2. On The San Francisco Diggers - 3
A. Peter Berg
B. Peter Coyote
C. Emmett Grogan
This is a
Nederlog of Saturday,
2018. (There also is another file today.)
This is not
log. In fact, this file goes back almost a year, namely to May
of 2017, when I wrote some about The San
Francisco Diggers, after
having learned in April that there was quite a lot of material about
the Diggers at various places, and most prominently here:
in 2017 also 50 years ago that the Diggers were most active (in their
more or less original form), and while I had heard of them in 1967
(when I was 17, and lived in Amsterdam, Holland, as I still do and did
for all but 5 years of my life), I did not know much about
them, and indeed had mostly forgotten about them, until I found the
above site, which is recommended.
2. On The San Francisco Diggers - 3
continues two previous files: The Diggers - 1
and Diggers-2. In case you are interested in the San
Francisco Diggers, it makes sense to have read these, since I will
presuppose my readers have done so.
explained in the first of the above linked two files what the Diggers
were, and in the second of them why I like them.
the third file on the San Francisco Diggers, and will
probably be the
last. There are two basic reasons for this:
realized that quite a few of the leading Diggers were hooked on
morphine and on amphetamine, and while I like the Diggers, I do
people who got themselves hooked on hard drugs, and indeed do so since
1967 (or earlier).
this was a serious mistake, and should have been avoided.
(2) I have
been saying for a long time that the internet gets worse and worse
quite rapidly and diggers.org is no exception: I never
could get any of
the videos linked there, except for one, because of
which I think - living in Holland - is rather crazy, while now
film I linked in The
Diggers - 1, which dates back to 1978 and which was
remarkably little seen, and quite good, also has been declared
I am sorry, but I can't
work on the San Francisco
Diggers (and explain them to others: after all, it is 50 years ago)
I can't see important files.
So the following is my view of the three leaders of the
Diggers (which set itself up as leaderless, but this was in part ideology
and anyway also a mistake), namely Peter Berg, Peter Coyote
I think each of the three was rather different in
and in aims from the others, although this was less clear while the
active, which was from 1966 till 1968.
A. Peter Berg
I think Peter
Berg (<- Wikipedia, which now has considerably less than
there was a
mere few months ago on Berg ) is the least
convincing of the leaders
of the Diggers, and the main reason for my estimate of him is about
what the San Francisco Diggers were doing: They were, at least
in Berg's opinion, life-actors.
This is from Berg's "Trip Without a Ticket":
liked the first paragraph of the above quotation, mostly because it corresponded
fairly well to my own attitudes around 1967: I
thought - as the child of two persons who had both been in the
communist resistance against the Nazis, from 1940-1945, and who still
were communists in the Sixties - that "normal
citizens" were partially deadened, indeed mostly by
themselves, and from a deep need to conform.
Our authorized sanities
are so many Nembutals. "Normal" citizens with store-dummy smiles stand
apart from each other like cotton-packed capsules in a bottle.
Perpetual mental out-patients. Maddeningly sterile jobs for
strait-jackets, love scrubbed into an insipid "functional personal
relationship" and Art as a fantasy pacifier. Everyone is kept inside
while the outside is shown through windows: advertising and manicured
news. And we all know this.
No one can control the single circuit-breaking moment that charges
games with critical reality. If the glass is cut, if the cushioned
distance of media is removed, the patients may never respond as normals
again. They will become life-actors.
Theater is territory.
A space for existing outside padded walls. Setting down a stage
declares a universal pardon for imagination. But what happens next must
mean more than sanctuary or preserve. How would real wardens react to
life-actors on liberated ground? How can the intrinsic freedom of
theater illuminate walls and show the weak-spots where a breakout could
intends to bring audiences to liberated territory to create life-actors.
It remains light and exploitative of forms for the same reasons that it
intends to remain free. It seeks audiences that are created by issues.
It creates a cast of freed beings. It will become an issue itself.
This is theater of an
underground that wants out. Its aim is to liberate ground held by
consumer wardens and establish territory without walls.
And whlle I do not think in 2018 as I did in 1967, I have never
liked "normal" citizens, and they have never liked me.
But I also think that the idea of life-acting was both
confusing and not quite honest:
The territory for "the audience" of the "life-actors" is quite
different from the territory of the life-actors, for "the adience"
is reacting to what they think are real people, whereas
the apparently "real people" who are life-actors are not real
people as they project to the audience, but are acting,
often from a - rough - script (and, at least in Peter Berg's
reconstruction, also not all the time, but only for a
Here is Emmett Grogan, in Ringolevio (p. 302) - and ¨the Hun¨
was Grogan´s term for Peter Berg:
appreciated the Hun's brainy semantics and his sapient
think Grogan saw this well, and indeed the San Francisco Diggers were considerably
more than enlightened life-actors who hoped to bring
their audience to
other ideas and values: The San Francisco Diggers were trying to create
the conditions for a social revolution, and indeed were in majority
well aware of this.
analysis of the Diggers
as life-actors, and their activities as theater,
because it provided a
very good cover and satisfied the curiosity of
the authorities and
general public, as well as exciting the hipper
members of the New
Left. Of course, it was just a superficial de-
scription of what was
really going on.
