The following essay is a meditation on the meaning of being an anarchist and the significance of what seem to be its primary assumptions and fundamental ideas. The etymology for the word “anarchy” shows that it is derived from Greek words meaning “without a chief/ruler”. In its most basic conception, an anarchy is state of affairs in which there is no ruler, governor/government, or central authoritarian leader who has authoritative control within a social system or society, and consequently, and anarchist is someone who would primarily value an anarchy. This essay explores the moral implications of authoritarianism and considers the motives and reasoning for the anarchist philosophic perspective. In short, to be an anarchist is to believe that no one person or organization of people could ever rightfully and legitimately maintain central authoritarian power over one person or several for an indefinite period of time. To be an anarchist is not to have no value for social organizations, societies, or even positions of power, influence, and authority; rather, it is to claim that when people assume these positions and hold others accountable to arbitrary norms against their voluntary acceptance, they also assume a level of moral corruption that prevents their holding said authoritative position from ever being fully morally justified. In other words, it is inherent unjust to rule over another person. (Key ideas and concepts to the philosophic perspective in focus will be italicized)
To govern a people is to attempt to control them. To control a people is to attempt to exploit them. To exploit a people is to deny them their autonomy. To deny someone his/her autonomy is to deny the individual his/her freedom to self-determination.
I consider myself to be firstly, foremost, a philosopher. My pursuits are like those of mystics, my social engagement is explorative, and my existential views are derived from my metaphysical assumptions. Because of my philosophic perspective, the only political opinion I think I could legitimately hold is anarchistic.
I do not believe that saying “I am an anarchist” is directly political, however, despite the fact that it is typically referred to as a political disposition or opinion. Being an anarchist seems to also carry certain metaphysical, existential, and moral assumptions that I would identify as the bases of its political perspective and disdain for authoritarianism. Because of the disdain for involuntarily beholden, strictly civil spheres of social relations, concepts and categorizations such as citizenship and other demographic descriptions inherently mean nothing to the anarchist and anarchy because there is no inherent need for a nation under which you are afforded citizenship. Such civil subjugation is the first offense on one’s moral independence, a key ideal to the anarchist, and the first step in the domination of the populace by the authoritarian state, the ultimate fear and evil in the eyes of the anarchist. What anarchists desire is the freedom to associate and commune as we please, only accepting positions of authority where and when it is necessary and serves a common goal.
The prime significance given to moral independence comes from a moral, not political perspective. Each person is morally responsible for their actions and non-action in relation to their social environment, and so they must be held accountable for their deeds, be they creative, sustaining, or destructive. Governing, and especially political, social systems displace this moral autonomy existentially inherent to all humans by way of their strict social regulation according to a definite policy or system of government. With these institutions and systems of social regulation, you can no longer trust the average person to be morally responsible or accountable because so long as they escape criminal culpability, so long as they do no evil in the eyes of the law, regardless of whether the law is morally justified or not, they and their actions are morally excused by the law, assuming the governing entities are even aware of their actions. Governing bodies have attempted to prevent the tendency for tyrannical stagnation of arbitrary moral norms by allowing the people specifically granted suffrage and citizenship, but not all people, the opportunity to influence but not directly control the legislative and law enforcing processes barring monopolies of power compromised by conflicts of interest in some of the more “ideal” cases and nations.
As we have seen with recent instances of police-instigated violence towards peaceful protesters, the instigation of violence and destruction of buildings and property by agent provocateurs, the public displays of contempt and hateful desire for violence from groups including but not limited to white nationalist organizations in opposition to the protests for government institutions and economic systems to respect moral equality, and the continued selective ignorance towards the dehumanization and oppression of people all over the world, the state cannot manage in even hundreds of years to guarantee equal moral significance, service and protection to all of its law abiding citizens. Instead, political matters are determined by the significance and viability of economic interests, and social change towards a more just and free society is often only invited with a compromise that with the granting of more political rights, the citizens become ever more dependent on the state to be the moral authority on all human rights, further distancing the individual from being morally responsible and accountable and allowing more and more deception and shallow virtue-signaling in the guise of being wiser or more morally accountable than specifically one’s political opposition. Obviously, no state government is perfectly just, but this should not be used as an excuse for tyranny and oppression where it undoubtedly exists, and where its remediation and reformation constantly fails as in the case of Reconstruction after the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.
