“In this century, the human race faces, once again, the virulent reign of the State—of the State now armed with the fruits of man’s creative powers, confiscated and perverted to its own aims. The last few centuries were times when men tried to place constitutional and other limits on the State, only to find that such limits, as with all other attempts, have failed. Of all the numerous forms that governments have taken over the centuries, of all the concepts and institutions that have been tried, none has succeeded in keeping the State in check. The problem of the State is evidently as far from solution as ever. Perhaps new paths of inquiry must be explored, if the successful, final solution of the State question is ever to be attained.”
~ Murray N. Rothbard, “Anatomy of the State”
“All experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
~ The United States Declaration of Independence
Obviously our ultimate goal is a free, prosperous, healthy, and loving society, but how do we get there? As said in the introduction (if it’s important, it bears repeating), in order to understand HOW, we must first understand the WHAT and WHY. So let’s begin with explaining why most people automatically think of terrible things at the very mention of the word “Anarchism”.
THE DEMONIZATION OF ANARCHISM
“For those who thought they joined a club, wherein Anarchy serves as some personality trait that sets a person apart in their identity, they’ll soon find themselves disappointed and disillusioned. Anarchism isn’t an active hobby, personality trait, club, or attribute. It’s not a solution to anything. It is not a lifestyle, nor is it a rubric for how to live. It isn’t an answer to your everyday problems. Anarchy is the lack of a problem. It is the lack of someone trying to use the threat of death to make you do what they want.”
~ Amanda Rachwitz (Strunmah Fahliil), “Anarchy is Not a VIP Pass, Not a Church, Not an Identity”
The philosophy of Voluntarism/ Anarchism is an ancient concept that has always been purposefully demonized by the “powers that be” so as to deter people from ever giving it sincere thought or study. Why? Given the prior analysis showing government to be an institution based on violence, interested first and foremost in its own power and control, it’s easy to understand why the liberating philosophy of Anarchism has been targeted. It is often linked in mainstream culture with “violence and chaos”, with the cliché image of young, masked desperados dressed in black, smashing windows firmly etched in to fears of society. The mainstream narrative reduces a richly liberating concept to a marginalized parody due to the fact that Voluntarism/ Anarchism threatens the status-quo and the self-granted authority of the State by asking it to rationally justify itself and prove that it is legitimate, which of course it fails to do in every way under thorough examination (addressed in the sections on “Government”, “Statism & Authoritarianism”, and “Voting”).
“When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find that far more, and far more hideous, crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.”
~ C.P. Snow
Throughout history, Anarchists have always just been people who wanted the freedom to live without the oppression of mandatory government, to live peacefully on their own, to live without being robbed, forced, or brutalized by government. But despite the numerous attempts to put the Anarchist ideal in to practice, notably in the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the embryonic experiments were ruthlessly crushed by government and institutions with a vested interest in supporting the State. Due to the State’s refusal to simply allow free and unregulated sovereignty to people (even Native American tribal sovereignty is only partial), throughout history, some anarchists (much like governments targeting foreign countries) have felt that the only way to speed up the collapse of the oppressive State and bring about a regime change was to go on the attack. They felt justified with a sense of retribution in opposing State Terrorism with acts of individual terrorism against agents or property of the State, as well as the owners and products of state-controlled industry. To them, as the saying goes, “Terrorism is the war of the poor and oppressed, and war is the terrorism of the rich and privileged.” They contested that the force which maintained the existing order MUST be overthrown by force. Given the EXTREMELY arduous conditions of those times- limited technology and communication, limited education, virtually no social mobility, highly regulated and distorted public information, overt socially accepted sexism and racism, religious domination, caught in the crossfire of wars- it’s understandable that people, driven to desperation, would lash out utilizing violence in the absence of effective, non-violent methods to defend against the tyranny of the aristocracy.
The anarchists of the nineteenth-century were undoubtedly driven by the tradition of revolutionary violence forged by the “success” of both the American and French Revolutions. From a causal perspective, history clearly illustrates that when disinherited and disillusioned masses have been conditioned to revere violence, the responsibility intrinsically lies not with the masses, but with the pitiless ruling classes who have conditioned them in this direction for centuries. The aristocracy and bourgeoisie, upheld in some cases by the last vestiges of the feudal system, are primarily responsible for fueling the wheels of influence with the romanticized fetishism of violence throughout all of society. They’ve coerced hundreds of millions of impoverished youth to undergo military training and pour themselves out on to the battlefields. They are responsible for dividing the entire world into nationalist camps, inherently at odds with each other. They have endorsed, exacerbated, and profited from belligerent warfare for generations. They have corrupted the very spirit of humanity through a mechanized disciplinary system in schools, churches, factories, barracks, and prisons.
“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”
~ Victor Hugo, “Les Misérables”
“If countless numbers of the disinherited and the disillusioned have been brought to take up those very arms which were legally imposed on them against their own private “enemy at home “- the ruling class- the responsibility Iies less with them than with their pitiless masters, who have educated them in this direction for centuries past.
It is the bourgeoisie, too, who, upheld everywhere by, the last vestiges of the feudal system, has spread the romantic ideology of violence right down to the lowest strata of the lower middle classes and proletariat. They are the ones who, ever since the French Revolution, have forced the sons of the poor to undergo military training by the millions and who poured them out into the trenches in 1914. They have divided the entire world into national camps, ready to tear each other to pieces at any moment. They have developed scientific warfare, beginning with the powder and shot which was used against the armour and the castle-walls of the nobility, until they have now come to the point of throwing gas and incendiary bombs on defenseless crowds, women, children, sick people, animals. They have corrupted the people’s spirit by a disciplinary system unworthy of human beings, in factories, barracks, prisons, etc. They have introduced, with the Church’s consent, warships, cruisers, submarines, bombers and military airships, and have carried the art of murder into the very stratosphere. And so it is the bourgeoisie, helped always by those representing the ancient spirit of the nobility and clergy, who have given the proletariat a taste for using these tools of destruction, encouraging them to employ them more and more in civil and revolutionary wars against their real social enemy, the ruling class. If the white working-class and the coloured peoples believe in the efficacy of violence to further their own noble cause, the blame must be put on the international bourgeoisie, who, what is more, are still attacking all who fight for justice and liberty with the most fiendish weapons.”
~ Bart De Ligt, “The Conquest of Violence: An Essay of War and Revolution”
The Spanish and Russian Revolutions demonstrated the last great outbursts of violence by anarchists on a large scale. Since World War II, the anarchist movement, inspired by Proudhon, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and de Ligt, has become ever more non-violent and constructive. The majority of anarchists understand that not only do “the means influence the ends”, but “the means are ends-in-the-making”. Violence always results in more violence. In the victim, violence creates lingering resentment and hostility leading to either counter-violence, or trauma leading to further destructive behavior. In the perpetrator, violence encourages the habit of brutality, enforcing pathological justifications, and a knee-jerk readiness to resort to further violence. A violent revolution in the name of Anarchism is therefore self-defeating and demands the impossible when attempting to bring about any fundamental transformation in human relations.
In recent times, due to the increasing ability to more easily communicate, innovate, and thereby live outside the regulations of the system, the tendency toward violence by Anarchists/ Voluntarists has virtually disappeared, returning to the core principles of non-coercive free association. In fact, looking at the history of riots, from general outrage due to police brutality (the L.A. Riots and Baltimore Riots to name a few modern American examples) to the drunken sports-related frenzy of the mob, these violent demonstrations are far more likely to be done by those who aren’t anarchists. Anarchists, by comparison to Statists, are extremely peaceful and just want to live freely in cooperative harmony.
Many Statists (who are all too often woefully unfamiliar with the history of Anarchism) proclaim that any time people try to live without government, it turns in to mayhem! Yet they never have any legitimate examples to reference since the notion is a complete fabrication. There are, in fact, numerous unincorporated areas that exist with little-or-no government and smaller, predominantly peaceful, societies (some with modern comforts) with no government. Yet there are literally MILLIONS of examples of conflict, violence, oppression, injustice, and murder which have occurred as a direct result of the belief in “authority”. Perhaps Statists will point to a once-government-less example like Somalia, but violence in these types of circumstances are due to people fighting over “who gets to be the new authority,” which , of course, is not Voluntarism/ Anarchism.
