It's a fictional streetscape we wander, here, a metropolis whose buildings, boulevards, and back alleys are in a constant state of flux. This is every place, and yet, no place at all - a city of dreams and a dream of a city.

Here, we explore the life and work of Ivan Illich and his circle of collaborators. There's no comprehensive index to the articles published, but we invite you to use the Search box, to the left, and to explore the Archive links that appear at the bottom of each page. Comments are welcomed.

Monday, August 12, 2013

More on Illich and Jerry Brown

Hakim Bey is described on Wikipedia as "an American anarchist political and cultural writer, essayist, and poet, known for first proposing the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), based, in part, on a historical review of pirate utopias." Born Peter Lamborn Wilson in 1945, Bey traveled extensively in Central Asia in the 1960s and '70s.

In an article called "Media Creed For The Fin De Siecle," which is available at a site called, Bey describes an encounter with Ivan Illich long ago:

… In 1974, I was seated at a dinner table in Tehran, Iran, at the house of the very hip Canadian ambassador, James George, with Ivan Illich, when a telegram arrived from Governor Brown of California, inviting Illich to fly there at Brown's expense to appear with him on TV and accept a post in the administration. Illich, who is a fairly saintly individual, lost his temper for the first and only time during his stay in Iran, and began cursing Brown. When the Ambassador and I expressed puzzlement at this reaction to a cordial offer of money, fame, and influence, Illich explained that Brown was trying to destroy him. He said he never appeared on television because his entire task was to offer a critique of institutions, not a magic pill to cure humanity's ills. TV was capable of offering only simple answers, not complex questions. He refused to become a guru or media-star, when his real purpose was to inspire people to question authority and think for themselves. Brown wanted the display of Illich's image (charismatic, articulate, unusual-looking, probably very televisual) but not the task of thinking about Illich's critiques of consumer society and political power. Furthermore, said "Don Ivan", he hated to fly, and had only accepted our invitation to Iran because our letter was so full of typing errors!

In fact, for the rest of his life Illich continued to be friends with Brown. Bey continues:

Illich's answer to the question, "Why do you not appear in the media?", was that he refused to disappear in the media. One cannot appear in "the media" in one's true subjectivity (and the political is the personal just as much as the personal is the political); therefore one should refuse the Media any vampiric energy it might derive from the manipulation (or simply the possession) of one's image. I cannot "seize the media" even if I buy it, and to accept publicity from, say, the New York Times, Time magazine, or network TV, would simply amount to the commodification of my subjectivity, whether aesthetic ("feelings", art) or critical ("opinions", agitprop). ...

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Santa Rosa, California, United States
Writer, photographer, music fan; father and husband living in northern Calif.