Yes, this may seem like an extremely random post idea, but I can’t help it. I was reading a friend’s blog post about anarchy, and it’s hard for me not to react. I teach a unit in my history class on the “Ism’s,” and Anarchism always gets the biggest crowd reaction. High school kids tend to either love it (in a bit of a Beavis and Butthead way, to be honest), or else find it utterly absurd.
In the abstract, I think that anarchism is the most optimistic political ideology that there is. As I break it down, anarchists must believe that people are so fundamentally good, and altruistic at their deepest cores, that they don’t need rules to be regulated. Power hierarchies, as the anarchist argument goes, create inequality, and with that comes a whole bunch of lovely things like envy, greed, jealousy…which then need to be suppressed by a more entrenched power hierarchy. And so on and so on, and as a result our basic goodness has been darkened by our desire for power.
In the abstract, that is groovy, baby. I love it. It allows me to understand how there are actually Christian Anarchists, and that phrase is not an oxymoron, and how it almost seems that to be a true Christian (all created in God’s likeness, all fighting against sin) you’d almost have to be an anarchist. [Insert mental image of Simpson character Ned Flanders in a Sex Pistols t-shirt.]
But then in creeps my real world conceptions. Now granted, I find myself believing in everyone’s innate goodness, and I believe that very strongly. The problem is, in a pluralistic world, people have different views then I do. Not everyone thinks that all of humanity is so good that they can be trusted to regulate themselves without some powerful force helping to keep them in check. So I might be the good little anarchist, wanting everyone to voice her/his opinion, not wanting money to create distance between us and give up all my possessions, and some jerk face might come and just take all my crap. Sucks for me. (The anarchist counter-argument is that my perception is too distorted by the whole societal power hierarchy outlined above, and I anticipate that, but still think my point is legitimate.) I mean I’d love to think that if we just took away power structures, peace would be achieved throughout the world. But I have a hard time thinking that Palestinians and Israelis will abandon old hatreds and prejudices just by opening up the whole land for everyone.
So then it comes down to maybe anarchy could work in a small community. The classic, Northern California commune argument. Get a bunch of like-minded people together, people you trust, and then live in some redwood forest in blissful anarchy.
That is even more groovy, baby. But in pops a question of sustainability. When these groups of like-minded people start to have kids, their kids need to be given the freedom to explore any ideology they want, which may in fact not be anarchy but instead rigid capitalism, or Maoism, or whatever the hell they want. So then in order to keep the anarchist community pure, the like-minded founders isolate their kids from all knowledge, which in some circles is called brainwashing, and stamp out the freedom they were going for in the first place.
[Take, for example, the M. Night Shmalyman (whatever his name is, I never know) movie “The Village.” While on the surface a horror movie, I think it’s actually a statement on commune utopias. The little utopia, which willingly removes itself from the modern world and transports itself into an early 19th century world, creates a mythical boogeyman type creature with a bad color associated with it, basically to scare the crap out of all the kids in the commune from ever leaving and experiencing the real world and gaining outside knowledge, all out of fear that the kids might deliberately choose to leave the commune.]
At its heart, I think that is the problem with anarchy. If you give everyone total freedom, then they’re free to not like anarchy, and to want hierarchy, and to create hierarchies, and as a result, replace the concept of anarchy. It’s almost self-defeating. And I think that since throughout all of human history anarchy has been merely an idea, and very rarely a long-lasting reality, it seems that human nature needs some sort of checks and balances to freedom, with said checks and balances needing to come from others, and others that are arranged hierarchically.
I enjoy reading about the idea, and thinking about the utopian communes of trust and generosity, but I can’t help but to express my doubt about them.
SPGreenlaw, any thoughts back?