A Paul Goodman Primer


A his attitude

of anarchist autonomy


B the books he wrote

from poems to psychology


C Communitas

imagined means of livelihood


D decent poverty

like a decent society should


E the education

not compelled is worth its salt


F Fritz (Friedrich) Perls

who hired him to write Gestalt


G Growing Up Absurd

his great polemical screed


H Horatio

his Don Quixote in the street


J and I for his breed,

the Jewish Intellectual


K Kafka's Prayer

an exegesis dialectical


L the Living Theater

who staged five of his plays


M Mathew Ready

whose death haunted his last days


N New York, his only world

(perhaps New Hampshire too)


O the organism

all his thought's devoted to


P the poems that flowed

so copiously from his pen


Q for being queer

and lusting after boys and men


R Dr. Reich, from whom

he learned philosophy of sex


S Sally, his wife

who somehow never became his ex


T Taylor Stoehr

his friend who kept his work alive


U utopian visions

at which someday we may arrive


V vocation, W work

what growing up is for


X primary experience

he wanted to restore


Y the youth, among whom

his influence once was rife


Z for Zeke, and all who say




...happy new year all!

Touching poems by an 'ornery' man

Those who have already seen Paul Goodman Changed My Life may – like me – have been particularly impressed with the very effective way Paul Goodman’s poetry is used throughout the film.

The poems that we hear – some recited by Goodman himself – always seem to flow naturally out of the film’s narrative, and in turn become an essential part of it, to the point where one feels that a faithful portrayal of Paul Goodman could not possibly have been achieved without them.

I have seen the film many times by now, and can safely say that that these poems have never failed to move me, more than anything else in it.

That has led me to start searching more of his poetry, doing it more regularly, reading randomly from Hawkweed, a couple pages, or even just a couple poems a day, for example, trying to take in their music and freshness, and their “thoughtful” nature, as Grace Paley puts it so well in Paul Goodman Changed My Life.

Often there is much humor in them too, never irony or sarcasm (at least I haven’t found that yet), but an almost child-like, playful spirit informing them.

Finally – and most importantly perhaps – they are always so candidly self-revealing. And that’s why they seem so essential to a well-rounded picture of Paul Goodman – something Jonathan was, happily, perceptive enough to understand, to his merit and that of his film.

Here are a few of my recent findings, which I’d like to share.

First a perhaps surprising one from 'North Country', in Hawkweed, where the poet 'meets' his well-known social-critic public persona :
It is peaceful coming home across the meadow,
the flowers are continuous as I come.
My bounding beagle somewhere in the hay
is invisible, except the flapping ears
and the white curl of her happy tail
moving through the swaying sea.
The yellow flowers are closing in the evening.
I am not lonely for my only world
is softly singing to me as I come.
They who know me as a bitter critic
who is impractical to serve his country
know me poorly; I am freeborn and pleased
with this world that I have inherited.
And ever my little dog is looking back
with her gleaming eye, and waits if I am coming.



Immanuel Kant that beautiful old man
that character, the most manly and modest
intellect we ever had in the West,
I'd like to take him to where the Alps
descend in the dark lake at Canton Uri
and watch the terror and the tears of joy
awaken in his knowing eyes. And where
the blue bay of Vesuvius would made
them sparkle and his wrinkles flush with pleasure.
And where, if I could without alarming him,
a teasing pack of pretty Arab hoodlums
hospitably refuse to let him quit
Tunis without a fuck, immensely flustered.
All this I wish I could because I love
that little man who never left Koenigsburg
and well he merited a sabbatical.



Ajax is dead our pet white rat
he died during the night
and Minos his identical twin
in the cage never before alone
will not live very long.
I have brought the body in a box
to throw it in the river
a dirty end for a rat or man
but it is still my lordly Hudson
and solemnly I bring the body here.



"Good fun, feeling at peace in the world,
and knowing other people is what sex
has given me, I wish I had more of it.
It makes friends and and as if, in so far,
we had a decent city. For the torments
and the super-reality of love
I am too old, I do not neet to lose myself,
what I need is health to find myself."
So I explained (God spare me) soberly.
But Eros the physician commented,
"He will have neither health nor love nor sex."


And searching yesterday for a poem of his which might contain some reference to the spirit of the Season, I found this section of 'The Young Disciple', in Little Prayers:

Creator spirit, please let your
soft lamp the soul of our poor
land illumine and its am-
ber comfort us. I am
familiar with your grace when you
call me to look out the window
and quiet with its stars is heaven
and men are doing what they can.


― Chico Guedes, New Gloucester, 25 Dec 2011

PS: “An ornery man” is one of the expressions Paul Goodman’s long-time friend Judith Malina uses to describe him in the film. It's a word I'd never come across before.

What does Paul Goodman mean to me? By Michael Walzer

What does Paul Goodman mean to me?

I will start with criticism and end with praise.