Like any ideology, Anarchism has its share of psychologically imbalanced or desperate individuals who seek to channel their personal problems into some kind of apocalyptic revolution. But unlike other social philosophies, these are exceptions. The great majority of anarchists are driven by a voluntary vision of freedom, love, and peace. For this ideal, they have often been prepared to give up their privileges and comforts, living on the margins of society in a state of permanent protest and open rebellion.
The fact is that violence by anarchists pales in comparison to the atrocities committed by Statists, but both stem from the same reasons:
- the developmental cultural conditioning of violent Statist upbringings
- the inability to maturely and respectfully deal with distress (as addressed in the section on “Self-Work”)
- lack of broader perspective and intellectual efficacy to resolve problems through higher education (also addressed in the section on “Self-Work)
- lack of clear, non-violent social avenues through which to effect transformative social reform (addressed in the sections on “Government” and “Voting”)
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
~ John F. Kennedy
The famous anarchist Peter Kropotkin was repulsed by any “terrorist acts”, yet he saw these acts with compassion and empathy, as the inevitable outcome of oppressive social conditions, with the people having lost confidence by any other means. In correspondence to a friend, he wrote, “Personally, I hate these explosions, but I cannot stand as a judge to condemn those who are driven to despair.” In Kropotkin’s commemoration to the Paris Commune of 1871, he recalls a firsthand account:
“On March 18, 1871, the people of Paris rose against a despised and detested government, and proclaimed the city independent free, belonging to itself. This overthrow of the central power took place without the usual stage effects of revolution, without the firing of guns, without the shedding of blood upon barricades. When the armed people came out into the streets, the rulers fled away, the troops evacuated the town, the civil functionaries hurriedly retreated to Versailles carrying everything they could with them. The government evaporated like a pond of stagnant water in a spring breeze, and on the nineteenth the great city of Paris found herself free from the impurity which had defiled her, with the loss of scarcely a drop of her children’s blood.
However, a few days later the French government rallied its armies against the barricaded uprising and, without any mercy or diplomacy, mercilessly and indiscriminately killed over 20,000 men, women, and children.
After having shut in the people of Paris and closed all means of exit, the Versailles government let loose soldiers upon them; soldiers brutalized by drink and barrack life, who had been publicly told to make short work of “the wolves and their cubs.” To the people it was said:
“You shall perish, whatever you do! If you are taken with arms in your hands, death! If you use them, death! If you beg for mercy, death! Whichever way you turn, right left, back, forward, up, down; death! You are not merely outside the law, you are outside humanity. Neither age nor sex shall save you and yours. You shall die, but first you shall taste the agony of your wife, your sister, your mother, your sons and daughters, even those in the cradle! Before your eyes the wounded man shall be taken out of the ambulance and hacked with bayonets or knocked down with the butt end of a rifle. He shall be dragged living by his broken leg or bleeding arm and flung like a suffering, groaning bundle of refuse into the gutter. Death! Death! Death!”
And after this mad orgy, these piles of corpses, this wholesale extermination, came the petty revenge, the cat o’nine tails, the irons in the ship’s hold, the blows and insults of the jailers, the semistarvation, all the refinements of cruelty. Can the people forget these base deeds?”
In the end, Kropotkin saw a justification for violence only as a last resort in self-defense in the absence of any non-violent alternatives. Kropotkin’s conclusion mirrors a sentiment shared with one of the most influential activists of the 20th century:
“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.”
~ John Lennon
All things considered, from theory, practice, history, and the present day: Voluntarism/ Anarchism is THE most peaceful means of social cooperation.
WHAT ANARCHISM/ VOLUNTARISM IS
“Anarchism recognises only the relative significance of ideas, institutions, and social conditions. It is, therefore not a fixed, self enclosed social system, [with answers to all the various multifaceted problems] but rather a definite trend in the historical development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to broaden its scope and to affect wider circles in manifold ways. For the Anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all capacities and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is interfered with by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown.”
~ Rudolph Rocker
Anarchism is a social inevitability. Notice that Libertarian ideals, which Anarchism represents in its fullest, continue to shift the sociopolitical dialogue further towards individual rights, generally gaining ground incrementally throughout history (certain setbacks aside) shaping the world as we know it in a rapidly increasing trend. Notice that the general political trends throughout history in principle have gradually been getting closer and closer to the individualism of Anarchism; progressing from Feudalism, to Dictatorship, to Fascist Autocracy, to Republic, to Communism, to Federalism, to Democracy, and now to modern day Libertarianism and Agorism. Now more than ever, people are beginning to free themselves from the unquestioned pigeonholing of religion and authoritarian programming in numerous ways.
The growth towards decentralization and freedom is seen furthermore in developing modern trends such as Tor, I2P, Mesh Networking, ever more sophisticated encryption, Bitcoin, torrenting, the Silk Road, OpenBazaar, open-source 3D printing, Defense Distributed, and the increasing demand for independent alternative energy systems. Rather than initiating violent confrontations with the State (which only instigates more repression), anarchists strive, akin to concepts of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Gustav Landauer, to make the State and other oppressive institutions obsolete by founding new innovative methods of commerce, economics, and influencing culture through personal empowerment. This is the essence of the tactic of Agorism.
As a movement, Anarchism has only occasionally actualized on a large scale during times of social upheaval, yet its principles have gone a long way in creating and influencing alternative institutions, as well as transforming everyday life of many individuals. Anarchism has historically achieved popularity throughout various parts of the world and continues to this day. For example: In India, the Saroodaya movement strived to develop a decentralized society of self-sufficient, autonomous village republics. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 resembled the Anarcho-Syndicalist tradition, fighting for self-determining workers’ councils against Soviet Russia’s Communism led by Stalin’s regime. There are numerous examples (which would require an entire book on their own) but none quite so revealing as the “New Left”, a Western political movement throughout all walks of life in Europe and America in the 60’s and 70’s which stood for participatory democracy (instead of representative democracy), decentralization, workers’ control, self-managing sovereignty, and freedom from the constraints of coercive conformity – all of which are central Anarchist themes.
Even though Anarchism has no specific “class base”, its universal and self-evident truths have appealed to the most brilliant minds and remarkable workers around the world. In the last century alone, Anarchism has found its most famous proponents across all classes: within the aristocracy like Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Tolstoy, in peasants like Proudhon and Goldman, and with landowners like Malatesta. In the post-modern era, Anarchism has found its strongest support among ‘white collar’ workers: students, activists, teachers, doctors, architects, entrepreneurs, artists, and other intellectuals. Anarchism is far more than a revolt of oppressed and underprivileged visionaries, but also an evolutionary transformation of the affluent who are not satisfied with the status quo of consumerism and spectating, and see the greater potential within society to become more prolific, loving, and conscious.
We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” ~ Henry Thoreau
Anarchism stands for several things:
- direct, individual, voluntary autonomy instead of remote, coercive bureaucracies
- the organic community instead of imposed mass-society
- the harmonious integration of town and country instead of rural deprivation and urban anomie
- and, fundamentally, relationships inspired by trust and solidarity instead of social predation rooted in self-interest and fear
Anarchists recognize that there are many rooms in the communal house of sovereignty and therefore support a diversity of movements which do not legitimize government and work in an anti-authoritarian direction, regardless of which particular branch of Anarchism suits the community (so quit your in-fighting, fellow anarchists, or we’ll turn this evolutionary bus around so fast it’ll make your head spin!). Anarchists avoid power pyramids and instead develop networks of co-operation. They create alternative institutions: free schools which encourage a multifaceted approach, learning by desire and responding to individual needs (covered in the section on “Education”), farms and factories founded in the principles of self-management and workers’ control, as well as housing associations and cultural communes that pool resources to varying degrees, trading skills and conviviality. Anarchists work to develop creative counter-cultures which reconcile the seeming rifts between science and art, reason and imagination, as well as the foundations of mind and body. They are rooted in the here and now, yet hold a visionary gaze toward the future, effectively streamlining and innovating their lives to run as healthily, sustainably, and consciously as possible.
