The Radical Individualism of Paul Goodman

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"I
regard the President as my public servant whom I pay, and berate
him as a lousy employee.. I come on as an old fashioned patriot,
neither supine nor more revolutionary than is necessary for my
modest goals."

~ Paul
Goodman, The
Society I Live In Is Mine
, 1962

Part
1. Goodman's Life and Legacy

1.1
Growing up absurd

Paul
Goodman, long-time New York resident, writer, poet, anarchist, theorist
and co-developer of Gestalt therapy, American patriot in the true
sense
of the word (not the mindless
flag-waving variety), abrasive personality and public speaker, husband,
father, lover of young men and women, and sometime theorist of community
and urban planning, described himself as "an old-fashioned
man of letters" who was anti-war and anti-statist all his life.
His work has something to say for the times we live in today.

Best-known
for his book "Growing
Up Absurd
," published in 1960,
and often described as "utopian" in his theoretical outlook
and philosophy, he really does fit the clichéd saying that
u2018he was a child of his times,' because he remained something of
a life-long adolescent, one who would surely have refused to grow
up either into the abhorrent morally neutral pragmatism of those
running the establishment, which he characterized as the top-down,
bureaucratized, hierarchical, centralized organization of the state
and state-nourished institutions, or into the acquiescent acceptance
of powerlessness of those who resign themselves to work within that
establishment.

In
this conventional sense, of throwing off childish wonder and adolescent
fire and becoming "serious," he might well have said that
if that is what growing up means, then he would actually prefer
not to grow up.

He
was born in 1911 (for believers in the significance of numbers,
he was born on 9-9-11, to be precise). As an article written a few
years ago describes it, Paul Goodman was "largely a product
of his own experience and self-education. He was abandoned by his
father as an infant, to be raised with minimum supervision by his
bohemian mother in the intense Jewish intellectual atmosphere of
early twentieth-century New York. As a child he roamed the streets,
parks, museums and libraries of Manhattan, absorbing the atmosphere
and noting its lessons" (Tom Patton, The Maine Progressive,
July 1999).

Another
writer has described the first few decades of Goodman's adult life
as "something of an artistic tough-going. He was the prototypical
starving artist, discouraged and marginalized, only just making
ends meet with his poetry, his fiction and his essays. He was, and
would always remain, in the position most comfortable for him: the
outsider." (Mike James, Social
Angst, Paul Goodman-style
, 2002).

Midlife,
in the 1950s, found him "drained and fearful in the face of
his status as a marginal artist with children to raise. He wrote
in a journal: u2018I am at a loss, in our great city, how to do anything
at all that could make an immediate difference in our feeling and
practice (and so in my own feeling and practice). Therefore I have
ceased to want anything, I do not know what we want.' It was at
this time that he met Fritz Perls, [... who] had studied with the
founding generation of Freudians but soon developed a very unconventional
therapeutic practice. Perls’ ideas blended well with Goodman’s and
they were soon involved in a rich collaboration, founding the Gestalt
Therapy Institute and writing Gestalt
Therapy
.

This
exposure shifted Goodman's career from artist/writer to social critic.
[...] His breakthrough book, (full title Growing Up Absurd: Problems
of Youth in the Organized Society), was rejected by a dozen
publishers before finally seeing print in 1960 and becoming a huge
success. Soon the rest of society began to catch up to him, as young
people began to rebel against the excessive conventionality of the
fifties. He was well placed to address the anti-institutional critique
which emerged at this time [..] By the mid-sixties he was adopted
as sort of an uncle of the youth/student movement, wrote a book
a year, and made almost constant campus appearances. His contribution
was scholarly yet personal, classical yet revolutionary, and thoroughly
natural and anti-institutional." (extracted from John Fitzgerald,
Paul
Goodman Biography
, undated).

These
developments – the birth of the so-called counter-culture and
opposition to the Vietnam war – came together in the spirit
of the times to provide a fertile ground for Goodman's personality
and for his social criticism. And this period, which in hindsight
appears as both a unique window of opportunity for him and the summit
of his achievements as a writer and speaker on American society,
also brought him some financial security as well as notoriety.