I didn’t have an easy relationship with PG. I was prejudiced before it began. I don’t really understand pacifism, and someone who was a pacifist in World War Two is especially outside of my intellectual reach, perhaps my moral reach, too. And I distrusted or perhaps just disliked what seemed to me the arrogance with which he defended his political positions. Maybe he worried about them in private; in public he seemed utterly certain of his own rightness and of everyone else’s misunderstanding—or worse. Words like “stupid” occur too often in The PG Reader, which I’ve recently been looking through—and they almost always refer to…the rest of us, all of us. Paul didn’t think that we were naturally stupid; no, we had been made stupid by the educational and political systems. But stupid we were, and we proved our stupidity everyday by our refusal to rise up against the Cold War, nuclear deterrence, McCarthyism, and many other things. We provoked in Paul a kind of revulsion, as in this poem, written after the resumption of nuclear bomb testing in April, 1962:

         My countrymen have now become too base,

         I give them up. I cannot speak with men

         not my equals…

         How can I work? I hired out my pen

         to make my country practical, but I can

         no longer serve these people; they are worthless.

Paul wrote some beautiful poems, but there were also lines like these, which put me off, which still put me off. Nor could I ever get very far in his big novel Empire City, despite several attempts; it seemed to me more argument than story—though there were some very funny set pieces. And I thought that his account of academic life, A Community of Scholars (which I reviewed, very critically, in Dissent, earning a sharp response from Paul) was marred by his romantic view of medieval universities, by his failure to notice that their communal character, the intensity of their collegiality, the closeness of teachers and students, had something to do with the fact that they were burning heretics in those days, not arguing with them. Those medieval professors weren’t liberal or pluralist, not in their doctrine, not in their institutions —and liberal and pluralist is what universities have to be if they are to make room for people like PG.

So he wasn’t a particularly nice person, and he wasn’t a great novelist, and he was a fine poet only sometimes, and his view of medieval intellectual life suggests that he wasn’t much of a historian--but, but, but…

He was a wonderfully imaginative social critic, and he wrote some books where every sentence is a surprise and a provocation. At the top of his game, which for me was when he was writing Communitas with his brother Percival, and when he was writing Growing Up Absurd, and when he was writing his utopian essays and practical proposals, his wildly practical and totally unlikely proposals—well, at the top of his game, he was marvelous.

And that kind of writing is especially valuable for socialists and social democrats like me, with our non-utopian essays and really practical proposals. Our politics makes a lot more sense than anarchism does, and it seems to me as much a threat to the powers-that-be—more of a threat actually, because sometimes we win. But we are often too sober, and we are often boring, even to ourselves. I don’t think that imagination is our strong point. We are better at worrying about our own views, better also at tolerating, even respecting, people who disagree with us. But we often miss possibilities beyond what is politically possible right now. We aren’t quick enough to grasp how different things could be, could usefully be. We admire efficiencies of scale, the benefits of bigness, and often fail to see the importance, and the value, of life in the small, local life, social action without a center (like the occupations, which Paul would have loved).

Caught up with bureaucracies and regulations, which are indeed necessary, even in social movements, we miss the pleasures and the spontaneous creativity of free association. And that’s what Paul wrote about and talked about—schools and cities and neighborhoods and every sort of human group, coping on its own with its own problems, governing itself. It is time to begin listening to him again, as Jonathan Lee’s lovely film invites us to do.

These remarks were made by Professor Walzer on November 18, 2011 at the panel on Paul Goodman held during the US Intellectual History Conference at CUNY. Remarks by the other panel members, Professor Casey Nelson Blake and University of Rochester graduate student Michael Fisher, have also been posted here. (below, from left to right: director Jonathan Lee, Michael Walzer, Casey Nelson Blake, and Michael Fisher)

Independent film champion Dan Talbot writes about how GROWING UP ABSURD changed his life

GROWING UP ABSURD had a powerful impact on my life. Before reading it in the early 1960's, I was living with my family in Europe for a year. I was fed up with my work as Eastern Story Editor of Warner Brothers, also fed up with the anomie which invaded our souls, so I quit my job and we sailed to Spain in 1959. A year later I began The New Yorker Theatre.

 GROWING UP ABSURD came out shortly afterward. I was very moved by the book, since it reaffirmed how I felt about our society. I was quite familiar with Paul's work. I had read the book he wrote years before with his architect brother, COMMUNITAS, a landmark work on how to make cities more human. The central notion was to ban completely car traffic from the city center; this book had a strong influence on Jane Jacob's THE LIFE AND DEATH OF CITIES.

Paul was also a film critic who published reviews in erudite magazines...So, one day it occurred to me a make a film based on some of the anecdotes in GROWING UP ABSURD. I met with Paul in his shabby apartment on 101st Street, Off Broadway. He was writing in a notebook, as the front door opened. His son Matthew sat at the other end of the table, also writing in a notebook. I proposed a film based on one of the tales in GROWING UP ABSURD. I paid him for film rights to the book and commissioned him to develop a screenplay. A month or so later he came up with a short treatment on a young man living in a Chicago slum. It was literary but totally uncinematic. By then I was so immersed in my New Yorker Theatre life that I dropped the project altogether.

