Anarchism 2 Essay, Research Paper
I have always thought of anarchy as a bad thing. I had the image of some English punk dressed in leather with a copious amount of metal piercings adorning his body. How deluded that image is. If you have that same visual image, then you are the person I am talking to. Throughout this paper I am going to erase that negative image of anarchism and replace it with the meaning and intent that anarchism truly represents.
Let us start by deconstructing the meaning of the word. Anarchism is not the belief in a society without rules, nor does it advocate violence. What it is, according to Webster’s dictionary, is a “doctrine advocating the abolishment of government or governmental restraint while achieving political liberty.” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was the first to use the term, which is derived from the Greek word anarchos, meaning “without rule.” Proudhon describes anarchism as “the absence of a master, of a sovereign.” (Love, p. 95) Knowing this, one might wonder why so many people have a negative perception of anarchic philosophy when we so clearly strive to not be owned by any one person or government. Too many times anarchy is coupled with terrorist acts against the establishment. Terrorism is not necessarily true anarchism. Proudhon suggests that anarchism is to do what he calls “propaganda by the deed.” With this new definition of anarchism in hand, we can move on to discussing why we need to seriously reconsider it as a viable option in a time of political mediocrity.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, whose thoughts were introduced in the previous paragraph, says that there is a visible paradox of order in anarchy, meaning that anarchists must have revolution to restore peaceful order. Essentially, they must destroy to create, and by doing this, they give freedom to the individual. Isn’t that what happened when our forefathers broke away from England? Did they not come to the New World and begin to destroy everything they were so they might escape religious persecution? Did they not commit genocide on the Native American people, essentially destroying a whole society that they deemed barbaric? They did not call this anarchy because it wasn’t – it was terrorism.
Emma Goldman comments on this same paradox by saying, “It is the philosophy of the sovereignty of the individual. It is the theory of social harmony.” (Love, p. 96) Why then did these individuals from England come to the New World after being oppressed, and change the rules to benefit themselves, but still alienate the individual? It can only be because they understood the oppressive power that government holds over its people. By setting the rules in opposition to themselves, they were able to keep the power in their hip pocket, while propagating the lie that the people, through the structure of democracy, held the power.
Both Proudhon and Goldman, through these ideas, are stressing the importance of the individual, an idea that has long been lost in our capitalistic society. Even though we are told to forage ahead and look for the individual American dream, we end up bowing to our secret master, the United States’ government. In a government that is supposedly for the people and by the people, how is it possible for so many of the concerns of the people remain unaddressed? Instead, the individual ends up spending most of their energy taking care of the masses. Goldman says, “Order derived through submission and maintained by terror is not much of a safe guarantee; yet that is the only ‘order’ that governments have ever maintained.”
Henry David Thoreau suggests that people in this situation need to let themselves be a counter friction to stop the machine. (Love, p. 103) He suggests that we take active participation in changing our situation, not by violent action, but through actions such as not paying your taxes, refusing the draft or choosing not to vote. By protesting in this way, we are internally chipping away at the infrastructure that denies us our individual freedom. The government acts like a parasite that lives inside its host and feeds off of it, but does not kill it. It feeds off of the host just enough to keep it alive, while also ensuring that its source of nourishment, the host, remains alive. How much longer will we continue to allow them to do this?
Many critics of anarchism say that at best it is a Utopian way of thinking, and that in practice it simply does not work. This is simply untrue. Here I would like to mention an example of an anarchist society that worked quite well. Earlier in this paper I mentioned that the framers of this country committed genocide against the native people of this land. One group of natives, the Iroquois people, who still live across the state of New York, are an excellent example of an anarchist system that worked approximately a thousand years ago. Five separate peoples from across what is now known as New York State, banned together to form the Iroquois Confederacy. These people were the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Cayuga. They knew the agreement that created the Confederacy as the “Great Law of Peace.” The Iroquois had no concept of private property. For them no one could own the land – the land was for all to use. They also did not have any concept of prejudice. Even Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, intrigued with the Iroquois Confederacy, used it to help create the Articles of Confederation. Why then does our government refuse to accept the idea of anarchism as being a positive thing? Anarchism takes power out of the government’s hands and truly puts it in the hands of the individual, and the individual scares them. They are right to have this fear because in a system of anarchy, they are not able to get fat off of the labor of their “host” and are in essence left to forage for themselves and look for a new host.
People of America, it is time for us to open our eyes to the parasite that lives within us. We need to liberate ourselves as individuals. We have sat back for too long while we slave away and are still told that we are free. In fact we are not free at all, it is time for us to rise up and take control of our individual destinies. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for you. It is time to take care of the individual that we have all forgotten lies within us.