By changing oneself, people transform the character of social relationships. Since the consensus delusion of “government’ is largely founded on personal opinion, as Godwin and Tolstoy observed, the most expedient way to wither it away is when enough people recognize that it is both harmful and unnecessary, and thereby withdraw their support (as is already happening more and more). This process may be long and gradual, but a free and voluntary society can only be achieved when society consists of well-informed people (hence the primary necessity for Self-Work). Liberation can only occur when individuals have liberated themselves. Hence, Anarchism is not necessarily for everyone, and cannot be forced upon anyone by its very nature.
“That government is best which governs not at all’; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
The only “laws”, if such they can be called, which Anarchism upholds are the “Laws of Nature” which are self-evident to sustain the ecological systems upon which humanity depends upon to survive (discussed in the section on “Environmentalism”).
Nature does not make “mistakes” (although the koala is suspect…). Therefore, identifying the accelerating trend of complexifying consciousness throughout the entire history of evolution points us to a crucial aspect regarding a unifying purpose. In light of the trend toward accelerated, complexifying consciousness, Anarchism sees humanity as an extension of nature, not opposed to nature, generally with an added unique capacity for self-reflection, higher knowledge, and spectacular rapid creativity. With this remarkable array of abilities, coupled with the natural proclivity towards social unity, Anarchism is capable and confident that humanity’s creativity, intelligence, and self-reflective empathy will communally coalesce in to a natural harmony of interests. Anarchism rejects authoritarian organization and dominance hierarchy, but not organization and hierarchy, per se, since both are inherent to nature. Natural organization (also known as “Spontaneous Order”) dictates how elements interact in balance to find a dynamic equilibrium. This aspect of nature operates on all levels, dictated by the Laws of Nature; our understanding of which comprises the Natural Sciences, including: physics, biology, chemistry, geology, the atmospheric sciences, oceanography, and astronomy.
Hierarchy is simply a model used to distinguish by contextual importance or ability, and has two primary sub-categories: “Dominance hierarchies” and “Empowerment hierarchies”, both of which are naturally occurring for organizational purposes, but not equal. In its most basic terms, Dominance Hierarchies use violence and coercion to dictate order of resources and control others. It is a “Service to Self” oriented worldview, essentially treating others as either resources or competition at the bottom line. We see this throughout the animal kingdom, from fish, to birds, to chimpanzees, one of humanity’s closest relatives. Empowerment Hierarchies, on the other hand, prefer to see things as a “Wholearchy” where compassion, non-coercive cooperation, and empowerment mutually strengthens the inherent interdependence within social groups. This is a more “Service to Others” oriented worldview which not only benefits both self AND others simultaneously, but also has an inherent respect and balance for the environment upon which it depends. We see examples of this with bee and ant colonies, the cells and organs in our bodies, and Bonobo monkeys- humanity’s other closest relative. Since humanity has tended much more toward Dominance Hierarchies, it’s no wonder that many people see the terms “hierarchy” and “order” with an oppressive, rather than empowering, natural connotation.
But then, even if all individuals lead themselves, who “leads” society? Depending on whether in a Dominance or Empowerment Hierarchy, the distinctions of contextual importance and ability which distinguish the hierarchy naturally inherently bestow a dynamic of power which is then construed as either “Authority” in the dominance model, where authority gets to boss people around, and “Leadership” in the empowerment model, where cooperation to empowering leadership is voluntary, seen as advise, and people retain their autonomy. Also, people freely have the right to opt-out and leave a voluntary, society if they disagree with it. So, essentially, the worst thing that could happen from no longer having violent thugs (government) violently ruling over people is that circumstances don’t work out and the community decides it wants to re-instate a government. The worst thing that could happen is that things stay the same (which really says a lot, when you think about it). So what’s the danger in striving for an empowering, voluntary society and allowing it to happen?
Discussion of social order implicitly raises the ever-shifting consideration of “Human Nature”. In Anarchist literature, there isn’t a consensus of what “Human Nature” is. Instead of discussing the philosophical distinctions throughout the many notables of Anachism – Godwin’s rational benevolence, Bakunin’s destructive energy, Stirner’s conscious egoism, and Kropotkin’s calm altruism – the overarching theme most Anarchists can all agree upon is the importance of Self-Work and Education, with great faith in the creative energies of humanity. After all, “Human Nature” is not a fixed essence, but a constant transformation to whatever degree we can embrace it. In terms of “Nature vs. Nurture”, Anarchism largely considers people both as products of their circumstance, but also having a varying capacity to change it and themselves, which is exponentially liberated when the burden of the State is removed and people are allowed to develop in creative and voluntary relations with others. While there are those with severe anti-social, violent personality disorders, often the conditions that create them come as a direct result of living in a sick society. However, there are ways of healing and co-existing with these rare conditions. Anarchism sees the accomplishments of society, and its potential capability to wisely overcome any obstacle, peacefully organizing itself with nature.
Ultimately, sovereign people must decide for themselves how to live. Therefore, it’s worth offering outlined glimpses of how a free society could organize based on the principles of sovereign self-management, free association, and solidarity. Let’s explore how this might apply in various aspects of society.
“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” ~ Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
The degree to which we are educated is the degree to which we are better able to improve the lives of ourselves, our friends, and the world. Compared to any other time in recorded history, we are remarkably privileged to have knowledge more easily accessible to those who want to learn. Think back in your life and consider how amazingly knowledge has improved your life. Due to its increase over time, we become more aware, savvy, strong, self-reliant, eloquent, helpful, and generally capable of navigating life with greater ease and insight. It is the cornerstone to the evolution of consciousness. Knowing this, one has to wonder why people wouldn’t voraciously strive to become as well-educated as possible throughout their lives!
Education is far more than school, it’s a lifelong process that never ends. Yet for many people, the word “education” has become synonymous with “school”, carrying the same dreaded associations: fear-based obedience and conformity, mind-numbing repetition, and the revolving door of bitter, underpaid teachers teaching bitter, uninterested children through a narrow, archaic, perfunctory curriculum. Going deeper, the educational system acts not as a pathway to an open horizon of inquiry, but a surreptitiously monitored and heavily regulated corridor where students are herded and corralled in to a governmentally-sanctioned inlet of inquiry. With such negative associations, it’s no wonder that the impetus to learn in many young adults, once let loose from the obligatory confines of academic institutions, becomes increasingly relegated to the margins of importance and enjoyment.
Anarchists understand that people are naturally inclined to learn, whether by inspiration or necessity, otherwise humanity wouldn’t have evolved. Since the dawn of our ancestors, we’ve self-educated, seeking to overcome obstacles, limitations, and make life better for ourselves WITHOUT government regulations and compulsory scholastic demands. While there are positive aspects to traditional schooling (not to throw the baby out with the bathwater), overall, Anarchism finds the mandatory, impersonal monotony which comprises much of the “standardized educational system” to be counterproductive to self-actualization. Anarchism sees it to be illiberal and immoral to coercively condition children against learning freely with the rhythms of their own intrinsic curiosity, intelligence, learning style, and proclivities, but, instead, simply for the sake of grades and approval from authority. In such a case, because the education does not stem from voluntary participation and inquiry, it’s often quickly forgotten. Education is best applied when designed to encourage voluntary, unabashed creativity, unyielding curiosity, critical thinking, and a worldly perspective- the opposite of what’s happening today.
“Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” ~ Plato
This liberated educational perspective is not some utopian fantasy, but is deeply rooted throughout history. One of the most historically notable and influential expressions of this is the Socratic Method, which was perhaps Socrates’ most important contribution to Western thought. It was originally “largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the Good and Justice. It was first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues. To solve a problem, it would be broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually distill the answer a person would seek. The influence of this approach is most strongly felt today in the use of the scientific method, in which hypothesis is the first stage. The development and practice of this method is one of Socrates’ most enduring contributions, and is a key factor in earning his mantle as the father of political philosophy, ethics or moral philosophy, and as a figurehead of all the central themes in Western philosophy.