Dan Talbot

A legend in Independent Cinema in New York, Dan Talbot was the founder and former president of New Yorker Films. He was also the owner of the New Yorker Theater, the Metro Theater and Cinema Studio and is the current owner/operator of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Inês Bueno writes from Rio de Janeiro...

I Just arrived from Ipanema, where I saw the movie “Paul Goodman changed my life”, directed by Jonathan Lee, which, just after its release in the US, coinciding with the growth of Occupy Wall Street, was screened here in Rio in two sessions at Casa da Cultura Laura Alvim. This second and last session, on Thursday Dec 1st at 3 PM, was almost empty, which is a pity, because the documentary is excellent and the topics it raises are all relevant to current discussions.

The documentary is very interesting, and in several moments it touches on issues that raised much of my curiosity to deepen the subject. It also calls our attention to relevant current topics that Paul Goodman was already dealing with at his time. They are so present that I was surprised to see where e.g. the proposal of banning cars from cities, which I had been defending the evening before in an e-mail to friends in Brasilia, had actually come from. Quite a coincidence. Also, undoubtedly, his critiques to the Vietnam war, and his prediction that there would be many Vietnams to come, have also, unfortunately, been confirmed with more certainty each day. I have just read an appeal by Amnesty International to the governments of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia to arrest ex-president George Bush during his visit to their countries these days, for crimes of “improved” torture, used against prisoners of wars that he promoted in his Infinite War program… to which Obama has given continuity. Also, Paul Goodman´s discussion presented in the movie, about the weakening of social movements when these are institutionalized and led ‘top-down’– a long debate of difficult solution – becomes more present each day.

Some topics I wish could have been dealt with for a few more minutes, such as the disagreement Paul Goodman had with youth movements in his older age. Jonathan Lee seems to treat them as topics that are already well known, perhaps because they are trivial to American audiences, but I was curious to understand a little more about what were the disagreements, and what were the mutual criticisms, in a field where I would probably agree mostly with Paul Goodman´s positions, based on what I could deduce from the movie. Just as I agree with much of what was presented of his thought and his idea that being an anarchist is much more of an attitude than a chart of principles.

The choice of poems and excerpts of his writings, as well as the images that follow their reading, is always a pleasure, and it made me wish for more, to see, read and listen to more... this is how the movie’s ending left me feeling.

Much of the movie deals with his sexual relationships, and that seems very appropriate, considering his pioneering open bisexuality and his attitude in this area, which I’d also like to comment a little. It gives much attention to his family relationships, which, once again, was important to deal with, considering that anarchism is an attitude towards life as a whole and that family and interpersonal relationships are political and loaded with patriarchal and domination ideologies.

As an anthropologist I’d say that one needs to be careful here. No one can be different from what he or she is, and if Miss Lilly Something had a depressive mother, she cannot blame her mother for being depressive and behaving as such, even if this behavior might have brought consequences upon Lilly Something. This is one thing. Another point is that based on an experience of counter-culture, particularly during the sixties, which may have raised important questions that helped us to partially (very partially) overcome some prejudices and concepts rooted in patriarchalism, we cannot condone using members of our family and people emotionally dependent on us as guinea pigs for experiments of interpersonal relationships, because this experimenting can hurt feelings that run very deep, as deep as the intertwining between our network of social and cultural relationships and the biological formation of our brains.  So, we cannot experiment so much, or the result can be simply mental or emotional “disease” – whatever this means. Or still, that these people just might not be able to know who to trust, where they can get support, which, to some extent, is already happening in a lot of cases today, I believe.  One thing is for a group of late teenagers, who are solidary with each other in several spheres, to experiment, say, with rotation of partners. That can happen without much trauma, and without loss of the collective bonds with the group.

Another thing that comes to my mind as a result of seeing the film is how couples today very often are no longer able to maintain a feeling of deep “companheirismo”, companionship, comradeship, of the kind that was once so cherished by the Latin American Left, like in situations I often witnessed in the seventies, where the husband was jailed by a dictatorship in Latin America, and his wife was struggling for his freedom in Europe. The same could be said  about a couple that has raised their children together, built a life together with ideals, even of social transformations to a better world, and suddenly, the woman goes into menopause or the husband is ill… is it the time for them to abandon each other? To what extent are we just animals guided by instincts or are we - and will we still be in the future - living beings with humanistic ideals?

I am not saying, of course, that couples cannot separate or that one or another partner cannot at some point feel attracted to another person. In fact, in many of those cases where women who were exiled to Europe with their children, from where they struggled for the freedom of their companheiros, their partners locked up by Latin American dictatorships, it turned out that when they finally were able to get reunited they ended up separating, because the men often could not deal with the new independent women they found in front of them, on whom they now depended so much, having just arrived in a foreign country after being released from prison.

This is all to say that I believe that companionship and support such as Paul Goodman had inside his family is fundamental. As is sincerity, frankness, and respect for the other person´s sensibility, even at those times when the other asks questions we do not want to answer openly, because when we ignore  the intuition that gives rise to these questions, we will probably be driving him or her crazy with doubt and questioning.

