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.