To illustrate the use of the Socratic method; a series of questions are posed to help a person or group to determine their underlying beliefs and the extent of their knowledge. The Socratic method is a negative method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine one’s own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs.”
Much like the classical method of critical thinking via the Trivium (discussed in the section on “Self-Work”) which allows one to efficiently discern logical fallacies and question one’s beliefs and identity, it’s no wonder that the original essence of the Socratic Method has been greatly suppressed and co-opted to appease the prerogatives of a largely authoritarian, conformist society. A look in to the history of the American public educational system shows that the public education system is predicated upon meeting the needs of industrialism, and it’s very much the same around the world. It has harvested the minds of youth for generations, breaking down and conforming potential genius in to easily categorized economic commodities, stripping away creativity and independent thought. It overwhelms delicate minds with crippling amounts of homework which has been proven to be counterproductive and damaging in many ways to children (I’m sure the teachers don’t like it either, since it makes more work for them). It precariously places academic achievement over psychological health and personal expression, perpetuating developmental prejudices, dismissing the resulting depression, anxiety, disinterest, and anger as merely “teenage angst” or “ADHD”. Clearly this limited education system, established way back in the 1800’s, have proven to be in need of radical rethinking.
The future is changing in ways we cannot imagine, and in the 16 years it takes to raise a child, it will only continue to accelerate bringing about ever more unforeseeable challenges. The best way to overcome the challenges we face is to utilize creativity to its fullest potential to solve these issues. Anarchism seeks to fully support the individual’s totality of potential through nourishing their creative capacity and thinking outside the rigid confines of archaic traditions. To educate solely within the framework of a bygone era is like trying to drive a car forward by only looking at the rearview mirrors. To try and help a society using the same self-destructive culture that fuels the problems is, at best, nonsensical and counterproductive, and, at worst, insane. We owe children the best we can provide, and in order to do that, we need a massive change. On the whole, the State-run, industrially-inclined educational and professional training system is, in the words of Noam Chomsky, “a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.” To free ourselves of the political shackles acting as an anchor to human evolution requires that we fundamentally free ourselves of the mental shackles imposed upon us from childhood.
“To help [the child] understand the ways of authority and not be caught in the net of society is education.”
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
Thankfully, despite the trend of conventional public education, there have been an increasing amount of alternative schools throughout modern history, most notably beginning with “The Modern (Ferrer) Schools” in the early 20th century. Presently, there are hundreds of alternative schools moving toward the ideals of Anarchism which utilize more expansive educational modalities to fit the idiosyncratic, holistic needs of both parents and children. To name a few:
– Contemplative Education which combines Western Scholarship with Eastern Wisdom.
– Integral Education which facilitates the interdisciplinary integration of body-mind-spirit, valuing the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, creative, somatic, and social dimensions of human potentiality.
– Team Education which combines community service, personal exploration, wilderness adventure, and team building ropes courses.
These schools and methods are simply a few examples of many which illustrate the profound and prolific alternative avenues which could more easily proliferate through the decentralization, streamlining, and holistic innovation of Anarchism through society’s conception of education. Fundamental subjects like Math, Science, and Language can be introduced to students in ways that are appealing and applicable, though not compulsory. This places the sole responsibility on the educators to appeal to the child’s interests and needs, while caring for its natural self rather than repressing the child through coercion and condemnation to conform. This method not only exponentially increases the child’s desire to learn, but also mitigates the harmful psychological byproducts caused by the variations of authoritarian child abuse.
The harmful psychological side effects are worth briefly mentioning, since the consequences of education are not only intellectual, but deeply psychological as well. Among the many possible side-effects of coercive childcare (which is an oxymoron) during the formative years is a condition termed “Narcissistic Wounding”. Those who suffer from “Narcissistic Wounding” are raised within a parental/ guidance system that is, to varying degrees and for whatever reason, largely involved in getting its own needs met, with the emotional needs of the guardianship often superseding those of the child. The children in such “narcissistic family systems” try to earn love, attention, and approval by satisfying their guardians under threat of condemnation, neglect, or punishment, subsequently suppressing and subjugating their own needs, feelings, and emotional expression. This chronic emotional suppression developed early on creates numerous consequences later on in life, such as dysfunctional relationships with little emotional depth, as well as repressed sadness, anger, and anxiety creating psychosomatic issues later on in life, and, if heavily compounded on a sensitive psyche, an inability to healthily function in life due to post-traumatic stress disorders. Not only do these children have difficulty talking about their feelings, but they have difficulty even knowing how they feel since this trauma triggers a chronic defense mechanism known as “armoring” which numbs against repressed painful emotions. These children often become either physically disembodied and/or emotionally disassociated (as we see with many adults today), and are subsequently forced to take pharmaceuticals at an alarming rate. As these children grow with the habit of marginalizing their emotions, the discarded emotions fester beneath a mask of “well-adjusted” productivity, and as they grow in to adults, eventually the unconscious inner world spills over in to the conscious reality as behavioral pathologies, like neurosis, chronic anxiety, depression, codependent relationships, or they begin to take their toll on the body as chronic illness, ulcers, grinding of teeth, tight muscles, poor posture, drug abuse, and weight gain resulting in heart disease- the leading cause of death in America.
In summary, the importance of educational reform, which implies our relationship to children, goes much deeper than one might imagine for all walks of life. By emphasizing the importance of the sovereign, aesthetic, somatic, and environmental experience in our education, we rekindle the healthy connections, both within and without, that have been disembodied and estranged throughout the process of industrialized academic assimilation. Insight in to the multiple intelligences and learning styles (covered in the section on “Self-Work”), combined with recent studies on the numerous beneficial effects of alternative healing modalities like meditation, especially in schools, shed light on the transformative potential to be found in this deep reservoir of untapped human potential that must be vigorously explored in order to expediently reform the methods by which our children are nurtured and shape the future.
“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.” ~ H.G. Wells
Many statists don’t really care about education though (perhaps in theory, but often not in practice) and their genuine, deeper concerns rest in their possessions and desire to feel safe At the core of the justification, Statists will attempt to rationalize the necessity for government to exercise ultimate control and regulation in the economic sphere, to ensure a just system of distribution, to maintain peace between rivaling interests, to settle disputes, and care for its disadvantaged citizens. In the words of Noam Chomsky on Anarchism: “Anarchism is a tendency in human development that seeks to identify structures of hierarchy, domination, authority, and others that constrain human development, and then it seeks to subject them to a very reasonable challenge: Justify yourself. Demonstrate that you’re legitimate. […] And if you can’t meet that challenge, which is the usual case, the structure should be dismantled. Not just deconstructed, but reconstructed from below.”
Let’s deconstruct and reconstruct these flimsy and illegitimate pretenses for necessitating government and show how they could be accomplished in a Voluntary society just as well, if not better.
This efficacy of the State in regulating the wellbeing of economics has fallen woefully wanting, repeating throughout history for various reasons, most of which has to do with the fraudulent, debt-based foundation of the monetary system and the subsequent systematic subversion caused by private banks, stock market trade, and other private interests (previously discussed in the section on “Government”). The destructive financial and resource inefficiency (a nice way of saying “despotic opulence”) of the State, exemplified by the lavish personal spending by politicians, their security, the Pentagon, frivolous global funding, its police spending, Military-Industrial-Congressional complex, and Prison-Industrial complex has proven itself to be invariably greater than its protective potential, creating far greater harm than help in maintaining financial fairness and stability. The ridiculously wasteful nature of government, evidenced by the illegitimate fraudulence of the entire financial system, the poor oversight and mismanagement of finances has allowed for over $11 TRILLION to go unaccounted for (approximately $35,000 for ever man, woman, and child in the US), all illustrates that government is parasitic, unqualified, unethical, and dishonest in regulating economics, and is therefor more than a danger- it is completely unnecessary.