I think it was also very appropriate for Jonathan Lee to include Paul Goodman´s son´s girlfriend´s speech in the movie, showing how frustrated she felt with the attitude he had when the son went to the airport to pick up his father, who, due to another momentary relationship he had found on the plane, neglected the son´s feelings at seeing him.  I think one cannot go through life pulling the carriage with his penis, or else probably the carriage will run over everything.

Just as I found very appropriate for Jonathan to show the contradiction of Paul Goodman leaving home every afternoon to go hunting for men but coming  back punctually at dinner time… dinner prepared by his wife, whose sexuality he wanted to control. This is what people are like –contradictory - no matter how amazing they might be. And we have to point out their contradictions. This is what it means trying to overcome patriarchalism in society, which is at the root of Capitalism and all the unequal power relations it involves.

This made me think of the activity of hunting in itself: Why the hunt? Besides the acute sense of smell involved in hunting, which probably becomes more accurate as the hunter becomes more experienced, what was so essential about those encounters that were so crucial to Paul Goodman, who needed to be constantly ‘fed’ new ones? It can be argued that during those brief encounters he was able to question himself deeply, to contrast himself with the person he sought in a socially defying way, and that it deepened his anarchist “attitude”, tensioning identities, values and social categories. It constantly supplied the creative needs of the anarchist attitude, which involves a questioning of the existential being himself.  He seemed to deconstruct himself during a rapid and intense encounter with a mariner at the edge of a wharf.

Perhaps in a political reading of this constant search for new partners we could say that Paul Goodman was trying to break his own parameters of the unknown, to break boundaries, barriers, and to find through this the ultimate freedom of deconstructing and breaking down prejudices. This does not necessarily imply having a provocative attitude, which I think is a trap he may have fallen into. And most of all, it does not mean desecrating, profaning…

But, after this existential wearing out, this interpersonal saga, he needed the return to a safe port, to a nest: the family – wife and children and dinner on the table.

Possibly much of this daily “social suicide” came, as someone suggests in the film, from searching for the “paternal authority” that not only was absent since his birth, but was also an unmentioned topic, taboo, during his childhood. So, a topic involving such anxiety fragments into multiple characters of older teenagers in the streets of his neighborhood, from an early age, where he could not find the protection and comfort of a father. He could find power in constant dispute with a father figure, represented by several men, a kaleidoscope of paternal power in continuous movement, constant repositioning, various power games.

The hunter has to be an alert being at each and every moment, and that reminds me of the hunter warrior of Indigenous societies of the low lands of South America, where, it’s important to note, a central State never developed. There was no central father or God All Mighty, no single God, no central State…. From Goodman’s ‘warrior’ streets, there could have emerged a massacred individual, even a ‘criminal’. Istead, he became an anarchist marginal - creative, lucid, sensible, profoundly aware and caring about everything and everyone, who carried marginality as an attitude towards life and towards the politics of life that runs through everything, since the institutions created by man along the creation of his brain are total.

But it is not easy to survive this social suicide unscathed, and therefore it is not easy to be an anarchist. It is difficult and many lose their direction, their North, or, let´s say, their South. The movie shows a college student who, after reading Paul Goodman´s writings, reaches the conclusion that deconstructing everything is something that very few can do. That normally people go only a bit beyond what has already been established, even though, another student says, Goodman pointed out what is “right” or, shall we say, what is left.

I believe the process itself is the most important, it’s essential. The fact that Goodman’s “attitude” caused controversy, reflections, debate, and questioning was crucial. This is what must be searched for, and not a specific final result of this process, a predetermined final elaboration of it, a chart of principles, a conclusive ideology, a single truth, or a single and true or ideal State under its single true God. What matters is the process of collective reflection, where values are re-dimensioned.

But, Goodman, in his anarchist attitude, lets himself lose his own ground. Even though in terms of affection, he had the firm ground provided by a family that was always there, waiting for him at home. Or at the airport. And back to his attitude towards his son at the airport, could it be that all of this, all this attention, created an egocentric Paul Goodman, who needed the limelight? We cannot answer this question through the movie. But those people who were there, around him, admiring his intelligence, his sagacity, his geniality, his spontaneity, his surprising insights, they did not themselves seem to adopt an anarchist attitude. They questioned themselves only as far as they learned from him that this could be done, and as long as this was comfortable and did not represent in their own lives the same social suicide that he went through constantly. Many of those around him seemed to be bound to fields of interest, academic areas, safe borders. While Goodman gave himself body and soul, with eyes closed and an open heart. So, he was alone. He was not in an anarchist collective, because an exchange of ideas and personal Gestalt therapies do not make for an Anarchist collective. Up to that point many of those friends had not, it seems, taken any part in the transformation of social life, only perhaps of individuals. And when it comes to us individuals, the forces in operation within are still tightly tied to an anchor that hangs deep into a dark ocean.