"As
a social critic, Goodman has had few peers in America. He stubbornly
held forth a vision of individual self-realization through love
and work against the dehumanizing pressures that bureaucracy and
technology were producing. This was not a Darwinian vision of self-reliance
or American rugged individualism, however, but of anarchist community.
Goodman believed that groups of people, dealing directly with one
another on a small scale, could begin to hand craft a new and humanly
decent community out of the sprawling over-centralized mass of post-industrial
society. He wrote about these matters – both the evils and
the possibilities of correcting them – with an intelligence
that in its precision, common sense, and passionate conviction often
rises to lyrical heights."

~
Michael Vincent Miller, Introduction to the Gestalt Journal Press
Edition of Nature
Heals: The Psychological Essays of Paul Goodman
(Natua sanat
non medicus), Edited by Taylor Stoehr, 1994

By
the time Paul Goodman died from a heart attack in August 1972, at
age 60, which it is said was hastened by the death a few years before
in a hiking accident, of his beloved 20-year old son, a certain
collective disillusionment had set in: both within the student movement,
and perhaps within the so-called counter-culture itself, which appeared
to have drifted off into a haze of drugs and mysticism, while the
war in Vietnam had been prolonged after the election victory of
Richard Nixon in 1968, and was not yet over.

1.2
Integrity and Consistency of Principles

Before
this, however, Goodman had already suffered the fate of all those
who stay true to their principles and refuse to dilute them in favour
of faddish trends. Having been claimed by the student movement as
their guru, he came to deplore both the mob violence that took over
parts of it and the inconstancy of its members as they "grew
up." (A recent study amusingly describes these people today
as "the bobos" — the bourgeois
Bohemians
).

u2018The
student revolutionaries, Goodman eventually recognized, understood
him no better than the mainstream publishers who had earlier rejected
him, or than they understood their other ideological leaders, and
in the end he disavowed the lot of them as a mob of witless narcissists.
What especially offended him was the metastasizing "ahistoricity"
of the young. "They no longer remember their own history,"
he said. "Each incoming class is more entangled in the specious
present…I am often hectored to my face with formulations that I
myself put in their mouths, which have become part of the oral tradition
two years old, (the) author prehistoric."' (Quoted from
New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative; March
1970, by Tom Patton in the July 1999 issue of The Maine Progressive.)

Those
who claimed him did not actually hear him, but perhaps selected
only what they wanted to hear. For Goodman, the struggle would not
have been about rights, but about liberty, community and the human
scale of things, and, as with Albert Jay Nock, about doing the right
thing, about striving for excellence and perfection in life, against
the overwhelming tide of mediocrity and passivity. As he wrote in
1963:

"In
my opinion, the salient cause of ineptitude in promotion and in
all hiring practices is that, under centralized conditions, fewer
and fewer know what is a good job of work. The appearance of competence
may count for more than the reality, and it is a lifework to manufacture
appearance or, more usually, to adapt to the common expectation."

~
People or Personnel: Decentralising and the Mixed Systems
,
1963

1.3
The fate of prophets

The
value of Goodman's insights makes it sad that, as with Nock, nearly
all his books are out of print (they are widely available second-hand,
however). Meanwhile his legacy has been claimed by all and sundry
as championing their rights or their attitudes, including latterly
u2018gay rights,' environmentalists, u2018activists' and u2018progressives.'
It seems to me however, that it is precisely because he was consistent
throughout his life, because he was a man of principle and maintained
his anarcho-communitarian, libertarian, anti-state and anti-war
views, that those who were (and are) more fickle, and adapt themselves
to the fashion of the times (or, some would say, compromise with
the welfare-and-warfare establishment and with its culture of political
correctness) turned away from him, and are all the poorer for having
done so.

It
was the same fate that, at different times, befell Nock and Rothbard,
and perhaps afflicts all humanity's true prophets — often simultaneously
acclaimed by the few and reviled by the many during their lifetimes,
but shown in hindsight to have been right on the money.

Certainly
in Goodman's case, by contrast with Nock who tended in later life
to pessimism and resignation, the struggle was also a search for
something better in the here and now, with a view to what was coming
next.

