Wednesday, December 27, 2006

@narchy is for everyone

by Whatthe There are actually enough resources to give everyone in the world to give free food, free clothes, free shelter, free education, and free health care to every living person. Although anarchists do not usually like to define their beliefs in terms of ethics, the anarchist emphasis on the need to maximize individual freedom can be seen as fundamentally rooted in utilitarian ethics. If one is interested in minimizing global suffering or maximizing global happiness or maximizing the number of individuals who achieve self-actualization and creative fulfillment, as utilitarians are, it seems clear that one must first seek to maximize individual freedom. No one is better equipped, at any given time, to take action to reduce an individual’s suffering, increase an individual’s pleasure, or increase an individual’s feelings of self-actualization than the individual himself, because no one else can completely know the individual’s intimate desires or psychology. Anarchists take it to be an empirical fact that people who exercise the greatest control over their own affairs are the happiest and most fulfilled, and that community life is richer, more meaningful, and more pleasurable when everyone individual is autonomous. Anarchists believe that man’s greatest good—be it pleasure or fulfillment—can only be realistically achieved by individual autonomous action, and so, the pursuit of individual freedom must be the central concern of any ethical community which wants to increase global aggregate happiness and reduce global aggregate suffering. The need to maximize individual liberty and global happiness informs all anarchist thought about political, economic, and social issues. Anarchists oppose the state (defined as an organization with a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force in a given country) because the state exists for the sole purpose of limiting human freedom and imposing the will of a certain group of people (usually a tiny minority) on the rest of a nation’s citizens. Because of the state, millions of people are incarcerated—mostly for nonviolent and “victimless” offenses—and forced to live in totalitarian conditions in which they have absolutely no control over their own situations. Because of the state, untold multitudes are forced to alter their behavior for fear of enduring punishment and incarceration if they act autonomously. Because of the state, millions of people die in wars and genocides, and millions of others are forced to live under foreign occupation in which their liberty is severely restricted. It is obvious that, so long as the state exists, human beings can never attain maximum freedom or maximum happiness, and so, utilitarians and anarchists should oppose the state. While autonomous individuals certainly have conflicts of interest, these conflicts can be dealt with through compromise and consensus, rather than through institutionalized violence. In extreme cases, an antagonistic individual ought to be banished from a community, rather than incarcerated and deprived of his autonomy. Anarchists also oppose the existing economic situation, which they see as presenting another major barrier to the maximization of individual freedom and global happiness. In the existing system of industrial capitalist production, most laborers are treated as tools and are expected to follow orders at all times, and are prevented from engaging in any sort of autonomous decision-making. For as long as they are at work, they are owned by their employer, and nearly every aspect of their life is controlled: what they wear, what they do, and what they say. Some employers even attempt to control the personal lives of their employees: witness drug-testing at workplaces. Employers show no regard whatsoever for the dignity and autonomy of their employees, but because of the extremely centralized control of property in capitalist society, most workers are forced either to endure the pain of wage-slavery or the pains of crushing poverty. In a just economy, workers would be completely self-managed and self-employed. All workers would participate in decision-making at their workplace, and all workers would have the freedom to work in different sectors of the economy at different times and to split time between intellectual and physical labor. Productive property would have to be collectively owned, for if it was privately owned, the owner would inevitably place conditions on the right of workers to use the productive property, limiting worker freedom and autonomy. An autonomous worker, freed from the humiliating constraints of wage-slavery and completely in control of his own work experience, would reap all the fulfillment and enjoyment from growing food or building a house or making clothes that the poet reaps from writing a poem and the scientist reaps from discovering a new principle. The anarchist project to maximize freedom and global happiness extends to nonhuman animals as well. At present, billions upon billions of animals are forced to live lives of unceasing torture in factory farms, fur farms, and laboratories to produce nonessential consumer products. Nonhuman animals clearly have the capacity to feel pain—this much is scientific fact—and there is no reason to believe that the benefit a human derives from having the freedom to live as he chooses is any more profound than the benefit an animal derives from having the freedom to live as it chooses, so the liberation of animals from the cruel exploitation of the factory farm, the fur farm, and the laboratory must be an integral part of the anarchist project. Animals have as much a right to live autonomously and pleasurably as any human being does, so the enslavement of animals for nonessential purposes must be viewed as completely illegitimate, as it significantly reduces aggregate global happiness. _________________________________ ANARCHY IS FOR EVERYONE! WHAT IS ANARCHY? Anarchy is the idea that all people should be absolutely free, and that all forms of oppression, hierarchy, violence, and exploitation should be abolished. The word "Anarchy" literally means "no rulers." This means, in an Anarchist society, every single person