“Workers should be the masters of their own industrial fate. Not tools rented by employers, not directed by state authorities.” ~John Dewey
So what would an economy built on the principles of truth, fairness, and sustainability look like? What is the model? From where is it emerging? How do we strategize to fully implement it? After all, simple alterations have been proven never to solve these problems. The current “solution” (in a nutshell) is to print more money, which leads to the downward spiral of debt, inflation, and the devaluation of currency. Under the current system, if we hit the economic brake, unemployment and inequality will continue to increase. If we hit the economic accelerator, we’ll continue irreparably destroying ecosystems and run out of planet. In a situation that seems like a double-bind, amid the tangle (a veritable Gordian Knot) of economic, social and ecological interests and challenges, Anarchism is acutely aware of the great effort required to design, communicate, streamline, coordinate, and agree upon detailed social policies and programs. Therefore, considering the mistakes of the past and the brightest vision of the future, there are various valuable initiatives and principles which can serve as a guideline for a rapid transition to a just, sustainable, and prosperous economic future.
1. Replacing secretive, corporate control of key financial and economic decisions with completely transparent, community based, democratically accountable institutions and processes.
2. Reprioritizing sustainable local production and distribution systems, especially in relation to finance, energy, and food, instead of being dependent and indentured to global corporate oligarchies.
Relevant Links: http://www.intervale.org/
3. Implementing an immediate and sweeping shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy systems, prioritizing energy efficiency and management measures needed to conclusively understand and reduce the likelihood of runaway climate change and ecological instability.
4. Shifting developmental priorities from the consumption of energy and materials toward environmental sustainability, education, health, and wellbeing.
Through these kinds of alternative systems, production, distribution, and consumption is organized through coordinating groups at local, regional, and even larger levels, seeking to harmoniously balance regional differences. Though this may seem utopian to pessimists, anarchists, taking one modern example, point to the history of highly complex coordination and agreements among international airlines and expansive railways reached through compromise, understanding, and negotiation, without a centralized authority imposing its will. It’s against the principles of anarchism to impose a “one size fits all” system of exchange, but there are many ways to conduct business and wisely reconfigure social structures, and seen in the links above. In comparison to economic systems of past and present, it’s evident that there none are quite so prolific as those that would flourish utilizing the principles of Anarchism, as evidenced by influence of Anarchism further spreading gradually, but increasingly throughout mainstream.
“State communism and international capitalism are failing to achieve their stated aims. The New Left and the growing Green movement have all taken up the classic anarchist demands of a decentralized economy with small-scale units and a harmonious balance between field and factory. Anarchism extolled the virtues of ‘ Small is Beautiful’ before it became a popular slogan, and has long stressed the benefits of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. It has always put human beings before things, and seen no value in economic growth for its own sake. As the twenty-first century approaches, anarchists are no longer idealists swimming against the economic current. Indeed, their recommendations may well prove prerequisites to survival.” ~ Peter Marshall
In terms of social organization, aligned with the principles of sovereignty and decentralization, anarchists encourage an organic and voluntary grouping of people based on cultural, geographical, and ecological regions. They work in harmony with ‘bioregions’, areas shaped by natural boundaries with their own natural ecology, rather than the arbitrary lines on a map drawn by a bureaucrat. Whether cosmopolitan by nature or necessity, given the inevitability of international interests, Anarchists would like to go beyond the narrow ties of tribe, class, race, and local landbase. They see no virtue in xenophobic nationalism. However, Anarchism is not opposed to a nation comprising a community of communities based on the aforementioned principles, as it would be seen as a natural part of the ever-widening, inherent interconnectedness of humanity.
In a voluntary society of free-association, no centralized authority would exist to impose its orders with coercion. With the disbanding of the State, society would most likely organize into decentralized federations of autonomous districts comprised of sovereign communities. The fundamental unit of society varies depending on the collective importance, for example: Godwin’s idea of the parish; Proudhon’s idea of the workers’ association; and Bakunin and Kropotkin’s idea of the commune. These would coalesce not as a hierarchical pyramid, but as a net, with the communities forming the knots. Free from the centralization of the State, along with its imposed authority and inequalities, society and its people would thereby be able to grow more befittingly with the immediate needs of life, unencumbered by endless bureaucratic restrictions. The social solidarity of collective interests, coupled with the advantages of a free and communal life, will ensure social cohesion and order.
While there are also various economic arrangements for a voluntary society, some anarchists like Malatesta accept, under certain circumstances, that some forms of collectivism are befitting for a transitional period. Mutualism, voluntarism, collectivism, and others are not incompatible, since they provide different means for the same end. It is up to each community to freely decide the kind of system it implements, which, of course, depends on the society’s degree of economic development, ecological conditions, and social consciousness. However, regardless of the overarching particularities, all these models of society entail that decision are made in local general assemblies of sovereign individuals. Anarchism recognizes that to maintain a system of representative democracy instead of direct democracy, is to perpetuate the perils of parliamentarianism, inviting ease of corruption and crushing public initiative.
Historically in practice, anarchists have utilized various systems, at times simultaneously, to create a free and equal society. For instance, during the Spanish Revolution, collectives emerged during the early period of the civil war. It then rapidly developed in to a type of communism, collectively pooling the land and creating common storehouses for supplies. Based on solidarity and mutual aid, the collective included all who wished to join, whether producers or not. Money was collectively abolished at times and any surplus food and goods were exchanged with nearby collectives. Meanwhile, in the nearby highly industrialized region of Catalunya, many factories were organized and run by workers’ committees, retaining the wage system and changing managers instead in to “advisors”. This surprisingly resulted in a functionally diversified form of economic collaboration.
These collectives demonstrate that workers, resources, farms, and factories can be successfully operated through the principles of self-ownership and workers’ control, not by increasing wages. Many people in Catalunya were astounded by how factory production increased and how many public services improved, showing no discord between liberty and efficiency, proving George Orwell wrong when he defended the “repressive apparatus” of authoritarianism, “Unless there is some unpredictable change in human nature, liberty and efficiency must pull in opposite directions.” Thankfully, some far-fetched “unpredictable change” is unnecessary when, instead, inspiration, pride, and purpose is nurtured when encouraging people to voluntarily participate at work and the overall decision-making. This new transformation of social organization was merely a start, but the rapid shifting of circumstances proved to be sufficient for growing in the direction which fostered of a deeper change in human nature, through all levels of society. Even though collective decisions took longer than some “authority” issuing orders, inevitably the decisions and procedures were far better implemented since they were clearly understood, and everyone affected felt involved, committed, and meaningful. This Spanish example, along with others throughout history, serve to refute the misunderstanding that anarchists are against organization and progress. While they are certainly antithetical to hierarchical and centralized organization, they understand the legitimacy of organization reached through negotiation and fair, mutual agreement.
As would be expected, some individualists may prefer to remain aloof from all social organization, which is their just and sovereign prerogative so long as they do not infringe upon the well-being of others or the environment. In the case of Catalunya during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, smaller, private farmers who wished to remain independent and uninvolved peacefully coexisted alongside the collectives. However, the vast majority of anarchists found they worked most efficiently and enjoyably within voluntary associations, maintaining small and functional workforces which comprised at the greater network. Whether social or secluded, nowadays, with the technological capacities granted by technological and environmental innovations (see the “Eco-friendly Solutions” in the section on “Environmentalism”), coupled with the sustainability and oversight of environmental consciousness, Anarchism would provide a bountiful, far more healthy standard of living the likes of which would bring about a new Renaissance!
The question most proponents of authority raise in terms of work is, “Who will do the dirty work if nobody if forced to? In fact, why should anyone bother to work at all?” Aside from the fact that this question says more about the questioner than the principles of Voluntarism, this relies upon the supposition that only coercion, economic or otherwise, can motivate people to participate in work and fair trade.
Anarchism has numerous means of incentivizing tasks, many of which transform “work” in to play, social bonding through mutual purpose, and creative expression. People able to do work that might seem unenjoyable to others would be revered, compensated, and deeply appreciated when the work is socially useful and worthwhile. Where work isn’t attractive, and where machines are unable to handle the task, there would inevitably be enough good-spirited, community-minded people willing to share the work. After all, Anarchism emphasizes that in a free society, mutual aid based on morality and solidarity would naturally develop, providing an individual and collective sense of reciprocity, trust, camaraderie, and satisfaction. There would also be an underlying moral incentive of social approval for people who helped others, and disapproval for those who tried to reap the benefits of the collective without contributing justly.
