Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love (Part 2)

Let us adopt the childlike belief in the antidotal properties of original play. That to be playful means not taking power seriously. When such disruptive play reaches critical mass, power collapses and leaves us swimming about in the amoral waters of the Trickster.

Those who have successfully retained their childlike playfulness, who have resisted power—personally, spiritually, politically, culturally—will encounter and engage with that oldest archetype known to humanity…the Trickster. Tricksters occur in every known culture. Humans cannot BE an archetype like Trickster (or Mother, Warrior, Hero, Sage or Magician, etc.), but many people have trickster-like characteristics, some more than others. Tricksters are influential demigods with savior-like but unreliable properties. They play tricks, but tricks get played on them, too. They usually appear first as male, but they are gender benders and frequently change into female forms. They are not evil, but they are not good, either. They are amoral, tricksters do what they do mainly for fun.

History is peppered with trickster-types who have questioned power. From Alfred Jarry and Marcel Duchamp to Yoko Ono and Carolee Schneeman, challenging the constraints of art. Andy Kaufman and Sacha Baron Cohen, comedy; Anansi and Aunt Nancy, gender in folklore; Banksy, postmodern oppression; The Yes Men, corporate greed and destruction. These are all playful lampooners of power.

Power’s most immense expression is war. And the character who most passionately and deliberately targeted the world’s most powerful war machine—was Yippie Abbie Hoffman. He left us with dramatic, hilarious, and instructive exposés, guerilla theater that showed power’s bankruptcy in sharpest relief.

With the kind of bravery that only a holy fool could possess, Abbie Hoffman took play to the greatest concentration of power in the world: The Pentagon, home of the US military. In 1967, in the midst of a horrific war in Vietnam, he sought a permit to encircle the Pentagon with antiwar protesters, perform an exorcism rite, and levitate the massive building 300 feet off the ground. When the generals denied the permit, in an act of conciliation and in the spirit of compromise, Hoffman and the Yippies said that they were willing to dial back their action and revised their permit request, now seeking to levitate the Pentagon a mere ten feet. Still no deal. And to extrapolate the power of theater and even mock imaginary power, three years later Hoffman and his cohorts invaded Disneyland, occupied Treasure Island, and challenged the Pirates of the Caribbean to battle.

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