It
might be argued that this made him vulnerable to the improvement
scheme mentality, and that everything he suggested was impractical.
I believe he was acutely conscious of this, and did everything he
modestly could to justify and buttress his "practical proposals"
(these words figure in the title of his 1962 collection "Utopian
Essays and Practical Proposals
").
You have to judge for yourself. Personally, I find his advocacy
of decentralised systems, a human scale, and participatory observation
of the world around us to be admirable still, in an age when we
are all submerged in the mass, and in even greater thoughtlessness
and anomie than existed in his day.

Goodman
has probably also been cast aside because he had absolutely no interest
in feminism. In this too he was a man of his time, because the emasculatory
type of feminism which prevails today was virtually non-existent
in the period in which he grew up. The following remarks would surely
not have endeared him to the new Amazons:

"The
conditions of American society do not encourage manly responsibility
and moral courage in men, and we simply do not know how to use the
tenderness and motherliness of women. The present disposition of
the radical young is to treat males and females alike: in my observation,
this means that the women become mere camp-followers, the opposite
of the suburban situation in which they are tyrannical dolls. I
do not know the answer."

~
Like
a Conquered Province
, 1965, chapter 2: "Counter-Forces
for a Decent Society"

My
guess is that he would, in any event, have objected strongly to
emasculatory feminism, because the value of manly, meaningful work
and education were recurrent themes in his writing. What gives strength
to his book "Growing Up Absurd," writes Professor
Edgar Friedenberg, in a long and valuable (though at times condescending)
article
written in 1994
, is "its unabashed
conviction and assertion that boys are to be treasured and nurtured
rather than, as so often happens, crippled and distorted to make
them useful to others in the social roles for which they are to
be prepared." In other words, trained into becoming politically
conformist specialists for compartmentalized work in the centralized
system.

Long
before the term "human resources" had entered the jargon,
Paul Goodman was thus already objecting to the fact that people
were treated as "personnel" and not as human beings (People
or Personnel), and that the whole educational system was being
designed to create slavish conformity:

"The
idea of Jeffersonian democracy is to educate its people to govern
by giving them initiative to run things, by multiplying sources
of responsibility, by encouraging dissent. This has the beautiful
moral advantage that a man can be excellent in his own way without
feeling special, can rule without ambition and follow without inferiority.
Through the decades, it should have been the effort of our institutions
to adapt this idea to ever-changing technical and social conditions.
Instead, as if by dark design, our present institutions conspire
to make people inexpert, mystified, and slavish.

"One
is astounded at the general slavishness. The journalists at the
President's press conference never ask a probing question: they
have agreed, it seems, not to ‘rock the boat.’ Correspondingly,
the New York Times does not print the news, because it is a ‘responsible
newspaper.’ Recently, the Commissioner of Education of the State
of New York spoke of the need for young people to learn to ‘handle
constructively their problems of adjustment to authority’ — a remarkable
expression for doing what you're told."

~
Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals, 1962, Preface

One
is astounded at the general slavishness, indeed. Plus ça
change, plus c'est la même chose – the more things
change, the more things stay the same. In the subsequent parts of
this essay I shall look more closely at Goodman's views on war and
free markets, and explain how they are relevant for today.

Part
2. War and Free Markets

2.1
Goodman on War and the Lust for Explosion

Paul
Goodman was, by all accounts, obsessed with sexuality, and preferentially
male sexuality, although he was in fact bi-sexual, fathered several
children, and lived as a family man for most of his adult life.

Nevertheless,
in these politically and personally correct times, a further potential
u2018grown-up' argument against Goodman's world view might be found
in his attachment to the idea that the desire for release from tension
is the primary explanation, not only for the bulk of the people's
sheepish acquiescence with the status quo, but for their active
psychological identification, as powerless people, with the power
of their leaders, as demonstrated in the perpetual low-grade emergency
of war preparations, and the waging of war itself, or in abstractions
such as "national security." These submissive postures
prevail even when the people can see in their heart of hearts that
their attitude is illogical, or that those same u2018great leaders'
are in fact criminals, merciless tyrants, or on occasion no better
than village idiots.

