Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chicago 10

This has been out for a couple of years but I only saw it recently on late night SBS documentaries.

It's a very smooth rendition of the Chicago 1968 Hoffman / Yippie / Black Panthers (Bobby Seale) trial

1968. I lived through that time and the anti Vietnam war street demos. It was a historical hinge point. This documentary perturbed me because I lived through somewhat similar events in Australia - the sometimes violent protests, trails and gaoling of draft resistors and demonstrators. I feel like saying you have to see this documentary to understand those times. Maybe that's true, I think it is, but if you didn't experience things like this then maybe you wouldn't understand it anyway - because 1968 was such a radical break from the past. If you don't understand what life was like before 1968 then is it possible to understand 1968?

On the one hand NLF flags in the Courtroom and on the hill. On the other hand the pro war voices trying to depict hippies as commies or stooges, which just didn't gel.

I've seen previous versions of the Chicago trial. The previous versions had a different focus - mainly on the gagging and chaining of Bobby Seale by Judge Hoffman.

This one was different and possibly overall more accurate. It presented the Yippies as the main players of protest and Bobby Seale as almost an afterthought. There was new footage in there for me. Ginsberg's bad poetry, Norman Mailer shots and much more.

Two forms of protest or "rage against the machine". The Yippies with fun and drugs, the Panthers far more serious and fight fire with fire. Back then I read their literature avidly trying to work out where I stood. Cleaver: Soul on Ice; Jerry Rubin: Do It! In the end I agreed with Timothy O'Leary (the LSD professor) when years later he was asked why he left the hippies, replied: "I never really like the hippies anyway" LOL

The judge makes all these terrible errors - like chaining up and gagging Seale who was demanding his constitutional right to defend himself. Everything operates on a more subtle level today

I think the struggle goes on but the forms of struggle vary immensely over the decades. The Yippies and the Panthers were very romantic and exciting and I can't escape those feeling when I watch that old footage.

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