Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alan Bock  (1943-2011)

Al Bock  was a fraternity brother of mine at UCLA, whom I lived with from 1962 to 1965.  His career included being an editorial writer for the Orange County Register for thirty years, writing from a libertarian perspective.  Yesterday, checking for recent commentaries by him,  I discovered that he had passed away last year from cancer.

On November 22, 1963, having just returned to the house from an English literature lecture on The Great Gatsby , someone said that he had heard that President Kennedy had been attacked in Dallas.  Initially, this  was greeted with incredulity and dismissed as a joke.  Al then came down the stairs with a radio, and said quietly, "He's dead".  I still have a vivid picture of his giving us this news.

At the end of the fall term of 1963, post cards with final grades arrived.  Going through them (looking for our own), we saw that Al had several Grade "A", with the admonition, "Please see us. You are not enrolled in this class". It turned out that he had been in a dispute with ROTC (mandatory at UCLA) about having his army uniform cleaned before he could return it.  He refused to pay for dry cleaning and subsequently had not been allowed to register for the fall term.  He took courses anyway, but didn't get credit towards his degree.  (You could see the libertarian strain coming out.)

One night we were fooling around in the living room.  Al put his hand through a pane of glass in the outside door and cut it badly.  We raced him to the UCLA Medical Center.  He had severed two tendons and afterwards wasn't able to close his ring and small fingers on the hand.  Surprisingly, he didn't have his registration card with him at the Med Center.  (We were still unaware of his non-registration.)  They fixed him up anyway.
Al wrote four books, The Ecology Action Guide (1970)The Gospel Life of Hank Williams (1976)Ambush at Ruby Ridge (1995), and Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana (2000), which gives an idea of the variety of his interests, including environment, music, and politics.

In addition, he was a frequent contributor to and a critic of U. S. policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his final column published two months before his death, he wrote:

“I remain convinced that the cause of individual liberty is the most noble and constructive political cause around. Albert J. Nock noted that there are two ways for people to relate: through honest exchange and mutual agreement or by one party imposing its will on the other through force, the threat of force, or fraud. He called these the economic means and the political means.

“There are plenty of things more important than politics: your family and friends and treating them right, the search for spiritual meaning in an often confusing and ambiguous world, art, music, science, simple enjoyment of the good things in life, struggling to make good choices rather than destructive ones, and supporting your children in their intellectual endeavors and at soccer and softball games. All these challenges, however, can be handled better – not necessarily easily, but better – in an atmosphere of personal liberty and freedom to make one’s own choices than in a repressive regime that makes choices for you and forces them on you.”

Tributes to Alan Bock may be found at this site: