My Mother and I Would Like to Know

by William S. Burroughs
From The Evergreen Review

The uneasy spring of 1988. Under the pretext of drug control, suppressive police states have been set up throughout the Western world. The precise programming of thought, feeling, and apparent sensory impressions by the technology outlined in bulletin 2332 enables the police states to maintain a democratic façade from behind which they loudly denounce as criminal perverts and drug addicts anyone who opposes the control machine. Underground armies operate in the large cities, enturbulating the police with false information through anonymous phone calls and letters. Police with drawn guns erupt at the senator's dinner party, a very special dinner party too, that would tie up a sweet thing in surplus planes.

“We been tipped off a nude reefer party is going on here. Take the place apart, boys, and you folks keep your clothes on or I'll blow your filthy guts out.”

We put out false alarms on the police short wave directing patrol cars to nonexistent crimes and riots which enables us to strike somewhere else. Squads of false police search and beat the citizenry. False construction workers tear up streets, rupture water mains, cut power connections. Infra-sound installations set off every burglar alarm in the city. Our aim is total chaos.

Loft room, map of the city on the wall. Fifty boys with portable tape recorders record riots from TV. They are dressed in identical grey flannel suits. They strap on the recorders under gabardine topcoats and dust their clothes lightly with tear gas. They hit the rush hour in a flying wedge, riot recordings on full blast, police whistles, screams, breaking glass, crunch of night sticks, tear gas flapping from their clothes. They scatter, put on press cards, and come back to cover the action. Bearded Yippies rush down a street with hammers, breaking every window on both sides, leave a wake of screaming burglar alarms, strip off the beards, reverse collars, and they are fifty clean priests throwing gasoline bombs under every car - WHOOSH a block goes up behind them. In fireman uniforms, arrive with axes and hoses to finish the good work.

In Mexico, South and Central America, guerrilla units are forming an army of liberation to free the United States. In North Africa, from Tangier to Timbuktu, corresponding units prepare to liberate Western Europe and the United Kingdom. Despite disparate aims and personnel of its constituent members, the underground is agreed on basic objectives. We intend to march on the police machine everywhere. We intend to destroy the police machine and all its records. We intend to destroy all dogmatic verbal systems. The family unit and its cancerous expansion into tribes, countries, nations, we will eradicate at its vegetable roots. We don't want to hear any more family talk, mother talk, father talk, cop talk, priest talk, country talk or party talk. To put it country simple, we have heard enough bullshit.

I am on my way from London to Tangier. In North Africa I will contact the wild boy packs that range from the outskirts of Tangier to Timbuktu. Rotation and exchange is a keystone of the underground. I am bringing them modern weapons: laser guns, infrasound installations, Deadly Orgone Radiation. I will learn their specialized skills and transfer wild boy units to the Western cities. We know that the West will invade Africa and South America in an all-out attempt to crush the guerrilla units. Doktor Kurt Unruh von Steiplatz, in his four-volume treatise on the authority sickness, predicts these latter-day crusades. We will be ready to strike in their cities and to resist in the territories we now hold. Meanwhile we watch and train and wait.

I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent.

Disguise is not a false beard, dyed hair, and plastic surgery. Disguise is clothes and bearing and behavior that leaves no questions unanswered… American tourist with a wife he calls “Mother”… old queen on the make… dirty beatnik… marginal film producer… Every article of my luggage and clothing is carefully planned to create a certain impression. Behind this impression I can operate without interference for a time. Just so long, and long enough. So I walk down Boulevard Pasteur handing out money to guides and shoe-shine boys. And that is only one of the civic things I did. I bought one of those souvenir matchlocks clearly destined to hang over a false fireplace in West Palm Beach, Florida, and I carried it around wrapped in brown paper with the muzzle sticking out. I made inquiries at the Consulate:

“Now Mother and I would like to know.”

And “Mother and I would like to know” in American Express and the Minzah pulling wads of money out of my pocket “How much shall I give them?” I asked the vice-consul, for a horde of guides had followed me into the Consulate. “I wonder if you've met my congressman Joe Link?”

Nobody gets through my cover, I assure you. There is no better cover than a nuisance and a bore. When you see my cover you don't look further. You look the other way fast. For use on any foreign assignment there is nothing like the old reliable American tourist cameras and fight meters slung all over him.

“How much shall I give him, Mother?”

I can sidle up to any old bag, she nods and smiles it's all so familiar “must be that cute man we met on the plane over from Gibraltar Captain Clark welcomes you aboard and he says: 'Now what's this form? I don't read Arabic.' Then he turns to me and says 'Mother I need help.' And I show him how to fill out the form and after that he would come up to me on the street this cute man so helpless bobbing up everywhere.”

“What's he saying, Mother?”

“I think he wants money.”

“They all do.” He turns to an army of beggars, guides, shoe-shine boys, and whores of all sexes and makes an ineffectual gesture.

“Despite disparate aims and personnel of its constituent members, the underground is agreed on basic objectives. We intend to march on the police machine everywhere. We intend to destroy the police machine and all its records. We intend to destroy all dogmatic verbal systems… To put it country simple, we have heard enough bullshit.”

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snig·gle (v) — To fish for eels by thrusting a baited hook into their hiding places.