Emma Goldman

goldman.JPG

I am back in Berlin. It is nice to be back again, but I will certainly miss the very english local peculiarities like e.g. discussions about discussing car races!

Unfortunately e.g. the recent headline in the Berliner Zeitung displays that there are much more serious issues than car races which need to be tackled. In particular the Berliner Zeitung article asserts that the polar Ice seems to melt faster than previously assumed. (some more images via realclimate). According to Berliner Zeitung the Arctis may well be free of ice by 2040 instead of the by the IPCC predicted 2070. There seems also to be evidence that the species in the soil of newly frost free regions like e.g. in Siberia may enforce the runaway effect, where I hope that this effect is not going as far as in the mars on earth experiment, where there was finally not enough oxygen left for breathing.

One of the major problems which leads to an even more dramatic rapid climate change is clearly the danger of overpopulation. So rethinking social conventions and dynamics may be necessary.




In particular it is inevitable at this place to recall that the catholic church is still against birth control and in particular against the the distribution of condoms. I think such an attitude and denial of social and environmental realities is irresponsible and dangerous for the health of many people. (Besides the aspect of birth control it should be said that according to a 2001 workshop summary by the National Institutes of Health, correct and consistent use of latex condoms reduces the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission by approximately 85% relative to risk when unprotected. This is still a high enough risk and thus should encourage people to be very careful about the choice of their sexual partners! However condoms could still save the lives of e.g. many women in Africa who have promiscuous husbands)

I hope very much that the catholic church will rethink their policy and that there will be soon a matter of fact and open discussion about these issues. (I went to school in catholic Bavaria and thus I know that it is sometimes hard to break with traditions.)

A strong birth control is a big challenge for any society. It implies many societal changes. In view of these changes it is sometimes worthwhile to study old utopies.

While washing a pile of clothes and during a general clean-up I discovered this time the autobiography of Emma Goldman. Emma Goldman was certainly quite radical in her way to question social and political rules. Nevertheless I found it useful to have a look at her experiences, last but not least in order to find out which ideas seemed to have been quite ok and which were not so ok.

Among others Emma Goldman was (from the book cover):

“an alien, a practising anarchist, a labour agitator, a pacifist in World War I, an advocate of political violence, a feminist, a proponent of free love and birth control, a communist, a street fighter for justice” (from the book cover)

Regardless what one finally thinks about Goldmans political and private views her autobiography is a distinctive historical document of the time around World War I (where I want to emphasize that among others I definitely do not share her view on political violence! In addition I think that her actions have to be seen in the historical context).

“Emma Goldmann was a devastatingly honest woman, who spared herself as little as she spared anyone else. From her account the reader can gain insight into a curious personality type of recurrent interest: a woman who devoted her life to erase suffering yet could make a bomb or assist in staging an assassination. Equally interesting are her comments on other radicals of the period, such as Kropotkin, Berkman, Mooney, Lenin, Trotsky, Haywood, Most, the Haymarket martyrs and many others.” (From the book cover)

Her accounts are indeed courageously written. Besides her comments on the political life at the times of world war I she was quite open about her private life. She was called a proponent of free love plus as I understood from her writings her struggles seemed to be related to the struggles of socalled polyamory. (According to Wikipedia: “Polyamory (from poly=multiple + amor=love) is the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved…Sex is not necessarily a primary focus in polyamorous relationships. Polyamorous relationships commonly consist of groups of more than two people seeking to build a long-term future together on mutually agreeable grounds, with sex as only one aspect of their relationship.”).

I have to admit that I don’t know much about polyamory, but as I understood polyamory claim that one can live (almost?) without jealousy (?). On a first glance it seems that the polyamory way of living and sorting out relationships is not easy and may be quite time consuming. Moreover this particular way of living may apply only to a certain kind of people (?). Or in other words: looking at our (e.g. western) societies it seems that most people prefer a monogamous life. However things like prostitution, cheating on one’s partner etc. may suggest that the percentage of people who prefer monogamous relationships are maybe lower then assumed. May be an anthroplogist could say more on this.

But back to Emma Goldman.
While being a proponent of free love she didn’t seem to have wanted to see the choice of partners as a “market”, where fertility, looks etc. are important “goods” or “values” (where one should mention that “value” in a market is a relative thing).

