Tuesday, September 8, 2015
The Tao of Anarchy: Love, Freedom, Responsibility
Spend enough time on social media outlets and you’ll hear as much talk about awareness and spirituality as you like. I have learned long ago that it is not my job, if I were even capable – I am not – to judge anyone or their points of view as being truly aware, truly spiritual, or not. I have enough to deal with concerning my own ego to worry about what you are doing for your own awakening.
One of the most common memes among those who fashion themselves as aware is the idea of personal responsibility. Though the words are seldom used, the themes are similar. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. You yourself are the teacher and the pupil; you are the Master; you are the guru; you are the leader; you are everything! You have to be a Light unto yourself. You have to seek and search within your own being, because it is already there at the very Core. If you dive deep you will find it. You will have to learn how to dive within yourself, not in the scriptures, but within your own existence. I could go on forever.
If you’re familiar with the teachings of Krishnamurti, you may have heard him describe two modes of understanding: intellectual and actual. I am often reminded of this when I observe the words of many who fashion themselves enlightened, awake, aware.
There is great evil in the world. Few can deny the world is a ruinous, grotesque charade laughingly called “civilization”. I would like to point out some of the glaring contradictions in what we often see as solutions to this problem. For if we understand the concept of personal responsibility, not just intellectually but actually, it becomes clear that we are barking up the wrong tree in working towards a solution.
Would you like to save the world from the degradation and destruction it seems destined for? Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation. – Wang Fou, Huahujing
It seems to me that for many of us the solutions to the evils of the world involves trying to mold the habits and actions of other people. We don’t like GMOs – with good reason – so we must ban them. We may or may not be concerned about global warming or climate change, or the overall health of the environment, so we must ban or restrict fossil fuel use. We want to throw politicians and bankers and CEOs into prison. Insert your favorite movement or cause here, and chances are, if the shoe fits, your solution to these problems is external. And it usually involves the government in some way, shape, or form.
This usually stems from a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of economics. We are told that economics is a grim and boring science and we should probably leave it to experts to figure out for us. But economics is nothing if not a science of human action and how it expresses itself in society. One of the biggest problems with our understanding of economics is we are led to believe that in the West we have what is known as “Capitalism”, and thus all of the flaws and ills in our society are often framed as flaws and ills in “Capitalism”.
It is beyond the scope of this essay to define what Capitalism actually is, but allow me to explain what Capitalism is not. The various alphabet bureaucracies that, we are told, exist to protect us from corporate and industrial malfeasance are actually wholly owned subsidiaries of those same corporations and industries. From the USDA to the FDA, the SEC to the EPA, you will find each bureaucracy staffed by lawyers and lobbyists for agricultural and biotech giants, pharmaceutical giants, energy giants, Wall Street titans, and on and on. These unelected bureaucrats are literally foxes guarding the hen house, and they are using their purchased share of the US government to shield themselves from fraud and other malfeasance – destroying the environment, destroying competition and forcing people to purchase their products. This is not a “free market”. And most of us go to sleep at night confident and comfortable in the notion that, under a free market, the world would collapse, so thank the Lord these unelected bureaucracies exist to protect us!
Many people see that these bureaucracies are not functioning correctly, however their solution, for some insane reason I cannot fathom, is to petition the government to step up their responsibilities. But, as just one for instance, when you call the USDA to pressure them to deny approval for Monsanto’s ‘agent orange’ soy, you’re actually petitioning Monsanto to ban its own product. You’re not talking to neutral arbiters; you’re talking directly to Monsanto, “in sheep’s clothing”. And though it may inflate your ego to stick your fist in the face of the Man, that’s about as much progress as you’re likely to make.
This is just one example, but I feel it is a disease that has infested every level of our government, from top to bottom. And it is the direct result of a population that has invested its time and energy into a mechanism that deflects personal responsibility. The question for many is rarely, What can I do personally to affect change on these issues? That might be the dialogue they have in their heads, but when you pick up the phone and call a bureaucrat or a politician, your actions pervade the demand, What is someone else going to do to affect change on these issues?
The proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit to it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. – J.R.R. Tolkien
It is very sad to see that for so many, the solution is not to build a society where we fix our own problems as individuals, freely and voluntarily, but to simply fix the system that has destroyed society in the first place, as if the system is actually broken; as if it wasn’t designed this way – that is to say, as if we, the individuals, actually had a stake in the whole sham in the first place. And so many still flock to the voting booth, wide-eyed and hypnotized, by the “new blood” of spiritual politicians, Marianne Williamson chief among them. We just need more people like her, and we can take “our” country back – as though some foreign power had invaded, that the situation wasn’t of our own making! Her embarrassingly inept, misdiagnosed social problems and reckless and economically ignorant solutions aside, the very fact that a “spiritual” teacher would want to throw her lot in with that den of murderers and thieves, that she would seek to tell others how they must live, through threat of violence, shreds any credibility she has. The very fact that she wants to be a leader betrays the core tenet of awareness which she thinks can bring change to the nation: personal responsibility. The very idea that we need leaders at all. That we need to be controlled, ruled.
The downfalls of society that we identify – scarcity, illness, fraud, environmental destruction, etc – are not diseases in and of themselves. They are merely symptoms. The disease, as I see it, is our own refusal to take responsibility for our own lives. And so we continue to petition the government for redress, unaware that, through the State, our refusal to take responsibility actually causes the problems we think we need government for.
It is perhaps the most destructive fallacy inflicted on Man, the notion that since Man’s technological achievements have paralleled the existence of the State, we naively attribute those achievements to the State – or perhaps it is establishment propaganda which has instilled this belief in us. It doesn’t occur to us whether it is even possible that we may have advanced in spite of the State, or, at the very least, that the correlation is purely coincidental. We think, the government builds the roads, the government has always built the roads, so who would build the roads in the absence of government? It’s as if, without government, I’d have my store over here, trying to sell you stuff, and you’d be living over there somewhere, and everyone would be standing around, confused as to how to make a connection, and without government to handle that for us, we’d all just curl up in a ball and have a seizure. Few have the imagination to see how ridiculous the whole notion is.
It is outside the intent of this essay to discuss whether the State was ever really necessary, and I am not yet educated enough on the subject to say what the state of mankind would be had the State never been conceived. All I have is the record, and the facts of the current state of affairs.
Separating the State from Man’s technological achievements, we see that the State is a machine for death and destruction, if it ever was a tool for creation. In the Twentieth Century alone, not including soldiers who perished in war, the State murdered over 200 million people. To put that into perspective, imagine about 3,000 football stadiums filled to capacity. That total number, killed by the State. And when I say “the State”, I don’t mean Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. It is highly likely that these people did not personally murder a single person. It was through the cold, efficient machinery of the State, through thousands of people “just following orders”. No individual could ever of his own singular effort come close to the efficiency the State commits its crimes. When people wonder who, without government, would do the things government does, it never enters their minds the hideous crimes the State is guilty of. Who would build the roads? Who would slaughter hundreds of millions of people?
If this is the price to be paid for an idea, then let us pay. There is no need of being troubled about it, afraid, or ashamed. This is the time to boldly say, “Yes, I believe in the displacement of this system of injustice by a just one; I believe in the end of starvation, exposure, and the crimes caused by them; I believe in the human soul regnant over all laws which man has made or will make; I believe there is no peace now, and there will never be peace, so long as one rules over another; I believe in the total disintegration and dissolution of the principle and practice of authority; I am an Anarchist, and if for this you condemn me, I stand ready to receive your condemnation. – Voltairine de Cleyre (1866 – 1912)
Anarchy is not a principle for people to whom personal responsibility is a foreign concept. It is for people who understand that the individual is the sole and final arbiter over what is best for the individual. It is for people who understand that good ideas do not require force. It is for people who understand that power feeds on power, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely; therefore no one or any group of people should be given even the seeds of such absolute power – no one should rule over another. It is for people who understand the inherent contradiction in Madison’s adage, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” For, as Jefferson put it, if men are not angels, can men, then, be trusted to govern others? Does the holy sacrament of “democracy” turn elected men into angels? Hitler was democratically elected.
