Monday, August 07, 2006

Violent Iconoclast

A Hipsters' Guide to Revolution - Lesson 3

These would-be assassins could have fit right in at the Black Cat. However, average punkers these folks were not. Alexander Berkman, the beau, failed to murder his archnemesis and served hard time for most of his adult life. Emma Goldman, the babe, left a somewhat more romantic legacy, however. She is the heroine of today's hipster anti-capitalist revolution.

I first learned of Emma Goldman while listening to a recorded lecture given by rock star historian Howard Zinn. I bought Goldman's autobiography at a Coup concert. I have yet to get over the irony of it all.

In this month's issue of Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows compares the turn of the 20th century anarchist movement to the turn of the 21st century radical Islamic movement. He says both feature(d) "romantic young people in a hurry with dreams of changing the world."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Is Emma Goldman a hero? She conspired with Alexander Berkman to kill Henry Clay Frick, and although she wasn't directly involved, her rhetoric and philosophy influenced Leon Czolgosz's assassination of William McKinley. However, she was also a pioneer in the women's rights' movement, a vital leader of the labor movement, and a fearless anti-war protester. Which of her legacies carries the most weight?
  2. Her autobiography, Living my Life, was available for sale at a Coup concert at the Black Cat in Washington, DC. Given Goldman's violent history and the Coup's abrasive album cover, discuss the themes of mythology and romanticization of violence in today's counterculture.
  3. How do societies create heroes, with what traits do they embody them, and how do they worship them?


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