This
argument is well developed in an interesting piece which he published
in 1962 called "Some
remarks on war spirit
," (in Drawing
the Line:  A Pamphlet), which is now available on the Internet,
and in relation to which the editor of the Gestalt Journal has written
"it is striking how relevant Goodman’s thinking is to world
events almost forty years later."

This
question of the war spirit is one of two reasons why I believe Goodman
has something relevant to say to us today. In a piece he wrote called
"Designing Pacifist Films" (reprinted in Utopian Essays
and Practical Proposals), he wrote:

"Probably
the chief factor of war spirit that must be analysed is not the
military character nor the projection of the Enemy, but the paralysis
with which the vast majority of people of all countries accept the
war that they oppose both by conviction and feeling. This must betoken
an inner, fatalistic attachment to the feared disaster, and it is
best explained as ‘primary masochism’ (Reich): the hypothesis that,
because of their rigid characters, people are unable to feel their
pent-up needs, especially of sexuality and creative growth, and
therefore they dream up, seek out, and conspire in an external catastrophe
to pierce their numbness and set them free. The prevalent conditions
of civilian peace and meaningless jobs tend to heighten this lust
for explosion."

~
Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals, 1962, p. 76–77

2.2
Libertarians and War

Before
you react and say that this is not quite serious, or is old-fashioned,
or that "we should have all got over that sort of thing by
now," let me recall that the same charge of being not quite
serious, or of being impractical, is often levelled at libertarians,
in two contexts. The first of these is war, and the second is the
economy.

In
the current context of opposing, or not opposing, the invasion of
Iraq, there is an intimidatory official and media consensus that
anyone who u2018wants to be taken seriously' by the establishment, sometimes
even by friends and social acquaintances (or, when it really comes
down to it, by anyone at all), necessarily (if perhaps regrettably)
has to u2018rally round' and be in support of the war. In this mythology,
only assorted mavericks, greens, reds, communists, socialists, pony-tailed
latter-day beatniks and their fellow America-haters — people who
by definition have not u2018grown up' – can possibly be anti-war
(or else they have been sadly duped by Saddam's propaganda machine,
which must have paid for the world-wide millions to go on the march
for peace on February 15th, and which no doubt has also paid for
the planting of all the anti-war articles on the Internet).

Not
so. There are indeed some people who call themselves libertarians
and are in favour of this war, but this gives those who do not really
know what libertarianism is a totally wrong idea, because it is
no part of the philosophy of true libertarians.

True
libertarians, in the radical individualist tradition of Nock and
Rothbard, and indeed Goodman, are against this war, and against
war generally, primarily because it represents the reckless aggrandizement
of the state apparatus. As James
Ostrowski
has written, "War is the
greatest threat to human life, human liberty, human prosperity,
and human civilization.  Modern war, as developed by Lincoln
and perfected in the 20th century, is solely the product
of the modern taxing, conscripting, confiscating, and inflating
State.  No States, no catastrophic wars."

When
that state apparatus, as in the present case, has been usurped by
a militaristic cabal, and amplified through executive order and
fast-track legislation (passed without scrutiny by the browbeaten
assembly of the people's representatives) into an instrument of
oppression and duping of the people, as it has been countless times
and in countless nations throughout history, then the state is the
major oppressor and the major terrorist. Therefore, it must be opposed
by all true lovers of liberty. "Anti-war libertarian"
does indeed become a tautology.

2.3
Goodman and Libertarians on Free Markets

The
second reason for Goodman's relevance today, which is also an aspect
of the public misunderstanding of libertarianism, lies in the realm
of political economy. The same Tom Patton, whom I have quoted earlier
in describing parts of Paul Goodman's life, had the following to
say about libertarianism:

"The
term u2018libertarian' in recent times has come to signify a kind of
u2018damn the torpedoes, full speed astern' form of laissez-faireism
that abjures some of the more malign mini-dogmas of the Republican
Right while celebrating its abiding premise. The premise, of course,
is that all good men and true are at liberty to stuff whatever swag
they can into their seabags without concern or responsibility for
their mates and fellow passengers. As pre-eminent individualists
in an era when most people with good sense realize that chesty individualism
– vestigial or incipient – is our nation's worst affliction,
libertarians hoist the ensign of piratical, free market capitalism
to swashbuckling heights heretofore unimagined by both corporate
and populist conservatives."