Going deeper, the discussion of “work” goes well beyond “material vs. moral” incentives since the very nature of labor would radically change in a voluntary society. Anarchism promotes efficiency, therefore negating useless toil, leaving only work that is necessary. Furthermore, since Anarchism strives to allow the individual to make greater use of their mental and physical abilities, the division of labor would subsequently be voluntary and limited which further emphasizes the subtraction of the superfluous. This streamlining of labor would also lend itself to more leisure and a greater, more prolific variety of personal expression which makes both life and work far more fulfilling and exciting! This would help balance one’s contributions to the needs of society while caring for their own individual needs as well.
But what about “laziness”? Some people think laziness is inherent to humanity, completely missing out on the context. Many people find little pleasure in work, and the explanation why can be distilled to 2 basic reasons. Either A.) the person is depressed and unmotivated, often due to a unmet personal needs, and/or B.) the activity in question is not in alignment with their natural proclivities.
“There is really no such thing as laziness. What we call a lazy man is generally a square man in a round hole. That is, the right man in the wrong place. And you will always find that when a fellow is in the wrong place, he will be inefficient or shiftless. For so-called laziness and a good deal of inefficiency are merely unfitness, misplacement. If you are compelled to do the thing you are unfitted for by your inclinations or temperament, you will be inefficient at it; if you are forced to do work you are not interested in, you will be lazy at it.” ~ Alexander Berkman
“The modern proverb “Use it or lose it” is very wise. If we don’t exercise our muscles, they waste away. If we don’t exercise our minds, they begin to close. If we don’t use our God-given gifts, we become depressed and dam up the flow of life energy, which is meant to fill our lives and bring us into full creative bloom.” ~ Joan Borysenko, Ph. D
We live in an age of innovation where abundance is easily attained and forced labor is detrimental to individual and social health. When individuals have the opportunity and support to actualize their full potential, balancing labor with leisure, without the stress imposed by rigid hierarchical authoritarianism, people are able to freely undertake the tasks which best suit them, and are willing to help out with tasks that serve the basic needs and comforts of community. This inherently ensures health and well-being to all levels of society.
JUSTICE AND DEFENSE
The next justification for government is the protection of its citizens from all threats, both foreign and domestic. However, injustices on innocent people far outweigh any protection it’s provided, especially given its continuous police brutality, committing war crimes and funding war crimes on innocent populations all around the world, the United States FBI funding, encouraging, and molding underprivileged, mentally unstable people in to potential terrorists in order to arrest them, incompetence in humanely helping mentally unstable civilians and soldiers resulting in countless deaths, the convoluted and purposefully obfuscated legalese comprising law, the corruption of courts and judiciary elections, incarceration for business and judicial profiteering, and the network of spy agencies- NSA, CIA, FBI, DIA, Homeland Security, Mossad, MI5, KGB, INTERPOL to name a few- freely collecting and infiltrating personal information with little, if any, oversight or regulation.
Rationalizing its inherent, self-consuming violence and subjugation, the common assumption is that a government protects against rampant domestic crime. Interestingly enough, in one of the largest cities in the world, the New York Police Department stopped patrolling the streets after a vengeful attack on police officers. In the words of Justin King, “something interesting happened: nothing. The city didn’t erupt into riots, there is no reported crime wave, super villains have not taken over the streets of Gotham”. Perhaps society isn’t so inherently evil after all! Furthermore, government purports to protect against large-scale, militarized invasion. However, The State is not essential to the protection of society from threats, foreign or domestic, for a number of reasons:
1.) Notice that it has always been government that does the invading and killing, sending the young and poor to die for the rich elite.
2.) Centralized authority incentivizes a takeover by another large-scale militarized force due to the ease of social assimilation once defeating the central authority. The structure of a centralized state is so rigid, with everyone so dependent on centralized lifelines, that once the heart is pierced, the rest of the social body soon falls, like in the instance the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, where the whole island chain fell once the Queen of Hawaii was intimidated to surrender under threat of force, trapped in her house essentially by an American coup. In a decentralized, stateless society, an invading force would be a faced with constant, unpredictable moving targets with no possibility of checkmate to the central nucleus.
3.) A diverse nation comprised of decentralized communities who are free to utilize military-grade weaponry would present a dizzyingly multifaceted defense, utilizing attrition with great tactical advantage of terrain and would therefore be formidably difficult to conquer, especially when essential supply lines are cut off to an invading force. As examples of a less militarized guerrilla force strategically defeating a greater one in asymmetric warfare, we need only look back to the Vietnam War and Bay of Pigs for modern examples. In the absence of a professional police force, communities are quite capable of maintaining public security for themselves and have done so for centuries.
4.) Decentralized communities would not be severely afflicted by the destruction of transportation lines or centralized hubs of industry due to their localized, self-sustaining production of food, medicine, weaponry, and other necessities.
5.) The greatest form of defense is non-violent action which dissuades the enemy rather than kill. In light of the sustainable solutions humanity has as its fingertips (see the section on “Sustainable Solutions”, the ease by which people could transform their lives to a more efficient, connected, caring, educated, and passionate community would be far more appealing than violently brutish service based upon perpetual violence and authority. Given the option, would you rather A.) unsustainably trudge for hundreds of miles with violent strangers, killing, under constant fear of being killed, far away from your loved ones, or B.) be among fellow informed and empowered community members to live peacefully utilizing the examples of self-sufficient communities (see examples above in the section on “Economics”) to prosper and flourish in your own land base, leisurely co-existing with loved ones without being bossed around?
…The choice is obvious.
Moreover, in a voluntary society, a society’s defense would not be imposed upon the young and fragile youth which carry our future. Conversely, in places such as the United States, registering for the selective service is mandatory for males aged 18-25, with cripplingly enforced (litterally and figuratively) dire consequences.
CONSEQUENCES FOR NOT REGISTERING
The maximum penalty for failing to register with Selective Service is a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Failure to register will cause ineligibility for a number of federal and state benefits including:
FEDERAL JOBS– A man must be registered to be eligible for jobs in the Executive Branch of the Federal government and the U.S. Postal Service. This applies only to men born after December 31, 1959.
STUDENT FINANCIAL AID- Men who are not registered with Selective Service cannot obtain Federal student loans or grants. This includes Pell Grants, College Work Study, Guaranteed Student/Plus Loans, and National Direct Student Loans.
CITIZENSHIP- The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) makes registration with Selective Service a condition for U.S. citizenship, if the man first arrived in the U.S. before his 26th birthday and was required to register.
FEDERAL JOB TRAINING- The Workforce Investment Act (formerly JTPA) offers important job-training opportunities. This program is only open to those men who register with Selective Service.
STATE JOBS, LOANS, AND TRAINING- Most states have added additional penalties for those who fail to register with Selective Service.
STATE DRIVER’S LICENSE LEGISLATION- As of May 16, 2002, 19 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia have enacted driver’s license laws supporting Selective Service registration. They are Oklahoma, Delaware, Arkansas, Utah, Georgia, Hawaii, Alabama, Florida, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Ohio, South Dakota, Mississippi, Idaho, Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.
In terms of local disputes or injury, it would be naive to expect a world where all desires for security and happiness were met 100% of the time, exactly as we want them. However, in a well-educated, well-sustained, communally cohesive yet voluntary society, the desire and incentive to commit purposefully harmful acts practically disappears. For the relatively few cases where accidents happen, or where genetic antisocial personality disorders exist, or when circumstances otherwise operate outside our ability to compromise, there are many ways to organize a system of fair settlement, whether in personal, private, or public affairs. And it wouldn’t impose increasingly burdensome indemnities disproportionately hurting the poor. Given the Anarchist emphasis on self-work, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence, disputes would often naturally result in socially agreeable ways to rationally litigate and compensate in accordance with the principles of reason and fairness. After all, the core of Anarchism aims to encourage people to think and act independently, with respect to others, but never to reply or pander to “authority”, intellectual orthodoxy, or irrational conformity. Fundamentally, Anarchism/ Voluntarism means that all “rules” will simply act as suggestions for the consideration of local juries (or whatever means of arbitration are socially agreed upon) since “rules” are dependent upon context and its applicability to the given circumstances which thereby determines “justice” and what is right and fair.