If the system is broken because of the tendency for individual neglect and abuse, the system cannot be fixed on a legislative level. No law will make people socially accountable and morally responsible, especially when the authority of moral norms is alienate from the individual and displaced within the state’s arbitrary legislative, executive, and judiciary functions. It is up to the people to not only observe acceptable moral standards, but to make sure that these standards are legally bound and systematically observed, but they lack the power to do so without mass consensus. Another problem is that if the people are so morally responsible as to determine morally acceptable standards and guidelines for behavioral regulation per societal moral norms, there does not necessarily need to be an official regulator, in the form of government, who is looked to by the people to determine what is right and what is wrong. If collectively, human beings can be so morally responsible and respectful as to create the organization of a moral social system, it is a mere description of their innate morality and responsibility. A just society will only come to be when the public is collectively moral and responsible and the institutions of government do not restrict or impair the ability to encode this morality in law.
How are smaller social environments and systems regulated and managed? How does a family, a group of friends, a business organization, or any social system properly morally regulate itself? The members within observe moral responsibility for themselves and to each other for the sake of efficiently reducing conflict to an occasional necessity for successful education rather than an occasional phenomenon that happens when there can be little done aside from actions that are more than likely criminal to stop an individual or organization from being morally reprehensible. It’s not enough to attempt to minimize or simply reduce instances of conflict and morally unacceptable or unethical behavior. There must be conflict when social regulation cannot effectively be processed with experiential education alone. In other words, if someone within a social environment is being destructive towards that environment, for the sake of the sustainability of that environment, their destructive tendencies must be contested and resolved, with violence if necessary.
The anarchist is not against organization and social systems, but against the systematization of authoritarian power consistently held by a singular political entity. When it becomes the duty of an individual or entity to manage the domination of a group of people, it becomes that individual’s or entity’s focus to execute domination where and when it is appropriate. However, without self-awareness, moral responsibility, and a mindful consideration of circumstances, the tendency of these entities is to dominate wherever excusable. The anarchist understands the need for individual moral responsibility and expects conflict in all social systems, however, because no one person, being human, can be expected to be perfectly moral. This expectation of unethical transgression is tempered by an attitude of mercy, because it is understood that each individual is an autonomous actor and also morally compromised. Because of this, the tendency or potential for “evil”, malevolence, deceit, conceited pride, or betrayal is always present, making any particular individual incapable and unworthy of being the singular moral or ethical adjudicator or regulator. Entrusting this responsibility to a particular system within the social environment or external to it runs the risk of alienating those not participating in the regulatory process, and systemically instating a bias against them. Just as an individual is expected to be his or her own moral regulator, a social environment is expected to regulate itself with the participation of all entities and elements within the environment/social system. If people cannot maintain ethical regulation themselves of themselves, it should not come as a surprise when social systems and institutions fail to do the same.
If someone must be held accountable by others, this unethical displacement of autonomy, at least temporarily, must be accepted and voluntarily initiated rather than automatically executed according to the applicability of innately arbitrary legislative restrictions or prohibitions. The danger lies in the fact that when it becomes someone’s job, and so their primary social responsibility in the eyes of governing entities, to oversee or conduct the moral regulation of others, their livelihood and identity become attached to a process that is arbitrarily necessary. The individual no longer considers whether regulation is necessary, but whether it is applicable according to legislation, and the regulating entity will enforce regulation where it is not directly needed to counteract destructive tendencies on the basis of fulfilling one’s duty and identity as a regulator. But since the regulator cannot be trusted to perfectly self-regulate, even in the cases of those who are typically mindful and responsible, and since any regulator of regulators would be expected to deal with exactly the same problems, no regulator who’s sole responsibility it is to regulate others can be trusted not to neglect others and abuse their power and dominion over the regulation process. Also, by way of the existence of an external regulator, individuals and social systems are consequently excused from self-regulation so long as “criminals” can be systematically punished and held responsible for any and whatever unethical behavior or conflict occurred, even though this potential for immorality and dangerous conflict is inherent in all people. Under this system, all people are supposedly given the benefit of the doubt that they have not yet done something worthy of punishment (some are even deluded into thinking that some people, perhaps themselves, are incapable of doing something morally reprehensible), but it should be known that no one is truly innocent of malevolence and the very ready potential for deceit, even if the target of their malevolence and deceit is himself or herself; furthermore, instead of regulating behaviors, the system looks to regulate conflict itself, not understanding the necessity of conflict in certain circumstances, as demonstrated by its own lack of recognition for its unethical behavior and tendencies, and its supposed moral authority. It is too dangerous to localize such power when power necessarily corrupts characters by distorting egos.