~
Tom Patton, The Maine Progressive, July 1999

Well,
what do you know. I bet Paul Goodman, supreme believer in personal
realization and individualism that he was, would have been more
than a little angry at this debunking of the individual. But he
would not have been too surprised. For what is happening here is
that Goodman is being claimed for a political agenda: parts of his
world view, in this case those which are perceived (wrongly in my
view) to be convenient for the u2018progressive' agenda, are selected
and made to fit. The Maine Progressive, incidentally, has since
ceased publication.

The
fact is that Patton makes a specific accusation about libertarian
philosophy here which is quite commonly found, namely that libertarians
"have no concern or responsibility for their mates and fellow
passengers." This is an old complaint, similar to the bleating
about the alleged u2018selfishness' of those who are successful in what
they do (or even mildly self-confident), having either taken the
care and the time to work out what they want for themselves in life,
and set out to go and get it, or just simply being prepared to take
individual moral responsibility for their lives and beliefs. It
should go without saying that this presupposes a co-operative endeavour,
based on the fundamental libertarian principle that rights to property
and life are inviolable, provided that exercising those rights does
not infringe on the lives and property rights of others.

2.4
Piracy in our time

Of
course, there is also the other canard raised by Patton, of "libertarians
hoisting the ensign of piratical, free market capitalism to swashbuckling
heights." Once again, this familiar objection to libertarianism,
that anyone who believes in free markets must have selfish and piratical
motives, is misplaced, and is based on a misunderstanding both of
the moral content of true libertarianism and the abuse of the term
u2018free market' by the corporatists.

The
corporatists
are those who are in cahoots with the gang in government to extract
privileges, licenses and favours for their corporations and themselves,
and to monopolize markets. These days that probably means monopolizing
or cartelising world markets (also known as u2018globalization'). In
this process they will always apparently argue for things like u2018deregulation,'
u2018privatisation' and u2018free markets.' What they mean, however, is
not true free markets, in which the little man would not be driven
out of business by the big chains, but freedom to rig the markets
for themselves. Those who then say these people are libertarians
have simply got the wrong end of the stick about libertarianism.

Certainly
the corporatists believe in a kind of freedom, but it is not liberty:
it is license. License to do broadly as they please while catering
to shibboleths like diversity, sensitivity and affirmative action.
Such policies in themselves further distort the market: for while
there is a time-honoured place for the proper and effective management
of cultural and other differences, the pursuit of these things for
their own sake, or for the sake of presenting a politically correct
attitude, only succeeds in wasting human potential, and often in
excluding deserving human beings from jobs for precisely the reasons
they are trying to avoid.

Goodman
himself went even further than this, in his book "People
or Personnel," pointing out that the accepted canons of
the political establishment can be used (and indeed are used) to
shut out certain thinkers and dissident intellectuals from the labour
market:

"One
of the most dangerous and distressing aspects of contemporary America
is the emergence of an immense academic, professional and intellectual
class that is entirely organized into the dominant system; and,
conversely, the rapid disappearance of the independent, often dissenting
but respectable academics, professionals and intellectuals who are
the guardians of civilization."

~
People
or Personnel
, 1963

Goodman
linked such manipulations of the pure concept of the free market
to the general feeling of anomie or lack of meaning among the people,
which is the result of not having a satisfying life and not being
engaged in a satisfying activity:

"Lack
of meaning begins to occur when the immensely productive economy
overmatures and lives by creating demand instead of meeting it:
when the check of the free market gives way to monopolies, subsidies,
and captive consumers; when the sense of community vanishes and
public goods are neglected and resources despoiled; when there is
made-work (or war) to reduce unemployment; and when the measure
of economic health is not increasing well-being but abstractions
like Gross National Product and the rate of growth."

"Human
beings tend to be excluded when a logistic style becomes universally
pervasive, so that values and data that cannot be standardized and
programmed are disregarded; when function is adjusted to the technology
rather than technology to function; when technology is confused
with autonomous science, which is a good in itself, rather than
being limited by political and moral prudence; when there develops
an establishment of managers and experts who license and allot resources,
and which deludes itself that it alone knows the right method and
is omnicompetent. Then common folk become docile clients, maintained
by sufferance, or they are treated as deviant."

