Paul Goodman Changed My Life: A Documentary About 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 and alienation-explaining called Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System, and promoted a thoughtful, idiosyncratic style of anarchism that came complete with architectural plans for his ideal commune.
The guy was busy. And he was busy in a way that we don't see that often right now—busy being a public intellectual devoted to articulating a worldview that shredded the structures we take for granted, while also going out and participating in actions aimed at actually shredding those structures in life, as opposed to just in text. (That is, when he wasn't busy chasing ass).
This calmly compelling documentary, composed of interviews interspersed with old radio and video clips, openly aims to reintroduce Goodman to the 21st century. And after watching Paul Goodman Changed My Life, it does feel urgent to get his brand of ideas and intellectual vigor coursing through the world again, especially in light of the current protests against broken structures that are in need of some Goodman-style shredding. At the same time, this documentary implicitly reminds that Goodman's pre-internet style of organizing (tracts, pamphlets, books, public speeches, long televised debates with William F. Buckley) is, somewhat ironically, not connected to the way protest movements—Occupy being the most pressing example—are now organized. The present thinking, unfortunately, is that the anarchic internet has turned a leader like Goodman (theoretically anarchic, but in practice rather command-and-control) into a type of human we don't need anymore. Wrong, wrong, wrong.