Posted by: HAT | August 28, 2008

Dedicated Time

I have made a little progress, thanks to putting in some hours. I continue to think about something I heard third hand from one of my classmates (when I was still actually showing up at the University), about “dedicated time.” Dedicated time is time — it doesn’t even have to be a really big block of time, but long enough to get something done in — that you dedicate to getting work done. Like writing. Not work like doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, running to the grocery store to pick up the few things that need to be in the house by later today. Not work like answering e-mail and doing the 21 (at least) urgent tasks that need to be done sometime before the beginning of classes at the Seminary to keep the Women’s Center looking like it has its act together. Oh, and no answering the phone. There’s an answering machine. Real work.

Sometimes I’m not sure I can still do real work. But when I spend time on it, I get a little better at it. My frustration these days, however, is that I need more time than the little that I’ve been able to really dedicate to writing so far. I do (although I know everyone keeps saying “Write!”) still have some reading to do. It’s hard to write without having done the reading. And I am still trying to get all the way through Susan Buck-Morss’s Origin of Negative Dialectics.  Possibly something I should not admit on the internet, but of course, it is true.

Anyway, I have been trying to do reading every day, and writing at least one day, with a goal of 10 pages a week.  This is working better than having no plan at all, but could still use some fine tuning.

I have also discovered Emma Goldman.  All the best people talk about utopia like it is worth talking about.  It is hard not to get distracted by this kind of thing.  I spent HOURS on Tuesday, thanks to the lure of the highspeed internet (which is WORKING . . . I really had no faith, but I have been proved wrong . . . in this rare case, something I’m happy about) searching for the definitive answer as to where Red Emma said “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”  This, by the way, seems to be the modal version, although there are variations, including the one that’s been posted on the bulletin board in my office for a decade, “if voting could really change anything, it would be illegal”, attributed to “graffiti, bookstore restroom.”  So I was happy to learn it had a provenance, but unhappy to learn that it’s legendary, so off I ran down the rabbit hole.  No luck on the quote. 

Except that I did find lots of great stuff in full text, including three articles with explicit little mentions of utopia, all of which indicated that if she didn’t actually say this thing she would have agreed with it, and including the famous and much anthologized one (“Anarchism:  What It Really Stands For”) which links Oscar Wilde’s views on “a practical scheme” to anarchy, as a political philosophy that refuses to accept existing conditions that are “wrong and foolish” but rather “has vitality enough to leave the stagnant waters of the old, and build, as well as sustain, new life.”  (I found this article, with a lot of other good information on anarchism, at

I’m not an anarchist, really.  I’m not sanguine enough about the vision of a large group of people’s living together without agreed-upon limits (“no hitting, take turns. . .”) that someone(s) are in a position to enforce against the out-of-sorts or too-tired (“OK, time for bed now . . .”) when they are being nasty to others.  But I like Emma Goldman, and I’d like to learn some more about that “sprit of revolt, in whatever form, against everything that hinders human growth.”



  1. It’s weird that you mention “if voting could really change anything, it would be illegal” because I just posted an article with this very title. What’s it all mean?

    Great anarchy link, btw.

  2. Thanks. Of course, voting does change some things — like who’s in office. And that can make some difference, like whether taxes go up or down (but not whether there are some, and probably not whether they are, all told, proportionately higher on poor people), or a particular war is talked about one way rather than another, that kind of thing. But since voting is itself part of the system of government that, in Goldman’s mind, was intrinsically violent and coercive, however well that violence and coercion is masked or softened, it isn’t going to produce the kind of change she was envisioning, either, which involves the elimination of that system altogether.

  3. I believe, although I may be wrong, the quote can be found in Goldman’s Living My Life: Volume ONe, and is taken from one of her many speeches that she includes in her autobiography. This doesn’t narrow it down a whole lot, but may be of help to you. Also, if you’re interested in Emma Goldman, I highly recommend the book. I know many people who don’t consider themselves anarchists who enjoyed reading it

  4. This is wonderful intelligence, especially as the full text of Living My Life is online at the Anarchist Archives (link above)! Thank you very much!!

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