If a “state of anarchy” for a society is bad, then why are there a bunch of very smart and sensible people actually branding themselves “anarchists”?
This is a question I asked myself at some point. Now I have an answer that is sufficient for me, and I want to share it because I think this is both important and something that isn’t often discussed. But the answer I have is not really a simple one, because it needs a first pass of destruction of widely-believed bullshit. And that is never a trivial thing to do.
Usually, people who manage to destruct a certain piece of bullshit do it for personal reasons, for an inner drive to have a better model of what is going on. If I wasn’t a trans woman, I would never bother to exit the tar pit that is mainstream society’s beliefs about gender and “sex” (LOL). The concepts were not working for me, so I looked into them, and realized they were broken. Then I opened their source files on my mind and fixed them so they would work for me, instead of against me.
Now, one may object: so people are self-serving and “fix” concepts so they just work for them, instead of sticking to Objective Truth(TM) as expressed by the WesternWhiteMaleCisHetRichPrivileged Consensus(Copyleft) of Wikipedia? Certainly that is bad and we should all “exit our echo chambers” and agree on everything?
Well, you see, that is not how it works, because human social reality is itself anarchic. What I mean by “Anarchy” is part of my explanation of destruction and of why Objective Truth(TM) doesn’t really exist. And I need my explanation of destruction and of why Objective Truth(TM) doesn’t exist to explain what I mean by “Anarchy.”
“Anarchy,” at its heart, is an attempt of humanity to explaining to itself that humans are forever free, Objectively(TM), and that all oppression they experience is necessarily their collective creation and choice, and not an inevitability.
For example, “Death and Taxes” is the dumbest shit ever said. No, you do not need “Taxes.” Neanderthals didn’t need it, and neither will Kirk and Spock. However, taxation can be fun, because the central problem isn’t taxation itself, but people having no money to live. “Taxing” someone out of their means of livelihood is completely different from taxing someone out of “profits.” Those are two completely different arenas of thought, and I won’t dig any further on either of them because that’s not my point here… but both of these branches lead to lots and lots of destruction.
So the above paragraph is an example of destruction. I took on and rewrote “Taxes = ‘Part of the human condition’;” which was the social consensus on the matter of compulsory contribution of commodities or representations of material wealth and of social power to a central meta-corporation we call “our countries.” And I believe my rewrite is something sufficiently sensible to say on the matter, or at least I think it is, because when I first finished with it, I proceeded to install it on my brain, overwriting the previous model. I have not asked anyone’s holy permission to install that idea on my brain. I have determined it myself that it models what we call “Objective Truth” better, and I have taken full responsibility for that individual act of installing that idea on my brain. I also take full social responsibility for spouting that opinion and recording it here on Medium dot com.
That is what is at the core of any “anarchy” of whatever. Contrary to an “hierarchy” of whatever, I need not ask permission from a social pecking order of monkeys. I am a free monkey with respect to Facet XYZ of an human activity that has potential social impact.
See, that is not always the case. Things like Blasphemy (Thought Crime) still exist in places: if you express a idea unauthorized by the dominant social hierarchy (the “State”… we’ll get to that) you get yourself killed by those who have chosen to be in that hierarchy and to enforce it. And they have anarchically chosen to be in that hierarchy, because anarchy just models the essential freedom of humans! See where I’m getting at?
When I install an idea on my brain, I am saying that it is my prerogative to do so. People can and have argued that people should not be allowed to do this, hence Thought Crime. The argument is that whatever is on people’s heads affects society, and bad ideas can affect society negatively. And our relentless path to technological dystopia will be complete when we have brain-computer interfaces that can be used to enforce Thought Crime (we are actually on track for this, Elon Musk has hundreds of the most brilliant scientists working on this worse-than-atomic-holocaust fate for us).
“Anarchy” as a popular concept just means chaos. For those who believe in society to be an hierarchy that controls most of people’s lives in the name of social safety — which is the vast majority of people and probably includes you, dear reader — this chaos is projected as the state things would be in if the desire for control and the fear of What People Might Do were abandoned.
If you have done any psychotherapy whatsoever, you’d instantly recognize the pattern: it is just fear, a ghost that would instantly dissipate were it challenged. When the Roman Empire fell, the world did not fall into chaos, but instead re-organized in the most peaceful societies we’d known in thousands of years. Well, it probably did experience short-term chaos, because chaos is not the result of the absence of control, but it is the necessary recoil from the abolition of control. Chaos is caused by an oppression that just ceased, and the more violent the dying oppression was, the more violent is the chaos that manifests the release from it.