Presently, the “Rule of Law” is primarily patched together (with vague or convoluted loopholes), interpreted (by the prevailing political prejudices of the privileged class), and enforced (selectively with more prejudice) by the agents of the State. Yet, bafflingly, it is considered by Statists to be “essential” in maintaining “order” and preventing crime, even though the State, itself, is the largest purveyor of crime, misery, and oppression. What most people fear in the absence of government is what Bertrand Russell calls “primitive anarchy”, which equates to “might equals right”. This primal, irrational fear assumes that without a centralized authority, humanity would simply regress back to violent, myopic neanderthals, in a Hobbesian condition of permanent, global war (isn’t this essentially what we have today WITH government?..). But as Kropotkin’s research in his book “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution”, along with numerous other anthropological studies and examples (discussed earlier), have evidenced, there are several preindustrial and modern societies peacefully coexisting without written laws. Their affairs are generally managed through peaceful customs and disputes are solved often through non-lethal, mutually agreed upon convention resembling “Restorative Justice“, which is defined as:
“…a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. With crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should heal. It follows that conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have inflicted the harm must be central to the process.”
“…a growing social movement to institutionalize peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights. These range from international peacemaking tribunals such as the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission to innovations within the criminal and juvenile justice systems, schools, social services and communities. Rather than privileging the law, professionals and the state, restorative resolutions engage those who are harmed, wrongdoers and their affected communities in search of solutions that promote repair, reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships. Restorative justice seeks to build partnerships to reestablish mutual responsibility for constructive responses to wrongdoing within our communities. Restorative approaches seek a balanced approach to the needs of the victim, wrongdoer and community through processes that preserve the safety and dignity of all.”
To understand the proper perspective for “justice”, let’s consider where crime comes from. Aside from psychopathy and other anti-social personality disorders, crime does not simply emerge in a vacuum simply because humans are “inherently evil” and have “original sin”. Crime, for the most part, is caused by detrimental social conditions such as poverty, poor education, homelessness, unemployment, and alienation- all of which inherently exist under Statism. These socially atomizing and psychologically degrading conditions force people at each others’ throats, destroying the positive social connections that are required from any ethical society to function, creating massive wealth disparities, and replacing the tendency toward critical or independent thought with the fear-based desire to frantically and mindlessly accumulate more commodities, often ignoring the consequences, to bolster one’s concept of their self-worth, albeit only temporarily.
Embedded within the premise of dominance for legitimacy in an authoritarian society is an inherently repressive influence which suppresses and sublimates the natural inclinations of humanity. Often it fosters both physical ailments and psychological disorders, including those which lead to assault, theft, rape, and murder. Moreover, punishment within this system primarily alienates and embitters both captive and guards, rather than utilizing compassion to understand, empathize, reform, and deter. Rather than punishing those who desperately act in response to these contributing social factors, Anarchists seek to prevent antisocial behavior by eliminating the oppressive social conditions which give rise to it in the first place, thereby drastically reducing crime, if not eliminating it altogether. In a society that does not impose social conformity or authority, where individual and social freedoms are given utmost respect, there is nothing to rebel against and no reason to injure others. The vitality and virtue of a voluntary society is dictated by degree of diversity of individuals and lifestyles that are reasonably accommodated without harm to others. With basic needs satisfied for all in a more free and equal society, where communal luxuries are shared, crimes of repression and desperation would be negligible if not eliminated. Overall, justice would be a matter of cause and effect, since people who regularly fail to maintain their agreements will inevitably have a difficult time finding community cooperation and support. As the saying goes, “people are not punished FOR their transgressions, but BY them.”
But what about those with severe personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, Sociopathy, Psychopathy, etc? How would these people fit in to a reasonable voluntary community without coercive authority? The overarching social basis for detecting and treating these conditions is generally covered in the section on “Psychopathy & Poenology”, but what are the immediate measures to be taken if the aberrant behavior involves belligerent injury to others or to themselves? If people are intent upon injuring themselves, they have the right to. If it involves hurting others, however, it would be permissible only if reasonable mutual consent were obtained. However, if non-consensual, even a free society would necessarily restrain (to the minimum degree necessary) violent offenders such as child abusers, murderers, the grossly intoxicated, or the insane, and, whenever possible, rehabilitate the residue of pathological behavior with supportive supervision and utmost compassion.
For resolving social disputes, randomly rotated juries could be selected from those who wish to be involved in the local community. Each jury would consider the entirety of circumstance for each particular case, not to cast blame or punishment, but to restore social harmony through fair compensation and healing, productive, creative rehabilitation, perhaps even finding the primary fault in the oversight of the community as a whole! In terms of preventative action, social pressure of public opinion through mass-education would function as deterrents, including sanctions such as boycott or ostracism. However, these should be used carefully in extreme circumstances since such behaviors harbor the seeds of intolerance.
Where critics of Anarchism praise order based on penalty and punishment, Anarchism instead prioritizes the emphasis on social morality and creative connection which gives rise to new social standards and customs, holding society together from the bottom up, not the top down. Anarchism understands that people are capable of acting decently and cooperating without authoritarian institutions, especially given the modern capabilities of technological innovation, the understanding of human behavior, and the guidance of scientific insight. With all these elements (and more), guided by the principles of anarchism, with its social solidarity, universal love, higher reason, and the inherent good will within most people, enable them to live in relative harmony.
Another argument used by Statists is that government, and its collusion with corporations, is necessary to provide for the welfare of its disadvantaged citizens. This too is a fallacy. These social provisions can be best supplied by voluntary associations rather than State agencies. Without top-heavy State and Federal bureaucracies, such organizations will directly satisfy the needs of the people while involving them in their management, encouraging personal initiative and mutual aid. In fact, there are studies which show that well-adjusted people, as naturally social beings, are driven toward doing good deeds by virtue of the “helper’s high”, not to mention the social commendation. While there are some charities that do good work, there are also charity agencies with excessive expenditures and managerial overhead, and it’s oftentimes more effective to nurture solid community care and fellowship that care for our brothers and sisters.
Medicine and education do not require State control, and, in fact, government dependance been shown to be detrimental in many ways, especially when forced upon people. Creating a social welfare state within a system deficient in meaningful uplift and empowerment has proved to encourage laziness among some members of society and, through robbing everyone else via taxation, imposes a far-reaching financial constraint which places a hindrance on the average person’s ability to properly invest in their own health. Furthermore, in self-managing communities which by their very nature necessitate its citizens to be responsible with their overall health for the sake of well-being and efficiency, healthcare would be holistically integrated in the overall lifestyle instead of relegated as an emergency measure to compensate for the consequences of years of personal neglect.
The various potential for “what if” scenarios are too numerous to be listed here, but there’s one inevitability that everyone gets concerned with at a certain point- growing old. In terms of caring for the elderly, alternative systems like those described above would be far more able to care for the elderly than the present “social security” system. It’s obvious that a more healthy, supportive, empowered lifestyle will increasingly mitigate the majority of disorders that arise as a result of living in a largely dysfunctional society, including the major causes like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Moreover, when a person is no longer suited for more rigorous activities, there is a great deal of skill and wisdom which the elderly can provide, exemplified by numerous cultures where the cooking, cleaning, child care, teaching of certain subjects, gardening, simple home repair, and other essential activities have been fulfilled, contributing as a revered, loved, and essential part of the family unit. It’s evident that all these fundamental concerns can be well taken care of in the mutual aid and solidarity of the producers and consumers in well-educated, empowered, directly-democratic communities.
