting and emotionally free, and that the values of Love and Solidarity will rule. You feel that History has turned a corner. You feel that love will be easy and free, and that materialism will dematerialize, revealing a new Age. Girls become young women. You grow your hair long and adopt John’s working class hero image. You learn to play an Epiphone guitar and go to folk festivals coast to coast.
You read furiously, voraciously and passionately. Reading and music are the keys to Life. You read like books are water and you are dying of thirst. You’re drawn to Hesse, like your friends. You read Nietzsche, Hegel, Marx, Camus, Sartre, Genet and Marshall McCluhan. You read Borges and Dostoyevsky and Hemingway and Mann and Flaubert. Soon, your apartment is littered with books, records and musical instruments. Summers you spend hitching around Europe. You sit out back in the woods drinking wine and reading Plato and Aristotle under the laden, swaying elms. One of your friends, a chess buddy, hangs himself in a basement apartment across the street. You find Faulkner one night after you’ve been smoking hashish. Music runs in your blood.
Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” lands on your doorstep. You read it in its original German. You’re reading Marx now too. Soon, Camus’ “The Stranger” arrives as well, as does “The Trial” and “The Castle”. You’re part of a revolution and nobody has a hold on you. You’re on your own, like a rolling stone. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Nixon is in the light. Altamont is at the end of the tunnel, too. The environment resists. The World fights back. There is evidence of a counter-revolution. The war drags on. You discover Beckett. “This is the end,” sing the Doors.
A few Books warned you it would be like this. A few Books said it would dead-end.
A few Books are saying it will get worse.