Thursday, March 17, 2011


"Sorry About All the Bombs" was the title of an article on William Powell, who wrote "The Anarchist Cookbook." It was in Newsweek last month -- a thoroughly detailed story about the guy who wrote the book 40 years ago and what he has become today.

The book is a guide to everything illegal from hash cookies, to tear gas, dynamite, and TNT. There are tips on demolition, surveillance, sabotage, and hand-to-hand combat, including how to behead a man with piano wire and make a knife “slip off the rib cage and penetrate the heart.”

This 160-page volume has sold more than 2 million copies. Police have linked it to Croatian radicals who bombed Grand Central Terminal and hijacked a TWA flight in 1976; the Puerto Rican separatists who bombed FBI headquarters in 1981; linked it to Thomas Spinks, who led a group that bombed at least 10 American abortion clinics in the mid-1980s; and the 2005 London public-transport bombers.

Last spring, British white supremacists used the book to make a jar of ricin. Police and judges tried to ban the book. The book’s Arizona-based publisher refuses to stop publishing it.

The work lives on, but since 1975, Powell has been renouncing what he penned.

William P. dropped out -- way-way, far-far out. He signed on as chief timekeeper on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. He volunteered as an English instructor in a home for disturbed boys. He moved back into his parents’ house in Westchester, volunteering as a special-ed teacher, earning a master’s degree in English, and eventually landing a paid teaching job upstate, where he met the Chinese woman who became his wife.

He tried to forget about the destructive cultural force that bore his name, and that has been his journey ever since then.

Earlier this month, almost 40 years to the day he became a best-selling author, Powell flew from Beijing where he and his wife work as education consultants, to San Francisco, where, in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt, some 500 members of the Association for the Advancement of International Education gathered to give Powell a lifetime-achievement award.

Practically the next day, the FBI released documents saying, “We have studied the contents of the book itself, as well as the information contained in the Bureau reports. We have concluded that the book does not urge ‘forcible resistance to any law of the United States."

As you read this are you thinking what a horrible thing he did -- what a shame -- my God, how can he repay society for what he did? Are you tut-tutting about stupid young radicals -- sputtering what a waste -- shouting inwardly -- "YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG?"

(Ever since I wrote about the new young generation, I've gotten email messages quoting that Bernard Shaw quote.)

I think youth is NOT wasted on the young. Powell did what he did, and with youthful fire, passion and energy, has spent his life teaching, inspiring young people (inspiring me), about "common sense" radicalism -- showing us how we can continually reinvent ourselves and grow.

Youth can do -- just DO, because of deep belief in whatever it is -- DO and disregard fear, quash intellectual, careful consideration of possible ramifications that say don't do anything.

I think the ability to DO is precious. The you that can DO -- that's YOU. The you, the person you see in the mirror (even as you are noting the changes and aging in your face), you are seeing YOU, and it's a gift -- the supreme gift from the Gods. .

I am celebrating the youth, the young energy that's bubbling-over in the mid- east right now, and the younger generation's determination to have a chance to elect and change their leaders, and end corruption.

I celebrate my youth. I stand tall. I have NOT outgrown my youthful mind -- I cherish it. I keep striving and listening to my inner voice. I hear it better now, though my hearing is less sharp than it was when I was younger.

I can do more, and DO it better because I cherish and support the youth in myself.

Water the plant YOU! Be young till the last day of your life.

1 comment:

Carola said...

I'm not sure I entirely agree with you. I think youth needs to understand that they can do things that can be destructive to others for years. I have many regrets on behalf of my "60s generation." If I were a parent, I would talk about those regrets to my kids.