PROPERTY AND RIGHTS
The premise of property and privacy is contingent upon the notion of “rights”. However, rights are simply concepts which are granted social legitimacy from the fundamental principles of morality and self-ownership. A general right is the Golden Rule which says “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. For example, I don’t have a right to violate or control your body, and, reciprocally, you don’t have a right to violate and control mine. The only exception around one’s rights is by justified consent, like when one signs up for the military and essentially becomes “government property”, or if someone unreasonably infringes upon your rights. However, the spectrum of “self-ownership” also expands when material goods are created or otherwise justly obtained through one’s labor, such as making clothes or cultivating land, raising the broader considerations of “Property”.
With an ubiquitous and multifaceted scope of application, it’s no wonder the subject of Property has created so much contention throughout history. There are always numerous circumstances that arise in which basic agreements or, in some cases, arbitration over property is needed. Most of these settle themselves among rational people willing to logically negotiate and compromise. However, regardless of what branch of Anarchism one leans toward, there’s applicability agreement throughout all points of view. For example, Anarcho-Communists support “personal property”, a right not to be violently dispossessed of property so long as a person is using it or otherwise provides legitimate justification for ownership, but not “private property”, which is distinct from “personal property”. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Anarcho-Capitalists support “public property” and “common property”, meaning that no individual may appropriate it as their own. Ultimately, the parameters comprising property are their subsequent rights will inevitably vary depending on the capabilities, circumstances, and social evolution of a community.
As a general reference point, I feel Martin Luther King had a valuable perspective to consider in this regard:
“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam” speech
In the end, regardless of which end of the spectrum the circumstances may be in a voluntary society, by comparison, government has been and always will be a greater threat to human rights and property than Voluntarism/ Anarchism:
“Every version of a “government” requires one group of people to claim rights over others that they don’t have: the right to tax (steal), the right to imprison (kidnap), and the right to ban and mandate behavior (enslave), just to name a few. There is no legitimate way for them to obtain these rights other than by permission, by consent of the governed. But if it is consensual, then it is not “government”. To “govern” means to rule by force. It’s not optional. Government can’t both serve the people and be it’s master. Even the idea that we need government to defend our rights is contradictory, since it must first violate our rights in order to exist. Government is and always has been the largest violator of rights.”
~ Don Tuatha, “5 Reasons Why I’m Not a Statist”
“When they lose the moral/philosophical argument (which takes about ten seconds), statists love to fall back on “What’s the alternative?” Then they expect anarchists to describe how every aspect of everyone’s lives, until the end of time, will all work perfectly without a ruling class. But statists are so comfortable with the authoritarian mindset that it takes a while for them to even comprehend what is being suggested.
The belief in “government” is the belief that some people should have an EXEMPTION from morality and should have the RIGHT to forcibly rob and dominate everyone else. The answer to such a horrendously bad idea is very simple: the “alternative” to imagining that some people have the right to be violent bastards is……… NOT imagining that some people have the right to be violent bastards. Nothing else needs to change. We still have all the technology, all the resources, all the cooperation and organization. The only thing we lose is a gang of parasitical crooks getting societal permission to victimize everyone else. Now, if some statist wants to point me to any problem which is IMPROVED by giving some people permission to violently victimize innocents, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, the whole “What’s the alternative?” thing is as silly as saying, “But if we get rid of car-jackers, what will we have instead?””
~ Larken Rose
As this treatise has elucidated, Anarchism, when combined with sincere, embodied, and holistic self-work to anchor a higher consciousness, is far more than a peaceful fantasy, inclination, or philosophy. It is a profound inevitability which can liberate every facet of life. It removes the cancerous, unnecessary overgrowths within society and offers a spectrum of strategies to actualize the better life which awaits us, starting here and now, within you, within all of us who can rise to the challenge of awakening our fullest potential. Inspired by the self-regulation of nature, the spontaneous organized harmony of disparate interests in society, and the remarkable potential of humanity, Voluntarism/ Anarchism has been a map guiding human evolution for two and a half millennia, awaiting our wisdom to bring it fully in to fruition. Yet at the rate humanity is consuming the planet, we have precious little time, but ample ability to turn it all around. All the signs show that Anarchism/ Voluntarism will continue to grow as a vibrant social movement, as a pathway to our redemption, to transform us in ways beyond our wildest imaginings.
“Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners. Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.”
~ Edward Abbey
Even after reading all this, there may be still those unable and unwilling to remove their minds from the confines of their conditioned captivity, seduced by the “securities” of privilege within a predatory society. Obviously this path isn’t for everyone, nor should it be given that it’s entirely voluntary. However, given the opportunity, even a small, peaceful, sufficiently developed nucleus of people may peacefully pioneer in to this evolutionary endeavor at no risk to the rest of society. There is only unlimited potential to be demonstrated, and the only risk is to those in power who seek to control everything and everyone they can. But humanity is awakening to the consequences of their continuous tyranny. More importantly, it is also awakening to its potential, now, thanks to the internet, more quickly than ever before. All things considered, it cannot be said that Anarchism is impractical, implausible, or impossible. While presently this vision may seem to be a relatively minority aspiration, keep in mind that evolution does not require a majority rule, and when it takes ahold, as it already has, it naturally grows beyond our capabilities to conceive. And where it cannot yet be fully actualized, its brilliant light acts as a beacon for visionaries to aspire toward.
There are already numerous intentional communities striving to launch forward in this direction in their own ways. As I previously wrote in my blog, “How and Why ‘Conscious’ Festivals Need to Change”, the funding and community to enhance these endeavors is readily available, requiring only the aid of greater attention and participation by more conscious individuals who recognize their importance. The possibility to begin the endeavor towards a free society is very real, and already under way. Its full harmonious bloom awaits only our sincere desire to transform our lives and co-create with others in kind. The potential prospects are numerous and promising. With proper support and the more people sincerely engaged in self-work willing to pioneer in this direction, there are peaceful, sustainable, scaleable models of physical sustainability which can be demonstrated, thereby inspiring others to similarly, yet diversely, create more consciously.
A potentially phenomenal crowdsource funding campaign could be started in this direction. Through global advocacy and support, with proper social media outreach, all progress and information would be shared with a world that would be watching intently, supporting and influencing its development (but not controlling it). Due to the enormity of its purpose and potential, it would undoubtedly attract global media attention, celebrity endorsement, as well as considerable material contributions and sponsorship from leaders and pioneers in alternative technologies help to further aid its development. A large-scale community of this magnitude would undoubtedly utilize a spectrum of educational and self-improvement strategies. A call for collaboration would assemble a cutting-edge team of engineers, eco-friendly manufacturers, information technology experts, permaculturists, teachers, doctors and other caretakers, therapists, and land management specialists, all on an optimal private property that could sustain a pioneering model community! It would utilize the most innovative and easily created open-source, eco-friendly technology, efficient landscapes and architecture, optimized communal living, and clean, renewable energy. Even though it would be initially under the control of government (and its subsequent agencies), upon its successfully continued proliferation throughout a region (which would be mind-bogglingly rapid, no doubt), the proportion of government control to autonomous communities which effectively regulate between themselves, continually reducing the collective desire for “government” to ever-smaller degrees until it is just another footnote in the evolution of humanity. Think of the BILLIONS in funding poured in to entrepreneurial projects, “conscious” festivals, movies, and various other private and public grants allocated to simply address the symptoms of social suffering. The resources are obviously available! Thousands of volunteers would gladly help! And it would be AMAZING and INSPIRING to even just watch people process through self-work, creatively collaborate, and develop entirely new ways of being! Why WOULDN’T we want that?
Considering the conditions we’ve collectively created, the lives of all earth’s inhabitants and its decedents rests upon our loving shoulders. If humanity is to avert consuming itself with greed, hatred, war and ecological disaster, those who are up to the task must forge boldly in this direction, starting with ourselves. Only then can it bring about a free society of egalitarian abundance, existing harmoniously with nature, where the needs of the individual find harmony in the loving embrace of social solidarity. The journey toward this great step in conscious evolution will take great time, effort, and support, individually and collectively, but together we can accomplish miracles.