The Pocket Emma Goldman

The Pocket Emma Goldman is a collection of Goldman’s writing taken from the Anarchist Library. You can read it in full — online for free — and I’d highly recommend it. Each sentence in this book is full of truth and power.

Goldman sees the world with utter clarity. When I am thinking about the world I stop myself when I see a structural barrier, thinking that it can’t be overcome. Goldman examines every barrier and sees it for what it really is, an artificially created human structure that can and should be taken down:

When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.

The mere fact that these forces — inimical to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — are legalized by statute laws, sanctified by divine rights, and enforced by political power, in no way justifies their continued existence.

Page 35

Whether it’s atheism, birth control, or independence she unearths the self-evident seeds of ideas — truth comes from within, laws are meant to be changed, armies are never maintained to continue peace. She grows these seeds of truth grow into fearless thinking:

… it is not the Birth Control Movement, but the law, which will have to go. After all, that is what laws are for, to be made and unmade. How dare they demand that life should just submit to them? Just because some ignorant bigot in his own limitation of mind and heart succeeded in passing a law at the time when men and women were in the thralls of religious and moral superstition, must we be bound by it for the rest of our lives?

Page 81

But when these ideas and ideals meet the reality of the world I am filled with doubt about how things can move forward. There is so much conflict and so many issues that I lose hope that we as humans can ever get along or make progress. But here Goldman reminds us that it’s not lack of cooperation, but the devices through which we harm each other that are the problem:

The belief in freedom assumes that human beings can cooperate. They do it even now to a surprising extent, or organized society would be impossible. If the devices by which men can harm one another, such as private property, are removed and if the worship of authority can be discarded, co-operation will be spontaneous and inevitable, and the individual will find it his highest calling to contribute to the enrichment of social well-being.

Page 183

Goldman’s writing has been a source of inspiration and courage for me. It pushes me to be a better human — one who strives to understand the problems in the world, and takes action to improve them ✊🏾

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