Even if he might have participated and generated ideas within large, widespread movements such as the pacifist movement against the Vietnam war, he did not have an anarchist collective around him. He, in this anarchist attitude, ran the risks and propelled himself into experimental directions, discovering and experimenting new liberties. Without drugs, rather through intention, personal will.  Others did this having him as an authority, as a central power figure, as a guide, as a leader, as a guru. He was the Don Quijote the movie explores initially and he would have perished earlier, had he not been such a charismatic personality that he could find a companheira, a partner, who was his own protection. Because deep down Goodman’s personal journey, just like for all of us, started in the family of his childhood and his later references still remained bound to his family.  For all of us, experimentation in this field is very risky. Family was so fundamental to Goodman that when his son dies in an accident, he stops writing and within a relatively short time, dies, of sadness, I would say.

Anyway, I became very curious and I liked the guy. But, since the movie is now gone from Rio and I cannot see it again until it comes back – which I hope happens soon - I will look for his books.

Congratulations to Jonathan Lee!

Inês Bueno*

*Inês Bueno lives a 1-hour ferry ride away from Rio de Janeiro. She's an anthropologist who recently moved to the car-free Island of Paquetá, in the Bay of Guanabara. She has a son and a daughter who are both at university.

Texto original em Português: 

Comentário sobre "Paul Goodman mudou minha vida".

Acabo de chegar de Ipanema, onde assisti o filme "Paul Goodman mudou minha vida", dirigido por Jonathan Lee, que logo após lançamento nos Estados Unidos, em paralelo ao crescimento do movimento de Occupy Wall Street, foi lançado aqui no Rio, em duas sessões numa das salas Casa da Cultura Laura Alvim que, nesta segunda e última sessão às quinze horas de quinta-feira, estava quase vazia. Pena, porque o documentário é excelente e os temas que ele levanta, todos muito atuais.

O documentário é constantemente muito interessante, em diversos momentos alcançando abordagens que me despertavam bastante curiosidade em aprofundar. Faz também uma chamada de atenção para temas bastante relevantes e atuais que Paul Goodman já abordava em sua época. Tão atuais que me surpreendi vendo ali a origem da proposta de banir carros de cidades, sobre a qual escrevia a um amigo em Brasília ontem, por coincidência. Também sem dúvida, suas críticas à guerra do Vietnã e a previsão de que haveria muitos Vietnãs, são também, infelizmente, cada dia confirmadas com mais certeza e acabo de ler um chamado da Anistia Internacional para que os governos da Etiópia, Tanzânia e Zambia prendam o ex-presidente Georges Bush em sua passagem por lá, por crimes de tortura "aperfeiçoadas", utilizadas contra prisioneiros das guerras que promoveu, na sua campanha de "Guerra Infinita"... e que Obama continua promovendo. Também a discussão de Paul Goodman apresentada no filme sobre a perda de força nos movimentos sociais quando estes são incorporados institucionalmente - longo debate de difícil solução - é cada dia mais premente.

Alguns assuntos, eu acho que poderiam ter tido alguns minutos a mais, como o tema do desentendimento que Paul Goodman teve com movimentos de juventude na idade mais madura.  Jonathan Lee parece tratá-los como já conhecidos, por talvez tratarem-se de temas banais entre plateias americanas, mas fiquei curiosa em entender melhor quais eram as divergências, e quais eram as críticas, em terreno onde provavelmente em grande parte eu concordaria com as posições do Paul Goodman, como concordo com muito do que foi apresentado do pensamento dele e sua ideia de que ser anarquista é muito mais uma atitude do que uma carta de princípios, algo que quero comentar mais à frente.

A escolha de poemas e trechos de escritos deles, assim como as imagens que acompanham sua leitura é sempre algo prazeroso, que me fez desejar mais, querer ver mais, querer ler, querer ouvir... assim termina o filme.