It was simply an account of
the casual, outward, conscious style of the
Diggers and some of the things they did, and not an examination of
the heightened awareness of the intrinsic essence of the Digger op-
eration or its motives. The elements of guerrilla theater and street
events were merely accessories contingent upon the fundamental
reality of Free Food, the free stores, the free goods, and the free
services made available to the people. The San Francisco Diggers
attempted to organize a solid, collective, comparative apparatus to
provide resources sufficient for the people to set up an alternative
power base, which wouldn't have to depend on either the state or
the system for its sustenance.
This may not have been quite obvious in 1967, but it was quite
clear by the 1990ies, when Berg had transformed himself to an ecologist
and a "bioregionalist", who saw his past as a Digger in ecological
B. Peter Coyote
fairly important problem about Peter Coyote
(<- Wikipedia) is that he is a - somewhat well-known - actor, who
must have made quite a few millions with acting, it seems, and who
seems to speak and write in public mostly as one of three
persons: As an actor, as an anarchist, and as a
And two basic points about Coyote as a person - whom I have
never met, but what I am saying about him can be derived from reading
him, which I did - are that he is quite intelligent and that he
also can write, as indeed you can find out on his own site, which
is rather extensive and quite interesting.
As to the important problem I started with:
I think that is a problem mostly because the three roles or
Coyote acts out in public are quite hard to combine,
do not seem to be compatible to me. And I can
illustrate this by picking three bits from Coyote's writings: (i) here is speaking
as an actor (which I don't like); (ii) here is
speaking as an anarchist (which I do like); and (iii) here as a Zen-Buddhist
(which I don't like much).
And I am not saying or implying you should agree with
me, but I do say that (i) there are considerable differences
actors, anarchists and Zen-Buddhists, and I do not think you
honestly, fully - be all three of them, because the fundamental
characteristics of each of these three roles are inconsistent
with some of
the fundamental characteristics of the other roles, and that - indeed -
(ii) Coyote does not combine them consistently (though I grant
he does his best).
Let me explain.
First Zen-Buddhism. I know about Zen-Buddhism since
around 1966, and I have read a fair amount about it, mostly because I
am interested in mysticism.
Then again, I had strongly atheistic
parents, and I have always remained an atheist, and also a
It may be doubted whether my atheism is inconsistent with Zen-Buddhism,
but Zen certainly is some kind of religion, and I don´t
And my dislike is not a mere matter of feelings or emotions: I
am in fact, academically speaking, a philosopher, who has read
literally - thousands of books about philosophy (and religion, and
mysticism, and science) in the last 50+ years, and I am also a
In fact, I
claims to supernatural knowledge; I do not believe in any god;
and I disbelieve the vast majority of all religious
and ideas I have been in contact with. (And I never had any
and also was happy enough not to be raised in one.)
This does not at all mean
that there is not very much that human beings do not know, and quite
possibly also that there is
much that human beings cannot know, but it does mean
that I believe
can not be
found in Holy Books (excepting some teaching about ethics, which has
nothing to do with the
existence or non-existence of supernatural entities),
and that I believe that scientific
realism is the best approach to real knowledge.
reasons for this firm
belief in science
as the method
to reach knowledge are:
1. All religions I
know of are
full of provable falsities
provable nonsense, and have done much harm, which may have been also
mixed with some good.
2. No God
ever appeared to me (other than in the delusive shape of attractive
3. No presumed Holy Book whatsoever, in spite of
its usual claims to contain the true teachings of the Maker of
Universe, Infinite in Power, Knowledge and Benevolence, contains as
much as a millionth part of the scientific
found the last four centuries, since the firm foundation of the scientific
Galileo and Newton.
4. Real science produces real technology that
really works whether or not you believe it or can explain it, whereas
real religions produced no technology other than new ways of deceiving the stupid and the ignorant, and
no religion produced any
technology that really works without faith
in the religion.
5. All or nearly all of the faithful of all
religions fondly believe the same about all religions other
than their own: They disbelieve all of them (except perhaps on a
dishonest and confused verbal level).
I merely extend this from all-but-my-own
to all. And I simply disbelieve
in Zen, and indeed in any religion, simply because I have read
about Zen, and also about the main religions, but I could not find any
good set of reasons to believe in them. (And Zen is quite
abstruse, when it gets articulated.)