would be in absolute control of his or her own life. All people would be free to live as they pleased without having to worry about starving to death or being killed or imprisoned by the government. In Anarchy, every person would be equally empowered to defend and advance his or her own self interests. This means that all private ownership of economically productive property would be abolished, and all bosses would be fired! People could share resources freely with one another, or could barter with the fruits of their labor, depending on what they felt like doing. People would have freedom to do any job that pleased them, or to do no work at all! In an Anarchist society, you can do whatever you want to, and don’t have to follow orders or deal with shit from anyone—not the state, not the cops, not your boss, not the school, and not the church. Conflict would be resolved organically through cooperation, compromise, and consensus, rather than through institutional violence Anarchy is rooted in one major philosophical idea: we’re anti-shit. No matter what shit prevents you from achieving your full potential and living your life like you want to—be it racism, sexism, homophobia, the government, capitalism, organized religion, your job, etc., etc., ETC.—we’re against it, and we’d like to work with you to destroy it! If you want to live under the iron fist of Eternal Fascism—if you want to be exploited, raped, colonized, and enslaved, or if you want to be the exploiter, the rapist, the colonizer, and the slave-master—then Anarchy is not for you. If this future does not appeal to you, then you’re an Anarchist, plain and simple! What’s not to like? Join the union of free beings today! We’ll figure out exactly how to organize the Anarchist system as we go along; the important thing is that we all agree to watch each others’ back when the Fascists come and try to force us back into submission to their system. We shouldn’t stand around idly by and watch while the world and its inhabitants are obliterated at the hands of oppressive social systems. It's time to join the project of mutual freedom, NOW! ~ Frequently asked questions note: for a more detailed and scholarly explanation of anarchism, read the pamphlet Isn't Anarchy just about terrorism, irrationality, and chaos? Anarchism is commonly associated with terrorism, chaos, and irrationality, among other unpopular things, not because these things have anything to do with Anarchist ideas, but because Anarchism is a real threat to the class of people that holds ideological power in the world, and the easiest way for this class to combat a threatening idea like anarchism is to slander the idea and its proponents, to marginalize it in public discourse using outright fabrications. Anarchy is, in reality, the safest, most rational, and least violent social system that has ever been conceived of. In the existing society, conflict is solved through institutionalized violence; in an Anarchist society, conflict will be solved through compromise and cooperation. Why do Anarchists oppose capitalism? Anarchists oppose capitalism because it necessarily causes extreme poverty, which limits the range of human freedom, because it is necessarily hierarchical, and because it must use violence and oppression to perpetuate itself. Capitalism encourages people to pursue infinite individual accumulation of material resources, regardless of the human and environmental costs of this accumulation. This necessarily leads to astronomic inequality, along with brutal warfare and state oppression. In a world ruled by capitalism, 8 million people die every year from poverty—2 million more than the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, and about 22,000 per day. One billion children live in abject poverty, 640 million do not have access to appropriate shelter, 140 million have never attended school, 400 million do not have access to clean uncontaminated water, 500 million do not have basic sanitation, 270 million have no access to health care, and 90 million are severely food deprived. Approximately 12.3 million people worldwide live in conditions of “modern slavery,” while over one billion people live on less than one dollar of income per day and over three billion live on less than two dollars per day. Meanwhile, the 50 richest people in the world have a combined income that is greater than the income of the poorest 416 million. At the end of the 20th century, the world’s 225 richest people had combined assets of over one trillion dollars, equal to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the world’s population, or 2.5 billion people; and the three richest people in the world had assets that exceeded the combined GDP of the 48 least developed countries in the world. It was estimated that it would cost only 40 billion dollars a year to provide universal access to basic education, health care, reproductive health care, adequate food, clean water, and safe sewers, which was less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world. There are actually enough resources to give everyone in the world to give free food, free clothes, free shelter, free education, and free health care to every living person. For example, take food: we produce enough food every year to feed 9 billion people nutritious meals, 3 billion more than are even alive! Even so, 1 out of every 7 people is starving, including 90 million are children! Why? Because the rich criminals make more money by letting us starve than by feeding us. Poverty is the not the product of a natural scarcity of resources, rather, it is the product of a politico-economic system which prioritizes the interests of the wealthy minority over the interests of the poor majority. (see pamphlet for sources, see Introduction to Anti-Capitalism for more) Why do Anarchists oppose the state? Anarchists oppose the state because it is inherently violent and oppressive, and because it enforces artificial economic hierarchy. Throughout history, governments have been directly responsible for, quite literally, hundreds of millions of deaths (it has been estimated that during the 20th Century, governments were responsible for 262 million deaths!); they have created