William S. Burroughs Interview

conducted by
Gregory Corso
Allen Ginsberg
Originally appeared in Journal For the Protection of All People
Transcribed by Flesh
B= William Burroughs
C= Gregory Corso
G= Allen Ginsberg

C: What is your department?

B: Kunst unt Wissenschaft

C: What say you about political conflicts?

B: Political conflicts are merely surfaced manifestations. If
conflicts arise you may certain powers intend to keep this
conflict under operation since they hope to profit from the
situation. To concern yourself with surface political conflicts
is to make the mistake of the bull in the ring, you are
charging the cloth. That is what politics is for, to teach you
the cloth. Just as the bullfighter teaches the bull, teaches him
to follow, obey the cloth.

C: Who manipulates the cloth?

B: Death

G: What is death?

B: A gimmick. It’s the time birth death gimmick. Can’t go on much
longer, too many people are wising up.

C: Do you feel there has been a definite change in man’s makeup?
A new consciousness?

B: Yes, I can give you a precise answer to that. I feel that the
change the mutation in consciousness will occur spontaneously
once certain pressures now in operation are removed. I feel that
the principal instrument of monopoly and control that prevents
expansion of consciousness is the word lines controlling thought
feeling and apparent sensory impressions of the human host.

G: And if removed, what step?

B: The forward step must be made in silence. we detach ourselves
from word forms-this can be accomplished by substituting for
words, letters, concepts, verbal concepts, other modes of
expression; for example, color. We can translate word and
letter into color (Rimbaud stated that in his color vowels,
words quote “words” can be read in silent color.) In other
words man must get away from verbal forms to attain the
consciousness, that which is there to be perceived at hand.

C: How does one take that “forward step,” can you say?

B: Well, this is my subject and is what I am concerned with.
Forward steps are made by giving up old armor because words are
built into you—in the soft typewriter of the womb you do not
realize the word-armor you carry; for example, when you read
this page your eyes move irresistibly from left to right
following the words that you have been accustomed to. Now try
breaking up part of the page like this:
Are there or just we can translate
many solutions for example color word color
in the soft typewriter into
political conflicts to attain consciousness
monopoly and control

C: Reading that it seems you end up where you began, with politics
and it’s nomenclature: conflict, attain, solution, monopoly,
control–so what kind of help is that?

B: Precisely what I was saying—if you talk you always end up with
politics, it gets nowhere, I mean man it’s strictly from the
soft typewriter.

C: What kind of advice you got for politicians?

B: Tell the truth once and for all and shut up forever.

C: What if people don’t want to change, don’t want no new

B: For any species to change, if they are unable and are unwilling
to do so–I might for example however have suggested to the
dinosaurs that heavy armor and great size was a sinking ship,
and that they do well to convert to mammal facilities—it would
not lie in my power or desire to reconvert a reluctant
dinosaur. I can make my feeling very clear, Gregory, I fell like
I’m on a sinking ship and I want off.

C: Do you think Hemingway got off?

B: Probably not.

(Next day)

G: What about control?

B: Now all politicians assume a necessity of control, the more
efficient the control the better. All political organizations
tend to function like a machine, to eliminate the unpredictable
factor of AFFECT—emotion. Any machine tends to absorb,
eliminate, Affect. Yet the only person who can make a machine
move is someone who has a motive, who has Affect. If all
individuals were conditioned to machine efficiency in the
performance of their duties they would have to be at least one
person outside the machine to give the necessary orders; if the
machine absorbed or eliminated all those outside the machine the
machine will slow down and stop forever. Any unchecked impulse
does, within the human body & psyche, lead to the destruction
of the organism.

G: What kind of organization could technological society have
without control?

B: The whole point is I feel the machine should be eliminated. Now
that it has served its purpose of alerting us to the dangers of
machine control. Elimination of all natural sciences—-If
anybody ought to go to the extermination chambers definitely
scientists, yes I’m definitely antiscientist because I feel that
science represents a conspiracy to impose as, the real and only
universe, the Universe of scientists themselves—-they’re
reality-addicts, they’ve got to have things so real so they can
get their hands on it. We have a great elaborate machine which
I feel has to be completely dismantled— in order to do that
we need people who understand how the machine works —the mass
media—paralleled opportunity.

G: Who do you think is responsible for the dope situation in

B: Old Army game, “I act under orders .” As Captain Ahab said,
“You are not other men but my arms and legs—” Mr. Anslinger
has a lot of arms and legs, or whoever is controlling him, same
thing as the Wichman case, he’s the front man, the man who has
got to take the rap, poor bastard, I got sympathy for him.

C: Could you or do you think it wise to say who it will be or just
what force it will be that will destroy the world?

B: You want to create a panic? That’s top secret—-want to swamp
the lifeboats?

C: O.K. How did them there lifeboats get there in the first place?

B: Take for instance some Indians in South America I seen. There
comes along this sloppy cop with his shirt buttons all in the
wrong hole, well then, Parkinson’s law goes into
operation—there’s need not for one cop but seven or eight,
need for sanitation inspectors, rent collectors, etc.; so after
a period of years problems arise, crime, dope taking and
traffic, juvenile delinquency—So the question is asked, “What
should we do about these problems?” The answer as Gertrude Stein
on her deathbed said comes before the question— in short
before the bastards got there in the first place! that’s all—

G: What do you think Cuba and the FLN think about poets? And what
do you think their marijuana policy is?

B: All political movements are basically anti-creative—-since a
political movement is a form of war. “There’s no place for
impractical dreamers around here” that’s what they always say.
“Your writing activities will be directed, kindly stop horsing
around.” “As for the smoking of marijuana, it is the
exploitation for the workers.” Both favor alcohol and are
against pot.

C: I feel capitol punishment is dooming U.S.A.

B: I’m against Capitol Punishment in all forms, and I have written
many pamphlets on this subject in the manner of Swift’s modest
proposal pamphlet incorporated into Naked Lunch; these pamphlets
have marked Naked Lunch as an obscene book, most all methods
of Capitol Punishment are designed to inflict the maximum of
humiliation—note attempts to prevent suicide.

G: What advice do you have for American youth who are drawn to
political action out of sympathy for the American revolution—

B: “I wouldn’t be in your position”—old saw. If there is any
political move that I would advocate it would be an alliance
between America and Red China, if they’d have us.

C: What about the Arab peoples—how are they faring?

B: They’re stuck back thousands of years and they think they’re
going to get out with a TV set.

C: What about the Negros, will they make it—not only the ones in
the South, but everywhere?

B: Biologically speaking the Afro-asiatic block is in the
ascendancy—always remember that both Negro and White are
minority groups—the largest race is the mongoloid group. In
the event of atomic war there is a tremendous biological
advantage in the so-called underdeveloped areas that have high
birth rates and high death rate because, man, they can plow
under those mutations. The country with a low birth rate and low
death rate will be hardest hit—and so the poor may indeed
inherit the earth, because they’re healthier.

G: What do you think of White Supremacy?

B: The essence of white supremacy is this: they are people who want
to keep things as they are. That their children’s children’s
children might be a different color is something very alarming
to them—in short they are committed to the maintenance of
static image. The attempt to maintain a static image, even if
it’s a good image, just won’t work.

C: Do you think Americans want and could fight the next war with
the same fire and fervency as they did in World War 2?

B: Undoubtedly, yes—because they remember what a soft time they
had in the last one—they sat on their ass.

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