~
Like
a Conquered Province
, 1965, chapter 1, "The Empty Society"

2.5
It's a free country — for some

I
also believe that Goodman has something important to hand down to
us regarding the issues of democracy, dissent and free discussion,
on which he was second to none. Here he describes the Vietnam hearings
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

"Senator
Dodd of Connecticut was asked what he thought of the sharp criticism
of the government. u2018It is the price that we pay,' he said u2018for living
in a free country'" [..] What an astonishing evaluation of
the democratic process it is, that free discussion is a weakness
we must put up with in order to avoid the evils of another system!
To Milton, Spinoza or Jefferson, free discussion was the strength
of a society. Their theory was that truth had power, often weak
at first but steady and cumulative, and in free debate the right
course would emerge and prevail. [...] The more disparate the views
and searching the criticism, the better.

"Instead,
Senator Dodd seems to have the following epistemology of democracy.
We elect an administration and it, through the Intelligence service,
secret diplomacy, briefings by the Department of Defense and other
agencies, comes into inside information that enables it alone to
understand the situation. In principle we can repudiate its decisions
at the next election, but usually they have led to commitments and
actions that are hard to repudiate. Implicit is that there is a
permanent group of selfless and wise public servants, experts, and
impartial reporters who understand the technology, strategy and
diplomacy that we cannot understand; therefore we must perforce
do what they advise. To be sure, they continually make bad predictions
and, on the evidence, they are not selfless, but partial or at least
narrow in their commercial interests and political outlook. Yet
this does not alter the picture, for if the President goes along
with them, outside criticism is irrelevant anyway and no doubt misses
the point which, it happens, cannot be disclosed for reasons of
national security. And surely irrelevant discussion is harmful because
it is divisive. But it is the price we pay for living in a free
country."

~
Like a Conquered Province, 1965, chapter 5: "The Psychology
of Being Powerless"

Goodman
advocated decentralized systems and small communities as a solution
to the problem of the debasement of free market principles, and
wrote extensively on urban and community planning. In this he followed
anarchist precepts — not in the sense that there should be no order
at all, but that there should not be coercion and imposed uniformity
of life and thought:

"In
American rhetoric American freedom — in an anarchic sense — has
been held to be the Philosopher's Stone of our famous energy and
enterprise. Moss-back conservatives have always spoken for laissez-faire
as the right climate for economic progress (though, to be sure,
they then connive for tariffs and subsidies, hire strike-breakers,
and form monopolies in restraint of trade). Radical liberals have
cleaved to the Bill of Rights, for to be cowed by authority makes
it impossible to think and experiment. Immigrants used to flock
to the United States to avoid conscription… They came because there
were no class barriers, and because there was open opportunity to
make good in one's own way. And every American kid soon learns to
say, u2018It's a free country — you can't make me!'

"By
and large, let me say, this rhetoric has been true. Anarchism is
grounded in a rather definite social-psychological hypothesis: that
forceful, graceful and intelligent behaviour occurs only when
there is an uncoerced and direct response to the physical and social
environment; that in most human affairs, more harm than good results
from compulsion, top-down direction, bureaucratic planning, pre-ordained
curricula, jails, conscription, states
. (my emphasis)
Sometimes it is necessary to limit freedom, as we keep a child from
running across the highway, but this is usually at the expense of
force, grace, and learning; and in the long run it is usually wiser
to remove the danger and simplify the rules than to hamper the activity.

"Everybody
knows that America is great because it is free; and by freedom is
not finally meant freedom under law, having the legal rights and
duties of citizens; what is meant is the spontaneous freedom of
anarchy, opportunity to do what you can, although hampered by necessary
conventions, as few as possible."

~
Like A Conquered Province, 1965, chapter 6: "Is American
democracy viable?"

True
libertarians also subscribe to these principles, that free and uncoerced
exchange produces the best u2018goods' (meaning positive value) for
human well-being, and such exchanges usually involve dealings between
private persons or groups. They mistrust the intervention of the
state into this process, and do not believe that the state is capable
of producing or delivering those goods. In fact the normal operation
of states – all states, whether totalitarian, rogue, or democratic
– is positively harmful to that well-being, even though there
may be differences in degree from time to time in how harmful they
are and how much they intrude into our lives.