Holocausts, genocides, gulags, slavery, extreme poverty, and rampant warfare; they lock undesirables up in prisons, and children up in schools. They exist so that one group of people can dominate another. Anarchists obviously find this unacceptable. With that said, one shouldn't assume that, because Anarchists oppose the government, that we oppose all institutions. Anarchists have no problem with non-coercive, nonhierarchical institutions; indeed, we want them to run society. Many people will say things like "we need government, because it vaccinates children, provides schools, funds science, etc." I've never understood why we need the violent aspects of government, the ones which anarchists oppose—the police, military, and prison system—in order to have our children vaccinated and our schools funded, for example. Everyone in society benefits when there are institutions which provide education, health care, funding for scientific research, and so on. These beneficial institutions will exist whether or not our society has violent institutions. Why do Anarchists oppose all centralized power? Anarchists oppose centralized power because it is a threat to the liberty, prosperity, and safety of people everywhere, and because centralized power is incompatible with the Anarchist vision of a society in which all people have power over their own lives. All of the greatest political tragedies in history, without exception, have occurred when an excessive amount of power became centralized at the disposal of an elite minority. These plutocrats utilized their tyrannical power to exploit the rest of the human population in the desperate pursuit of material wealth, ideological goals, and further centralization of power. All of the most vicious and egregious empires have been ruled in this manner, by elites who were committed to infinite accumulation of material wealth. In the modern era, the capacity for such centralization of power is far greater than ever before, and the murderous consequences of such centralization are far more extreme, as was proven most infamously by the regimes of Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler, which consolidated totalitarian power and utilized modern technology to systematically execute millions of people they deemed threatening to their power. We must create a decentralized society if we are to avoid repeating the horrible tragedies of the past. What would an Anarchist society look like? An Anarchist society would have abolished all hierarchical and coercive institutions, and would replace these with voluntary, mutually beneficial institutions. All problems are solved organically through cooperation, compromise, and consensus, rather than through institutional violence. All people would be able to fulfill all of their fundamental human needs, and all people would have complete freedom of action. Isn't Anarchy impossible? No. There already have been many examples of Anarchies that have worked, not only in revolutionary Spain, the Paris Commune, in many indigenous societies, and in most prehistoric societies, to pick a few examples, but also in everyday interactions between people. Any time a group of people voluntarily come together to engage in mutually beneficial activities, they are proving that humans can indeed function without coercion and hierarchy. Furthermore, just because there has not been a sustained Anarchist experiment within a modern nation does not mean that it is impossible for Anarchy to work in a complex modern society. Before the French and American revolutions, reactionaries might have made the same arguments about democracy that they make about Anarchism today: it’s a nice idea, but it’s Utopian, and is without historical precedent in our modern time. Luckily, the American and French democrats dared to leave the past and fought to create a more libertarian and egalitarian world than the one they were born in to. Anyway, while Anarchism might not be perfect, it is hard to imagine that Anarchism could be any worse than state-capitalism or Marxist-Leninism, the two political systems which do have historical precedent in the modern era. We have a choice to either continue to live under one of these two brutal and anti-human systems, or to create anew and hope for the best. Wouldn't there be rampant crime if there was no government? No. First of all, it should be noted when discussing crime and its relation to politico-economic organization that on a global scale, the crimes perpetrated by centralized, hierarchical institutions such as states and corporations overwhelmingly exceed the crimes committed by individual citizens; therefore, if we want to create a safer, less violent society, we should begin by combating institutionalized crime, instead of focusing on individual crime which is extremely insignificant in comparison. However, an Anarchist society would also be able to keep its individual members safe from civilian crime at least as well as the existing system, as well as doing away with the far greater institutional crime. People in an Anarchist society would simply form reciprocal relationships with other members of their community to defend themselves, rather than relying on coercive and often predatory institutions for protection. This is how all people protected themselves throughout history until very recently, and it was at least as effective as the current system in keeping people safe. Anarchists assume that if a person was getting raped or assaulted, the person’s friends, family, and neighbors won’t allow it to happen, but would come to the person’s assistance and protect him or her. Because we think that people are willing to help each other out, we don’t feel that we need to rely on oppressive governments or police. Anarchists find it bizarre that in the present society people are more likely to trust impersonal strangers such as police, lawyers, and judges to protect them than they are to rely on their own friends and family. Of course, Anarchism can’t completely do away with crime and murder, but neither can state-capitalism or authoritarian Marxism, or any other political system thus conceived of. However, there is reason to believe that an Anarchist society would be far safer than a state-capitalist