I'm ceding Freud "Future of an Illusion," in return for “How Berkeley Were We," free of Freudian analysis. The "How Berkeley Were We" question is fraught with deep inner conflict and lexical complexities.
"How Berkeley Were We" refers to the defunct (since 2008) "How Berkeley Can You Be?" parade, which had been held on University Avenue since 1995. A How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be event at Civic center Park, sponsored by Occupy Berkeley never happened on October 30 as planned.
With the final possibility of a revival of the goofy, world-renowned spectacle foreclosed, we are left with a void of signification that would test a Freudian analyst.
So come with me, as I unravel the question of what does it mean to be "Berkeley," and explicate the "How Berkeley Were We" question.
First difficulty first. What means it to be Berkeley? I could go Hamlet here, with existential angst—instead, I'll just wade right in, if I'm not already wading in it. To be—or, of course, to not be—Berkeley simply means to be on the streets, and interacting with fellow Berkeleyans.
You may know that Berkeley is a great walking town, but did you know that it is also a great talking town? And you needn't be homeless to be on the streets. Just being on the streets of Berkeley, and open to interactions with its denizens, is basic Berkeley.
For a piece last May, I went to the Berkeley street the day Bin Ladin was offed, and learned the Berkeley street (Telegraph) tops a blow-hard touting his book.
In stores, with clerks and owners, in coffee houses, just about anywhere in town that Berkeleyans gather—talk is not cheap. It's informed, or wacky, but it's choice.
We were talking Berkeley, as we gawked at the Sequoia fire scene and, concocted our urban legends last month. Occupy Berkeley was a typical Berkeley meet-and-beat, in which MLK Park and BA Plaza produced a continuing encounter with civic rhetoric.
Each event we attend binds us.
When a Ford Mustang flips out on Channing or two thousand students Occupy Sproul Plaza in November, we show up as Berkeleyans to play our parts—because Berkeleyans are always seeing how Berkeley they can be.
Two hundred Berkelyans who reportedly attended Lawrence Lessig's analysis of income inequality, in November at the Hillside club became a community forum on government reform—just the sort of scene we had at Cody's author events.
Robert Reich's Mario Savio lecture at Sproul Plaza was a vast community learn-in—an intellectual rock-out.
After tediously asking, "Where's the Berkeley in Occupy Berkeley?" this reporter found Berkeley indelibly etched in that perspicacious ragtag movement. OB initially resisted the charms of Berkeley's old lefties, while trying to adhere to Occupy Wall street protocols—but finally rolled over.
Perhaps a glorious love child for a grand new age, will emerge from that union.
If you stopped by OB, you were quite Berkeley last year. If you spoke, you had to. You couldn't help it. You're so Berkeley. Then you were hooked.
If you attended a city council meeting, you are in a special category—Berkeley pol- geek, or nutso, panting in the wings, awaiting your "big scene."
We thought the idea of a sit-lie ordinance, kicked around all year, might happen some day, but stopped obsessing about it when the Occupy movement reminded us that we are being played by high finance and its hired politicians.
We had thought we must defend the rights of the street kids. But that was before we learned we are all street kids. And we proved it by hanging out on the street in the street theater nights of the OB general assembly.
The Occupy Berkeley general assembly, while initially serving up "newspeak" from Back East soon enough transformed into a Berkeley head trip.
And just when we thought the revolution was at hand (even though the end of the world fizzled), the university expectedly rolled into People's Park with a bulldozer two days before the end of the year.
We were shocked, shocked! Shocked that, after a year of paranoia in the park over the perceived intentions of the university to re-take the park, the university would fuel the paranoia.
The university moved strategically, catching Berkeleyans off-guard. After a year of tree-sits (three) in the park to protest the university's treatment of park trees and plants
and huffing and puffing, park regulars seemed out-maneuvered by their own wolf-crying.
On the Cafe Med mezzanine, scene of many 60's People's Park planning meetings, a group calling itself, "People's Park Forever," deliberated Wednesday about suing the university and challenging its ownership of the park.
Without much decided, Park Forever disbanded, when attendees had to leave for further rounds of Berkeley activist meetings.
How Berkeley was that?
Ted Friedman gives thanks for a year in which he was privileged to spin Berkeley.