January 1, 2012


Vivian Gornick, Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life (Jewish Lives) (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2011) ("Emma Goldman was a hybrid anarchist. Although she was formed by European (Communistic) anarchism, and spent her life denouncing the state, she had a passion first for the work of the German philosophers of individualism (Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Stirner) and then for that of American dissenters like Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman whose romantic defense of the supremacy of the individual spoke even more directly to her emotional imagination; it was out of the language of the homegrown American rebel that her anarchism found its great expressiveness and defiant originality, This passion for individualism, as old as the Greek discovery of consciousness, burned in her not only as an angry hunger to feel free within her own self but as an undying insistence that that freedom was a human birthright. To live in a world that denied one's birthright was the intolerable prospect that fed her rebelliousness and, in turn, led her to the kind of insight that contributed substantially to the never-ending inquiry in the question of what a human being needs to feel human." Id. at 5-6). Is a true passion for individualism really possible in a twenty-first-century America premised on the three gods of narcissism, consumerism, and authoritarian corporate capitalism? I would wish readers of this blog a happy New Year, but I cannot do so. I see us as entering the New Dark Age. Civilization is in decline. I see nothing happy about that. "'Society is in its last convulsions,' she announced . . . 'Men cannot be happy as long as they are slaves. They cannot expect theft, murder, prostitution, or oppression to be gotten rid of unless the system which breeds them is gone. . . For this I shall continue to work. My motto as ever [is] Death to Tyranny! Vive l'Anarchie!'" Id. at 38. Yes, revolution as a way of life!).