RU Sirius - Interview
A shorter version of this will be appearing soon in a London periodical - it should interest fellow burners
Media agitator R.U Sirius has had a significant foothold in counterculture for the last thirty years. A veteran of the far left 'Yippie' movement of the seventies he founded the seminal cyberpunk quarterly Mondo 2000 in the eighties and ran for the American Presidency in 2000 with The Revolution Party. His recently published 'Counterculture Through The Ages: From Abraham to Acid House', is an acclaimed guide to countercultural practice throughout history and sees the completion of one of Timothy Leary's final projects. The Maybe Logic Academy with whom he is involved is an online countercultural educational facility that approaches information from multiple perspectives, exploring methodologies that exist outside of the mainstream. Courses are designed to broaden people’s perceptions through tutorials with some of America's most well known freethinking radicals including Robert Anton Wilson, Douglas Rushkoff and the LSD dabbling ex - presidential candidate Ken Goffman a.k.a. R U Sirius.
What are the aims of the Maybe Logic Academy?
Spreading what I think is a really good ideal of Counterculture, Robert Anton Wilson's idea that the universe contains a 'maybe'. An anti-authoritarian idea on a philosophical level that is all about uncertainty, always allowing for some doubt, debate and discourse.
What can someone expect to achieve through taking a Maybe Logic course?
'I want my courses to be really participatory and I want people to not just discuss ideas but to create ideas, to create their own descriptions of what counterculture is after looking at my description. At the end of the class I'm thinking that some people will decide to create an anti-authoritarian coalition and that we will have activism resulting from the course.'
Tell me something about the last US election and the current mood of the alternative left.
'It's been a painful thing to watch the people of the United States supposedly reinstate George Bush. There are some questions about the voting machines and so on but I think it takes a long time to go into theories like that and try to decipher how valid they are. What can I say? More people voted for John Kerry in this election than have voted for any democrat in history and there is something heartening about that. The fact that people would get together and vote for someone who is a veteran and that they wouldn't be deterred by the very effective Republican propaganda machine is a positive thing. Still, the message to the world is George Bush, four more years.'
Do you fear that the voices of radicals in America will become systematically more marginalised in the current climate?
'No. I mean people badmouthed Ralph Nader for making the Leninist analysis that if Bush came in again and made things worse it would just bring progressive people together but I think that's true. I can get an audience amongst middle class people now that I never had four or five years ago, people are really thinking about how best to resist religious rule.'
Do you believe that having religious fundamentalists in The White House is anathema to the notion of a free country?
'In the sense that they act on their beliefs sure it's an anathema to a free country. Theocracy is the overwhelming fact of authority through most human history, its always a theocratic overlord or overarching philosophy that binds people into a very narrow set of rules for living and ways of thinking and it is always counter culture that in some form breaks that homeostasis. In terms of having them in The White House, yeah sure their ongoing attacks on gay rights and the extent to which they are going to try to impose theocratic rule are certainly a threat.'
Of course the irony of the Christian right taking power is that they preside over a country on the brink of huge scientific advancements . What are your gut feelings about the genetics industry and so on? Do you see the cloning of an individual as an evolutionary step?
'Cloning a human being right now would be an act of cruelty. Six hundred sheep suffered terribly before Dolly was an even partial success. I think that the medical possibilities of engineering genes pre - birth to produce certain tendencies in human beings that might increase intelligence can be used for good or bad. Patenting of genes I could have done without, I'm suspicious of the biotech industry on the whole but I separate that from the technology.'
I think the problem lies in the question of Nietszche's Ubermensch, the creation of the perfect human specimen. As the Dead Kennedy’s sang its all rather ‘California Uber Alles.’
'Right well that’s the great battle of the future, there is no turning back from it. The expansion of the biological lifespan is something that companies are working on and planning to market in the next decade or two. You could have an enormous class rift with a virtually immortal race and a mortal race. However the other aspect of it is that when they manufacture these drugs they aren't just looking to give them to twenty billionaires they are looking to have a mass market for it. But of course half of the world is living on less than two dollars a day and they are just out of the picture of what we are talking about unless we change social systems or create such massive abundance that there actually is a trickle down.'
What do you think about the current US administration’ s drive to put weapons in space? Is that about isolationism?
'What it is more than anything is corporate welfare. It’s companies that contribute to the political parties, mostly the republicans, who are getting the grants to do the research and to do the work on these laser weapons in space. As defensive weapons they aren't going to work and anybody who is a hacker knows that a big clumsy system like that sitting in outer space is going to be easy to hack. Also a nuclear bomb is going to be coming inside a suitcase or flying beneath a radar so it's really a joke unless their main goal is offensive weapons and that's pretty scary.'
Broadly speaking how do you picture the world in the near future?
'Global climate change hangs over the future like the Sword of Damocles although I think that self-replicating technologies could help create a post scarcity environment in which human needs are met. But all of that is complexified by various anti - civilization tendencies, some of them counter cultural and some of them authoritarian.'
Speaking of authouritarian anti – civilization tendencies, do you have something you'd like to say about Clear Channel Communications?