Those who are capable of seeing the evils the State commits today, usually ignorant of the fact that this is not a new phenomenon, but an inherent trait, maintain their faith in the State, blaming “other people”, that mythical entity that is about as real as the unicorn grazing in my back yard, for allowing State power to grow to the grotesque monstrosity it is today, by not paying attention to politics. The anarchist says, why should I have to pay attention to someone else’s politics? My own politics are my daily needs, and how I provide for them. Why must I proxy that power to others to handle on my behalf? Why must I? Those who understand politics understand full well that if politicians hadn’t had their filthy hands in every single conceivable aspect of our lives, sucking in every last mundanity to regulate and charge us for the “right” to everything, so that we can hardly get out of bed in the morning without permission, we might just be able to figure life out on our own. If government is good at anything, and this, to me, it seems, is their daily bread, it is good at creating problems for which it is needed to solve.
Again, it is beyond the intent of this essay to explain or theorize how a truly free and voluntary society would function sans the State. That is all actually besides the point. The at-heart anarchist does not believe what he or she believes from a utilitarian perspective. Yes, there are answers to the irrational fears people have, about roads and money and science and all the things we think cannot exist without the State. But we are not interested in “society”. For thousands of years, Man has claimed the mantle of collective responsibility for “society”, and that ideal has “civilization” circling the drain, with nuclear powers and half of the rest of the world fighting amongst themselves over imaginary lines drawn on imaginary maps; over a hallucination, a complete and total mental abstraction. No, the anarchist’s belief in freedom is purely philosophical. We desire full and total control over our own lives, and we wish to leave you to do what you wish, so long as it doesn’t aggress against others. So if you insist we accept your point of view, that “it won’t work”, regardless of why we think it will, that is meaningless to us. Our only concern is, what does building roads and paying for your retirement have to do with my right to be free, to not have my earnings arbitrarily robbed in the interests of “society”? Who are you – who is anyone – to force me, under threat of violence, to do anything?
We will not become free once the State goes away. Rather, the State will go away once we become free. – Butler Shaffer
A friend of mine recently told me, when I remarked that he seemed to see as I do that anarchy is a spiritual philosophy, that anarchy is a synonym for love. When viewed in proper context, we see that the State has been, is, and always will be, an engine for death and destruction. Naturally we view the removal of this engine as the emergence of the expression of love, as the power for Man to commit his inhumanity towards man is stripped from him, and we are left in a world where all things are equal, where influence cannot be bought (and thus the corporatism we mistake for capitalism is vanquished), where we are all responsible for our own lives, where we can help those less fortunate than us of our own volition, without coercion, in a way we feel is the best and most effective investment of our time and resources.
Out of this love, we trust that without our god, government, standing over us with a club, we can coexist peacefully because we as human beings are smart enough to understand that peaceful, voluntary interaction is the most beneficial long-term strategy for living our lives; those who fail to grasp this would naturally be avoided, and may even, in self defense, be harmed or killed for their actions – personally empowered people are not defenseless. Those mythical “other people” you fear, who are sharpening their claws ready to burn your house down and kill your children the second the authority of the State is swept away, simply do not exist, or, if they do, would not last very long once they realized the people, even without the State, are capable of and willing to defend themselves. The anarchist understands better than most that much of the criminal element that exists in our society is the result of the scarcity created by the State’s economic policies (debt-based currency back by nothing and perpetually devalued, among their worst) as well as its many oppressive prohibitions (the “war on drugs”, etc). We know that human beings are smart enough, we have enough accumulated knowledge and technology, that, without the State, we won’t devolve into nomadic hunter-gathering barbarians, tearing each other to shreds over scarce resources. How absurd!
A state? What is that? Well! open now your ears to me, for now I will speak to you about the death of peoples. State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” – Nietzsche
There is an argument that, “We are the government.” If this reasoning is believed, then the Jews in Nazi Germany killed themselves. – Murray Rothbard
So, I say, anarchy is in truth a spiritual (a)political philosophy, because it demands that I have not only the capability but the responsibility to be free and empowered, and I gladly and lovingly accord you the same right. You are a sentient being, and no one has the right to suppose what is best for you, unless you freely and voluntarily allow it, and I expect and demand the same consideration. I am not interested in what is practical for “society”, and I realize that if such a reality as I imagine here were ever to manifest, it would likely take place long after I have died. But, understanding the sickness that has infected our culture, society, and civilization, I feel that if we don’t evolve, if we don’t transcend this destructive delusion, we will almost certainly, through the State, destroy ourselves.