ABBIE HOFFMAN AND ME
Abbot Howard "Abbie" Hoffman (1936-1989) was a political and social activist who co-founded the Youth International Party(YIP). The YIP or Yippies were a radical youth-oriented and countercultural revolutionary offshoot of the free speech and anti-war movements of the 1960s. I was a child of the sixties: 15 in 1960 and 25 in 1970. The YIP was founded on 31/12/’67 while I was teaching primary school on Baffin Island and a pioneer for the Canadian Baha’i community to the then District of Franklin in Canada’s Northwest Territories(NWT).
Hoffman came into prominence in the 1960s while I was at university in the years 1963 to 1967. He continued practicing his activism in the 1970s when I moved on to teaching high school and university. He has remained, even now in the 21st century, as a symbol of the youth rebellion of those ‘60s, of that counter-culture. Both Hoffman and I were involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), although his involvement was in a leadership role.
I was one of only a very small handful of on-campus SNCC members in 1964-5 at McMaster University in southern Ontario while a student in history and philosophy and the only Baha’i on-campus. Hoffman’s most famous protests took place while I was teaching Inuit children in 1967/8 in the NWT. You can read about the details of his protesting, his counter-culture activity at Wikipedia. I leave this to you, if you have the interest.
Abbot Hoffman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder(BPD) at the age of 44 in 1980. I was diagnosed with BPD the same year; I was then 35. He committed suicide in 1989 by taking a drug overdose. He was 53at the time. I took medications for my BPD, and am still going at the age of 68. I could draw more parallels between his life and mine, but this is sufficient to start this quasi-eulogistic prose-poem.-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia.
You struggled against the system
while I found a new-one in which
to struggle…..They said you were
an imp-joker….…a Shakespearean
fool who sees & suffers and stares
at the void, a type of existentialist1
who understood reasons for despair.
The system-totality of the universe
is not a thing that you can drop out2
of…….…You must find a new system,
Abbie, & you didn’t…. you didn’t find
treatment for your bi-polar disorder
either and that was tragic very tragic.
1 There are many varieties of existentialism. See this link for a summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism
2 "The system is the totality of the universe," Hoffman’s friend Bobby Seale, a co-founder the Black Panther Party, said at Hoffman’s funeral, "You can't drop out of the universe." See this link for more: http://history.tomrue.net/abbie/
5 April 2012
married for 45 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(in 2012)