Up Against the Wall: MotherF**cker

root - Posted on 24 June 2009

A book by Osha Neumann

by Phil Adams/PNN

Up Against the Wall Motherfucker is the story of how a man made the transformation of privileged Jewish college student attending Columbia University to a civil rights attorney working in South Berkeley and all the birth pangs that go with it. Most of story is concentrated on Osha's days as a "MotherF*cker" living in slums of New York in the 60's fighting for ideals that nobody had a complete grasp of yet. The honesty with which Osha writes about his feelings and beliefs at that time is truly inspiring. It was obviously a confusing time not only for himself but for the country in general, as it seemed the whole nation was trying to figure out which way to go. I think Osha did a good job capturing the feeling and spirit of those days.

This book does have a lot to teach younger activists just stepping into the game. The whole reason people get involved with social justice and activism is because they sense some type of inequality in the social system that we live in. Those emotions that come with that can easily be morphed into anger and rage. What Osha did in Up Against the Wall Motherf**ker was he told his story on how he dealt with those feelings and how he matured and got over them. He also acknowledges how much all of those Motherfuckers who survived "sold out"and settled down. Over all the book is brilliant and how honest Osha is about conveying his emotions at the time is truly inspiring.

However, Osha does acknowledge the immaturity and naivety of the 60's revolutionary thought process. For all the wealth of knowledge and righteousness these young revolutionaries had the immaturity in the way they expressed it isolated them from the society they were trying to liberate, eventually causing the downfall of the Motherfuckers.

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one
-William Stekel (Austrian Psychoanalyst 1868-1940)

I had problems with this myself. Originally when reading Up Against the Wall Motherfucker I felt like I identified a lot with Osha's younger days. I understand the rage at the injustice of our social system and the need to destroy fallacies that shackle the minds of people, whether physically or through language. In fact, he was about two years older than I am now. I think it's natural that young men who feel inequality want to attack and physically fight those who facilitate the injustice. The thing is the majority of the world is not young men; the world includes our elders, women, and children who don't identify as much with these feelings and who just want to live peacefully. So through acts of physical violence we are in fact exposing those who should be protected to danger. Violence may sometimes be necessary, just because you play fair doesn't mean others do, but trying to prove an intellectual argument through violence makes you a fascist yourself.

However Up Against the Wall Motherfucker was not about a bunch of violent hippies running around the lower east side. The Motherfuckers did a lot of valid revolutionary actions. Such as the take over of the Bill Graham's Fillmore East amphitheatre in response to the gentrification of the community:

Discarded sandwiches, cigarette butts, cans and bottles littered the carpets. Much wine was drunk, much dope was smoked. The program, such as it was, proceeded amidst a chorus of boasts, threats, brags and rambling fantasies shouted out from every corner of the auditorium. Bill Graham's green-shirted ushers stood by, attempting to make themselves inconspicuous, utterly powerless to control the magnificent chaos of the event.
-Osha Neumann "Up Against the Wall Motherfucker"

I don't think activism has changed much through the years. In the long view we are all people and we all have similar emotions and thought processes. Up Against the Wall Motherfucker is basically Osha's autobiography and how he dealt with the inequality he saw in the society we live in. It's the story of how a young hippie matured and became a civil rights attorney and true revolutionary


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