Anarchy: Much More Than Nothing
Posted by PintofStout on May 29, 2007
I wrote this in hopes of getting it posted at the Carnival of Anarchy for their theme of the “Spirit of Anarchy.” This essay started out rather scattered and is truly an example of order from chaos. The essay follows:
The other night I was in a pub in Pittsburgh with my wife and her cousin to hear some music and indulge in the drink. Pennsylvania or the county where Pittsburgh is located or maybe just the city itself passed a smoking ban last year (it’s all the rage these days) which, after an injunction expired, was to take effect recently. So when my wife’s cousin went to light up a smoke, I instinctively questioned whether he was allowed to do that or not. I asked because I was concerned for him and didn’t want to see him fined or something. After about 10 seconds of questioning if there was another injunction and realizing there were still ashtrays about, I realized I didn’t care if it was legal or not and felt silly for having the gut reaction I did. It felt like the person who consciously tries to be tolerant and open-minded only to have a knee-jerk racist reaction to a group of black kids walking down the street; it was an unconscious betrayal of what is consciously desired.
The unconscious behavior, the stuff that happens out of instinct or long repetition, exhibited by people is a window into what we can call spirit, the undercurrents of someone’s personality. The spirit influences conscious thought, but conscious thought has no immediate bearing on the spirit. Spirit often translates into deeply held beliefs, such as faith in a deity or the supernatural. It can also come in the flavor of non-belief or hard-won belief. But this personal spirit is merely a tangential reflection or absorption of a larger, ether-like spirit of which only varying and small portions are incorporated into a person’s spirit.
Anarchists tend to be open-minded and require proof or logic to bolster claims into belief. That personal spirit also leads many to be atheists and agnostics, and colors the lens through which reality is viewed, far beyond simply forms of government and structures of organized society. Rules without reason are rendered absurd while arbitrary authority is ignored. The personal spirit of anarchy manifests itself in every aspect of the person’s life; to single out government and politics in the discussion and practice of anarchy is to focus on the tick and ignore the dog.
The whole scope of anarchy – looking at the entire dog, if you will – encompasses personal relationships, business and economic transactions, and even the impersonal interactions of moving through society. The larger spirit of anarchy drives and shapes all of these things. Oh sure, some may say that it happens within the framework of the law established by government, but this is merely an influence in the behavior of the actors and certainly not absolute in determining ultimate actions. In fact, the law in many cases is simply codifying what anarchy has already established. Do people choose to commit or abstain from murder on the basis of the law? I would argue they do only in the capacity that a river would listen to a law to flow downhill. The codifiers of these laws, the states, all exist on the anarchic stage of the world; there is no uber-government that sets rules for the interaction of nation-states. If the argument is made for the United Nations in this regard, I would refer to the law dictating the flow of rivers in regards to futility.
Even in the organization and establishment of governing bodies, the larger spirit of anarchy has a hand, for anarchy is not chaotic disorganization but spontaneous and reasoned unity of purpose. The creative act of manipulating a group into believing the legitimacy of another group happened the first time outside of any framework establishing such a convention. That particular collaboration and result may not be favorable to the continuation of anarchy in many eyes, but the truth is that it, too, happens as a part of anarchy, like an eddy current in the larger river. Anarchy makes no judgments of good and evil.
The concept of Nietzsche’s Übermensch floats on the currents that are the larger spirit of anarchy; casting aside old and established moralities and beliefs to establish one’s own as an individual; breaking free of one eddy current to form their own. Creative artists, innovative inventors, enterprising musicians and virtually all acts of creation would be offshoots of the spirit of the new and uncharted anarchy. Like the Übermensch’s Will to Power, a drive to expend creative energy, the spirit of anarchy allows us to create and break free of rules and existing structure. The stage of all existence is anarchy, which can be called Nature. The state of nature, which most humans are too conceited to believe they fall under, is unchangeable and continuing. This all encompassing spirit of anarchy thus shows through to all individuals’ spirits, the difference simply lying in the scope of focus. One can focus on the minute window of structure and of established organization or on the vast unknown and wild whole of nature. The size of that window dictates how far we see, how large we think, and how fully we live.
As people across the globe sidle up to a bar somewhere in search of libation and a smoke, the nature of their thoughts can reveal how big their window into the spirit of anarchy is. When their thoughts linger on the narrow structure of law that dictates to them where they can drink, what they can exchange for drink, who they can exchange with for a drink, what they can drink, when they can drink, and what they can do while drinking, then the window isn’t nearly big enough. To sit and contemplate such a structure as merely a small tyrannical organization in the entire anarchy of the universe is what it would be to find oneself looking through a window large enough to not realize one was looking through a window at all.