'Well Clear Channel are a big corporation that gave lots of money to Bush and in the South they sponsor pro war demos. They actually have a huge billboard as you enter Orlando Florida with almost malicious iconography, a big picture of Bush that says 'Thanks to Our Leader or something like that. That's really very weird. But on the other hand they just want to make money, I mean I was just on one their news channels talking about my book and its one of those things, the people who were working there were fine. They have their agenda though and the people who run these companies run the country.'
Do you believe it is really possible to anything about these enormous corporations, to turn the tide of consumerism?
'There are progressive kinds of mountains that one can leap towards in moving on from one level of being constrained by propaganda, consumerism and so forth onto the next level but you keep finding yourself at the same time enmeshed in a society where people buy and sell. You choose not to be a consumer 'ist', a believer that this is the meaning in life as opposed to actual experience but you will always be a consumer. Even if everything is free you will still consume, so I would warn against too much purism in that area. I like the whole open source culture on the net, which is about people doing stuff and making stuff and making things happen out of pure enthusiasm. I think that happened in Hippie culture to a great extent and it definitely happened at the deepest level of rave culture. I think you can see the dim outline of a new society there, and that's what I would look towards.'
Could you ever picture America returning to a state of civil war?
'That thought actually did occur to me as the election was approaching, I mean there was a lot of militancy being expressed about the possibility of Bush being re-elected among counterculture people on the left. But at the same time I thought if Bush got defeated that there are a lot of pretty hardcore people who would have been very upset and I started to imagine that they could take some of their grievances to different levels in the sense that Timothy McVey did. I think on the whole though that people are too comfortable for that and again that they are more likely to pursue the consumer dream.'
What do you think of the constant reference by the US administration to insurgents in Iraq as terrorists?
'Well they can employ that term anyway they like. The point is that those people are defending their country and some of the tactics they employ are pretty terrifying but some of the US tactics are pretty terrifying as well. I'd be happy to call it all terrorism on some level. But, you know its political manipulation obviously.'
Yes, the employment of doublespeak in our era is nothing short Orwellian. Changing tack entirely, do you think the politically sanctioned use of psychedelics could radically affect change in society?
'I think it could, I think that large numbers of people turning onto psychedelics in an advanced world of nanotechnology and biotechnology and so forth might have the tools to be able to cope with the rapids of technological social change while maintaining some sense of individual power. It may hook up at some advanced level in a way that is useful and meaningful in maintaining freedom. It also can be Soma in the Brave New World of course, you can have your own personal revelations and your own communities and so forth and sort of allow the other stuff to run wild. So there is that danger that this may be something that they can give us.'
So would you say that hallucinogens advance your intelligence?
'In general yeah, psychedelics certainly create more rapid firing of information across neurons that allows for a broader picture of reality that we generally try to suppress on a day to day basis. I think psychedelics open up a certain kind of intelligence although it may not be a kind of intelligence that is useful all the time.'
Hunter S.Thompson described the desperate assumption that somebody or something is tending the light at the end of the tunnel as the mystic fallacy of the acid culture. What would be your response to that statement?
'Well in England you had the Zippies movement in the nineties, Frasier Clark advanced the idea that the world was conspiring to push evolution and actually on a scientific level there is evidence for that. If you look at the evolution of life from the big bang it does seem that something intrinsic conspires to make evolution possible, but you know I agree with Hunter that to try to apply that to political and cultural circumstances is a dangerous thing.'
There is a massive interest at the moment in DMT, is the hype justified?
'Yes, it’s like having all the information in the universe mainlined into your cerebral cortex in a microsecond and there are dimensions in there that don't seem to be possible. It's a marvelous experience and I recommend it for anyone over the age of sixteen.'
It has been postulated that there is a weird synchronicity between the splitting of the atom which led to the detonation of the first atomic device and Hoffman's accidental discovery of LSD. Do you believe it is possible LSD made itself available on earth in order to save humanity by means of consciousness expansion?
'Well a lot of people suggest that, I don't believe it but I don't disbelieve it either, I'm with the Maybe Logic Academy, the universe contains a maybe. Maybe there are these benevolent forces, as the Zippies would claim, that are moving us toward some Omega point. I am open to that possibility and yet at the same time I would suggest maintaining a little critical distance from it or 2012 is going to come round and the rent is still going to be due.'
Its interesting that you mention 2012, as that is a date that ties in with that whole apocalypse theory that so heavily permeates psychedelic culture doesn't it?
'Well I never rode that particular trip to nirvana, but I did attain a certain kind of nirvana just listening to Terence McKenna and the way he brought together his visions and sophisticated thoughts on postmodernism and weaved them into this idea that we are going to be various ebbs and flows of novelty reaching an Omega point in 2012 that happens to coincide with the Mayan calendar. It's a fantastic story and I hope it comes true I think.'
Are you counting down to apocalypse or do you have hope for the future? Or do you perhaps believe apocalypse is the hope for the future
'I'm more or less honestly adrift in the present and trying to cope with what's going non now and put out my perceptions about counter culture. Whatever is happening in the political climate right now is what I am responding to, you know we counted on apocalypse in the seventies, I knew people who believed the world was going to end tin the mid seventies and things turn out to be awfully dreary by comparison. So I would warn people things may turn out to be a lot more dreary and banal ten years from now than what they hope for but they should all try to not make that so in the best of all possible ways, in the most creative of all possible ways.'