Since his first major poem, Howl, Allen Ginsberg has been a center of
controversy. His poems talked about homosexuality before it was considered
acceptable to discuss, and openly admitted his use of marijuana. He was an
advocate of making it legal for adults to have sex with those under 18 years
or age. Because of the views that Ginsberg had, his poems all have some
common themes. One of the most prevalent themes however, especially in
his more recent poetry, is anti-industrialism.
In Ginsberg's view, industrialization has made people less social, A
Supermarket in California is about this idea. In this poem he says that in a
Supermarket, even though one is surrounded with people, one is alone
because they don't talk to anyone. He talks about how people go home to
lonely cottages with cars in the driveways. He seems to be ridiculing the
"American Dream," saying that they have achieved that dream, but is it
worth it to live in loneliness.
Ginsberg also shows his anti-industrialism in Industrial Waves. In this
poem Ginsberg comments on the reduction of freedom that "smart cards"
would cause. He also says that while the individual's freedom is being taken
away, big businesses continue to have freedom. He says this in his usual
fashion, using a image not usually considered appropriate, "Freedom for
Exxon to examine your pee!"
In Who Runs America? Ginsberg asserts that America is run by the oil
industry. First he described the effects of oil on cities. He described the smog
and smoke over cities and across the horizon. Next he talks about all the
companies that use, and make products that use oil. Some examples of the
companies that he says are General Motors, General Electric, IBM and
Exxon. Ginsberg also points out the oil spills that are inevitable around oil
tankers and oil rigs. This is obviously an anti-industrialist poem, specifically
taking a stand against the use of oil.
Hum Bom! is another poem dealing with oil, but specifically the Gulf
War and how it started. Ginsberg says in this poem, that nobody really
wants to go to war, but wars come into existence because of a slowly
escalating misunderstanding. The Gulf War was fought over oil and never
would've happened if industry weren't so dependent on petroleum products.
Perhaps Ginsberg's most famous poem, Howl is loaded with
anti-industrial ideas. For example, in part two, Ginsberg addresses Moloch,
who, according to legends, people sacrificed children to. Ginsberg uses
Moloch to represent the modern things to which people are still sacrificed,
such as "robot apartments" and "invisible suburbs." He says that people
broke their backs lifting Moloch to heaven, meaning that people spend all
their energy on modern things such as "demonic industries", apartments,
suburbs and "blind capitols."
Throughout his poetry, Ginsberg's views on industry can be seen. It
can be seen in almost every poem he writes whether it is in there literally
symbolically. Even poems that have a different central theme still seem to
have anti-industrialism stuck in there somewhere.