Up Against the Wall Motherf**er: A Memoir of the '60s, with Notes for Next Time
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They called themselves the Motherfuckers; others called them a "street gang with an analysis." Osha Neumann's thoughtful, funny, and honest account of his part in '60s counterculture is also an unflinching look at what all that rebellion of the past means today. The fast moving story follows the establishment of the Motherfuckers, who influenced the Yippies and members of SDS; makes vivid the art, music, and politics of the era; and reveals the colorful, often deeply strange, personalities that gave the movement its momentum. Abbie Hoffman said the Motherfuckers were "the middle-class nightmare . . . an antimedia media phenomenon simply because their name could not be printed." In the few years of its existence the group forced its way into the Pentagon during a war protest, helped occupy one of the buildings in the Columbia University takeover, and cut the fences at Woodstock to allow thousands in for free, among many other feats of radical derring-do.
Progressing from a fractured family of intellectuals to rebellion in the streets of New York and on to communes in California, Newmann shows us a view of a life led in rebellion, anger, and eventually a tentative peace.
behind, and managed to avoid the worst of it. Ben was primarily concerned with organizing our defense against the inevitable assault by the police. Every floor was barricaded with furniture. He remembers piling heavy desks in the stairwell, with wedges under them so they could easily be tipped down the steps onto police coming from below. We ran soapy water down seven flights of polished concrete steps so the cops would lose their footing. The cops moved in after midnight. They moved from
never had before. My anger at The System—its war, its racism, its total vile hypocrisy—was real. My motherfuckering wasn’t just psychodrama even if the anger I expressed was fueled by pent up frustrations of my childhood. I found release from my painful introversion in action. I was finally clawing through to something real. I wanted to feast on the flesh of life. I was tired of bloodless abstractions. I was a Motherfucker. Our task was to cut through facades, to unveil, to rend, to penetrate.
expedition to round up the wild horses that roamed in the high meadows of the national forest. We helped haphazardly when it was time to bring in the hay, but by and large we lived apart from the townspeople, with whom we had very little communication. One evening as we were lounging outside our house, we heard little explosions in the distance. Something wushed by our heads. It took me a moment to realize that someone was shooting at us. The shots seemed to come from the direction of a clump of
wouldn’t heal, and he wouldn’t go to the hospital. He watched it turn purple and ugly, and did nothing while a red line worked its way up his leg. By the time he finally went to the clinic in Mora it was too late. He died of septicemia. Barry left the Motherfuckers to form his own small band of armed banditos. Ben tried to get Barry to stay with him, but he refused. The lure of the thug life was too great. Within months Barry was shot to death trying to rip off a dope deal in Albuquerque. A
eyes burn. Tears stream down my face, obscuring my vision. Behind us the police are hurling concussion grenades and shooting rubber bullets into the crowd. I pass a young man. He’s just standing there. He’s been wounded just below his lower lip by a rubber bullet. It has made a hole through to his gums. I look back to see a line of police advancing. They are dressed in black and encased entirely in bulky body armor. Their movements are jerky and stiff like the monsters in old Frankenstein movies.