| Anarchy is generally regarded as chaos, mayhem, a state of gang or mob rule, and in the intellectual forums, a utopian dream. When thoughts of anarchy are conjured up, phrases and words like “terrorist”, “usurper”, and “subversion” are not far behind. Anarchists are troublemakers, those irrationally dissatisfied with the system, and ungrateful for that which the system provides them. At least, they are in most of the United States.
However, as a lucky citizen of liberal New York, I was able to find more anarchy-literate circles than I would have found elsewhere in the country. The quotes below, and many of the ideas below were expressed in a collection of e-mail and in person interviews.
Most people I talked to were of the opinion that anarchy is what will happen to humanity, but that it cannot be forced, and it is a natural state that will simply occur. “It just has to be allowed to happen because… it is our natural instinct.” It was also regarded as a “natural human cycle”, and that we are currently dependant upon structure, but that that will give way to the eventual anarchist state of being.
My correspondents agreed as to the nature of modern anarchy, but attitudes towards the effectiveness of such groups differed. “There are a couple of pathetic disjointed groups of ‘anarchists’ but they are inconsequential.” One interviewee mentioned the activism that organizes anarchist groups: “Modern anarchy is most often seen in the anti-globalization protests of the past few years. The Seattle protest in 1999 is the biggest example of how anarchists can gain the attention of the media.”
And of the counterpoint to anarchy, consumerism, my correspondents were also in agreement. Consumerism is the water that works the mill of political productivity. Most of my correspondents were convinced that our system of consumerism and market based society is satisfying, but also quite detrimental, due to depletion of resources and acceptability of greed. One also said that it gives people a false sense of entitlement and justice. Because of our prosperity, and our lack of knowledge about those who labored to make us prosperous we are able to live in contentment, believing that the equality we know is the norm.
I consider myself an ideological anarchist, that is, I do not believe that governments and corporations can provide for all people as they claim to. But I’m aware of my limitations. I still buy relatively unnecessary products, and am still trapped in the consumerist cycle. I also am not a true anarchist because I have lost faith in the movement.
First of all, I disagree with the idea that anarchy will just happen. Progress doesn’t just happen. Greater senses of equality for blacks in America could not be achieved without the civil rights movement. Without the American Revolution, we would not have reverted from a colony of a monarchal state to an independent democratic state. And we will never revert to an anarchist state of being without activism on the part of the “pathetic disjointed groups”. However, most people I have met who were sympathetic to anarchy did hold this “natural cycle” view, which I think leads to lethargy, or a sense of waiting around for the revolution or whatever will herald an anarchist state.
Second, because of the prevalence of “pathetic disjointed groups”, there is not the kind of unity that is needed to provide a stable movement, which could promote real change. The many groups at Seattle in ‘99 did little but discredit most anarchists due to their violent methods. They provided a temporary story, but educated a few people. What the movement needs is another First International (The First International was the major laborer empowerment group of the late 19th century, with members such as Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, one of the leading anarcho-socialists of the time) to give direction and unity to anarchists.
As well, anarchy, when thought of at all by the modern person, is so associated with violence and outbursts, that it is hard for anarchist groups to gain recognition. Events like those at Seattle allow the sensationalist media to put violence and anarchy together, where most anarchists would be considered pacifists. Noam Chomsky, one of the great social critics, is a pacifist, as are most anarchist theorists.
Anarchy, in modern terms is not enough of an established entity to even provide much debate or discussion. And due to the definite lack of favor in this country towards dissenters and critics of the government, and the established “violent anarchist” stereotypes, no real forum could be set up anyway. Anarchy is meant to provide a counterpoint to the established views, and in our society, it fails to do so.
So, I must agree with one interviewee who said that “An anarchist is simply a dreamer, someone dissatisfied with the current system.” From my own, and the experiences of my correspondents, I can see that this is the case most of the time, with the modern anarchist “movement.”
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| Jul 8th, 2002
for me anarchism is a philosophy which aplies to everyday life
it is about questioning un-checked power
anarchy is equality
i think the only real solution to building the movement is by creating spaces which anarchist principles can thrive
work co-ops, squats, community centers, infoshops, coffee houses, walls, paper...
you name it
we gotta reclaim our space!
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