She seemed to have had this view despite the fact that she finally declared towards the end of the biography that an age difference was the main reason of the failure of a relationship between her and a young swede who finally went off with her secretary:

“His fine eyes had not lost their friendliness, but the glow that had rekindled my soul was not longer there. They had come to see what I had known from start, yet did not wish to realize – that he was twenty-nine and I was fifty-three.” (from the biography)

Probably she thought that such dynamics shouldn’t happen among like-minded, and if I understood correctly polyamory think in this way (?). But may be her declaration was only a fast excuse (?).

But if one gives in to the idea of a “(free) love market” then I think it is not so far fetched to regard marriage (let it be monogamous or polygamous) among others also as a possible instrument to balance this “market” just as trade union agreements or social and health insurances try to balance the inhumaness of the “free labour and health/pharma (->see patents!) market”. Last but not least the woman (this holds partially also for men) which is too “weak” to stand alone against the hardship of the “free love market”, like e.g. the pregnant, breastfeeding, old and sick women for example needs a financial and – more important – an emotional backing! Where I think it is important to ask wether it is a good thing to link emotional and financial backing. But generally speaking: a serious public declaration like e.g. in a wedding that one is willing to provide emotional backing also in bad times seems to be a good and comforting thing. It displays commitment. Finally – as I understood it – marriage was intended as a mean to make it more difficult to dump someone or each other, rather than to make it easier.

In a society where there is few financial and emotional backing people will tend to see more the “market aspect” of relationships and e.g. marry for financial reasons. Moreover they will be more inclinate to create financial/emotional bonds themselves, i.e. they will tend to produce many, healthy offsprings, who could support them in bad times.

But again lets conclude with a citation from the book by Emma Goldman, which should display also a bit of her writing style. As a matter of fact it seems Emma Goldman was not always in good terms with trade unions, e.g. on page 983 she writes:

“I was about to leave London when the general strike was declared. I could not think of running away from an event of such importance. Workers and helpers would be needed and I must remain and offer my services. John Turner was the most likely man to get me in touch with the people in charge of the strike. I explained to him that I was willing to do any kind of work to aid the great struggle: look after the relief of the strikers’ families, organize the care of their children, or take charge of feeding stations. I wanted to help the rank and file. John was delighted. It would dispel the prejudice my anti-Soviet stand had created in trade union circles and would demonstrate that anarchists not merely theorized, but were capable of practical work and were ready for emergency. He would take my message to the strike comittee and put them in direct touch with me. I waited for two days, but no word came either from trade-union headquarters or from John. On the third day I again made a long trip on feet to see John and to inquire about the matter. He had been told that all help in the strike situation was drawn from trade-union ranks, and that no outside aid was needed. The excuse was flimsy;clearly the leaders feared it would leak through that the anarchist Emma Goldman had some conexion with the general strike. John was loath to admit my interpretation, nor could he deny that I might be right. It was the old story: the centralized machinery in every walk of British life left no room for individual initiative.”

By the way – a famous thinker about common societal norms with regard to marriage, love life etc. was the mathematician Bertrand Russel.

10 Responses to “Emma Goldman”

  1. Florifulgurator Says:

    The catholic position is nothing else than incitement to suigenocide.

  2. nad Says:

    Florifulgurator wrote

    The catholic position is nothing else than incitement to suigenocide.

    Just curious, are you this Florifulgurator?

    One should maybe not use the term catholic in this context. The position I was talking about was what is – if I am correctly informed- the “current official position of the catholic church”. That is the term “catholic” is per se more broad, moreover the issue seems to be disputed even within the catholic church (see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnipeg_Statement).

    I think one should also think about the mechanisms which make people obey such positions. That is nobody is “openly forced” to adopt this position of the official catholic church. So in principle one could claim the catholic church bears no responsibility at all, even if this “suigenocide” (As I understand you mean here “collapse due to overpopulation”) should take place.

    But yes there may be subtle forcing mechanisms (and I guess this is what you had in mind, when writing your statement), like the emotional dependence of church followers, social pressure, peer pressure etc. for that reason thats why I wrote that the catholic church has a responsibilty, but on the other hand one needs to know more on the forcing mechanisms in order to be able to say how much responsibility.

    By the way there was a discussion related to this on randform.

  3. Bibi Says:

    Emma Goldmann should have had a family and kids. Then she wouldn’t have gotten these absurd ideas, like being a practisising anarchist and she would have been less cranky. I mean these people live in their wild circles and then come up with strange ideas about how the world has to look like or looks like according to their views and then they want to force everybody into their beliefs!

