From charlesreid1


Conversations with William Burroughs: Eric Mottram (1965)

"Heroin or Junk, as it is called, transforms the body's cells, and already in his first work, "Junkie," Burroughs used this change as an allegory of the transformations of power. Similar metaphors of control can be found in Poe, Hawthorne, and Henry James; they seem to be a peculiarly American fictional material.

His extreme term for licensed crime-executions, war-killing, extreme capitalist exploitation, the use of one man by another - and their hypocritical justification by an endlessly self-justifying state] is a phrase similarly used by Alexander Pope in his satirical poetry: "insect lust."

Burroughs is acutely aware, as who is not in mid-century, of the meaning of concentration camps, armed service regimentation, censorship, racialist dreams, and entertainment industries, all working for similar ends - all, eventually, giving the consumer what he wants or training him to want what he is given: Burroughs is satirizing all forms of spurious security which dehumanize the human... Burrough's image of junkie-dependence describes the nightmare force of totalitarian bureaucracy. The helplessness of the drug addict is the image of free enterprise and its effects...

Conversations with William Burroughs: Jeff Shero (1968)

Jeff Shero / 1968

Do you think that people with power in this country have much understanding of the upheaval brewing beneath them, not just among the young people, but among the blacks? Do they have a real understanding?

I would say on a top level, very much so. I think that power in this country is held by very, very few people. Very few indeed. The people like presidents, and mayors and people like that do not hold power. They're only front people. The rich people have always let the politicians hold the ostensible positions of power so long as they did what they were told. And that has not changed a bit. The real orders are coming from an oligarchy of extreme wealth. And that would be very few people. And I think very definitely they know.

Is the outcome of our struggle based on the number of humans we can mobilize, or is it largely dependent on the new technology?

Well, I wouldn't say dependent on the new technologies. And rather not the people you can mobilize, but the number of people you can disconnect.

I would love - I would love - to see something like that [uprising in France] happen in England. But it must happen after they get rid of the idea of this bloody Queen. As long as they have any subservience to that image, it's hopeless. I think I can get 5,000 people in Trafalgar Square saying "Bugger the Queen." That bitch. Sitting there soaking up the energy of forty million people. People say, "The Queen isn't important. She's just a figurehead." A figurehead of subservience. A figurehead of kissing her ass. Worthless wench. She should be sweeping floors... there's no hope for [the young people] until we have five thousand people out in Trafalgar Square screaming "Bugger the Queen." ...If you ask me, at this point in history what could be more ridiculous than a Queen?"

The whole idea of a nation is an anachronism. That is, they take a piece of real estate, draw a line around it, and that's a nation. Immediately, they have trouble with the people on the other side of the line, and they have to spend all their money on armies and the police and so on. Now, this concept of a nation has outlived its usefulness by about three hundred years. It had a certain use in breaking up the feudal system. But now it's an absolute anachronism. And a league of nations, a world government, isn't the answer at all. That's merely perpetuating the error.

How would you start out [breaking down the concept of a nation]?

With the possibility of any people withdrawing from the country, setting up as it were states within states. I think that is the line that is going to break it down more than anything else. Like say if the Black Muslims were to form a separate state, in this country, with international affilitations. And if a large number of people defy the whole question of boundaries, thousands of people walking across borders wtihout passports. That sort of thing seems to me quite a useful form of demonstration.

That has always been true in all liberal revolutions. The army is much more liable to go to the people than the police. Now for example in Columbia - I was there during the Civil War - the reactionary government considered their army so unreliable they built up a second army of the Polizia Nacional. They were not police, properly speaking, but were like a special army. It's always been true in all Latin American countries that the police are sort of the palace guard of the establishment, or the people in power, and the army has always been considered potentially unreliable.

It seems to me that the establishment would be wary of publishing the book since in the short run it might make them some money, but in the long run it will be very damaging.

Well, but the people who are publishing it are not the establishment. The publishers are not the establishment at all. They are always publishing things that are contrary to the wishes and interest of the establishment and getting in trouble for it. In fact, I would say, by and large that publishers have done more against the establishment than many other groups. They completely broke down censorship here.

Would you say the same for universities?

