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The Goldman Pamphlets #1 A Biographical Sketch

Here begins the Goldman Pamphlets, a series of notes that pivot on the ideas of Emma Goldman, I’ve just put down her anthology entitled Anarchism and Other Essays and felt her earnestness and severity worthy of some attention. This series will also afford me the opportunity to internalize some her ideas. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have writing them. 

Goldman, born 1869 in Kuanis, Lithuania was an influential anarchist thinker and activist known for her fiercely passionate speeches. She immigrated to America at the turn of 20th century in pursuit of freedom and got pretty pissed off when she didn’t find it. She then set out to chisel at New York’s socio political inner workings.

A factory worker,get this- by choice, this blows me away. Giving up middle class privilege of a kept life, tearing herself away from the social norm, sacrificing comfort to join ‘the people’. How many of us over privileged surburbanites would embrace a working class shack dwelling existence simply because our fellow humans were denied that privilege? That’s a kind of ballsy sympathy I could never embrace, my love of comfort is far too great. She did it though, in a time with such little support. There weren’t any NPO’s and there certainly wasn’t a trust fund to lean on. Post modern existence has made it so easy for us to serve these higher sentiments and yet we don’t even get close to touching sides with the needs of the day. She had none of the support we enjoy today, including VIDA coffee and yet managed to carve her message into the World’s consciousness. One brave tough bitch.

This reminds of a conversation I had with a taxi driver some time back, hailing from Bulawayo he was in receipt of much passion for the Zimbabwean situation. He said something that freaked me out yet made me think hard about my own understanding of what is actually happening there…. “ At least now, we’re all poor.” At first it seemed like an incredibly selfish thing to say, but considering that economic changes were happening so slowly and that the upper echelons were showing no sign of true economic reformation, he had a point. There is something about taking that drastic step, that equalizer- that can only be done by fortunate if true change is to be effected.

Voluntary poverty, in order to effect solidarity and garner change- well that is seems incredibly noble. I know the Zimbabwean situation is different, as in there wasn’t voluntary anything and that the corruption and thoughtlessness of the Mugabe regime can’t be equated to this empathetic sentiment- but the idea, even if wrongly imposed, remains there to be sifted out.

Sure the social edifice of that time can not be compared to today, but there’s something to say about a factory worker with such a veracious intellectual appetite and penchant for effecting social change. She was imprisoned and banned and harassed throughout her life & she did this by her own choice. I don’t know what it is about embracing suffering that fascinates me so much, it could be an idea drummed into my head via that behemoth monotheist machine called conservative upbringing but I like to think that it’s more than that. That as products of an over evolved thoughtful species we are still able to discern true passion.

That is what her writing offered me, true passion & a complete devotion to freedom and beauty. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

…the individual instinct is the thing of value in the world.”

..for not until you think and judge for yourself will you get rid of the dominion of darkness.”

If they do not give you work or bread, take the bread.”

Puritism in this twentieth century is as much the enemy of freedom and beauty as it was when it landed on Plymouth Rock.”