So anarchists are not pro-chaos people. Anarchists are people who believe it is both undesirable and dangerous to live in societies that control unnecessary things (if you think that’s Libertarianism, that’s because I see Libertarianism and Anarchism sharing the same core meaning, not unlike how “All Religions Point to The Same Truth”(TM)). Every extraneous control is a ticking bomb that is just waiting for the control to fail. All controlling, “hierarchical” societies are fragile. That’s why capitalist corporations last 50 years on average and then they implode: because like the societies they are a fractal reproduction of, they are Ponzi schemes of power.
Now to be more practical, there are several strands of anarchists, as there are several strands of libertarians, christians, fascists, communists, etc. Regardless of whether the core intent behind any one of those ideas makes sense, when you touch the real world, you have to make some decisions on how to apply it, and when you do that you may be more or less “successful.” I am not at all studied in the countless differences between the equally countless schools of thought of the also several facets of human life (“economic,” “political,” “religious,” “cultural,” etc). I’m a computer programmer by training, so what I’m interested in is a simple model that can be codified in native code to work for most cases, and for the rest I’ll let the user write a bunch of “shitty” (adapted, specific) scripts.
What anarchists want is a world where people are free to live without being violently repressed. Anarchists are not idiots: they do realize that power vacuums get filled by assholes. But the solution is not centralized control. If you can look at our current States, you’d realize they have and will always fail at this. Pick any of its monstrous failures: e.g. mass incarceration. Our States throw people in dungeons for carrying a plant. Some States throw people in dungeons for speech or ideas. This is what anarchists are against. They are not against people as a whole having mechanisms to physically defend themselves from violent individuals, would-be warlords or from invasions from entire nations.
Using the word “anarchy” to mean “chaos” will not be socially acceptable at some point, because it is a dumb use of the word. The absence of hierarchies does not mean chaos. However, the abolition of one hierarchy may pave the way for another hierarchy to take over. That’s what criminals, warlords and national invasions are: hierarchies of power taking over others. (As for why humans bother projecting themselves into violent hierarchies, that’s a much deeper topic). And in fact, extremely oppressive hierarchies often look at less oppressive hierarchies and see anarchies! “They are weak… how do they allow their women to walk around dressed like that?”
And so the final reveal. All Anarchic (or Libertarian) societies also have controls, because all societies do. Notoriously, a good chunk of the anarchist argument is about how to avoid the formation of power vacuums. Marcus Brancaglione, a Brazilian Left-Libertarian activist knows this very well (Note: “Libertarian” is better modeled as “Anarchist” in Brazil, but I don’t know really), and that is why he advocates for distributing all forms of power among all people as equally as possible as the only sure-fire way to achieve a society of peace.
However, Anarchists, Libertarians and those like them are fundamentally for the replacement or bypassing of many of the oppressive hierarchies that we do feature today. These are all schools of thought for possible social evolution. If we are going to shut down centralized systems in an effort to e.g. stop throwing people in dungeons for carrying plants — self-determining what they put on their bodies — , or e.g. in an effort to replace “work” (wage slavery to bind people to alienated, soul-crushing labor) with a world of fulfilling and self-determined work, then we have to know a bit about what we are doing, and be able to talk about it.
Centralized control is the solution of the incompetent. Any idiot can design a client-server system where the server decides everything. Any bunch of retarded white people can get together in a room and write a document creating a “republic” where you put 300 people in a central location to decide everything and then hope they don’t get corrupted, don’t get death threats, etc. Anarchists and Libertarians are the peer-to-peer programmers of new societies. Peer-to-peer is hard. Very hard. Very very hard. The protocols are simple, but “securing” them, making them robust, and also making them “scale,” that is, not grind to a halt as the number of users increases, is where things get hard. (It is also easy to make them secure and scalable while solving the wrong problem.)
Those Anarchists and Libertarians and all others that are trying to design societies that work for actual humans that exist today (warts and all) and that are not as oppressive, dangerous and wasteful as the hierarchical societies we do have today are our friends. They are doing important work, and it is past time our societies should open spaces within themselves for experimentation with their ideas. That is what the Basic Income pilots sprouting out everywhere mean: spaces for a new story, for that drive for liberation and self-determination that is at the core of anarchism and of libertarianism. As when you have your basic level of income guaranteed in a trade society, you are now less oppressed by the economic hierarchy, by the rich people who want to use you, “employ” you for their own undemocratic ends.
So now perhaps you can see outside of the prejudice of “anarchy means chaos and the absence of reason” and perhaps I have even touched on the “libertarians are all naive idiots” theme. If you’re interested, you may then be able to peruse anarchist and libertarian writings to figure out what our peer-to-peer programmers have been attempting.