Mostly negative, because they are getting all their money from the establishment. You see, publishers are not. They are getting their money from the reading public. But universities, being endowed, the board of trustees and all that have always very definitely been supportive of the establishment. They have to be.

I think the whole educational system is about three hundred years back. There's no application to what they're learning. Unless there is application, unless you are learning something you can use, there is not much point to it. The only education we have that is functioning is technical education, where there is definite criteria of whether it is a success or failure. If he's training to be an engineer he can either install an electrical system or build a bridge or he can't. but there is no such test as regards, say, the social sciences, sociology, anthropology, psychology, general education.

As I say, the educational system is three hundred years back. The demands should be that all this knowledge which is now top secret classified should be made available to everyone. That is what the demands should be. They've got the knowledge.

How about this thing like the pig. Say, they're all pigs. Vote pig for president... And then we'll serve him to the people after the election, rather than have the people serve the pig.

...I'm working on a purple-assed baboon for president. They [baboons] talk, they move their lips in speeches. You can't do that very well with a pig.

If we controlled television, then we control America.

What would happen if we got a [TV] channel?

We got to get them all. As soon as we get them all, we control this whole stupid middle class. We've got America.

Do you think as human beings they are even alive?

They're not alive. They're talking tape recorders. It's not a question of eliminating human beings, it's a question of eliminating walking tape recorders.

Do you think the poor are less tape recorders?

Much less. They've been up against something. They have to be alive to survive... Those alive in this system are the people on the bottom.

Conversations with William Burroughs: Graham Masterton and Andrew Rossabi (1972)

Graham Masterton and Andrew Rossabi / 1972

Do you feel then that our present society has outlived itself?

What we see is a whole series of practically insoluble problems and the simple fact is that there isn't a single politician who can get up and say the whole thing is basically wrong. They can't say that it won't work. We see world-wide inflation which could jump suddenly geometrically and have millions of people out in the street overnight... pollution... radiation - we don't know how far that's going, they're all lying about it... and of course there is a war which seems to be getting worse. Animals usually die out because the conditions that make their life possible cease to exist - a change of climate and whatever kind of food they have disappears. Control of our minds, our society and our environment may be the answer. I think the human species has reached a point where it's going to have to take some form of forward step or we're just not going to make it.

Conversations with William Burroughs: Robert Palmer (1972)

Robert Palmer / 1972

Isn't it going to be very dangerous if, as seems likely, the people who control these [conditioning and deconditioning] techniques are the people most opposed to deconditioning?

That argument is always raised with any new discovery or any piece of equipment, but this equipment is not all that expensive, or difficult. Anybody can do it.

...It seems to me that the best insurance that the discovery is not used for control purposes is people knowing about it. The more people that know about it, the less chance there is to monopolize it...

I predicate that the word is an actual virus, and a virus that has achieved equilibrium with the host, and therefore is not recognized as a virus. I have a number of technical books on that subject, and there are other viruses that have achieved this. That is, they replicate themselves within the cells but they don't harm the cells.

Do you have any information on the introduction of weight heroin into Harlem and into the ghettos during the Forties, which seems to have been the beginning of the current problem?

I don't. you see, I was there in the late Forties and early Fifties, and the agents then were just beginning to bother addicts. Before that they'd been more interested in pushers.

Why did they start bothering addicts rather than pushers?

In order to spread it. That kept the pushers continually looking for new markets.

You've often pointed out attitudes and styles shared by young people all over the world - they dress similarly, use cannabis and other consciousness-expanding drugs, hear the same music. Are these generational ties more binding than national, cultural, family ties?

Yes, I would say so, very definitely. And one reason that they are is of course media.

Do you foresee these ties eventually unifying the world's youth to the point where they can destroy the control machine being perpetuated by their elders?

Certainly. They will become their elders, and therefore make the changes. Now in 20 or 30 years all the Wallace folks etc. will have died. Well, who's going to take their place? Occupying all the positions that are now occupied by their elders, either occupying all those positions or nullifying them. you're bound to have a whole different picture. I mean, if they've got some cool, pot-smoking cat as President, he's not going to make the same kinds of decisions or impose the same policies.