Friday, February 11, 2011

Anarchy, again.

I realize that I'm still an anarchist. In fact, I've always been one, ever since I first came across the philosophy.

For those of you who are not familiar with this line of thinking, what I mean to say is - I don't want capitalism, property, government, politics, bureaucracy and all of the top-down hierarchy, domination, alienation and coercion that makes those things happen. I see all "politicians" as being fundamentally the same - people acting out spectacular and limiting social roles. I see "bosses/workers" as being a tragic & unfortunate social relationship, and I see "prisons" as being absolutely reprehensible and disgusting. Price-tags, permits and police are unnecessary as well.

I want to live in a fundamentally different world where people are true equals with each-other, where people are free to make their own decisions for their own lives without underling unspoken threats hanging over them, and where collective group or community decisions are made together and all material things are shared in common without arbitrary hang-ups about "mine" and "yours", "us" and "them", etc. And I want this kind of world as soon as possible, because our very lives depend upon it.

This is a very radical stance to take, and one that exists far outside most of the world-views that are in circulation. It is often not the kind of thing that one talks about in polite company. I am entirely aware that this new world may never happen, and at the very least it may never happen in my life-time.

Part of the kind of change that I have been moving towards in recent years, a change to a new kind of "realism" you might say, is that I have been coming to terms with the fact that my ideals and dreams for a new utopian society may never happen, that all attempts at it may end in dismal failure, and that humanity and life on earth in general may all die a painful and complete extinction due to the actions & non-actions of governments, corporations, and industrial civilization everywhere. This is simply the world we were born into.

The trick is to come to realize this, accept this, and to really be OK with it. In other words, it's not the end of the world if it's the end of the world. The dream and values underlining an anarchist world-view are worth it even if it does not come to be, and that it is better to see the world as it is now, to call a spade a spade, to see tyranny as tyranny, regardless of what comes of it.

In other words, part of my personal struggle has been to find a way for me to approach all of this in a way that is really balanced, grounded, and healthy. In the past, I threw myself entirely into the "anarchist" thing, I built up my whole identity around it, and I bet everything upon the coming collapse/revolution/insurrection/what-have-you. I see now that one can hold ideas & ideals about the world, society, and social change, as well as about health, well-being, and living a good life. I see that one can have this world-view, and not necessarily have to surround one's self with others who also have this world-view, or to rely upon this world-view as a way to meet one's social needs in general. I also see the value and importance of having a personal religious or spiritual practice in one's life as well.

For me, one thing that I have gradually over time been developing and getting more interested in, and ultimately have been seeing inform & reinvigorate my anarchist views as well, is the philosophy & practice of Buddhism. Buddhism is something that I see as being a kind of ethical, psychological, and spiritual approach to life. The moments when I remember and strive to carry out the kind of things that Buddhism speaks to are moments in which I experience greater peace, balance, and positivity inside myself. I eventually would like to develop more of an explicit "Buddhist Anarchist" philosophy, but this is something that I want to treat with great care and not to rush.

At the same time as all of this taking place within me, many miles away from me in Egypt all kinds of different political unrest and uprisings have been taking place. I have been very much fascinated and enthusiastic about what has been going on there. At most I see that there is a situation where the people present having been finding & realizing more of a sense of their own personal power, collective power, and their ability to change things. I see this as a situation where people realize that they can mobilize and act without fear. It is precisely this kind of spirit that I see the philosophy of anarchism as pointing towards, and relying upon.

If the people there were to take the next step and to start occupying and running the farms, factories and distribution-points throughout the country, that would be a step towards an anarchist revolution. If the people there were simply to realize that they do not need official people in high-ranking positions of power to say any particular thing in order for them to be "free" or "democratic", that they could just do it all themselves, then that too would be another step towards an anarchist revolution. Because the revolution there is basically political in nature, and because the people there are waiting for official decrees of change to come down from above, this inherently makes the change there very limited in scope. Nonetheless, I see that what is going on there as being something that is far more meaningful and exciting than anything that is going on in the public sphere of my own country.

There is a connection too between what is going on in Egypt and my own renewed interest in anarchism. It is this: I am seeing in Egypt that it is indeed possible for people in this modern/post-modern world to be able to rise up and have a sense of their own power together independent of official sanction and without the leadership or direction of any central figure or organization. In other words, people still have the ability to break free, even today. This is something that I lost a sense of, that I lost hope for, because of years of disappointment, defeat and heart-break. I see now that a far-reaching social revolution can still happen, not necessarily that it will happen, but that the potential is still there. This is kindling for the fire to stay alive.


Editor B said...

Your words resonate with me. I often think of anarchism as a tendency to be developed or direction to move in rather than a utopia that must be reached tomorrow.

Perhaps tangentially, today I was thinking how sad it is that so many of us can no longer conceptualize "public" as anything but a synonym for "government." I think that's a primary distinction between anarchism or left-libertarianism, and right-libertarianism. The (right) libertarians seem to be winning that one. That needs to change.

LMDV said...

I like the idea this being a direction to move in, rather than a final state to reach.
I don't think it's predominantly political. I think it's a matter of shifting consciousness. When things become familiar enough, change happens. Prohibitions get lifted, freedoms get increased, compassionate legislation gets passed. Also, of course, when profiteers can benefit. Perhaps a combination of the two. I love this discussion. Thanks, Ian and B.

davidc said...

Hi ian. I came across your diary via Suelo's website. Wonderful writings.

I more or less agree with your vision of sharing communities - or what some might refer to as gift economies. I can also understand to a certain extent your deliberation over anarchism - both what it signifies and the sometimes ugly behavior that accompanies the movement (I certainly identify with anarchism, but I would give many so-called "anarchists" a wide berth).

One thing I wanted to comment on was your possible expectations of the political unrest in Egypt. Whatever about the overthrow of despotic powers - however turbulent and dramatic such developments are - my vision of what happens next differs slightly from yours.

The traditional socialist or anarchist notion of occupying and taking over the factories and forms - I just don't see it happening, or - if it does - I can't see it bearing the fruits that people hope for ... because the nature of these developments will be determined by the personalities that participate in them. Egyptian people are - on the whole - no more paragons of virtue than the people of any other nation.

I don't think this is necessarily bad news though. The only way I can see this working is if we can select who we interact and engage with - who we work with and who we share with. That's why I would place far greater faith in or than any workers union or the like. In a limited sense at least, these networks allow us to share with people we care about - and shut the door on the rest (we "shut the door" not out of malice - but out of necessity.)