What We Need Is A Little More Anarchy
As a lifelong anarchist — of the party-throwing, not bomb–throwing, sort — I’m sick and tired of being mischaracterized. People who should know better cry, “Anarchy!” every time things get chaotic and start falling apart. That’s wrong. Anarchists don’t create chaos. They have the goal of getting things done without government — kind of like free-market capitalism. What happens to anarchists is what happens to rock bands. Sooner or later, somebody decides to be the boss, grab the credit or go solo. The answer to the question, “Who’s breaking up that old band of mine?” Not the anarchists.” The anarchists liked it better when we rehearsed in the basement, set up our own amps and there was not enough money or fame to fight over.
“Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility. — William Godwin
Anarchy means without government. It’s not a political vacuüm. At the grassroots level, it is the way people regulate themselves without hierarchy. Anarchy happens a lot but we don’t recognize its positive characteristics. Instead, we focus on lawless malcontents who are anti-government, not free of it.
For anarchy to function, it has to be local, temporary, consensual and equitable. It doesn’t last because continuity requires planning, and planning requires leadership. Leadership then seeks its privileges and does not relinquish its power. Once the community is institutionalized, there’s no more anarchy.
“I firmly believe people have the power to make decisions locally and cooperatively. Anarchism is how that is put into practice.” — Scott Crow
Anarchy is utopian, an ideal. People come together, have a communal moment, then go their separate ways. It’s is a good thing when it happens. A few months ago, a three year-old child broke away from his mother at the Cincinnati Zoo and climbed into the gorilla habitat. Because the child was in imminent danger, the zoo keepers had to kill Harambe, the 17 year-old gorilla, to save the child. The gorilla was a beloved member of the zoo community, and staff members and Cincinnatians were distraught over the incident. The child’s parents were grateful that God had spared the child.
“Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it.” Mikhail Bakunin
Public reaction was understandable. Most people rushed to find fault – by the zoo or the parent. There was a traumatized child, a dead gorilla and no closure. What if the parents, without blaming the zoo or acknowledging fault, were able to say that they, as part of the community, were also sad about the event? As grateful as the parents were for their child’s rescue, it was not a satisfactory conclusion because Harambe was killed.
What if those parents and their friends and parishioners joined together to celebrate Harambe and created a fund in his name to benefit the zoo; if they could not donate money, they could donate time. The zoo and community heal some of the wounds.
“Anarchy could never get a man to the moon, but it may be the only mode that can allow us to survive on earth.” — Sheldon Kopp
Of course that didn’t happen. The zoo and animal rights activists and primatologists played out their debate over what went wrong and what should be done. Harambe’s killing became a cultural flash point, with internet memes, video games and write-in campaigns (he out-polled the incumbent in some districts). A plain expression of regret, a sharing of loss and a productive way forward could have healed wounds and pulled people together around common sorrow. That would have been Anarchy at work: local, temporary, consensual, and equitable. You can be sure that I was blasted at the mere suggestion that the parents should be anything other than overwrought. Anarchy would have promoted healing and offered a teachable moment for parents and children.
The next time friends gather to celebrate or mourn, to have an impromptu adventure or to take up or oppose a cause, take a moment to remember anarchy’s great thinkers, and thank them for their service.
In Memory Of Harambe
© 2016 The Revolted Colonies, Reprinted by permission.
CORRECTION: The original version of this didn’t have the correct photo of Sheldon Knapp. The current version has the correct one.