Part
3. The Society I Live In Is Mine

3.1
The military-industrial complex.

In
October 1967, Paul Goodman was famously invited to address a gathering
of military and industrial figures at the biennial symposium of
the National Security Industrial Association (NSIA). The general
topic of the symposium was u2018Research and Development in the 1970s'
and Goodman was assigned the sub-topic of u2018Planning for the Socio-Economic
Environment.'

Goodman
wrote about this event:

"Fortunately
it was the week of the demonstrations at the Pentagon, when there
would be thousands of my friends in Washington. So I tipped them
off and thirty students from Cornell and Harpur drove down early
to picket the auditorium, with a good leaflet about the evil environment
for youth produced by the military corporations. When they came,
the white helmets sprang up, plus the cameras and reporters. In
the face of this dangerous invasion, the State Department of the
United States was put under security, the doors were bolted, and
the industrialists and I were not allowed to exit."

His
speech, which was brazen, is well worth reading in its entirety
(it is available on the web to subscribers to the New York Review
of Books electronic edition at this
link
), and I seriously doubt whether he
would even be invited to deliver it in the corporatist United States
of today, in which the words u2018put under security' have taken on
a whole new and ominous meaning. For that very reason, I have chosen
to reproduce a considerable part here. You will see why in the following
excerpts:

"I
am astonished that at a conference on planning for the future, you
have not invited a single speaker under the age of thirty, the group
that is going to live in that future. I am pleased that some of
the young people have come to pound on the door anyway, but it is
too bad that they aren't allowed to come in.

"This
is a bad forum for this topic. Your program mentions the u2018emerging
national goals' of urban development, continuing education, and
improving the quality of man's environment. I would add another
essential goal, reviving American democracy; and at least two indispensable
international goals, to rescue the majority of mankind from deepening
poverty, and to ensure the survival of mankind as a species. These
goals indeed require research and experimentation of the highest
sophistication, but not by you. You people are unfitted by your
commitments, your experience, your customary methods, your recruitment,
and your moral disposition. You are the military-industrial of the
United Sates, the most dangerous body of men at present in the world,
for you not only implement our disastrous policies but are an overwhelming
lobby for them, and you expand and rigidify the wrong use of brains,
resources, and labor, so that change becomes difficult. Most likely
the trends you represent will be interrupted by a shambles of riots,
alienation, ecological catastrophes, wars, and revolutions, so that
current long-range planning, including this conference, is irrelevant.
But if we ask what are the technological needs and what ought to
be researched in this coming period, in the six areas I have mentioned,
the best service that you people could perform is rather rapidly
to phase yourselves out, passing on your relevant knowledge to people
better qualified, or reorganizing yourselves with entirely different
sponsors and commitments, so that you learn to think and feel in
a different way. Since you are most of the R&D that there is,
we cannot do without you as people, but we cannot do with you as
you are. [...]

He
goes on to discuss the effects of deterrence:

"..past
a certain point your operations have increased insecurity rather
than diminished it. But this has been to your interest. It is estimated
that the real needs of our defense should cost less than a fourth
of the budget you have pork-barrelled. You tried, unsuccessfully,
to saddle us with the scientifically ludicrous Civil Defense program.
You have sabotaged the technology of inspection for disarmament.
Now you are saddling us with the anti-missile missiles and the multi-warhead
missiles. You have corrupted the human adventure of space with programs
for armed platforms in orbit. Although we are the most heavily armed
and the most naturally protected of the great Powers, you have seen
to it that we spend a vastly greater amount and perhaps a higher
proportion of our wealth on armaments than any other nation."

[...]

"[My]
remarks have certainly been harsh and moralistic. We are none of
us saints, and ordinarily I would be ashamed to use such a tone.
But you are the manufacturers of napalm, fragmentation bombs, the
planes that destroy rice. Your weapons have killed hundreds of thousands
in Vietnam and you will kill hundreds of thousands in other Vietnams.
I am sure that most of you would concede that much of what you do
is ugly and harmful, at home and abroad. But you would say that
it is necessary for the American way of life, at home and abroad,
and therefore you cannot do otherwise. Since we [-- I and those people
outside – ] believe that that way of life is unnecessary, ugly
and un-American — we cannot condone your present operations; they
should be wiped off the slate."