Second acting. I know a
whole lot less about acting than I know about philosophy, religion
or Zen, but I did have for a number of years a girlfriend who was a
somewhat well-known actress (and who had a good mind).
For me, acting is a kind of
pretending, and pretending is not easy to combine with either
honest religion (including Zen) or with honest anarchism.
And I simply do not think
Coyote does succeed in combining being an actor (which I grant
he is, in several senses, and which he also made a reasonable
amount of money with) with being either an honest anarchist or a man of
Zen, and indeed I also think that the articles he wrote as an actor -
some of which you can find here (but again
less than there were before, with fewer links) - are considerably
worse than the articles he wrote as a man of Zen (indeed not many) or
the articles he wrote as an anarchist (quite a few).
Third anarchism. I
should start with saying I am myself a kind of anarchist,
although I never acted politically as an anarchist, which I did
not do because I am a (kind of) a philosophical anarchist,
whose anarchism is philosophical mostly because I think that
while liberal anarchism is probably the most sympathetic form of
society, I do not think it is possible to realize on any
considerable scale until people grow more intelligent than most
are. (I am 68 and have been thinking this for nearly 50 years, so while
this is a quite uncommon opinion, it is quite well-known to
And in fact, I like Coyote as
an anarchist (without agreeing with him) - but I also think his
anarchism is difficult or impossible to combine with either Zen or with
being an actor, and indeed he does not succeed in doing so.
Then again, all in all I like
Coyote because he can write and think, and wrote and said sensible
things, although I dislike his having been hooked on hard drugs, and I
also cannot accept his visions or presentations of his three kinds of
person - an anarchist, a Zen-Buddhist, and a (rather successful) actor.
three persons who led the Diggers (around 1967), I like Emmett Grogan
(<- Wikipedia) the best, although I should add immediately that he
died 40 years ago, in 1978, and that he died from an overdose of heroin
(which I dislike).
I like him because he was - more than Coyote or Berg - a real social revolutionary (who tried
and failed) and because he was a fine
writer, which you can check out yourself by reading his
autobiography Ringolevio, which I found on the Diggers.org (in
part, but the following downloads as 30 MB):
a fine story. The Wikipedia article on Grogan says this about
the book (note numbers deleted):
Grogan shunned media
attention, and became increasingly suspicious of those who sought
publicity. In Ringolevio Grogan discussed the 1967 Human
Be-In, criticizing counterculture luminaries Timothy Leary, Jerry
Rubin, and especially Abbie Hoffman. "[Ringolevio] is a
hard-boiled, sometimes hard-to-believe, wildly entertaining tale that
takes a totally unexpected turn when Grogan washes up in sixties San
Francisco and becomes a leader of the anarchist group known as the
Diggers. The Diggers, devoted to street theater, direct action, and
distributing free food, were in the thick of the legendary Summer of
Love, and soon Grogan is struggling with the naive narcissism of the
hippies, the marketing of revolution as a brand, dogmatic radicals, and
false prophets like tripster Timothy Leary."
And that is
correct. This is what diggers.org says about the book:
After retiring from
the scene in late 1969, Emmett wrote his account of the adventures (and
misadventures) of the previous decade and Ringolevio was
published in 1972. Many of his compatriots felt betrayed and (even to
this day) refused to read the book. Many others (myself included) who
had not been present at most or all of the actual events cherished Ringolevio
which (to us) captured the purity of vision the Diggers represented.
Granted there were flaws of ego and machismo and braggadocio. But, man,
what a story Grogan could weave.
Also, Grogan has died over 40 years ago now, and what he describes
happened mostly over 50 years ago. I do not know what may be false in
his book, but then I am not an American. (Of course, not everything is
true in his book, but then this is true of virtually any book.)
Anyway... I have given my ideas about three leaders of the Diggers, and
will stop here.
 And now, in 2018, it again seems less
than it was 10 months ago. In fact, I like the Wikipedia less and less
and less (precisely like the internet, which is growing more
by the day, and allows that everyone with a computer (or
cellphone, which in fact is also a computer) is completely known
in everything he or she does, thinks, or writes, to anyone who
belongs to almost any secret service, or to anyone who has enough
money, and besides to no one else.
There are, accordingly, three sets of people now, by
reference to the
The masters, who spy for some state; the rich ones,
who spy for
themselves on Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple etc., because
they own them or work for an owner, and the slaves, who own all
information about themselves, which gets stolen by the masters
rich ones, and who have to pay for everything, without getting any
Anyway... this was mostly an aside, though the point is important:
The internet is getting worse and worse, and seems to be convenient
only for some states´ terrorists (who tend to call themselves ¨National
Security¨) and for the very rich, and to be extremely dangerous
non-rich users (for your ¨National
Security¨ knows everything about you, and also everything