society. Anti-social behavior almost always arises in people who have been subjected to severe institutional repression, who have been frustrated in their pursuit of their fundamental needs. If all people had complete control over their lives, and had the opportunity to fulfill every one of their fundamental needs, cases of anti-social behavior would be far less frequent than in the current society. Humans are naturally competitive, so isn't any system that seeks to suppress the competitive urge bound to fail? Actually, Anarchism is about promoting competition, not stifling it; we just want change the focus of this competition. Under state-capitalism, the competitive urge which is almost certainly innate in humans is utterly squandered in a meaningless war of every individual against every other individual for the resources people need to survive, which have been made artificially scare by the capitalist economic system, and for commodities which provide a despicably inadequate substitute for identity and meaning in our culture. This perpetual struggle for wealth benefits no one; it only erodes the intelligence, strength, uniqueness, and adaptability of all individuals, rewarding those who are most obedient and most willing to conform to the roles that the politico-economic structure has prescribed for them. This system turns the human being into yet another mass-produced, interchangeable part. Under Anarchy, humans would be able to engage in competition over matters that are far more meaningful, beneficial, and interesting; the energy and potential of the competitive urge would not be squandered as it is today. When we have done away with the artificially produced inequity of resources, we will be able to devote our competitive energy towards perfecting ourselves and the world around us. We will compete as artists, as we will all have the time and energy to create and enjoy poetry, theater, music, and art that is truly exquisite and approaches perfection; we will compete as scientists, as we all attempt to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the universe; we will compete as philosophers, as well all strive to develop meaningful and entertaining stories which help us understand our existence; we will compete as philanthropists, as we all seek to give our own unique gifts to the world and its inhabitants. While there will certainly be differing forms of art, differing scientific theories, differing stories about existence, and different ideas about how to best help living creatures, and thus creative competition between different individuals working in these fields, the end result of the competition will be creative, rather than destructive as it is now. If two armies compete, the result is a field full of corpses. If two artists compete, the result is an enriched experience for both artists, and for everyone who views their art. This is really what Anarchy is about; it isn’t an abolition of competition, but simply a change in its focus, from destruction to creation. Wouldn't an Anarchist society become stagnate and fail to meet its full potential in science and art? No. It's absurd to suggest that development in science and art can only occur within an economically competitive social framework, and such development will ultimately raise the cumulative quality of life more than universal freedom. I think one would be hard pressed to find a truly gifted mind in science or art who was convinced to pursue his or her work solely by external rather than internal motivation. In fact, many geniuses were so internally motivated that they allowed themselves to fall into poverty or to be socially ostracized in order to continue their work. There is every reason to believe that uniquely talented people would continue to make their contributions to society whether or not they received material reward for doing so. If it is hard to imagine an artist or scientist motivated by external reward, it is nearly impossible to imagine that such a person would have anything worth contributing. I don’t think that people really need manufactured, commercial art, any more than they need the uninspired insights of a career intellectual who just wants to get tenure. It’s hard to imagine a social system more nurturing of art and science than an Anarchist society. Throughout history, the number of people who could spend their time creating art or pondering science was extremely limited, as only the richest had the time and energy to devote to such endeavors. In an Anarchist society, absolutely everyone would have the time and energy to devote to art and science; one would expect the number of scientific and artistic advances to increase exponentially. Is Anarchism relevant to modern society? Yes. Even though mass-scale Anarchist revolution seems like a remote prospect at the moment, Anarchism is still relevant and important in modern society. Without a vision of what a libertarian and egalitarian society could look like, a coherent critique of existing systems of oppression and exploitation, or an effective tactical strategy for destroying the existing society and replacing it with a liberated society, we have no hope of bringing about any social change whatsoever. Anarchism is important to any modern struggle for freedom and equality—be it the anti-capitalist movement, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the animal rights movement, the environmental movement, etc.—precisely because it offers a vision of a transformed society to strive for, a critique of state-capitalism, and a tactical strategy (direct action) which ordinary people can employ to achieve concrete social change. It is our hope that Anarchist revolution will occur in the future; however, until the day that this does occur, Anarchism will still play an important role in a diverse array of social struggles. If you have further questions about Anarchism, I'd be happy to address them. Contact information can be found at the bottom of this page. If the idea of Anarchy interests you, and you'd like to learn more about it, here are some other more detailed introductions to Anarchist, anti-authoritarian, and anti-capitalist thought.

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