The great conundrum of the Anarchy movement

The ideals of Anarchy are basically the ideals of Humanity :

  • To provide an environment that caters for the need for individual expression
  • To provide an environment free from oppression by institutional power groups
  • To allow each person to enjoy the benefits of their working activities

The conundrum is that each person IS an individual. We all have differing wants – even if we have similar basic needs. We all have differing levels of core abilities – some are suited to cerebral activities, some to manual activities, and others are inclined to use less of any inherent skills than they are capable of.

It is interesting that a good deal of the alternative forms of anarchistic society that are put forward by Anarchists seek to turn the average society member into a “worker ant” in a society of like-minded worker ants. All of those worker ants are going to interract quite comfortably, and will work their way through the vagaries of standard human interraction in a brotherhood-of-man way.

If you doubt me on that one, consider the very basic issue of working out production “credit” outcomes for manual labour versus thinking labour or even artistic labour. There is a massive difficulty inherent in this. As human beings, we often do not ascribe a logical or proportional value to these different forms of output. For example, if we look at current “Western” societies, the popularity of the production output determines the value far more than any practical use does.

It would seem that these core difficulties are worked around through various artifices – most commonly through population constraints. The logic appears to be that smaller communal groupings will result in a more practical analysis of pricing or valuation. That may be a methodogy that would work but it simply is not going to work on any reasonable basis when we consider attempts to move from our current Western societies to Anarchistic societies – ie, communal groupings devoid of central government and institutions.

Our societies require huge stores of capital to fund the basic infrastructure, without which we would not have a recognisable lifestyle. Immediate comparisons with the Pol Pot attempts to return to an agrarian community spring to mind. It seems that many current proponents of Anarchy concepts have missed the productivity gains that have powered the ability to feed a population that has moved faster than the bulk of predictions from 20th Century Futurologists. If we remove the underlying pillars of capital accumulation and power concentration then we remove an ability to feed and provide for that population on anything like the current lifestyle basis.

It could be argued that this would be a good thing. Maybe. And maybe not. Are you or i happy to simply ‘give up’ aspects of our current lifestyle that we enjoy? Are you or i happy to sit by and watch our family, friends or partners succumb to gradual starvation because of our inability to access food in a declining supply situation?

So many historical Anarchists have sought release from their society shackles through a great revolution, in which the working masses would arise and take control of their production areas, ousting the evil and corrupt power groups in the process.

Let’s apply that to Australia.

The bulk of Australian’s are in a very good position when compared to the great masses of which classical anarchists wrote. There may be a horde of hegemonic influences that exert control over our weak and pathetic existences. However, many Australians wouldn’t care even if the cloak that hides these power plays were removed. Big call? i don’t think it actually is. Given the choice, a good deal of people would like a “better job” or “more security” or some other vague aspect of moreness but if you asked the “average Australian” (can there really be such an animal in our society?) whether they would be prepared to give up spare time or the football or their drinking time or whatever, to spend time at local council deliberations or the like? Personally, i very much doubt it.

When your world involves huge disparity of living conditions with massive inequality or obvious flaws in justice then it is logical to seek to remove the structure behind the power schemes that perpetuate the faulty system. This was the case for most of the classical Anarchists. 18th and 19th Century Europe was built on these flawed structures (please wait just a moment before jumping to the statement that our current systems are based on those faulty ones), and any fair thinking individual would want to change the order of things. However, that is not really the case in Australia today. We have groups with clear reasons for being unhappy with the current scheme of things – new immigrants undoubtedly suffer in some way or another, and that discomfort can only be dealt with to a certain extent by racial vilification laws and the like. Aboriginal community members have generally failed to benefit from the broader community wealth and service levels. Those who are members of multi-generational unemployment groupings could argue for a chance to work and gain a greater share of community wealth that has bypassed them. All quite logical but quite definitely not a majority of the populace.

In other words, the bulk of Australians are quite well off. There is little to be gained from a move to an Anarchistic society basis.

Back to the core issues… Any time we look to deal with human interraction without accounting for the basic human need for a hierarchical clarity then we are building a flawed system from the outset. The chicken-coop hierarchy basis is clear even in a kindergarten playground. It is clear in the interraction of a group of people meeting at a pub, in a workplace, on a bus or at a social event. Even in smaller communities there will be people who have a stronger personality and quite often the whole group will ignore the Johari Window style issues. Everyone knows that such-and-such is a bully but no-one actually does anything about it. This isn’t much different from any other form of institutional oppression.

You see, i don’t really see much difference between an institutional form of oppression and the oppression of a group by an overbearing individual. An Anarchist society will generally not protect the individual from harrassment by another individual. The theory is that it would eventually happen, as the group agrees to recognise the behaviour, decide to impinge on the bullies’ right to do what they want and then decide to face down the belligerent and actually agree on what to do about it. Personally, i don’t see that happening except in extreme circumstances – and by the time you get there we would have been dealing with a horrible set of experiences for the subject of that harrassment and bullying.

This is where our current legal system does (generally) help the unfortunate. Even though it can be quite easily argued that laws and rules impinge on our individual ‘rights’ and freedoms, it is just as easily argued that the underdog and dispossessed have a strong array of recourse to deal with any such difficulties they may have.

I’m not arguing that the current system is perfect or even that it is good. I am arguing that it is a reasonable outcome when compared to the bulk of Anarchist alternatives encountered to date. Perhaps i simply need to read more (and i certainly intend to) but my thinking is that there should be another way of dealing with the issues surrounding obtaining those objectives set out initially. And maybe adding a few others to it.

Just a thought.


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