Gary “Z” McGee
“None are more enslaved than those who believe they are free.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
There are few subjects as controversial and taboo as the concept of anarchy. It mostly leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths due in no small part to years of psychological conditioning, backwards reasoning, and smoke-and-mirror political propaganda.
But, as Voltaire ingeniously suggested, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” By explaining what anarchy truly is, we indirectly end up criticizing the powers-that-be, revealing the emperor is not only naked, but insecure and weak at the prospect of free men and women. Here then are four things the powers-that-be don’t want you to know about anarchy.
1. Anarchy ≠ Chaos
“Anarchy doesn’t mean out of control; it means out of their control.” —Jim Dodge
Anarchy does not equal chaos. Anarchy has been the natural order of human beings since time immemorial. There’s a reason why tribal and nature-based societies have survived the trials and tribulations of millions of years of evolution, because they governed themselves in a healthy way: through natural anarchy. It’s actually hierarchical and state-run societies that equal chaos. It all comes down to a matter of power.
Here’s how: hierarchical and state-run societies have centralized institutions with the monopoly on the use of violence. This large concentration of power attracts a particular type of leader: politicians who crave power. And since “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” such power almost always leads to war. Such wars naturally lead to more power, and so the vicious cycle continues, while keeping the powers-that-be continuously in power.
This is not to say that anarchic societies don’t have hierarchy; they just have considerably less hierarchy. But even anarchic societies with hierarchies are less likely to monopolize power, because they are engineered in such a way that groups never get to the point of concentrated centers of power. They are engineered so that brutes, or even groups of brutes, cannot rise to power. The checks and balances inherent within the anarchic system, along with the polarizing effect of self-governance, maintain a healthy equilibrium within a society.
When it comes down to it, anarchists are peaceful people who just want to govern themselves. Anarchism does not imply nihilism. Anarchism implies only adherence to, and respect for, the natural order of things: a healthy respect for the unpredictability and improbability of the cosmos, the interconnectedness of nature and the immense diversity of the biosphere, and the holistic inclusion of mankind as a social being with great powers that, thereby, requires an even greater amount of responsibility. To say that anarchy only ever leads to chaos is not only ignorance of the natural world, but ignorance of the nature of the human condition itself.
2. Anarchy = Freedom
“You don’t become completely free by just avoiding being a slave; you also need to avoid becoming a master.” —Naseem Nicholas Taleb
Simply put, anarchy prefers dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery. It prefers uncomfortable truth over comfortable lies. It prefers the pain of knowledge over the bliss of ignorance. As was written in the Bhagavad Gita:
Better to live on beggar’s bread
with those who love alive.
Than taste their blood in rich feasts spread
and guiltily survive.
A common argument against anarchy is that there is no governance. But a society without a government isn’t necessarily a society without governance. Really, there is no such thing as a society without governance. A society with no sense of order is oxymoronic; it isn’t a “society” at all.
A society (a group of people who agree to live among each other) that allows its people to govern themselves is an anarchic society. A group of people allowed to govern themselves is a free society (anarchy). A group of people who are not allowed to govern themselves is an unfree society (tyranny).
The question is what type of order is preferable: liberty or tyranny. Most reasonable people will choose liberty. And liberty is, by nature, anarchic. As HL Mencken wrote, “I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.”
3. Anarchy ≠ Slavery
“If I want the slave to become conscious of his servitude, it is both in order not to be a tyrant myself and in order that new possibilities might be opened to the liberated slave and through him to all men. To want existence, to want to disclose the world, and to want men to be free are one and the same will.” —Simone De Beauvoir
The Confederacy of Dunces is always ballyhooing, “But, but, but don’t we need leaders,” implying that an anarchic system of governance would be leaderless. But what these dunces fail to realize is that they are confusing domination with leadership, in the first place. Raised, as these dunces are, under the tyranny of the state, they cannot see that they are subordinate it. They are under the false notion that the state is a benign institution which satisfies their need for leadership. When, actually, the state is nothing more than a malignant institution of coercive authority that is satisfying its own need for power.
This is domination, not leadership. The fact that these dunces vote is just smoke and mirrors, the illusion of freedom, but is not actually freedom itself. It’s important to note that anarchists do not reject all authority, only that which is unhealthy or unjust. They don’t have a problem with rules, but with rulers. As Simone De Beauvoir wrote, “A freedom that is interested only in denying freedom must be denied.”
If human beings are the most intelligent animal on the planet, why do we need to pay other people to think for us while we slave away for them? No other animal is stupid enough to do this, probably because no other animal is stupid enough to invent such a thing as money.
That aside, the current economic slavery perpetuated by the state is unprecedented in the history of mankind. We live in an authoritarian society that most of us are not even aware of because we’ve been conditioned to except it. We are daily being preached to by propagandized advertisements on the one side and polarizing bipartisan politics on the other: conform, buy this, be afraid of “the other,” you must be approved of by others, be less than you are.
It turns out that the best slaves are the ones that don’t even know they’re slaves. As Naseem Nicholas Taleb wrote, “Those who do not think that employment is systematic slavery are either blind or employed.”
4. Anarchy = Harmony
“Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.” —Carl Sagan
If, as Nietzsche wrote, “The Übermensch is the meaning of the earth … I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes,” then it stands to reason that since anarchy is the way the earth governs itself, it’s also the way that mankind ought to govern itself. This is the power of Nietzsche’s Übermensch: responsibility to the earth and the natural order of things. And so it should also be the duty of the anarchist to subsume such power. The only thing preventing the anarchist from his/her responsibility to the earth is the smoke and mirrors of the state.
The state perpetuates the psyche-cosmos split. It aggrandizes mankind over nature itself. It dissociates us from the natural order of things so that it can maintain its power over us. One of the ways the state does this is by claiming that human nature is inherently corrupt and therefore must be governed.
But human nature is not fixed. It changes according to its environment. The idea that humans are naturally evil and greedy creatures by default is a complete farce. If we live in an environment that perpetuates militarization, violence, greed and power, then we will behave in militarized, violent, greedy and power-mongering ways. If we live in an environment of compassion, empathy, love and prestige, then we will behave in compassionate, empathic, loving, prestigious ways. It really is that simple. This has been proven time and time again by nature-based cultures the world over.
The difficult part is seeing through the mess of it all. To be truly free is both very easy and very difficult. But if we can keep our moral compass focused on the principles of liberty, peace, love, and the ethics of reciprocity, then it will point the way, True North, toward a truly free society.
It will reveal a society that preserves the moral Golden Mean and the middle-way, as opposed to the immoral, suffocating greed of state politics. It will uncover a society that exemplifies the Golden Ratio of nature, as opposed to the state’s expropriation of nature and nature-based cultures. It will bring to light a society that realizes that by hanging the “greater villain,” in the first place, neither man nor woman would ever have to steal the goose from off the common.
They hang the man and flog the woman
who steals the goose from off the common,
but leave the greater villain loose
who steals the common from under the goose.
This article is offered under Creative Commons license.
Z, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of BIRTHDAY SUIT OF GOD and THE LOOKING GLASS MAN. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world. His recent works can be seen at Z’s Hub, where this article was originally featured.