~
Excerpted from "A Causerie at the military-industrial,"
October 1967

3.2
The Individual and Society

Paul
Goodman was able to have what even in 1967 looked like the sheer
gall to say what he said because he differed significantly from
the mainstream of thinkers and theorists who held — and doubtless
still hold – that individuals should accommodate themselves
to their society if they are to avoid permanent neurosis. For him,
it was the other way round: the society around him was to be moulded
so as to allow the best of individuality to flourish. This principle
extended all the way to the top. In 1962 he had written:

"I
regard the President as my public servant whom I pay, and berate
him as a lousy employee. I come on as an old fashioned patriot,
neither supine nor more revolutionary than is necessary for my modest
goals."

~
The Society I Live In Is Mine, 1962

The
same principle, of legitimacy being granted from the individual
citizen to the collective, and not the other way round, informed
his conclusion to "Like A Conquered Province:"

"How
profoundly alien our present establishment is…[...] The term "establishment"
itself is borrowed from the British — for snobbish and literary
reasons, and usually with an edge of satire. But we have had no
sovereign to establish such a thing, and there is no public psychology
to accept it as legitimate. It operates like an establishment: it
is the consensus of politics, the universities and science, big
business, organized labor, public schooling, the media of communications,
the official language; it determines the right style and accredits
its own members; it hires and excludes, subsidizes and neglects.
But it has no warrant of legitimacy, it has no tradition, it cannot
talk straight English, it neither has produced nor could produce
any art, it does not lead by moral means but by a kind of social
engineering, and it is held in contempt and detestation by the young.

"The
American tradition- I think the abiding American tradition — is
pluralist, populist and libertarian, while the Establishment is
interlocked, mandarin, and managed. And the evidence is that its
own claim, that it is efficient, is false. It is fantastically wasteful
of brains, money, the environment, and people. It is channelling
our energy and enterprise to its own aggrandizement and power, and
it will exhaust us.

"I
would almost say that our country is like a conquered province with
foreign rulers, except that they are not foreigners and we are responsible
for what they do."

~
Like a Conquered Province, chapter 6: "Is American Democracy
Viable?"

3.3
Conclusion

Goodman
castigated the public educational system for its dulling of children's
creative instincts and wrote: "we really do not know how to
educate for creative genius." And yet, in the final analysis,
I believe he was humble, underlyingly positive, and optimistic about
the future. In analysing the counter-forces to the centralized state
and its apologists, he felt that:

"The
traditional American sentiment is that a decent society cannot be
built by dominant official policy, [..] but only by grass-roots
resistance, community co-operation, individual enterprise, and citizenly
vigilance to protect liberty."

~
Like a Conquered Province, 1965, chapter 2: "Counter-Forces
for a Decent Society"

He
also had an unfailing belief in the power of creativity:

“It
is by losing ourselves in inquiry, creation and craft that we become
something. Civilization is a continual gift of spirit: inventions,
discoveries, insight, art. We are citizens, as Socrates would have
said, and we have it available as our own. ”

Marty
Jezer wrote in a 1995 Zmag
review
of the posthumous collection Crazy
Hope and Finite Experience: Final Essays of Paul Goodman
,
edited by his executor, Taylor Stoehr, in 1994:

"Goodman’s
goals were forthright rather than modest. He wanted a society in
which children have bright eyes, nobody is pushed around, rivers
are clean, and in which there is useful work, tasty food, and "occasionally
satisfying nookie."

These
words echo those Goodman himself had written, in New Reformation:
Notes of a Neolithic Conservative, the last book published in
his lifetime, in March 1970:

“For
green grass and clean rivers, children with bright eyes and good
color, and people safe from being pushed around — for a few things
like these, I find I am pretty ready to think away most other political,
economic, and technological advantages.”

Amen
to that.

February
28, 2003

Richard
Wall (send him mail) is a freelance
translator, specializing in the social sciences, who lives in Estoril,
Portugal.


     

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