Boa parte do filme trata dos relacionamentos sexuais dele, o que tinha mesmo que ser tratado, considerando sua bandeira bissexual pioneira e sua atitude nessa área, que também quero comentar um pouco. Trata também muito da relação com a família, o que mais uma vez era importante tratar, considerando que o anarquismo é uma atitude diante da vida como um todo, já que a família e os relacionamentos interpessoais são políticos e carregados de ideologias patriarcais e de dominação. Mas, aqui, digo como antropóloga, é bom ter precaução. Embora, ninguém possa ser diferente do que é, se a Maricota teve uma mãe depressiva, não tem como culpar a mãe por ser depressiva e por ter tido os comportamentos decorrentes disso, mesmo que isso tenha trazido consequências para Maricota. Isso, é uma coisa. Outra coisa, a partir de toda uma experiência de contra-cultura, principalmente na década de sessenta, que pode ter levado a alguns questionamentos importantes que nos fizeram parcialmente (muito parcialmente) superar alguns preconceitos e conceitos enraigados no patriarcalismo, não podemos também passar a defender a utilização de membros de nossa família, e pessoas que dependem afetivamente de nós, como tubos de ensaios para experiências de relacionamento interpessoal, porque há sentimentos que são tão profundos quanto foi profunda a imbricação da formação biológica do cérebro com padrões de relacionamento social e cultural. Então, não dá para experimentar tanto assim, ou o resultado pode ser também a loucura. Ou, que as pessoas não consigam mais ter em quem confiar, em quem se apoiar, o que acontece bastante atualmente, eu acho. Uma coisa é um grupo de adolescentes, já mais maduros um pouco, solidários em muitos planos, começarem a ter suas experiências afetivas, onde o "ficar" seja a regra, o que implica em troca de parceiros sem muitos traumas, e sem perda da amizade do grupo coletivamente. Outra coisa, é não haver mais aquele sentimento tão valorizado pela esquerda latino-americana, que era o de companheirismo entre um homem e uma mulher, inclusive em situações como vi muito acontecer, onde o marido estava preso na América Latina por uma ditadura, e a esposa na Europa, lutando por sua liberdade. O mesmo posso dizer de um casal que criou junto seus filhos, construiu junto uma vida com ideais, inclusive de transformações sociais, e de repente, a mulher entra na menopausa ou o homem está doente.... é momento de se abandonarem? Até onde somos animais conduzidos por instintos ou realmente somos e seremos seres vivos com ideais de humanidade? Não estou dizendo que um casal não possa se separar ou que um ou outro parceiro não possa em algum momento ter interesse por uma terceira pessoa. Muitas dessas mulheres que se exilaram na Europa com os filhos, de onde lutaram pela liberdade de seus companheiros presos pelas ditaduras latino-americanas, quando finalmente os reencontram, se separaram, porque esses companheiros não conseguiram lidar com as novas mulheres independentes que encontram diante de si, num país estrangeiro a que chegavam dependentes delas. Mas, companheirismo, como o que o Paul Goodman tinha dentro da família, é fundamental. Sinceridade, franqueza, respeito pela sensibilidade do outro, inclusive quando o outro pergunta aquilo que não queremos responder, mas que vai simplesmente enlouquecê-lo em dúvidas se negarmos sua intuição.

Então, voltando ao filme, eu acho que foi muito oportuno Jonathan Lee incluir a fala da namorada do filho do Paul Goodman que morreu, mostrando o quanto ela se frustrou com a atitude que ele teve com o filho que foi esperá-lo no aeroporto, por mais um relacionamento de momento que encontrou dentro do avião. Eu acho que não dá para andar pela vida com o pênis puxando a carroça porque a carroça sai atropelando tudo.

Como achei muito adequado ele mostrar a contradição de Paul Goodman sair de casa todos os dias para caçar outros homens, mas voltar pontualmente para jantar em casa... janta preparada pela esposa, cuja sexualidade ele controlava. As pessoas são assim mesmo, contraditórias, por mais belas que sejam. E temos que apontar suas contradições. Nisso consiste lutar contra a sociedade patriarcal que dá origem ao capitalismo e a toda a prepotência que ele comporta.

Mas, vamos à caça: Por que a caça? Além do cheiro e do olfato da caça, que deve se tornar mais apurado quanto mais experiente for o caçador, o que havia de tão essencial naqueles encontros que tocavam algo no âmago de Paul Goodman que precisava ser constantemente realimentado com novos encontros? Encontros onde certamente ele conseguia se questionar profundamente, se contrastar no outro, de forma mais desafiadora, mais questionadora, para poder ir a fundo na "atitude" anarquista, tensionando identidades, valores e categorias sociais. Para suprir constantemente a necessidade criativa da atitude anarquista, que passa por um questionamento do próprio ser existencial, que se desconstrói, por exemplo no caso dele, num encontro rápido e intenso com um marinheiro no cais. Talvez, na leitura política dessa atitude de busca constante por novos parceiros, ele procurava romper seus próprios parâmetros no desconhecido, romper fronteiras, barreiras. Encontrando assim, a liberdade extrema que é desconstruir e desfazer preconceitos. O que não implica em ter uma atitude de provocação, que acho que era outra cilada em que ele caía. E principalmente, não implica em ultrajar e profanar...

Mas, depois desse desgaste existencial, dessa saga interpessoal, ele precisava voltar a um porto seguro, a um ninho: a família - mulher e filhos e janta na mesa.

Possivelmente muito desse "suicídio social" diário, sugere o filme, esteve também no buscar a "autoridade paterna" que não só esteve ausente desde o seu nascimento, como era assunto inominável, tabu, em sua infância. Não estava em casa, então, como preencher essa lacuna? Nas ruas. Assim, o tema tabu tão ansiado, se fragmenta em múltiplos personagens de adolescentes mais velhos das ruas do seu bairro a partir dos oito anos. Onde não havia a segurança e o conforto, mas havia o poder em constante disputa de um pai, representado por muitos homens, um caleidoscópio do poder paternal em contínuo movimento, reposicionamento, jogos de poder diversos, um estar alerta a cada momento, que o guerreiro caçador das sociedades indígenas das terras baixas sul americanas, onde nunca houve Estado central, aprendia desde cedo como atitude diante da vida. Não havia um pai central, um Pai Todo Poderoso, Um Deus Ùnico, um Estado central... dessas ruas guerreiras, poderia ter brotado um ser massacrado ou um marginal no crime. Nasceu um marginal anarquista, criativo, lúcido, sensível, profundamente atento e atencioso a tudo e a todos, que procurava a marginalidade como atitude diante da vida e da política da vida que perpassa tudo, como são totais as instituições criadas pelo homem ao longo da criação de seu cérebro.

