A Bridge

Anarchy gets the juice

Photoshop sucksTurns out, my more successful posts, and the only ones that have been referenced by other blogs, are the ones with the anarchy tag.

Might as well talk about it then. I will do more research, but here’s a quickie.

Definition

The online dictionary says the etymology of Anarchy is “anarkhos”, Greek for “without a ruler”. This can be interpreted in many ways, as it has, but my interpretation, and the one I think thinking anarchists abide to, is “without authority”.

This is far removed from the image of chaos and violence that most people think of when they hear the A-word. However, the havoc is not necessarily excluded.

Explanation

In modern society, the concept of authority carries with it the assumption that it can rarely be questioned. If someone is in a position of “authority”, then in theory they have earned it through experience and skill.

Or at least the meritocratic principles of our society would have us believe. The truth is far removed from that ideal, and I don’t need to conjure up examples of corruption and cronyism.

The people in authority have the power to make decisions, and to question or go against their authority is breaking the law. This is the crux of what my interpretation of anarchy proposes.

In a system “without authority” (or, to maybe be more precise, without “forced authority”), just because a group of people believe that one individual is the authority on a matter, this does not mean that contrasting and not following his or her decisions is breaking the law – nor will the person who decides to go against the grain chastised for it.

For example – One man does not think that the best way to manage his farm is to have caps on his stock, and thinks all fields should be used at the same time. In modern Britain, DEFRA would rain hell upon him, he would be fined and possibly his land removed: he is breaking the law.

In an authority-less society, he can simply do as he chooses.

If his actions result in the harm of others, then this group of others can choose to exclude him, or sanction him. But this is not codified, nor is it necessary. People can choose to “prosecute” (or persecute?) or not, in any way they deem fit, if they do at all. It is society that punishes the damage-making individual, not the law.

Failure

Naturally, the system has many pitfalls. For starters, it simply would not work in governments as big as modern ones, over landmasses even as small as Great Britain. But then, I am a fan of decentralisation, so if to make anarchy work we have to stop thinking of England and the USA, and start thinking about Leicester and Chicago, so be it. The shrinking of government, while full of problems, is not something I instinctively oppose.

Secondly, there is the problem of HOW society reacts to punish the damaging individuals. The law protects the crowd from the individual as much as it does the individual from the crowd.

And this is why, while I am an anarchist in my heart, my head realises that it is not for all environments, people and contexts. Simply put, to believe anarchy would work, one has to have a strong belief in the good of human nature, and I cannot reconcile my cynicism with this.

Anarchy is a fundamentally human, and optimistic, philosophy. While there are examples of it working, such as in central Spain during it’s civil war (according to Noam Chomksy), there are plenty of others where it is simply carnage: Rwanda in 1994 comes readily to mind.

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3 thoughts on “Anarchy gets the juice

  1. True democracy is the best example of anarchy that exists, but most people fail to realise this – they also fail to realise that we are not, in fact, living in a real democracy (that would involve them actually periodically making decisions and generally having-a-say in how things are done).

    I think ‘anarchy’ needs something of a rebranding but, because of the power structures that exist now (and will almost certainly exist for some time), its extremely unlikely that such a feat of rebranding could occur; at least not until global civilastion experiences some subtle (and maybe not-so-subtle) changes – best not even get into that.

    I suppose we just have to make do with what we have; accept that, in theory, the populous should be able to govern itself without the ‘static’ governmental bodies that exist today. Also accept that, with things as they are, we’ll probably never find out whether democracy works or not.

    Maybe (hopefully) in the near future (if the various [immediate and long-term] global crisises facing us now are cleared up), our civilisation will opt for a real democratic/anarchaic system of government with all that entails.

  2. Alberto on said:

    A good point well made. I was thinking about the idea of a real democracy too, but that would be another huge debate to get into.

    An example does come to mind however – in Switzerland, pretty much every parliamentary bill and law that is proposed has to pass through a national referendum. And their voter turnouts are extremely poor. Does too much democracy make people lazy, or is that just human nature?

  3. Sylveste on said:

    Perhaps the Swiss should try living without their national referdums for a little while; that might make a difference to voter turnout when the privalege was returned.

    I’m not sure if laziness is the issue; they’re probably just unconvinced. If people were to see participation in the democratic process as a necessity, just like earning a living or paying their taxes, then there wouldn’t have to be that sense of ‘What difference am I going to make?’. That said, I have no idea how such a stage could be reached. It’s usually very difficult to change a lot of people’s minds on a subject like that and, as mentioned earlier, the existing government structures would render such a task impossible.

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