By Lisa White
Duckberg Times, November 25, 1986
At his first "unstructured" lecture, legendary rock musician Frank Zappa shared his unique opinion on events of current interest. Although the event had been billed as a discussion on music censorship, Zappa was quick to point out that this topic has been thoroughly discussed already, and that there are many other disturbing aspects of today's political climate that demand attention. A self-described "social commentarist, advocate for certain causes, and unashamed Democrat," Zappa lectured and fielded questions with outspoken aplomb.
The current administration's "war on drugs" is not broad enough and raises serious law enforcement questions, according to Zappa. He made clear that the objection really lies in the "behavior resulting from drug abuse, not the chemical itself." Zappa emphasized that bad behavior is also an issue for legal substances, such as alcohol, and that we "must address the problems of chemical alterations at all levels, not just crack."
Zappa feels the hazard of recreational drug use is the "potential for addiction, which varies by quantity of consumption." The question is why people want to alter reality with chemicals; for some it is the "mind expansion" experience especially prevalent in the late '60's and early '70's. Others use drugs for relaxation, but the most dangerous category is people with the desire to become "blotto" as the "relief from a bleak future."
According to Zappa, an effective campaign against drug use "must deal with the reasons why people want to be blotto, not the substance they use." Legislation seems impractical; there is no available jail space for users. Zappa is especially concerned with the Reagan proposition to put part of the burden for drug enforcement on the private sector. The slogan, "Death to drug pushers" is frightening because it seems to encourage citizens to take the matter into their own hands, resulting in vigilante actions: "Will the government look the other way like they do in Nicaragua?", he asked pointedly.
On the topic of education, Zappa feels the schools "are purposely kept poor," and that "not enough attention is given to help people learn how to acquire further learning." Too little emphasis is placed on individual learning needs resulting in reduced ability to store knowledge, a lifetime handicap.
Zappa called the Tennessee textbook controversy "dangerous." The crux of the issue, as he sees it, is the judge's ruling that "secular humanism", reliance on the self without reliance on religious belief, is a religion itself. Thus, textbooks without religious elements are secular humanist books advocating an untraditional , "undesirable" religion. According to Zappa's logic, if it is legally established that secular humanism is a religion, and if all religions, their leaders and their temples are entitled to tax relief, then secular humanism advocates and their "temples" are also entitled to tax relief – a sticky legal issue.
Another subject of concern to Zappa is the glut of lawyers in the United States: "the legal profession is a real mess." He cited a recent California initiative proclaiming English the official language of the state. According to Zappa, this sets the stage for more frivolous lawsuits because "anyone who feels their language has been slighted can sue." He noted that there is already a five year delay in California Civil Court cases, largely due to cases like the wife of the "McDonalds Massacre" gunman. She claims her husband's shooting frenzy was induced by the MSG in the restaurant's burgers; Zappa questioned the integrity of a lawyer who would accept this type of case.
When asked about the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra's trial, Zappa expressed hope that the case will be thrown out of court due to the album's warning label, "which is exactly what the PMRC wants." In describing the controversial poster, Zappa said, "Yes it was disgusting, but it also said so on the album cover." He noted that the suit names as defendants Biafra, the Dead Kennedys, Alternative Tentacles Records, and many others who had anything to do with the record, including the worker who actually inserted the poster into the album sleeve; conspicuously absent from blame is the large warehouse store chain which carried the album: they have money for legal defense. The case will be tried early next year.
When discussing Ed Meese, Zappa stated, "if we must interpret everything in the Constitution in terms of the intent of the writers (who were slave holders and anti-women), then Reagan's so-called conservative government is the most radical administration ever in Washington." He also added that "conservative" implies "less government and fewer taxes," noting there is "none of that in Washington D.C. now." The audience loudly agreed.
Zappa had a particularly interesting theory about AIDS. He suggested that it was created in a laboratory for the purpose of biological warfare but escaped into the general populace. He thinks that government research is cultivating race specific ("designer") germs which could be targeted toward a chosen enemy without harming other groups, and that the AIDS virus is a germ-warfare agent run amok. He cautioned that there are two chemical/germ warfare research facilities in Maryland, Fort Detrick and the Edgewood Arsenal. Zappa believes that this is of greater concern than nuclear warheads: "Both sides want to abandon warheads because they destroy real estate." Also, the U.S.-U.S.S.R. arms agreements "don't take into account the Islamic fanatics who want anything that blows up to use it on the infidels."
When asked about music censorship, Zappa flatly stated, "there is absolutely no science to support the theory that words on a record endanger the listener, and until there is scientific demonstration of deleterious effect, legislation should not be used." To vigorous applause he continued, "Statistically there are more songs written about love than anything else; if words can affect you, then why don't people love each other?" Zappa thinks Tipper Gore is sincere about what she is doing with the PMRC, but that she just wants to help her husband and keep the family name in the papers. He would like to know exactly what is being done with the money raised by the PMRC.
To close his lecture, Zappa discussed ways to improve the future, emphasizing that one must think to solve a problem – "develop a level head, not a flat stomach." He is concerned by the current "illusion of pseudo conservatism" and by the youth ideal to "grow up to be the corporate dork." He asserted that individuals must look out for themselves because government agencies may not. Zappa particularly stressed that young people shouldn't "pretend to be stupid in order to get a blow job," describing this as "one of the most depressing American tendencies in recent years." He assured that everyone would eventually "get some."
The most valuable resource in the U.S., according to Zappa, is "motivation combined with massive intuition and minimum data." He feels that the future can be made better through the use of intelligence and through more participation in the democratic process. He urged for "more people with better intentions to ignore the odds and take the quantum leap" into politics and emphasized that more people need to vote. Zappa feels there is hope for the future if individuals "help themselves and don't just sit there and take it."
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