Mas, não é fácil vivenciar dentro de si esse suicídio social e por isso não é mole ser anarquista. É duro e tantos ficam sem norte... ou melhor dito, sem sul. Por isso, o filme mostra vários estudantes que, ao ler os escritos de Paul Goodman, concluem que desconstruir tudo é algo que poucos fazem. Que normalmente as pessoas só conseguem ir um pouco além daquilo que já está estabelecido, embora, como digam, ele aponte o que é "certo". Eu acho que o processo é importante, é essencial. O fato da "atitude" dele gerar controvérsia, reflexão, debate, questionamentos. Isso é o que deve ser buscado, e não um determinado resultado específico disso, uma determinada elaboração final disso, uma ideologia conclusiva, uma carta de princípios, um pensamento único e verdadeiro como um Estado único e verdadeiro e seu Deus único e verdadeiro. O que importa é o processo de reflexão coletiva, onde valores são redimensionados.

Mas, ele, na sua atitude anarquista, se permite ficar sem chão. Embora afetivamente precisasse do chão firme da família sempre em casa à sua espera. Ou no aeroporto. E voltando à atitude com o filho no aeroporto, será que tudo isso, toda essa atenção, não gerou em Paul Goodman um ser egocêntrico, que precisa dos holofotes? Pelo filme, não há como responder. Mas, aquelas pessoas que estavam ali, em torno dele, admirando sua inteligência, sua perspicácia, sua genialidade, sua espontaneidade, seus insights surpreendentes, não estavam ali numa atitude anarquista. Eles se questionavam na medida em que aprendiam com ele que poderiam fazer e na medida em que isso fosse confortável e não representasse em suas vidas o mesmo suicídio social que ele atravessava constantemente. A desconstrução de seus companheiros tinha campos de interesse, áreas acadêmicas, fronteiras seguras. Ele se entregava de corpo e alma, olhos fechados e coração aberto. Então, ele estava sozinho. Não estava num coletivo anarquista. Até porque troca de ideias e terapias gestaltianas não são um coletivo anarquista  já que até esse ponto não incidiram na transformação do social, apenas de um indivíduo, no qual as amarras ainda estão bem apertadas onde a âncora está solta nas profundidades do mar.

Por mais que ele tenha participado e gerado ideias dentro de movimentos gigantescos como foi o movimento pacifista contra a guerra do Vietnã, ele não tinha em torno de si um coletivo anarquista. Ele, em sua atitude anarquista, corria riscos e se projetava em direções experimentais, descobrindo e experimentando novas liberdades. Sem drogas, mas por intenção. Os outros faziam isso tendo a ele como autoridade, como poder central, como guia, como líder, guru. Ele era o Dom Quixote que o filme explora inicialmente e teria perecido antes, se não fosse tão carismático a ponto de encontrar uma companheira que foi sua segurança. Porque no fundo, todo o seu processo, como o de todos nós, tem origem na família de sua infância e sua referência continua sendo a família e para todos nós, experimentar nesse terreno é perigoso. A família era tão fundamental que quando o filho dele morre em acidente, ele para de escrever e em pouco tempo, morre também de tristeza.

Enfim, fiquei bastante curiosa e gostei do fulano. Mas, já que o filme foi embora e não dá para ver de novo, qualquer hora vou procurar seus livros.

Parabéns ao Jonathan Lee!


Anarchist Democracy

Fox News, blogs on the right, and powers-that-be people warn us about the anarchists of Occupy. "Anarchist" remains one of the most potent words demagogic forces deploy to smear their opponents and make Mr. and Mrs. America quake in their boots.

To many folks, "anarchist" is vaguely synonymous with "terrorist." Over decades of our history, elite opinion-makers in politics and the media peddled a stereotype of the "bomb-throwing anarchist." Somehow that rolls off the tongue more crisply than "drone-throwing neoliberal," I'm sorry to say. 

It would be more historically informed to think of anarchists as freedom fighters. Liberty takers. Culture creators. Where there are people who have given up on corrupt and illegitimate systems and institutions and are getting together to do what they can do with the materials at hand, you find anarchism. Of course this describes Occupy, as only the right, and the anarchists themselves, appear to understand. 

