"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
"Anarchy," or Impending Democracy?
The current situation in Iraq is ubiquitously misrepresented as being a state of 'anarchy.' What is filling the void left by the absent Hussein regime is mob rule, the dark side of democracy. It's a riotous state of disorder directly caused by the replacement of one form of government by another. It's not caused by an absence of government, but by an excess of government, or a battle for supremacy between two regimes. Nothing could be further from a true state of anarchy, and to call this state of affairs 'anarchy' is a profound abuse of the term; it's inaccurate and unjust. Nobody, as far as I know, has seriously proposed that US forces are occupying Iraq for the sake of 'making the world safe for anarchy.' The onset of democracy is underway; it's just not turning out quite according to plan. A hyper-aggressive US government is installing the rude apparatus of democracy in an unwelcoming environment where democracy's shortcomings will become immediately and glaringly apparent, and its inevitable descent into tyranny proceeds on fast forward.
A decapitated dictatorship is not anarchy. Or, to rephrase that: Anarchy does not arise from a decapitated dictatorship. The headless horseman wasn't Paul Revere, either, and Marie Antoinette wasn't Joan of Arc. One who uses his head is not the same thing as one who loses it; the two may sound alike, but only if you're totally oblivious to differences in the actual meanings. They mean entirely the opposite of each other, which should be apparent to anyone who's mastered elementary school English, and thinks about it. Don't call mob rule anarchy because you don't like the results; 'unstable democracy' would be far closer to the truth.
It's infuriating; every time a group of people behaves badly ' assuming they're not politicians, that is ' the talking heads describe their actions as 'anarchy.' Anarchy isn't simply lawlessness; it's a condition where government enforced laws would be redundant and unappreciated, because they'd be seen as the cure that's worse than the disease, or the bandage that hides a festering infection. People can be self-governing as individuals, and in communities or tribes as well. That is the foundation that once promised to make America truly extraordinary; how far the mighty and marvelous dream has fallen! Now, instead of being seen as a peaceful, idyllic nation of human honeybees minding our own hives and meadows, we've taken on the alarming aspect of a swarm of angry, invasive wasps in the eyes of the world. America needs to take a good look in the mirror of world opinion, and ponder her new and unflattering reflection there.
When war is peace, good is evil, and freedom is slavery, perhaps it stands to reason that tyranny will be called anarchy. Justice has gone criminal, and welfare means dependency on the state, no longer a condition of being well or self-sufficient. 'Equal opportunity' is a tool for the pre-emptive suppression of talent and incentive, the leveling of competition and sabotage of the entrepreneurial instinct. Draining resources is justified as 'providing services;' 'educating children' translates into making them stupid; 'maintaining order' is simply the forced abortion of any natural, healthy or spontaneous order that develops independent of state interference. 'Homeland security' is the pretext for making us more insecure in our privacy and autonomy than it should ever have been remotely possible for an American government to do. We should be outraged.
In a sense, the word 'anarchy' represents ground zero for the freedom movement. If people are afraid of real freedom, goose-stepping around the language of freedom will only invite increasingly intricate levels of compromise and further corrupt meanings. In order to take back individual authority, it will be necessary to take back the language and refuse to surrender our arsenal of communicable meanings. As George Orwell observed, the language of politics ' corrupt as it is ' lies at the heart of the problem, and it cannot be catered to constructively. People change their politics like their wardrobes: I suspect that's why we anarchists are viewed with the same sort of alarm and bewilderment that nudist colonies are; we prefer unostentatious and natural habits.
There must be an inherent flaw in human nature that prefers to yield authority, no matter how destructive that tendency becomes to society. Like original sin, it's the perpetual 'bad start' to life that we must struggle to overcome. Because yielding authority means somebody has to take it, too ' there are two sides to that equation. When someone takes it, someone else loses it. The more power government gains, the more we have lost, and we should all be extremely worried about our situation now.
An analogy: take a veal calf, a pitiful creature cooped up in a tiny pen all of its life. Give it freedom, and a great big field to run around in; the poor critter will get stuck in the mud, it won't know enough not to drown in the creek; it doesn't know what to eat, and gets sick because it gobbles the wrong plant, or a poisonous spider, or somebody's long lost stash of peyote mushrooms. Its natural environment has become an alien and inhospitable environment because it has never lived as nature meant it to. It does not know how to live the life it's been given, and the kindness of that liberation is strangely transformed into terrible cruelty. Does this bovine hero survive? Is betting legal where you live? I'm not taking bets; its chances are slim, but perhaps anything is possible.
Do you remember Born Free? It's been a long time, but as I recall, the basic premise of the book and the movie was the story of a lion cub, raised among people. It was an inspiring story; the lion was finally reintroduced to the wild ' it learned how to be free. Humans taught it how not to be free, but they also showed it how to be free again. We may be born as something more than animals, but we also need a natural environment in which to grow and achieve an optimal life and society. People are not born knowing how to live free regardless of their environment. As a species, we are especially dependent in the beginning stages of life. If we're kept penned up all our lives, and cultivated by something alien to our natural interests, we're lost in the natural order.
National interests and natural interests are not compatible, because the former means external authority, and the latter entails internal authority in the sense of inward authority. 'Walking with God,' if you'd like to call it that . . . that's as good a way of putting it as any, but there are other ways too. On the other hand, if your God leads you around by the nose, revels in human sacrifice, or confines you in a crate of suffocating regulations, it might be a good idea to do some diligent research into his credentials, and maybe even make a run for it as soon as possible.
Anarchism is not a social condition, like what you might encounter in the red light district or Washington DC. Anarchism is a philosophy, with honorable traditions handed down and built upon from one generation of individualists to the next. Resisting authority is not the same thing as baiting it, teasing it or playing games with it. Civil disobedience is not uncivil and reckless violence. When rowdy kids throw bricks through store windows, they're badly behaved brats; they may call themselves anarchists but it's likely that most are also registered as Democrats, Republicans, or Greens. These kids may not even call themselves anarchists, but they're labeled as such by others only because they are violent or destructive, and that is terrible nonsense ' it's even slanderous.
If we don't fight for our language, we're toast. That may even mean rebelling against the dictionary, because occasionally it reflects a history of propaganda and misinformation. Anarchy, anarchist, and anarchism are probably the poster children for verbal abuse, but no more. If you have misused these words inadvertently, please be considerate enough to update your vocabulary now (thank you). If you're deliberately abusing the word, this is your cue to go pester someone of your own mental and moral caliber instead, and stop subjecting anarchists to your petty and spiteful misrepresentations. The truth is at stake, and it's your language too . . . who knows, someday you may need it to stand by you, and it won't repay abuse with kindness. Hey, it's for the common good. Quarrel with that.
Note to the Town Clerk's office: Please do take me off the voting rolls; I'm not returning any census forms' you can count me as 'missing from inventory.'