Blog

The Job Market

We are now right smack in the middle of summer, which means that the graduating class of 2010 is still battling with one of the worst job markets in decades.  This generation, the  so-called “millenials”, 18-29, has an unemployment rate of nearly 14%, nearly as bad as the same group during the Great Depression.  In his Growing Up Absurd (1961), Paul Goodman scrutinizes the American economy for not providing youth with suitable employment.  He writes, “Economically and vocationally, a very large population of the young people are in a plight more drastic than anything so far mentioned.  In our society that is, there are not enough worthy jobs…Either society is a benevolently frivolous racket in which they’ll manage to boondoggle, though less profitably than the more privileged; or society is serious, but they are useless and hopelessly out.”  Goodman’s words, nearly half a century-old, strike too well a chord with the current youth.  See what else he had to say.

Heatwave

New Yorkers are officially suffering through one of the worst heat waves in recent memory.  As suffocating temperatures continue to hit the three-digit mark, emergency alerts abound and the threat of blackouts press on.  The energy grid of NYC right now is on overload.

Meanwhile, traffic congestion in the NYC notoriously remains the same.  What’s more, air pollution in NYC remains at an alarming level.  Any real New Yorker can’t help but be reminded that the City’s present environmental situation is deplorable.  As Paul Goodman plainly expressed in his 1961 essay, “Banning Cars in Manhattan,” New York’s environmental situation is deplorable, and it can all be mitigated if traffic congestion is attacked and fixed first.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell... How About Don't Discriminate?

A large part of Paul Goodman’s legacy lies in his adherence to gay rights and promotion of sexual equality before the Gay Liberation movement formally began. He once stated, "I have been fired three times because of my queer behavior or my claim to the right of it, and these are the only times I have been fired." (Read more quotes here.)

Unfortunately, Goodman lived in a time before stringent laws against workplace discrimination were codified. But even today, the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy stands as a glaring example of discrimination in America. A defense bill, which contains language meant to kick start a repeal process for the military’s ban on openly gay troops, is likely to come to a vote in the Senate. Even so, many senators disapprove of the bill. Sen. John McCain claims, “I will do everything in my power,” to stop the bill from reaching the senate floor (www.gaypolitics.com/2010/07/07/lugar-wont-block-dont-ask-repeal-effort/).

While the effort of Goodman and subsequent gay activists are seemingly unfelt on Capitol Hill, their pursuit of equality has permeated the US. A recent 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll found that 50% of Americans would support an openly gay president, and 62% would support a homosexual Super Bowl quarterback. Goodman declared that homosexuality was normal, and Americans have begun to accept his claims.

The United States Poet Laureate

This past Wednesday, W. S. Merwin was named the United States Poet Laureate, the nation’s “official poet,” an honor to say the least.  Merwin has completed over thirty books of poetry and prose, and has won the Pulitzer Prize twice, in addition to one National Book Award and the Tanning Prize.  Like Merwin, Paul Goodman was a prolific poet as well, but unfortunately his poetic career was cut short.  It is no stretch to think that Goodman, had his career continued, would have been honored with Merwin’s new position as well.

Below is one of my Goodman poems, “The Lordly Hudson,” written in 1962:

"The Lordly Hudson"

"Driver, what stream is it?" I asked, well knowing
it was our lordly Hudson hardly flowing.
"It is our lordly Hudson hardly flowing,"
he said, under the green-grown cliffs."

Be still, heart! No one needs
your passionate suffrage to select this glory,
this is our lordly Hudson hardly flowing
under the green-grown cliffs.

"Driver, has this a peer in Europe or the East?"
"No, no!" he said. Home! Home!
Be quiet, heart! This is our lordly Hudson
and has no peer in Europe or the east.

This is our lordly Hudson hardly flowing
under the green-grown cliffs
and has no peer in Europe or the East.
Be quiet, heart! Home! Home!

PG and BP

Paul Goodman often reflected on the environment in his writing, championing the natural world even before “environmentalism” became a fad. For Goodman, humans’ relationship to their environment went beyond the obvious: one’s surroundings distinctly influence perception and thought. He griped about the degradation people wrought on the natural world. One of his poems reads:

Some happy folk their faith

And some their calling doth

                Justify, but Lord,

                I am justified

By the beauty of

The world and my love

                Of your animals, though I

                Haven’t been happy thereby

All this, forty years before the BP oil spill. The petroleum leaking into the Gulf of Mexico has terrified and infuriated Americans since April 2010. While it is hard to see the bright side of such an ecological and economic catastrophe, perhaps Americans’ emotional response is exactly what is needed to put an end to this puncturing of the Earth’s crust.

We (and I include myself) had become alienated from and apathetic to the environment where petroleum is harvested. But seeing the concrete present damage to the Gulf of Mexico has charged me to take a firmer stand against offshore drilling. As Goodman noted, “If emotions did not signal something about the environment, they would not have been inherited and have survived; they tell the relation of organism and environment, and they spur us to cope.” My anger, my regret, have reinvigorated my personal relationship to the ocean, to marine life. Hopefully, the majority of Americans will also embrace their outrage and let it propel them towards change.

The New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy

Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman developed Gestalt Therapy in the 1940s-50s.  A form of psychotherapy, its philosophy was originally rooted in the individual's present experience, the environmental and social contexts of an individual’s life, and the therapist-client relationship.  Today, Gestalt Therapy continues to thrive on a global level.  The New York Gestalt Institute of Gestalt Therapy, the original Gestalt Therapy institute, is still in full operation today with a world-wide membership.

Learn more here: New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy

Elena Kagan: Fresh Face or Liberal Scheme?

On Monday, the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan began. Of course, with all the partisan rabble-rousing in Washington, it’s no surprise that both Democrats and Republicans respond passionately to the nomination of a neophyte (albeit one with a hefty resume). Conservatives rally around Kagan’s lack of experience as a judge—Sen. John Cornyn stated on CNN that the President was "trying to get somebody through who has a very sparse record and who he believes will be a reliable vote on the left wing of the United States Supreme Court."

But perhaps Obama’s motive was not so mischievous. Judiciary Committee member and Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on Fox News that Kagan will bring “a new, ...mainstream breath” to the Supreme Court. I agree, and hope that Kagan will help dissipate the cynicism and bickering that now shadows Washington.

Paul Goodman, I believe, would agree with such an assessment. In a 1967 speech delivered to America’s military and industry leaders, he stated that only a turn-over of the establishment, replaced by clear-headed young organizers, could save America. While Kagan is far from the college students who Goodman believed in, she offers the same fresh approach to the federal justice system.

Quotes taken from CNN.

Roger Ebert is a fellow Paul Goodman fan

Roger Ebert, acclaimed film critic of “Siskel-Ebert/Ebert-Roeper” fame, considers Paul Goodman’s seminal text, Growing Up Absurd, as one of the books that’s changed his life.

Hopefully, Ebert will be as moved by the film as he was by the man.