Paul Goodman, an influential anarchist theorist/activist, defined the term thus:

Anarchism is grounded in a rather definite proposition: that valuable behavior occurs only by the free and direct response of individuals or voluntary groups to the conditions presented by the historical environment. It claims that in most human affairs, whether political, economic, military, religious, moral, pedagogic, or cultural, more harm than good results from coercion, top-down direction, central authority, bureaucracy, jails, conscription, States, preordained standardization, excessive planning, etc. Anarchists want to increase intrinsic functioning and diminish extrinsic power. This is a social-psychological hypothesis with obvious political implications. ["Reflections on the Anarchist Principle," 1966] 


So it's not about formulating "demands" (supplications, really) to the bought-and-sold politicians who represent extrinsic power; that would be to buy into the legitimacy of that political system and reinforce its power at the expense of our own. Just as it would be absurd, from this viewpoint, to seek permits to camp in the square. What it's about is increasing the intrinsic functioning of the community, of the body politic, by listening to each other and feeding each other and building an understanding and doing something to challenge those who have accumulated the power.  

Goodman reminds us:

Adam Smith's economics, in its pure form, is also anarchist, and was so called in his time; and there is an anarchist ring to Jefferson's agrarian notion that a man needs enough control of his subsistence to be free of irresistible pressure. ["The Black Flag of Anarchism," New York Times, July 1968]


And to this I'll tack on some words from one of today's leading anarchist theorist/activists, David Graeber:

This is not the first time a movement based on fundamentally anarchist principles – direct action, direct democracy, a rejection of existing political institutions and attempt to create alternative ones – has cropped up in the US. The civil rights movement (at least, its more radical branches), the anti-nuclear movement, the global justice movement … all took similar directions. Never, however, has one grown so startlingly quickly.


The Gandhian be-the-change idea is an anarchist idea. Urban protests against gentrification and to preserve public space are anarchist. The Transition Town concept, responding to climate change and peak oil with local cooperation and coordination, is classically anarchist. One of my first political acts was to serve soup with Food Not Bombs across the street from City Hall in San Francisco. The cops kept seizing the pots and arresting us: we sang, "now instead of serving soup I'm serving time."

If there's one group in American society that really believes in democracy, at all levels of civic life, it's anarchists. Sharing the wealth aims to disperse the concentration of power, as does the concept of democracy as one-person-one-vote, not one-dollar-one-vote.

PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE comes to American movie screens, fortuitously, at a time when millions of us may be more receptive than ever to the attitude of community-based, do-it-yourself anarchism that Goodman espoused in his words and embodied in his deeds.

Paul Who?


What really struck me, discovering Paul Goodman for myself, was how no one at art college, including the tutors, knew a single thing about him.  Surely his Utopian ideals, radical left wing and anarchist stand-point, or overt sexuality would strike a chord with the contemporary young people studying in such a free spirited institution as a London art college. I am sad that it seems they do not.

Or, maybe the problem is not what Goodman stands for, but knowledge of and access to his work?

I myself discovered Goodman’s work ‘Communitas’, probably by mis-typing ‘community’, whilst searching the internet for books to support my thesis proposal on urban design and divides within modern cities. It blew my mind. My proposal changed and my ideas drastically re-thought, I based my entire writing around Goodman’s work, and used his ‘Communitas’ as the basis for which to compare all other texts on the subject.

So far it’s going well, but finding information is hard and harder still. Maybe by being the only student in the know – the tutors will take notice, and academics will realize how these ideas need to be not only in our contemporary art institutions, but our contemporary academia as a whole.

Duncan Ball - Student at Camberwell College of Arts, London

"Just the Kind of Anarchist We Need Now"

The planet needs more horny Jewish intellectuals like Paul Goodman, who chased great numbers of men and women throughout the United States from 1911 through 1972, acted post-gay before most people were even talking about "gay," and unabashedly lived a married-but-polyamorous life long before polyamory became edgy. Simultaneous to all of this energetic sexing, Goodman helped spark the 1960s student protests against the Vietnam War, cofounded the Gestalt therapy movement, wrote poetry, published a seminal work of sociology...

Read more at The Stranger online

Growing Up Absurd now an e-book by NYRB


"...Growing Up Absurd was a runaway best-seller when it was first published in 1960 and it became one of the defining texts of the nascent New Left. Goodman, at the time well into middle age, was a maverick anarchist who broke every mold, and did it brilliantly..."

Read more at New York Review Books

Persistence of Vision

On December 8th, Monkey Wrench Books (Austin, Texas) will be presenting an important new documentary about the American social philosopher Paul Goodman.

Paul Goodman (1911-1972), Jewish American poet, novelist, dramatist, essayist, anarchist, peace activist, Gestalt therapist, social critic, sexual liberationist, is sadly forgotten nearly 40 years after his death. Jonathan Lee’s insightful and resonant new documentary is an important move toward resurrecting the writings and thoughts of one of the most engaged American philosophers of the 20th century, one who would probably be writing very positively about the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011. 
Goodman seems to have affected everyone who met him, in the classroom, at a party, in a lecture hall, through the printed page, or in a 42nd Street gay bar. Yet he was a consistent person in all that he did and said. He was a humanist and everything he wrote or talked about revolved around a core of personal freedom. He was not a theorist but a pragmatist and wanted to promote and support substantive democracy, not formal democracy, which he felt was a sham, if not an outright lie. To this end he wrote constantly, eloquently, and, many would say, brilliantly.

Read more at Persistence of Vision, the Journal of the Austin Film Society