Les lecteurs hispanophones et francophones sont priés d’accepter mis disculpas, esta es sólo en inglés.
Perhaps I should put it this way: free speech cannot be a movement
It was not at Table 1, but at Table 2 or 3
That I mentioned to the Ivy League social entrepreneur
That if people stopped watching the news and tweeting and so forth,
The President would be finished with all his rough crew.
I suppose it would have been clearer if I had said,
If people lost interest in the news and tweeting and so forth.
In any case, she replied, with some excitement, something like, “A boycott!”
And I did not have the heart to tell her no,
A boycott wouldn’t change anything; a boycott would be just more of the same.
She was a very smart woman, Ivy League, as I have said,
And I can’t help feeling this is part of the problem:
The fancier the school, the worse the education.
I went to Berkeley and have in my files a quote from Mario Savio:
“There’s a time, when the operation of the machine . . . makes you so sick at heart, . . .
You can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part . . . ”
And then he went on to talk about things along the lines of boycotts.
He didn’t understand either. No one understands.
— Poem(s) and drawing by William Eaton. Poem drafted at Table 1, Maison Kayser, Union Square, 25 June 2019, before, while I was away in Europe, that café closed, and they disappeared into the night all the waiters and cooks and managers with whom I had spent many, many friendly hours.
Cf. D.H. Lawrence, from his essay “Democracy” (here as quoted in Raymond Williams’s excellent chapter on Lawrence in Culture and Society 1750-1950):
Every attempt at preordaining a new material world only adds another last straw to the load that already has broken so many backs. If we are to keep our backs unbroken, we must deposit all property on the ground, and learn to walk without it. We must stand aside. And when many men stand aside they stand in a new world; a new world of man has come to pass.”
As of September 2019, Wikipedia was offering an excellent bio of Mario Savio, which bio includes: his early ambition to be a Catholic priest; his participation in Freedom Summer projects in Mississippi in 1964; the illegal FBI investigations into his taxes and personal life; and Savio’s seeming difficulties in making a life after the Free Speech Movement came to an end. The lines in the poem come from Savio’s most famous speech, which is known either as his Bodies upon the Gears or “Operation of the Machine” speech. It was delivered on the steps of Sproul Hall, University of California at Berkeley, December 2, 1964. (The photo of Savio at right is, apparently, from the FBI COINTELPRO files.)
- Mark Kitchell, Berkeley in the Sixties (1990): excellent documentary film
- Robert Cohen, Freedom’s Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s (Oxford University Press, 2009)
- The Mario Savio Memorial Lecture and Young Activist Award