Naturally, there are no official regulators. Everyone who does not suffer from extremely crippling mental instability is capable, and therefore challenged, to regulate themselves according to ethical standards of morality. Such standards must never be externalized lest we alienate the individual from inherent moral imperatives derived from our existential conditions. To make people beholden to moral legislation is to condemn people to criminal conviction by consequence of chance conflict with the destructive and immoral tendencies of any and all people. And, seeing as though the regulation is then externalized and systematized, its processes are always imperfect and insufficient, as some violators will not be prosecuted and some violators will be overly punished and too harshly treated as a result of blind adherence to legislation rather than moral understanding and mindfulness. Though no individual or entity is expected to perfectly adhere to ethical behavior, each individual can learn and understand the natural morality, and so have a clear, intuitive understanding of how to deal with conflict and moral issues in appropriate ways. If this is not true, the state condemns everyone to inevitable criminal punishment by way of ignorance of morality as a result of systematized ethical standards coupled with necessarily unethical regulation and legislation.
It should be known that the externalization of morality into legislative code, even if successful in its description of the concepts with which it seeks to frame morality, alienates the individual from personal responsibility, allowing the excuse that they simply have not encountered or been given the correct conceptualization of morality. Either everybody knows innately what’s morally acceptable or unacceptable by virtue of an implicit, metaphysical understanding of good and bad, or morality is the sole responsibility of an external entity or select few which arbitrarily defines not only right and wrong, but also good and bad.
This brings the focus to the metaphysical and existential claims of the anarchist. Namely, there are two focuses for these two claims:
- Either you can innately and always trust yourself, as well as others, to naturally be themselves, or honestly express their nature, OR you cannot trust even your distrust of yourself or others in the case that your nature is dishonest, and you innately deceive yourself into thinking that you cannot trust the potential dishonesty of others. This is supported with the premises that all behavior is genuinely expressive of one’s nature, and even dishonesty and deceitful actions are naturally honest expressions of a person’s or entity’s deceitful and dishonest nature.
- Each person is the absolute authority their own nature and solely knows what is good and bad to them. Others may understand generally what may be good or bad for their character, but no one can determine, seeing as though one’s personal character is transcendent and transformative, what kind of character is good or bad for the person/individual.
The anarchy is not innately a political ideology, but a metaphysical and existential philosophy with political and social implications. It describes the inescapable, ever effectual, natural state of human social systems. It is predicated on the fact that true laws cannot be broken, and there is never an objective need for someone to rule or dominate a social system/society. There is never an objective need to enforce normative behavior. There is never an objective need for sustainability. These are all needs abstractly and arbitrarily defined by virtue of our desire to live and to live well. If that desire cannot be fulfilled under the concurrent social dynamics, these dynamics must be reformed in order that and only insofar as, regardless of the potential for conflict, people may live in fulfillment of their nature. This fulfillment of nature is never not accomplished, as the circumstances of one’s existence are also the characteristics of one’s existence, but this does not mean that the conditions of our existence are satisfyingly meaningful and fulfilling in regards to the will and desires of the individual person. It is everybody’s moral responsibility and obligation to fulfill their existence. Otherwise, there is no need or point in being alive except to simply be alive rather than dead. And, if people and social systems are meant to always be morally compromised by unethical tendencies and necessary evils, so be it, but to use that as an excuse to control, exploit, and dominate another person and alienate their nature and being from their will and desires, making them suffer an unfulfilling life is the highest of evils and inviting of all manners of violence.