Every now and then, it is a good idea to get out of ones accustomed ideological space and try to assess the pros and cons of their system from a different and possibly hostile point of view. In my own case, ideological commitment is difficult in the first place. There are so many ways in which I could simply be wrong that claiming adherence to any one perspective feels premature to me. But there also comes a point where one has to “shit or get off the pot” and go where the evidence of their senses leads them.
In a very real sense, I have been an Anarchist since childhood. Without going into detail, I was made aware at a very young age that figures of authority are simply bullies that have a good story behind them. Recently, however, I have begun to question whether or not I really want to identify with a movement that tends toward praxis I find somewhat irrelevant and in certain cases counterproductive. The concept of “class warfare” in my opinion, needs to be rethought. The “working class” of 2009 is very different from when the labor movement had its heyday in the 1930s. What has happened, I think, is that the unions opted for negotiating the terms under which they will be exploited rather than taking full ownership of the factories. The result was that many large corporations simply moved much of their manufacturing offshore, into countries like China where slavery isn’t considered politically incorrect. The unionized labor in the United States, consequently, tends to be middle class in aspiration and standard of living. Which means it also tends to be uninterested in revolution. (Though this is by no means universally true. The Longshoremen in California have a long history of strikes in protest of wars and other capitalist atrocities.)
But these are largely secondary concerns. I am still an Anarchist because I cannot ignore the raw fact that our society is managed by criminal syndicates whose only legitimacy comes from age and the ability to open schools that propagandize children into accepting their benevolent despotism. The modern Nation State (henceforth “the State”) is no more and no less than the result of theft, genocide, and exploitation. This is true of every State, worldwide. That some are less overt, or grant certain privileges to particular classes, is totally beside the point.
I would even argue that Capitalist Democracy (and by “capitalism” I mean to indicate the actual economic system we endure in the real world today, not some Libertarian’s Platonic wet dream) is worse that open dictatorship. In an overtly totalitarian State, you know that you are oppressed. It is a conscious fact of life. Capitalist Democracy buries the exploitation and violence, justifies it through sophistry, and makes indentured servitude to a bank a badge of honor. Actually addressing the egregious criminality of the sociopolitical environment requires one to act in some cases against rather than with ones neighbors, simply because these neighbors, like oneself, are implicated in the crime and enjoy the few scraps of its fruit granted them by the Capitalist wishing tree.
Reactionaries of many stripes are fond of pointing out the ethical corruption of our age. But they focus on personal ephemera, such as sexuality and styles of dress. While they bemoan something that a rational person would not consider an issue, such as the fact that there are homosexuals who dare to assert their humanity, they are fine with third world sweatshops, lack of access to healthcare by all but the privileged consumer class, and even torture. They fail to see the obvious: that a society based on avarice, selfishness, and violence will tend to produce greedy, selfish, and violent people. And when children see their parents lives disintegrate because they were based on possession of their spouse rather than love, and all the other personal violence of the middle class family, they will tend to become bitter, cynical, and nihilistic because the hypocrisy surrounds them utterly.
I don’t wonder how we would get along without the State. I wonder how we’ve managed to survive as a species with it. The authoritarian paradigm reduces ethics to a matter of not getting punished. The internal voice of “conscience” is generally nothing more than the dim memory of moderate to severe child abuse. Eventually, the moral corruption bred by this fear grows to the point where it is obvious. And the State then becomes what it always was: a dictatorship. Every authoritarian society is a holocaust in the making.
This happens because people “play the game” no matter how odious it becomes to them. They fear losing their jobs, their security. They fear outside enemies and enemies inside. The entire structure is based on fear and motivation from above. It is the ethics of a rabid animal kept on a leash.
Which is why Anarchism appeals to me. It is not just a matter of changing the faces and language used by the ruling class. It is not about creating another set of laws to bind others. It is also a social revolution. An Anarchist society comes about through direct action. Not only the sorts of protest associated with that word, but action taken on ones own, without permission from any authority. It is a society of individuals, cooperating to create and sustain the kind of world they want to live in, not one imposed by history and circumstance.
And we will have to do that very soon. It is no longer a matter of whether there will be a massive upheaval in our society. It is a matter of when things begin to fracture so severely that the equilibrium of iniquities can no be maintained. We can choose at that moment between barbarity and further oppression on the one hand, and self determination and freedom on the other.
In short, I am an Anarchist because I see no other option that matches the evidence of my senses and my experience. We will either learn to work together, without corporations and cops, or we will die. This death may be one of spirit, rather than flesh. If given the choice between dying the latter in a perhaps futile attempt to see the world change for the better, it would be preferable to the former. I hope for the day that we call all stand on the smoldering embers of Church and State and begin to “build a new world from the rotting corpse of the old.”