    And apart from that – if you have a family you can of course still take part in societal discussions, but in a decent way! As a matter of fact – the catholic church organises also family friendly discussion circles.

    And if I read this stuff what you wrote here about “birth control” then I can only say that you too have to be careful about your views. That is – there is no evidence that overpopulation will be reached and that the future population development will lead to a “collapse”! Its also clear that those promiscous people are fully responsible for what they are doing. Who are you to critizise the pope?

    Nothing is more fulfilling to a mother than the smile of her child. It feels so great how this little being, so fragile, so helpless and so fully dependent on you just smiles at you, full of trust. And if they get bigger they write you little letters saying “Mommy is the best”. Shall I say more? You can watch how your child thrives, be a proud mom. This is what makes a fulfilling live! In God we trust.

  4. nad Says:

    Bibi wrote:

    And if I read this stuff what you wrote here about “birth control” then I can only say that you too have to be careful about your views. That is – there is no evidence that overpopulation will be reached and that the future population development will lead to a “collapse”! Its also clear that those promiscous people are fully responsible for what they are doing. Who are you to critizise the pope?

    Let me first respond to that. I may eventually comment later to your other comments.

    Bibi, when do you think the world will be overpopulated? The point is that the population dynamics in the near future is quite determined by what is happening now. That is people live on average 70 years, they have currently on average such and such an average of procreation and such and such mortality. If there are no changes happening then you can compute the approximate future development in a straightforward computation, which is based on these birth and mortality data. This computation is somewhat similar in difficulty as for example computing the compound interest of your bank account.

    You can of course assume for example that the world will have different birth rates that gives you then a different population development. The UN has made some computations with different birth rate assumptions. If you assume for example that on average a woman will give birth to one daughter (one daughter per living woman means that if nobody would die before living for an average human lifetime then in the long run every human would replace him/herself on average, therefore this assumption is called replacement scenario. But since there are people dying before they lived an average lifetime there will be a slight decline in population after some time) then according to these computations there will be 10 billion people on earth by the year 2100. After that this number would decline. If you assume a birth rate of 1.5 daughters per woman on average (the socalled high fertility scenario) than we would have already in 2050 10.6 billion people on earth, by 2100 there would be 15.8 billion people and there would be no decline. The current birth rates are between the replacement scenario and the high fertility scenario. Some of the highest birth rates are in Africa.

    Given the current problems of hunger and other problems you can imagine yourself what it means to double the earth population, which would be e.g. in the high fertility variant before the year 2100, i.e. about within the lifetime of kids born now. You can imagine your own version of collapse or noncollapse.

    About the AIDS prevention. If you have an environment where the use of condoms is not encouraged, where eventually the causes of AIDS and how to prevent an infection are not very wellknown then in such an environment do you think that people are really fully responsible?

    I am not critisizing the pope. I think that this particular official position of the catholic church is problematic. In fact I don’t know what Pope Benedicts position is. He went to school in Bavaria, he certainly understands scientific computations of the above sort. There is not always consens among church people. There seems for example to be some sort of dissent in the orthodox church. The orthodox church has by the way a similar attitude towards condoms as the catholic church.

  5. Bibi Says:

    nad wrote=”I am not critisizing the pope. I think that this particular official position of the catholic church is problematic.In fact I don’t know what Pope Benedicts position is.”

    As a matter of fact the catholic church is very open to space science, see for example their
    report about the discovery of a new planet.

    In your explanations about a growing population you forgot to mention that if there are too many people on earth then manhood may just move on to the next planets!

  6. nad Says:

    Bibi wrote:

    “As a matter of fact the catholic church is very open to space science, see for example their report about the discovery of a new planet.”

    It is good that the catholic church is interested in space science. However given the above outlined rather near-future population developments and its possible consequeneces and given the infancy state of research which is related to settling on other planets I find it would be more consequent if the catholic church would actively fund space research. Or in other words the catholic church has been actively inhibiting other means of birth control than abstinence, so given the experiences of the last million years this usually leads on average to human population growth, hence it would be consequent and -if one looks at the calculations- now also rather needed to actively care about finding more space for a growing world population (compare the man leaves earth transformation). But I haven’t heard of a Vatican space program. But may be I am just badly informed.

    At this point one also has to note that it seems that groups for which the consequences of human population growth are more present may be more aware and engaged. Thus for example the Chinese get more and more active in space exploration, as can be seen last but not least at the example of the Tiangong space craft.

