"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
The Complication Between State Education and a Young Anarchist: A Short Narrative
Column by new Root Striker Vaughn Bateman.
Exclusive to STR
If anything can sum together my emotions pertaining to the relationship I share with anarchism, it would be a well-deserved expression of welcome and regret – the two being contradictory when used together. And aside from the thrilling sense of expressing righteous angst against the status quo society (preferably by the methodology of impaling a 100- foot thorn into the side of statism), I suspect the formerly stated conscious emotional response is a common one, one you may have when finally accepting adulthood, or when finally rejecting a superstition you hold dear to your heart. Regardless of what similarities I can find, it’d be best to elaborate on my assertions.
A couple years back, during the years of public high school, I always felt a strong sense of unease, deep down in one’s gut, whenever I took a course in modern history or U.S. government. The pose the teacher kept, the unscathed persona of irrefutable knowledge, while lecturing on the necessity for U.S. imperialism (although it was never called this – even though I drew undisputable parallels between the actions of the U.S. and that of accepted “empires”), made one cringe, deep to the bone. Upon every rebuttal I dished out, totally negating every syllable delivered by the hour-long lecture, I was lavishly scorned in front of my peers by gestures of dismissal by the head teacher. It was always by means of clever trickery, or a precise evasion of my remarks, that left my voice unheard. Eventually it came to a point where I began to fail exams, when I decided to make a vow to myself saying that I’d only reply with only historically accurate answers. This led to a great plummet in my grades, and an even greater distaste from my teachers. I continued along this path for quite some time before I stumbled upon one of my life’s biggest decisions to date.
When I really began to dig deep into the morality behind the philosophy, the argument from morality, I saw my public school institution in a quite different light. Although I now regret and dismiss the following decision, I dropped out of high school due primarily to the nature of public schooling and because of the petty back-and-forth battles I had with my teachers. I continued to support myself during the process by repeating over and over again, “I just don’t want to support my neighbors being in the crosshairs of a well-oiled gun.” It was a basic and uncompromising premise I upheld, all the way through completion of my GED.
I now reflect back on the situation and compare it under the same light I would examine my sometimes overzealous use of public roads and libraries. The conclusion I arrive at is a simple one: You cannot apply morality when you are bare of choice and free-will. I believe we all would accept that if you are physically coerced into doing something, even if it may be for good or evil, you cannot be held morally responsible for the outcome. If I was coerced into donating a large chunk of my savings to charity, you could not call me a morally noble man. On the flipside, if my family or I am coerced under the stipulation of my attendance to public schooling, I cannot be called immoral for attending, or using a service or institution, by the result of blood money stemmed from taxation. Since I did not have the choice of being free of state school directly, or state regulation indirectly (though private schools), I did not act in the realm of morality.
This was an unquestionably stressful time during my life; It was actually the first time I was required to make a decision, not based from pragmatism, but from morality alone. Bear in mind that virtually all decisions I made prior to stumbling upon the thousand-pound anvil of anarchism (and the underlying philosophy which entails), were decisions made directly from pragmatic thinking. Before then, I never looked at the given variables in a situation and asked, “What is the moral thing to do?,” I always deciphered my way directly to the most utilitarian approach.
The aftermath of my dropping out of high school and attaining my GED in a less “bloody of a fashion” resulted in some obviously negative consequences. The first and foremost is that a large percentage of employers are extremely biased when comparing an application of a high school graduate to one of a GED possessor. This has caused me a great deal of hardship when in search of employment – for it is hard enough to attain employment within the current confines of the U.S. economy. When the economy reaches its current point, the point of job scarcity, I would suspect that any and every so-called “flaw” in the employer’s eyes would be the ultimate decider dictating who gets selected for hire and who doesn’t. The second problematic aftermath result of my decision could rightfully be called a continuation of my initial decision to quit high school. I am again at debating amongst myself whether or not to attend college – and I already know in advance that my prior decision to quit high school will directly affect my selection of colleges that I am able to attend. These are both the sum of my decision. I now sometimes regret the choosing of it and despise the outcome.
It is without question that there are many others who have or are going through what I experienced, and they too will come to the inevitable forked road between chasing the fantasy of purity, or accepting the world that the state has created for what it is.