Put Your Bodies Upon the Gears

During the free speech sit-ins at UC Berkeley in December 1964 (two months after I was born), Mario Savio said:

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

The Free Speech Movement Cafe at the center of campus is where I get my coffee every day. The interior is decorated with blow-up images from the free speech movement, memorializing it for the current generation so we don’t take it for granted, and so we are reminded that the relative freedom of speech we have today was hard-won, and that the threats to civil liberties we experience today are nothing new under the sun.

Music: Iggy Pop :: funtime

2 Replies to “Put Your Bodies Upon the Gears”

  1. Perhaps I’ve been damaged by cynical culture and pampered into numb apathy, but I cannot connect emotionally to a time, place, and person who would say such a powerful and desperate thing.

    I’ve seen so many canned presentations of strife-then-resolution that I can absorb the machinations of a polity I don’t support and the resulting tragedies with little more than quickly passing shock, nightmares and low grade depression, eased by the elevation from a fine cup of coffee.

    How do people put down their mugs and become Mario Savio?

  2. I love this quote. I heard it played on the radio some time in the last year (I’m sure it was on KPFA — can’t think of another radio station that would play it) and the urgency in Savio’s voice is so clear. It really is almost desperation.

    I think people *talked* differently in 1964 than they do now. Much more urgency, immediacy, and less self-consciousness.

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