  7. John Hieronymous Dope Says:

    Nad wrote:

    Polyamorous relationships commonly consist of groups of more than two people seeking to build a long-term future together on mutually agreeable grounds, with sex as only one aspect of their relationship.

    I have to admit that I don’t know much about polyamory, but as I understood polyamory claim that one can live (almost?) without jealousy (?). On a first glance it seems that the polyamory way of living and sorting out relationships is not easy and may be quite time consuming.

    Casting for example “multiple marriages” into some legal framework could reduce the effort which is needed for maintaining such multiplie relationships, that is this could work in the same way as a legal marriage (let it be among hetero- or homosexuals) is sorting out a lot of problems for couples.

    Aren’t there some prototypes for that? Do you know what the church’s position is on multiple marriages?

  8. nad Says:

    John Hieronymous Dope wrote:

    Casting for example “multiple marriages” into some legal framework could reduce the effort which is needed for maintaining such multiplie relationships, that is this could work in the same way as a legal marriage (let it be among hetero- or homosexuals) is sorting out a lot of problems for couples.

    Aren’t there some prototypes for that?

    Sofar I know there are not too many legal frameworks for polygamy. It is also a question how much emphasis on “easy stateable legal issues only” you think there should be put in such contracts, since as said above a marriage is in some sense also usually seen as a contract for emotional backing and this is to some extend hard to cast into a legal framework. There is also the question of how much sexuality should play a role in such contracts. There seems to be the dutch Samenlevingscontract, but this seems to be more concerned with “easy stateable” legal issues, like who has to care for kids, who inherits what etc. It doesn’t seem to be on the same footing as the usual marriages.
    But may be I am wrong.

    I am also not sure wether a legal framework automatically reduces the efforts. Given the rather high divorce rates this seems to be even not clear for the usual marriages. A legal framework could though make such relationships look more societally accepted.

    Do you know what the church’s position is on multiple marriages?

    I am definitely no expert on this, so I can only refer to the Wikipedia article on Polygamy in Christianity.
    It is written there that:

    Nonetheless, there are numerous examples of polygamy in the Old Testament, regarding which Christians hold differing views. Some Christians actively debate whether the New Testament or Christian ethics allows or forbids polygamy. This debate focuses almost exclusively on polygyny (one man having more than one wife) and not polyandry (one woman having more than one husband).

    And if you look at the article about polyandry, then it seems that it is not only in christianity that polygyny appears to be more accepted than polyandry. I.e. on a first glance there seems to be an obvious difference between men and women in this context. I may be wrong but this (and the above) may have to do with the question of dominance (see also dominance ethology and other dominances).

  9. Manfred Says:

    Casting for example “multiple marriages” into some legal framework could reduce the effort which is needed for maintaining such multiplie relationships, that is this could work in the same way as a legal marriage (let it be among hetero- or homosexuals) is sorting out a lot of problems for couples.

    Why do you need multiple marriages? This sounds all much too complicated! Just keep your relationship open! Or do you want that a partner has to issue a kind of creative commons licence for the different stages you are allowed to engage in with others (and you have to wear an according badge) ????!!! Licence 1 (like in very restrictive countries): looking at someone, Licence 2: flirting with someone , Licence 3: talking to each other, Licence 4: kissing, Licence 5…..

  10. Lavaboy Says:

    Or do you want that a partner has to issue a kind of creative commons licence for the different stages you are allowed to engage in with others (and you have to wear an according badge) ????!!! Licence 1 (like in very restrictive countries): looking at someone, Licence 2: flirting with someone , Licence 3: talking to each other, Licence 4: kissing, Licence 5…..

    Ey Manni, Ick fin dit ne supi idee mit die badges!! echt jetze
    man hat ja och schon heutzutaje sowat eenlichet, blos ebend nich jenuch
    und denne ea nua für fraun
    schleia oda kopftuch: bloss nich
    ehering: kann ust schwirich wern
    rote lackstiepl: kostet warschweinl erstma ne stange

    mund uffn badge jeht aba nich (schmusi, schmusi), da kriechn dia
    de anwälte von de rolling stones uffn pelz, vielleicht zwee
    turtltäubchn uffn badge?

    petting vielleich irgnwat abstraktit sonst wird de sitte uffn plan jerufn
    vielleich zwee kujeln mittne hand dran?

    wees nich inwieweit ick hier die vorschleje weiterausbreitn soll…..

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