Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Anarchy Is In Your Head

Posted by PintofStout on December 1, 2006

It has been said and quoted in various forms that ideas are very powerful. The context is usually some empty motivation or inspirational speech where the words are spoken (or written) and not considered. Are they talking about old ideas, new ideas, ideas they consider bad or ideas they consider good; what are they speaking of when people refer to the power of ideas?

The first connotation of the word idea is probably an original thought, that light bulb coming on, that Eureka! moment. The next connotation is any thought or conception, which is the same as the first connotation, but just more persistent and less time-dependent. There is a third meaning, like the other two, with an added nuance. It makes an idea a concept or, in the Platonic sense, a form, meaning an archetype; an ideal. All these definitions or connotations are similar with only very subtle nuances that set them apart. Taking the above forms the word ‘idea’ assumes in reverse is where the power comes in.

Thoughts themselves aren’t particularly powerful. It is the ideals and conceptions that help to form the thoughts that have the power. For instance, it is not that powerful of an idea to think about and critique a system of government; it is a powerful idea that allows that entity to exist and almost demands it as an ideal. Being a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or any faction in-between or outside of them and making criticisms or suggestions for what should be done all fall within a single ideal: that there should be a government; the individual arguments are just nuance. They are not arguing whether there should be a horse; they are simply arguing the size, function, and who has the reigns.

In recent years skeptics of anarchism have pointed to Somalia and other failed states (some with much help from peaceful democracies) mired in violence and said “see I told you so,” about why there was a need for a government. What they failed to realize was that just because there wasn’t a dominant governing faction, there also wasn’t anarchy, either. Anarchy is a state of mind and an ideal as much as it is a physical reality (or possibility thereof) – just like government. The fighting between various factions was occurring mainly to see who would be thug-in-chief, a.k.a. government. The idea of a government was ever-present, and that is what they were fighting over.

That is why a war of ideas is vital to the prevailing ideal and model of society. To depose and defeat a government of men is only winning a battle and not the war. We have to fight the idea that a government is inevitable and necessary. Until the idea is defeated, we are merely fighting men who can be replaced. It is for this reason why I prefer to use the word ‘rebellion’ rather than ‘revolution,’ as explained in an old post (Revolution Comes Back Around). A revolution is a revolving door that changes occupants but not the ideal; I’m looking for the alternate entrance.

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2 Responses to “Anarchy Is In Your Head”

  1. Bugaboo said

    You state that we have to fight the idea that government is inevitable or necessary, but your example of Somalia would seem to defend the viewpoint that government is in fact inevitable. As you correctly noted, in the absence of an organized government a struggle for power through force quickly erupted. The only way to accomplish the anarchy that you desire would be for every person, everywhere to lay down any desire for power over another and to do so out of a completely pure motive. This kind of utopia, while perhaps desirable, is certainly not attainable. Thus, in my view, some form of government is inevitable…

  2. I think my point was, would the factions in Somalia be fighting for control of the reigns if there was no illusion of a horse?
    It was the view like yours that I was trying, apparently not clearly enough, to address. If there is the idea that a government lends legitimacy, that just gives these folks the idea of a finish line. As most runners know, you try much harder when the finish line is in sight. This is not to mention the moral code involved in believing there can be a group of people who can have legitimate control of others based on a document or a word such as “government.”
    I realize every person everywhere giving up ambitions of control and power is utopian, but there has to be a goal. If the objective falls short of a utopian position, then the result will likely fall much shorter.
    Also, when one of these factions has enough power to control the others, then they will be the government. There will be no entity that comes in and says “poof! there’s a government. Now behave yourselves.”

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